This blog has a new home over at https://jngaio.com/blog/ and as such, I will no longer be updating here. Hope to see you there!
Veiny glowing tadpole seeds. This tree is fertile as fuck.
Did you know that overexplaining can be a symptom of trauma? When a person grows accustomed, over a long time, to being criticised and/or disregarded, they learn that if they just explain as much as they possibly can, perhaps, just perhaps, someone might at last listen. Truly listen. It doesn’t work though, instead people tune out if you talk too much.
Did you know that oversharing can be a symptom of trauma? Profound loneliness breeds a need to be seen. Feeling monstrous creates a need to confess. It doesn’t work, though, because one day you realise you’ve exposed everything to everyone, not everyone should be trusted and your truth becomes weaponised. Then you become afraid of sharing anything at all.
Did you know that trauma is somatic? Even if you come to understand the why and how of something, as a dear friend once said to me “the body doesn’t speak English” and our nervous system is trained from childhood. Conventional wisdom says not to live in the past, mindfulness practices help us sit in the present, but what if the past planted something painful so deep inside you that sitting in the present can be a practice of sitting with a deep, aching and ancient feeling of loneliness?
Did you know that suicidal ideation can become a habit? If, for example, you’ve imagined ending your own life since the age of 11, these thoughts and desires create grooves in your brain so deep that you can’t imagine how it must feel to be a creature who only wants to live.
Did you know how pathetic it can feel to be climbing towards 40 and to still struggle with that sinking feeling that often makes going to bed a miserable affair and getting out of bed even more challenging?
Do you know how much work it takes to try to pep talk yourself into putting one foot in front of the other when the world is on fire? And as much as you try not to live in the future, this too is a habit so deep that you’re forever sitting at a point in time where everything hurts and everything ends.
Do you know how hard it feels to fit the shape of yourself into a world that rewards people with thick, callous skin? You watch all the ones you love struggle, you watch the world suffer and it seems as if the only ones who are able to pay their bills are the people eating others alive. How do the Jeff Bezos of the world live with themselves knowing they have the power to change the world for the better… but they don’t?
I want to leave this writing with something positive, something hopeful… but I don’t feel that today. As I age, I want to be wiser. As I age, I want to be stronger. But perhaps this isn’t how it works, perhaps we only build ourselves up for a time before we start to crumble. Perhaps the only thing we can do is practice self-compassion, communicate our suffering and offer each other empathy. The warmth of company as we grow, change and then start to fade like flowers, like stars, like the sun.
Perhaps the hopeful thing here is this: This evening, I saw a knife in the kitchen and flirted, for a moment, with the slightest penetration of my skin. Just a scratch. But. Instead of going further, I instead came here to write and you know what? Giving myself the space to express my emotions has actually calmed me down. I used to write in my old livejournal freely as a teenager and it helped keep me alive. Perhaps that’s a strategy that anyone of any age should be allowed, my inclination is to judge myself for being so angsty, maudlin and childish but the fact is that I felt utterly despairing when I sat down to write this and now I feel a little better and a little calmer.
Did you know that emotional dysregulation is a symptom of trauma? If in childhood, we did not have our emotions validated and were not taught how to process them, perhaps instead being told not to whinge or “dwell” on things, we may find ourselves as adults who are afraid and ashamed of our feelings. Feelings don’t respond well to judgement and shame, they need space for validation, compassion and healthy expression without the person feeling they are “wrong” for feeling what they feel. If, as an adult, we contain a wounded child who hurts as a child does, one of the most important strategies suggested by psychologists and Buddhists alike is to offer that wounded child authentic and heartfelt compassion.
So maybe there’s something positive to this writing after all: Life is full of misery and suffering, it’s ok to feel this, it’s ok to be affected by it and it’s ok to express it.
Then again, maybe I’m just looking for the positives because I feel as if I’m supposed to.
