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Category Archives: To Write Love On Her Arms

Last night, Jamie announced via a bulletin on MySpace that a few shirts from To Write Love On Her Arms which have previously been available only online are now being sold in Hot Topic. Jamie hasn’t written the “official” announcement of it, however, so we haven’t heard the full story…like, what’s the plan, why exactly they decided to take this route, etc. So, it goes without saying, I think, that the reaction has been mixed so far, according many of the 500+ comments so far. They range from angry cries of “sell out” and worries that people will just wear them to be trendy without regard to the meaning, to excitement at the new opportunities and literally (from a few) shouts of joy that they can finally have these shirts since they can’t/don’t like to order things from online stores.

My response to the bulletin is below…it was too long to post on MySpace, so I’m putting it here:

So…yeah…this is gonna be loooong…..

I really appreciate everyone’s comments on this, even the upset comments that are little more than words expressing anger. I have to admit that I’m quite conflicted about this, as I see both the ups and downs. At first, it seems it’s at once needed and undesirable. But, reflecting on this brought a quote by C.S. Lewis to mind.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

I think this fits here, because the purpose of TWLOHA _is_ to spread the idea of love and hope to everyone, not just a select few. And, what better outlet than HT, since so many supportive bands sell merch through HT? (Paramore, Boys Like Girls, Jonzetta, Gym Class Heroes, Panic! at the Disco, Bayside, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Hawthorne Heights…) And, honestly…when was the last time any of you saw anything that so plainly spoke of love or promised hope at Hot Topic?

The hard thing about Love is that it must be shared; otherwise, it isn’t love. But, in sharing it, you open yourself up to that same love being misused, misunderstood, ignored, or even rejected. Surely, all of these things might happen to the message of TWLOHA with some people who buy the shirts. But, a) that’s not TWLOHA’s fault, and b) you can’t change that, because it’s bound to happen eventually if this movement is to penetrate further into the public eye. But, though this is certainly a risky thing to do, riskier still is to hold onto this love and keep it for ourselves. For, if we do that, as Lewis so eloquently points out, the love becomes dead and useless.

So, in the end, I have to trust that, as they’ve shown in the past, Jamie and the staff at TWLOHA have approached this very carefully and are planning every step of the way to the best of their ability. I doubt they would intentionally do anything to damage the image or effectiveness of their organization, so I think it’s pretty fair to trust them. And I do.

Remember that this movement started with one girl’s story, and it continues every day with our stories. If you see people with the shirts on, kindly start conversation with them about it, whether they know about it or not. If they don’t care, you can’t help that. And there will be those who don’t and won’t no matter what. But, let that encourage you (and me) to be even more bold and honest with the sharing of your story (or your friend’s, or Renées, or whoever’s) with those who will listen, and to even more humbly love and serve those who feel the most unloved.

I hope all is well. Take care.

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Q: What’s the one thing you think could be done that would change the world the most?

A: People really grasping what is possible with this word “love.” It is not small. It is not cheap. When it’s lived out, it has the power to change.

–Jamie Tworkowski in an interview with Mammoth Press about To Write Love On Her Arms

Sel Injury Awareness Ribbon

Today—March 1, 2008—is Self Injury Awareness Day.  As many of you know, the topic has struck a chord with me in the last year or so.  And, now, it hits a little closer to home, as my girlfriend Tiffany is a recovering self injurer.

When we met this past September, she allowed me to read a cover letter made for a research project she did a couple of years ago in high school.  I was very moved by it, and I continue to be. I thought it would be appropriate to share today, along with an update she wrote specifically for the blog.  So, I guess I have a guest writer today.  🙂

Anyway, feel free to read, comment, or even share with others.


