raven0us

“in the pregnant hour between false and true dawn…” | May 29, 2012


I contemplated my triggers again.

People talk of triggers… at least in Denver and other touchy feel-y cities. I have been identifying and cataloging my triggers on this roller coaster of healing like a prison inmate picks trash off the side of a highway. It’s one of those first step type things. Therapists and advocates encourage all people to journal such things and in that moment of advice it feels easy and helpful. Like the inmate picking up the trash again, one would think, “Ahh nice, a break from the jail… let my mind wander a bit… fresh air and contemplation.”  Then the individual picks the first piece of trash with their strange trash poking or grappling item and realizes the trash is endless. It’s just one after the other down an endless highway! Dirt and smut and disapproving glares!

 

That’s how veteran’s holidays feel to me.

Initially I would respond to this by staying in the house on holidays and document the ways I was/am triggered. Memorial Day, 4th of July, Presidents day, Labor Day, Flag day, Veteran’s day! I have no where to pack that much anxiety.

I realized I wanted a monument to represent the war I have survived. I say fuck the elitism of  “combat veterans” because there is no front line on this bullshit and any and all of the trauma combat veterans ingest is ALWAYS vomited back out on to all of us which we then vomit out on to each other. Which is not to say this is the combat veteran’s fault or that they don’t deserve to vomit. By all means, combat veterans, vomit, but do so acknowledging that we are all carrying and processing this toxicity.

So, out of respect for all of us, with no hierarchy of pain or trauma, I made myself into a war memorial. I dressed as the spirit in white draped in all white lace from head to toe. I stood with a sign in front of me that said:

“Memorial Day Memorial

While serving 7 years in the US Army as a soldier and mental health counselor I was raped by a fellow soldier. I stand here as a ghost of the violence perpetuated by the military industrial complex. I am not a rare case. As a mother and veteran I am jobless and some days nearly homeless. This is also an invocation of the spirit in white. Throughout fairytale and legend, the spirit in white is the guide, the one with innate and gentle knowing. Donations can be made to support the communal mental health recovery of folks with post traumatic stress. Thank you for your time.”

I did not speak. I stood still. I have very little ability to communicate these days. Even blogging to a world of people that rarely read, listen or care, I feel inarticulate, irrelevant and dumb. I rarely maintain relationships for long, though I find this true for most folks so I try to see the positive in it.

But I knew/know I had/have to resist this feeling. This crushing silencing.

I did what I could. I pointed out a different perspective in the sea of arbitrary patriotic shirts hailing to an unknown Hitler “for our freedom”.  I stood on a chair behind the sign with my knees shaking in my combat boots.

I watched the faces through the holes in the lace. Each face transformed in similar ways. Starting with an “Oh god. Dumb. What is this?” look, then each cocky smile would melt slowly as they read.

Oh. Oh.

At times I would have between 50 and 100 folks circled around reading and transforming. 3 females stopped to tell me that the memorial I created is too their memorial. They each told me at 3 different times in a 3 hour period that they were also raped in the military. Each of them told me where and when and how and that they each tried to tell their chain of command(the people above them that are responsible for helping them seek justice and be their advocates). Each woman told me that they were told to keep their mouths shut and that their concerns had nothing to do with the mission. Two of the women had their children with them and said that since they have been unable to keep a job and have been struggling through life. They said that the VA does not consider their trouble anything worth compensating.

3 women with the same story in 3 hours on a random street corner.

I am not alone and they are not alone.

Then when I was re-taping my sign to my chair an older man about 70 came up to me and said, “Do you make this lace?”

I said, “No, I am my own war memorial.”

He took a moment to read my sign and said,”This is my fight too. I have been surviving PTSD for 30 years and I still feel alone a lot. The VA has never helped me. They didn’t even know what my DD214 was. I am proud of you for taking this into your own hands and making it more real for everyone here. I love you for this.”

I had a younger boy steal a dollar from my pot and run. Another younger boy just stood in front of me for about ten minutes making ridiculously silly faces while his mom shopped. I loved him. I made faces back.

Some women would just stand in front of me and hold hands and lament. A moment for tears.

