Life of an Advocate

I wake up. I try to come to grips with the fact this today will be busy, but I will make it through – I have a 100% statistic so far in my life of getting through the day.

I slept like garbage last night, I’m exhausted and I no longer own a coffee pot. I also don’t have the money to buy coffee or the time to make an extra stop on my way to the courthouse.

I throw myself together in 5 minutes and hope that I look presentable enough for court. (Hey, I showered and brushed my teeth, I’m wearing clean and professional clothes, so that’s great, right?)

I arrive at the courthouse and drive around for 10 minutes before finding a space 2 blocks away.

I run to the courthouse so as to avoid being late and accompany my client. Things go smoothly.

Finish my first appointment at late 10am and my next one starts at 10am… across town. I’m definitely going to be late.

Run to my car and try to obey the speed limits as I’m driving, but it’s so tempting. I think to myself “Getting a ticket will make you later and broke.”

Client doesn’t show after all that rushing. Oh well, on to the next. I shake it off.

I return to the office and it’s an absolute mess from yesterday and all the work I did. I clear enough space to start working.

My phone is ringing off the hook and I have 8 phone calls to return already.

I have 3 clients with financial needs waiting for an answer and my director has still not responded.

I have 12 emails in my inbox and most of them require a response today.

I shove a snack into my face as I try to call back a client, no answer. I leave a message. I pray to God my garbled message is understandable. I make a mental note not to eat when I’m calling a client, but who knows when I will be able to get lunch?!

I have a client at the front desk wanting to speak to me and an appointment in 5 minutes.

I’m stressed out to the max and my stomach is growling so much I’m worried someone would be able to hear it through the phone.

I needed to pee at 9 am and still haven’t gone, it’s now 1pm… my bladder may explode.

I’m sitting in a meeting when I get an email from the accounting department about a client financial item. They are issuing checks today… right this minute…and if I don’t get my request in now it won’t get paid for another 3 days.

I leave the meeting and run to my desk and then downstairs to accounting. I run back up to the meeting and try to regain focus.

I shove some food in my face between phone calls. My phone continues to ring off the hook as I’m on the phone and trying to eat.

I have an appointment in another hour. I’m sure she has a lot which needs to be addressed and I know my workload will get worse before it gets better.

I suddenly wonder what it would be like to work in the corporate world again. It would be so nice to have predictable hours, predictable needs and predictable workloads. I can picture my life as boring and average. I wouldn’t be helping people in need, but my skills would still be in high demand. My day would be filled with , human resource functions such as staff trainings, creating documents, running reports, employee files, background checks and interviews.

I’m bored at the simple thought.

Would my life be easier doing many other jobs? Of course it would! But I wouldn’t ever want them. As stressful as my life is, it an be very rewarding. As hectic as it can be, it can be filled with client victories and progress towards risk reduction. As ever-changing as it is, it can sometimes be boring and mundane still. As much as I may travel and it annoys me to “waste my time” on the road, it’s not wasted because it’s bringing vital services to clients who need it. I’m making outreach in rural areas which need me. I’m assisting some of the most vulnerable people on this planet with vital services. Is it sometimes challenging? Absolutely. Is it sometimes very sad and hard to listen to the stores I’m told? Hell yes. There are days where I wonder how someone could hurt another human being like that. But as hard as it is, it’s important to listen to victims. It’s crucial to their story and it’s a huge first step to getting their needs met.

Being an advocate can be hard as fuck.

But I wouldn’t want anything else right now.

Baby Birds Leave the Nest Eventually

I’m a domestic violence victim advocate. We don’t always have good days. Some days feel like failures. Some days are hard.

I wanted to write today about one of the most amazing and beautiful days I’ve had in a long time. I’ve been working with someone for a while now, and she’s had struggles, triumphs and everything in between. I’ve been with her every step of the way. I’ve celebrated with her, I’ve tried to help her plan when things didn’t go as planned. I’ve watched as her children grew. I’ve felt her pain and her joy. I’ve calmed her fears and I’ve watched as she slowly learned that she needed to do something to protect herself and her children.

