Be the person you needed when you were young

So you know that thing I repost from time to time? It goes like this:

Be the person you needed when you were young.

Here’s the thing about that. You don’t have to have your shit together to do it.

Let me say it again.

You don’t have to have your shit together to do it.

When I was fourteen I encountered two of the most influential teachers that would ever cross my path.

One taught me to think critically, to examine both sides of every story, to understand that when people tell a story, they always tell it from their own perspective and if you really want to understand history, and, by extension, people, you need to learn to decode that.

The other was the first adult I’d ever encountered (apart from my parents who didn’t count, because I was fourteen and an idiot) who I really believed saw my actual potential, and who made me think that just maybe I had some shit going on in my head that was worth putting out into the world.

They hated each other. And when I look back on them with adult eyes I can see that they 100% did NOT have their shit together. But it didn’t matter. I needed the lessons they taught me. I learned them just as well. And I became a better adult as a result.

You don’t have to have it all figured out to be a good influence on someone who looks up to you. All you really have to do is support them, encourage the things they’re good at, and nourish the good in them. That’s it. You don’t have to be wise, or smart, or even have it all figured out. You just have to give a shit, and accept them for who they are.

You have no idea the impact you could have.

When I was about 24 and stuck in a country I really didn’t like that much, and fading away for lack of creative things to do, I made a small theatre group for little kids. And I watched one child absolutely flourish on a stage. That kid grew up into a frikkin’ incredible teen who plays Maureen on stage and pursued that dream all the way to theatre school. The last time I spoke to her mother (with whom I am friends on facebook), she still remembered me. When my kid was born, she sent him gifts.

When I was at camp, there was a kid who was out of control, behaviour problems out the wazoo. Until we put him on stage. Where he blossomed. So I gave him the lead. And he took that responsibility, and flew. I don’t know what happened to him, but I know that, for that summer, he learned that there were ways to get positive attention, and they were way better than the negative attention seeking shit he’d been pulling up to then.

When I was running after school programs and I was so depressed and fucked up I could barely hold my shit together, and my life was collapsing around my ears, there was a kid who was Trouble with a capital T. He’d get into trouble because of his temper, and just escalate in that way some kids do where they’re like, well I’m in trouble now, so fuck it. And over the months I was there, I developed enough of a relationship with that kid that we went from flying off the handle aggressive temper tantrums to him being able to sit down with me and go, “Yeah, I shouldn’t have reacted that way.” I refused to treat him like “the bad kid”. I treated him like a person. And it helped. And I was a fucking mess, you guys.

Not every kid who has crossed my path will remember me. I may not have helped them all. But for a few of them, I think I was That Adult. And every time, without exception, my own life was… not perfect. I did not have my shit together. I just had the right thing for that kid at that time.

Not everyone works with kids. But most people know some. Your own, or nieces and nephews, or a neighbour kid who comes and hangs out with you when you garden. Or whatever. Just, you know, be what you needed. What we all need. Someone to see us for who we are and go, yo, dude. *fistbump* You’re pretty cool at that thing you’re doing.

This shit makes a difference. It changes lives. Trust me.

Do it. Be the person you needed when you were young. And don’t wait till you have your shit together. Be it now. We need you. They need you. Now.

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Two kid stories

C story the first:

He asks me to tell him a story. I shamelessly plagiarise Black Adder: “Once upon a time there was a lovely little sausage called Baldrick. The End.”

C: *laughing* That’s not a story, Mommy. It needs to be longer.

J: Okay. Once upon a time there was a swan. And he swam around and around and around and around and around his pond till he was very dizzy. Then he went to sleep. The End.

C: No, no, you’re doing it wrong. In the middle something bad has to happen.

J: Oh, I see. Okay. Once upon a time there was a swan. And he swam around and around and around, and then he stopped because he saw something dark and slithery under the water. And then a giant serpent came out of the water and BIT HIS HEAD OFF! And that was the end of the swan. The end.

C: No, Mommy. You can’t just let the bad thing happen. Something has to fix it. Like, maybe a robot man can come and give the swan a new robot head.

