Anger and Stories

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This image lives on my desktop. It’s not my background, but it lives as an icon, a thumbnail reminder to myself.

And yet, I rarely obey it.

I’m afraid. I am afraid.

I am afraid of my anger. I’m afraid of all the anger inside me that will come pouring out when I open up about all the ugly, unbeautiful parts of my life. I’ve opened up about some of them, but there are more.

I am afraid of others’ reactions–not necessarily those of strangers, though there’s a certain fear of not being believed. I’m more afraid of those I love–what would they say?

And I know, I know: if they wanted me to say nice things about them, they should have treated me better.

But what about forgiveness?

But forgiveness shouldn’t be compulsory, either. And some things cannot be forgiven at all, and some things cannot be forgiven without being worked through. And some things just aren’t forgiveable things, even if I am angry about them, or hurt about/by them. It’s complicated.

I want to be compassionate. I want to be loving. I want to be a good person.

I know that good, loving, compassionate people also get angry.

And yet, there’s so much messaging that says the opposite–that love and anger don’t go together, that compassion and anger don’t mix, that being a good person and being an angry person aren’t the same thing.

I don’t want to be an angry person. I am an angry person. I hate being so angry all the time. I am so sad that I am so angry. I am so angry that I am so sad. And I am so so tired.

I wish I could just let go of the anger. I tried. I tried to just…put it aside. I tried. But that ended up just building walls inside me, walls I didn’t even realize I was erecting until almost too late, until I almost took my life because I cut myself off so far from everyone and everything around me.

I have to deal with all of these things, but dealing with them means being angry, and I really, really don’t want to be angry.

TW/CN: Rape, Sexual Assault, Cis White Men Getting Away With It

There have been three or four high-profile cases in the news lately of young, cishet, white men getting away with raping women. Some of the victims have been vocal, speaking against the judge and system and man and family. Some have been ‘compassionate’ (I’ll get to that), talking about how a ‘mistake’ shouldn’t define a person’s life. Some haven’t really been able to defend themselves or speak for themselves. Some have been quiet.

I was quiet. For a long, long time, I was quiet. I still am, in most ways. Most of the people who knew me then don’t know. Most of the people who knew us then–me and him–still don’t know. And I don’t use his name when I do talk about it. I use veiled references. I hint. I don’t give exact dates, I don’t give details. I know that people on my friends list are also on his friends list, and they don’t know, and I don’t want to go through he-said/she-said drama and bullshit. He’s a my-age cishet white male. I never turned him in. There’s no evidence. And at the time, I don’t even know if there would’ve been bruising or tearing. I know a hymen is no indicator of anything (they’re so varied naturally), but mine had torn at a young age to a bouncy horse incident. Whether it grew back..? I don’t know. Anyway.

We were dating. Boyfriend and girlfriend. In love, or so we said. I thought so. I found out later that he mostly wanted sex with virgins. He grew tired of me when I was no longer virginal enough for his tastes. Of course…that was his fault. And of course, virginity is a ridiculous societal construct meant to hold women down…but that was the point, right?

Anyway.

I didn’t speak, for years. I didn’t even call it rape, for years. I lied to myself. I lied to everyone, because who would believe me? I knew my parents wouldn’t. They always assumed I was having sex, doing drugs, drinking underage, smoking, partying. What a laugh. I got straight A’s, never did find out where to buy drugs or alcohol. I still awkwardly call it alcohol. I still have only had champagne at weddings and wine at the Table, and a little mead at my own wedding. Two swallows, enough to know the fire of it and that I wanted no more. I never even snuck out. I was too terrified to try.

And, because of my Purity Promise, I thought I had to marry him. I thought that the first person to stick their penis in me–with or without my consent–claimed me.

Even if I felt my soul die the instant it happened.

Even if I liked women, too.

I lied. To myself, to my parents, to my grandparents, to my friends, to him. And when he kept using my body, over and over, and telling me I was too stiff, too unemotional, too uninterested, I tried to force my body to respond.

Because that’s how it had to be, right?

