love

Anything worth dying for is worth living for

Periodically, there are news stories about bullied teenagers who commit suicide. Sometimes, they spark a conversation on how unacceptable bullying, misogyny, homophobia, or transphobia are. This kind of conversation can be dangerous to teenagers who are feeling hopeless about their lives.

If you’re seeing stories like this, and you’re already feeling hopeless — I worry that it will make suicide look like a way to have a voice. It’s not. Even if no one is listening to you right now, you have a much much louder voice if you stay alive.

Dying doesn’t force people to listen. If you’re dead, other people get to decide what they think it means. They might not get it right. They *usually* won’t get it right. And you won’t be alive to contradict them.

If you are alive, you can fight to be heard, and you can win. Even if no one is listening to you right now, your voice matters and we need you alive.

If you are alive, you can correct people who get it wrong. 

You can say: no, that’s not who I am. And yes, this is who I am. And: Yes, I matter. No, it’s not ok to treat me this way.  You can come out, and be proud, and help others to be proud. You can object to the way you and others are treated. You can find the people who will listen, and who will support you. Your voice matters, and you have a much louder voice if you’re alive to keep using it.

It’s damn hard. Some people won’t listen. Sometimes you will back down when you really want to speak up.Some people won’t respect you. You may lose connections with some people who really matter to you. It can break your heart, but you can live with a broken heart. And you can build connections, and get stronger. You will be heard — including by people like you, including people like you who badly need someone to tell them that they matter. It will be hard, and it will also be worth it.

Your voice matters even though sometimes it will waver. Everyone experiences times when they can’t figure out how to speak up; everyone sometimes forgets that speaking up is even possible. Everyone is intimidated or shamed into silence sometimes. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone says problematic or rude things from time to time. Don’t beat yourself up for that. Speaking up gets easier with practice, but no one does it perfectly. Your imperfect voice is an important voice.

The hate you face may not ever go away, but it won’t always loom this large. It doesn’t always get better exactly, your life may stay very difficult, you may always face discrimination. But that is not the only thing that matters, and you can have a good life. Love matters more than hate, and you’re more powerful than you realize.

Your voice matters, and you have a louder voice alive.

Finding what you can fix; living with what you can’t

Activism and advocacy are emotionally difficult on a number of levels.

One reason is that the problems that need solving are enormous.

No one has the capacity to solve all of them. Everyone has some degree of power to act; nobody has the power to fix everything or address every injustice.

Making the world better is largely a matter of seeking out opportunities to act. Caring about the problems isn’t enough. Being willing to fight for what you believe in isn’t enough either.

It’s important to look for circumstances in which you have power to make something change. If you look, you will find some — and not others.

The opportunities you have to create change are not always the opportunities you care about most. Caring deeply doesn’t always create power.

And there are always tradeoffs. There will often be situations in which there are many things you could do — and only the resources to do one of them.

There are usually compromises. Victories are usually partial. And they often involve complicity in things you’d rather not be complicit in.

And in order to find the opportunities to change things, you have to keep looking — even though this means you’ll see things you can’t fix.

This can be very hard to live with. It can be tempting to believe that if you just tried harder, you’d be able to fix everything. Or that if you cared more, you’d be able to do everything. Or that if you were a better person, you’d be able to avoid making compromises (or working with people who do bad things).

I think it helps to remember that it’s like this for everyone. No one can fix everything; everyone has to make choices and compromises.

I think it also helps to remember that the problems exist whether or not you’re looking at them. Looking at the problems hurts; it also gives you the chance to do something about some of them.

