This is what I do, don't try to understand how I do it; I don't really know either

That’s Not My Experience

Society is built by relationships. We enter the world and build relationships with our family or people around us. We grow and our network expands to people at school and eventually our workplace. We develop social interests and connect with others there as well. There is a level of social trust that happens with each relationship. It can be gained and lost but it also can be rebuilt. Relationships are built on whom we know someone to be. We will have closer relationships with those you trust more and distance from those you don’t.

We build a narrative about someone based on our observations and experiences. If you ask me about my friends I will tell you my perception of them and whom I know them to be. I will believe my perception of that person to be true. So what happens when your perception of someone and mine do not align? I will deny your perception to be true and default to what I believe to be true, BUT does that actually mean that my perception is true? This is a critical question we have to ask ourselves rather than automatically defaulting to our truth because not asking the question is destroying people and allowing predators to continue to consume at will.

I just watched the Netflix documentary on Bikram Choudhury and he is a perfect example of someone whom people perceive to be one way, but the truth is contrary. He’s far from being the only one. I recently read about Jerry Sandusky who was given awards and accolades for his work with young people as well as Larry Nassar. All three of these people were well known and respected in their fields but behind closed doors they are predators. This truth contradicts how many people knew them to be.

I walked alongside a young woman who was assaulted. I saw the bruises on her body. Her predator was a friend of the family she was living with and when confronted by police they chose to hinder the police investigation because their perception of him was contrary to someone who would hurt a teenage girl, but that didn’t make it less true. Another book I read gave the story of a teenage girl who was preyed upon by her high school teacher. When it went to trial the prosecution put girls on the stand who were more popular and prettier than she was as if to present an argument that if he had not preyed on these girls then why would he prey on one less pretty and less popular? He too had won awards for his teaching efforts with young people. Very few believed her story that their perceptions of his capabilities were wrong.

When I was raped as a teenager one of the reasons I did not come forward at that time was because I did not think anyone would believe me. My rapist was popular and social. Prettier and more popular girls than me voluntarily slept with him and I believed that no one would believe me if I said I hadn’t wanted to.  I did not have enough power or position to influence their perceptions of him.

We have to remember that our perceptions are ONLY what the other person lets us see. It may not be the whole truth. We do not want to think someone we know is capable of horrible things, but sometimes they are. A man whom our community believed to be a caring and loving father murdered his own wife and children. It was not until we were confronted with cold hard facts in our face that we would budge on our perception of whom we believed him to be and what he was capable of.

This is why organizations like UN Women are tweeting “Believe Her”

Believing her doesn’t mean we forgo a proper judicial system, but it means we are open to our perceptions being wrong and entering into that process to determine the truth.

 

My Manifesto

I’ve been struggling with my blog. It’s very personal but I had made it public with the intent to share my journey and maybe give hope or encouragement to others.

This could cause some issues with the professional world I am looking to enter so as I pondered this situation I changed my privacy settings to closed.

A little while ago I listened to a leader who I greatly respect and has a lot of knowledge in the area of mental health, who publicly said that he takes medication for depression and sees a counsellor every week. He also said he wishes that these things could be talked about openly. It was then that I knew what my decision had to be.

I want to make the world better. I want to be the change I want to see, and that means that even if it costs me a job then I have to be true to who I am and vulnerable about the difficult times on my journey. Recently a close friend said that I was set up to fail. In a lot of ways, I think he is right. I scrolled back and realized that I suffered significant trauma; multiple sexual abuses, rape, the loss of close friends by murder, testifying at the trial, dysfunctional family; all before I hit 17 years of age and it hasn’t been all roses and daisies since. Some people don’t recover from just one of those issues but I had all of them happen before my brain was even fully developed.

I had all the reasons to fail, but I didn’t, and I’m not done. The future is so bright for where I am going and the difference I know I am going to make because all those things that happened to me are drivers for me to make life better for others. I want people to know their value and worth regardless of their circumstances or choices. Every single person on this planet matters. So as I move forward I am publicly declaring my personal manifesto.

Manifesto of Amanda Carrasco

I will be true to who I am and who God has called me to be: embracing all of my strengths and recognizing that I am in process to work on my weaknesses.

I will never call myself “just” anything.

 I am not just a mom, just a teacher, just an entrepreneur,

just a student, or just ANYTHING!

I AM Amanda Carrasco

I will use my voice to amplify and support the voices of the hurting, the oppressed, and suffering so we can all engage the world from a place or worthiness. NAKUONA

I will ask the hard questions to myself and others

I will not back down from something because it is hard, I will take calculated risks.

