How long ’til my soul gets it right

I had an uncomfortable conversation with some folx today that left me a little shaken. The source of our difference of opinion isn’t so much a concern and being at odds while awkward is not the problem.

The issue for me is something I’ve encountered over and over again – being accused of valuing cats more than people.

It isn’t just cats – it’s been me caring more about tote bags, dogs, blogging, politics, even caring more about LGBTQ people than people. Than my family or friends or neighbors or other loved ones. It seems like a slam that’s haunted most of my adult life.

That’s a gut wrenching punch for me. On its face, it is simply mean or mean-spirited. But it is also just inaccurate. I think this blog robustly documents the many ways I care about human beings, as does my social media content. So a person who makes that argument doesn’t actually know me or doesn’t know me enough to gather the facts. Or read my content. They just level a pretty low blow because its generally lands painfully. It is easy to pull and sometimes it is true.

Galileo’s head was on the block
The crime was lookin’ up the truth
And as the bombshells of my daily fears explode
I try to trace them to my youth

People have differing priorities. Some people do care about cats more than anything else in the world and make no apologies for it. I find that a poor approach to advocating for cats and distasteful. In fact, my time in the cat world has mostly been about advocating for the human caretakers many of whom are quite vulnerable themselves. They are so maligned for simply trying to care for homeless animals to the extent that often their own want and suffering go unregarded.

There are certainly times when I get consumed by a specific topic or issue, but its never true that I don’t care about people. Over the past three weeks, I’ve written blog posts about four different trans women of color who died. One was in a car accident, the other three were murdered. Doing that research, advocating for the deceased person to be acknowledged, diving into the crime itself is often horrifying. While I don’t need a medal for that work I choose to do, do you really begrudge me making some cat videos or finding solace with living critters whose quality of life I can control?

I mean, I am a social worker. I’ve spent almost 30 years in the human services field doing paid and unpaid work. I talk about it a lot. A LOT. I’m not a saint. I’m a person who tries hard to be the person I needed when I was a child. I did that unconsciously for many years and with intention once I began processing my chronic trauma. I fuck up sometimes, but I keep trying.

How long ’til my soul gets it right
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light
I call on the resting soul of Galileo king of night vision
King of insight

I’m not making a joke
You know me I take everything so seriously
If we wait for the time ’til all souls get it right
Then at least I know there’ll be no nuclear annihilation in my life time
I’m still not right

Emily Saliers, Galileo

So what might seem like a thrust and parry without intent to cause real harm can, in fact, inflict genuine pain on the other person. Being a person living with chronic trauma and anxiety is very hard. It is so much worse when people are cruel and say the very worst things I fear might be true about myself. And to what end? To land a blow? To drive me away? Certainly not to get me to constructively consider their point of view.

Obviously, the end in this case is to cause me to pick up the mighty pen and speak out in defense of myself and all of the others who are unfairly maligned to land a blow or make a point. Who then retreat and rehash everything over and over, unsure if our calm outrage is bluster or sincere. Are we bad people who deserve to be treated poorly for some unknown sin committed in another lifetime?

I’m writing this to remind myself with each keystroke that I do not deserve to be accused of contempt for other human beings. That I can be held accountable for mistakes and individual choices without a sweeping condemnation of my character. The process of typing, I’ve discovered, is part of my trauma processing – each key stroke realigning my understanding of an experience in the context of my own larger experiences. The clatter of a typewriter in the hands of an experienced person firmly creating writing out of nothing at all, over and over, line by line, with a firm and decisive end stroke signaling that all is as it should be. That’s what I imagine even though I am not using a typewriter.

And I don’t worry about the person who said these things to me ever reading this because clearly they don’t read my blog, right?

I’m really tired of being smacked for things that are not my fault. I didn’t create the violence in my family, I just spoke up about it. I didn’t ask to be gay or straight, I just acknowledge my truth. I didn’t damage my brain intentionally to cause my mental illness. I don’t want to be anxious. I don’t want to sit for hours trapping cats, but its the only way to help them and the humans who live alongside them. I didn’t abandon them. I didn’t insist on having outside cats. I didn’t create this situation; I’m just trying to follow best practices to improve it for everyone. In fits and starts, for sure. But I’m showing up to solve the actual problem, not to make other people comfortable about the problem.

But then again it feels like some sort of inspiration
To let the next life off the hook
Or she’ll say look what I had to overcome from my last life
I think I’ll write a book

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