The Love You Give Is Enough

Yesterday I ran a lot into something that’s physically painful for me to see: clappy hand emojis between words. It’s an internet trend to make what are considered important points this way, instead of the old-fashioned placing of a period between each word. (What. was. wrong. with. that?)

You’re probably wondering why/how it makes me sick. The best explanation I can come up with is that my visual processor is over-developed and hyper-competent after a lifetime of having to make up for my auditory disabilities — my hearing is fine, my brain has problems processing and parsing sounds — and so when I read things, I experience them more vividly than people without that disability do.

My lack of ability to properly parse things I hear means my visual processor makes up for it by making me hear things mentally really well when I read them. This is why shitty punctuation in a book drives me insane. I can’t just skim over it when reading; it’s integrally a part of what I’m experiencing. It tells me how to “hear” things in my mind, and if it’s wrong, it will fuck up my entire experience.

(This is also why I loathe the practice of 2 spaces after a period. It makes my brain grind to a halt when I’m reading something, because one space is a normal pause between sentences for me. Two spaces is the emergency brake.)

My experience seeing the clappy hand emojis between words is to feel as if I’m being slapped or punched in the face after every word. Reading a sentence written that way gives me a headache and makes me nauseated.

And to be honest, even if it didn’t cause me physical pain, I would find it the most annoying fucking thing on the planet. So either way, I’d be stoked if people could fucking stop doing it.

Anyway. Yesterday I saw like, 3 or 4 tweets using this method so I spent most of the day feeling headachey and sick to my stomach. One of them, however, is what inspired this post.

This was from an account I used to enjoy following, and from someone I thought was pretty cool. Not only did they use the clappy hands emoji thing that makes me sick, but they used it to repeat a really damaging belief: “you can’t love somebody until you love yourself.” (I’m pretty sure that’s what the tweet said exactly; I just went and double-checked as fast as I could before getting too sick. Am super nauseated right now anyway.)

This is a bullshit idea and I am so sick of hearing it repeated.

An image of two people kissing is overlaid with text that says "You can't love someone unless you love yourself; You can't be happy with someone else if you aren't happy with yourself." Over top this text is a big red X, and the words FUCK OFF in bold black Impact font on a pink rectangle background.
I have strong feelings about this.

Working on self-love is, of course, important, and something I encourage EVERYONE to do. But the phrasing of this idea, the way it’s always put forth, makes it a zero-sum game: you cannot love someone until you love yourself. Unsaid in that sentence: your whole self. You cannot love someone until you love yourself 100%.

This idea leads to a horrible self-repeating spiral of self-hate. That sentence also says that if you DO love someone when you don’t love yourself, it’s not enough. It’s not GOOD enough. Your love for your spouse or sister or daughter or son or best friend — it’s not enough, because you don’t love yourself first.

And because your love isn’t enough — because you don’t love yourself — you are obviously not worthy of that person. And if you’re not worthy of that person, then you are, of course, not worthy of THEIR love and thus unlovable.

How the fuck are you supposed to work on self-love if you keep getting told that the love you give isn’t good enough?

I’m a broken person. I’m damaged goods. I always will be; doesn’t mean I want to be treated like I am. You can glue something back together, but those cracks will always be visible.

Most days I absolutely hate myself. But you know who I love? Mr. Katje, my husband. I love him so much I can sometimes forget what an awful person I am. I love him so much I can forget that I hate myself.

And Mr. Katje loves me, and because he loves me, he helps me work on these things. He reminds me to eat, because I can’t love myself enough to do that. He reminds me to take my pills, because sometimes I cannot take that care of myself. His reminders build up, and become my reminders: I eat because Mr. Katje loves me, so I am worth loving, so I need to love myself. I take my pills because Mr. Katje loves me, so I am not an unlovable monster, so I need to take care of myself.

Through his love of me, I am slowly, very slowly discovering self-love. It is self-love based in the love of another person.

I suppose people who believe that self-love must be entirely self-generated, a virgin birth in your heart, would see that as unhealthy.

I believe humans are pack animals and we cannot exist alone. I believe relying on oneself to the exclusion of all else is unhealthy. I believe we need each other in the same way we need food, water, shelter.

So I do not see my building up my self-love based on the love others give me as unhealthy. I see it as human.

I know Mr. Katje struggles with self-love, too. I know he has doubts; I know he has that voice inside that tells him he’s not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough for me. I know he feels he’s not a good enough husband for me, because he can’t support me like he wants to, because he’s been damaged by a lifetime of society shoving it down his throat that if he’s not earning big bucks, he’s not good enough.

