For auld lang syne

Okay, so I don’t really believe in time, but Happy New Year!

Look, it's me 9 years ago with sparklers. Can you tell I'm terrified? Photo by Laura Pope.
Look, it’s me 9 years ago with sparklers. Can you tell I’m terrified? Photo by Laura Pope.

Even though I think labelling periods of our lives as generally good or bad (i.e. “This year sucked!” or “What a great day!”) is actually not helpful and overgeneralizes the nuances of life, I’ve been thinking a lot about this past year for myself. For the past few months, I’ve been taking stock of everything that has happened. It’s a lot. It’s amazing how short and yet how expansive 365 days can be. Even more amazing is how vastly different a year can seem, just based on perspective.

When I focus on the struggle, the pain, the mistakes – this year seems awful and exhausting. Another year older, another year full of disillusionment, of hard lessons learned, of heartbreak, and parts of myself – innocence, behavior, ideas, friends, truths – lost.

But when I count my blessings, and there are so, so many – this year seems miraculous. I’ve finally finished filming my short film, got into stand-up comedy, shot over 15 new web videos, co-founded a sketch team, made it as a semi-finalist in a comedy festival, received a promotion at my job (which I love), and I’ve met hundreds of new awesome people and made so many new awesome friends. Not to mention I got in touch with my birth-family, created several new paintings, started eating meat again (I know) and continue to grow every moment as a breathing, living, flesh-and-blood human being.

My gratitude is overwhelming. So instead of going on further about how great my year was and how lucky I feel to be alive, I want to instead brag about some of my wonderful friends. Because they’ve had amazing years as well:

Chris Chianesi  launched his new webseries, #MANNYPROBZ, and he’s hilarious and his costar Leisl is adorable and it’s everything you want in a comedy webseries. Also, I was cinematographer on a couple of them and those shoots were so much fun.

Jessie Evans launched her new series, “Jessie Eats,” and it’s everything you want in a food blog/webseries – which is basically watching her adorably enjoy all sorts of delicious cuisine and drinks and you fall in love with her within seconds.

Taylor Tobin started writing for the website, Brokelyn, and her food listicles are all you’ll ever need while dining in Brooklyn. Her culinary advice has never led me astray.

Christina Stone has started making custom puppets! They are fuzzy, adorable, and hand-sewn. It’s the perfect gift to give to the children and young-at-heart in your life. You can contact her through her website to place an order.

Emily Duncan premiered her new, original musical, “Me and my Birdie,” which premiered at the Bad Theater Festival, and it was touching and hilarious. AND she collaborated with the magnificent Regina Gibson – they co-wrote and composed a new holiday song you can see Regina, who has the voice of Greta Garbo but 10x sexier, perform here.

Rowan Rivers started a new blog where he divulges his magickal insight on tarot card analysis and it’s wonderful. I love his writing.

Check out this touching and very funny video by Glamour Magazine starring the extremely talented Keisha Zollar and Andrew Kimler, as they talk about their first month of marriage.

The incredible Morgan Clarke is the drummer for the awesome band, Worthy Fools, who just released their EP this year, which you can buy on iTunes!

Cartoonist and illustrator Kyle Rose launched his new webcomic, The Working Stiff, and he’s made major progress on his upcoming book, The Comic Book Convention Survival Guide, so stay tuned!

Producer/Actor Andria Kozica released two new web shorts on Funny or Die this year that are hysterical! Go Bag and Meeting Mr. Reich.

And my best friend since 3rd grade, Nicole Sweeney, literally just seconds ago made the Board of Directors for Pure Romance, a company whose mission statement and products I love. You can buy awesome stuff from her here.

Honestly, I can go on and on and on. I’m am so #blessed to know so many amazing, passionate, creative artists and creators. Sometimes I just scroll through my Facebook feed and beam with pride. How lucky are we?

Here are some more friends who are creating awesome work you should check out:

ChEckiT! Dance, headed by the sweet and lovely Allison Brzezinski

Urban Spiritual, by the insightful chief editor/writer Terence Stone

The SoulGlo Project, a podcast and monthly live show with Keisha Zollar, Anna Suzuki, and Emily Schorr Lesnick.

Have a wedding upcoming or a special event you want captured to remember forever? Hire James Sireno Productions – seriously, Jimmy and his wife, Chelsea, are two of the nicest, most professional, talented videographers I know!

More people you need to keep track of because they’re about to be FAMOUS, they’re that talented:

J.W. Crump, Stephanie BencinMadonna RefugiaTabitha VidaurriDavid MonkCarolyn BusaBilly Bob ThompsonAlyson Leigh RosenfeldKristin Seltman, Miranda KahnBetsy Lippitt, Sarah Knittel, Graham Halstead, Ana Defillo, and actually this is super stressing me out because I have way too many talented friends and not enough time right now to list them all so please just go look at my Facebook friend list because I haven’t even gotten into the hundreds of New York comedians I’ve met this year who are hysterical and exciting.

So congratulations, mazel tov! If you’re reading this, that means you’ve made it through another year. I hope your 2015 was filled with as much love and pain and wonder and life as mine has, and I hope your 2016 is just as full, if not fuller.

Happy New Year!

EDIT: I can’t believe I completely forgot my amazing and talented friend, Hannah Cauhépé who, after doing a daily photo challenge for a year from her home in Paris, has now embarked on a massive world-wide journey and continues to document it with her breath-taking photos. She also has just unveiled her new project, The Lesbian Gaze, where she takes beautiful portraits of lesbian, queer, bi women from all over the world. I forgot because she’s always on the move, currently she’s in Nicaragua! Check out her work!!

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But why

This actually started as a comment to my good friend, Hannah’s, latest post (check out her blog, her photographs are beautiful and incredibly interesting), but as I kept typing, I figured I’d just post it here instead of leaving an essay in her comments. Hannah is French. She lives in Paris, although she’s currently in the States. My heart breaks for her, and I am thankful she is safe.

People light candles during a vigil in Kathmandu November 15, 2015, following the deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar
People light candles during a vigil in Kathmandu November 15, 2015, following the deadly attacks in Paris. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Here’s what I was starting to write to her (and it takes off from there, as you’ll see):

I can feel your pain. My heart hurts in solidarity for you, for Paris, for Beirut, for everyone. I hear what you’re saying, absolutely. I immediately experienced empathy when I heard about Paris. I immediately thought of you. I imagined my city, my home, New York, being attacked again. I took the train down to Times Square later that day for work and felt my chest tighten with anxiety. We could easily have been those victims. I sit outside on balconies eating dinner. I have gone to clubs and concerts. I didn’t hear about the attack on Beirut until later that same day, (which is an issue that should be addressed). But do we or do we not put a filter over our Facebook profile pictures – and which one? Do we not post as much about Paris, but more about Beirut? Why didn’t I hear about Kenyan University where 147 students were massacred back in April? Am I a bad person? How can I put the French flag and the Lebanon flag and the Kenyan flag all on my social media while using non-religious but thoughtful hashtags so everyone knows I am good and mean well? How do we stay politically correct – how can we accurately report war and suffering – what is the right thing to do now against ISIS – what about – if we just – what about – this is wrong – this is right – what about –

I have no fucking idea. So I’ve been relatively staying silent, because for me, at this point, right now, none of this matters. I know there are a lot of complex political issues at stake now, and yes, discussion needs to happen, but we seem to be on the brink of a global war. Everyone is shouting, everyone is in pain. The core truth is that people have died, and I am sad. For all of them.

Pain is pain. No one wins when people try to compare suffering, and it is a futile, misguided effort. When in times of immense suffering, we want our pain justified, our grief validated, and our most natural reactions when our souls are in danger is to inflate the ego, retaliate, and look for someone to blame. We need a Why for our pain. Trust me, I do this all the time. Grief is an incredibly, incredibly isolating and lonely experience, not to mention extremely frightening, to explore the depths of pain in our psyche. It’s natural to lash out and try to find someone or something to cling to, even if we drag them down with us in the process.

