By Brenna Renée Prather
Theatre Design/Art Portfolio: brprather
As some of you may or may not know, this month is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month! As the month draws to a close, I want to get as many people talking about this subject as I can, because it is a topic often ignored even though it is a rather common place situation happening all over the world.
Now, many of you who have been following my blog since the beginning know about my experience with domestic abuse, it having been the central topic in my memoir piece ‘I am Mosaic. Hear Me Roar’, which I posted some excerpts from a few months back. Although Mama’s boyfriend never hit me with his fist, feet, or any objects, his constant need to manipulate me with his words every single day for 10-15 years shows quite a deal of abuse in the home. Writing ‘I am Mosaic. Hear Me Roar’ helped me achieve closure, and to finally love myself all over, from my cellulite to my emotional baggage. I am proud of who I am, and can now live life with little fear, as writing this memoir has also assisted in me battling my depression and settling down my anxiety disorders.
Now, not everyone is as lucky as me. Many people out there are still suffering in relationships centered on abuse and can’t seem to find a way out, and there are others who have unfortunately not made it out alive.
There is a chance that one of those people still alive, still fighting for a way out, is reading this right now, so there is a chance that I could help someone’s life change for the better.
I want to first off say – Your story is legitimate. No matter what. You are beautiful, strong, and you deserve real love.
Second off – If you are still questioning if this is a abuse, here is a list of types of abuse through Love is Respect. PLEASE be careful. If your abuser sees you looking at this, or finds it in your history, it could prove to be fatal to you.
And third – As you have accepted the abuse you are suffering from is not deserved and you want help, here is a list of helpful phone numbers and links from The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
And remember, you can find love and support with your fellow survivors, if nowhere else. We are a group of strong, gorgeous fighters, and we take care of our own here.
Hope you find love and safety soon, your gorgeous fighter, you.
Often times, when your moment comes, when the diploma is finally in your hands, you are three move ahead. Graduation is just a formality. Throwing your cap in the air is just a photograph for your parent’s mantel. This is simply a milestone that you have already passed.
Maybe you are headed to grad school in a few months. Maybe you have a new job, in a faraway city, beginning anew. Maybe you are headed back to undergrad for another degree. Maybe it’s as simple as heading back home, using the comforts of home to slowly get into your career.
Or, if you are like me, you have absolutely no idea what you are doing.
And that’s totally fine!
You see, when I first got my rejection letter from the one grad school I applied to, I was heartbroken. But not because I wanted to really go. It was because I didn’t have any elaborate plans for after graduation and I was afraid of the backlash I’d get from other people in response.
Looking back, I look at the experience as a blessing because if I had gone, it would have been a mistake. My experience writing my memoir taught me how important my writing is and that I need to remember to keep all parts of myself alive – no matter what. So, I decided to do the following things: a) Start working as much as I could stand and gather up money for whatever move I want (for I’d like to move out of Buffalo eventually), and b) Figure who I am, and what I want as a person to find out what I want out of my career as a writer/designer/artist/etc.
Now, in order to figure out who I am and what I wanted, I decided to create a list of wants and goals, which I think came somewhat from being rational, but also from the sage advice of Mama Gena. Thanks, gurl.
To keep my promise to myself to achieve these goals, I thought I’d share this with the internet, hoping for encouragement and to help anyone out there who needs help finding themselves, post grad or otherwise.
Here we go!
Taking a few minutes out of my day to clean up my bedroom, and doing the occasional all over clean up when necessary.
Growing up, I never really had a choice as far as whether my room could be messy or clean. My mom wasn’t too particular, but my mom’s then-boyfriend was very, very much into it having the whole house clean (even though he never personally cleaned anything because that’s women’s work, after all). He even tried to throw out my dolls in an effort to make sure that I kept my room clean. It worked for many years….until this past year, when my room went from semi-clean to there just being a layer of garbage everywhere. The floor. My desk. Every table in my room. Just garbage, dirty dishes, and laundry.
Now, I believe that a state of mind can totally be determined by the state of one’s bedroom. It usually is organized chaos, but had becoming a dirty disaster zone of hellish proportions, which spoke to the fact that I was an anxiety-ridden, horribly depressed individual who was barely functioning.
Thankfully, after writing my memoir piece, I felt a gigantic weight lifted from my mind, body, and soul. My anxiety and depression no longer controls me, and so I made my promise to myself to never give up writing again and to always give myself the love I deserve (and then some). With that in mind, I not only gutted out and organized my room, but I even redesigned so it felt more welcoming and comfortable to be in. I hope to find room for a circle chair someday, but this room is rather pleasant as is!
Bringing back the exercise I have always loved/wanted to do
These would be: yoga, dance, and martial arts.
These are exercises I have done over the course of my life, but have sort of been away from since I started college. Mama had me in front of a TV doing yoga moves from a kid’s yoga video when I was a toddler. She started me in ballet classes in 1st grade, and put me into a dojo in the 7th grade, where I learned the styles of ninjitsu, jujitsu, judo, and kendo (I also learned a little Japanese).
