• Category Archives not ashamed
  • Not Ashamed: Unconcerned with Acting my Age

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I can’t even recall when I was first shamed for not acting my age. Sometimes it was for doing things that were culturally considered “too young” for my age. Sometimes it was for things that were culturally considered “too old” for my age. I’ve never seemed to get age right.

    The things that were “too old” weren’t as exciting as you might think. In fact, it was always for times I was “too serious” or my intellectual pursuits were above my expected level. Yes, really. Obviously, when balanced with the “too young” stuff (so that you know I didn’t forget being young), I find this particular one almost too ridiculous to even address and I’m certainly not going to feel ashamed of this.

    The “too young” stuff, of course, is a common one. “Act your age!” seems to be something most of us have heard at some point. Of course, most people eventually take that to heart. Even when it’s not reasonable and related to immature behaviours (like adults throwing tantrums and such things). Even when it’s not true to who they are. They change their clothing and hobbies and goals and so forth to fit what society has declared the correct ones for their age. (To be clear, if those new clothes and hobbies and goals are who you really are, I’m not criticising. I know adults who fit the grown up mould.)

    Here’s where I stand on the topic of societally mandated grown up-ness: As long as I fulfil my commitments (which includes paying my bills, so I’m not a drain on your precious society) and take care of “my people” (which includes my cat and other non-humans I might consider part of my circle), I’m adult enough. And I strive to make sure I have emotional maturity, but that has nothing to do with my hobbies, my appearance, etc. I doubt I shall ever be a grown up, and I’m just fine with that.

    Interesting note: Apparently, it’s common for females on the autism spectrum to have disregard for and confusion over age.

    I guess, if you want grown up friends, you’re probably going to want to look elsewhere, as I am entirely uninterested in giving up the magic and delights that have been declared “too young” for me. Especially as there appears to be no good reason for those things being relegated to kids and/or teens. I’m just glad I live now, when it seems there are more of us questioning at least some of what society has decided is not age-appropriate for adults. Glad that, as an artistic type, there’s more room for me to go off the popular, socially sanctioned script.

    Amber with nerf gun and stuffed hunting companions
    Don’t make us come for you. Adventure penguin and Hedgehog will get you!

    Man, those who get upset about me now are really going to hate it when I’m an old lady who hasn’t grown up, aren’t they? Unconcerned with acting my age, now and forever. Yay!

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Pacifist

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    Whilst it might seem a contradiction to my “violently angry” post of last week, I am a pacifist. And it hurts my heart that anyone would feel that pacifism is something to be ashamed of.

    My pacifism is not born of fear or weakness. It is not born of some delusion that all people are fluffy kittens. Nor, as you learned last week, is it born of a lack of violent inclinations.

    My pacifism is rooted in my idealism and in my oft-disappointed belief that we humans could do so much better. I believe in love and light, in peace and harmony. We really could do so much better…

    My pacifism is not restricted to physical violence; I also oppose emotional, spiritual, psychological, and sexual violence and warfare. And I believe that all violence begets violence.

    I believe that most violence (perhaps all) is born of other violence or of fear. That oppression is a form of violence.

    I believe that pacifism must extend to ourselves. That was the hardest one for me. But it’s also the one that we have the most power to apply. That’s the one that most helped me start being my own better self.

    I reluctantly try to live with the apparent fact that the world we’ve built includes people whose violent acts require physical responses. That oppression is sometimes only thrown off by violent acts. That we are unlikely to ever achieve a non-violent world.

    However, I also believe that violence is too frequently applied as an answer, pushing people deeper into the well of darkness from which their own violent behaviours originate. That we humans are too wont to follow our violent and angry impulses in our search for solutions.

    So I won’t apologise, and I won’t feel ashamed, for trying to be part of the peace, for trying to remove myself from the violence. That garbage is best left to fiction.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Violently Angry

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I’d love to say that I no longer struggle with being violently angry, but at least it’s rarer. And, at this point, I think I can pinpoint some of the causes. Not all, but some.

    I’m pretty sure that, sometimes, this is related to be having some serious sensory or emotional overload. (Which ties back to some of the issues that come with my autism.)

    I’m pretty sure that, sometimes, this is related to me having a manic swing.

    I’m pretty sure that, sometimes, this is related to hormonal shifts.

