It’s My Job to Protect My Freedom, Not Your Feelings

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SOCIAL MEDIA “FRIENDSHIPS” ARE FALLING APART BECAUSE ‘SENSITIVITY’

I’d like to take a moment to thank all the recent “friends” of friends on social media who’ve been gently reprimanding and correcting me and my fellow feminists/human’s rights advocates for being appalled by those who stood up for Donald Trump by voting him into office.

Thank you for asking us to stop being crybabies by unfriending people who “don’t think like we do.” It has certainly helped us understand that we are being “too sensitive.”

I’d like to take moment to express my shame that I am angry at these “friends” for not thinking like they do, for trying to force them to think about how their vote made us feel unsafe around them. They’re right, you see. I do think they should have, in this instance, thought like I did. Or thought about it more carefully, in the very least.

I have been properly shamed into admitting that I don’t think a rapist and sexual predator should be in the highest seat in the country. Want to push against the facts? Got some alt-facts you’d like to discuss? The charges are long and public. But you didn’t seem to care enough about that, and that makes me angry. “Unfriend” angry.

So it is that I have let these ‘precious’ friendships slip through the cracks, the callous bitch I am, because it is clear to me that we have a very different idea of what is right, and some people’s idea involves giving power to a very sick man and being “grown up” about him being the commander-in-chief.

I’d like to thank so many of you (though you might not read it because I was not a grown up and I deleted you from my social circle) for pointing out that all people are flawed and that all politicians lie. It very much makes up for that fact that my civil liberties are going to be violated, that my body will not be my own and that the rights of countless minorities are in the hands of a man who wants to target people based on their religion in a country founded by people who fled religious oppression.

Thank you for reminding me that I’m being petulant because “my candidate” didn’t win the nomination. For one, that’s literally not true. In a fair democracy, my first choice, Sanders, would have won the primaries and my second choice, Clinton, actually swept the popular vote. Secondly, I’m enraged that a sexual offender and bigot is my president, not mad that a viable candidate was swept under the bus.

But, let’s talk about the media and how we can’t trust that Russia interfering with our election isn’t actually a huge deal (even though our own intelligence agency seemed to think it was). The fact that our president now has a very tangled business agenda isn’t either.

Please tell me to calm down again. Please tell me to just wait, watch, be patient and friendly. Please tell me why I shouldn’t be angry, that’s it’s just an election.  Please tell me I’m crazy.

Please gaslight me and my friends because you cannot physically make us be friendly, cannot force us not to have valid concerns that someone with the sexual harassment record of Trump (who should not even be able to hang out near parks) is now in charge of the country where my children are supposed to feel free. Please try to name call us, tell us we are overreacting and childish. Invalidate our fear so that we can be molded into civilly oppressed peoples.

Like this meme on Ben Carson’s webpage, tell us to love first, to be kind, to open doors, etc. etc. Never mind that our current leader and the people he is employing are dismantling our health care and yanking a rug from under the disenfranchised in this country. We should do as they say, not as they do.14358761_1089656484482522_7029007914321763101_n

Yes, call us divisive. Remind us about creating a civil war, even though the Civil War was fought for the freedom of the racially oppressed and was a truly JUST war. Convince us that we are slaying our sisters because we are appalled that our family chose to vote a rapist into office, and chose to promote people who have upheld the KKK.

Keep the gaslight burning. It might keep us quiet, docile for a bit longer.

WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? I’M NOT TRYING TO GASLIGHT, I JUST WANT PEOPLE TO BE NICE!

For the most part, I think people don’t know they are gaslighting. They want to be right, they don’t want to seem like the bad guy/girl, and they do want people to be nice to them, and maybe they were just voting with their party. Unfortunately, the way they voted is gross to me, will have a drastic impact on so many marginalized lives. So, I don’t want to be nice about it, and I will not tiptoe around you in order to not hurt your feelings.

You can’t make me feel that I’m acting like a sore loser. Doing so makes you like Trump, who is one of the biggest gaslighters I’ve ever seen, as Frida Ghitis wrote for CNN Opinion:

“…recently the tactical tampering with the truth has become a preferred method of strongmen around the world. Gaslighting by other means was always a common feature of dictatorships, but it has found new vogue as a more subtle form of domestic political control even in countries with varying degrees of democracy.”

Ghtitis rightly calls out Trump as a man who sets the example of gaslighting. In so doing, he asks his supporters and those who follow him to do the same. She writes that his “techniques include saying and doing things and then denying it, blaming others for misunderstanding, disparaging their concerns as oversensitivity, claiming outrageous statements were jokes or misunderstandings, and other forms of twilighting the truth (“Donald Trump is ‘gaslighting’ all of Us”).”
If you have lately told someone that their concerns were an example of over-sensitivity or babyish behavior, you may be a gaslighter.

Shea Emma Fett in her article  “10 Things I Learned About Gaslighting…” explains gaslighting further:

The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t is an internalized paradigm of ownership. And in my experience, identifying that paradigm is a lot easier than spotting the gaslighting.

