Groomed

You take my hand
And you say you’ve changed
But boy you know your begging don’t fool me
Because to you it’s just a game
(You know it’s just too little too late)

I was young
And in love
I gave you everything
But it wasn’t enough
And now you wanna communicate
(You know it’s just too little too late)

Go find someone else
I’m letting you go
I’m loving myself
You got a problem
But don’t come asking me for help
I can love with all of my heart, baby
I know I have so much to give
With a player like you I don’t have a prayer

JoJo

Many people have sensed for a long time that something was very wrong with my life. I was convinced that I was taking care of a very ill person, and that was true in a sense, but the past week has been highly informative. I broke up with my partner of five years after months of fighting in which I shut down while they unleashed verbal abuse. I thought I was in a trusting, caring relationship. It turns out that only one of us cared for the needs of the other person.

After our breakup, I tried to say that maybe my ex-partner who has been dealing with a whole list of changing symptoms should seek out a care team. This opened the floodgates to a whole barrage of abusive rage, so frightening to me that I stopped responding.

Up until this point, I’ve been keeping my second relationship quiet by referring to Ryann as my roommate. The truth is that Ryann has revealed to me how someone can be both disabled and independent. I am also disabled, and I am learning what it means to be codependent so I can free myself, too. We are moving forward with the help of a professional team to lighten my load and communicating with the help of a therapist.

On the other hand, the partner I was with for years longer was someone who entered my life shortly after I escaped the Quiverfull cult. I trusted too quickly, and fell fast, not seeing that my homelessness was not something this person was helping me cope with, but something they continually caused by alienating everyone around me. When, thanks to my generous supporters, we finally had some stability in housing, my life got mysteriously harder.

I had so much to do and I couldn’t keep up. I had to make their phone calls, keep the apartment clean to their standards, plus handle preserving all the many pieces of art they created. The art medium was Perler beads, a more expensive and detailed medium than paint, and it was so much work for me to keep up with taping, ironing, and carefully preserving each piece. When I managed to keep up somewhat, their depression symptoms seemed to worsen, and it became my responsibility to entertain them in their boredom and keep them from the edge with my emotional work.

Things weren’t adding up. They needed me to fetch their phone charger from across the apartment because it was too painful to move from room to room yet could spend hours playing and creating. They were constantly worried about their blood pressure irregularity. Yet had no problem yelling at me for hours after I suggested maybe someone else should help take care of them.

Ryann and I left in the early morning while they were asleep because we felt unsafe. After this, we spent an entire week waiting for them to get out of the apartment we’d always paid for. I had been convinced that my ex was incapable of contributing financially due to their many symptoms. I bought them whatever they wanted because it wasn’t worth it to fight about it. I was always wrong in the end when we fought anyway.

Like I said, something was very wrong. Nothing confirmed this for me more than the apologize-and-butter-up phase, a common pattern for abusers. You see, they did the dishes. To try and win me back, they did all the dishes. I didn’t know this was possible for them to do at all, which is why I had been doing it all myself. I was devastated to learn I had given this person everything when they were taking advantage of my trusting, giving nature.

I feel ashamed to admit that I didn’t recognize the patterns. I am ashamed to write here that I fell for it. Some people will read this and think I’m just on to the next self-victimizing drama. The truth is, I spent my twenties learning what most kids learn in their teens about relationships. The song I opened with was written by a teenager. Many friends and even my sisters tried to warn me that I was making poor choices, but I couldn’t see it. My relationship mirrored the total obedience I was expected to show toward my parents growing up.

Like many abused partners, I thought I was seeing what nobody else could. They needed the help only I could offer. I wanted so badly to believe that there was lighthearted joking behind the cruelty, I couldn’t see it as constant abuse. When I realized what was happening, I was able to look back on every conversation we’d had and see the way they would shrug off insults and urges to move faster as merely jokes I didn’t get.

In five years of us being together, they had never done a single dish. It was too hard, too triggering for them, they established years ago. Suddenly, to win me back after I left, they were willing to demonstrate change…by demonstrating the capacity to do the things they always claimed were impossible. “I’m killing myself to do this,” they said, but what was I to believe after that? Their actions simply didn’t match their words.

Escaping gaslighting is a feeling I don’t want to experience ever again. I was groomed for this. I was taught that if I just did all the work, cooking well and doing all that was asked of me, I would be rewarded with a good, lasting relationship. This is what patriarchy teaches people who are assigned female. It is heavily reinforced within extreme Christian groups, like the one I grew up in.

All this time, I was thinking that at least my load was lighter than it was for me as a child. It was better than trying to live up to every expectation my parents had. It was easier than trying to keep track of and care for thirteen younger siblings. This is what my abuser counted on. I had been pushed around so much that I couldn’t recognize a different flavor of the same thing. In all honesty, I didn’t want to – I thought I’d found someone who understood me better than anyone. I had hoped to avoid this kind of problem by never getting married, but I lost five years to a committed relationship nevertheless. I just didn’t have the skills to recognize the bullies around me, convincing me that their vague affection combined with demeaning actions was all I could ask for.