J: So, after the snake bites his head off, he gets a robot head and comes back to life?

C: Yes. And then he’s a half robot swan!

J: And then he’s happy?

C: Yes! That’s a proper story.

C story the second:

This morning, discussing Easter.

C: You know, I don’t think the Easter bunny is a real bunny. I think he’s just a man in a bunny suit who really likes kids so he leaves them chocolate.

J: Oh yeah? Why do you think that?

C: Well, it can’t be a bunny, because bunnies don’t lay eggs. (Can’t fault that logic.)

J: But people don’t lay eggs either.

C: No, but he could buy the eggs. Or make them in an egg factory.

J: Can’t the bunny have an egg factory?

C: *looks at me like I’m crazy* Bunnies don’t have factories.

J: I see. But isn’t it a magic bunny?

C: Yes. But I still think it’s actually a man.

J: Okay.

C: Some of the kids at school think it’s just your parents, but I don’t.

J: Why not?

C: Because last year the bunny brought you eggs too.

I reckon I have one more year of this at MOST.

Things Jax is working on: The 2017 edition.

(WARNING: Shameless self promotion ahead.)

I have a LOT of balls in the air right now, and thought that those of you who want to support me, or maybe are just curious about all the stuff I spend my time doing, might be interested.

raven-logoMy great love atm is The Patchwork Raven. We released our first book early this year, and are currently working on our second. You can buy our books at our website and follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

I’m working with meBooks on their social media! Come like the FB page, and chat to me about NZ publishing and books. There may even be giveaways in the near future.

I am writing a story a month for patrons over on Patreon. You can read these original, unavailable anywhere else stories for a mere $1 a month.

I am reviewing children’s books to see how they stack up against my liberal humanist ideologies. 😉 Just how diverse is our children’s canon? What ideologies does it support? It’s an interesting project, but the longer I do it, the more I realise its value is more big picture than specific. Still, The Bookish Jelly Bean is an ongoing project. Read it here, and support it here.

I have a facebook group for creating weird and wonderful musical countdowns. If you like obscure music, themed playlists, and countdowns, you will probably enjoy it.

I’m also running a D&D one shot campaign, which is a loose amalgam of heroes and adventurers. It’s designed to allow people to step in and out as they are available. It’s very new player friendly. If you’re local, and interested in D&D, regardless of whether you’re an old hand or have never played, get in touch and I’ll throw you in the facebook group for that. 🙂

Oh, and I’m also still freelance editing (so if you need an editor or know someone who does, get in touch), and formatting and typesetting things (books, theses, long documents, you name it).

And raising a small human.

And trying to have a life. 😉

Yes, I’m a maniac. Writing this like this makes me realise just how much of a maniac. hehe. But it’s fun. Come along for the ride, or whichever bits of it you’re taken with.

In which our heroine gazes solemnly at her navel

I have done a lot of thinking over the past week, about a lot of things. Recently a lot of that has been interrupted by “Was that a tremor? Do I need to get up and find a doorway? Oh no, it’s okay, it was just the wind…”

But this post is not about earthquakes, despite the fact that they have rubbed all my emotional and adrenal nerves raw. (There’s no such thing as adrenal nerves, I know this, it’s a metaphor, LOOK IT’S BEEN A LONG WEEK SHUT UP.)

I’ve watched the internet explode in fear and not an insubstantial amount of in-fighting. And I’m not going to lie. I’m beginning to think I don’t have the energy to fight with the people who are meant to be on my side over the details. So I’m sitting down and trying to figure out what I can do from my very distant earthquake-ravaged land that may actually make a difference.

I want to do something.

This isn’t just about America. America is symptomatic of a bigger thing. And I totally understand why Americans need to hunker down and fight their own battles. They are big, and globally significant, and if I can help I will. But I can’t write to senators, and I can’t vote on anything there, and I can’t really even afford to send money to organisations that do. So I am asking myself, what can I do?

Here is my answer, best as I can figure it.

