Sunday, May 24, 2020

writing furiously

i've been thinking a lot lately about who i was and what i was doing a decade ago, a decade and a half.  i was writing writing writing writing.  writing furiously.  writing on my blog.  writing comments on other people's blogs.  writing on message boards.  writing to my friends. 

in person interaction was a lot more limited and frankly that's the way i wanted it.  there's no block button irl.  there's no time to erase, edit, rewrite.  it's not safe.

of course, I learned that the internet isn't safe either.  "sticks and stones" is bullshit WORDS FUCKING HURT whether they're yelled at you in person or typed.  online you can be swarmed, you can be doxxed.  you can be thrown out of virtual community with little effort (this is where that accessible block button shows it's shadow side).

but i took comfort in the distance created by the screen.  frankly, I still do.  if there's a difficult thing to be said, something full of emotions, i'd still rather write it/type it out before i have to deliver it.  because i know words hurt.  I know words are limited, meanings multiple, interpretation real and imagined; and being misunderstood is incredibly painful for me.  and because when i'm in the middle of emotions, I have a very hard time feeling and articulating what I'm feeling at the same time. 

i don't write like that anymore really.  i journal for myself, often lately.  i share the words of others on ig and fb.  i listen and read more.  i'm working on being present with my feelings and not trying to rush through them to articulation.  i'm trying to be more curious.  i talk things through with people i trust and love.  sometimes i wonder what is better, and then I think "not better or worse, just different".  i reflect more now.  i'm learning how to have joy in my life (i hope).  i'm finding that's easier in person.

it also seems like the blogosphere is not what it was.  do people read blogs anymore?  if you are reading this, hi.  :)  but also there's a freedom in anonymity.  it's nice to write this way again after so long.  and maybe some of what i've been working on will be good to share.  maybe it would be nice to be able to trace my evolution here...  if i do, it will be very different than it used to be.

anyway, in the style of my old blogs I will share what I'm reading right now -- adrienne marie brown's "Pleasure Activism" on advice from my sister/friend/life coach/spiritual advisor, Natasha.  It's been interesting, and i'd recommend it.  especially if you, like me, have been trying to find ways to bring more joy into your life, but not divorce it from the very-serious-politics that matter to you.

also, I saw a couple of drafts I left here from 4 years ago and was stunned how much they resonate with my current inner work, i'll probably edit and roll those out also. 

with love and solidarity in joy and chaos,

Saturday, May 23, 2020

In Memory of Stacey

In loving memory of a real one who I know I quoted multiple times on this blog over the years.  Stacey Park Milbern left us on her 33rd birthday, and none of us were ready.  But she left us a huge legacy.

The #StaceyTaughtUs Syllabus

[caption: a picture of Stacey in her chair, smiling and holding a sign that reads "cherished"]

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Social Justice and Reactivity; Reflections on a conversation between Joe Rogan and Jamie Kilstein

Who'd have thunk THIS is what I'd feel the need to write about after such an absence...

In 2016, I was really invested in the podcast Citizen Radio and it's hosts.  And when accusations of predatory behavior came out about Jamie Kilstein, I was honestly devastated.  This was someone who I had promoted, supported monetarily, given his music album as gifts to loved ones... And then other people I was invested in said he had acted in a predatory manner towards them, aggressively enough that they ended their friendship with him.

When he disappeared in the face of these accusations, and even in the midst of my grief and upset, I honestly wished the best for him.  I hoped that he would take time off to reckon with and heal the damage we all knew he had.  That he had TOLD us he had.  I hoped he wouldn't hurt or kill himself.  I hoped that the consequences of his actions wouldn't suffocate him.  I hoped we wouldn't hear from him for years.

Well, in just the past couple of days I learned that he re-emerged.  And today I listened to his interview on the Joe Rogan podcast.  When it was over, I simply let silence enter the car as I sorted through really, really mixed feelings.  Their conversation brought up SO MUCH stuff for me.

