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Grieving/disassociation

March 3, 2017 1 comment

There were 2 funerals this week that I’d have liked to have attended. Well, ideally I’d have liked that neither of them happened…

One was an old family friend. The other an old friend. But both were in Southern England and I couldn’t travel down so close to stuff I had already committed to without becoming even more rundown.

Wish I had though. I think being with others that knew those who died would have been good. And I wish I’d been able to do right by the friends who died.

The funeral today was of Simon Chapman, who I’ve known since 2001. It hasn’t sunk in at all that he’s dead. He was young (?42) and someone I was always happy to see, though that only happened when we were at same events (london anarchist bookfair and after parties mostly). He was always good for a hug, and usually had a smart, funny commentary on whatever was going on. He had a warm, gentle kindness – happy when good things happened to others, whilst simultaneously sarcastic with a dry wit.

I can feel the grief starting to well up. The sadness of someone I liked and who I’d shared some intense experiences with no longer being alive. And that connecting to other, equally unprocessed grief for those other friends who have died. And I can’t deal with that. Or at least I don’t. I push it down, numb myself, disassociate rather than let those scary sad feelings have their power and fill me. I know its counter productive. I know I need to let them out. Sometimes I wish I was one of those people that didn’t have a choice but to feel and express emotions.

I’ve only been to a couple of funerals – maybe 3? I didn’t feel anything at any of them – being around other people makes me numb up even more. So maybe its good I didn’t go to Simon’s funeral.

I’d hate for anyone to think I didn’t care about the deceased, and yet I won’t be showing any emotion, because I won’t be feeling any. Just this weird fog and unrealness. The best I can describe it is its like being sleep deprived when everything is dreamlike and doesn’t feel real. That’s how it is for me almost all the time.

I’m trying to get my feelings back, but part of that will mean facing the scary, hard, bad, sad ones which I’ve buried for so long. Allowing myself to actually feel grief rather than push it down away. And there is so much grief hiding down there. As part of operation feel again (during a peer / co-counselling session where I focus on trying to feel whatever I need to at the time) I had a big cry couple months ago about the 5000 people who died last year crossing the mediterranean trying to find refuge in Europe. This world is so fucked up no wonder my brain decides its safer not to feel anything at all (including good things) than let myself feel this pain.

Anyway, Simon is dead and that fucking sucks because he was nice and I liked him. And even just saying those words hurts and I probably should full-on grieve and accept the pain and then get to the healing stage. As it is I’m still mostly at the pissed off with him stage tbh.

Categories: personal

restarting a diary on this blog

January 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Today I bumped into an old friend in that awesome way of Glasgow – meeting pals in saramago, purveyor of Glasgow’s finest chocolate cake, evolved into an extended hangout including free gin and tonic, lots of cake, soup and seeing several different friends over the afternoon/evening. And then unplanned stop off at project cafe on way home for some surprisingly good open mic music and poetry. Anyway one of the old friends has left facebook for all the good reasons we all should and nudged me about this blog and that reminded me that I keep meaning to use it more.

Apparently its not super annoying that mostly what I write here is livejournal-esque navel gazing, and anyway, its not like me writing here is forcing anyone to read it or otherwise attention/time stealing, so I’ll try not to feel guilty that it feels a bit narcissistic to be writing so much from my first person.

I think I might actually write about some aspects of my life that maybe are of more general interest but aren’t overtly political – I tend to write political stuff anyway but often on more overtly political mediums. So I’ll try and write more about :

  • how i do “relationships” – terms might include solo polyamory, relationship anarchy, off escalator, but i often prefer plain old “ethical non-monogamy”.
  • travel-logging. partly this is because as a female bodied person who travels alone and in unconventional modes, i find it heartening, inspiring and most importantly emboldening to read of similar others so i want to add to that. but mostly its because i have really cool adventures and experiences but a terrible memory so i want to be able to read back and go, “oh yeah, that was amazing!”
  • finding/creating ways to be and do judaism that accord with my world views (i tend to write this already, and i want to keep this up)
  • being a nurse and ideas about healthcare
  • living in glasgow, and figuring out what i want from home – both in terms of my personal nest and the city within which that is currently set.
  • whatever i’ve been up to in a given week – i’ll try and write at least once a week (self discipline and all that) but if i don’t have anything more general to blether about, i’ll just start from what i’ve been up to.

again – whether anyone reads this or not is not important – writing helps me figure stuff out and gives me something to refer back to when my memory fails me again. though i’d be lying if i said my ego doesn’t like it when folks tell me they enjoy reading this shit.

i guess this post is a kind of warning – if you read this blog what you are getting is a stream of consciousness that aims to be unapologetically first person – you ain’t gonna get any passive voice pseudo objectivity/universality here, unless i want to try out some ideas that seem to suit that format.

here goes!

