Tag Archives: fight

Hope is a Lioness

15 Aug

“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”―Confucius

No.

Or at least, not always.

Education breeds knowledge. Knowledge can make you stand up and shout and stomp your foot, because here is your evidence, here is your fact, here is your goddamn certainty that this thing here is so.

Knowledge can also make you sit down and shut up because you know, you know that you are a human and have the capacity to be astoundingly wrong.

Knowledge breeds awareness. And sometimes, awareness can breed doubt.

Confidence can breed hope, but confidence can also breed hate. Confidence carries with it the offspring of swagger, a dangerous little bugger if not raised right. Confidence can slay its ancestor, replacing a birthright of knowledge with a reign of blind and willful ignorance instead. Confidence will sometimes shut its ears like that.

Hope is taken for such a quiet little thing. Hope will placate. Hope will soothe. Hope will take your rumbling shores and show you where to dock your anchor.

But hope is about weathering all that.

Hope is the thing that will stand up and fight in the night. Hope is the thing that will make you push on, even when the winds blow so hard as to strip you of all your armor. Hope is being able to stand naked before the world and say that still, you have these hands to fight with. Still, you have this mind within you. Still, you are on your feet before it all and you, against the odds, are not yet dead. Hope does not need reason. Hope does not need bravery. Knowledge and confidence be damned, hope will lean on crutches of desperate abandon and wavering limbs.

Hope is sometimes about reconciliation, but it is always about risk.

Hope may bring peace,

but it may also bring a body count with it.

Hope is no quiet, quivering mouse.

Hope is a lioness with her claws not yet out.

Hope breeds strength,

bodies strung with humming prowess.

A brood of capacity that pads noiselessly in the dark –

silent only until the kill.

Hope births the drive to sate the grumbling emptiness of a stomach,

and peace is not always what fills a belly.

Memorial

25 May

I’m never really sure how to respond to things like Memorial Day.

To start with, I am not a veteran. I have never been to war. I have never trained for war. I have not been close to war in any sort of meaningful way. Any opinion I have is from observations, not experience. Therefore, I am willing to forfeit any and all opinions I have on anything and everything having to do with war and veteran status as second to what an actual veteran has to say. It feels incredibly presumptuous, to even think that I could posit anything remotely relevant on the matter.

But, well, I’m a human who thinks about things. So I do. But always, always with the caveat of “I respect your experience before my opinion.”

Okay. Let’s begin. Me being conflicted about Memorial Day. Alrighty.

To start with, when I was little, I barely understood what Memorial Day was for, confusing it with “Labor Day” in my mind quite easily as “one of those vague grown-up holidays that I get a day off for YEAH WOO FREE MONDAY!” I mean, as far I could tell, celebrating both days pretty much meant playing in my backyard for a long time while the adults ate hot dogs. Sure, I’d have the small little spiel from my elementary school on the Friday before. “You all have Monday off because we’re honoring our veterans.” And I would nod politely and go back to thinking about how much math homework I had to do while honoring whatever “veteran” meant.

Eventually, I learned that particular vocabulary term but had no clearer feelings about the holiday. I was told I should appreciate that other men and women had gone off and shot others and been shot in the name of protecting my rights and freedoms that to me never felt particularly threatened. I lived in America, after all. For a really long time, war was something I only saw on a TV screen. It was quite easy for me to sit back and say that no, that out there surely was not necessary. I mean, I knew that my grandfather was a veteran, but he never talked about his time in a war that concluded before my parents even married. As a kid, I didn’t understand that the silence was probably testament enough. No, I didn’t yet understand the absence of recognition as a problem itself. So for me, to all intents and purposes, war was just a word. An easily judged word. Not anything like a reality.

I have grown up more, now. Those shades of black and white that made me so easy a pacifist before have been pushed and shoved and regretted and cried into something more smeary a grey.

But while my thoughts are more complex now, they are by no means more decisive.

There are many reasons war happens, but honestly, most of them boil down to humans having decided that the world and life in it are zero sum games so it’s us against whoever we’ve designated as “them,” boys. There aren’t enough rights or resources to go around, so let’s fight to get the most of them. Because we, whoever “we” are, deserve them most.

Sharing is not a thing humans do well. Humans are too good at fear to be able to really share all that rationally.

War is the product of imperfect action on a global scale.

