I have long argued the concept of 'fixed personality,' and by direct extension 'personality (and other) related disorders.' It is all about what we choose to pay attention to, what we choose to take on, and disregard, grow into, and shed, as belief systems and world views: mindset. Ms Dweck has articulated it beautifully (below) I might need to buy her book. ~M. "A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities." -Carol Dweck, Ph.D
Flying a Cherry-Blossom Flag on Remembrance Day
What a misguided world… Someone else’s suffering cannot buy our freedom, bombing and terrorizing other countries/cultures cannot bring peace.
I do not argue that people like Hitler and Tojo need(ed) to be stopped, but war is an every day thing now. We have actively engaged/supported WW III for many, many years.
Weaponized peace-keeping is an oxymoron at best and a travesty at worst, and most of the world’s ongoing and newly erupting wars are still about what war has always been about: ethnicity, religion, and greed; the quest for resources, whether life sustaining like water, or ‘deemed’ valuable (fossil fuels etc) by modern economic systems, driven by political structures and power mongers in industry, who pull politician’s puppet strings.
When someone chooses to go into ‘service,’ especially in this day and age of voluntary service, they choose. Operative word. Just like I chose human services. Also a ‘front line.’ I am traumatized daily by the level of disregard for people, their basic human dignity, rights and needs, people just like you and me.
So those who choose the military, get no more and no less respect/gratitude from me, than anyone else making a living doing what they have chosen to do. It was not all those service men who died in WW I or WW II who bought our ‘freedom,’ it was a couple of nuclear bombs dropped on the ‘every day’ people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
And before you jump down my throat, know that my heart bleeds for all of them who gave up their lives or lost everything in the great wars of the past, and those of today. My own father gave up his life as the result of a political battle, so that my mother, brother and I could live in a ‘democracy.’
My heart bleeds for all of us, daily. And for today, I choose to ‘fly’ a Cherry Blossom Flag, instead.
~Marcela: Cherry Blossoms Flying High
November 11, 2019
Writing: All Rights Reserved
This love and life are schizophrenic
confusing and bizarre
a psychotic freight train run-a-mok
searching for its freight train cars
This love and life are melancholia
contradictory depths and shallows
its verdant fields all fallow
This love and life are so neurotic
too bad – too good – too much – too small
plod and slog along that edge
‘til through the cracks we fall
This love and life are paranoid
monsters lurk ’round every corner
something to believe in
This love and life are anxious
fear this – fear that – fear self
hide that heart way up on high
up on the highest shelf
This love and life are O C D
chaos seeks control
prim and perfect to appear
lest the death knell tolls
This love and life are risky
unsafe and oh-so-perilous
jump to me – come off that ledge
else each breath be but vicarious
For my work kid Einstein, with so much gratitude that we get to keep flying in the Tardis together, and all the others who have walked the edge, stood on the ledge, and for those who jumped and didn’t have us to catch them, in time.
October 24, 2015
This past week the Universe conspired to connect so many experiences and events in the various worlds I occupy; with a semi-colon. In the wee hours of another fitful and anxious night I struggled to turn off the demons; the ones I bring home from work more often than not. Those of the work-folks I care for so deeply, and my own. At four a.m. it was clear that the demons were not to be tamed, so I chose to get up and write them out in the form of this ditty. Later that morning I came upon the art and heart of one John Finn and found another kindred spirit via my big brother Tom. That work day consisted of 9 relatively unexpected hours in a hospital with the 12-year-old work kid I will call Einstein. The demons were so loud, so overwhelming, that this brilliant and beautiful child wanted to die. I need to get one, a semi-colon tattoo; for Einstein, for me, for you, for all the work-kids, for their parents, for so many people I have known and loved, for Marilyn, for Robin Williams, for Dorothy Parker and for Sylvia Plath, just some of the people who move me so deeply, long after their time here ran out. Get one too? Come on, I double-dog-dare you!
Image: “Pause” Courtesy of the Über-talented John Finn.
-I believe that we can change the world, one action at a time
-I believe that part of that is supporting one person, family, group, at a time
-I believe that providing that support directly, without conditions, to be utilized as the person(s) receiving it see fit, is crucial to anyone’s success in getting through a difficult time, whatever that is for them.
Chantale is this Sunday’s (June 7th 2015) walk/donations recipient. Her mission is to heal her body from Squamous Carcinoma and she has pursued hollistic and most recently chemo and radiation therapies. You can follow her journey here: Chantale’s Journey
She received little to no support from any number of systems in our world, the very systems designed to help, but fraught with loopholes, conditions, and vast gaps and crevices that folks in the midst of a fight for their very life and breath often cannot navigate, by nature of the very challenge that brought them to these systems. I am not looking to cure Chantale, only she, her body, mind and bottomless heart and spirit, along with the therapies she chooses can do that. I am looking to provide her some basics of life quality and comfort (not having to worry about rent/food/rides to the hospital…), while she navigates this multi-barriered road in an effort to help herself.
My son Thomas & I can walk 50K on Sunday (we’ve done it before… let’s hope we do it again), my mama Marcella and the beautiful (hu)man Dieter can bring us refreshments and cheer us on when it gets hard, but our financial resources are not bottomless, so it has always been my belief, that many of us giving a bit, more often, is more effective in the long term, than a few of us giving more less often.
I have never met Chantale, but I have grown to love her fiercely, for so many reasons, but primarily, because she fought for her right to decide what was best for her in the face of severe opposition and betrayal by previously noted systems, and because when faced with few alternatives, she still hasn’t given up, just broadened her perspective about said alternatives and come at it from a place we could all do well to emulate; a place of love for self, and acceptance of what is, as opposed to what should be.
So here is my request to all of you: Send $20, or $10 if that is all you can do, it’s four, or two, fancy coffees, one meal you pack to go instead of eating out. It might not make that huge a dent in your life right now, but I know it will in Chantale’s, particularly as she now begins the upward climb of healing from the therapies she has undergone for the last several weeks. Please help us help.
History and other links regarding this current and past actions are here:
FB Page is here:Walking With Love For You
Internet Banking E-transfers to: firstname.lastname@example.org (please remember to send a security question/answer)
Cash and/or bottle returns: I’ll pick it from you where/when ever is convenient
Cheques payable to M. Mrnka, c/o: s.a.f.e – #204, 107 Evans Street, Duncan BC, V9L 1P5
Remember last year?
These thoughts on the oft-discussed, much-maligned, and generally well-hidden Skeleton Closet, are brought to you by the recently passed, over-marketed Hallowed ‘eve holiday, the ongoing media frenzy about Jian Ghomeshi, and my to-the-core life-force penchant, for telling you tales out of school; the school of hard, weird and often kind-of-unbelievable, knocks. You know; those which have been, and are, my life. You can be certain, that if I ever went to Vegas, which by the way I have no desire what-so-ever to do, but if I did, what happened in Vegas, would not stay in Vegas. It would be told, loudly and with the same wild abandon that I will tell you about the Skeleton Closet; my own, and more importantly, theirs, yours(?).
