aprox 20 min read
Hi. I haven’t written in over a year. I’m sorry about that.
There’s. . .a lot to catch up on. A . . .lot.
I’m well. For the first time in my life, I’m well. It took a lot. My last post had it right. It took me a year (to the day, synchronicity strikes again) to be able to really listen to my own words, but I’m well now.
. . .I hope. I think. I believe.
It’s the best any of us can ever say.
A story caught my attention the other day and inspired a blog post but I felt that, before sharing, I should first write some sort of catch up post, as this blog has become, above all else (oddly, primarily, unintentionally) the place I write for the people from my present and past interested in doing so to catch up with where the fuck I am.
It’s a place you can always find me. It’s a place I post what is most important to me, at any given time, when – and only when – I feel like doing so.
Valuable that. This sacred space. This place I have complete control to add or ignore, with no schedule or obligation. It’s not remotely what I had planned for it. I love that it’s what it’s become.
So. Catching up:
– I’m still in Melbourne. I still (STILL) don’t have final confirmation of my Australian Permanent Resident visa status (the accepted timeline moved from 6 months to 15-23 months 2 months after I made my final application SRSLY WTF) but I’m still here and that’s enough for now. I still LOVE THE FUCK out of Dags and we’re still together, much to my amazement. I’m beginning to think the dude is actually, secretly, waaaay more insane than I am because srsly why the fuck would anyone ever stay with THIS trainwreck amiright??
– I left tattooing. Sold all of my gear to, happily, what seems loving homes save one machine I kept for sentimental value (despite the fact I already have it tattooed on my leg as well): A 2009 Lucky’s Mike ‘Rollo’ Malone ‘Moneymaker’ Rollomatic Captain liner with coils that bear the crest of Köln (even though I bought the machine a year before I intended to move there, before I could ever recognize the crest, synchronicity strikes again), liberty coin washers and a brass contact screw that will only ever be taken from my cold, dead hands (and if you are a tattooist and don’t know who Mike Malone (aka Rollo Banks) is you do yourself and the world a favour and you at least take the time to read the man’s obituary because he goddamn well deserves to be remembered. He hugely shaped your goddamn trade). I loved tattooing. I love what it gave me. I love what it taught me. We don’t work anymore. And that’s ok.
I am and will always be beyond grateful to Dave Munro of Trouble Bound Studios for taking this stupid small town kid on as his first apprentice when he didn’t remotely want a goddamn apprentice. Someday I’ll finally ask him what exactly it was that encouraged him, though I’ve a pretty strong suspicion it was little more than shared tenacity. I just. Wouldn’t. Go. AWAY. In the end, I think taking me on seemed less of a headache than trying to make me go away and hey, that was a valuable lesson in and of itself, maybe even (one can be so optimistic as to hope) for us both.
– I spent 10 solid months – with but 5 non-consecutive days reprieve – on a razor blade verge of suicide. I don’t say that so you pity me. Don’t you dare fucking pity me. I say it so if you are also there you will reach out to me as someone who fucking understands. I don’t promise to fix you. I don’t even promise to be there for you, because I’m primarily here for myself these days. But, please: reach out. I might have a suggestion or two that could keep you alive, if just for another 3 days. Who knows. It’s worth trying though, right? Before you go and do what can’t be undone? firstname.lastname@example.org if you don’t have me on Facebook or mobile or meatspace. Shoot me a message. I’ll try to be there for you when I can, if I can. If I can’t, please reach out to someone else. And please know this: You are way more loved than you believe yourself to be. Things can get way better than you believe they can. You have a thing in your head that is lying to you, and there are things you can do to make it shut up. You can get to a place where you are not just ‘getting by’, or just managing a condition, but living, fully, and glad to be doing so. I swear you can. I truly believe that.
