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Grief and the Hero Complex

I am so tired. I actually took the afternoon off work to stare blankly at the computer with occasional crying. Okay, more like occasional not crying.

It has been damn near impossible to keep my head up. And I mean physically. Every muscle in my body feels completely over-taxed. I sleep and I sleep but it never seems to be enough. That’s why I hardly update the blog anymore. I barely have enough energy to go to work and I didn’t even have that today.

I don’t know what the hell kind of stages of grief these are, but after my mom’s death, I felt relief. I wrote about it. Now I feel a strange child of despair and sadness. All of the emptiness of someone dying with none of the darkly sweet missing them. Just nothing. No hope. No apprehension. As much as she was never around, never a mom in any real sense of the word; this is a new level of loss. A kind of anti-grief that swallows every other emotion in its unending blackness.

Because we were estranged and because I did so much work on my feelings about her while she was alive, I got trapped in the idea that her dying wasn’t something I would have to go through like a normal person, and it’s not. It’s more complicated than that.

I have had one mission since I was born: to save her. That’s why I’m here. That’s why she made me. My infant failure to do this job is why she gave me away. She thought that a baby would change her. I didn’t. But that didn’t stop me from growing up with the sick assumption that I was the solution to all her mistakes.

I truly thought there was some combination of things I could say or do. Something I would own, some person I could become, that would break the curse and rescue the princess. Magical thinking has saved me and damned me in equal measure. Childish hope, wishing on stars, and a complete and utter disregard for reality got me through all of what I would consider my highest achievements.

Most of us are witches. The children of addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill. We grow up watching our parents distort reality every day. We have an in-born ability to work against logic. To become an illusion. Anything we have to do to bend the light around our parents. To make a foundation out of nothing at all.

In addition to the grief I feel about my mother, I’m still processing the grief I feel for my business that closed in September. I’ve owned four businesses and closed three of them. This was the only one I didn’t want to close. Despite this, it’s one of the things I am most proud of myself for. I used a lot of magical thinking to keep that place running for as long as it did. I tied it to my heart and I willed it into being. I breathed it instead of air and I catapulted myself higher than I’ve ever gone before. Higher than an abandoned punching bag like myself was ever meant to go. It felt amazing.

I never fantasized about my future kids meeting my mother. I couldn’t, it was to painful. But I imagined my future kids in my business. I clearly saw every milestone on our climb to the top. Over and over. I had to do this or it wouldn’t have made it ten days, much less four years. But it crumbled anyway. And right after I failed my business, I failed this too.

I had one job, it was to save my mother. On December 9, 2016 I failed. My reason for being died. And now I am here, no purpose. No surrogate purpose even.

It’s not like I haven’t been to therapy. It’s not like I don’t know that it’s impossible (not just unhealthy, but impossible) to ask a daughter to save her mother. I get that my low self-worth is a result of childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse. I find myself deeply amused by the irony that it’s lead me to overachieve in an effort to prove myself valuable to the very people who caused this situation. People who are fundamentally incapable of seeing value in anything, least of all me.

And yet, I am subject to this insufferable human ailment. Grief like black tar boiling cold in the pit of my stomach. Pushing up my throat out of my mouth, covering me completely in an invisible barrier that cuts me off and drags me down.

Just as I was starting to internalize the realization that chronic overworking and trophy-hunting will not make me feel worthwhile, I found that I no longer had the motivation to keep my struggling business alive. This is not a coincidence.

However, it is a coincidence that my mother, the origin of all this shit, also died three short months later. Here I am, starting the long journey of working backward 31 years into the belly of the beast, deconstructing the illusion that I can save the world with sheer willpower and a complete lack of self-care when suddenly, the world dies. Because that’s the truth, isn’t it?

I’m smart enough to know that I can’t break the curse and I can’t save the princess. Even if I were to die for the princess (I would have), that wouldn’t be enough. But I’m also devious enough to pretend that I know these things when, in reality I made the world my princess. Because if I can’t save her, I’ll save everything I possibly can.

I am motivated by a desperate need to fight for something and against something else. I go into battle every day because I must atone for the one I left to die. It took all these years, but the thing I’ve been punishing myself for has finally come to pass. And what do I have to show for myself? A failed business and the half-baked realization that everything I’ve ever done, I’ve done for a woman who is now dead and never cared or was affected by my actions except for when they fueled her own resentments.

In times past, I have come out of this realization with a new purpose. Years go by, and I once again awaken to the reality that the new purpose is just me trying to save my mother a different way. When do I get to save myself? How many layers do I have to peel off before I get to the one where I matter more than she does?

You told me I would feel relieved when you died.

You were right, I do.

