December 2016
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icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

[media imbibed in 2016]

Stars are for re-watches

Switched at Birth (finished season 4)
New Girl season 4
Grey's Anatomy* (seasons 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, )
Lost Girl* (all seasons [with a few skips])
Last Tango in Halifax (seasons 1-3)
Better Off Ted*
Witches of East End*
Love (season 1)
Wentworth* (seasons 1-2 rewatch, plus 3)
IT Crowd* (all seasons)
Cristela (season 1)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (season 2)
The Messengers (part of season 1)
How to Get Away with Murder (season 2)
Grace and Frankie (season 2)
Bitten (seasons 1-3)
Zoo (season 1)
Lady Dynamite (season 1)
The Lizzie Borden Chronicles (complete)
Baby Daddy (seasons 4-5)
Good Witch (part of season 1)
Scandal (season 5)
Orange is the New Black (season 4)

FILMS (small screen):
Jenny's Wedding
Revenge of the Bridesmaids
I Give It a Year
The Decoy Bride (wtf with all these wedding-themed movies)

FILMS (theatre):
Through the Looking Glass (Topaz treated me)


Seinabo Sey -- "Pretend"



[icon descriptions]

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tweets & fb posts, November 2016
it is very longCollapse )

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LJI topic 2, that one friend: when is it over? my 5 criteria for continued friendship investment
icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

I've always been the thrifty type: can't throw it out if there might still be some good in it! I'm like this with people to an often-detrimental extreme. I have a very hard time giving up and mostly can't manage to do it unless the other person already has. I was thinking about this tendency recently and asked myself "if I had no memory of this person before this year, would I put effort into connecting with them?" and realized that for one friend in particular the answer is "hell no." Then I tried to remember the last time there was a long stretch of them being a nourishing friend for me and realized that it had been years. I'm pretty sure they started thinking of me as "someone they used to be friends with" a long time ago -- while I was still trying to be their friend.

I might have more good people in my life if I hadn't spent so much time and energy trying to resurrect this friendship. I need a better cut-off point where I don't let literal years go by of me waiting for them to start being my friend in earnest. But what should the limit be? I know people go through hard times and I don't want to end a friendship because someone went through a period of low energy. I also don't want to continue one where the other person doesn't actually bother. I need criteria for me continuing to invest, and I need to actually and honestly evaluate where I am spending my energy. So tonight I am creating criteria:
1) nourishment: interacting with them is net-positive at least half of the time. (net-positive means I leave an interaction more nourished than drained).
2) shared effort: they put forth at least 1/3rd of the total effort for us to connect (I'm willing to adjust to meet them).
3) fair expectations: they don't expect me to do more than half of the emotional labor or more than half of the logistics labor.
4) building together: we have shared goals, and I can see actual evidence of this in their behavior and in where they devote their resources.
5) evidence of care: they take action to show that they care about my feelings and (without prompting) express a desire to help meet my needs.
If none of these criteria are true for more than three months, I should discuss this with the person and if nothing can be done to improve the situation, I should take a break from the person.

If I had used these criteria to evaluate my relationship with this one friend, I would have recognized that the relationship showed
1) lack of nourishment: it almost always was way more draining than nourishing.
2) lack of effort: they did less than 1/3rd of the total effort to connect us, probably less than 1/4th.
3) unfair expectations: they expected me to do way more than half and expected me to accommodate all their needs while they didn't do anything for mine.
4) minuscule building together: I saw very little evidence that they cared about what mattered to me.
5) no evidence of care: they never checked in about how their actions affected me, reacted defensively every time I tried to discuss it, and showed absolute disinterest in helping to meet my needs.

In contrast, my three closest people at the moment share these qualities:
1) nourishment: time together is net-positive way more than half of the time.
2) shared effort: they do way more than a third of connecting us (one of them actually does more than me on a fairly regular basis!).
3) fair expectations: they don't expect me to do more than half, and they offer to take half of the burden (or even more sometimes!) if they can.
4) building together: they show they care about community, justice, self-education, etc by hosting gathers with me, participating in protests, learning new things, etc.
5) evidence of care: they check in about how their actions affect me, and they offer to help me in whatever ways they can. They try to accommodate my communication needs and express appreciation when I move outside of my comfort zone for them.

I have to learn to accept when someone is not interested in investing in me, and I have to learn to stop pouring effort into them. I only have so much and I can't build good connections if I spend all my energy on people who do not want to create a positive feedback loop with me (wanting it to magically exist without them working for it doesn't count as 'wanting to create').

This one friend I'm talking about is someone who is in my top-five most-loved human beings of my entire 33+ years. I really wanted to be able to be connected with them. But I cannot. I will accept this and allow them to recede into my past, as I have receded into theirs.

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Poll #2058480 lji 10

how do you feel about me participating in lj idol?


do you plan to vote?


about the reading lists:

I'm not going to follow the links
I might read the starred ones
I'll probably read them some weeks
I'll read them all

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could-be safety
icon: "slytherin (a closeup of the Slytherin crest: a rearing silver serpent in front of a green background patterned in stylized waves of water and plush upholstery)"

there are reasons to fear me
I am a clawed, fanged creature
with no shame
and far too much emotion
I will bite
(if you should earn it)
I'm brimming with fight
If you don't know yet
you'll learn it

but here I amCollapse )

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LJ Idol signups still open! / LJI fav reads list, week 1: I need the struggle to feel alive
icon: "intrigued (a photo of a snow leopard with ears flattened, peering intently over a log)"

Signups for LJ Idol close at Wednesday, Nov 23rd at 8pm EST, the same time the first topic is due. I would looooove to have more of my flist participate, so if you're considering it, you still have a good 16 hours to sign up and post your first entry!

favorite posts from topic 1Collapse )

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LJI topic 1, I need the struggle to feel alive: no, I feel alive despite the struggle. I seek safety
icon: "feminist (the trans-feminist fist symbol colored in a rainbow gradient, with the words "intersectional or bullshit" on top)"

I cannot relate to feeling like you need to add more danger or stress to your life in order to feel fully alive; I think you have to be damned cozy in your privilege to feel that way.* Certainly a lot of people are that cozy, which is why shit like volcano surfing exists. Some people actually get adrenaline jolts so rarely that they find them fun!? I can't imagine.

My daily life is a struggle. I struggle to maintain my identity through being constantly assigned gender and having my sexuality and relationships erased any time I am around people (other than my closest). I struggle to make enough money to feed myself and pay my bills. I struggle to maintain relationships because literally all of my people are drained constantly by oppression & other hardships. I struggle to understand what people are saying, both because of my auditory processing issues and because I am extremely literal. I struggle to feel understood and valued when the best parts of me seem to go undesired and unnoticed. I struggle to be social because it takes so much out of me and so often gives little back.

I am privileged in significant ways (being white, physically non-disabled, cis-passing, & college-educated) and yet still, I struggle every day. I don't want to struggle; the more I am struggling, the less I can give. I want my struggles to decrease so that I can give more. I want to be able to help others and not need to spend all of my resources on my own mere survival. I know that I will have to work to maintain empathy with others if/when my own struggles decrease, but I am not concerned because I am more dedicated to doing that than I am to life itself.

What makes me feel alive is not when I am wrestling with some issue. I feel most alive when I can put aside my struggles for a little while and rest in my little bubble with just my safe people who I know are going to do their best to not use slurs, infringe on consent, or enforce damaging norms. Oppressed and marginalized people don't get to feel fully alive very often. I want change this, so I create safer spaces when I organize events and I work to improve those spaces that I don't control.


*there are other reasons to seek out danger or the simulation of it, I know: depression for instance can be so numbing that a shock of any feeling is a relief.

