Being a Teen in the Age of School Shooting Normalization

It’s my #1 worst recurring nightmare. I walk into school on a seemingly regular day. I’m with my friends. We’re talking as we usually do, cracking a joke every now and again. I smile at the people who seem far away.

On this day in the nightmare, it is Wednesday, which means every student at Woodland Park High School arrives to school at a later time. It’s always on a Wednesday. We all pile into the Commons or stagger about the student parking lot before the bell rings and we go our seperate ways to begin our days. However, in this nightmare I constantly have, none of us get to make it that far.

It always happens differently, but suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, gunshots are fired. Someone here has a gun. We all know what the sound is instantly. We grew up watching movies with it, playing video games with it, and hearing them in all kinds of ways. But none of us were prepared for them to go off there, in our own school.

Chaos breaks lose. People are screaming, dropping to the floor. Some are running in all different directions. It all happens so fast, its hard to distinguish what is really going on.

From there, many different scenarios happen. My friend next to me is shot. Or we all duck under cafeteria tables. Or I run off with someone I haven’t been close with in ages, and spend hours hiding with them. Or I’m held at gunpoint in front of the entire school. Or I cower in a corner as I watch everyone I know be shot right in front of my eyes.

This nightmare has become so common for me that I think about it anytime I walk into school. I think about it as I walk through the halls. The staff at school has told us what to do in case of an active shooter in whatever class we may be in. They have answered whatever questions we may have. But at any given moment, it could happen, and absolutely no one would be prepared.

(Please note that Colorado is not lit up at all. And that scares me. A lot.) Added Feb. 15

It is 43 days into our calendar year and there have been 18 school shootings. 18. And after the Parkland shooting today, three of the 10 deadliest mass shootings have happened in the last 5 months.

What have we done about it?? Absolutely nothing. We do the same cycle anytime a senseless tragedy like this happens.

“Oh no this is terrible, let me write about how terrible I think this is. I’ll post it on Facebook. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims. While I’m at it, let me change my profile picture to a filter someone created so that it looks like I’m doing something, when in actuality I’m going to go and forget all about this tragedy in a few days until the next one hits. Also while I’m at it, #TragedyStrong to show people I support the cause. And in a few days, I’ll go back to sharing stupid quotes with my followers.”

Nothing changes. No laws are passed. We learn to accept it as the “norm.” We scroll through the Trending Topics on social media, see the name of a town, and instantly assume it’s a mass casualty. It happens all the time. No need to freak out, right??

THERE ARE PEOPLE KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE.

What is sending your thoughts and prayers going to do?? How is that going to stop the next person from open firing at another school? At another concert??

We should have learned in 1999 when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris pulled off the biggest school shooting America had ever seen. We should have stopped it then. But we didn’t.

And then innocent 6 year olds who didn’t even know how to tie their shoes or sing on key lost their lives. And we still didn’t learn.

We still haven’t learned.

We learned to adapt instead of change the ways. We learned the easiest escape routes from our math class to the back hallway door. We learned to build barricades on the doors.

Instead of taking measures to stop the possibility of school shootings, we taught kids from the time they were potty trained how to survive one.

“Welcome to the place where you should feel the most safe. Know that you have the chance every time you step through those doors that you may never go home again. Enjoy the next 12 years.”

What kind of BS is that? We sit back and we let this happen. We let people with semi-automatic guns walk into schools and kill children.

I shouldn’t have to feel panic whenever there is mass huddles of kids in the hallways, or whenever assemblies are called. Whenever the fire alarm is called, is it real? Or is it a set up? When do we decide enough is enough??

Open your eyes.

I’d love to hear your opinion on this down below.

Until next time,

TayπŸ’™

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Eating Disorder Hotline: 1-800-931-2237
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD
Self-Injury Hotline: 1-800-DONT-CUT
For more hotlines that you or a loved one may need, visit http://www.pleaselive.org/hotlines/
Stay alive. πŸ’™

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Reasons to Live Wall

“Sometimes there’s beauty in the tough words. It’s all in how you read them.”

-Jennifer Niven

Let’s be real honest here. Living. It’s not always the easiest thing to do. I mean, sure. Physically getting up and breathing seems to be something you do on autopilot every day. But everything else doesn’t come as easy as just simply “breathing.” And for those of you with asthma, even that is difficult for you.

