How I got to NOW (pt 1)

Those who know me well know I consider myself an orphan, because I’ve had to face most things in my life alone. But the act of applying to grad school helped me change that perspective and reflect on just how many people have been with me in some form or other that allowed met to get into grad school.

Now because I am Mary effing Black Bonnet, enigma extraordinaire, I don’t do anything like a normal person. This includes going to grad school. ( Boy should I ever tell you how I ended up at USD for my undergrad.. can’t get more Mary than that! )

Many people get their undergraduate degree then go on to grad school, not me. I had gotten my undergrad degree in English/Creative writing. I had looked into my graduate degree, which at that time I wanted to stay in the writing field. That for me meant getting my MFA. I looked into it, what I would do with it, etc. and decided it was just not for me. Most people go for their MFA because they want to go on to teach or settle in somewhere for a nice tenured position. I learned that and my brain registered it as staying in one spot, long term, day in, day out. etc. That did not excite me in the least. In fact, it seemed rather boring. I knew I’d grow despondent soon, get bored and see a long tunnel spread out before me much like being caged in. That simply would not do. Since I’d had work published by major venues my freshman year of college and then something every year after that, I was already a working writer while I was getting my undergraduate degree. Which meant I was already getting to do exactly what I wanted to do, travel and teach at various schools and universities. They would teach my work and bring me in as a visiting writer or writer in residence. I was literally getting to live my dream life.

After I’d graduated, I continued to publish work and teach but I started accepting teaching positions at Tribal universities. They were always adjunct positions because since I didn’t have my MFA, that was what they were allowed to offer me. I didn’t care. I got to have all the fun without all the boring things like having to sit on committees and do student advising, etc. Okay I am getting off my point for this blog, so let me leave it at that for why I didn’t go right from undergrad to graduate school. I didn’t need to and I didn’t want to. simple as that. I had a perfect, beautiful, content life. Why mess with perfection?

Then my attack happened. On the same day I’d had my interview for my full time professorship at the tribal university I was currently teaching at. As we all know, for the next five years, I was rendered moor-less. Lost, terrified, and immobile. For those who don’t know, it was the attack that caused me to lose my hearing. Slowly at first, then suddenly. I am profoundly Deaf, depend heavily on high powered hearing aids and have one amazing audiologist. (She signs!) The loss didn’t start out at 90%, It was moderate then severe then profound. But that story and journey alone is for it’s own post.

In that five year span, I published my book of poetry, but my planned book release party and book tour fizzled out because I was too terrified to go anywhere. I did local readings and signings, but even those were touch and go because I would have a panic attack before hand and not be able to leave my place. ( I was living in my camper then. Again, that will get it’s own post.) Or I would get there and have a panic attack. I feel really bad because I was invited to the festival of books in Deadwood, which was a HUGE accomplishment for me and a huge honor. But I couldn’t do it I literally could NOT leave my camper. It was awful and I felt so bad because people had come..waiting for me to show up and sign their books. And I wasn’t there. At that time, only a handful of people knew what had happened to me, so the rest of the world didn’t know. The people who showed up, waiting for me to sign their books, didn’t know. It plagued me thinking about how people probably thought I’d become a Diva, and hadn’t shown up because I thought I was the shit. As I trembled inside my camper, I was okay with them thinking that. It was better than them knowing the truth. I was so ashamed (at that time) that I’d been attacked so brutally and raped and as a result was deaf from it. Whatever horrible ideas they had in their heads about me being a Diva, were better then them knowing what was really going on. It took me years, YEARS to be able to let myself off the hook for that day. I beat myself up EVERY DAY because I wasn’t strong enough to fight him off. Because I wasn’t paying attention. Because I didn’t use my self defense skills. Because I was there. Because, because, because….

But slowly over time, and with the help of my incredible therapist…I realized that it was bullshit. My attacker slammed my head into a wall and punched me in the face. A GROWN MAN would have problems coming back from that. And I started realizing what I DID do.. which set me straight right away.

I survived.

But more than that..(for me) was… I went home, I got my precious, sacred daughter from the sitters, I took her home. I fed her, bathed her, got her ready for and tucked into bed.

I stayed alive for her. And in the weeks and months following my attack, while the rest of my life fell apart around me; I showed up everyday for her. I didn’t get lost in alcohol or drugs or bed ridden depression or any other number of things I could have done. I refused to let my trauma affect or ruin her life. It didn’t happen to her, so there was no way I was going to let it derail her childhood.

Realizing that, made me go from beating the shit out of myself to being damn proud. What could have been another slice of generational trauma STOPPED right there, because I knew enough to not let it happen.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some shitty, shitty days, some days when I’d hide in my closet while she was playing with friends and just cry into my clothes or a pillow. But then I’d come out, and be an Ina.(Mom) Because she was soo sacred and we had to go through so much to get her, (We’d had three miscarriages before her) I was not going to ruin her life with my trauma.

That event, and many things after that event were pure hell. But my daughter is my breath, my thoughts and my choices. Everything I do is for her best life.


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