Joe and Jamie talked a lot about what I would call the "reactive" culture we currently live in.  They spoke about the way that people simply react to things, instead of taking time with them.  They spoke about the way in which folks will be labeled as a "traitor" to the cause and excommunicated from social justice circles.  The spoke about the way in which people are immersed in communities that go from one outrage to another without rest or reflection.

And I have to agree with them on this point -- our society is highly reactive.  People on all parts of the political spectrum do this.  And this manifests differently from group to group, but there are certainly a lot of shared characteristics.

Jamie spoke about how being forced to take a step back from the way he was living his life has made it so that he is so much more healthy now.  And this reflects my own journey, and that of close friends of mine during this year.  It reflects things I've heard discussed on other podcasts, like The Friend Zone, where being "selfish" and disconnecting from the internet and taking time to meditate and read books is needed healing in our reactive world.  This made me happy.  I wanted such healing for him.

Jamie and Joe both spoke about how taking time with things is important.  They both talked about how this reactivity is a negative thing.

And then they played a clip from a confrontation between protesters and the President of a college.  And as this woman spoke with pain, and anger, and years of trauma in her voice -- they laughed.

After talking about how he has reflected on what brought him to the dire point he was in last year, as he spoke about how much he did not like the person he had become and how many issues there were to reckon with there -- Jamie also denounced the idea that his behavior had ever been predatory, and denied that there was anything he needed to learn on that front.

When discussing the very concept of predatory behavior in men, Joe characterized it as "just how men act" when they are seeking sex.

Then he went on to deny rape culture exists.

Beneath the anger I felt listening to this, I felt so sad, and so tired. 

They'd both utterly missed the point.


I remember a year or so ago I was having a conversation with one of my best friends about a guy I was into at the time.  I was telling them that this guy sometimes says things that are kinda racist, and it bothers me.  I was wondering if I should give up on him.  I'll never forget what my friend, a queer Afro-Latino Caribbean man, said to me: "well that depends on whether you want to let him be human."

I was stunned into silence.  I felt keenly embarrassed.  This is someone who knows me well, who knows my heart and mind as well as anyone alive.  Someone who is not afraid to call out racism, not afraid to call out homophobia, to tell someone who cut us off in the supermarket exactly how and why she's rude.  Not some shrinking violet who will accept challenges to his humanity without a fight.

But here he was, telling me it's ok to let someone be human.  Meaning, to be flawed.  Meaning, to have room to grow.

That's not an easy thing.

But it is a necessary thing.

I remember when he and I were living together while I was in college, when I was most immersed in the social justice circles of the Bay Area, when I was at my most unforgiving and reactive.  I remember being introduced to the idea of Transformative Justice through INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and feeling immediately how important such work is, I embracing it.  If you went by their words, most of my cohort embraced it too. But if you went by actions...many of them were also incredibly intolerant of the humanity of others.  I found this over and over again.  Perfection was demanded, or you were out.  I would even call the way some were treated as straight up abusive.  Tearing people down when they fucked up -- when fucking up is human.

So when Joe and Jamie were talking about this thing that happens on the left, I knew what they meant.  Yes, it's real.

But here's the thing that gets me when I talk or listen to white cis men like Jamie and Joe have these conversations -- they will say all this against reactivity and have all this analysis of how it effected them and constrained or hurt them -- and then will turn around and laugh and have no patience for those expressing their hurt and pain in ways they don't understand or agree with.  And that's where they lose me.

Because as far as I can see, the thing that will bring us away from reactivity isn't self-justification of our own actions and perspective -- it's COMPASSION.


Compassion is the thing I found lacking in my experiences with some people and activist groups, and is also the thing I FOUND among those with whom I'm still connected and learning; compassion is the thing that allows us to be human, to speak to pain someone else caused kindly but honestly, to reclaim what is ours to work on and let go what is not.  What allows us to be soft and feel the feelings underneath our triggers and egos and speak our truth and have healthy boundaries and also allows the people around us to still be human.

