Dear White People: Shed the taboo. You have always been enough. It’s time.

One of the biggest rules of white Christian America was “Don’t disturb the peace,” at all costs. As to exactly where this came from I have a few guesses, but the cost has been far too high to let it continue. I could go on about the very real and horrible ways it has victimized, harmed, and silenced Black and brown people, but for now, I want to discuss its implication for white people.

For white people, it has meant bottle your emotions and push them deep because no one will care for you if you’re vulnerable; that your greatest duty is to not be a total pain to deal with or make others have to see you for who you really are. So we cut off our hearts and push away from anything that threatens to expose the poison of our deeply indoctrinated need to be okay. We can’t be human so we don’t set boundaries, we stigmatize mental health and look to faith as a cure-all, waiting for the pain to go away on its own when it’s a bit more complex than that. We don’t show up for ourselves, and we stubbornly tell ourselves we don’t feel our life leaking away. We construct our walls and wither inside them.

Meanwhile, the cogs of power weaponized our own silenced pain and fear against innocent people, to the point where it threatens these people’s very lives on a daily basis.

We arm ourselves with guns and dogma and contempt and tell ourselves that’s safer, that’s enough. That nothing will change and we just have to hold our ground until we die.

It’s too late now, our brokenness whispers. Our bitter wounded hearts that were never heard, because human was just too bothersome. Too late now.

But it’s never too late. The voices of indoctrination and trauma are not truth. We have the power to claim better, for ourselves, for our neighbors.

In the social justice realm, the way things are, while we are hurting in our own ways, and however unfair it is, the color of our skin doesn’t make things harder for us. And that’s where our role comes in. The system was built to benefit us, and privilege doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Privilege is an edge on the status quo, and it’s a tool we can wield to protect others and enact change.

As white people, we are being asked right now to amplify and support the voices of the marginalized, those against whom our silence feeds into something far older and far more sinister than the number our questionable “don’t stir the pot” upbringing did on us. The voice of our indoctrination says “us vs them,” that stepping aside means “roll over and die,” but that isn’t the case. It feels threatening, because change is scary. Confronting pain and darkness in ourselves and the nonconsensual ways generational trauma has stained us is difficult and terrifying. We struggle so much to accept our own selves that most days we can’t stand one more person saying our struggle doesn’t mean anything. That our pain is wrong.

Race hasn’t been a source of this in my life because of my whiteness, but I have felt this narrative again and again in other areas. And I will do whatever I have to so that I never ever inflict this injustice on another person. When they tell me their experience, I will believe them. People need to be heard, and when they ask me to listen, I will set myself aside, and I will listen. Black and brown people are no strangers to the most insidious forms of gaslighting, and it doesn’t stop at gaslighting. They’re literally fighting for their lives.

With white people, feeling heard is a difficult nuance. Our own white culture has pushed us down so far we’re not sure what we need. We say one thing, but we’re really speaking to something else. I want you to feel like your pain is heard, but I hope you understand that in the realm of social justice, being heard is only the beginning. There is a call for a greater standard, a greater accountability at work here. I want you to be a part of it.

Growing up Christian, I was taught to think critically with compassion, and that compassion always has to have the last word. If that means I’ll have to dismantle the darkness in me, to do work that completely destroys my worldview and leaves me shaken, then bring it on. I have been doing this work for seven years now and I intend to continue it for the rest of my life. I’ll do it without expecting thanks or a pat on the back, because it is my duty as a citizen of the world. As a storyteller, as a human being. I am a part of this revolution, but it isn’t about me.

That’s not to say that I don’t mean anything. I’m working on my own internal revolutions too. If I don’t show up for myself, I can’t show up for others.

We white people hear “Black Lives Matter” and our programming and trauma hears, “Bury Yourself, Nullify Yourself. You are never good enough.” But that’s not what Black Lives Matter is about. The recent protests are a call to change the power structure. (By “defund the police,” the intent is to move to a community-based system of specialists that are better held accountable, not generalist soldiers on a power trip.) As much as we hate to admit it, racism has only helped fuel the corrupt systems in place, in overt and subtle ways that we have to dig up and eradicate in ourselves too. We were born into a racist society. That doesn’t make us bad people, it means we have work to do. This is about dismantling systems that hurt everybody. About giving people of color relief and justice for once.