Years later, when I finally began to hesitantly call it rape, I realized he probably didn’t. And, at the time, I thought, “Okay, there are two sides to this story. To me, this was rape. To him, it was sex.”

But that’s not how this works.

It has taken me almost half my life since then to realize that.

Rape is rape is rape is rape.

And I say that even though I know consensual non-consent is a Thing. Because that is different. See how ‘consensual’ is included there? Trust is a Thing there. Conversation, knowledge, consent. It can still go too far, it is a dangerous Thing, but consent is built in.

Anyway.

We had talked. He knew I wanted to wait for marriage. He decided–apparently–that he didn’t. And just like that, suddenly, I had no choice. I was trapped, and there was no escape.

I put it off, thinking about it, dealing with it emotionally, for years. I couldn’t make a scene, you see. Every tiny emotion I showed was so -dramatic- in my family.

And so I live with the knowledge that every time I show emotion about this, or about any rape, I might be seen as ‘dramatic.’ I hear it in that Emily Gilmore voice, “Everything’s so *dramatic* with you, Lorelai.” I am keenly aware of how my family takes this any time I talk about it.

I have told my mom and my dad now. It was…it was traumatic and relieving, telling them. Terrifying. I had panic attacks and nightmares, but they both accepted me and my story. I don’t know that they would have all those years ago, but they did now. Half a lifetime later. I’m glad.

But I’m also still aware of how my mom is still with my step-dad, and how my step-dad said, multiple times, that women were to wear skirts so men could have “easier access” to them.

I wore pants. Not even shorts. Jeans, always.

I finally bought a pair of shorts I like this year. For the first time in…I think since I was a little girl, I wore a dress without pantyhose and shorts underneath, too.

I am very aware that whenever a rapist gets away with it–and they are always cishet white men, almost invariably young–that all of this is going on in the back of my mind. My stomach is tightening. This all comes to the forefront, washing over me.

I want to tell my story, but how can I? How can I, when I lied for so long? How can I, when I know that my family is watching? How can I, when I know that so many people are mutual friends even now? How can I, when I am battered with the idea that women are supposed to be compassionate, even to their perpetrators? How can I, when talking about it in the company of mutual friends–like on my Facebook feed–feels like I am somehow hurting him?

 

These are some of the things that keep me up at night, that make me think I am a terrible person. Reason #3383 Why I Am A Terrible Person, on repeat as a litany through my mind: I lied. I lied in a big way, and I lied to myself, and I can’t trust myself, and so how could anyone else trust me? I lied to cope, to deal with my circumstances, but it hardly seems to matter when honesty is such a big part of my foundation.

And that’s part of why I want to tell, too: confessionally. I want to cleanse myself of the lie, to let it go. But who deserves such a burden? And how many times must I unburden myself? How long before I will be able to get out of bed with ease, and for more than a day or two at a time?

 

Will this ever get easier, seeing these stories? Will we ever learn to treat victims/survivors of rape better? Will we ever stop telling victims/survivors that they must be ‘compassionate’ to their perpetrators? Will we ever start treating cishet white male perpetrators of rape the same way we treat cishet black male perpetrators of rape? Will the day ever come that we teach consent to everyone, candidly, from birth on up?

 

I don’t know, but now, I am exhausted.

 

Wrestling With Anger

I haven’t written in a little over a month because I’ve been dealing with anger, with being angry.

It’s a scary place for me.

So I’ve been running away, hiding. Mentally abusing myself for feeling anger. Verbally abusing myself, when there’s no one around to hear it. It’s a thing I can’t stop. I’ll think of all the things I should be doing, and all those shoulds that I’m not doing (no matter the reasons), and then “I hate myself” will pop out of my mouth, or “I’m not a good person” or “I’m a terrible person.”

Being alone has been hard.

Being with people has been hard.

I keep assuming that all the people I care about who aren’t around me every day, who don’t see my physical and mental struggles every day, must hate me. I keep assuming they think I’m terrible and a fake.

I keep wanting to take time away from what little activism I do, because my first response to it is anger.