There are the days you lay in bed and don’t think you can stand to walk through the halls, knowing people are judging you the way they do. Or the days you wake up and that pain you thought was long gone suddenly hits you in the chest again.

I’ve been through some rough patches in my life, and some of them have been harder than others. Some last a few days, and some last years. I never know when this said “rough patch” is going to be over, so the most I can do is buckle up and hold on tight.

I first came up with this idea for my wall when I was in a very bad mental state. In the bedroom that I had been staying in, I took a sharpie to the wall and wrote horrible things about myself. I was in the midst of a breakdown and just took to this wall about all of the things I thought was worthless about me. With black, liquid eyeliner, I drew a giant black heart in the middle of this chaos with a jagged line in the middle, symbolizing my brokeness. I was mess. The next morning, that’s what I had to wake up to. The writings on the wall. My mom was so angry when she saw the room.

Some time later, I found this book which I have now read 12 times. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven gave me the idea of a wall of ideas. I started to take sticky notes and just write things down, but it turned into things that made me happy, or words or phrases. Soon enough, I had tons of sticky notes, and I started to put them over the harsh words I originally had on my wall. Thus began the basis of all of my reasons to live.

It’s been a few years now, and some of the sticky notes have disappeared or ripped up by me. (Aka they stopped being reasons to live, or I literally lost them moving from place to place.) The majority of the originals are still here, and I have added to them as I change.

They may be really stupid to most people. The reasons include things like strawberry lemonade, or “wanderlust”. The names Krys, Leslie, Amber, Ella, which no one will understand but me. “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Or Ataraxia: the tranquility of the mind.

When people enter into my room, it’s the first thing they see. I feel the urge to immediately defend myself, to send out the disclaimer of how stupid it is. But I’ve realized that it’s not stupid.

You don’t have to apologize for the way you fought to stay alive when you had every reason to give up. You don’t have to apologize for the scars on your wrist and thighs that will probably never go away, and you most certainly don’t have to apologize for the self assurance you give.

You’re here, despite all odds. Despite however many suicide attempts you may or may not have. Despite the loneliness. Despite the bullying, and the people who did you wrong. You are here.

You’re brave. I don’t care how you chose to keep yourself alive. Maybe you made a Reasons To Live Wall, or wrote to yourself in a journal everyday. Maybe you vlogged. Whatever you did, don’t feel like you have to be ashamed to show it off.

And if you’re going through something now, I encourage you to make your own list of Reasons to Live. It can be something as simple as your favorite TV show. Then, move on to your favorite quote, your favorite word, your favorite dream. Keep this list somewhere that you can see everyday, and remind yourself.

And no matter what, just keep on living. I’m proud of you.

Until next time,

TayπŸ’™

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Eating Disorder Hotline: 1-800-931-2237
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD
Self-Injury Hotline: 1-800-DONT-CUT
For more hotlines that you or a loved one may need, visit http://www.pleaselive.org/hotlines/
Stay alive. πŸ’™

Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken

“I don’t write for people to hear me. I write to understand.”

People don’t realize the impact of what they do and say to other people. In this world today, hatred fuels so many motives of others. If there’s anything I’ve learned about most humans today, no matter how much they claim to love you, they’ll always love their pride and ego more.

It took me a while to grasp that concept. How can you spend so much time trying to ruin someone’s life for the benefit of your reputation? How can your heart be filled with so much hate? What makes it so fulfilling to see someone in so much pain caused by you and your actions?

I will have to die for this I fear. There’s pain and terror, and there’s sickness here.

I’ve come across a great life lesson recently. It’s one of those “you’re right” nods to your mother, aunts, moral supports. The life lesson everyone has been trying to teach you for years, and you finally heard it. And here it is.

No matter what people try to do to drag you down or kill your spirit, let there be more love inside of you than there is hate inside of them.

It’s easier said than done, I realize. It takes a storm to comprehend the strength you really have. Well, here’s my storm.

I was happy. And I mean, genuinely happy. Not the kind of happy you pretend to be because you think you have to be. Genuine happiness. I was thriving, even when times were tough.