Fuck it. Morals are for fairy tales. I’m going to bed and, as with every night for the past 36 years, I shall not be killing myself. Not a bad track record, come to think of it.
Yesterday, while walking home from a dance workshop, I remembered an early childhood experience of feeling shame.
The memory arose as I was focusing on my right leg and thinking about how it naturally turns inwards, thinking about how I struggle to “picture” the right side of my body in my mind and as such, my right shoulder and leg turn inwards. Lately, I’ve been trying to correct this through muscle activation exercises that I learned from a physiotherapist and by attempting to form a mental map of the right side of my body (the latter is more difficult and I wonder if some small part of my brain is underdeveloped, or perhaps there exists some severed connection of my nerves. The discrepancy between my right and left sides has only recently come to my awareness so it honestly could be anything.)
Then I remember how I was always being chastised for being pigeon toed as a child, which is having my feet turn inwards as I stood and walked. I was told off for sitting on my legs when seated (a habit I am yet to drop when my feet so infrequently touch the ground due to the fact that I’m a micro-human who never even made it to 5 foot tall) my parents mused on whether it was caused by the strange way I had crawled as a baby and often as I walked, I would be scolded for not walking properly. I internalised the feeling that this was something at which I was failing and it fed into the feeling that I walked wrong, weirdly, that other people could see and that it was freakish, inefficient and ugly. That feeling has never entirely gone away.
I am certain that it was not my parent’s intention to make their little girl feel as if she was the Quasimodo of feet but such is the sensitivity of a child, to whom their parents are gods whose opinion counts for everything and who can wound in ways that adults can be so painfully unaware of.
Yesterday while walking, I remembered the shame and the sense that I had of failure, the belief I once held that I was responsible for the deficiencies in my gait… but then I realised something that made me have to stand still for a moment; for every criticism offered to my childhood self, was little Jessie ever offered a viable solution? Physiotherapists? Specialists?
Criticism offered without solution is hard enough for an adult to deal with. But we must be so careful when criticising a child for a problem that they have for a child is unlikely to have any concept of how to fix their problem and so instead they will be left with a sense of their being wrong, broken, faulty somehow. Shame. Criticism without support and solutions will only teach a child to feel shame.
When I was a little girl, I thought that I was a monster. I’ve spent my adulthood fighting that feeling, learning to work with that feeling and trying, now, to reflect and understand where that feeling comes from. I am not interested in dwelling in the past, nor placing blame and writing even this is difficult and scary for me as I have no desire to upset my family should any of them stumble across this blog entry… but I feel, perhaps, I need to start unpacking some of these things as a means of freeing myself from the faulty conclusions that I came to when I was small.
Since I can remember, I’ve felt that there is something fundamentally wrong with me. Broken. Perhaps this is a feeling that all people are familiar with but it feels like a cage of perception and I’m tired of the ways in which it shapes every aspect of my life. Sometimes I imagine what it might feel like to not always feel guilty, broken and monstrous and the feeling is like air entering my lungs and expanding my chest. The feeling is… open spaciousness. I want more of that.
“I will argue that it is not menstrual blood per se which disturbs the imagination – unstanchable as that red flood may be – but rather the albumen in the blood, the uterine shreds, placental jellyfish of the female sea. This is the chthonian matrix from which we rose. We have an evolutionary revulsion from slime, our site of biological origins. Every month, it is woman’s fate to face the abyss of time and being, the abyss which is herself.”
– Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae
“Sex is sloppy and untidy, a return to what Freud calls the infant’s polymorphous perversity, a zestful rolling around in every body fluid. St Augustine says, “We are born between feces and urine.”
– Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae
“Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves
“Bone by bone, hair by hair, Wild Woman comes back. Through night dreams, through events half understood and half remembered…”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves
“Nature here is vile and base. I wouldn’t see anything erotic here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and growing and… just rotting away. Of course, there’s a lot of misery. But it’s the same misery that’s all around us. The trees here are in misery, the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing, they just screech in pain…”
– Werner Herzog
Finally, some songs I’ve been obsessed with.