    But there are also times when I can’t figure out the cause or the trigger. Sure, I can point to the thing that someone else said or did (or to the malfunctioning inanimate object), but it won’t make sense to me why it has sparked the level of anger it has.

    Futurama: Professor is pacing in a dome. Text: If anyone needs me, I'll be in the Angry Dome.
    I’m going to have one of these when I get filthy rich.

    Again, it’s rare-ish these days, relatively speaking. Not like when I was at uni and had to keep a box in the corner of the room just for me to kick to bits. I used to replace that box weekly—at least—after I’d kicked it so much that it was no longer structurally-sound enough to give me any satisfaction.

    These days, the emotion itself is rarer and I’m much better at suppressing it until I find an appropriate release (or until it seeps out into my dreams…which is actually just the worst, so I usually find another answer quickly).

    One of my favourite anger-related factoids, which I must have shared before: I read in a psychology journal that anger is a secondary emotion. When you feel anger, it’s there to cover a more vulnerable emotion. The start of me gaining control of my anger was that article. I’d get the anger and I’d make myself stop until I could find the cause. What raw, more vulnerable thing was I really feeling? Disappointment? Frustration? Fear? Failure? And even if it was something that I can now pin on, for instance, the way my autistic brain is wired, it helped.

    Since realising how important solitude is to me, I’ve also cut down on it. Partly, I believe, that’s helped cut down on the times I’m over-stimulated. Partly, it’s probably because there are fewer things to set me off when I’m alone.

    I don’t like shouting, and have pretty much managed to avoid that most the time. And I really am a fan of peace, so have done what I could to keep my anger—when it manifests as a physical urge—aimed at myself or at inanimate objects.

    But, really, I’m just trying to keep from going there. And, when I feel it coming on, to keep from escalating. I’m not ashamed that I feel violently angry sometimes, and I try not to do anything when it hits that will leave me feeling ashamed for other reasons.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Self Harming

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    (Trigger warning: self harm, depression)

    Like last week, I’m going to try to keep this shorter.

    I know I’m not the only one whose self harm behaviours (or at least the demons in my head that wail for them) can be triggered by reading about others’ behaviours.

    Sometimes, it was a drawn out loathing that pushed me. Purposeful. Others, it was a sudden burst. What I did varied based on which it was.

    Anger is a secondary emotion, one that masks more vulnerable things. So, when I say that it was often something that felt like anger that drove me…It would more accurately be described as severe disappointment in myself, frustration with myself, self-loathing, self-disgust…

    I was good at hiding it. I had good excuses and I favoured clothes that covered me completely and loads of jewellery. And I’m pretty confident that, whilst adults might have expected it just because I wore black, none of them actually knew or had reason to believe beyond going in for stereotypes. (For the record, oh you stereotypers, there were plenty of people who looked like me and didn’t self-harm. So, please check yourself.)

    I’m also very lucky that I have always felt sensitive, skin-wise, because it meant I was constantly moisturising. Unless you undress me, even now when I happily wear less complete coverage, you won’t find scars. (I mean, you will find scars, but not from the self harm. Even the one you’ll think is from that was done to me by someone else, but that’s another story.)

    I don’t want to talk about what I did. But I think, given the stereotypes, I want to talk about what it did for me. I didn’t do it for attention (which is why I covered it up). But it felt like an escape hatch, like it let things out of me that were too much for me to keep carrying. Like it was punishment I inflicted on myself because I deserved it. Like, with everyone and everything else hating me, this was me proving that I was the one who got to hurt me and that I could hurt me more than anyone else.

    And I feel like I also want to clarify that none of my friends encouraged the behaviour. Their responses ranged from just quietly accepting that I did it to voicing their concerns. Just in case some of you are thinking stereotype thoughts about my friends as well.

    It’s been years now. For a while, I felt horrible after I did it. Not immediately, but the next day. And then I got a bit worried the last spate of it because I didn’t feel at all bad about it after. I worried that the only thing that could stop me would be if I felt ashamed. But that didn’t really happen.

    So, here I am…not advocating self harm, hoping you don’t do it, but understanding if you do. And years “clean” of it (I won’t say how many because that’s a bit too personal). But not ashamed that I did it. I understand why I did and I feel sad for the parts of me that crave that.