(Kyriarchy damages men too.)

He is enough. He will always be enough, regardless our money situation, regardless what lies society screams at him. And if the love he gives is enough for me, then the love I give has to be enough for him.

It’s not fair to ask damaged people to put everything on hold while they try to figure out how to love themselves, and then to tell them that if they can’t figure that out, they don’t deserve to love anyone else.

It’s not fair to ask that of anyone.

Spend time cultivating self-love, as much as you can. But if you cannot get that to 100% — that’s okay. If all you can manage is 5% on a good day — that’s okay. The love you give is still worthy. The love you give is enough. The love you give is not subtracted from by the hate you feel for yourself. This is not algebra.

We may be brokenhearted, but we are enough, and whatever love we can pump out of those damaged organs is enough. It has to be, or humanity doesn’t stand a chance.

I didn’t use to think I was pretty; or, In defense of the selfie

If you spend any time on the internet you know that the word selfie often takes on connotations that are disparaging. Only self-centred hipsters do that, people might say, or Selfies are for women/girls who are attention-whores. (And yes, women are always “attention-whores”; they are never simply self-centred. Hooray sexist gendered language!)

And perhaps the selfie has become a bit gratuitous, just like not everyone needs to see every picture of every meal you eat. (I am a fan of taking pictures of particularly appetizing looking meals, but trust me, you are not seeing my full diet if you look at my Flickr account.) Even if it has become somewhat gratuitous, I fail to see it as a wholly bad thing.

In fact, I see it as a good thing.

When I was in high school I did not spend a lot of time looking in the mirror in order to take account of my many good features. I spent a lot of time in front of the mirror popping zits or telling myself about my many imperfections: my eyebrows were too thick, my eyes had dark shadows under them, my skin was oily enough to end America’s dependence on the Middle East (too soon?), my hair was gross (and I dyed it constantly, in defiance of its old carpet-like natural colour), my pupils were different sizes and that was WEIRD, I had a double chin which was undoubtedly gross…the list goes on.

I did not like myself. This should be expected; I was being raised in a world that didn’t like me, that spent a lot of time and effort in telling me all the ways I was imperfect. The media is tailored to give young girls and women (and boys and men, to a lesser extent) such insecurities about themselves, because it is a byproduct of our society — the same society who raised our mothers to believe the same thing, and to say the same things about themselves.

My mom is pretty much perfect in my eyes, so don’t think this is going to be a mother-blaming post; it’s not. But she doesn’t love herself the way she should — the way I think she should, which is how I love her. Unconditionally, wholly, with the view that she is a goddess. She is, to me. I think she’s beautiful and I love her and she’s my mom.

But she was raised in this same patriarchal society that I was, and she was given the same messages: her worth is only inherent in her fuckability, and her fuckability is determined by her attractiveness. My mom was always called a handsome woman, which is a “kind” euphemism for “not feminine enough”. And we all know if you’re not feminine enough as a woman, you’re not beautiful.

To which I say: fuck that, my mom is beautiful. And screw traditional ways of looking at femininity or masculinity anyway. She identifies as a woman and considers herself feminine; that’s enough for her it should be enough for everyone else.

Basically, if you think my mother isn’t feminine enough, or beautiful enough, or anything enough, I have a very short pier off which I’d like you to take a long walk. With these barbells tied to your feet, please. There’s a good lad.

Because of all this patriarchal bullshit that tells women, or people being raised as women, or people who are socially classed as women, that our worth is directly connected to our beauty, and our beauty is judged in very narrow terms, my mom and I have spent most of our lives not liking ourselves very much. Physically, I mean; I think we’re both doing rather better on the liking ourselves mentally or even emotionally or spiritually, but it’s still a huge struggle for us to like our bodies, or our faces.

But I have been working to change this about myself, and the selfie has been helping me.

I started taking selfies in my late teens, on the cusp of adulthood. Most of them I hated, as I hated myself, but every once in a while I’d get a good shot, with good light, or the just right angle, or the perfect expression. Often these were “Myspace angles”, ie, angles where I was looking up at the camera, to minimize the fat rolls under my chin and to make my breasts look more impressive; obviously I was still very much in the woods of self-loathing for a great many years.

But these selfies served their purpose.

With every good shot, I chipped away a little bit at the thick shell of gods I’m so ugly that surrounded me. Every time I did this, I came closer and closer to realizing that…hey, I wasn’t bad looking. Hey, maybe I was kind of attractive. Hey, wow, I’m fucking gorgeous.