Compassion for OURSELVES and others.

I wish I had a grand ending thought to close on, but that's it, and that's what I've been working on for myself.  None of this is easy, but it's so important and so painful and so needed.  And although it took me a year to finish this, here it is and I hope someone else gets something out of it. 

Sunday, February 05, 2017

As Soon As You Put Me Down I Run Away

When my friend Natasha did Reiki on me a few weeks ago she noted that in my solar plexus chakra there was an intense and deep seated well of shame.  Juxtaposing this, as she worked on this area she got a very clear image of her child running away joyfully with his father chasing him.

Before she was even halfway through describing this image of her child I was welling up with tears.

That child was me.

As soon as I could walk - I was running.  Ironically I detest running now, but as a toddler and child you couldn't stop me.  It was such a common thing that it became a trope of telling childhood stories about me.  In fact while Natasha was recounting this I thought of one image in particular, one that hasn't left me since.

There's a home movie I've seen a few times of my Dad and I in Tahoe, probably in the summer as I don't remember there being snow.  I think he and my Mom are laughing as they film me.  Or maybe they were just laughing when they showed it to me.  Either way, my Dad is holding me and then he puts me down -- and I promptly take off running in the opposite direction of both of them. I'm small, so he is able to keep up with me fairly easily, but it really was remarkable to watch.  If they'd taken their eyes off of me for a second I'd have gone quite a ways before they could have caught me.  But they're clearly used to this.

I was a fearless child.  I gave exactly zero fucks and you couldn't tell me anything.

I don't really remember now what that felt like.

See, remember the other thing that Natasha got from my chakra energy?  Shame. Intense shame.

That child?  Didn't make it past elementary school.

I guess maybe that's normal.  We do a lot of growing in those years.  But by the time I hit junior high school you wouldn't have recognized me in that child.  Hell, you wouldn't have recognized me as that child by the time 4th grade came to an end.

Part of me is glad of this.  That child was starting to grow into someone that was arrogant and self-righteous.  I can still be rather self-righteous, so gods only know what would have happened if I was left unchecked to develop.  Actually, I think I do kind of know -- I probably would have turned out a lot like Jennifer Lawrence.  I have a lot of empathy (and endless critique) for J Law because gods do I see her.  Do I know her.  Us Leos are SO MUCH if we never learn how to be humble.

Another part of me is kinda pissed that things turned out as they did.  Because through bullies and a constantly anxious mother and poor boundaries I turned into someone who takes everything deeply personally, who was shamed repeatedly for who I was, who felt fear of the world around me and closed myself off to so many experiences because of it.  My teenage and adult life have been spent trying to get 1/8th of that fearless confidence back.  And it's only now, in my early 30s, that maybe I'm just starting to get there.

And yeah maybe that kid would have turned into an asshole if left unchecked.  But they weren't one yet.  They were just a little tomboy femme wanting to experience the world, trusting that their parents had their back, that if they fell down they could get back up, that if they bumped their head they'd be ok after a good cry.  She just wanted to express herself fully, to sing, dance, express -- to enjoy life.  And when I think about her I want to cry, for so many reasons but perhaps foremost because I know they were me, but they feel like a stranger.

Can I re-integrate that energy and harness it for good?  Can I experience that fearlessness and joy again?  Can I come to a humility that isn't based in shame and second-guessing my self-knowledge but in compassionate, non-judgmental and honest assessment of my actions?  I hope so.  That's what I'm working on now.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Singing, I can hear them singing, when the rain had washed away all these scattered dreams

A week after returning home from the trial I had another dream of my Aunt.

We were having a family dinner out at a restaurant.  Everything felt comfortable and familiar.  I was home in Sonoma County, everyone in the family was there, we were having a good time.  I was seated next to my Aunt and near my Grandma (her mother, who died the year before my Aunt Robin did).  We were talking, I was so happy and thought to myself that I never thought I would get to have moments like this again... and I realized I must be dreaming.  The look on my Aunty's face told me I was right, I was dreaming, and I burst into tears and hugged her tightly.  She cried too.  All the grief I've felt over the years came out and I sobbed.

