Arguing with the Void

Is science another religion, or does studying it benefit humanity?

The more we learn, the less we know, and that massiveness of not-knowledge is the void. Physically, spiritually, consciously. That which we do not know, cannot observe, cannot comprehend, is outgrowing God so fast that he’s just ordinary beans compared to Jack’s cloud-reaching plant. And we all have a relationship with that not-knowing. Some project onto it what they want to see or feel they should see, some think it gives them power or favor, and very few stare it in its vast nothingness and refuse to look away, refuse to see it as anything different than what it is: our limitation of understanding. Those who would worship this endless indifference or pray to it or hate it cannot influence it. Only those who explore it and keep themselves aware of it are arguing with it, participating in reality, grappling with it and finding out more about it.

Part of the cause of arguing with the void is being creative. We must construct arguments with the void. We must get emotionally attached to, and repelled by, the essence of the void. That is why those of us who truly comprehend that we are infitesmally small in scale compared to the universe hate God, and not God as if he was something conscious, but the very concept of God. And not just in the hugeness of space, but the hugeness of time. It took billions of years for us to happen by random chance, and we happen to be able to observe it. So observe we should. But the majority of our species, rather than observing their own position in relation to nature, needs to follow the feathers of our flocks. Because our flocking species is so terrified of recognizing being alone that we imagine a Human-like God to be with us in our lonely moments, guiding us and portraying the way we’d imagine the ultimate all-powerful father would.

This is the essence of the law of attraction – not that like attracts like, but that we see what we want to see. And it is extremely difficult to accept that we could want for these things to happen. But even THIS fails to acknowledge the size of the void that our oxygen-cycling life forms on this grain of sand so light compared to space that it merely floats, as a dust particle only visible in direct sunlight and magnetized through a windowpane.

Our planets are able to attract the dust particles around them, and we swish and sway in this thing we call spacetime, in relative position to the vastness. The non-air in which we float, us just dust swirling around itself, with even tinier moons pulling on us, and beyond those, more independent things and bigger things – meteors and stars, respectively.

And further out there, as we move from envisioning those specks floating as they would in sunshine, add the other elements: how would those dust particles develop to survive in water, as plots of dirt or sand, or how to exchange atoms in such a way that carbon would burn and convert in the wild energy and power of fire? THAT is the massive size of the UNIVERSE and you think you’re important? That something out there is thinking about you? Someone, perhaps? Someone who might like you for who and what you are?

By ignoring the obviousness of these questions, we do not endure and understand the void. Rather, we put a mask on the void and in our narcissism insist that WE can name the creatures, have dominion over them. Adam, the namer. Noah, the survivor. Abraham, the patriarch. David, the hero. Christ, the savior, leading the sheep because they are an innocent, clumsy, stupid animal that flocks together because they are so afraid of being alone, they long for a shepherd. They invent a shepherd because it is easier to follow an imaginary father figure who will comfort with rod and staff and offer ease, green pastures and still waters.

The laziness of humanity is what used religion to paint a face on the universe that told us it was on our side. But if you recognize that we are learning to observe and understand the very real, very physical reality around us, why should we want to see it for anything different than what it is? Science acknowledges how little we know about that massive out-thereness that is the universe. Muhammed the Prophet, the descendant of an entire region of the world, teaching the learned like goats. They must climb with expertise from a young age, balancing on slim rocks on all floors with their hoofs. Dodging prey. The man must watch his sheep to make sure other predators don’t steal them, because he is lazy and wants to keep a supply of food always with him, colonizing it rather than doing what all of the other animals on this planet do, and scavenge to feed him himself just with just what he needs. And so the sheep and the goats are divided, simply because goats are independent and intelligent.

The cruelty of poverty is that it can be difficult to justify or have the capability to invest in creativity. It is terribly hard to understand the vastness of the void and refuse to project our own hopes, prayers, and fears onto how we view it, and know that it is just nothingness out there and nobody is listening or even knows, and get out of bed every day, in excruciating pain and living in a body that is dependent on shelter and nourishment, to search for a job to maybe get so overworked that maybe it’s not worth it to keep a shared roof over your head with passive-aggressive people so maybe, someday, you won’t have to walk a mile to grab the number of groceries for the next day and a half’s worth of food because it’s as much as you can carry while walking a mile back. In snow and with old shoes that leak and a threadbare coat in Seattle’s wind. Only a few days later it will be sweltering heat and you’ll be sorry if you didn’t bring something cold to drink on the way there, but you can’t bring a drink into the store or they’ll accuse you of stealing because you look homeless.

Did we really have to chop down these forests and colonize the animals so we can produce food and create need and sell it to each other? You start to wonder. And people who don’t have to struggle to survive are incredibly blind to how much we’ve agreed to starve and exploit our own species at the whim and comfort of the rich. But those who trust an all-powerful meditation trick or burning certain spices or a yoga position or going barefoot or relationship with the universe or a determination to obey a deity, are not helping with the cause. Unless.

Unless they truly use these as a tool for arguing with the void. The powerful magician who learns his rituals and can enter a trance to summon power from this depth of energy that we happen to be able to see amongst the particles that others cannot see, is not merely focusing hard enough to believe that magick might or might not work, but playing. The magician loves his work as long as he can open his crown chakra and third eye far enough to realize he is dancing with particles and communing with the quantum realm and astronomical realm, our next door neighbors in sharing our exchange of light and warmth.

Lose sight of our true position, as far as we can see it, and instantly something else becomes your religion. So it has been in the development of human psychology, we who are descended from dumb sheeple. It is so easy to, in the midst of our distress, look between the lines for a shepherd to worship, to guide us on this way, rather than arguing with the void through learning more about it. So it is true when the religious accuse “angry atheists” of “worshiping themselves instead of God.” Because in a sense, we do, and realized it was not a sin, because God is dead and we have only ourselves as guides, and being alone, and playing with nature through creativity and cooperation, benefits consciousness.

The expansion of consciousness, awareness in our surroundings.

And so it is that our careers as goats among sheep mirror each other. The coder-artist can at least see that in some small way, if they design a user-friendly interface, they are creating a ripple effect among those who would feel the painlessness of doing something easily. After all, we know what it’s like to need to file some other fucking government piece of paper and you have to click all over the website before calling them to ask where it is, and finding out you have to take two extra busses and not get home until an hour later because you have to go to the library and pay to print the piece of paper before bringing it back to get it signed and submitted before you can even legally be allowed to eat.

“You’re allowed to eat!” The comfortable freedom-loving middle class insists. “Don’t be dramatic and don’t complain! At least it’s a free country!”

But is it free? I wonder as I slip a piece of cheese into my mouth when the customer isn’t looking, preparing the tenth sandwich of the day for customers who shrugged at adding a couple of more slices of cheese for two dollars more, and I spitefully hoped they hear my stomach growl, crying out that if I had two dollars I’d know exactly how to get a whole meal out of it, and I’d have to scavenge until I got paid tomorrow. Is it legal for me to eat? I ask, knowing the laws of this land, living among people who’d rather herd sheep than see how big and awe-inspiring the universe is, say that even though food is everywhere and the majority of what’s on the shelves of this store right now will go to waste, I have to work for money to exchange money for that food that’s right in front of me.