I can tell my stories. I don’t talk about my childhood that much, or at least when I do, I do it in very broad strokes. Growing up as a white kid in Apartheid South Africa during the 80s and 90s is a weird thing to try and explain. My memories are all distorted, like everyone’s are. My childhood was actually pretty idyllic. I remember people with guns, and I remember bomb scares, and I remember big posters on the walls in our schools with pictures of bombs so we could identify them if we saw them. But this stuff was just part of the fabric of my world. Mostly my world was running around barefoot in the grass and swimming till my eyes were red from chlorine. (And don’t think I don’t know what a privilege that was. I do.)

The thing is though that I think, suddenly, that my perspective as a child in that world may be very valuable right now. Because I am about as leftie liberal as it is possible to be. My political views are really pretty socialist when you get right down to it. AND I CAME FROM THAT. I came from a white working/middle class which was full of good people who actively or passively supported a white supremacist government.

Of course 80s South Africa is not modern USA, of course there are a multitude of differences. But if you want to understand how basically good white people support these monsters, well, that I understand IN MY BONES. I don’t agree. But I get it.

I’m basically your spy from the inside. ;P

Maybe all I can do from my very great distance is try to forge understanding. Not because I think you should understand and empathise or see them as victims, but because if you really want to win, you need to grasp what you’re fighting. This isn’t a “let’s all just try to get along” thing. It is THEIR minds and hearts I wish to change. But you, my darling freaks and weirdos, my beautiful non-conforming warrior people of every colour and creed, you need to understand your enemy. You need to understand that the armies are not made up of monsters. These people are ALSO victims.

And I am not for one second saying you have to rescue them too. That’s not your job, it’s theirs, even if they don’t realise it yet. I’m saying that to win this war, we have to take the power from the generals. And that means dismantling fear and hatred. Because that is where their power lies.

The battle, right now, for many of you, is to survive the next four years. And that is no small task. And what I can do from here to help with that I will do, with all my heart. But I think my energies may be best spent largely fighting a bigger war.

So I will be going back to what I do best. Telling stories. Finding stories, all the stories, from all the voices, not just a select few, and putting them into the world, and trying to find ways to get them into the right hands, and the right minds, and the right hearts. I will, in the words of the wonderful Neil Gaiman, MAKE GOOD ART.

If anyone in the US has practical advice on things I can do from my beautiful green and rocky isle, I would love to hear them. In the meantime though, I will fight hatred on my own turf when I find it, and do what I can to send light into the darkness. Because I don’t know what else to do.

*love*

Some probably very disjointed and emotionally driven thoughts

Okay. Time to speak.

The last 48 hours have been hard. I watched the US election results with mounting dread, and the outcome devastated me. Not only because many people I love live in the US and are members of demographics that are under very real threat by a Trump administration. Not only because we now have to deal with the fact that many of those very hard won battles may well have to be fought all over again.

Mostly, I’m devastated because of the evidence of the power of hatred and fear and bigotry. Because, honestly, I don’t care what you say, this election was fought along lines of race and sex and religion. Go and look at the metrics. It’s there, plain as day.

And I am forced to admit that we’re losing. Those of us who believe in equality are losing. It’s that simple.

I don’t live in America. But this is a global problem. This election is one big glaring symptom, but so was Brexit. So is the rise of right wing extremism in Europe. Hell, even here in NZ, the party in power is the conservative capitalist National Party. We’re a little enclave of sanity in the world right now, with our socialist health care and generally liberal laws about sexuality and bodily autonomy and race. But even here, these things are threatened.

Because we’re losing. When I say “we” I use that broadly. Basically my entry threshold is “Do you really believe in equality? Are you willing to do something about it?” If the answers are yes, you’re part of the “we”.

But I think that’s just the problem. The left, liberals, SJWs, whatever the hell you want to call us, we are fractured and splintered. Some of us are afraid to use the word feminist out loud because it is treated as a dirty word by others of us. Some of us wear these terms proudly, like badges of war – feminist, social justice, activist. Some of us roll our eyes and scoff at those who do.

