What I find interesting, and defeating, is how irrelevant I find myself feeling. I wrote a post what seems forever ago now about the anger I felt over some people's blatant lack of compassion around the time of the Brexit vote. And once again I think that's what hurts most. It's not about who won. It's about the "in your face" "get over your feelings" mania. It makes the only thing I have to offer, hugs and a genuine "there there, it'll be alright," seem inadequate. And this inadequacy has me sitting in front of my computer now, 9 days into NaNoWriMo, working on a tongue-in-cheek bit of silliness, and I can't even open the document.
Art must always prevail. It's the embodiment of human emotion, experience, and truth. And yet, what I set out to create feels so irrelevant, verging on insensitive. A little voice in my head is crying for the small fragments of activist in me to do something meaningful. But I think that's the problem. Among my own shock, tiredness from being up so late worrying about the results, and being hit with tidal wave after tidal wave of emotion from friends, strangers, celebrities, etc, I feel like a little void vacuum of meaningless.
What can I say? I am a people pleaser at heart, provided that I carry some respect for those people. I feel a need to fix this. Not even entirely sure what "this" is. I just want to be part of healing the hurt, quelling the anxieties, and yet here I sit, and, despite writing these words presently, I still feel like all I'm doing is sitting here staring at a blank screen.
I know that this will pass. The worldwide shock will subside, and as all I can hope for, peacefully. It's not about "getting over" our feelings, it's about working through why they are so strong in the first place. I had my own revelation around the time of the Trump "pussy" comment. It was when the world was begging women to speak out about their own experiences with sexual assault, to bring us out from a shroud of shame and to help deniers see that these aren't rare isolated events. And I sat there, stunned in front of my computer, not having the heart to share my first encounter because I could not overcome the guilt of making someone who was involved feel responsible for the decisions they made leading up to the event, after it, and the justifications as to why is wasn't a big deal. And when I realized that that was the only reason I couldn't bring myself to say anything, because I was still, even now, the child needing to protect the adult as opposed to the way that these things are actually supposed to be, and that I have, for over 25 years, been carrying around that justification that it was better to dismiss that anything happened lest others feel embarrassed by it, I finally had the courage to end my duty to cater to the feelings of those who couldn't do the same for me when I needed it most, because of what it would cost their image.
I think that's why I sit here lost in silence now. It's where I'm so used to being. Don't say anything that might upset someone. Don't do anything that might make us look bad. Well, I'm getting stronger. And I feel like I am getting closer and closer to standing my own ground. My inner battle now is about where the line is drawn between open honesty and public shaming.
I'm trying to be less silent. But it's a hard balance to maintain when that's been my default setting for so long. I'm starting with drawing more lines. I don't need to appease people I don't respect, and I shouldn't have to force myself to respect someone simply because it's expected of me.
There was an article written a while ago about a woman who experienced the harassment and digital sexual assault while playing a VR video game. When the developers read her statement, they immediately took action to find a way to protect all people who would otherwise be powerless and forced out of these environments for the sake of their own self-preservation. And the way they have chosen to explore this is through a "power stance", a way that a player can instantly stand their ground and eliminate unwanted interactions without having to "report" or "complain", giving them active control over themselves and not simply making them crawl away to the sidelines as a victim needing to justify their victimization. You can read about it here.
This is what I want to find a way to accomplish for myself. The Power Stance. Not having to justify why I feel victimized, simply taking control of the environment that I choose to be in. And to start, I began with the one environment I had left as a more neutral ground, my personal Facebook page. Always second guessing if I really want to make a statement that bold, or that truthful. Censoring what I say, what I think, and in some cases, where I travel to because I have managed to keep my real world life pretty void of the drama I was forced to endure as a minor. And when I realized that I was only doing it to protect the "dignity" of someone who clearly doesn't have any integrity of their own, living only to impress the flavour of the week, and to preserve the story that they present about what a good parent they are, I finally called her out on it. And I freed myself from my own censorship. I ended the arbitrary Facebook friendship and finally felt free in my own space. I had done the same thing in real life, setting limits on when, how, and how long any in person interactions go. And then when it came to my wedding day, I caved in again, feeling guilt that as her only child I would be denying her one and only chance to be a part of something so special. So I laid out a very conditional invitation - one that was tested a few times - and I had people I love and trust on stand-by, waiting to see if the mother-of-the-bride was going to go off-the-wall defensive, passive-aggressive, or basically do anything that would possibly ruin the day. And while a few instances of unnecessary commentary were brought to my attention after the fact, for the most part we survived the obligation of having her present.
