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.

Celebrate Love. All kinds of love.

This was originally posted on my Medium profile on February 14, 2017.


I used to hate Valentine’s Day with an all-consuming passion. Before that, I adored it.

In my childhood, Valentine’s Day was great. It was my half-birthday (approximately 6 months from my actual birthday) so my parents (well, mom mostly) made a big deal of it and how I was their Valentine. It was about celebrating family love.

I got a little older, and my best friend’s little brother would ask me if I was his Valentine every year — and I would say “Yes, of course I am!” because he was a sweet kid.

I got a little older, and the teacher had to order the other students to give me valentines so my envelope wouldn’t be empty.

I got a little older, and I realized that not only did no one else give a shit it was my half-birthday, no one even knew what a half-birthday was. Apparently it had been made up by my crazy family.

Continue reading Celebrate Love. All kinds of love.

Weekly Writing Challenge: the justice of ribbons

Today’s poem was written in response to this picture inspiration from the Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge. The poem’s title is the justice of ribbons.

Image from Cheri Lucas Rowlands

my heart is ribbons
once it stayed whole
a kaleidoscope of colour and light
blended till no one know who was anything anymore

shredded
by a physical blow made of words
the colours separate
i have to tie them together
hope they play nice

my heart is ribbons
tightly coiled
smaller than it was

when it was whole
it beat for the whole world
it contained multitudes

my heart is ribbons
and beating just for me almost unravels it
it contains only my sorrow and rage

my once-whole heart
has been braided into cords
twisted together
ribbons sliding against each other
silk saturated in blood

i guard it jealously
afraid to let it travel past the walls
of its bonewhite cage

you’re safe here
no one can hurt you now

but in my dreams
the trumpet sounds
and in my dreams i know the call
it tells me what i must do

i cup my ribbon heart in my hands,
hold it close to my chest
as if it were a small animal I must set free
from its blunder into my busy city life

I walk on moon-kissed floors to the window

far below
people writhe in a world of grey
stumbling through dark and fog
breathing despair and drinking fear

cracked and scarred, my feet
climb to the ledge
and I balance on bent knees, rocking back and forth

trembling, I am a bird afraid to fall from the nest
half-crouched as if the stars might burn me.

I tip my cupped hands out over the world
and watch my ribbon heart
spill away from me

from between my breasts
a rainbow of colour curls out
and around
wrapping itself into each and every life
ribbons wending themselves through homes and heads
bringing colour to the grey
bringing light to the fog

my heart is ribbons
it touches all lives
it contains multitudes
it binds me in love
to all else who suffer.

Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

> What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from the person you’re the closest to?

> Photographers, artists, poets: show us FRIENDS.

The Daily Post

My best friend in the entire world is Kana. She’s more than a best friend; we’re soul sisters. When she moved from Hawaiʻi to Alaska, I started singing For Good at her going away party; she joined in with Glinda’s part and we could not finish it for the sobbing that wracked us.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fR4JotwwWo]

In fact, I am tearing up again just listening to it.

All the great friendships of pop culture mirror ours; we are constantly comparing them. Yet none of those fictional bonds will ever top ours — we do not have manufactured drama tearing us apart.

The dramas we have are real, and few and far between, and something we are able to work through. We have almost lost each other because of severe miscommunication on one end and mental health issues on the other, but we found our way back.

She’s Glinda and I’m Elphaba. Miles away from each other, not sure if we’ll see each other again any time soon, but always the dearest and best of friends.

We called ourselves the A.N.A., because those were the three letters our names had in common with each other. (It’s still true; my first name has become my middle name.)

The last time I saw her was New Year’s Eve 2007, in Hawaiʻi. (Or perhaps a few days after, but the event I remember clearly is NYE.) We did our resolutions with our mutual friend Ryan while my first boyfriend snored through midnight. That was six years ago. I haven’t been back to Hawaiʻi since I left the place a few months into 2008; I haven’t been to Alaska, and she hasn’t been here.

Before that visit, we saw each other for 10 minutes in the Maui airport while I went to catch my flight and she got off hers — early December, 2006.

Now we keep a blog where we write letters to each other. It’s not the same being physically near to each other, but it helps staunch the wounds, keeps us from bleeding out.

What have I learned from her? What haven’t I learned from her?

I learned I wasn’t alone. She’ll always be there, no matter what. Someday we’ll be the crazy cat and dog ladies at the end of the block, with our several hundred canines, felines, and chickens. Of course chickens.

I learned the truth about soul mates, and that it has nothing to do with sappy, “romantic” Hallmark sentiment. Ogre is the lover I choose to commit my life to — Kana is my soul mate. Nothing can destroy that bond.

I learned about respecting boundaries. Kana’s always respected mine, and (I think)* I’ve always respected hers. She’s possibly the only person who hasn’t pushed at any of my boundaries; she definitely leaves my comfort zone well the fuck alone, which I appreciate. I expand at my own rate. She never asks me for more than I can give.

I have learned so much from Kana that I cannot hope to quantify the ways here in a blog post; all I can do is sing For Good as loud as I’m able, and hope she can hear me over the waves that separate us.