This is not how it makes sense for humans to live together, but greed drowns out my right to live. And I wonder if I have any right to complain because the lower you are on the human ladder of stupidity and made-up pretend laws and money and people-in-charge, the tighter the grip the wealthy have around your neck. Exploitation at every level. Always harvesting and preparing the colonized food and shelter and luxuries for the next level up. And making sure it’s not too edgy for those who could see it as wrong to stop it. Export suicidal-levels-of-depression-causing jobs, so the Americans who feed off China don’t see it. Put the intense warfare of fighting over black gold elsewhere, where the Americans who fuel their transportation off the blood of the earth extracted in the Middle East. Cause endless child soldiers in places so destroyed from lack of resources and the exploitation of the extremely rich, underpaying for diamonds so some white Christian girl can pretend that God helped her fiancé “find the perfect ring.”

That’s the relationship between luck and logic, between perception and only having things go your way because your lifestyle is exploitative and you’re comfortable enough and it’s so sterilized that you don’t have to think about it. So you can look across the counter and spend seven dollars on a tiny container of salad during your hour lunch from the office, chuckle that you’ll pamper yourself with a few jojoes, and can’t even make eye contact with the homeless girl serving you food, though if you knew I was homeless, you’d probably think the food wasn’t good enough for you, and I’d be forced to throw it away because it’s illegal to eat the leftovers.

Of course, there’d always be one or two people on the team who couldn’t eat today, so we’d watch each other’s backs. Sneak them a few bites of food or whatever we have of loose change to help them make it through the day. But we have to backstab. We have no other choice. We all hate the lazy ones because none of us could get away with doing so little, and they’ve been pampered instead of primed for the work life. So the poor are thieves, and massive companies lose thousands in profits every year, simply because they know it’s less expensive to incentivize people to steal here and there, than to pay them a wage that’s livable and will give them enough to survive. On a chart in front of a board room of heartless millionaires, given the choice between “paying them enough” and “loss of assets or money,” the margin will always be judged as the difference between how desperate the exploited decide to be without revolt. And it’s been working fantastically from the dawn of human civilization as long as they keep blaming the weak for their own helplessness.

We rationalize it to our ourselves, rather than just gleaning the things the earth gives us, like the omnivores we are. After all, why should the wild predator armed with cash be any less ruthless than the wild predator with muscles and teeth? Well, the rich and powerful man is not wild. He is caged. Like a lion starved before tearing apart prisoners or slaves in the coliseum, so is the workaholic starved for attention in the boxed-in home before going to sit at a box-shaped desk to yell at people below him who aren’t fitting into his boxy design for a boxy system that can fit neatly on a spreadsheet filled with black and white boxes. And only those who can recognize that we can be one with nature cannot feed ourselves, because we are not free when humans choose to live like this, painting a face on the universe instead of recognizing where we are in time and evolution.

There is hope. And that is the collective consciousness, that thing that those of us who constantly wrestle with suicide so detest in our darkest moments, that sliver of possibility that our smallness gives us freedom to explore. If only the society we live in could figure out how to survive to live, instead of living to survive.

You see, interactions matter. Thoughts matter. They expand awareness and it grows, at an evolutionary scale of time and an astronomic to quantum scale of space, in another dimension, a third base of existence. So study is power, kindness is power, to influence this. But we must not think that power is anything more than an argument with the void. We must not pretend that we even understand our enemy, only that the void is indifferent and is the nothingness beyond what we know, what we think, what we observe, what we feel. We must refuse to pretend. We must not fall in love with the metaphor, losing sight of the fact that it is only a description of what is. Science and religion do not compete, science is the superior thing because it is accepting and aware, while religion is abrasive and stiff and immobile, insisting that its deity is real, dissociating its way through worship and exploitation. How should we then live? The chained people in Plato’s cave cry out, in hope of a leader, and yet scientists refuse to make themselves leaders, heroes, prophets, shepherds, because they know those are just stories. Celebrities who recognize the meaninglessness of it all kill themselves because the masses project god-like perceptions onto them. Science says we are all human, all small, just animals, and we’re pretty dumb and like to be lazy and comfortable, and it’s hard to find a few among us who are intelligent.

And even fewer of those intelligent ones have any ability to demonstrate it, because we’re caught in the web of those predators who want to exploit us for petty wealth.

We cannot study and think and observe and learn and create and follow the compelling argument with the void, without eating. Living to eat just proves that we are wasting our precious, tiny, short lives on this planet that is meaningless to the vastness of space. Living to eat means we prioritize in such a way that work comes before survival and the work of being human, existing, playing, educating and being educated. Eating to live means putting survival in its place and knowing it is not God who provides our food, but rather we who are surviving as a tiny part of evolution. Eating to live acknowledges that the resources we extract from the blood and sweat of those below us on the human ladder of stupidity are not worth the exploitation. And don’t get me started on how this willful ignorance of humanity leads to confusion between the two, murdering our heroes and exalting our oppressors. Eating to live improves quality of life for all, no matter how consciously adept.

And so I conclude that it benefits the consciousness, expanding our knowledge and spreading that ripple effect of communication, meaning that if only one person understands this message, it is worth the effort. So the application of studying science is the most beneficial way to expand consciousness. Spreading our knowledge is crucial. It is a step, and only a miniscule step, beyond living just to eat.

So if you’re wondering why it’s been so long since I made my presence online known, it’s because I’ve been surviving. Enduring homelessness, starting over, relying on the gifts of acquaintances to feed me until I could write, debate, and participate again.

To those who understand, be encouraged. You are alone, and that is okay, because you are a sturdy mountain goat. God is dead, but we have the ability to reconstruct the pattern of how we think which in turn drastically impacts our ability to live.

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Thank you to everyone who keeps reading!

An Infinite Task

I’m working harder than ever before, and this website doesn’t show it.

The concepts I’m delving into are so intense, I wonder if I can blog about them. Here’s an excerpt:

You prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Then we broke bread together, and they washed my feet and asked to partake of my cup of suffering. I realized when the aliens came to this planet that I was the enemy, and the prophecy was of unity, not gloating.

There was a time before the blog. I wrote plays late into the night when I was small, I worked on my autobiography, I told stories and journaled my dreams. I don’t know if there will ever be a post-blog writing life for me. This is for the regular updates, but I’ve needed a break from the pressure of daily, weekly, or even monthly posting. I’m exploring the infinite and the divine.

I hope that my audience that followed me through theological questioning and spiritual discovery and logical dissonance and familial abuse and alienation…will allow me to keep pushing, describing what I perceive as the edges of reality itself.

We count one, two, three, four.

Dot

Line

Cube

Time

Story is necessary only in time. Individuality is necessary only in three dimensions. What came before is beyond our language because we cannot count before one or past infinity without negativity. It was consciousness. It was one and many, not individual. They did not speak to each other, or it did not speak to itself, for it was whole and complete in its knowledge and understanding. What one part knew, the whole knew, and communication was unnecessary. It was, and they were, content.

So it was that the moment of spontaneous desire was the moment in which story and physical spacetime coincided.

One did not exist without the other, for story is linear. Conflict and resolution need time to play with each other. The consciousness was complete and content, so desire changed everything.

We count one, two, three four.

But the dimensions are not in this order. There is something that precedes the dot.

Consciousness

Desire

Space

Time

These four cannot be counted in hierarchal tiers, for they are in each other and around each other. For desire needs to chase satisfaction, and a chase cannot exist without physicality and time. Content consciousness had/has no need.

It is difficult to describe how what will appear to be a conversation took place. Our communication assumes time, space, and desire. Through our perception, it would seem to be repeated again and again, but it never repeated, for repetition requires time in which to invent and repeat. The conscious entity simply knew what I have here translated into human words. It did not speak to itself. What I will translate as “what will happen” is what has happened since desire manifested, and space-time came into existence as a natural result. Consequence is a concept that requires time, for a consequence follows what caused the consequence.

