next month: canada, colorado, maybe portland! we pick up our passports tomorrow.
i’ve worked hard for this❤
next month: canada, colorado, maybe portland! we pick up our passports tomorrow.
i’ve worked hard for this❤
Something I’ve learned about myself, or may have known for a long time, is that I operate best in a crisis. Where there is no crisis, I find that I’ll often manufacture one, whether it’s picking a fight with a partner or putting myself in a risky situation.
I thrive in the nonprofit sector because there’s always a crisis. There’s always a problem to fix, if you’re paying attention. And I know how to respond, when I’m overwhelmed, when I’m pushed beyond my limit, when I’m not sleeping at all, when I barely have time to eat. I put all of my focus and all of my energy toward responding to the crisis.
Oddly, I feel more overwhelmed when there’s no emergency. There are a million things to do, but nothing is urgent. Nothing is life or death. Everything is just a task that somehow, indirectly, fits into the larger scheme of things, but it’s hard for me to see it that way when I know that there won’t be instant results. The little things make me antsy and anxious and exhausted and overwhelmed.
But when it’s life or death, I perk up like I’m being given a free throw. I am calm, I am patient, I am collected. I am always ready to rise to the occasion.
I remember being unrealistically calm during childbirth. It took more than 55 hours of labor before Max was finally born. I was in overwhelming pain. My midwives gave me the option to go to the hospital; they didn’t know what was happening or what to do. They didn’t want to break my water, because they didn’t know how long it would go on, and then someone said I could try pushing, when I wasn’t fully dilated, to see if I could break my own water and give birth. For whatever reason, I wasn’t worried. I knew that I didn’t need to go to the hospital, I didn’t need a C-section. I had a completely natural, 55-hour labor, and I pushed to break my own water and pushed my baby out. And I did it before midnight (11:28pm), so I won a bet in the process.
I’ve recognized for years that I don’t need to function like I’m in survival mode anymore. But, I’ve failed to appreciate this unique ability as something that has set me apart in my activism. I’m able to function in survival mode for others who are in survival mode. I’m able to fight for other people’s lives as though I’m fighting for my own. And it’s effective, because I’m all in.
That’s not to say that I shouldn’t be taking better care of myself. I know that it’s not sustainable to take on everyone’s crises like they’re my crises. I’m working on setting boundaries in my life, that are important for me and important for the people that I want to help.
I’m not helping you by protecting you from the consequences of your actions. I’m always torn because there’s a part of me that sees that people need unconditional love, and I don’t want to be the one who sets conditions. I want to be there for others, and especially those who have nowhere else to turn, but I have to do it in a way that doesn’t harm me.
After offering her six months of rent-free living, after she has robbed me twice, after I’ve gone out of my way and consistently felt walked all over, I’m setting boundaries. And so I’ve asked her to leave, and it’s long overdue.
Things are still going exceptionally well.
Still, I’m struggling to find balance and to keep everyone happy and to figure out what I want out of my life.
hashtag mid-twenties crisis
say no. say no. say no.
maybe if i put it in bold, i’ll remember.
I consistently overcommit myself. I believe so deeply that I can do everything, that I can somehow be in 10 places at once, that I don’t need breaks to eat or sleep or do human things.
I took this job because I wanted to be happy, and for some reason, happiness has historically meant to me that I don’t take care of myself. That I let my home fall into shambles. My bed has been broken for months. My dresser has been broken for months. I just kinda move along, pretending it doesn’t matter. Waiting for someone to take care of the things that I’ve convinced myself are unimportant. I become obsessed with work. I become obsessed and addicted. The hits keep on coming.
Every time it seems like I’ve reached my peak, I manage to outdo myself. It’s so thrilling and unreasonable. It just seems to get better and better and better and better.
but I crash hard and fast. I hit these breaking points, and I look around and wonder why I’m so tired and why my life is in shambles. I don’t understand balance. When I’m in, I’m all in, and when I’m out, I’m all out.
i’m having lunch with ben tomorrow. weeks ago, i would’ve said that i had strong feelings for him, and now i can’t even remember what that might have felt like.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working with a group to tackle gender-based violence from a different angle: focusing not only on healing womxn but on healing men.
