I can’t base what I write or say on the goal of other people listening, caring, helping, paying me, believing me, getting it, or most especially being pleased. I can’t base what I share on what other people do in response. All I can do is express things to the best of my ability and not be distracted when other people want to make one of those the goal, to usurp my goal of saying what I have to say in order to further what they want or feel is important.
I have so much to express that I get overwhelmed and overloaded with things I want to say, in so many directions on so many topics that are important to me that I haven’t been able to say for ten and a half years, and other things much longer. Years of silence, solitude, study, reflection. A lifetime of concealment. Now I feel like I’m trying to squeeze so much into so little. Blazing so much fire in so short a time, like how in fire hooping some fuels burn hotter and brighter but not as long.
I feel like the worst thing I can do is self-edit too much, second-guess. It would (and does) too easily turn into self-silencing. I can’t wait anymore to get the words just right. They will never be right if I don’t try, practice, even fail sometimes. (A lot of times.) I have to trust that this expression is taking me somewhere, that with time and practice the qualities I crave will start to emerge from this process. Focus. Order. Clarity. Brevity.
Maybe even musicality, imagination, and humor. Things that seem, from the well down which I’ve fallen, farther than the moon, more illusory than a mirage, more fleeting than a shooting star.
There’s a line in Hamilton the Musical: “How do you write like you’re running out of time?”; and another: “I try to make sense of your thousands of pages, you really do write like you’re running out of time.”
Many times in thousands of pages of journaling over the past five years I’ve felt like I spiral over the same sticky spots and issues, again and again, each time with new information gleaned from contemplation of other issues and the voracious reader in me that will never be fed. As well as the bright hot liquid experiences that touch me but briefly, almost dreamlike in their absorbing impact so suddenly bereaving me back into this hideous reality.
All that time, all that study, all the reflection, all that writing—it meant so much to me, but nothing I got out of it had any value to the people I brought it to in face-to-face conversations. I was trying to make a connection I craved but others weren’t capable of (or willing to be) hearing me and meeting me where I was.
I still crave it. Some part of me does hope that these words someday provide breadcrumbs through the forest for those lost in it, or insight for those whose friends are lost—as others’ words have been for me. That validation of: you are not alone. Your feelings are real. Other people have passed this way. Keep going. And don’t settle for people who make you feel more alone.
But above and beyond that I’ve been feeling a release and relief as I write and speak these words where they have the potential to be seen and heard. It’s self-care for me to speak out even if no one happens to hear. Although sometimes the effort to be coherent, or to edit videos, makes it uncertain whether it costs me more than it benefits. Sometimes it’s too close to call and I overreach, fall, learn, try again.
The internet gives ways for me to share my words and truths that others choose to engage with or not, so it’s consensual on both sides. It gives me choices to protect myself from others’ responses, which have in the past ranged from hurtful to violent and dangerous. It gives me some protection and the empowerment of hard evidence should anyone bully or threaten me, where in one-on-one conversations there aren’t hidden microphones or cameras or witnesses to promote accountability.
Admittedly a lot of internet culture gives spaces that normalize and even promote bullying and harassment—things like the People of Wal-Mart site that popularizes blatant classism as vile as minstrel shows, jeering at and dehumanizing the unfortunate and downtrodden. There are sites that promote snark and disdain, that objectify and target and harass vulnerable individuals as less than deserving of respect and dignity.
I have a simple rule: punch up. Pick on people bigger and more powerful who are abusing that power. Don’t let yourself be manipulated into fighting among yourselves for the scraps that those more powerful dangle for you. Call into question their right to possess, dole out, decide, and privilege their choices and actions beyond reproach. Reproach those suckers!
The internet also connects people who fight for social justice, enables us to strengthen our fights with allies. I think it’s like all communication technologies humans have developed, from language to the arts to action. There’s so much potential for justice and uplifting and support, as well as potential for violence and destruction. I think it’s all about using these tools, like hammers and screwdrivers, with knowledge of their potential, what we want to accomplish, and our own skills (or need to develop skills) with them.