I have some insight, into the clandestine wardrobes used to secret away carcasses in various stages of life and death. The (un)haunted house of my own history comes replete with a maze of hallways, on several storeys, each boasting a conspicuous number of walk-in-closets, no, not full of shoes, but chock-a-block full of bones. Clean-picked, dead to me, bones. The only folks still trying to get a morsel off them bones are those belonging to a group I call The Pickers. Periodically, one or more Pickers will attempt to unlock the wide-open doors, and nit-pick at the well-polished skeleton bones I have left there, to decompose, rest in peace (as they should) for years.
These Pickers continue to try and resurrect my life story, pursue their sad little attempts to threaten me with my own past, from a wild assortment of tibulae, fibulae, lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, mandibles, and femurs, and have demonstrated a bizarre predilection for the parts they believe to be my skull and pelvic bones, in an effort to get inside my head, exercise their perceived right to examine my vagina, as if they actually knew something about me, my life, based on their interpretations of the white space, between said bones. Best Regards, Marcela is one such example, and if you want the pickings off the bones, the lurid, meaty-details of my personal human battles and victories, I shined up them bones in the Manifesto, and the 53 years of life and work previous to, well, this moment. Not that I’m done, a finished project, brand new me, just a more refined version of all erstwhile incarnations.
The idea that some Pickers still, no matter what I do right, by me and others, continue to pick is not the real fodder for this fable, they need to get over it, I have. Nor are the myriad and supposedly horrifying and lurid, meaty details on the yet un-picked bones in the Skeleton Closets I literally, and metaphorically walk into each and every day of my life. It is not that I am surprised or even shocked, by anything I am privy to by virtue of the various worlds I function in. Nope, humans do crazy, often really bad, really harmful shit. The real substance, the marrow, of the bones in this not-so-tall-tale, is the are-you-for-real(?) sadness and dismay I still feel, every time a well-meaning commenter notes how surprised they are to find themselves, or hear about, the kind of people seeking out my particular brand of human support. Apparently, elevated socio-economic status, education, professional designation, stardom, celebrity and/or noteriety and similar bla bla, absolve them and/or others from a), having a Skeleton Closet, and b), needing to fling open the door and cleaning that sucker out!
So let me just clarify that shit for you: the humble, the poor, the downtrodden, the homeless, the street people, can’t afford my services, unless one of the moneyed jockeys up enough and allows me to not-so-secretly subsidize them, which I often do despite, or perhaps because of, their (the moneyed) consternated and constipated off-gassings, gasps and protests, that it is not their responsibility to pay for other people’s poor choices and so on and so on and so on… but I digress, how odd… look over there, shiny-shiny unicorns…
Ok then! Seriously, the real meat here is this: Everyone, yes; every, single, human on this planet, over the age of just-born, has a Skeleton Closet, their own, or inherited, usually both. It is a huge point of commonality, and potential connection, between all members of the species called the human race. But instead of using our personal and collective bones to (re)build and re-invent, we hide, marginalize, stigmatize, victim-blame, soldier-gather against the already wounded, those too poor, too sick, too tired, too broken, by us, other humans and our anything-but-human systems and structures. We pick and re-pick clean the bones of those bereft of the capacity to hide their skeletons, for they have no abode in which to house and hide the closet, and in so doing, we conveniently get to compare the horrificity, yes that is a word, of our skeletons, in order to feel better about self.
And when I say we, I mean them; some but not all of the moneyed, the edumacated, the well-positioned etc and so on, in our ever-hierarchied culture(s). And when I say self, I mean them, you, perhaps? For you ought to know by now, unless you, like The Pickers, have chosen to pay attention to only the words you find useful in resurrecting your version of my (others’) life and truth, that the doors to my Skeleton Closets have been flung wide open, right off their hinges, for decades; at first by them and you, and then by me. For I realized some time ago, that a secret is only a secret, and shameful, when it stays a secret, which they don’t do very well anyway, by nature.
Interestingly, though not surprisingly; some of the most heinous artifacts and living monsters I have encountered, are the ones wreaking havoc in the be-dungeoned, mostly deeply buried and steel-vaulted closets, of the moneyed, the edumacated, the well-positioned and so on and so on. They continue to live and proliferate their brand of misery in the deeply flawed belief that they do not qualify at best, as struggling humans, and at worst, as really fucked up like those other people. And the truly tragic bit, the bit that breaks my heart and often triggers torrents of tears on my cheeks as I travel the highways and byways of this land, in the course of my mission to support them, and often the folks they unwittingly(?) victimize, is the ingrained-ness of it all, in the minds of the masses. The convenience with which the sheeple buy in.
Which brings me to the entire Jian Ghomeshi thing: Read the Manifesto in its entirety, please, and you will find a number of my realities relating to sexualized violence against me as a child, as a youth, as a young adult, as a wife and mother, not to mention that which was flung and forced upon me under the true horrors of widely held beliefs the like of you can’t rape a hooker, your girlfriend, or your wife. None of the perpetrators of said sexualized and other vileness and assault were the poor, the homeless, the addicted, those perceived as abnormal. They were the most upstanding, in mainstream’s view, of citizens, family men, business men, and professionals. And, according to them and the negative social response box, it was always my own fault, so how on earth would I find the gumption to report it?
Let me clear that shit up for you today. Right here, right now. 1) The age of consent was 14, and apparently no did not mean no to Al G. when he helped himself to my virginity. He raped me. He never owned it, even when I put him in front of it, especially then. Trying to pass me off to his family the night after as an 18-year old University student, spoke volumes. 2) Ed W., upstanding family man and lawyer knew it too, so as long as I didn’t jump up and down in protest after he and his lovely spouse fed an emotionally hurting 14 year-old babysitter copious amounts of all-manner of dope, he could engage in any activity on and with my body, not considered sexual intercourse. He is guilty of sexualized assault; she is guilty of co-signing it, by virtue of ignoring it, over and over and over again. His apology for ‘cheating on Shirley,’ his wife, does not count as taking personal responsibility. Ever. 3) The men who paid me rent for the agreed upon uses of my body and time, the ones who got a clear NO to certain requests prior to me ever taking a dime, the ones who chose to force their proclivities on my person anyway, did not purchase the right to do so. They raped me, sexually and otherwise assaulted me. Period. 4) The men I was married to and some that I dated; had neither the right to inflict their unwanted sexual needs nor their fists and boots, upon my body, mind and most importantly, my already broken spirit. Again, I direct you to the Manifesto for details, if you care enough to understand the context of how people get to how they get, where they get, and why it is such a grind to get back up, when they are consistently beaten to a pulp, literally and figuratively speaking, by the people who love them, and the systems designed to help them. And in this case, when I say them, I mean me. In the past tense of course, please remember, all the skeletons in my publicly aired closets, are dead, to me.