Gaslighting tends to follow when intimidation is no longer acceptable.

I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that this is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality.

You can see it in the media constantly.

For instance, every time an obvious hate crime is portrayed as an isolated case of mental illness, this is gaslighting. The media is saying to you, What you know to be true is not true ( everydayfeminism.com).

IF YOU’RE UNINTENTIONALLY GASLIGHTING, YOU CAN QUIT

Look, if you’re not trying to manipulate people into being submissive drones so that Trump’s cabinet can trample people’s rights without being held accountable, that’s good. I’m proud of you. Maybe you’re just misinformed or a little racist/sexist/bigoted, but you generally want people just to get along, and you try to be nice to people. Yeah, conflict is uncomfortable. I get that. But conflict is sometimes necessary in order to move forward.

So if you don’t want to gaslight me then stop saying I have to take the withdrawal of basic human liberties–fair treatment, privacy, equality, thought, education, etc.–quietly and good-mannered. I am not being an oversensitive, sore loser. I am a concerned citizen who is justly angered.

Don’t be like this Facebook gaslighter:

“Being good friends isn’t about one person expecting the other to believe what he/she believes or they aren’t friends. Proselytize, Obtrude or otherwise force your beliefs on another as a condition of friendship doesn’t seem much like friendship, but then again, I get we don’t all share the same values. People seem too important to discard like that.” (anonymous FB gaslighter)

I’m not expecting people to have the exact values I have, I just expect my friends to not treat others like second-class citizens, as Trump has repeatedly done to those he does not care for (or even women he seemed to actually like). If you support a man like that, it makes me wonder if you are the type of person who behaves like that to his/her friends. If so, I don’t need that in my life. Bye-bye-bye.

Lastly, if you think friendship and people are so important, don’t try to make them feel badly when they are worried about the lives and civil liberties of ALL Americans and want to take a valid stand against tyranny. That makes you look like a hypocrite at best and a gaslighter at worst.

TO THOSE I TREASURE 

If you are still on my social media feed and we disagree heartily about this topic, it means you are probably a family member who I treasure. As a believer in the God of love, I am told to love everyone. I try. I’d be lying if I said I’m really good at this, but so would you. Anyway, I still love you. I do not have to like how you behave, who you support or everything you say to love you.

I also challenge you because I expect more from those I love. I expect those I love to act like the loving souls who played with me, read with me, cheered me on, supported me. I also expect that we will sometimes fight, like we did when I was young. I have ALWAYS been different. You saw that then, and you worry about it now.

You think I don’t know that you pray for my soul, a soul you feel is being tarnished by libtards and leftists. But I don’t play that game. I am a woman who loves widely. You are in that circle of love, but so are many people unlike you. I will not partake in the rhetoric of hate. I will be disappointed when the people I love support it, and call me out as crazy, conspiratorial or sensitive because I decide to question an immoral authority.

I don’t even know why ya’ll are surprised by this. My favorite book was 1984 when I was 15.I was literally the only person who liked it in my class.

I am disappointed that we don’t see eye-to-eye, but I love you like the German father in Echo by Pam Mun0z Ryan who loves his daughter despite their great divide. You probably don’t get that reference, but that’s for the best. You’ll think I’m making an unfair comparison. You’ll think it unloving, or maybe a little crazy.

Harassment Is Everyday For Some

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For a little while after the election, I couldn’t put a finger on the horror that overcame me when I realized that some of my friends and family members voted for Trump, that he would be the president of the United States and that people were treating him as “just another candidate,” telling me to “get over it” and not be bitter “because your candidate lost.”

I could not even deal with that shit for the first couple of weeks, so I deleted comments, blocked the ignorance and took a breather. But I’m horrified all over again, thanks to something that happened to me on Christmas eve.

I was getting some last minute food for our meal the next day and had to park a little away from the store, since it was busy. I walked toward the store, past two young men who were looking like they were up to know good in the alley beside the grocery store. They were smoking and leaning up against the building. As a woman who as been both harassed, stalked and raped, a red flag went off in my head. As a woman who made sure to take self-defense after she was assaulted, those red flags were important.

Firstly, the men immediately paid attention to me and stood up from the brick wall. Secondly, one of the men started walking toward the path I would be using. I knew what to do, thanks to my training. I met his eyes, turned towards them and stared at them. I told the guy moving toward me, “I see you.” Nothing else. I wanted him to know I could see him moving toward me, that I was willing to voice my concern, that I was not passive. I moved my bag to my less strong arm, put my hand on my waist and glared. His friend shook his head and motioned that his friend should come back.

“Not that one,” he muttered, quietly but not quietly enough.

That one heard him. The other guy moved away, I walked out of sight and listened. “Not that one. She looked tough. You can tell she’s tough.” I had a second’s hesitation before grabbing my phone, and turning around to face them again.