November 30, 2005

Dear Reader,
What do you think of when you think of a twelve year old?  Naïve?  Pre-teen?  Now say to yourself, cutter.  That was the age I was when I picked up a piece of glass to “kill myself,” or so I said.  I’d felt so many emotions building up and I exploded.  I never thought for the next three-and-a-half years I’d fight an endless battle of “checking” the sharpness of a knife by running it along my arm; pricking with the tip; soon escalating to box cutters and razor blades doing more than pricking and “checking.”
In this paper I hope to show the truth of self-harm and to reveal the skin exposed and the scars that lie on them, the flaws.  I want the lines of “attention-whore” and “they just want attention” to cease from people’s mouths.
Self-injurers are not weird, or depressed freaks, they’re not “emo” or “gothic.” They are friends, spouses, students, children, “significant others,” bosses and co-workers.  They are people all around you; maybe the bubbly kid that sits in front, or the quiet one in the back, your sister or brother.
I am one of those teens. Though I am seven months free of cutting, it crosses my mind every single day.  Three and a half years of my life were wasted on my “friend,” something that I thought could help cure all my problems, but was physically and mentally destroying my life.  I hid my shame with long sleeves and late night tears. I cut, burned, pinched, hit my problems away.  i did anything to help me ease my emotional pain the only way I thought I could.
I went through on and off stages for about a year.  The summer I moved to Ohio changed all of that.  I started up more and more, everyday, or every other day. I had eighty-four scars on me at one point.  it helped me, even if I cried over it, and hit myself over it.  It eased my pain of not having friends, my pain of not fitting in, of not making the grades my mother wanted. It eased my pain of my family dying, my pain of my ex-boyfriend ignoring me. It eased my pain of not being perfect.
Honestly, i don’t even know if I always want to stop at times.  However, I did.  i have, at least I hope.  I stopped as a New year’s resolution for 2005, and failed on January 2nd.  i started up again, and made it to April 25th, and then the 27th.  I haven’t cut or burned since.  I still have a horrid habit of subconsciously hitting my head on things, picking at a raised scar on my shoulder, pinching my wrists when I’m nervous, upset or in deep thought.  i don’t know it until my boyfriend moves my hand away, or places his hand on my head.  As of today, seven months and two days is my longest record since freshman year.
This letter is supposed to be about my essay, but my essay is not the raw parts of it.  My paper is research; my interviews, my letter, and my poem are the raw parts.  That is what I need people to see.  I need them to see the emotion, the feelings, thoughts behind the labels, the pain and agony of stopping.
I need the truth to be let out. I need someone to understand.  Someone that hasn’t been there.

Sincerely,
Tiffany Rachael O’Brien

UPDATE:
Wow. I wrote that ages ago.
I have no idea what to say right now, but when Jonathan asked if he could put this up, I decided…I want an update. So an update you shall get. Rambles, are more like it. :]

In a little less than two months, it will have been three years when I officially put myself through my own recovery. The moment I said to myself, I’m done, we’re gonna get better. Did I? I would like to think so. The most common question I get is why? The next is do you still do it?

I cannot answer the first. It just felt like the right thing to do. After that it was something I needed.

To the second:
No, it is not my first release. But it is something I struggle with everyday of my life. I struggle to get people to understand, not to pity or look down on…just understand. I struggle through the battle of not putting one more scar on my body, one more mark one more look of pain in the heart and eyes of loved ones.

I have fallen twice since 2005. TWICE. God, I’m so happy it is such a small number. I really am. May 23rd, and August 1st. I can’t be mad at myself, not when I worked so hard to get to where I am now.

I’m stronger. I try to support others, help them the best that I can. But I’m human and I make mistakes, but they make me who I am. I love my scars, I love my weak moments. I love them because they are what made me who I am. They are stories of hard times and I’m here to tell the ending.

But I’m still writing that story, so an update will just have to be suffice. The ending won’t be anytime soon. :]
I’m sure if there are comments or questions, Jonathan will show them to me. My book is open…I’ll give a reply to the best of my knowledge.

For now, take care.

Tiffany


selfinjury.org | To Write Love On Her Arms

A few thoughts…

–Last year, I wrote about my Charlie Brown Christmas and the possible end of a 30-something-year tradition in my family. Well, I’m actually quite content in reporting that it ended this year (that is, we didn’t have it), though for reasons different from what threatened it last year. It was brought about by a certain needed movement in our family life, and for that, I’m grateful. I’m also thankful that it precisely isn’t because of the issues I discussed last year. Essentially, it was caused by someone’s personal progress and not someone else’s personal tragedies.

–The 2008 OCF College Conference is coming up in two days. Wow. It seems that just yesterday I was telling some friends that I would be seeing them in 10 days. And now it will much sooner be upon us. Last year, I was a first-time attendee and was awestruck at what I experienced, being so impressed by the love and friendship and spiritual focus and unspeakable “other goodness” (for want of a better term). (Oh…and, did I mention that’s how I was introduced to Sheetz? 😀 ) This year, I’m a member of the OCF Student Advisory Board and someone who is hoping to be involved in an upcoming object called the OCF Podcast (until something catchier develops…), something I proposed to our executive director this past summer. To my knowledge, I was the first person to seriously mention it in as much detail as I did. I assume this because I didn’t hear back, “We’re already working on it,” but “Hey…that’s a great idea. Let’s talk more about this in a few days when I get back home.” For once, I’m in a place where people listen intently to the ideas I have and are brave enough to explore, rather than putting me off and assuring they’ll “get back to me.” I can’t wait to tell this to our fellow students at the conference, because it’s what our organization is built on: listening to the students and shaping OCF to serve them and the greater community to the best of everyone’s ability. If they will listen to me, they’ll listen to anyone. I hope someone is encouraged by this, has some spark of an idea, and runs with it…and ends up blowing us all away. What a joy that would be.

