I am sure that my definition of friendship is different from most peoples’. There is, of course, the laughter. Laughter is a big part of it. I cannot make jokes and have a person sit still and stare and blink. Because I’m fucking hilarious. Just ask anyone. They’ll tell you.
The laughter is a big part of it. There is, also, the understanding. The person who holds on to me in the darkness and who lets me see them. Letting me see them is important. And, though it is difficult, having them see me. The seeing and the being seen is paramount. Bigger than laughter.
Then there is the hard part. The part where the world sometimes tips. The part where I sit vigil over a telephone or a hospital bed and worry. The part where you answer the phone and I am weeping. That part. The part where one of us cracks open and the other fills the cracks with gold.
Standing by with precious metals is the hard part. Having metals melted. Having tongs to hold the dangerous, hot things away from yourself. Finding a way to fill in the cracks without getting burned. Without hurting. Without hurting more than you have to, anyway. Without adding trauma.
I am sure that my definition of friendship is different from most peoples’. I am so grateful that some people have written the same dictionary as me. Some people, when they look for that word in their private libraries find melted gold. Find laughter. And a telephone they always answer.
I started my new job two weeks ago. It’s been great so far. The new department is small and I’m an integral part of making everything work, which feels really good. I love feeling helpful every day at work and it’s been super good to wake up and feel energized to start my day rather than dreading going in to work every morning.
Don’t get me wrong, the old job wasn’t as terrible as a lot of places where I have worked. Not by a long shot. I had health insurance, I was able to work during the day and had a reliable schedule. There was free coffee.
But that whole department was so dysfunctional that it would have been laughable if I hadn’t been in the middle of all of it. And I was so lonely sitting up at the desk all by myself. I’m an extrovert. I need human contact to be happy.
Now I’m sitting in a cube and I’m surrounded by humans and things to do all the time. I have a bunch of pretty things in my desk already and it feels good and comfortable to come to work and sit here all day and do my job. Because I’m busy, time goes by faster and I feel satisfied at the end of every day.
And even more importantly than all of that, gentle readers, is that I am significantly less depressed than I have been. I feel more energetic. And my urge and ability to write is returning to me.
I cannot tell you how good that makes me feel. My creativity has been so stifled that I was starting to think that it would never come back. But it has. And I’m feeling more like myself all the time. And it’s wonderful.
In other news, the girl and I are preparing ourselves for our trip to Germany in the fall. All of that is coming together nicely. The budget for when we’re there as well as the supplies and things that we will need for the trip.
I published an article in The Establishment back in April, so that felt really good. I have another one coming out in the next week or two. It’s way more raw and personal. So I’m nervous about it. But I am confident that the editors wouldn’t push it through unless it was good and ready to be seen.
Summer is FULL ON here in Philly, and our plants and such are blooming nicely. I will have some updates about the Grave Gardeners project soon, as the plants over on Mary’s grave are coming along pretty well.
I’m just… I’m really getting back into a good place. It feels great. And I wanted to share that. I get really tangled in myself when I feel badly, and I’m trying to fight against all of that by sharing more good stuff when it happens.
The past two months have been super rough on me. It took me until about two weeks ago to admit to myself and, eventually, my circle of humans, that I have been depressed.
Depression is a weird animal. It creeps up on you like a fog. The world gets hazier and hazier until you realize you can’t see the landscape around you anymore. Everything happens through a thick mask of atmosphere and it’s hard to tell whether you’re coming or going.
When I started being unable to do basic things like laundry and couldn’t articulate my needs at all when anyone asked me about anything, that’s when I knew I was deep in the depression fog. Well, that and when I found myself crying in the bathroom when I was brushing my teeth. And all the napping. Let’s face it, there were lots of signs. But still, the realization was slow.
Crawling out has been hard. It’s still hard. The monologue going on inside my head is gross and abusive when I’m depressed. Think Hyperbole and a Half. Every time I have to do something, I wind up not doing it because I don’t have the energy. But every time I don’t do something, my inner voice gets more and more aggressively negative and hateful.
Going to therapy helps. My therapist has made this bout of depression my quickest turn around that I can remember. I’m so grateful that I’m in a place in my life where I have insurance and can afford to take the time for myself to treat my mental health with the care that it deserves.
I’m still not 100% there. I feel run down and not super excited about what’s going on. But the hateful voice in my head is a lot quieter. And I have enough energy to contemplate getting back to doing crafty things that make me happy, which will go a long way to helping me feel myself again.
As it is, opening up this blog again is a good sign and makes me feel good about where things are going. You will hear more from me in the coming weeks and months, now that the fog is lifting.
The holiday is pretty much directly upon me. This weekend I have Christmas with my family. We are going up tomorrow night.
But I don’t feel super merry. In the words of Bilbo Baggins: “I feel thin. Like butter spread over too much bread.”
It has been a long and tumultuous year. The world has continued to terrify me with its ability to be random and cruel while simultaneously delighting me with the warmth and full hearts and adorable cat photos that I have found within it.