Today was the day she metaphorically left the nest and moved on from my services. We met at a gas station to say goodbye. She thanked me for all I had done. I wished her well. We cried in that gas station parking lot. We hugged one another and we cried for all the times we’d been there together. I didn’t care that she’d been busy living her life and hadn’t showered in 2 days. I didn’t care what other people thought. This woman is one of the strongest women I have met to date, and I wanted nothing more than to wish her well, comfort her one last time and send her on her way; to allow her to leave the nest by giving her the last gentle push she needed to keep moving forward on her journey.

It was heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time. This woman has seen so much more evil in this world than some can even imagine and yet here she was, still here. Still moving forward and still with a positive attitude. It was time. She was ready to move on to the next chapter in her life. And I know she’s going to do great things with her life.

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Women like this are why I love what I do so much. I can’t save everyone. I know I can’t. I can’t put all the injured, vulnerable and unsafe victims of domestic violence in my pocket to protect them. But I can empower them to do what they need to do. I can connect them to what they need. I can help them reflect on how strong they are. I can show them all the progress they have made and help them acknowledge that. I can be with them in their good times and their hard times when no one else is. I can be someone to talk to when all their friends have gone away because of their partner or former partner. I can make them laugh when they need a smile. I can believe them when they share their story, and there is so much value in that. I can support them in their choices.

THIS IS WHAT I DO. I ADVOCATE.

I’m not a super hero. I’m not a savior. I’m not a miracle worker. But sometimes, just sometimes, I’m able to do something amazing. And that’s all that I can do.

Dear Survivor

Dear victim of domestic violence,

I wish I could tell you all the things which were so apparent to me. You believed all the lies which your partner told you. You had been pushed down and silenced so often, that it was easier to believe the lies than risk standing up for yourself. I wish I could tell you how special you are. I wish I could tell you how beautiful and unique you are. I wish I could tell you about all the wonderful things I watched you do regardless of how hard they were, and tell you what a great job you did. I wish I could show you the beautiful soul you have. I wish I could show you how talented and amazing you are. I wish I could show you how strong you are. I wish you believed me when I tell you how strong you are. There are few people in the world capable of enduring the hand you’ve been dealt, but you managed it all the best you could and you survived. You made the best of that hand, and you never gave up. Not once. I wish I could tell you that you are the only person who has felt alone, abused, hurt, neglected, unloved or unlovable, but you know it’s not true. So many women have sat in the chair you are now in. You are not alone. I wish I could tell you it gets easier with time, but that’s not true for everyone. I wish I could show you what you look like in the eyes of your children. They look up to you and watch your every move. They think you are the best parent ever. They love you more than you can ever imagine. I wish I could show you what your future holds so you can prepare for it. I wish I could tell you about all the wonderful things you can look forward to and all the ways this experience will change you. I wish I could make the hurting stop. I wish I could make your abuser stop doing the things which hurt you, not just the physical pain, but all the other hurt you’ve endured. I wish I could save you. I wish there was a way to put you into a bubble of pure joy where no sadness would ever touch you again, but I can’t. I wish I could be there for you when you are hurting, to comfort you and dry your tears and tell you it’ll be better soon, and know that it will be. I wish I could help you go back in time and undo the choices which led you to this. Hindsight is both a blessing and such a curse for you. I wish I could do more for you. I know what your barriers and needs are, but sometimes there just aren’t enough resources for all of them. I wish I could help ease your burden every time you need me to. I wish I could give you more tools to help you cope. I wish I could help you change your unhealthy coping skills. I wish you didn’t need these coping skills to begin with. I wish I could protect you. I wish there was something I could do which made you less vulnerable. I’m sorry that someone took advantage of your loving heart. I wish that the systems in this world supported you better. I know how frustrating it can be to seek help but be unable to gain justice. I wish I could take away your anger. It’s truly infuriating to feel like you have no control over your own life. I understand. Most of all, I wish you joy, the greatest joy you’ve ever experienced in your entire life, and I wish you to be able to enjoy that joy with your whole heart. I wish you peace. I wish that you can find someone who truly loves and deserves to be with an awesome person like you are. You truly deserve it. I wish that you live the rest of your life free from violence, that no one ever victimizes you again. You give others hope who will sit in this chair in the future. I wish that you would get to tell your story and that it would empower you. Your story is unique and needs to be told. I wish you pride in what you’ve done, it wasn’t an easy road. Lastly I wish you all the best. I don’t know where your story goes from here, but I am so grateful to have been able to be a part of it. So thank you for sharing with me. I am a better person, a better friend and a better advocate because of you. You have been such a blessing to me in more ways than you can ever imagine.