At any rate, we’re going to try and record as much of the talks as humanly possible, as well as gather some photos and other randomness throughout each day and and post it all either to ancientfaithradio.com or ocf.net. If we post anything, I’ll link to it here.

–I’m grateful for super cheap airfare, enabling me to jump down to Florida shortly after my return from the conference so that I can meet Tiffany’s family. Though, the idea of it being warm enough to visit the beach in January slightly weirds me out.

–For the first time in years, the grades I’ve received so far for my semester’s work do not go below a “c”. I still have an incomplete in one class, but that will be dealt with shortly, and I’ll likely do fine. Also, there are no plans whatsoever to change majors or schools anytime soon. In fact, I’m adding a minor–in journalism. 🙂 Couple that with the news I discussed about OCF and the Podcast and so on, and you’ll have an idea of where I’d like to be heading as far as career preparation.

–In semi-related computer comments: If you’re a writer of any type who is easily distracted, and your computer of choice is Mac, I highly recommend a little app called WriteRoom. It makes your entire screen black and puts a little blinking green block-style cursor in front of you, making it easy to just write. No distractions, no menubars, no Firefox windows in the background…just the appearance of typing on an old Apple //e. It’s what I used to write this and my last post on being lost in Virginia, and I’m very pleased with it.

–Speaking of writing, I want to continue to thank the people who read twelve:one, whether regularly or just passing through. And thanks to those who have put me on their blogrolls. Honestly, I am frequently surprised and humbled by the stats that show up in my dashboard when I check it. Someone from China viewed one of my entries through Google translator the other day. How cool is that?!? Also, the fact that I average roughly 20-35 hits daily for one entry alone (“To Write Love On Her Arms“) is indicative of a) the growing amount of exposure for the organization, and b) the aching need many have in our society…and communities and workplaces and households…for signs that hope and rescue can be something they can experience. If you’re one of those people, I hope you can find such signs in the joy of this season—which, I know, isn’t joyous for everyone. If you’re not one of those people, then, please, be that sign to someone. Smile, or offer a hand or an ear or your time this Christmas and into the New Year.

Anyway, back to the writing…:) Thanks for reading and for your comments made both on and off the record. It is through your encouragement that I’ve decided to look into media production for OCF and to minor in journalism. Basically, you’ve helped this writer get a slightly better handle on his future than he would have had otherwise. Thank you.

–It’s Christmas. It’s the celebration of when love and grace and redemption broke into our chaotic world. By the Incarnation—and the Resurrection—we are moved to freely love, serve, and forgive. Even if you’re not Christian, I ask that you consider allowing these things to break into your life. Let go of bitterness and malice and rage and slander and vengeance…and let go of yourself. Embrace the unspeakable wonder that is selfless love. For those who want to lengthen their days, it’s an imperative. (Research actually shows this time and again.) In fact, some say you can live forever if you desire that your life be transformed by Love. But, even if you’ve no interest in true Christianity, give love a shot. It’s amazing how much your existing world, with all its bitterness and cares and worries and vendettas, can crumble, while a new one is built up in the place of the old one. Yeah, you’ll likely still have some of those things for a while, maybe as long as you live. But you’ll be a million times better the more you can let go and forgive in love. Try to be a humble example of redemption to someone you know.

–Ill leave you with this hymn, one that we Orthodox will hear plenty over the next week:

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God,

Has shown to the world the light of wisdom.

For by it those who worshipped the stars,

Were taught by a star to adore Thee,

The Sun of Righteousness.

And to know Thee the Orient from on high,

O Lord, Glory to Thee!

Troparion for Christmas Day

Merry Christmas. Christ is born! Glorify him!