It’s also natural that the Western media has reacted so strongly to the Paris attacks over the Beirut attacks. Whether or not that’s right isn’t really for me to say. It just Is. The stories that we most relate to are when the victims most look like us, when what happens is close to home, that all hurts much more. It’s natural and human to have empathy sometimes and just sympathy other times. If we could viscerally feel the pain of every experience outside our own, we would go probably insane and very quickly end it. It’s too much. So we distance, we dehumanize, we point fingers, we blame, we cause more pain, in order to protect ourselves. We do so out of fear, and always have. Because the world is too great, the suffering too immense, the losses are unbearable. We are angry because life is unfair.

And we’re right. It is unfair. It’s incredibly unfair. And it fucking sucks. But it Is.

I laugh now looking at my past blog and journal posts. I always think I have all the answers. I just keep having the same epiphanies over and over again. I realize a new truth, write about it, internalize it, and try to practice more mindful living. Which lasts a few days – a week or so if I really try. Then I go right back to being a human who gets angry and hurts and lashes out and clings and gets jealous and says mean things and has selfish thoughts and rolls her eyes and cries all the time and huffs and is just so OVER IT. Because I’m human. This time last year on my birthday, I wrote a whole post about being an adult. Hah hah! Boy, that lasted long. It’s very humbling, to say the least. But it does help me take myself less seriously, which I am always in need of.

You know, now that I think of it, Life IS kind of like school. Every year, you have the same core subjects with some new ones mixed in, and every year, you advance a level – if you do the work, that is. The material gets harder, more in-depth, more complex. But hopefully, if you work hard, do your homework, and listen in class, you become better equipped to handle such challenges. Sometimes you decide to abruptly switch your majors or transfer to a new school, which can also be so overwhelming and temporarily set you back, but you eventually adjust.

Ooooh, so that was the point of the first 21 years of my life. Now I get it. School’s just a metaphor, you guys!

Right now, I’m basically in “Life Whooping Your Ass 301: You Thought You Knew But You Had No Idea!” and I think I may be in way over my head. But thank god for tutors (aka therapists), amirite?

ANYWAY, point being, I’ve recently enacted an experiment where I put into practice one crucial key to Adulting that I totes forgot for like, my entire life, you guys. Acceptance.

As I’ve stated before, I have a crazy powerful imagination, I have a penchant for fantasies, an idealistic willful heart, and quite a passionate temper. I also tend to phone it in, coast, hide, and procrastinate when I can – basically at heart, I’m lazy. I also cling. Hard. To beliefs, habits, people, and some very longstanding grudges against certain people I feel have hurt me significantly. I do this simply because I can, because it’s easier, and because I’ve been getting away with it for nearly 28 years.

When I’m in pain, when terrible shit happens, when life’s unfair, there’s this persistent little voice in the back of my head that whines, “But WHYYYYYY?!” (Did you also read this in Cartman’s voice? No? Just me?)

Me, basically, all the time. (from boldsky.com)
Me, basically, all the time. (from boldsky.com)

God, I hear that voice a lot. But I usually don’t wait to hear the answer.

If I did, I bet my inner Good Mother would stroke my hair and simply say, “Because.”

And when I ask again, “But WHHHYYYYYY!?” She would probably wrap me in her arms, think for a moment, and thoughtfully, sadly reply, “I don’t know.

So I’m working out my next thesis. I think the next step in this never ending grad school of self-discovery is Acceptance. Even when the answers aren’t clear and there seems to be no reason or logic at all. Because only through acceptance can you then move forward, heal, and let it go. Do I really want to carry my pain of the past around with me my entire life – begrudgingly, angrily, indignant that I’ve been slighted? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s really time to let that painful fire rage so that I can rise from the ashes. Truly embody the Six of Swords and leave behind past pain which has been holding me back from becoming who I need to be.

That doesn’t mean doing so is easy. Nope. This. Is. Super. Fucking. HARD. And so incredibly painful – I can’t even describe the pain. It’s a slow, very painful process and I miss everything so much and the reluctance is so strong. It’s scary to let go. (But you can’t get rid of the Babadook!)

Acceptance doesn’t discount the pain or wipe it clean or encourage apathy. Acceptance accepts the pain for what it is (that’s a weird phrase, huh), acknowledges the hurt, and eventually, hopefully, then lets the pain move through us, rather than take over us. Yes, this happened. Yes, it was unfair. I was hurt. I still hurt. It has affected me. But it happened. This is part of my story.

Because there is Life After Death. And if we’re lucky, we’re reborn a thousand times. The messages of peace and love and understanding that I’ve seen in the aftermath of these attacks are so beautiful and uplifting. It’s time to heal, as a planet, as humans, as humanity. We need to take care of each other. I see it in the strength of the Syrian refugees, the families of victims of senseless violence, the survivors of violent attacks and immense trauma. They persevere. They still have hope. They keep living. Because this is Life. And it Is.

I’ll leave you with this amazing little video. Sending you love.

Home.

“There’s no place like home.”

Ruby Red Slippers

As most of my close friends and family know, I absolutely loved the Wizard of Oz when I was a child. Actually, “loved” is a severe understatement. It was an obsession bordering on mania, as most of my loves tend to be. I remember clearly how it started. I found my mother’s soundtrack CD one day in our TV cabinet and began listening to it. From that day forth, I would play it on repeat in my small bedroom, acting out and singing along with every lyric. It spiraled from there. I received a copy of the movie and I would watch it every day. I knew every line by heart. Over the span of just a couple years, I had amassed (thanks to my very kind and supportive parents) the books, Barbies (sidenote: I should have never taken mine out of the box!), dolls, figurines, snow globes, board games, clothing, stuffed animals, mugs, posters – all of it Wizard of Oz. I was a merchandiser’s dream customer. I saw the performance live, on ice – and in 4th grade, I wrote, what I thought was a very professional letter, to my vice principal Mr. Davis asking to use the school auditorium to produce, direct, design, and star in my own production of Frank L. Baum’s classic. (Once a producer, always a producer.) That is the year I sadly learned what royalties and copyright laws are. And even though my love for this wonderful, whimsical universe is not quite as intense as it used to be (I once wrote in my diary that “Wizard of Oz is an ocean and I’m drowning in it” – once a drama queen, always a drama queen), it will always hold a special place in my heart. And I bet I can beat all of you at Wizard of Oz trivia any day.

Fast forward nearly 20 years. I was speaking with a close friend recently about which Wizard of Oz characters we would be (my preferred version of the ‘Which SATC girl are you?’ discussion) and I declared I would be Dorothy, obviously. He was surprised, he replied, “Oh, I don’t know, Dorothy always struck me as kind of dense.” I ignored that slight to my homegirl and replied, “Yes, but she’s always longing for home.”

Home.

It’s this huge, vast, complex, multi-layered concept that so many of us long for. But what it is and what that word means varies depending on who you ask.

Diana Ross sang, “When I think of home, I think of a place with love overflowing.” (I also absolutely love The Wiz, obviously, and I can’t wait for NBC’s version!) 

(Go ahead, watch Diana just f*cking SLAY this song and cry and then you can finish reading)

In fact, I don’t have to go into this much further – we’ve heard all of the theories. Any place you hang your hat is home. Home is where the heart is. Home is with the one you love. Home is wherever you are. Home. But what is home? Who is right? More so, why are we so obsessed with this idea and creating a home or finding a home?

As I’ve written before, once again I am happily resigned to say: I don’t know.

Bear with me though, I think I have some theories. I actually started writing this post months ago but never finished. Rather, I wrote down a few quotes from a podcast that I was listening to at the time which stirred something in my soul, and then never came back. Until now. Here is one of the quotes:

“It’s only by stopping movement, that you can see where to go. And it’s only by stepping out of your life and the world that you can see what you most deeply care about and find a home. And home, in the end, is of course, not just the place where you sleep, it’s the place where you stand.” – Pico Iyer (NPR TED Radio Hour podcast on Identities)

The other night, I went to a party of a super cool new friend of mine. It was an awesome party. There was a DJ and lights spinning and a lot of fun, good-looking people dancing it up. I was… pretty sauced. At one point towards the end of the night, my friend, the very gracious host, was talking to myself and two others about how he has completely stopped all dating, flirting, sex, romance – pursuing or acting on – all of it. That entire part of his life is just shut down. I was shocked and reacted quite emotionally. My breakdown went as follows:

  1. You can do that?!
  2. WHAT! Like completely?
  3. But why?!

He replied, “I’m happy.”