It’s also important to remember that you matter, and that there are things in the world that are good. Not everything is horrible (even though sometimes it feels that way); a lot of things are good. And people matter and are worth loving now, as things are. Activism isn’t about hating everything; it’s about making things better. And recognizing already-good things and valuing people both actually help with that.

tl;dr Activism involves caring about more things than you can fix. It involves a lot of tradeoffs and difficult choices. It’s not your fault; it’s like this for everyone. You can’t fix everything; you can do work that matters and make some things better. Remember that the world contains good things too.

thoughts on dating while autistic

Anonymous said to :

Hi! I’m autistic, and I’ve never dated anyone, although I have been asked out before. Truthfully, I’m terrified of dating or being in a relationship, because I’m almost 18 and I’ve never even kissed anyone before, and I’m embarrassed!

I’m a pretty attractive girl and very good at hiding my autism, so people are interested in me at first, until I totally mess up flirting because of my social awkwardness.

Can you tell me what dating/relationships are like, so I know what to expect/how to act? thanks!

realsocialskills said:

I can’t answer this directly because dating and relationships are different for everyone. They aren’t about scripts; they’re about building something with another person that works for both of you. I don’t know what they will be like for you. That is something that you will figure out as you get more experience.

But I can tell you some related things:

It’s ok to be embarrassed. Figuring out dating is embarrassing for most people. That doesn’t mean that you can’t date or have relationships. It just means that you will be embarrassed sometimes.

Flirting is at least sort of embarrassing even when it’s working. Figuring out whether or not someone is interested in you is at least somewhat embarrassing for almost everyone. Flirting is a way to make the process of figuring it out more pleasant than embarrassing.

Flirting effectively is a bit like learning to play the violin — just like initial attempts to play the violin sound terrible, initial attempts to learn how to flirt tend to be acutely embarrassing. That’s ok. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. It just means that there’s a learning curve.

Also — it’s not unusual to be 17 and not have kissed anyone yet. Sometimes the way people talk about teenagers can make it sound like everyone is dating and having sex, but it’s not true. Some people are, and some people aren’t. Both are ok. A lot of people your age haven’t kissed anyone. And the people who are kissing others also get embarrassed and unsure of themselves.

(It would also be ok even if it was unusual. It’s ok if some things are harder or take longer for you than they do for most people.)

Many of the skills involved in romantic relationships are the same skills involved in friendship. And one of the most important skills involved in friendship is figuring out how to tell whether you like someone, and whether they like you.

Figuring out whether you like someone can be hard for a lot of autistic people. Among other reasons, a lot of us are taught that we have to be friends with anyone who will tolerate our company. That’s not how dating works and it’s not how friendship works either.

If you don’t like someone, you shouldn’t date them. If you don’t like spending time with someone, you shouldn’t date them. If you’re hoping that they will change dramatically, you shouldn’t date them. It’s only a good idea to date someone if you like them and enjoy their company as they are now. You can’t build a good relationship with an imaginary person.

Similarly, it’s important to only date people who like you. People who are hoping that you will change, or who want you to act nonautistic all the time, are not people who like you.

You can’t become nonautistic to please people who find autism repellant, and you aren’t going to be able to hide autism from them forever. It always becomes noticeable sooner or later, because autism affects you and your experiences and impairments matter. You are who you are, and your disability is part of that. And that’s ok, because disabled people can date, and we can do it well.

The most important thing to know about dating and relationships is that, in good relationships, the people involved like and respect each other. Respecting and liking yourself is an important part of learning to build a mutually respectful relationship. Liking yourself helps you to like others; and to tell whether others like you. Respecting yourself helps you to learn to treat others respectfully; and to understand whether or not the ways others are treating you are ok.

From the way you phrased your ask, I think that you might be having a lot of trouble feeling ok about yourself as an autistic person. I think that it would help you a lot to work on understanding that it’s ok to be autistic, and that you can be a fabulous autistic human being.

It sounds to me that you think that you have to pass as non-autistic to be dateable. You don’t have to do that. Autism doesn’t prevent kissing and it doesn’t prevent love.

A lot of autistic people struggle to feel worthy of love and friendship. A lot of us feel repulsive a lot of the time. We’re often made to feel that our thoughts, feelings, interests, and body language are disgusting flaws. But they are not. We’re ok. Being autistic is ok.