With much love and many blessings,

Your advocate

The end of April

April has been a tough month for me. It’s had ups and downs. The new man and I have done a lot of “discussing” (aka arguing) about various subjects. We’re hitting that 3 month window when things aren’t new anymore, and we’re still finding out about one another. In our discussions, I’ve found out more about his ex than I have about him, which is a little frustrating. I wonder if it’s because he’s just such a simple guy. I don’t say that like it’s a bad thing. I love simple. It’s drama free.

Now my life on the other hand, is not simple. I’ve been through some shit, some of which I’ve shared and other parts I haven’t. Needless to say that some of that drama came up in our discussions, and caused a bit of friction in my current relationship.

I guess from my perspective it was no big deal. Just something that happened in the past that I’ve moved on from. Apparently from his perspective it was a big deal, I think the reason is that it changed the way he thought about me. He had pictured my past in a certain way, he had pictured it a lot like his past. But my past and his past are nothing alike! Not at all.

All this has caused a little bit of strain on things, but I think it’s getting better now. Hopefully we’ll work through things and it’ll all be fine.

It’s Running Season!

Here we go! Shoes on, legs ready to go! It’s running season and I’m totally hitting the ground running every single time!

Last weekend was my first 5K race. It was about 25 degrees outside, so it was chilly and windy!! Brr! Barring all of those obstacles, I got an amazing time of 36:40! I’m thoroughly impressed with myself.

There’s something beautiful about putting your feet to the pavement and watching the world fly by beside you. There’s something grounding about listening to your breathing, your foot falls and the sounds of nature around you. Feel the sun on your face and the wind in your hair.

Some people can’t run without music, but I can’t run with music! There’s too much outside to enjoy. I like to be able to take it all in. I like to see, hear and feel everything I possibly can.

Now 5 years ago I did NOT run. I haven’t always been a runner. My decision to run came after I got bored on my break one day and got myself into some trouble. After that I started walking on my breaks to keep myself busy. I started with 8 blocks in an hour. That’s it. As the weeks went on I added more and more blocks and I began to jog a few blocks.

Eventually I was coming back from my break so sweaty that it was no longer feasible to run on my breaks. I switched to running in the mornings and I started at 2 miles a day for 5-6 days a week. I’m much more reasonable now and only go about 3 miles 3-5 times a week. If I really push myself I’ll do less workouts to let my muscles heal better.

There’s so much freedom in running. You get to choose where you go. You get to choose how long. You get to choose how fast. You get to choose what you wear. You get to choose how you do it. You get to choose streets, sidewalks or trails. You get to chose whether or not you compete. Every other form of exercise has some kind of rule, but with running the only rule is whether or not you do it!

The plan is to run another 20 5K races this year and possibly a 10K. We’ll see where I get on it, but I should be able to. I figure this will be the last year I’ll be able to do this many races both because my body is getting older (and knees especially) and because soon I hope to be busy with family things… maybe that will take another few years. Who the heck knows anymore?! I certainly don’t.

Run. I dare you.

Things I learn from spending time with my ex

I spent time talking to my ex today.

My ex and I have a past. For years I tried to get him to change. For years I tried to convince him that I was right. I tried to tell him that he should be more of an adult, that he should hang out with different friends, that he should stay out of trouble. I tried to convince him to stop smoking, to stop drinking, to go to bed early and wake up on time for work.

He didn’t listen to any of it. He brushed me aside. We fought about it constantly. He thought I was trying to make him be someone he wasn’t. But I could see the person he was capable of being, and it was a person I wanted to be with.

But things ended.

I never got to see him be that person. He wasn’t that person in the end. He was wrong for me and I was wrong for him. We wanted different things and it ended in a violent outburst that was not only unexpected, but something the person I thought he was would have never done.

