Earlier this week, I woke up to find myself completely naked in bed and spooning a quesadilla. Yeah, like the cheese-filled, delicious kind. I had zero memory of the night before, why I hadn’t made it entirely through changing into pajamas, or why I’d gone to bed with a plate full of quesadillas. What I did have, however, was a pre-made breakfast. Sorry, I digress.
My point is that I wish I could say this was the first time or a very unusual circumstance. But it’s not. I looked back and I realized that as we’ve begun to approach the end of the year, my partying and going out has really increased. Now, I’ve never had a drinking problem before, and I don’t think I have one now–but I do think I’m using drinking and partying as a coping mechanism for avoiding what’s really bothering me.
New Year’s Eve.
This time of year is always so incredibly hard for me because in 2010 I was raped on New Year’s Eve by someone that I’d thought was a close friend (You can read the blogs on it here and here and here). I said “no” and “please, don’t” and “stop” and none of it mattered because it didn’t stop. I froze and I waited for it to be over. Then it was, and I walked back to my car completely sober that night, blood dripping down my legs and tears streaming down my face and went home to tend to myself. I spent the next day fielding phone calls/text messages from my rapist begging me to keep my mouth shut. When I opened up to my boyfriend at the time about what happened, he dumped me for “cheating” on him. I closed off every part of myself that night and locked up any bit of trust I had in the world, and love and respect I had for my own body. It had betrayed me as much as my friend had.
I’ve spent every NYE since then either working or with my husband at home. This is my first year since the divorce. I’m not working. I don’t have a husband. I’m going to be entirely alone on the worst night of the year for me for the first time since it happened.
And honestly, I can’t fucking handle it.
So, I’ve been drinking and distracting my anxiety away. With every coming day that we get closer and closer to NYE, I fill my time with friends and people and whatever else can help me forget that the dreaded day is looming over me. But as I was writing my latest romance novel this week, some memories came back to me and I had a realization–why do I treat the heroines in my novels better than I treat myself?
My heroines don’t settle for men that are less than their perfect match. They don’t get ghosted by fuck boys. They don’t let toxic friendships into their lives who try to tear down their self-esteem with their own selfishness. They don’t let past traumas overtake their lives and drive them to make terrible choices. My heroines are strong, fierce, and they know what they want and go for it–in life and in bed.
And, honestly, that’s why so many sexual assault and rape survivors read romance. Seems strange, right? Sex should be ruined for us, right? The very act should disgust us and make us fearful, triggering memories of the worst moments of our lives. But in actuality, reading (and, for me, writing) romance is one of the healthiest things for a survivor of sexual violence or abuse.
Between the pages of a book, we get the chance to explore our fantasies in a safe way where no predator is lurking to hurt us. We get the chance to sexualize ourselves again, remind ourselves that we are sexual beings–feel like the woman we always wanted to be. Unmarred. Desired. Worthy. We get to turn back on those parts of ourselves that someone else shut down, that someone else stole. We get to take it back–reignite the flames of a fire that once burned so badly we never thought we could handle the heat again.
But we can–on our terms. It’s our body. It’s my body. It’s my book.
Romance is a powerful weapon for survivors and I’ve heard countless feedback from readers of my own books that they’ve been positively
But this isn’t just a pro-romance novels speech. Even though I think everyone could benefit from reading romance novels and they’re the best fucking thing to happen to the literary world. No, this is a pro-Sarah speech. As I get closer to New Year’s Eve, I’m going to have to decide what I’m going to do. Who am I going to spend it with? Should I go out for the first time in years? Should I stay home alone–can I even handle that? I don’t have any answers. All I know is that I feel like things are falling apart around me and I can’t seem to hold it all together.
So, here’s what we do. We take the next step. That’s it. Just one step. And then the next. And then the next. And we keep going until we’re so far past where we ever thought we’d be.
I’m working on making better choices in my personal life as we approach NYE. I’m spending more time with healthier people. I’m seeing a counselor. I’m opening up about my life to positive people who fill me up rather than tear me down. I’m writing more, and I’m living more. Am I going to be perfect? Am I going to have this NYE shit figured out when the clock strikes 12? No. I’ll probably be crying. But, that’s okay.
In 2018, the phrase of the year was “It’s okay.” And it’s okay that I fucked up a lot this year and I’ve made a giant mess of things. I’m hurting and lashing out and not behaving in ways that align with my value system. I’m reeling from a divorce that shook me to my core, and I’m trying to put back the pieces of my life and figure out who I am entirely on my own for the first time in six years. But, it’s okay. I needed this year. I needed the time to unravel. I needed to fall apart before I could start to patch everything back together to figure out what the picture looks like now–who I am now.
So, for 2019, the phrase is “next step.” Because that’s all I’m going to focus on. The big picture is too scary and the future is so entirely unknown that I can hardly breathe, but I can decide the next step. At least, one. I’ve got that. For example, tomorrow? I’m not going to wake up naked and spooning a quesadilla.
No promises on tacos, though.