    Put down your instruments of self-harm, my darlings. Wear your sleeves short and your head high. And when the urges come to put marks on yourself, put marks on paper instead.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Suicidal

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    (Trigger warning: suicide, depression)

    This one…I’m going to keep it short.

    I can’t see any good that would come of me describing in great detail what I felt like when I was suicidal. I will just say that it’s not the same as feeling self-harm urges. For me, it was always an emotional and mental state that was despairing beyond anything I could believe existed when I wasn’t in the middle of feeling them. And it wasn’t just a brief moment. It would settle in…last long enough for me to decide that literally nothing could compensate for continuing to feel that way…and then long enough for me to purposefully consider and plan how I would do it.

    This was not the same as the moments I was emotionally overwhelmed and sobbingly asserted that I could not go on.

    And it could happen during times you might think I had everything to live for and no reason to want to die. The motivating emotion is not, at least for me, rational.

    I also can’t see what good would come of describing the ways I planned to do it. I don’t want to put ideas in anyone’s heads. But the uniting theme between them all was that I wanted to spare anyone having to clean up much mess.

    I did want to give my opinion about the assertion that suicide is selfish. I wish I could find the rather eloquent essay someone else wrote on the topic, because I’ve struggled with getting this bit just right. So, I’m settling for this: When someone you love is in the level of exquisite pain that would cause them to consider suicide, you’re the one who looks a right selfish twat when you self-righteously preach to them the idea that suicide is selfish. Try a little compassion instead.

    Now, I’m not suggesting anyone commit suicide. And I’m pretty sure my days plotting my own are over. So, don’t fret.

    But I remember the feeling. And I remember the sense of empowerment and relief when I made my plans and saw a way out. And my disappointment with myself every time I failed to make it happen.

    I’d love to go back in time and reassure younger-me that it was truly going to be okay with her to be alive someday…and I’m glad those days are over, but I am not ashamed to have felt what I felt.

    I’m proud of myself for the person I managed to be and the commitments and achievements I realised during that time, in spite of the things with which I was struggling.

    If you’re struggling with or plagued by suicidal thoughts, please get help. At least talk to a compassionate friend and try to believe them when they give you reasons to live.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: A friend to multiple people who dislike each other

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    For the purpose of this topic, I’m using the word “friend” the way most people do.

    This might be the only item on my list of labels where the people communicating to me that I ought to feel ashamed are only my friends. Which makes sense, given the topic. After all, when the issue is that I’m a friend to multiple people who dislike each other, I imagine they’re taking it personally.

    I hope that none of my friends will take any insult from what I’m saying here. This certainly is all meant in love, not meant to be passive-aggressive (I’m saying just what I mean), and is, arguably, further proof of your quality and my loyalty. Got it? Good!

    In general, my friends tend to be strong, unique, passionate people. To me, in general, these are all positive traits. However, you can probably see that these are traits that might make them a little more inclined to disagreements with others (especially with others who share those traits) than you might see from those who are mellow and agreeable and just what you’d expect.

    Now take all these intense people (of which I think I’m one) and put them in group activities that are related to their passions. Or in romantic relationships. In an entirely non-judgemental way I’ll say that I don’t think one should be surprised when conflicts arise, including conflicts that people can’t or won’t resolve. And, so, there I am, with friends on opposite sides of a conflict.

    I want to pause a moment to clarify that, as far as I can tell, none of these conflicts involve sexual violence (I will definitely choose sides and end friendships in such cases) or hatreds like racism, homophobia, sexism, and the like. Any hatreds here are either hatred for personalities, controversial choices, or taste in media. Though the latter seems to have diminished as we’ve all grown up a bit. Heh.

    So, there I am, with friends fighting. Neither of them actually completely horrible people. Maybe they’ve been some kind of horrible to each other (especially in the case of romantic relationships), but they’ve been good to me. And the horrible they’ve been to each other doesn’t cross certain lines (the ones in the former paragraph and a few others that seem reasonable to me).

    I hate the unkindnesses they’ve done each other and I wish they hadn’t but…But I don’t cast off friendships easily, and sometimes I can see both sides of the issue. And, so, I take my time in deciding how their falling out informs my opinions of and relationships with each of them.

