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belenen

June 2017

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Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.

belenen: (intrigued)
time w Evelyn & Quinn: clearing tension, overcoming previous miscommunications, setting intentions
icon: "intrigued (a photo of a snow leopard with ears flattened, peering intently over a log)"

Back in early November Evelyn had told me that the reason they couldn't be with me was that it was too stressful for Quinn, and that Quinn felt somehow inferior to me and didn't want Evelyn to be with me. Evelyn has since told me that they told Quinn that they had set boundaries with me around touch (which they had not, but had thought about it so much that they felt like they had: not because they didn't want it but because they were afraid of Quinn's reaction) and that I had touched them anyway. Quinn was understandably resistant to the idea of Evelyn dating me with that idea in mind. Evelyn said they had cleared that up with Quinn but I was feeling like Quinn must have a terrible impression of me and I wanted very much to fix that.

I also just wanted to clear the sense of tension and establish that I feel a desire to community-build with Quinn, that I want to approach their feelings about me with compassion and be as helpful as I can be within my resources. I don't do the whole "keep your feelings about me to yourself" thing with metamours (lover-of-my-lover) and friends. I am not going to take responsibility for someone else's feelings, but I do want to know as much as possible so that if I am able to adjust my behavior to help someone feel more safe, I can. And it is my responsibility to take care of myself and let the other person know if I cannot meet their needs, NOT the other person's responsibility to guess what I can handle and not ask me for more than that.

So I went to Evelyn's yesterday after work to hang out with them and Quinn, who I hadn't ever had a real conversation with. I was so nervous I was shaking and driving distractedly, so I stopped on the way and got a coffee, which helped. (sooooo glad that it was payday and thus I could do this!) When I arrived, Quinn wasn't there yet because they had to do something before that went long. So Evelyn and I sat and talked a little but we were both so buzzing with nerves that we couldn't really connect. When Quinn did arrive, we sat around for like two hours talking about random stuff, while I tried to get up the guts to address the whole reason I was there. Evelyn talked a lot while we mostly sat silently. It was so stressful. At about an hour before I was supposed to leave I started feeling like I was going to end up leaving without ever doing what I came to do, having drained myself of days' worth of energy for literally nothing.

Finally Evelyn was distracted with looking something up on their phone and there was a long enough silence that I was able to ask Quinn, "can I ask you a really awkward and uncomfortable question?" (knowing that they'd already expected such a question) and they said yes, and I asked how they felt about me. They were taken aback but gamely attempted an answer. I don't remember exactly what they said, but it was sort of generally about feeling bad for having indirectly caused the distance between Evelyn and me. I assured them that I did not blame them for it, and we talked about the community-building emotional stuff I mentioned earlier in this post.

They then asked me if I remembered meeting them, and I did only in the most vague way (I remembered meeting someone by that name and I remembered the location). They told me that they had talked with me about polyamory and their personal situation, and that I said "oh, you're penis-monogamous" and laughed and then left shortly after. I was like holy shit, RUDE, so sorry! I have no memory of that conversation but it does sound like me. (the things I remember from that night were getting more drunk than I expected and leaving the party to go have sex with Kylei at the back of the apartment up against the wall: I was QUITE drunk) I can imagine that in my head, at the time, I was making a casual statement and then when they stopped talking to me I assumed they were done with the conversation and did not even realize I was rude. To me it was a summary of what I just heard, confirming that I was listening and making a joke by restating it in hyperbole. (this is why I usually don't make jokes, because god do I flop at them. My sense of humor makes no sense to other people) After Quinn mentioned this experience I was swamped with the realization that I've probably been unintentionally rude to a LOT of people. Especially during the time that I was dating Kylei because I met a lot of strangers then and it takes knowing me a little bit to be able to read me with any accuracy, since I express so differently than most.

Anyway, I was very impressed that Quinn brought that up because it was the only way for it to be recontextualized, but it is taboo to point out that someone has been rude. So I felt like they understood the need for telling me that, and they wanted to clear the static between us enough to break the taboo and tell me. And I was pleased that when I exclaimed over how rude I was to say that and apologized, they accepted my explanation without any resistance. It having been like five years ago, they could have built up a whole structure of belief in me as a dismissive, cruel person because I had seemingly mocked them when they were trying to connect in a way that was vulnerable, and they could have defended such a structure. Instead, they allowed me to be the one to give meaning to my actions, which is so utterly necessary for me to feel safe.

