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After dealing with the constant rollicking sillybuggers on antisocial media, particularly last summer’s hatefest that had continuous ripples of hate until the autumn months, and then the continuing nonsense in November, I said to myself,

“Self?”

“Yes?”

“This is a total waste of time, let’s get rid of the lot.”

“Agreed, just do it!”

By the beginning of December 2019, I had deleted both Fakebook and Instagrim. I still have Twitter, only because the majority of my work contacts are there, and editors of the publications I occasionally write for insist that their writers/columnists/authors have some kind of presence online.

Only in person can you see what the eyes are saying. So much is lost in the attempts at communication electronically. You miss out on what those of us who are Empaths pick up on in every interaction – the words you select, the order in which you speak them, what you say, tone of voice, what the eyes say, facial expression, body language, and most definitely the energy we pick up from you while having a conversation. The only exception is my connection with Nat. We literally sense each other 24/7/365, and just know when to reach out – either in times of great joy, or times when depression is kicking our backsides hard.

When you really need to deal with something, the only method is in person, face to face, where you can hold a hand, look someone in the eyes, or offer a shoulder to cry upon. That is damned near impossible to do via electronic means.

What happened after deleting the accounts? Did I experience antisocial media withdrawal? Hell to the no! The next day, the sun still came up in the East, people went to work and school, the stores and malls were packed with shoppers in the run-up to the holidays, and the Earth still rotated on its axis. In other words, nary a ripple in the existence of the universe.

Nobody noticed. Did I miss it? Not for a second!! It was more a sense of relief that continued to come in waves for a few days after. One less place to be attacked by haters. One less place to have my existence questioned by ignorant twits. The days went by, life went on, and I honestly felt an improvement in my mental health.

Those who mattered, friends, colleagues, and so forth – we found other means to keep in communication. Imagine the shock of receiving a letter in the mail written in longhand cursive! And the space in my world that it was infecting has cleaned up and opened up to new possibilities, and holy cow, Batman, did they ever start showing up! One of my mentors said, when you are open to it, the universe will provide endless opportunities for expansion/growth. It takes a certain level of daring and courage to say yes to new things.

Nat sent me that quote, and it has been that way for both of us since 2020 started. We have each been receiving little nudges from The Universe. A new perspective, new opportunities, new growth pathways, all of that and more have suddenly appeared.

Entirely unexpected, I received an invitation to speak at a conference in Chicago this coming June. Now, my experience with a certain level of exclusiveness in Canada was totally blown away with this invitation. You see, here, the thing that we come up against constantly, like banging your head against a wall, is this whole viewpoint of exclusive spaces where outsiders, gawd forbid, might be allowed to enter. It happens for social events, it happens for recognition, and it particularly happens in training. You claim to want to welcome the community and have them sit at the table, but, heaven forbid they might get the opportunity to step over that invisible line, the no outsiders line.

Let me give you another example. One organization says, hey, we love working with you, and we’d love for you and a guest of your choice (Nat would have loved this, she would have had multiple laughs!) to come to our bash, tickets and room on us. When word of that got out, a few people got in a twist, because “how dare they allow outsiders into our space!” That attitude started to spread like the flu, and it was repeated back to me from multiple sources. I sent a note thanking them for the recognition, but declining it due to a busy calendar. Received the same invitation from the same organization the next year … same rumblings about outsiders, declined that one as well. I’d rather go out and enjoy myself, than worry about invading somebody’s space.

You see, people don’t consider how their words fall on others. In my world, that occurs as “you don’t belong here,” “you don’t fit in,” and so on. Sound familiar? Yup, Impostor Syndrome trigger phrases. The first time it happened, that triggered many things causing a three day run of insomnia, and sleep is necessary to keep you functional.

I am quite looking forward to this conference in Chicago, where I’ll be presenting on LGBTQ2S Wellness and Peer Support (cancelled in March by the COVID-19 lockdown). I was asked by the host organization if I would focus on workplace bullying/workplace mobbing, as it is an issue that comes up regularly. It’s one of my areas with a lot of knowledge/experience.

