Women Reinvented: True Stories of Empowerment and Change

Women Reinvented: True Stories of Empowerment and Change

by The Healing Project

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Overview

Women Reinvented: True Stories of Empowerment and Change by The Healing Project

Offering personal recollections from dozens of women with diverse backgrounds, this guide offers advice and inspiration to women struggling to redefine their lives by revealing how others achieved inner peace and happiness—whether financially, emotionally, or spiritually. From executives who found their true calling in motherhood to mothers who discovered new joys in the business world, to women finding serenity in the garden, this collection encourages a sense of community amongst women of all ages and encourages personal redefinition through emotional and spiritual changes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781934184257
Publisher: LaChance Publishing LLC
Publication date: 07/01/2010
Pages: 220
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

The Healing Project is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to sharing information, building community, and providing inspiration for those touched with chronic and life threatening illnesses. They produce numerous books in the Voices Of series, including Voices of Alcoholism, Voices of Autism, and Voices of Breast Cancer.

Read an Excerpt

Women Reinvented

True Stories of Empowerment and Change


By Richard Day Gore, Juliann Garey

LaChance Publishing LLC

Copyright © 2010 LaChance Publishing LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-934184-46-2



CHAPTER 1

A Letter of Thanks to My Rapist

Elizabeth Tissot


I am reluctant to write about you raping me. Rape is the type of thing that puts people so very on edge; edge of their seats, clinging to the edge, need a drink to take the edge off kind of edge.

Before you raped me, I was vibrant in the worst kind of way. I moved like I was a dancer and danced like I was terrible in bed. But I was not a walking contradiction, because to say that would be cliché, and I was no cliché.

It's true that most of the time I was being watched, a little shining speck in the middle of a sea of black umbrellas and suits, a speck that was undeniably seen. If you were looking at something special then, something that seemed to rise to the top in a bubble, then you may have been staring at me. I wonder now if you chose me for this reason.

Those days, before you raped me, I had a smell so very few ever forgot although they never even really knew it. I left my scent wherever I went, my bakery-sweet sweat to linger in white cotton curtains that blew in gusts, in silk tablecloths spoiled with red wine, sheets dirty with sex juice. It was a scent that reminded people of the worst kind of girl, one who lies and cheats and has found the perfect rhythm in the swing of her gait — because she's figured out the power of her own hips. It was this scent that allowed me to attract and collect people like flies to sticky paper. Then I'd disappear. No warnings, no letters. Nothing at all.

That is how it was with me, then. In time they would all get over it, like a death or a birth or all those things that happen in between, but every so often a gust of wind would pass, or a fork would drop to the floor, and it would somehow stir up a memory of me that they thought had settled. An atom of me, a fraction of a drop of my sweet sweat would soar again suddenly and then drift, finally settling on a hair right inside their nose. And it would be enough to make them blow up, it would be enough to make them throw up, it would be enough to make them get up and leave. It would be enough to make them stay and keep sniffing around for more.

That was all I was then. A vibrant, shining speck with no purpose. People were consumed by me for no reason that I could ever fully understand, and still don't. Maybe it was the way my eyes always burned brighter than others because I had just been crying, or the way my lips swelled up like an erection, because I had just been biting them in a fit of nerves. I like to think that people did not know these things about me, but they must have. I sense that's why they were drawn to me, because they wanted to swoop down like a real life angel and heal the pretty and delicate girl that I was. They wanted to change me, to reset me, like an out of place bone that only needed the most expert hands to jostle it back into its socket. Everybody likes to be a savior.

I so wish this is where we could leave me. A vibrant, sweetly- scented and sad speck. But things just got so much worse once I started having panic attacks all the time. They unraveled my life and left me in their wake. With every attack I was sure I would die; stroke out, burst an aneurysm, hyperventilate a coronary wall to its limit. At times they would fill me with such a profound fear that I would pass out and not come to for hours. I assumed the role of a dead woman walking, and started drinking all the time — mostly the hard stuff. I was always lonely but too fragile to pick up the phone, and much too ill to remove myself from the apartment — ever. I puked daily into a paper wastebasket that was permanently stationed below the foot of my bed, next to the balled up tissues soggy with tears that collected on my floor. I chain- smoked and had a death rattle cough that was enough to drive anyone away, not that anyone came around anymore, anyway.

