a few words on flourishing

I have been writing as a way to process my grief and sadness and dreams and desires as I begin to heal my time in a community that was so interpersonally violent in its survival. A huge part of this healing has been the work of adrienne maree brown, especially her book Emergent Strategy. Her writing spoke to so much that I have been dreaming of and begging for from community and activism and our futures. Below are my words, greatly informed by her work, as she helped my find words for things I knew in my body and soul. 

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What does it mean to flourish in a deeply oppressive and unequal society? We are taught the system’s logics of zero sum: logics that teach us we can not have without taking, that we must compete in order to survive. Yes, there are incredibly harmful ways of flourishing AND what harm do we do when we define flourishing as somehow counter our struggles for justice and liberation?

We can shift away from scarcity, from competition and insecurity. In the simplest forms we can examine how respond to others in out community succeeding, having something good happen, expressing joy and happiness. How often do we respond with criticism, cutting them down? That is capitalism bubbling up in our bodies, setting us up in competition, defining their flourishing as a threat to us. Other practices are possible. How do we learn to respond with gratitude for their power, with excitement for what possibilities open up when people have their needs and wants met and dare I say celebrated?

This doesn’t mean anything goes. This doesn’t mean that we ignore times when harm may come from flourishing. This doesn’t mean we stop working to change systems of oppression. This doesn’t mean that we abandon the need for justice and liberation. This is not the only work to be done. And it does mean shifting our logics away from competition, scarcity and capitalism towards harm reduction sweetly nestled in potential building. And it does mean claiming our agency and our right to expand beyond survival if even in the smallest moment. In doing so I believe we are tending the soil in ways that will help justice and liberation grow.

This may not be our work all the time. And to dismiss it as unimportant, or even counter our struggle is a grave mistake. How will we create a just world if we don’t practice justice in our day-to-day life? How will we know freedom if we don’t live it every chance we get? 

This system is fucked and there is so much magic and possibility in our hearts, our shadows, our powers and our ability to envision and live the futures we need and want.

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a few words on flourishing

you came back for yourselves

You came back to the place where they tried to kill you
Pummelling and punishing you into believing you were only shadow
Not even shadow but terrible evil

You came back to the place where your exclusion ensured inclusion
To cast you out was to be welcomed in
And your exorcism a right of passage to belong

You came back to the place where they feasted on your vulnerability
Sweet selves that had taken life times to coax out of hiding
And life times before that to know they were there to invite

And you came back
You rose up and came back
Incarnate
Alchemist
Survivor
You came back to the place
To take yourselves back
Collect them
Reclaim them
So all of you could go home

 

you came back for yourselves

to be honest (with myself)

to be honest

it would be easier to project on to others
to the people you spend your time with
to pretend that if you focused your energy on me
you would do the work
you would see me as myself
and want to contribute
but you wouldn’t
to be honest
if you wanted to
you would find space for me
you would find time to grow
to learn what reciprocity means
in practice and in process
no matter who else you love
to be honest
I stay connected to you
because you reinforce what I have been told
I am not worthy of love
my needs are too much
love is sacrifice
and that the most I can hope for
is to be consumed by another
to be honest (with myself)

the complexity of lying

cw: childhood abuse, discussion of lying, abusive relationships




As a survivor, lying can be a huge trigger for me. Lying has been weaponized to keep me silent, deny my experiences and isolate me. And, in year where I am surrounded by lies about who I am and what I have done, I have chosen to try and hold complexity about why people lie, including myself.

We all lie. 

To  be clear, I am not saying that we lie about having experienced harm. I am in full support of unconditional belief of survivors. The harm is always real and true. These thoughts are not a way to dismiss the actions of those who have caused harm. We all should be accountable in real and meaningful ways for the harm we do to others. And, I think this becomes more possible when we do the reflexive work to think about how we survive, and the ways that the system can infiltrate our survival in ways that do harm.

And sometimes, lying is a harm-reduction strategy, a way of coping and surviving. Sometimes, I need to lie to myself. I survived my childhood by blocking out the violence and abuse I was experiencing: lying to myself that everything was okay. Short-term this was a brilliant survival strategy that protected me from emotions and truths I had no skills or support to deal with.