It’s massively bad for everyone involved. But no one can stop while everyone else is still going. If you play the game that way, you wind up with the punnett square that gives you absolutely nothing.

So we all keep playing.

That is the reality. As terrible as war may be, it is undeniably still happening. Standing and screaming for it to stop without being able to offer any sort of real solution on how to do that is as useful as telling a choking person to just start breathing again. No, the upheavals are still racking the global body. War, for my foreseeable future, is something that’s going to stick around.

So the empathy behind my pacifism has decided to start dealing with the micro-scale.

Okay, let’s go back to talking about our veterans.

They are not the reason that war is happening. It is necessary to divorce how you – I – feel about “war the thing” from what I know about “war the people.”

Because now, it’s not just “oh yeah my grandfather fought in a war.” It’s “yeah, that kind, quiet man on skid row I brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to every week for three years is a veteran.”  It’s “wow, those boys in reserve uniform in line at the airport look even younger than my young-enough-to-still-be-making-bad-decisions cousin.” It’s “that woman I met on the beach with premature osteoporosis from chemical exposure in the Gulf War who after a badass life is going back to school to learn another trade she can do with her failing body and that’s fucking incredible.”

And it’s my friends, too.

A countable many, all in different branches of the military. They are some of the smartest, kindest, most capable people I know.

And now they’re in uniform, too.

The choice to go into the military and the actions performed therein can be stupid, ignorant, brave, heroic, smart, life-saving, death-causing. But as long as we keep choosing to play the zero-sum game of perpetual war, we need people who are willing to make them. Good or bad as it all may be.

“Proud” is a word that gets thrown around a lot on Memorial Day. I cannot be blanketly proud of a label. I can be proud of action. I can be proud, to an extent, of intention.

“Honor” is also a word that comes up a lot today. Again, I cannot blanketly honor so varied a group as humans, but I can respect. I can respect the hell out of the choices someone else has made that I have not, would not, because it’s what they needed to do, or what a country needed them to do. I can respect that they are also another human, trying their best. Or at least, that’s what I can hope they’re doing.

Hope is not a word that gets said a lot on Memorial Day. And that, I think, is what I wish were different.

War is not a hopeful thing. And it is my impression that with mementos like PTSD, lost friends, shit economic resources, massive and constant assumption about what your experience was, and all the other hangers-on of a life now ingrained in you that most of your country only understands as scenes on their TV, “veteran” is not a very hopeful status, either.

I’m not sure I can thank someone for accepting that.

More and more on Memorial Day, as a civilian, I instead feel the need to say sorry.

I’m sorry your lives and your deaths are our memorial to this zero-sum game.

And I am sorry for all the hardships you have accepted that you will get no memorial for.

**Trigger Warning**

2 Feb

Over on his blog, the ever-fantastic Chuck Wendig is currently hosting a comments-based discussion (brave one, he is) on trigger warnings when it comes to written material. Not every book is exactly “safe to handle” for every reader. But is that the reader’s job to gauge? Or the writer’s job to present up front, like an STD in a potential lover? Should books come with sets of trigger warnings?

For those who don’t want to read the N paragraphs below, I’ll tell you my personal opinion up here: No.

If you’d like to know the credentials behind that opinion and the whole long rambling comment I left in Wendig’s discussion, then, dear reader, venture on.

I pretty much promise there are triggers.

* * * * *

Context on me as a commenter: As someone who grew up with abuse of many kinds, eating disorders, and depression and who spent most of college in and out of treatment, residential and outpatient, for the lasting impact of all those things, I talked and was taught a crap ton about triggers. My therapists and I and the other lucky people in treatment discussed triggers around food, triggers around weight, triggers around body image, triggers around physicality and sexuality and self-esteem. There are about a *makes up really funny-sounding humongously big number* triggers out there. Some of them might stir feelings in me of wanting to not eat for a week, or puke up anything I do. Some of them might make me want to tear my skin apart. Some of them might send me flying back into a near-hallucination of memory-based, stimulus-galvanized panic attack where what’s real and what’s not becomes really slippery and I have to tell myself over and over and over again that the floor is real, the wall is real, the door is real, the friend beside me is Person X or Y and they are there to care and not to hurt me like my brain is trying to say there are, conflating them with so many person Z’s in the past who have. Triggers can be loud, concussive noises that send my adrenaline bursting. Triggers can be soft, gentle, well-meant and goddamn *wanted* kisses. Triggers are songs and sentences and slantwise jabs from strangers. tl;dr – triggers are everything.