Categories: diary, personal

love/hate rships with airports. goodbye dear lover until next time.

July 22, 2016 1 comment

I live a “solo poly” existence. I choose not to have a “primary partner”. I choose not to live with a partner, or orbit my life around their’s. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t suit me at all. I love like I live – independent and freewheeling and with a few very deep very dear connections. Those deepest connections are primarily not people I happen to have a sexual/romantic connection with at the moment, though I tend to remain close to those I have had that kind of interaction with, because affection and care and love and connection are more permanent than whether or not sexy things feel right between folks at any particular time.

Anyway, today one of my closest folks and lovers, left after a wonderful 3 week visit. As the cab took me away from the airport, I acutely felt the separation. I felt hate for the plane that was shortly to take him even further from me. After such an concentrated togetherness, sharing intensely spacetime, deep companionship and nsfw activities, suddenly my partner in crime is no longer next to me.

We’ve talked about whether we should reorganise our lives to be geographically closer, but that wouldn’t work for us.

We meet and part at airports. I like that we both travel alone enough, and watch other folks being met, that being met ourselves feels like such a treat. Going to the airport is part of the ritual of our relationship. Hugs and passionate kisses at arrivals, later mirrored at the departure security check. In 4 different countries so far, on 3 continents. Sweet coming together. Never will we take time together for granted. The preciousness of waking up together for those weeks.

I’ve been planning for postdeparture and have nice things lined up for a few days. Tonight I’m going to have fun with a friend, tomorrow is a social gathering, Monday star trek in 3D. Self care ftw. I’m ok with the way our relationship is. I miss him because we have such a good connection and I’d rather have that and miss it than not. We miss each other because we are the people that we are, each with full lives and interests and desires and therefore don’t want to just give up all of that to live together, even if either of us were fixed enough in one place for the other to move there.

But damned if I didn’t hate that plane that was physically moving us away from each other.

Categories: diary, personal, poly Tags: , ,

The other side of the coin

April 20, 2016 Leave a comment

Feeling sooo rough. And its a gorgeous day outside, but can’t face it. Managed outside a small amount yesterday, but was tough.

What happened? I way overdid it at the weekend. Best laid plans and all that – I had planned on taking it easy on Friday night as was away for a 4 day festival, where the 3rd night, Saturday, is always the biggy… however spontaneously took up a friend’s offer lateish on Friday evening, and that, on top of Thursday night’s session pretty much wrecked me as I still went for the party on Saturday night, crashed early (well, from about 3am) but was determined to keep dancing (the music was amazing!) so went for the caffeine and ended up a jittery and unable to sleep mess. Which wrecked my Sunday and still feeling terrible.

So, why did it happen? Because I tend to say yes, spontaneously, to almost anything! I’m up for random adventures, new things, fun, new experiences etc. And that spontaneity does have its negative effects, as those around me Sunday can attest, and I was in full-on regret mode (because I also lost out on dancing Sunday, and had a less good weekend than I wanted/needed) when I remembered how I also lost a lot of money, and that this was similar.

So, in the late 1990s I was working for a company that floated on the nasdaq and I ended up with share options in it, which I exercised, but then was lax about doing anything to reclaim the tax which I’d been erroneously charged by USA IRS. Why? Because at that point I had enough money to live on, and I’m not very financially focused. I managed to eek out this money plus the savings I’d made when working for couple years of budget living / travel, only running out end of 2003.

I just don’t really value the material very much. I do get uncomfortable when in debt, so avoid that as I find it stressful, but otherwise I just don’t make decisions around it. And the time in my life when I was earning the most (4 years of working as a programmer) reinforced how unrelated money (as long as I have my basic needs covered) is to how happy and meaningful my life is. I’ve been super broke. I’ve been homeless multiple times. I’ve had to sleep in squats, in homeless accommodation, or sofa surfed (the worst of the lot imo) and eaten out of rubbish bins. It wasn’t always fun, to put it mildly. It could be very cold. I’ve been hungry and desperate. But I’m not there now. I have sorted my life out so that I do have a roof and electricity and money for food. I haven’t been that poor since 2004 and I’m very happy about that.