I'm really not talented at communicating. I know it seems like I am, especially here, but it's because I am so naturally terrible that I have built up amazing skills through LOADS of practice. In my most natural state, I say shit backwards and upside down to how most people talk. And my skills are mostly non-oral in that I am skilled in writing, not in speaking out loud. I can't organize my thoughts well enough to speak them most of the time and when I can, it's through dropping the filters that protect me from insulting people. My options are: communicate through text and say what I mean and be understood; communicate audibly and don't share anything meaningful but manage to avoid hurting or offending people; or communicate audibly and share meaningful things and definitely upset anyone who doesn't know me very well already and/or anyone who isn't willing to let me be the one to assign meaning to what I say. One has to be willing and able to say "it sounds to me like you're saying this ____. is that what you mean?"

This is part of why reading my LJ matters so much to me. You cannot know me if you don't read my LJ. Most people are really meatspace-centric and auditory-supremacist and they think that what you say out loud, in person, is the truest expression of what you think/feel. That is so fucking untrue when you have multiple lines of thought running all the time that often jump tracks AND you have an unbelievably glitched memory. When I go to a therapist without having written stuff down, it's completely useless. I usually can't have any important conversations without writing about it first. My LJ is more me than anything that comes out of my mouth, ever. Relatedly, Quinn also mentioned that they occasionally read my LJ and I instantly felt more understood and more trusting. I'm always surprised and flattered when someone reads my LJ without it being at least partly as a favor to me.

Since last night Quinn and I have texted back and forth a good bit and I feel like we could be really great friends. I feel excited and hopeful, but also nervous because it seems like every time I try to build connection with someone they leave my life, and that would be doubly upsetting if I became invested in them and then they cut me out. But things seem to be finally turning around for me after losing person after person last year. And Quinn and I relate in some ways that I don't have anyone else in my life to relate to (terrible biofam that's still trying to insert its unwanted self into our lives, for one) so I think that could be really nourishing for me.

I feel a little worried that Evelyn may lose interest now that I'm not essentially a symbol of the unattainable, but I think that's irrational? I think that they care about me for who I am and not just what I stand for. Also a little worried that they're gonna just want to hang out as a group and not want one-on-one time with me, and I don't have any proof to reassure myself about that so I'll just have to stick a pin in it and wait for time to tell.


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belenen: (healing)
bad actions =/= bad person. absence of effort to reduce harm one causes/benefits from = bad person
icon: "healing (a photo of me and Hannah curled up together, naked, with Hannah's head resting on my legs and my arms around/over them. it's colored in violet with a fractal overlay of purple, blue, and green.)"

I've said much of this before, but I am going to try to make it more specific and plain-spoken.

If I judge your actions as bad, that does not mean I am judging you as bad. Almost every action I rail against as harmful in some way is a thing I have done in the past. I have believed wrongly and damaged people with my actions. I have been classist, racist, sexist, fatphobic, ableist, looksist, anti-sexworker, queerphobic, and gender essentialist, and acted on those ideologies in my actions toward others. I have believed in rape myths and imperialist dogma. I have manipulated and disrespected my partners.


---specific examples of my wrongs: CN/TW for violence, oppressive attitudes, and slurs---

I judged poor people if they bought a small luxury. I avoided people of color because I thought they were too different and I could not relate. I thought women should submit to their husbands. I thought fatness was ugly and that fat people should hide their bodies. I expected all people to be able to learn and perform in the way that I do. I thought cleverness and education made a person more worthwhile. I ranked people on a scale of attractive to not attractive. I assumed that people could not choose to sell sex and that if they did they were forced or acting out of damage. I compared queer sex to sticking your hand in a blender: 'misuse' of intended purpose. I assumed everyone's gender matched what they were assigned at birth, and I assumed that there were only two sexes. I used slurs, especially ableist ones like 'stupid' and 'crazy.'

I have violated people's consent (thankfully not in ways that caused lots of damage, but I was lucky). I have been invalidating of people's identities. I have considered myself to have the 'one true' god and dismissed others as false. I have made relationship expectations without discussion or agreement, and manipulated people into the performance I wanted. I have assumed the worst motives of people I loved and not bothered to check. I have screamed at partners. I have called names. I have hit children (I was a child also at the time, but it was damaging and terrible).

---end TW/CN---


All those things are things I consider deeply wrong and I am profoundly ashamed of them. I mention them because I do not think of myself as a bad person, yet I have done all these bad things. There is not a thing that I say "don't do this" that I haven't done to some extent. So, I cannot think of other people as bad because they do them.

