Image from: http://funnyand.com/truth/
I am overwhelmed.
I am overwhelmed because I have some insight into my overwhelmed-ness.
I am overwhelmed because I have some insight into your overwhelmed-ness.
I am overwhelmed because I have some insight into others’ worlds, their overwhelmed-ness.
I am overwhelmed because I have some insight into the big picture of events in our world, the planet earth, and those engaged in destroying it, each other, and all of us, as well as those engaged in not.
I am overwhelmed with information and stories I want to tell.
I am overwhelmed with information and stories you want me to tell.
I am overwhelmed with stories I need to tell, stories which I believe the telling of, has value for me, and value for you.
I am overwhelmed with information and stories you tell me I ought to tell, because you believe they have value for you and others.
I am overwhelmed with my seeming inability to tell these stories without offending you.
I am overwhelmed and broken, when you tell me that my life experience offends you. Even the life experience we share. I am overwhelmed, especially, then.
We live in a world in which the truth, being yourself, being real, are encouraged… and judged, in one and the same breath. ~MyLa
I am overwhelmed with living up to the cheerleader’s rah rah of just be yourself Marcela, we wouldn’t have you any other way. And I am beyond overwhelmed with finding the ballz to be myself, 100% Marcela unfiltered, to receive the big stop-hand in my face: This admonition: Be yourself Marcela, just not that much.
I overwhelm you with being myself. I am too myself, for you to love and accept me as myself, the way I am. Myself.
I am overwhelmed with continuing to listen to the refrains that have overwhelmed me for too many years.
I am overwhelmed with feeling understood and valued for being myself for approximately 3 minutes out of each 24 hours.
I am overwhelmed with feeling misunderstood and confused about being too much myself for 23 hours and 57 minutes of each 24 hour period. Yes, I am overwhelmed even in my sleep.
I am overwhelmed with looking for my part in being overwhelmed, what I have said and done to make us so overwhelmed.
I am overwhelmed with thinking about what I need to change to make you stop being so overwhelmed with my life experience, with trying to to make you understand me and where I come from, when I endeavor to tell you about it, without making you overwhelmed.
I am going to be myself. Courageously, and with ballz. 100% Marcela, the overwhelming one. I have some insight into what will occur, what the outcome of my experiment will be. Do you?
Overwhelmingly yours, MyLa: Unfettered.
August 02, 2014
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
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.
Manifesto of Pain and Personal Power:
A Response to False Assumptions and the Reduction of Human Trauma to Personal Pathology and Defectiveness Or: Where the Fuck Were You When…?
M. City University of Seattle, December, 2008 (Edited, January 27, 2014)
Class in a Masters of Counselling Psychology Program; 2008. Gloria is the therapy-subject-patient in a very oppressive – in my view – psychotherapy-teaching video, by one of the old-white-boy-masters-of-psycho-therapy. I comment about my perspective of the video and how I believe Gloria has been completely shut down, patronized and invalidated by the master. A female classmate notes that it does not appear to her that Gloria is ‘the kind of woman,’ who would take any shit. The comment triggers a profound internal response for me; I think about the limited information people base this type of judgment, and other ludicrous assumptions, generalizations, and perceived knowledge(s) on, specifically, in that moment, assumptions I have heard ad-nauseum, about me, about my life experience. The Manifesto; is my immediate, and deeply hurt, internal response. Until today, I have shared it with next to no-one, and when I have, almost without fail, regretted doing so. I choose, in this moment, to let all judgment of it, me, my truth, go.
If I offend you with my reality and profanity, if you “cannot hear me because I am angry” (Lorde, 1984, p. 125), please, stop reading now.
