Thoughts on Orlando

By now, most if not all of you have heard of the tragedy that befell a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, when a gunman opened fire and systematically took the lives of over 50 LGBT identifying individuals. I have many thoughts following this awful incident.

About this being a consequence of the refusal of certain senators to progress gun-control laws to keep automatic weapons out of the hands of potentially unstable individuals.

About the members of the Christian right who are attempting to turn this into yet another excuse to spew bigoted vitriol towards the Islamic community, despite themselves being the source of over 200 different anti-LGBT bills in the past six months.

About how once again the NRA lobby wants to trot out the scapegoat of “mental illness” to somehow convince us that this is yet another “exception to the rule” (in a week where the US has had 7 mass shootings since last Monday).where a crazy person somehow got a hold of a gun. How they want to shrug and, in response to yet another building filled with the decaying bodies that once held the promise of dozens upon dozens of lives, say that “These things happen.”

However, this post is not about that.

This post is about the thousands upon thousands of Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, and social media mouthpieces talking about “how tragic this is”, or that “their thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who fell victim”. or even those who “stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community”

Notice how none of these statements have anything remotely approaching a stance. A call to action. A call to accountability. Something that requires you to actually put yourself out there and take a stand and say that something HAS TO CHANGE in order to keep this from happening again. The closest thing resembling a position in any of these is perhaps, “Shooting civilians is bad.”

But when you stop there, when you refuse to (god forbid) risk alienating some part of your fucking market demographic by saying something like “we need better gun controls” or “we have to address toxic masculinity” or “this is a product of the anti-LGBT bigotry we’ve allowed to spread”, YOU DON’T GET TO clutch your pearls and look like the tragic, compassionate onlooker who looks at the events as they unfold and say, “Oh no, what are we TO DO?!” You don’t get to pretend like you stand in solidarity while you sit idly by when it actually counts. When you COULD use your voice to contribute to some real, positive progress ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

Fuck every single celebrity, corporation, or brand that hides behind their marketing-and PR-team approved, non-committal sympathy. Fuck every single person with even the SLIGHTEST bit of societal pull who has the gall to give their condolences and then conveniently fail to show the fuck up when its time to put their money where their mouth is.

Know that you are complicit in this. Every time you choose to say nothing, to DO. NOTHING. You make it that much easier for this to happen again. You’re not shaken. You’re not sad. You’re not even sympathetic. You’re just a leech, nourishing your own goddamn public image off of the spilled blood of a tragedy.

Inspire Through Struggle

I had a bad day today.

Not because anything in particular happened, but rather because it didn’t. I’ve done just about nothing all day, despite having the whole thing to myself. Doing basic stuff like shaving, brushing my teeth, and getting some milk from the store constituted the most productive things I’ve done today.

Essentially, I’m dealing with a lot of negative self-talk in my head. In particular, the re-appearance of one of my longest running mental “scripts”; that being the “you’re not working hard enough, doing enough, trying hard enough, you’re lazy/you could be successful if only you’d try harder” script. It’s a voice I’ve been hearing going back all the way to elementary school, and any day where I don’t completely clear off my to-do list (and some days when I do) it comes roaring back. I’m working through some exercises in the book Superbetter by Jane McGonigal, and they’re helping, but this is such a deeply rooted script that it’s going to take a long time and a lot of work to dislodge.

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Cult of Positivity

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of positive thinking. Particularly because I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. It seems like a fairly reasonable idea at first glance (“If you’re sad, why not think happier thoughts?”), but I think at the end of the day the problem with it isn’t that it’s WRONG rather than oversimplified. At my work (which shall remain nameless for obvious reasons) there’s a lot of lip-flapping about “creating a positive atmosphere for customers/members/workplace, etc”, but the practice of this version of positivity usually involves the punishment of those who speak of anything negative or critical of the company or its management to anyone other than the management in a one-on-one basis. It’s this sort of thing that led to my realization that a lack of negativity and the presence of positivity are not the same thing. All it resulted in was this latent tension as everyone is aware of things that are wrong but are too afraid to say anything (or are cynical because they’ve followed the prescribed procedure and nothing was done to improve it). It’s almost more stressful than an outright negative environment because of the amount of fakeness and performance involved.

But aside from the specifics, I think the cardinal sin of those in the cult of positivity is failing to understand the factors that lead to a positive mindset. And I think that’s it: having a positive (or Challenge, credit to Jane McGonigal and her book SuperBetter for teaching me that word) mindset is different, more complex, and more difficult, than the kind of fast-food drive-thru advice that people give when they say, “Just think positive!”

Essentially, it’s a means, not an end. It’s a result of a hundred different little skills that all take effort, to overcome a hundred little nightmares that haunt the people who struggle with them. The steps also vary from person to person along with how their struggles manifest, and I feel like that’s what not a lot of people understand. That even though one person may not find X problem a struggle, that does not make it less real or difficult for person Y. Especially with mental and emotional health, I think one step we can take towards better understanding is getting rid of the illusion that all pain is measured on a singular scale, rather than branching out like the subway from hell.

I get the distinct feeling whenever I hear that bullshit prescription, the only good it’s doing is helping the person who is saying it to think that they’re elevated in some way above the person asking for help. And it’s the perpetuation of that illusion that makes me pity them the most.