I’ve struggled for three days to find the words. It was like holding my breath for seventy-two hours under water. I was confused and couldn’t make sense of things. No way to tell up from down and no way to understand what was happening to me or why. In my three silent days I’ve been plunged light years from who I was before. This post is the story of that journey. 

Sunday night I was raped. After first expressing consent I said no to other acts and my wishes were dismissed. That and several other acts ensued until it was done. And I was left in a pool of grey confusion around what had just happened. Sore enough to look for bruises from being held down or held in place I wondered if it was just a matter of misunderstanding. I continually asked myself, “It wasn’t rape…was it?” I could not bring myself to say the word. 
I reached out to friends. I shared the experience and sadly almost every woman I told had a similar one to share. Sexual assault, I thought, should not be our admission ticket into womanhood! As I calmed from the shock of the event it became more evident that what I’d experienced was in fact sexual assault. I had said no. Multiple times. It wasn’t a “weird experience” as I had previously described it, it was a crime. 
Telling my mother was difficult. Talking to my younger sister, a college freshman, was worse. I tried to be as transparent with her as I could. Her big sister who felt anything but capable or competent, her big sister was disappointing her because I had, up until that point, decided not to report the assault. I later had a change of heart and did report it. To the police and to my campus police and sexual assault advocates. Having to detail the horrific story over and over again. “How many times approximately, Ms. Williams?” “Why did you continue?” I felt stupid for having to explain my fear. Worse knowing that as a counselor, a professor who trains couselors, a professional who trained sexual assault advocates, that in that moment I failed myself. I am working on forgiving myself for simply surviving in the best way I knew how in that moment. In those moments. 
I also told my direct supervisor and my dissertation committee. Why? Because beyond academic support they are the three people who have supported me personally spiritually emotionally and mentally throughout my time here. I wanted them to know what was going on with me. I wanted to ask them to be patient with me. I wanted to ask them to support me now more than ever. But not to lower their expectations. 
In the three days I’ve just wanted to feel like myself. A friend and colleague told me “he stole your ‘used to’ you’re going to have to find a new one.” In a way her reflection gave me permission. Permission to reframe this experience as an opportunity. I am choosing to find purpose in my suffering. I am choosing to share this journey as I do all my others because that is a part of why I’m here; Why I was allowed to remain all those years ago. I am choosing to be candid and open and honest because that is who I am. 
Something so incredibly private….in it houses so much shame. And so much secrecy. I thought about how I’ve felt in the mornings. Not wanting to wear make up. Or do my hair. Or put on perfume. Or wear fitted clothing. Somebody out there needs to know that they aren’t the only ones feeling like that. I need to know I’m not the only one feeling like that. And why should I house the shame? It was an act of such intimate violation and yet you ask Me to bear the scarlet letter? I respectfully decline. I have nothing to be ashamed of; this was not my fault. ((Sidebar: I’d be lying if I said I fully believed that. I am trying very hard to fully believe it. I know at my core it’s true but I still indulge in the self-blame game)) 
Lastly I shared with my roommate the story of the nun I met who when being raped continually told herself and her perpetrator “I will NOT turn on you.” The man who disregarded my voice and my expressed desires, my boundaries and my comfort…he doesn’t get anymore from me. No more. I have been split in two but I will not turn on you. I will not become some broken thing filled with hate and malice. I will heal and I will thrive. 
Much of what I tout is aspirational. But maybe just saying it out loud is one step towards becoming the woman empowered from this situation versus the woman victimized in this situation. Being a victim was never a role I cared to play. I was not sent here to play small my life and my purpose are much bigger than that. And I choose to believe that I was given my talents and my trials to become. He may have taken parts of me, but I am mine. I will remain mine. The most important parts of me cannot be taken. 
If it is one thing I want him or any woman who has experienced sexual violence to understand its that. Your most precious parts are unable to be stolen or even extracted. Your essence is yours and belongs to you alone. Your light. The world did not give it, the world cannot take it away. Do not electively dim because when you do, you’ve turned. And they continue to steal from you. 
I feel afraid. I feel as though I’m never warm enough. Cozy enough. I don’t want to eat. I can’t stand the idea of being “beautiful” which is what he kept calling me. I am healing. But I am going to do it without shame. Without abusing drugs or alcohol. Without feeling like I have to do it alone. With love. I asked myself how I could love myself through this process? And all I got was that I had to give myself what I needed and what I needed more than ever was kindness. Was loving care and kindness. I decided I would remain open and share my pain as I always do. Finding courage along the way and bravery in the rearview of fear-filled over share. 
So this is me trying.  Not to heal the whole world, just to heal myself. This is me trying to find my new normal after experiencing violation of the worst kind. This is me being honest in my pain and open in my struggle. This is me not having answers but struggling through options. This is just me. Bent though I may be but not broken. 