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LJI fav reads list, week 0
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

LJI week 0, Intro:

[newbie favorites]
newbie favorites:

[veteran favorites]
veteran favorites: *** * * * *

Some awesome writing already! this is going to be a fantastic season.

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LJI topic 0, intro: my function is explaining, my motivation is compassion, my hope is understanding
icon: "hopeful (close-up photo of me wearing cat-eye makeup, jewels on my cheek, and a violet glitter goatee. I'm gazing off to the side with a hopeful smile.)"

I do a lot of explaining myself as a queer, demisexual, agender, trans, relationship anarchist, vegetarian, eclectic pagan Quaker with ADD-PI (attention deficit disorder - primarily inattentive) and CAPD (central auditory processing disorder). My communication methods can be alarmingly rude on accident (illustrated by my lack of understanding of why others appreciate empty words like "hi") but my goal is almost always to create the best understanding for the most people. If I have one main function, it is to explain: explain people to each other, explain systems to people, explain myself to those I care about, explain how things work to my own self, explain to others how to practice skills I've learned.

My primary motivation is compassion, and for me that is very complex. In a simple, wholesome world compassion is just being kind to the people around you. In a world of structural injustice, compassion takes much more work. It takes learning about systems and about anyone who is different from you, because otherwise you will hurt people no matter how wonderful your intentions are. So I spend a lot of time trying to learn about people who are different from me and trying to help others also learn, so that I can reduce the amount of suffering I cause and hopefully ripple out to reduce suffering in general.

I want to connect with living beings in a mutually nourishing way. I've learned that if a person wants to reduce suffering enough to do work for it, we will probably nourish each other and be great friends. My hope in life and in writing is to create more understanding that will allow for more nourishing connections.

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why/how I make people a priority
icon: "polyamorous relationship anarchist (a rainbow-colored heart with the 'anarchy' capital letter A cutting through it, over a brick texture that suggests the heart is graffiti)"

What causes me to make someone a priority is one of two things: we decided together to deliberately build a connection, or we have an energetic connection that is unusually strong.

The first kind I do on purpose obviously, the second kind happens even when the other person puts no effort in at all. I have to try to deliberately shut that one off and when it comes to people who I feel are spirit-kin, it is as impossible for me to actually remove the impulse to make them a priority as it is for average people to not make blood kin a priority. I can keep myself from acting on it, but the urge is always there.

I actually have such a bad memory that I keep a list on my phone of people who I am currently prioritizing. It has been mostly useless for the past two months as I've been just scraping by, but I'm checking it again now.

I just took several people off the list, so it's very stripped down right now. It's usually 7-9 people but I don't have the energy within or coming in to make more people a priority right now. I think this list can help me illustrate the qualities that cause me to make someone a priority.

The list currently:

Topaz - because their company nourishes me (especially mentally and physically) & we have a shared goal of learning and creating.
Serenity - because their company nourishes me (especially spiritually) & ultimately we have an intention of becoming a community hub.
Allison - because their company nourishes me (especially artistically) & and I want a stronger friendship with them.
Sande - because their company nourishes me (especially spiritually) & I want to build a connection when that becomes possible.

They all have similar values to mine, they reach back when I reach out, they make efforts to spend time with me, and they try to stay in touch with me by reading what I share on LJ. Those aren't the only things I need to make someone a priority, but they are all necessary.

I tend to take people at their word. When I ask them if they make me a priority and they say yes, I treat all situations as though they're doing their best but other things are getting in the way. At some point though, I've got to stop acting like that's true. I want all my strong connections to be priorities but I'm sick of them forgetting that I fucking exist and not making any efforts of their own volition. I'm sick of literally everything else being more important.

So I'm not gonna do that. Right now, if you can't tell, I'm feeling angry and unimportant, especially to people who I've tried with over months and sometimes years while they put all their effort into other things, other people. At some point, they're just not valuing our connection. I shouldn't pour energy out trying to keep that connection alive. Fuck it. I should do what they're doing and treat them as part of my past not my present.

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thanks for being wonderful, LJ friends / poll: where do you live?
icon: "interconnectedness (two bald purple-skinned people in the ocean: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

Finally caught up on replying to comments today. I really do have just the sweetest friends list. In fact, overall I think my friends list right now actually has the highest number of meaningful connections that I've ever had. I really adore many of you and am excited about getting to know some of my newer friends. LJ is my beloved home and I'm pleased that we share this building *heartglow*

Speaking of home, I'm curious as to how my current readers are scattered (only I can see who chose what).
Please ONLY answer if you read my journalCollapse )

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I'm joining LJ Idol once more
Season 10

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constant caretaking without sufficient rest is damaging for caretaker, caretaken, & the relationship
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")"

If I could teach every empathetic person one relational/emotional skill, it would be making self-care a priority that comes first at LEAST half of the time.

Earlier this year I wrote about how loss of alone time, constant caretaking, and medication stigma almost killed me and that is one of the most important things I've ever written. This will be focusing on how constant caretaking without sufficient rest is damaging for the caretaker, the one who is being taken care of, and the relationship itself.

People who are generous and strong and good at managing emotion often end up in a caretaking habit by default. We know that even at the end of a terrible day, if someone comes to us with a need we can pull energy seemingly out of nothing in order to take care of them. The thing is, we're not pulling that energy out of nothing, we're pulling it from our cognitive/emotional reserves and our future. That's a great skill for an emergency but it is not sustainable; it cannot be a way of life.

When I was married, I spent a good half of my cognitive/emotional resources on my spouseCollapse ) All my caretaking and compromising my needs for their feelings did not help them to grow emotionally -- in fact I think it hindered their growth significantly.

Since I was able to be so intensely caretaking for someone for so long, I imagined I had no limits to the help I could give others. Then I ended up in three relationships which all took far more energy than they provided (mutually, I believe, as none of us had compatible needs & abilities at the time), which stripped me so far down that I could not get back out of the hole without medical, chemical help. Until I experienced being suicidal and reality-broken for months, I did not admit to myself that I could not give to everyone whatever they wanted and still be a healthy person. Until it almost killed me, I refused to value my needs above even the desires of others, much less over others' needs. But you know what? I'm no good to anyone if I am dead. And emotional death is real. I was absolutely useless to the world for at least six months if not a year after I ran out of energy and if I hadn't had access to free doctor visits and cheap meds through my university, it would have been a lot longer of a period. To a certain extent I am STILL recovering from that awful crash in late 2012.

And you'd think I'd have learned my lesson, but I got in a pattern of caretaking without paying attention to my needs againCollapse )

I have found that when I sacrifice my mental health for another person, eventually my survival instincts will kick in -- in ways that I really don't want them to. Either I stop being able to feel empathy for them and develop a dread for their presence or I start escaping constantly in my every spare moment and cease being an actual person, or both. These things are obviously not helpful for the other person and they can destroy a relationship. Kylei and I had no good connection for a year after we broke up because the pattern had gotten so deep that it was still there for many months afterward. Had we broken up earlier instead of staying in that sacrificing mode for each other, I am certain we would have healed much faster.

So my point in all this is that caretaking another person at the expense of your own needs is not sustainable. It will at least destroy the relationship if it continues too long and I think it can also destroy the person sacrificing, AND it is ultimately damaging for the person who is being taken care of. Coming to depend on someone for your needs and then having that ripped suddenly away when they run out of ability is profoundly destabilizing and terrifying, and it is inevitable because no one has infinite energy or the ability to give endlessly without being nourished enough to refill. If you love the person you're caretaking and you want to help them the most you can, you MUST take care of yourself. Otherwise you are setting them up for a really, really awful crash (and setting yourself up for the same).

