Four years ago I started to practice yoga. It was easy for me to latch on to the trend in Chicago that was hot yoga. Many of my friends were sporting their fierce yoga gear and heading to classes in herds. My nickname among my family and friends for many years has been ‘grace’ because it is a quality I simply do not encompass. I can manage to trip on thin air, spill anything I am holding, and get tangled in any sort of obstacle large or small. I am not graceful, I am not centered, and I am really not good at staying still either, so it would seem that all the elements of yoga were not meant for me.
However, one very cold Chicago morning at 6:30 I decided I needed to give it a shot. I carefully planned to go to an early morning class so I would not run into any of my peers, and instead surround myself with the true yogis. As the room heated up, I was able to loosen up and maneuver myself into some if not all of the positions of this beginner class. I was able to focus on my breathing, and most importantly I was able to let go for the 45mins to an hour I was active in the class.
I set my intention to get the negative thoughts out of my mind. The evil that envelops the human I hate the most, and see the good. Really stop and see the good in people.
In November of 2010 I was raped by someone who I had previously looked at as a friend.
I was a freshman, I was eager to make new friends, and I forgot that I had only known these people around me for a 3 month period. I was caught up. I unfortunately remember the event too clearly, remember fighting, remember saying no, and remember one of his friends even interrupting and not doing anything to help me. I remember running out of that apartment on Southport, remember walking home by myself in the dark, scared someone was going to say something to me, and thinking everyone that saw me on the sidewalk had to have known what had just happened.
I returned to my dorm, immediately got in the shower, emerged and slept for a while. I remember waking up and buying a bus ticket to Madison to see my then boyfriend. In some aspects, I am glad this took place on a Thursday night so I could run away for the weekend. I decided on the way to Madison that I was going to pretend those events just did not happen. If I believed it did not happen, it didn’t. No one had to know, and I could just go on with my life.
I immersed myself in the Madison culture, and was able to keep myself distracted until he texted me. I can see where I was sitting as I received that text message, and the text being something along the lines of so do I have to get tested? I was absolutely livid. I tried to hide my discontent from everyone that was around me, but I fell into something much darker.
I returned to Chicago on the Megabus that following Monday and thought and cried for most of the trip. How could he even ask that after what he did to me? How can he go on like nothing just happened? Is this something he just does?! I tried to contact him via text and there was no response. I certainly was not going to talk to anyone about what had happened, but for him to pretend nothing was wrong was not sitting well with me. He completely cut off all forms of communication – phone, facebook, and even had me kicked out of the Dodgeball club. I just wanted answers. How was what you did to me acceptable?
I contacted my University to file a complaint and was blindsided by two harsh questions- Was alcohol involved? Did this event take place on campus? Yes, No. Well we can’t really do much about these allegations since this event was off campus. I had class twice a week with this individual and the only thing the University did was remove him from my class. I did not feel that was enough, but was just glad I did not have to see him in an academic setting.
Everything was quiet for a while.
I did not return to Madison to see my boyfriend for a while because I was having some very apparent intimacy issues, and I still couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone. I replaced any and all free time I had with work, averaging 35 hours a week with a full class load. It was easy to not have any space in my brain to remember what had happened, until I had to return home for Winter Break as the University I attended closed the dorms for 6 weeks. I lasted about 2 weeks at home before I would say I effectively broke. I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. I replayed the events over and over in my head, and kept thinking what could I have done differently? In early December I decided I had to tell my boyfriend what had happened. I figured he had to know because I was obviously acting differently. I finally got up the courage to call him late one night and was flabbergasted by his response.
Wait, you slept with someone else?
No, it was not like that.
I can’t believe you were with someone else, we’re done.
I remember being so upset that my then boyfriend of 3 years was dumping me after I told him I was assaulted. I was done. I was done with everything. I researched ways of leaving school, researched ways of revenge, and caved in on myself. I cut off communication with my new ex-boyfriend (decided I couldn’t possibly rationalize with a person that could not understand where I was coming from) and was surrounded by family, which helped a lot. There was no way I could tell my mom, and I alluded to details with my brother but never shared the full story.
I returned to Chicago on January 1, 2011. I decided this was time for me. I returned to work, school, and yoga. I started practicing every day, sometimes twice a day. I felt that I was becoming more focused and centered on my own goals, I was finally doing it for me. I felt that every time I left the mat, I was leaving some of that horrific night in my sweat. I was letting it go.
In February, I was still working long hours as a referee at the University Rec Center and was reviewing rosters for the upcoming Intramural basketball games for the evening. My eyes froze as I saw his name on the roster. I thought to myself, there is no way in hell I am about to officiate his game. I knew I would not be able to stay composed once he walked across that court, and I bet he did not want to see me either. I knew I needed to do something to protect my sanity and ask for help. I pulled one of my close colleagues aside and quietly shared with him the details of that November night. That I could not work this game. That I could not see his face. That I could not keep it together. He listened and said he would take care of it and he did. He quickly notified the front desk that this individual was not allowed on the third floor, and not allowed to participate in intramurals anymore. I actually felt liberated for once about the whole situation. Someone finally had my back.
I returned to yoga that next morning early. The instructor played Bon Iver’s Skinny Love at the end of class and I cried on my mat. I was not sad, I just really finally honestly needed to get it all out. I needed to know it was ok to feel vulnerable, and it was ok to share what had happened. I decided I needed to not let this event define who I am, but take all the anger (rage, really) and give it back. I gave it back through being so open about what had happened. I was able to become a beacon for others who unfortunately have experienced similar events.
Later that February I got my first tattoo. It reads ‘the good in me sees and honors the good in you’ right under my left breast. It is a constant reminder to me and my heart that there has to be a little glimmer of good in everyone. We are all capable of bad things, but we have to let go, become centered, and find that good within ourselves. If I am not fighting for finding that good every day, I need to become re-centered. I try to find my peace every day now, and try to find myself letting go of any negatives a little every time I find myself on my yoga mat. I lost practice for a while as life caught up with me, but have returned to the mat since starting 5 years ago, in my new home and was recently asked about my tattoo. All the feelings I had in the studio in Chicago came flooding back, to remind me to continue to let it go, continue to find good, and continue to keep on keeping on.