This song, Question Existing by Rihanna, brought back a lesson I thought I had already learned:

I put in work
Did more than called upon, more than deserved
When it was over, did I wind up hurt? (Yes)
But it taught me, before a decision, ask this question first:

Who am I livin’ for?
Is this my limit?
Can I endure some more?
Chances are given, question existing

Dear diary, it’s Robyn
Entertain is something I do for a living
It’s not who I am, I’d like to think that I’m pretty normal
I laugh, I get mad, I hurt, I think I suck sometimes
But when you’re in the spotlight, everything seems good
Sometimes I feel like I have it worst
‘Cause I have to always keep my guard up
I don’t know who to trust
I don’t know who wants to date me for who I am
Or who wants to be my friend for who I really am

Rihanna’s words ring so clear to me now. Who can I trust in this world, when I’ve been watched so intently with morbid curiosity about what I went through? How much can I write about this experience, without coming across like I just victimize myself in every situation I encounter? Why did I laugh at all the non-jokes, only to look back in horror at the threats of violence I didn’t recognize? Why didn’t I establish better boundaries?

I was trapped in what I thought was love, but it was someone trying to drag me down to their drowning depths. They constantly said they hated me for how much people loved and supported me, unlike them. They constantly gave me shit, and I took it, laughing, because I thought we were sharing a joke. I thought we were playing consensually, but they had a habit of testing my limits to see when I’d draw a line instead of asking for my consent beforehand. It was abuse and it was not okay, and I see that now, and I’m looking back at the last five years with incredible regret.

I always knew I wasn’t old enough to write a memoir leading up to this. I didn’t have the life experience. I turn 30 next year and I have a lot more free time now to focus on writing. There will no longer be a violent, demanding, demeaning presence in the apartment to thwart my every attempt to take time for myself and prioritize my own work. I have learned a great deal about what not to do anymore, and I’ve gained a long list of red flags not to ignore in the future. That is all I can do: learn and move on.

The last song I want to reference in this post is I Went Too Far by Aurora. According to this live version, “it’s about not forgetting that you deserve to be loved as much as you love someone else.”

I went too far when I was begging on my knees
Begging for your arms, for you to hold them around me
I went too far and kissed the ground beneath your feet
Waiting for your love, waiting for our eyes to meet

Crying, give me some love, give me some love and hold me
Give me some love and hold me tight

Why can’t I turn around and walk away?
Go back in time?
I had to turn around and walk away
I couldn’t stay, I had to walk away

I’m left behind with an empty hole
And everything I am is gone
I tried to reach for another soul
So I can feel whole

The truth is that we cannot find happiness in other people, and it is ridiculous and wrong to expect someone to do that for you. I was a human antidepressant for someone who refused to go to therapy. We must do the hard work of finding something deeper within ourselves than codependency. I have been seeing a therapist to make sure I’m not carrying unhealthy habits into my other relationships.

In the end, my ex demonstrated that they would take everything from me and more. They wanted me to set myself on fire to keep them warm, and I tried, and it was futile. They isolated me and I didn’t see it, because I was wrapped up in trying to resolve the instability singlehandedly. The pandemic made everything worse. We were stuck inside for almost two years, and I was sacrificing my sleep schedule to bring them their meds three times a day. I was working from home, which meant my work was optional to them, except when they wanted me to make more money.

I want to apologize to everyone who has been standing by, offering support and kindness while seeing signs of trouble, and backing off when I defended my relationship. Thank you for being there when I escaped, offering help and safety in navigating this situation. I couldn’t have done it alone. There remains so much to learn. Things are changing for the better, and I want to establish firm, clear boundaries in my relationships going forward.

Gratitude and Rage

My emotions fluctuate between gratitude and rage. I’m grateful to have a home at last. I’m angry that I had to fight so hard for it, and that so many people I know aren’t so lucky. I am so thankful to the people who continuously show support with gifts, because it’s what helps me get by. I am simultaneously frustrated that this kind of dependence must exist, since I can’t hold a normal job anymore and must broadcast each expense.

I don’t have the resources to help the people I care for in significant ways. I can only listen with empathy as I watch people fall through the cracks. So many people trapped because their abusers have resources they don’t. So many people fighting just to stay housed. I know a lot of people who can’t work anymore, and those who still can are on their way to being unable to work. When you aren’t making enough money to meet your basic needs, exploitative work is an exhausting insult. When you can’t work anymore, you have to hope someone takes a liking to the tragic allure of your story, or…fall through the cracks.