Mom,

You were abusive. And I loved you very much.

There is no shame in either statement. Both are true.

I’m glad that life, which you found so painful, is over for you. You used to tell me how much you wanted to die. I’m glad that you have what you wanted. And I’m so sorry that you felt that way.

Your joy was always brief but intense. And you never seemed to be able to remember it when it was gone. Nonetheless, you taught me how to appreciate the world. To see the beauty in ordinary things. Every time I look at the moon I think of you. You used to call me and tell me to look at it when it was especially pretty. 

I remember being on the phone with you, looking at the moon, knowing we couldn’t talk. Knowing that this was a temporary thing, wishing it weren’t, wondering why I answered. I’m glad we had that quiet moment. I’m equally glad I stood my ground when, later on you pushed and shamed and demanded something I could not give you. 

If my skin was worth anything, you would have cut it off me in a second without a thought. There was a time that I would have asked you to. Thanks to you, I thought it was okay to let people insult me, hit me, threaten my life. I thought that’s what good daughters did. 

You never believed anybody who told you they loved you, me included. You told me you loved me a lot, and I think you thought you did, but you treated me like you hated me most of the time.

I’m relieved that you are free from pain. I’m relieved because I finally know where you are and what you’re doing. I’m relieved because maybe I can stop trying to prove myself to you. 

You had an amazing smile. I wish I had more memories of it. 

You Will Never Be Cured

We have this narrative that all you have to do to be a Good Human is figure out how to keep your house clean, capitalize on your education, utilize your left and right brain, forgive assholes, know the state capitals, “experiment” but not so it’s weird, have well behaved dogs, good smelling hair, sweaters that don’t pill, a calm and soothing voice but also a commanding manly voice, one pair of comfortable designer shoes, a watch your mom didn’t give you, healthy teeth, and a tattoo you got on a whim but still looks really cool 15 years later.

That’s totally a lie.

I recently had an experience where I made a joke about my anxiety and got 25 different suggestions on what I should do to fix me. Which is great. It means that you guys love me enough to tell me this stuff, but I also saw a pattern in the comments and I have something to say about it.

There’s nothing wrong with me.

And there’s nothing wrong with you either. We are functioning at peak performance for this moment. If we want something else, we can do something else, and then different things will happen. Different than what’s happening now, different than we expected, even.

There’s no magical switch that will turn you from who you are into someone worthwhile because you are already worth everything you will ever be worth. You were born worthy, you will die worthy regardless of any external factors.

If you decided to become a master carpenter or a physicist or get really good at coping with your depression or if you do nothing, help no one, and die alone, you are worth the same. It’s only a matter of preference and comfort.

Stop stressing out over being a good enough human. Stop thinking that the solution to your “problem” is over the next hill. A bullet journal will not cure you because there is nothing to cure you from.

There is no right way to be a person. There is only the way you choose.

Jake and Jessica – Girl Talk

Chapter 7: Girl Talk


Chapter 1 – The Annihilator (NSFW -Explicit sex)
Chapter 2 – The Annihilator is Dead
Chapter 3 – It Was a Good Day
Chapter 4 – The Jake Must Go On
Chapter 5 – A Daring Rescue
Chapter 6 – Sweet Brothings


“But what about Kelsey?”

Jessica had nearly forgotten that she’d only told the Marco story in order to distract from talking about Kelsey. Jake wasn’t going to let it go. She sighed.

Seeing her reluctance, he thought better of pushing. “You don’t have to tell me, if it’s a thing. I was just curious.” Her nervousness before the game that day had come as a total surprise to him.

“No.” Jessica said. She searched for words. “It’s just sort of delicate. I guess.”

Jake waited for her to elaborate. She scrambled for another distraction.

“Remember when you dated that sorority girl from Texas that called you Chocolate?”

“Oh Gross.” Jake had nearly forgotten the embarrassment of the girl they called the Chocoholic. She’d been obsessed with his blackness. She said some of the dumbest things any person had ever said to him from assuming that he didn’t know his father to reminding him multiple times that her dad would try and kill him with increasing levels of seriousness and creepiness. He’d dumped her quickly and quietly when she’d crossed the line and called him a ‘my negro.’ It still bothered him that he’d ever thought that her behavior was anything close to okay.

Of course, he’d read the blogs. He realized that he shouldn’t be ashamed of himself, only of her, but he couldn’t help feeling like an idiot for falling for it even once. Being reduced to nothing more than a caricature and having gone along with it in any way was something he didn’t like to dwell on.

“Oh God, Jess, is Kelsey a racist?”

“No!” she snorted a laugh. “Dude, she’s literally color blind.”

