i haven’t been around in a while. life’s been throwing me curve balls left and right. i’ve been dodging, ducking, sleeping, staying out of sight. trying to recover. it was the start of my New Year, a Shmita year…this is supposed to be a year of rest and restoration for both the land and its people. i ask today…is it? these are trying times, and the more and more that I think I’m wise with my age, independent, self-aware, I am made forcibly aware of the reality of being a woman. What that means really. the inherent risk that simply ‘is’ due to my sex.

Last month, I was made sexually uncomfortable by a doctor, both with his actions and his words. Because he was in a position of both power and knowledge, he was able to make me a victim in a situation in which my words would be questioned because I’m ‘hormonal and somewhat unstable’ due to disease and medication. This brought to the forefront for me how easy it is to be either a victim or your own best advocate. Often times, almost my entire life, I have chosen the fight…advocacy. I am passionate and loud about both my own right to be both safe and a sexual being in this world, despite the fact that I am ‘the weaker sex’, and our collective right to the same things. Safety. Freedom. Sexuality without consequence. It is just, it is right, it is what we deserve…but it is not the world in which we live.

Over a month ago, a friend of mine’s best friend…a beautiful young woman named Jessica Birge, disappeared in Texas. Plucked, it seemed, from thin air. A massive search, both physical and in the media, was launched. Her parents and friends even utilized her myspace page, turning it into a Find Jessica Now page. We posted and reposted. The national media covered the story, her employer paid for thousands of flyers with her picture on them. Her family and friends waited, worn thin with the weight of hope, in a state of constant movement that yielded no distance gained. Finally, after 38 days of searching, Jessica was found in her car at the bottom of the Guadalupe River on September 18th. A terrible accident. It was good that she was found, brought closure for those who feared for her, but the news brought with it a whole new set of emotions. She was only 26. Had so much life to live. Why?? And…why didn’t she call someone when she was leaving the club alone, let them know where she was and where she was going? Was she tired, too tired to drive? The why(s) and how(s)…we always want to know the why(s) and how(s).

On the same day that Jess was found, another woman to whom I am connected by those thin few degrees of separation came up missing in Chicago. Another beautiful young woman…vanished into thin air. This one, a good friend of more than one of my friends, Nailah Franklin. A vivacious 28 year old pharmaceutical representative…very well known and liked in the community. The day she was reported missing, literally hundreds of emails went out and items were posted up on messageboards around the internet. It was reported that she had been in contact with the police because physical harm had been threatened to her by a man she used to date. Today, it has been confirmed that a naked body found in a Forest Preserve, near where her car was found at a vacant house earlier, is indeed Nailah.

I hurt for these women today, and for their families, their friends, their extended-self-created-organic families, their loves, their lovers, their futures. And I pause to consider my own reality. Am I safe? Do I constantly stay aware of the need for me to be so? Do I put myself in needless unsafe situations? Let friends know when I’m out with someone new? Do I second guess myself? Spend time alone with someone who gives me a ‘weird’ feeling? Do I lightly toss aside things which should make me hyper aware?

I implore each of us to make a commitment to our girlfriends today – to be each other’s watchdog, each other’s advocate, each other’s voice of ‘you better…’. You better check in with me. You better let me know you got home safe. You better let me know when you’re going out with someone new, who they are, where you’re going, when you expect to be home.

Yes, I’m grown. You’re grown. We’re strong, fierce, independent women with degrees and mortgages and options bigger than they ever could have imagined for us way back when. But, we are still frail vessels. We are all frail vessels…just a few layers of skin and bone separating us always between this life and the next. I want us all to love each other enough to demand responsibility from both ourselves and those we love. Not because I think that that alone can save us…I realize that there are things so evil and big that perhaps we cannot be saved from them. And, I realize that sometimes, we cannot be saved from Life itself…accidents happen, tragedy happens. But, I am aware today of how quickly it happens. How one moment, everything is fine and we are best friends with comments on Flickr and inboxes on Myspace…and then, how easily it can be…Nothing. Plucked away. Thin Air. And I admit that I am frightened by it. By how quickly, how easily this can happen. For so long, I have dealt with disease and the ‘what if’ possibility, and the sudden, ferocious factor of rape, murder, the possibilities when driving alone late at night…these forever-life-changing-in-an-instant scenarios have escaped me.

And so, I beg you…if something doesn’t feel right, trust your instinct. Whether it’s a doctor, or a boyfriend, or a boss, or a stranger in line at the supermarket. Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself from a situation that makes you uncomfortable on any level. And if you feel that you can’t excuse yourself, don’t be afraid to make the call to someone who can come excuse you for you. Be responsible to someone…have someone who knows what medications you are taking, when you are doing something out of the ordinary, when you are seeing someone new. Have someone that you trust with the who, the how you met them, the where you’re going, the when you’re expected back. Choose someone to be accountable to…and, choose someone to be accountable to you. And make sure they do it. Make sure they know that it’s love and not a distrust in their ability to run their life.
Today, I am deciding that independence, to me, in this reality, means fiercely protecting myself at all costs…even if that means I’m a little less ‘independent’.

I pray that the gods are cradling Jessica and Nailah today, that they are truly resting in peace. And I pray that their families and friends find some peace in this as well…and that we all count our blessings on this day, for another day, and that we tread on wiser, more cautious, more aware of our realities. I pray that their tragic ends will not be in vain. That there is something to take from the madness and nonsense of it.

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