But beyond that, I really don’t take money highly into account when deciding whether or not to do a thing. I know I can survive on very little – I’d prefer not to, but its a much smaller preference than, for example, going somewhere I’ve not been before, or helping someone out, or having a meaningful life, or having fun.

That was all context for what happened a few years ago when I was saving up to travel and I remembered that the USA IRS owed me a couple thousand dollars. They’d (incorrectly) taxed me on the nasdaq shares, despite me not being USA tax payer. So, I went along to the IRS department at the USA embassy in London to reclaim it. The woman there was super nice and helpful, but when we checked the dates (from emails when I’d cashed in the shares) she told me (she was gutted!) that it was too late and past their time limit for refunding me the tax. She tried super hard to figure a way round it, but there was nothing – I’d basically handed a bunch of money to the USA government to spend on bombs and had left it too late to get it back.

I managed to hold myself together to walk a block from Grosvener Square and then collapsed into a doorway and wept, raging at myself. How could I have been so stupid and incompetent? I kicked myself over and over. Why had I done this? And the answer came – because I don’t care enough about money and so had allowed this particular TODO to be squeezed out by all the rest I’d been doing over the years. And actually I’d never prioritised money when making life decisions and that has led to an incredibly awesome, full, meaningful life. Sure, at times like this it sucked really fucking hard, but that was the unavoidable other side of the exact same coin which had made my life so rich and wholesome.

I was still upset, but somehow felt better and more that it wasn’t completely inexplicable and stupid that I’d lost all this money. I know my biases a bit better so am better able to account for them in future, and be aware that I might need to put extra checks into place if I’m in a similar situation when I need to do x in order to sort something financial out.

And so with this. Yes I had less fun over the weekend than I wanted, and yes I feel horrible now because I spontaneously said yes to a friend on Friday night, but oh wow has my life been full of adventures and experiences exactly because that is my tendency!

Now I’m gonna go force myself to go out on my bike and enjoy the sun. Because last year I thought that riding from Land’s End to John o’Groats sounded like a fun adventure, and so I did it even though it made no sense financially, nor was I adequately prepared for it, and now I am a cycleholic with another great journey in my life.

Next time though, I need to be careful that I don’t overdo it when I’m partying and be aware that I will tend to say “yes” and that I need some kind of check to make sure that really is what I want to do :)

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End of Saturday night, and just about still smiling!

Facing forty – defining my age rather than letting it define me.

August 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Wow CCCamp was such fun, inspiring and helped me on several issues.

First off a really moving and powerful talk involving folks from http://policespiesoutoflives.org.uk/ helped me look at my own relationship with activism and burnout. As Lili (one of the woman abused by the cops by unknowingly being subjected to a two year relationship with a spy) said at the end, we mustn’t let the paranoia and pain and fear from state repression chase us away from our struggle for a better world, but look at what roles we can do it we can’t face the coalface (I can’t recall her exact words but watch the whole talk for yourselves) such as cooking or other support roles. This reminded me of one of Rachel Corries’s emails, reflecting on how massive the horrors she was facing were, and that whilst she couldn’t see clear ways she could stop the assaults on Rafah, she could wash dishes*. So I realised I can look at what I can still do, even as my burnout is making it difficult for me to be involved in day to day organising. And this reinforced that yes I will continue to develop/improve/solidify both my first aid (and [tropical] nursing) skills and technical skills, particularly digital security, sysadmin, internet services etc. In this way I can support and help look after those people, organisations and movements who are more directly involved in creating positive change. I tend to take a long time making decisions and orienting my life focii so this is part of longer process that has been going on a while, but was yet more encouragement that this is what I should be doing.

Camp also reconnected me with a couple of friends from my past life (as a programmer), which I was very happy with. And reminded me of those past times and those aspects of myself that were more expressed at that time, and which I am turning back towards now. :)

Another biggish thing I’ve been dealing with is my imminent 40th birthday and some minor crisis around that. Some of that is due to the different ways people treat me when they find out my age. Other problems are wanting to do so much, and suddenly facing my mortality – do I have enough years of health for all the adventures and experiences and projects and contributions I want to make with my single chance at existence? What does it mean to be leaving my 30s? None of this is helped by people saying “oh you don’t look 40” as if that is something I should be happy about, because to be 40 is so shameful and terrible?

Its easy to internalise all that rubbish society and those around me seem to be saying about ageing. All the minor ways people let it be known that leaving our twenties, let alone our thirties, and especially for women, is basically leaving life. We fade from independent existence, there only to support those who are still ripe and at their prime. Fun, adventure, experimentation, creation, sex… those are young people affairs. And the dread that those much younger than me express about the horrors of entering their mid twenties makes me shamefully cringe to be approaching forty.