The purpose of this outing then, is not in any way related to a continuing process of letting go for me, it is done. The purpose is to answer, from my perspective and lived experience, this question: ‘What kind of woman won’t report sexual assault’? The language used in that headline is extremely problematic for me and a post unto itself, one that I will spare you, for now, but if you wish, check out the first bit of the Manifesto for a bit of clarity about that trigger. My answer to the present question, is as follows:
When I tried to tell people, about any or all of the herein noted acts of violence, abuses of sexualized and other powers forced upon and against my person, I was shut down, ridiculed, blamed, patronized, and on more than one occasion, beat up some more. In other words, re-victimized to the point where not saying anything, when these things occurred again, or about those previous, was safer than any other alternative; physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Period.
Which leads me to the brilliant deduction reached by another well-meaning commenter, who is about to make it off my friend list, in person and in the cyber world.
Well now that you’re over all of it, and have become this great, strong, warrior woman and champion of the underdog, it is your duty to out those bastards, make them pay. If you don’t you are perpetuating their nasty deeds, co-signing it the same way Shirley did. It is your ethical duty Marcela!
So let me just clear that shit up for you OK? Firstly, there exists no over, under, around, no shortcuts. Ever. There is only through. I have put more of my blood, sweat and tears into becoming this person, the one looking at you here, today, waded through more shit in my 53 years than most of them/you have ever flushed. As a result, I have a massive heart and compassion, for myself, for my tribe; my child, my aging mother, my man, and the other folks that I call my people. I even have compassion for the mis-guided bastards (m.g.b’s) that harmed me most. Take a quick flight On the Wing of my Dragon, for more on that bit. Secondly, I have compassion for, and am acutely aware of the people around the misguided bastards. Because as hard as I work at it, I cannot change others’ perceptions of some issues, and their children, their grandchildren, their wives, their mothers, their siblings, would also be harmed by any all actions I may choose to engage in against said m.g.b’s. The potential for all of us to reap the painful and unnecessary benefits of someone else’s need, for me to take up arms, again, is simply too great.
Mostly though, and hear this, please: Like so many other women I know, I am done waging war, battling, done and done surviving. I lived it; my life, my past, their violence, your/their negative social-violence response to it. I trudged and slogged and too often, almost died at my own and other’s hands in the midst of, or as a direct result of it. I have put in over two decades of W O R K and personal energy into surviving it, owning what parts I had in it, amending it, healing it, thriving not despite, but because of it. Therefore, I no longer need to wear it, or your/their expectations of what I ought to do with it in the service of other humans. Actually, I flat out refuse to do that, to me.
It has shaped me beautifully, and with grace even, but I do not live there. So, there is plenty of space for the Lookie-Loos, the Voyeuristic-Vultures known as the Pickers and anyone else who cares to dig around through the picked-over hand-me-downs, the mirror-polished bones, publicly closeted, in the hallowed halls of my previous lives. Welcome, to my (un)haunted house.
I no longer occupy my past. That; is the answer.
Clear? Great. Peace.
Yours with all the Love I have, the real-deal: MyLa: Utterly Unchained & Unfettered.
On BDSM (for those confused souls re: the Ghomeshi thing): in a true BDSM relationship/encounter, the power always belongs to the submissive, so if you don’t know what it is actually about, please, stop talking. Several years including BDSM with a beautiful soul and fellow (previously) harmed hu(man), allowed me to get, take power back in terms of my own sexuality, the healthy grown woman sexuality I enjoy today; the one I got to discover for myself, because all previous versions were assigned to me, by acts of sexualized violence, power over, and/or the box(es) called shame, internalizing oppression, and the like.
Image found here http://pumabydesign001.com/2013/06/04/
Hello friends, colleagues and above all, supporters of this movement! (For history and more information please click here). Also, this quick disclaimer: this post requires editing, 50.4 K was a long walk and I am tired, get back with better writing skills soon :)
For the second year in a row (for other walks/photos please click here), my fabulously social-justice-minded-son and I, walked 50 Kilometres (50.4 actually) on the Trans Canada Trail between Duncan and Lake Cowichan. It was great, it was exhilarating, because a) I got to spend that much time with my all-time favourite human on the planet, and b) I got to do something in an effort to show two people I don’t know, that someone cares, that someone actually gives a damn, and it was a gift and a grind, as always. And it happens in one of my favourite places on the planet, the community I call home, or rather a gorgeous hunk of trail in that community.
The way I see it, I had the privilege of spending a significant amount of time with my awesome (clearly, I am biased) living-in-another-town-adult-child, I got to spend a significant amount of time on the trail that saves my heavily-burdened social-worky-mind-body-and-spirit, a couple/three times a week, and I/we got the opportunity to be of service. win/win, hands down.
There was a bit of drama first thing after we set out in my vehicle to the trail head, I couldn’t find my watch and Kilometer-counter, so we determined (ok my son did) that I must have dropped it in my driveway getting into the car, and had to go back. This put us a little behind the start time I had planned, but really, we knew it was going to take all day, not my/our first Rodeo, so who’s counting minutes…?
It wasn’t possible to have folks at the trail-head in Lake Cowichan to help us re-energize with food and hydration – clean/organic and home-made of course, so we left a cooler full of health and yummy, including really good coffee, in my Trusty steed, Roger the Social-Working Rogue, and set out at 7:30 a.m. to do our first 30 K.
We walked 15-something K out, and turned around and came back to re-plenish, rest a bit, re-juvenate, and engage in trail-warrior first aid. This was my 4th big walk, and every year, my injuries are different. Kind of fits with the rest of my life ;) This year, blisters on my heels, and some unexpected shoulder pain were/are an issue, but I’m tough. That was at 1:39 p.m., and our distance walked at that point was 31.4 K.
Really, I am tough, but carrying 50 k worth of energy drinks, trail mix, fruit, grass-fed beef jerky and other necessities like moleskin Ibuprofen/Tylenol and water), is a bit much to ask, of even this energizer bunny :)
And then we walked back out 9 K, and turned around for the final 9-ish. The final 9-ish was not horrible for the first little while, but coming up on last few-to-go was starting to hurt bad and even though my ManChild and I never lack for full, rewarding, deep, meaningful, and often uproariously funny topics of conversation, we got quiet. We got back to Roger at 6:27 p.m., and had 50.4 Kilometers on the counter. 11 hours, with 10 of full-on (power) walking, the other hour included our almost 30 minute hydration/food/first aid break, and many, many quick moments of first aid and rock-out-of-shoe-dumpings. There was never any doubt that we would finish, we are not only determined, we are somewhat stubborn, but more than anything else, the why of what we were doing out there, makes the physical discomfort (during and after ;) quite bearable.
