Forgiveness

It’s not about the other guy. It’s not about the person who has caused pain. It doesn’t mean that ‘presto’, everything is OK about what happened.  It doesn’t mean you condone anything that happened to you. It doesn’t mean you will ever have that person in your life. It doesn’t mean you go on as if nothing happened.  It doesn’t mean that you have to deny your feelings about what they did. It doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t mean you have to do it perfectly all at once.

Forgiveness means you don’t let that person continue to run your life through frequent thoughts about them.   It means that you let go of wanting more revenge. It means you let God have the final say in how that person is judged.  It is an act of obedience as described in Matthew 7 (Bible). It’s about the relationship you have with God, not the perpetrator.  It means that you can turn over the feeling that the perpetrator stole your life.

Forgiveness is not a feeling- it is an action and choice.  The feelings come later. Forgiveness takes the person who hurt you, and moves them out of the forefront of your life. Forgiveness allows you to move forward.  It takes the painful events and people and puts them where they belong…in the past.  🙂

But first, have you forgiven yourself for anything you’ve done to impede your life? 

The Rest of The World Moves On…If I’m Sick or Not !

Even before the leukemia I was a medical train wreck.  I still am.  It bugged me when people would almost apologize for telling me about stuff they were struggling with.  First, I’m not the only person on the planet going through stuff; I get that.  And second,  I’m a nurse (I’m disabled, but I’m still licensed as an RN).  If I can be of use to someone, I’m a happy camper !  It helped me if I could help them.  Still does.

There are times when I’ve felt almost guilty for not being healthy, as if I could fix the stuff that limits me.  And at the same time, I have to know my limits, or it can cause other people hassles.  That was one of the worst things when I was still working; I caused other people extra work.  I hated that.

I don’t ever want to  put my struggles ‘above’ anyone else’s.  Everybody has ‘stuff’, and it’s not a competition. It’s all relative.  For someone who has had a fairly sedate life, having a flat tire on a dark, lonely road is traumatic !  For someone who has had multiple health issues, another one is like “well, what now?”.  Both still have to deal with the situation at the time.  And being grateful for the things in my life that are going OK, or that I still can do makes a big difference in how I see just about everything. 🙂

I think of my figure skating coach when I was 14– her husband murdered their six children.  I can’t imagine having something like that to survive, and then go on with some sort of life.  The survivors of the various natural disasters around the world also come to mind. Someone else always has it worse.  That doesn’t  invalidate what I’m going through, but it does put life in general in perspective.

If my head ever gets so crowded with my own stuff that there’s no room to hear someone else’s struggles,  I’m staying in it too much !

So, friends and family, I’m still here for you!

Why Blog?

For me, it’s a combination of catharsis and purging my mind of things I haven’t talked about in a way that makes me feel heard.  Many people know about the things I write about, but they don’t really know what went on, and the extent of some things.  Other things are just good memories that I want to record.

I can be me- unknown in the real world by most who read my posts. There’s a freedom in anonymity that is enticing.  I don’t have to censor much.  I can unload- and in the process, hopefully say something that resonates with a reader who is either struggling with some inner battle, or understands the nursing profession.  I don’t have a single topic focus.  I’m just emptying my head.

Most of my blogs are fairly long- and some may say that will keep them from being read by most folks out there. That’s fine.  I edit what I feel is appropriate to the topic, and leave it at that.  If people want to read them, fine; if they find them too long to bother with, that’s up to them.

Since starting this on August 10, 2012, I’ve had so many things come to mind that I want to write about.  I live alone.  I’ve been through a lot.  I don’t discuss a lot, and it’s time to dump it.  I can’t be the only one who has had the same experiences- and so I throw my story and feelings out there.  Do with them as you will.  My hope is that they make a connection and help someone- either through a tough time, or a reminder of something funny.

Dear Parole Board Who Will Decide the Fate of The Man Who Raped Me…

Well, here we go again.  I think this is the third time he’s been up for parole, and my feelings are the same. It’s amazing how I can keep it together until I get ‘the call’ or ‘the letter’ telling me it’s time again.  Once again, I’m reminded even more deeply of what Carl Chambers did to me on January 10, 1987.   I was 23 years old, a virgin, and terribly naive. He stole a lot that day.  Let me tell you why he should stay in prison, once again.