Until finally, this week, it culminates in this: my being able to take a selfie of myself without make-up, without a bra on, without a Myspace-angle — just me in the clothes I threw on after my shower to sit around my hose — and to look at it and say, “Yeah, I’m pretty hot. I can see why the Ogre would want to bang me. And hell, probably other folks too; he’s just the only one of which I’m aware.”

20130904_231841_Anne_Vignette_Intertwined

And some people may find this a direct contradiction of my feminist ideals; after all, I think it’s pretty gross that our entire society values women in terms of their fuckability. It is.

However. While our society is patriarchal/kyriarchal in nature, and while these messages are mostly directed at girls and women, I do believe the lack of self-esteem that comes from one’s own perceived lack of fuckability transcends gender. I have known people of various genders who feel shitty because they feel ugly, and they believe that ugliness leads to them being unfuckable. Yes, many, many women, but many men too, and many non-binary folk (like myself).

I don’t think that our inherent worth is tied up in our fuckability/beauty, but I do think that our perceived self-worth matters a hell of a lot. This is one of those areas where self-care intersects, somewhat awkwardly, with feminist activism, for me — I can’t be an effective activist if I’m mired in self-loathing to the point of not being able to leave my bed. So if that means taking selfies until I feel that I’m worthy as a human being, even if my worth isn’t actually tied to my physical attractiveness and I’m basing this entire process on what is essentially a lie told to me by society, well, that means taking selfies until I feel I’m worthy as a human being.

I’m all for dismantling the patriarchy, for dismantling the fucked up, toxic society we live in. Yes, it needs to change; we need to stop equating physical attractiveness (which is subjective anyway) with human worth. We really do.

But it’s really hard to get down to the work of actually dismantling this oppressive, toxic wasteland, if depression and anxiety and self-loathing have conspired to keep you curled up in bed, unable to even get up to turn on the lights. If someone needs to feel they are attractive in order to have the strength to carry on, then they need that and it would be downright cruel (and possibly, an act of silencing and denying their agency) to try to take that away from them.

Furthermore, as a fat woman/person socially-classed-as-woman, taking selfies that proclaim to the world your attractiveness is a downright subversive act. And I don’t think I need to explain why.

So leave folks who take selfies alone. Chances are, they’re searching for this same sort of self-care. Maybe it’s not the self-care route you would take, but that doesn’t invalidate it. Maybe you think there are too many out there, but hell, there are too many blogs out there and I’m sure that’s how many people find ways of caring for themselves.

And if it bugs you to see selfies from people you perceive as ugly, then that’s just proof that selfies need to continue for a while yet. Yes, I will normalize my appearance to the world and myself, because I’m not ugly, so fuck you.

A toast to the selfie! May it continue, until we don’t need it anymore, and then may it be a fun choice that anyone can make, or not make, as they will.

-Kat

Blood, Gravy, and my Cill shift

It’s been an interesting week.

By interesting I usually mean in the curse sense of the word, May you live in interesting times, etc etc etc life has been kind of sucky.

But whatever. If you’re going to say anything about me or my mom, you have to admit we bounce back. Things break and we pick up the pieces and soldier on.

Last night a lot of things broke. Literally.

We were sitting outside to eat dinner, as we have for a few nights since getting the pavilion back up on the concrete back porch. It had been down during the winter, but mom wanted it back up so I helped. Even with the millions of spiders living on it.

The pavilion frame itself is kind of broken. (I’d show you a picture, but I didn’t realize I’d be writing this post at 1 am and it’s a bit too dark to snap a shot.) It’s bent and twisted like a gnarled oak tree. I’m surprised it stays up, to be honest.

The table and chairs we eat on are nothing special: a plastic table with fold-out metal legs that we can fold flat and take in the car to events if needed, and two plastic lawn chairs. Barely deserving of the name.

We’d finished dinner, mostly — I had, at any rate, and we’d both eaten our steaks, but mom was still working on one of the sides. While we ate Tyee sat by the table, on a leather lead held by me or mom. We’re trying to get him used to the idea of sitting by the table outside while we eat.

I got up to take him to his tie-out chain so he could have a walk around the yard, relieve himself, etc, before mom took him to dog park after dinner was over. Well, he was having none of that. We’d tied him up earlier and he didn’t want it to happen again.

So he bolted back to mom’s side. I sighed and hooked his leash onto something while I went back to deal with the tie-out, and then came back over. It hadn’t taken very long. In that time he’d managed to work himself under the table, out the other side, and around my empty chair. He then walked back towards the table, and his leash caught on my chair and dragged it. It stuttered on the concrete flooring, as plastic lawn chairs are wont to do.