I will lead from a place of humble gratitude.

I will own my story, ALL of it, but it will not define me because I am the author.

It is a story of struggle and strength, but it is my story.

 

She overcame and changed the world.

Emotional World Changer

I believe it is generally accepted that women are more emotional than men- albeit that they display their emotions more than men. That being said there is a movement to correct this misconception that showing emotion is a weakness. Brene Brown is a leader in this charge with her thorough research on vulnerability. If you look through a backwards lens in time, vulnerability and emotional being appear as a radical concept. We are in the process of a societal shift on this issue and as far as I am concerned, it can not come soon enough!

Women especially have been degraded for showing emotion. If we are angry then we are a B@&(h, if we are sad then we are weak, if we are both then we are hormonal.

Everyone has emotions, they are an asset. They can help guide us and especially encourage empathy. Evil is the absence of empathy. The more I learn about the evils we humans commit to other humans the more my heart is torn – as it should be! It should never be acceptable to hurt each other, especially to the levels that we have. But just as I am crushed by the pain in the world and the pain I have personally suffered, it becomes fuel to do everything within my power and capabilities to end injustice whenever possible.

Make no mistake, just because I have many emotions, just because I chose to live a vulnerable and open life, I am not unstable. These things, in fact, make me well rounded and balanced. They give me focus and direction unlike anything else. It has made me determined and driven. I move forward every day and process life through an emotional lens. This also makes me relatable to people in pain so they can reach out and find support. If I am misconceived then let it be so because I will not change who I am, which helps the hurting and fosters justice, just so people don’t think I am weak. If that is your perception of me then you don’t know me at all.

Please stand back and watch. I am changing the world and I am just getting started.

Survival Sex

My journey will not be an easy one, but most things that are easy are not worth it. In my research this week I came across the concept of “survival sex.” In the context of migration, you have women who flee their homes for a variety of negative reasons (if women are safe and supported they don’t leave their homes). Either in transit or once they arrive at a new residency, such as a refugee camp, they may not have a job or any sort of income, so they sell the only thing they have – their body. This is what they call survival sex because women are selling sex to pay for food or transit or shelter. It’s what they have to do to survive and often help their families survive.

I learned of one story that was of a family of 6: dad, mom, and four kids. They paid someone to help them leave their home and find safety in a new location. Along the way, their “guide” demanded more money, of which they had none. So the husband offered his wife as payment and she was forced to have sex with this man every day for 30 days.

What I can not accept about this term is the word sex. Sex is consensual, however when you are selling your body as payment to survive how can that in any way be actual consent? These women would not choose to engage physically with these men if there was another alternative so, therefore, even though it is not physically forced by the man per se, it is circumstantially forced, and thus is it rape. This is survival rape and these are crimes against humanity.

Whenever I hear or see people complain about immigration or not want to take in refugees, I remember these stories. Their refusal to help is facilitating survival rape. I wish more people took the time to understand the realities people are facing. One of the most impactful memes I have seen had an image of refugees in a boat, that face death at sea rather than stay in their own country, and it said: “They wouldn’t put their children in the boat if the land was safe.” You don’t risk your life and the lives of your children unless staying is a greater risk.

If people knew the stories would it make a difference? Would they be moved with compassion so much that it would overcome their fear? I believe for some it would, I know for others it would not. So I appeal to the some. Learn the stories of refugees, why they left, what they risked and what they had to face on the way. What they left is often horrific and unfortunately the path out is often the same.

I hope you never have to face the decision of the risk of violence or death in staying in your home or fleeing, and if you don’t, I hope you think of those who do and are moved with compassion. Until our global leaders can provide stability and safety for all countries, we need to remember these people and offer them the safety they can not currently find at home and not contribute to environments that breed survival rape.

My 6 Word Memoir

This past friday I attended a training sesson and one option was to give students an assignment to write a 6 word memoir. At first I didn’t really understand this but if you google six word memior you will see some fantastic things.

It made me think about mine. Of all the words in existance what how could I sum up my entire life in 6 words? Well… I got it, or what I aspire it to be.

She overcame and changed the world.

For me this encompasses the garbage life has brought me that I have had to deal with, and deal with it I am. But it also captures that I am more than just that, that I am going to make a difference. I try right now with every oportunity that avails itself to me – big or small. I have bigger dreams than what I have achieved so far and I know that I can accomplish them. I still don’t have exactly defined parameters on it or a precise road map, but I don’t need those.  Those details will come in time, for now I just keep moving forward every day.