Once I caught my breath we talked.  I don't remember what was said but the emotions passing back and forth were ones of sorrow and grief and anger and love -- that weird mix of things when someone is taken away from you, that mix of things that chokes your throat and is kind of impossible to find the words for.   And I got back from her sadness, that she missed us, missed being alive, but also that she was OK.  She felt peaceful, and light; she wasn't weighed down by all this shit anymore.  She'd figured some things out, and was happy.

Dinner was over and we got up to walk out, still talking.  Now we were talking happily, but again it was more feelings passing between us and I don't remember the words.  She took my Grandma's hand, and loving feelings passed between all of us as we walked out of the restaurant chatting together.  The doors opened into blinding daylight and the dream was over.

This time when I woke up all I felt was joy.  We had told each other the things we needed to.  It was OK.  For the first time since I lost her, I think, I felt like it would actually be ok -- that healing would actually be possible.  I felt connected to her again.

My Grandma has visited me since she died, but Robin never had.  Not until these couple of weeks.  I'm so grateful for both visits, because I think the first made the second possible, and paired together they are honest to my experience of this horrible thing that happened.   It's been almost a month and while various feelings have come up, I have felt more at peace about things than I did over the last 7 years.  It's not over, and I need to not always keep it to myself, but what remains is the sense that healing is possible, and is happening.  My ancestors are with me, even when I can't feel them, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

As I look at next week, and the final sentencing hearing, I hope I close the door on David Frostick and use all I've been through productively in my life.  He's ruled more of my life than I ever wanted.  That's just a reality.  And maybe I'll feel differently if he ever comes up for parole.  But for now, I want that to come to an ending.  He is a vampire, siphoning the life off of those around him, and I don't need to feed him anymore.  He can take back everything that's his.  I'm keeping what's mine, and that's my Aunt, my family and my future.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Dreaming, I was only dreaming, of another place and time, where my family's from

I had a dream that my aunt Robin was never murdered (i could remember that it and the trial happened but it was like that was the dream or something) and instead she was alive and hanging out with us and i was SO relieved to see her face smiling and laughing (as per usual) and to hug her.  The dream was longer and had more interaction but that's all i really remember.  It felt so real i was confused when i didn't wake up at home in my own bed.  I haven't been able to shake the utter sense of loss I feel now.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Archers, Steven Avery, OJ Simpson and the DV death of my Aunt - some thoughts

Hi all, it's been a while. Thank you, if you're still around. If you've followed my blog for a while now you will know about the death of my aunt, and something about her experiences of domestic violence. Well, my priorities have changed re: writing and online activist participation, but this does seem like the place to write about "serious stuff" -- and it doesn't get much more serious than the trial of her accused murderer. If you don't know (see previous post) it has been 7 years that we have waited for this, as the accused used every available tool to prolong this process with no apparent care to the ways in which he was re-victimizing us (unsurprising really). So we've all had a lot of time at this point to sit with what happened, to process a lot of our feelings, to learn about domestic violence and the court system.

In the last year or so I've gotten into law/crime based podcasts such as Serial (season 1), Undisclosed, Truth and Justice, and Real Crime Profile. I think it has really helped me prepare for what's about to happen, and to understand what these lawyers are doing (because, no matter what prosecutors tell you, they are NOT trying to get justice for YOU and it's not the TRUTH they're trying to get to -- they're answerable to THE STATE and they're trying to PROVE AN ARGUMENT, it's a scored debate more than anything else.... anyway). Below you will find some stuff I've been thinking about that I thought was worth sharing. At the moment, my step-mother and I are sitting outside the courtroom where jury selection is happening in our trial and I have my laptop, hoping I would feel inspired to write something new...but I don't. So enjoy this instead....

Trigger/Content Warning: some graphic description of domestic violence/death.

And here we are

Family waits 7 years for trial to begin