Falling through the cracks looks like a thousand ways to die of neglect and indifference. This is a problem the United States uniquely refuses to solve. I find myself researching grim data: inequality in the US is getting so bad, life expectancy was already declining steadily before the pandemic, and in 2020 it dropped even more significantly. Literally hundreds of thousands of people are dying while waiting for a disability hearing. Millions are at risk of eviction if the moratorium is not extended beyond March 31st. In July 2019, Fair.org published a piece entitled, “Media Just Can’t Stop Presenting Horrifying Stories as ‘Uplifting’ Perseverance Porn”. Countless stories of people unable to afford basic needs and healthcare are praised for coming up with clever ways to meet their needs. The thing is, for everyone who has an inspiring story of successfully raising enough funds, there are hundreds of others who don’t. These are people dying because they can’t afford life-saving medication, mobility aids, and care.

Is it any wonder that I am hard pressed to feel lucky, grateful, and content with my position? It shouldn’t have to be this way. I am one small person – I cannot singlehandedly bring down an entire system. I can advocate for radical changes, though, because I think small compromises are not enough.

The stimulus package took too long and is not enough to ensure recovery. There’s nothing to recover because we were on a deadly trajectory before the pandemic even started. People were already falling through the cracks. The process has just been expedited.

A Year Spent Surviving

I’m going to keep this short because 2020 has been so chaotic and exhausting, it’s taken me several hours to come up with those two words to describe it.

First, of course, I want to thank everyone for everything you did to help us get through last year. I left my retail job in March and have been relying on the help of others to make bills and meet needs since. The anxiety has been immense without a steady income, but I’m so grateful for everyone and every gift.

Settling into a new place has been fantastic for all three of us living here now. It has meant freedom and acceptance to have a space to ourselves. I am grateful. Grateful that I have this opportunity, and angry that it is such a rare privilege. Housing is a human right and homelessness kills, and none of you should have had to dip into your own pockets to keep my partner and me alive, but you did, and I’m so thankful to all of you for being willing to do that.

I can be angry and thankful at the same time. Thankful for the people who care. Angry at the many who don’t, for the many who get overlooked. This year has been complicated like that. At the time of writing I haven’t received my stimulus check, but I expect I will get something, and I’m angry and thankful about that, too. It’s not enough for the many people struggling, but it’s something. It’s so close to nothing compared to how much people need help right now that it’s insulting and infuriating. But I’m going to use it as wisely as I can with the needs I have.

My writing is in flux right now. I’m figuring out what I do and don’t know about the world, and that influences what I’m confident in writing about. I’ve been trying to write about economics, for instance. I learned how to research through homeschool speech and debate, which in my personal experience was not a solid foundation in research. I also learned most of what I know about economics through capitalist propaganda. I think I am justified in my anger about the injustice of inequality. My understanding of it is simplistic, however. I want to better inform myself so I can write with greater credibility.

I think it’s a good thing to recognize one’s own ignorance as the years pass. The universe is more complex than I will ever be able to comprehend, and the more I learn about it, the more I realize I don’t know. I’m exploring and working to educate myself.

Making it through this year would not have been possible without all of your help. Thank you all so much. I long for a time and place where avoiding homelessness isn’t this hard.

What I Do and Don’t Know

The older I get, the more I realize how inadequate my education was. My writing, my strongest skill, is littered with grammatical errors. I am passionate about the injustices I’ve discovered in the years since I’ve started educating myself, instead of relying on my parents to inform me about the world. When two people are your only constant access to information, your window of what the world looks like is very small. I am amazed every day to the point of emotional overwhelm by the things I learn, simply by watching documentaries about the universe and world.

The place we’ve evolved in is an indescribably tiny world in an incomprehensibly huge universe. In the minds of fundamentalists, this universe can easily be held together by a human-like being who cares about what we do to pleasure each other but not about what happens in war. This has, at least, been my experience. I’m also not excited about January, and I haven’t talked to many people who are. I’m worried, and my anxieties are catastrophic. Perhaps my fears are unwarranted. People from my grandparents’ generation keep reminding me that these things take time. The generation after mine isn’t so sure.

Here’s the thing. I don’t know a lot of things, but I’ve been taught to pretend like I do. That was, in the end, the whole point of competitive Christian homeschool debate: to persuade through performance. That’s why a specific category of human almost always won the biggest competitions. My perception of the world has been altered drastically so many times in my life, that I cannot expect it to remain constant. What I know is that I know a lot less than people who had a standard education.

Writing a memoir about being deprived of a normal life is a complex effort. It is both about writing what I know and what I don’t know. Like I said earlier, the older I get, the more I realize I don’t understand, or I understand at a very rudimentary level.

For instance, the human body. I don’t know much about it. When people refer to organs, what goes through my head is memories of cutting out coloring pages of the organs so my little siblings could glue them onto silhouettes of their bodies that we’d drawn on large pieces of paper. The heart was in red and blue crayon, glued on behind the pink lungs, and below those are the organs I don’t remember very well. Mom read the same books every year, and it was my job to make the copies of the coloring pages so each of the kids could color them in while mom read from a book called “My Magnificent Machine” – a selection of Biblical devotionals about some basic interesting facts about the body that were palatable for children. The people I spend the most time with understand that I need to have common things explained to me every day. I have to be honest that I don’t know what a lot of words mean, and I struggle with conversations about anything medical. I edited this paragraph after some googling because it was more embarrassing than this, too.