We are beautiful. The way we look and the way we move and the way we think is beautiful. Autistic beauty is real, and there are people in the world who appreciate it.

We are often taught that, unless we learn to pretend that we’re normal, no one will ever like us. (That’s the basic message of the Social Thinking curriculum, for instance). We’re also often taught that we’re not allowed to make mistakes. A lot of us feel like every time we make a social mistake, it’s showing that we’re deeply flawed and hopelessly unworthy.

That makes dating really hard, because everyone makes acutely embarrassing social mistakes as they learn how to date. (And often even after they have a lot of experience.). It sounds to me like you might feel like you have to earn the right to date by never making any embarrassing mistakes. You don’t. If that was the standard, no one would ever be able to date. It’s ok to be fallible and embarrassed and unsure of things. You’re ok.

There are people who will appreciate your beauty. There are people who will find you attractive. There are people who will love you.

You can learn how to date, and you can do it as yourself.

Responding to desexualization without hurting others

Content note: This post is about ableism and desexualization of adults with disabilities. It is highly likely to be triggering to some people who have experienced degrading desexualization, as well as to some people who have been sexually assaulted or otherwise had people violate their sexual boundaries.

Anonymous said to :

As an autistic person I often feel desexualised, and I don’t like it but I feel sorta uncomfortable stating it for some reason? How should I like, deal with this and enforce my sexuality without making people uncomfortable?

realsocialskills said:

This gets really complicated.

Being desexualized is awful, and it’s also really hard to talk about without sounding like you feel entitled to sexual or romantic attention from other people. Especially when you’re talking to people who’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of intrusive sexual attention and who aren’t aware that desexualization also happens and is also a problem.

Another complication is that many adults really are asexual or aromantic. That’s an ok way to be, and it’s important to acknowledge that those people exist and aren’t broken. Objecting to desexualization does not mean objecting to asexual people.

People who desexualize adults with disabilities in these ways aren’t recognizing asexual adulthood; they’re denying disabled adulthood and expressing it in sexual terms. (And this denial of adulthood expressed in sexual terms also hurts asexual adults).

I think that desexualization is when people refuse to acknowledge or respect some basic things:

  • That you’ve reached adulthood or you are a teenager
  • That you’re as likely as anyone else your age to experience romantic and sexual attraction
  • That if you are experiencing sexual and/or romantic attraction, it’s as significant and important as attraction anyone else experiences
  • If you want to, it’s completely appropriate for you to act on your sexual and romantic feelings (either with yourself or consenting other people)
    • You have the same right to physical, sexual, and emotional boundaries as anyone else

    People who desexualize you might treat you inappropriately in group dynamics, eg:

    • By assuming that you will never have a crush on anyone in your friend group
    • By assuming that you don’t date for real and will always be available to go to couple’s events with someone who is caught without a partner at the last minute
    • By saying things like “I hate men/women/whoever. You’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with dating them.“
    • Or like “It’s so great to talk to you about this stuff. I’m so tired of how everyone else is making the group awkward with their dating drama.”
    • Or venting to you about how hard it is for them to find a partner without considering that you might share this frustration, and that it’s probably harder for you than it is for them
    • Or making jokes about how you’re their ~boyfriend~/~girlfriend~, ignoring the possibility that you might want to be someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend and that you might, in fact, be attracted to them.

    People who desexualize you also sometimes don’t observe appropriate sexual boundaries, eg:

    • Assuming that rules of modesty don’t apply to you
    • Undressing in front of you (in a community in which it would normally be considered inappropriate for someone of their age and gender to undress in from of someone of your age and gender)
    • Touching you in ways that are considered inappropriately intimate in your social circles for people who are not romantically or sexually involved
    • Adopting suggestive poses or being inappropriately close (eg: by having their breasts or crotch way too close to your face)
    • (The rules of acceptable nudity, physical contact, and closeness are different in different cultures, and that’s fine. What’s not fine is having established rules of modesty/boundaries but ignoring them when interacting with disabled people)

    It’s ok to be angry about this kind of thing, and it’s ok to insist that people knock it off and treat you with more respect. It’s ok to expect people to respect your maturity, your romantic and sexual capacity, and your physical and emotional boundaries.