I’ve been writing for years where no one could see. As I began to share things I’d learned with artists working in activism and social justice, suddenly I found ears listening and eyes wide—and mirroring, and enthusiasm, and encouragement. As if after years of wandering in the dark footlights lit up and found me on a stage, expectant silence beckoned me to speak, a dim audience just visible beyond.
I won’t place expectations on you. Whether or not you show up, it’s enough to me that the theater doors are unlocked and there is room enough for anyone who wants to listen to come and go.
Upcoming Topics for the Blog and Vlog
I have a series of posts I want to do on ‘emotional wisdom’—that is, what I’ve learned as I’ve been moving away from pathologizing and numbing uncomfortable emotions like anger, fear, sadness, jealousy to listening and learning from emotions and their value and vitality to being a whole and awake human. I’m going to focus on the things people have a tough time facing and understanding, like anger, fear, crying, Borderline Personality Disorder, true empathy and why what we’re taught and socialized to do is counterproductive to experiencing and expressing empathy.
I want to address suicide and addiction, how almost everything we ‘know’ and how we react to these things is not only wrong but harmful to ourselves and others, and like with Chinese finger traps, we struggle harder and get more stuck. I’m going to discuss what I’ve found helpful and share some resources.
Continuing with my series on Consent Culture I plan to write about when apparent charity and help is actually abuse and domination, and how to be more respectful in ways we support one another.
I want to debunk a lot of popular bullshit ideas, things that sound good but in practice deny the humanity of ourselves and others. Things like the ‘idiot’ mindfulness many people practice, non-judgment, the spectrum of cultishness that can creep into any community or system as well as what to watch for and how to respond, ‘idiot’ forgiveness, ‘idiot’ gratitude, cultural appropriation in New Age, rampant classism in the self-help section, and the over-representation of the white cis het male perspective in philosophy throughout the ages.
I want to do some informational videos on what Complex PTSD is and my experiences with it, as well as one (as short as I can make it) on the characteristics of cultishness, signs to watch out for and what things help guard against a slide into culthood.
I want to share more on art and soul, about writing and the creative process and more.
I also want to do some blogs and/or vlogs about the cross-generational clashing I’ve been on the front lines of all my life, the mutual animosity that disturbs me and pits potential allies with mutually beneficial individual knowledge against each other. It rattled me badly to see how rampant it was at the National Organization for Women’s conference, and although we had a workshop to talk about it and I engaged in many conversations about it, I think it needs to be talked about a lot more. I have so much to say about that topic that even my bullet points & source list for that piece is three pages long.
I want to do more videos in the ‘Reality Check’ series to illuminate my challenges in getting health and dental care, and my lack of financial privacy and how it feels to be treated as a liar until proven otherwise in order to get my basic needs met. I also want to do some short videos talking about invisible privileges like supportive family and friends, emergency funds, access to and voice in conversations that impact your survival and daily life.
I want to write about the harassment and assault I’ve been targeted for as a result of my disability and poverty. I want to write about the classist barriers to friendship and dating that poverty, homelessness, and trauma have presented for me. I want to write about what disability and invisible illness can teach us, and what I’ve learned since the death of my husband.
And I really, really want to share both in blog and vlog form about being a target. Some people seem to be lightning rods for disaster. Being raped and abused makes it more likely that it will happen again. I want to write about how trauma marks you in ways that predators are drawn to, and why it’s 100% never the victim’s fault or the result of ‘victim mentality.’ I want to share why we think it is, why we’re attracted to that narrative, and why that narrative is dangerous and distracts us from fighting the real cause and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions.
I Will Not Be Silenced Again
Sometimes my ambition is harmful. In the past I’ve had grand dreams for blogs and creative projects that fell through as I struggled with overwhelming life challenges and sudden disasters threw broom handles in my bicycle spokes.
The best thing I think I can do is just keep moving, and not agonize too long over any particular post. The best thing I can do is trust myself and this process of using what I have to share what I have to say while I still can. Maybe it will get easier, maybe it won’t.
Anne Lamott, in ‘Bird by Bird,’ writes about asking her students what drove them to write. She said that in one way or another, the answer was always that these people had seen or heard things and then been pressured and forced not to talk about them, and had finally resolved: “I will not be silenced again.”
Thank you for reading.