For me, there is only one sin that makes you a bad person: not making any effort to reduce the harm you cause to others and the harms that you benefit from. You don't have to make the efforts I suggest; you just have to make SOME effort, repeatedly, to reduce the harm you cause and/or benefit from in order to not be a bad person. You have to consider carefully if your behavior needs changing when someone says that you are causing harm.

When it comes to creating justice, intention means nothing; your harm-reduction needs to be effective in order to matter at all. When it comes to a judgement of moral character, intention + effort is everything. If you keep on trying to get better, and you keep on trying to learn from a variety of sources, I believe you will eventually get to a place where your efforts are effective and you do reduce harm. So I don't care where you are now; I care if you are repeatedly learning and trying. The more you try, the better a person I think you are.


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belenen: (distance)
resolving conflict in 5 steps: ask myself what hurt, assume the best, ask them why, accept, resolve
icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

prompt from [livejournal.com profile] secret_keep: What is the first step for you when resolving a conflict with someone? What is your ideal first step when someone is trying to resolve a conflict with you?

1) Ask myself why I am upset. Something the person has said or done has upset me, and I have to figure out why before I can productively discuss it. So let's say that someone invited all my friends to an event, but not me. My first reaction will be to feel hurt, and when I ask myself why, it's because this seems to me to be deliberately excluding me. But this is not necessarily the case!

2) Assume the best. I consider other possibilities -- maybe they thought I was busy, or uninterested, or they thought they invited me already but didn't, or they accidentally double-clicked and unselected me (in the case of evites). If one of those possibilities is true, then it is not hurtful any more. So, I am prepared to accept alternative reasons. Sometimes I can resolve a conflict all by myself by using these two steps.

3) Ask their motives. I approach the person and tell them what I was feeling and why, mention the other possibilities I thought of so that they know I am not automatically assuming the worst, and ask what their reason was for their behavior. It is very important to explain that I am not assuming some negative motive, because assuming a negative motive sets up something that they have to prove to be false rather simply asking a question they can freely answer. Unfortunately, people will often assume that you are assigning a negative motive anyway, because they are so used to only being confronted if someone has made them into an opponent. Pre-emptively empathizing by explaining how you can see positive motive usually helps but not always. There is also the problem that sometimes what I think is a neutral motive others will see as a negative motive, and so they will feel defensive if I mention this 'neutral' motive as a possibility. I don't see a way around that, but explaining that I see it as neutral sometimes helps.

4) Accept their reason and ask for clarification if necessary rather than assuming a particular meaning for their reason. If their reason was one that didn't hurt me, yay! all is better! If their reason was hurtful, then there may be a discussion or I may have to accept a painful truth. Let's say in this case that the person didn't invite me because they didn't think of me, but I would have expected them to think of me if they desired my company in general. I would tell them that I wanted them to desire my company and why (probably because I desired theirs), leaving it open-ended or directly asking if they desired my company. They can either tell me that they do desire my company but didn't think of me because of some other reason, or they can tell me why they do not desire my company, or they can drop the subject, or they can express empathy and leave it at that.

5) Resolve any remaining issue. If it still hurts after I understand their motives, I will ask them to empathize and/or problem solve with me. Sometimes despite the motive being fine, the action itself is upsetting, and then I discuss that with them and try to find a solution. For instance, if they didn't invite me because they were inviting someone else who wasn't comfortable with me being around, I could accept this as not personal, but if I was close to this person it would hurt each time unless they messaged me to say "it's about so-n-so again, sorry to not invite you, still love you." or perhaps they could alternate inviting me or this other person. Sometimes there is no solution to be had, and then all I can ask is that they consider how I feel and express empathy.

My ideal first step when someone is resolving conflict with me is the same. I want them to 1) figure out why they are upset, 2) give me the benefit of the doubt in assuming that my reasons are not hurtful ones, 3) tell me what they felt about what I did/said, why they felt that way, and ask me about my motives in an accepting and non-blamey way (for instance "what was the reason I wasn't invited?" not "why didn't you care enough about me to include me?"), 4) accept my motives and empathy, and 5) help me figure out a solution for future occurrences if one can be found.


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belenen: (Ma'at)
on talking about people behind their back
icon: "Ma'at (a photo of one side of a brass balance scale, with a feather inside the bowl. The background is sky blue. On the bottom of the image, below the photo, is the word "Ma'at")"

prompt from [livejournal.com profile] aliki: What was the most hurtful thing you have ever said behind someone's back?