As I said to a friend, you don't actually have the choice of caretaking someone without rest forever -- that's an illusion or maybe a delusion. The only choice you have is in what the end of the pattern looks like. It's literally impossible to continue giving while your needs are not met, while you are not taking in nourishment. I feel as sure about this as I am about the fact that you can't go endlessly without food.

The problem is that caretaking others at one's own expense is not always bad. It's only unhealthy when it is the norm, which usually happens gradually. This is why you need to know what your needs are and pay attention to whether or not they are being met. I am sure everyone's tells are different, but usually there are things people do when they are nourished that they don't do when they are drained. To know if you're nourished it's important to keep some kind of log of those things if your memory is not that great (like mine), or check in with yourself every so often.

what I need to be mentally healthy, and my tells of being drainedCollapse )

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horrible bioparents finally gone, maybe I can return to life
icon: "bloodcurdling (photo of me w wide-eyed snarling wild expression wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

Despite my best efforts I've only managed to post a handful of times in the past six weeks.
I'm so far behind on LJ that I will miss things as I go to catch up -- please forgive me if I make some clueless comment or something.

Not only did I start a new job that is physically and mentally exhausting (I have to do a lot of physical labor, stand for hours at a time, and memorize many things), my parents being here really ruined my mental health. They lie, they invade, they break and ruin, and they make up utter bullshit to justify themselves.

To get through them torturing me this way for a solid month, I spent every spare moment escaping. I rewatched the entirety of Friends despite its problems, because nostalgia made it engaging enough for escape (when I was agoraphobic I watched hours of Friends on DVD every day because it gave me a sense of connection).

a little sample of the bullshitCollapse )

I'm about to try and do some clearing, kick their energy out. Hopefully soon I will be able to put my brain in order and not feel so gross.

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relationships review: Topaz, Serenity, Allison, Evelyn, Sande, Heather, Kylei, Cass, Jackie, Roger
icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

Haven't done this since July, which is pretty much the last time I felt mentally okay. Everything has been on hold for at least two months. I'm barely managing my current levels of anxiety. It was already at unprecedented levels due to not having a job yet and then my awful parents invaded my house. Them being in town and constantly in my fucking house makes me want to rip my own brain out. They've done more stressful shit since I last wrote but I just am so sick of talking about them. I want them gone, desperately want them GONE.

I haven't done anything social at all in September, and even my texting has dropped to near-nothing, and I still feel constantly overstimulated in the worst way. I'm going through all these fucking interviews AND working in a customer service job. TOO MUCH.

I'm sorry I haven't replied to comments for a while. I keep meaning to do it but for whatever reason that is the hardest part of LJ for me (I think due to fear of making someone feel slighted by missing their comment and responding to everyone but them) and I can't manage it at the moment. It is not a lack of care though -- I do very much appreciate the care and thoughtfulness you've all shown. It means a lot.

maintaining at good w TopazCollapse )

slowly building w Serenity and AllisonCollapse )

on hold w Evelyn, Sande, Heather, Kylei, CassCollapse )

new buds w Jackie and RogerCollapse )

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recently: depressed, still job-hunting, home suddenly uncertain
icon: "tenebrous (a shadowy orange-light photo of my face, looking down, with an achingly sad expression)"

So, I guess I put off the depression as long as I could. About three weeks ago I stopped being able to fend it off. I've been completely overwhelmed.

illustrations from recent tweetsCollapse )

I feel like there are blocks on every path but an increasing pressure pushing me forward against them. It seems like an endless succession of this-week-is-more-stressful-than-last, an endless series of needing to make efforts that I can't believe in. Every day that goes by with me not having a job feels like an additional punch of hopelessness and additional proof that I will never be valued by people in power enough to make even what I need to survive. I feel a need to protect myself from more punches so that I don't get too anxious/depressed to function or live, but I have no way to do so. So every day I feel more pressure to get a job immediately, which I have no real control over.

In five months of job hunting, I have applied to so many jobs, literally hundreds. I have gotten a response from no more than five. I have had one interview -- and not for one of the jobs that will actually pay a living wage, but from a cashiering job. Hopefully I will get that and it will tide me over until I can get something that will allow me to actually use my skills, live without excessive worry, and be able to help others. I suppose the good part of it is I have become much less afraid of applying in general. Constant rejection has burned out my sensitivity to it.

Most difficult is lacking something to look forward to. If there was something I could look forward to it would help, but literally every potential joy feels blocked off by one thing or another, and money is a large part of it of course. I can't imagine the future -- it is all greyed out and I feel completely helpless.

my parents might kick me out of the house I am inCollapse )

Apologies to new friends -- it's not a great time to be meeting me, but hopefully things will take a turn for the better soon.

No advice, please, but as always you are welcome to share stories from your life.

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MASSIVE BOOK POLL. I laboriously compiled a list of my formative books. pls check what you've read!
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

under a cut to save your flist. Please do the poll if you have read even just one of them!Collapse )

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Findings Friday: gender doesn't predict online bullying among kids but cognitive empathy skills do
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

Ang and Goh (2010) administered a survey to 396 children aged 12-18, measuring their affective and cognitive empathy levels as well as their self-reporting on what cyberbullying they had participated in and how frequently they had participated in such behavior, and breaking it down by assigned gender. (note: Affective empathy is emotional: the ability to feel what others feel. Cognitive empathy is mental: the ability to understand the emotions of others.)

They found that when children don't have much affective or cognitive empathy, they're more likely to bully (obviously) and that this is the same regardless of gender. High scores of affective empathy made girls less likely to cyberbully even if their cognitive scores were low, but this was not true for boys. This could be due in part to the fact that overall, girls scored higher on both forms of empathy, so maybe 'high' affective scores for boys were not high enough to prevent bullying: the 'high' affective empathy for boys was significantly lower than the 'high' affective empathy for girls. Or it could be partly due to the fact that girls are trained to make moral decisions based on emotion (avoidance of guilt), whereas boys are trained to make moral decisions based on thought (avoidance of judgement); thus, affective empathy has a stronger effect on girls than it does on boys, because it is actively brought in to the decision-making process.

Regardless, the fact that cognitive empathy is the only form of empathy to reliably prevent cyberbullying across gender means that cognitive empathy is important to teach to children, particularly in online environments.

[reference]Ang, R. P., and D. H. Goh. 2010. "< a href="" alt="">Cyberbullying Among Adolescents: The Role of Affective and Cognitive Empathy, and Gender</a>." Child Psychiatry & Human Development 41, no 4: 387–397. doi: 10.1007/s10578-010-0176-3

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to connect, I must be vulnerable: to be vulnerable, I must allow my imperfections to be witnessed
icon: "self-love (me sitting against the trunk of a Magnolia, leaning my head back, head turned to the side with my violet hair falling across my face, arms wrapped around my belly in a soft hug.)"

I'm crying right now because I just read a TED talk that felt like a portrait of my soul. (thank you thank you deatacita for sharing it) Particularly this:

"...these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.

The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. They didn't talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they really talk about it being excruciating -- as I had heard it earlier in the shame interviewing. They just talked about it being necessary." (emphasis mine)

If there is ever an aspect of me that you want to emulate, I hope it is my willingness to be imperfect and witnessed in that imperfection, even in my worst aspects. If I ever seem to be hiding my imperfections, I beg you call me on it. I must not lose my willingness to be witnessed as a complete mess, or I will lose my soul.