I had everything I could ever hope for. Feeling genuine happiness was not a thing that came easy for me. It wasn’t something I could just snap my fingers and feel. I had to fight for it. And 19 years later, I had it for the first time. I was holding on to it so tight, taking in every moment.

And then my hurricane hit.

All at once, everything was gone. Everyone was gone. And I felt stranded. I felt all alone. I felt like I had nothing left to give the world. I felt it would be better if I weren’t here. If I didn’t have anymore words to write, if I didn’t have to burden anyone else. Because someone thought I should have to feel like that. And I did.

How is it fair that someone else could make me feel as if I was not worthy of existence in this world???

I fight because I have to. I fight for us to know the truth.

I didn’t want to get out of bed anymore. I didn’t want to go to school anymore. I didn’t want to breathe anymore.

So I stopped.

I stopped trying to live.

I came home everyday from school and just cried. I cried, and cried. And then I would fall asleep and repeat the process. Somedays it would be so bad, I wouldn’t make it home. I would cry at lunchtime. I just wanted out.

What I really wanted was my life back. My happiness back. I wanted to be that girl in the pictures before, that laughed loud at everything and smiled at everyone. I felt like it was all stolen from me.

It got to the point where I didn’t want to live like that anymore, and I wanted my life back. I came here to do one thing, and that was to graduate high school. I was going to do that, come hell or high water. But I knew I couldn’t have what I had back, so that was out of the question. Thinking about that didn’t sit very well with me.

I went home for Christmas break and started the healing process.

It’s not like a magic wand, where you wave it and all the problems are solved. If those existed, I’d buy a plethora and just wave them at all of my loved ones so their hearts would mend. Unfortunately, that’s not how our world works.

I write this blog to you, because I want you to know that whatever you’re going through isn’t the end of you. Despite whether or not it feels like it, you’re not over yet. I’m not over yet.

I thought I would stop writing completely. I even went so far as to rip all of the pages out of my journals of anything I wrote when I was happy. I remember thinking I didn’t want to relive it over and over in my mind, because I was never getting it back. Happiness was never in the cards for me.

I call bullshit.

No one, and I mean no one, can control your life. If they’re going to fight so hard to try and take it from you, you fight just as hard to have it. Happiness can be in the cards for you. You deserve every bit of happiness.

So I started to write again, this time with more passion and drive than ever before. I wasn’t going to stoop to their level. I wasn’t going to give them what they wanted by sitting in my room, praying that I wouldn’t have to wake up in the morning. I decided to fight to show people who I really was, not who someone else made me out to be.

I don’t know what happens from here. All I know is, there’s nothing too big or too terrifying in this world to stop you from living. You are destined for great things. Take the time to cry it out, and call me when you’re lonely.

P!nk recently released a new song which I’ve felt the power of on all levels. Here are the lyrics here:

I will have to die for this I fear
There’s rage and terror and there’s sickness here
I fight because I have to
I fight for us to know the truth
There’s not enough rope to tie me down
There’s not enough tape to shut this mouth
The stones you throw can make me bleed
But I won’t stop until we’re free
Wild hearts can’t be broken
No, wild hearts can’t be broken
This is my rally cry
I know it’s hard, we have to try
This is a battle I must win
To want my share is not a sin
There’s not enough rope to tie me down
There’s not enough tape to shut this mouth
The stones you throw can make me bleed
But I won’t stop until we’re free
Wild hearts can’t be broken
No, wild hearts can’t be broken
You beat me, betray me
You’re losing, we’re winning
My spirit above me
You cannot deny me
My freedom is burning
This broken world keeps turning
I’ll never surrender
There’s nothing, but a victory
There’s not enough rope to tie me down
There’s not enough tape to shut this mouth
The stones you throw can make me bleed
But I won’t stop until we’re free
Wild hearts can’t be broken
Wild hearts can’t be broken
This wild heart can’t be broken

Thank you for showing me what I’m worth, and what I’m capable of. The stones you throw can make me bleed, but I won’t stop until (I’m) free.

And a big thank you to the people that are there for me, night and day, any hour. Your love has been a blanket for me.

Whatever you’re fighting against, whether it is someone else, or yourself, know that things are going to be okay. You have the strength to overcome all of this.