“That’s right. I’m tough. I’m also calling the cops.” I dialed 911 and stared them down, watched them as they mumbled some shit about ‘not doing anything’ than ran when I started talking to the dispatcher.

I don’t know what those guys had in mind. Probably steal my purse, maybe harm me or rape me. I don’t know. All I know is that if I were less confident in my hulk-like rage and strength, less tall, less tattooed, more feminine, smaller, things might not have ended so well for me that night. If you can call the guys running off and probably not getting caught a good ending.

It’s not a good ending. It’s not a good ending that I had to learn to defend myself like that in the first place, after being assaulted before. It’s not a good deal that I get dick pics, sick comments and propositions daily online and walking down the street. It’s a shit deal that no one takes what I do seriously, but will ask me about what my husband is doing and tell me how lucky I am to have someone so smart and talented as my spouse. I am not lucky. I am well-matched. I am talented, smart and witty. I am good at EVERYTHING I do, including my many underpaid jobs.

This is where the horror creeps in. This is my reality–the fact that men might try to rape or steal from me if I’m on my own. It has always been this way for me. When I went to school by myself at night, I usually had a male friend walk me to my car, not because I can’t handle myself but because I DON’T WANT TO FUCKING HAVE TO. But I do. I deal with it all the time. Do you know what it’s like to weave your keys between your fingers to use as a weapon, just in case? Do you know what it’s like to be groped when you’re just trying to get from point A to point B on a too-full bus? I know these fears. I have lived these realities and worse ones.

And our president-elect is the same type of person that those men who harassed me are. He is the face of rape culture. The many cases brought against him, the ways in which he has spoken to and about women, the way he has shown himself to be in “grab them by the pussy” commentary. He is a pervert. He is a bully, and not just to women. And he is not shy about being this way because he doesn’t have to be.

I won’t be silent on this front. I won’t be told that this is the same as other elections. This is a reiteration that many Americans care more about ignorant talking points than humanity. And I’m horrified that that’s the case. So I will say so.

 

Aging Red

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It is my pleasure to feature poetry from one of my favorite writers. Her pen bleeds and I cry. Her pen laughs and I chuckle. She’s a friend and an amazing talent. Please enjoy “Aging Red” by C. Streetlights.

“Aging Red”

-C. Streetlights-

These days,

they melt like a Dali

minutes dripp-

ing

into

the hours

but seconds

pour, pour, pour-

ing

into the days.

I wear age

like I do my lipstick –

bright, bold, and red.

I am red years old.

Age is a number

that deceives like a Seurat,

dots fill-

ing

the years

but moments

beat, beat, beat-

ing the heart.

Red years old (though)

means vibrancy, brightness.

It means passion and spirit.

Someday is gray,

a rejection of color like a Picasso,

but

Not mine.

Mine smells of memory.

And I remain red years old.

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After writing and illustrating her first bestseller in second grade, “The Lovely Unicorn”, C. Streetlights took twenty years to decide if she wanted to continue writing. In the time known as growing up she became a teacher, a wife, and mother. Retired from teaching, C. Streetlights now lives with her family in the mountains along with their dog that eats Kleenex. Her memoir, Tea and Madness, won honorable mention for memoir in the Los Angeles Book Fair (2016) and is available for purchase on Amazon.

Streetlights is represented by Lisa Hagan Books and published by Shadow Teams NYC. For all press interviews and other inquiries, please contact Ms. Hagan directly.

You can connect with C. Streetlights on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon Author Central, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

 

She Should Have…

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 It is my extreme pleasure to bring to you a guest post/poem from Melissa Flickinger about consent, rape culture and blame. Please read comment and share this important piece with others.

“She Should Have…”

-M.L. Flickinger-

She should have known better than to wear that dress.

She was asking for it, looking the way she did.

She should have known better than to go to that party with her friends.

She put herself in a bad situation.

She should have known better than to take that first sip.

She was irresponsible, letting her inhibitions fall.

She should have known that he wanted more than a kiss.

She was asking for it, looking at him the way she did.

He should have known that no means no.

But, boys will be boys.

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Bio:

Aside from having a serious reading addiction Melissa Flickinger enjoys writing (mostly poetry), advocating for mental health and women’s issues. She is a coffee addict and loves all things pumpkin.

She is the founder and owner of Melissa Flick’s Author Services, author assistance and book marketing.

Find her poetry and book marketing articles featured on Feminine Collective andBadRedhead Media.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MelissaFlicksWriter/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelissaFlicks
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/melissaflicks/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+MelissaFlicks

The Slog of Discontent

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Though I enjoy so much about fall (cooler temps, creepy shows, pumpkin seeds, warm drinks, wearing layers, the colors, etc. etc. you know the drill), it’s a hard time of year for people with mood disorders.