    I know that we want our friends on our side in things. That we love it when friends can support our dislike, can confirm that we have done the right thing or that we were entirely right in a disagreement, can be counted on to never invite someone we hate to their party. I also know that, given how nasty some people can be, we instinctively worry that the friends of our enemies will betray our trusts even if they are also our friends. I have trust issues. I totally get that.

    I’m sad over friends who felt their best decision was to walk away from me when I wouldn’t join them in walking away from another person.

    And I’m so grateful to friends who have trusted me, have known that I’m constantly striving for integrity and to keep their confidences.

    I value my intense, passionate, strong-willed, opinionated mates. And that is part of why I am not ashamed that I am a friend to people who dislike each other. It’s okay if our tastes in people are different. And I appreciate those of you who are my friends and who dislike other friends of mine but who never try to shame me for it. Thank you.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Devoutly Mormon

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    Like last week, this topic is another of the top 5 I’m most hesitant to post. As I’ve been writing these, I’ve become more aware of which I see (sometimes just in my own mind and sometimes based in my actual experiences) as having the most negative impact when people learn them about me. And this is one that, when someone learns it, seems to obliterate everything else they know about me.

    And this is the only one that has caused even those who call me a friend to belligerently berate me for it. (Sometimes nearly frothing as they shout insults and stereotypical accusations at me.)

    And this is the one that has cost me relationships. People who said they loved me but wouldn’t be with me because of this or friends who progressively became too aggressively opposed to me being this to talk to me anymore. (And, no, these weren’t cases where I brought it up. I just lived my life and let them live theirs and they, out of the blue and without it ever actually affecting them or how I treated them, decided it was a problem.)

    I even have beloved family members who have flat out said things like “I love you even though you’re…”

    Now, pretend you hadn’t already read the title. Pretend you’re just going on what you already know of me. Maybe what you know because you know me in person or maybe what you know based just on what I’ve written. Sure, you’d have to take my word that the thing behind the label in question isn’t a thing I bring up constantly or that leads me to treat others poorly or whatever…But, if I were looking at the topics I’d written so far, I’d look at my description and wonder if the label in question was “serial killer” or something equally horrible.

    Religion is an odd thing.

    I grew up Mormon, but in a household that valued personal study. That valued asking questions and looking for satisfying answers. That didn’t freak out when my questions had to do, for instance, with something I’d found in Buddhism that I appreciated. That maybe didn’t love my personal aesthetic choices but, unlike some other friends’ households, didn’t kick me out for my style choices or try to send me to an institution or even allow doctors to drug me for them.

    I went on to get a degree in Philosophy at uni, which is all about questioning everything, and did so with the enthusiastic support of my parents. I learned to question everything even more rigorously than before and to evaluate my sources and the answers I thought I had. My peers questioned me about my beliefs, but in the straight-forward and demanding way that a good philosopher questions, not in a nasty way.

    So, when people assume I’m just Mormon because it’s my habit, I can tell you that’s not the case.

    When people assume that I never questioned (maybe never even thought to question), I can tell you that’s not the case.

    When people assume I do it to please my family or be in a community, I can tell you that’s not the case.

    When people assume I’m blind to problematic issues and areas and they just need to berate me enough to “help” so that I can be free, I can tell you that’s not the case.

    When people assume that I’m sheltered, that I have lived my life in what I call “the Mormon bubble,” with all my friends and family also being devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I can tell you that’s not the case.

    I absolutely understand, having seen it happen to friends or having done the logic exercises in courses, that people have had legitimately bad experiences or that the truth claims of some or all religions don’t make sense to some people.

    I know that there are Mormons who have done bad things, even made people I love feel horrible.

    I know that there are some issues around my religion that are problematic, even if you do believe in a higher power.

    I have, as a person who doesn’t tend to fit the normal societal moulds, much less the normal Mormon moulds, had negative experiences with individuals at church and struggled with some doctrinal issues. I probably always will deal with both those.