Some of us are utterly incapable of seeing outside of our own demographics. Gay men who refuse to acknowledge that feminism may have a point. White feminists who refuse to acknowledge that black women have a whole different valid set of issues they don’t have to deal with. White men who want to say they believe in equality but want to be able to do it without sacrificing the advantages they don’t even want to accept they have.

I don’t exclude myself. I have been guilty of some of this myself. That last group especially I find I have very little tolerance for. Because you’re either with us or against us, right?

Except it’s not that simple. We can no longer afford to fight in enclaves. We can no longer afford to only agree to work with people who have accepted our own world view whole heartedly. Because while we argue the details among ourselves, racism and sexism and fear and bigotry are winning.

We can argue till the cows come home about whether Bernie would have beaten Trump, or whether Hillary was really “just as bad” (don’t even start that one with me, because for fucks sake, seriously?), or whether this is the fault of feminists or whether it’s the fault of like, I dunno, capitalism.

The answer is, it’s probably a bit of all those things. But more importantly, the answer is, I think, inspiration. Or lack thereof. The answer is our lack of compassion for EACH OTHER.

I don’t really know how to fix this. I understand getting angry, I understand frustration, I feel these things too. I don’t want to say you or I or anyone shouldn’t feel these things or shouldn’t express them, because that’s insane and idiotic.

I think maybe we need to be inspired again. Obama is a fucking rockstar at that. Michelle is a rock star at that. Bernie is a rockstar at that. Elizabeth Warren is a rock star at that. I don’t believe Hillary was the she-devil many liberals thought she was, but I also don’t think she was inspiring. And we need inspiration.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be political inspiration. Maybe it can be stories. Maybe it can be ideas. I don’t know. But we have to find a way to come together again. We have to find a way to stop being afraid and hateful among ourselves if we’re ever going to convince the people who voted for Trump, or voted for Brexit, that we and our “agendas” are not something they have to fear and hate.

And ultimately, that is the only way we win.

Not by silencing them. Not by yelling at them. By convincing them. By converting their fear and hate into tolerance and acceptance. And yeah, that’s nigh on impossible, but it’s slightly less impossible if we learn to do it among ourselves.

Let me tell you a story.

I grew up in Apartheid South Africa. Until I was about 11 years old, my entire world was based on the fact that white people were somehow intrinsically better than everyone else. This was a truth so true it was built into the fabric of my world. Like gravity and sunlight. I never questioned it. I never thought twice about it.

But when I was 12 I wrote a (very bad 12 year old) poem about a black kid being bullied on a bus, and why that wasn’t okay.

When I was, I don’t know, 9 or 10, I remember the kids around me talking about how sometime soon we might “have to” have black kids in our schools, like it was the worst thing that could ever happen. And I remember believing that at first.

But by the time it happened, it wasn’t a big deal for me. By the time it happened, I had already realised that racism was a bad thing. I didn’t grasp the complexities of it, of course, cos I was 12, but I understood that it was wrong.

I understood it well enough that when I was 13, I was proud to go to a high school that was about diversity, about multi-racial education, about breaking down those barriers.

And you know why? It wasn’t because of the adults in my world. I don’t remember any of them ever addressing any of this with me. (I’m not saying they didn’t – you know how unreliable memory is – but I am saying that if they did, it’s not what I remember.) It wasn’t because of my peers. Most of the other kids I knew thought like their parents, and had never even considered doing differently.

It was because I was a reader. It was because of books. I read voraciously as a child, anything I could get my hands on. And in books I encountered this idea that just because someone is different to you, doesn’t make them bad. And that resonated in my heart because even then I remember knowing I was somehow “different”.

An idea. That’s it.

Now you can argue that I was naturally predisposed to empathy, or because I tend to be a thinky person, I was inclined to analyse things even at a young age and realise that the dominant world view to which I was exposed was seriously fucked up. But what it comes down to is that the reason a white girl growing up in apartheid realised apartheid was wrong was because I read a lot of books.