    For instance, it’s ok to say “I’m a grown man; you shouldn’t be changing in front of me,” or “I’m not your girlfriend; stop touching me like that,” or “I don’t want to go to that event with you unless it’s a real date,” or “I don’t like it when you make jokes about dating me,” or “I get crushes too you know.” This will probably make some people uncomfortable; and that’s ok. You don’t have to do all of the emotional labor of making social interactions comfortable; it’s ok to have boundaries even when other people don’t like them. It’s also ok to insist that people acknowledge and respect your age even if they’d rather see you as a child.

    It’s ok to be angry about people treating you badly in areas related to sexuality, and it’s ok to insist that they knock it off. It’s ok to be upset when you’re single and don’t want to be, and it’s ok to be upset about the role that ableism is playing in making it hard to find someone.

    It’s also important to be careful that this doesn’t turn into anger at people for having sexual boundaries of their own. It can easy for some people to become confused about this when start realizing that it’s ok to have sexual feelings, and not ok that others treat you as though your disability means your sexuality doesn’t count. If you’ve been treated as outside of legitimate sexuality for your whole life, you likely have missed opportunities to learn about consent and appropriate sexual and romantic interactions. That’s not your fault; it is your responsibility to address. Being the object of discrimination does not give you a free pass to violate other people’s boundaries, even if you’re not doing it on purpose.

    It’s important to keep in mind that no one is obligated to date you, sleep with you, allow you to touch them, consider dating you, justify their lack of interest in dating you, or anything else like that. (And that it’s not ok to hit on people if you’re in a position of power over them).

    You’re human, so it’s likely that you’re having some less-than-ideal feelings about this stuff some of the time. You might feel jealous, or upset, or even angry at people who haven’t really done anything wrong. (Because they’re dating visibly and you’re lonely, or because you asked them out and they said no, or other things like that which can hurt to see but aren’t their fault.) It’s ok if you’re feeling that way; you don’t have to have superhuman control of your feelings to treat people well. What’s important is that you don’t feed it, and that you don’t act on it.

    In particular, it’s important not to cultivate offense when people you’re interested in dating aren’t interested in you. That leads nowhere good. (eg: I got an ask about how to stand up to a person who was using disability as an excuse to grope people a while back.)

    Rejection sucks, and it sucks more when you’re already really lonely, and it sucks even more when you know that ableism is probably a major factor in why some people you’re attracted to aren’t interested. It can be really tempting when things are that hard to take offense. It’s important to stay aware that people who reject you aren’t wronging you, and to find constructive ways to deal with it that don’t involve contempt for the people you’re attracted to. (In particular, stay away from pick up artist communities. Adopting that worldview makes it much harder to learn about good consent and have respectful relationships).

    It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s ok for you to be sexual and to express interest in dating people. (Even if you encounter people who are profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of disabled people having and acting on sexual and romantic feelings. Those people are wrong.) Your sexuality is not ever the problem. (It’s possible sometimes that things you’re doing might be a problem, but having a sexuality is never a problem in itself.)

    In particular - if you ask someone out or hit on them and they say no, that doesn’t mean that you did something wrong. It just means that they aren’t interested. Asking people who turn out not to be interested is ok; asking is how you find out. You don’t have to be a mindreader in order for it to be ok to ask someone out.

    All of this can be really, really hard to navigate. I hope some of this helped.

    tl;dr Disabled adults and teenagers are often treated like children. People often express this in sexualized terms by assuming that disabled adults are all incapable of legitimate sexual expression. It’s awful to be on the receiving end of that. It’s also hard to talk about or object to effectively. Scroll up for more thoughts on how to navigate this.