I scoffed and laughed and then got angry. No, actually, I was pissed. But it wasn’t until the next morning in the cold, harsh, sober light of day that I actually started to think about what he was saying.

Why did his life choice – the concept of someone choosing not to look – make me react so intensely? I realized quickly that I have actually never done that. I’ve never actually made that choice. Sure, I’ve taken breaks from dating to “work on me” or quit online dating (which I do about every 3 months) but I’ve never really turned it completely off.

Ever since I was a very young girl, Disney and Meg Ryan movies (and Saved By The Bell) have instilled in me this very strong urge to find The One. That life is not worth living without Love. That Love conquers all. All you need is Love. Okay, you get it.

And as I became an intelligent, feminist, independent grown woman, I still could not seem to shake that little quiet voice in the back of my head – that I never know where I might find him (or her, I’m inclusive) – the life partner I’m meant to be with. Someone that will actually watch Netflix and chill with me, spend holidays with me, enrich my already full life, and build a family with me. Someone to be my home. (Theeeere it is.)

Hey, don’t sit there and judge me – think about it. How much energy, time, money, emotion do you spend on the idea of romantic love? The Valentine’s Day and Hallmark industry alone prove that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

So the idea of just stopping – not looking, not desiring, not wanting – is a radical concept for me. In fact, my knee-jerk reaction was: How dare he!? How dare he just completely and effortlessly reject something that has somehow become a huge, massive part of my life?

And then it turned into: Wait… but what if… what if I don’t too? What if I just stop?

Let me be clear, I’m not saying that Love isn’t amazing and wonderful and something to be desired. I’m not saying that Love never lasts and give up hope now. I’m not saying to build a fortress around your heart so you can “work on yourself” for a while. (The Universe knows that trick, trust me.) I’m actually not saying anything about Love at all.

But what if you really looked at an aspect of your life, something that you felt was so intrinsic to your identity, and just knocked it the f*ck down? Kaboosh.

Source: Martin Hunter/Getty Images AsiaPac
Source: Martin Hunter/Getty Images AsiaPac

The past couple years have been very transformative for me – a lot has happened, a lot has changed. I tell my therapist (and a few of my very patient friends), that it feels like I’ve built these pillars in my life – everything from people that I love to belief systems to habits or addictions to values. And I’ve clung to these pillars for dear life. I thought they made me who I am, but in reality, that clinging only holds me back. It’s time to bring out the demolition team. (or wrecking ball?)  

But this time, it’s not because I want to “start fresh” or lose weight or self-improve or even self-destruct. No, this kind of self-destruction is different than one more tequila shot or texting your ex (or both). This is a… self-cleaning oven type of self-destruction. This is an inevitable part of adult life that I can choose to either face or run away from. But if I do face it, if I’m brave and strong and patient, it could clear out the old, the toxic, the no longer useful, and lay the groundwork for the Me Yet To Come, the Me that I actually truly am, and in turn, release the truth I’ve always wanted to live.

Easier said than done. Let me tell you. It sucks. It hurts. It’s painful. But I think it’s truly necessary.

Today I came across a new post by one of my favorite Facebook accounts, The Artidote, which, as per usual with this page, spoke so deeply to my heart and what I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It inspired me to come back to this old post and revisit this idea of home.

“You don’t know anyone at the party, so you don’t want to go. You don’t like cottage cheese, so you haven’t eaten it in years. This is your choice, of course, but don’t kid yourself: it’s also the flinch. Your personality is not set in stone. You may think a morning coffee is the most enjoyable thing in the world, but it’s really just a habit. Thirty days without it, and you would be fine. You think you have a soul mate, but in fact you could have had any number of spouses. You would have evolved differently, but been just as happy. You can change what you want about yourself at any time. You see yourself as someone who can’t write or play an instrument, who gives in to temptation or makes bad decisions, but that’s really not you. It’s not ingrained. It’s not your personality. Your personality is something else, something deeper than just preferences, and these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like. If it is useful to do so, you must abandon your identity and start again. Sometimes, it’s the only way. Set fire to your old self. It’s not needed here. It’s too busy shopping, gossiping about others, and watching days go by and asking why you haven’t gotten as far as you’d like. This old self will die and be forgotten by all but family, and replaced by someone who makes a difference. Your new self is not like that. Your new self is the Great Chicago Fire—overwhelming, overpowering, and destroying everything that isn’t necessary.” –Julien Smith

Kaboosh. 

Okay, so if you’re still with me, let me try to tie this all in together:

Maybe there is no home. That’s a concept spoon-fed to us to trick us into being complacent, or restless, or try so hard to stitch together what isn’t there. Dorothy had the power to go home on her feet the whole time (spoiler alert!) and Barbra can hang her hat where ever she likes – that’s all good and true, but it’s also not as simple as oh, find home within yourself. That concept taken at face value can cause you to cling to ideologies or behaviors or people that aren’t yours to cling to. No Buzzfeed quiz or organized religion or partner or upbringing or generations-old tradition has ANY bearing on who you really truly are. None of that matters. You can let go of whatever you chose whenever you want.

You will still exist.

We are living, breathing, ever-evolving human beings and maybe that’s truly the beauty of it all – there are no constants, there is only impermanence. And sometimes you may find that you have to set fire to yourself. You need to go in and kick down that sand castle you so painstakingly built. You need to use the self-cleaning feature of your self-cleaning oven soul. But like an oven, you don’t do it just once. You may have to do it several times in your lifetime. And it’s very painful and it’s very hard, trust me, I know. I hate it. But think about it. Can you feel that – in your chest and gut? That anxious yet strangely calm warm excitement spreading – if you could just… be? Break free of things you once thought vital to your life – really consider the possibility. In letting go, think of what you could gain. Who knows? This is life. There are no answers. There is no home.

How exciting.

 

Follow the fear, love the hate

(There are some minor spoilers in this post for the hit series, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and the feature film, The Babadook, so if you haven’t seen these, GO WATCH THEM RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THEY’RE AMAZING – and on Netflix – and then come back and read this.)

It’s officially October, one of my absolute favorite months. Fall is here, along with the cooler weather, changing leaves, pumpkin-flavored everything, and my favorite holiday, Halloween.

It seems only appropriate then that I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of fear and what truly scares us. Not so much in the sense of goblins and monsters, but more so about the demons that are actually the scariest of all – the ones that lurk within.

The legendary improv coach Del Close coined the phrase, “Follow the Fear,” a phrase that many in the comedy and entertainment world have heard of before, and it doesn’t take a psychologist to recognize that this advice is not only helpful in improvisation, but in life as well. But lately I realized that for me, following my fears is more than getting on that new roller-coaster, watching that horror movie, or riding that haunted hay ride. Following the fear is more than just getting on stage, asking for a raise, or telling someone you love them. Recently I’ve become fascinated by the idea of not only following the fear, but becoming the fear. You know what’s scarier than ghosts, axe murderers, or even The Feels? My self.

Inside each of us, in the dark recesses of our subconscious, there is a shadowy place – an elephant graveyard if you will – that hides and represses the true things we fear most, traits we never want to acknowledge, emotions we should never feel, and beliefs that would shock those closest to us – and most of all, shock ourselves. Carl Jung called it the Shadow, and he asserted that every human has one. There are a lot of different theories (Freud has his own interpretation, for instance) on this idea of Shadow self, and if you’re interested, you should definitely look into it more, but for me, I like to think of it as a self of many layers.

credit unknown, but creepy right?
credit unknown, but creepy right?

I finally watched the hit independent horror film, The Babadook, directed by the brilliant Jennifer Kent, and not only is it a well-made, sophisticated, and superbly scary film, it delves deep into the popular boogeyman trope and all of the ways we are haunted. Single mother Amelia and her precocious son, Samuel, find themselves stalked and haunted by a very menacing force, one that represents to me many things – grief, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, mental illness, and most of all, our Shadow selves.