That’s the power of ideas. That’s the power of stories.

The older I get, the more I feel that the only real answer to any of this is kindness and compassion. Every time I hear a story of someone changing their mind, it is almost always because somewhere along the line someone was kind to them. Homophobes who have stopped being homophobic because they actually got to know someone who was gay. Racists who stopped being racist because they got to know someone of colour. The Other humanised. That is the thing that changes hearts, and hearts are what change minds.

This is exhausting, and unfair. It is fucking horrendous that the oppressed should have to “prove” they’re not a threat to be treated like humans. I agree, whole heartedly. It’s shit. And we may be able to change laws with protest and yelling and argument. And maybe that’s enough for some people. And maybe that’s okay. I don’t know.

But I think that if we want the world to change for real, if we want to dismantle hatred, not just drive it underground, I really honestly think the only way we do that is to stop treating them like monsters, and start treating them like scared humans. We need to give them an alternative to Trump’s fascist rhetoric. We need to inspire.

And the forefront of that battle has to be storytellers, artists, bards, magic makers. It has to be US. Our voices. Our tales. And we have to actually start talking and listening to each other again before we can ever hope to get them to listen to us.

I don’t know. I know this is long and meandery. I don’t know if my answers are any good at all. I only know that what we’re doing isn’t working. So we need to find another way. I am heart-sick. My whole life, all my work, is basically about trying to pull light out of the darkness. And recently it has felt like the darkness is winning.

We need a new battle plan. This one is broken. Let’s start talking.

New fiction!

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So in the last year, my fiction writing has declined a lot, to the point where I don’t think I’ve written a story in about a year.

But today I reset that clock to zero, and wrote my first piece of fiction in a while.

I’m currently involved in a crowdfunding campaign you can’t possibly have missed if you’re following me anywhere on the internet to crowdfund the print run for my publishing company The Patchwork Raven‘s first book. I promised a while back that I would write a story available only to pledgers when we hit 3k, which happened today.

So I sat down for the first time in a while and opened my mind up to the fiction muses that were running around in my house, and penned a tale. As usual it ended up being a bit different to where I thought it was going. It actually turned out to be quite personal, and a bit of a reaction to how I interact with all the darkness in the world and find ways to keep moving despite it all.

It is also something of a love letter to Wellington, this city I adore, and to Christmas and to what it means to have Christmas in a place where it is summer in December. There’s a lot going on there. 😉

I don’t think it’s the greatest story I have ever written, but there is a lot of my heart and soul in it.

I think you guys might lik eit.

BUT you can only read it if you pledge. 😛

Any amount gets you access to it, and it’s already there, so it gets you INSTANT access to it. 🙂 So if the book wasn’t enough to convince you, but you have missed my fiction, maybe consider throwing five bucks in the pledge jar. You can read my story, AND you’ll get an ebook version of Twelve Days.  Everyone wins!

Go go. Pledge.

*love*

Flexing the writing muscles

So, our Pledgeme campaign for Twelve Days is coming along nicely. We’re not at a point where I’m able to not be worried yet, but we have a fairly steady stream of pledges coming in and hitting our target seems well within the realms of possibility.

But I’d love to get there and not have to fret about it any more. 🙂 I’ve been having nightmares about it. I wake up at 2am worrying about it and wondering how to encourage the people who haven’t pledged yet but have expressed interest to cross the line and do the thing. I spend an amazing amount of time and energy thinking about it, to the detriment of pretty much everything else in my life.

And in another corner of the internet, LJ Idol is starting up again. For those of you who don’t know about it, LJ Idol was, in a very real way, responsible for my career in publishing. My first book The Edge of the Map (which is currently out of print, but may be getting a renewed lease on life as a Raven book in the future, this time with the award-winning “Icarus” in it (I love that I can refer to one of my stories as “award-winning” – that never gets old)) was a compilation mostly of stories I wrote for Idol. Solarwyrm Press was a direct result of my friendship with Dominica who I met through Idol, and our first book (which was the start of SW) consisted of stories almost exclusively from writers I’d met through Idol.