I started back to yoga Monday by joining in the 30 days of yoga challenge done by Yoga With Adriene. It felt so good to get back into the practice, and she made it so fun. Here’s hoping the first day is just as good as the rest of the 30 days! I also want to get back into belly dance from home, and maybe try getting back to hip hop through a local class. And a salsa class possibly because hey why not.
Spending money on things I need/want
I have always been very frugal with my money, even as a kid. I always made my birthday money last. I go to the dollar store to get sponges and cleaning supplies. I usually go for the cheapest options for anything I want on Amazon. And I almost never would splurge on a ridiculous but cool item.
This was partly because Mama taught me how to be responsible with money, but also partly because I didn’t have a lot of money growing up. This habit grew into an anxiety so intense that I would beat myself up for spending money….on food.
Gradually, I have learned to enjoy spending money on my needs, and now my wants. I still remain practical with my splurges, but I feel so much happier, and much more fabulous! Now, I am moving up to making big purchases that are practical, but rather pricey. Those things are:
A new Android phone for my plan
A professional camera (for photography and video)
A scanner w/printer
My first tattoo/nose piercing
Doing things that intrigue me, but also terrify me
As I have GAD and social anxiety, there are quite a few things that scare me. Some things, I swallow and bear. Others….yeah, not so much. Those things I want to get past my fears to do are:
Singing, dancing, and any form of performance in front of people
Getting better at public speaking
Being more comfortable in social events (parties, clubs, functions, etc.)
Get even less terrified of making phone calls
Getting more comfortable with drinking alcohol
Parachuting out of a plane
Committing to things I want to do, and not backing down
I’m sure there is more, but I am sure they will be covered by the rest of my list.
Getting my violin fixed up and re-learning my skills
I found it while cleaning out my storage unit. I need to get my E string replaced, but otherwise it’s in good shape. I hope to re-learn and perhaps learn some cool songs to play for friends when the occasion call for it. Suggestions will of course be welcomed and appreciated.
Enjoying a day off
The last 3 years of college was like working 2-3 full time jobs, so a day off was rare. As work requires at least two days off a week for an employee, I make sure at least one is spent relaxing and doing errands, and another is spent on social activities.
Developing my cooking/baking skills
My recent love as an adult is cooking and baking. Mama did the cooking growing up (unless it was on a grill, which was for men obviously, so my mom’s then-boyfriend did the grilling), so all I knew how to do was ramen, mac n’cheese, and my family recipe for chili. Now I try to make homemade things I either find recipes for online OR stuff I come up with on the spot (leftovers can be repurposed in so many ways). I would love to continue that.
I am not really into diets or subtracting food from my life, but I am a supporter of adding good things. I want to find delicious alternatives to my favorite junk foods for when I want to treat my body well.
Books in my personal library that I need to finish or start reading
I have a lot of books. In fact, I might have more books than clothes. And there are definitely books I own that I started and never finished, or that I haven’t ever started. This includes my college books, some of which I don’t own at the moment, but would look to.
I’m going to start by finishing Pride and Prejudice, and then possibly starting Life of Pi. So pumped.
Talking to family and friends on the phone more often
I really need to get out of the habit of not calling my loved ones. It’s not cool.
Trying out “girly” things
I tended to prefer dressing in jeans and t-shirts for much of my youth. In some ways, I wanted to be a boy, but I also wanted to be a “good” feminist, which I interpreted as not allowing anything “girly” or feminine into my life.
Now, as I have grown, I have learned that gender is a social construct and you can do whatever makes you happy and you are still a feminist. That’s how I found my love of make-up and fashion, which brought me to my career as a designer.
I’ve slowly been trying new things I deemed feminine growing up that I now love, like exfoliating, getting my hair styled, and wearing thigh highs, and I want to keep it going. Try a facial. Maybe mani-pedi. An at-home teeth whitener. The possibilities are endless.
Adding men’s clothing/men’s styles into my style, and other fashion experiments
In that same breathe, I want to bring in men’s clothing into my style. I’ve always experimented with my style, from Old Navy to Hot Topic to thrift stores and beyond. I like to be a different person every day, and so now I want to be able to put on bow ties and men’s button downs. I have been wearing regular ties since middle school (Thanks, Avril), and I own a men’s flannel that I just love.
I also want to continue to explore my body through fashion. I have been showing more skin than I’m used to lately, and I am so enjoying it!
I want to continue on my fashion quest of experimenting and confusing the masses, while at the same time having them find me oddly sexy.
Working on my own, personal projects
I keep my eyes and ears open for opportunities, but thus far, nothing in my fields of interest has seduced me. And my head is full of unique and wonderful ideas. Life is too short to wait around to fulfill your dreams, so I will start working on them now! Here’s some vague ideas:
Belly dance performance
Well that is the end of my rambling lists of tasks and goals for my new life. Thus far, my work on this list has helped me figuring out so much, and has led to new things for me to try. I hope that continues for me, and I hope that this list will help someone find themselves when lost in this big, dark, confusing word.
RMS Titanic is my life obsession, and the movie has always been connected. Rose was my style inspiration, but Jack Dawson was my soul. “…I figure life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it. You don’t know what hand you’re gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you. To make each day count.”