Normally at this point in the season I am wearing a festive hat and bouncing around the house to Christmas music like there’s no tomorrow. But I’m not doing either of those things. And what’s weird is that I don’t really care to.
I’ve talked before about the exhaustion that comes from dealing with social justice stuff all the time. The compassion fatigue that we all can feel merely from having access to the internet on a daily basis.
It wears. It takes a toll.
I’m not in a place right this second where I can talk about how to cope with that toll. I’m in it. I’m just looking forward to going home tonight, slapping on some Christmas music and faking it as if I’m going to be making it while I mix up some holiday cookies.
We cope. That’s all we can do sometimes. And I’m just learning now that it’s OK to just cope. To breathe into whatever we’re going through and to be not 100% for a while.
That’s actually a pretty good Christmas gift for me to give myself, now that I think about it.
When I was in high school, I remember lying on the couch on my side. I was lighter than I am now, but not skinny by any stretch of the imagination. My mother came over to me, put her hand on my stomach, and grimly intoned three words that would stick in my brain for years to come.
“You look pregnant.”
That comment, along with a litany of others, rings in my head at my most vulnerable moments. When I’m standing in a store dressing room. When I’m deciding what to wear for the day. When I catch a glimpse of myself naked in a mirror. I am always hearing the voice of my mother in that moment. But I’m also hearing other people. I’m hearing my friends as well as strangers and the comments they make about women they see on the street.
“What business does she have wearing that?”
“Look at those thighs! They’re huge!”
“Why is she eating that? Isn’t she fat enough?”
“What a fat slob.”
Those voices and comments have stuck in my head to the point where they even make my efforts to lose weight difficult. When I go to the gym, for example, I feel the weight of the eyes of everyone around me. I have failed to go to the gym so many times for that reason. And I have one one occasion actually left the gym in the middle of workouts, near crying, because of the imagined gaze of fellow gym-goers.
The judgment that we aim at fat bodies is something we do so easily. It’s effortless. And it doesn’t get noticed by most people. It certainly doesn’t get called out most of the time. And while we are criticizing fat people as a society, we are making judgments about them, their lifestyles, and their bodies that we have no right whatsoever to make. Whether someone is fat because they eat a lot or fat because they have a medical condition, the bottom line is that it’s none of our business one way or the other. And judging them for their bodies is discriminatory and shitty.
The fact of the matter is that you can be an active person without being razor thin. You can also be thin and grossly unhealthy. Fatness and fitness are not mutually exclusive things. Just like thinness and health are not always concurrent bodily states.
I have been making an active effort in my life to criticize the people around me less. And not just when it comes to their size. The fact of the matter is that criticism and negativity have been truly damaging to me with regard to my body as well as to my sense of self in more ways than one. I encourage all of you to do the same. Fat shaming and other forms of unasked-for criticism don’t help anyone, but they do cause wholly unnecessary pain.
I have always been the size that I am. Somewhere between a 14 and a 20. Between 180 and 210 pounds.
My mother has always been thin. She and other members of my family never really understood what it was like for me to be the size that I was. They meant well, but they, like so many other people, would say things to me that just made matters worse.
“Thin is pretty.”
“You’d get more clothes if you could fit into a smaller size.”
“Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”
“You look pregnant.”
I really connected with those things. I thought that I didn’t deserve nice clothes if I was fat. I thought that being thin was more important that feeling nourished. I fostered a terrible relationship with food and a worse relationship with my body.
As damaging as it was to have people say things like that about my body, it was even more damaging to hear what they would say about the bodies of others.
“What business does her fat ass have in that dress?”
“Does she really think she’s pulling that off?”
“People that size should be banned from wearing bikinis.”
What I heard when the people around me said that was that I could never wear those things. Ever. And if I did, people around me were probably thinking and saying those things about me. I also learned that the bodies of women were free targets for aggressive judgment by anyone who felt like doling it out.
I resented the women around me who felt like they could parade around in clothing I had been told was forbidden. I resented their joy. I internalized the judgmental, fat-shaming behaviors of the people around me as correct. I felt shame within myself for the way that I looked, and I turned that shame outward to the women around me. I sat in judgment of women in bikinis at the beach who were my size. At girls in skin-tight dresses who didn’t give a fuck about their belly rolls.
I hated myself. And as a result, I hated the people around me who represented the things about me that I could not accept. I had internalized the messages of my fat-shaming friends and family and I was miserable and lost and angry all the time.
Three summers ago, feeling bold, I put on the bikini I kept in my bottom drawer for the longest time. I was holding on to it for when I got “thin enough.”
I went to the beach. I swam in the ocean. I felt free and comfortable baring myself in front of the world.
I went home and fell right back into my awkward feelings of mingled self-loathing and disgust with my body.
It took me a while to realize what the problem was. I couldn’t really love myself or accept my body when I was still looking at others’ bodies and judging them. Every time I lashed out privately to friends or even to myself about how someone looked in this or that item of clothing, every time I laid into another woman mentally for how she looked, I laid into myself.