Here is a link to the audio of mine and Tiffany’s interview with Tia Graham to discuss To Write Love On Her Arms and the issue of self injury.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wbbp/blog/2007/10/27/Oct-27-2007-302PM

The interview was cut short due to technical difficulties we were beginning to experience on our end. But, there’s still plenty to chew on and to spark interest. Also, it serves as great evidence for my ADD and lack of ability to properly explain things when I’m under the gun. 😉

On a personal note, I have to give credit to Tiff for being brave and discussing her own problems with SI.  If you ask me, it’s pretty gutsy to do that when society says that these things should be swept under the rug.

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions…

In a few moments, my girlfriend Tiffany and I will be making the drive down to Maryville to the Capitol Coffee House.  There, I will be joining the World’s Biggest Blog Party.  It’s a blogging throw down that will run from today, October 27th—the Day of Awareness—to November 17th—National Family Volunteer Day.  It’s dedicated to raise awareness and funds for all manner of charities, from Habitat for Humanity to Heifer International.

Back in July, I was approached by my friend Tia Graham about adding To Write Love On Her Arms to the list of charities.  Needless to say, I was all for it. And, now that it’s begun, I’m super excited to be helping to spread the word.

Tia will be interviewing me for blogtalkradio.com, who is sponsering and covering the event.  You can listen by going to the WBBP website and clicking on the radio widget.

I encourage you to listen in and to donate money to whatever you can.  They have some great causes, and everyone needs a helping hand.

I’ll post the archived interview here when it becomes available.  And I might post a few things from the coffee house if I get the chance.  Stay tuned…

And stay tuned to the WBBP site.  New blogs are popping up every hour.

This really moved me…

Found this via a longer post from To Write Love On Her Arms on their MySpace. I encourage you to read good words, and you can read some of theirs here. The blog of Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman can be read here.

J. D. Salinger and St. Paul and dark black smoke
by jon foreman

So I’m listnin’ to the jason molina box set. reminds me a bit of sun kill moon in a really good way. with some atmospheric “spirit of eden” things every now and then.

it’s grey out. it was grey out yesterday. but it’s not raining. it was raining yesterday.

still trying to get any news about home. rough. feels like a world away. fires.

So I find it strangely appropriate that we’re touring to support habitat for humanity, an ironic twist in the plot, with the homes burning back on the west coast. It’s so strangely fitting that I wrote a song with Thieson for this tour on a bus that burned down a few hours later. But you see, this plot, this divine comedy strays awfully close to tragedy.

It’s a strange book and I’m inside it. So I’m trying to pin down the details about the the plot in this book. The one where I’m the protagonist in a plot much larger than I am. A book that I can’t simply put down when I’m frustrated. With no bookmark, no remote control. The pages write themselves with very little effort of my own. And yet I’m in there. I’m written into the book.

I was wondering today whether the houses that we help build with Habitat in SD are still standing. I don’t know how this ends.

Ruth has gone on downstairs, the bass frequencies are vibrating everything in the room… and a world away houses are burning down in my hometown. What can you do?

The good guys get gunned down. The bad guys do fine. That can’t be the end of the story… But the fires are still burning back home… and this thought kept running through my mind all day, “Oh God, have mercy on me a sinner.” I think that’s the prayer in Franny and Zoey… But St. Paul says the same thing

Pray that God is merciful,

jon

TWLOHA Title

Thanks to my friend Mary for the link to this interview with Jamie of TWLOHA. It’s short, but he said some things that really cut to the core. Here are a couple of highlights:


TWLOHA isn’t technically a Christian organization. How do think the Church’s response to the issue has been, and why are you guys taking a different approach (reaching outside the Church)?

I think the Church, for the most part, is no better than the rest of society in terms of how we respond to these issues. I say “we” because I consider myself part of the Church … Often times, the Church oversimplifies and looks only at the spiritual. In most cases, there is more to these battles than, “I’ll be praying for you.” If your friend had a broken arm, you wouldn’t just pray. You would take them to the hospital to get the bone fixed. These are complex problems and often times, they require complex solutions. I believe God’s given us wisdom, education and medicine, for a reason, and those things are part of the equation. The Church is quick with its answers but slow to embrace people living with enormous questions. And a lot of times that’s the first step, simply meeting people where they are, showing we’re not afraid of their pain, showing we’re willing to walk with them.

We don’t call ourselves a Christian organization because I believe the word has been abused to the point it now means some terrible things to a lot of people, so we’re trying to use a new language, and more than anything, we’re trying to meet people where they are. We would probably not be welcome on Warped Tour or be sitting in meetings at MySpace, if we showed up under the banner of “Christian organization,” but by doing things the way we have, we’re seeing some amazing doors open. In short, we do more ministry by not using the word “ministry.”