Hell, even “Icarus”, which was the story that won a prize and convinced me I may be able to do this writer thing after all, started life as an Idol entry. So Idol is kind of a big deal, and when I found out that there was going to be another season, I thought to myself, hey you know, you don’t write much any more, because you’re always busy editing and marketing and doing bill-paying type work. Maybe it’s time to get that part of your brain out of retirement again.

And so I signed up.

And then I thought, there are many people who are always telling you they want you to write again. Several people have said this in recent months. Maybe you can combine these impulses.

So here it is. I am about to write a story. I’m not sure what it’s going to be. I have a first line, and that’s it. But that’s how most of my stories start. When we get to $3000 over on Pledgeme, I will post it as an update there, and it will ONLY be available to people who pledge. That means that if you want it to exist, you need to help us out and pledge now. The minimum is $5, but those are NZ$ so that’s less if you’re elsewhere, and every little bit helps!

And if you want to read it once it’s posted, you’ll need to pledge, because only pledgers will have access to it.

The first Jax fiction in a good long while. Don’t miss it. 😉

Pledge now.

Thanks awesome humans. ❤

 

Twelve Days

Dear tribe.

I need your help.

TRIBE POWERS ENGAGE!

If you’ve been paying any kind of attention the last few years, you’ll know that I have spent them pulling the pieces of my life back together and trying to find a way forward that lets me follow my passion, make beautiful things, and give unheard voices platforms from which to sing their stories.

Right now I am crowdfunding a book called “Twelve Days” for my brand new publishing company The Patchwork Raven. The awesome and talented Will Thompson, designer extraordinaire, has joined me in this escapade and helped me create something really quite special. The book is a collection of short stories, each of which is based on one of the twelve things in the Christmas song. A story for twelve drummers, one for eleven pipers, and so on. Will has created incredible artworks to go with the stories. The stories themselves were selected from a large pool, and every single one is a piece of beauty. I’m so, so proud of this book – I really do think it’s the best thing I have ever made (that wasn’t, you know, my son 😉 ).

cover render.png

But it’s not just that. It’s not just that we’ve made something really special here. This book represents something to me: the culmination, in many ways, of the very windy, difficult road I’ve been on, learning how to be publisher as I’ve gone along (often by doing it wrong). Learning how to do this thing I have decided to do with my life. And questioning a lot of the mechanisms that exist both in the publishing industry and in the world. I’m trying to build something here, something that is about evening the playing field, that is about telling the stories you don’t always hear – women who don’t fit the mould, lgbtq voices, people of colour, humanity in all its gorgeous, vibrant variety.

I have made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I like to think I haven’t yet made the same one twice. 😉 This book is in many ways the fruit of that journey. If I am the motherfucking phoenix, as I keep saying, this book is the shining jewel born from that fire.

I really want it to fly. I sort of need it to fly.

So here’s the rub. We’re edging up to being halfway through the crowdfunding campaign. We’ve got a way to go. And things have plateaued. It’s not unusual for this to happen in the middle of a campaign, but the loss of momentum is very hard to weather. I was literally awake at 4am today, trying to figure out who I haven’t told, how I can light a fire under this thing, and I came to the conclusion I always do: the only way is to tell the truth. 🙂

I need your help.

Please, if you can, consider pledging to the project. You don’t have to spend $50-$70 on the art book, or the limited edition signed art prints (though both are utterly gorgeous, and you wouldn’t regret it 😉 ), and you don’t even need to get the paperback. The ebook costs NZ$5. That’s a good cup of coffee in Wellington. I have more than 900 friends on Facebook. If each of them pledged $5, we’d have our target. Don’t think it is too small an amount. It’s enough. Every single bit helps. And in exchange you’ll get 12 totally amazing stories.