But they are not everything *always.* What could poke at my emotions or my sanity one day might be something cathartic and beneficial another day. If the entire world is a trigger, then, as I have been told in so many group sessions again and again, it is not my job to censor the world. That’s not feasible. And that’s not fair. While I am not responsible for what’s happened to me, I am responsible for how I deal with it. If I want to do any semblance of living, it is my job, now, to figure out warning signs and preventative measures and people to throw in my safety net and what to tell them about different scenarios and breathing techniques and focusing techniques and fighting techniques and no, it’s not fair that I have to do all these things, but that’s just how it is. Because that’s how I get better. That’s how I fight back the triggers and pick off their numbers, one by one. Neural plasticity is a wonderful thing. But if I continually hide, never ever deal with the thing that hurts me, never practice coming up against it because I’ve cloistered myself from any possible sharp thing, then I am never going to change. I am going to remain crippled and afraid and hiding. And that’s when everything that led up to these triggers wins.

Yes, flashbacks are damn painful but I’d rather navigate my way through them than never be kissed by another human being ever again.

Yes, reading about suicide might make me remember my own attempts, but it also reminds me that hey, there are people out there who have experienced these things too, or who at least understand them well enough to write about them this way. And that’s way more valuable, how much less alone that makes me feel, then reading about rainbows and sunshine all day long. Because really that’s only going to make me nauseated.

There’s a difference between seeking out specifically triggering material and reading material that might crop up some stuff. I know not to go reading pro-ana or pro-mia stuff. That’s just intentionally triggering. And dumb. And not well-written, really. And on a day when I’m teetering back and forth across the line of sanity, I know that maybe I should pick up a Harry Potter book instead of Forman’s ‘If I Stay.’ But on days when I am angry at the world and what it has done to me, IS doing to me, then it’s those days that I really, really need Miriam Black and Palahniuk’s cast of psychopaths and N.K. Jemisin’s gloriously unsafe Nahadoth. I need characters with dangerous thoughts and dangerous emotions because they make me feel unalone in mine. They make my existence feel justified. They make me feel like I’m not just some aberration amongst the rest of the human race.

It’s up to me to know when my brain can play nicely with them, or meet them, if I’ve never perused their pages before. That vigilance is not your job. The only amount of warning you’re required to give me is a synopsis on a book jacket. Anything more, and it’s really just cheating.

—–

The only kind of trigger warning I want:

trigger warning

Thanksgiving with Eating Disorders

27 Nov

‘Round these American parts, it’s Thanksgiving. You know, that holiday where we ignore the actual history and consequences of the original “day” and whittle the whole event down to talking about what we’re thankful for and increasing our dish washing activity by at least an order of magnitude because of all the food we’ve made ourselves cook. Today, some of you are sitting around, munching on whatever it is you’ve got on your table, and basking in the glow of a nice communal meal.

Some of you, on the other hand, are sitting at perhaps this same table, staring at the food on it, terrified.

Because life with an eating disorder is complicated enough without throwing in this weird social expectation-filled eating ritual.

I spent a lot of Thanksgivings this way. I’ve rollercoastered my way from textbook anorexic to anorexic with heavy side serving of orthorexia to who the fuck knows to bulimia to some kind of weird mutant bulimia-anorexia mashup. That’s a lot of years in there, people. A lot of Thanksgivings.

Personally, what I am grateful for on this day is having a second year under my belt where at Thanksgiving I can come to the table considering myself “in recovery.” I’ve had a shit ton of therapy and a shit ton of support and a shit ton of relapsing to finally get me to this point. But that’s not what I want to write about, here. No, I want to write about the harder years. Because of some of you, my dear, dear readers, may be in those years, right now.

Eating disorders are often all about rules. For a long time, I had a mental list of “safe foods” and “bad foods.” I’d pick at the Thanksgiving spread searching desperately for something to fit my safe rules, all the while trying not to be too obvious about it, because who wants your mother, or god forbid Great Aunt Marge suddenly calling you out on your habits and making you feel embarrassed and anxious and trapped. As an anorexic, my goal was to make myself small, in every aspect. That meant small in terms of vocalizing. I did not have the capacity to stand up for myself. At those times, I wish I would’ve had someone to call out Great Aunt Marge. To have stepped up for me. Not in a way that would defend my eating disorder – just in a way that would take the focus off of me. So – hey, if you’ve got an ally in whatever group of people you’re spending tonight with, ask them for help. And if you can’t do that – know that somewhere out there, there is someone who would give you sympathy. Not support for your rules, but understanding that, well, you are following them right now. And regardless, you deserve to feel like a human being, not a specimen for gawking at.

