Saturday, June 16, 2018

Bully Fighting

Union Grove Lake Waterfalls - Iowa DNR

Imagine a large river with a loud, powerful, and majestic waterfall in the middle.  If you stand at the bottom of the waterfall, you will see hundreds of people falling over daily.  There are strong rescuers waiting at the bottom of the falls who wade in to the river, often many times each day, to pull the waterfall victims out.  Sadly, some people don't survive the fall, some aren't able to survive even after they are pulled out.  Joyfully, many who are rescued recover and heal.

At first, the work of being a rescuer feels rewarding, then, because of the personal physical and emotional resources needed for the work, the rescuers evenutaly get weary.  Some have even fallen in, downing or needing their own rescue.  Amazingly, some of the rescued are brave and strong enough to go back in and become rescuers themselves.

After a few days, even the strongest and bravest rescuers began to wonder, "What's at the top of the falls?  Why are people falling in the river?

Each teller of this fable has their own metaphor for what's at the top, what's causing the people to fall in and tumble over the falls.  Here are the four most common scenarios, including the one I use: 1) Bridges of varying strength and access that put some people more at risk for falling in the river (this is my second favorite metaphor); 2) people up top who made bad choices and got too close to the river or built their homes in dangerous places (victim blaming); 3) natural disasters (meh, very random, but indeed sometimes true); or my favorite, 4) there are bullies up there pushing them in.

I like the idea that it's bullies pushing the people in for two reasons.  First, anyone can become a victim of a bully; aka - racism; misogyny; interpersonal violence; unexpected medical crisis; job loss (heck, never ever being fully employed); low wages; disability; targets of homophobia or genderphobia; tariffs; patriarchy; wars - you see where I'm going.  Second, we can push those bullies in one at a time, and we can push them in over and over again until they drown and drift over the falls.  If we work together, we can push them all in the river at once, to tumble over the falls and on downstream where they will decompose and transform into fish food and fertilizer for our river banks.

An even more radical thought?   . . . maybe we can reform all some of the bullies so they can stop feeling that pushing harmless people into the water is acceptable . . .hey, I can dream.


I feel I have spent most of my adult life challenging bullies at the top of the waterfalls.  I've had some success in pushing a few in - some that stayed in and some that were able to crawl back out.  I've even gone in myself a few times as I was pushing, fortunate to survive the trip over the falls.

Yesterday was my last day working as an advocate for victims of sexual assault.  I learned so much about myself, about strength, about justice and injustice, about transformation.  But I became exhausted.  Working forty hours during the week and being "on call" every sixth day is more than a full-time job.  Even though I was fighting the interpersonal violence bully hard and strong, and sometimes got a good shove at the justice bully, I was constantly fending off the economic justice bully for myself. 

Part of my fight with the economic justice bully is committing to work reasonable hours for a wage that matches the difficulty and intensity of the work. In leaving, it feels a bit like the bully and I both went in the water then agreed to help each other out.  Still processing this . . . 

What's important is, I am walking away, dripping wet, with new understandings of myself and so many other bullies and people.  I'm sitting on the bank drying off, pondering my next interaction with a bully and imaging who my partners in the battles will be. (Bully fighting is far to dangerous and important to try to do on your own.)

Many thanks to my partners in Bully Fighting - ACCESS Assault Care Center; ISU Office of Equal Opportunity and Student Services; ISU Police; Ames Police; Mary Greeley Medical Center; Story County SART; Iowa CASA; Story County Attorney; all the other law enforcement, medical, and justice seeking agencies in Story, Boone, Greene, Marshall and Tama County; and especially thank you to all the amazing and strong survivors I got to walk beside.  A special thanks to family and friends who understood all the times you had to not be my priority. 

I have grown.  So much.  I "heart" you all.

Friday, January 19, 2018


I am too weary tonight to reach out
I can barely scroll through all the posts
I have nothing profound to say
And life is too heavy to report.

As I do scroll through you all's posts,
- liking, loving, laughing, being surprised, 
or getting pissed off -
I see my old posts mingled amongst them.

Twenty reactions
Three loves
Eleven comments

Aww, you all care about me.

Here, I'm just going to post this
right here.
I could use some love tonight.

Seriously.  Sometimes it's nice to just know we're thinking about each other.  Facebook is far from perfect, but it is contact, social integration.  It will keep us alive longer.  And, it allows us to "have people over" without having to clean or bake a coffee cake.  