Until next time,

TayπŸ’™

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Eating Disorder Hotline: 1-800-931-2237
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD
Self-Injury Hotline: 1-800-DONT-CUT
For more hotlines that you or a loved one may need, visit http://www.pleaselive.org/hotlines/
Stay alive. πŸ’™

Our Greatest Enemy

     Today, I woke up and once again felt heavy sadness weighing on my heart. I physically felt my bones feeling sore, as if I had been hit by someone. All I wanted to do was cry it out, or talk to a friend. I said “screw this,” got out of bed, and put on my favorite outfit. I wasn’t going to start this semester on a sour foot. 

     I then proceeded to call my brother and talk with him for a while as I got ready for the day. My favorite eyeshadow. My favorite hairstyle. My favorite socks. My favorite pair of shoes. Anything and everything I could think of to make me feel happier than I was when I opened my eyes this morning. I adjusted my necklace and walked out the door, smiling. 

     When I got to school I sprayed my favorite perfume. Happiness. I opened my locker and read all of my uplifting sticky note messages I left for myself. Happiness. I smiled at people in the hallways whenever I could, and went to see my favorite teacher in a passing period. I participated. When I felt myself drifting back to my bed sadness, I would smile bigger. I laughed louder in class when a joke was told.  Because I told myself I was going to be happy today.

     When school was over, I jammed out in my car to The Greatest Showman soundtrack as I drove to apply for more jobs with the same, smiling face I put on once I got out of bed this morning. After about an hour, I didn’t have anything else left to do, so I went back to my home. 

     Upon unlocking the door to my messy apartment, I notice my unmade bed. I notice the emptiness of no one being here to talk to me about my day. I check my phone for a friend to talk to. I notice the sadness I left in my bed this morning, overflowing with a black aura. The black aura spills onto my carpet, its so misplaced. I barely get a chance to throw my bag on the floor and close the front door before I’m there, in my bed, surrounded by the blackness. And it all comes pouring out.

     You can choose to ignore what is pounding at your heart all you want. You can choose to ignore your sadness, leave it in your bed, and put on a mask all day. But that doesn’t mean it’s gone. It doesn’t mean your sadness is healed. Because eventually, you have to come back to your bed. Eventually, you have to feel whatever it is you’re casting aside to move on from it. You have to lay there in the morning and say “Okay, I’m feeling sad today. Let’s get up and try our best.” 

     Don’t shove your emotions to the side. Sooner or later, they will catch up with you, and they’ll be even bigger when they do. It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be mad. It’s okay to want to shut off the world for a day to feel what you need to feel. 

     Our emotions are like a dashboard of a car, with a multitude of check engine lights. One lights up when your hungry, and you know you need to eat. When you’re tired, you know you need to sleep for the light to go off. When you have an emotion like sadness, you can’t fix it by just covering it up with a piece of paper. That’s not how that works. Any of us who drive a car know that if we would do that for our check engine light and continue to drive our car, we would be in some deep trouble in the long run. Humans are the same.

     It’s okay not to be okay. It’s not okay to stay that way. Cry it out. Vent to someone. Go see your favorite movie and eat gallons of ice cream. Then, restart tomorrow. Stop putting on a mask, and let yourself feel what you need to feel. 

      Give yourself the love you would give to someone else. 
Until next time,

TayπŸ’™

Pain.

“That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.” -John Green

     I told myself I was done. I wasn’t going to write anymore. There’s too much pain and suffering for me to write anymore. It didn’t stick. I can’t not write. Writing is me. It’s what I do best.     

    There’s pain everywhere. There’s pain always, at all times. There’s the pain you can feel in your chest, pumping at all hours of the day-the pain that makes you want to cry, no matter what remedy you try. Sometimes, I wish more than anything that pain didn’t exist. That I could just brush it off and go about my day, like other people seem to do so easily.

     But pain hits deep for me. It always has. If anything, the smallest thing is blown up. So, imagine a big thing. It’s even bigger.

     I’ve had a lot of loss in my life. I’ve dealt with things out of my control. Pain is normal for me, at 19 years old. Fathers aren’t fathers. Family isn’t family. People leave after they promise they won’t. It’s not something out of the ordinary. So why does it still hurt? Or is it because of this pain that it continues to hurt even more each time something happens? 

     I used to think that pain was a never ending pile, continuing to keep adding the longer you trek on. Sometimes, I still do. 