And Tyee flipped. his. shit.

He bolted from the evil chair that was going to eat his soul, heading anywhere away from it. Of course, this hooked his leash on the table, and started to drag it after him and into mom. So he pulled harder. The table continued to drag, pushing mom over in her plastic chair. I rushed forward to catch her and lower her gently to the concrete ground so she didn’t hit her head. Tyee started running back and forth, in full panic mode now, and flipped the table over, spilling dishes and gravy everywhere. He ran into the pavilion and started to knock it down. Mom was now on the ground; I was holding her and pavilion up, half crouched amid a mess of broken dishes and gravy everywhere. I finally managed to give Tyee an order to stop, and he did, shaking in fear.

All that took place over the course of ten seconds. It was like a bomb going off. One moment, peaceful dinner time. The next moment, chaos, confusion, destruction, loud noises, and pain.

Once I ascertained the pavilion would not fall on mom and that she was ok for a moment, I took Tyee over to his chain and tied him up so he’d be out of our hair while we fixed everything. We managed to get the pavilion more or less righted and then mom out of her chair and on her feet. She and I started to pick things up, and she managed to drop the table on her foot. Yes, the broken one.

Casualties list: 2 plates, 2 bowls, a gravy boat, mom’s favourite wine cup (blue-green-purple porcelain), all of the gravy, the remainder of mom’s dinner.

I threw the broken dishes into the bushes, where mom throws all her broken pottery. (This is an old trick to keep wolf-dogs from lying down in your fucking garden; Sila we’re looking at you. Now she uses it to keep other animals out of her yard. It works.)

When I went back inside I realized I was bleeding quite a bit from several small cuts in my legs and on my feet. As soon as I’d done as much cleaning outside as I could before we just needed to hose down the porch, I stepped into the shower to wash off blood and gravy.

During all of this Tyee was basically having a PTSD episode. When we’d done all the work and mom was in the shower I let him back in the house and hugged him, trying to calm him with some torso compression. (This works for dogs, just like it works for humans.)

Mom took him to dog park and I sat down and tried to calm down. I also got some lanterns out of the shed that doesn’t have a giant wasp’s nest on it in preparation for my flamekeeping shift tonight.

Tonight's flamekeeping candle
Burning brightly beside me as I write this.

Every 20 days I light a flame at sunset and keep it burning until sunset the next day in honor of Brighid, one of the three main deities I worship. (This flame does not have to be an fire-flame, and when I go to bed I blow out my actual candle and “light” an LED one.) This is called my “Cill shift” because I am a member of a Cill, or a group of people also dedicated to doing Brighid’s work in some capacity. We each have a shift in within the 20 day cycle, except day 20 — that’s the night that Brighid Herself will keep the flame.

Brighid has within Her jurisdiction many things (like all gods, She can not be reduced to one facet). The things that seem to come up most often, however, are healing and the bardic arts. Poetry, writing, singing, the creation of art. (So really, is it any surprise I’m Hers?)

I don’t often talk about my religion on this blog (I usually leave it for The Mundane Mystic), but today’s Cill shift did sort of tie into my main story for this post. 

It’s been a rough week, and I spent some time sitting and staring at the three candles I’d lit for Her at sunset, wishing that I was more on top of things. Every Cill shift I swear I’m going to do something, and every Cill shift something like tonight’s dog freakout happens. Or Brighid hits me in the head with a cosmic frying pan and knocks. me. out. Often for 20 hours. I get a really good sleep every 20 days, quite often.

But in the ensuing hours, I’ve come to feel better about my complete lack of being able to do anything. Tyee started to calm down after we lit the lanterns, all three of them sitting on the righted table, casting shadows over the dark porch. He realized we still loved him, and all was well. (And then, after extinguishing the other two, I brought the last lantern inside, and it spooked him. Which makes me seriously question the veracity of those images of Hecate, torch in hand, with Her dog beside Her.)

And, ok. I’m writing. Here, in my blog. I’ve done some serious writing tonight, and tomorrow when I wake up and get some coffee I can continue work on From the Ashes, which I’ve done over 5,000 words on in the past 2 days. I can also work on editing The Jade Star of Athering in prep for sending it off to my beta readers. Slowly, but surely, I will finish these projects.

All creative work is within Brighid’s realm, and I’m doing that stuff. So I can stop beating myself up about these things and just be happy with what I can accomplish. 

It’s honestly one of the hardest lessons to learn. I’ll still be learning it for years to come.

But every day, I get a little bit closer to knowing it in my bones. Inch by inch, stitch by stitch.

-Kat