Which begs the question, one that is often asked; why don’t I/we just give to charities like everyone else, and get a tax write off? The answer is simple: I/we are not like everyone else. Ever. In most things we do, many of the ways in which we live life, and in what we believe to be the truth about life, the state of the world, and by direct extension, the human experience. And don’t assume, please, that I have created a clone named T.G.R.T.. I have not. I have taught him how to think, not what to think. It shows, and I do not feel ego-maniacal making that statement, I am grateful for all of the hard work I have, and continue to put in, as a parent first, and then, sometimes, a friend-type person. And I have never been afraid to have him pissed off at me, I don’t like it, but it never stopped me from setting what I believe(d) to be the good example, the appropriate boundary, and sometimes, just plain old laying down the parental law. Always, in his best interest, which to me means teaching him the skills to understand the world, and how to deal when life gets life-y, not bubble-wrapping him from it, not dumping my experiences of, and responses to it, all over him. Again, it shows. But I digress, how unusual for me…
Back to the why: I have experienced human struggle of every ilk and variety, and when I hit the wall running (out of steam) almost 20 years ago, there was support available to me. It came from various human serving agencies including those funded by Government at the time, from some members of my immediate family, from grass-roots movements with which I continue to engage to this day, but the single biggest difference between me breathing another day and taking myself off the planet, was the respect and dignity two professionals saw fit to treat me with. They, unknowingly, also had a great deal of influence on why I chose Social Work over Law when I began rebuilding myself, again, at a stage in life when most folks are looking forward to retiring in a decade or two.
The only reason I have become the ‘success’ and (hated, to me) poster-child of comebacks, is because those two people cared enough, to look beyond the outwardly apparent struggle(s), to get to know something about how I got there, who I am, my strengths, my shortcomings, and they saw, that in order to help me get back up, I would need the resources (of every ilk and variety), with which to stay standing. I am a keener, I took their outstreched hands, and have not looked back. See that streak of energy-love-compassion-brain-and-gratitude? That be me, and now, my kid. (For the stories, as told by them, of this year’s walk-donation-recipients, please click here).
Again, back to the why: The very systems and resources and sadly, some of the humans in them, that were once designed to do exactly what I described above, provide a compassionate, context-seeing hand up, are failing all of us. I worked in the non-profits for many years, Government funded and Grassroots, in various capacities and levels of service, and in or around the systems that are meant to help people when life happens, like Income Assistance, Health Care, Housing, (dis)Ability). These are life issues, and even at their perceived and most violently hated, debated and judged worst (i.e. mental health, addictions and the like), still, are not personal or moral deficiencies (for more on that please click here and here), they are, life issues, they have a context, and we are all culpable in it. It is not ok to be globally connected, hiding behind our screens sharing internet memes about ‘Activist Actions’ (don’t even get me going on that), and watching our community members flail, while blaming them for their own misery, whatever shape and/or hideous form it happens to take. Yes, they/we need to own our part, remedy the parts we can, but I personally, and my son, and all of the folks who donated their time and money to us and our recipients, are not smoke and mirror activists, we walk, passionately, and with enthusiasm and love, many many talks, in this case, literally. And we don’t give a hoot (anymore) whether some folks like, or even hate it.
So, we do it because 50 K on a trail, some time and love intensive work on a campaign, some physical discomfort for a few days, lost income for a few days, is beyond worth knowing that the money, time and energy, mine, my sons, and everyone else who has contributed in any meaningful way, is going directly where it is needed most. To some humans who need it most, now, and get to spend it in the best way possible; based on what they need. Not on what we, think they need, or worse, think they deserve.
The most interesting and disturbing observation, piece of fodder for my next rant on this blog, is the following: the folks who can least afford to extend themselves financially, expend time and/or physical energy, extended themselves the most. The folks who are the most blessed in these capacities, the least. No harm no foul though, I’ll take anyone’s money for our Walk of Love, because that, is really and truly what it is all about. Love is everything.
That then, is why. Clear? Great. Peace. And thank you. Truly, from the bottom of our massive, well-lit hearts.
~Marcela & T.G.R.T.
PS: It is never too late to donate:
Internet banking e-transfer to:
I will also provide you with information via that email address about other ways in which I can collect your donation if e-transfer is not your gig.
I share the communication below with you for several reasons.
1) I have nothing to hide.
2) I share my life publicly while protecting the folks I work for because I know I am not alone with the experience that hiding, pathologizing, demonizing, victim blaming, concepts of deserving and undeserving in human struggle, suffering and experience, serve only to perpetuate those ills. The very ills that the so called normal people sit in fear and judgment of. It serves no-one, except for those individuals and systems interested only in winning their game, at any cost.
3) I believe in the power of truth, in the power of love, in social justice, in the human capacity to not only survive, but to thrive, and I believe in me, and my own (proven) capacity to do just that. The haters will continue to hate, the judgers will continue to judge, the naysayers will continue to say nay, and the detractors will continue to de-tract. Regardless of how (tactfully, or not) I say what I have to say, regardless of what I do, or how (well) I do it.
4) I must Abandon Hope (and Fear). I must abandon the hope that people will understand if only I explain it to them better. And in the abandonment of that hope, I have abandoned the fear that despite all of my efforts to help them understand, despite all of my efforts not to offend with my experience of my life experience, I will anyway. In the abandonment of these hopes (and fear), I abandon the pain of knowing that they are offended by human suffering. Mine, yours, ours, theirs. And in abandoning that pain, I am one step closer to the freedom of truly knowing and caring for, Marcela: Unfiltered. And for you. And for them.
5) I have nothing to hide.
Email from one professional to another (forwarded to me, not sent directly by the ‘concerned professional.’) regarding the potential hire of my services in a Custody and Access dispute:
“I have received ………… email which says that it is unfortunate that I do not specify what material on Marcela’s Facebook profile would affect her judgment in a professional setting.
I strongly advise you to read the whole of the Facebook, and I am reasonably certain that the language she uses, the history of drug use such as crack cocaine, to name just two things is something that would raise alarm bells with anyone.
I am very much certain that a person, who it appears has worked as a prostitute, has been a hard drug user and uses language such as is seen in her Facebook page, is someone that not many parents would not want their children exposed to.
My client is somewhat distressed that you would even suggest a person who appears from the Facebook page to be as unsuitable as she is.”