Carl Edward Chambers
Mugshot- January 2012

On January 10, 1987,  Carl Chambers spent six hours doing non-stop violence to me. He raped me with his penis, a wine cooler bottle with ragged foil on its neck,  his fist, and he sodomized me repeatedly with ‘himself’ and the wine cooler bottle.  He beat me in the head; I’m reminded of  that whenever I open my jaw- it still clicks out of the joint briefly when I chew.  I can still feel the scar inside my mouth where my lower teeth went through my lower lip.  I had torn uterine ligaments, and when I was going through a routine pelvic exam and Pap test years ago, the nurse practitioner asked me how many times I’d been pregnant, as she saw the visible signs of that… I told her only the one time when I lost it, and flushed it down the toilet. That happened 10-12 weeks after the rape.  I’d never had sex before; it was his.

I knew I was pregnant, even though everyone passed off the morning sickness and fatigue as stress from the rape.  I was too scared to get a pregnancy test at the drugstore.  And then that morning I’ll never forget, the cramping started, and I felt it leaving my body and ending up in the toilet.  I saw it. It was the part of the placenta that is attached to the uterus, and kind of ‘jagged’.  I didn’t look any closer. I knew what it was.  I didn’t know what else to do, so I just flushed the toilet.  That image is permanently plastered in my memory.

Chambers raped me while on parole. He’d been let out 38 days earlier.  He was arrested when he was on parole after getting out on mandatory release for what he did to me, but since it was an assault on a man, it was only a misdemeanor. Then, when he was about to get a decreased level of supervision in January of this year, he got arrested for something that was bad enough to get him put back in prison; a ‘parole violation’ is what I was told. To me that screams “put me back in”. He doesn’t “do parole”.

I fight not only for what happened to me, but because I feel it’s my responsibility to do all I can to help keep him in prison so nobody else has to know what he could do next.  He is completely capable of killing someone.  Had I not escaped from him, I’d be dead. No way could he leave me alive after I knew where he lived, his name, his sister, and the list of things he did to me. I fought to stay alive that morning. He told me if I made any noise, he’d kill me. While he had me lying on the living room floor,  I hung onto the coffee table leg and focused on the pain in the intensity of my grip.  I would see his arms with blood about 3-4 inches up each arm from his wrists, and go back to focusing on that coffee table leg- just to keep from screaming.

He took a lot that morning in 1987.  He took my innocence in believing that if I knew who someone was related to, I was safe. He took my virginity. He took my feeling of being safe at all times in my own home. He took my ability to see myself in any sort of relationship or marriage.  He took my dreams of a husband and kids.  He left me feeling damaged and torn. He damaged my body. He left me with a life sentence of having to deal with him, his parole hearings, and parole violation information.  He never goes away for long enough to feel like my life matters in the whole process. There is one person in the Victim Services Department who has been a huge source of encouragement, but I shouldn’t have to know him.

When I was raped, part of me stopped moving forward.  I can’t get that back. I’ve done the best I can to make my life count with the work I did as a nurse before becoming disabled.  But there is nothing that makes January 10, 1987 go away.  Before the mandatory release, I had periods of time when those memories weren’t as strong as they are during the period of parole review.  But it’s never really gone.  I’ve done what I can to be a survivor and not a victim, and then I feel like I become that scared 23 year old all over again when I hear he might get out of prison… he ignores parole, so that isn’t even something that gives me any comfort.  He’s still OUT.   I try to live the best way I can, considering the limitations I have.  While I know I’m strong emotionally, and have much more insight than I did in 1987, nothing makes the parole hearing easy.  It’s all about him.  His freedom.  Freeing up space in the prison system.  That decision to let him out could very easily end up with someone being murdered.  It’s the only thing (that anyone knows about) that he hasn’t been arrested for- and do any of these guys go back to lesser crimes when they start up again?   I hope I don’t find out that he murdered someone, though it will never be a surprise if I do.

Keep him in custody.  He violates parole like he breathes. It means nothing to him, and causes indescribable agony for those he attacks (not to mention what my parents and family/friends went through – it’s never just about the direct victim).  Please….please.

It Was A Privilege, Sweet Lady, It Was A Privilege…

Before ending up on disability eight years ago, I was a full-time registered nurse for nineteen years.  I graduated in 1985,  back when hands on nursing was how nurses were taught, and if any of us hadn’t planned on getting our hands dirty, we were told on the first day of nursing school to leave and not come back.  Because of that way of teaching and thinking, I was prepared to really get in the middle of things even when I’d become a charge nurse  or shift supervisor (and many RNs in the region elevated themselves above actually touching a patient- Lord knows nobody else did!).