I know that we cannot end sexual assault by teaching womxn how to avoid being assaulted. I know that we cannot end street harassment by teaching womxn how to respond to harassment. We need to continue to give womxn and LGBTQGNC people the space to share their stories and to learn to assertively demand respect, even just to learn that they deserve respect. We are most frequently the targets of violence, and as such, our stories and experiences need to be centered, so we can heal.
But, for me, healing is not something that I can do on my own.
I know that my abuser is suffering, too, in ways that he may not recognize. Our culture of toxic masculinity hurts everyone. And while I’ve repeatedly chosen forgiveness as my path toward healing, I haven’t figured out how to forgive someone who’d hurt me again if given the chance.
I told myself that, through forgiveness, I’d find peace. I sat down with him, with the goal of learning to see him not as a monster but as human again. But I don’t know how to forgive in a way that doesn’t require those who have hurt me to change, or to want to change – to forgive in a way that doesn’t reinforce their power over me.
How can I sit with you knowing the ways that you’ve abused me, ready to forgive and move forward and heal, when you perceive my forgiveness as weakness and use it to hurt me again? How can I help you heal if you maintain that there’s nothing wrong?
And then I have to remember that this work is not about me. I’m working to bring about slow cultural change that may or may not ever reach the specific people who abused me, but will reach someone, someone just like them, who is ready to change.
I always think about the chart I made: a thermometer that gave him points for every day that he was sober. A point and a half if he was able to go out without me, to stay sober without my help. He had to accumulate points to get the things he wanted. I built in room for error, because I knew I couldn’t expect to cure his alcoholism this way.
I’ve had to learn that I cannot force the will to change on anyone. But I can popularize healthy masculinity. I can work to provide men with the tools and the space to overcome the ways that they’ve been socialized to suppress emotion and enact masculinity through brute force. I can work to undo the associations of emotion with weakness and strength with violence. I can learn how to help men become whole.
And as the mother of a boy, this work is so essential.
There’s something sort of silencing about being in the limelight. To be in the news every week, to have this incredible platform, to be heard – it makes you cautious about the things you say. Because your words have impact. Speaking out about one injustice might lead to some far worse consequence. Being open about feeling burnt out might bring down the energy that you need to keep up for people who are new to the movement and feel optimistic about change.
I always want to be on point. I always want to bring my best self. I always want to be enthusiastic and positive and chipper.
And I know that’s all impossible, but it feels so essential. We were in Upworthy this week and the Huffington Post last week. I’ll be on the radio this weekend and back on the Kojo Nnamdi Show next Wednesday. It’s exciting, it’s thrilling, and it’s meaningful. I feel free in a way that I couldn’t have been free when I had more traditional jobs. I was doubted so much that it made me doubt myself. I was silenced so often that I stopped speaking up. And now, I am free, and still finding myself sort of silenced in a way that I didn’t expect. Silent because I have to be responsible. And it’s hard, because I’m an open book. I believe so deeply in transparency. It’s a bad sign if organizers & organizations lack transparency, but we can’t pull down the veil on this broken system until we have a back-up plan, because having some support, however faulty, is better than having no support at all for those who are most vulnerable. I just want better for them, because I have been there, and in a way, making these systems right is healing for me.
It’s a challenge, too, to find the balance between being invested and disconnected in a way that maximizes my ability to be effective. I can’t let myself be overrun by emotion. I can’t put myself and my family at risk every time I want to help someone. I’ve been cautioned about it — about the importance of separating myself from the work, about self-care. But in many ways, it’s this level of investment that makes me effective. I am passionate because I know these problems are real because I have experienced many of them – homelessness, sexual assault, domestic violence, police violence, everyday racism, everyday sexism – and I understand how they’re all so very connected, and how the solutions must take all of these problems into account to be effective. And it’s my passion that gets people excited. And it’s my attitude of invincibility that makes people think that anything is possible. My mania is my greatest resource and my greatest weakness.
But I also don’t want to focus too much on my own healing because I know that makes me less available to help others heal in a way. I want to relate and share, but I am afraid to dominate a space where others should feel comfortable sharing, and so I find myself closing off and keeping things to myself. I have so many stories of trauma, but I am afraid to be remembered for my struggles; I want to be perceived as strong and bright and bubbly and fierce. Strong mostly, I think. And while my survivorship makes me strong, I’m also afraid of the ways that it makes me weak. Weak defined as emotional, defined as someone who may love too deeply and behave irrationally because of it, defined as needing love. It’s scary to think of the qualities that I’ve been socialized to associate with “weakness.”