I'm really not sure. It was probably something I said as a teen, because I remember being taken to task for saying that someone I met was shallow, when I would not have said that to the person's face, and I probably said other things that would have hurt people. I have very very few memories from my teenage years, but I was very angry and pretty ignorant and probably said mean things (I know I used ableist slurs). As far as I can remember I have always considered things-people-can't-help (like bodies) to be off limits for attacking, but I'm only 90% sure that has always been true.

If I have said something hurtful behind someone's back recently, it would be because I didn't realize that it would be hurtful. If I realize it would be hurtful, I either tell them directly or I keep it to myself. Well, that's not completely true, because I have had connections that lapsed where I then reflected on them and said to someone else that that person was selfish, but I have never told that person that I think they are selfish. It's that place where we're not building anything, so to go to them and say "I have this problem with you" doesn't make sense, but it's still a sore spot that I feel the need to talk about sometimes. I don't know if I have a tendency to be drawn to selfish people, if selfishness is common, if I have a higher bar for what is selfishness than most people, or if I tend to apply a selfish label unfairly (perhaps due to me not asking for what I want, or due to me not realizing their limitations), but I have more than two lapsed connections with people I now see as selfish. I think probably all of those things are true.

I consider it unethical to talk negatively (or in a way that could be perceived as negative) about someone behind their back, so I do my best not to do it. (I'm not quite as intense about it as I used to be, but the gist of this post is still true) I consider it a form of lying, in that the assumption is that a friend does not have an issue with your behavior unless they say so. If I have an active connection with someone I won't do it unless it is in the context of preparing to talk to them about my issue with them (for example, talking to Heather about an issue I have with Kylei or vice versa, before talking to the person directly). If I can't bring myself to talk to the person about the problem, then I consider myself partly to blame (except in cases of abuse) as I have not given them the chance to realize or explain. It's okay if I can't talk to them or can't do it now, but I don't get to badmouth them in the meantime just to relieve my upsetness. I need to NOT vent because staying in that discomfort provides motivation and momentum for dealing with the person directly. Not to say I am always good at this! But it is always my goal, I live up to it I'd say at least 95% of the time, and I feel regret when I do not live up to it.

I do not consider it talking about someone behind their back to talk publicly about an issue I have with someone. It fits with my ethics to let them know at the same time I am letting everyone else know. This doesn't usually happen unless they have ended our relationship, because out of courtesy I prefer to tell someone first and have the chance to talk about it in the past tense with a solution on top rather than talk about it publicly before the working-out process. But if you stomped on my heart and I want to tell that story, it's my story to tell, and refraining is courtesy. If I know a person has strong privacy restrictions, I won't talk about them publicly in any specifics, and if I am upset with a person this may result in me writing about someone in a friends-locked entry. Usually I still have them added so that they can see, and otherwise I have offered to email entries to the people who they are about.

I can't stand people talking about me negatively in a way that they haven't told me about. I hate the idea of wandering around thinking that people have no problem with my behavior when they do, and I hate the idea of being ignorant of some failing I could be working on. While the idea of someone calling me out in public is scary, I'd far rather know than not know.


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belenen: (distance)
lonely in any crowd / spirit-to-spirit contact / conflict is a tool of intimacy
icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

I feel like no one talks about the loneliness of rejecting oppression. It's like being a creature that looks like its surrounding creatures but isn't, while the surrounding creatures just don't have the ability to connect with you the way you need. How there's this missing piece in most interactions. Their words, their kindnesses, their touch, their thoughts, just don't reach.

I can never tell by looking. I can't tell by touching. I can't tell by smell or taste or sound. I have to investigate their mind, and it takes such work, and the longer I go the more it stings when suddenly I fall into a poisoned thornbush of defensive privilege and refusal to empathize or learn. It takes so very much risk for me to connect. There are so few people who are safe. There are some who are safer than others, because I know where the thornbushes are and there are few enough that I can avoid them. But it still takes work because conversation changes the landscape and I can't predict when a thornbush will show up. I can never relax.

I marvel and shake my head at people who don't have this experience. Getting to know people, for them, is just about shared hobbies and lack of deliberate attacks, plus good intentions. Those are so easy to find, comparatively. So EASY!

Most humans need skin-to-skin contact. If they lack it, they feel a thing called "skin hunger." I spent my minor years in such a state of skin hunger that I would feel rage when people touched me accidentally, because I blocked it out and the slightest touch would open it up, which HURT. I think there is a similar thing for spirit-to-spirit contact.