Except that group of kids had moved down the hall a few weeks before. They drank and smoked and rarely left the building. And that was our one common link: that we'd become unlinked from everything else. Soon we were passing out together regularly. They appreciated my records and couches and I appreciated the fact that I didn't need to remember their names for them to keep on coming. I think they left the door unlocked most nights, and I think that you knew this. I couldn't help it, though; I was always the first to bed.

There I would lie amid magazines and wing-eared books, and my laptop at the edge, always powered on and humming with guilt. I lay in fetal position all day and all night, under my dirt and whiskey-stained down comforter, usually tearing up because I was always just that near the edge. I wasn't a vibrant speck anymore. I no longer believed in anything, and felt slighted or wronged. I was convinced that I was a victim of my own genes, because my father had two sisters who corkscrewed out of control and killed themselves at my age, and my mother's side had liver failure and multiple DUI tickets.

And these are things you never knew about me. The place where you left me, sweating and exposed on top of my sheets, was not where you intended to leave me, I think. You thought you had the power to make a victim out of me, but in my mind, I already was one. It was never possible to make me feel any lower than I already did, don't you see? You derailed my life, and I have to show you in some way what that means to me. I want to tell you our story, a story of how you tried to make a mess of me, but saved me instead. A story of how you rolled through my life like a tornado and shook me so violently that I was ejected out of the pile of shit I was living in and landed down to where I am now.

I remember exactly what I did after it happened. I stood up out of bed, and taking on the voice of a man reciting figures in a business meeting for some important accounting firm, calmly asked you to leave. I wasn't afraid, because in my head I was mentally fingering the dull side of a blade in my kitchen, or the scored button of the can of mace I had stashed under my bed. And it was odd to me, the way you spoke so coolly. You asked me if you could stay until your "buds" got there, and I told you no, that you could not stay, and that was that. I played the game with you, and I was good. Of course, you had no idea then that you would spend the rest of your life in jail, or how short, even, the rest of your life would be.

While you gathered up all of your street-stained clothes and headed for my door, I stayed in bed frozen; except for my lips, which were smacking and sticking together nervously. The heat was violent, and a pool of sweat had formed inside my bellybutton.

Lying in the damp heat that flooded my crappy studio apartment, I focused not on what you had just done to me but on the mess that was my life. You were still making your way out; you walked so slowly, stepping over bodies, which were everywhere. Drunken bodies that would not wake, even while you were raping me, though you must have been grunting. "Pale Blue Eyes'" was on repeat, and television light and murky ice cream spoons polluted the room.

When I finally heard the rickety slam of you leaving through my front door, I calmly pulled my hair into a knot and stood up out of bed. My first thought was to locate my dogs, and I remember finding them huddled together in the closet, eyes squeezed shut as if something had happened to their mother that they didn't want to see. But they were there, and they were real and they were safe, so I was thankful.

Next, I walked into to the bathroom, where I peed and flicked the sleep out of my eyes. My boxers were still pulled down, exposing my underwear just a bit, and I left them that way. The lights were dim in there, and I closed the curtain carefully and checked my body for bruising or abrasions, using the glow of my cell phone to guide me.

After completing what was, to me, a satisfactory exam, I stumbled into the kitchen to find some paper and pen. I say stumbled not because I was terrified of you, but because my stuff was everywhere, just the way I liked it. And when I finally found the back of some stupid crumbled-up receipt, I took a dog-chewed sharpie from the nearest drawer and made a list, like this:

1. Right upper quadrant of the torso: two dime-sized bruises forming, possibly fingerprints. New.

2. Left lateral scraping on the posterior of the right thigh. Possibly new.

3. Prominent bruising on the proximodistal axis of the right knee. Old — please disregard.


See? You barely even left a mark. I still tell people, "If you've got to get raped, get it the way it happened to me." Not once did you threaten me with a knife to the neck, nor did you inflict much pain on my body at all. When it was over, you acted as if it were the end of a date: "I'll see you around," you told me. I was hardly conscious, anyway. My mind must've been protecting me by not allowing me to wake up, by putting me in a sort of sleep paralysis. And I am so thankful for this, constantly wondering how things would have been if I had been awake. Surely I would have tried to fight you off while you were inside me, while you were so worked up. It would've pissed you off and I could have been badly injured, or worse, dead.