The man who would not be forgotten

I have learned by now that when things do not go away, when they permeate your daydreams and night dreams, when your mind wanders aimlessly to their vicinity, when your heart reaches out to be nearer to it, that you should pay attention. Take seriously your pleasures! I’ve been heard proclaiming the sentiment. Thinking mostly of long forgotten passions, dormant creativity or hidden talents we do not indulge for fear of judgment ridicule or rejection. We mark them as “silly” and pack them away in the box of forgotten things in the room of no return and allow them to collect dust, when that is not their rightful place. But something has told us they are trivial, not worth pursuit, and to put them away. The childish things. However, what if it’s not a thing?

I had, what could be categorized as a one-night-stand for all intents and purposes. He was in town on business. He asked me out for drinks. Then dinner. I obliged. We spent the third night together and in the morning he boarded a flight back home and he was supposed to disappear into the queue of expired desires. Only he did not, has not. He’s lingered and my thoughts race to him as though he was the finish line.

Since the initial meeting, he’s been back to visit. He calls. He texts. He says “good morning beautiful” because he knows I like that sort of thing. He got a promotion and warned me I’d hate it because he would be less available. I thought it was a good sign he even considered me, though I would not allow myself to feel joyous about it–I,instead, made it mean nothing and tried not to care. It did not work.

After his last visit I stopped dating other men. Before I knew it two months had gone by and all I wanted was him. I told him, in much fewer words. Hoping to guise my covets in simple language with no seasoning. He saw through me and devoured the idea. “Can I come to you in November?” “Can you come any sooner?” Scheduling conflicts. More travel. More responsibility. More considerations of the man who was supposed to last only as long as his business trip.

Waking up at 3 am with tears in my eyes, I wondered what I was dreaming about. As I reached for my phone to check the time a message from him comes through, “Good morning beautiful”. I smiled with my liver. He lights me up.

Instantly I recalled our last being together. I’d just washed my sheets. Just like tonight. I’d just cleaned my room and made things just so for his arrival. I’d waited and anticipated. I’d sat nervously at work unable to concentrate on a single thing for wishing he were here already. And when he did come, standing on my tip-toes to kiss him. The breadth and narrowing in his back from years of basketball that fit my hands just perfectly. His asking if I missed him. His knowing of that answer. The tour of my condo he asked for but did not want. The noticing of my vision board and the thoughtful inquisition of the abstract wishes. The eye lashes. The hands. The smile. The laugh. The heavy New York accent I’d misplaced behind the Boston nickname and the hat he kissed me beneath like mistletoe.

He was my thing. My thing I tried to box up but would not stay hidden. Tucked away. Forgotten. I wanted this man and more than that, I wanted him to want me in equal (okay, slightly more than equal) measure.

Unsure of what future or what possibilities lie in keeping him, I ignore what could be all together. Settling for and nestling into the right now of him. The immediate presence of delight and joy which fills me at thought of him. That’s enough isn’t it? To simply know the right now. To lay your head on the chest of what is and drift off into all the nows you can inhale which are scented with his cologne. Today it will be enough that in this moment he is my wish. And I cannot think a second beyond it.


It changes. It used to be Warrior II, something about being absolutely rooted. Then it was fish, I think at that time I was opening. I was cracked and I felt the light seeping out and fish was what made me feel closer to source. Now, however, it’s Dancer’s Pose. What’s funny about it is that I cannot do it unless my breath is right. That should be how it always is, right?

You know when you stand on the beach and each time the water crashes into you, if you just stand your ground you sink further and further into the earth? That is how I feel. I am sunken into the sand and really, sunken into myself. And as I sit down and look around the corridors of me, I wonder where to even begin? Some corners get good light, some walls have beautiful artwork though they lurk in shadows and are covered in cobwebs. There is the faint smell of old, and what I really want to do is throw open the curtains and let all the light in.

My body has been the source of much contention for me. Though it is tricky because as much as it sometimes feels like a prison, it is also where so much of my safety is. I know things here first. Similarly, if it does not make sense in here, then it is not right for me. I quite literally dwell here. Yoga, running, dance…they have been the forms of movement that I have always been drawn to, regardless of my practice (or lack there of). In these forms I realized that in doing them much of the “doing” is reliant on breath FIRST. If you do not breathe, you cannot move in yoga. If you do not focus your breathing in running, you cannot get very far, and in dance…well…
I suppose in m(any) forms of exercise it begins and ends with breath; but I know that with these three in particular it beckons an almost meditative state of breathing and it is like something else takes over all together.

