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coping

SURPRISE!!

When unexpected things happen it can be very hard to “go with the flow”. surprise-01Change is one thing; unexpected out of the blue blindsiding is completely another.  I welcome change, new beginnings, growth… But even really GOOD surprises have always been an issue for me. It’s as if my startle reflex kicks in and I jump in fear and react regardless of whether the surprise is ultimately positive or negative. This is not something I can explain other than I just have above. It is what it is and I try to cope with it to the best of my ability. Let me tell you it is not easy at times because life can throw you many a curve ball (even good ones that you do catch).

Now some people love surprises. These people baffle me as I am sure I baffle them. Today was filled with good surprises, but surprises none the less that had me reactive and fearful. Once I move past the reaction (which honestly can sometimes take a bit), the reality and essence of the surprise comes into the light and I can make a clearer distinction between a valuable and welcome surprise and a more negative unpleasant one. Honestly sometimes after stepping back for a while a surprise can be a bit of both simultaneously.surprise

I sit now and write watching a beautiful pink and purple sunset. The day has been eventful to say the least.  But once again I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the strength I’ve gained from coping with today’s surprises. When surprises are good, what strength is there to be gained? Because I was caught off guard it tried my emotions and it took while to put it all in perspective.  I learned from it and hence became stronger.

The need to bring food into this blog exists because I know there are some of you who read this because of the weight loss angle.  I think this topic is apropos.  We can compare this to the surprise birthday cake brought to your office. Here is a surprise that seems both negative and positive. So cake surprisehow do you react?  Unfortunately, given my nature I react quickly with fear. When I was actively trying to lose weight my internal thoughts might have gone something like this: “Oh my goodness,
what do I do?  I can’t eat this. I shouldn’t eat this, but I don’t want to offend so and so who remembered my birthday and went out of their way. I don’t want to hurt their feelings.” So the fear may paralyze me for a bit. But since this is kind of low down on the “surprise” scale, I probably could take that moment of brief fear, step back and be able to just thank the considerate individual and so as not to hurt their feelings take a small piece and let that be my cheat for the week.  There are harder surprises with food, more difficult to navigate; The surprise catered lunch from a client, the free dessert you didn’t know came with the meal, the caloric count of the meal you just ate at your friends’ house; these surprises are a bit harder to navigate for some of us. The holidays, parties, going out to dinner, etc., these can be somewhat “prepared” for.  But surprises catch us off guard and can make rational decision making very difficult

It’s helpful to know what triggers a person’s negative reactions. Whether you are a person who enjoys surprises or not I hope this blog was helpful in someway. I use this space to chronicle my journey with the hope that it may help even just one person.

Don’t silence a cry for help…

Since my initial blog regarding my abuse and my abuser, two other survivors of this man’s terror have contacted me (and I’ve eaten way too much chocolate). There is a sense of not being alone, but sharing this in common is not comforting – it’s just disturbing. I know there are dozens of women Marc Winiarz Gafni has hurt over the decades, and at the time of my abuse I knew of one other he was inappropriate with, and considered his then wife a victim as well, but until the past decade or so the others have only been numbers to me. Now they are people and the shared pain is excruciating. It only fuels my anger more that decades later still no one may be listening.

LISTEN
LISTEN

I understand that times are different now. I understand that people are less afraid to talk about sexual abuse when it comes to the clergy, but there is one thing I will never understand. I am a parent of two daughters (and three sons) a now sixteen-year-old daughter, and a daughter who was once 16 as well. In a million years I can neither both imagine blaming her for being sexually abused, nor envision that people I know would not believe her and/or speak out in defense of her abuser. As painful as recalling the abuse has been, and is – each and every time, equally painful is the reaction to my speaking out each of those times as well. Honestly I don’t know why I bother to tell and retell my story (a story that has not changed for 30+ years). No change occurs; and neither does justice, reparation nor apology. There will always be those few who appreciate, who encourage and who offer support, but they are few and far between.

The Rabbinate is NOT immune to sexual dysfunction or mental disorders. Rabbis (male and female) are human with imperfections; some of these flaws are so severe and run so deep that they are irreparable. These same dysfunctions occur across humanity. It is not “safe to assume” simply because someone is in a position of leadership, (religious or otherwise) that they present no threat to others. I would argue quite the opposite. Individuals in such positions must be held to an even higher standard, and must be placed under a more intense light of scrutiny. These people influence our children and other vulnerable members of our population.

If anyone comes to you (especially a child) to share a painful experience, PLEASE really listen, reserve any judgment and believe what you are hearing. Statistics alone have proven that the majority of those who share stories of abuse are not just lying to get attention (as I was accused of), or being coerced by others to bolster a campaign against a particular individual. Talking about an uncomfortable sexual encounter is not something people do easily, readily or honestly even willingly. More often then not someone who cares knows something is wrong, and it is with his or her support that a survivor speaks.

Anorexia-in-the-mirrorIf you need help, ask. If you are being abused sexually, emotionally, physically; tell someone.  If you are using food in any way as a coping mechanism (over eating, not eating, vomiting); tell someone. I was lucky to have ONE such person I could tell in 1986. Had that person not been there I’d likely not be here now. I don’t think she realizes that I owe her my life. Please be that person for someone if they need you – you may actually be saving a life.

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