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I wanna build local community starting w monthly gathers around needs, food, play, intimacy, & touch
icon: "incitement (painting of a bald purple-skinned naked person standing among thick vines and ferns: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

I want a monthly gather, minimum. In it I want to address structural things like donations to pay for the space (if we can't find a free one). I also want to address people's needs in general and offer time for food, time for play, time for intimacy, and time for touch. I want it to last at least 3 hours, and I want people to commit to coming to at least the structural and needs-share parts. I want a safe space where we have a set of agreements for safe behavior and we pay attention and call people on it if they are not respecting consent, or if they are making oppressive/demeaning 'jokes,' etc. I want it to not be taboo to call people out OR to make mistakes. I want mistakes handled with as much kindness and gentleness as possible, and deliberate shitwadness to result in people being immediately escorted out (with the understanding that they are allowed to return next time if they refrain from being a deliberate shitwad).

I want a rotating group of at least four people who take turns doing the structural work, but I want everyone to feel like they have a commitment to keeping the group going and to making it better with their help and their suggestions. I want people to volunteer to as MOOP fairies (people who gather up 'matter out of place,' clean and tidy) at the end of the gather, and to volunteer to be consent coaches for cuddle time, or trick teachers for play time, or facilitators for intimacy time, or labelers for food time. I want people to be willing to really invest their time, effort, and material resources to creating community. I want people to hold each other accountable with things like reminding each other to attend and to bring/do whatever they promised.

To address needs in general: I want people to write down what they need help with on numbered papers (one paper per need, not per person) and put it in a bucket. I want one person to read those needs aloud and then people to raise their hand if they can offer a gift to fill that need. On a whiteboard, we can put the number of the need with a list of the people who can fill it. The person who had the need with that number can then spot those who raised their hand, or read from the list, and later go up to whoever they feel safe receiving from, and discuss it with them. The goal is to put no one on the spot. These can be needs like a ride to the doctor, or a can opener, or a person to talk with about assault.

For food, I want it to be a potluck where each person who is able to brings enough for 1-3 people -- nourishing food, not just munchies. If everyone just brings their own dinner, that's fine. If people bring more than their own dinner, I want them to provide ingredients lists so people with food allergies can participate. For play, I want there to be space and time for people to play with flow toys, or do art, or play music together. For intimacy, I want there to be space and time for people to engage in meaningful conversations, to do exercises like eye gazing and mirroring. For touch I want there to be time and space for people to give and/or receive touch, whether passive or active.

I want this gather to be in a wheelchair-accessible, non-allergenic, temperature-controlled space with non-fluorescent lighting. I want people to be scent-free. Ideally I want there to be at least one sign interpreter, and I want people to take turns talking and leave the room if they want to have a side conversation. I want notes to be available in text format (not images).

(this is a sketch and I may edit it as I think of more things)

(crossposted to Medium)

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local burners, let's build sustainable year-round community. 3-10 days per year doesn't work.
icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

At least three friends who I think of as burners (people who attend Alchemy or Euphoria or other Burning Man events) have expressed a similar dissatisfaction with the way that burns are less and less community and more and more conspicuous consumption. We want burners to put resources toward building sustainable year-round community rather than dumping so much money and effort into a few days a year. It's highly reminiscent of Christmas-and-Easter Christians who make a big damn deal twice a year but don't bring the principles they supposedly care about into their daily lives.

[some of the issues with burns: class, cliquishness]
Even the poor burners I know usually end up spending at least $150 on tickets and food and water and supplies, and it is easily two or three times that for the more well-off burners. (that's just regional burns: don't get me started on Burning Man) Each year most burners seem to upgrade something they bring, with the result that long-time burners have invested hundreds of dollars over time and there is a significant difference in 'burner class' even among people who have similar income levels. This effect heightens the seniority effect, so that one has to invest for multiple years with increasingly luxurious accessories to be treated as if one belongs.

When I first started going to Georgia burns they were only five years old. Five years later, the landscape has changed radically. Instead of a bunch of little tents with a few shared spaces, lots of camps have infrastructure they bring. This has the effect of making camps very insular; instead of going from place to place enjoying various shared spaces, most spaces are fairly self-contained. Most of the resources seem to me to be going to making one's home camp more and more elaborate. I don't think there is anything wrong with that in theory, but in practice, it reduces community. If all giving was meant to happen in a shared space, how different would that look? how much more would people leave their own little bubble?

And at this point you look 'uncool' if all you have is a tiny tent. In the absence of vibrant shared spaces (not private 'shared' spaces that actually function as the living rooms of the camp that 'shares' them) being poor means being alone. I think all shared spaces should be separate from sleep spaces -- this would not only reduce the effects of class, but it would allow people to have quiet space away from partying when they slept.

If I was going to a Georgia burn for the first time this year, I would have felt like my class, my lack of money, made me unable to participate. I was able to borrow a tent, but if not, what then? Do people contribute to any kind of a shared sleeping space? Tents are expensive, especially ones that have enough space to breathe. People are constantly upgrading -- what happens to the old tents? Couldn't they be kept communally and lent on a by-need basis to people who don't have them? There are just so many ways that class cuts in.

There are some other large issues with burns but right now I'm just discussing the community aspects. I'm not ready to try to make the local burns better; I'm ready to take the principles outside of burns.

How much more nourishing would it be to have community in a continual way rather than periods of famine broken up by glut? How much more true to the principles of civic responsibility, participation, and communal effort to be building community at home, taking responsibility for taking care of each other, and doing actual work to build something lasting? How much more true to the principles of gifting, decommodification, and immediacy to invest in each other, here and now, rather than buying needs and luxuries for a three-day party once or twice a year?

We need accountable, accessible, growth-and-healing focused community. I am ready to build this. We need to find a gathering space that everyone can get to relatively easily, then bring together everyone who wants to build real community and have a brainstorming session. We need to decide what we want it to look like and what minimum things we need to keep momentum, and what people can contribute. We need to set shared goals and values, as well as safe space boundaries and how to handle violations of those.

I'm writing my set of wants and ideas now, but will post that separately because this is already long.

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Findings Friday: learning to read emotions as a teen increases adult likelihood of having community
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

Allemand, Steiger, and Fend (2015) performed a 23-year study to determine if adolescent empathy could predict outcomes in adulthood. 1,527 adults were given surveys every year from age 12 to 16, and again at age 35. The surveys given during adolescence asked participants to rate their ability to read other people's emotions. When tested at 25, they were given three of the same type of questions plus questions on their communication skills, social integration, romantic relationship satisfaction, and frequency of conflict within romantic relationships.

The authors found that most people increase in their ability to read others' emotions in adolescence and that girls tend to start at a higher level than boys but their empathy develops at approximately the same rate. They also found that not only those who ranked higher as a teen but also those who developed empathy at a faster rate during adolescence had more empathy and communication skills as an adult. The level of empathy as a teen did not predict social integration as an adult, but the relative change in empathy did: those who became more empathetic as an adolescent tended to feel less lonely as an adult. The measurements of romantic relationship satisfaction & conflict had no significant relationship with empathy during adolescence.

This study has a significant flaw in that it relies on self-reports to determine empathy skills, and that they used a tool of measurement which only contained 8 questions, all about reading other people's emotions (which is not even half of what empathy is). I think most of it is thus not useful, and the only thing I take away from this is that when people learn to read others' emotions during adolescence, they have an easier time forming community as an adult.

The authors also fail to notice that they've used a self-reporting measurement tool which asks about gendered behavior and assume that their findings agree with "stereotypes and popular culture" which assume that women have "greater capacity" for empathy than men. If these people had done their homework as responsible social scientists, they'd have learned that young girls are trained to do cognitive empathy tasks while boys are not, and they wouldn't make such a ridiculous assumption of different "capacity."