2016 has been indescribably hard. After my first long-term polyamorous relationship, I broke up with my boyfriend at the beginning of February and my girlfriend in March. I thought I was going insane, and couldn’t keep track of my own feelings and perceptions. Once I had grasp of clarity, it was hell to share living space with someone I loved, yet couldn’t trust.

I opened myself up… but the darkest sin I ever committed in the eyes of those I hurt was that I did not feel deeply enough.

It took a few years of not living with fifteen other people to be able to get inside my head without blasting very loud music. I still love music – and my spectrum of interest has widened to heavier metal and funkier EDM than ever – but it’s not a need. I’m not drowning anything out. I listen to it for the sake of listening to it, and not because silence is uncomfortable or disturbing. It used to be that if my music stopped playing for even a few minutes and I was alone in the house, it was too much to handle. I didn’t know this at the time. I realized it after music wasn’t a necessity anymore, and was more of a treat.

 Art decorates space, music decorates time. Space and time are illusory, perceptual, the speed of light is slow against whatever reality the universe has in Dark Matter. Music and art are lovely, but they are metaphors. We are all allegory. This life is a dream to teach us and prepare us for consciousness in another host, somewhere across this vast plane of existence.

Push again, dig again, give myself the grace to rest. To not beat myself up internally for a natural reaction to a fractured reality. The Lorax told me to climb trees and listen to them, and the trees became my teachers. The dirt healed my feet and brought warmth to my body, and I spoke to the plants in my forest garden.

Thousands of years ago, God told the prophet to take off his sandals, for he walked on holy ground.

A few years ago, the Infinite One told me to bare my feet and make the ground holy.

Now I understand that I am the earth as much as I am this human vessel, and the pain I felt in the broken earth was my own pain. To listen to another creature – no matter what form its vessel takes – is to converse and discover the self.

I cast off everything that binds me and tells me that I should not wholly fulfill my full potential. I know not what it is, but the song is the same, perfect verse after perfect verse, further up and further in. I will put this song on repeat it until I know it well, and re-live it again and again, learning every detail and then continuing to listen, until I can dance and sing to its every movement, until I can hit every note and play every instrument, until I can go back in time and write the song before it was written, until I can give birth to the musicians and the indigenous peoples who invented those instruments, until I can hear the planet sing in a time before it was touched with the evolution of man. That is what it means to live a million lifetimes and finally to learn to dance for the first time. If this is love, then I am eager to taste the cadence of fire-music, to feel the melancholy and anguish with which it touches my emotions every time the song hits a certain note, even if I’ve heard the song a thousand times. This is infinity, this is a fractal.

Discovering more than ever before, and putting it into words with the best precision I possibly can, no matter how insane I might risk sounding, is an infinite task. It stretches beyond time and space. This Latin lettering and this English language are limiting tools. This task is infinite, and I take it with the knowledge that my efforts are limitless.

Terra’s Temple

She mounts the steps to her temple, minding carefully the cracks in the ancient stone. Centuries ago the pillars crumbled and the roof fell.

Now her stride is uneven, but she still walks with the pride of a goddess. The language is lost, her pride would never have connoted a hint of hubris. It once meant the transcendence of a deity, the air of a higher form, the earned love of her subjects.

Her appearance grew more transparent as her worshippers dwindled, and now her appearance at the temple meets no awestruck faces, no gifts or sacrifices, no prayers, no trembling adults on their knees, and no shy-curious glances stolen by children. Were anyone there at all to greet her, they might have only sensed a shimmer as the light mingled with her ghost. Her gown still hung in glorious abandon on her stately shoulders, thrown back, but now more from determined habit than assured worth.

Today was the twenty-second of the fourth month of the year, and nobody came to the temple of the planet.

The children were distracted, even the sacrilege of peeking at her glory had lost their interest. The sacrifices that used to pile and clutter the wide altars were never of life, as the other deities demanded. She asked not for the carcasses of lost sustenance, but for items used to cut and command life in her realm. If a man could sacrifice a calf for Allah, he could sacrifice an unused slaughter-knife to Terra. If a man could fall out of favor with Yahweh for offering rotten fruits, he could bring them to Terra to fortify her sacred ground.

So it was that the households of the ancients honored balance, and even spades and tools were amongst the offerings. They expressed refrain from tearing at the ground and trees; they expressed the weight of responsibility to plant and harvest without exceeding necessity; they showed understanding that she granted them their survival.

And the world had thrived, and the temple had stood. Terra stood where she had always stood, and listened as she always had, and the silence extracted emotion from the unconquerable. For the first time in that temple, its goddess learned what it was to fall to her own knees. She heard the absence of worship where she’d never given it credit: from the fallen trees and the birds who once nested in their branches, from mothers shushing their whimpering babies, from the noises of animals and many feet, from the energy of collected presence, from inhaling and exhaling.

There on the temple floor, she placed both hands over her face and wept for what was lost.

I once believed that death in childbirth was a worthy sacrifice.

Even her suffering and grief was unheard by the wind and dirt. She wept for each season as it passed, the idea of her fading to less than a glimmer. She mourned, her essence slipping away, until even those who’d heard reinvented stories of her forgot about her. With no observation left to sustain her being, nothing swallowed Terra’s essence.

Horizon is illusion.
Sacrifice is nothing.
Time is a lie.

7-Year Cycles and Time Perception

Re-uploaded 7/22/2018 as part of the Archive Restoration Project.

This past weekend, my partner and I met with a Crone (pagan term of respect for wise women who’ve moved beyond the Maiden and Mother phases of the Goddess self) who was uninterested in being respected for her age.

She told us that every seven years is a time of cleansing and change. For her it was symbolic, and she said that if you’re aware of this pattern, there’s a chance for a Spring Cleaning of sorts. Every seventh year is an ideal time to cleanse, physically and spiritually, to prepare for the next seven years. The years spent being the age of 7, 14, 21, 28, and 35 are eventful and eye-opening for most people, and 49 can be extremely difficult because it’s 7 squared. These times are not necessarily good, because the energetic vessel is fresh and open, vulnerable to pain and the problem of facing unpleasant realizations.

This isn’t backed scientifically – a popularized myth is that the cells in our bodies die and replace themselves over a course of seven years, but it probably has roots in the 7-year cycle. But just like birthdays, seven years and ten years are arbitrary times to look back and reflect. For me, the 7-year cycle resonates. Now that I’m 23, I can look back on what happened at the ages of 7, 14, and 21, and see what major life events happened in those years. It’s appealing to look at a cycle of years that’s a little different than the usual 1-, 5-, and 10-year goals I’m used to.

I turned seven in 1999. I’d just traveled from Minnesota to Virginia Beach with my family, and we made another road trip the following summer to the other coast, before I turned 8. I identified Star Wars as my myth, the Force and the struggle between light and dark made more sense to me than any religious philosophy I’d been taught. My parents grounded me off of Star Wars because my obsession was too piously divided against my devotion to God (and also because my mom was just annoyed with my asking to watch Return of the Jedi over and over). Y2K passed while I was seven, and I remember the adults applauding my resourcefulness as we prepared extra canned goods and grains to last us through the predicted apocalyptic horrors of the coming years. My family moved to Colorado just after I turned eight.