I need spirit-to-spirit contact. But I can't have it with most people because if I run into a thornbush in that state, it will shut me down. It's shocking and painful: a sudden dehumanization while being in the most vulnerable state. And so many people don't even know how to make that contact to begin with. So there's already almost no safe people. And then there's even fewer who know how to make this kind of contact; yet fewer who aren't in such a state of spirit hunger that they won't devour you accidentally.

Sometimes I find someone who I can tell could share this spirit-to-spirit contact with me, but they're surrounded by thornbushes. That's the worst, but it also crushes me when they're mostly free of thornbushes but the world sucks so much from them that they don't have the energy to connect. That happens almost every time, because people don't usually clear their thornbushes unless they have endured the trauma of oppression, and that trauma drains your energy.

(I feel like I just realized why mixed-status relationships are more common than I would expect- the effort it takes to call someone out (if they are empathetic and growth-focused) may be less than the effort it takes to support someone else through their oppression while daily dealing with your own. I've never been genuinely close to someone who didn't have at least two axis of oppression, but I can imagine it's a relief to rarely be called on to comfort your close ones' suffering.)

Every person with whom I have felt that 'click' that should allow for easier, deeper connection but did not because of  thornbushes or trauma or lack of energy or space or time -- every one of those people I feel a gap in my life. Even if I think they are full of awful hateful ideas, I can still feel what SHOULD be and I still crave it.

I'm so passionately dedicated to creating intimacy wherever I can because I feel the holes where it should be. I know that some people probably see me quite negatively for for my furious and often rude resistance of evil. But human intimacy cannot exist without conflict because humans vary and that causes conflict. And in a world full of oppression, there's a shitton of trauma connected to that variation, which makes conflict way more common and way more difficult.

I used to avoid conflict because I wanted to be seen as a loving person. I wanted to be seen as loving more than I wanted to change this hateful world to one where love could flourish. I have given up being seen as loving. People who understand intimacy will understand that I am loving and that is enough.

I need more connection. I need to not have to fight endlessly through barriers to feel connection. I need it to exist for me in more than just two or three people in my 32 years of life! This is part of the reason I work to do whatever I can to create justice. It is only in a more just world that I have any chance of having my needs met. I don't just crave a world that doesn't damage people. I crave a world where I can meet a person, feel a click with them, and explore that with joy, knowing that there will not be evil dysempathetic ideas lurking or so much trauma and energy-drain that I cannot connect with them.

I have not killed off my naive former self who literally wanted to be intimate with every human. I fight against those who attack intimacy with oppression and denial, so that maybe someday another spirit like mine will have more of a chance of doing what my child self wished. I fight for all those who suffer and I fight for that little part of me that can't help hoping. I won't ever stop. I will not avoid conflict. It is not only a necessary tool for creating intimacy, but perhaps the greatest one.


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belenen: (distance)
trustworthiness requires conflict-management skills
Wanna know who you can trust not to hurt you?

Nobody. Absolutely no one, because even with the very most compassionate, dedicated-to-trustworthiness person EVER, you're gonna get hurt. Sometimes people hurt you WHILE they are trying their damnedest to make you feel better. A person who would never hurt you would have to be not only perfectly patient, wholly accepting, eternally available, and effusively loving, but also omniscient. Not even you can predict everything that might cause you pain, and you can't possibly communicate even all that you DO know. But that doesn't mean that the correct answer is to choose to trust no one.

Instead, choose with future pain in mind. Trust people who are going to react to hurting you in a way that will not cause you further pain, and will instead help you heal. When deciding whether or not to trust someone, the most important skills to look for are honesty and conflict-management. If they can't have an argument with someone without calling names, attacking character, turning things into a blame contest of right and wrong, or cutting contact without trying to work it out first, they are not a trustworthy person. You can still love them from a distance, but if you let them close you are going to be in harms way. You can find out how good they are at conflict management by listening to how they talk about their previous relationships or anyone they might currently be in conflict with: a friend, a coworker, a family member. If they paint that person as an enemy with no redeeming qualities, keep in mind that it only takes one mistake on your part for them to treat you the same way.

I trust lots of people to varying extents. I trust the entire internet by sharing publicly, but that is not an area of vulnerability for me. For me to trust someone enough to share significant time with them (which IS vulnerability for me), I have to know that 1) if I hurt them in some way, they will let me know as kindly as they can, and give me a chance to work it out. I also have to know that 2) they will want to do better if they accidentally hurt me, and that 3) they would never deliberately cause another person emotional suffering. I consider these three things to be the basics of decent conflict-management skills. You cannot manage conflict correctly without compassion.


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