While there’s validity in the wisdom of realizing that I ultimately know nothing, I think this problem is also unique. There is genuinely a great deal that I am ignorant about. I feel that the next part of my life looks like writing my way through educating myself. I am uncertain about many things and I want to learn and explore more, instead of trying so hard to recover the past in a way that makes sense to read.

Thank you all so much for reading and supporting me. It has meant a chance at a better place to live, and the opportunity to return to my work in earnest. This month I will be writing less about certainties and more about uncertainties. I’m feeling festive this year, so we’ll discuss seasonal things, like gratitude and depression. I appreciate you all so much.

Creative Flow (Futility Revisited)

I’ve just written over 800 words of stream-of-consciousness prose, and it will never see the light of day, thank you very much. Many people are concerned about me right now but this is about the same as it’s always been. By that I mean I’ve always dealt with depression. I used to live in denial of it, thinking I could chase the demons away with the power of prayer and positivity. Now I’m just more honest about it.

————-

Fractured writings and aching hands

From already pouring my heart out in words

Scribbled by hand with mistakes throughout

And typed in prose about the love I’m feeling

It’s not that I have nothing left to say, it’s that there is so much

And I don’t know what of it matters anymore

Only the absurd seems worthwhile to create

Who is there to convince?

————–

The past week has been exhausting. Someone close to me was in the ER, and I attended my first Zoom memorial service for someone who’d passed away, and my therapist had a death in the family so she canceled our session, and I’ve started looking for apartments and packing to move, all while trying to get back to writing so I can do my part to earn my way into regular housing.

Here is the problem I have been having with writing all day. The stuff I’m processing is really personal and I haven’t figured it out yet, or certain things need to happen before I can talk about it. What I can talk about right now is pretty depressing, but I am not any more depressed than usual. In fact, there is a very intense flicker of life in me. I must keep taking care of myself, cultivating my art, and providing for myself and my partner and others I care about.

I’ve been writing sad poetry about what I’m going through and what I’m confused about. I’ve been making some things that are too dark to share with any but a select audience. I’ve been painting a lot and sharing my work with friends and my Patreon patrons. I’d like to keep most of my paintings to a limited audience for now. I’ve also been co-writing fiction. It’s been a lot.

Okay, fine, I’ll put ONE painting here. This one’s called Dark Chest of Wonders, based on this song, and I’m really proud of it honestly:

Description: The painting has at its top center a white clock at midnight in a dark purple room. Below it is a wide black-framed window, with its 6-paned panels flung open to show a moonlit ocean view with stars in a dark blue sky, slightly illuminated by the moon and reflecting on the water. Below the window is an open treasure chest, filled with gold and copper coins and metallic purple and green gems, with purple and green swirls of magic coming up from it. Seeming to rise up out of the chest and landing in the center of the picture is a human-shaped silhouette with a short dress and long flowing hair, arms out as if ready to fly outside. In the center of the silhouette is a white heart.

I’ve already put out of a lot of creative energy today, but none of it was appropriate for sharing here. So today’s post will be short. Basically I’m processing a lot of complicated emotions. Not the least of which is dealing with watching my partner’s health and capabilities deteriorate at an alarming rate. All while the doctors shrug him off or blame him for his symptoms.

The big picture is too much to look at right now, mostly. I get the main headlines as much as anyone, numb to the growing death count and unable to comprehend the loss of how willing our so-called leaders were to sacrifice so many people for their wealth. I simply do not have the spare energy to unpack big questions in these posts. I can only keep making art, taking care of my partner, and asking for support in doing so.

Thank you all for your help in making it possible to keep my partner and me housed. We are trying to move into accessible housing that accommodates our disabilities. Please keep sharing the fundraiser! It helps so much.

That is all for today. Thank you all for your compassion and generosity.

Breaking Perfectionism

Sometimes you’ve just got to look at an empty page without anything particular in mind. I chose not to offer up my attention to the debates last night, and I think I am better off mentally for it, based on all of your reactions. We watched Brave and A Bug’s Life back to back while it was happening, and I didn’t check social media until around 3 a.m. today. My sleep cycle is all kinds of off, but once we move, my partner will be able to access the kitchen again without the barrier of stairs.

The desire to be remembered is fading as I realize there will be no more generations to study the present as its history. Everything I make is free to ultimately be consumed by the void. As I commit to writing almost daily on the blog, my sense of perfectionism is being painfully broken. I don’t think I’m phrasing things the way I think of them in my head, nor do I feel that my priorities are reflected in what floats to the surface when I sit down to write.

I’m trying to pull as much creativity out of myself as possible, but this upcoming month, I’m going to be really busy with getting everything together to move. I’m dreading it. I hate packing, I hate moving, I hate dealing with everything about it. I hate making phone calls, I hate negotiating, I hate scrounging up funds to fork over to landlords, I especially hate packing. Packing is a central trigger for me, my nightmares are full of desperately, urgently packing.