    But, here’s the thing…

    In my course of study for my Philosophy degree, I came to realise and accept and embrace that my membership in the LDS church is entirely grounded in faith. I’ve had some nice experiences and what I perceive as some powerful spiritual moments, to be sure, but mainly my membership is due to faith. I don’t claim that there is logic there, and I’m okay with that. (In fact, I think I’ve alienated some neighbours because they tried to explain why it was logical to believe in God and the reasons they gave didn’t actually live up to the standards I’d been taught are necessary for something to actually be considered logic…so I noted that and noted that my belief was all rooted in faith and that that, from my reading of scripture, was what was actually expected of Christians. I get that it makes sense to some people, but “making sense” and “logical” aren’t the same thing. And I’m not out to undercut anyone’s beliefs, but I actually do care about the integrity of logic.)

    I also have never intentionally pushed my religion on anyone or even assertively offered it once it’s been rejected. My preferred method of sharing is to be my best self, to not try to hide that I’m Mormon, and to not blot out this piece of my life in conversation when it’s relevant to, for instance, a discussion of my motives for some choice. (I’ve actually had people I’ve known for a while express surprise when they learn I’m Mormon because I don’t seem the way they think Mormons would be and, obviously, I wasn’t pushing my religion on them.)

    Whilst I don’t believe at all that religion or spirituality are necessary for a person to be good or to do good, I know that my religion has been a positive motivational factor in my own behaviours. One that was especially useful, in hindsight, as I tried not to completely ruin everything as a teenager. A good influence on my life that even the relative who once hugged me tight, kissed me goodnight, and said, “I love you even though you’re Mormon,” went on to acknowledge.

    I have never judged another to be lesser than me due to them not being LDS. My religion doesn’t make me superior. Not at all. And I don’t think it makes anyone else have greater worth. Sorry, Mormon people who are reading, but a shared religion isn’t really going to get you any advantages with me.

    Now, I’m not here to argue in general, and I’m certainly not here to argue with anyone about their issues with the church of which I am a devout member. As I said, I respect that people have had bad experiences and that there are problematic issues. But, as for me personally, the only thing my religious beliefs ever took from another person, as far as I can tell, would be all those people who wanted to have sex with me and didn’t get it. People have, when berating me, suggested other negative things it’s caused me to do, but the things they claim haven’t ever actually been true and applicable to me. (That’s not a challenge; please don’t scramble to find another thing that me being Mormon has made bad. I’m probably just going to delete that rubbish.)

    So, whilst I am truly sorry for any bad experience you have had with Mormons or the LDS church, I am not ashamed to be devoutly Mormon. I love having faith and I am grateful for the good experiences I’ve had and the positive feelings my religion have engendered in me.

    I once dreamt that I was given the chance to have what I want most in this world. All I had to do was say that I didn’t believe what I believe. And I’ll tell you now what I said in my dream: Me saying it wasn’t true wouldn’t change that I believe it; it would only make me feel dishonest and dirty.

    My whole “Not Ashamed” effort could read like a really long and awkward (extra awkward?) version of those old adverts. “I’m a rockstar, a bisexual, bipolar, autistic, a geek, and I’m a Mormon.” Ha!

    Hi. My name is Amber, and I’m a devout, Sunday school-teaching (for real), weekly-service-attending Mormon. And I might be nervous to tell you that based on past experiences, but I am not ashamed.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Ridiculously Musically Eclectic

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    Of all the things on my list, this is probably one of the top 5 I’m most hesitant to post. You see, I am a musician. The best thing, in my opinion, that I have put out into the world is songs. And musicians are judged more harshly than most anyone else when it comes to their musical tastes.

    Now, I completely own up to the fact that my opinions of people are influenced by their musical tastes. I love people who, in my opinion, have seriously questionable musical tastes. But I also see that almost all of my closest friends share many of my favourite bands and musicians. And the thought of being in close relationships with people who hate the music I find most important makes me cringe. (Been there, done that, never going back.) So I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t factor in the musical tastes of others when forming opinions. I honestly believe that a person’s musical favourites say a lot about them.

    That said…

    I was raised in a home that was full of music. We all grew up wanting our own stereos and then played music non-stop on whatever we had access to. We all loved music, though most my family didn’t all love the same music. Plus, my dad and eldest brother were (are) pretty eclectic themselves. And then most, if not all, my friends loved music. There was more overlap there than there was in the music family members loved, but it still wasn’t complete overlap. Which means I had access and exposure to a wide range of music. Lucky me!

    With the internet, I also had access to music nobody I knew was listening to. Access to All The Music!!! Lucky, lucky me!