“We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light.”
– Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
They tell me to try a little harder to care a little less.
Close that article to keep the truth out close the borders to keep those in need out close the windows to keep the smoke out close your heart to keep the pain out.
After all, you can’t save the world.
But what they don’t tell me is… how?
How do I remain unscathed by the suffering of the people I love the most? Do I look away from the violence inflicted upon my trans friends for simply being who they are? Do I ignore the stigma, politics and policy that threatens the livelihoods and lives of sex workers, myself included? Do I close my ears to the cries of my indigenous friends as they share their stories of intergenerational trauma, genocide and deep, heartbreaking, all-consuming grief?
How do I keep myself from noticing that the seasons don’t smell the same anymore? How do I stop myself from this feeling in my bones like they are melting along with the vanished glaciers of Greenland? How can I get the feeling of trauma and incomparable horror out of my nervous system when a few short months back, this country was on fire and horizon lines vanished as the air was thick with toxic smoke? How can I rid myself of the heaviness of grief that I feel for the 3 billion animal lives lost and the forests still silent, blackened and dead? How can I shut off when I’m shut inside by a global pandemic that is killing so many of the world’s most vulnerable people? How can I stop feeling sickness in my stomach and sorrow in my heart when I know the tortured animal flesh being sold around me and the guilt when I remember my own part in this unforgivable horror?
Why is their answer to shut off? Why is their answer to go inwards and insulate? Isn’t that kind of the whole damn problem? Aren’t we all related? Interconnected? Shouldn’t we keep our hearts open? When the world is full of so much immensity of pain, is it wrong, somehow obscene, to have a broken heart?
I understand the need to practice rest, to switch off for the night, to regulate how much horror we take in on a daily basis. I know how news cycles and social media works and I understand the trauma of consuming too much violence and darkness in a day. I understand the importance of tending to your family, to your home, to your garden and of being a light of hope and health to nourish, nurture and change what is within your power to change.
But the horror is here on the doorsteps of all of us, the horror is in the flocks of parrots now living in the city because they ran out of habitat in fire scorched regions, the horror is in the asylum seekers being held prisoner in hotel rooms on Bell St, the horror is in the cheap clothing I wear that was made by the hands of slaves, the horror is in my loved one who chose unemployment over being forced to work “necessary” retail during a global pandemic, the horror is in every aspect of our complex, intertwined lives and the devastating legacies and histories of our ancestors, colonisers and oppressors.
So I reject the suggestion that my caring is the problem. I reject the notion that I need to build walls around my heart. The world is on fire and I reject the conclusion that my attitude is the problem.
I believe with a passion that the only hope we have for salvation is if we realise we are all profoundly and deeply interconnected. Pain is universal, joy is universal. Remaining open to the darkness in the world will not always make me happy but numbing myself to the darkness of the world will definitely rob me of any chance at true joy. I walk this life with my chest cracked open and though this lets a lot of darkness inside, it also brings me experiences of the sort of deep love, joy, wonder and awe that can only come about from a radical state of softness and openness.
I’m scared, a lot. My heart is broken, permanently. But I refuse to close my heart because my heart is my moral compass, my guide, it warns me of darkness and compels me toward the light. My heart breaks with the world but instead of feeling that I should keep myself together, continue to function and thrive as an Instagram image of wellness, a bastion of happy and wholesome perfection I’m going to speak my truth and strive to not succumb to shame.
I am sick. My heart is sick. My mind is sick. This sickness is a response to the unhealthy, toxic, oppressive systems that are doing violence to us all. It is not my job to meditate my way into happiness, though I do meditate as a survival strategy. I am no longer going to deny myself my right to speak my truth to which I am rightfully entitled: Grief, horror, fear, tears, sorrow, rage. These emotions speak to the truth of the world we are in and these emotions galvanise me towards seeking real change, towards imagining a better tomorrow, towards fighting for a better tomorrow. Fully allowing myself to integrate these emotions without shame is helping me to discover something that I’ve always struggled with before…
Hope. Fragile. Precious. Utterly necessary. Hope.