I drew myself into myself. I drew my body further and further away from my thoughts. I hated myself, and I turned that hate out toward other people.
I am coming out into the clear, now, to all of you. I spent years internalizing my fat shaming and then expressing it as if it was some kind of truth, ugly and terrible. The cure for that has been love for other people. The more I poured out praise and love, even if it was just in my head, toward the people around me who were like me, the more I came to love and accept myself.
Untraining that fat-shaming instinct has been really hard and really worth it. The more solid my love for others has become, the more I have felt myself emerge from the cocoon that has held me for so much of my life.
I no longer sit with a cushion over my stomach so that no one can see my rolls. I lean back, arms out, and claim the space that I am sitting in.
I do not sweat in long pants because I am ashamed of my legs. I wear short skirts and high boots and love how good and cool I feel in the summer sun.
I refuse to put on a sweater over my tank tops because I hate my arm fat. I show off my tattoos with bared shoulders and love the feeling of a breeze on my arms.
I am coming out of myself and into a world where I can feel free to buy myself nice clothing that makes me feel good and sexy and beautiful. And I can wear it without giving a single solitary fuck about what someone looking at me will think.
I cannot believe I spent so much time with all of that fat shaming nonsense inside my head. And even though I never vocalized any of this to anyone, I feel as though I need to apologize for my years of wrongheadedness. I am so sorry that I spent so long judging the world around me. I am so sorry I fat-shamed, even if it was just in my head. I regret every instance of it crossing my mind.
To anyone else out there who has had a similar experience, the cure for what ails you is love. Love the people around you and you will come to love yourself. Love the skin that you’re in. Love the body that you have. And don’t let anyone tell you that you are not worthy of that love for any reason.
I have to take a day or two. This week has been overwhelming. Yet another person revealed to be killed needlessly by police. Yet another woman dying in police custody. The names are getting so plentiful that I can’t even keep track of them anymore. And Instagram is just banning anything woman-positive, it seems like. I don’t even know what to do or say about that. They have a serious problem. Top it all off with racist assholes saying shit about how #AllLivesMatter and I just can’t. I cannot. Anymore. With this shit.
So. I’m taking a break. And part of me feels guilty about doing that. Even though I know that self care is important. I feel like I’m leaving the field of battle, or something. So I thought this would be a good time to talk about activist burnout and what you can do to try to keep from getting to the point where I am right now. Because, you know, you should do as I say and not as I do. Because my habits aren’t exactly perfect.
1. Sleep. Seriously. I don’t care how much sleep is normal for you or how you do it, but getting enough rest is really important. I tend to be a dumb ass and play Bloodborne or watch TV until midnight, because reasons. But I really shouldn’t. I’m a much better person when I get a solid 7 or more hours of sleep in.
2. Eat well. Whatever that means for you. Fuel your body with the things you know it needs to make you feel good and energetic. For me, that’s a lot of veggies and making sure I eat breakfast (Which I still haven’t done, as I’m writing this. See? Terrible habits.). Remember that fueling your body also fuels your brain. And the happier your brain is, the more easily you can formulate arguments against people rampant ignorance regarding social justice issues.
3. Take time for yourself. Knit. Or crochet. Whatever. Watch TV. Do whatever it does that lets you settle your mind and get a sense of peace. Do this every day, if you can. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Maybe even try just meditating in silence, if that works for you. Centering yourself before you go into battle is important.
4. Move around a little. I don’t care if it’s just taking a walk around the block or doing a little dance at your computer. Move your body. Get your juices flowing. Turn on some music and dance a silly dance while you clean your house. Sitting hunched over your computer or holding yourself tense in hard conversations both lock you down in ways that you won’t even realize until after you move yourself around and shake yourself loose again.
5. Connect with other activists. I cannot stress this one enough. Having someone to bounce your ideas and thoughts and frustrations off of is really important. Having a safe space to ask questions and get feedback from people with a like mind and social stance to yours will invigorate and validate you.
6. Recognize when it is time to take a break. As much as I feel like a warrior abandoning her fellows on the field of battle today, I also acknowledge that I’m no help to anyone in my current state. I’m too reactionary. Too touchy. I won’t do any good as long as I’m like this. And the sooner that I pull away, the sooner I can recover and get back to it.
7. I also recommend, if you have any excess energy or time, funneling some of your energy into projects that feel entirely positive to you. I cross stitch and write pet poetry, for example. Both of these things are somewhat separate from the social justice sphere (Although my favorite cross stitching piece so far is one that says “Girls just wanna have fundamental human rights.”). Doing those things relaxes me and gives me something entirely positive to focus on and that has been really helpful for me.
I have to keep reminding myself as I focus on my own needs of Audre Lorde’s very wise words: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” So care for yourselves, my lovelies. Because you are needed in the fight. And you are no good to yourself or those around you if you are not fit for battle.