    Light It Up Blue is an annual reminder that Autism Speaks can't make us go away

    Today is Autism Acceptance Day, and April is Autism Acceptance month. It’s also an annual reminder that we are strong, we are still here, and that attempts to eliminate us are failing. When they light it up blue, they’re admitting that they’re weak and they’re failing.

    Autism Speaks and others who wish that autistic people didn’t exist think that it’s Autism Awareness Day. They’re calling us a public health crisis, and they’re trying to get others to agree with them and give them money. They want to get rid of us. They try to pretend they have any chance of succeeding.

    I realized today that April 2nd is actually an annual reminder that, no matter how hard they try, they can’t actually get rid of us. When Autism Speaks supporters are turning on blue lights, what they’re really saying is that they have just spent another year wasting a lot of money in a completely futile attempt to get rid of us. They are acknowledging with those blue lights that we are still here, and that we’re not going anywhere.

    We are more powerful than they want us to believe. We have persisted in existing despite their pervasive attempt to eliminate us. We are succeeding in spreading love and supporting one another in power and pride.

    We are speaking up. We are being heard. People who care about autism, autistic people, education, and communication are listening. The tide is turning.

    Their hate symbols are a sign that, even though we have far less money and far fewer resources, we are more powerful than their ineffectual attempts to make us go away. We are right, and we are strong, and we will be here long after Autism Speaks is gone. We ought to keep that in mind when we see the pathetic hate symbols they’re displaying today.

    The point is to build

    Your last post mentioned “coming to terms with how awful the world is.” When recognize that injustice is everywhere, and that you personally benefit from it, is it ok to find joy in the world even though it’s awful? Things like (in the US) visiting a national park and having a fun hike, when the land was taken a long time ago from Native Americans; or watching a good movie that’s problematic; or enjoying sledding after a snowstorm that was responsible for a few deaths?
     For me it is impossible to keep injustice in mind all the time. So whenever I have fun, or feel happy, I feel guilty later because that fun indirectly came out of injustice, and instead of fighting that injustice I was enjoying it. How can you keep in mind that the world is a horrible place without neglecting your right (is it a right even?) to joy?
    realsocialskills said:
     
    The world contains much, much more than pain and injustice. It’s important to acknowledge and fight evil. It’s also important not to become so consumed by the fight that you can only see the horrible things.
      
    The point is to build and to love. (And, sometimes, to fight battles that need fighting.)
       
    Sometimes, people try to seek out some sort of purity by cutting out everything tainted by injustice. That doesn’t work, because everything is tainted in some way. If you go down that road seeking purity, you get stuck cutting out more and more things and not being able to find anything pure enough to like without shame. That doesn’t help. Everything is connected to something destructive. Sometimes particular kinds of destructiveness are dealbreaking, but it can’t be everything that has any connection to something bad. You can’t become pure that way, but you can do a lot of harm to yourself and others trying.
     
    Liking things is good. Misery isn’t a moral accomplishment. If you want to make the world a better place, treat people right and build something good. The point is not to be miserable at the horrors of the world. The point is to build.
      
    This is not about attaining moral purity through abstinence and misery. It’s about doing the work of making things better and building worthwhile things, and loving others more than our culture hates them. Your purity will not help anyone. Your work can.
       
    To use some of the examples you gave:
      
    Regarding the snow: it didn’t snow so that you could sled. Enjoying the sledding will not hurt anyone. Just don’t brag about sledding to people who are really upset about the snow. People who have been harmed by the snow might not want to hear how much you’re enjoying the snow, but that doesn’t mean that enjoying it is wicked, it just means it’s important to be considerate.
       
    Watching a good movie that’s problematic: All movies have horrible aspects to one degree or another. It’s ok to ignore them and like something; *that’s the only way anyone ever gets to like anything in the media*. 
          