And then there’s the other end of the behavioral spectrum… I can remember multiple holidays of eating “normally,” just like everybody else, perhaps even more than everybody else, because I could avoid notice that way, and then I could just go purge it all later. A removable cloaking device, in a way. But… there was no less shame, no less guilt. And it was all still about power. Except I wasn’t the one with power. Like, here I am, causing my body to do something through unnatural means because some fucking brain parasite is telling me I have to in order for it to let me feel okay? Never mind that the more I do that, the closer my esophagus gets to rupturing, and the more fucked up my electrolytes get, tilting me further and further towards the eventuality of a heart attack. Not that I didn’t know all that while I was purging. I knew it, and did it anyway. And every time, I thought that if only I just hadn’t gone the binge/purge route. If only I’d given myself this chance, today. If only I hadn’t gotten upset because of Relative A, or felt overwhelmed because of Comment B, or decided that if I felt slightly over-full, might as well say fuck it and go the whole nine yards, to make the punishment I would inflict on myself later that much worse.

Eating disorder decisions were not good decisions.

They were only one more signature on one more contract moving my eventual self-execution, whether that was through starvation or heart attack or something else, just a bit closer.

Guys, that’s not being powerful. That’s being puppeteered.

But you’re going to do what you’re going to do. It is not my place or my job to convince you otherwise. I write this merely to say that I understand. I understand how much it sucks. And that I hope today, to stave off just a bit of that suckiness, you can take control of those puppet strings and say brain monster be damned, relatives be damned, I will just fucking do what I need to do to keep myself truly safe, truly healthy today. You don’t have to go forward or anything. You don’t have to put down your foot and say “today I will recover.” That’s not what I’m suggesting. I am suggesting that today, even if you do not do recovery, just… do no harm. Survive. Please.

Yeah, I’m a random stranger on the internet. But you are fighting the thing that I fought. And because of that, I care about reducing the lashes you take from the whip I too faced. Camaraderie, of sorts.

Be cool to see you on the other side of this sickness/recovery battle, too.

Misogyny, Misandry, and Father’s Day

15 Jun

I hate Father’s Day. I by no means hate fathers. I don’t even really hate my father. I just hate the nationally celebrated day that will overstuff my Facebook and Twitter feeds and force me to think over and over again about the complicated relationship I’ve had since, well, ever with that terrible, wonderful, intimidating word. Father.

Honestly, I’m pretty confused about how I happened. Yes, yes, I do technically know how I happened. I have two heterosexual, reasonably fertile parents with differently sexed genitalia. I remember that talk my school gave us back in sixth grade. But as for the why of that how – I am confused, since I’m generally under the impression that my parents have been fighting since before I was even born. But apparently passion, like humans and their human relationships, is a complicated thing.

And so I was born, thanks to the complicatedness of existence. Naturally, that meant that my existence has been consequentially complicated too.

I know that there were good times with my father while I was growing up. Afternoons of hide and seek, nights of my father’s consenting to play barbies before bed. My dad is the reason I was thrown into the water and turned into such an aqueous creature so early on. There were giggles and smiles.

But there were tears, too. Oh so many, many tears. And I, built for better or for worse to register the negative over the positive, tend to remember those tears first and foremost. I was three or four the first time I encountered the word “divorce.” My parents were shouting it at each other downstairs in the kitchen. I heard them from my hiding place, crouched just around the corner at the top of the stairs, where they couldn’t see me. I heard my father shouting, his yells deep and growling. I heard my mother shriek back, her words shrill and defensive. Even at three, I knew that one of those timbres was the one with the threat, and one of them was not. My mother’s yelling carries hysteria. My father’s yelling carries violence. His is the anger that has always scared me more.

Now, at the age of 23, I understand that my father is human, a damaged individual with a backstory of dysfunction that explains so much of his threats and narcissism and alcoholism and distance. He is doing the best he can with what he himself was given to work with. But at the age of three, that higher reasoning hadn’t kicked in yet. All I knew was that my father, the man I was supposed to believe was there to protect me, was someone of whom I was deeply, deeply afraid. And while that is something I have come to understand, it is not something I can yet entirely forgive.