 

I do some of my best writing in anger.

It’s a white-hot flash, an energy buzzing over me. I hum with it, almost sing in the clarity as words flow from brain to keyboard.

Whether I write or not, though–whether I publish or not–once the flow stops, something else happens.

If I write, usually I feel good. Usually, I write well, and I write something that I think furthers the cause, or helps my audience understand better.

But then there’s a crash.

If I don’t write…if I just press it down, ignore it, try to move on…I’m sad. I usually wind up more depressed.

The solution seems to be to write–but I don’t want to be angry all the time. I have these flashes of things to write about all the time, and I’d love to write more. I just don’t want to be angry all the time.


 

I have a complicated history with anger.

Anger–rage, really–prefaced many of my step-dad’s worst abusive bouts.

Anger had center stage at my grandparents’ dinner table when my dad was home, as he and my grandpa shouted at each other, red-faced over politics and mashed potatoes.

Anger fueled the retorts that protected me from more physical abuse, but also shamed my family.

Anger has made me feel both impotent and powerful, both clouded and clear.

I can’t trust it.

Anger scares me.


 

Anger is an appropriate response to social injustice, particularly when one experiences that injustice.

Often, we as a society treat anger as something totally unacceptable, particularly in women and people of color. I’m a white woman. I ‘win’ on the white front, but not the woman front. It’s never been acceptable for me to be angry, even when it was appropriate.


 

In my depression, I am deeply angry at myself for disappointing everyone (myself included). Sometimes I’m angry at my family for how they treated me growing up, but mostly I turn that rage inward.

I don’t want to always be angry. Reading social justice things has become dicier for me lately, because I feel the flash of anger, and that flash too quickly reminds me of my self-anger and how I’m not doing enough.

I don’t want to respond to things out of anger always. I want to respond out of empathy and gentleness and compassion. Those are the things I admire. I’ve spent so long trying to do that, but the walls I’ve put in place are crumbling down, and now I don’t know how to rebuild them. I don’t know if I can. I don’t want to be my dad or my step-dad, always yelling, frowning, red-faced, wild-eyed.


 

I hope I can find peace with this soon, because I don’t know what to do with all of this anger.

Liebster Award ♥

The lovely Michelle (& Moose!) of The Lonely Tribalist (please check them out–they have some fascinating reads, like this piece on white colonialism!) nominated me for a Liebster Award. Thank you! ♥♥♥

Liebster Award: Discover New Blogs

The way it works:

  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions the nominator gives.
  • Nominate up to 11 other bloggers with fewer than 200 followers
  • Create 11 questions for your nominees.
  • Notify all nominees via social media/blogs.

The questions from Michelle (& Moose!):

