So I’ve put a post or two behind me, because I’m trying to move forward. The past year has had a tendency to keep me paralysed, feeling isolated in a world I barely recognise. The more I look at it, the more I’m sure that I don’t recognise it because it doesn’t exist.
We live in a world that needs to confront more information than any other era before it. The human brain wasn’t built for that. It’s a prioritisation machine, and it’s being flooded with the proverbial inbox full of URGENT messages. Overwhelmed, it chucks them all.
We need to examine our own minds more than ever, now. We need to stop, turn off the machines from time to time, and really go over what it is we’re taking to heart. The most vital question we need to ask ourselves right now is, “How much of this is who I want to be, and how much of this is who I want to reject?” How much of what we’re thinking about and seeing in the world is built out of a reflexive reaction to what we’re being told the world is?
There’s a line in the upcoming drafts that says it all. “I can’t lie all the time,” the Devil points out. “That would just be telling the truth in the perverse.” There are grains of truth in all kinds of horrible things. People use these bits of truth to lend legitimacy to a whole lot of falsehood. The key is never to meet anyone on that level. Life is not about proving negatives. Life is not about proving anyone or anything is faultless. Nothing is. Life is not about proving someone else has no merit and no redeeming quality. So few people fit that low standard. Plenty of evil people can show you a litany of so-called ‘redeeming values.’ Life doesn’t lend itself to absolutes. To me, life is about considering where you stand and standing there until something really makes you want to stand somewhere else.
You cannot build a real identity out of being anti-anything. Plenty of people try. They sanctify themselves by being anti-discrimination, so they’re completely unaware of the ways they discriminate every day. They praise themselves for being against close-minded people, which makes them caricatures of themselves when they’re completely close-minded to anyone thinking differently to them. You cannot be a good person by hating the bad people more than anyone else. It does no one any good.
Anger can be good. It can be a worthy thing, to call out bad behaviour and reject it. It just can’t be all you do. It can’t be all of the stance. Hating unworthy things isn’t enough to make worth. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that it is, because I’ve been observing where that goes. It comes to a brittle, unhappy end.
So now, more than ever, we need to stop and give ourselves time to think. We need to move forward towards what we want out of ourselves, not just retreat away from what we’re frightened of or overwhelmed by.
Who do you want to be today? It’s not up to me to tell you. Me, I want to be someone who tells somebody hurting that it’s not their fault that others around them don’t treat them well. How we treat another person is our own choice, each of us, and it’s not up to anybody else to make us behave well. I want to remind victims that there is no merit whatsoever to the idea that they brought it on themselves. There is never an excuse for falling below your own standards, so I don’t set my own standards for behaviour at an unachievable level. I try hard not to ask anything of anyone else that I wouldn’t ask of myself. The tougher thing to do is respect that they may not ask that much of themselves. I’m working hard on that one too.
I want to be someone with compassion. Some people ask me why my writing is so emotional when I have a well-documented difficulty identifying emotions in myself and others. Why I have so much empathy when empathy doesn’t come naturally to me. The answer is that empathy is an effort and one I work hard at. The conscious need to try to piece together how other people work, how they feel, keeps me from living in a bubble where I assume everyone thinks the way I do. It isn’t actually ironic. It’s pretty logically obvious. Empathy is important for me and I don’t assume I’ll just get it as I go along. It’s the same reason people with natural talent so often fall flat in the long term compared to people who have to work hard at something. “Gifted” has a real short shelf life, as anyone who grew up in that program will likely tell you. By high school, nearly all my fellow top-tier students had thoroughly given up on themselves, they just didn’t really know what else to be. The people working hard on an aim, on the other hand, went on to really good things.
I want to be a positive addition to the lives around me, not just a stream of anger and anguish. I try to temper my frustration, rein in my despair, and be as constructive as I can manage because of this. I want to add to the lives around me, not just burden them. I couldn’t care less about what the ‘public’ think of me– fame is a nasty, blind slavering beast that tramples people and moves on without a thought. I am not a brand. Anyone who wants me to be is politely invited to jog on. I am one small voice in a great community. Honestly, London is so good to me. I care deeply and passionately about the people around me, who’ve been through attack after attack alongside me and kept such spirits. It’s good to be back on an island again, even if it’s one so big I can barely compare it.
So this is me moving forward. This is me taking the doom and gloom with a grain of salt. What I see on the TV is not reflected in the world around me. With campaigns of disinformation on the internet, and people I have spotted pretending at being here that aren’t, I know that the UK I see on Twitter is not the real UK, not entirely. Since I write in American English and communicate day to day in UK English, I’m a little more conscious of the differences. I’ve run across people pretending to be born and bred here who don’t know as much as anybody would pick up from living here for a year. Don’t be fooled. Britain is stronger and better than the Farages of the world are trying to get us to believe.
I wonder sometimes how much of what I saw of America was the same kind of propaganda when I was living there, but the racism and intolerance were things I saw face to face. People who found me too mixed and people who found me too pale, there were bad guys on every side of that idiocy. People who were offended by my mixed-race partnership as though it were any of their business, as if it should matter at all. There was actually someone who flat out refused to ride an elevator with Syl because she’s Asian, one of the last things that happened to us in Virginia. That was all in person. That was all very real. I’ll die before I go back to that. I never felt part of that, never assimilated there when I moved from the islands, and I never will feel like it’s part of my identity. The revolutionary war heroes in my lineage, no less than the Lakota who adopted us when we married in and intermingled, would be heartbroken at what’s there now. Papa DeeGee, with all his hope and faith moving to the shining city on the hill, would be devastated. The America I grew up hearing stories about was thoroughly gone by the time I landed on its continental shores. I’m not sure it ever existed. Much of what my ancestors believed was propaganda too. I’m glad I got clear of what it was becoming, and never had to be part of a Trump regime.
Things are not perfect here by far, many things are deeply broken, but I’ve never felt more at home. I’ve had a conversation with a Lord that made us both cry. I’ve had silly drunken rows with someone educating me on Irish troubles that left us both laughing and left me in admiration. I’ve lost some of my support team to Italy thanks to Brexit, and hate the hell out of that silly referendum. I’ve sent positive feedback for delivery drivers who got right back to work after London Bridge because hell yeah we get right back up again without spilling our pints! I’m happy to be part of a country I’m hoping is right on the edge of saving itself from hate and fear.
But it’s not about what we don’t want. It’s about what we do want. I want to get this chapter done. I want to see people talking, and really thinking about what they say rather than cutting each other down. I want to reach out in hope and faith, and I know I’ll never be perfect in doing so. I still want to try.
What do you want? Forget what you want to defeat. What do you want to achieve? What do you want of yourself? Find it. Be it. Live it. May all our better angels win.