It just clicked…maybe these things are the alignment of all the elements. It is when you are most vulnerable yet it is also when you are most powerful. Air in your lungs, fire in your heart, water on your skin and earth at your feet. It IS the avatar state.

imageSo I did some yoga today. Then I looked around on tumblr for cool poses to try. I got some pictures of myself 1–stretching 2–tree 3–dancer. I looked at them, how I moved. How I breathed…and of course I saw my body. Some (increasingly decreasing) part of me saw big legs and an unflattering midsection, but most of me saw how when I let all that go what I was able to accomplish.

If you have never recorded yourself doing something you love, do. It is amazing what you see. It is amazing because in those moments you do not see the negative. Sure you are aware of it, but it is not what catches your eye, it is not what feeds you.

I heard said today, “I wonder what you have to be thinking in order not to be so dire, so hungry for things from other people because you have fed yourself before you met them.” That was Bishop T.D. Jakes. I thought, wow…what do I need to tell myself? He continued, “You fall in love with them over something they gave you that you ought to be giving yourself.” Ooooooh that hit home. When people tell you you’re pretty, talented, creative, whatever. And you eat it up to the point where you’re licking the bowl and Please, sir, can I have some more-Oliver Twisting. You strain to see what it is in you that they see that you do not. But what I have learned is that I can see it best when I breathe. When I sit in the quiet corridor of me and turn inwards.

It is the runner’s high. It is the the perfectly danced swan lake. It is everything. And I am glad I got a little bit of it today. My prayer is that I get just one breath more of it tomorrow.

Jess’ Jamaican Diary Entry #2: Honesty

“Miss, how come you so big? Do you eat too much food?” What do you say to a fourteen year old who asks you this? A fourteen year old who is living in a group home run by the state government for other girls who have experienced sever trauma, abuse, and or neglect. A fourteen year old girl whose dorm mate sneaks out to see boys and takes 300 JA (about $2.75USD) for sex with them? A fourteen year old girl whose best friend is pregnant for the second time but is afraid to tell anyone for fear that she will be kicked out of their makeshift home. I answered, “Yeah..I guess so.”

Being at a Place of Safety has been hard for me. I’m supposed to be one of the instructors and yet I feel so much a novice in this environment. Managing my own emotional boundaries has been the largest battle for me. On the first day, as an angry fifteen year old climbed across tables, thew chairs, and ripped the television wires out of the wall all before she tore the clothes off of another girl, made me cry. “Miss, you sad?” One little girl, Miranda, asked me. I told her yes, because I can’t imagine what this angry girl has seen in her life to make her act out in such a way. Bubbling to her brim with fiery anger and malice for any and everyone around her, I cried because I wondered when was the last time she felt love?

Aside from acknowledging my extreme fortune at having lived the life I have lived, and the circumstances in which I was born into, I have been reflecting on the differences or similarities in me and the Jamaican people. The merchants at the farmers market call me “Sister” but only because they want me to buy things from them. “Come, let me show you something my Black sister,” they say to me with my Americanism reeking out of my pores they tell me prices in dollars. I always ask for the JA price. They suck their teeth a bit before telling me.

I didn’t expect to fit in, and honestly I am so used to standing out it doesn’t bother me that even in an island nation of people with kinky hair and sun charred skin, I feel different. Mostly, I felt different because in American we live beneath the curtain of courtesy and “things you don’t say to perfect strangers,” whereas in Jamaica it is all out there. “Hey white girl!” they say to my students. “Hey Fluffy!” they call to me. Perhaps a year ago, I would have been butt hurt over the comments, but now I wonder less about the so-called social niceties and more about where a “me” would fit in, could fit in to this culture, if at all?

What I have wondered is, where is the wealth? Where do the affluent Jamaicans live and what do they do? Or even the upwardly mobile, is there such a thing? Do they have access to the exclusive private beaches? Do they wake up with floor to ceiling window views of the Caribbean Sea? Or is everyone working to break even?? I go on, What brings them their greatest joy? Do they have national pride? Are they pouring resources back into the economy? It is something that I realize has become important to me…remembering my beginnings. To reach down while I am climbing up. I wonder who would be my tribe in this nation?