  1. Will you go to the prom with me? Check Yes[✔] or No[]
  2. Last thing that made you laugh? A post on feminist_tinderhttps://instagram.com/p/8qUiRIupj6/?taken-by=feminist_tinder
  3. What would you do if you were Supreme Ruler of the World for a week? Monday would be Education Reform Day, wherein I would eliminate student debt, make schooling free, and make sure all children (of all genders) have equal access to schooling. Tuesday would be Food Reform Day, wherein I would institute policies that subsidize locally-grown crops, de-subsidize mega-farms, and redistribute food wealth more evenly across the globe–both by eliminating food deserts, by helping struggling local farmers across the globe, and by eliminating slavery in food. Wednesday would be Water Purity Day, wherein I would insure every locality has continuing access to potable water, and that water is a free resource for all. Thursday would be Medically Accurate Sexual Health Education Day, wherein I would institute mandatory medically accurate and inclusive sexual health education from kindergarten on up in all schools. Friday would be Racial Integration Day, wherein I would institute mandatory racially inclusive history lessons in all schools–no more letting national pride rule the history books! Saturday would be Active Listening Day, wherein I would institute mandatory lessons on various sensitivities (emotional, cultural, mental health, religious, etc.) and how we address one another about them. Sunday would be Party Day, wherein I would likely hide in a closet with a book while everyone else ate cake, or perhaps I might bake the cake if I had enough energy left over.
  4. Where do babies come from? Preferably other people. Or unicorns.
  5. What’s your deepest, darkest secret? This question always trips me up, because I know I have secrets, but I come up blank when I see it! I guess my secrets are afraid of the question? Or maybe I either have really good personal boundaries or really poor ones, and this is my brain’s way of protecting myself? I probably have really poor ones. But also, I tend to be an open book–ask me things, and I answer. The trouble is that people usually don’t know to ask, and so some things never get asked. And that sounded more ominous than I meant it!
  6. Do you ever sing when you’re by yourself? If so, what was the last song you sang? All the time, and usually made-up things. So I’ll take my wife’s name and make up some kind of nonsense rhyming scheme around it. Or my cat’s, or my boyfriend’s, or lover’s…. There’s a theme there. Well, I don’t know what my cat has to do with it. >.>
  7. Last good book/movie/TV show you enjoyed? I’m always in the middle of several books. Right now I’m reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between The World And Me, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things To Me, Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, and Malo Hopkinson & Uppinder Mehan’s So Long Been Dreaming sci fi shorts collection–all amazing so far. I also just finished Jenny Lawson’s (TheBloggess) second memoir Furiously Happy; Felicia Day’s You’re Never Weird On the Internet (almost); Deirdre Riordan Hall’s Sugar; and Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge books–all also very amazing books. For TV & movies, I’m a Netflixer; I’ve been enjoying Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Scrotal Recall (so, so much better than the name sounds), Grace & Frankie, Leverage, Call the Midwife, and Dear White People:
  8. Here’s $20. What will you do with it? Awesome! Let’s put it in the pot for pizza for the polycule!
  9. Quick: There’s a hungry-looking zombie standing in your front yard. What do you do? Yell out my last “I love yous” to my loved ones, because I’m slow; I’m about to be zombie-food. Also, this gives them warning to implement their various zombie-survival plans and decide whether they’re keeping me as a pet or double-tapping. They may have some confusion amongst themselves on this point. They’ll need the warning.
  10. If you could master any talent/skill by the end of the week, what would it be? Anything? Hmm. You know what? I might want to be able to run really fast. Then maybe I won’t become zombie food…..
  11. Last awkward moment? I was espousing my love of an advice website to a friend, and she then told me about her very poor experience with that website several years ago. Awkward!

Okay, this is the part where I’m supposed to come up with 11 questions, and then nominate some fabulous bloggers, too!

Let’s see….

My Questions:

  1. What does ‘home’ mean to you?
  2. What time of day do you prefer?
  3. How did we get so many languages?
  4. What, if anything, do you collect?
  5. What do you think about double rainbows?
  6. Where do you see stardust in yourself?
  7. What do you like for dessert?
  8. Do you know the muffin man?
  9. You wake up with no responsibilities, no aches/pains, and no plans for the day. What do you do?
  10. Are you a crafty sort?
  11. What is your music?

My Nominees, in no particular order:

Whew! Okay, I think I made it through, and now it’s your turn–if you’d like to play along! Also, I’m really bad at knowing who has how many followers, so I apologize if I broke the rules. ♥ And I highly recommend anyone who wants, to just join in! Take my questions and run with them, create your own, etc. Thank you all for writing such wonderful things, stimulating my mind, and giving me solidarity/something to thing about/room to grow.

Awkward Poly Moments

After my last post, I thought perhaps the blog could use a little levity. So! Awkward Poly Moments! Warning that this may be TMI for sex, though it is funny in retrospect.

I have a tendency to lose my clothing in my apartment–if I’m feeling warm, if I’ve just had sexy times, if I’m asleep, if I’m not feeling well, whatever. We joke I’m a partial nudist. It’s not unusual (when it’s just the polycule) for me to be in nothing but underwear, or just a T-shirt and panties and socks.

Several months ago, our apartments had some electrical updates done to bring them up to code. The electricians (many many of them) came in and did lots and lots of work–our apartment was the last one of the day, and they were here for a long time, and then finally they were done.