  1. It’s a time of change for many. I’m a teacher part-time and a full-time mother, so fall brings big changes. When you have a mood disorder changes might seem thrilling and even fun during manic stages, but the reality of the change quickly slides into lows. I miss my children, the longer sleep schedule, the unhurried pace. Like any parent, I grew frustrated by the constant company and endless messes summer brings, and it as a hard summer otherwise for family losses, so I thought fall might bring some relief. And it has, but, again, the change is hard for my broken brain. I’ve felt lack luster and drawn lately. I’m trying to find joys in little hikes, but my brain slogs and my anxiety spikes at weird times.
  2. I like cold weather. My yard prefers the rain, and I like running in it. I don’t mind wearing multiple sweaters. But living in the PNW can be hard for even the most die-hard rain lover. People with mood disorders tend to be a little more sensitive to this. It’s not even really that fall-like here, yet, but my body is so tired. I took a deep breath and caught the chilled, composty, damp fall smell and my heart loved it. But my body has yet to really catch up with that love.
  3. More alone time physically and more internet time=BLAH. Let’s face it, people with mood disorders aren’t the only ones moody right now. It’s political season, it’s beginning to get dreary out, and people are touchy online during the best of times. I truly think the combination of more solitary time at home and the general grumpiness of social media exacerbates my mood disorder considerably. I should stay off more. But I probably won’t. I should be writing, but my head is so…duh.

So what do we do? What do I do about these stages? In the past, I drank until I was numb because I thought numb was better than sad. That didn’t go over well because I have a hard, if not impossible time, stopping. And numb eventually comes back around to depressed. Now, I let it be. I allow myself to understand that I’m not feeling top notch. I allow myself more time to get ready, but I get ready. I put on clean clothing even when I don’t feel like it. I try not to give into sugar cravings that will leave me even more crashed. I try to hike, walk or stagger around in my dying garden. I list the things I love even though I cannot muster happy:

  1. My husband. The way his face is so grumpy when he sleeps. The way he always kisses me before he leaves, even though I’m mostly comatose.
  2. My kids. The way they are always happy to see me when they wake up. The funny way they see the world, so individual and so new. The way they melt into me when they come home.
  3. My animals. The way my dog always waits for me to open my car door after I drop the kids off at school, then just puts his muzzle in my lap so I’ll pet his ears. The way he stands in front of me when he wants love. The way my chickens stop right under my hand when I feed them in the morning, so that I’ll pet them while I fill their water and food. The way they follow me when I’m outside, quietly clucking in my direction.
  4. My Creator/Creation. The way every season has a distinct, unnameable smell. The way my flowers know when to sleep. The migration of the geese and ducks over the bay. The circling eagle diving for the last of the year’s salmon. The smell of fresh rain against dry earth. The way I feel so small but also so connected to the tiniest of living beings because our bodies are vastly different, but they function in much the same way. The way the fog and sun mingle and create this golden morning haze. The sound of a crisp leaf crunching under my red boots. The fact that I get to wake up every day in a cute little red house with shelves of books, stocked with canned foods and elk/deer/salmon/shimp gathered by hand, next to a man who is warm in body and spirit.
  5. My family & friends. Who have a cup of tea or coffee with me, who spend a moment chatting about life. Who ask me how I am and share their own worries, joys and fears. Who make me feel that I am not alone or even weird (even though I am weird).

This list saves me from myself. And it is myself, just as much a part of me as my mood disorder. And more powerful. It is more powerful because I MAKE it more powerful. I take the time to give my life, my joy (not happiness, which is a baloney romantic, temporal, term) power. This month is suicide prevention month. Preventing your own suicide starts with loving you. I hope you can find that love. I really do. If you need help, ask those around you, or call this hotline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

“Love Yourself”

-H.M. Jones-

Darkness will whisper.

Desperation will call.

They will sit, uninvited,

upon fractured souls.

When lost in a fog

too thick to see past,

it’s easy to assume

the gloom will last.

Storms are oppressive,

but after the flood

the sun will shine again,

new beauty will bud.

Your pain is important,

so much more is your life,

it extends out before you,

full of joy, laughter and light.

The cruel will try to silence you,

keep you stuck in the hurt of now.

But love is fiercely powerful,

take all the time

you need

to learn

to live,

to love

yourself.

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H.M. is the author of the soon to be re-released, award winning, dark fantasy, Monochrome, a book about depression and the importance of memories. She is also an avid poet and short story writer. You can find her works listed at www.hmjones.net. She reads, takes part in conventions and cosplaying, hikes, gardens, pulls in her community’s canoe, teaches English and bookstore hops. She loves life, but strives for contentment over happiness.

Author Spotlight: H.M. Jones “Monochrome”

It’s almost back again!

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Monochrome has a new publisher! Feminine Collective is re-releasing it as a 3rd edition Sept. 2016, with the above cover as an e-book and Oct. 2016 in paperback.

 Monochrome is an IndieBrag Medallion book, an Honorable Mention at the 2016 Los Angeles Book Festival, and a NIEA Book Award Finalist in the NA category! 

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Monochrome Trailer

What would you do to save your most precious memories?

