A New Year

So, it’s 2017. I didn’t start this year with any resolutions, because I think the concept is ridiculous — if I have something to accomplish, I’m not going to wait for a specific date on the calendar to start working toward it.

But, that being said, New Year’s Eve does tend to make me reflective. This year I had a lot to reflect on. I know this post is kind of late, in that regard, but today is important to me — because one year ago today, on January 15th 2016, I started writing my novel. A year ago I started down the path that led to launching a career in publishing before I’d even had my 25th birthday. My novel still isn’t published, but that’s okay. I still accomplished a lot.

And a lot of that a lot was writing. I haven’t finished totalling up the poetry yet, because it’s scattered in different notebooks and scrap bits of paper and .rtf files on my computer, but I have already compiled 15 poems — one of which was published — as ones that I will polish and keep as finished products. I still have pages to dig through, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that number reached 25.

I was even more prolific in my fiction writing. I produced 137, 896 words of fiction this year. 53k of that was my novel, and about 11-12k was short original fiction. 73.5k was in fanfiction.

That’s a lot of writing. When I added up my totals, I couldn’t believe it. How could I have produced so much, when on a day-to-day basis I was always disappointed in how little I’d managed to produce? When I wasn’t writing every day?

I think part of it is that every bit matters. It all counts. I think the other important factor is that this was the first calendar year I didn’t have any scholastic responsibilities to fulfil. I was able to devote my primary focus in 2016 to my writing.

As much as I want to be able to do the same this year, to meet and even exceed the output I managed last year, I don’t know if that will be possible. I suspect it won’t, for a number of reasons. The primary one being that I enter 2017 only to leave my family home. It’s a big change, but one I’m looking forward to. That does not mean, however, that it comes without it’s anxieties or time-consuming tasks. It’s a major life change, and those always make it harder to write.

I’m also embracing some other changes in 2017, small shifts that have already had a big impact on how I experience life. Little things, like deciding that I don’t have to “earn” the after-dinner cookie, or the really good loose leaf tea, that I can just have them because they make me feel good. Making the decision to take the odd night off dish duty to just relax, and catch up the next day. Putting effort into getting good sleep not only because it’s important to my health or medication schedule or grades, but because I deserve to wake up feeling rested and alert, and to not feel the deep-muscle aches that come with too little sleep for too long. I’ve stopped pushing myself to do more than I should — decided that, even though I could, technically, do [x] chore before bed, it would leave me aching and struggling to sleep, so it can wait until tomorrow.

I seem to be in the minority of people for whom 2016 was not a raging garbage fire. In all honesty, I broke even last year, with the good balancing out the bad. This the first time I can remember that being true. But in 2017, I’m aiming higher than “even”. I have a lot of hope for this year, and I’m going to do what I can to make it a good one.

I wish all of you the best of luck in 2017, too.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

Hello, September

This is the first August I can remember where I haven’t spent the last half of the month gearing up for a new school year.

No restocking pens, paperclips, highlighters and sticky notes. No scrambling to buy textbooks. No having to reorganize my desk, taking it from Creative Mode to Academic Mode. No recalibrating my sleep schedule. No class conflicts and grad requirements to work with and around. No bad-professor-dodging. No cancelling my birthday because of exams. No pre-emptive stress over reading lists and assignment deadlines.

It feels strange. Good, in a way. Light. But hollow, too. Because this was my life’s primary structure and mode of organization for years and years. It was never easy, but there was something reassuring in having a definite measuring stick for success, in being able to know exactly what was required of me. It didn’t make it any easier to do what was required, didn’t lessen the toll on my mind or body, but at least I didn’t have the stress/fear of the unknown to deal with, too.

I’m trying to find a new way to structure my life. I know that, for a lot of people, that’s work. I’ve gotten news that I’m being published (OMG!!!) so my writing career is taking off, but I know that won’t pay the bills right now (and might not ever). I have some other opportunities that I’m looking into, and have gotten stuck playing the waiting game on, but there are things to consider on the work front that scare me.

Things like: How will I be able to hold a job when my health, physical and mental, is still unstable? How will I find a job that I can do with my limitations, and how do I hold onto it? What if I can’t work full-time? How will I support myself? What if I can’t ever work full-time?

And, because our culture is so, so bad about tying your identity to your work, your ability to be productive, I have to battle self-doubt on top of all those other things. Even knowing logically that I have worth as a person whether I can work or not doesn’t stop the emotional part of me from whispering that no one will want to be with, love, or be friends with a useless, disabled lesbian. It doesn’t stop the nagging questions of “How dependent will I have to be on others? How dependent am I allowed to be before I’m a burden? Who would be willing to shoulder that burden? How could I possibly be okay with being a burden on my loved ones?” from creeping up on me.

That kind of thought process is toxic, and I know it. It is also, unfortunately, incredibly difficult to root out. Knowing that it’s utter bullshit, that it’s capitalism telling me I have to be a successful, economically-productive individual to have worth; that it’s the decades of abuse undercutting my sense of self; that it’s my anxiety and mental illness trying to tear me down doesn’t make it go away or hurt any less.

