Saturday, 28 October 2017

Healing my Inner Teenager and a 30 Year Old Poster

A couple of weeks ago I had a dream that I was in a record store. In the store they had one of those displays for posters, and I was looking through and found a poster that was my favourite when I was a teenager. I thought to myself “I have to buy this.” I woke up right after that and thought “I do have to get that poster.” After all I live in the magical age of the internet so I thought I could probably find it.  So off to EBay I went.

So what’s the big deal about the poster? It’s not super rare, or remarkable, so what’s the big deal? I got the poster for my 14th birthday from my bestie, of my favourite band, GnR. I had tons of posters of various metal bands, (it was the late 80s after all) and it wasn’t my only Guns one, but for some reason it was my fave. 

Being the 80s, it was also the age of the “satanic panic” unfortuantly. My parents being very religious and my father decided that heavy metal/hard rock was the devil. I came home one day, when I was 16, and all my posters, music mags and cassettes etc had been tossed out. And I had lots of stuff.  It was what I spent my hard earned babysitting money on. Between Catholic school and being the oldest girl in a large conservative family (which made me second mom basically) I felt trapped and frustrated. As a creative person with entirely different values than the traditional family and school around me, music was my outlet and saving grace. It was the lighthouse that told me I could escape the conservative religious environment I was in. So of course, when I came home one day to find it all gone, I was devestated. 

The poster framed and up on the wall!

When I had that dream I decided that almost 30 years later I would buy it back for myself. I did it for my inner teenager, to let her know I didn’t forget what happened, or how depressed she was after that. It doesn’t matter that it’s almost 30 later, it made me happy to get it back again. 

If there was something you loved as a kid, or a teenager, that you lost, or was it taken from you, or that maybe you weren’t allowed to have it in the first place, then I encourage you to go get it. It doesn’t matter how old you are now, you’ll be happy you did. 

You can watch the Unboxing below. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

I Dont Care If "Me Too" Makes You Uncomfortable

This past week if you were anywhere on social media, you probably saw the "me too" posts in your news feed and may have even participated. If you don't know what the Me Too campaign is about, its to highlight the number of girls and women who have been sexually assaulted and harassed. So the idea is if you are a female who has been a victim of sexual assault or harassment you post "me too" to show other women they are not alone, and to show the scope of the problem.

As I scrolled through my Facebook in particular, I saw dozens and dozens of female friends post this phrase. Seeing the amount of it was heartbreaking. I posted it too, and like the other ladies I received words of encouragement and support from my female friends. It was great to see women supporting each other and realizing they are not alone. One thing did bother me though - the lack of male voices in this. I saw only two men reference it and received no words of encouragement initially from any male friends or family (except the BF who is not on Facebook). I thought what is going on here? Why are they silent on this? Seeing this was very discouraging and disheartening. I couldn't help think. I thought men were better than this, or at least the men I knew. I have to say I did receive a really nice message later from someone of the male persuasion, so at least a couple of guys I know are decent after all.

I asked a trusted male why this was, and his response was "it makes some people uncomfortable." My response - "good. Because it should." If you can scroll past dozens of women you know all saying they have been assaulted or harassed at some point, and you are comfortable with that, then I don't even know what to say to you. If you are comfortable with that amount of suffering around you, then you need to do some serious self examination. It shouldn't make you comfortable.It should disturb you.

And if hearing these stories makes you uncomfortable, that's too bad, because living it is infinetly more uncomfortable. Let me tell you from personal experience that being assaulted  is uncomfortable. Having people bully and blame you is uncomfortable. And as uncomfortable as that is, the silence of others is just as bad. People are uncomfortable so they don't want you to talk about it, and they don't want to address it, they want to pretend it never happened. The silence of others ignoring it is uncomfortable. The only feeling I can compare it to, is if someone died, and then no one around you acknowledged the death or your grieving. And it is because of that silence that this issue continues on. When we are silent we let the perpetrators get away with it. We let the sickness continue.

As women we have been taught for too long that our job is to make others, and particularly men comfortable. We are taught not to make waves, to be pleasant and nice, and that lesson does not serve us in this situation. We as a society have made predatory men too comfortable for too long. Its time that we all get uncomfortable, and face the proverbial elephant in the room. Actually I compare it to a rotten cake that we have put a doilie over to try to make nice about it. But we all know its there, and the longer its there, the more it stinks.

