This story contains themes or mentions of sexual violence.

Day 1

A friend once told me that keeping a gratitude journal for a month helped her write her pain away, so I decided to try it. I am not really sure how journaling works nor do I know what to be grateful for everyday for 30 days, but if it worked for my friend, it should work for me. I want to be able to write my pain away too.

Let’s see… Today, I am grateful for the driver who let me pass in the crazy peak morning traffic. This seldom happens in Singapore, where people drive like they own the roads and everybody has to give way to them. Everyone wants to have the right of way but no one wants to give in. Hence getting held up by traffic is a near daily basis because accidents are commonplace.

I tried not to think about the incident on the drive. It has been two months, but sometimes when I have had a bit too much to drink, my mind and my body automatically relives that night in Tokyo. I played  The Guardian’s Audio Long Read podcast hoping for a distraction but my mind pretty much tuned out. Shall try again tomorrow.

Day 2

I am thankful for the nice dog owners I meet on my walks with Zola. It feels like I belong to a community of people, and for those short ten or fifteen minutes, I can be myself. It feels like they don’t judge me for what I do, I am not defined by my job, I am not defined by what has happened to me.

But I might have had a bit too much to drink tonight. I keep thinking about that night, and whenever I do I keep wanting to run to the shower to scrub the feeling off. It’s ironic, isn’t it? We think we want to drink to forget but what alcohol really does, is bring back all our fears and emotions and trauma and things we want to forget.

Day 3

Nothing exceptionally good happened today. So I guess I am thankful that I met Zola and rescued her from a shelter three years ago. It’s very difficult to be so sad all the time when there is Zola, who comes and puts her chin on my lap and looks up at me with those soulful eyes.

I am very proud of myself that I had only one glass of wine and I am going to bed at 11pm. Maybe I will be more successful with a goal to do 30 days of self-care.

Day 4

Absolutely can’t find anything to be grateful for today. Maybe I am not good at journaling either.

Have to try to stop drinking to stop the thoughts.

Day 5

I met my friends for dinner tonight. Have not seen these girls for quite a while now and it is always so nice to be in their company, talking and laughing over nothing at all. So today I am grateful for these friends whom I have known for nearly two thirds of my life.

I almost told them what happened; the story was nearly bursting out of me but why spoil such a nice evening? Besides, what’s the point of telling them?

Day 10

I feel like I am failing at this 30 days of gratitude thing. How is there something to be grateful for everyday? I asked the same friend this question and she said I’m just not committed enough. She said even very simple things can be something to be grateful for. I think I see where she is coming from, but I am struggling.

Today at lunch, Sophie talked about wanting to join my marketing team because I get to go to places like Tokyo and Seoul and Shanghai. I smiled. I did not tell her about my last trip two months ago, and what it’s like to work with Sam, the sales manager who covers the same region as I do.

Everyone thinks he’s fun to be with, he’s friendly and he supports the team. Well, to me he’s just full of himself and he gets away with things because everyone thinks he’s fun and nice and supportive and friends with everyone. 

I have to stop, I’m starting to cry again.

Day 15

Okay, so maybe this gratitude journal can really work if I am diligent enough. I found a ten dollar note today while walking Zola! I think maybe finding gratitude is like manifesting good things everyday. It does take some mental energy, and that may be a good thing to keep my mind out of trouble.

No alcohol today.

Day 16

I saw YC for dinner tonight and very embarrassingly cried at the table in the restaurant. 

YC was the first person I called that night after Sam finally left my hotel room. He stayed up with me until four in the morning when I finally drifted off to sleep. I woke up to a text from him saying I had stopped responding and he had hung up and to reply to him with how I was feeling. But I didn’t manage to reply to the text then. I felt like I was in a daze.

Earlier, at the restaurant, YC let me cry although I am sure he was embarrassed by me as well. People must have thought he was the bad boyfriend who had hurt me in some way. But he’s not my boyfriend and he didn’t hurt me.

What had hurt was the unfairness - people always put the blame on the women when something like this happens. It’s also unfair that evolution hasn’t kept up - we no longer need men to be physically strong to protect women from surrounding environmental dangers anymore, so why haven’t we evolved to have equal amounts of strength? I have always foolishly believed that when we need it, we will be able muster all the force we need to push a man off our bodies.