Well, I gave in again. Having her only grandchild, I gave up my month of sweet freedom on Facebook, allowing her to see some footage of her grandson that everyone else in the family has access to. And so far, my need to scream at the computer screen has diminished. Now I don't know for a fact if she's reduced her show-off online behaviour, or if she's put me on a restricted list, but either way, I now know that I am not afraid to defend my space. And while I did contemplate (for months actually), whether I was going to put her on the restricted list so that she could maintain her image of friendship to her friends, I decided that I have no obligation to maintain the facades that she creates for her acquaintances. I don't have to pretend to be someone's "friend" just to make them feel better about themselves, especially when it's just to allow them to continue to deny their own actions.
Well, I've come this far, so let's have it out, shall we?
I was 11 years old. I warned my mother that her boyfriend kept trying to get his hand down my shirt. She dismissed it as him not meaning anything by it - after all, I moved away to prevent anything from "happening". Even being in tears telling her how uncomfortable I was, she acknowledged that I felt uncomfortable, but she wasn't about to screw up a good thing just because her daughter felt "weirded out". This wasn't a long term boyfriend, mind you. He wasn't supporting us. He was a friend-with-benefits who was able to pop in and out as my mother found herself between other relationships. But we were visiting him at the time, staying with him at the other end of the province, so I was pretty much stuck where I was.
Fast-forward just 24 hours. My mother went to bed after watching a movie (something that ended up being more pornographic than she had intended, but was pretty lax about me witnessing anything sexual - probably explains why I'm a bit of a prude now.) Well, it was late, my "bed" was the couch, and there was only one, so I couldn't really go to bed until everyone left. Everyone at this point, of course being the boyfriend. But he didn't feel like leaving.
I won't go into the rest of it. No, I wasn't raped, but he did expose himself and grabbed me, because apparently 11 years old is a good time to learn what to do with it. I fought. I got out of his grasp. But I was 11, in a strange city, with no where to go. And as I said before, my default is to remain silent.
He went to bed, and I was alone until he went to work the next morning. That's when I told my mother. She listened, and she took notes, about what I'm not sure. I don't know if she was writing out her thoughts, the facts, or was at that moment creating the story that she would tell herself.
Either way, I was told that it wasn't his fault. He had been drinking, a lot - probably also why I don't drink at all. I was also told that it was a good thing that I didn't do something stupid like calling the police, because "nothing happened anyway."
Months later, after a few other relationships to occupy her, said friend-with-benefits came to our house for a visit. I was given explicit instructions not to be rude, or bring up the past incident, or do anything that would embarrass him. If I felt so inclined, I could lock myself in my room for the duration of his stay. Trust me, at night I did.
This is what I have been protecting. Well, consider this my power stance.
“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me!” - Jim Henson, Labyrinth
This is my space. I do not need to justify my pain, fear, anger, or anxiety, your job as a human being is simply to acknowledge that I have these feelings, accept that you don't always know the whole story, and it's my choice to choose to share it.
Well, it wasn't in time for the election. And it probably wouldn't have mattered anyways, we're not American. But please, everyone, accept my sentiments about your feelings as genuine. My hug, in person or in digital space, is heart-felt, and rather than feel inadequate, I will work towards perfecting my power stance, even if I might need your help to do so, and I promise to help you with yours to.