“Uh huh. You ever wonder how it is that people who call themselves ‘color blind’ so frequently tend to only know white people and only hire white people?”

“Oh yeah, and they’re all like ‘I don’t see color.’” Jess said that last bit with a snotty accent that sounded suspiciously like her mother.

“You don’t see color because you don’t have any people of color anywhere around you and you’ve made sure it stays like that!” Jake told the imaginary racist. “But seriously” he said “What does the Chocoholic have to do with your girl?”

Jess put her face in her hands. She’d completely forgotten that they’d nick-named her The Chocoholic. She’d gone after every black dude in their frat. She’d even hit on Aditya, but lost interest when he gently but firmly explained that he wasn’t her type. “Man” she said “We were so shitty to that girl.”

Jake objected. She was, after all, a racist. Jess said that the way they reacted to her racism was a perfect example of toxic masculinity and that rather than giving her a racist nickname in it’s own right, they should have shut her out in other ways. Eventually, they agreed intersectionality is a thing, and they were back to the subject of Kelsey.

Jess hesitated. So much of this wasn’t hers to talk about. “You ever date a girl with… stuff?”

“What, like a penis?” Jake asked

Jess laughed. No, that would be easy.

“Actually” she said “Kelsey is cis. We met through the Ladies Auxiliary because her dad is trans. He couldn’t come today but they usually come to stuff together. He was a single parent, so she’s pretty protective of him. Likes to support him and everything.”

Jake crooked an eyebrow. “But the” he asked while gesturing at his own face when he couldn’t remember the words.

“Cis women can be color blind too Jake, God.”

“Shit, sorry. I don’t know medical things. So what do you mean? What is ‘stuff?’”

“Like trauma, like a history.”

“She got beat?”

“And way worse. Like sexual trauma stuff.”

“Oh shit.” Jake’s eyes were wide. “I guess that’s why her dad raised her alone?”

“Yeah” Jess said without elaborating. Kelsey had told her after their third date that she wanted to talk. At the time, Jess was terrified that she was about to get the let down, but Kelsey explained that she’d been molested and she had some ground rules Jess had to follow if they wanted to keep dating each other. She’d been over-joyed not to be dumped. But she also felt a new level of responsibility to her girlfriend.

Jake thought about it. A few of the girls he’d been with had told him about things from their past. One ex was date-raped by a guy she thought was her best friend, another had been molested by her nanny. Every girl had stories of people who’d tried to take advantage of them in different ways. If he was honest with himself, he didn’t usually date women long enough to learn that much about them. He told Jess as much.

Jess told him about the ground rules talk. Jake said he thought that was a pretty mature approach. Privately, he wondered what he’d say if he had a ground rules talk.

“Not to sound insensitive” Jake said, “but what’s the big deal, I mean you both kind of have… stuff.”

“Fuck. Why does everybody think I was molested?” Jess answered.

Jake laughed at first, but got serious when she shot him an angry look and he quickly clarified that he didn’t mean that. He’d done his homework after Jess came out. He knew all about dysphoria. Of course, just as he was patting himself on the back about it, She informed him that some transpeople don’t really experience dysphoria and that she was one of them.

“Okay, this is going to sound like a dumb question, but if you don’t have dysphoria how do you know you’re trans?”

Jess rolled her eyes. “Are you serious, dude? How do you know your gender if you don’t feel bad about it? Come on.”

“Point taken” Jake said “But I’ve never heard of that.”

Jess looked sheepish. “I don’t talk about it much because I’ve had a lot of people react badly.” The first time she’d told a therapist that she didn’t feel dysphoric, the woman had answered with a blunt ‘Then why are you here?’ Thankfully, she had good enough insurance to find another therapist and fast, but a lot of other people weren’t so lucky.

“Kelsey has panic attacks” she told Jake “And she used to cut herself. I have no idea how I’m supposed to deal with that, dude.’

Jake laughed. Jess didn’t seem amused but he raised an eyebrow and replied to her silent judgement. “That’s kinda ironic, though, right?”

“Oh fuck you, dude.”

“Weren’t we right here having this same exact conversation this morning?’ Jake asked “You’re not obligated to her now that you know this about her, but if you like her, you figure it out even if it’s awkward, right?”

Jess nodded.

“I bet you she knows how to deal with her shit better than you do, am I right?”

Jess nodded again.

“Take it from me” Jake told her “She’ll let you know. Just don’t be an ass.”

If You Don’t Work You Don’t Eat: On Being Compulsive In The Face Of Abundance

wpid-wp-1476039086224.jpgI’ve been going through a hard time lately. Kind of because my business closed, but not really. The real reason is something I started to realize years ago, but like all deeply ingrained and compulsive coping mechanisms, it’s never just one realization that does the trick.