     Do you ever wonder why you can’t roll over in the morning and feel sunshine instead of darkness? Why isn’t there an allotted amount of pain for everyone? Once you have your quota met, you get to be happy from there on out. 

     The picture you see above is a blanket on my heart recently. This is right outside my house. I don’t know how long it’s been there. Did it just show up, or did I just decide to take notice of it? “Smile” it says. And that’s it. That’s the only message I need. Everything else is hidden in between the chalk. “Keep eating, even if you hurt.” / “Get out of bed.” / “Put on your seatbelt, someone loves you.” / “Keep your head up.” And most importantly, the quite literal message, “smile.” Because it’s going to be okay, believe it or not. 

     I drove up one day and saw this message sitting there, and it hit me like a bus. It hit harder than the Truck of Loss or the Semi of Pain. 

     Have you ever felt a sensation so overwhelming you almost feel it rushing through your veins? It was as if all at once I felt life flourish through me to tell me I’m alive. That pain isn’t a reason to stop being alive, no matter how severe it seems at the time. Pain is temporary, even when it feels like that is all you’re made of.

     It’s not as if it’s easy. There are days I wake up and it hits me so hard that I don’t want to move. Or the days I have to force myself to smile because memories are in full swing. There are sometimes I find myself crying so hard in movies over something so small that hit me, because of everything pent up inside. If we never knew pain, we would never know happiness.

     There are so many things to look forward to. Mountains to climb, tunnels to drive through at 10 PM when the music is playing too loud for you to realize anything else is happening in the world. Walking across the stage to take a diploma in hand. Baths. Seeing yourself in your favorite outfit. Vacations. New movies to critique. New songs to listen to. New people to learn about and love, 

     Pain is hard, but so are you. We’re hardcore beings. Wear your pain like diamonds. Never let the thought slip through that you “cannot.” Because you can. You always could. 

     You’ve made it through every one of your bad times so far. You’ll make it through this pain. And you’ll make it through the next pain that comes. 

     One day. One day you’re going to wake up and it’s not going to hurt like this. You’ll roll over in your sheets with the sun soaking through the cracks in the blinds, having to squint to see properly. Nothing hurts for once. You’ll be in a career you fought for. Maybe even the bed you’ve always wanted. You’re going to be okay. And when you wake up not feeling any pain, my gosh. It’s going to be so great. We can look forward to that. And you’ll be so glad you stuck around to see it all unfold the way it did. 

     These are the things that keep me going, and smiling. Even through our pain, there’s something there. Find it, whatever it is. Hold on to it tightly. In my room, you’ll find a wall full of sticky notes. On each one is a reason for me to live. 

     Keep living through your pain. Don’t let this world break you. One day you will wake up without it hurting so badly. 

     At least we have that.

Until next time,

TayπŸ’™

Ps. 

Please take the time to watch this video.


National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Eating Disorder Hotline: 1-800-931-2237

Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE

Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD

Self-Injury Hotline: 1-800-DONT-CUT

For more hotlines that you or a loved one may need, visit http://www.pleaselive.org/hotlines/ 

Stay alive. πŸ’™

Invisibility

“High school? Bullshit. The cafeteria is called the nutrition center. People wear their letter jackets even when it’s 90 degrees out.. And why do they give out letter jackets to marching band? That’s not a sport. We all know it.”*****

       -(Charlie) Stephen Chbosky. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
      When you were a kid, people would always ask you about your hypothetical desired super power. Like, if for whatever crazy reason an asteroid struck earth and aliens gave you an option, what would it be? Time travel might be kind of cool. Telekinesis would mess with my migraines. The ability to read minds is a super power I felt I already had. I was always the kid who chose to be invisible.

     I mean, come on; being invisible? You could sneak into the kitchen and get a juice box at night and your parents wouldn’t know it was you. When a kid was mean to you at school, you could mess with them without them knowing. Better yet, when you were in a situation you didn’t want to be in, you didn’t have to be there. 

      As I grew up, I came to the realization that the hypothetical questioning of What Super Power Would You Choose wasn’t all hypothetical. 5 year old me chose invisibility, so it seemed as I grew older, invisible I became. 