I turned fourteen in 2006. I read a book series that impacted me – Viking Quest by Lois Walfrid Johnson – and it prompted me to get up before sunrise on this birthday and walk outside. We filmed our show for The Learning Channel while I was fourteen, and I nearly died from Whooping Cough, which my siblings and I battled for several months, losing an entire semester of homeschooling. These seven years were my most Christian years, and I dedicated myself to Jesus and explored what I called the twice-removed desire. Those seven years marked my high school and college attempts to seriously unearth the foundations of my religion, and I learned to listen to the Infinite One. My family was recovering from a painful church split, I was questioning the teachers in AWANA and debate club, and I visited a church that taught predestination, making me seriously grapple with fate and the Christian God.

I turned twenty-one in 2013. This year was gigantic on a spiritual level, and I released old stories I’d been telling myself, and came to accept my own political views and sexuality. That was the year that my parents kicked me out, and I confronted an entity in the mirror that I called the Narrator, and told her to stop ruling my life. I learned that I was an empath, and I lost all trust for my mother just before I turned 22. The foundation that I set in my twenty-first year have already made the years since a series of fantastical experiences. Each thing that happens is more revolutionary than the thing before, and I wouldn’t have been open to it at any other time.

Savoring everything allows me to feel a sense of slowness. I’m prioritizing the mindfulness and recklessness that keeps life fresh. Time is an illusion and a perspective. Anyone can take as much as they want, merely with enhanced attention and openness.

Birthday Post 4: Being 23 and a Half

This summer, I didn’t write on my 23rd birthday. I was working in the wilderness and a friend and coworker insisted that I take as much of a break as possible. I slept under the Colorado stars and read sections of a high fantasy novel, and the camp coordinators slipped some candy into our provisions as a surprise for me on that camping trip.

In the past six months, though, I’ve regretted that I didn’t reflect on my age in writing. Since I was 13, I’ve made it a point to make each birthday special. I often rose early to greet the sunrise on my birthday, and though I didn’t practice meditation at the time, I meditatively accepted my age and owned it. But this year, I’ve slipped a few times in stasis. I keep almost saying I’m 24 or 22, and wondering why I did that.

Correlation or a self-fulfilling prophecy is possible. My expectation is that writing on my birthday is a consistent thing that helps me establish that age.

I’m conflicted about age and life stages. I want to acknowledge my own epic and mark the miles as I go, but age is so arbitrary. As I continue to study religion and philosophy and self-growth, I’m more and more convinced that ageism is a serious problem in society and the human experience. In my experience, older people are generally condescending, and children are overlooked.

I’m open to be proven wrong about this. I want to be proven wrong, to know that most people don’t think age is a measure of wisdom. When I work with kids, I want to listen and learn, while owning my responsibility as the adult source of stability and safety.

What I do know, though, is that even though birthdays are arbitrary, it’s a chance to reflect, take note, and look ahead. I’m opening myself to cyclical living over linear living, and meeting with myself on a birthday is sacred, just as it would be sacred to meet with the same person in the same place sometimes.

I’m 23 and a half, and it feels very childish, despite how much I hate referring to anything as “childish,” to count half-years. My disinterest in counting each year seems odd. I can count much higher than 23, and I remember finding it a challenge to count as high as I could, first in English and then in a few other languages. In the book Island of the Blue Dolphins, Karana grows tired of counting moons, and instead starts leaving marks four times a year.

It feels like I’m getting tired of counting too quickly. I can count way higher than 23, and I hope you heard that in my 3-year-old voice, at a time when I was content to challenge myself to count as high as I could.

For most people, time seems to go by more quickly as they get older. This is because, in theory, our perspective is lengthening with every passing moment, and a year is always a shorter percentage of our overall life experience. A year is 50% of a two-year-old’s life experience, but by the time you’re five, that has dropped to 20%.

Older people always told me life would get faster and faster, but life has slowed down as I’ve gotten older. The universe is vaster than I ever thought it would be. So the time between birthdays is long. Maybe that’s why I felt good about going back and counting a half-year. It felt like unfinished business after skipping my post when I turned 23. Saying “and a half” was a great way to practice fractions as a child, if nothing else. I still like it.

The God Question

This post was originally published in January 2016. It was re-uploaded in October 2018 as part of the archive restoration project. My follow-up post on the subject is posted here

I read a sentence a few years ago that changed my life. It was in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Living with a Wild God, and it said, “When people run up against something inexplicable, transcendent, and, most of all, ineffable, they often call it ‘God,’ as if that were some sort of explanation.”

That sung true through every bit of my being, and I hated it because I knew it was true, and that it went against everything I’d believed and defended and taught. I kept stubbornly defending “God,” but my theism quickly washed away. I realized that whatever I’d been praying to, learning about, hearing from, and interacting with, couldn’t be described as “God” because that word is overused and it fails to explain anything.

Defining “God” is a ridiculous task and worthless endeavor. The word has come to mean thousands of things to thousands of subgroups of people. Why would I want to seek out a universal definition for that? There isn’t one. I’m not out to please billions of people and find a definition that satisfies them all anyway.

It’s not that I don’t believe in God anymore. The idea of a deity is kind of small compared to what I’ve seen and experienced on planes that are best described as metaphysical. Religion is not necessarily a bad thing, but one of its fundamental influences on human history is that it has oversimplified our ability to describe common experiences. Is “God” a ghost of parental care that we reach out for, whether it exists or not, in times of fear? Is “God” the explanation that fills in the gaps of why physical reality manifests as it does?

Maybe people who believe in god aren’t delusional. Maybe they’re just using a word that they were taught, to describe something that the word does a really poor job of describing. Maybe the word “god” was diluted over time, to the point that it doesn’t have common meaning anymore. It’s become a term that people use to gain power and to hurt others, and it hardly matters whether their intentions are sincere or malignant.

“What is God?” Isn’t a question I bother trying to answer. I’m okay with far more specific questions, though, like “What is beyond what humans experience with our senses?” and “What is dark matter?” and “What is the universe?” These are answerable because they’re not about trying to define a word that already exists. They’re about finding words for what has not yet been described.

To start with the word “God” is backwards and counterproductive. A logical syllogism uses the premises to define the conclusion, but to try and define a word as big as “God” is to look at the conclusion that millions of people have used, and try to see their reasoning for it. I don’t think everyone used the exact same logical premises; people are too lazy and irrational for that. I’d much rather build up my premises than work down from the assumption of the existence of a being with omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence.

As soon as I recognized that I was working backward from an assumed conclusion and looking for the premises, I couldn’t do it ever again.

Part of the task of openness was to admit that to label my connections as “God” was getting in my way. So these days I don’t identify as Christian or with any other religion, I don’t say I believe in God, but I know there’s something out there, perhaps many things. I’m done with describing heaven and hell, as I explained in my series about the afterlife. I’m just remaining open.

When Parents Idealize Themselves

This is a repost from my restored archives. It was re-uploaded June 16, 2018. 

“I don’t think they mean to be abusive, though.”

I hear those words at least once a week. People come to me with their stories, and I point out patterns of abuse, and they rush to the defense of the loved one.

It could be an ex, a current partner or spouse. Parents. Siblings. Managers, coworkers, anyone. People abuse people, and very, very few of them get up in the morning thinking, “I’m going to abuse someone who loves me today.”

Is abuse intentional? What if the victim still has feelings of affection for their abuser? How can abusers minimize what they do? Why does damage control look so sincere? Why are onlookers confused when they hear such vastly different sides to the same story?

I know the answers to these questions, and they ran through my head as I read the article Cindy Kunsman posted about me yesterday. She called it Breaking the Pattern of Idealizing Parents: Cynthia Jeub and the Trap of All-or-Nothing.