    Wee me with headphones
    Pretty sure the stereo was the nicest, most magical thing we owned.

    Like most creative teenagers, my friends were vocally and strongly opinionated about music. So there were whole swaths of music that I either avoided completely or that I wouldn’t admit that I enjoyed. It was risky even to say, “I don’t like their music, but they’re clearly talented.” Nope. Just keep your mouth shut.

    Which is to say that I was not always not ashamed of my musical tastes.

    But, sometime around age 21, I started to care a whole lot less about other people’s opinions of my tastes and looks and actions. I also started hanging out with more musicians and realising that, as much as people judge us strongly for our tastes, it’s a good thing for us to be atypically eclectic. The broader my tastes, the broader the influences on my own music. Even if you don’t hear it, there are bits of songs that occurred to me to approach in particular ways because of some song or genre you might not expect me to enjoy.

    People talk a lot about guilty pleasures. I’m not going to claim that all pleasures are okay; there are a lot of questionable people with even more questionable pleasures. But I absolutely refuse to have musical guilty pleasures. Why bring shame in to taint my enjoyment of a song? Not going to happen.

    As a bonus, I learned years ago that the quickest way to get certain kinds of boys who were hitting on me to leave me alone was to be forthright about the music I loved that they considered crap. “Yes, I see you posturing there. Do you see me skanking during the song you’re mad the DJ is playing or bobbing my head to Public Enemy as I chat with my friend? Oh, you’re leaving? Such a shame…”

    Me glaring at someone at a club
    It wasn’t like I was an inviting person to start with…

    I’m not claiming I love all music. Though, so far, I’ve found that there’s usually a song or two of the types I’ve heard that I enjoy. And not just obscure things. I’m sure I lose my punk card, my goth card, my alternative card, and an assortment of other cool kid membership cards when I gleefully sing along to Taylor Swift or have kitchen dance parties with Jay-Z and Rihanna. When I put on some Genesis or Dire Straits or Fleetwood Mac on purpose. When I don’t protest if my guitarist says I have to check out the new JT (that’s Justin Timberlake, cool kids) album. And I know plenty of rock kids who don’t get it when I spend a night listening to nothing but Chopin’s piano pieces or won’t let them switch albums until I’m done with the whole Salt-N-Pepa album I’m in the middle of. And so on and so forth.

    Please also note that I’m not claiming to be an expert on everyone I like to listen to. Not at all. I haven’t had the luxury (of time or of memory) for that since I was about 15. Even then, I always felt a little obnoxious trying to prove I was a super-fan via knowledge of trivia. Because that’s not what it’s about.

    I love wallowing in songs I’ve enjoyed for ages. I love hearing new things I enjoy. I love to lose myself in a song, an album, a playlist. I love songs that make me cry and songs that make me dance and songs that make me want to grab someone pretty and do scandalous things.

    Me dancing whilst I sing
    Wallowing in my own music, hoping for scandal

    If we’re listening to music from my collection and it’s on shuffle and I warn you that you will probably end up disappointed in me, that’s not an apology. Not at all.

    If we’re listening and something shuffles up that I skip, it’s not shame. It might be that I know you’ll be offended and I’m sparing you or it might be something added to my massive collection by a friend or partner that I have yet to clear out.

    If I explain that I know a song I love is kind of lame but there’s this particular emotional context. I’m not ashamed of loving the song. I’m just acknowledging that some of my tastes have more to do with emotions than with the actual song.

    But my own ridiculously eclectic musical tastes are not something of which I’m ashamed. And I sincerely believe they make me a better musician. Rawr!

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Very Selective in My Friendships

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    I suppose this ties into the last two weeks’ posts. I mean, maybe this is because I’m an introvert and I’m reclusive.

    When I was younger, I scrambled for friendships. I think that I did it because society taught me that having loads of friends was normal and a measure of just how well I was doing in life. I think that I did it because I thought that enough friends would prove (to others and to myself) that I had worth. I think that I did it because I was afraid of what I might find if I were alone with myself.

    But I…I want to say I outgrew that, but I don’t want to imply that there was anything wrong with wanting loads of friends. In fact, I think it probably is normal to want that. That the majority of people, for at least part of their lives, want that. I don’t look down on people for wanting it.