Though the list largely ignored the most obvious areas of impact, I was wary of touching my insides. Your evidence was in there, and I didn't want to screw with it. I was a prudent person, who was going to do all of the things any prudent person would do after something like this. I was going to collect evidence, make lists, and gather my sheets into a securely fastened garbage bag. My clothing, I would keep on. I was told I was supposed to. See, at this point you probably thought I would be like the rest of your victims and keep quiet. You didn't know it yet, but I would soon ruin your life, and after that, it would be my fault that you were killed.

I remember being irritated that it was only 4:30 A.M. Most people were sleeping soundly, or waking up to run off to their work at some factory. Lovers still in their honeymoon phase were rousing each other for sex. I cursed you then for leaving me with all of this shit to deal with. I wanted to stay in bed lazily and throw my dogs bones. I wanted to stay in that apartment forever and never leave until I was carried out on a stretcher. This was not because of you, though. I am not one to give credit where credit's not due.

What happened next is probably not important to you. I'm sure you know the drill — you've done this before. I followed all of the procedures and guidelines that anyone in my situation is supposed to follow. You didn't expect that, did you? And I am only telling you the following things because I want you to know that you didn't ruin my morning completely.

The cops that picked me up were young and Italian and good looking, and when I made jokes about you raping me, they politely laughed. I tell you this because I want you to know that you did not leave me completely broken like you wanted me to be. I told them that you must've been small down there, because it hardly even hurt. I enjoyed speaking of you this way. We stopped at Starbucks, and they paid for my Mocha.

It was interesting to see the anatomy of my insides blown up on a large screen. Because of you, I found out that my cervix was perfect, delicately curved in all of the right places and colored pink like a baby rosebud. My uterus was slightly longer than normal, which would make pregnancy easier on me in the future, and would reduce the risk of stretch marks. The doctors that performed my exam also told me that if they could choose any victim's insides to showcase in a remake of any classical human anatomy book, they would choose mine. All of these things because of you, and I brag about them to this day.

To think of what happened next still makes me angry and a bit sick to my stomach. The way that you involved my mother makes me want to bury you alive. This is the part of our story that is the most dark; rough around the edges and so very lonely and cold. It is the part of our story that I want to keep as far away from as possible.

It must've taken forty rings for my mom to answer, when I called her. She was six hours away in San Francisco, and it was still so early. When she finally picked up the phone, I assumed the voice of someone who was newly broken. Because I thought that's what would be expected of me. When I told her that you raped me, I could hear her face turn rice-paper white, and any trace of sleep she still held onto immediately slipped away from her. She said she would drive up right away, and she spoke of renting us a beautiful hotel room to stay in until all of this was sorted out. You killed a part of my mother that day, and for this, I will never forgive you.

And my biggest fear then was what I was going to say to her and all of these well-intentioned people when they arrived. I knew that they would want there to be tears, for me to well up right in front of them and beg for help. I dreaded the dead air and smoothing of non-wrinkled pants on laps. I dreaded the moment when I would finally clear my throat to speak. That moment would be the only invitation they needed, and they would all whip their heads in my direction, simultaneously, as if this one sound just might be the start of a quivering retelling. People ... they can surprise you. The first person I saw after you raped me was my future roommate, an Asian entertainment agent who had an "I'm obviously gay but I'll never admit it" way about him. He was the only person who answered my calls because he was the only person awake, my only friend with an adult job. When he first walked into the Rape Center and saw me, he playfully asked me if I was auditioning for "Monster II." This meant something to us because I had finally showered and my hair had air dried like shit straw, making me look like a frailer version of Charlize Theron's character in the original.