First, Kunsman writes about the pattern of all-or-nothing. Children have no room for ambiguity, and there’s severe punishment for stepping out of line, even slightly, even if it wasn’t on purpose. In the case of my own parents, the rules changed often, and sometimes dad decided we should be punished for a rule made after we’d broken it. My early childhood was filled with fear of making the smallest mistake, but until adulthood, I never knew that I was living with anxiety.

I believed that I was safe, my parents were reasonable and loving, and I would never have dared to complain about them, even to myself. After all, the sin of rebellion begins in the heart, and a good Christian takes every thought captive. If I ever felt a hint of resentment or frustration at an unfair situation, having no privacy, being overworked, or taking a beating, I suppressed it. To do otherwise would be disrespectful, and children must obey and honor their parents.

Kunsman was spot-on in her description of idealizing parents, but the conclusion of her article was personal, and it made me feel misunderstood and unheard. It wasn’t the incorrect details that bothered me – I have three adult sisters, not two, and we were on TV in 2007, not 2008, and Alicia lives in Denver, not the other side of the world. It was the way she equated my perspective with that of my parents, grandmother, and younger brothers and sisters.

I grew up being silenced to the point of silencing myself. I’m okay with the different perspectives put in a convenient list of links because people can hear the story and conclude for themselves what really happened. My little brothers and sisters in the podcast offer the most revealing evidence against my parents. They talked about the rages my mother flies into, of the times she throws things and used makeup to cover my brother’s bruises, and called it normal, defending the story we’ve been fed: The Jeub Family brand is Love, and we are Loving, and you must believe that Love Is The Most Important Thing, and Everything We Do Is Love.

Kunsman’s conclusion about how to respond to my family’s public scandal of abuse was this:

“In time, may history bear out a story wherein the parties involved honor one another’s perspectives and pain through mutual respect. May they all find their way out of the trap of all-or-nothing. May living color replace the extremes of objectified black and white.”

Seeing those words, and seeing someone saying I should be just as willing to see the other side as my abusers, made me feel unheard.

I feel unheard because I’ve already done those things. I wrote about the prophetic urge to wash the feet of my family before they betrayed me. I wrote about seeing color beyond black and white. I wrote about seeing my mother’s shame and self-blame, and the intricacies of why she treated me the way she did. I recounted many fun times and travels and good memories and said of course it wasn’t all bad.

I feel unheard because I’ve done nothing but honor other perspectives. Whenever my brothers defend my parents publicly, I comment to ask for gentleness and understanding. Even though I can’t hold my kids closely anymore, I will fight for them. Last time I saw my brother Micah, I told him over and over, “It doesn’t matter if I’m right or not. Your perspective and your feelings matter, and our parents never let you have your own perspective.” When my dad called me mentally ill and offered me money to get me to take my posts down, I knew that he was being as sincere as he is capable of being.

My father can’t see himself as an abuser. The only explanation he can conjure is that I must be the problem, and so are my sisters, and everyone else who’s ever tried to call him out for his actions.

Does that justify him? Does it mean it’s not abuse? Of course not. He needs to be held accountable, and I know he’s incapable of seeing it himself. Publicity is the only option at this point.

Damage control looks sincere because it’s the legitimate priority of an abuser who is a public figure. My parents pretended they were wonderful people, and they forced their children to play along, and they still surround themselves with people who will also play the game. The scary thing is that when you’re living a fantasy, it bleeds between publicity and privacy. My parents are so out of touch with themselves, they actually believe that they are good people who don’t deserve my apparent slander. That’s why our stories are so different.

Yes, parents idealize themselves and it silences the children. To conclude that by saying that I, as the outspoken victim of such a case, need to respect their perspective, is to show that you are not listening to me. If you were listening, you’d see that I’m already doing that. They still have a dozen children feeding their fantasy. The perspectives are out, and I’m listening. I’ve been listening to them all my life, I know their cycles of manipulation well.

I don’t need more people saying, “Talk it out, listen more.” I’m waiting for someone to say, “Children, your feelings matter. Children, your voices matter. Children, speak, and we will listen to you.”

The Legend of the Snow Fairies

6/18/18: I wrote this story in 2013, and posted it here on the blog in 2015. I don’t write much fiction, but this story plopped itself in my lap and demanded to be written. This is part of my archive restoration project

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Yes, child. Of course it’s alright to love winter. The snow fairies love it, too.

The story you heard today was told from a wrong perspective. See, in that time, the people needed an explanation for why winter was a sad time. They didn’t like the cold because their food didn’t grow and they had to eat dried food. Today, you can play in the snow and marvel at the frost, and come inside and I will fix you a hot drink. Are you ready? I’ll tell you what really happened.

There was a fairy-child whose name was Elraen. She was over a thousand years old, but if she were human, she would be about your age. She had a special power that she wasn’t allowed to use.

Elraen couldn’t dance like the other fairies. When she flew with the other fairy-boys and fairy-girls to make the flowers bloom and sparkle, and to make the fruit in Demeter’s orchards ripe and delicious, Elraen would ruin everything. She would try to dance, but nothing worked right for her.

The first time she tried to brighten the color of an apple so it shined, Elraen couldn’t do it correctly. Another fairy flew to an apple and spun beside it, and it grew to a warm rouge, and it shined in the sun. Demeter smiled at the other fairy and held out her hand, whispering a joyful blessing to the small creature. Elraen nervously flew to an apple and made the same spin in the air, and when the magic left her hands, the apple didn’t brighten. It withered, and frothed with a white frost. Then it fell to the ground and broke into frozen pieces.

Demeter ignored Elraen, looking only at the ruined apple with distress. She had never seen a fairy freeze something before. The other fairies were astonished, and when Demeter moved on to another place, the other fairies danced around Elraen and laughed at her.

That same night, the little fairy was called into the palace of the fairies, where the high fairy priest held his ancient, purple and golden wings proudly. He addressed the child sternly, and told her she must study with the older fairies instead of working alongside the others who were her age. She must learn to make warmth.

So every day since, Elraen had no friends. She tried to work at her lessons each day, in a sunless study away from the orchards, and though the old fairies were patient with her, she was a slow learner.

Elraen was a fairy, and it is very strange to see a beautiful fairy child walking on her small feet with her head hung low. This is what she did every day, for she was afraid to dance, and thought her dance was ugly. She did not know that her white-blue hair hung in lovely ringlets down her back, or that her face was always calming to look at, even if she was so alone.

Perhaps the rarity of seeing a fairy walking with her wings unused, her head dropped, and icy tears collecting around her face was what made Persephone notice Elraen.

“Fairy-child, what troubles you?” the voice of the goddess was the first gentle, musical thing Elraen had heard since she had left her mother’s nest.

She raised her pale eyes, wiping the last of the frost from her cheeks. “I can’t make the fruit ripen,” Elraen said, though she knew she shouldn’t complain to the goddess. “And the other fairies laugh at me.”

A wave of sorrowful compassion swept across the goddess’ face, and Persephone held out her hand to the fairy. Elraen flitted up onto the warm palm held out to her, and she sat there comfortably.

“What’s your name, fairy-child?”

“Elraen, dear goddess.”

Persephone smiled, and brushed her golden locks aside. “Tell me what happened, as it happened.”

Elraen tried to calm herself as she told the story, and spoke of the weeks and weeks she’d spent trying to learn to ripen fruit.

Persephone pursed her lips when Elraen said Demeter had ignored her and mourned the frozen fruit. “I understand, little one. My mother often thinks of nothing but her fruit, and forgets the people around her. I, too, am lonely.”

“Forgive me, lady,” Elraen remembered her manners at last, “but why should you be lonely?”