If your a guy and you don't know what to do, you want things to be better, but are feeling uncomfortable about all this, I have a couple of suggestions for you. If you don't know what to say, a simple "I'm sorry that happened." or "that really sucks." is better then saying nothing at all. Or you can listen and hold space for those telling their story, without blaming them, even if it makes you uncomfortable. You can commit to speaking up if you hear someone making a rape joke or about violence towards women, or bragging about taking advantage of someone. Because when you say nothing you make predators think its okay. And most importantly examine your own behavior to make sure you are practicing informed consent.

In short, its time we put the responsibility back on those that are perpetuating the cycle of violence. It's time we made them very uncomfortable.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Seven Benefits of Being the Black Sheep

Recently I watched a video by the lovely Kelly Ann Maddox, about being the black sheep of the family, which you can see here . It's part of her Self Love September series which I highly recommend. She covers such topics as addiction, recovering from abuse, setting clear boundaries etc. It's a great series and she invites others to chime in on the subject as well, so I thought I'd put my two cents in, as this is a topic the particularly resonates with me.

Me posing on the BFs bike. Such a badass.

I've been the black sheep of my family for a good 30 years, since I was a teenager. So what's a black sheep? A black sheep can be defined as a rebel, an outcast, or as even extreme as someone who is cast out or not wanted. It's the person who sticks out like a sore thumb for being different, who irritates and does not go along with the rest of the family norms. Sometimes it can be as simple as having different taste, interests and style or can be because of a difference in politics, religion or sexual orientation. Sometimes we can be called this almost affectionately, sometimes the differences may disturb or worry our family, and sometimes it can be as serious as getting outright kicked out of your family of origin. 

I come from a family that is very conservative politically and traditional in gender roles. My dad worked a union job, while my mum stayed home and raised six children, until my youngest sibling went to school, and then she went back to work part time. They are also devoutly Catholic and sent us to a religious school. I probably went to church twice a week between Sunday mass and school functions. Their interests include sports and cars, two things I don't have the slightesest interest in. My interests as a teenager included hard rock and heavy metal music, painting and drawing, reading fantasy fiction, and all things paranormal and the occult. (Oh wait, those are still my interests). I am also a socialist, a feminist and sex positive. You can guess how well all that went over. Throw in a teenage rebellious streak and a talent for asking uncomfortable questions, and it was a recipe for black sheep cake with a side of black sheep icing. 

Being a black sheep is not an easy role. We are often scapegoats for blame and can end up feeling alienated and left out by our family. We may loose out on family support and end up being the one pointed to as the "bad example." But there are benefits to the role too.

Being ourselves, our true selves, even when that meets with the disapproval of others is a strength. You realize that the price of acceptance can sometimes be too high if it means living a lie, and pretending to be someone you are not. We get to be ourselves and not have to fit into a perceived mold set out by others.

It takes strength to say no, to say I don't agree, or I don't believe that, especially to those that are in authority over us. It takes courage to ask the uncomfortable questions, or to point out the elephant in the room. It takes courage to be ourselves when that self does not look like those around us. 

3. Resilience 
When you are different, and that difference meets with disapproval, it can be very hard, especially when you are younger. It is easy to feel rejected or unloved. But you also realize that you don't need the stamp of others approval. You develop strength over the long haul. You come to rely on yourself and know you can face challenges.

4. Independence
When you don't get the support of others, you figure out ways to support yourself. You have to find ways to do things on your own or with less than others might. You win the freedom to do what you want on your terms. You don't have to worry about doing something that might lead to people thinking your crazy - because hey, they already think you are. 

5. Leadership
Let's face it, us black sheep pave the way for others. I made things easier for my younger siblings (which I like to remind them of every so often, thank you very much). There was nothing they could do to shock my family, because I'd already done it. People also begin to count on you to sometimes say the thing that needs to be said, because you have the least approval to lose. Sometimes you got zip on the old black fleece and take one for the team. 

When you feel like the underdog, you tend to develop a soft spot for other underdogs. You can identify with others that feel like the outsider or the weirdo, or that are having to go it alone. You feel for others and can help support those that need it when the chips are down. 

7. Connection
If you're a black sheep, you can probably spot another black sheep from a mile away. We form connections with each other and friendships that often last lifetimes. We cheer each other on, and can at least listen to and relate to each other. We gravitate towards our tribe and fill in the support for each other that is missing. 

Over time the black sheep role can change from causing conflict, to becoming more accepted in our families. I think my family has become more accepting of me over time. There is the realization that I'm not going to change and neither are they. Acceptance of self and others I think is key to coming to terms with that role, wether you are the black sheep or are dealing with one in your family. We all need to be ourselves and be accepted whether that meets with others expectations of us or not. 

I like to end my posts with a song. So here's one for all the black sheep everywhere - "Problem Child" by AC/DC, with Axl Rose singing. How perfect.