     I relate with Charlie. High school, in a sense, is bullshit. There’s this widening popularity contest for every student, and the pressure to fit in to where they need to. Friends stab you in the back on multiple occasions. Kids sneak drugs onto campus. You think one second that someone you care about is your friend, and that nothing else could possibly tear you apart. 

     But then it does.

      And while there is much more to worry about in this world than a high school friendship, (ie. Donald Trump as our president. Climate change. Sexual assault. Wildfires taking over California. Selling 13 year old girls for sex..) it feels like the end of the world to you. Teenagers are mean. They’ll do just about anything just to have a right image, or a right reputation. 

       I started off the year with a solid friend group, and it’s almost the end of the first semester with none of them in tow. Because of reputations of popularity. Because of differences. Because of the opinions of others being spread around instead of the truth. And why?? Why do they feel the need to gossip and lie? Why do they find it so important to be the one on top in the long run? Why do these things matter to teenagers? I guess I don’t identify myself with these “teenagers” seeing as these things don’t matter to me. 

     I’m not invisible in the sense I choose not to be seen, but rather people put a cloak of invisibility on me and choose not to see me. They choose not to acknowledge me. They choose to push me to the side, where I belong.

     Invisibility doesn’t feel nice when you see groups of people you used to be apart of and now you’re the only one outcasted. I wish to go back to the kindergarten invisibility, when you thought so sneakily of the things you could do if only you were invisible. Sneaking juice boxes, or getting extra minutes of recess. Once you get to high school, invisibility becomes a whole new ball game. 

     Why does someone else and their actions get to choose whether or not I wake up in the morning, fearing walking into school? Why does someone else get to choose I’m the only one not allowed to attend things I belong to? Why do they get to decide? That’s not fair.

     I’m not here to whine about it. That’s not why I wrote this blog. I’m here to tell you that if you feel this way, you aren’t alone. I felt as if I was for a long time, but I have an enormous support system from incredible people. I have a wonderful guy who is by my side with everything. No matter what, there are people out there for you. And remember, this is high school. It’s only 4 years long, and you’re never going to get it back. You can spend your last years hating ever second of every day because of the things other people do to you, or you can choose to ignore them and move on. 

     That’s something that took me a while to understand. No one, and I mean no one is allowed to make you feel inferior without your consent. They’re not worth your happiness, they’re not worth your senior year of high school. Letting them get you down is only letting yourself down. 

      On the other hand, be careful what you choose to do, because it affects people. Everything affects everything. You may not realize it, but spreading that rumor about that person, even though it isn’t true, affects someone. Not paying attention as someone is talking to you, affects someone. Be kind. You never know what someone is going through. Just, be kind, always. Be loving, always. 

     You’re not invisible. 

     You’re a light, and you’re shining for all the world to see. 

     Some people like to wear blindfolds.

  
Until next time,
TayπŸ’™
**** disclaimer: I know marching band is a sport, this is just a funny quote from my favorite book/movie! Go marching band, you guys rock. πŸ˜‚β€

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Eating Disorder Hotline: 1-800-931-2237

Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE

Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD

Self-Injury Hotline: 1-800-DONT-CUT

For more hotlines that you or a loved one may need, visit http://www.pleaselive.org/hotlines/ 

Stay alive. πŸ’™

The Push to Speak Up

Hey Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better”

                 -The Beatles

     Where in the world have I been? I know, it’s been a while since I’ve typed up a blog for you all. I wanted to share something that was a dagger in my heart tonight with you all.

     It’s the night before Thanksgiving, and the Walmart here in our town is moving everything around to make room for Black Friday sales (chaos included.) I was sitting in my house when I realized I didn’t have any more soap, which is detrimental to a shower for me. My skin is so sensitive, and the air is so dry up here, that if I showered minus the soap I would surely dry up into a prune. Not a cute image. 

     So the quest began for some more soap. I threw on pants and drove to Wal-Mart at 9:00 at night. 

     If you’ve ever been shopping with me leading the pack, you’ll know I don’t just go in for one thing. I go in. I look at the chocolates just for the hell of it, then move on to the clothes. I’ll go to the specific item in the store I want more than anything. Then maybe I’ll mosey my way on to where I’m actually supposed to go. After checking out the on sale candy, I went to look at the off brand Sherpa pullovers that Wal-Mart was selling for $9. Not a bad deal. 

