I see your humanity because I see mine.
Dearest Doodle Soupsters,
I struggle with shame a lot. I’m a survivor of abuse, sexual assault, anorexia, etc. These are hard things to survive and yet I have more times than I’d like to admit when I feel weak, when I feel like I should hide myself, when I feel beyond repair and very ashamed.
There’s a part of me that doesn’t feel like I’m enough as this beautiful, soulful, naturally flawed and human self. There’s a part of me that’s afraid to be okay with who I am because it feels more familiar to live with toxic shame than to live with the truth.
My album radically pure is a collection of songs that I improvised in the moment and that emphasize the subtleties and in-between shades of my voice and the guitar that we often don’t give as much space to in “finished” songs.
I made space for cracks in the voice, vocal fry, breathy sounds that dissolve into the guitar vibrations, pauses, stretching and compressing rhythm/time, using the guitar as simply an object to make sound as if approaching it for the first time, improvised lyrics and sounds, shifts that transition abruptly, shifts that muddle into something new slowly, etc.
This is my way of saying to myself and anyone who’ll listen: Music is a form of human expression. Everything is an option. Nothing is off limits. No part of you is off limits.
You are not only enough in this state — this is the state of freedom, of honest expression.
Letting my voice be what it is and do what I want to do naturally is an opposite action to shame and an act of expression, to put the spotlight on my innermost, truest, most soulful self to stand up for what I really believe in.
I believe that change happens in the space after acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval. Acceptance means knowing the truth and not hiding from it.
I believe this world is at its best when we let ourselves and others be flawed and messy. And often that’s just what we need to get the big things right.
I can hardly believe that I wrote these words two years ago.
Since then, I’ve released myself from a lot of shame …
the shame of feeling like an alien
the shame of struggling to explain my feelings
the shame of struggling itself
the shame of feeling damaged, feeling like I knew something others didn’t want to know even existed
the shame that comes from being alone in making sense of a serious betrayal
the shame that comes from blaming yourself when feeling angry at the perpetrators triggers DANGER DANGER DANGER … the alarms blare, blare, blare … the flashbacks I couldn’t name as flashbacks … the abuse I couldn’t name as abuse … the memories locked away, locked away, stay away from that door, not ready to face what lies inside
I think I know why it’s hard to believe that I was able to name the first words of this post TWO YEARS AGO.
Layer by layer, I’ve been healing. Yet, with each layer, I have to untangle these cobwebs once again. I have to put the blame where it belongs. Not to play the blame game, not to make excuses, not because there’s some other way I refuse to figure … no.
How to make sense of something so awful? How to make sense of childhood sexual abuse? How to make sense of the fact that I wasn’t abused by some stranger but instead by my teacher, my own family, my friend?
To heal, we need storytelling. As uncomfortable as it often is, we need to speak aloud. We need to draw. We need to dance. We need to sing. We need connection. We need to love and be loved, even if at first only by ourselves or just one other person. We need to learn how to trust ourselves again. And to do this, we come to understand that we were never truly betrayed by our brains, our bodies, our hearts … and to do that, we name that betrayal by who, by what, for what it was …
We are wired for survival AND human connection. We are social creatures. Nobody really wants to believe that parents, teachers, friends, people close to a child could betray that child so fiercely. And why would we? It’s a terrible truth to know and understand, and though I know it, I may never really understand it.
And yet, as I wrote two years ago, I believe that change happens in the space after acceptance. Acceptance doesn’t mean approval. Acceptance means knowing the truth and not hiding from it.
I know how crappy people can behave, and that’s to phrase it mildly … and in wrestling with my complicated feelings with justice, I think I’m getting back in touch with what I already know, a little deeper this time …
I care. Yet, I didn’t survive what I did to live on guard, on guard, ready, ready, fight, fight.
I survived because I wanted to know true love, relationships built on respect, autonomy, freedom, real care … because I wanted to be myself and sing to the trees, dance wherever I wanted to dance … because I wanted to make lots and lots and lots of art and share that art with others … because I wanted to know freedom … because I wanted to feel as alive as I possibly could … because I wanted to live!
I write this blog to release myself from shame and to share my process, my realizations, my vulnerable truths with others.
I know how hard and lonely life can be … my hope is that my words, my art, my music, simply being myself can serve as some puzzle pieces, some guidance, can provide some camaraderie as you look for yourself, your path, as you heal, as you move through this world searching for something …. aren’t we all searching for something?
I am not some guru standing way up on an elevated plane telling you what to do, what you should feel, how you should see the world, what spirituality should mean you …
I am here with you in the raw, vulnerable with you, in progress too and celebrating how far I’ve come anyway …
I am here with you saying I don’t know and let’s try something anyway …
I am human with you …
I have struggled and struggled and struggled not knowing how to make sense of what I survived except to refuse my humanity … to overwork myself, to overextend myself, to sacrifice my physical and emotional needs, to make excuses for others because I was afraid to see what was always there … I thought that if I treated others well, if I treated my body like I was some superhero, it could be some vindication.
But vindication for what? It was not my shame.
I am not superhuman. I am not made of steel. I am not titanium.
I am flesh and blood and soul.
I’m not trying to save anybody. I’m trying to see people as they are. And respect their autonomy.
I see your power because I see mine.
I see your humanity because I see mine.
I see your pain because I see mine.
I lovingly respect others’ capacity to make their own choices.
I acknowledge your freedom because I acknowledge mine.
This is me giving permission to the part of me that is scared to embrace my humanity … the part of me that only feels valid when I’m of use to others … the part of me that feels shame when I focus on myself … giving permission to that part of me to be human too …
To this part of me, I say:
I love you as you are.
Loving this world doesn’t mean you have to fix all the world’s problems all by yourself.
Loving others doesn’t mean you can’t be fallible, can’t take up space, can’t make mistakes
You are allowed to love yourself and treat yourself with the same love you give others
You are valid as you are
You are not responsible for others’ actions
You are not powerless anymore AND you’re not all-powerful either
You are a beautiful, loving, genuine, raw human being. I’m sorry you cannot stop all the violations and wrongs being committed. I’m sorry that you were powerless to stop your abusers. I’m sorry that you experienced that powerlessness. I love you and you’re safe now.
You are allowed to define respect and love for yourself. You are allowed to have expectations of others.
You are allowed to feel angry and disappointed. I promise you it won’t lead to more abuse anymore. We are free now. We are safe now.
Once again, I love you. I love you. I love you. You are not alone anymore. I am here. And you have a real family now. You are protected now. You have good company, yes. Take a breath. Let it out. I’m sorry you couldn’t do this before. You can now, you can now …
My upcoming series of art is called In the raw … these pieces were made in the spirit of my radically pure music … they embody play, healing, experimentation, exploration, release, catharsis, co-existing truths, acceptance, courage …
In the raw, Nicole Sylvia Javorsky
Music Corner: Related music for today’s edition of Chicken Doodle Soup … my album radically pure!