All I can do in those moments is remind myself that:
1) I have people who love me so, so much, and in a variety of ways;
2) I have been working towards better health and stability for about 2 years now, and my efforts have started to pay off;
3) I am trying to pursue work, but have to wait and see if things fall into place—and it’s not my fault if they don’t;
4) My limits are not my fault;
5) Human beings are inherently social creatures, and we all need to be taken care of sometimes, no matter our age or level of ability;
6) I am trying, and that counts;
7) My limits are still not my fault.
~
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

Luck of the Irish?

I have a complicated relationship with my Irish heritage. On the one hand, it was “gifted” to me by my biological father, and if I could put some genetic distance between me and that abusive fuckhat, I would. It feels like I’m letting him have a part of my life, lay claim to some piece of me, by embracing the cultural heritage he donated along with his DNA. I want him and everything to do with him as far away from me as I can get it, want to deny everything he ever believed in, reject everything he so much as touched.

And, on this one? I can’t.

Because I am more closely tied to my heritage than I like to admit, most of the time. The Irish are known for a lot of things, like an irrepressible and inappropriate sense of humour. (Check.) They are known as pottymouths. (All the checks.) They are, of course, legendary in their drinking  habits. (I’m not a big drinker, but I do jokingly call myself “an Irish drunk”.) They are known for their music and art — their love of it, and the creation thereof. (Check and check.) More than anything else, though, they are the survivors. They’ve endured poverty, famine, war, death. And they are still standing.

It’s easy, in a way, to romanticize that. That endurance, the “unbreakable spirit”. It’s easy to look at them and decide that they are heroic, that they are role models, that tragedy and misfortune rolls off of them like water off a duck’s back. It’s not true.

Because that kind of misery and pain, it takes a toll. Individuals can endure all of those things, sure, but it comes at a cost. Booze and crude jokes can only carry you so far. That kind of stress breaks a body down. That kind of hopelessness erodes ambition. Years of poverty and scraping by destroys the belief in a better life. Not the hope for it, but the belief that it can be had. An abundance of trauma breaks people — leads to alcoholism, bitterness, a jaded worldview, self-destruction.

And, if someone does “give up” in the face of that, if their spirit proves breakable, all too often that is considered the real tragedy. Not that this person put up with years of suffering, but that they allowed it to “break” them.

Having lived in poverty and with various forms of abuse my entire life, I have to shake my head at that attitude. Of course a plethora of negative life experiences are going to take a toll. It’s unfair to blame the person who lived through them for being affected. Because no one expects positive life experiences to have no effect, to do nothing to a person’s life or personality or perspective. Why the double-standard? If life experience shapes us, then that has to count for all experiences, good and bad.

My father called me “resilient”. As much as I wish I could prove the bastard wrong, the very fact that I am standing after what he put me through argues otherwise. I haven’t let the ravenous ghosts of traumas past consume me, even when it would be easier to give in than keep fighting.

For me, being Irish means acknowledging the hurt, the unfairness, the tears, and refusing to lie down under the weight of them. It means holding onto the determination to keep moving forward, because even if my pace is glacial, that is still better than letting my knees fold in resignation. It means remembering that I am not the first to hurt, not the first to survive, but that I can choose what that means — I can decide to self-destruct with bitterness and alcohol, or I can decide that I deserve better. It means remembering how important hope is, especially in the moments it is hardest to hold onto. It means knowing firsthand that the world is not a kind place, that the risk of rose-coloured glasses are greater than the reward. It means refusing to be silenced, to choose to speak out despite hopelessness or fear. It means being the voice of morbid humour in the midst of bleakness. It means finding beauty in dark places, and not valuing it less for being dark.

More than anything else, it means art and its creation is a way of life, a way to keep going, to keep the ghosts at bay.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

“Victim” vs. “Survivor”

I don’t like the word “victim”. Mostly because I don’t like the connotations—the dictionary definition is “a person harmed, injured, or killed as the result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.” But when people talk about victims, they aren’t just talking about a person who was hurt or killed. They’re talking about the hurt, the death, the tragedy that made the victim. The word conjures a certain image of frailty, of brokenness.

And that’s not fair.

The word “victim” is appropriate in some cases and some contexts. The justice system and academia uses it in a precise way. In the dictionary-definition way. But all of that gets twisted round by how the media and people on the street use it. Social workers, support groups, and counsellors of all stripes encourage people who have been victimized not to adopt the label of “victim” because of the connotations attached. Because of the way it can warp your perceptions and expectations of yourself.

The word most commonly used to replace “victim” is “survivor”—if, of course, the person did live through the incident in question. But I don’t think “survivor” is a great word, either. It’s definitely better, because it emphasizes the fact that it was an incident you lived through, and is a positive trait when turned into an “I am” statement. But it still focusses on the wrong thing, in my opinion, because it puts the emphasis on the incident, on the trauma, and less about moving on from it. Because, yes, it is undeniably powerful to say “I’m a survivor, I lived through this”, but we deserve more than just survival. We deserve to heal. To live. To have our lives defined by more than just our trauma.