Persephone’s pretty, giant face dropped a little, and Elraen took in every detail. Fairies are so small, they can see details in the large faces of the gods and goddesses. “I have not found someone to love and make a life with,” Persephone explained in simple terms so the fairy-child could understand, “and my mother never lets me leave her orchards.”

“But the orchards are beautiful,” Elraen said. “Why would anyone want to go beyond these acres and acres of good land?”

“Would you want to go to a better place, young one?”

Elraen had to admit that she did.

“We can speak of happy things, though, since we understand each other,” Persephone said. “Please, show me what happens when you dance.”

Elraen decided to trust the goddess, for she was kind. She spread her wings and lifted her head, and began to dance through the air.

The fairy-girl didn’t know how she looked, and she was very nervous. I’ll tell you what Persephone saw: flowing gestures and feeling movements, a perfect coordination of wings and arms, with tiny feet kicking with passion. Elraen’s hair moved through the warm wind with gentility, and in a few seconds the air around her began to change. The wind turned frigid, and tiny flakes of soft ice fell and swirled around her. She twirled and spun, never tiring, and when she finished, breathless, he was smiling in spite of herself. Cold droplets of water were all that was left of her work, melted on Persephone’s hands.

“It’s beautiful, and you should not be ashamed of your gift,” Persephone told her new young friend. “Come dance for me whenever the other fairies make you sad.”

So Elraen did. When she tried to ripen fruits and make flowers bloom, her dancing became rough and unnatural, but her instructors told her she was getting better. She tried to retrain herself, becoming more like the other fairies, but even when she made her first flower bloom, it felt so wrong that it immediately froze. Her teacher lost her temper and forced Elraen to sit alone for a long time as punishment for losing her focus in the dance.

But nothing the other fairies did could make Elraen unhappy anymore. She spent her afternoons with Persephone, and they told each other everything, and that was where Elraen could dance her own dance.

When Persephone started talking about meeting a god who she liked, Elraen was supremely happy for her.

“Hades makes me laugh, and he tells me I’m beautiful,” Persephone told her little friend. “I’m always expected to look so good, to be the picturesque daughter of Demeter, who just climbs trees and wears a happy smile, never wanting anything else. Hades tells me about how his brother is a tyrant, and he has rebelled against the gods and suffered banishment for it. Our orchard is on the edge of the earth, and there is an underground passage to Hades’ home from here. I wish I was brave like him.”

Elraen was curled comfortably up on Persephone’s shoulder, listening to her voice vibrate and giving encouragement next to her friend’s ear.

Hades and Persephone were a gorgeous couple, and Elraen would draw ice pictures of them together. She could only make shades of white and blue, but the god and goddess brightened when they saw each other. Hades made Persephone laugh and forget herself, and Persephone admired him for his bravery in standing up to Zeus. They fit together well, and when they were with each other, Elraen noticed the way his dark, muscled hands gently held her small white ones and comforted her.

Elraen couldn’t always spend time with the god and goddess who she dearly loved, and ferociously wanted to be together. She still spent time in the homes and palace of the fairies, learning and getting better at becoming a normal fairy.

One day, as Elraen was leaving the fairy palace where she practiced dancing like the others, she heard the cry of a much younger fairy. It tugged at her heart because she recognized it as a cry of frustration, something she’d known as a child-fairy.

Elraen listened for the sobbing, and carefully followed it to a classroom, where a small fairy-girl was crying. She had white-green hair and wore a look of utter exasperation.

“Fairy-child, what troubles you?” Elraen remembered the words Persephone had used for her.

The little child said she could only freeze things. Elraen hid her excitement at finding someone else with the same gift, after all these years. She told the little girl, whose name was Verre, that her ability to make ice wasn’t a bad thing. Together, they danced and made a whole pile of snow, and covered the whole room with delicate frost patterns.

Verre said she had never been happier, and they agreed to meet with each other again.

Back in Demeter’s orchard, Persephone was conflicted. Sometimes she would be happy and her eyes would sparkle, speaking of how funny Hades was, and how lighthearted he was when he was around her. “I want to go to the underworld with him,” Persephone told Elraen, “But it would break my mother’s heart.” And she would sometimes cry, because she wanted to be with Hades, but she would have to go against Demeter and Zeus himself to marry her love.

Elraen’s days were filled with sneaking around the palace with Verre, looking for other snow fairies. They made a club together, and practiced dancing whenever Demeter was on the other side of the orchard. Some were fairy-boys, and all of them had the same white-colored hair, and the fairy priests had never told any of them that they weren’t the only ones with the gift of ice.

After lessons on how to be normal, the snow fairies would celebrate their strange dancing style under Elraen’s leadership, and Elraen was strong enough to help the others, for she had been encouraged by the goddess.

In the ever-growing group of snow fairies, everyone was in support of Persephone and Hades. They wanted the god of the underworld and the daughter of Demeter to be together, for they were a beautiful couple, and were rebellious celebrities to look up to. If Hades could find a lover after questioning the order of things, the snow fairies, too, might live happy lives in being different. They wanted to celebrate the marriage of Hades with their dances of ice and snow, but it seemed like it would never happen.

Then came the day when Persephone told Elraen she was ready to go with Hades. “I’m going away, my dear little friend,” Persephone announced after she’d watched a beautiful dance in which Elraen formed her biggest snowflake. “Hades will come for me tonight, and we will slip away under the blessing from Selene’s cool light. You ought to come along, for the underworld is cold.”

Elraen longed to go with, but she was now the leader of an entire group of snow fairies, all in need of her attention. She was sad to tell her friend the goddess that she could not visit Hades with her.

But that night, when Elraen returned to the other snow fairies, she was indignant at the fairies who had cast out her kind. At last, Hades and Persephone would have their wedding in the underworld. If Hades and Persephone were brave enough to defy Zeus, perhaps Elraen could convince her friends to defy the fairy leaders.

“We should dance for her tonight when she leaves,” Elraen said when they had their secret gathering. “And decorate the leaves of Demeter’s trees with frost, and spread our snowflakes across the ground.”

For a moment, Elraen’s courage faltered. The snow fairies exchanged worried looks. Nobody knew what would happen to them if they cast snow on the land, and even in the fairy world, they knew of the punishment Zeus had cast upon Hades.

One fairy-man stood up and declared his support. He was old, and his dance needed much help from his wings, but he had suppressed his snow power for too long. Verre grinned at Elraen, and she fluttered to her feet, too.

“I’ll dance with you for Persephone.” Verre said.

So that night, when Persephone left Demeter a gentle kiss, and slipped away for the passage to the underworld, she was adorned with a crown of ice, carefully fashioned by her friends the fairies. As Persephone’s beautiful form disappeared into the earth, Elraen let out a laugh of victory – the signal to the others.

While the other fairies slept, Elraen’s followers danced in the moonlight, making the ground sparkle with purity and decoration. They danced until they were exhausted, and they sang together, and they celebrated.

The next morning, Demeter awoke, and saw the ice, and saw the snow. But she did not see Persephone.

The person who told you this story said the world was cold because Demeter was supremely sad. However, that is not what it is like to grieve, my child. When a mother grieves, she loses interest and joy, and finds it difficult to do anything at all. Demeter’s orchard grew cold, beautiful, and glittery because she took no notice of her orchard, which was being decorated daily by happy, free fairies.

The snow fairies had reason to celebrate, so Elraen and her friends hardly noticed when the fairy priests punished them for their ice dance. The leaders of the fairies tried imprisoning the snow fairies, but rebellion had given them the camaraderie and courage to help each other get away. The other fairies tried to re-warm the earth, but to no avail. They had lost all motivation, for Demeter no longer doted on them, encouraging them and, by her ignorance, making the snow-fairies outcasts.