    But it’s also important to be willing to acknowledge that the problems are there and not be obnoxious about other people not wanting to hear about the thing you like. Everyone’s patterns of what’s deal-breaking are different. If the ableism in a movie is dealbreaking for someone, respect that, and don’t talk to them about how great you think it is. If someone got badly injured in the snow, don’t talk to them about how wonderful the snow is. Being considerate of other people’s boundaries, and their right to decide what is and is not personally dealbreaking, goes a long way.
     
    You are allowed to be happy. It’s good to be happy. There’s a lot that’s wrong with the world, really really wrong, even. But…
      
    The point is not to be constantly miserable about it. The point is not to wallow in shame. The point is to build. 
      
    Some building is activism and advocacy and fighting injustice. Some of it is just… building. All of it involves identifying situations in which you have the power to act, and finding things you can do that make good things more possible.
      
    You can like things; you can love; it is good to like things and enjoy life. Refusing to ever like anything impure will not make the world better; your work can.

    So I fell in love. I had a very clear idea about the temporariness and ubiquity of it. And I liked that version where it’s special because of how it makes you feel but not-so-special because it often reaches an end, nevertheless its memory intact and treasured. Until, I fell in love. The guy lives in an other city and so we tried but he ended it because it was just ‘impractical’; very less chances of us every meeting. I get it. It was the right decision. But I can’t get over it. He is my THE ONE
    realsocialskills said:
     
    He’s not your The One. He is not yours. He is his, and he does not want to be in a relationship with you.
      
    It sounds like you think that this man is the only person you can ever possibly love in that way. I don’t think that’s true. He’s probably not the one exception to your general principle that you should avoid getting too attached. It sounds to me like you found out through getting close to this guy that you actually do like to fall in love and be attached. It sounds like you found out that you want something different than you thought you wanted, but that you’re treating this as something you found out about your ex rather than something you found out about yourself.
        
    Breakups are usually awful, and they are particularly painful when you really love someone and wish you could still be with them. It’s normal to feel awful because a relationship ended that you wanted to continue. It doesn’t mean you’ll always feel this bad, or that you can never feel this way about anyone else. This is survivable, and it gets better.
       
    Push come to shove, being with someone who doesn’t want you anymore is a lot worse than being alone. It’s corrosive. It wears you down. You can’t make him want to continue the relationship, but you can get past this and find someone else who does want to be with you.
       
    You learned something important about yourself from this relationship. You learned that you can fall in love, and value a relationship enough to care about it lasting. That’s a good thing to know about yourself. It will make it much easier in the future.

    Learning self respect

    I’m twenty years old and I can’t help but think that everyone thinks I’m stupid. I stutter, I feel slow, I say dumb things, and I sometimes catch people giving me judging looks. No one’s ever said that to me except maybe once or twice when I was much younger, but I can’t help be bothered by it. I feel like there’s something wrong with me mentally, but people don’t want to address it. I hate it. I’d rather be messed up and not aware of it than this. How do I learn to love and be okay with myself?

    realsocialskills said:

    The most helpful thing I know about this, I learned from Dave Hingsburger’s book _The Are Word_. And, in the simplest form, it’s this:

    You’re ok. They’re mean.

    If you stutter and think slowly and have cognitive problems and have trouble communicating, there probably are a lot of people in your life who think you are stupid.

    They may think that, but it isn’t true.

    You’re ok. They’re mean.

    People who think that you are stupid are being mean. People who give you judging looks are being really mean.

    You’re ok. They’re mean. 

    The way you talk doesn’t make them look down on you. The way you think doesn’t make them look down on you. Your voice is not the problem. Your brain is not the problem. They’re mean because they’re bigoted and mean.

    You’re ok. They’re mean.