I think I might be a workaholic. I know, how silly. Every person between the ages of 20 and 35 right now is a workaholic. Every woman in business, every person of color, transgender person, everybody who grew up in poverty, immigrated here from somewhere else, or grew up with alcoholic parents. We all know the reality of what it means to be completely abandoned by a system we’re still expected to work for every day like we were never thrown out with the trash, or like we wouldn’t be thrown out now if circumstances changed. The truth is, outside of a few select white children and straight dudes, human life has no inherent value.

If you don’t work; you don’t eat. We’ve all heard that before. When the shit hits the fan, you have to buckle down. You get another job, you sell some stuff, you do what it takes and that’s just another part of making it through. The thing about having no economic safety net is that if you don’t have money for food, you don’t get food. If you don’t have money for rent, you don’t have anywhere to sleep. So you do what has to be done. You get up every day and you say yes to everything and no to nothing, and you don’t need safety standards because OSHA doesn’t pay the electric bill, and you don’t need work/life balance because without work there is no life.

And the same companies and industries that will hire someone to work full time without paying them enough to live full time devour a worker like this. A person without boundaries, who regularly chooses the job over their own health and safety. We are the band-aids this broken system relies on to keep itself together. We shine bright and we get promoted and given the big projects, because the company knows that we will be complicit in our own exploitation. Because we will be. Try to put a workaholic at a normal company and it gets real uncomfortable.

Which is where I am right now. I have nothing feeding my workaholic tendencies and it’s ugly. At the same time, I honestly wonder if there even is such a thing as a workaholic. Because that is some pre-recession white bullshit if I ever heard it.

People of color don’t get to be workaholics. Women don’t get to be workaholics. The workaholic was invented in the 1950s when, for the briefest of time certain subsets of middle class white dudes lived in an economic paradise built on union labor on the one hand the racist and sexist exclusion of non-whites and women on the other, and therefore experienced the phenomenon of abundance above and beyond anything they had ever been prepared for as middle class people. In this random accident, some of the white dudes missed dinner even though they didn’t have to, and thus the workaholic was born.

But that’s exactly the kind of shit a workaholic would say. I’ve been around addicts enough to know that crack has the uncanny ability to make everybody who smokes it suddenly realize that addiction is a racist conspiracy theory cooked up by the government to keep us in our place.

What I do know is this:

  • When I can’t use constant work to distract me from myself, old coping mechanisms like anorexia and self harm are right there, ready to be the solution they were before I had work.
     
  • I am no longer happy with the way I feel about my work, something that used to be the only thing that made me happy.
     
  • Even though I’m unhappy with it, I still obsess over it, making sure that work is constantly the focus, wherever I am. There’s no relief.
     
  • I really do fear that my life will fall apart if I were to stop working or making things, even briefly.
     
  • I feel calm when I’m horribly ill because I finally have a reasonable justification for not working. Which is actually progress, I used to think that even illness wasn’t justification enough.
     
  • I frequently think that it’s better this way because working and making things is the only thing I’m good at anyway.
     
  • I (not so) secretly believe that food and sleep are allowed to me on the condition that I have accomplished something. And I have trouble seeing what’s wrong with that.
     
  • I cling to the belief that compulsive working is somehow the only positive outcome from the neglect I experienced in childhood, and if I were to stop this now, it would be nothing but tragedy all the way down.
     
  • I am unable to justify my existence without work.
     
  • As a union woman, and a fierce defender of workers’ rights, I honestly believe that I am an exception to the labor laws and standards I would literally die to protect.
     

But the recession…

But my childhood…

Surely this compulsive working is just good sense after everything I’ve been through. But of course it isn’t.

I know better than most that the coping mechanisms you come up with in a crisis can’t be your coping mechanisms for good. Indiana Jones survived a nuclear blast in a refrigerator one time in a movie. That doesn’t mean we should all saddle up the Kenmore and bring on nuclear winter. Stuffed in a fridge is no way to live long-term. You do what you have to in order to survive so that you can do better later. Not to relive the same trauma over and over again until it finally kills you years after the fact and without even trying.

Republicans Only Care About Women They Own

For everybody asking why the Republican party only speaks out against Trump when he denigrates white women, I have the answer. 

These conservatives are only  appalled at Trump’s presumptions over something they think they have ownership over: white womanhood. The sacred white mother has been a political haven for despicable racists and sexists since Sojourner Truth and it still is today. That’s why they’ll fall on their swords now rather than let anybody see behind the curtain of their chivalry. The hand of protection these bastards extend to their precious wives and mothers is a cage called the patriarchy. 