Dear ………. :
While I have been advised not to waste my energy on this, please, humour me will you? I will thank you, please, not to jump to conclusions and perhaps ask about how long I have been in recovery (I am joined in this community, in that illustrious group of people. by several attorneys, other social workers, and even a judge or two, doctors, counsellors…. you get my point). You could also ask how I was exploited into the sex trade as a teenager by an upstanding ……… business man, how I escaped, but clearly, context is not something that holds meaning here.
There is an entire blog post written about that, context, but I am certain that you will have already discovered it in the course of your investigation into my person. Would it be too much work, if you are so concerned about my character and history, to contact some of the people who have employed me in the past, or do so now, and inquire about the actual quality of my work? Or how about this far-fetched idea: ask me, clearly, my life, present and past are no secret.
Apparently it is not enough to have worked at not only fixing the damage others created in my life and past, and on my own culpability in parts of it, put myself through University as an adult while raising a family on my own, with no financial support from anywhere, worked my way from support worker at ……… cleaning up the vomit, blood, sweat, and tears, yes tears, of other struggling humans, to a very successful private practice and and and and… by the way, I did not need to turn tricks to graduate with distinction, to earn the awards I earned, and to get where I am, despite, or perhaps because of, small minds with only their limited view and judgment on anything outside of their own personal experience. I have a brain, and a heart.
And in the event you are interested, you must be, why else were you looking at these things, the sex trade and drug addiction, not directly connected in my life by the way, combine for a total of just under 5 years of my almost 53 on the planet. But clearly, they are more important than anything else I have achieved, undertaken, done in the way of community service (that list is much more extensive than anything you will find on facebook), raising a really well adjusted family, and so on… We are not all born, or raised, or subjected to, the same set of ‘choices,’ and I assure you, I have worked very hard, physically, spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and intellectually, to get to the point where I can actually choose, and stand up to the kind of abuse in the email [quoted above, your email]. My references, former and current clients, speak to my professionalism, my credentials, and above all, the difference my work, and how I do it, and yes, I do it differently, very differently, makes in people’s lives. The thing that speaks to all of that most however, is how I live my life, honestly, and with integrity. Clean living goes so much further than abstaining from a substance, it has to do with being a good human, and while I am acutely human and by extension acutely imperfect, my biggest priority in life, in all areas of my life, is to ‘do no harm.’ Given the slanderous nature of various communications you have engaged in about me, my person, my life, it appears that our values differ in this regard.
While you are perusing my facebook page, you ought to note that the only people I have as friends are old enough, to choose and accept, or not, my language. Like the rest of the world, I am prone to using language in my personal life; and by extension in writing about my personal life, which is not the same as that which we all use in our professional dealings, and particularly not around children. I have had many a conversation with clients and their attorneys, judges for that matter, outside of office walls or a courtroom, that would require an R rating were they put on video, and I assure you, it was not me doing the swearing. If you had looked carefully during your forays into my world, you would have found that I walk my talk in my personal as well as my professional life, for example in a particular series of recent posts regarding a very important re-union in Europe, but it is much simpler to ‘find what you need,’ and leave the rest, no?
I should tell you that the reason I make my life and past (other and self-inflicted) relatively public, is a) I have nothing to hide, and b) it is an effort to highlight people’s humanity, their capacity to change and grow, to overcome pain, suffering (other and self-inflicted), to normalize what has been wrongfully pathologized as abnormal, and to navigate ridiculously complex and convoluted systems, often hurdles of seemingly insurmountable magnitude, and to illustrate what helps and what hinders in those processes. And, because I simply give a darn about people, and have a particular soft spot for those who continue to be marginalized and stigmatized by the narrow thinking that created the motivation, behind looking for what you and/or your client could find against me, actually the smallest part of my entire life, as opposed to what I excel at: Human services with heart and compassion. With a direct and intentional focus on the human, and with a real bent for finding the truth. For more information on how that does not amount to co-signing bad, criminal, self or other harming behaviour, please do check out my very public blog. Had you taken the time to read any part of that with more than the intent of finding dirt, you may have discovered more under the name Marcela than a former ‘prostitute,’ and ‘crack’ user.
Since you have taken it upon yourself to decide who I am based on little more than the results of a very poorly executed witch hunt, I have taken the liberty to provide you with a little context. I do not, feel the need to explain myself, please understand the difference. With the exception of potential legal action in which case you will hear from whomever is my representative, my communication with you and the parents involved in this matter will end with this email. I have informed ….. that I will not be able to assist with the case and I have suggested to them that they contact …., and have left ….. a voice mail regarding the referral. Thank you and best regards,
Courageously yours, MyLa: Unfettered.
August 02, 2014
The drug addicts, the homeless, the mentally ill and deranged, the alcoholics, the beautifully and frighteningly crazy, the abusers, the molesters, the abused, the victimized, the rich, the poor, the privileged, the socially acceptable, the educated, the illiterate, the marginalized and stigmatized, the famous and the infamous: these are my clients. I have a deeply personal and profound understanding of how we, yes all of us, get to how we get, get to where we got. Whatever that looks like in (y)our respective world(s). I look for context, I pay attention, I listen to, I hear the story, I feel the pain. I give a damn. Really, I give a damn.
I endeavor to keep my own experience out of it, for contrary to popular belief, it is not useful, and it clouds my ability to see them (you) clearly. Moving me out as much as possible allows me to do my job with no judgment, and come at the problem from the perspective that the problem is the problem, manifesting in a person’s life, not the view that the person is the embodiment of the problem. This is how I can come at it from the only fair place there is, from humanity and heart, and with deep compassion, no matter the struggle, the crime, the heinousness of it all, personal, familial, cultural, political, systemic. I treat them with some dignity; it is often their first time, ever.
When I posted these words to one of my personal social media pages, in their brief, raw, unedited and in the moment-version following two extremely heart-wrenching work days, I received wonderfully upbeat and positive feedback, and the word amazing was used by many of my friends to describe me, and how I do my job.
Yes, there are days when it feels that way, but more often than not, my work reality (and by extension other parts of my life), are not always amazing, unless of course I modify it to amazingly painful. There are too many days when I am, as judged as the people I work with, for understanding, for not being disgusted with why they are seeking my professional services, for caring, about their humanity in really tough situations. Let me be clear, I am judged, I do not, simply feel that way.
The more you can increase fear of drugs, crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all of the people. -Noam Chomsky
For you see, there are different levels of acceptability in terms of compassion and empathy, and as a human-helper type, it appears that I am afforded the right to feel these emotions for some, but not for others. The criteria for discerning between those deserving of my understanding or indifference, and by extension my very best, most creative and heartfelt professional services, you know, human services, as opposed to more of the big-box they find in our systems; is entirely dependent on the nature of their struggle. Whether or not it is deemed as self or other inflicted, socially acceptable, or a current taboo, their socio-economic position in the world, are they deserving or undeserving poor, their ethnicity, their skin colour, their perceived level of (dis)ability, their level of formal education, and other socially constructed boxes, assumptions and norms. What a joke. What an excruciatingly painful joke, on me, on them, on all of us.