I had multiple groups of natives translate my sign to Spanish aloud for their group. These people thanked me for everything I was acknowledging and thanked me for calling on the spirits for guidance.

In each spot I stood I had a different person ask me to move. The first place I stopped Planned Parenthood asked me to leave because they had researched which corner would be the most lucrative to canvas and that I was blocking their plans. I asked them to think about what they were saying and I did not move. Then the male canvasser stood directly in front of my sign so it could not be read and attempted to stop people from that position. Others told him he was being rude and eventually he left. Later I moved to a more central position at the mouth of this festival. And by festival I mean people using memorial day as a day to sell useless things from tents… because that’s how we remember and reflect? A woman stopped me and said that for the sake of her customers comfort she would like to move. I told her, ” I acknowledge your concern and I am choosing not to move.” 15ish minutes later I was approached by an undercover police officer in front of a large crowd and asked to get down and come to the side so he could have a couple words with me. I told him to feel free to have his couple words in front of the crowd. He continued to let me know that where I was standing was specifically leased for vendors and that I could stand anywhere else on the mall without worry. He told me that he appreciated what I was doing. I then turned to see he was backed by 7 other police in uniform.

There was a handful of “tween” girls with bodies so thin and lanky that their “grown up” purses hung to their knobby knees. They would read with their fresh fancy make up on and their adorable outfits. Their faces held some of the most sincere expressions, like they knew they had no choice but to enter the war I was memorializing and empathized with me. They would take the time to get their glitter covered change purses out and share some of their money. Most of them would take a moment to tell me I was beautiful.

All of this I did in solitude. I did not know anyone who approached me and I did not ask anyone to join me in support. On the walk down to the mall I thought of Chicago and all of the protests and public demonstrations in Denver. Thinking of these people and things I felt inadequate and useless. I thought of all the veterans I see on corners staring blankly and I commiserated with their desperation. I felt as though attempting to work or organize along the side of anyone I love would only lead to disappointing them as I have in the past. I thought of the soldiers at the NATO protests that threw back their combat awards, fearless and proud. I felt as though I would not fit in there. I attempted to work with a couple veterans involved with IVAW and Veterans Green Jobs and I left that circle feeling ashamed of my gender and dismantled through sexual harassment just like while serving.

I wonder if this is all my fault. If I conjure these feelings and create my own isolation. If I have not made the most of the opportunities and support given to me.

This memorial day though, I found the people who walk a similar road. I started the day spiraling into panic attacks and finished the day feeling relate-able and fresh, a little less afraid.

I am caring for myself and not burdening anyone else. I might not be able to spin a bunch of plates and change legislation or the world in anyway but I am a little less cumbersome. I can care for my old rickety home and cook and commune with folks who love me with a bit of a lighter heart.

The ghost of the spirit in white has ruptured in to a lot of psyches too. The ghost of violence that haunts me will haunt others too, perhaps to the point of understanding.

Maybe I invoked some guidance for all of us.

 

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4 Comments »

  1. I know we’ve had major issues, and you probably hate me at this point, but I just wanted to say that I think this was awesome. Thanks for doing this. Thanks for being brave enough to do this.

    Comment by D — June 1, 2012 @ 3:00 am

    • hmmm there are one or two people with a d name this could be. anymore clues I could get?

      Comment by Lesley — June 2, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

  2. Dearest Lesley:

    This is a fantastic post, and i want you to write more. And if someone who barely knows you can make suggestions about your blog. Write shorter pieces, include more images.

    And can i out you as a prospective Chubby Squirrel when i repost your blog posts? I want to put it up under the title Wanted: Certifiably awesome single moms, part time work building community, full time work starting a revolution.

    What can i do to help you make it to the Communities Conference?

    Paxus at Twin Oaks
    25 Red 2012

    Comment by paxus — June 25, 2012 @ 9:34 pm

    • I wouldn’t mind that at all. The money for transportation and/or a ride is all I need. Thanks for your comments and suggestions!

      Comment by raven0us — July 3, 2012 @ 6:27 am


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    Mother Lover. <3

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