For us to be functional allies we have to figure out why our hearts want to stay closed.

We can give ourselves the permission to do the work in ourselves we’ve needed to do for far too long, to identify and address our own trauma that often has nothing to do with racism but very much influences our response to it, to combat the lies we’ve picked up along the way, to be able to hear people for what they’re actually saying. But we can do that work while also amplifying the voices of Black and brown people and supporting them in dismantling a status quo that made us bitter but is actively violent and victimizing toward them.

The corrupted status quo benefits off our staying closed. Staying bitter. To fight it, we have to listen to the voices speaking against it. We have to let ourselves become human, to hold the capacity for empathy with people whose lived experiences are vastly different than our own but very, very real. To stand with these people and say, “I believe you. Enough is enough.”

Black Lives Matter says it has to stop. All of it. The cycle of trauma broken once and for all. This is very much about bringing justice to fruition for people who still have yet to see it in the modern era, but that doesn’t mean you as a white person no longer have a place in the world. You have more a place in the world than ever. You, too, get to be part of history in the making.

All this time we’ve been doing the best we could with the resources we had, but now with new resources, easier access to information, new voices standing on the shoulders of the voices of the past, it’s time to pivot. It’s time to change the game.

It is time to ask where our defensiveness, our hesitation, our condemnation comes from. Whose voice it is, and who it serves. It is time to ask whether we will join the fight to build a better world, or if we will continue to let our unresolved personal trauma keep us buried.

We have the power to reject things that no longer serve us, to listen and learn and confront things we don’t feel equipped to. We don’t have to bury our hearts anymore. We can come alive, we can absolutely stir the pot until it shatters, we can support and protect and listen to our Black and brown brothers and sisters. We can show up for them in a major ways, and at the same time we can learn how to show up for ourselves and each other in the ways our white sanitized cultural indoctrination always barred and demonized. It’s time to claim healing for ourselves as well as for our nation, if only we are willing to listen. 

All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter. That doesn’t mean you and your pain don’t. That doesn’t mean you can’t seek healing for yourself as well in the midst of all this, but we need your heart and your privilege to push back against the insidious status quo. We’re in this for the long haul, and you’re absolutely welcome at the table.

Early, late, or right on time, you’re welcome to join the revolution.

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A/N: I’ve been floored recently by the advancement in trauma awareness over the last several years, and as I’ve started wandering down that road in my own life, one aspect of the pushback I see from white people in my community against such good, necessary, and urgent societal change as the Black Lives Matter movement is starting to make more sense to me. Today I hoped to speak to that, to assuage some of those fears.

Deconstruction journals iii

Honestly, the concept is still so foreign to me that someone could ever want to enter into a romantic relationship with me purely because they like me as a person, and not as an idea or expectation, not as a lost cause they just haven’t yet given up on.

Only recently, I’ve started to understand that in this and other areas, I have been expected to merely tolerate my life. Tolerate depression, disillusionment, loneliness, and rage because I don’t fit. Because I have never quite fit, I thought the best I could hope for was non-conformance and frustration. The price of being an old soul, of standing in the middle ground.

I was expected to call this right. Living but not quite alive. So long as I was functional, what did it matter if I wasn’t human and could never hope to be?

Only recently, I’ve realized I can leave this behind. I can be fully alive.

Not just practical, useful, or safely “content.”

I, too, can be human.

I can be happy.

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You are your own

A piece I made this past week. I’ve been trying to give myself more space to play, to explore creatively while I process a lot of stuff. When I process my emotions, robotic imagery is a common theme; I’ve long struggled to let my organic body have a place in my life, and my engagement in personal relationships is characterized by tightly controlled emotions. I’ve recently realized that my primary “real” emotion is anger, which stands in for most other things I’ve otherwise repressed.

It’s been tough and confusing beginning to sort through this, but for the first time, I feel like I actually have a shot at being human.

Deconstruction Journals ii

Forgiveness is not the same thing as accountability.

It is not for lack of faith that my trust was deeply broken, and that I can’t seem to find it again. It’s not for a desire to sin freely that I choose to hold space for the grief and anger for the ways I was wounded in the name of revival, for the things that were stolen from me in the name of holiness.

“The church is made up of imperfect people,” they say. “It isn’t like that anymore. Forgive, re-assimilate.”