I find it interesting, I have literally reached the point where any time I receive an invitation to take part in something with folks south of the 49th, my first response is, you do know that I’ve never been a part of that group, yes? So, before you get too far into your preamble, if that’s an issue, let’s stop here so you don’t waste time on this call. That’s what happens when lived experience becomes your “already-always” and you expect rejection because of your status, it’s always that way at home. To my surprise, the answer I have received each time is, “That’s not why we are extending this invitation, you have lived experience with *insert topic here*, and that’s what we are looking for.”

This led to my presentation in June, and now being part of a peer support team, based in Illinois, which provides support across the US, with my areas being LGBTQ2S, trauma, and PTSD. I was honestly questioning if I had read that series of e-mails correctly, my first thought was, “Me?? Why the hell would you want me for this?” My next thought was, gotta ask Nat about it, and she encouraged me to say yes. Same response from one of my mentors. Worst that can happen is we decide after some time that it’s not a good fit, shake hands, and look for ways to train other peer supporters on my areas of expertise. Neato, nifty, peachy keen.

Was this all that showed up? Nope! January was like popcorn popping.

I am so honoured to be co-authoring a new book with my friend and fellow author, Joie Lamar, this year. Joie has 7 books published/in process and counting, is a right proper powerhouse, and I love the way her mind works. This book was sparked by an article shared by a colleague on LinkedIn, and it hit the same note with both of us. This is a conversation we have been engaged in for 6 years now, looking at it through various lenses and from various viewpoints. Our working title is based on those conversations. We may have one or two other writers contribute a chapter or section to the book. I think this will be a quick book to write, it’s taking our conversation history and putting it down on paper.

Then taking another stretch, a friend of mine who lives on the west coast now, contacted me, a mutual friend is trying to get in touch about a project. Well, it turns out that Alumnae Theatre Company hosts a 3 week New Ideas Festival each year. This year, a rocking non-binary playwright wrote a one scene short play with two characters, would I consider being on stage in one of these roles? Now, that yappy little arsehole in the back of my mind, known as Impostor Syndrome is literally jumping up and down, red-faced, not happy at all about this one. I asked if I could read the script first. Receive the e-mail, read the script, OMG, it is literally a scenario I have played out in my mind hundreds of times! Was the playwright having a wander through the corners of my mind?

I haven’t done anything like this since high school, and I will shun the spotlight or focus as much as I can – I’m usually in the background or behind the curtains, not anywhere I can be seen. We had a conversation over the course of an hour, and I finally said to myself, “oh for chrissakes ya silly bitch, just say yes.” Yes, I’ll do it. Rehearsals are under way this week. This is not a stage thing, this is a dramatic reading, so the two of us in the scene, script in hand, reading it (woohoo! No memorizing, that would make life an adventure), with a narrator reading the stage directions. I may never set foot on a stage ever again, but, it’s one of those adventures that may as well have fun with it while I can. This one-act/one scene play is titled, ‘Platypus’. It is looking to be a fun week of 6 performances. (cancelled mid-March by COVID-19 lockdown)

Our stories … there is so much to this one idea, and I absolutely adore Dr. Brené Brown and the way she thinks, because this quote is so appropriate for this next section.

Prior to the Christmas-New Year’s holiday season last year, I saw a post on Twitter, somebody was finding things difficult, looking for someone to chat with who gets it. I responded to send me a message and sat down for a conversation. A couple of months later, we’ve become fast friends, and we’re still in that conversation. Now, here’s the amazing piece. Talking with someone who has been where you are, (been there, done that, didn’t want the t-shirt) and has made it through it, is a great comfort. You can pour your heart out and not be judged, they’ve been through it already, know where you are at, and can hold out a hand to you to guide you through that darkness.