The First Point
Your Assumptions: Cleverly Disguised as Acronyms
So, you think you know who the fuck I am? While I have been working on it for the better part of 50 years, your brilliance has deduced, in record breaking time, that I am a certain kind of woman; with negative, self and other harming behaviours and tendencies. According to you I have A.D, A.D.D, A.D.H.D, A.D.A.D, P.T.S.D, P.M.D.D, GAD, DID, and DEPS, and you want to treat me with E.M.D.R, C.B.T and R.E.B.T (MedHelp), so that I can de-sensitize, think straight, and emote rationally. Oh, I probably still have B.P as well, because you haven’t come up with a way to cure me of my obsessive-compulsive motor oil fixation. I should defer to your genius. Surely you came to your infinite wisdom in the Cracker Jack Box of Pop-Psychology; I think Dr. Phil lives there too. Do not bother saying hello; he doesn’t like me, either.
The Big Question
Where the Fuck Were You When…?
Are you ready? This is the real deal baby, the Full Monty of my life, as lived by me, M.Y.F.M (aka Kubač, aka Turjančík) live and in person, last call for those easily offended by profanity and (my)truth, to stop reading, now. Once you start you cannot stop, at least that is what Al told me as he proceeded to give me a sexuality I did not ask for, so I request that you, afford me the respect of finishing what you have started, also. Still reading? Well then, let us begin.
1961 – 1971
What the fuck do you know about who I am, where I come from, what I have survived, endured, been subjected to, and as you so quaintly put it with your patronizing pats on the head, overcome? Where the fuck were you when I was six years old, and in the name of liberation, the Soviet Union rolled their tanks into my home land, onto my street, forcing my family to flee our home under the darkness of night, and a threat of murder to my conscientiously objecting father, with his delusional hopes of democracy and a better life in this country? Where were you when I cried for my grandmothers arms? Where on earth were you when I cried because I lived in terror that they would find him; and where the fuck were you when he died, under extremely curious circumstances, 12 days before my 10th birthday?
Where were you when they came to tell my mom that he was dead, and where the fuck were you when she went down to the basement to find his hunting rifle, so that she could take us all out? So immense was her grief that it seemed possible to kill herself and her children, so immense was ours that we wouldn’t have cared. Where the fuck, were you then, hmmm? Not beside her, not with my brother and me, I did not see you, because you were not there.
Where the fuck were you when she struggled to give us a future without him, bereft of any financial or emotional support, in a culture that belittled her for not understanding their language and corrected her when she (mis)spoke it with an accent? The $8000 that the mine paid her for ‘his accident,’ barely covered a funeral, and unfortunately she could not have understood, that the conditions of payment included that we leave sleeping dogs, or rather, my dead father, lie. Where were you then? Where were you when she realized she was trapped here, for to go back meant that she would be imprisoned and her children would end up… where? Not with you, I did not see you, for you were not there.
1972 – 1981
Where the fuck were you when they taunted me for my ‘uniqueness’ at school, and the pain was so great that I had to leave the only thing I ever thought I was good at, or die? And where were you when 32-year-old Al plied 13-year-old-me with wine, and obviously lost his grasp of the words NO and STOP in the English language, proceeded to teach me a lesson by helping himself to my virginity? And where the fuck were you when 30-something Ed, upstanding attorney, fed 14-year-old-me MDA and told me as I lay paralyzed on the shag carpet, that a body like mine was made for fucking, while his drunken wife lay passed out upstairs, and I dared not scream for fear of traumatizing the children I babysat (theirs), in the fucking hell house I lived in with them, because my mom’s ex, Reg, had set our place on fire, because she booted him out for being an abusive asshole, and we were fucking homeless? And where were you that summer when the one person in my life I thought I could trust, decided to get a sex education on my body?
Where the fuck were you when 36-year-old-Jeff W., limo-driver to the stars, thought that it was a good idea to have 14-year-old-me as a girlfriend and tell everyone that he was fucking me and my mother, while he fucked every stripper at Circus-Circus? Where were you when my choices were limited to staying there or moving in with 17-year-old-Jeff L., who sold dope for a living and thought it would be a good idea if 15-year-old-me got pregnant and we could play house? And where were you when I consented to the sexual proclivities he forced upon my body and soul, by drowning it out with lethal quantities of alcohol?
Where the fuck, were you when Doug left me pregnant in Vancouver at 17 because I wasn’t the right of kind of girl to settle down with and take home to his upstanding parents in Alberta?