[reference]Allemand, M., Steiger, A. E. and Fend, H. A. 2015. "Empathy Development in Adolescence Predicts Social Competencies in Adulthood."Journal of Personality 83, no. 2: 229–241. doi:10.1111/jopy.12098

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rant: mediocre bosses make drudges out of the best workers & protect & elevate mediocre workers
icon: "bloodcurdling (photo of me w wide-eyed snarling wild expression wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

The worst person I ever had the displeasure to meet (and I'm including people who abused me as a child) was a boss I had at a retail job. [the failings of this mediocre, nasty, creepy, despotic cheap plastic knock-off]Unlike the people who abused me as a child, this person was cruel on purpose and I consider that far worse. He was a racist, sexist, cissexist, ableist, fat-phobic looksist who never showed compassion, had no sense of humor and literally zero good qualities. He talked about the sex he imagined his teenage son having in a way that made it clear to me that the only reason this shitwad wasn't assaulting young girls was that he didn't think he could get away with it. I can only hope that saves people from becoming his victims.

And this dude thought people liked him. He thought his employees were his friends because they laughed at his awful jokes and pretended to take an interest in his alternately brain-scrapingly boring or skin-crawlingly creepy stories. He hated me because 1) I violated his sexist beliefs by existing 2) I didn't allow him to mock me or put me in my place and 3) I did not laugh at his fat-phobia, islamophobia, racism, or other 'jokes' he made.

He deadnamed me and refused to call me by my real name, and told people hired after me that they could also deadname me. (to which I responded, "you can -- I won't answer to it but you can call me that." None of my coworkers were that disrespectful, at least not to my face) Lest you think that he was rude 'to everyone equally,' let me tell you that at least three other people went by a name that was not their birth name and he respected that fine because they were cis (although, the cis girl with a 'boy' name was always called "miss [name]" but I don't think she minded). When I was saving bottle caps for an art project (with all my co-workers aware and setting the caps aside for me), he asked why they were in a cup on the counter and when I explained that I was saving them, took it and threw it away. In full view of everyone, with no explanation; my coworkers privately expressed empathy for me after that blatant meanness (and symbolic violence). He knew that I lived an hour away and he continually gave me 4-hour shifts, even after I requested longer shifts to make the drive worthwhile, and he gave me shifts that ended at 5 so that I would have two hours to drive rather than one. He lived in the same city as I did, and he left every day at 3. He worked with most people's schedules, even the one who left the city for months at a time.

But it wasn't JUST me who was scapegoated. He also mistreated my Persian coworker partly because she was a transfer and he was angry that he didn't get to pick, partly because he wanted to give her shifts to his 'friends' and partly because he's a fucking racist. She reported him to HR and he responded by cutting her hours until she couldn't afford her apartment and had to move. He mistreated my Jewish coworker by continually scheduling her for Saturday morning, which was the one time she had asked not to be scheduled, even though she was fine with working Saturday evenings after sundown (when other people would rather not work). He did this over and over until she quit. He mistreated my black queer coworker by continually logging her as a regular employee when she was a shift manager so that he could cheat her out of a dollar an hour. She'd have to go in and fix it every time, or he'd steal her money. He mistreated another black coworker by continually belittling him and making him prove himself with tests despite the fact that literally no one else had to do these tests.

When I finally quit (after months of that shitwad trying to get me to do it), I felt panic at the thought of work even for months after. It wasn't until I'd been working for an actually supportive boss for a while that I stopped being terrified. To be scared of doing what you need to do in order to live and to have food and shelter is a profound problem. And I know it would have been at least three times as bad if I hadn't had a safety net.

Insecure abusive bosses require a scapegoat/drudge so that they can maintain social capital with the other employees. They pick one person (or maybe two) and give that person all the worst tasks, the things no one else wants to do. They give them fucking awful schedules so that they can give great ones to others. They make every problem into the scapegoat/drudge's fault. I have seen it not only with the unbearable waste of space that called himself my boss, but also with the bosses of my friends. One friend's boss literally gives them three people's jobs worth of work so that everyone else in the office can do nothing but chat with the boss all day.

This is what happens when you put dysempathetic, mediocre non-leaders in positions of authority. They don't care who they hurt, and they don't care or even realize that they're doing a shit job -- until an underling shows them up, and then they take the credit and punish the underling. Mediocre people respond to their inadequacies by lashing out rather than re-evaluating their behavior or trying to learn. If this happens more than once, that poor underling is the permanent scapegoat/drudge.

Unfortunately a lot of us underlings respond to attack from a boss by trying to do an even better job, which shows up the boss more and makes them more prone to attack rather than less. So honestly, it is often the best workers who are made into the scapegoat/drudges. Mediocre bosses want mediocre or even bad workers and they'll drive the good ones away so that they don't look bad in comparison. Capitalism: making mediocrity profitable.

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How to Help Belenen When They are Stressed: the Don'ts and Do's
icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

Several people have been concerned and reached out to me lately, as I'm dealing with a lot of stress due to still not having a job. I never really know how to answer when people ask "how can I help?" so I decided to tackle the issue by writing reference material, of course. I wrote a little bit on this before: what I need to live, to cope, and to thrive: notes for self-care and usermanual reference.

How to Help Belenen When They are Stressed

The Don'ts:

1) Don't offer advice or try to problem-solve with me unless I explicitly ask for it.
I'm almost always stressed by one of two things: my bodily needs, and the needs of people I love. These stresses have been a constant companion for many years and I have chased every cure. You cannot fix these problems (unless you have a job to offer me). Accept the stress as a fact of my life, and don't stress me out more by making me prove to you that I've tried all possible fixes. Especially don't give me job hunting advice.

2) Don't ask "how are you" or "how are you feeling." Instead ask "any changes in [the source of stress]?"
I feel like I must respond in detail to these questions, which involves reflecting on the overall tone of my life. If the overall tone is stress, that is a depressing and stressful thing to do. Asking only about changes allows me to dismiss the stress immediately if there have been no changes, and if there have been changes, I can process only a piece of the stress rather than the whole thing.

3) Don't be very sympathetic or mushy. Be matter-of-fact. Don't ask how I'm feeling.
You being really emotional or sympathetic makes me move more into the emotion of being stressed. My main coping skill is by shutting that down, and when you sympathize it opens it up. I feel relief when I mention being stressed and the person responds with "oh yeah, sorry *changes subject*"

4) Don't give vague affirmations.
When someone gives me a vague affirmation like "it will get better," that has no positive effect on me and sometimes it stresses me out, because I try to believe them and I cannot.

The Do's (easy):

1) If you sincerely feel them, give specific, descriptive compliments.
Unrelated to the source of stress is actually best. Specific like "I love the patterns in your eyes, they look like tree roots" (probably my favorite compliment I have ever gotten). Also, I'd like compliments that aren't related to social justice work because I often feel like that is the only thing people notice about me. Sharing links to my work, commenting and liking/reacting on facebook feels like a specific compliment, also. It doesn't get less special if you do it a lot, either.

2) If you interact with any of my art -- writing, fractals, photos, etc -- tell me about how you process it, in detail.
Examples: "this post made me reflect on [specific aspect of my life]" or "I have a similar experience to what you wrote about in this post [explains experience]" or "this photo makes me feel warm in a summery way" or "this fractal looks like an angry ogre or a creepy cave."

3) Remind me of successes I've had, if you know and remember them.
I have a truly dreadful memory, so even if it happened last week I've likely forgotten it. A success can be anything, large or small, where I tried to make a thing happen and it did. "Remember when you figured out how to save the code for your fractals even though the program won't do it?" (this makes me realize I need to write down my small successes)

4) In person, if I'm describing possible reasons for a source of stress to be the way it is and you think of other reasons, tell me them.
This is ONLY in-person, because when I write I don't list all the ones I can think of.