We made it through the holidays together, and more challenges arose for my friend. The most recent one was interesting. As we have chatted about our experiences, they found the courage to go beyond their comfort level, and went out to the movies. When you battle anxiety, that is such a giant step forward. Next one was an appointment, and the day before, anxiety had red-lined on all gauges and it was getting to that dark space again. Ah, I’ve been here before, let’s try something out. List for me all those catastrophes that could possibly happen that you are worrying about. Got the list. Perfect, remember that there is nothing wrong here, it just is, so let’s take a look at each one and come up with either a way to handle it, or a contingency plan for it. One or two items, I asked to dig a little deeper, I could see it going a few different ways.

By the time we had finished, they had a list of supplies, a list of actions or conversations, a checklist, and one of those plastic bags with a slide on top to open and close it. An Anxiety Kit. I’ve seen and read of similar things before, and Nat was the first one to ever tell me about what she has in her purse in case of a difficult moment (I have something similar). The slide to open/close bags are easier, if your hands are shaking, you can open and close it easily without spilling the contents. It’s compact enough to tuck into your coat pocket, pocket of a sweater, backpack, or purse … somewhere that it is easily accessible to you if you require something from your kit. Just remember, that if you have to use something from your kit, make a note for yourself to replace it or buy a new item.

By the time the kit was made, and the checklist written out and placed where it would be easily accessed in the morning while getting ready for the appointment, my friend said, “OMG, I just have a little bit of nerves left, everything else is gone!” I asked what was different, while I had a good idea that the answer would be validating their experience. Because, in recent years, they usually get a “suck it up”, “quit being so dramatic/such a drama queen”, “just go for a walk around the block, you’ll be fine”, “why don’t you have a drink to calm down”, and so on. They told me this was the first time somebody affirmed their fears, and then worked to resolve each one in order. (Bingo! Validating your experience in action.)

The next day, they messaged me with a photo prior to the appointment. Once arrived safely back home, sent another message with another photo. That second photo was quite simply breathtaking! I have yet to witness a transformation so positive in such a short time. I told them how massively proud I was for their courage, and their stepping beyond their old limits, to get out there and grow. That evening, I told a friend who is a psychotherapist, “If I live to be a million, I will never grow weary of watching somebody who is where I’ve been before, breaking through that wall and growing into a bigger possibility than there was before.”

That, my dear kittens, is the power of sharing and owning your story and your lived experiences with someone who is going through the same stuff.

Second part to owning our story and telling it. One of the team at a particular website reached out to me around the time of Bell Let’s Talk Day – one sentence, “When are you going to share your story with us, Christine?” A few e-mails back and forth over the course of that week, and this past Saturday, I sat down and spent the day writing. My therapist had suggested to me, “Throw out all the ways you have written or narrated your story before. You’ve done all of them multiple times, it’s routine, it’s rote, and you could do it with your eyes closed. Take this on in a new way, start with a blank page, a blank space in memory, a blank slate, whatever works … use one of the themes you have used in your recent lectures and talks, and tell your story for the very first time, in a way you have never shared it before … see what happens, and I’d love to read it when you finish.”

Made myself a pot of coffee, sat at the table, and started typing. I was editing as I went that afternoon, I had been walking around with the words in my own mind for a few days before I ever set pen to paper and fingers to keyboard. I thought, if I was to do this in one of my lectures, how would I say it. I knew the cap was 2,000 words, and I was checking the counter on the bottom of the screen after every paragraph to see what I could tell, and how could I condense it, and get the most in. A few proofreaders thought I should write the last page differently. I checked with my therapist, what did they think about that. Their response was, “that one person and you have been so connected and have been such a large part of each other’s healing and growth, it would seem unnatural to not mention them.” That’s what I had been thinking. I then sent it to Nat, to make sure that it read well, and that she was good with the language and choice of words … there were one or two little things that may be new to some, but are old hand to us, so it’s best to be sure.