– I got a lot of help from a lot of different people in a lot of different trades. Some of them saved my life. Some of them hindered the process. Some did both. One shout-out worth noting among many is to The Contemplary – a Melbourne-based NGO that ‘exists to be of benefit to the community by offering instruction in a range of meditation practices and other forms of contemplation that help people flourish.’ They also ‘collaborate in research that contributes to the evidence base underpinning claims about the efficacy of these practices.’ I note them above others – even above one particular compassionate red-haired healer who I will love to the end of my fucking days as she saved my goddamn life – as they were responsible for all 5 aforementioned days of reprieve during the 10 month period of DEAR FUCK TAKE ME NOW. They are a relatively new organization, they need support, and they deserve it. If you’re based in Oz and have any interest whatsoever in the contemplative arts, please do check them out. They have regular events with outstanding guest speakers, as well as a fortnightly ‘by donation’ group meditation. Their website is here.
– I successfully returned to the work force at the end of December. Got my White Card and started in labour (fun fact: I can now say ’it beats digging ditches’ and know the truth of that statement) before landing a sweet gig as a ‘water jockey’ in which I keep urban trees alive. I have a co-worker that drives us around in a water tanker and I spend all day filling from hydrants, watering and weeding trees, repairing stakes, ties and water wells, waving at kids, chatting with the elderly, petting doggos and then sitting in a truck to look at more doggos on my phone. It’s been a fantastic gig to get me back on my feet but I’ll be leaving it, and Melbourne, in mid-May, with plans to return to both mid-September.
– All 3 workshops I attended through The Contemplary that managed to make the Black Dog back off a bit were based in Buddhist tradition. That seems significant. As such, when I leave Melbourne in May it will be to ride north to one of the first and largest Tibetan Buddhist centres in the Western World – The Chenrezig Institute – where I’ve committed to 4 months through their live-in volunteer program. My hope is that in addition to learning much and furthering my own contemplative practice, I’ll utilize this time in peace and nature to finally finish the novel I’m working on – a fantasy quest-style novel with the working title of One Thing More. Best case scenario I finish and publish the novel and finally become a real-honest-to-god writer and start the career of my dreams (because through my whole topsy turvy weird goddamn life of mercurious adventure [and misadventure] one stable thing I have always longed for is to become a published author and that’s worth hanging on to). Worst case scenario I return to Melbourne with an extra $2000 on an already $20,000 debt and I continue to chip away at it in whatever ways I can. A long shot? Sure. But as my life has been primarily a series of long shots, I feel ok with that. It is a risk worth taking.
– I recently got blocked by someone on Facebook. Which, I know, sounds like about the most trivial shit ever to speak about. Someone on the internet disliked me? WHAT??? But it never happened to me before, to the best of my knowledge, and it really bothered me.
Should I not admit that? Is it giving him what he wanted? I don’t fucking care. I’ll admit it because it’s true. It bothered me.
We were debating about some trivial shit that never should have escalated. I made a point he didn’t agree with. In a reply rife with logical fallacy he declared I was ignorant, detached from the concept of hardship and had my head buried in the sand where ‘he feared it was buried deep and would stay’.
Look, I may be a stupid small town kid. I may have been born into immense privilege in the sense that I was born in the Western world as a white, passably attractive female who never spent a day of her childhood concerned about how there was a roof over her head or food on the table. But hardship isn’t confined only to financial difficulty. . .and even if it were, I’ve since experienced that particular circle of hell as well. I left most security and all familiar shores I ever had over a decade ago to be a very small fish in a very large fucking pond and when some motherfucker who doesn’t know the first fucking notes of the music that moves me think it’s ok to tell me I don’t understand hardship after having only just removed the noose from my own fucking neck but scant months back it makes me a weeeeeeeeeee bit fucking testy.
I am proud to say I didn’t lose my shit completely and still replied in a largely composed manner, expanding on some points and correcting him on others. I didn’t personally attack this dude in any way, despite my ruffled pride’s desire to rip him several new assholes.
. . .I did tell him to go fuck himself.
. . .It may have been my starting gambit.
My actual words were something along the lines of ‘With all due respect (though to be fair not much is due after that epically self righteous rant), go fuck yourself mate’.
Compassionate? Hardly. Wise? Not remotely.