That’s the question that Abigail Bennet, a new mother, must answer in this dark fantasy.

The cries of her new baby throw Abigail into rage and desperation. Frightened by foreign anger and overwhelming depression, the first-time mother decides to end her life to spare the life of her only child. But before she acts on her dark intuition, she is overcome by a panic attack and blacks out.

When she awakes, everything is blue: the trees, the grass, the rocks and still…

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Journalists, I Shouldn’t Have to Lecture You About the Power of Words

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My husband read a crime report online the day his brother was murdered. It was about a man being shot in Auburn. He didn’t think much of the report, at the time, except maybe a passing “that’s too bad.” Until my father-in-law knocked on our door with trembling hands and tears streaming down his face. When he said James was shot, we stood in stony shock before completely breaking down.

My husband immediately looked for information. We had very little and he wanted to know something, anything, about what had happened. Were there charges? Had they booked our brother’s murderer? When had it happened? Why would someone shoot another person? Why would someone steal away our young brother’s life? Had there been a serious conflict? Was he scared? Did he suffer? Some of our questions might never be answered, but basic details would help.

Unfortunately, the news was scarce and what little information there was made us even more sick to our stomachs. “Auburn police investigating death of a homeless man” was the very first piece of news we stumbled upon. And we both of us, in anger and shock, stared at one another before I said, “Jim was not homeless. He has a home.” My husband nodded, his face a mask of grief.

Homeless is a term that carries with it connotations, whether they are true or not. Some of them are extremely negative. But at the surface, it means “without a home.” And, at the time, Jim was not living at a home. So, sure, temporarily, he chose not to have a home. He was having a hard time and had hurt many of his friends and family with his addiction in the last couple years.

That didn’t mean he wasn’t welcome home. It did mean that we wanted him to get better before he started living around his nieces and nephews and cousins. Treatment was discussed, but Jim wasn’t ready for that. And that’s how he found himself were he was. Temporarily at rock bottom.

Raise your hand if you’ve never hit rock bottom. Those of you who raised your hands (probably pretty few) don’t have any fucking clue what it feels like to live in embarrassment, insatiable need and pain. And I am very thankful for you if that’s the case. But Jim was there. We didn’t know he where he was because he probably didn’t want us to know. But he was not without a home. Everyone at home hurt for him and wanted so much to have him back to normal, healthy and thriving again.

Unfortunately, the news updates on other sites were no better. Worse, really. Thank you so much, Kenny Ocker, for calling my brother a transient and making extra sure to point out that he was living in a tent. Transient is worse than homeless, Kenny and (later) Christine Clarridge , and I think journalists with your credentials understand that. Just in case you don’t, I made sure to comment below that it was insensitive. My comment was ignored. So, let me say, again, why your words are a big deal. Even though, as I’ve stated, I know you know which words carry which meanings, literal and non. You are journalists, after all, with, I assume, a fairly descent grasp on the language.

Synonyms for “transient” are as follows: vagrant, vagabond, and hobo, among others. Vagrant is a term people in ol’ time movies used to call people scum. Transient is akin to saying, “I won’t call you scum. I’ll just call you icky.” Are these the hard definitions? No. Does that matter? No. You understand denotative and connotative meanings. Did these definitions add anything to the story? No and Yes-they added unfair biases and belittled the death of a beloved son, brother, uncle, grandson, and nephew. However, his being down and out didn’t change the fact that he was murdered, so those definitions didn’t alter the true story. They just titillated a perceived audience.

What did it serve you to tell the public that my brother was living in a tent? Here’s what I think was meant by it: it was meant to paint my brother as unworthy of empathy, it was meant to show that his death was, in some way, not as important as the deaths of people who have stable situations. Here’s what it really did: it was a blow to his family, it made my mother, sister, husband and myself cry, it made my rage spike and it was wrong. You were wrong to focus on my brother’s rock bottom, and to assume, in so doing, that his death was lesser. Because it is everything to us. It consumes our days, our thoughts, and our futures.

Why could you not have said that “A man in his twenties was shot at the park by another man, point blank, with shotgun?” Is that not tantalizing enough for you or your readers? I’ll tell you what, journalists. Let’s say I write your last moments down, where your loved ones will read it. Okay? And to spice it up, I’ll take whatever moment was your rock bottom and create you in that light. Did you once have a drug addiction? Okay, “Alcoholic dies in fatal car wreck” it is. Did you once cheat on your spouse? Fine. “Adulterer dies from cancer.” You get the point. Your pain, your sadness, your hard times are not the business of others. They would not change the fact that you had people who loved you. Those headlines would simply eat at the living, those who loved you in your ups and downs.