And if it’s not, where is their conviction when it comes to reproductive health, sex ed, equal pay, processing rape kits, electing women to public office, lesbian and transgender rights, and on and on for literally millennia. If the only thing you jump to defend is a white woman’s vagina and who gets to “grab” it, the reason is because you have first grabbing rights and you’re mad somebody tried to take it. Stop lying misogynist  shitlords.

A Note on Bathroom Etiquette

One thing I really appreciate about the Pacific Northwest is how we all go around acting really sorry to have bothered anybody we happen to cross paths with who isn’t obviously happy to see us.

Which is why the incident I have just been involved in is basically the most appalling thing ever. Someone knocked on the door while I was in the bathroom… twice. I know. I’m going to need some serious therapy to get over this horrible abuse of the acoustic qualities of the Powell’s Hawthorne bathroom door.

Here’s the thing. Unlike Powell’s downtown, my local Powell’s only has two bathrooms. One for book customers and one for cafe customers. Since I was there to buy books, I decided to do the decent thing and wait outside the frequently occupied book bathroom. I of course waited patiently and quietly because the lock was engaged, and I knew that because the little red “in use” flag was in the little window in the lock which had been put there for exactly this purpose. The person currently defiling that public toilet and I would have had absolutely no reason to ever even hear one another’s voices. Except for the fact that the person in the bathroom was talking to themselves. Loudly. And for a very long time.

And because I have lived in Portland exactly long enough that I will never again have the gall to ask another grown person why they are talking to themselves in a bathroom I want to use, I went to the cafe bathroom. Which also has the little “available” and “in use” flags on its lock. This is important.

Because less than 30 seconds into my already stressful (illegal use of cafe bathroom) experience, someone knocked on the door. Which is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY. There is a tiny flag for exactly this circumstance. When you go up to a bathroom door with a tiny “in use” flag, you know that THE BATHROOM IS IN USE YOU GOD DAMNED CRETIN. Only a firefighter should ever knock on a door with such a sign on it, and only when things are actually, totally, completely on fire.

The “in use” sign is there for both of us. So you don’t have to waste your time knocking on things millions of gross other people have touched, and so I don’t have to muster the fucking emotional fortitude to say “someone’s in here” as pleasantly and firmly as possible while rubbing desperately at my own asshole with the worst most horrible toilet paper on the market.

And this is very important. Under no circumstances whatsoever (except for aforementioned billows of flesh-searing flame) should anyone EVER knock a second time. DID YOU THINK I HAD ESCAPED THROUGH THE WINDOW YOU HORRIBLE TWAT?

I understand that the person on the other side of the door may have been in distress, but it’s not like I was just waiting for them to keep knocking on the door like some kind of sick public shame game. Short of letting them piss between my open legs like that one time on The L Word, I had nothing for them. Except for a second “someone is in here” identical to the first to indicate to this obviously dense individual that NOTHING HAD CHANGED in the 30 seconds between this knock and the last one.

And don’t even try to say it could have been two different people. No two people in Portland are that horrible.

The Logical, Educated Argument for Replacing Every Picture of Donald Trump with this Dildo in Trump Hair

This is Donald Trump
This is Donald Trump

This is for all y’all Democrats because I know you love this cerebral wordy college shit.

Michael Moore has said he believes only satire can bring Trump down. So far,  Democrat offerings in that regard tend to be smug, overly-analytical and rely heavily on irony. A concept most of us only pretend to understand in order to justify the crippling student loan debt we acquired at 18 and will likely carry with us into retirement. We could have purchased a farmhouse in Missouri, but who wants to live in a fly-over state, am I right?*

Very few people fail to understand the concept of a dildo. It’s fake beef. A plastic, orangey substitute for what you really need. It has no pulse, no soul, and sometimes the dog finds it under your pillow and chews it’s sad helpless head off. It’s literally filler.

Thus, the humble dick joke. Uniter of wo(men). We already know from His inability to take a simple finger-mocking that Trump is fundamentally insecure, particularly about the size of his no-doubt underperforming penis. What better way to bring us all together behind this ineffectual tool than to ensure that a vote for Trump is explicitly a vote for Dildo.

Are you, Trump supporter, afraid of change? Are you angry that your elected officials don’t seem to work with you at all? Look on this Trump Dildo and despair. Don’t be swayed by Trump’s empty promises. Don’t forsake the real world for 5-speeds of artifice claiming to make your cunt America great again. Don’t be fooled by the technological marvel of his carefully sculpted dome, I implore you. Do you think that Trump validates your race fear (also known as racism)? Do you believe that he will keep you safe from those unpatriotic fucks who would import illegal immigrants at the same speed at which they export your jobs? I have terrible news for you. Donald Trump’s word is his bond in the same way that this cold, plastic buggerclaw  is your God damned boyfriend, do you get me?