Today, a sense of hopelessness has spread its way across all my circles. Like I said, I didn’t watch the debate, and I think my mental health is better for it, but I’m still struggling not to feel the sense of despair. Even though I felt like I was resigned to it already, like I saw this coming, like it’s exactly why I didn’t watch. The reality for the American people is that our 2-party system has failed to give us anything more than the illusion of choice.

It’s a fight to keep myself typing. I keep talking myself through it, holding my own hands mentally to pull myself through the process of blogging. I can’t be burning out already. I have to make this a regular thing. The only way is to stop demanding perfection of myself.

I’m a mess today. If you are, too, you’re not alone.

Seeking a Home in the Midst of Collapse

Every night, I get up at least twice in the night to bring meals to my partner. He is too disabled now to get his own food from the kitchen. We have a flight of carpeted stairs separating our bedroom from the kitchen and going down them gives him chest pain and a rapid heart rate, sometimes also palpitations. He only goes down them when absolutely necessary, which is to get to his appointments with the cardiologist and primary care provider – and these can give him symptom flare-ups. He’s never been able to sleep at night, and I’ve never been able to get myself to match his sleep cycle, either. When we met, he was fully capable of cooking for himself. Then over time he needed me to take over the cooking, and leave meals for him to eat during the night while I slept. Now I have to go up and down the stairs many times a day and get up in the night to bring him what he needs.

We are lucky to have had all your support throughout the pandemic. We have been able to pay rent since I left my day job in March and switched to taking care of my partner full-time. Now I am doing my best to also write and create regularly again, but the interrupted sleep is becoming difficult to deal with.

There are many reasons we need to leave this living situation, and I’ve detailed the problems of accessibility and finances in two earlier posts. In this one, I want to explain more about what our options are, the desperation of the situation, and how it looks to be trying to raise money to move into a new apartment while your country’s so-called “society” is collapsing.

First, the situation from a wide angle: my country is collapsing, and most of us are in denial about it.

If you don’t believe me, please check out these independent articles by people who’ve lived through collapses in other countries. Umair Haque wrote a piece that’s been making rounds in my circles entitled “We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying.” Indi Samarajiva wrote another about his experience in Sri Lanka called “I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There.

Of note, in the latter article, this bit got my attention:

“If you’re waiting for a moment where you’re like ‘this is it’, I’m telling you, it never comes. Nobody comes on TV and says ‘things are officially bad’. There’s no launch party for decay. It’s just a pileup of outrages and atrocities in between friendships and weddings and perhaps an unusual amount of alcohol.”

I believe that the election will only exacerbate the unrest that has been building for the past six months. I am expecting the worst – an inexplicably low voter turnout, followed by an indefinite and unresolving results determination process that makes the 2000 election look quick, followed by an economic collapse worse than the Great Depression. Other things worse than this may happen, too. I may be wrong, but I must make personal decisions based on the information I have.

To zoom back in to my personal situation, which is only one of a growing number of people who are falling through the cracks financially as our economy topples, we need to move before the election. If any change is going to be made in location, it needs to happen now. So we are looking into applying for an apartment very soon, and we will need to continue bringing in funds to put down a deposit and introductory rent, as well as cover the costs of moving itself.

Right now we’re spending about $900/month on rent, utilities, and my phone (we don’t even pay for a line of phone service for my partner too). Thanks to the generous help of my Patreon patrons, I have a steady income of $591 per month as of this writing. I’ve been using GoFundMe to make up the difference in living expenses. I can get a place where I’d be spending less on rent and utilities than I am now. Providing proof of this income will qualify me to sign a lease, and our future roommate is someone we deeply trust who can pay the other half of rent.

Being homeless again would certainly kill my partner. He is bedridden. You can’t be bedridden and have to walk everywhere, carrying whatever you have left of your possessions, yet this is what homelessness demands. He’s also sensitive to heat and cold, so exposure would make things worse, too – by all standards, he wouldn’t survive. We need a more affordable, accessible apartment to live in. We need to move in at the beginning of November. Otherwise we will be trapped indefinitely.

If you can spare any help, both Patreon and the GoFundMe are great ways to support us in getting into a new home – the former pledges monthly support, while the latter accepts one-time donations. If you can’t spare anything, please don’t feel bad about it – most of us are facing financial struggle. If you’re already pledging and donating, thank you so much for your incredible kindness. We would not be sheltered and alive without your kindness and understanding of what we are going through.

I want to help others like us, because we are not alone – and the numbers of people facing financial devastation are growing daily. I’ve been doing so where possible, like with promoting others’ fundraisers and donation requests on twitter. We are asking for mutual aid, not charity, while demanding a new system that spreads resources evenly. There is no going back to normal. This is the time to imagine a new future and fight for it.