It seems like depression and self-injury are kind of “secret issues” that people dealing with them don’t like to talk about. How can we bring it more into the open so people feel comfortable seeking help?
I think a lot of people doing the sort of work we’re doing, especially when it comes to awareness, they tend to focus on the negative. We’re trying to be honest about these things, but we’re also trying to focus on and celebrate the hope and help that exists in the face of this stuff.

And community is essential. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true. When we get in the habit of living honest lives and doing life with people, talking to people, it makes it so much easier to navigate these storms. And I think part of a life lived in community, and the idea of freedom in Christ, is that there’s nothing we can’t talk about, no dark place we can’t bring light to.

This is from a longer blog post from Jamie Tworkowski of To Write Love on Her Arms. I needed to hear this, and I wanted to share it for others who might need to.

“Laughter is the evidence of freedom.” Bono says that. It’s one of my favorite quotes. If that’s true, then we would assume that a guy like Owen Wilson is certainly free. We always see him laughing. He is always making us laugh. Like a lot of you, I was shocked by the news of Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt.

And in the same week, Mother Theresa was on the cover of Time Magazine. For those of you who don’t know, Mother Theresa is remembered throughout the world as one of the greatest people ever to live. Her service, generosity, humility and leadership in working with the poor and dying in Calcutta, India is known throughout the world. Within the Church, she is known as one of the greatest examples of the Christian life. In short, her life was undeniable.

This cover suggested something different: “The Secret Life of Mother Theresa” it said in bold type, “Her Secret Agony” the headline inside. The article spoke to a 50-year near-silent struggle, and painted a different picture. Mother Theresa in pain. Mother Theresa feeling far from God. I suppose the story was meant to shock. It debated faith and doubt…

I finished the story with a smile. “Wow, she was human after all. She was one of us. She was broken. She was real.” That was my response.

And in the same moment, Owen Wilson is on the cover of People, that word “secret” there again. “The Secret Pain of Owen Wilson”. And again, a different picture. Heartache. Addiction. Pain. But what about all the millions in the bank? What about all the fame and all the fans, all the people who love him? Surely, he could find another girl… There’s plenty of fish in the sea, right?

Or maybe life is really really hard. For pretty much everyone. And suddenly, Owen Wilson is one of us. A human being. A real person with real problems. Questions. Struggles. A person in need.

This could probably be it’s own essay, which it wasn’t meant to… I guess I just want to say that I find hope in this possibility that we all have a lot more in common than we might guess at first glance. These are people that our culture, people everywhere, place on pedestals. And yet these are people who could not escape the human condition. Broken people, people in need of hope.

Life is hard. Owen Wilson isn’t always laughing. Mother Theresa wasn’t always walking the streets of Calcutta feeling like a million bucks. I suppose the point I’m trying to make is this: We are very much the same. We are people in need. Life is hard for most of us most of the time. Our fragile hearts break. We all have a story, and in every story, in every life, there is so much going on below the surface. And perhaps there are moments where you pray, but God feels far away. Does He care? Does anyone care? Is there hope for us?

I say yes. We say yes.

I have been learning a lot about community. I believe it’s the idea that people need other people, that we need people who know us. We need relationships and places where we can be honest. We will face complex problems, complex questions, that require complex answers. It is certainly easier to stay silent, to skip this whole conversation. That’s what most people do. We don’t like dirty laundry. We prefer to wear our cleanest shirt. But we have to face our broken stuff. We have to do our laundry. We have to learn to heal, to let go, to grow. We were meant to live.

The process might be uncomfortable. It probably will. For some, it’s a phone call to a hotline, or a counseling office. “I’d like to make an appointment”, “I need to talk to someone” or maybe it’s simply sitting down with your parents, or a friend, or a teacher, for a conversation that’s long-overdue. Is there someone you trust? Is there someone who knows you? I hope so. I know I need that. I think we all need that.

A friend sent me a really difficult email a few days ago. When I read the subject, I knew what it was about. I was so freaked out that I didn’t read it for two days. I just let it sit in my inbox and I worried about it. I was afraid to face it.

And finally, I opened it. And it was painful. Some really hard truths. The kind that steal your sleep. But it was his last words that hit me the hardest: “Hope is not a myth”, he said. And that is the thing that has stayed with me, that possibility that this thing we talk about, it is true. And if something is true, it is certain. We can reach for it. Lean on it. Run to it. Hope is not a myth.

So wherever you are tonight, wherever this finds you… You are not alone. We are all a people in need. But there is so much hope. And hope is not a myth.