I have felt injustice and with everything in me I will seek to end it in any form that is shows its ugly face. It has impacted me but it does not define me. It motivates me to make the world better.

It’s coming. I don’t even know what “it” is but I am excited for what the future is bringing because I am up for whatever challenges it holds. I’m going to change the world.

I finished it.

Shake Hands With the Devil was a library book and I am going to pay a lot of fines because it took me so long to get through it. Part of that was busyness but even more was just processing the emotional weight you carry to know in greater detail the horrors humans have done to each other, but we need to know. Especially since these horrors continue.

I think that’s one of the worst parts of reading it, is knowing that conflict is not over. The killing has moved to different parts of the world, but it hasn’t stopped. Wait, I was wrong; the worst is that the international community still doesn’t care that much more than we did before when we ignored the calls to prevent the slaughter, when the killing was happening, and the support needed afterward. Dallaire quotes Michael Ignatieff and writes “risk-free warfare presumes that our lives matter more than those we are intervening to save.” Maybe that’s why we still don’t care the way we should – maybe we really do think our lives matter more than those in developing countries. We were sure upset when a cathedral burnt down, and rally when there is a loss of life in Europe, but we change the channel when the stories are about Africans or Syrians or Rohingyas.

Dallaire himself continues, “we have fallen back on the yardstick of national self-interest to measure which portions of the planet we allow ourselves to be concerned about.” Why do we do this? How entitled do we deeply believe ourselves to be to hold our lives in higher value? Humanity is so selfish in so many ways.

I bought a bracelet from Epimonia. It is made with the jackets of refugees fleeing conflict. I am going to wear it every day to remind myself that people around the world are not safe and I will not accept a safe and unchallenging life until they have one too. ONE has a saying “no one is equal until we are all equal.”

I plan to use my voice, my resources, my talents, and even my research to fight for the fundamental rights that belong to every living human – the right to value, which is encapsulated but the universal declaration of human rights. It astounds me that the world’s governing body could articulate these onto paper but fails to uphold them by keeping leaders accountable for their violations. We have to do better.

I planned to just get through that book to know more about the history of this magnificent country I had the honor of visiting one year ago, but it has turned into so much more. I downloaded research articles and bought four more books today that are going to broaden and deepen my knowledge in ways that I want to use in the future. The stories of people move me deeply. It is not the color of my skin that makes me want to have an impact, as though we in the west know better and can solve all problems, but it is the content of my heart that feels the pain and hears the cries of those who suffer. They are real to me.

I don’t know where this journey will take me, but I am honored to be on the journey.

Previous generations didn’t talk about things. Sex and feelings are the top two that I see that were taboo. That void has resulted in misunderstanding, missing out, hurt, an inability to navigate relationships, and mental heath issues. Since these conversations were never embarked upon, we don’t know how to have them or start them.

I’m proud of my generation for wanting something different, something more. We’re not sure how to do it so we screw it up all the time but at least we’re trying and have opened the way for younger generations to take it further and maybe get it right.

I have talked with my children about my passion for this next stage of my life to be encapsulated but the Swahili word – Nakuona. It means I see you. People need to feel seen. This morning my youngest son said “mom, yesterday the cat ran away from me and my sister didn’t want to play and I felt unseen” oh my heart lept for joy. He’s getting it and I have taught him that vocabulary for his feelings. Brene Brown uses the term “rumble” for engaging in a difficult conversation. She also uses “the story I am telling myself” and I am really trying to make those part of my vocabulary.

It’s like we now have our own language between us so we can communicate our feelings. We can work through things. I explained to him that the cat ran away because he was angry and stomping around so that scared the cat. We could then talk about how to be angry and not scare others – something that we can learn together because I suck at that.

We need to give each other words. There is power in words. There is a freedom when I can speak my truth. It’s hard. Telling someone that I had been abused was hard but I found the words and it freed me. I can’t heal if I am silent. I am excited that I have private languages with people in my life. My kids especially but even my best friend and I can text one letter to each other and it means a whole lot of things that we both understand. There are lots of languages I can’t speak, but if your willing to teach me I would love to learn yours and I will do my best to teach you mine. It is then that I see you. Nakuona

Eshet Chayil

It is amazing how someone you have never met can have such a profound impact on your life. Rachel Held Evans gets to party with Jesus now and I feel like I lost a friend. Her writing encapsulated many, especially women, who struggled with their faith, doubt, and the church. She helped us to find hope, to know that we were not alone in the struggle, and to not give up.