Make no mistake: my clients (or as I refer to them, the folks I work for), are you, me, and everyone else that you can imagine. They are NOT those people, them, they are us. And if you don’t believe that you and I fit into the same box, I will urge you to check, and make certain that you are indeed, human.
I’m pissed, and let me clear; I am not an angry person (any more). As we know, anger is a secondary emotion, and mine, 99.9% of the time, is the cover emotion to spiritual, emotional, and/or psychological pain. It wounds my heart, damages my spirit, and hurts my brain, when I am weighed down with the shackles of the box. You know, the one I keep blowing up, but find myself repeatedly stuffed into. For it is continuously in the process of being reconstructed, remodeled, and renovated, using ever more covert methods to try and fool me, and you, into thinking that it is OK to think about, and treat some people, and animals and plants for that matter, better than others. The hu(man) created hierarchy of love and deserving-ness, our, their, your, relative importance in this world. The socially and politically created rules and contracts, belief systems, propaganda, and dogma, that are fed to us, explicitly and implicitly, in boxed media like CNN, FOX and essentially any network ‘news’ program, airing on what truly has become the idiot box, or printed in any mainstream newspaper and/or magazine, and so much bullshit on the internet.
The toxic fodder of judgment and victim blaming, are either gingerly spoon fed me (and you) in a manner so devious yet transparent that I am not certain whether to rejoice at my ability to see it, or despair at the greasiness of it, or it is rammed down my throat so overtly and aggressively that it feels as though the proverbial pitchfork is choking every last piece of civility and compassion out of my person. There is very little middle ground in how I am viewed where my position and outlook on the human condition is concerned. I am either a saint, amazing and awesome because I help those people, you know, the ones who deserve my help and (y)our compassion; or I am a bitch and sympathizer of bad and evil wrongdoers, you know, the ones who created their own and other’s misery, the ones not worthy of any kind of hand up, human understanding, effort, or absolution; Ever.
The skills and tools I use to survive and thrive in the worlds (work and personal) that I occupy, are accessible to us all, but too often, from where I sit, misused. Utilized as the means to a personal, self-centered end that has nothing to do with anyone but one’s own need for justification and rationalization of the atrocities of the world we live in, the comfort and ease of continuing to ignore how our every action and inaction, impacts/contributes to, the lives and misery of others, near and far.
Every single day; I go into my life (and others’) on a wing and prayer. The wing of a dragon called Love and the wrongfully attributed prayer of St. Francis. I know, for a non-religious spiritualist, leaning more and more toward atheism, this is a stretch, but it works. It allows me to get out of my own way and do my job, well. I have come to rely on a personally modified version of what I prefer to call a mantra as opposed to a prayer, really, I cannot pray to any ‘master,’ I beg the gods of the dragon world I escape to, because come on, dragons are cool, to help me get through the day without in turn, judging the judgers, hating the haters, carrying that weight to the already overburdened folks I serve, and then wearing it home to try and deal with on my own, and worse, dumping it on the people closest to me.
If you know anything about me at all, you will know that I hold the dubious privilege of insider knowledge and experience, as it pertains to many of my work people’s pain (Manifesto of Pain and Personal Power) and I mean from the hurting perspectives of both victim and victimizer. I was harmed, and a dearth of effective coping skills and tools, however honestly earned, led me to harming others. Primarily the people I love most, the ones who love me, relied on me most, self included.
Please, make no mistake, this is not an exercise in self flagellation, though to this day, I do still excel in that sport; it is a way of making a point. So let’s get to that shall we? I know, you are waiting… context, it is all about context my friends, and that, I know, can feel truly cumbersome. For it is much simpler to jump to a conclusion, exclude any context, build and insert any given human and their actions into a box, make a decision about who someone is, why they did what they did and thus, feel better about self and our own shortcomings.
As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.” -Noam Chomsky
So, the point: the most difficult part of my work day is not what I do with the folks who pay me for support in sorting out their lives, it is everyone’s opinion of them, of me, and of my position on any given social-worky-human-service issue and by immediate extension, my position on and compassion for, the individuals perpetrating the human deeds deemed acceptable/unacceptable in our world, and in direct relation, redemption worthy, or not. By default, that position for me is one of Unconditional Positive Regard. I will let you do your own research on it, but it is an extension of what I said earlier about the problem being the problem, one of the foundational concepts of Narrative Therapy, one that removes the issue as the personal pathology of the person, and places it within its rightful, from where I sit anyway, context.
And before you jump down my throat to join that pitchfork I am gagged with as a matter of course, this does not mean that I co-sign bad, hurtful, criminal, self and/or other-harming behavior. It simply means that I do my best to see the human as human, and as such, as someone who came by their stuff honestly, not, as the sum of their actions. Because really, if I were to tally the total of all my least palatable moments over the last 53 years, calculate the total carnage that some of my actions created, I could not allow me, or you, to think of me as amazing, awesome, or anything useful, what-so-ever. And please, I beg you not to come at me with ‘but look how you turned it around’ or similarly gag-reflex provoking commentary. I did not stop until the second I stopped, did not change until there was no other recourse, and most importantly, please, take this piece to heart: had there not been folks, specifically two human service helper types, who looked for, and saw the well-hidden humanity and potential, inside some of the outwardly visible sub-human actions, I would not be here to accept the amazing and other accolades.
I would be dead. Period. End of (this) story, for now.
Yours, with all the love I have, always,
Thoughts on Burnout, and my Social-Worky Soul
A few years ago, I was gainfully and happily(?) employed by 2 non-profits, in two full-time human service positions, very different from one another, but challenging, in a great way. I had been with both of these agencies for several years, in various capacities. I had the privilege of direct work with folks in one, and management in the second. Each supported the other by providing insider knowledge of the workings, barriers, and nuances of human service provision, from both sides of the coin. I was also actively pursuing a graduate degree in a demanding every-weekend-for-3-years-program, and was building the beginnings of a private practice. Yes, I had 3 jobs and was going to school. I was putting in about 90 hours per week. Yay me! I had no other life to speak of, and I had moved a very long commute away from my work and academic worlds (and personal supports), in order to achieve bliss during the rare moments, in which I actually got to live in the over-mortgaged home, I moved heaven and earth to possess, in an effort to achieve, said bliss. But that, is a different story entirely, one I will tell elsewhere. Oh, and I had just launched my then 19 year old ManChild. I spent the last 12 of his 19 years at that point, modelling what I thought at the time, was a good way to be in the world: Driven, striving, achieving, setting ever loftier goals, ever more impossible expectations for self, and inadvertently, those I served, including him. It was not pretty.
