Some (more) thoughts on trigger warnings

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traffic-sign-160659__340TW: brief mention of domestic violence

I have been very outspoken in my support of trigger warnings in the past. I believe it is crucial that we don’t shut trauma survivors of all kinds out of conversations and readings. I believe warning people about the content they are about to consume is not enabling avoidance, but choice. I believe no one else but me should decide when I read or view something that might disturb me. I believe trigger warnings are shows of compassion.

At the college where I work, there was recently a guest speaker who talked about trigger warnings. I couldn’t go, but a colleague gave me the run-down. She said this speaker was adamant that “trigger warning” is an insufficient label, and it really made me think.

A trigger is not necessarily a word or phrase or topic. Triggers are multi-sensory. Continue reading

Must read: “If They Should Come for Us”

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flame-1013280_1920No think piece must-read will do this week. We should all read this poem by Pakistani, Kashmiri, Muslim American writer Fatimah Asghar, “If They Should Come for Us,” from the March issue of Poetry. God.

my people I follow you like constellations
we hear the glass smashing the street
& the nights opening their dark
our names this country’s wood
for the fire…

When I’m weary of the headlines, I get the same news, the same humanity and inhumanity, from my overcrowded bookshelves and the literary web.

Sometimes poetry is the only way to hear things that we can’t and shouldn’t un-hear.

When it rains warm and cleansing, it pours chill: Success and the demon of doubt

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Photo by Flickr user allison rose (Creative Commons license).

Good things are happening to me, left and right. A development in my professional life, to be announced soon, is so big and incredible and affirming that I sometimes sit back in my desk chair and beam upon remembering with a jolt, a dozen little such jolts each day, that this thing is happening. Forgive my vagueness.

I recently had a big breakthrough in a writing project I’ve been working on for at least two years now. The proverbial aha moment where the pieces click into place and a title comes and oh hey, this is what a book looks like just before it’s born.

My volunteer work is fulfilling. My resistance work, the bit that I can do and manage with two jobs and that pesky need for sleep, is fulfilling. My relationships, even those that have been troubled lately, are fulfilling. My son is a magnificent brilliant sensitive alien star-fire gift of love and being his mom is The Fulfilling. I am healthy. The bills are (mostly) paid and the car started this morning.

And still. Past trauma + current political climate says, hold on there, mama. Too self-assured, too solid. Here, have some anxiety about it, about all of it. Have some self-doubt. Remember who you are. Continue reading

Must read: “Why I don’t like white women”

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Intersectional or bust.

You wouldn’t believe the response to an article posted first on Medium, then on The Huffington Post, that until recently ran with the headline “Why I don’t like white women.”

The headline appears to have been changed to “Befriending Becky: On the Imperative of Intersectional Solidarity,” though the first line of the piece is still “I don’t like white women.” OK. I’m a white woman—and one, it should be said, who used to work in news, knows the writer doesn’t always write the headline, and despises clickbait—and I liked the old headline better. The author is DiDi Delgado, and I’m now following her on Medium because it was a great read, my must-read for this week.

Maybe you would believe the response to it. Continue reading

Must read: “Protecting your inner life in times of political turmoil”

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Photo by Flickr user James Petts (Creative Commons license).

I have said before that there are many different kinds of resistance. I listed some of them. I practice as many as I can.

But the one action that you might not think of as resistance is what poet Marie Howe calls “protecting your inner life.”

Shawna Ayoub Ainslie sent me this link earlier in the week, and it’s the best thing I’ve read in a while. It goes deeper than simply “practice self-care,” of which I am of course a huge advocate. Howe wrote her piece for Literary Hub, and she says:

We live in an economic system where everything, almost everything is commodified—everything can be sold for a price. And almost anything can be threatened. But there is a place within us no one can ever know. Within that place we hold all the books we’ve ever read, the music we’ve listened to, the paintings we’ve gazed at, the plays we’ve watched, the poems we’ve read. All the important conversations. We have within each of us a great library, a concert hall, a cathedral, a temple, a mediation space, and a field…before and after political action, I want to remember to protect and preserve that space where moral action (and poetry) begins.

I needed to read that this week. I wish you a weekend full of time spent nourishing your inner life, that part no one can take from us.