I remember reading A Year of Biblical Womanhood and it was like it connected to my soul, the very core of my being. She helped me see scripture in a new way that made me feel more confident in who I was, how I was created, and how I fit with the body of Christ. I learned from her that the “Proverbs 31 woman” wasn’t a list of expectations of who I am to be. Growing up,  Christian women were compared to that list and I always felt that I never measured up. Her research liberated me from those expectations and allowed me to celebrate all my victories – Eshet Chayil. I printed those words and they hang on my wall to remind me that I AM a woman of valor.

Several months ago I picked up her newest book Inspired and my children and I have been reading it slowly during our devotions. It has sparked amazing conversations about the Bible and its stories.  Her faith journey resonates with so many because it’s what so many of us have experienced. She talks about how unacceptable it has been to ask question or challenge theological beliefs but we ALL have them. She makes it ok to have questions and still hold your faith – something that was not permitted before. If you questioned then you were not a believer and if you were a believer then you didn’t question.

This is a huge loss to the world. I don’t understand God’s soverignty, what He allows and what He doesn’t. In this instance, like many others in my life, I will allow Him to be God and accept that I will not understand until I get to be with Him. I will also allow Him to be my comforter and pray comfort for Rachel’s family and friends in this very challenging time of loss.

Going somewhere

I have never liked flying. I still don’t really, but it’s been too long since I was last on a plane. I have a short business trip and even though I am not leaving the country I’m happy to be on a plane. Again, I’m not a fan of flying but it means I am going somewhere. I really like to be going somewhere.

There have been a lot of changes in life the last year and they are not finished yet. It takes time to process and adjust to change and I have just wanted to move ahead. This week will be good to have time to process. Soon I will only have to travel with one laptop not two. I’m looking forward to that but there is a grief with letting go. It’s easier when you have something to grab onto – maybe thats why people have rebound relationships so often.

A wise friend has encouraged me that when people ask where I am going to – to tell them that I am going to me. I’m going to take time. It’s been much needed time but taking time is not comfortable to me. I know it’s necessary and healthy.

I’m staring into a blank canvas and I get to decide what to paint. I already know my colors but I don’t know exactly what is going to appear. I’m not an artist but I believe they take time to conceptualize before they start. This is my conceptualization and preparation time.

I’ll take it and when the time is right I’m going somewhere.

I’m Brave and I Won

Gosh, I love Brene Brown.

She makes me feel courageous. She gives me the inspiration to be brave, the permission to fail, and the drive to live vulnerably. I just watched her Netflix special (WATCH IT). I had been counting the days until it was live and today was the day, and my heart needed it. I have been wrestling with my vulnerability, as you do when you are hurt and rejected, but vulnerability is how I live and breathe. I don’t want to be any other way.

She says that daring greatly is having the courage to show up when you don’t know the outcome. I have dared greatly and it has not paid off in the hoped-for outcome. I chose to love and then love again and both of those relationships ended with my heart being shattered. I was very aware they were both high risk, but if they had worked out it would have been worth it.

But neither worked out so does that mean I failed? Yeah, kind of. The relationships certainly failed. But Brene tells a story about how winning isn’t always about being first to the finish line. Sometimes winning is to get on the blocks and get wet. So I won. I showed up and I chose to love, not knowing the outcome. She says that you can’t let yourself be loved if you don’t let yourself be seen. I put myself out there and I was me, good and bad, and I let myself be seen. That’s winning no matter what the other person chose. I want to be a person who sees and is seen. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt – because it SURE AS HELL DOES. Every single day. You can’t be vulnerable and avoid pain.

I am terrified to get into a relationship again. It is true that I don’t need a man, but that’s different than being closed off to it. The story I tell myself (you’ll get that line if you watch the show) is that I should have known better, I should have been smarter than to love the way I did. There were signs things wouldn’t work out and I ignored them. I realized today though that there will always be “signs” because nothing and no one is perfect. This doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye to everything, but it means I am watching me talk myself out of a relationship before it’s even begun because I am scared.

I don’t want to hurt again, especially not like this, but I don’t ever want to live in a castle. Vulnerability is our path back to each other – Brene. I quit my job and I am looking for what is next in my life. I have no idea what that is because I have applied to about 14 other opportunities and nothing is happening yet, but whatever it is, is going to be in the direction of seeing people. I started working on ideas and I have given my vision for the next stage of my life the name Nakuona because in Swahili it means “I see you.”

I am going to connect with people and show them that it’s good to be brave, that vulnerability is strength and it’s how we will all heal together.