I was as driven by the injustices in the world, directed at me and the folks I consider my people, as I was by my own burning desire to prove certain people wrong, about whom and what I was, and I had many, many cheerleaders to fuel my passion. Go Marcela, we know you can, we know you can! Go go go, rah rah rah! Pom-Poms flying high, everyone I knew had my back, they were there for me! How I appreciated their appreciation! Adored their adoration! 2010 appeared to be a high point in my professional and academic life, I was already planning for the PhD. I could not, however, for the life of me, shake what had become a constant low-key discomfort, a knowing, that something, was very wrong. I thought out loud, about some of the following for the newsletter of one of my employers. It was never finished or printed, they were afraid, rightfully, for the funding that remained, I was afraid, rightfully, for my jobs. The foreboding, the dread in my heart, was bang on. It always is.
September, 2010 (edited, 2014):
I am passionate about my work. Anyone who knows me will agree with this statement. I am, admittedly, a social-worky type; I care deeply about human beings and human struggle. I want to do something that matters in my lifetime. I want more than anything, for struggling folks to have access to the resources that were available to me when I struggled. I believe, with all my heart, that even the most depraved, desperate and deprived souls, can be redeemed when we treat them with love, respect, and some measure of human dignity, but not, at the cost of losing or giving away our own. This is easier said than done. Humans in crisis are often difficult to love, I was. We must look beyond the obvious, beyond the attitude and defences, to their context, to understand their so-called choices. Our humanity must connect with their humanity, regardless of where they are, what they have done, to whom. This requires true grit, and unconditional positive regard; for them, and for us; who undertake the role of Sherpa, on what has become a gruelling trek, a mountaineering expedition, for too many ill-equipped, bare-footed, often inadvertent, hikers. For me it is not about us and them, it is we, together, trying to navigate unconscionable systems, booby-trapped at every turn with (more) bureaucratic quagmire, than even professional trail-blazers, social-worky types like yours truly, can stumble their way through, without sustaining serious injury to the body, spirit and psyche.
So, I continue to climb ever-steeper hills, traverse ever more treacherous mountains alongside the folks off whose misery I make a living. I try not to vomit every time someone says ‘oh good for you for helping those people,’ in a tone so patronizing and derogatory that the thought of gouging my eyeballs out with a rusty dinner fork, feels like so much fun. Those people; are my people, our people, human beings experiencing human struggle. Not one of them, not a single solitary one, raised their hand and said “this is where I want to be in life, this (insert human struggle of choice here) is what I aspire to,” when they were asked in grade one, what they want to be when they grow up. I know I didn’t.
Staunchly, stoic little social-worky type that I am, I trudge onward and upward, human dignity, social justice and plain old rebel adrenaline fueling my (com)passion and activist engines. The climb is more and more difficult, even for me, the energizer bunny’s jet-propelled twin sister, and I struggle to stay optimistic in the face of sweeping cuts to social (human) services. Cuts cleverly disguised as Community Development Ventures, Service Provision Efficiency Models, Transformation Projects and similarly ridiculous rhetoric and drivel, which at the core, is nothing more than the silo-ing and big-boxing of human services. It comes at the direct expense of society’s most vulnerable, stigmatized, marginalized, and barriered individuals, families and communities, and those of us sincerely engaged in creating meaningful change in their/our lives, and to the systems and structures oppressing us all. One cannot pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps when their boots have been taken away, and glass strewn on the ground they are to trudge on to do something with their lives. And us helpers, cannot help, how I despise that word, because our hands are tied behind our backs with restrictive/prescriptive and victim-blaming solutions, never mind the onslaught of one-size-fits-all of big-box human services. Pass me the rusty dinner fork, please, I am about to hurl!
I think about the young Aboriginal woman on my case-load, the one whose file I was forced to close, who will not see her child, the child who will not see his mother, because a funding contract has come to an end, and no other planning has occurred that will ensure their rights, their human dignity, maintain their mother-child bond and relationship. It appears that not much has changed in 500 years for her and her people; and anyone else who has the misfortune of a life context and experience that does not fit the box. I am tired. Tired of the victim blaming, tired of preaching to the converted, and above all, tired of convincing my people, that things will be OK, and that I will be there for them, that I’ve got their back, when the truth is, a month from now; I might not have a job. I see the steamroller coming but continue to stoically stand in its path, trying desperately to believe that good and evil are but silly concepts in a Harry Potter book, and that justice will prevail. I have to believe that the steamroller will not hit me, us. And I ask myself; stoic or stupid?
Fast-forward to June 2011:
The steamroller hits full on. I am flattened to the ground, melted into a puddle of toxic human-service waste. Lit on fire with the only spark that remains: self-loathing and a personal refrain screaming inside me: You failed! You were not strong enough! You did not know enough, did not do enough, you did not try hard enough! You are not enough! Burn.
One job went the way of a massive lay-off following sweeping funding cuts to the Province’s human service sector, as it pertained to child protective and related community services. These cuts to contracts induced the permanent folding of one of the very organizations that had a pivotal role in my personal success, so many years ago; one of the reasons I am in this work, stayed clean, got the kid back, got letters behind my name, made something of my wretched existence, and similar bla bla… . I know something about personal struggle. I have come through the other side of multiple life traumas (MoP&PP), harmful survival responses and systemic barriers, waded through more shit than many have flushed, all of which had reduced me, for a time, to what much of mainstream culture treats like so much manure on the bottom of their well-heeled feet.
The other job, the management position, the one it felt as though I had bled my soul into for the better part of 6 years, went the way of complete and utter burnout, and workplace bullying. Both were fuelled in a large part by the massive funding structure changes, the slashing of financial contracts to crucial programs, and a ‘new and improved,’ funder imposed, model of service provision. One that would see the organization morph from it’s against-all-odds-successful-grass roots-methods, to just another boxed program that in no way, shape or form, could work for the folks we trudged alongside, or for us, the professional trudgers with the benefit of lived experience, and privilege of letters behind our names. I was bullied by someone I had hired to help me, and then I was fired because I had fried to a crisp and was too broken to a) do my job well, and b), too tired to notice that I was being bullied and broken, until it was too late, on both counts. I take full responsibility for the parts that were mine, but I will encourage you to think about this from Vikki Reynolds. She is the first person to have articulated, well, my thoughts, position, confusion, about the internally and externally perpetuated myths on burnout, in the milieus and worlds I occupy, as a human helper-type:
Ideas of burnout sound like we’re not doing enough yoga or drinking enough water- and those are important things I do yoga and I drink water- but self-care is not enough to offset the issues of poverty, violence, and basic dignity people struggle with. Self-care puts the burden of working in unjust contexts onto the backs of us as individual workers. Work alongside people with more money, resources and status is less likely to result in what gets called burnout and can make those workers look more professional, when in fact all people’s pain is real, and we don’t want to be pitted against each other as workers. The problem of staying alive in the work gets constructed as a very individual project. Yet the issues are social and require collective actions and accountability.