I remember many patients fondly  in the countless patients I saw over the nineteen years I worked.  Some of the names may have been lost to time and a memory full of patients, but I remember many  of their situations and some events/characteristics quite specifically. There are a few select patients that were a gift to know.  They weren’t  technically VIPs as the world sees people, but my life was better for having known them. I’m very thankful for each of them.

One of my favorites (and yes, I know I was  supposed to be impartial, but I’m human!) was a wonderful woman who was in and out of the hospital as she battled terminal cancer. She was an immigrant from Germany, and still had a delightful accent in her flawless English.  Even with the torment her body was going through, she had a wicked sense of humor, and if someone got to know her ‘well enough’, she could come up with some silly comments that totally masked her life as it was then.  She used to tell me I was like a bat. On the surface that doesn’t sound so sweet, but she’d have a sideways grin, explaining “You are up all night, and in the morning you want blood.”  She had a point !   I love bats now; they remind me of her in a fond way.

She was in her 70’s I think, and aside from the cancer that was killing her, was fit and mentally sharp. She also was from a generation that still believed in some modesty in personal matters, and was very unsettled when she had difficulty with control of  some bodily functions.  While I was in charge and didn’t have a direct care patient load, I would often answer her call light because she had expressed some mild uneasiness at the youthful  unawareness of some of the younger nurses who would help her get cleaned up. She was ashamed, and embarrassed.  The younger nurses didn’t mean anything by their quickness, though a few would come back to the nurses’ station stating that the odors were offensive to them (which was the place to express those things- we all did).  I told this patient that if she wanted me to come and help her, she could just tell her nurse that she wanted to talk to me, no reason need be given, and the nurse would not be in trouble. (They were all very sweet, and did a good job as young nurses, but the were young, and just didn’t have the experience to look at things as the patient might be seeing them- or how they would feel in the same situation).  She thanked me, and did call for me periodically.

This woman was no stranger to suffering, and yet she remained upbeat and pleasant. The ‘worst’ I ever saw from her was when she’d get a bit quiet. I’m sure she had to be exhausted. There was nothing left to do with the cancer except for comfort care.  Her husband would come to the hospital every day. I rarely saw him, since he’d go home before dark, and I worked the 7 p.m. – 7 a.m. shift.  But he was consistent, and her main support system.  What I heard about him from the day shift told me he adored her.

What really left an impression about this sweet lady was the tattoo on the inside of her left forearm. She was a concentration camp survivor. She had seen- and lived through– the absolute worst that humanity has seen (and done) and she hadn’t let that determine how she interacted with the world around her. It would have been so easy for her to be hostile, untrusting, and resentful, but she was the exact opposite. She was a true survivor, shedding the ‘victim’ label and mentality when it would have been more than understandable to let it define her.  She and I never discussed that tattoo, but she knew I’d seen it (she didn’t attempt to hide it, nor did she ‘show it off’- it just was). Maybe my  eye contact after first seeing it let her know that I acknowledged the indescribable hell she’d survived. I don’t know.  We talked about general things, and she seemed to feel comfortable with me, so I believe if she had wanted to discuss it, she would have. It wasn’t something I felt I had the right to bring up.  I had no frame of reference for the horrors she’d witnessed and lived through, and while I would have gladly listened to her, I didn’t want to seem intrusive into something that so few truly understand.

I was amazed by this sweet lady. I felt honored to have known her, even during a part of her life that was unpleasant and sometimes messy.  She embodied life even though she was dying.  She showed me what the human spirit is capable of, if chosen.  When I heard that she had died at home (with hospice care) I was sad, though also relieved that  she didn’t have to endure any more of the nastiness that cancer brings.  I knew she’d never leave my memories of nursing. She’d always be someone I thought of when anyone said ‘survivor’, even though she’d died.  She had enriched my life, though I was supposed to be the one making hers a little better.  She was a privilege to have known.

In This World We Will Have Trouble…. or “Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…

John 16:33… “I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.” 

SO, what am I supposed to do, to 1) identify potential trouble, 2) protect myself from it, and 3) have practical ways to deal with what does happen?  