If this dude’s intention in blocking me was to upset me, I am not ashamed to admit he succeeded. Less than a minute after my posting, I suddenly couldn’t access the post anymore. Then realized I couldn’t even locate his profile any more. I only knew this dude very peripherally. Wasn’t certain of who he was connected to, or who he’d speak poorly of me to. Didn’t understand how Facebook blocking works. Did my comment remain despite my blocking? Were others commenting on it, even now? Speaking of how ignorant and callous and detached I was? Were they forming allegiances against me across the pond without my ability to defend or justify my stance?
Despite the paranoid holes my mind is capable of tumbling down, the rational ringleader of my consciousness could still acknowledge that the likelihood of this ever coming up again in my life was negligible. But did that stop my brain from playing me movies in which I returned to St John’s to find that everyone there now hated me because how could I ever say such things uh for shame how dare you tell this poor beloved man to go and eff himself you terrible terrible selfish stupid little girl.
I just wanted to let it go. I knew there wasn’t anything to be done. The comment was made, I couldn’t contact the guy to continue the conversation in a more civil manner because as far as he was concerned I no longer existed.
I deduced that was one aspect of why it nagged at me – the current SJW attacks on the sanctity of free speech bother me deeply. And while everyone has the freedom to shape their little social media window to the world however they like to avoid whatever triggers cause them discomfort, I don’t believe people that deliberately censor their intake are wise to engage in political discussion. Or, if they do, they should acknowledge the information that reaches them does so with a bias that they have intentionally crafted, in addition to all of the pre-existing unintentional cognitive biases we all have to deal with as subjective human beings.
And. . .the irony just hurt. I mean. . .come the fuck on. You’re really going to scream at someone that they have their head buried in the sand when, when they explain to you why they don’t believe that to be the case, your response is to block their ability to speak any further on the matter so you can preserve an echo chamber in which everyone agrees with you? Dude.
But that wasn’t it. That wasn’t the particular flavour this mental loop had. It wasn’t frustration I was feeling. It was guilt. I felt bad that, instead of taking the higher ground and compassionately stating my truth quietly and clearly, I had let my pride get the best of me and started my reply with an aggressive statement, despite knowing that doing so would mean the rest of my words were likely to go unheard. If they even got read at all.
I had fucked up.
But. . .so had he. And he struck first. I was stating something I believed respectfully and kindly. He didn’t agree, and instead of attacking the idea he attacked me. If my idea was stupid he should have been able to explain why, respectfully, as opposed to just declaring ‘you’re so ignorant oh my god I just can’t get over how ignorant you are’. He had ignored things I’d said, twisted other things, and made a broad statement about me as a person that was terribly unfair with no provocation from my end.
So why couldn’t I let this go? I know that a shitty, lonely childhood as a bullied kid has left me a little overly sensitive to people not liking me but I’ve made a lot of ground on that over the years. I’ve reached a place of acknowledgement that when people are cruel or aggressive it likely has a lot more to do with them than me. It’s their insecurity or mental blind spot or disguised fear or repressed secret that makes them lash out.
But I grant other people a fuck of a lot more leeway than I grant myself. I was willing to accept this dude didn’t realize how painfully ironic and short-sighted he was being. I’m sure he thought he was fighting a noble fight. I’m guessing (I’m hoping) he had zero knowledge of the sort of year I’d had when he made his statement about my ‘not knowing hardship’.
But when I turned the lens on myself it was just ‘Yeah, I get why you lost your temper but you still lost your temper. You know better, so you should be better. It doesn’t matter whether losing your temper was justified or not, it matters that you allowed your pride to rise above your wisdom and ethics.’
I’d finally nailed it: Despite all the ground I’d made the last year, I still expected perfection from myself. And once I’d clocked that this was what was driving the narrative in my mind, a really beautiful thing happened: it stopped.
