My son took shaky steps up the ladder to the diving board. He walked about halfway out, stood frozen in place, and turned around and climbed back down the ladder. Then, he got back in line. He repeated this scenario half a dozen times each time getting closer to the edge of the board until he reached out with one leg and touched the end of the diving board with his toe.
As we collected our things to leave the pool, I said, “I got some great pictures of you!”
He said, “But, I didn’t jump.”
I said, “I know. I wasn’t taking pictures of you jumping. I took pictures of your bravery and courage, and that is what you showed each time you got back on that board and tried again. I am very proud of you.”
Taking steps toward authenticity requires a fear inducing vulnerability. When I swim, sometimes I effortlessly glide through the water, and sometimes I get water up my nose and spend time choking and coughing while giving the lifeguard a thumbs up to prevent her from jumping in the water to rescue me. Writing this blog is like swimming for me. I click ‘post’ and feel accomplished for about a minute before I start choking on my own fears and insecurities. Still, there is some part within me that compels me to try again, to try to get one toe closer to the edge of my own diving board.
About a month ago during Mental Health Awareness month, I wrote a list of personal rights. When I wrote the list, I had no intention of sharing it. Since then, I have shared it with some friends and family, each time inching closer to the edge of that board. The response I received from several people led me to reconsider posting these words.
Everyone struggles with their own inner battles and often those battles go unseen. I am grateful for the musicians and writers who find the courage to jump into their insecurities and share their stories that I find on internet music videos or blogs during moments of middle of the night desperation. Their vulnerability often helps me find hope and strength to continue my own fight. So, tonight, I jump for the person who might find hope within my vulnerability. To whoever you are, even if it is only for myself twenty minutes after I post this, you are not alone. You are worthy. May you find the inner strength to discover and claim your inherent rights.
- I hold all rights to my story and all rights to judge as valid or invalid any interpretation of that story.
- I have the right to believe myself even if no one else does.
- I have the right to delineate between a safe and an unsafe person (or people) and to protect myself in any way I deem necessary without anyone else’s approval either stated or implied.
- I have the right to experience all emotions given to me as a member of the human race, and I choose where and with whom I feel safe expressing them.
- I have the right to touch my own body in any way I feel comfortable.
- I have the right to accept or decline the physical touch of any other individual. In accepting physical touch from another, I am entitled to put boundaries into place regarding types of touch I am okay with, types of touch I am not okay with, and the situations and locations I feel comfortable with touch.
- I have the right to dress in the manner that holds true to me and my values without considering or acknowledging any twisted, controlling views of modesty or purity. My clothing choices do not imply consent of any kind regarding physical touch.
- I have the right to talk about what happened to me with anyone I want and as many times as I want.
- I have the right to be seen.
- I have the right to be heard.
- I have the right to see the inner strength that enabled me to survive.
- I have the right to celebrate my life, my existence, every day and every hard night. Each time I decide to stay on this planet, to try again, and to take the breath that feels impossible, I have exercised my power.
- I have the right to bear witness to myself when I feel afraid. Blankets, hoodies, and curling up in a screaming ball are all acceptable. I will give a voice to the parts of me that were silenced….any time and as many times as they need and want.
- I have the right to my self-worth without the influence or judgement of others’ thoughts, opinions, or unspoken gestures.
- I have the right to love all parts of myself regardless of what I have ever been told or ever will be told about those parts. They have a refuge within me.
- I have the right to choose what healing looks like to me. I determine my path forward.
- I have the right to decline the truth of any view that labels me as weak, broken, or a victim including the times when I feel like all of the above.
- I have the right to choose how I want to cope with my challenges.
- I have the right to share safe and trustworthy love and companionship in the entirety of the person I am at this moment.
- I have the right to be held and hugged safely without cost. Asking to be held and touched in a non-sexual way is a human need and does not mean I owe someone further access to my body.
- I have the right to enjoy sexual pleasure and intimacy on my own terms both alone and with a consenting partner. My sexuality is my own and remains untouched by the perverse acts of others.
- I have the right to my own spirituality and to choose to explore or not explore that part of myself on my own terms and in my own time.
- I have the right to decline an invitation to any group without explanation and without fear of supernatural consequences.
- I have the right to choose to speak to or not speak to anyone regarding religious beliefs without apology or guilt. Another person’s interest in talking to me about their religious beliefs does not require me to grant them an audience.
- I have the right to choose the people with whom I want to share my life. Relation by blood or by marriage does not limit my choice in any way.
- I have the right to safety including but not limited to physical, emotional, mental, sexual, and spiritual safety.