It wasn’t until after the fact that I realized our lovely Nib calendar was up with the illustration by Erika Moen re: men in lingerie enjoying themselves, prominently displayed on our wall.

That wasn’t the awkward part.

The awkward part happened a few months later, when the electrician came back–unannounced–with the fire chief. Apparently after all that time, the fire chief had to inspect each apartment to insure that everything was up to code.

Now, I’d had some pretty spectacular sexy times that involved toys. Eren and Zyn were home. My toys were out. I was asleep post-fun on the couch, mostly naked. (I have a tendency to fall asleep post-sex.)

Eren thoughtfully covered me…but not the toys.

One of them let the fire chief and electrician–who were by then charging up the stairs–into the apartment.

My eyes opened to two strange men stretching over me to reach an outlet near the couch. I quickly closed them, pretending not to notice.

I heard, “Is she sick?”

Eren and Zyn hemmed and hawed a little.

I mean, it had to look strange–sex toys and two clothed people and a presumably-naked woman on a couch? (And if they’d looked, another partner in a Skype call on my computer.)

I kept my eyes shut.

I heard Eren pick up my toys after the chief and electrician left the room briefly, and I muttered, “Now you think of that!!”

She whispered, “Sorry!!” and shuffled them out of sight.

The chief and electrician came back, finished their work, and left without saying anything about me, my partners, or the toys.

Lessons I should’ve learned: don’t fall asleep without putting toys away; don’t trust Eren and Zyn not to let people in when I’m naked on the couch.

I’ve learned at least one of those.

Experiencing Depression

One of my favorite Vloggers, Laci Green, did a pretty personal vlog on her channel, Sex+, about her own experience with depression. It’s worth a watch:

She’s right when she says depression is isolating, just like TheBloggess is right when she says that depression is a lying bastard.

It’s hard to remember, in the thick of it.

For me, this most recent experience of depression has existed as a series of dips along a continuum. I can’t remember when I first felt myself falling into the hole…it’s been a really long time. I’ve been here for a really long time. Sometimes, the hole is deeper and darker than other times, and I feel like it’s so dark I can’t see the way out. I have suicidal ideation. I feel like no matter how hard a light shines, it cannot pierce the darkness. And then…somehow…because I make myself talk to Eren or Zyn, because I make myself move away from my brain long enough and focus into movies for six hours instead of staring into the heartache of racism and sexism/misogyny and transphobia and heteronormativity and monosexism, of staring into all the ways I’ve failed to be perfect….

Somehow, I come out of the deeper pits.

I’m still in the gray, though. I get a little higher some days, and some days I remember what it was like when I felt like I could touch the sky, what it felt like when the wind brushed my skin and sunlight poured in.

I think part of this is that so many days, I have trouble even moving. I would like to get out more. Heat exhausts me, and we’re being slammed with heat waves. Sometimes reaching down hurts. Sometimes walking hurts.

And I am riddled insecurities–that I read so much and post so many readings that my friends are annoyed, that I ‘love’ or ‘like’ too many things on various social networking sites, that I clog my friends’ feeds.

It makes it difficult to do what I’d like to do with this blog–more in-depth posting, less personal posting. I need to dig into things, and keep up with my academic things for that. Instead, I’m listless, and reading so much to run away from my brain, and then feeling empathic pain from much of my chosen reading, and then doing neither the digging in nor the posting.

I’m trying to remember to be compassionate with myself. My wife is certainly compassionate with me. I’m trying to remember that not everyone is completely irritated with my lack of ability to do anything, or disappointed in me.

I’m trying to figure out if there are triggers for some of these deeper pits. I think there are, for some of them. Some of them seem (for now) unavoidable. Others mystify me for now.

My experience with depression is much like what I think (without re-reading) this blog post probably reads like: a lot jumbled, as my mind tries to skitter away from things I need to examine in order to repair myself. I have at least e-mailed a therapist.

I am hopeful for more and better posting as I find my way out of the depth and gloom.