But if even that is too much, and in all seriousness, I have been there, I get it, you can help by sharing this link. Tell your people. Vouch for me and my ability to combine beautiful stories. You don’t need to vouch for Will’s art because it vouches for itself. We’ve revealed the first artwork already (the second gets unlocked in $35 time 😉 ). Look at this:

12.png

And honestly? That’s not even my favourite one. Actually the best part is that everyone who has seen them all seems to have a different favourite one. That’s a sign of a good set of art, imo. 😉

You guys have been there for me all through the last five years as I fought my way back, out of the darkness. Now help me make the magic I have been creating in that crucible of fire. Help me get it out into the world.

I love you. Be awesome.

On being triggered

TW for, well, a description of being triggered, and also sexual assault.

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I was triggered last week.

I want to talk about this, because there is a misconception floating around that being “triggered” is about being offended. It isn’t.

There’s a misconception floating around that being “triggered” has something to do with being humourless and overly sensitive. It hasn’t.

Here’s what happened. Trump said some shit on a tape about groping women, and the internet exploded. Everywhere I turned, people were talking about this. Twitter, Facebook, even at my kid’s school I overheard conversations while I was waiting to pick him up. I couldn’t get away from it.

And I posted some stuff. Not as much as I wanted to, because I was also launching a book, and I was busy, but some stuff. And then it started.

The “not all men” and the “but maybe some of them wanted it” stuff.

And then one lunchtime, I shut down my laptop and I put my phone on silent and I climbed into my bed and I cried for an hour.

Because when I was 20, and a guy didn’t stop when I asked him to, I spent the next three or four years saying those things to myself. “You were drunk.” “You’d been kissing him.” “What did you expect?” “IT WAS YOUR FAULT.” “YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED”. It took me over a year to tell even my best and closest friends about what had happened. Because I was ashamed.

Being triggered by a constant barrage of all those things we always hear in these situations? “Maybe they’re lying.” “IT WAS HER FAULT.” What that feels like, to me?

Is like all that shame coming back. In a flood. Because while rationally I am well passed believing that what happened was my fault, while rationally I know it was not my shame, but his, emotionally, when faced with all that judgement and total lack of compassion, it all comes back. I watch people I really thought knew better say these things and I think, Good God, nowhere is safe.

Nowhere is safe.

And I climbed into my bed to cry, because I ran out of cope, because the shame and despair of that was so huge.

Look, I am no shrinking violet. If you know me at all, you know I am a warrior. I am tough. I am a survivor. I have proved that over and over. I am a pretty badass woman.

This is not about being over sensitive or even offended. It’s about being retraumatised. It’s about being awash in a sea of the very worst thing that ever happened to me.

After I cried for an hour, I got up, washed my face, picked my kid up from school and got on with my day. Because I am a BADASS and I don’t let anything stop me.

But understand this. Being triggered is fucking horrible. It’s unpredictable, and it sucks. It’s not like being offended. It’s not like getting your feelings hurt. It’s way more lizard brain than that. Sometimes you can see it coming and head it off, and other times it sideswipes you and all you can do is sit there gasping waiting for it to go away again.

I guess… I just don’t understand why anyone would want to do that to someone they like or care about because they think they’re too edgy for trigger warnings. Don’t be “edgy”. Be compassionate. You don’t have to share my politics to not want me to feel like that. Or anyone else for that matter.

I’m not looking for sympathy. I had help, and I got over it, and really these days I’m accomplished enough at dealing with my demons that they really don’t keep me down for very long any more.

I’m posting this mostly in the hope that the description of what happened, of what it feels like, will make someone somewhere understand that trigger warnings are not or should not be about comfort or lack of offense. They’re about safety and mental health. They’re not bubble wrap. They’re warning signs.

Objecting to them is a bit like objecting to rocks falling signs. And then when someone gets hit by falling rocks and goes, “Hey, maybe we should put a sign here warning about these falling rocks” they get told they’re being oversensitive, and shouldn’t be so easily bludgeoned by rocks.

It’s about compassion, really. And surely we can all agree that’s a good thing.

Be awesome, beautiful people.