Later, he drove me to one of my favorite places, a tacky chain- buffet, the kind that you aren't normally supposed to go to in Los Angeles. He forced me to eat the crusts of his pizza, and once I did, he drove me to his apartment. I fell asleep on his couch watching some comforting eighties movie, and dreamed of my mom's arrival, of her checking us both into some fabulous hotel. I dreamed of an overstuffed bed and pay-per-view movies.

I woke up a few hours later to my mom at his door, looking more beautiful than she should have for the amount of worry she'd been through and the hours of sleep you had robbed her of. I was tired and delirious, and she picked my body up and carried me to her car. And I can still picture it so vividly, this five foot-four, rail-thin woman carrying her five foot- ten daughter with barely an ounce of effort. I slept in her car, corpse-like, as she scanned the highway for hotels. Her modest Honda felt richer than it ever had, and all I wanted was to be an infant again and to be forever nestled against her breast. Writing this, I am tearing up, and the thought of my wonderful mother sleeping a few rooms away is almost too much for me to bear. I want to run to her and lie with her this very instant, to hold her forever and tell her how much she means to me.

I want you to think of this now. Think of my mother who loves me with everything while you are loved by no one and nothing. Think of our embrace now, as you lie in some shallow and unmarked grave, absent of visitors.

Once we found a hotel that allowed dogs, we checked in and waited for the LAPD to call us. I was aware that I would have to identify you from a picture book, and I knew it wouldn't be hard. You were lacking in height and whale-like in weight. I would know your shit-grin anywhere.

After my mother had sat in bed with me for hours watching true crime TV shows and eating Italian takeout, the cops arrived with four large binders. And there were so many people in that book who looked just like you. But you — you were on the first page, and like I said: I'd know that shit-grin anywhere. After I pointed to your bloated face, and told them that you were the one who raped me, the cops said they could pick you up right then, right there. Because, my darling rapist, you must not have been very bright. You had such a colorful rap sheet, and you always got caught.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Women Reinvented by Richard Day Gore, Juliann Garey. Copyright © 2010 LaChance Publishing LLC. Excerpted by permission of LaChance Publishing LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Healing Project Debra LaChance xiii

Foreword Courtney E. Martin xv

Acknowledgments xix

Part 1 Reclaiming Myself

A Letter of Thanks to My Rapist Elizabeth Tissot 3

Brenda Martin, Who Do You Think You Are? Brenda Martin 15

Leaving Sue Sanders 21

The Upward Turn Elissa L. Perry 27

Unintended Consequences Jane Rowan 33

Treatment Susannah Risley 41

Smashed Open Erin Harvey 49

Patching Together a Life Glynis Scrivens 55

Part 2 Finding My Calling

Escape Christina Heyniger 61

True Nature Barbara Blossom Ashmun 67

Vision Takes Flight Sybil Erden 73

Of Science and Self Hayley Boesky 77

The View from Her Bari Nan Cohen 83

Becoming Me Melissa A. Slaybaugh 89

Celebrant Celia Milton 95

Boiling the Frog Lisa Doyle 101

Spreading Good Fortune Jennifer Jack 111

Part 3 Of Marriage and Motherhood

Meet My Uterus, Meet Me Donella Martin Braddix 119

From "Mom" to "Me" Mary Potter Kenyon 123

Finding My Corner of the Sky Camille Ehrenberg 129

My Elephant Child Life Mary Lynne Hill 137

Being a Wife Is Not Enough Bobbi Leder 143

The Goddess Within Shadiyah 147

The Best of All Worlds Cara Holman 155

Part 4 My Spirit Renewed

Who's In a Name Bobbi Arduini 163

The Road to Tena Mary Fifield 171

Five Year Plan Beth Morrissey 179

The Scars We Carry Marcia Trahan 183

House of Excess Kieren Van Den Blink 191

Becoming a Swan Suzan L. Wiener 197

I Never Wanted to Be a Valkyrie Katherina Audley 201

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