Therefore we must draw back the curtain on this fool, my collegiate fellows and Dildo Trump is the way. Please cease this senseless overestimation of our quarry. The Trump voter will only appreciate our thesis in dick form. Go forth and propagate this image. For democracy. For America.

*This kind of shitty cultural elitism is why were losing to the human dildo, Trump, by the way.

To the Young, Oppressed American, Whomever You May Be

There’s a universal truth that nobody wants to look at, despite the fact that it is probably the most pervasive reality on earth.

Some parents hate their children.

Sadder still, some parents love their children but have no way to protect them, from themselves, from the abuser, from the cold and uncaring consequences of their own failures.

So we have nowhere to seek solace. In a world that also hates us for reasons of its own, there is no hiding. And it’s unfortunate, but I need you to buck up. Because, out of the 7.125 billion lost, sad, and abused bastards on this slowly dying space turd, you happen to have the extreme luck to be born one of the 318.9 million Americans. This could also apply to any one of the 35.16 million Canadians, 64.1 million United Kingdom residents, 23.13 million Australians, and so on… but this is America, so suck it other countries.

You have options available to you that other people can only dream of. And you probably don’t even know what they are. Because why would anyone tell you when it’s in the majority of their best interest to keep you small, afraid and ineffectual.

I had the benefit of some great teachers when I was younger, and I’m going to compile those lessons here for you. Read them, but know that they’re only my experience of what worked. If you only internalize one sentence in this entire blog post, it should be the next one. You have options. Just because someone says you have to do something doesn’t mean you do. Just because you don’t know anybody who’s ever accomplished the things you want doesn’t mean you can’t.

Handle yourself. Go to the nearest mirror and look into it. You are the parent now. Your parents can’t feed you, can’t keep you safe, but someone has to and you’re the only one here. This is where being an American is the best thing you have going for you. We are surrounded by wealth and you don’t need that much to survive. Start cleaning houses, mowing lawns, sell fucking oranges by the side of the freeway. Get an income stream that is independent of anybody else. Don’t get a job you need a ride to get to, don’t use parental connections, make something entirely yours. Live off this money. Whenever possible, hide a bag with a change of clothes, as many underwear as you can spare and some food that doesn’t parish. This is your bug out bag, and you may need it someday. Figure out how to escape your room when you’ve been locked in it. If the violence is escalating, don’t go home. It won’t get better, it will only ever get worse. If they say it will get better, that’s a lie and it will only ever get worse.

Some people want you to die. Whoever you are, this statement is true. They may be close or far away, known or unknown, but they wish you were dead and they will take steps to starve you out of this life. Decide if you will fight or if you will die. I recommend fight because dying will take so much longer and be so much more horrible than you think. Even more horrible than it is now, even more horrible than the worst days in the fight. If you will fight, fight. Do not let them tell you where to go, what to say, or how to act. Do not let them tell you what your options are. We already covered this, but they are lying. Figure out what game they’re playing, learn all the rules to it and beat the pants off them. Find the loophole, get what you need on a technicality if you have to. This isn’t semantics, it’s survival.

Lie. Whenever possible, lie to people who show an inability to hear your truth. They want you to lie to them. That’s why they change the subject when you start to talk about what’s really going on, that’s why they minimize the impact of what you’re telling them. They want you to tell them you’re fine. Say you are and move on. This is not an ally, this is a roadblock to your ability to thrive.

The truth is a powerful weapon. Use it to your advantage. Unleash it only when it stands to do the most damage to the oppressor and the least to you. This usually means when you’re free and clear of the situation and safely out of their control. Alternately, it can be deployed if you’re backed into a corner as a last resort.

There’s safety in numbers. The poet Jenny Zhang has said “I’m not going to accept the mentorship of people who don’t see me, don’t know me, and don’t understand me.” Conversely, if you have someone who’s in the shit with you, who knows from experience exactly what it feels like to be hated and cast out by your own parents, they may be an ally. If they are trustworthy (if they say they’re going to be somewhere and they show up, they don’t make promises they can’t keep) trust them with a small thing (will you keep this dollar for me until the end of the day, for example) and see what happens. If they can be trusted, you may have found somebody who can watch your back. Don’t get comfortable, though. Circumstances change and allies can become enemies over time.

