The Melancholy Post

I’m not sure where to begin today. I feel the urge to write, my creativity sparking in a way that it hasn’t in a while…but about what?

I have undoubtedly been dry this semester. I couldn’t even bother figuring out how long my break from writing needed to be or what a feasible schedule for posting might look like since weekly seemed so out of reach.

I’ve been struggling with how orphaned I feel lately. I knew that cutting off my parents would come with its own version of existential abandonment, but the way that is expressing itself hasn’t been in the way I expected.

I realize I long for a place to put roots down—a place to belong. I don’t want my family back, but I want to be part of something that I can truly invest in.

Graduate school has been that for me for three years. I’ve felt accepted and valued by the faculty and students. I’ve found in them an organization that truly feels like a healthy system and people who have my back.

But I’m getting ready to graduate, and I am taken aback by how painful that thought is.

I want to graduate. I want to get my degree and start my career.

But I don’t want to lose what I found there. I’ve had a glimpse of being part of something where my autonomy is respected, my mind stimulated, my safety maintained, and my whole self truly loved. To have that and then lose access to it, in some ways, is more painful than letting go of a biological family where I didn’t have that.

My school has come to feel like my family, but I know I can’t belong there forever.

I’m afraid that I won’t find it again.

There’s a wounded part of me that feels like I will always be “moving on” and never quite settling down, that I’ll always be a temporary fit but never able to quite stay where I want to and unwilling to stay in other places.

I know there are other ways of looking at my life’s trajectory, but currently the one I am feeling strongest is the series of “walking away.”

It makes me wonder if there’s ever a sense of family that can come for us “emotional orphans.” If we don’t find it with the people who raised us…can we ever really find it? Or do we just go through life feeling a perpetual outsider?

I’m beginning to crawl my way out of this dark hole. Give me a few weeks, and I’ll probably feel differently. Nevertheless, I’m coming to realize that perhaps the sense of displacement never fully goes away.

Incidentally, this song from Evita perfectly captures my current mood.

 

Reluctant Villain: A Poem

I’m not sure I’m ready to be back blogging, but I decided to share a poem I wrote recently. When the people writing the story get to cast themselves as the hero, standing with my principles doesn’t always allow me to be labeled “one of the good guys.”

Reluctant Villain

It’s not a role I relish.
All I want is to be well-liked
By everyone.
I never intend to hurt
Or offend.
But, you see,
I’m out to infect the world—
With respect
With love
With peace
With human rights for all…
And if the hero of your story
Doesn’t stand for those values,
I’m prepared to be your villain.
Somebody has to.

The Hermit

hermit-rider-waite

The Hermit from Rider Waite Tarot. Public Domain.

My card for this month is The Hermit, a card that indicates a time of withdrawing from society, self-exploration, emotional healing and self-care. It’s actually dreadfully appropriate to what I feel I need right now as I grapple with the death of my grandmother.

I kept up with my blog during my grief following August 2015, but I honestly have no desire to do that again so soon. I’m weary and angry and feeling extremely complicated emotions. I’m generally also pretty burnt out and fed up with social justice concerns, as I wrote about in my last post.

Therefore, I’ve decided that the best thing I can do this month is follow the leading of my tarot card. I will be taking a break from blogging for the time being. I hope when I return that I will be brimming with things I want to talk about.

Right now, I need to turn inward.

It’s Not About the Narcissism

It’s become somewhat fashionable to rag on people about their social media use. If you take a selfie, “vague-book” about your bad day, or were unfortunate enough to be born a millennial, then someone somewhere is diagnosing you with narcissism.

But is our “attention-grabbing” on social media really about that?

Or is there something more primal at play?

When I was in the height of my grief, I probably posted about it on Facebook every day or two. I would write messages to the person I was missing, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to see and respond but others would.

There was something about the sad emoticons and encouragements from friends that made the pain feel just a little bit more endurable because it wasn’t borne alone.

There was something raw about the desperation to be seen in my pain.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from grad school…and in being a human myself…it’s that we all need to be seen.

Yes, I said need.

“Hear me.”

“See me.”

There’s something in the soul that cries out for that even more than it desires relief from pain.

Half the time at my internship, when I am with a client, I’m not actively doing anything other than listening. For that space of time, that person has my undivided attention…

…but more than my attention.

They have my promise that I will actively try to witness their pain and feel with them.

Because ultimately, attention isn’t the thing people crave.

Have you ever had attention without empathy? Perhaps when you felt the disdain of someone looking down on you or their self-righteousness contempt? It feels pretty shitty.