As time went on, the snow-fairies’ celebration turned to a work of stealth. Elraen danced, but she also had to sneak around the palace in search of the snow-fairies who went missing, often finding them in makeshift prisons. The fairy priests had never dealt with rebellion before, and didn’t know how to react when the lesser snow-fairies banded together. The snow-fairies helped each other, and the crackdown against them was wildly inefficient.

There was one problem still: Zeus. The brother of Hades came to see Demeter, and together they searched for the missing goddess. As they walked through Demeter’s gardens and orchards, calling her missing daughter’s name, the snow fairies were careful to stay away from them. Until one little fairy was dancing, letting frost fall in intricate strands across a pine tree, and Zeus heard it. The god turned and snatched up the tiny boy-fairy in his powerful hand. He was one of Elraen’s newest adoptions, known as Oceanus, and he was still a nervous dancer. Elraen heard his cry of pain, and flew to his rescue.

When she came near, she saw the child was screaming because Zeus was demanding an explanation for Persephone’s disappearance and of the ice.

What could Elraen do? She needed to protect one of the fairy children she had led into their ice dance, but she feared Zeus. It was an agonizing moment as she heard Oceanus bravely refuse to tell the god why the snow-fairies danced.

It was too great a risk. Elraen flew in front of Oceanus and started to speak, louder than she ever had: “Let him go! I started the snow fairy dance.”

“Tell me,” Zeus’ voice sent vibrations into the air in which Elraen flew, “do you know where Persephone has gone?”

Oceanus could breathe again, and he struggled to lift his crumpled wings. He would be alright. It was a small comfort for Elraen, who only looked away briefly to check on the young fairy.

She looked back at Zeus. “Please, god of thunder,” she said, “Do not be angry with Hades. He loves Persephone, and she loves him, and we dance to celebrate their wedding.”

Zeus snatched her out of the air. “Where have they gone?” he asked.

Elraen immediately regretted having spoken, and felt as if she had betrayed her friend.

Demeter spoke. “We’ll look for them in the underworld.”

Zeus didn’t let go of Elraen, who called out to Oceanus to tell the others not to stop dancing, and to tell them what happened. That’s what leaders do when they are captured. They have to keep giving orders and arranging things even when they are frightened.

When Oceanus was far behind the running god and goddess carrying the snow-fairy, Elraen turned to see Zeus commanding the passage into the underworld to open. The earth formed a dark cave, and they began to descend into it.

Elraen could identify Persephone’s decorative touch in the way the black and red curtains were hung. She remained silent so Zeus wouldn’t remember he was holding her, but she was excited to see her old friend again.

Before the passage became completely dark from lack of sun, torches appeared to light the way. It would have been an enjoyable, mysterious place, if Zeus weren’t angrily storming through it.

Demeter suddenly picked up her pace and ran ahead, crying out for Persephone. Zeus followed, and Elraen saw a dark throne room. The furniture was carved into rich, black marble, and the thick fur of an ancient, black mammal made a rug before two thrones. Red-eyed creatures stood respectfully around, and there was Persephone, wearing an intricately patterned black dress, which provided an awe-striking complement to her beauty.

Demeter rushed to her daughter and hugged her tightly. Hades eyed his brother, but did not speak.

Zeus relaxed his grip on Elraen, and she flew with relief into the rafters which, when she got there, appeared to be carved from bones. She quietly, fearfully waited to see what would happen.

The thunder-god spoke. “What do you mean, Hades, by kidnapping this young goddess?”

“Kidnapping!” Hades was indignant. “Of course, brother, you would accuse me of doing wrong when I committed the crime of falling in love with my wife!”

“Dear, dear Persephone,” Demeter was condescending to her daughter, “Have you had an awful time here in the place of banishment and death?”

“No, mother, I haven’t,” Persephone said, pushing away. “I love Hades. Please, god of thunder, let me stay.”

It was if Zeus did not hear. “Come with us, child. Hades will receive just punishment for what he has done.” He crossed the room to Persephone and seized her hands, beginning to lead her away. Hades loudly protested, and the four gods and goddesses struggled with each other until Elraen flew down again. She had confronted Zeus once, she could do it again.

“Zeus, oh great and most powerful, god of the gods,” she said, flitting around to stay out of his reach and winking at Persephone, “you are so just, such an honest defender of the helpless. I bring to you my need for defense, for you are the god of order.”

Zeus let go of Persephone, who retreated into Hades’ arms. He seemed satisfied to hear the flattery.

“Please, Zeus, you who are great, defender of those who are oppressed,” Elraen was almost mocking now, she was so angry with him, “I ask for equality among the fairies. Many of us are suited for creating ice with our dance, and the fairies do not let us, for the orchards and fields must endlessly produce, never resting, never being preserved with ice, never decorated with the frosts.”

Demeter spoke this time. “So it’s you who have been freezing my garden, who bring the ice and cold?”

“We are celebrating, lady goddess,” Elraen explained. She looked again at Hades, who was holding something that looked like a black pomegranate out to Persephone, who hastily consumed the small gem-like fruits inside it. Elraen continued, “we were not allowed to dance with our ice and snow magic because the other fairies had no need for us.”

Zeus looked up. “My matters are with the gods and goddesses I rule, fairy. I do not meddle in the affairs of other creatures.”

He went to Persephone, who wiped dark juice from her lips just in time to conceal what she had eaten. Hades gave his wife a parting kiss, and promised in low tones to come for her. “You may take her away,” he said with resigned grimness, “if you must, my tyrant brother.”

Demeter looked relieved, and she turned to lead Persephone away.

“Wait,” Hades said. They turned to him, and he let a slight smile betray his devious reveal. “She has eaten of the fruit of the underworld, so she cannot leave this place. It is against the laws here.”

Elraen smiled and spun a snowflake. Persephone saw it and grinned at her. Zeus was furious, and the chamber echoed when he stomped in indignation at Hades.

Demeter began wailing and putting on a show of self-pity. “She’s my daughter! Why would you curse her so, you monster! She hasn’t done anything to deserve this terrible place!”

Zeus returned his brother’s gaze, and returned Hades’ wit with matching wit. “How much fruit did she eat?”

Persephone looked at Hades, who answered, “Six of the dead-world’s sweet gems.”

“Then I declare it thus,” Zeus said. “Because Persephone belongs to the underworld for eating its fruit, she will stay for a time each year. A month for each gem she ate.”

Demeter hugged Persephone again, but it was a cruel compromise. It meant half of each year would be spent away from her love.

Hades spoke. “I cannot come against your decrees, brother. I will keep my wife for the remainder of our time. As for the fairies,” he addressed Demeter, “Allow the snow fairies to celebrate our times together while Persephone is in her rightful home. Though my tyrant brother refuses to administer justice or acknowledge lovers, I demand that they are allowed to dance.”

So Zeus and Demeter left the underworld, and Elraen remained in the underworld for a short time so she could visit with her old friend. When she returned, she told all of the snow-fairies of the new arrangement for the snow fairies.

At least this way, Hades and Persephone were free to be together, if only for some parts of the year.

So now you know the way the story really goes. The winter doesn’t come because Demeter is sad, but because the snow fairies are celebrating. They remember how deep the love between Hades and Persephone was, and they dance and sing and decorate with intricate, icy patterns and mounds of snow.

It is a time of celebration, child. You don’t have to listen to the perspective from which every story is told.