I grew up living in fear. The man who taught me that promises are important with the force behind the words he used to tell me that he would always keep them is also the man who taught me more with his actions just why that is when he broke oh so many of them. The man who said he would always be there for me, no matter what, is also the man I would come to think of as “the bachelor who happens to be married to my mother” because of how often he was away on business, golf trips, hunting vacations, or affairs.

I am so much of who I am because of having preferred the counter examples to him. I am trusting because my father is manipulative. I am a giver because my father is a salesman. I am a pacifist because my father is a predator. I am widely accepting because my father can only believe that what he wants is right. I will ask for help because my father will keep on blundering ahead. I am supportive because my father is so critical. I lack so much self-confidence because my father is so self-assured.

I am perhaps equal parts broken and strong because of how I have reacted to my father’s lessons, direct or otherwise. I have spent a lifetime trying to defend who I am as a woman because of the man who acted as if women are nothing more than pretty tools for his disposal. I grew up expecting to be assaulted, in one way or another.

And yet, his misogyny has not instilled in me an equal misandry. Yes, for much of my life, I was flat-out afraid of males. My all-girls school education and sheltered childhood spared me having to interact with guys on any sort of regular basis. But the occasional visit from male neighbors, or uncles, or cousins, or, you know, going to a restaurant and having to talk to a male server – I was routinely petrified.

A slow introduction to the male half of the human race and a college education at a male-heavy college where I was the only girl in the room often enough that I eventually stopped noticing has helped a bit, but there is still some amount of inherent distrust in me. I was taught, by action rather than doctrine, that males are a people who could very, very easily hurt me. Physically or otherwise.

And yet, I have also grown up craving male attention. Approval. Affection. The things that I did not at all register sufficiently getting from my father. It was somewhere around middle school when I first realized just how desperately I was searching for a surrogate father. I had a male music teacher, and after I’d used an untraditional medium for a project in his music appreciation class, I asked him over and over again, for something like a week, whether or not that had been okay. The answer was obviously yes, every time. I stopped asking after I realized, in a moment of horror, that I was continuing to ask the same question of this music teacher not because I was still unsure of whether or not how I’d done the project had actually been okay, but because I knew that it was, and I wanted to hear the music teacher say that. I wanted to hear him tell me that yes, it had been a good idea. Yes, it had been okay. Yes, I was okay. Yes, he approved of me.

Hello, daddy issues.

I have since worked very, very hard to pull back those daddy-seeking tendrils. There’s been a lot of therapy.

And yet, somehow, I continue to become close to males who treat me in some way or other like my father did. I actively try not to, try to make friends and lovers of the guys who display qualities that I value, rather than qualities I grew up fearing. Still, I too often wind up with quick-tempered, stormy friends. Guys who will say things with their words and never follow through with their actions. Recently, I realized that I was staying with a guy who completely ignored me because I feared my emotional turmoil of a life would be harder without the paltry reassurance I got from that flimsy titular relationship than it was with it.

In other words, I was staying with him for the exact same reason my mother has stayed with my father. Down to the very words she’d used to explain it to me.

We broke up shortly thereafter.

So. Father’s Day. Such a complicated day for me. “Father” is the word for the man who gave me my first real taste of misogyny. “Father” is the word for the man who made me seek so desperately a desire to find his counterexample, rather than falling into easy misandry. “Father” is the word for the man who was causative for so many of the bricks that build me, and for the cracks in them as well. “Father” is the word for the thing I view with equal parts despisement and yearning.

“Father” is a word that has only ever been associated with the word “happy” in a negative sense. So how can I not hate the phrase “Happy Father’s Day?” There is so much unfulfilled wishing in that phrase for me. So much history, so many complications and contradictions.

I find it difficult to wish people an oxymoron.

Stubborn Is

7 Jun

Stubborn Is

Stubborn is going to the beach on a cloudy day,

eating burnt toast or cold eggs that crunch.

Stubborn is doing dishes in scalding water,

grabbing for the soap even as your hands flinch.

Stubborn is staring back at opaque eyes.

Stubborn is pounding a deadened heart.

Stubborn is fighting the battle you’ve already lost.

And stubborn is going on,

refusing to press the off button.

Or stubborn is pressing the off button,

refusing to go on.