When we are very small children, we live very reactionary, impulsive lives. As we grow older, we are told what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable behavior and what is not. We lose our baser instincts and repress traits and emotions that our friends, community, and society deem as unacceptable. We transform ourselves into becoming who we think we should be, who we want to be seen as, in order to be more palatable. Jung calls this the Persona. But those traits and emotions never really go away. As little Samuel reminds his mother, “You can’t get rid of the Babadook.” These unwanted traits and emotions get boxed up and placed in the basement or broom closet of our minds, lying there, forgotten, but very much still there.

As I continue to work on my self-growth and self-awareness, or as I like to call it, Adulting, I have lately found myself in a strange place. As I’ve told my friends exhaustively, it feels like I’ve bought a beautiful old house. I’ve painted the walls, stripped the floors, papered the shelves. I’ve unpacked and decorated, and I’m about to have a wonderful big housewarming party soon. But then I go down into the basement, and I’ve found that there are actually dozens more boxes to unpack that I have completely forgotten about. They are huge and unwieldy, filled with old, dusty, rotten things that have started to fester and smell. I desperately do not want to go through all of those boxes, especially with a party so soon, but the smell is starting to creep up through the floorboards. The funk crawls up into my nostrils, taunting me, haunting me, and I know it will never go away until I go back downstairs and sort through all of that stuff. (Ugh, this again, my friends are thinking.)

Gross, right? The best metaphors for me usually are.

Those boxes all belong to my Shadow self. But I don’t think the contents are only baser emotions and traits from childhood we’ve repressed. Freud would say that it can also stem from past traumatic events, from something as emotionally scarring as abuse to seemingly sillier ones, such as farting in your first grade music class in front of everyone. (That’s just, you know, an example, not like that happened to me…) But Jung also believed that what we hate in others, is actually a part of our Shadow selves. In fact, he believed that our Shadows are so much of an integral part of ourselves, that we not only project that self onto others, but we even subconsciously attract people in our lives that exemplify our Shadows. (Which is why I will no longer exclaim, “Why am I always surrounded by crazy people!” outloud.)

For me, it’s all of these things and more – it’s base instincts, it’s past trauma, it’s projected fears and hates, but what interests me the most is that collective whole that stems from all of it. When am I the absolute ugliest? Not in a cute Manic Pixie Dream Girl way that’s just such an adorkable hot mess. Not in the pre-makeover montage romantic comedy sense either. But when am I truly ugly? What is it about myself that I don’t want to admit, much less even look at?

Scary, right? Well, let’s go there.

But why? You might be thinking. Isn’t fear a useful emotion to warn us of danger? Why go to these dark recesses? Why dredge up the past? Why voluntarily go through the pain?

Because you can’t get rid of The Babadook! Jung believed that actually ignoring your Shadow only makes it stronger, only allows it to grow and can eventually take over. You give it power by not standing down to it. At the end of the day, pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t make the Big Bad go away. Only confronting your Shadow is only the first step. But your goal isn’t to defeat it. You can’t. But you can make friends with it.

artwork by Alex Juhasz
artwork by Alex Juhasz

Jung writes, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate… To confront a person with his shadow is to show him his own light.  Once one has experienced a few times what it is like to stand judgingly between the opposites, one begins to understand what is meant by the self.  Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides and thus gets in the middle.” (Jung, 1959, p. 872).

So how do we do that? I’m not really sure, I’m figuring that out myself right now. But WWBD? (What would Buffy do?) She wouldn’t wait around. She’d go after the Big Bad first. So similarly, like Spike in the season 6 finale of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, it’s my turn to go into the deep, dark caverns that I’ve been ignoring for so long.

I recently was joking with a very wise close friend about how I hate mirrors. They’ve always freaked me out, so much so that I never kept one in my room and would cover ones with towels if they faced the bed at night. He replied, “I bet you could psychoanalyze the shit out of that.” I joked back, “What, you mean I’m afraid to truly look at myself? Yeah probably.” At the time, I was kidding. But he was right on, and so was I.

I now try to look into mirrors as often as I can. Not to make sure I look good, but to see and accept my flaws. I check in with myself when I’m feeling Shadow-y and instead of trying to squash those feelings or dismiss them, I Lean In. Another wonderfully wise friend of mine says he likes to just acknowledge his Shadow when it pops up: “Hey you, I see you. I hear you. It’s okay.” It doesn’t always make those emotions magically disappear, but I’ve found it lightens the load a bit. So I’m now sitting with my Shadow, hanging out with her, and sometimes even giving her a hug or two. Because like it or not, she is a part of me.  And by acknowledging her and accepting her, I get that much closer to fully loving my whole self. As another very wise friend of mine once said, “This thing, this whole beautiful, unimaginable, unrepeatable, glorious mess is OURS.”  (Yes, I have many wise loving friends, for which I’m very grateful.)

painting by Steven Kenny
painting by Steven Kenny

Yes, it’s absolutely terrifying. Yes, I’m going to have to go through a myriad of extremely hard tests, and yes, I’m going to get my butt kicked. But if I don’t, the boxes will only continue to fester until the smell takes over my whole house. The Babadook will possess me and take hold, leading to destructive, unconscious actions. And I will never get my soul back. But unfortunately, I don’t get a season hiatus or end to this movie. These kind of battles are lifelong, methinks.

I see now that I’m using too many metaphors. But you get it.

So go forth! Follow The Fear. Feel Your Pain Fully. Love what you Hate.

Because in doing so, you might find that’s when you’re truly free and your truest self. And that self is beautiful. And I think the benefits will prove to all be worth it in the end. In fact, so far this Shadow work has already positively influenced all of my work, which makes perfect sense, as Jung believes that in this darkness actually lies the root of creativity.

And as my one of my beautiful previously-mentioned friends says, “It’s in the darkness we find our strength.”

 

IDGAF

I want to talk a little bit about bravery. It seems to be a recurring theme in my life lately. A quick Google search shows the following definitions for brave:

  1. adjective. ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.
  2. noun. people who are ready to face and endure danger or pain.
  3. verb. endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behavior) without showing fear.

Well, that’s what it really is, at its heart, isn’t it? To be brave is to stand down and face the very real possibility of Pain. No one is brave for sitting at home and watching Netflix, unless you happen to be watching a scary movie on Netflix (like The Babadook), but even then, I don’t know if the average person would call you brave for that.

But brave is not just about running onto a battlefield, saving a cat from a house fire, or jumping out of an airplane. We know that as humans, we are forced to be brave every day. As a New Yorker, one could say I’m brave for even stepping out of my apartment every morning. (Or even paying for said apartment.) But I’m not even going to talk about that watered-down cliche that all the politicians and media try to cram down our throats to make us feel good about ourselves.

firefighter1
although goddess bless our firemen and women, yeah?

I want to talk about a much more subtle kind of bravery. And these kinds of brave acts are actually part of the hardest, most complex, all-encompassing endeavor that I am personally taking on – and I’ll be continually working through my whole life: Living My Truth. 

Or as I like to call it, Not Giving a F*ck. 

IDGAF
IDGAF

I don’t know about you, but I’m really sensitive. Growing up, I was obsessed with the idea of being popular, of everyone liking me. I hated displeasing or disappointing anyone. In grade school, if a teacher looked at me wrong, even if I did nothing wrong and it had nothing to do with me, it would ruin my whole day. When I was a freshman in college, one of my acting teachers had us each write down a word or phrase describing our fellow classmates, and then one at a time, he’d meet with us privately and read them out-loud to us. (I know!) 

My list went as such:

  • Insecure
  • Desperate to please
  • Insecure
  • Doormat
  • Insecure
  • Insecure
  • Insecure
  • Desperate
  • Insecure
  • Desperate to please
  • Bubbly
  • Outgoing

(Thanks Madelyn and Rachel for being sweet. And yes, I know who the rest of you are. Be scared. Just KIDDING!)

Hearing those words over and over again not only hurt, it was a huge f*cking wake-up call. That summer, I vowed to stop giving a f*ck what people thought of me and just focus on me, my friends, and what I cared about. (I pretty much make this vow about every other year whenever it’s become clear I’m slipping back into that insecure, dorky, awkward little girl place again.)