Little Soldiers’ Little Shoulders

This article was re-uploaded in 2018. It is part of the archive restoration project

One of the most important articles I read this year was “When Shame Feels Mothering: The Tragedy of Parentified Daughters.” In it, the author explains how role-switching works with girls who have needy mothers. If a mother needs an emotional outlet, she turns to her daughter for support. The daughter, because she hasn’t learned any different, fills the role of comforter and pillar of stability, and she learns that “Mommy can fall apart, as long as I don’t fall apart.”

The child learns to suppress emotion and feign strength and stoicism. It’s the best way to survive, because keeping the parent stable is required to feel safe.

I want to make it clear that this happens with many dynamics, to people of all genders. Daughters learn to hold their fathers together, sons learn to hold their mothers together. It’s not just mothers and daughters, which is the only problem I had with the article.

I think about that article whenever I hear the other extreme: “Boys learn never to cry, because men refuse to cry in front of their sons. It’s one way that patriarchy hurts men.”

My parents did cry in front of me, but I learned never to cry. I sometimes wish they hadn’t cried in front of me. I have friends, though, whose parents never cried in front of them, and they also learned to suppress emotion. They wish their parents had cried.

I was eleven the first time I remember it happening. My sister Alicia had chosen to stop counseling sessions with my parents and Kevin Swanson. I walked past the door of my father’s office, and he had his head in his hands. His eyes were red, and he invited me to sit down across from him at his desk. He cried and said he was trying everything to deal with my sister’s rebellion, and she wasn’t being obedient at all.

I let him cry on my shoulder, and bit back my tears, and soldiered on.

I learned that crying wasn’t okay, because when my parents cried, it meant that nothing was okay. They were falling apart. My parents always cried with the words, “I might as well kill myself,” or “I have failed as a mother/father.” I knew that crying wasn’t okay because I couldn’t cry without expecting punishment for it, and, when I was older, having my feelings minimized and dismissed.

Meanwhile, the other half of my binary star was watching her parents hold back their emotions. The demonstration was different, but the effect was the same: we learned that our own feelings didn’t matter, and it was better not to express them at all.

So should parents demonstrate emotion to their children?

Yes. But.

I wish I could say something simple like “Children are people and people are children,” to answer this question. It helps to realize that children feel things very deeply, and they have complex perspectives. One of the most destructive things I hear about kids is “they’ll forget,” or “they don’t notice,” or “they’re resilient.”

We know scientifically that it’s not true. Children are more observant and sensitive than calloused adults in many ways. If children forget, it’s probably because they were traumatized, or they don’t trust the people who are asking. Lady Gaga put it this way:

“Clinical psychology tells us arguably that trauma is the ultimate killer. Memories are not recycled like atoms and particles in quantum physics – they can be lost forever. It’s sort of like my past is an unfinished painting, and as the artist of that painting, I must fill in all the ugly holes and make it beautiful again.”

But I can’t just say “treat children like people,” because adult-to-adult relationships are rife with improper emotional expression. It may be particularly cruel to make a child blame himself for the instability of a parent, but the same thing happens in marriages, professional interactions, and just about every other adult relationship in existence.

Let’s treat children like people, absolutely. And while we’re at it, let’s also figure out how to treat people. Here are some things I try to do, but this list is definitely incomplete – feel free to add in the comments.

1.    Don’t make your emotions another person’s fault.

2.    Cry when you need to – don’t suppress your emotions.

3.    Understand your level of involvement with a person who’s feeling grief.

4.    Give yourself the space to be alone, or surround yourself with people you can vent to.

5.    Don’t look to other people for stability. Nobody can give you that, except yourself.

Emotional abuse isn’t confusing because parents do or don’t cry. Emotional abuse is what it is because the abusers are looking for someone else to provide stability. Abusers do not always know what they’re doing, which is why I can see people who are abusive as complex individuals, while simultaneously calling out their abuse.

It Feels Like Creativity

This post was reuploaded in 2018 as part of the archive restoration project.

One way to describe depression is that there’s a disconnect between the cognition and the emotions. I can tell myself not to feel so down, that I have no reason to be unmotivated and groggy, that there are things to do that I would enjoy doing, but it’s like signals sent into a void. Apathy is there, and it sucks in the rational knowledge.

For me, telling myself something I already know doesn’t help. “You’re better than this, you don’t have an excuse for this, this doesn’t make sense,” can sit in my thoughts for hours, and my feelings stay in a loop.

I know it rationally, but I don’t know it emotionally. The solution wasn’t to keep sending rational, wordsy solutions to the emotionless no-signal-receptors part of my mind. The solution was to let the emotions do the talking, which is messy because emotions are unpredictable and complicated and exhausting, and they don’t use words, and I don’t communicate with not-words.

I hadn’t been kind to my emotions. I held back my tears and my anger, because I’d learned that such things were dangerous. I didn’t give my emotions the chance to breathe, so they shut down. Then I realized I needed emotion to get anything done – I had no motivation, no enjoyment, without them.

Awakening the emotions is masochistic. Pain doesn’t really scare me, though, so I sometimes talk or write my way toward whatever I notice myself avoiding. When I’m most distracted, or I most crave junk food, I know that’s when I’m getting close to an emotional belief. It’s not something I would agree with if I could put it into words or write it as a formulaic syllogism, but the belief is in my emotions, not my rational mind.

Then I send signals from the emotions to the cognition, and when I find the words, I feel again. And it hurts and it’s not fun. But I can identify the wrong belief, and that’s often enough for me to stop believing it. When I realize why my emotions are looping the way they’re looping, the belief holds no power over me anymore.

So I listen to my emotions and I ask a lot of questions. There are a lot of lies, and I know they’re lies, but I can’t combat the lies, so my emotions keep quiet. I apologize to myself for being so stupid.

“Why do you believe this lie?” I ask myself.

“Because of that one time.” My emotions admit, and they bring back a traumatic memory.

And all the times. Over and over, the lie was reinforced. To the point that hearing a similar story, or even a certain phrase, can make me angry or anxious. That’s what a trigger is.

One of my favorite maxims is from the YouTuber Connor Manning: “Trust the process.” He has it tattooed on his right arm. It reminds him that even in mental illness, recovering from addiction, and fighting depression, he doesn’t have to get discouraged. [These pronouns reflect the time of writing, but I’ll let the 2018 update speak for itself.]

Each moment is part of the process, and I’m experiencing it in real time, so of course I’ll feel my emotions in ups and downs. During the past fifteen months of therapy, learning to express my emotions was about trusting the process. I just knew that I was trying this new approach where I was letting my emotions out.

After every therapy session, I was knocked out for the rest of the day. It took several months for me to get emotional in therapy, and then to cry, and then I was crying in every session. But I kept my promise to my starved and strangled emotions: I would listen to them, and not shut them off even if they made me hurt.

Then one day in therapy, I did what I had taught myself to do. I ran toward the pain, and sought out the thing I was avoiding. And instead of crying or dissociating, I channeled my emotions freely, and they weren’t “They,” anymore, it was me. I was saying how I felt.

“I feel like there’s something else here,” I said, and called out the lie I’d believed for so long. Immediately, I saw the inconsistency, and it lost its power over me.

“Do you know what you just did?” My therapist asked. “You just used emotion, and it didn’t knock you over.”

“But this feels so familiar.” I said. “It feels like I’m brainstorming, I’m just letting my mind free with ideas, and writing down whatever I think of. It feels like creativity.”

That’s when I learned that emotions aren’t a mark of failure and breaking, like I’d always seen demonstrated. I was using the intuitive, creative, emotional part of myself. I’m more creative and relaxed now that I know it’s okay to be emotional.