And when it comes to healing myself, I am still stuck on healing others. I don’t know how to forgive in a way that’s not dependent on changing something that I can’t control. I don’t know how to heal in a way that doesn’t change the systems that failed me before they fail someone else. I don’t know how to heal in a way that doesn’t require those who have hurt me to want to change, to want to be better, to apologize and mean it. I have chosen forgiveness a thousand times, and it hasn’t helped because the people I have sought to forgive aren’t seeking forgiveness or change, and that’s still what I want. I don’t want to demonize you, I don’t want to paint you as some monster who abused me; I want healing and harmony and rainbows. Fucking rainbows.
I keep reading about this kind of reconciliation, and I don’t know how to make it real.
I shared this story last week about my abusive relationship. And I shared the details because I thought, there are probably people at different points of their abusive relationships, and they might not know yet that some behavior constitutes abuse or that it might escalate, and so I wanted to share as much as I could in an effort to reach them wherever they were. But I re-read it, and I worry about the way that it paints my abuser. My abuser. Is it fair to call him that, when he was more than that to me? He was someone I lived with, someone I loved. Someone I saw recently in a completely different light. I was saw him, and my mind had already branded him a monster, and I couldn’t see him as human. And I look back, and I want to see him as human and I want to paint him in a more compassionate light. Because I know that hurt people hurt people.
I wanted to reach out and reform him. I wanted my mother to go to therapy, to seek help. I wanted my father to take anger management seriously, to go not just because it was mandated by the court but because he needed to learn how to better process his emotions and communicate with people. I want real change, and I have enough will to change for all of my abusers, and it pains me that that’s not enough to make them change.
I am here, waiting anxiously because I want so badly to forgive.
Healing is complicated. It’s not linear, and sometimes I feel more healed than other times. Sometimes I heal through listening, through helping others who have faced similar or the same challenges; but I am not objective. I advise them as though I am them and they are me. I am so invested that I don’t see us as separate, and it’s a problem because then I worry that maybe I’m not really seeing them, and if I’m not seeing them then I cannot be truly listening and truly helping. Healing them becomes about healing me.
It feels like I should end this post with something really revelational and wise. I’ve come to feel like I’m supposed to be some source of wisdom, and I fall short. I am still this twenty-six year old single mom figuring out my own life every day and mothering a toddler who keeps growing and changing and saying hilarious things and throwing tantrums and giving me eskimo kisses. There’s a lot on my plate, and sometimes I feel invincible but other times I’m so overwhelmed.
So I’ll leave you with this video of me and Max performing Mr. Roboto (feat. Lucy Raven), my poor sweet child and my poor sweet cat, how did they get stuck with me?
I have to remember to slow down;
I have to remember to step back;
I have to remember to listen;
I have to remember to read bedtime stories;
I have to remember to read fiction novels;
I have to remember to draw elephants;
I have to remember to be patient;
I have to remember that I can’t solve the world’s problems.
I will respect my days off and the days off that others need.
I will not chase tragedies.
I will dance and dance and dance every single day.
My work sometimes feels like a drug, and it’s hard to walk away. It is my escape and my healing. Sometimes I want to change my name and start over, but I’ve done that enough times to know that I’ll always find myself back in the same position — in crisis, someone else’s crisis most likely, and feeling so invested that I can’t walk away.
I have forgiven you, and sometimes I’m so angry at myself for it, because I worry about the ways I jeopardize the health and safety and happiness of my family because I fail to see us as separate from our community. You need that separation, you need boundaries.
I teach people about boundaries, but I fail to set them for myself. In some ways.
“You built a wall so high not even you can climb it,” she said, and I know she’s right. And how desperately I’d love to climb up and over and into someone’s arms in a way that makes me feel vulnerable and happy. Instead, I jeopardize my relationships.
I am happiest when I’m alone, and I always fail to be alone because I am afraid. And also I want to be alone because I’m afraid. So instead I cycle back and forth.
Sometimes I behave in a way that makes it seem like I don’t believe anything in the world is real. Like I don’t believe it’ll exist tomorrow, like I don’t think it’s really happening. I convince myself sometimes that I am untouchable, that I can do anything, that all of it matters, that none of it matters.
I want to be healthy, and I will work toward it by taking breaks.