Then an even more beautiful thing happened: I was overcome with immense gratitude for the exchange. It had taught me something valuable: For all my focus on self love throughout this past year, I was still valuing others above myself. Still conceding to others as automatically knowing better. Still considering others safety and security and peace of mind more valuable than my own. And, so long as I did that, I would continue to beat myself up over the slightest misstep, or the briefest lapse in judgement, no matter how justified. Turn a scornful eye on me, and I’ll roll over, belly exposed, even if I don’t know what the fuck you’re even angry about.
There’s not a damn thing I’ve done in my life that I am ashamed of. But I have a paranoia that stems from the fear that people will misunderstand my actions and cast judgement without giving me the opportunity to explain myself. . .like this dude did. That’s why it stung so bad: It was a deep fear realized. Didn’t matter that I hardy knew or cared about the guy. This was evidence I didn’t want that people don’t see me as I am, that they don’t even bother to try. It seems unfair because I personally try so damn hard to see others.
But the world’s unfair. For 10 million fucking reasons. People aren’t going to care about the same things I care about. Things I may be proud of will be viewed by others as trivial foolishness or even unforgivable sin. People will give me things I don’t want, neglect to give me things I do want. People will blame me for breaking their hearts when I didn’t do a damn thing wrong. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.
And I think I’ve finally made peace with that.
It’s been a huge part of my recovery, learning that I can control my own mind so much more than I thought I could. . .and accepting that I can’t control others at all.
It’s been an outstanding soothe to my anxiety. Things are going to happen outside of my control no matter how wisely or gently I step. There is no way to win the ‘please everyone love me’ game and I was a damn fool for ever trying.
So this is why I bother to bring up this otherwise trivial point as a significant matter worth sharing. It made me realize: I am allowed to fuck up. I am. I am a flawed, imperfect human being, like anyone else. I accept and forgive other people their flaws, and now I’m finally learning to grant myself the same courtesy. And if there’s anyone that expects their particular idea of perfection from me 24/7 and is ready to rip me a new one when I inevitably fail then they, too, can get fucked mate.
I have many flaws. There are many things I am ignorant of. There’s shit I don’t know, and shit I don’t know I don’t know. But when choosing general adjectives to describe me, I don’t believe ‘ignorant’ is a fair title to attach, and I feel I have a pretty strong case as to why:
I’ve managed to survive for almost 36 years. In those years I’ve travelled in over 30 countries, 4 of which I have lived and worked in long term. I managed a long term career as a tattooist spanning over a decade and managed a series of short term careers before, after, and between, across a hella wide variety of disciplines. I have been a photojournalist, I’ve worked in hospitality, in labour, in agriculture, in admin. I’ve worked in small towns and big cities, in foreign language environments, in MMA gyms, offices, national parks and on an isolated cattle station in the Australian outback. I’ve WWOOFed, a couple times. I volunteered with the Free Listening project, with the SPCA, with a Church Camp. I’ve tended bees, I’ve mustered cattle, I’ve made beds, I’ve poured drinks, I’ve taught young children to canoe, I’ve melted scrap lead into ballasts, I’ve etched designs into flesh.
I had a boxing match in the last outback boxing tent in Australia. I got temporarily lost in the Carpathian mountain range. After getting a root canal in Kiev I missed a train and then bribed my way onto the next train to later get rushed by wild dogs while searching for a hostel in a place I can’t go back to because Putin has since illegally annexed it to Russia.
When watching the news of the Arab Spring I recognized the view above Midan Tahrir because it was the view from the hostel window in which I stayed while in Cairo just over a year back. I learned to Scuba Dive in Korcula after leaving a girl in Dubrovnik to find out she’d been murdered later that night. I ended up in hospital in India not one, not two, not three, but four fucking times until dysentery got bad enough that I arranged with my travel insurance to transport me back to Canada, then rode a motorbike up to the heights of Darjeeling to recover only to pass out as soon as I arrived and then, upon waking, vomit into the toilet of a total stranger.
I’ve been stolen from, ripped off, aided immensely, abused, saved, loved, hurt. I’ve been helped by strangers and abandoned by friends and vice versa.