(Almost) Hopeless

Content Warning: This article discusses police brutality, internet censorship, and near-term human extinction.

Not sure where to begin after a day like yesterday. The onslaught of news was overwhelming. Later in the day, it became apparent to me at last that our internet is being censored. The omissions were eerie. For a little while, the only tweets coming through about the situation in Kentucky misspelled Breonna Taylor’s name – nothing with the right keywords was favored by the algorithms. Thousands of accounts had their followers and people they followed disappear. I kept seeing tweet after tweet asking, “is something wrong/off about twitter today?” Nobody asked about Facebook because “getting zucced” is a regular thing already.

It has been this way for some time. American exceptionalism is so deeply engrained in me that even though I have unlearned a lot of it, realizing that our internet is censored shocked me. Not here, I thought, before correcting myself: why not here? When has our genocidal, imperialist, racist country ever been above controlling the information its citizens have access to?

I should not be surprised, but I am. Social media has been the cold water to slowly heat to boiling with me in it. The options have simplified over time, leaving us cycling between a mere handful of sites to gain information. Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – the algorithms are designed to suppress uprisings and prevent communication between revolutionaries, spread misinformation to the gullible, and to bury relevant information.

Don’t believe me? Just try Googling the number of COVID-19 deaths. Rather than offering a direct answer, Google has built a page to subvert and confuse the facts, so at first glance you’ll only see the daily changes in a chart, based on your location. One must toggle several menus to get an accurate answer for the country and world. That’s not to mention all the so-called “reputable” sources who charge for content, excluding the poor from being more informed.

So the media reports about two officers injured last night. People have been protesting for months and I haven’t seen a single news media outlet list off the many injuries inflicted by the police. The news claims protesters are being violent. The algorithms have been sufficiently tightened to suppress information and anyone who thinks it couldn’t happen here still believes that the United States is what it claims to be on some level. But it’s not.

We are not a land of freedom, justice, equality, or human rights. We never have been. Our violence and brutality exists for profit, for the taste of immense power.

Also don’t come at me with the bullshit that people who hate this country should just leave. I’ve been TRYING to get out of this country for over five years now, not that it would necessarily help anyone. I’ve never in that time had the spare funds to get a passport, much less the resources to cover the transportation, much less even a cheap car, not to mention the host of other details required in the process of getting out. To leave, to move, to travel – all of this is a privilege afforded to few in my country. Most of us are trapped, trying to get by in a system that demands both our labor and our wages for existing (including putting this expectation on people who can’t even work), and keeps murdering minorities to maintain a reign of terror. Our continuous wars for profit extend this terror – of white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, destruction – to the world.

I think of how much work there is to be done for the cause of justice. How long must we wait, I wonder? Because as humans, we are running out of time to get our shit together.

The time between now and our extinction as a species is growing shorter with each day we continue to pollute and destroy. My research has led me to believe we have less than 100 years left. I believe this because all the models I can find for climate change reversal/slowing are based on significant reductions in pollution and destruction that we are not making whatsoever. You have to read all the way to the end to find the sections of these studies that say “and here’s what will happen if we continue on our current trajectory,” and those timelines are getting shorter with each new study. Each year the fire seasons will get worse, each year more animals and insects and other life forms with go extinct, and each year the sea levels will rise. When we say Gen Z is the last generation to live out a lifetime, that may be optimistic.

I do not have hope of reversing climate change. We are past that point. The most we can do, realistically, is minimize the inevitable suffering and halt our destruction and violence. We have the resources to feed, shelter, clothe, and otherwise care for everyone on the planet. The least we can do is make ourselves comfortable and care for each other. Our looming fate can motivate us to go out peacefully together.

I cannot say I see it happening, though. I don’t blame us, the ordinary people, for what is outside of our control. We can only protest the powerful, in whatever ways we can. The powerful are funneling the resources out of our mouths and into their pockets, and also using murder and maiming as motivation to conform.

We’re begging them not to kill innocent people in their own homes for the color of their skin.

That’s not a lot to ask for.

But our system can’t even offer a presidential candidate that doesn’t support the police state. It can’t offer impeachment of a corrupt president. It has no interest in keeping power in check, so it doesn’t. I’m realizing it never did.

I am not hopeful today. I only see the vast difference between the possible and the real, and my expectations lower with each development, especially with climate change looming.

This doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s worth it to fight for what’s right. I just think those of us who are trying to see things as clearly as possible need to realize we don’t have a lot of time left as a species, so we need to realize we’re racing against our own fate. We can’t stop our own destruction, just slow it down and demand justice for all of humanity until then. It shouldn’t be too much to ask.

If you’re struggling to hope right now, you are not alone. If you’re not, why?

I’m not saying religion sucks, but it hurt me, okay

Disclaimer: this is not an attack on religion or religious people for being religious. It’s just my thoughts about MY former faith and how I interpreted it then and now.