Jim had so many ups. He was an uncle to my children, who, despite being gone more than we wanted, smiled and made faces at them, held them and teased them. He was the man who messaged me in congratulations when I had my first baby and said, “I’m so happy to finally be an uncle. I’m sorry I can’t see her, but I love her already.” He was the person who was always first to pick up a broom or a sponge when he saw me start cleaning. He was the kind of guy who could feel so much that it hurt. Sometimes that hurt turned to rage and bad decisions. Sometimes the hurt came out in tears over sappy movies, sappy movies he’d encourage me to watch with him when he couldn’t sleep, and he knew I couldn’t sleep because I was too sad from the passing of my father. He tried to comfort me the best way he knew how, by trying to talk me into watching The Notebook for the thousandth time or chatting about Harry Potter, which, yes, he secretly loved.

He had moments, too, that made us want to shake him. Moments that worried us. A lot of those, recently. But he was young, barely a man. So many of us have had those moments in our life that we just figured he’d come out of it and come back smarter.We did, after all. Alcohol tried to wreck me, but I’m still here.

But he doesn’t get to come back. Adding to the pain are the judgmental articles painting him as some sort of vagrant thug. And that seems insane to me. My brother was shot over a petty fight about tools and you can’t dredge up some compassion? If not compassion, can you just choose to stick to the facts that are relevant to my brother’s death? Journalists, I write fiction. I do a pretty decent job of it. I write the feels. Ask anyone. That’s not your job, I know, but can you at least consider them when writing?

Maybe you’ll say, “I was just sticking to the facts.” It might be a fact that your brother looks like crap in the color orange, but you don’t have to say it. It’s not relevant; it adds nothing except pain. Here’s what I really want, journalists. I want you to say nothing. Stick to that old maxim. If you can’t say anything nice about my brother, don’t say anything at all. We know who our loved one was. And you clearly don’t. We don’t need the added judgments on our heaping pile of pain. Things like that can topple people who are already wavering.

 

Why I’ve Fallen in Love with 3 a.m.

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It’s my extreme honor to have Jayme Beddingfield as a guest blogger today. Jayme is an author, podcaster and extraordinary geek. Please enjoy this wonderful guest blog from her. 

Sleep has never been something that came easily to me. The reasons why are countless and varied, but regardless, being the only one stirring in my neighborhood in the middle of the night is not only familiar to me, but it’s become part of who I am.

I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I am obsessed with my work. The desire to succeed overpowers most other needs and desires I have–but, I’m also terrified of it. Between all that I am trying to achieve within my career and remaining an intricate and active member of my family, I often feel like nothing I do is enough. Good enough, fast enough, unique enough, it doesn’t matter, the feeling of inadequacy rolls around in my stomach constantly.

In part, I consider my anti-hero self-perceptive part of my creative process. Or, maybe my habits of how I talk to myself aren’t the best. All the reasons above probably play a big a role into why I haven’t slept through the night in months. I don’t know what dreamless sleep is like. At first, when the wave of interrupted sleep started up again I panicked, it had been a good stretch of decent sleep, and I was plenty stressed out at it was the idea of not having regular sleep scared me.

“I have to be on my A-game,” I said to myself as I laid awake in bed staring at the ceiling I wasn’t able to see what  knew was there. The first week was challenging. I fought the idea of not being able to get through the night without waking up. I was getting to sleep fine, but I wasn’t  staying asleep. A dream would wake me, causing me to open my eyes and be fully alert of all of my surroundings and the dozens of to-dos awaiting me in the morning, the following week, a year from now. Every dream plays out differently, but the theme is always the same. Embarrassment. Failure. An unfixable mistake.

Anxiety started to really set in as this trend continued. Then I started having trouble falling asleep, shutting my mind off, not worrying, not planning, just being.

One night, after finally fighting myself to sleep, I was woken up by a dream. It started out by me getting locked out of my house which was remarkably similar to Jess’s apartment on The New Girl. Right before I woke up I was floating on a boat after losing my computer. That time, I got out of bed went into my backyard and looked up at the stars—there was only a few that I could make out, but in that moment that was enough. I didn’t lay in bed thinking about how much I was screwing myself for the next day. When I went back in my house, I grabbed my notebook, my book light, and a pen and started writing. At first, it was nothing but versions of insanely detailed to-dos, but gradually it transformed into fluid words and read back remarkably resembling a story. I woke up hours later with my notebook squished into my arm feeling well rested and surprised it was morning.

The following night I went to bed, brought two different notebooks with me, I fell asleep writing and woke up feeling like a person who accepted themselves a little more than the day before.

During busier times in the day, I find my mind wondering what my night will be like, not with concern but with anticipation. As the days continue to fill up, and the noise of the world buzzes loudly, I find solace in my pockets of quiet. There is no balancing act when the world around  me is asleep.

When the sky is dark, the streets are quiet, my house is also silent. The warmth and love and craziness that fills the space between the overpriced walls fades into the hum of what is at the heart of all of it, and I write. I write without goals or lists. If I wake up, I take the thoughts and put them down.  The thing about words is that if you follow them, they take you somewhere—a similar thread to accepting ourselves. Is sleep important? Sure. Do I need sleep? Yeah. Do I keep regular hours? Certainly not. I realize that by leaning into my natural inclination even though it’s unconventional, I find a little bit more peace.