God gives me the ability to think. He gives me my intellect, judgement, discernment, and wisdom. But I have to use those things. Sometimes, especially when I’ve been  taught to give to others, help neighbors, and reach out to those in need, I can lose sight of something that is equally important- knowing when I am in trouble. Knowing when I am in danger, or when the evil of others is targeted against me is something I must pay attention to, and act on. God also gave me the ability to perceive danger.  I can’t shame myself into getting in harm’s way, because I’m afraid I won’t be perceived as a ‘good Christian’.  And younger adults don’t always have the life experience to discern ‘neighbor’ vs. ‘enemy’ when the boundaries are blurry… 

I was fairly new to Texas, and working as a nurse on a neurology/neurosurgery floor at night. During the day, I babysat a 6 month old baby from the next door apartment building. I was young (and had energy), and really enjoyed taking care of the baby, as well as my job. For the next 6 months, I had the little guy with me for 9 hours/day, 6 days/week. The baby’s mom and dad were younger than I was ( I was only 22 when I started watching “J”) and didn’t have much money.  Anyway, I usually used the money they gave me to get things for ‘J’. If it was raining, I’d drive his mom the three blocks to her work at the mall.  I was invested with this family, and really cared about the baby. 

Fast forward: I’d had a back injury, and been in the hospital. During that time, my coworkers moved my old apartment contents to a new place, as I was in traction. When I got out, I stopped by the old place, then went to ask the baby’s mom if she would be interested in cleaning my old place (my back was still tender), and I’d pay her- she agreed. At that time, she introduced me to her brother who had been recently released from prison (‘wrong place at the wrong time” was the story she was told), and I said hello- a very brief, generic introduction. We also agreed that I’d watch ‘J’ the next Saturday. 

Very early the next Saturday (about 4 a.m.) I got a call from the brother, asking if I could come over right away; the baby’s father had been in a car accident, and they needed someone to get the baby so they could go to the hospital. I jumped up and immediately got dressed and drove to the baby’s apartment.  I was met by the brother in the parking lot. He told me that the baby’s mom was talking to a friend, and was very upset- they’d bring the baby down in a few minutes. He went back, presumably to the apartment.  Long story short- he said they’d decided to take the baby with them, and would bring him back to my apartment later, at the time I was originally going to watch him. He asked if he could come back to my apartment since they didn’t have a phone to wait for news about  “E” (he’d called me from the corner convenience store). I knew they didn’t have a phone; it all sounded reasonable. But I didn’t know this guy, and knew he’d been in prison (for what, I wasn’t sure). BUT, I was supposed to help my neighbor. I took him back to my apartment.

I showed him where the phone was, and that there was soda in the refrigerator, and I went back to my room. The baby wasn’t going to be dropped off for several hours. I was a bit uneasy, and locked the door. I’d been out the night before, and got home late, so when I went to lie down, it didn’t take long to drift off. He said he was going to make some phone calls about the baby’s dad, and seemed fine being out in the living room with phone and phone book.  

I woke up a few minutes later with a knife at my neck.  I was threatened with death if I didn’t fully cooperate. He tied me up with the phone cord and packing tape, and for the next 6 hours, my life was torn upside-down.  He did things I’d never heard of, and beat me repeatedly. It was obvious that he couldn’t leave me alive since I knew who he was and where he lived- and if caught, he’d be back in prison to finish the first prison sentence, along with whatever he got for what he did to me.  

I should have listened to my ‘gut’ reaction to taking this relative stranger home with me. I should have required a face-to-face conversation with the baby’s mom, while I was still in my locked car in the parking lot in front of a busy road (before he got in the car).  I should have ‘run’ like crazy, but I was taught to help my neighbor. I wasn’t taught to think it through first.  And I wasn’t prepared to respond to someone who apparently needed my help, except to willingly give it. I should have had better skills to deal with this. 

During the time I was ‘stuck’, I kept looking for opportunities to escape. And I prayed a lot. He was never out of reach of the knife, until he finally passed out in my bed. I was bleeding, and got up to use the bathroom. I looked back at the bed, and he was still asleep. I grabbed a towel, and ran (as quietly as I could). I thought for sure he was behind me as I went down the stairs to the neighbors I’d met the day before (I’d only lived in that apartment for 10 days). Anyway, I called 911 from the neighbor’s phone (twice- first cop- a rookie- got beat up and thrown out of my apartment before backup was there- he beat up a cop).  When I ran, the risk was gone- die then, die later, or get out and get help. 