5) In person, if I describe a situation, respond by talking about your own experience.
So if I say "I'm feeling hopeless about [thing] because of [situation]" reply with "the closest thing I have experienced to [situation] is... [tell the story]" or "my experience with [thing] is..."

6) Show curiosity about the things I love and the things that nourish me.
Read my journal entries (and in some way mark that you have done so). Ask for details about things I share. Ask about specific projects (don't ask "what are you working on" because I can't remember, but ask "how is [specific project] going?")

The Do's (difficult):

7) Offer to feed me, if you can.
This relieves stress from worrying about money, and it means that I eat without having to spend energy on planning or preparing food, which are usually high-stress for me because I hate that I have to think about money every time I eat. It is extra helpful if it is food I like, but as long as there is no meat, highly-processed bread (such as wonder bread), artificial sugar, or soy sauce, I will eat it.

8) Take a responsibility or share one, if you can.
Going with me to social things or scary appointments, making phone calls, keeping me company while I tidy, doing dishes, doing laundry, helping me with bills, or keeping me company while I do paperwork stuff.

9) Pick me up or come to my house.
I am nourished by being in my house and by being with my people, but usually I have to choose. Social is far more nourishing to me when I don't also have to drive lots and be in spaces that are not comfortable to me (and most people's spaces are not comfortable to me).

10) Help me do things that nourish me by doing them with me.
Going to social events where I will meet new people who might care about social justice, walking in nature, going to natural places where I haven't been before, doing mixed media art, taking photos, writing, doing ritual, going to concerts, listening to my music with me, breaking taboos in public, prolonged eye contact, smoking hookah, drinking coffee, cuddling, sharing stories of growth and self-care, responding enthusiastically when I am enthusiastic, etc.

11) Relieving some of my memory stress by offering me memory markers.
Take photos of us and what we are doing when we are together, and afterward send them to me. Write down a summary of what we did and what we talked about afterward, and send it to me. Remind me to add the nice thing you just did to my love memory bank.

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be careful w sexual consent: discuss meaning, risk, safeword, triggers, roles, acts, sobriety, needs
icon: "honesty (me, outdoors, gazing straight at the camera with a solemn expression)"

There are a lot of ways to to cause others pain and even damage despite the very best of intentions, especially with sex and kink. This is not a comprehensive list, but it includes the most common ways I see people making consent mistakes. Here's a more in-depth discussion of most of this list: how to be careful with consent. Quoting myself: "EVEN IF you follow ALL of these steps, you may STILL accidentally coerce or violate someone. We live in a rape culture that makes it very difficult for us to understand consent, to respect our own boundaries and the boundaries of others; so sex is dangerous. We need to go in knowing we can hurt each other, and being careful to minimize that risk."

I have never discussed all of these things before first having sex with someone. There's always something I didn't think of, but I work towards being the absolute best I can at consent with each person I have sex with. I treat consent as an ongoing process of becoming more and more in-tune with what the other person wants and needs in sex.

To be fully careful with consent you need to:
  1. discuss the meaning of sex/kink for each person involved.
    • is everyone involved aware of current relationship structures and additional partners (if any)?
    • do any of the people need a shared emotional/spiritual meaning for sex/kink?
    • do any of the people need shared attitudes toward bodies for sex/kink? (I do)
    • do any of the people have a need for future connection or particular kind of relationship after sex/scene?

  2. discuss STI/pregnancy risks & how to manage them.
    • disclose your STI status and your risk factors and ask about theirs.
    • if relevant, discuss birth control and what to do in the event of barrier-method fail or pregnancy.
    • ask what methods of protection they want, tell what you want, and then go with whichever is more cautious.

  3. choose safe words/signals.
    • at least choose a word/signal that means 'stop everything'.
    • describe what you want the other person to do when you use the safe word.
    • it's good to have a non-verbal signal as well as a word since some people can go non-verbal when triggered.

  4. discuss known triggers and what to do in the event of an unknown trigger.
    • tell them your triggers and how you need them to react if they accidentally trigger you.
    • ask what they need you to avoid or be cautious with and what to do if you accidentally trigger them.

  5. discuss roles (or lack thereof) and define terms.
    • roles must be consented to and you can't guess what someone else would like.
    • define terms: there are hundreds of definitions out there, don't assume.
    • describing a typical scene/sexperience in detail is a good way to find unconscious expectations.

  6. discuss specific acts & label as ask-each-time or whatever.
    • ask what parts are okay to touch, when.
    • ask what kinds of touch are okay, where.
    • ask about marks before making any.
    • ask about sensitivities.
    • ask about oral, manual, toys, penetration, etc.
    • ask if there is anything that is never okay.
    • ask about which parts/acts are ask-first every time, and when in doubt ask first.

  7. define acceptable sobriety emotionally and physically.
    • how much intoxication is too much for sex/kink between you?
    • what level of emotional instability is too much for sex/kink between you?
    • what level of physical weariness/sleepiness is too much for sex/kink between you?

  8. discuss related needs which sex can compete with or create.
    • Do any of you have a strict bedtime?
    • Do any of you need privacy (such as not being overheard, or not having your shared stories told)?
    • Do any of you need a certain amount of aftercare time?

And within each sexual experience you need to:
  1. check for sufficient emotional & physical sobriety.
  2. ask in a way that makes it easy to say no.
  3. assume no particular acts to be included and no particular length of time.
  4. check in: pay attention to reactions and non-verbals, ask questions.

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Findings Friday: increased experience as a racial minority increases empathy for majority race
icon: "analytical (a close-up photo of my eye in bright sunlight, showing the green and grey and roots-looking patterns)"

Zuo and Han (2013) measured relative empathy responses for Chinese people who had lived in the US most of their lives using a series of 48 video clips of white and Chinese people (gender and race numerically balanced) being poked in the cheek with a cotton swab or a needle while wearing a neutral expression. Participants had to press one button to say that the person was feeling pain or a different button to say that they were not feeling pain. This happened very quickly to try to measure the subconscious response.

They found no significant difference in response times, nor in the fMRI signal intensity, despite the overall trend of own-race bias found in many adults. They conclude that living in the US has increased the subjects' ability to empathize with the majority race. I further imagine that as the subjects have the perspective of the majority pressed on them at every turn, they are forced to perform the cognitive empathy task of perspective-taking, and over time this builds up their emotional empathy responses as well.

Cao, Contreras-Huerta, McFadyen, and Cunnington (2015) built on this by measuring relative empathy responses via fMRI for Chinese students living in Australia using videos of white and Chinese faces being touched with a cotton swab or a needle. They found that increased levels of contact are related to increased levels of empathy. Further, the kind of contact that is most predictive is incidental contact -- just seeing white faces around you.

Consider this in the inverse: empathy is decreased when you are never forced to take the perspective of someone else, and when you never see them around you in large numbers. When you do not consume any media by and about people of color, you automatically have less empathy for people of color. When you do not ever experience being in a majority-female space, you automatically have less empathy for women. If you want to be empathetic to people who experience oppression you do not, you have to change what you see and where you go.

[references]Zuo, X. and S. Han. 2013. "Cultural experiences reduce racial bias in neural responses to others’ suffering." Culture and Brain 1, 34-46.

Cao, Y.; L. S. Contreras-Huerta; J. McFadyen; and R. Cunnington. 2015. "Racial bias in neural response to others' pain is reduced with other-race contact." Cortex: A Journal Devoted To The Study Of The Nervous System And Behavior 70, 68-78. PsycINFO, EBSCOhost.