But boundaries continually crossed and emotions suppressed is not healing.

Forgiveness is not the same as accountability. Both are important, but the kind I’m continually asked to assume just feels like a call to loyalty. My betrayed devotion buried, forgotten. Unresolved.

I was born a storyteller, an old soul hardwired to watch the world with eyes wide open, and to tell about what I found. I hold no ability to be untrue to myself, and the things on my heart are the very things the church wishes I wouldn’t talk about.

I take a break, I let it cool down. I go back, yet the environment is the same as when I was a teenager. We can be friends so long as I stay quiet and play along.

And I think, if God put this heart in me, why would he ask me to betray it again and again and again? To shove it down into the dark and watch it sicken and wither?

I was raised to believe compassion has to have the last word, always. We, the children of the fallout, still believe that.

Deconstruction Journals i

The kid’s not alright.

She pushed herself down and cut off all the living pieces. She convinced herself that if she were minimal, she would be perfect and likable, and people would stick around.

But they left anyway, and it’s hard for a robot to make friends.

The kid had convinced herself she was better now, but now she’s just filled with cold, bitter rage. Angry adults destroy their lives, but she still wants hers to work out.

As she dons a brave face for the world, the angry child inside her tells her all this has been pointless. All this striving, minimizing, playing along. She broke her heart for their ideals, became inhuman for their so-called divinity. And now it’s still her who’s in the wrong.

I’ll just keep up this charade for the rest of my life, she tells herself. It’s not like I’ll ever get what I truly need. 

It’s not like I’ll ever know what that is.

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A/N: Some journaling.

Most of my fiction writing these days is attached to a long form project I can’t put up on the internet, while most of my current nonfiction writing deals with this: post-evangelical deconstruction. It’s messy and always changing, which makes it so hard to talk about publicly, or to be honest about in any meaningful capacity. But I know I’m not the only one out there dealing with this.

I used to think I knew what the end goal to all this was supposed to be, but now I think just “healing” would be good. Identifying the unmet needs and figuring out how to meet them. Seeing what I find on the journey.

PTSD

I’ve only recently realized I’m still drowning.

I used to live in a season where my environment was so big, so noisy, so relentless, that the only choice I had to survive it all was to cram myself smaller and smaller. Minimal, numb.

For three full years of overwork and isolation, I still felt strongly it wasn’t time to go home, and I refused to give up. Attempts at breaking isolation fizzled, one after the other.

Too tired.

Too scared.

Too busy.

Catching my breath in that place was impossible, but I tried. Choking and gasping, drowning but not quite dead.

When I finally escaped and had a chance to move on, I threw myself into trying, needing to be okay. But real life set me on a treadmill that is still a little too fast. A voice in my head tells me over and over that I don’t get to rest; I will never get it right, and the stakes are too high.

I feel like I can’t breathe again. I can’t fail, I can’t go back there.

But somehow, I already have.

Somewhere deep in my bones, I never really left.

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A/N: Thoughts from quarantine. This whole situation has dug up things I had preferred to bury as deep as possible, but finally (grudgingly) allowing it to have a name has been helpful.

12. 1. 2019: A reflection

A/N: Found a bit of old writing from a few months ago, decided to add to it. I definitely meant to write more publicly this year, but this year has been a lot of reclaiming, of writing simply because I love it, of journaling and life-living. Blogging used to be easy, but now it’s not, so much.

I figure that’s okay.

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This is the first year after moving away for college that I haven’t lived in a dorm or an apartment. I have been at a full-time job that I enjoy for the longest I’ve ever worked full-time anywhere. I am reasonably financially stable, making steady progress in my creative career on the side.

Five years ago, this journey was only just beginning.

When I was in college, I gave myself permission to study my environment more critically, and I found myself swallowed up by an envy of other people.

I would observe people from afar, wanting, bitterly, to ask them what it felt like to fit. What was it like, to be pretty and popular and outgoing? To not be questioning their faith, feeling betrayed by the very institution that taught them everything they knew about how to exist in the world? What was it like to not hate and fear their bodies? To feel comfortable presenting exactly the way people expected of them, according to their respective genders? To not be confused and frequently let down by their sexuality? To seem to be on a path that made sense, that everyone else was on and hit the milestones at the average times?

First I distanced myself from the church to gain some perspective.