Gorillas, parenting and nuance

Look. Life is complicated. Every single issue that the Internet and social media binarises (Is that a word? It should be.) and turns into a dichotomy is actually a complicated nuanced thing.

A kid falls into a gorilla cage and the gorilla gets shot.

And people immediately divide up into camps to assign blame.

But here’s the thing. The most attentive parents lose concentration sometimes. I’m about as paranoid as you get. And I have a relatively naturally careful kid. I have to deliberately pull back because I am afraid I am making him too risk averse. And some risk is good. How much risk? I have no fucking idea where that line is. But I know that too much caution is perhaps as bad as none at all. And even then, even though I consider myself overly cautious and I have a child who tends towards caution, EVEN THEN sometimes shit just happens and he gets hurt. Would he climb into an enclosure at a zoo? Probably not. But I have known kids who would absolutely do that. And even the most attentive parent in the world might perhaps take their eyes off them just long enough. Stuff can happen super fast, and I’d be willing to bet those parents (And we won’t even get started on how most of the blame is accruing to the mother even though the father was there too because that’s a whole nother kettle of fish)  are already beating themselves up. But honestly, anyone who looks after kids? There but for the grace, seriously. We do not know enough about these people to judge their entire parenting ability on one incident.

Is it fair the gorilla got shot? Of course not. It sucks. It sucks giant donkey balls. No one wants to see a gorilla get shot. But take a long hard look at yourself. Because if that was a crocodile or a hyena or a python or any other beastie we don’t think of as cute and fluffy I bet the outcry would not be so big. Hell, frankly, if it was a fucking human the outcry wouldn’t be so big. If you’re pissed about the gorilla, but you’re not pissed about cops shooting black kids, you need to think again. If you’re pissed about the gorilla but you’re not pissed about refugees drowning in the sea, you need to think again.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it sucks that the gorilla got shot. But at the end of the day, someone had to make a call, and if they’d let that child die, would that be better? It’s a terrible terrible call to have to make, and perhaps instead of blaming the parents and the zoo, maybe we should just try and feel some compassion for people doing their best in a totally horrible situation. You can be sad about the gorilla, and not have to go and find someone to blame. That is allowed. Sometimes shit just happens and it’s awful.

And then there’s the “zoos are horrible and bad” stuff. I have a very ambivalent attitude to zoos, honestly. I grew up in a land of nature and game reserves, and there is part of me that seriously balks at seeing wild creatures caged.

But zoos are a necessary evil, and there are zoos and zoos. The fact is that there are animals that would be extinct if it weren’t for zoos. Now, I am all for the fact that that shouldn’t happen. Animals shouldn’t go extinct. And people suck and shouldn’t let that happen. But it happens. And for some animals, a zoo is the only safe place with the world being what it is. Of course that’s not a good thing. Of course the bigger picture is shitty. But for fuck sake, are you seriously going to let white tigers go extinct because you don’t want them in a zoo? Yes, let’s move the world towards a point where they can live in the wild again, PLEASE, that would rock, but how much would it suck if we get there and there are none left to live there? Look, I’m no zoologist, and I am sure there are massive issues with putting animals bred in captivity back in the wild, but I’d rather have the option of solving those issues in the future than just write zoos off as horrible forever. And yes, there are terrible zoos, I have no doubt, that are totally just using the animals to make money, and we should hold them accountable by all means. I have no idea whether the zoo in question is one of those – I know nothing about it.

But I do know that taking the stance of “the gorilla shouldn’t have been in a zoo anyway” is oversimplifying an incredibly complex issue. Just like saying “the kid shouldn’t have been able to get in” is oversimplifying a complex issue. And “they shouldn’t have shot it” is oversimplifying a complex issue.

And pretty much every single time someone oversimplifies something to fit it on a Facebookable meme, the world gets a little more binary and that is a dangerous thing.

Nuance is important, necessary.

I know I’ve been guilty of the oversimplification thing myself, but really the more I think about it, the more I think the only way to move forward is to start embracing nuance again. Turning everything into an “us vs them” binary is dangerous and insane. Nothing is that simple.