     In the midst of me feeling the softness, a couple walks towards the back of the store. The man follows the woman, who is obviously in distress. He is short and tubby, wearing a snapback and pants that fall way below his waist. He is huffing and puffing as he walks, yelling at her to stop. The woman with dark hair and dark eyes does as she’s told, but doesn’t turn around to meet his gaze. And then it unfolds something like this:

     Him: “You better slow the fuck down. I’m not fucking chasing you through all of Wal-Mart.” 

     Her (in a muffled voice): “Calm down, you’re humiliating me.”

     Him: “Humiliating you? No this is humiliating you.” (he raises his voice) “Slow the hell down or you can walk home!” 

     Her: (turns the cart and herself away from him and starts to walk towards the front of the store) 

     Him: “I’m not doing this. The way you treat me is unbelievable.” (To me and the family I was near in the Women’s Clothing section) “Can you believe this?”

     Her: (turning herself and the cart back towards him) Stop. You’re making a scene.

     Him: I’M making a scene? Do you see yourself right now? All I did was ask you to slow down and you couldn’t even do that for me. I could just leave you here, you know.

(They disappear to another part of the store leaving us all to ponder what was going to happen.) 

     I felt sick to my stomach watching this all play out, and after they left, I felt even sicker. The whole time, I just sat there, stricken with fear. I wasn’t even a victim and I was scared. Frozen. And although my body was in one place, my mind kept repeating Say something. Do something. Tell someone. Intervene. But I didn’t.

     I skipped the rest of my Steps of Shopping and went straight for what I needed. I wanted to go home. 

     As I headed to the Self Checkout, I see the two, the man waddling behind her. He’s shouting something at her and the 5 1/2 people in the store all stare. 

     Him: “Man, no more Christmas. No more Thankagiving. How lonely that will be for you, huh?” 

      Her: (stares straight ahead)

     Him: “If only these people could see how badly you treat me.” 

     He waddles right by me, so close I can smell his cologne and the weed on his breath. For a split second, I wonder if I was on an episode of What Would You Do and I think fast about what to do. My mind goes through millions of filing cabinets in my brain, thinking back to any and all articles I’ve ever read.

     And that’s just it.

     What do you do?

     What would you do?

     I’ve always said I would step out to someone abusing their child in the middle of the milk and cheese section. But what about a man being verbally abusive to a woman in between graham crackers and Sherpa pullovers? We can easily say “Oh 100% I would beat him up right there.”

     But would you really? 

     Endingviolence.org says “Chances are that at some point in your daily life you have witnessed, heard or seen someone act in a way that was derogatory, degrading, abusive or violent towards women. Be it in the form of a joke, cat call, comment, put down, or physical or sexual assault, this is all violence against women. In these moments, people often feel that their only choices are to say nothing, look the other way or physically intervene, potentially exposing themselves to violence. There is much more in fact that can be done.

     The same site suggests that rather than being violent towards the abuser, you rather speak directly towards the victim. Stand near them to offer your presence. Then, give her control. In this case, I should have gone directly to the woman and asked “Is he bothering you? / Are you okay? / Is there anyway I can help?” In any case, however, if there is a threat or physical harm of any kind, get help from security or 911 immediately. 

     I share this information with you, not to seem like I’m writing an essay for an english class, but because most of us don’t know. I left Wal-Mart, sat in my car and cried for this woman. As a female myself, I felt I had failed her. If I had been in her shoes, I would have wanted someone to say something. But I didn’t know what to say. So of course, I trusted my old friend, Google with that help. 

     Right before I left Wal-Mart, I went back inside and bought the Sherpa pullover I probably didn’t need, to remind me of this woman and all women who endure domestic violence, as corny as that may sound. And while most of you out there will go on with your Thanksgivings tomorrow, stuffing your face and watching football, I would like to ask a favor. Please think about these women who don’t get happy holidays, or happy any-days. The women that are suffering, or have suffered. Take a minute out of your day tomorrow to think about them. Then go back to your turkey, and enjoy the rest of your day. 

     For more information about what to do in case you find yourself in a situation where you happen to be a bystander, visit http://endingviolence.org/prevention-programs/be-more-than-a-bystander/what-you-can-do-to-be-more-than-a-bystander/ 
Until next time,
TayπŸ’™