In the moments in between the things, I find my mind wandering off to this idea of body between air and earth. That somehow as we exist in human form head to heaven and feet to earth we are liminal and have access to both spaces. It is why we can dream and put things into fruition. It is why we can imagine, and then build and engineer. We are able to envision the impossible, improbable, and make it so. Well…through us God works. So I wonder, how my Jamaican dreams will manifest? how the things I see here in my minds eye, I can begin to engineer and construct. I wonder the same for the girls.

And perhaps amend the answer to my question more honestly, “Miss, why you so big? Do you eat too much food?” And I would say, “Maybe…or maybe because I haven’t imagined anything else.” Thoughts become things. Perhaps she would have looked at me funny, but surely no funnier than she already was. Surely not. And who knows, maybe that was the answer she was looking for. I’ve seen angles among us in stranger places. And then I think, maybe the angry girl made me cry because I saw something in her I lacked, the audacity to demand a different reality. Though the case extreme and still not entirely appropriate, the basic root of her episode was a large loud bid for her dream manifested. When was the last time I demanded something so boldly?

I suppose the spectrum on which “honesty” lies can span from beautiful and safe to hard and emotive. From my pondering how to address questions of my body, however uncomfortable it was to answer, to the throwing of furniture it was an exposure, an openness, a susceptibility to extreme hurt be it emotional or physical. And I wondered whether its always like that? Is truth a knife that pierces our shell, slicing us open? And dare we let it remain open? Patient and withstanding for natures own healing or are we always in search of band aids? No imagination. No faith in the unseen. Scared, open, and pissed as hell at the gall of honesty.


I’m up late. Or early I suppose, depending on how you look at it. I just finished rereading The Perks of Being a Wallflower and I’m feeling some wordless emotion. There is this one part where Sam and Charlie are talking and she says to him:

“It’s just that I don’t want to be somebody’s crush. If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don’t want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it, too. I want them to be able to do whatever they want around me. And if they do something I don’t like, I’ll tell them.” She was starting to cry a little. But she wasn’t sad. “You know I blamed Craig for not letting me do things? You know how stupid I feel about that now? Maybe he didn’t really encourage me to do things, but he didn’t prevent me from doing them either. But after a while, I didn’t do things because I didn’t want him to think different about me. But the thing is, I wasn’t being honest. So, why would I care whether or not he loved me when he didn’t really even know me?”

Excerpt From: Chbosky, Stephen. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

And I thought, yes, that is exactly it.

I googled ‘Carrie Bradshaw pearls’ because I am looking for inspiration for my birthday outfit. I ran across a fashion website counting down Carrie’s worst fashion mistakes. Her visible bra, her short shorts (which they called ghetto–which made me cringe), her hats…and I thought “they missed the point of her.”  Carrie, and really every woman, is beautiful because of her so-called mistakes. They make up a significant portion of who we are, I think. And for someone to want to clean Carrie up…means they don’t know her. Like Sam and Charlie.

Then, I thought of how many people know me. A handful maybe. I used to be a lot more self righteous. I thought I knew better. It took my friend and a suicide scare for me to realize how wrong I was. I have another friend who’s pregnant right now and lies a lot. To everyone, but mainly herself. We all know she does it but its not hurtful so we never say anything about it. But I wonder if she thinks we want to clean her up. I wonder if she thinks we don’t really get her. Maybe we don’t.

I guess sometimes in our heads we have reasons as to why we hide parts. Reasons we tell lies or stay quiet or omit. Sometimes its easier. You feel like people don’t really want to know how you are. They are just being polite. But what if they do?

I think people get uncomfortable when they can’t help. Like when you tell them a story and they start giving you advice or feedback you didn’t really want. My married friends do that. So do mom friends. And it always cycles back around to them and how you don’t understand because you’re not a wife, or a mom. But that’s an excuse too.

I’ve been an insatiable sleeper lately, very quiet and very contemplative. Also, selective of how I expend energy. I don’t feel melancholy, exactly, but I do not feel as exuberant as usual. That never felt like a lie. I guess the best thing is that people are letting me be. Maybe that speaks to the quality of relationships here. My classmates are the best people on earth. People who can love your sunshine and your rain. Those are good people.

I had a friend who’s husband was unfaithful. I was one of the few people who knew and when they stayed together she stopped talking to me. Because I knew, I think. I told her that I don’t think she’s a bad or stupid person and we started talking again. Sometimes people can’t look at you because they see too many things they’re trying not to see. And sometimes its because they think you see something they don’t want you to. I try very hard to “zoom out” and see the person. Not the stuff. Because we’re not our stuff. Truth or lies.