By the end of my college career, I had a lot of friends, I got along with pretty much everyone, and in my acting studio I can confidently say I don’t think I was hated or even greatly disliked at all. I even was invited to a lot of their weddings. (Gee, thanks guys. Kidding again, the ceremony was beautiful!)

But really, that doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter then. And what I’m just realizing now is that not giving a f*ck is not akin to some peppy Hollywood montage where a down-on-her-luck plucky protagonist decides to buckle down and work-out and get her job back and go shopping and clean her apartment and stand-up to that one bitch, and then suddenly life is great. Nope.

Basically every Hollywood movie ever.
Basically every Hollywood movie ever.

Not Giving A F*ck is a way of life, and it’s a constant, f*cking hard-ass battle.

I am constantly giving way too many f*cks. I still care so much about what people, even strangers, think of me, of how I’m perceived, whether or not me and my choices are validated and acknowledged. It’s in every little moment of my life. I’m constantly self-judging, self-criticizing, self-questioning. And it’s exhausting.

But I can’t stop that. I’ve tried my whole life to “stop” that, and now I’ve realized I’ve been going about it the wrong way.

It’s not about changing or forcing yourself to quit or stop your thought patterns or behavior. It’s about embracing YOU. It’s about really listening to yourself, asking yourself,

“Do I want to do this?”

“How do I really feel?”

“What do I really want?”

Why did I do that? Am I really sorry?”

“Am I meaning what I’m saying?”

And here’s the key – after asking those questions, really really listening. Really taking a moment to check in and see what the response is. Letting Kate answer for once instead of just steamrolling over her.

And then the second part, accepting those answers, whether or not you act on them, for what they are.

I have a really hard time loving myself. I like myself fine, I enjoy spending time with myself and sometimes I even think I’m good company, I’m talented, I’m entertaining, and even that (gasp) I’m attractive. But I am really bad at loving myself. As in, the active verb: To Love.

Hating myself is so much more comfortable. Which is probably why I seem like such a natural at comedy, yes?

But now I actively try to Love myself. It’s not about treating myself to a manicure and martinis, it’s about forgiving myself when I make that mistake. It’s about speaking up instead of staying quiet, especially when it’s to my detriment. It’s about letting me just really be me, and not try to mold myself into who I think everyone else (including me) wants me to be. And most of all? It’s about opening myself to the possibility of Pain. (See, you thought I wouldn’t tie this back to bravery, but I did!)

Besides, what do I have to lose? As Shia says, “JUST DO IT!” (I can’t believe I nearly forgot to add that video)

It’s hard, it’s subtle, and I am continually trying to strengthen that muscle. (Kind of like wearing emotional Shape-Ups or ankle weights all day, yeah? I mean, I’m sure you think both people who do so and myself are crazy.)

Since I’m talking in a lot of abstractions, here are some examples of how to not give a f*ck:

  • Not too long ago, I was contracted for a gig that I was very excited about. When going over the budget with my colleague, we were nervous to ask for any money at all. We had been working for free or little to nothing as artists for so long, how could we ask for money now? Newly reinvigorated by my IDGAF attitude and this amazing Slate article by writers Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin, I stayed firm and we created a budget that was both modest and yet did not short-chain us, our services, nor our talents. I said, if we do not place value in ourselves, if we do not take ourselves seriously as professionals, how can we expect anyone else to?

So we sent them our proposal. The result? The client was very happy to finance the project within our budget and we were able to turn over a high-quality product that all of us were proud of, while creating a positive business relationship that will hopefully continue for quite some time.

  • I have a friend who recently starting dating a guy. They had been on several dates and even had a sleepover. She was nervous about communicating with him though. What if he “ghosted” on her? What if she came on too strong? She was very nonchalant about the prospect of possibly never seeing him again, even though it was clear she really liked him, and he had not shown any kind of signs of not wanting to continue seeing her. (No, this “friend” was not me, although I act the EXACT SAME WAY in this situation.) We all know the many issues of this complex new phenomenon called, “Casual Dating.”  There are so many personal essays and blog posts about this, I couldn’t even decide which one to link. Just Google it. But incensed by my new IDGAF attitude, I texted her this:

“As someone who has recently been “casually dating” a lot, and pretty much always just “casually dated,” and for whom acts of emotional intimacy are the worst thing ever, I’m saying this now: Don’t hold back, dude. What do you have to lose? Liking someone isn’t a bad thing, it’s awesome. How exciting and nerve-wracking and scary and special is that?! When’s the last time you LIKED someone, truly? And even though I don’t act like it, it’s true. Sex is intimate, sex is personal. You are a healthy normal human being if you become emotionally attached to someone you slept with. We act like it’s a disease to be sensitive. My new theory is that is bullshit. We’re always so worried about coming across as “crazy chicks,” which is such a misogynist concept. Be authentically you. If he’s too chickenshit or lame to like that, you don’t want to be with him anyway. But being yourself and speaking your truth should never be shameful. Why is it always on the other person’s terms? F*ck that nonsense.”

And you know what? She texted him. They’re still dating. It’s going well.

People are always talking about telling your authentic story, speaking your truth, being comfortable in your own skin. But how to do that? Listen, this whole long blog post has been me trying to find the words to tell you, but to be honest, I’m not quite sure myself. The great Mindy Kaling says, “Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.” Which is great advice. And all of this is so much easier said than done. I always say, if I could live purely of my intellect, I’d be the f*cking Dalai Lama by now, but un/fortunately, I’m an emotional stupid human being.

But let me try one last time to break down the recipe that’s been working for me lately. You need:

  • Years of hard work and a lot of shitty mistakes and some pretty decent wins.
  • A couple of past emotional breakdowns for context.
  • A support system of just a few people who love you even if you don’t feel like you deserve it.
  • A therapist (optional, but it really makes it that much more effective).
  • A recent weight loss or new outfit or exercise class or haircut – something that makes you feel physically good (this is also optional but can really help).
  • A fiery passion for something you want.
  • Patience and the ability to forgive yourself.
  • The 2nd day of your period.
  • Very little sleep.

Mix it all together, put on your sunglasses, blast this song, and walk down the street. You’d be surprised how easy it is then to just not give a f*ck. God speed.

Probably the queen of IDGAF
Probably the queen of IDGAF

Sorry not sorry.

My heart is heavy, yet again.

I wasn’t going to post or write about this but I can’t not talk about it. The shooting in Charleston has left in me in tears. Tears for these people who have lost their lives because of hate. Tears for their families and loved ones. Tears of frustration at the sheer amount of people who are still refusing to admit that this was a hate crime, an act of terrorism. (Even though now it has come forward that he absolutely meant to start a civil war.)

There’s a lot I could say about this completely senseless massacre, but it’s everywhere. Everyone is talking about it. What I wanted to write about is the persistent narrative that I keep seeing on the internet of people trying to deny that this event had anything to do about race. That these 9 Black people, attending a Bible study class in a historic Black church, were murdered just because of some crazy guy. It’s infuriating, it’s insulting, and it’s wrong.

Here's a doodle I made of a stick figure being mad a computer. He's probably reading YouTube comments.
Here’s a doodle I made of a stick figure being mad a computer. He’s probably reading YouTube comments.

So naturally, I’ve been getting into internet debates with strangers, and I wanted to share two very different conversations I’ve just had.

1) Site: Facebook

A friend of mine posts the Jon Stewart video (that is so amazing and made me cry again) and here are the comments in their entirety, I didn’t even correct grammar or spelling issues. Obviously not using real names but the one labeled “T” is with whom I’m debating. I’m going to use colors to help break up blocks of text but also to make this a little less painful to read. Colors are fun, right?