Beware of caretakers. Some people will think it’s romantic to be friends with you. You are a waif, a scoundrel who’s own parents have cast them out. It’s like a cartoon they watched in their safe house with their good parents while you were hiding in a closet or a bush or any other kind of cover you could find to keep them off you. I’m not saying not to be friends with normal people. Normal people are the reason I graduated from high school. But you have to know that you need more than they can provide. If you try to rely on normal people, they will begin to resent you. After all, it’s not their fault you’re like this. If a normal person offers you something too eagerly, especially if they’re an adult: beware. People always want something in return. You are broke, young and you have no resources. They will probably want to fuck you, and they’ll probably imply that raping you is justified because you accepted whatever gift or assistance they offered initially. This is why it’s so important to handle your own shit. If you don’t owe anybody anything, they can’t collect in the form of your ass.

Find a sanctuary. This could be any place where you feel protected, where people won’t turn you in to child services, where hours or maybe even days can be spent in safety and relative comfort. Make sure that no one controls access to this space. The public library, for example is public space and therefore no one can be banned from the library. Sanctuary can also mean a cultural association like a church or a youth group. If you’re going to find sanctuary in youth-oriented space, be careful. Rules designed to protect normal children can also be used to make you vulnerable and dependent on services that either can’t be relied on, or come with too high a price (see previous paragraph). The good news is that anybody who tells you you have to follow their rules in order to be happy is lying to you. Always remember that you have options.

And finally…

Forget about all of this. If this works, you’re going to wake up one day in a glorious future. A future you built yourself, a future where you are safe and you don’t owe anything to anybody. You must become a soldier who hones his skills, praying for a time when they are no longer needed. Your dis-empowered youth is only a hurricane, terrible but brief in the scope of your life. Giving this shit up will be almost as bad as learning it in the first place, but it’ll be worth it. Tell yourself that this is likely where your parents stopped trying if you need motivation to press on. Don’t be like them. Don’t fuck this up.

Smart Answers to Stupid Questions People Still Ask Me About My Mother

Most of us who have separated ourselves from the narcissistic, emotionally manipulative and abusive people in our lives have been asked some really dumb questions about that over the years. Especially if the person in question is a mother. I don’t know if it’s run of the mill misogyny (“but women are naturally nurturing, a woman could never be an abuser!”) or some deeper, sadder reality (it is possible that most mothers are really awesome and we got the unfathomable end of the stick), but the concept of a child who doesn’t speak to their mother is extremely difficult for most people to grasp. Especially once the person in question learns that my abusive mother is dying.

Why can’t you just forgive and forget?

It usually shocks people when I tell them that I have forgiven her. Years of shitty daytime dramas and moralizing cop shows have lead them to believe the way abusive relationships work is that when the abuser is dying, you come to their hospital bed, forgive them, and then they die peacefully while credits roll and everybody gets to feel safe in a world where consequences are largely rhetorical and people who love each other can’t possibly hurt one another.

Forgiveness and reason are not mutually exclusive. I can forgive the stove for burning my hand, that doesn’t mean I’m about to snuggle with it. My mother is a shark. She was very literally tortured from an early age. She’s been places no person would knowingly send their worst enemy. Only an idiot would forget that about her. That she does the things she does is understandable, that I would walk back into that situation with open arms is suicidal. I can forgive her, accept her, and still stay away from her. These things can and must coexist.

But don’t you love her?

For a long time, I felt like I shouldn’t. That only a moron would love someone who had been and continued to be intentionally mean to me. But my life isn’t a reaction to hers. For awhile it was, but it doesn’t have to be and it isn’t today. Loving someone or being loved by someone isn’t a license to treat them however you want, and it’s only the fact that I was raised by abusive people who were themselves abused that I would even think that.

But she loves you, doesn’t that matter?

Of course she loves me. Lots of people love me. I am extremely fucking lovable, but just like my love for her, her love for me does not make it okay to treat me like shit.

She used to tell me that no one would ever love me like she did, and it would scare me because I was legitimately worried that no one would. When I met her, no one had ever treated me like I was valuable, or like I mattered. She told me I was precious, that she loved me, and that she would always love me. For the first time since she abandoned me, I felt like I belonged to someone. So, when she started to criticize me, when she told me that she thought I was retarded, that I was emotionally unstable, that I was incapable of doing anything but staying with her and taking care of her, I started to think she was right. When she told me that I would die without her loving guidance, I totally believed it.

When I finally moved out of her house, it’s not because I realized that she was lying and manipulating me. It’s because I was going to kill her and myself anyway, and I thought I might as move out first and die a free woman.

She still texts me sometimes, and one string of angry condescending texts from a couple of years ago ended with an emotional reminder that no one would ever love me like she did. I just laughed. I fucking hope that no one ever loves me like she does. If I had one wish for the future of humanity, it would be that no one ever loves anyone anywhere the way she loved me.

Okay, but why do you have to tell everybody about it?