And sometimes, lying is a way to get your needs met. And your needs are super legitimate. For me, I lied a lot as a kid about being sick. This meant that I didn’t have to go to school, a place where I was bullied and ostracized and felt very unsafe. Lying and saying I was sick meant I could stay home, a place where my need for safety was better met. And being sick meant it was more likely my parents would engage with me, meeting another important need, the need for attention.

And sometimes, lying is a way to establish boundaries. For many of us surviving violence from people who were supposed to love and care for us, it is incredibly difficult to establish boundaries with people we are connected to. Wonky attachment means we often stay connected to people in unhealthy ways, no matter the harm they are doing to us. Lying can make it easier to disconnect. We don’t lie about the person harming us; we create fictions about that person in order to support ourselves ending that relationship. We reduce people down to only their bad behaviors, denying ways they may be kind, or reasons that they perpetuate harm. This is lying, and it can be what makes it possible for us to justify protecting ourselves.

And sometimes, lying is a way to get your truths recognized. In our culture that systemically doubts and isolates survivors, we are conditioned to believe that our experiences of harm are not enough to be recognized. Especially for folks who experienced childhood abuse, we expect that we are not worthy enough to not be harmed and/or that our traumas are not bad enough to be recognized. Myself, I carry so much hurt, intense sadness and shame around the abuse I experienced that has not been recognized. And I know that I have projected this pain on to other situations. These situations were harmful. And their impact was directly related to triggering the truths of my childhood abuse I have never had recognized. I have lied and blamed the person involved with the smaller harm for all the pain because I needed it recognized. People can be accountable for the harm they have done, for the actions that trigger me; I don’t think they can be held accountable for all the hurt and anguish that comes up when I get triggered. But sometimes I want them to be.

I am sure that so many more reasons that we lie; legitimate reasons that allow us to survive in a world that is set up to erase us, harm us and delegitimize our identities and experiences. I think it is important to acknowledge the value of lying as as survival strategy while simultaneously beginning to reflect on the impact of these lies. Personally, I know I have done great harm to myself and others. And I have been greatly harmed by the lies of others. Beginning to think through the complexity of lying is an act of self-love and cultivating compassion for others. My goal is to hold more space for myself and others to be able to reflect on our actions as survivors, our actions as communities, and hopefully transform our ways of being to reduce the harm we do and expand our access to healing. 

the complexity of lying

on harm reduction as a survivor

things I am trying to remember as a survivor of abuse:

– my hurt is real and true AND I don’t want to project this hurt onto others

– I have a tendency to use controlling behaviours to hurt others, using my history as a justification, which is abusive

– my desire for punitive measures against others is understandable based on the hurt AND does not work towards the kinds of community I desire

– somewhere in my body I believe that people can grow and change and while it might not be my role to support this in people who have perpetrated against me, i don’t want to prevent them from having these supports and connections

-while it scares me, I value when people call me out/in for my abusive and controlling behaviours, many which emerge from my experiences of violence, as it helps me work towards healing and reclaiming my actions from trauma.

In all this I want to recognize that survivorship is a really complex and diverse experience. These are important rememberances for me and won’t apply to everyone who is navigating trauma and survivorship

on harm reduction as a survivor

Needs/Wants

My needs and wants are real and legitimate.
And I am responsible for the ways I meet them.
The legitimacy of my needs does not negate the necessity to engage with the harm that may come about from meeting them.
I can continue to learn better ways to meet my needs that not only cause less harm to others and myself but simultaneously increase others’ abilities to meet their own needs.
I can find transformative ways of meeting these needs that expand the very limits of what I think is possible for myself and the people and spaces I relate to.

Needs/Wants

Strategies for Talking Shit

If you use the right language to talk shit about someone no one can ask if you are lying. No one can question the harm you are doing. Use the right words to do harm and you don’t need to think about where the hurt comes from or why you have chosen that person to project it onto.

Appropriate the right terms for who that person is and you can justify every punishment, every act of cruelty and exclusion. With the right words you grant permission to erase their complexity, nullify their words and experiences, reduce them down to evil. Use the right words and nothing is on you.

Now you can point fingers. You can kick people out. You can seek revenge. Catharsis. Temporary relief followed by devastating relapse. Your sorrow is still there, the deep pain is still there. And those right words have done nothing but caused more harm.

Strategies for Talking Shit