Get up and walk, go outside, do some yoga, some stretches. Make art.  Cook yourself some yummy, healthy meal.  Call your family.  Then get back on FB and "like" or "love" my posts.  Thanks friend.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sexual Assault Apologies - Here's How


I'm sorry. Is there
anything I can do to
make this up to you?

Not this.
Poor me, oh, poor me.
I used my privilege to
assault you. Got caught.

I would like all people who have assaulted someone in the past to just step up and put that out there. (Although I will admit it's amusing to imagine the millions of famous, infamous, and regular people squirming in the privacy of their homes, waiting for their name to come up . . .)  And, for fvck sake, do not deny, explain your psychological diagnosis, or ask for sympathy for your situation for being outed as a perp!  Here is the only thing you need to say.  Memorize it:


Here are some other important steps to remember when offering this apology -
  1. The apology is offered in private, not in the national and world media
  2. The apology is given directly from you to your victim(s).  You do not have your lawyer, friend, agent, or journalist friend deliver it.
  3. Do not just show up at your victim's door to apologize.  Send them a letter or text telling them of your intent to apologize.  If they direct your to an attorney or advocate, do what they ask.
  4. After you give the apology, you step back and wait quietly for your victim (or the victim's lawyer or advocate) to get back with you.  
  5. Your victim may never get back to you.  You have nothing to say to anyone about that.
  6. This is your victim's story, not yours. 
  7. These are first steps in giving back the power and dignity you took, and held, from your victim. It feels shitty, doesn't it, to not be in control of the situation.  Yeah, your victim knows how shitty if feels.
All these things are the opposite of what your attorney is going to tell you to do.  You can tell your attorney to go fvck themselves. 

Your victim may ask you for millions of $$$.  If you have that, give it to them.  If you don't sacrifice to give them the most that you can.  Most of the reports that are coming out these days are about assaults that happened years ago.  If the assaults were reported earlier, they were met with people calling them liars or crazy.  Then, victims who spoke up were systematically and fully black-listed, fired, avoided, and labeled as difficult or delusional.  Think of all they missed out on because of the trauma you caused in the moment and sustained with your years-long denial. 

How much do you think it's worth that you got to go forward with your life and your career as if your actions were inconsequential?  Acknowledge that your victim's reality changed, your actions affected their career options, learning ability, partner choices, family relations, and everything else that made up their lives?

So you perps . . . sshhhhh.  If your apology gets into the news, it should be your victim who is sharing what they care to share.

Rock on, brave victims.  You are changing the world for the better.

©Lori Allen 2017

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - 4 Months, 19 Days - Until Tomorrow

Breaking the Spell

Doctor's appointment
tomorrow.  There'll be no choice.
I'll step on the scale.

The picture above, while not recent, does express what life has been like for the four months I haven't been weighing myself.  I think of my weight (and by think I mean: obsess, fret, shame, curse, and blame my genetic inheritance) infrequently these days, which has been a great gift.  I have felt lighter, able to break the chains of the cultural anchors of fat shaming. 

Being hung up on weight, for me, is a carry-over of childhood and young adult relationship stressors.  There have been times in my life when I was lighter, thin even.  Being a physical target for criticism and hurtful words (you're such a fatty, your 10% over ideal weight for a twelve-year old, honey if you could just lose five pounds, how can you let yourself go like that  . . . and so many more) allowed me to keep the focus on things I knew I COULD control rather than things I could not - like your depression, the toxic environment I lived in, the regrets you lived in. 

Being a bit overweight or fat was something I could control, something to take the focus of the things I could not control.  Being a naughty girl, a bitch, an obstacle to your dreams, these were things I could not control because I didn't know what I was doing to cause those things.  (P.S. - I now know I was not doing anything to cause your hurtful words and actions - that was YOU being an asshole.)

Finally, in this point in my life, I've learned that who I am is not who you tell me I am.  Your harsh and cruel words to me were always more about you than me.  I know that what I weigh is more about how I dealt with you than my willpower or personal strength.  And now, I live with this tension and accept that I can deal with you and me and the whole world as I care to.  One day, I may trust I can let go of this protective layer I wear, to allow people to see me.  I want to trust that I won't fall into old patterns of co-dependence.  Some day, perhaps, some day.