Must read: “Republicans push anti-protest laws”

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megaphone-1468168_1280I read headlines like this, like “Republicans push anti-protest laws,” and my gut reaction is a deluge of expletives so severe as to make truckers cringe.

And then, I smile. Because, and this is an important thing to remember, and I’m starting to remember it almost immediately, my gut reaction is starting to revise itself: They would not be trying to make our dissent illegal if our dissent did not matter.

I’ve been saying this a lot lately on social media. I want all my resistance colleagues to take that thought to heart. Not because it makes it any less maddening, but because it’s evidence that our efforts are getting attention. They can’t ignore us. Even when it seems like they’re ignoring us, they aren’t.

And there are so many ways to protest. Can’t legislate against em all.

Still, read the article I linked to above, which appeared Tuesday in ThinkProgress. Continue reading

The single-parent effect: Guest post by The Relationship Blogger

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One of my original intentions for this blog was to explore single parenthood. My focus of late has been political resistance, but since the personal is political (now as much as ever), I’ve been returning to my roots, so to speak, in writing I don’t share here as often as I used to. Parenting and writing and working, plus balancing it all, along with relationships and learning to trust again after so much personal turmoil–these topics continue to demand my creative attention.

I regularly read lots of blogs, including The Relationship Blogger, where my friend Raymond brings prolific thoughtfulness to human connections of all kinds. We were talking one day about solo parents–how I am one, and how he was raised by one. I remember asking him whether he thought a strong woman would make her son love or hate strong women, because of course I worry about such things. He told me a little about his experience, and I told him a little about mine; and from that common ground, we decided to write guests posts for each other’s spaces.

Enjoy Raymond’s post: Continue reading

5-minute resistance list for the “but what can we do?” crowd

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defiance-1948023_1280I wrote the following list in 5 minutes, no more, no less, to show how many ways there are to resist and support resistance.

I wrote it because I know people who are feeling defeated, paralyzed by shock or depression or anger or sadness or terror and either don’t know what to do or don’t believe that anything they can do will actually help. I wrote it because my personal experience has been that taking action helps defeat those negative feelings. I wrote it because we can’t fight amongst ourselves about what actions are better than what other actions. The only bad action is no action, in my opinion.

My list is by no means complete; it’s just what I could do in 5 minutes: Continue reading

Must read: “Some inconvenient truths about the Women’s March on Washington”

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best-signs-from-women-march-washington-dcI marched on Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C., and I’m still processing that experience. But one thing that struck me over and over while I was there was that intersectional feminism is everything, or feminism is nothing.

Call it increased awareness of privilege, but when I saw cops jumping on their vehicles, jubilant, cheering us on, telling us we were beautiful, waving us toward Independence Ave.–because the crowd was so overwhelming, so much larger than anticipated, that many of us couldn’t get close enough to speakers to hear where we should go or what we should do next–I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d never seen that, on TV, say, in Ferguson or Baltimore.

Oh right. Racism.

Not that the March was exclusively white. Listen, just read this, it’s called “Some Inconvenient Truths About the Women’s March,” and Devon Maloney pulls no punches in this critique of the movement.

I agree with all of it. Continue reading

What an online safe space is and isn’t

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I belong to and help moderate a safe space group on Facebook called Link Your Life (LYL). The mission of this group is to provide “a safe, non-competitive space that is fueled by mutual support and compassion.” We are writers (who share our links, hence the group name), survivors, humans, who want to be lifted and lift each other up in a world that would silence, shame, and push us back down.

Our brilliant and compassionate admin, Shawna Ayoub Ainslie, recently asked us, the LYL moderators, to reflect on what exactly a safe space is to each of us. We realized that while we all share the core concepts, we each have different lived experiences and so approach the notion of safety through varied lenses. And that’s a good thing.

I have blogged about safe spaces before, here and here. I’ve considered what safety actually is, because of course, as I just said, it means different things to different people. And of course, there are real brick-and-mortar safe spaces, and there are online safe spaces, and literary safe spaces, and the safe space underneath my favorite, impossibly soft, charcoal-with-yellow-leaves throw blanket, the safe space of my increasingly solid tree pose, and even underneath my tattoos and leather and poetic “speaker” voice.

Today, I’m going to address only online safe spaces, specifically Link Your Life, and I’m going to start via negativa, to clear up misconceptions. Continue reading