In fact, when I encounter someone’s judgment, self-righteousness, annoyance, or disdain, I actively avoid their attention. I’ll stop telling them about certain things or stop connecting with them at all.

I don’t want them to see me.

But being seen, truly seen, requires empathy and compassion—two things for which the world is starving.

Yes, people’s use of social media can be over-the-top, manipulative, and annoying. But “attention-grabbing” posts aren’t the problem; they’re the symptom. A symptom of a world in which empathy is scarce.

Society would sooner accuse celebrities of using their trauma as a “publicity stunt” than empathize with the pain they have gone through, and it isn’t much better for those who aren’t celebrities.

But since we created the atmosphere around social media, we also have the power to change it.

What if, instead of seeing narcissism everywhere we look, we saw people who simply need to be seen in their pain and in their joy?

What if, instead of rolling our eyes over the number of selfies someone takes, we compliment them on something we admire about them (not necessarily a physical attribute)?

What if, instead of groaning at the vague-book post, we chose to comment, “Sorry you’re having a tough day. I’m here if you need to talk.”

That doesn’t mean that we have to enslave ourselves to every ploy. There may be times when someone is genuinely toxic or consistently manipulative, and boundaries might be healthier. There may be times when the empathy pool is dry.

But we can change the tone of social media. We are creatures of conditioning after all, so positive reinforcement works. I suspect we’d see a more genuine side of everyone if our modus operandi was empathy rather than disdain—if we saw people rather than merely tossing out crumbs of attention.

Perhaps, we could actually make social media about the thing it was originally supposed to be about–connection.

 

 

 

When Did Blogging Become So Much Work?

I have been so busy the last couple of weeks that it’s been impossible to sit down and focus on a topic to write about for this weekend. I am mentally saturated with all the papers I’m writing for school and exhausted as I race towards graduation.

And of course, I’m judging myself that I’m not somehow capable of writing a blog post in my head as I sprint from one thing to the next because…perfectionism, yay!

But the truth is, I haven’t even had time to sit down long enough to hear my own damn thoughts, so how could I possibly have anything to share?

When I started a blog, I didn’t realize how much actual work it would be, nor did I think about how seriously I would take it. It was a “hobby,” a way to get my thoughts out and maybe entertain or stimulate discussion with others.

In reality, I’ve come to understand that having a blog and keeping up with providing content that feels relevant, isn’t a complete waste of my readers’ time, and meets my standards of sort of good writing is A LOT OF DAMN WORK.

It’s a fucking unpaid part-time job to just get a post out a week!

It’s a commitment that I enjoy and value, but I often fail to give myself credit for what I put into it. It’s not uncommon for me to have waves of guilt that I’m not “writing as much as I used to” while forgetting that I write a post between 500 to 1,000 words each week (not to mention all those academic papers!).

So this week, in lieu of trying to force myself to find a topic on which I can write a hasty, unedited piece, I’m taking a moment to acknowledge that keeping up with this blog while I’m in grad school has been a hell of an accomplishment.

And since I still don’t have a post for this week, I figured I’d just give myself permission to do a little public bragging in a hastily written, unedited piece. 😉

 

Dear Santa: Finding Hope and Magic in the Impossible

I wrote this post four years ago. I decided to repost it when I found myself writing almost the exact same thing once again for this week. To add another layer, I recently watched “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” for the first time this year, and my heart ached for a world where evil warlocks could melt into kind old men by receiving a gift from someone with such an open heart. This year, I am asking Santa for more kindness in this world.

sometimesmagical

I’m heartsick over the events of December 14. And I almost wanted to nix this post because it seemed entirely too . . . I don’t know. But I’m keeping it because I really need my own words right now. My heart goes out to all those who are grieving. May you find comfort where you can, and if you find it here, I’ll be honored. Outside of this introduction, I’ve chosen not to edit my post to try to make it fit with the tragic events that happened since I wrote it. This post isn’t about guns or death. I can’t talk about that right now. Instead, it’s about hope. Somehow, I feel it fits while not really fitting at all.

I believe in Santa Claus. I write him a letter every year and leave cookies and milk out for him on Christmas Eve.

old_fashioned_santa

People usually think I’m joking…

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I Choose Hope

This week feels much more like we have reached the other side of a national disaster or suffered a collective death than like we have elected a new President. The atmosphere around me has been one of quiet fear, confusion, anger, and sadness. I have had my fair share of those emotions since waking up on Wednesday.

I don’t want to diminish the weight of what people are feeling. The fear is legitimate for many.

I have heard of misogynistic and racial attacks on individuals already, and Trump hasn’t even ascended to the Oval Office yet.