And, most importantly, every step of the way I. Fucking. LISTENED.
I listened to the third generation Australian cattle farmer who has never known nor wanted another life.
I listened to the American street preacher in Delhi who believed every Hindu would go to hell unless he saved them.
I listened to the Bosnian Muslim speak of his experiences during the siege of Sarajevo that stole friends and family from him.
I listened to that dude at that bus station that one time who believed he was the devil.
I listened to the successful, well dressed businessman who thought everyone in Morocco was trying to rip him off.
I listened to the guy who thinks DMT opens a door to a dimension in which you can speak to ancient alien races.
I listened to an elderly nazi sympathizer living in exile in Budapest.
I listened to that guy who sees dark shapes approach him as he sleeps.
I listened to that woman as she sobbed about the fact that her criminal convictions meant she couldn’t leave the state to go visit her son.
I listened to polyamorous couples explain the ins and out (rim shot) of their open relationships.
Listening is valuable. Listening is sacred. And everyone – without exception – deserves to be heard.
Because we are, none of us, no better than the other. Just different. We are all of worth, we all deserve to live, we all deserve respect. And if you believe otherwise, if you believe there is some universal right and wrong, some black and white clarity to morality then I invite you to try and explain why and how in the comments below. Because I’ve spent a lifetime looking for a life that could be lived without judgement, that could be appreciated by all and, friend, I’m sorry to inform you it don’t fucking exist.
I could transform myself into a pacifist vegan who produces no waste on a self sufficient farm and someone would still look at my life and find something to be shitty at me for. ‘Ah yeah mate, nice fucking life. Not contributing to society in any way shape or form. Must be nice to have a little slice of Eden while child soldiers die every day in Africa. Privileged cunt.’ And even if they couldn’t find anything to call me on they’d still fall back on the old reliable ‘What, you think you’re better than me? Egotistical cunt.’
No. I don’t. I don’t think I’m better than anyone. I don’t think anyone is better than anyone else. Just different.
. . .I do think ideas can be better than other ideas, which is what I’d post on next.
And in the ranking of ‘best ideas I’ve ever heard’, this one’s never been knocked from it’s #1 top ranking: Unconditional Love.
Unconditional Love means loving something not for, but despite. Unconditional Love for your fellow man allows you to hate opinions without hating the person. It’s so valuable. It’s so beautiful. It can save the world, if we’d let it.
Though I only stopped judging myself very recently I stopped judging other people some time ago. And recently, I’ve begun playing a silent mental game I call ’Find the Value’ (inspired by this exchange between Jeff and Abed in the first episode of Dan Harmon’s Community):
The harder the value is to find, the more rewarding the having found it. And the hardest value I ever sought was my own. I got it though, eventually. I get my value, as a human being, and it is this:
I have an uncanny ability to teeter on edges. I am able to stare into places I cannot go, until I can, if I can, if I ever want to. I can build bridges between places where there were not previously bridges to cross. And I get that that makes those less adventurous, whom love me, to worry. I get that it makes some less able envious, and their common defence against the sting of envy is to attempt to make me feel guilt for daring to be proud of my own bravery. I get that it makes yet other individuals, for curious reasons, even hate me; see me as something reckless, dangerous, or stupid, or even evil.
And I’m genuinely ok with that. Finally.
I’m awesome. You’re awesome. We fragile, ambitious, crazy little human beings are fascinating and beautiful and hilarious af.
This past year taught me that whatever you seek you’ll find. So I strive these days to seek beauty, truth, and humour.
If I ever offend you with my methods of seeking, or sharing, then by all means touch base, and let’s chat, because my ears are always open for further listening, and learning.
But if all you have to say is something along the vein of ‘you’re such an idiot god just shut up why can’t you see how wrong you are?’ please don’t be surprised if my reply is remarkably similar to the one that initiated this whole rant.
Actually. . .maybe I’ll strive to keep it classier in the future. There’s a quote from one of my favourite authors I believe should fit most responses well. . . .
. . .yeah. That should do nicely.
With love, – K