I got my fill of holding my tongue when I took Terri’s class. But when I spoke, my voice had too much magnetism and it kept bringing people to me that I didn’t want. I didn’t really get it then. I think I get it better now. My honesty, truthfully my vulnerability, sounded a lot like permission. Which is what a lot of people are waiting on. That its safe to come out.

I’m like Sam now. I don’t want to be a crush or some eloquent being you’ve deified in your head. I’d much rather be me; the mess. Not in a self depreciating way. But in a way where you know you don’t have to be anything other than you. Because I’m nothing more than me. The god in all of us makes us all equal, I think. She just wanted to be seen clearly. Honestly.


I’d like to do that. Be more honest. Not worry about people thinking of me differently and just being. I’d like to give myself permission to do that. Because I thought Carrie looked great no matter the outfit. Bra showing or not. There’s a lot that’s beautiful about loving yourself past other peoples insecurities. They try to give them to you, you know. I loved that she never accepted them. I think Carrie is a lot like Sam.

A Letter to Fat Girls

Dear Fat Girls,

You are not, nor will you ever be Beyoncè. Stop torturing yourself with the unfair comparisons to her, or any other celebrity who’s body you covet. She is beautiful, but so are you.

Stop reading magazine after magazine, book after book, and blog after blog on How to Lose Weight. You know how, we all know how. But don’t beat yourself up because you haven’t made it work. Don’t think there must be something wrong with you since others can seem to lose, yet you continue to struggle. There is nothing wrong with you. Their journey is theirs and yours is yours.

There is much to be said about the industry dedicated to telling you how your wrongs can be righted. The pills that suppress hunger, the exercise machine that builds muscle, the pre-packed low fat vegan non-dairy dinners that promise a daily allotment of nutrients.  But nothing for the heart.

Fat girls, I know you. I am you. We’re not stupid. We know it takes burning more calories than we consume to lose weight. We know that truly sustainable weight-loss happens from a lifestyle dedicated to health not just bikini daydreams and special K.  We know. But we don’t know how to address the distorted relationship with food.

We don’t know how to say, food was my mother, father, best friend when I had no one else. Food never judged me. Food never scolded me. Food was never cruel, hurtful, or absent. Food never lied, broke promises, or disappointed. How do we begin to separate feelings of safety, comfort, and love–usually reserved for people–from food?


I don’t have an answer. Not a sure fire one. But I can say this, I know I am not, nor will I ever be Beyonce. I recognize that when I read book after book and blog after blog about weight loss that my story is just beginning, and there is nothing wrong with me that I look more before than after. I know that prepackaged promises are not for me, and that my journey begins with following my heart and not expecting a miracle or a quick fix. I recognize that food is food, and am working to reconcile the feelings I have about it at every single meal.

I read a lot of people’s stories. I hear people talk about a moment they had, an epiphany that woke them up and begged for change. I wanted, so desperately, for me (in those moments) to be reading the story that would illicit my own awakening. And each time that it didn’t happen I sunk deeper into a despair that maybe I would always be on the outside looking in at thin. I’ve chased it with such fervor and it has escaped me, true to form, like a thief being chased. Yet now I find myself exhausted by the entire race, I hung my “size 14 goal pants” in the back of my closet and thought gingerly of throwing them out all together.

And here in my exhaustion, I’ve found myself eating cleaner working out more regularly and being content with my reflection in the mirror. I have not looked at my thighs with disgust or disdain, and I’ve found them getting firmer. So, I say it has to be in the surrender. Fat girls, sometimes its about the fight. But othertimes its about the surrender. Giving in to the feelings we eat to escape. Giving in to being tired after running up 1 flight of stairs. Its important to know exactly where you are, I think. Because only when you sit and truly look at where you dwell can you make the decision to stay or to go.

Lastly, I have to say that it wasn’t the number on the scale. It wasn’t the rising jeans size or the new body discomforts. It wasn’t the 3rd strapless and unflattering bridesmaid dress, or the inability to fasten a seatbelt on a rollercoaster. It wasn’t the threat of diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease. It wasn’t even the growing chance of being sterile. It was the little voice inside of me that reminded me of who I am and what I could do.

No, fat girls, I am not Beyonce. I am Jessica. I am overweight, and haven’t even lost enough to be considered an authority on doing it right or well. My relationship with food is fucked up. I am trying to make peace with eating well and working out. I struggle, I fail, I hate admitting how hard this is. Fat girl, you might think I’m just talking…But I know you. I am you. And I love you.