So, apparently when I started this whole "not weighing myself anymore" posting, I gave reports.  So, in honor of my annual physical tomorrow where I WILL be weighed, here's an updated report.

Daily goals report: 
·         Weigh in – nope.  But I did eye the scale knowing that tomorrow at this time . . . .
·         Meditate – yes.
·         Walk – Not yet. Just a bit for work. 
·         Eat – Quiche and coffee. 

      Other goals report:
·         Music came in the form of chattering, quarreling, and laughing granddaughters who are bunking with me for a couple days as their folks travel for work. 
·         Clearing my bookshelves and donating to PP booksale.  I have found Swedish Death Cleaning, consider an art that.  I am learning.
·       .Wrote a haiku - see above.
·         Writing - where have your gone?. 
·         Inspired today to update my blog after reading a client's blog.  There is strength and inspiration in V's writing.  Thank you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - 3 Months - Types of Weight

Image result for scale image  Image result for stress level scale
I am happy to announce that I have NOT weighed myself since I pledged not to on my birthday back in June.  I don't have a sense that I have varied very far my my last weigh-in, and I am satisfied with that feeling.  If there is any anxiety, it is in an upcoming doctor's appointment.  My doctor has patients weighed at each visit, so it will happen.  Whether or not I want to be told the number is another matter.  Hmmm . . . . .

Truth be told, if I were interested in a weight measurement right now, it would be the weight of the stress and vulnerability that I hold, that many around me hold.  I tell myself that I am a non-anxious person handling a high stress job, I tell myself that "I've got this."

Yet today, this sunny fall day, I have struggled to see clearly in moments of metaphorical darkness. Fortunately, I've had a few moments of alone time to close my eyes and meditate.  As I closed my eyes and allowed darkness to wash over my mind, the words of David Whyte's poem, Sweet Darkness flowed through my thoughts:

The world was made to be free in.  Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong. Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

I know what world I belong in.  I know who and what does not bring me alive.  I am claiming a larger space to live in.  That is all.

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired, the world is tired also.
When your vision is gone, no part of the world can find you.
It is time to go into the night where the dark has eyes to recognize its own.
There you can be sure you are not beyond love.
The dark will make a home for you tonight.
The night will give you a horizon further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.
                                                                                       ~ David Whyte

Image result for meditation image

Saturday, September 16, 2017

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - 2 months, 28 days - Dreams

  • Most billable hours - no pressure
  • Contact Data
  • Research Data
  • Pay attention to calendar
  • Billable hours
  • Leadership - do your part

The list above is what I saw when I opened my computer in a meeting at work.  This was in a dream. Prior to seeing this list, the dream involved my conversation with a co-worker about funding for the victim services agency I work at.  The dream began with this co-worked telling me that the board would not allow me to take a new position in the agency because I had the most billable hours and the new position would not allow me to have billable hours.  

I was determined to show them that I could still continue creating billable hours even in the new position.  So . . . I took a report, signed by my supervisor, and changed the number of billable hours from 1 to 10.  I then filed that report and went on vacation with my mom.

It was a two night vacation, where I ditched my mom at a tourist site on the second day and went back to the hotel alone to work on reports, leaving her to fend for herself overnight.  When I picked her up the next day I acted like my leaving her alone overnight was no big deal, and so did she.  In my mind, I knew she was upset but afraid to bring up the matter.  

After dropping mom off in the parking lot of her apartment complex, I drove to work where I met the co-worker whom I'd had the conversation with about billable hours.  As we walked into a meeting, she told me that someone had altered a report that my supervisor signed.  She stated the board was looking into this.  I played it cool, acted surprised to hear that anyone would do such a thing, etc.  I was confident no one could trace the deed back to me.

My son was in the meeting room with his co-workers, I sat down next to him on his left.  The whole meeting focused on this altered document.  I participated in the conversation, agreeing it was a serious matter.  All during the conversation, I had this sense of satisfaction for what I'd done, and that they could never trace the actions to me.

Finally, it was time for me to give my report.  As I opened my computer find my report and read it, my son leaned over and saw the above list on my desktop.  "Remember to fix letter!?!?!" he shouted out.  "Mom, what does that mean?"