Then I tried, slowly, carefully, to become comfortable in my body, to explore my sexuality. To decide that I wanted to change the perception of my gender by continuing to identify as it.

I took a long trip away from home, honing my craft, developing my stories, craving the frequent coffee date faith talks of my early twenties. For a time, I felt like maybe no one ever opened up, or that it was too dangerous to do that, now that I had graduated from the small private religious institution that had fostered those faith talks.

It was only later that I realized that while there were many ways that I didn’t fit with the perceived pattern and struggled with things that seemed to come so naturally to my peers, it is easy to connect with people through writing and art because, deep down, we all feel a lot of the same things.

We all crave connection. We are all trying to either ignore or disentangle the lies we picked up along the way. We’re all trying to find where we fit, and loneliness comes for all of us, much more frequently than we’d like to admit.

What we present to the world, in public, at work, in our professional spaces on the internet, is the safe, put-together versions of ourselves. The brave faces, the patient smiles. Commuting to work at 6:30 in the morning, it doesn’t matter so much that I’m still struggling to put my body into the equation of my life, to reach out into new social avenues and that I don’t want to stay in the same headspace I’ve occupied for too long, but that I’m scared of the ways trying to grow out of it will change me and complicate my life.

When I’m running errands, a distant observer couldn’t possibly glean from my presentation how much internalized misogyny affected me for how long, for how it still affects me, and the fears that I hold that it still holds sway over my writing.

But moving forward is in the day-to-day, isn’t it? Of making small steps forward, of outlining small, buildable goals, of holding space to break them and start again. Of holding the door open of my carefully closed heart.

This is one of the most sacred truths I have learned this year, that the places in me that I thought had reached their final form, even if I wasn’t happy with them, are still changing.

Seasons come and go, and joy really can bloom from ashes.

I have always kept my hair short,

but now it’s not.

Over the last several months, I’ve let it grow, out of negligence, out of curiosity.

It seemed fitting, in a time so unlike the last seven years, a new season of time, of observation, of choosing presence and putting down roots after one of transience, of overwork and emotional burying and deconstruction.

The last time my hair was my preferred length, level with my jaw and layered up the back, was almost a year ago. The person it embodied was in exile from herself, trying to figure out how to come home.

Now my hair touches my shoulders. It’s all split ends. It swings in a satisfying way if I turn my head quickly, and it gets all over everything. A part of me is afraid to cut it, because then in the mirror, I will look like her again.

I wonder if I am ready to reclaim that image from where I stand today. From where I am going.

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A/N: I’d like to start posting regularly on my little writing blog again. It took a while to figure out what I want this corner of the internet to be, as I’ve long grown out of certain phases of thought and social media engagement I was following in college when this blog took shape. I think smaller moments will be the way to go for me, moving forward.

I recently read “You Are Your Own” by Jamie Lee Finch. Working through new epiphanies this week. It’s been a trip.

Architect’s Entanglement

Don’t need, you will push the world away.

You are allowed to love others, in whatever form that manifests from your robotic heart.

They are allowed to love you back, if it suits them.

As long as it’s convenient.

But do not truly need, or you will push them away.

You can stand beside others in this life, but you must be capable of making it alone.

You must accept that you approve of this existence, this life sentence.

If you do not accept, you must choose something else, somehow.

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If you are human, then you are allowed to love and be loved.

If you are human, you are allowed to need.

Humans are soft and hard-edged. You have these edges too. A soft body, a sharp mind.

You have set many layers of padlocks and security protocols on your untouchable heart.

You have researched, so you know love is not to be earned. Yet you still feel you must earn it.

Quietly, in your own heart, just for good measure.

As if one day, the people you have allowed to love you will ask for written proof of why their efforts were not wasted, and you will be ready.

You will be ready.

Yet the harder you work to accrue and to document this proof, you find you are surrounded by reams of blank paper. Tangible yet meaningless, and still the fear remains.

You know the ones you have allowed to love you will not ask for this. And even if they do, these mountains of blank sheets will not be enough.

Enough for them, perhaps, but never for you.

Whose love, then, are you trying to earn?

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A/N: Felt like ruminating. Logical and creative performance-based personality types like mine constantly run afoul with this labyrinthine question of loving and being loved. Have to take it in baby steps one day at a time.