Where were you when 33-year-old Lu, wealthy upstanding business man and hobby-pimp, turned me out with promises of riches and eternal love, and then threw me out because now, at 18, I was dirty and all used up?
Where were you when Shane introduced me to cocaine and a needle, and where the fuck, were you when I realized, that it would save my life for a while? Where were you when his fist broke my nose because I wouldn’t sell my ass to buy his dope any-more, and where were you when I chose to sell it so that I would have a choice in the matter? Where the fuck were you when I left my home to get the fuck away from him, and where were you when I ran all the way to Switzerland so that he wouldn’t find me?
Where the fuck were you when RK, the man I married so that I wouldn’t have to go back to Canada, held me hostage with promises of eternal love, a permit to stay in the country, and by beating the remaining soul out of me for 3 years? Where were you when the police brought me, black and blue from head to toe, to my mother’s house and begged her not let me go back, and where the fuck were you when he dragged me back, again and again, because legally, financially, and emotionally I had no-where else left to go? Where were you when I escaped from my home, to have nowhere to go because he had all my money?
1982 – 1993
Where were you when I desperately needed to believe Honza, Alois, Francis, Jano, René, so many more, when they told me that they would love me forever, only to take my money, fuck me and walk away? Where the fuck, were you when Jano picked up where Shane and RK left off, because I wouldn’t provide him with refuge when he got out of jail?
Where were you when George promised that he was not like them, and then cracked my head open while our baby lay in the next room, and where were you when he broke my nose, because I stood up to him? Where the fuck were you when I was detoxing in a bug house in Switzerland because he spent our health insurance money on his friends, and where were you when I had to come home to a house full of drunks and alcohol to try and stay sober, and couldn’t? And where were you when it started to eat my body and I had to be hospitalized for the DTs so I wouldn’t die? And where on earth were you when I was so tired that I lay down on my kitchen floor to die? Where were you when the benzos and booze wore off and I awoke to the horror that I was still alive? I did not see you, for still, you were not there.
1994 – 1997
Where were you when I left my home, and brought my baby back to Canada to get away from him/them/it, to be told by the Welfare man and my own family that I need to get over it because, really, it hasn’t been so bad? Where were you when I walked into my new Dr.’s office armed with a letter from a Swiss Dr. who got it, got me, only to walk out knowing that the new one didn’t, armed with a head full of pathology, and a pocketful of prescriptions for the next phase of my healing?
Where the fuck were you when joining my old best friends alcohol and pills, food became my new best friend, and I lost any remaining vestige of identity or self-worth (my body and my looks) in 70 pounds of fat? And where the fuck were you when Bobby and his magic crack pipe seemed like a good idea because at least I wasn’t sticking it in my arm, and at least I wouldn’t be fat any-more and feel like (more) shit? Where the fuck were you when the pit of despair and self-loathing became so deep that when Dwight showed up with the needle, I welcomed my oldest, truest, best and most loyal friend, and the only question that remained, was how was I going to do this and not lose my mind and my child? Where were you when those losses became inevitable, and I was told to take care of 3 decades of violence and trauma, in 30 days or else; and a piece of shit like me chose the streets of this city over willingness to change, and my own kid?
Where were you when I walked 66 blocks in the rain, weighing 72 lbs, wanting to live, despite you, and got 6 weeks of treatment that endeavoured to cure me of my disease, and ease my pain by opening the can of worms that held decades of violence, abuse and you-inflicted self-hatred, self-doubt, shame, guilt, blame, but forgot to show me how to put the fucking lid back on, when the worms turned into snakes, which then slithered out and began to eat my soul, again.
Where the fuck were you when the people who were looking after my child while I cleaned up my mess, told me, and him, how fucked up and sick I was? And where were you when despite all of the systems that tried to help me, I got him back, to be left alone in it? I still did not see you, for still, you were not there.
1998 – Present
And where the fuck, were you when I asked for help, to be told that I’ve had enough help, and to pull up my boot-straps? And was it you that cut my boot-straps off every time I tried to pull them up, and then just took the fucking boots right off my feet? No, I didn’t think so, because still, you were not there!