Sam had proven me wrong.

YC wanted to know if there has been any action taken after I spoke to Human Resources. I shook my head. The first response I got from them was, ‘You must have had too much to drink.’ Then they asked me what I was wearing. Then they said I must have taken his friendliness for something else and sent the wrong signal, so it was really my own fault. 

I could see the anger in YC’s face. But these are things he will never understand.

It’s so easy in hindsight, and so easy for people to say, ‘Oh but why didn’t you just slap him? Kick him in the balls?’ They don’t understand how the body can freeze in shock, the mind can be paralyzed in the moment and nerve signals can fail to travel from the sensation of physical touch to the prefrontal cortex.

I came home and contemplated opening another bottle of wine, but decided against it. I needed at least one good win today, and I can win against alcohol.

Day 23

It’s safe to say I am failing the 30 day gratitude challenge. That’s okay though, I can try again next month. I am, however, finding it cathartic to write.

It was a struggle in the past week, to find things to be grateful for, when I was constantly surrounded by people and things that reminded me of that night. It was our Asia Pacific conference, and everyone flew in to take part. Sam was here. I tried discreetly to avoid him as much as I could, but he kept seeking me out.

I don’t know how much longer I can keep this pretence up.

Day 26

I am grateful that I don’t have to pretend anymore.

I had a meeting with my manager, Diane today about making plans with the sales team to do another round of market visits to Seoul, Japan and Shanghai, especially after the conference we just had. But when she saw the change in my expression, she stopped the meeting and took me to one of the small meeting rooms. She wanted to know what was going on in my head.

I finally told her what had happened in Tokyo nearly three months ago now. I shared with her that, after dinner and drinks on the last night with the local General Manager, Sam started showing unwanted and unwelcome behaviour in the cab ride back to the hotel. He sat really close to me and sometimes when I close my eyes now I can remember the stinky alcoholic smell of his breath. Whenever I think about it, I gag.

I told her that he had followed me back to my hotel room, on the pretext that he wanted to make sure I got to my room safely. He had insisted even though I said it wasn’t necessary. I remember thinking it was too late to shut the door in his face because he was just one step behind me. I told her how he had pushed me against the door and put his mouth on mine. I remember trying to scream, but nothing came out. I remember how he had pushed me onto the bed, grabbing and pulling at my top until he could reach underneath and touch me. I remember how it felt like physical pain even though there was no blood and my skin was intact. I remember pushing against him with all my strength but he didn’t budge an inch. I remember crying.

Diane’s expression had changed by the time I finished and had tears running down my cheeks. She asked why I had not told her this immediately. I didn’t know how to explain why I didn’t. I told her I had, however, told the HR manager. Her face right then reminded me of the cartoons we so often saw as kids where somebody’s face would go red and had smoking heads like chimneys. She told me it wasn’t my fault, wiped my tears, gave me a hug and gave me the rest of the day off. She said she was going to kick some asses.

I spent the rest of the day at home curled up on my sofa, where I still am now with my laptop. I am contemplating a glass of wine.

Day 30

Diane had spoken to Sebastian, our Marketing Director, who then had spoken to our Human Resources Director, but then nothing. They told her there was no evidence of wrongdoing. Sebastian had simply given Sam a warning. That was it.

This 30 day gratitude journal hadn’t worked. Unlike my friend, I haven’t been able to write my pain away, but it keeps growing and growing each time I think about that night in Tokyo.

Sometimes when pain gets too much, there just isn’t anything to be grateful for.

January 18, 2024 02:26

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James Lane
22:09 Jan 24, 2024

Wow Luna, what a powerful story. You held back the 'incident' well, leaving enough suspense for the reader to keep guessing and keep reading. I really liked the line "Everyone wants to have the right of way but no one wants to give in." Also, near the end when Diane was going to "kick some asses" I felt the narrators hope..and then when nothing happened to Sam, I also felt her despair. Excellent story, thanks for sharing


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Kalani Robinson
21:07 Jan 24, 2024

This is so extremely underrated, I started to tear up


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A. Torrecilha
02:32 Jan 22, 2024

This breaks my heart. Wish I could read more about this young woman.


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