Seven billion lives to punish
This race will pay for their avarice
The odious destroyers
Leading our lives towards exile
The fickle breed will purge themselves

Seven billion people will be burnt from this earth
This world will never be safe
Glorifying christ like he saved us
With a thousand eyes we watch but refuse to act
We will bathe this world in our blood.
Pain is your guide.
Pain is your god.
Pain is your guide.

I wasn’t exposed to a lot of good music growing up, so my partner has shown me many rock and metal albums that I missed. I don’t think I could even name all the bands he’s gotten me into, including my current favorite band, He Is Legend.

This album is his favorite of all time, but I haven’t been able to emotionally approach it for years because the themes are so strongly Christian. I used to love Christian music while I was a Christian, and I’ve known a lot of bands that are formerly Christian, including He Is Legend. (If you’d like to see a video about why so many metal bands left Christian metal, Finn McKenty covered it well here.) Some Christian music is fine for me, but some of it is nothing short of emotionally devastating, and it brings me to tears of rage and grief. I told him that we could listen together when I was ready, and today, at last, I was. And I cried a few times throughout the album, as expected, but it was good.

I’ll tell you what it’s called, but it’s not for everyone. Define the Great Line by Underøath. For those who would prefer to avoid the screaming vocals, this song is a transition in the middle of the album that’s soft, emotionally soaring, and contains Psalm 50:1-6 performed in Icelandic, a truly gutting and harrowing recording. Below is the passage in English:

The Mighty One, God the Lord,
Has spoken and called the earth
From the rising of the sun to its going down.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God will shine forth.
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent;
A fire shall devour before Him,
And it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.
He shall call to the heavens from above,
And to the earth, that He may judge His people:
“Gather My saints together to Me,
Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.”
Let the heavens declare His righteousness,
For God Himself is Judge.

Most of my readers weren’t here back in my Christian days, but I used to pour my heart out over the deity I once believed in. I haven’t salvaged all of the archives from when I was blogging daily starting back in 2012, but I’ve always incorporated musical lyrics that resonate with me in my writing. In this post I talked more about what it’s like to lose your religion, where I actually quoted the one Underøath song I’ve always really liked.

I don’t know if I can begin to describe how intoxicating it is to genuinely believe in the supremacy of the divine. I noted while I was listening that the music soars with emotion, and it was the Psalm I linked to earlier that brought me to tears. At last, there has been enough distance from the trauma for me to appreciate the beauty in the art created through religion. I’ve always found the recitations of religious literature incredibly beautiful, inspired and fueled by the magic of consciousness in wonder. I don’t care if it’s an Arabic passage from the Quran or a Hebrew selection from the Torah, or any non-Abrahamic religion. My point is that I can see the appeal.

I can more than see it. I am familiar like a former addict. I used to ride the emotional waves, conjuring a whole god in my imagination, to shrink under its infinite shadow. Allow me to paint a picture of why this particular passage from the religious book I used to believe was the written word of the god of the universe and all creation. The scene that comes to mind is the view I saw from the height of climbing a 14,000-foot mountain and looking down at the surrounding mountaintops of the Rockies, spreading to the horizon like slow waves in a haze of clouds. It was on this trip that one of the kids in my wilderness camp expedition group brought along a copy of A Wrinkle in Time and asked me to read it aloud. They were at the part where the children ride Mrs. Whatsit’s Pegasus-like angelic form, and are brought up high above mountains on another planet, overcome as well with a breathtaking view. In the book, they use magical flowers to help them breathe. Below them, beautiful creatures perform a musical dance in a garden, which has a profound effect on them emotionally. They don’t understand the words until it is translated into another biblical passage, Isaiah 42:10-12.

Sing to the Lord a new song,
And His praise from the ends of the earth,
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
You coastlands and you inhabitants of them!
Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice,
The villages that Kedar inhabits.
Let the inhabitants of Sela sing,
Let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Let them give glory to the Lord,
And declare His praise in the coastlands.

There’s a lot there to analyze, and I’m already past the “short post” line, so I’ll do my best to be brief. The idea of a deity is so massive that it takes up a lot of space in the consciousness. It may have no impact on reality whatsoever, but it impacts the psyche deeply. You don’t need to have proof of miracles to believe in them. In fact, the religion I once identified with encourages belief without proof. There’s a story in the bible that after the resurrection of Jesus, his disciple Thomas has his doubts until he sees his crucifixion wounds for himself. The resurrected Jesus is reported to have made the statement, “blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.”

This literature goes big, it goes to epic proportions. This deity is imminent in the rotation of the planet we inhabit and its star. Not only that, he’s beautiful and perfect. Not only that, he is powerful enough to rain fire from the sky with a thought. Not only that, the future of all time is up to him to determine and resolve. He is so majestic, so immense, so powerful, that anyone who encounters him will be brought to a state of groveling in worship. Not only that, at the end of all things, anyone who hadn’t clearly seen before that this deity is supreme will fall to their knees and admit they were wrong about it. The wonder of the universe itself pays tribute to the deity, because he is its presumed creator. These ideas distort reality so that everything is scrutinized in the light of a literally sky-sized imaginary friend.