Where the fuck were you when I went out barefoot to get somewhere, and the Feds decided that I can’t have student loans and the scholarship I worked my ass off for, threw nails under my bleeding feet and raped me again by cutting me off until I paid it back??? Where were you for the next two years while I waged a war against them, to win, at a personal cost beyond these pages, and very likely, your capacity for understanding?
The Next Point
Your Assumptions: Cleverly Defined as my Defectiveness
I will take your lead and assume, that by now you have surely recognized my negative, self- and other-harming pattern(s), including attraction to, unwillingness to let go of, or comfort with, abusive males. Well let me enlighten you Einstein: Not one of them, not a single one, introduced himself to me with; ‘Hey baby, come on out with me, and in a few days, weeks, months, I’m going to start tearing you down, piece by piece, very methodically, under the guise of my charm and attention, so that by the time I’ve gotten to punching your ugly fucking face in, you won’t know what hit you.’ Not one of them, not a single one, asked me how I would enjoy having my head kicked in, my nose, my jaw, my arms and ribs broken, my vagina, my anus and my throat, violated with their penis, and mostly, my spirit crushed with their love, on the day that I met them, the week after, or even a month later. No, they were very charming, attentive, charismatic, kind to my family, and full of promises for a bright and happy future. This then, is what I was attracted to. Wouldn’t you be? My mistakes were obvious, my mistakes were craving love, and believing them when they told, and showed me, that they had some to give. I am quite certain that you would have been more astute, and figured it out; because you are not ‘a woman like me,’ you do not attract losers. Back to me though, because clearly; I am the one who is fucked up and defective. You keep telling me so, it must be true.
Has it occurred to you, genius, that the so called losers are the ones who end up back in the dating pool because smart women don’t let the good ones go, or did you convince yourself that you have to explain my behaviour and responses by convincing me, and you, that I can’t handle a nice guy? That I am stuck in a comfort zone, that I am a creature of habit and patterns? Have you ever asked yourself how comfortable abuse and violence really are? I invite you to invite it into your very own living room today, and take them for a test drive; comfy? I didn’t think so.
Have you for a moment considered the options for women and children who are trying desperately to survive and/or leave abusive partners, parents, husbands, siblings, friends, room-mates, uncles, cousin, and did you know that research and statistics exist to prove that more women are murdered by their former abuser after they leave? Or do you actually give enough of a fuck to ask yourself these things, because after all, it is much simpler to hang onto your comfort zone of putting me and everyone like me, in a stereotypical box of your making, than to critically examine your culpability in our misery?
The Big Question: Part Two
My Very Own Personal War: Cleverly Disguised as Your Spectator Sport
Where the fuck, were you all of the times I tried to get out and had nowhere to go, and no money to get there? Where the fuck, were you when my choices, were welfare, minimum wage, selling my ass, selling dope, and selling my soul? I didn’t see you there when I made the silly, silly choice of staying home to raise my child, instead of pursuing a career so that I would have better choices when I finally did escape.
Were you sitting pretty on your judgment and assumption throne, condemning my survival responses to acts of deviance, self-harm, maladaptive behaviours and a host of other pathologies; an observer of my very own, personal war against violence and oppression? Were you cheering me on from the spectator seats of your world when my response was correct in your view, through the lens of your life, and did you self-righteously critique my performance, when it wasn’t?
And where the fuck are you now, that the system I have used for years to survive, in 12 easy steps, has turned on me by joining you in a refrain, which tells me that my character is defective, that I am self-centered to the core, and that I gave you my power. Let me set the record straight: I NEVER gave you, or any of them, my power, every one of them, every single one, decided they were entitled to it, as did you. Where are you now that I have no-where to go? Are you watching me flail, again?