In those moments between the departure and arrival of the sun, I can lean into my mind’s need to do something and write, just for me, naively, like I used to.

About Jayme Beddingfield:

profilepicJaymeJayme Beddingfield is the host and producer of ‘Too Many Words’ a comedy interview podcast. She is also the creator of ‘Elliot Granger and The Clueless Brigade’ a weekly serial that follows Elliot Granger as she stumbles through grief and growing up. The series is featured as both a fictional podcast and written story that appears on The Scribbler. Jayme has been crafting stories since her third-grade assignment to write her own fairy tale. She prefers to work from the sofa with her dogs by her feet. Originally from Northern New Jersey, she now lives in Seattle, the city of her dreams. She lives with her husband, two children, and a slew of adopted pets. She is post-apocalyptic obsessed and also admits to being an audio enthusiast and recovering super villain

You Are What You Consume: Don’t Prey on Hate

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My best friend and I stand and chat with her friends in a bar/club that’s so vibrant, so packed to the gills, so explosive and bursting with life that there is nowhere to sit. So I stand while she sways. She and her friend dance in a much more rhythmic way than I’ll ever pull off. I watch them in admiration—their grace, their concentration, the way they look more alive with the movement. I just feel elbowy when I dance, and it seems that her friend’s boyfriend is rhythmically challenged, too. So, we—the bad dancers and awkward socializers—sit and talk only a little and smile at his boyfriend and my silly lady as they conduct a mini dance-off. We hang out until I feel like I’m ready to sleep standing. I leave Just Johns feeling light hearted, my ears ringing, my veins still pulsing to the music. Just Johns is great. I don’t get unwanted advances or judgmental stares. I get music, a night out and an atmosphere so loud I have an excuse to sit back and watch.

The week after is girl’s night, so we meet at Novak’s instead. In the main room, ladies take the stage and sing along to a myriad of songs, winking, belting and breaking hearts. A couple girls ask me to dance, but I don’t like to dance and I’m taken, so I politely decline. Only Elle can ask me to dance and get a yes. And it takes more than two drinks to get a dance out of me, even then. I’m not here to drink, as much as I’m here to unwind. So we go to the patio, where the vibes are quieter. I get my customary 7 and 7, we order food and we talk. About everything and nothing. We head down the street to another bar after we demolish our food. The drinks are more expensive, but the music is good and we are winding down, anyway. And I dance to The Killers with Elle because I’m past two drinks and because I love her.

For her 31st, Elle decides that we are classy, sophisticated drinkers so we hit up Absolutely Goosed Martini Bar and I get a drink that tastes like a fudge sundae. It’s a classy place, but that doesn’t keep me from licking my glass. Jay teases me about this, and I stick out my chocolatey tongue at him. I’ve never been a martini girl, but that night I am won over.

I’m more of a stay at home and drink tea kind of gal, but Elle invited me out of my shell, asked me to dance and even got me to do so. She knew, deep down, that I’m goofy, that I’m affectionate and even a little unpredictable. She saw that in me and sometimes teased it out by introducing me to her favorite hops. Those nights were hilarious and unforgettable.

But those clubs/bars were rare, things we did once in a while to goof off or unwind. Usually, we just went on walks, had coffee, visited the sculpture park, went shopping, hung out before class, went out to eat, or tried to be as graceful as possible to workout videos. We did things that friends do—some of it weird, some of it wild, some of it meaningful, some of it chill.

But still…we had many fun times in clubs and bars that were considered to be the most LGTBQ friendly in St. Louis. We hung out, danced, drank, and laughed. We grew our friendship and extended it to others. We did what many people unwinding after a week of work or school do. And we did it without fear because we were in a welcoming atmosphere, and because no one should have to be afraid doing something as simple as going out for drinks, dancing and chatting. And more than that, many people who go to these bars and clubs because they are some of the ONLY safe havens for them. People in other places might judge them, speak down to them, glare their way, maybe even harm them.

But people like the Orlando shooter want to make no place safe for the marginalized. Bigoted people live off of fear, suspicion and hate. They paint people as “other,” and they push their worry, anger and hate onto the cardboard cutouts they create. They use those cutouts as targets for words dripping with aversion. They become their fear, embody it, move past words and use the only thing ignorant people know how to use—violence. They attempt to solve problems their own fear creates by beating those problems down.

But they harm more than their imagined targets. Their fear is a plague to humanity.

The humans—the sons, daughters, friends, partners, lovers, sisters, brothers, parents—that walk into a club to dance or sing or shout or chat or even drink are simply trying to capture snapshots of wonder, the cohesive feeling of community. All humans are a myriad of moments, experiences, memories, loves, losses, education, beliefs, sorrows and joys. Every human is a precious collection of all these things and every human deserves a chance to express her or himself in a harmless few hours of revelry, in a place where they feel safe.