Police came, shot him in my bedroom, and every news station in town was there, as well as the hospital helicopter (for him) and an ambulance (for me). Officers were everywhere.  He didn’t die, had to go to trial, but he changed his plea to guilty after I testified for 2 1/2 hours, and I would only agree to a 60-year sentence (which at that time in Texas was the same as a life sentence in terms of parole possibility – the law changed a few months later to NOT require mandatory release after 1/3 of the time served, the rest of the time would be on parole…. he’d be under the department of justice ‘control’ until he’s 88 years old). It never ends, with parole hearings, he gets in trouble, goes to jail, gets out, gets in trouble again, and is currently in prison, awaiting a parole hearing. Keep in mind, he had been on parole for 38 days when he attacked me. Parole doesn’t work for people like him.  

I learned some very difficult, and late, lessons. 

I do NOT need to feel guilty for keeping myself safe. Am I supposed to help people?  Yep.  Am I supposed to be an idiot in the process? I don’t think so!  And helping  out of pride, just to end up tormented by evil won’t help either; I don’t think that’s what I was doing- I loved that baby. Proverbs 6:16-19 talks about things the Lord detests…not getting attacked by psychos isn’t on the list ! 

I should have asked to talk to someone I did know fairly well (his poor sister was so afraid I’d think she knew what he was up to- he’d planned the attack, and stole my address and phone number from her purse; she found out about it on the news after not being able to get in touch with me- I should have picked the baby up at 8 a.m.- and that’s the last thing she knew; she testified for the prosecution). If someone refuses to let me speak to someone I know, that’s a deal breaker.  And I never have the car doors unlocked while talking to someone I don’t know well enough to let IN the car. Ever. 

If something feels ‘wrong’, I should hit the road;  I can’t assume that being a Christian, and praying NOT to be attacked will result in being kept safe. Faith is crucial- but I can pretty well guarantee that the attacker isn’t being led by the Holy Spirit. I can only pray for my own faith, wisdom, and discernment,  and for the person to listen to reason and for God to intervene. But if they aren’t open to God, they’re not going to hear the Holy Spirit speak to them.  It might take some time and creative thinking… and having to deal with what they do to me to avoid getting killed until it IS safe to get away. I can recover from trauma; I can’t recover from murder.  I do believe God was with me that day. This man was determined to attack ME. He planned it and stole my address and phone number from his sister’s purse. I was the target. But God was still in control of the outcome. 

I need to know about surviving attacks, and what can prolong survivability. I’m responsible to educate myself now that I know what can happen.  In hindsight, I also help to educate others. And, I do feel that a big part of the church is NOT to directly address the possibility of these things happening to Christians.  Well, I can definitely say that nobody can ‘out-holy’ a sociopath. They simply don’t care. I needed to have more information about the real world. 

Know how to preserve evidence: Do not wash anything that has been touched or violated (especially yourself, even though the only thing you want to do is get ‘him’ off of you). For some reason (probably nursing school) I knew this was important, and it did save a lot of evidence. My attack was before DNA, but in today’s forensic world, what I did NOT wash off would have guaranteed a conviction. 

I need to have a set of requirements in place BEFORE I get into a  situation as to what warrants the ‘caution response’, or following through with that ‘gut feeling’ to get away from the situation. Staying alive is not a sin !!!  It is OK to apologize later for overreacting. Once I was attacked, I could never get that option back. I’d become a statistic. 

Proverbs 27: 12 “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

My huge fear is that churches are sending Christian young people out into the world with the idea that every situation is going to be a way to show the sort of love that ‘one lays down his/her life’ for.  Please, make the conscious decision to teach kids and young adults to think about the consequences of their actions. The part of the brain that conceptualizes the longterm consequences for choices isn’t fully developed until age 25.  “Help your neighbor”, ‘be a good Samaritan’, and ‘do unto others’  need to have thought behind them as well as the actions.   I was ill prepared for what I faced after moving out on my own.  And, I paid a huge price.  The words ‘rape’, ‘sodomy’, and ‘aggravated sexual assault with a deadly weapon’ are horrible- but talking about them isn’t as bad as being the target of them.  Prepare the kids. Put discomfort aside, and teach them to listen not only to their hearts, but to their gut. ❤