I’ve been thinking a lot lately about contact I’ve had with a collection of faux-feminists and false allies, and the risks they pose to communities I value. I’ve come forward in another venue, and spoken in story-form a bit about those troubling feelings, with full awareness that doing so is likely to inject discord into my life. I abide in the knowledge that there is an army at my back, ready to mobilize if I am in jeopardy. This army knows the value of the person I am, even in imperfect and deeply flawed moments, and I rest in the knowledge that they will rise with me if need be.
Trolls and bullies aside, this is a conversation that skepticism requires. That one’s values and beliefs can be publicly mirrored and privately disregarded is not something that should go without mention. It is painful and exhausting, and undermines the kind of change I want to see take place in the world. Appearances and practices are distinct means by which to measure a person or group of people. Both matter. Both deserve consideration. And I find them most problematic when taken in tandem and found unharmonious.
I’m tired. This feels like the final word in a much longer tale. The journey is exhausting, and I simply want my words to stand as they are, and to retreat to being present for the people I value. I’d like to remove this armor I’ve been wearing — the armor of silence, of caution. Of politely declining to answer questions about other people’s behavior. Of avoiding or re-directing conversation so people don’t have to feel compromised, despite the fact that maybe, they should. These plates and chains and straps have grown heavy with the knowledge that with my silence and evasion, perhaps I protect the wrong things. Perhaps more radical honesty is required, now that I have some clarity and reflection under my belt.
I think this signifies moving away from the facticity of transgressions and events transpired, and towards lessons learnt and ground gained. I’m scanning the horizon for wonderful places to land, and I’m struck with the knowledge that:
- I don’t need someone else to tell me what should make me feel empowered or loved. I already know the answers to those questions. In fact, the only reason you should be using “empowered” is in the form of a question (e.g. How can I empower you to ______?”) because what empowers me is not up to you.
- I can rely on myself to know when I am being treated well or poorly.
- When someone identifies that what is most valuable about me is my capacity to feel with and for others, caution is warranted.
- The way people treat me without prompt or instruction says volumes about them. It shows how they are naturally disposed to treat others, and is worthy of a great deal of scrutiny and attention. It is okay to test people before you trust them with your wishes, desires, or needs. And by “okay,” I mean, “It is probably a good idea.”
- When a request or boundary is hard for another person and they respect it anyway, without complaint or protest, they are likely a friend.
- The people who love me will affirm me even in the face of my faults. One of which is putting off paying parking tickets and making doctor’s appointments. (Sorry, guys.)
- Loving me means extending consideration and care to the people I love. Full stop.
- It remains perfectly alright to curate a social life based on what energizes me, makes me happy, and fills me with strength and peace. Discontinuing relationships that don’t meet those criteria does not have to be personal or fraught. It is okay to say, “I have outgrown this relationship,” and leave. People are not entitled to explanations or ongoing contact simply because they desire it.
Those are some pretty decent conclusions at which to arrive. Despite the fact that there are some thunderheads in the sky, my feet are on the ground, and the storm will pass. I have spoken my truth, and it is time to move forward.