So what exactly was it that I had internalised about ageing, particularly within a female body? At forty surely my body would be decaying as it began an inevitable tilt towards decline and death. I ignored images of wrinkly marathon runners and pictured only my elderly patients, as if that was any less biased a sample! I allowed myself to listen to those around me who talked of their aches and pains and unreliable bodies as due solely to ageing. Additionally I would become less desirable. “Will you still love me when I am no longer young and beautiful?” sings Lana Del Rey because youth and beauty are indivisible. Less so in LGBT/queer subcultures, but still present is the understanding that whilst older men can be attractive, women wizen. We have a brief blooming, where we actually burn too bright, and the attention and fetishisation of our teen and twenty-something bodies is scary, frustrating and threatening to experience. It could feel like being forced to visibly carry around high value currency as you try to go about your every day life, but are now constantly vigilant and afraid of attempted theft. Intellectually stimulating conversations with interesting people frequently deteriorated to clumsy movements knickers-ward. But the messages I’d received was that this was now over and I was to be flung from the frying pan to the floor. So part of my fear was definitely that, though those I find attractive have always spanned a wide age range, somehow nobody would ever think me hot again. (Spoiler: To those that are yet to come down this path I can assure you that those fears are unfounded ;D )

An end to adventure also seemed on the cards. I felt a similar crisis when I approached 30, and internalised those messages from society that I should settle down, get a mortgage and judge my worth at achieving the perfect nuclear family and career path. Happily a super awesome friend reassured me that “your thirties are like your twenties, only better because you’re more sorted” – second spoiler – pretty much! But turning forty … this seems a much bigger deal. That is definitely middle aged territory, and how many stereotypes does that evoke? Even without a television or much other connection to mass media, I was still bombarded with messages about how people like me (ie the middle aged) behaved and were interested in and wore and occupied themselves with. None of these reflected my existence. And yet somehow it seemed inevitable that this was my future. That was what it would mean to be forty.

At some point when I was wrestling with apparent contradictions between my Judaism and my anti Zionism, half believing what I was being constantly told (by non Jews and Palestinian sympathisers almost as much as from within Jewish communities) that a Jewish identity incontrovertibly included certain rightwing political beliefs, I stubbornly turned around, put my chin in the air, and declared to myself and anyone who would listen that actually as I am Jewish, what I am also therefore is a part of what it means to be Jewish and therefore the set of beliefs that those who are Jewish have includes anti Zionism. I was inspired by that moment when Ged turns to his shadow in Ursula Le Guin’s Wizard of Earthsea and neutralises his nemesis by naming it Ged also and changing shadow into man, rather than fleeing from it and allowing it to define him.

And so now I turn to my forties, and declare “This is who I am”. My life, my being, is not defined by turning forty. Rather the definition of what it means to be forty, soon must expand to include me. My choices, my lifestyle, my modes of dress and presentation, my priorities and interests emanate from all that I am. They are influenced by my age in one crucial way – I have learned over the years that the only constant companion that I should listen to is within me, and messages from outside are merely suggestions to be considered. For life is short, and if I am in the middle of it now, there is not so much left to waste being anything other than me, to the max.

I turn forty in a few weeks. Earlier this year I decided to mark this by cycling from Land’s End to John O Groats (LEJOG), partly as an excuse to finally do it, partly as a fuck you to those that would tell me that I am now past it, but mostly as a frightened response to the crisis I was still wrestling with. Regardless that the latter was a bad reason to make any decision, I’m excited to be going. Now that I’m over the hump of my mid-life crisis, and feel freer than ever to be me, more deeply and expressively and fully than I can ever recall, I am looking forward to this adventure. No longer is LEJOG a route to escape the reality of turning forty, but a path to celebrate it head on with something to challenge and excite me. And when it is done, I have so many plans for the coming year – I want to learn electronics and conductive yarn crocheting, fully re-enter the communities in Glasgow and wider afield, I want to go away with MSF from September 2016, explore Scotland’s highlands and islands and improve my skills at doing that, develop sysadmin skills to better support political organising and activism, grow street/action medic collectives and networks and trainings, dance, adorn myself with blue hair and glitter and finally get that octopus tattoo I’ve been wanting for years and wear whatever crazy clothing I feel like without reference to what anybody else thinks. Wooot to being forty!