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hateful anonymous comments / shame over Mercury's death
icon: "overwhelmed (the character Keenan from "Playing By Heart," with hands over their face covering their eyes and head tilted back)"

So today was really shitty. Someone posted anonymously on two of my posts, on my hpv post calling me "promiscuous" (as if that's a thing) which wouldn't have bothered me if not for the other comment they left, saying that people shouldn't listen to me about cat food because I "poisoned and murdered" my betta fish. It was more than a year and a half ago that I wrote about Mercury's death.

That brought up all my guilt and regret over that... [TW/CN for death of pet fish]In the moment it felt so awful I felt like I was in a nightmare. My fish had gotten injured, its eye was swollen to 10 times normal size, seemed in pain, barely moved, wasn't eating. I felt bad for it and didn't want it to slowly starve to death in pain, and looked up ways to euthanize it. I watched a video where someone used clove to put their fish to sleep for a surgery (in a low dose you can use it as an anesthetic). It looked peaceful, painless, kind.

But when I tried it, I must have done something wrong, because my fish didn't peacefully drift off. It was clear that it was upset -- it had barely moved for three days and when I added the clove it started thrashing.
I felt so awful. I regret it so deeply. I hate myself for it. I feel like I should have not tried something like that, I should have waited longer to see if my fish would improve. If I could go back in time I would undo it. I worry that the fish wasn't in pain at all until I caused pain and suffering and death. Maybe I killed it because looking at it stressed me out and I projected my suffering. I hate that I did this. I feel deeply ashamed.

I'm mentioning it now because this is how I cope with being afraid people will learn something shameful about me and hate me: I confess. Now you can make your choice and avoid me if you need to.

A few weeks ago Pluto (my last betta, which I got when I got Mercury) died, and I couldn't bear to move the body for days because I was worried that maybe it wasn't really dead and maybe I'd take it out and it would suffer and die from shock (it was very old and had been lethargic for months). I just... I could hardly process the death. I couldn't have borne accidentally causing another of my fish to suffer so much that it died.

Anyway the fact that this person clearly has been reading my stuff for a long time, wanted to discredit me, and wanted to hurt me is really disturbing. I think it was someone who was angry about me criticizing intellectual elitism and use of the slur st*pid. I have had plenty of trolls over the years, but trolls don't know how to hurt me. This person did. I don't know who it was, but congratulations, you hurt me. I have no defense about this: it was wrong and I wish I hadn't done it.
connecting: , ,

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tips for poor cat caretakers on how to choose a cat food (most of the cat food sold is bad for cats)
icon: "kanika kitty (a photo of my black cat Kanika in profile, backlit, with their golden eyes staring forward)"

About 7 years ago, I learned that most cat food contains ingredients that are bad for cats. I've since picked up some additional knowledge that I want to share. I'm no expert, but it is almost impossible to find good information as the only "healthy cat" information out there seems aimed at rich people, so this is what I've pieced together. In general, cats are healthiest on an all-wet-food diet but if you're poor (like me) that ain't happenin. Here's what to look for when you're figuring out what to get:

Seek out:
1) meat as the first ingredient and preferably the first 2-3 ingredients (if it has 'meal' after it, it does not count as meat: that's including ground bone & skin).
2) food with the highest protein & fat percentages (as long as your cat is pretty active).

Avoid (if you can't avoid it entirely, choose the option that has them listed later on in the ingredients (they're ordered by proportion):
1) avoid anything that has meat by-products listed as an ingredient. Not only are these gross, but they can make your cat food go rancid and then your cat either won't eat it or will get sick.
2) avoid corn and grains. Corn and grains will make your cat eat more because they are not getting enough nutrition; eventually your cat may get diabetes because of this.
3) avoid vegetables in the first few ingredients, especially especially high-carbohydrate ones. Some high-fiber veggies like peas can actually be good, especially on an all-dry diet, but it should be a fairly low percent.

It is not necessarily the more expensive the better: Iams is just horrible and costs more than Maxximum, for instance. Also, when you buy the food with less filler, cats eat less, so the cost isn't as big of a difference as you might think.

* When cats are kittens, feed them regular, recommended amounts, and don't give extra. Once they are very used to this, you can just fill the bowl and leave it and (usually) they will only eat what they need. As long as they are getting enough exercise they should be fine.
* Cats need daily exercise; if you play with them with toys while they are kittens they will continue to play when they are older, but if they don't get this early training they may not be active enough to be fully healthy as an adult.
* When cats are over 7 years old, they'll probably need wet food as well as dry or else they might end up with urinary tract blockages, because they don't have much of a thirst drive.
* Tuna fish is bad for cats due to high mercury content and can cause nerve problems as cats age.

I order my cat food via Amazon because it's significantly cheaper that way. For wet food, I get Natural Balance Platefulls and mix it with Rachael Ray Nutrish Natural (I don't recommend the Rachael Ray, but if I just give Kanika the healthy stuff they won't eat it more than once a week, and that's not enough to keep UTIs away) and for dry food I get Blue Buffalo Sensitive Stomach and mix it with Merrick Purrfect Bistro Healthy Kitten (because of good ingredients, relatively low price (it's usually about $15 for 7lbs), and good protein/fat/etc ratio). I give wet food every other day (because I can't afford every day) and leave dry food out at all times. If money wasn't an issue, I'd probably make other choices (no 'chicken meal' and no grains at all), but these are the ones I feel like I can manage.
connecting: , , ,

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why the words 'stupid' & other slurs against people w cognitive disabilities are harmful / TW: slurs
icon: "analytical (a close-up photo of my eye in bright sunlight, showing the green and grey and roots-looking patterns)"

---- TW/CN: slurs are used within this post without asterisks ----
---- TW/CN: discussion of systemic & personal abuse of cognitively disabled people ----

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Another side note: not everyone CAN change their vocabulary; for some people training out or replacing slurs takes too much cognitive effort, or requires a kind of word control that they do not have (I have heard this particularly from autistic people and people who deal with aphasia). No one can know from the outside who is able to train it out and who isn't, but I hope that people who are able to will make the effort. If we do, eventually these words will become obsolete and thus easier for everyone to avoid.

Here is a list of ableist terms to avoid and non-ableist words to express negative feelings. But on the list of non-ableist words I would avoid 'ignoramus' because having knowledge is a privilege and so insulting someone for lack of knowledge is a very similar problem. Basically, if you want to insult a person or thing, make sure that you are not insulting them by relating them to a devalued group of people, because this further harms that group of people.

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I'm behind on lj
icon: "confused (photo of a purple diamond-shaped sign with a line leading to four arrows all curving and pointing in different directions)"

I'm so behind on reading LJ -- I'm sorry friends. I've had a confusing & difficult week with some intensely high-anxiety days. I'm gonna try to catch up but it will be spotty, so link me anything you want me specifically to read in the comments. Comments screened in case it's a locked entry you want me to read.

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Findings Friday: people empathize w unknown-race strangers, but not w known-other-race strangers
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")"

Avenanti, Sirigu and Aglioti (2010) tested white and black people on their empathy for same-race, other-race, and unknown-race people using TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation: a way to measure emotions at a subconscious level), SCR (skin conductance response) and heart rate to measure their affective empathy (automatic emotional response) and a questionnaire to measure their cognitive empathy (ability to relate in a logical, thinking way).

The researchers had black and white people watch scenarios of hands being penetrated by a needle or touched by a cotton swab -- white hands, black hands, and hands painted violet to give no apparent race. The people all tended to react more strongly to their own racial group than to another. Despite the fact that they saw the violet hand as the most strange (this was measured to be sure), they reacted with empathy for violet hands yet not for other-race (though the violet hand was actually other-race for each group)!

Given no racial information, people are not AS empathetic as they are for their own race, but they are more empathetic than when race is apparent. This implies that the dysempathy people feel towards those not of their own race is a learned behavior, not 'natural.'