The Revelation of Truth
I Know Where You Live
There you are; I finally found you! I see you up there in the bleachers; it must be you because I have never seen you come down to my very own, personal, front-line, to ask what happened, how I got there, to get some fucking context! Oh but forgive me, for I have forgotten that you already knew all about me, you decided who I was, and what I was all about, and all of this, based on an interaction that is comparable to buying Sushi at the Great Canadian Grocery Store, and becoming an authority on Japanese cuisine, culture, norms, customs, geography, and how these things interconnect and work together. It is apparent that you are that insightful and wise, or perhaps just smarter than the rest of us, but especially, smarter than an abuse-attracting-junkie-whore like me!
The Final Point
Me: Cleverly Disguised as a You!
There you were then, and here you are now. I see you, you’ve been circling my war zone for a long time now, and you didn’t even notice when my war zone became the life you lead: the College, the University, the work place, the grocery store, the park… The spaces inhabited by normal people like you. I’ve invaded your territory now, and you can’t point the junkie-whore finger at me without 3 fingers pointing back at you; and without a damn good fight from my corner. You cannot know me without hearing my truth, and that is worrisome for you. For it makes you part of my world, and could mean that you have a part in my suffering. This is disturbing.
So, you make the next assumption: an assertive woman like me can take your shit, so now you vacillate between shovelling it onto my back and telling me how strong I am for taking it, or subtly ingratiating me with it, through passive-aggressive sarcasm and thinly veiled as snippets of humour, cleverly designed to take me back down to where you think I really belong. After all; who the fuck am I to tell you, that who you think I am, is so far off base it left the fucking country? Are you shutting down because my anger feels unsafe, is it threatening to you, does it hurt to feel attacked?
Don’t be silly, you shouldn’t feel that way, I can’t make you feel, and you are not like me! This is worrisome, but I finally know for certain where you were, and more importantly, I know for certain where you are now. Peek-a-Boo, I see you! Know that I will keep you closer than my friends; for my hard-won victory has come from understanding, from knowing, that you do not know. I know where you live. But please do not fear me, for I aspire to live by a principle that could be foreign to you. I will continue to live by an ethic of love (hooks, 2000), and in so doing, endeavour to do you, and me, no harm.
My Victory: Cleverly Disguised as a Way to Oppress Others
I am sad, for my victory feels hollow when you use me as a poster-child for overcoming hardship and struggle, and throw me into the face of those who are where I have been, without taking their context into account, without asking yourself where was I when…, and what do I really know about what happened…, what would it be like if that happened to me?
I am not the template, I am not the norm, and though many have prevailed, too many continue to writhe in a pain that appears to be beyond you, for if you do not see the barriers that are blatantly visible, how can I ever hope to motivate you to look at the ones that are not? Too many have died, and too many will, unless you become open to the idea that what you think, don’t think, do, don’t do, say, and don’t say; matters in someone’s life. It mattered in mine, and still does, but only to the extent that I allow you in. Don’t forget, I know where you are now, because, contrary to what you have decided about whom and what I am, I know now, who I have always been. I also know your modus operandi, for it is the same as mine: survival(?). But, mine includes love, does yours?
The Last Word
For those who have in the past, continue to, or presently, love me unconditionally, those who don’t simply tolerate my uniqueness, my disparity, my tattoos, my passion, my anger, my hurt, my humanity; in the spirit of bell hooks, thank you, because it is, ‘All About Love.’
And for those who surely mean(t) well, but harm(ed) more than help(ed), I owned my part a long time ago, made my amends, continue to live in a way that does not generally require too many new ones, and have said sorry to you, too many times. I am truly sorry, that many of you, to this day, do not know who you are, that you are oblivious to the fact that my pain and that of many others, is, wrapped up in your words and actions, and yours, are wrapped up in mine. It is my sincerest hope that one day, you recognize me, in you. So; in the words of Lilla Watson; “If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting our time. But if you come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us begin.”
hooks, bell. (2000). All About Love, New Visions
Lilla Watson, Australian AboriginalWomen’s leader
Lorde, A. (1984). Sister Outsider: Uses of Anger. Berkeley: Crossing Press
Med Help http://www.medhelp.org/health_pages/Mental+Health/Know-Your-Code—Acronyms/show/4?cid=60 retrieved December 06, 2008