Thursday, 27 November 2014

(II) Past… Future

“Happy is the person who knows what to remember of the past; 
what to enjoy of the present; 
and what to plan for the future”
~ Arnold H. Glasgow


Who you were, 
who you are, 
and who you will be 
are three different people”
~ Robert Tew

Earlier this fall I found myself face to face with part of my past. While standing next to my present. And I introduced them.

Walking into this situation I had little idea of what to expect or how the interaction would unfold. I found myself wondering how much to explain and prepare ahead of time. Was anything really necessary? What would add to the potential awkwardness? What would aid in increasing comfort? I found myself wondering how much to explain and debrief afterwards. Was anything really necessary? What would take away from the ease and comfort found after the initial awkwardness? What would enhance the lingering positive feelings of having moved on well?

In the weeks that followed pieces of the past began to surface. For both of us. Tidbits that naturally came up in conversations. Longer explanations given to specific curious questions. Lingering experiences, thoughts, fears that were reflections of the past yet tumbled out in conversations about the present. Not so much in a “let-me-tell-you-a-story-of-who-I-am” kind of way. Rather in a seemingly natural “I-want-to-know-who-you-are” kind of way.

I have wondered before about my reasons for telling certain stories of my past. About releasing the judgment I had placed on myself, living in the here and now, and creating space for new stories to begin.

I have wondered if it is truly necessary to tell all the stories of the past. Is the “ex-talk” a vital part of any new relationship? Do new friends need to know about old friends? Are previous struggles and pains –or even successes and gains- important pieces to share when learning to know one another here and now?

I don’t have concrete answers for those questions. Except that I find myself adding to the list. Questions linking past to future:
Can you truly know someone, without knowing where they came from?
Is it wise to begin to think about a future with someone, without knowing their past?
How much and what of someone's past is helpful to know in order to build a future with them?
And when is an appropriate time to share those pieces of the story?

I sometimes notice my mind wandering to questions that I do not ask aloud. Because I'm not yet ready to know the answer. Because I don't know if they are answers I am entitled to… yet. Or ever. Because I don't know if I am ready to respond to similar questions. And so I question the questions.

Exploring others’ thoughts on the topic, there seems to be no real consensus. Some believe the past is very important; others’ not so much. Others feel it depends – on the current relationship; on the parties involved, their expectations and ability to accept and/or forgive; on the relevance of the past stories and the impact they may have on the present and potential future. I think I tend to lean towards the later. I lean towards ~

~ because I suppose in some ways it shouldn’t matter so much whether it matters. If I can trust the seemingly natural “I-want-to-know-who-you-are” process that has proven itself thus far, then the relevant pieces from the past may continue to tumble out in conversations about the present; about the future that will eventually take care of itself anyway. Perhaps they are important questions to question every now and then. And perhaps in between the answers, it is more important to simply be present.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

When the world feels different

The first snowfall of winter can be a memorable event...
as well as a most painful one.
It brings back bittersweet memories year after year.
~ Doodle Max

It snowed the other night. One of the first real storms of the winter. I like those kinds of nights... though not usually so early in the season!

I like those kinds of nights, because the world feels different. Peaceful, clean, fresh, sparkly, beautiful... almost magical even!

It started snowing a year ago around this same time, give a day or two. I know because a year ago on Saturday I made the 3-hour long trip towards my home town. Towards a world that was beginning to feel different, but for an entirely different reason.

This weekend marks a year since Mom went into the hospital the first time. An anniversary, of sorts I suppose.

What do you do with an anniversary that you would really rather not acknowledge?
An anniversary that isn't really cause for celebration?

I made that trip again last week, in part to help put away the fall decorations and bring out the Christmas season. I decorated the family Christmas tree while Mom directed from the couch, frustrated with the weariness that chemo leaves on the body. In one moment of clenched teeth hiding “If you don't like how I'm doing it, then do it yourself”, I was mixed-emotion glad for one moment where the world felt the same.

It is difficult to know how exactly to look forward at an uncertain future. In a world that feels so different today then it did a year ago, it is difficult to look back. I have moments of impatience with this waiting game we started a year ago. A game that does not seem to be nearing an end. So no, I do not feel like celebrating nor even acknowledging this anniversary.

Instead I remember one of the first real snow-falls of last season, days after that first hospital visit. The simple, innocent brillance of freshly fallen snow had offered a patch of blue among the clouds that darkened our weekend. And once again I will allow myself – if only for a second – to get lost in the almost magical beauty of a night when the world feels different...