This, and Vikki’s other various writings on this topic remind me of why I despise the term front-line, as a descriptor for direct work with folks in pain: it implies, rather explicitly, that they are the enemy I, and others like me, are fighting. When in truth, our enemy is a mutual one, regardless of any individual’s, family’s, or group’s personal or collective struggle. The enemy is the systems and structures of a world that is neither benign, nor fair, and nothing like, just.
Fast-forward to February 2014:
The bulk of my income for the past several years has come from self-employment in private practice, as a Registered Social Worker and Family Development Counsellor. My work includes negotiation, access supervision and documentation in child protection and/or custody and access disputes, mediation, counselling, group and individual life skills work, and compassionate interventions. It might, but might not; involve working hand in hand with the Child Protection System, the Legal System and/or Corrections. The only common denominator for all of this work is that the client pays me, not the systems. There is no specific demographic group; my people come from all walks of life and socio-economic statuses, levels of education, in all colours and ethnicities, and from all corners of the world. No, and no, they are not all sex workers and drug addicts. I know you were wondering. I charge sliding scale/income based fees, I subsidize the poor with the rich. Some days I feel like Robin Hood-ette, others, I just cringe that this is what the systems have devolved to: in some instances, I am the only game in town for someone to be able to spend more than one hour per week with their child(ren), and try to prove to their detractors, whom-ever they be, that they are worthy as parents.
There are no benefits involved, I have not been to the dentist in almost 4 years, no sick days with pay, no paid holidays, and other than the amazing woman I pay for clinical supervision/counselling, no support from an organization’s team leader, or team members/colleagues. At times, not even the police have my back when the shit hits the fan. And it does. I have had complaints filed against me to the BC College of Social Workers more than once, always by folks who did not receive the glowing documentation that they thought they were paying for. I am registered with the College by choice, because I believe that everyone in this work, regardless of your academic title or background, needs to be accountable to something other than self. And while I have never feared that the College would find me guilty of the crimes I purportedly committed against these folks, the process is time-consuming, laborious, and one that places the onus squarely on my shoulders, to prove my innocence.
On the flip side, this work is as challenging, in a great way, as any other in the realm of supporting other folks get to a better place, watching someone’s face light up because they ‘get it,’ and my clients’ success rate, is considered high. I attribute this to a very human and pragmatic style of practice, which places human dignity in the number one position in terms of practice principles, and taking context into account in the number two, along with the obvious best interests and safety of children, in cases where little people are involved. My sole purpose and goal in any new client/case I take on, is to work myself out of a job. Not great job security, but as far as I’m concerned, the only ethical outcome possible, is to support folks to get to a place where they do not require my services any more, and not to Social-Work or Therapize them to death for the sake of a continuing pay-cheque.
My job is never the same two days in a row, often takes place in several communities in the course of a day, and sometimes, I even get to do the job the way I believe it needs to be done. The money is better than in the non-profits per hour, but there is a very high financial, physical, and emotional output, and I certainly will not be able to retire any time soon. Most likely, not at all, there is also no pension plan. The cheerleaders refrain (go back a paragraph or two), turned a long time ago, from Go Marcela! to noises like ‘you have taken on too much, you should learn to slow down, have a hot bath, do some yoga, drink more water, you thrive on drama, and that client probably threatened you because you pushed his buttons or you did not write them a favourable report, provide the testimony they needed… .’ Let me be clear: I do not get paid to report, write, counsel, testify about what anyone wants to hear, I get paid to tell the truth, and if that truth sucks, I expect folks to change it, according to the plan we have collaboratively worked out, so that I can leave, knowing they are safer, stronger, than when I got there. Mostly though, the cheerleaders left when I crashed and burned. It appears, that a good chunk of my rah-rah team was a bunch of fair-weather friends, turned frightened-guinea fowl when the flames got too high, and the heat in my kitchen threatened to singe their happy perceptions of what my success and their support ought to look like. How unfortunate, that my reality blew up your fantasy. One of them hung around long enough to help me put out the blaze, start the next rise out of the ashes, but she’s gone now too. Please, do not misunderstand, I am neither bitter nor hurt, any more, just a little leery of what comes next.
For I am feeling it again, rumblings of 2010. I sense an anxiety that I am unable to shake, even when I turn my phones off before I walk into my safety zone(s), and set rigid boundaries around checking work email, doing paper work or making work calls from said zone(s). It, the anxiety, made an entrance a few weeks ago, and has become omnipresent in recent days, and fuelled by an incident with someone I have not even met. Someone I have refused to work with, because everything I know about violence was screaming inside me while talking to them on the phone. Someone who feels it is within their rights to threaten me (and others) to the point where I’m watching my back and looking for a certain vehicle around every bend. I have been here before. Literally.
To respond to the well-meaning but fairly misguided community professional I spoke with about this recently; yes, this is the work I have chosen, and yes, there is some risk involved, but that risk should not include the negative social responses and victim blaming language (Centre for Response Based Therapy) and comments I am subjected to on a daily basis; about the people I trudge alongside, about me and why and how I do this work. I repeat; let me be clear: most days, it is NOT the so-called clients that I lose sleep over, it is the response of so-called normal folks, and the oppressively convoluted systems and structures that shackle my hands behind my back, while they ask me to serve, and then remove the boots off my people’s feet, and mine, as we trudge, the ever more precarious trails and terrain of human pain and (com)passion. It seems to me, that I should not feel the need to defend everyone’s right to human dignity and personal safety, including my own.
Almost 4 years later, I still lose sleep over, I still pray for, I still think, I still wonder, about the young Aboriginal woman, about her child, about them, about their people, about my people, about their chances, about ours, about my part, about doing and being, enough. And once again, I ask myself: Stoic or stupid?
Yours, as always, Marcela: unfiltered.
February 14, 2014.
Postscript: I have thought recently, out loud and internally, that I need to be done fighting against, fighting for, fighting with, need to be finished, once and for all, with survival. And, I need be done supporting others in their survival. I must re-focus my energies on a quieter, gentler (Я)evolution, with a view toward thriving, living and working, guided by an ethic of love (bell hooks). Like her below, my favourite tree, stoic, but not stupid, unassuming, she still stands there, strong, despite, or perhaps because of, the carnage around her. I will visit her again, soon.