on not being cruel

i’ve been off social media recently, by which i mean not posting but tuning in for blocks to research and listen. exercising my voice via actions in the physical world as much as possible. this is me surfacing for a moment to get down some thoughts. here they are.

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first off, this: 

fuck the ban. fuck the wall. fuck white power. fuck fascists. love to my muslim and immigrant friends today and all days. i commit to you. i’m posting this from my phone on the way to JFK airport. new york friends, join me if you can. 

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more:

as a queer person, as a gender non-binary person, as a person with a womb, as a jew, as a sexual abuse survivor, and as a person with complex PTSD, there are spaces where it’s important for my voice to be loud — so it might be heard, so it might embolden others afraid or unable to speak, so those who have not suffered violences (embodied and historical) in the same way may listen and learn and grow.

conversely, as an able-bodied white person, as a person with immense class privilege, and as a US citizen, there are spaces where my job is to shut up and listen, to hold inside of me that there is blood on my hands and not retreat into fragility, to follow the lead of others, to use the privileges i am afforded in whatever way i can.

this dance between shutting up and speaking out will continue for as long as i’m breathing.

in it, i often wonder how we evaluate silence and voice. when is silence necessary to hear what’s required of us and when does it perpetuate violence. each of us must learn how to evaluate this. we must be able to admit and apologize when we fail or we will fail and fail again.

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i’ve been thinking about unseen labor, how one great burden of mastery is that its products often appear simple or effortless and therefore the work can and will be ignored. the same goes for emotional labor. so many are masters of bearing emotional labor for those who have no clue what happens behind the scenes or what it would mean if that rug got pulled out from under them.

on this note, multiple cis women and gender non-binary friends spoke to me this week about troubles they are having communicating their truth to the cis dudes they love. this truth is so often some variation of: listen to me. ask me questions. resist your fragility. don’t run. sit at the table. hold feelings inside of your body and own them as yours. don’t expect me to save you. if you mess up, admit it. apologize. it’s your turn to. work. do. the. work. do. the. work.

dudes, please hear this message. i guarantee someone you love is feeling it.

white people, let’s hear it too.

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more on the unspoken:

one of the leaders of my grief group, noia, is pregnant. she announced it last week. she’ll leave the group in a few months when the baby is born.

the news was received by the group with a flurry of positivity and congratulations as well as with some unsettling feelings. i often think about the pulsating, non-linear shape emotional wounds take and, because of this, how easily they can sometimes be tugged at, reopened.

noia’s impending departure prompted a discussion about what we feel when people leave.

l. began to cry. she wished she had told her mother how much she appreciated her before she died. she talked about how much emotional and physical labor her mother did for her father and their family, how it was hardly acknowledged by any of them. she wished she’d told her mother that she saw and appreciated so much of it. she wished she knew what her mother carried with her into the darkness. 

l. then asked noia what she would carry with her from this group.

“are you asking me what you mean to me? what our work means to me?” noia responded.

“yes.”

“what do you imagine?“ 

when people leave, we wonder what we meant to them. 

we wonder if they knew what we saw in them. we wish we had said it out loud more often, or at all. we wish we had acknowledged the labor of their love. we wonder if they saw the labor of ours.

we wonder what they carried with them into the darkness. 

we are left alone with our imaginations and imaginations are rarely rational.

even if their leaving was out of their control, even if they fought against it,

we sometimes still feel hurt and angry and betrayed that nothing we did meant enough for them to stay.

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i am, daily, filled with disgust and anger and grief. i try every morning to convert those feelings into fuel, because god knows the well from which to draw is endless. another — even more renewable — fuel is love for my people, and fuck if that love doesn’t make my body move. thank you, every second, to those i love. i see your labor. i see you loving, i see you fighting, i see you working, i see you trying to be better, to do better, to work harder. i am grateful.

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one more thing: 

some time ago, i tried to explain my feelings on fisting to a cis dude.

“i like the power of it. i like feeling the other person’s vulnerability transmitted physically.”
“ha. you’re cruel,” he replied.
“you dont understand,” i said.
“the best part of having power
is
not
being
cruel.”

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a strange note to end on, maybe, but it’s what i’ve got right now.

it’s a good day to give what you can to CAIR and SRLP. it’s a good day to buy a candle

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keep working. keep loving. keep fighting.

s.

Siena O.