The part I found interesting, every person who proofread it came back with the same response to it, literally every letter and punctuation mark was exactly the same – OMG GOOSEBUMPS!!!! Even my publisher responded in block caps “NAILED IT!” and loved how I based it in a portion of a lecture. It has been submitted for consideration, I’m hoping their editor will take it as written and run it. It came in at 1,988 words, if you were curious. If, and when, it is published, I’ll drop the link in a new post.

This quote was sent to Nat and I last year, after we had performed our essay, Love Is Love on stage for International Women’s Day. We still get the occasional bit of feedback from someone who was there and loved it, because it touched something in their souls. We are discussing the possibility of writing something together in the near future, and will share it on our respective blogs when we do.

I began with giving antisocial media the old heave-ho, don’t let the doorknob hit ya where the good lawd split ya.

As if I needed more evidence that it was a wise decision … it has been difficult, to put it lightly, to sit on my hands and not immediately go to nuclear mama bear mode when watching somebody I share a soul with being attacked in a variety of vile, ugly, and personal ways on antisocial media. Unfortunately, with the position they hold, they are a target for such things – but, attack the votes, attack the decisions, attack policies – never use personal attacks. That just demonstrates the level of regressive pond slime that is infecting antisocial media these days. Antisocial media seems to only feed the mindset of “piling on”. It’s bad enough when one person goes on a string of personal attacks, but, once the mob mentality kicks in, it becomes a free for all. They don’t see the briefing notes on your desk, they have not been a part of the conversations leading up to it, they have no clue on all the factors involved, but saw an easy target and decided to pile on and attack mercilessly.

Earlier in this post, I mentioned the triggers that “no outsiders” caused, with three nights of zero sleep because insomnia was ruling the roost. Somebody takes their personal tragedy, comes up with a simple idea that could bring a little sunshine to those dealing with it, and what started small, suddenly went viral and nationwide in no time at all. Well, apparently some folks didn’t like that, and it just got nasty. From a conversation about excitement one night about an opportunity coming up, to devastation the next. What’s worse, some former co-workers went for the vulnerable spots in their attacks the following week. That to me is the absolute lowest you can go. One of your former colleagues is now retired. And you decide to pile on with the rest of the pond slime on antisocial media, but use their illness to attack them with, in an even uglier way. That’s just despicable.

Let’s wrap up with the teachable moment from Professor Kitty.

The online world is a cesspool of ugliness these days. Want to question something a local councillor has done or is doing? Try this, it has never failed to get a fast response for me. “Hi Councillor *name*. I was reading about this issue in the news, and I had a few questions about your statement/vote/decision-making process. If you can spare me a few minutes, can we have a quick conversation about this for you to fill me in?” Considering the volume of hate mail that hits their computers, that approach usually earns me a callback within 24 hours. Looking for the gap in their armour where you can launch a personal attack … that’s the ugliest way. Logic and please explain why you did this … opens up a channel for communication.

When our group of elders have something in Parliament that is of particular interest to us (the last one was C-211 the PTSD framework bill), that’s our kind of approach … and when we have that channel open to chat, we can explain (without accusations or ad hominem attacks that are so common on antisocial media) what our interest is, and why we think it’s important that this get dealt with sooner, rather than later. What was the nifty part of it, for me at least, is that we could be completely unseen and unnoticed, and yet have a voice in it. There were enough people pushing to get into the spotlight or on camera with recent bills (like C-16) that have come to our attention – the funniest was seeing raw footage from a pool camera of somebody elbowing their way to the front row to be seen on camera.

The lesson from Professor Kitty can be summed up this way, be a decent human being, be civil in your interactions, don’t follow the masses (because the M is always silent), and try your best not to be a completely insufferable twit.

The lesson from this City Mom, keep your circles small, keep those who you know love you close, and ignore the arseholes, leave them to talk to themselves. That’s what I did last summer, and the explosion that happened from my lack of response was predictable. Be an observer of things, some will amuse you, some will make you roll your eyes out loud, and some will cause you to love your people even more.

I promise there will not be such a big gap before the next post!

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.

Christine 💙💙