If you espouse and support the type of fear that fed the shooter, if you, too, fear a person because of her orientation/friends/partners/religion you are the problem. Your fear will create only one thing: hate. I surround myself with a very diverse set of friends, friends of many faiths, races, and orientations. I am not afraid of this bigger picture. When a life is informed by a different history than mine, it gives me a chance to see the world in a new light. The more I come to know people, the more I feel part of a larger humanity. A breathtaking sea of lovely individuals.

But I cannot say I’m unafraid. I am afraid of the gate keepers of fear. Afraid of the narrowness that breeds hate. And I abhor the feeling. Because I’ve never let myself be ruled by fear. I think of those times I spent hanging with my best friend in some of her favorite spots, and I want to cry. Because those who were shot were in the middle of having a good time, they were in a place that made them feel safe and welcomed, a rare feeling for people who fall out of the norm. And I’ve been in the crowd of a people let loose and feeling finally free and it was a dazzling display. A thing of beauty.

They were like us and are like us and we are them. How do you shut off that human connection long enough to hate? Why would you want to? Turn that connection on. Flip the judgement switch off and learn to empathize with others. Our existences are not the same, but they are all human and deserving of a gentle hand and a kind word. If you preach love, don’t spew hate. Your actions and words are important. What you create can be powerful, so make it beautiful.

You are what you consume, so don’t prey on fear.

My condolences to the family, friends, and partners of those who were victims of hate. My condolences are not enough. We need to do more than feel sorry when bad shit happens. We need to stop being part of the problem.

Misunderstanding

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I just got done recording an episode of Too Many Words with the wonderful Jayme B. Jayme and I get on really well, which is new to me. I don’t always get on  with women for an extended amount of time. We actually talked about this during the episode a little and I discussed this with one of my best friends (someone who has the same problem, and is still a steadfast wonderful friend).

To both of these women, I noted that my humor and my demeanor seems off putting to women specifically, and I’m not sure why. I’ve been getting tons of misunderstood encounters and interactions with other women over the last two years or so. This doesn’t happen with men, as much.

Sometimes men get the wrong idea, but it’s easy enough to be like, “Nope, I was just being nice. I’m not interested in that.” And most men are like, “Okay. Sorry. That’s cool.” Some aren’t, but most are. But why do women have a hard time with me?

I think part of it comes from what I want to call the Caroline Bingley syndrome. For those of you who understand this reference, I tip my geeky hat to you. What I’m referring to is the ways in which women are trained to compete for the attentions of men or other women against one another. A Caroline Bingley is a woman who sees every other woman as competition, someone to scorn to bring herself up. Even though this figure is over 200 years old, I think this still happens. Women are constantly bringing each other down, competing with each other to be the most eligible woman in the room. In-fighting is not going to make winners of us, ladies. Not only do I not want to compete with you, I want to raise you up. Successful women are good for womanhood generally. I am not a jealous person. I am not a covetous person. I don’t want what you have. I have what I have and I like what I have.

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But another thing I that scares other women away, I think, is that I’m weird. My favorite things to do include: discussing politics and important social topics, reading, making shit up and writing that shit down, gardening, tea drinking, dressing up, and talking to myself to get that poem or dialogue right. I’ve found that my hobbies do not fit the area or style of place in which I live. A lot of women my age don’t like the things I like because they are my age and people my age don’t act like they are old. I act older than I am. I always have. When I was a kid, I preferred speaking with adults and didn’t really like to play with other kids. I would, but it was not my first choice. So, I’m weird and act like I’m 20 yrs older than I am. That’s on me.

But what really bugs me is when I’m misunderstood. I am not a mean-spirited person. I like lifting others up, especially those who are often disenfranchised. So, yeah, women, I try to be extra nice to you. I know what it’s like to be shut out of a conversation, to be told what to wear and how to act, etc. Even if I’m not always interested in what other women my age are interested in, I am nice to them and try to lift them up. And I am often met with suspicion. Were you being mean or sarcastic when you said that thing to me? No, I actually do like your hair and think it makes you look like a punk rocker. You don’t want to look punk rock? Oh, sorry. I…I was trying to be nice. Truly. I don’t believe in bringing other people down by speaking badly of them. I like to listen to others and help if I can. So, while I’m sarcastic sometimes, I’m not mean.

Are we women not used to other women being nice? Are we supposed to still be falling into outdated “cat fight” stereotype? If so, I’m not participating. I’m weird. I’ll give you that. I’m not mean. I want people to feel happy about themselves. And even though I’m okay being a bit of a loner, I also kind of miss having a couple close female friends. Being in your 30s and making new female friends is hard when you’re bipolar and weird. And that’s fine. I don’t really need a horde of female friends and I wouldn’t know what to do with them if I had them. Mostly, I miss being understood by that one friend I can have coffee with whenever. I have been, lately, very misunderstood. And it’s a truly blah feeling.