Sunday, 9 November 2014

It's SO not about Jian

It's SO not about Jian. It's about all of us working towards a society where it's *not this hard* to be believed; to give testimony in court; to move on; to feel safe; to see a level of justice that's commensurate with the violation you've experienced. And, it's about making it *not this normal* for women to live and work in environments where sexual harassment and violence is tolerated, enabled, and/or promoted.
~ Pemma Muzumdar

  * 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime 

* Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police

* I found different numbers published on different sites for statistics on sexual assault. 
The truth is, because these crimes are less likely to be reported, statistics are never fully representational...

When I started thinking about this post I wanted to include an apology or disclaimer about how, in exploring my contents and writing about how the Jian Ghomeshi scandel has infiltrated and challenged my own thoughts, I didn't want to take away from the direct key players and turn this situation into something that's all about me. Because I do realize that directly speaking, it's not about me

But then a friend posted a link on Facebook to a story about how difficult it can be for women too report sexual assault/violence. She commented on this link with the above quote, saying: It's SO not about Jian... and I realized, she's right!

It's SO not about Jian.

It's not even (just) about the women involved in this particular story.

It's about all of us.

Last week I read a blog entitled Do you know about Jian? – which talked about entire social communities that knew on some level about Jian. Saw the discomfort of women he approached; joked about the pick-up lines he used; heard whispers about how he treated women; passed along the question and knowing nods.

As I read I couldn't help but think: Why didn't anyone say something?

Part-way through the writer responded to that question, and I felt a little chastised. Because she is unfortunately right to counter-ask: 
Would you?

I realized I haven't.

Not that I have had an abundance of overt need or opportunity to. Perhaps I am fortunate in that regard. Or unaware of the people around me that are not saying something. Naive even, since the statistics suggest that harassment and abuse of any kind is much more prevalent than we like to think.

But I have worked in an industry that is somewhat known for the flirty banter, sexual innuendos, dirty jokes, and (border-line harassment) teasing. I've engaged in much of this at one point or another, either with my own words or by laughing at co-workers' comments. And while I would argue that it is important to consider the setting and audience, and that it is possible to be too sensitive about such interactions... I also have to pause and wonder if some of those interactions made someone uncomfortable? If a setting or audience was judged incorrectly? If boundaries were pushed and lines crossed? If someone felt unsafe to talk, and instead forced a laugh so as not to be laughed at?

Just because this industry is known for such interactions does not make it right or ok. And I know that there is a risk for line-crossing, because I have danced along that line both willingly and not so willingly.

Yet I have rarely said something.

The frustration and chastised feelings from reading that article shifted in me then, towards challenge and inspiration – to say something. To speak up for those who are not yet able to. To be an ally by sending a message of support; by helping to create safer spaces to say something. In a different work environment, I do.

Yet in some moments I still struggle. Because I enjoy the flirty banter, sexual innuendos, and dirty jokes. Some days those interactions among co-workers are what make that job tolerable and enjoyable. I don't want them to stop.

Nor do I want to contribute to feelings of discomfort or harassment.

I realize the flirty banter of consenting parties can be a far cry from sexual harassment or violence. And I know there is a line somewhere in the space between the two that has been crossed far too many times. But how do we truly know where to draw that line when it may well be in a different place for everyone?

Is the issue consent, as some have argued?
Is the issue victim blaming, as others have defended?
Is the issue ensuring we as allies, victims, potential victims, and everyone standing on the side-lines begin/continue to have these conversations – to raise awareness; to create safer spaces; to stand up and say This is Not ok! – so that in the midst of drawing and dancing along the line more people feel comfortable and safe to say something? Without the fear of victim blaming. With peace of mind that consent – or lack thereof – will be respected.

I want those feelings of challenge and inspiration to grow within me. I want to pay more attention to the setting and audience when I engage in flirty banter and innuendos. I want to be aware of and clear about my boundaries, particularly when dancing on the line; to speak up when I fear they may be crossed or, perhaps more importantly, when I sense someone else's discomfort.

I want to be part of these conversations because once I/you/we start to say something it will hopefully eventually become less risky to do so. We need to pay attention to the uncomfortable silences. We need to listen. We need to watch for the interactions and pick up on the cues that something just isn't right. And then we need to say something. And we need to do it together.

Because this is SO not about Jian. It's not even (just) about the women involved in this particular story. It's about all of us.