T:  I think people need to learn the distinction between bigotry, racism, discrimination, prejudice and hatred. Then unlearn words like micro aggression and other PC era terms. acknowledge that people “profile” others all the time based on looks. Race. Age. Accent. Size. Scent. Hair. Clothes. Class. Speech etc.
People need to understand that being offended doesn’t make you a victim. That being an asshole doesn’t make you a criminal. People need to stop reducing racism to someone’s perception of what someone might have thought, and leave it for when it actually matters. People are way too sensitive and it’s a disservice to those who have suffered and actually suffer injustices now

A (original poster): I love to read your posts because, you always do such a compelling job of outlining a position I don’t fully agree with nor fully disagree with. So, yeah, I appreciate your post….Moving on, it’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation about a complex topic like racism, especially over Facebook. So I won’t attempt to prescribe a balance on sensitivity or take on your misconceptions about the power of perception, but I hope someone, who is ripe to confront themselves about this will see my post today. Thanks for reading.

(Super nice diplomatic response that should’ve ended the conversation but ooh no… not while I’m around!)

T: Well thanks 🙂 yeah I’m not sensitive. I’ve not a bone of guilt. I never get defensive. My conviction is my freedom. Being right or wrong or judged or labelled compels me personally to do nothing. I use my life experiences to determine my perspectives and I don’t expect everyone to agree with them and I surely don’t expect people, especially on Facebook as you say, to judge me simply for my character and not as a white or straight or male. That will never happen. So I may as well say what I feel since people will dismiss it anyways 🙂  let them be hypocrites and regurgitate whatever the college professors are spewing. It’s just like rap music every generation likes their voices and thinks the new/older ones are lame. Doesn’t matter if it’s flavors of Gatorade or brands of feminism. Nothing is more American than arguing about things with emotion and sentiment instead of logic or reason

A: That’s great for people to know when they consider your ideas and point of view.

(Oooh, gurl, the shade, the shade of it all. Go you.)

R (another commentator):
Logically speaking:
Racism is discrimination based on race, specifically occuring when that race has been historically discriminated against and demoralized and put in a position of oppression. (So logically those historically in a position of power cannot be discriminated against in this way).
Systemic racism is when that oppression and discrimination becomes ingrained into the very system something is built upon. So in the case of the US, that’s our constitution. Your freedom that you use as your conviction was built upon the oppression of others. I’m not dismissing your opinion. You have as much right to it as I do to mine. But I’m looking at facts. Your opinion is one that has been heard before. In fact, the majority have been saying this for longer than America existed. It doesn’t mean it is correct.
But then again logically those in a position of power will seek to keep that power. So yeah maybe it’s time emotion had its day because at least if we look at our emotions we might understand the place in which others find themselves.

T:  Emotion always has its day now. People get outraged all the time now. And like John (Editorial note: he means Jon Stewart) says. Nothing happens. My initial response was to A’s words about racism, if its inherent, what people need to do about it etc. my thoughts are that too many people try to make feelings reality. It’s not logical for society to enable that, but we do. If someone is offended, they’re offended, and they’re validated. No matter how much of a stretch it is. we’re obligated to respect their feelings no matter what now. I just call bullshit.
I don’t need to express my emotions publicly to empathize. And I don’t need to empathize publicly to show anyone I’m human, cool, forward thinking, progressive, liberal, warm, loving, etc. I know I am. This is the freedom I speak of. Don’t coopt the term for your own argument I’m. Not speaking of our 3/5ths men days of old, of slave times or suffrage. I’m talking of a personal freedom to speak my mind without fear of offending someone, or worrying about being judged. You proved my point for me. insinuating that I’m “in power” and my opinions are to be dismissed. You can believe that all you want. People have been labeling people to dismiss them before America existed. It’s time I show some emotion about it don’t you think?

(I don’t even know… most of that didn’t even make sense… where to begin… So naturally, I engaged.)

Me: Chiming in here because I don’t know you, so I can’t quite tell what is tongue-in-cheek and what is sincere in your comment, T, but it sounds like you’re being a bit dismissive and defensive towards R’s comment, which to me was very straight-forward and actually not emotional at all.

First of all: 1) You wrote, ” If someone is offended, they’re offended, and they’re validated. No matter how much of a stretch it is. we’re obligated to respect their feelings no matter what now. I just call bullshit.” But you’re missing the point. We’re not talking about the PC police or someone being offended over a Hollywood movie and posting about it on a blog, we’re talking about 9 people who were brutally murdered on Wed night because of the color of their skin. But as Jon Stewart said, this isn’t an isolated incident. This isn’t just the work of one lone wolf crazy person. This occurs all the time and it’s indicative of the systematic racism that this country is built upon. It’s everywhere. This isn’t a fluke, it’s a physical eruption of a hate culture that we live in. To dismiss it as people simply playing victim every time they’re offended because all people profile is incredibly insulting to those who live their daily lives being profiled every single day because of their race. And not just in a “oh that one guy doesn’t like me” kind of way, but the way where policemen shoot first and ask questions later, employers won’t hire you, store owners follow you – it’s systematic. Jon said, these people drive on roads named after Confederate leaders who fought to keep them in slavery. I insinuate from your earlier comments that you’re a white, straight, male. And you are entitled to your opinions, but the biggest point Jon was making is that we can’t deny that we are part of a racist society. People hate the term privilege because they react to it emotionally, but the actual meaning is that you have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be black in America (and neither do I), so check your privilege means stop telling black people to stop being so sensitive and listen to what they have to say about their experience.

2) And on that note, no, I’m sorry, you can’t have that “personal freedom to speak my mind without fear of offending someone, or worrying about being judged” – first of all, that’s called being human and everyone has that. You just don’t want to be challenged or debated. You don’t want to discuss. When I hear that, I hear, “don’t bother arguing with me because I’m right. I’m allowed to say whatever I want in a public sphere and I shouldn’t have to suffer any consequences for it.” And yet as soon as an opposing opinion is voiced, you shut it down with talks of freedom of speech. That’s fucking hypocritical. You can absolutely believe whatever you want. You can say whatever you want. You CAN’T then expect to not have to deal with the consequences. That’s being an adult. Be offensive but then stand by it. What’s wrong with saying, “Yeah, I am offensive.” I think A was speaking to that – we all need to say, “You know what? I am a little racist. I can be part of the problem. But I want to be part of the solution, so let’s talk.” That’s progress.

3) What is wrong with emotions? In intelligent debate, emotion is always dismissed as weak or feminine or useless, but all progress by humankind was made when emotion met intellect and skill. People were killed. People are still being killed. We are human beings, made of flesh, and emotions are what sets us apart as evolved beings. There’s nothing wrong with emotions. I’m sad that these people died. I’m sad that we live in this type of world still. I’m sad and angry that my black and brown friends have to deal with this every day. I’m sad and angry that my Asian brother is even profiled by authorities still. I’m sad that I’ve been made to feel like I wasn’t American, like I didn’t belong, and that I was a freak, constantly every single day of my life growing up and in ways that continues now. I’m angry and sad events like being called a “Chink” in 7th grade, to my Muslim friends being taken aside at airports, to the tragedy in Charleston are all indicative of a giant complex racist culture and history that is America. I’m sad that we still have to have these discussions. I’m worried that you’re not even going to read this. I’m embarrassed that I’m blowing up A’s wall with talk about politics and race and sociology. But I’m incensed to reply and keep talking and not being quiet. Because this is my experience, because their lives mattered. Because silence = death. Because we deserve the right to be fucking emotional. But what do I know? I’m just human.

T: I myself was never talking about the hate crime murders in the church. Also I don’t care what people think about some of my opinions. It’s not that I “shut them down” it’s that I simply don’t feel a need to get defensive nor appease people should they be offended by my opinions. (In a public forum) it’s a nice freedom, a luxury, a privilege even that most people don’t have, because they don’t want to offend anyone or be called sexist or racist etc etc even if theyre speaking the truth or have an unpopular Opinion.

(Editorial note: He then went back later and EDITED his reply and added:) Which was my point about people’s feelings being reality and how as a society we enable that. Being offended equates to being a victim now. Being an asshole equates to being criminal. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Even professors have to watch what they teach so they don’t offend one single student. Lest they complain. It’s an awful climate. The irony being that the enabled offended people tend to be the ones who won’t listen – their feelings are reality. It’s a slippery slope. I find people agree with things or don’t say anything just to avoid drama. It’s pathetic.

(You can tell he’s starting to flail now.)