I’ve got a new guy and my future is not with my ex, but my past is. My current guy doesn’t think that. He’s jealous and worried when I spend time with my ex. But my ex was my friend first. He IS my friend. So why can’t I have both my ex (who is my friend) and my new guy?

My new guy has ambition. He has a great job, he owns his own business. He wants all the things that I want out of life. He thinks about our future. He makes plans. He makes promises and keeps them. He’s amazing. I love him.

It’ll take time.

Time and trust.

Someday soon I hope he can understand that it’s not about the relationship we had, but the friendship we once had. It’s not about what I wanted to be with him because that’s dead and gone. My ex is becoming someone else, and I hope that takes him down beautiful paths. I’m moving on, and I’m thrilled to see what that brings me. I’m excited for plans, promises, and a future.

I’m moving forward with my new guy, and life is beautiful.

Choose your words with love

As I preach over and over and over again, the world does not have enough love in it anymore. People don’t truly care for one another. There’s too much entitlement, instant gratification and apathy. People just don’t give two shits about others unless it directly benefits them.

Case in point: businesses which “go green” for the marketing value. People who perform random acts of kindness only to publicize it on social media…those are supposed to benefit the person receiving the act of kindness, not the person doing it. By publishing it, it’s selfish. (Yes, I’ve listed what I do for random acts of kindness before. That wasn’t to gain publicity, it was to give others ideas. There’s a difference.) People who donate to a charity to have their name on a plaque. Puke.

There are certain words which no longer belong in modern society, and tonight someone used one with me. The end result was a rather large argument in which the person actually thought I may disown them. Yes, it was that bad. I take this seriously.

It was “The N Word”.

There are very few words in the world which I have issues with, but racial slurs are the absolute worst words a person can use. When someone uses a racial slur, it’s not “just a word”. It’s insulting, disgusting and rude. This word is not separate from the hundreds of years of oppressing people based on their race by use of this word to mean that they were less of a person. It’s not just a word rappers use in reference to their friends regardless of the spelling. It’s a degrading insult which I will not stand for. It’s disgusting.

There’s others.

Retarded. Retarded is a word I wish would just disappear. It’s almost worse than a racial slur in that it insults people who are mentally challenged. Really?! I’ve known many people with lower cognitive function and the people I know are beautiful, wonderful, intelligent and kind people. They know facts you never knew you needed to know, but they just told you just now. They are some of the most loving people I have ever met. They do not deserve to be insulted by your ignorant words. People are not retarded. People can have cognitive problems, downs syndrome, or a disability, but they are not retarded.

“That’s gay” is another phrase I will not stand for. By using someone’s sexuality in place of the word “dumb” or “stupid” (which are also words I very rarely say because they are also cruel) it’s insulting to every person of that sexuality. You’re saying that gay is synonymous for stupid. If that isn’t what you mean, then don’t say it! There was a recent media focus on this phrase, and I think it has finally been eliminated for the most part.

I’d love to see a world in which people are respected, loved and treated as equals. We’re all members of the human race. Who gives a fuck what factors divide us?! We have skin, it doesn’t matter what color. We have thoughts, it doesn’t matter how many. We have feelings, it doesn’t mater what kind, they are acceptable. No person on this planet is more deserving than another. Not everyone gets what they want nor do they always get it in the timing they want.

I’m all for celebrating diversity, but in the belief that we’re all special and unique. No one is the same as anyone else. This isn’t to emphasize matters which divide us, but to splendor in the fact that although we are all human, we are all individuals and should be treated as such and not by some blanket policy or practice.

It’s time we set aside these thoughts and think more clearly about where our planet is going. We need to stop dividing this planet based on national origin, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation or any other factors. Let’s band together and spread more love. Let’s take care of those less fortunate who need help. Let’s give aid to those who need it whether that’s financial, physical, mental or emotional not because they “earned” it but because it’s the right thing to do. Let’s be kind and generous to one another not because of religious doctrine, but because it’s what decent human beings would do.

Let’s spread more love in this world and think about our words. Let’s eliminate hateful words with no purpose but to wound others and cause division. So I challenge you, if you’re using any of these words, stop. There’s so much hate already in this world, please don’t perpetuate it further.