This list. This list is to help me make it count.
Will you make it count too?
I am not a conservative Christian. Nor am I Roman Catholic. In fact, I was never raised in an environment that influenced me to follow in the ways of Monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Although Mama would never have discouraged it.
Mama was one of those Pagan-Wicca-Spiritual-I-dunno-whatever kind of people. I am not much different. Growing up, we did full moon rituals, made clay dolls based on the season, and recited all of the Chakras in order before bed. Halloween is one of our favorite holidays since it’s OUR holiday for once (not mention, all that witch merchandise though), and I am born on the original Christmas – Winter Solstice.
When I was younger though, I was in the closet about my religious beliefs. My town was very Christian and Mama felt that kids would not react to it so well, so I did not tell a soul until I was 14. Unfortunately, not going to CCD classes definitely set me apart from the kids, so I was welcomed with phrases like “You are going to Hell” and “Jesus is going to kill you”!
I ended up having a lot of nightmares about Jesus. Didn’t help that the first image of Jesus I saw was at the church where my Dad got remarried. That statue of Jesus hanging from the cross still gives me the shivers.
Anyway, Mama saw that the bullying was getting out of hand, so she decided we should attend a Unitarian Universalist church nearby.
Well, I confused people into complete silence instead having them yell slander at me on the playground.
I’d say that’s a success.
Years of Unitarian Universalist youth group sessions, Mama reading me spiritual children’s books at bedtime, and my own life adventures has formed who I am spiritually, and I am damn proud of it. I believe in the Universe and its power to bring what I need when I need it, be it in the form of an event, a God, a human, an animal.
I don’t see anything wrong with that, or other people’s interpretations on religion and spirituality. I rather enjoy getting into debates about such things with friends and family. I respect all viewpoints, and I expect the same from everyone else.
So naturally, I am not a fan of those who go out of their way to tell you that your spiritual point of view is wrong. And no, I am not just talking about the guy who comes up to you once a week to tell you that you are going to hell (thanks for that memo, by the way). I am also talking about…
Atheists! Or more specifically, what I liked to call the Fundamentalist Atheist.
I am not talking about the average atheist who is just like “Yeah, I don’t believe God”. (Sidebar: There are other Gods besides the big G-O-D. Just saying.)
I am talking about the person who laughs in your face as soon as you say your beliefs.
I am talking about the person who goes up to you and says “You know everything you believe is crazy, right?” and then makes rude comments about odd things related to your spirituality. (Astro projection is a relaxing meditation, thank you very much)
I am talking about the people who think that religion is the reason for 9/11.
I am talking about the people who hate on conservative, Christian republicans and say that those people display crazy behavior, when they themselves display the exact same behavior.
And I am not okay with that.
I am not okay with you disrespecting my friends, my family, other people, or myself.
You do you.
Please remember re-read your tweets, your FB posts, your own thoughts, before you express them, and think about how you make people feel. Think about how you would feel if you were being attacked for your non-beliefs. You may think you are helping people, but you are actually hurting them, and you are pushing away new experiences and opportunities to understand a viewpoint that isn’t your own.
I am not saying to start believing in God, or Buddha, or Bastet.
I am simply saying to open up your heart and listen to what people have to say about their spirituality. It might not change what you believe, but it will teach you something.
And doesn’t that make it worth it?
He was supposed to go in that day. He needed to get new jewelry for the store.
I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if he had gone in.
Would he be a martyr? A saint?
All day, I am taking orders for Challah, birthday cakes, rolls. Someone asks me to write on their birthday cake, and wonder if they feel conflicted on this day. They have a joy in their life, on a day that is a horror, a scar on the face of so many lives.
I think of my friend who will never share another birthday with her uncle. I remember her scanning the footage for his face, insisting she saw him jump out, he’ll be fine. My chest still pings to this day, haunted by her determined, anxious face.
I think of my friend who lashes out when anyone talks about his father. I never really asked what happened to him, given the pain it caused him, but sometimes, I wonder if perhaps his father was one of those men in our town who never returned home that day.
I think of the memorial park. It was in the heart of town, a few feet from my high school. It was on the left corner at the head of Fair Street, next to the instrument shop where I would get my violin strings. I can’t recall what it was before that time – a gas station? A parking lot? A vacant area where a building once stood?
Either way, a few years passed, and it was the 9/11 Memorial Park, to honor our fallen, especially our fire department. We lived in the farthest town a firefighter could be part of FDNY. Many of them went in those towers that day. I know a friend who glances a leery eye at her father when he has a drink. He was one of the ones who made it out, and she suspects that he is still haunted by his friends who will never share another drink with him.
A martyr? A hero?
Mama’s best friend, he was in high school. He stole his brother’s ID, and snuck away from home for a week to do clean up. There wasn’t much security back then. That day never sits well with him.
I wonder about Dad and my uncle. This incident resulted in years of overseas tours for them. I think of all the time this stole from our family.
He was supposed to go in that day. He had work to do. I still wonder about how I’d feel if he had gone in.
A martyr? A saint?
A victim? A hero?
Would I have been the person I am?
A victim. A martyr. A saint. No hero.