*I am human, with a faulty memory and other flaws besides.


ana

there is nothing to see here
nothing for acidic comments
our garden is safe
i hope
a secret
kept
even from our selves
apple trees
our island
red and rosy
black and gnarled
and a rage
that shudders our branches
in the wind
of its scream

ten years is a long fucking time
trees, no less
we age slow
for our kind
left behind by the rest
our roots entangled
and now
i know not where your branches
end
or mine begin

gods we make
beautiful
muse-ick
outside
the walls
grown over with time
tendrils of us
reach those
who question
our blossoms
snow down
and bury our enemies
words do not describe
they obtain

wind rattling
branches
cloud on sky
and
avalon

this is our glasstown
unwelcome, be careful your step.

The Good Things Jar — emptying, reading, saving, starting anew

Last year I did a Good Things Jar — I got an empty jar, prettied it up with ribbon, and wrote good things that happened on pieces of paper. These things I put in the jar.

Last year's good things jar

I was not so diligent with it as I should have been, but it was still a great exercise. Today I emptied last year’s jar and read all the great things that happened to me last year.

Some of the good things that happened in 2013!

Some were small and simple (“Had a morning read with my coffee on the lanai”); some were momentous (“Got engaged!”). A few were in there twice! Especially the one where a friend sent me fudge. That fudge was delicious, man.

Putting them all into a folder, each year. A journal of how awesome life can be.

After going through them, I glued them all to some paper. They covered two sides of one sheet and then one side of another. I put the sheets into paper protectors and put them into a folder.

Then, I wrote out three Good Things — one for each day of 2014 so far — and put them in the jar. I’m going to be more diligent about putting things in the jar this year — maybe not every day, but every week definitely. Even if it’s just “I’m still breathing.”

Note #3 for 2014 Good Things Jar!

My first note was “Kissed Mr. Katje at midnight!“, because that is the best way to start off a year. My second said “Wrote double my word count goal today!” because I wrote 851 words yesterday (my daily goal this year is 411). The third thing I put in the jar today was the note that came with my sister’s Christmas gift to me. That’s me looking ridiculously happy, or just very loopy.

Next year, I’ll do the same thing, with the reading and the gluing to paper. Eventually I’ll have a journal full of all the good things that ever happened to me and my family. I plan on making this a family tradition. Even if it does make Ogre roll his eyes something fierce. It really was amazing to read through all the good things that happened last year, especially after how sour I was feeling about 2013. And throughout the year, looking at the jar is definitely a pick-me-upper.

Have you done a Good Things Jar? Do you think you might?

Mandela on Words

It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”

– Nelson Mandela

I suppose I’m just jumping on the bandwagon here, quoting Mandela now that he’s dead. I wasn’t planning on it. But then I read this post via Freshly Pressed, and the quote at the end stuck with me. I realized I wanted to share it, because the sentiment is so, so important to writers, to people who wrestle with words daily. It is so, so important to activists — lest we get caught in the trap of thinking that talking about things isn’t important enough.

Which, of course, is something I hear very often. My blogging isn’t good enough if I’m not marching and protesting every day. (Excuse me while I roll my eyes right out of my head.)

Words are important. Words make a very real difference in life, and in death. It is the spreading of hate via words that leads to people dying; it is the spreading of love via words that saves lives, that makes lives worth living.

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

 Cornel West

Remember these things. Remember how powerful your words are, and remember to speak from a place of love, that you may help bring justice to the world.

The Linguistics of Relationships

Recently my boyfriend got new bathmats for his bathroom. This is good, because the old one was getting kind of manky. It was white. I disagree vehemently with white things for the house. They get dirty easily. Rather, they show dirt easily, and, when it comes to cleaning, I’m a lazy bitch.

His new mats are black, round, soft, and decidedly not-manky. There are two of them, overlapping like a Venn diagram. (“This mat is wet, this is dry, and where they meet they are both wet and dry.” —Venn, the most boring kid ever.)

Me: You have new thingies in front of the shower. They’re nice.
Mr. Katje: New showermats, yeah.
Me: …new what?
Mr. Katje: Showermats. Mats for the shower.
Me: You mean bathmats.
Mr. Katje: No, because there’s no bath. There’s a shower. Showermats.
Me: …the word bath doesn’t…that’s not…argh. There’s no tub, but there is a bathing space in the bathroom, and the mats go in front of the bathing space. Hence, bathmats.
Mr. Katje: No. Showermats. We shower. We don’t take baths.
Me: We bathe in the shower, which is in the bathroom. Bathmats.
Mr. Katje: You’re wrong. We don’t bathe in the shower; we shower in the shower.
Me: (sighing and giving up) Yes, dear.

I may outwardly capitulate for his sake, but I know I’m right. So does Firefox’s spell-check — it recognizes bathmats as a word, but not showermats. Obviously I’m correct.

(Whenever we spawn little amoeba-kittens, I’m going to have to be proactive so they don’t pick up his weird language. “Remember, kids, daddy is silly.”)

In other news, I’m participating in Fat Mum Slim‘s October Photo A Day Challenge. You can see the posts on my tumblr, with the tag #FMSPhotoADay. (I may put up some here, too.) If you’re into photo-taking, why not give it a try yourself? Definitely peruse the hashtag on tumblr and Twitter to see everyone’s contributions (you can also search the hashtag on the Instagram app).