And in addition to the terror of what might happen to minorities through policy or mob, I have the very unique terror of realizing that we have just handed the most powerful position in the United States over to a man who meets all the qualifications of a cult leader, from the charisma to the totalism to the manipulation of the masses.

There is a part of me that just wants to curl up into a ball and scream…because once I got out of the IFB, I thought I would never have to face this again…because ever since I got out, I have lived in abject terror that it could happen again.

But currently, I am consciously choosing hope.

Hope is a funny emotion. It’s positive, but not the way that joy or happiness is. Hope is not necessary when things are going well. Hope is not a certainty that things will turn out the way we want them to.

Rather, hope is that strange emotion that shows up when things are going badly. It’s a bright emotion to dark and ambiguous circumstances.

In Tarot, hope is represented by The Star card. It tends to signify that things aren’t necessarily great right now. The night isn’t anywhere close to being through, and the darkness is thick. But the stars promise that there is still light somewhere. And even the little twinkling that comes from so far away can help lift the darkness that surrounds in the moment, if only just a little.

I have no doubt that we are guaranteed to have at least four difficult years. It’s hard to say exactly how difficult it will be because there are many aspects of this election that are unprecedented and unpredictable.

So today, I don’t want to pontificate about how dire things are or what the risks are. So many of us are already aware of all that.

Today, I want to talk about what is giving me hope.

  • I have hope that, in this moment, we still have choices and power within ourselves to affect the future. Our civil rights movements have shown what can be accomplished when people work together for equality. We had enough people who were able to vote Trump into power, but we have still more that I hope will stand up to abuse where they see it.
  • I have hope that this election will be a wake-up call for people to begin listening to each other, to fight the urge to lock oneself in an echo chamber. This election, more than anything, has shown me that isolationism doesn’t help us grow. Coercion doesn’t eradicate bigotry. It’s time to engage in the tough conversations. We have seen an uptick in homophobic, misogynistic, racist, and xenophobic speech, and the sad part is that liberals have participated just as horribly. But I refuse to accept that it has to be this way. We can put down our word-weapons, lean into the discomfort of trying to have reasoned discourse, and collectively learn together.
  • I have hope that people can change, even the ones that I might have labeled “beyond hope.” Not everyone does, and this is not a hope that is based in naivety. I will not overlook abusive behavior in the “hope” that it will stop. However, it is a reality that people can and do change. I have. Some friends have. Recently, I’ve come to think that perhaps others like Glenn Beck have. Perhaps we won’t agree on everything, but when people make a genuine effort to challenge themselves and listen, there is hope in that space.
  • I have hope that we can overcome adversity. And I have history to validate that hope. For every national tragedy, there are glowing bright spots of love, of people coming together to help one another, of courage, and of strength. We are a resilient people; many of us have already survived much. It’s not fair that we might need to again, especially for those of us who have experienced oppression and/or abuse already within our lifetime, but I have every confidence that we can survive more.
  • I have hope we have the ability to influence each other in positive ways when we reach out in vulnerability and love, that conversation is the most powerful form of activism, that respect is possible, and that the majority of people want good things for themselves and others. We might not all have stellar ways of pursuing those desires. Communication, above all, is a skill and an art that needs to be honed and practiced. But there is opportunity if we can tap into the universal truth that none of us want to suffer and all of us want to be happy.
  • I have hope that some of those who voted for Trump will stand against abuses of power, fight for the rights and dignity of others, and hold him accountable. I have even more hope that the 49% of voters who didn’t vote in this election will fight against apathy and will choose to engage in meaningful discourse and action on the side of freedom and equality.
  • I have hope that I can make a difference in the world by making a difference in the personal lives of those I know. These last few days have been difficult to sit with people in their pain and fear while I myself am in so much pain and fear, but there is magic in connection. I am appreciative of the special role I get to play in helping people become their best self. That feels more important right now than ever.
  • I have hope that we can learn from our mistakes. When we get to the end of this term, may we realize the shit-storm we created and take definitive action to make positive changes to our political system. May we realize the importance of checks and balances on power. As nice as it might be to think that a “good” President can put a “bad” guy in jail without due process…perhaps now our nation will see that stripping people of their rights in the name of good intentions only creates the possibility of having that used against us later.

Hope is not a promise.

There is much work that needs to be done in order for my hopes to bring me through the night and into the morning, but with hope, I can dedicate myself to that work and invite others to join me. It fuels my motivation to be actively involved and helps me see enough through the darkness to take up the power and choice that I have and use them to advocate for my and others rights.