There was a collective gasp from the room, knowing I was the one who altered the document.  My co-worker and supervisor asked me to step into the other room with them.  I opened the altered letter shouting out, "wait, okay, let me print this" as I worked to return the document to it's original state.  I ran to the printer in the room and grabbed the printed document.

The "other room" was this palatial office with wonderful art and furniture and bookshelves.  My co-workers kept grabbing my shoulders and trying to calm me down as I tried to explain myself.  I was defending and, alternately, apologizing for my actions, all the while wondering how I'd ever get another job after what I'd done, how I could afford my current home without a job.  

I also had the sense that that amazing office was somehow meant for me and that through what I'd done to my mom and the altered letter, I had ruined my chances for claiming this space as where I worked, where I lived. I was more sad than scared.

Then I woke up.

I haven't really taken time to analyze this dream.  Interesting points - in our last all-staff meeting we did talk about billable hours , there is a position open at work that, it seems, has been hard to fill, and my son is often in the same meetings I am because of the work we do with different employers.  

What was weird about this dream was, I woke up shaken up.  I took a moment to scan my memory to see if there was a concern about my job security, and no.  The things that stands out the most about this dream is my son blurting out what was on my computer and the heavy sadness I felt at my missed opportunity.  I did not feel angry at my son, it seemed an innocent act on his part.  He was trying to be funny, ribbing me a little, like, "mom.... what does THAT mean?"

Since I've been awake, I've not been able to  shake this feeling that I've done something that has led me to miss out on whatever the metaphor of that palatial office is.  I woke up at 6:15 AM and stayed up because the feeling was so intense - on a Saturday! So, dream explainers and analyzers - what the heck?

                                    Image result for people in meeting with computers

Monday, June 26, 2017

I'm Not Weighing Myself Anymore - Day 8 - Shallow

Image result for sad birthday cake image

June 26, 2017

Never invited
you to a party.  You missed
nothing but shallow.

Daily goals report: 
·         Weigh in – did not . . . but . . . self-doubt is creeping in?
·         Meditate – yes.  Well, technically, I was eavesdropping as I meditated.  Does that still count?
·         Walk – Walked about four blocks – took the kiddos to the park and picked them up – walked from Doc’s.
·         Eat –   cheesy shells, broccoli balls, and the evil and colorful chocolate covered sunflower seeds from TJMax

      Other goals report:
·         Bribing Mica to leave her electronic diary at home as she went to camp brought some pretty awesome crescendos from the both of us.
·         Made fashion doll stencil mermaids.  Quite exquisite.
·         I don’t have many regrets in my life, and this is not really a regret, but . . . I wish I would have been more interested in getting to learn about the lives and yearnings of some of my high school classmates.  It seems some of the classmates were so much less interested in popularity and personal importance than me and my clique.
·         Reading, not writing today. 
·         Happy Birthday to Julie Lindsay, another high school classmate with a June birthday.  I only know this because of Facebook, I admit. 

      So, really really, I mean it – Happy Birthday Julie.  And to Doreen a few days ago.  And hello Susan who is in the celebratory pictures as well.  I love seeing pictures of my high school classmates with their high school classmate friends still in their lives.  Seeing some of the people that I did not take the time to get to know better in my teens, reminds me of how shallow and exclusive my teen clique was. 

      When I see pictures on Facebook of classmates who are still friends, I see the deep joy and care shared by long time acquaintances.  Good for you.  I wish I had an active friendship that reached back to my teens.  There are a few people that I was close to back then, friends I can pick up where we left off at the last visit.  But over the years it takes longer and longer to catch each other up, and we don’t get to delving deep into feelings . . . at all. 

      I am not certain that any of the seven of the girls in my high school clique still communicate with each other (other than on Facebook) – maybe the two who are cousins.  One married my brother.  I only recall rather shallow interests and conversations . . . didn’t really dare open up about my life’s big concerns and questions.

      But hell.  All the deep stuff’s been brought to the surface by now.  And I have no idea on what schedule my peers grew up and dealt with their deep stuff.  When I think of high school, I automatically go back to making some of the same assumptions about what challenges, or lack of challenges, other classmates were dealing with.  Did they all even have stuff to deal with? Deep stuff or no, and like my own life, I am quite certain that my high school peer’s lives have expanded far beyond the hallways and social activities of our small rural school. 

      Happy day, every day, to those out there doing the work of maturing and finding your place in the world.  Stay in touch, keep sending pictures.