If you’re reading this, and you’re thinking “TMI,” you have the option to fuck right off, and you don’t have to ever come back. If you don’t want to hear this shit, that’s cool. It’s totally not for you.

In a perfect world, my mom is a freak anomaly; the only one of her kind. But I know for a fact that’s not true. Not only do other people with parents and partners like her contact me all the time and tell me that my writing helps them, new generations of abusers are being born every day and that’s why I write about this shit. Not everybody is safe where they live. Not everybody can talk about it yet, or maybe they’ll never talk about it like I do. If even one person reads this and it helps them, the other 7.125 billion of you can go to hell.

She’s dying, doesn’t that change everything?

What normal people don’t realize is that narcissistic abusers don’t play by the rules. No decent person would pretend to be terminally ill for attention, but we’re not dealing with decent people here. Sickness and death are both pretty great ways to control people and avoid consequences, especially the relationship consequences that come with being narcissistic, emotionally manipulative and abusive.

I met my mother in 1994, and one of the first things I remember her telling me was that she was sorry she wouldn’t be able to see me grow up, since she would be dead in two years.

So, for the last 22 years she’s been dying. Sometimes quickly, sometimes only when somebody wants her to do something she doesn’t want to do, but dying all the same. And the thing about lying about dying is that eventually, you’re telling the truth. She’s been diagnosed with cancer four times, each one more dire than the last.

At first, I did change my behavior. I asked myself what a good daughter would do in this situation, and I did my best to be the loving, responsible and supportive daughter I wanted to be. Not because of her, but because of me. I spent a lot of years reacting to her and using her shitty treatment of me as a justification for being a really terrible asshole to my own mother. But I don’t want to be the kind of person who blames other people for who I am and what I do.

So, I made exceptions to a lot of the boundaries I’d put in place in order to be supportive and available for her in her time of need, but then I realized that she was using her cancer the same way she used her health issues before cancer to manipulate people into doing what she wanted. And she would practically levitate off her “death bed” if someone didn’t fall in line. She’s been banned from one of the best cancer hospitals in the US for attacking a nurse there because they didn’t do things her way.

If dying had actually changed anything for her, it might change for me too. But it clearly hasn’t. Dying is just another tool she can use to control people and situations, and she’s using it to the best of her ability. It was naive to think that, after all she’s been through cancer would have any effect on her.

How would you feel if you had a daughter?

Sometimes people are asking this question because they want to see me realize that if I don’t reconcile with my mother, my future children won’t have a grandma. When, in fact, she’s probably the deciding factor in why I don’t have kids yet.

Other times people want to know what I would do if, in the future, my daughter refused to talk to me. But that’s a false equivalency. I am not my mother, my future children are not me. We’re going to have a completely different relationship than the one I have with my mother. I will say that if at any point, I think it is okay to neglect, abandon, abuse, allow other people to abuse my children, or if I ever choose drugs over them I will deserve it when they never speak to me again. And if they ever do decide to reconnect with me at any point after that, I will doubly deserve to have them leave me again if I continue to be abusive to them. Because that’s how relationships work.

How are you going to feel when she dies?

Obviously, I have no idea. How could anybody know that?

What I do know is how I feel today. I feel safe in my home today. I am confident in my abilities both personally and professionally today. I have self esteem and I have hope for the future, which are all things I earned since leaving her house and setting firm boundaries against her being able to come into my life and say abusive, shitty things to me, attack me or my family, or demand that I pay her bills, or whatever other crazy thing she thinks I am suddenly obligated to give her or do for her.

The space between us has been equal parts agonizing and liberating. At the end of the day, I’m just a person. I love my parents like anybody else does, but I don’t have any illusions about who they are.

For years I let the hope that she could change or had changed keep me in a holding pattern, close enough for her to lash out at, far enough away that I managed to dodge a lot of the really crazy behavior. But it was tearing me apart. I’ve done a lot of work to get to the point where I don’t openly hope anymore, but I know that when she does die, whatever is left of that feeling will be ripped out of me. And it will be horrible.

I still live a lot of my life on the incorrect assumption that if I could only say, do or be something more than I currently am, that I could cure her. That if I could somehow prove how smart, caring, strong, and capable I am that I could earn her kindness, her consideration. It’s only my heart that feels that way. My brain has spent thirty-one years studying her absence, her presence, her rage, and her pain.

It took me so long to accept her as she is. And love her as she is. And know that, just like the hot stove, she will always burn me. And I also know that a lot of other people have the same struggle that I do. So next time someone asks you a stupid question about your abusive mom (or dad, or partner or whatever), feel free to give them the link to this blog. Because it can get a little tiring telling strangers this kind of shit.