It got to me when I read the line, “Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” This is because for many years, I was a self-proclaimed Jesus Freak who thought martyrdom was a worthy end I would be lucky to endure. One of the great tragedies in the myth of Christian martyrdom is that it has glorified pain and torture and death, turning horror to honor. The promise is that if you’ve suffered well enough, and not recanted your faith in the saving grace of god, someday you’ll have earned the reward of a better existence than this one.

To me, that false hope with a refusal to acknowledge the finality of death is tragic. So as I find it haunting and I appreciate the poetry of those who are under its influence, my experience of this kind of art is fresh once again, and I am processing the emotions at last that were too painful to approach for so long.

I’ll close with describing a music video from a very secular metal band, I Exalt. The name of the band satirizes this concept of worship, and the songs criticize the hypocrisy of many religious people. The video itself contains the vocalist hanging from a cross, secured with chains, at one point with black liquid spilling from his mouth. The music itself is called deathcore metal, so again, it’s not for everyone. Here’s that video, for anyone who cares to see that while listening to deathcore metal music and vocals.

I opened this post with the conclusion of that song. That is how I feel now about denial in the face of climate change and near-term human extinction, something many people use religion for. I’m not saying all religion is bad, or that people who practice and believe it are bad people. What I am saying is that for me, to go back would be to embrace denial.

Anyway, I don’t feel that I really grasped why it was good for me to go on this emotional journey. It just was. It helped me process the way I used to think and feel. Sometimes that’s enough.

Writing Doubts

Writing is a real fight. I’ve been at it for nearly five hours, and I’m starting again with nothing.

The blog as a medium is one that I was introduced to through my dad, who wanted to put every details of our family’s life onto his blog for many years of my childhood. When I expressed an interest in having a blog of my own, he at first allowed me to post on the family blog, heavily editing my work, before helping me set up this site. He’d rephrase what I was trying to say until it had lost its original meaning, and there was no convincing him that he hadn’t improved it with his brilliance.

I always wanted to analyze media and politics, weighing in with my thoughts, but to this day I fight with myself. Even though I’ve been no-contact with my father for six years, the criticisms tarnish every hesitant word and phrase. I do not create with confidence. My thoughts seem too raw, too personal, too extreme, too…anything that gives me a chance to leave yet another idea incomplete and unfit for publishing here.

My goal in writing short posts on a daily basis is to just let myself reflect and ponder freely. I may not always be the most informed and I know I’m not always right. Perhaps this is what makes my voice such a unique one on the internet – I explore instead of making absolute statements of opinion. I don’t claim to completely understand why things are the way they are, I can only make observations from what I can see.

I feel a great disconnect between why people read my blog and what I actually write here. People are curious about what happens when someone escapes fundamentalism, and the result in my case is rather extreme. I’m so far left I’m upset with liberals and Democrats most days – it’s the hypocrisy that gets me, more than the outright evil of the far right. At least they’re honest about prioritizing profit and policing bodies.

When I sit down to pen a blog post, what comes out is ranting about how extremely broken our system is. I have my doubts about whether I’m preaching to the choir or to an audience that merely infantilizes me for my past, assuming I’m extreme just because I’ve been hurt or something, as if that’s not a valid and reasonable way to gain information about what is dangerous and harmful. Am I convincing anyone? Have I made people think differently about how they see the world? Even if I have, what difference does it make, ultimately?

I have lofty ideas about this little blog with its blocky, choppy design and just over a million all-time visits. I know it’s not a pretty site right now. I know the archives are all over the place as far as topics of discussion are concerned. Yet some part of me wants for my artistic work to have the kind of meaning that influences the outcome of things. I want to influence larger events while providing a place of solace for those who are also disturbed by the world we live in.

It’s right about here that I have to race with my own mind to get the words out and keep going, talking myself through the process, instead of allowing the deluge of doubts to flow in. Is it long enough? What am I saying, where am I going with this? How am I going to come up with a title that summarizes what I’ve just written? Is it important enough to talk about, with everything going on in the world that demands attention?

That last question hangs from every word, telling me to delete from here and start over again. Write about what really matters, I demand of myself. The problem with that approach is I have a habit of biting off more than I can chew, and trying to analyze the whole US economy.

So I get to the bottom of finally producing several hundred words, and they’re all complaints about the problem of writing itself, which isn’t at all what I wanted. I’m tired of the self-indulgence of saying that writing is too hard, when it is a craft I have practiced with such diligence for the purpose of expressing, and there are so many Very Important Things to write about. More important than writing about how hard writing is, anyway, I think. Who wants a writer to remind them they’re writing?

Yet after working at it for five hours, that’s what I’ve got. I will be back tomorrow, maybe then I’ll have something to present that feels worth it. For now, I’m sticking with my goal of posting, even if it’s not perfect. Thank you all for being willing to follow along as I explore.