    But as I grew to really like myself and not be afraid to be alone with me. As I spent time alone with me and found that I really, really loved being alone. As I learned that “normal” didn’t necessarily mean “better” or “best for everyone.” As I had some really incredible friends who helped me see that that was the level of friendship I wanted if I were going to put aside the art I was making or the beauty of solitude and give time and attention to other people. As that all happened, I grew into a self who had rather high standards for friendship.

    Now, I understand that what I consider my bottom line for friendship is higher than what others consider that line. I know what you probably mean when you call someone a friend. And I don’t judge you for that. What right is it of mine to judge? Friendships are personal things, aren’t they?

    And I use the word “friend” the way that you do when I talk to you, because I don’t see the value in having to preface every use with an explanation and with, I’ve learned from experience, trying to help you not feel hurt that, whilst I like you as much as people that you like and call “friend,” I don’t use that word the same way and…Yeah, it gets a bit much.

    I might not agree with all his thoughts, but Michel de Montaigne groks my kind of friendship <3 (Not that I don’t also enjoy my acquaintances and familiar relationships...)
    I might not agree with all his thoughts, but Michel de Montaigne groks my kind of friendship <3 (Not that I don’t also enjoy my acquaintances and familiar relationships…)

    It’s been very clearly communicated to me, by people who I do consider friends, who meet my unusually strict and odd standards, that I ought to be ashamed of myself for having such high standards. (Or even for knowing clearly when people fall in my concentric circles of relationships.) They claim it means I’m unfriendly and cold and…Well, you get the point.

    As with some of the other topics about which I’ve written, I’m sorry, sincerely, if this one hurts your feelings. And I couldn’t tell you precisely why my brain has a very different picture for “friend” than yours does. (Mine probably looks more like what you consider your best friends.) Maybe I actually took to heart those idealised descriptions of what friends are in programmes, films, and books.

    But you’ll see that I still treat you kindly; I don’t automatically treat people who aren’t my friends poorly. And I can still enjoy your company. And I won’t correct you if you call us “friends.” (Not unless I feel like what you are to me is less than what typical people would consider a friend. And, even then, I don’t correct to be mean. I believe in being honest and that knowing where we stand with each other is the best for both of us.)

    Anyway, in case you can’t tell from this post or what section of the site it’s in, I’m not ashamed. Even if I didn’t have a different bar, I wouldn’t be ashamed. I don’t say this about everything on my Not Ashamed list, but: I believe we’d all profit from being very selective about our friends. We should all have only friends who are truly well-intentioned when it comes to us. Who set aside their jealousy to celebrate our victories. Who kindly, and without turning it into gossip fodder or finding some perverse satisfaction in it, hold each other in defeats. Who can be trusted with our vulnerable parts and our secrets. (And, let’s be honest, I have trust issues, so it’s not necessarily an insult if you don’t get my trust.)

    Everybody ought to feel loved and supported by their friends. If your friends make you feel uneasy or attacked or unsupported, maybe you ought to join me in being very selective.

    And, like me, don’t be ashamed of that. It’s better to be selective, to walk alone if you must, until you find those who deserve your goodness.

    (One more note: I’m sure the world has many great people who could be my good friends. But I’m also sure that finding and being friends with all of them would lead me to neglect my arts and the sanity that comes to me from solitude. I don’t feel like I “gotta catch ‘em all.” And no shame if you can’t catch me, even if you are super awesome and we are well-suited. I’m actually a difficult friend. No, really. Have you read the other posts here? I might adore you madly and think of you constantly, but that won’t be enough to get me to find nearly as much time for you as most people seem to want. Consider this so-called shameful quirk of mine your saving.)

    Now, go out and be selective! You deserve it.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).

  • Not Ashamed: Reclusive

    If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.

    This one dovetails nicely with last week’s post on being an introvert. My reclusive nature is similar (there’s overlap), but it’s not quite the same thing.

    Last month, I was talking with an older, mothering sort of friend. I said something about being a hermit, and she got a little upset with me. There are a lot of connotations that spring into mind with that word, and none of them, to a casual eye, apply to me. I tried to convince her to let me call myself reclusive, because they’re pretty much the same thing. She didn’t like that much either for similar reasons.