I am critical of the assumption that this bias is purely ingroup/outgroup, as the sample is composed of white native Italians and black immigrant Africans who live in Italy. As such, it doesn't solely measure race, but also national identity. Other studies have shown that minorities tend to have empathy for majorities across racial lines (I'll get to those). Gender is not mentioned, and may also have effect, as there is significant gender difference in the empathy of adults.

[reference]Avenanti, A., Sirigu, A., & Aglioti, S. M. (2010). Racial Bias Reduces Empathic Sensorimotor Resonance with Other-Race Pain. Current Biology, 20(11), 1018-1022. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.03.071

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I have HPV (as if I needed more stress)
icon: "overwhelmed (the character Keenan from "Playing By Heart," with hands over their face covering their eyes and head tilted back)"

I went to the doctor today about a lump on my genitals. The good news: it's not cancer. The bad news: it's HPV.

I only this year learned about HPV. I knew it existed before, but I thought it was checked for on the standard set of STI tests. Nope. There are 100+ strains of HPV, so there is no test to prove someone does NOT have HPV (as they'd have to test for all strains), and most people who have it don't have symptoms. Also, it is spread through skin-to-skin contact, so even using barriers and taking caution with sexual fluids won't prevent catching it (though it will reduce the likelihood of course). "HPV is so common that most sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives." Oh, and the strains that can cause cancer and other serious problems do NOT cause visible symptoms.

So, I could have gotten this from any of my partners, or I might have contracted it as a child enduring sexual abuse and just never had symptoms until now (when my immune system is low from extreme & prolonged stress). I feel incredibly unlucky. Most people with herpes don't have symptoms and most people with HPV don't have symptoms, but I got both. And all the people out there with HPV and no symptoms don't have to deal with stigma. It's really fucking unfair that people are going to think of me as undesirable because I'm one of the few that got visible symptoms, noticed them, had them checked, and will be honest about it.

It wasn't too hard to find out the best way to manage herpes: if you're not having an active outbreak, infection is unlikely if you use barriers and take caution not to swap fluids. I can't find a good source on the best way to avoid transmitting HPV because everything I find is like "spread by skin-to-skin contact" with no specifics and I'm pretty sure that there is risky contact and non-risky contact but there is no fucking information. I imagine the only skin that is likely to spread genital HPV is on your crotch and thighs. HPV doesn't seem to have a outbreak-vs-non-outbreak difference. So I suppose the new precaution I have to add is to not let people touch my thighs without having the STI conversation.

Six years ago when I got herpes and posted about it someone who was 'concerned' about me (ha) told me I should never have sex again. Now that I have another fucking STI, I'm well and truly a pariah. Not that it would be terrible for me to never use my physical genitals in sex again. They're not that important to me. But they tend to be important to other people. And the idea that people would rule me out as a romantic partner because of STIs... I just find that so gross and I wish I didn't have to think about it. It's upsetting even if I wouldn't want to be romantic with them anyway.

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How Loss of Alone Time, Constant Caretaking, & Medication Stigma Almost Killed Me
icon: "honesty (me, outdoors, gazing straight at the camera with a solemn expression)"

I've told this story many times now, though never as one piece: How Loss of Alone Time, Constant Caretaking, & Medication Stigma Almost Killed Me. In the worst period of my life, when I was suicidal for months and felt in more pain every day, I learned several vital things:

1) relationships don't have to be abusive to be profoundly damaging.
2) self-awareness is as necessary for safety as anything else.
3) I literally cannot handle living in a place where anyone wants my attention randomly every day.
4) just because you can caretake someone does not mean that you should.
5) giving doesn't have to be in huge pieces to take a huge toll.
6) once you are situationally depressed for long enough, your brain can forget how to be non-depressed and need chemical help.

I love Kylei as one of my favorite people, but living with them when they didn't have someone else to have casual social interaction with (and thus talked to me randomly through the day whenever we were both at home) was one of the most depressing and draining things I have ever experienced. It was just as bad for me -- if not worse than -- living with an abusive person.

It wasn't good for them either because the best I could offer was not enough to be nourishing, so it drained them also. Let me emphasize here: I was not doing anything that felt generous; I was not doing anything that was significantly helpful. I was allowing them to come into my room 3-4 times a day and randomly engage me in conversation for 1-3 minutes. That's it. I didn't think to tell them not to for months because it was 'such a small thing' that I could 'easily afford to give.' But it was torture for me. They were small gifts but they took superhuman effort from me.

I felt just as much need to hide as I did when I lived with my abusive parents. I had to be just as hypervigilant and seeing them became a stress to the point where we couldn't have any good interactions. Yet I missed them and was sad to have none of the connection that I wanted because there was too much of the unwanted! this made it even worse than when I was living with someone abusive who I didn't want to be around: that at least I could withdraw from and feel better. Withdrawing from Kylei made me feel worse because I missed them! But I just cannot deal with unexpected real-time interaction. It only took about six months of that for me to be drained to the point where I could not recognize myself.

There was additional stuff going on at the time, but most of the reason I can't handle this is because with my ADD-PI, that breaks down my ability to process anything; it literally shatters my ability to think. My thinking becomes disjointed and even more forgetful, like the thinking of a person who hasn't slept in three days. I can't do any art or reading or anything that matters to me at all, which rapidly increases any latent depression and makes me feel worthless.

I learned that I mustn't allow people to randomly talk to me when I am at home, that I mustn't take on responsibility as a person's only source of comfort (nor be more than 70% of their comfort), and that I mustn't be the only one initiating connection with anyone for more than a few months. I was doing all three of these things and together it made me drained to the point where I could not even feel the most basic motivation of my life: empathy.

I could no longer care about any suffering, human or otherwise. Even when I realized the problem and stopped it happening, nothing got better. My brain ran completely out of the chemicals necessary to feel happiness, and stayed there for about four months. Every day I would have said it couldn't hurt more and then the next day it did.

[CN/TW: suicidal ideation, deep depression, medication, stigma against mental health medication]
--------CN/TW: suicidal ideation, deep depression, medication, stigma against mental health medication (the rest of this entry)--------

I would have committed suicide if not for the fact that Topaz had already experienced too much tragedy for me to be able to handle the guilt of causing more pain for them. I daydreamed about making them hate me so that I could feel free from that guilt and able to kill myself, but that would have required me breaking my ethical code to do things that would cause them to hate me. I didn't think about anyone else. I didn't feel like anyone else would really care, even though I knew logically that people would mourn. I felt unloved and unloveable and it was only through Topaz proving daily that they cared that I managed to believe that they did love me.

Eventually I felt desperate enough that I went to get medication. I was put on citalopram, and after a month of slowly stepping it up, I stopped feeling worse every day. Just that was such a relief I can't even describe. After a few months, I started to feel better each day rather than just the same. A few months after that I started to feel aware of being numb and it started making me feel worse, so I weaned myself off of the drug. This all totaled maybe 8 months. Mental health medication saved my life.

There are people who push their personal quackery on others who are depressed, telling them to "just" exercise, meditate, think happy thoughts, take herbs, change their diet, etc. That might work if you're just feeling a little bad one day. It does not fucking work when your brain has worn a rut in the negative emotion pathways and forgotten that the positive emotion pathways even exist! Also, while talk therapy is effective and important, it only works if the problem is that you need to process your experiences -- it doesn't work if the problem is chemical!

I suffered so much longer and so much worse than I had to, because of the stigma against depression medication. If not for the coincidental timing of Topaz, stigma against medication would have killed me. I did not try to get medication until after I was already suicidal enough to go through with it. I will not take any of that quackery lightly because it literally kills people.

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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. 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.