When I talk about what happened to me, I don’t use those words. I talk about things that happened to me. Or things that someone did. I don’t dance around words like “abuse”, “assault”, or “afraid”. I use them if and when they are appropriate to describe my experience. But “victim” isn’t appropriate. Not for me. And neither, really, is “survivor”. Depending on what I’m describing, I might use “target”. As in, “I was the target of a hate crime”. Which I was. But my word choice there makes what happened about the person who did it, rather than about me, and my trauma, and whatever I “must’ve done” to bring it on myself. It argues that the important part of that sentence, the takeaway point, is not that I was confronted with unnecessary violence and hatred, but that someone felt the need to subject a complete stranger to violent hatred for no good reason. It makes it about the person who did something wrong, and the fact that it was wrong, rather than glorifying my pain.

Because I’m not interested in living in the past, inside all the hurt that others have heaped on my head. It was bad enough to experience the first time. I don’t want to give the people who hurt me the satisfaction of crippling me forever. I want to find a way to be happy. To do things that are meaningful. To grow and learn and love and live as fully as I can.

I’m not a victim. I’m not a survivor. I’m a person.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

Words of Wisdom: Pt. XVII

Age is not representative of who a person is. Life, and the experiences it throws at people, are not counted and measured by years. Just because someone is young doesn’t automatically make them immature or a typical example of their age group. Similarly, just because someone is older doesn’t mean that they are necessarily mature, wise, or capable of offering guidance. Life is a journey, and we don’t all start in the same place, the same way we don’t travel with the same number or configuration of people, or go the same places. The experiences a person has will shape them, and no two people will have the exact same set of experiences.

Assuming that you know what a person is capable of based on age alone is not only premature, it’s actually dangerous.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

This Is My Rebellion

In the wake of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, a lot of the way I live — things I do and say and take for granted — feel like acts of rebellion. And maybe they are, which is a massive shift in perspective. But if tragedy does anything, it makes you re-evaluate.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by this. To those who are grieving a loved one. Those who have a loved one in the hospital. To the queer community, who is feeling this reverberate as far away as Canada, and likely further than that. To the Muslim community, that is currently under unearned fire for what happened. To those in Orlando, who are living in the aftermath of violence. I send all of you my love, and I will keep all of you in my prayers.

There’s not a lot I can do from Canada to try and help these people. I wish there was. What I can do, though, is keep on with what I have been doing. I’m going to go to the Pride events in my town this week. I’m going to take my babygays with me, however many want to go. I’m going to keep reaching out to queer youth in my town. I’m going to keep speaking out, educating my friends and family and total strangers about queer history and heteronormativity and why so many casual comments and assumptions are not okay. I’m going to keep writing stories for and about queer people, where we get to have happy endings. I’m going to keep living out and proud, fighting against femme invisibility, homophobia, and transphobia.

I refuse let fear stop me. Because no one can truly predict how or when or where hatred will erupt into violence. All we can do is try to put love into the world — by refusing to hurt each other further with ignorance, intolerance, and laying blame; by giving hope to those who need it; by choosing to be a voice for those who are too afraid or in too much danger to speak. By opening our arms and our hearts to those who are hurting. But most importantly, by opening our mouths to create change so that this doesn’t keep happening.

Queer people are, first and foremost, people. We have walked among and beside you for as long as culture has existed. Our love and identities are not new — we are just trying to break free of the darkness and silence that was imposed on us. And, whatever you might think of us, we have the right to exist. Someone tried to take that from us.

And please, notice that I said someone — not “some culture” or “some group” or “some religion”. This was the act of a person filled with hate. Flinging around more hate and intolerance is not the answer.

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

 

The Thing About Anxiety

The thing about anxiety is that it lies to us. Sometimes those lies are rooted in truth, and sometimes they are blatant fabrications, but when you have anxiety, you can’t tell which is which. When it comes after you, it all feels real. Undeniable.

A short example of the pretzel logic anxiety uses to attack its victims: So, that job interview you have coming up. It’s a big deal. Have you figured out what you’re going to wear? You know how important a first impression is, and you only get one chance to do this right. You have to be professional, but you — only, no. Don’t be you. If you decide to be “you”, you’ll fuck it up for sure. But, then again, it’s a long shot you’ll get this job anyway. It was only luck they’re asking for an interview. It’s ridiculous, thinking that you’re capable enough to do this job, and the interviewer is gonna pick up on that right away. Why even do this to yourself? Why set yourself up to fail? You know this isn’t gonna work out. You might as well quit while you’re ahead.

There are certain times when it’s normal to experience anxiety — a new job, graduating, having to move. Big changes and periods of transition, where there is a lack of certainty, those are common times to be a little anxious.

But anxiety about smaller things like government paperwork, and needing to set foot outside the house today, those are above and beyond normal levels. And it’s really hard to try and talk about that kind of anxiety. Because, sometimes, anxiety is rooted in specific events — a hate crime, bad experience, trauma — or tied to specific triggers. But other times, there is no reason — there’s no cause you can point to, there’s just the anxiety trying to cripple you for no reason at all.

But how do you explain that? Worse, how can you expect other people to understand, to help you, if you can’t explain?

~

I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.