    And, in the words of Laura Hershey: you get proud by practicing

    I know it hurts. It hurts terribly. It’s not your fault, and you won’t always feel this awful. It takes time. It takes practice. It’s slow, and incremental. Try not to be hard on yourself for struggling with this. We all do. It’s hard. That’s not your fault, either.

    You’re ok. They’re mean. And as you practice understanding this, and as you practice getting proud, it will be easier to feel ok and harder for them to hurt you.

    Don't hate former versions of yourself

    So, I see this kind of thing a lot:

    • Wow, I can’t believe I used to like that
    • I was such a loser when I was 13
    • What was WRONG with me
    • I just found some of my writing from the 90s. How embarrassing. 

    And here’s what I always want to say when people say things like that: You didn’t suck then. Your old writing is nothing to be ashamed of. Your youth is nothing to be ashamed of.

    You were a person, and you were younger and knew less than you do now. That’s a good thing. It means you’re still learning.

    But your younger self was worthy. Good. Deserves respect. And so do other young people who are similarly young and inexperienced, and who similarly have a lot to learn.

    Optimism in the dark places

    Sometimes, people who want to see themselves as optimistic say things like this to suffering people they encounter:

    • “Look on the bright side!”
    • “Cheer up!”
    • “It can’t be that bad!”
    • “It’s ok.”
    • “Smile, you’ll feel better!”
    • “You have so much to be grateful for.”

    Sometimes people who say this kind of thing mean well, but it’s still degrading. It’s degrading because:

    • Sometimes things really are that bad
    • Refusing to acknowledge that doesn’t help anything
    • And when you try to insist to someone who is going through something awful that it can’t be as bad as they think, what you’re really doing is refusing to listen to them
    • Telling someone to shut up is neither kind nor optimistic

    This is particularly the case if you’re talking to someone in a bad situation that is unlikely to get better, or which is at least unlikely to get better in the near future eg:

    • Someone who has a terminal illness
    • People who are facing systemic oppression of a kind that isn’t going to go away in their lifetime
    • Someone who is trapped in an abusive relationship they see no way out of

    I think that there’s another kind of optimism that is much more helpful:

    • Acknowledge that things really are that bad
    • Don’t try to smooth them over
    • Identify things that make life worth living
    • Work on building and recognizing love (including, love people enough to acknowledge how bad things are without pressuring them to sanitize them for you)

    Optimism in the dark places

    antiquemouse:

    realsocialskills:

    Sometimes, people who want to see themselves as optimistic say things like this to suffering people they encounter:

    • “Look on the bright side!”
    • “Cheer up!”
    • “It can’t be that bad!”
    • “It’s ok.”
    • “Smile, you’ll feel better!”
    • “You have so much to be grateful for.”

    Sometimes people who say this kind of thing mean well, but it’s still degrading. It’s degrading because:

    • Sometimes things really are that bad
    • Refusing to acknowledge that doesn’t help anything
    • And when you try to insist to someone who is going through something awful that it can’t be as bad as they think, what you’re really doing is refusing to listen to them
    • Telling someone to shut up is neither kind nor optimistic

    This is particularly the case if you’re talking to someone in a bad situation that is unlikely to get better, or which is at least unlikely to get better in the near future eg:

    • Someone who has a terminal illness
    • People who are facing systemic oppression of a kind that isn’t going to go away in their lifetime
    • Someone who is trapped in an abusive relationship they see no way out of

    I think that there’s another kind of optimism that is much more helpful:

    • Acknowledge that things really are that bad
    • Don’t try to smooth them over
    • Identify things that make life worth living
    • Work on building and recognizing love (including, love people enough to acknowledge how bad things are without pressuring them to sanitize them for you)

    antiquemouse said:

    “It’s okay” can be used as “it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to scream at me, it’s okay to talk about this” but otherwise, yes to all of this.