Me: Okay… so… what’s your point? Then how do your comments add to the conversation that A started by posting this video that was about the hate crime murders? Are your comments completely non-sequitur? I don’t get it.
PS: This article (written by a white male with a Ph.D.) is exactly what I’m talking about.

Here is a soothing picture of a beach at sunset to help prevent rage stroke. Picture by https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiaralily/
Here is a soothing picture of a beach at sunset to help prevent rage stroke. Picture by https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiaralily/

T: And as for your personal anecdotes, welcome to the world. People can be mean and hateful and the easiest thing for lazy people to do is attack or judge someone by their appearance / race. What could society have done besides tell kids it’s not ok and punish them for racial slurs? Nothing. It will still happen. Even as adults. Everyone will handle it differently. Some will feel like victims others won’t give a shit. Being called names sure seems like child’s play compared to being killed or beat because you’re black or gay etc. but who am I to judge? I’m not even talking about racial slurs and things that are already illegal and or forbidden in schools or the workplace. I’m talking about misco aggressions and other bs. People are looking for ways to be offended it seems like. Do I call it a micro aggression when cars try to charge me more for a fare? Or when bodegas won’t sell me loosies because they assume I’m a cop? Both of those happen because of my race. Am I a victim? You will surely say no. Do I have a right to be upset? Sure. Are they doing anything illegal? Not really. Where do we draw the line.

Me: No, but that was my point, I’m in NO way saying being called (racial slurs) names as a child is equal to being shot – please be clear about that. It’s all symptomatic of a larger issue – you being charged more for a car or not being sold loosies DOES make you a victim of what is a racially divided and problematic system – slavery didn’t end that long ago. Jim Crow laws were just over 50 years ago. Our country is built on racism and we need to admit that. Then we can start trying to enact laws and measures to try to make it better. Mindfulness, like A was advocating, is the key. We can’t just say, “Oh well, people suck, that’s life.” That’s so defeatist. In this kind of society, we all suffer, regardless of our race.

T: Yes it is built on slavery. 100%. Indentured servitude too. Which continues to this day with student loans. (Oooookay… not touching that one.) Acknowledging it out loud doesn’t do any good. All we can do is live by example and fight for and speak for those that can’t themselves. To demand justice. Maybe people have a different idea of what that means. Maybe people have different expectations. I know this, insults based on race (or size, class, slut shaming, ginger (sorry ash) etc etc will exist forever. I know I’ll prepare my multi racial kids for it, what to do, how to handle it, not to do it etc. beyond that idk what more an individual can do. I just won’t respect when people cry wolf. Which goes full circle to what I posted earlier.

Me, trying to not let him derail the conversation: But who is crying wolf? And how is talking about crying wolf even helpful on a FB post that is absolutely about a hate crime where people died because of the color of their skin?

T: There are already enough laws and enough people losing jobs over bs. IMO. God forbid you offend someone. It’s not helping anyone it’s taking away from legitimate cases of discrimination etc etc like I said originally. If anything I think it’s polarizing people and creating divisiveness.

Me:  I guess I’m just confused why we’re even having this discussion. This has nothing to do with Ashley’s post then. And can you site real examples please? Of people losing their jobs over people being offended?

Me again: Whoa, also I just notice you added a whole new addendum to your earlier comment that was NOT there before (I quote that extra part mentioned earlier).
And while I do agree with you partially (I actually wrote a blog post about the PC police and how it hurts our cause) I don’t think that it’s a bad thing for us to look inward and see if we’re part of the problem and discuss these issues because as I said earlier, silence equals death.

T:  I speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and try to silence those who try to coopt or steal from them. Like these memes out now comparing the white kids arrest to the five worst domestic assault/murders of Black men in the last year. No. Right message. Wrong day. Don’t exploit this for click bait. Don’t manipulate angry people. Don’t exploit actual victims and dead people to bring awareness (clicks and likes to your FB page) to the obvious fact that black people are sometimes mistreated by the cops. Don’t disrespect the men and women who caught this mass murderer by complaining that they didn’t beat shoot or sit on him like a teen age girl. I’m shocked how many people I know are sharing these dumb memes I’ve been up all night shaming them.

(I KNOW. I KNOW.)

Me: But I don’t think people are posting to just get clicks and likes, they’re showing the disparity between the way white people vs black people are treated in this country. Racism is racism is racism. It IS all related. We do need to talk about this. These issues are real and they are important. The senator did a lot of work to try and benefit the black community. If we’re not going to talk about these issues now, then when? How many more people have to die?

T: You can’t compare how local yokel cops abuse people with a multi agency intrastate manhunt. It’s beyond naive. There are thousands of people arrested daily without any incidents, also white people do get beat. We all know the disparities…. Still. Wrong place. Also The people who make those memes have like a million likes. They’re garbage pages like tmz. He’ll be sold for profit to a business.The only valid comparisons to this mass murderer are the last 4 black mass murderers. 3 of whom were taken peacefully while one was shot but not fatally. 

But who cares about logic! People are mad and they need to show it so they repost whatever manipulative meme comes their way. Ignoring the facts. As for the issues? I’ve been talking anouth Them since the 80’s. Nothing has changed. Idk I think people will continue to die until the government isn’t owned by the NRA and corporations. It is up to the individual states at the moment.

(He posts a picture of a young black man in a white bullet-proof vest.)

Oh look a young black mass murderer being treated just like yesterday’s white one! ^ but why remember this.. It doesn’t go with our memes.

Me: Yeah, these memes aren’t helpful ultimately, but people are angry, people are upset. I can’t blame them. It’s sparking discussions though, like this one, so it’s not all bad.

I think we actually agree on more points than not, I just think when you come out and comment on a video about 9 people being murdered as an act of terror talking about the world being too concerned with political correctness or offended parties calling themselves victims being bullshit, you can see how I would infer that you are trying to dismiss the fact that the Charleston killings were racially motivated and telling everyone to stop being so sensitive and making this about race. Because that’s what a lot of people on the internet are saying, and it makes me, as you say, “emotional.”

I’m going to stop responding now, not because I don’t want to keep debating, but I think we’re reached a pretty good impasse and we should give A’s wall a rest.

T: It’s as obvious as can be that those murders were hate crimes. Like John said. I was referring to A’s words about personal responsibility. (insert emoji of fingers in a peace sign.)

Mmhmm
Wish I could send back my own kind of peace sign, amirite

Ugh what a waste of a morning, right? We’re just talking in circles, which is usually how debates like this end up. Usually the guy (and it’s always a guy – but don’t worry, #notallmen) will at one point realize that my calm, rational points make sense and either concede but more likely, he will twist his original point while continuing to argue until I say, “Wait a minute, we are actually agreeing, why are we fighting?” And then he gets to not be the bad guy or lose, but rather it’s a “tie.” Seriously.

I’m sorry, I know that was probably painful to read and it’s okay if you skimmed.

BUT THEN I had this great exchange with another stranger. You can see it all on my Twitter but as we were using multiple tweets to reply, here it is all laid out for your reading pleasure. This is a good one. But I’ll use colors again because we already established that colors are fun.

2) Site: Twitter

kickasskmo (that’s me): Can we start calling the #CharlestonShooting an act of #terror now? He says it himself! Link.

gragonstout: @kickasskmo no for it to be an act of terrorism they have to be a political agenda you should know the definition of words before using

me: Did you even read the article? CNN reports: “To start a race war, Roof told investigators, according to one of the officials.”

me: Is a race war not a political agenda? Maybe you should check your facts before you tell me I’m not using my words correctly.

him: he is not a member of an organisation so it was not a formal act for terrorism it was one crazy guy

him: and its according to one office let the dust settle before you talk shit and stop race baiting crying voice white people bad

me: Was the OK City bombing not a terrorist act? He was also “one crazy guy”. I’m not “crying white people bad” it’s racism = bad.

me: Dictionary does not say that terrorism must be part of an organization anywhere. Your logic has holes.  Link.

him: my friends say I should do stand up toin the UK the scenes really big right now

him: because they are all one community the food is a mix of Spanish and Asian they do the best seafood what’s your stage name

Um what?

me: wait, what? That’s it? We were just discussing race and the Charleston shootings and now we’re talking food and comedy? Wha?

him:  to be honest you prove me wrong I didn’t know what else to say but do like food and comedy

#micdrop
#micdrop

me: oh my god, I am literally LOLing. Thank you for engaging with me, this has made my day. Def try stand-up! It’s scary & fun!

him: I was going to try the feminists and race baiting way of dealing with it being proved wrong letters I just couldn’t do it

me: well, good sir, I applaud you. I think discussion is so impt. Thank u for not being an arse. We need to promote love, not hate!

him: thanks you give me confidence now all I need is a time distance girlfriend

(ignoring that…)

him: thanks but do you have any of your work on YouTube

me:  I do, you can check out my webpage in my bio!

him: thanks for sharing video good luck in the future

me: Thanks!