    When you see me, I’m not dirty or unkempt. I don’t have twigs in my hair. I’m not afraid of you or gibbering madly. I know how to be polite and hold up my end of a conversation. My home isn’t a little hut in the forest. Etc etc etc.

    Matthias Grünewald painting detail: St. Anthony visiting St. Paul the Hermit in the desert. (Detail shows St. Paul looking scraggly and hermit-y.)

    So a lot of people think I’m joking or speaking really hyperbolically when I say I’m reclusive or that I’m an urban hermit. Look at me on stage! Look at me chatting with some stranger at a bar! Look at me managing the food shopping without breaking down in fear! (If they can’t believe I’m an introvert, they definitely can’t believe that I’m reclusive. That’s a step further.)

    The thing is there’s nothing in either the definition of “reclusive” or “hermit” that requires me to be afraid (or dirty or gibbering or living in a hut). Nope. In fact, in examining myself, I don’t even think I have any real social anxiety. I mean, maybe; I might be deluding myself. But I have plenty of friends who struggle with social anxiety, and close enough friends that they’ve described it to me, and I don’t think I’m having the same experience as they are.

    For me, it’s kind of like you asking me, “Amber, would you like vanilla or chocolate ice cream?” and I’m really not hungry for vanilla, so I shrug and say, “Chocolate, please.” No big deal. And, sure, I’ll usually choose chocolate. But it’s not because I fear vanilla. There are even some times I enjoy a little vanilla.

    “Amber, would you like to leave the flat today?” I’m not afraid of it. And, sure, there are times I enjoy seeing family or friends. But, mostly, I’ll just shrug and say, “No, thanks.”

    Now, my reclusiveness is certainly at least partly there to satisfy the introvert need for time alone and the autistic appreciation for being apart so that I can prevent sensory overload. But it’s not a burden for me. I really, truly, madly, deeply love solitude. I need hours of it daily. Even from the person I love most in the whole world. (Need. I’ve tried going without and it doesn’t end well.)

    I know I touched on this last week, but I want to be clear here that there is a part of this that isn’t motivated by needing to recharge or by needing to cut down on stimulus. There is a part of this that’s a deep hunger of solitude. For days or weeks of no in-person contact with other humans.

    There was a day I was having a mad craving for Thai food. My cravings can be ridiculously strong. And there’s a really tasty place nearby that I can get to in under 5 minutes. Or that can deliver to me. Massive craving and kind of busy and all I had to do was interact with a delivery person (I can order online) and I just shrugged and thought, “No, thanks.” My craving was mad at me, but the thing deep in me that strongly prefers solitude was just beaming with contentment.

    For those who worry, no, I never neglect myself. Beyond the occasional craving denied. I never go hungry, I’ve never risked a job or messed up a gig, and I’ve never let the cat go hungry or missed a vet appointment. I’ve left the house to do kind things for others. I even drag myself out in the middle of the night sometimes to catch a film that I’d really rather see at the cinema instead of on my TV.

    I live in a city. On purpose. I love being near the things I want. Especially with this fortress of solitude into which I can retreat within minutes of being done.

    And I honestly don’t mean to confuse anyone. Nor do I like how often people think I must be lying about being reclusive in order to spare their feelings. If I were going to lie about myself or my motivations, I’d make up better stories.

    Fake postcard with child sticking his head out of a castle and saying, "I'm sorry. I am way too busy living my awesome hermit lifestyle to leave my house and party with you."

    Societies are, by nature, social. So, of course, my desire to stay tucked away in my cosy flat is seen as a shameful desire. Especially this part of it that I can’t even blame on a validated thing like introversion or autism. And I’m flattered by those who, in trying to shame me out of being myself, demand to know what right I have to deny people the awesomeness of my company. Hey, I hear you; it must be hellish to live without me as your constant companion.

    But I’m not ashamed.

    And, someday, when it turns out that what I’ve put out into the world instead of a lot of social nights is albums and books and blogs and some killer live shows, I will feel like I’ve put more than enough of myself outside of this flat. If it weren’t for my love of solitude, I couldn’t do the work to create those albums and books and blogs…I suspect I wouldn’t even have enough sense of myself and my emotional space to put on shows that are half so authentic.

    I’m not the first or the last reclusive artist. It’s a fine tradition. No shame here.

    Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).