    (Keep in mind that I say that from the point of view of someone who  frequently apologizes for crying or talking and has friends who do likewise, and therefore it may not be accurate in all situations.)

    realsocialskills said:

    Yes, that is absolutely true. There is a form of “it’s ok” that means “reassure me that it’s ok”, and there’s a form that means “it’s ok for you to acknowledge that things are awful and I will listen and respect you”.

    deathbeforedecaf214:

    “You have so much potential!”

    realsocialskills:

    youneedacat:

    realsocialskills:

    On the topic of degrading things that well-meaning people tend to say to people with disabilities:

    • “You have so much potential!”
    • “I truly believe in your potential!”

    These can seem innocent, and sometimes it can be a benevolent…

    deathbeforedecaf214 said:

    I don’t want to be loved or cared for or valued for my potential. I want to be loved, cared for, and valued simple for who I am as a person. Doesn’t everyone, even the able-bodied?

    Don't turn all your tools into weapons

    i sing sometimes like my life is at stake ‘cause you’re only as loud  as the noises you make…

    ….i sing sometimes for the war that i fight 'cause every tool is a weapon - if you hold it right.
    -Ani Difranco

    I think most of y'all who read this blog are fighting some battle or other. Maybe it’s a battle for justice, on behalf of many. Maybe it’s a principle. Maybe it’s mostly your own life you’re fighting for. One way or another, I think most of you are fighting.

    And the thing about fighting is, it’s *hard*, and it wears you down.

    And some of you are fighting more or less alone, or with limited support. And you have to take your weapons where you can find them.

    Maybe it’s your words. Maybe it’s your affect. Maybe it’s your hands. Maybe it’s relationships. There are all kinds of things. And it’s important; you have to take weapons where you can find them. 

    And every tool is a weapon if you hold it right. And when you’re fighting, and looking for weapons, it’s possible to start seeing everything as a weapon first and foremost. That’s dangerous. It can destroy you. 

    If you see everything as a weapon , it can be hard to use tools in other ways. There will be times when you have to fight, there are times when hurting people is unavoidable. But when fighting is the center of your life and all your tools become weapons, it can cost you absolutely everything you care about. 

    Even when you really need weapons; sometimes especially when you really need weapons.

    When all you have is a hammer, then all problems look like nails… But it works in reverse too. If all your problems look like nails, all of your tools will like like hammers. It works that way with weapons, too. If you see everything in terms of physical or social struggle and violence, it’s hard to see your tools as anything but weapons. And that can end up costing you everything you care about.

    You have to fight the fights; but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do.

    Your hands can make fists. Sometimes you have to make fists; sometimes you have to fight. But don’t let the people you’re fighting make you forget that they can also make bread. Or whatever else. Hands can do many things, and the fight is necessary, but it’s not enough. Don’t let your enemies deprive you of all the other uses of your hands.

    Similarly - Your words can be weapons, you can use them to hurt people when it’s needed, and to assert power when power is what’s need. But don’t let them make all of your words into weapons. Because you need them for other things too. Words aren’t just for tearing down oppressors. They’re also for honoring people you respect. They’re also for love. They’re also for telling stories.

    You’re probably singing sometimes like your life is at stake. But don’t forget that you can also sing love songs. When you’re singing like your life is at stake, make sure that you don’t forget to value your life as an end in itself. Don’t make your whole self into a weapon. 

    Don’t forget that patterns and beauty and love exist, and that we can build worthwhile things even in this messed up world. Life is worth fighting for; it is also worth living.

    Don't forget about love.

    There is a lot of evil in the world. And the more you see it, the more overwhelming it can be. Especially as you become aware of evils that most people willfully ignore.

    It’s important to see the world as it is, and to take everything seriously. And that means facing the evil fully, and getting past pretending it’s not there.

    But… the evil is not the only thing. There is good, too. And it’s ok to love things, and people. It’s even ok to like things, and enjoy lighthearted entertainment. Even though the world is a mess. 

    Being happy in a broken world isn’t a moral failing.