Wow. Yeah. I don’t know what to think now. Just when I’m ready to go jump off a cliff, I actually get to have a meaningful intelligent conversation with a stranger who seems to be just a troll and change his mind.  You win some, you lose some. The internet, amirite?

ANYWAY.  Want to do more than just debate with strangers on the internet? Let’s end this on some important links:

Donate to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

Sign a petition to remove the Confederate Flag From All Government Places

Find out how you can have more constructive conversations about race. 

I am sending my thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims. In the end, people lost their lives to a senseless act of violence, and that will never make sense and no amount of debating can bring those lives back. But I maintain that it’s important to keep discussing, keep talking about it, and do what we can to try to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Don’t let them die in vain.

 

How ‘Game of Thrones’ taught me about Feminism *SPOILERS!*

Are you sick of hearing about this past Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones yet? The shelf-life of this episode in the blog-o-sphere has been remarkable. It has been 3 days since it has aired and it’s still being discussed. People are outraged. People are over it. People don’t see what the big deal is.

And all because our imaginary little daughter/sister got raped on her wedding night by a terrible awful demented excuse for a human being who flays and hunts people for fun. (Looking at you, Ramsey.)

ramsey

I’ve read several articles and blog posts about this, I’ve gotten into civil discussions on Facebook with kind strangers, and yeah, I saw the episode (and I have read all of the released books). I hear you. All of you.

Here’s my take – because I know you’ve been dying to know what I think:

We’re talking about this the wrong way.

I don’t mean to let the cat out of the bag, but I feel like I have to set the record straight. All of this “rape” that you are all so upset about – it’s all part of a secret master plan that D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have in place to actually teach society all about Rape Culture and the Male Gaze through the guise of a multi-million dollar fantastical HBO melodrama. DUH.

But in all seriousness – for me, rape itself in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” isn’t the issue, it’s the way the ‘Game of Thrones’ show has been handling the depiction of women, violence against women, and rape overall.

I mean, at this point, I’ve given up on the show ever doing the books, these stories, or the characters justice, but the last scene from this week’s episode was problematic in many, many ways. Not just because it was a lead character that was raped – that wasn’t raped in the books (Um hello Daenerys and Cersei?!) but for larger reasons that I think tie into portrayal of women in the media today.

The fabulous GoT G&M blog has a great take on exactly WHY the show has been missing the mark for so long, especially in the last point:

“The ASOIAF universe is not one that’s very friendly to women, and there are many women who, for that reason, take a large issue with consuming the series… Martin is a 21st century man with rather progressive sensibilities, and instead, we would argue that the violence against, and mistreatment/relegation of women, is a major theme explored in his novels.
[The show writers]…don’t seem to get this. Or see these themes. They see the violence alright, and they’ll throw in some casual rapes… to remind us what a terrible place Westeros can be… But it’s beyond rape. It’s their treatment of every. single. woman. character.”

Not only do the rapes of Sansa, Cersei, and Dany create so many problems for these main characters’ arcs and development, but I think we should also maybe start thinking bigger picture. Some people have been asking WHY does a hit premium cable show feel the need to write in a rape scene for a main character when there isn’t any? (Which is a great question I think any viewer should ask of any artwork that portrays brutal sexual violence.) But I would actually take that a step further and ask why they choose to show it as they do. Yes, the rape scene in the books with Ramsey is much worse, and yes, rape is a real problem and yes, it’s historical fiction (no it’s not), and blah blah why are we so upset about a mild rape when nobody cares when guys get their skulls crushed in or members cut off? That’s not fair! Waaah!

I mean, hey. Some people are fine with it. We know Ramsey is terrible. Some claim this is truthful to the material, this world, and the characters. Some are even saying it wasn’t a rape. To which Genevieve Burgess of Pajiba.com says,

“If someone tries to tell you that it wasn’t rape because she walked into the room and didn’t “fight back” do me a favor; squint at them funny and say “oh, you have an eyelash there, mind if I…?” and when they agree, punch them straight in the face.”

But even as a rape, some felt it was justified, or at least treated better than other rapes and scenes of violence in the series. Even the ladies over at Jezebel said,

“But while last night’s sexual assault was absolutely disturbing, it relied more on sound than on visuals, was shot with a lot of care and respect given to a very young actress.”

And a lot of people have been pointing out that this very well could be the plot point that snaps Reek back into action as Theon.

But that’s exactly my problem with it. In the scene, the camera pans away from the actual rape to Reek’s face as he watched, as if we’re supposed to only feel bad that this is happening by viewing it through his eyes. Not to get all feminist theory, but that is actually a perfect personification of the Male Gaze. Why not pan the camera the other way and stay on Sansa’s face like they did for Dany’s rape? Why not experience the horror through her eyes if you’re going to go there? And if this is really a plot device to awaken ol’ Theon, then WTF – or as Criticwire puts it,

“…This is trending awfully close to what genre writers call “fridging,” where a woman’s agony is cast primarily as a motivating agent for more important male characters.”

Bam. Male Gaze lesson. Clever, clever Benioff and Weiss, you sneaky bastards. You almost fooled me. Look at how much we’re learning!

Sophie-Turner

By the way, can we please shut up about whatever the hell the director of that Cersei/Jaime atrocity meant it to be? Of course it is a rape! If 99% of your viewers watch your show and freak out and scream rape, then maybe you should think that whatever your intent was, Alex Graves, you terrible director*, doesn’t fucking matter?

Oh but wait, maybe this is just another lesson by the genius Benioff and Weiss. They’re showing us a metaphorical artistic example of the excuses that ACTUAL rapists and defense lawyers use: “Oh, no it was totally consensual, I really didn’t mean to rape her. She did want it, I know she kept saying stop, but her body language showed that she obviously wanted it.”

Hey Mr. Graves, maybe you should take a good hard look at yourself if you create a scene, that in your head, is a passionate sex scene, and then practically everyone who sees it calls it rape. That might be a red flag for ya, buddy. (*I don’t know if you are really a terrible director, I got heated. I’m sure you’re a nice guy.)

But again, it’s just all part of the Master Plan to Teach the World About Modern Feminism by Benioff and Weiss.

And that’s just two examples. Over the course of 4.5 season, Benioff and Weiss have showed us scenes that address many different and varied issues when it comes the complex world of Rape Culture, Misogyny, and Feminism. For example:

  • Married people can be raped too, or You don’t owe your husband sex.
  • Whores can be raped too. Lots of them. Repeatedly. And then killed.
  • You can be really poor and your father’s daughter-wife, and it’s still rape.
  • You can be white and raped.
  • You can be black and raped.
  • You can be ethnically ambiguous and raped. (Not really sure what Dorne people are yet in Earth terms.)
  • Rape can happen doggy style.
  • Rape can be with someone you know or as an act of war or with total strangers.
  • If you are a woman, you will be raped.
  • You can be raped as a man too. And gay men can and will also be used as possessions.
  • Basically, sex is bad, humankind is bad, and you’re better off just getting killed off early. (Looking at you, Ned Stark.)

So what do we do with all of this knowledge? Angrily write about it on the internet? Shun it and stop watching? I’m not really sure. I’ll keep watching for now – I have to say, I am interested to see how things turn out. Besides, it’s not like a new book is coming out anytime soon. And there’s always drinking.