Guys, I have all the tired today, but I’m so ridiculously happy.
The Whiskey Kittens had a show last night, and we had the most fun I have ever had performing. The comedy was on point and utterly irreverent and hilarious. I don’t usually enjoy stand-up, but this was great. I debuted a new act as Iris, the over-worked rainbow messenger goddess, and reclaimed my old Donna Noble, which is consistently well-loved, no matter how many times I reprise it.
I am exhausted, but deeply happy. I got a great group hug when I shared my experiences of the past year, and a solemn promise that my autonomy, image, time, talent, and boundaries will always be respected and valued. I cried a little when everyone went back upstairs, and my eyeliner ran a little. Also I am still wearing that eyeliner at 8:45 the following morning, and there is venue grit under my nails. So Glamorous.
In other news, I’m blessedly due for a raise at work, despite the fact that please dear heaven let me out of here. I have a [redacted] project to complete by this weekend, and I’m looking forward to giving myself a sticker and placing it and the tools I have used to complete it to my shiny technical resume. I re-purpled my hair night before last, and might enlist Ginny to buzz my sides down this weekend.
There’s been a lot on my mind lately of a more serious nature, as well. I was recently asked to share my opinions on issues of accountability for abuse, what constitutes support and amends, and how communities of trust and safety can be rebuilt. This came just ahead of me recording my first guest spot on Carnalcopia on boundaries and relationship health, and additionally, doing some personal work to continue my own healing process. As tends to happen being that we’re all on the internet and obliquely connected at the brain, an influx of writing about things like abuse and predation, and our responses to the same have trickled in to my inbox from a pretty crazily varied set of sources. I think Franklin Veaux really says a lot in his recent post on the issue, but a few lines stick with me the strongest:
Because a person who abuses is in genuine pain, and genuinely feels victimized, and sincerely can not distinguish between “victimized by someone else’s control” and “victimized because I can’t control someone else,” it’s really, really hard to show these folks why their actions are wrong. They believe that if someone else sets a boundary, that boundary is an abuse of them. […] Survivors of abuse need support. Abusers also need support. They need a different kind of support, though. They need someone to hold them accountable. They need someone to challenge their feelings of entitlement to control. They need someone to call them on their bullshit.1 And even if, for whatever reason, we can’t get through to them, we still need to work to change the cultural idea that controlling others because you’re hurting is okay.
I think FV just knocks it out of the park, here. For a moment, after reading that, I wondered briefly if I shouldn’t have made a different choice eight months ago, when I elected to sever ties with my former polycule. “Perhaps I should have tried harder to position myself as that voice,” I thought. And then I went back and read the email archive I’ve kept. The text message screenshots, the Facebook messages. Upon reflection, I think I’d add to Franklin’s thoughts quoted above, and stress that it cannot fall on the shoulders of the people hurt by a bully or abuser (I hate that word, by the way) to support that person in the way Franklin advocates (and I’m fairly certain he’d agree with me there). As a community, yes, we have an obligation to provide that kind of support. But as individuals, we cannot task ourselves with enduring more at the hands of someone who has shown they require our obedience and will hurt us to get it, to fulfill that obligation. We can all play different roles with different people from within the communities in which we find ourselves. It took me a moment, but I did finally manage to absolve myself of a duty to support in this particular case.
I am also moved to reflect upon what it would take for me to change my opinion of someone who systematically campaigned to control and hurt me. There are a smattering of those individuals throughout my life story, and things like trust, forgiveness, and what those things mean crosses my mind on a semi-regular basis. And I think the reason I often say I am slow to forgive is this: The people who have hurt me in this particular way, pretty much across the board, share in common that they obstinately refuse to travel their half of the road to remedy. Their half of that journey requires an unqualified acceptance of responsibility for the harm they do — without hedging, without excuse, without qualification or spin. Just, “I see that my actions have hurt you deeply. I have tried to subvert, violate, and micromanage your autonomy and bend you to my will. I am deeply sorry and do not want to do this any longer.” When I reflect on the other minor hurts and ouches of life, I note that I forgive easily, and cooperate to rebuild trust and adjust expectations. It is not hard to make amends with me. Take responsibility, express the desire to change, enact that change, acknowledge when you struggle, and accept that attachment to outcomes serves no one.
Perhaps there is something particularly insidious, also, about the desire to dominate and exert control over others. I can’t quite place my finger on why it makes me more skeptical of someone than other faults. But on more than one occasion, I’ve seen someone faux-pologize and said to myself, “That apology is designed to create in someone the obligation to forgive; it’s just another steamroll.” I guess the only thing that could change that opinion is to see over time that someone becomes more willing to accept things like news they don’t like, hearing the word no, the placement of boundaries, and enacts their spoken values consistently. It’s a tall order, I suppose.
I don’t think I’ve said all I have to say on the issue, but I thought I’d take a moment this morning over coffee to catch you guys up on my haps. ❤