So no longer will I allow myself to be shamed into silence because the intensity of my emotions makes people uncomfortable. We are in a climate emergency, the very existence of our species is at risk, the jungles and coral reefs and ecosystems of my childhood daydreams and adventures are vanishing, the peoples and cultures I once dreamed of visiting and knowing are suffering, the future of the children I know is terrifying and that is something which my heart cannot ignore.
My broken heart remains open and will do so until the day I die. Perhaps it is my weakness. Perhaps it’s also my strength.
“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”
― Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
I was asked to illustrate the cover of Red, a magazine for RhED who provide resources for sex workers, and then interviewed inside about my art, politics, identity and personal connections to sex work. It was interesting how much imposter syndrome I had, wondering how much of a right I have to speak or make art about these profoundly intersectional issues but I’m actually grateful it brought these questions up for me as I think they’re important ones for art makers to ask ourselves. Anyway, I’m too chicken to read my interview inside but it looks utterly beautiful so if you find a copy, g’wan and check it out!
Edit. Looks like you can actually view the article online here: https://tinyurl.com/ycwdmsj2
Night is quiet in quarantine. I didn’t realise how loud it used to be. Now just the gentle sound of autumn rain and the drip drop of overflowing roofs and gutters full of brown, decaying leaves.
It’s a mild night, almost warm – actually, come to think of it, isn’t it too warm for this time of year? I time travel to ten years ago when I first moved to this country and try to remember autumn then. Wasn’t it colder? And in the winter I remember frost in the morning. Do we still get frost in the morning? Are we getting enough rain for this time of year? Will we get enough next year? Ten years from now? Twenty?
Yesterday, I was on my knees in the garden when I became awestruck by the diversity of life in our backyard. Looking down at the lawn, it was like an aerial view of a jungle, tangled plants that we might call weeds if we chose to and snails, butterflies, praying mantis, spiders and flies. I hate that being renters means that we have to regularly mow this eco system to the ground and my stomach sickens when I think about monoculture lawns where people eradicate dandelions and everything except one sort of grass, the sort that looks like plastic and sometimes is. I hate that astro turf is more socially acceptable than an overgrown lawn where bees might forage. Why aren’t we letting our lawns go wild? Our tidying and taming of nature is genocide and suicide. Why?
I wonder how long the trees in the yard will last before future water shortages cause them to dehydrate and die? Introduced species, they are, oak trees and the likes, the stuff brought over by homesick colonisers who took their desire for the comfortable and familiar and named it “civilization”. What will this place look like in ten years? Will this precious little pocket of life have been sold, bulldozed and replaced by another Mc Mansion made of plaster and painted beige? Where will I be? Where will my loved ones be? Was that article I read right? Will the ocean’s eco-systems have collapsed? Will the water continue to heat and rise and slow to sludge? Will any child anywhere know the planet as I did? Abundant and green?
I time travel back to almost 30 years ago and I’m on our little hobby farm in Aotearoa, New Zealand. I’m 5 or 6 years old and the world is immense, endless wilderness. Our backyard here is tangled vines, flowers, bugs, berries, old tyres full of water and mosquito larvae. I ramble about carrying pet chickens, followed by a dog or cat and with snails on my face because I like the feeling of their trails of slime and I like my parent’s reaction to my living accessories. By myself I explore 5 acres of land with dreams and swamp full of koura, pukeko and once, a rainbow trout that had swum upstream all the way from Lake Rotorua. Every spring I catch tadpoles which I keep in an old outdoor bathtub or indoor aquarium so that I might watch them grow legs, their tails vanish, their transformation over time from fat tadpole to tiny frog. I remember the feeling of a small, silky skinned amphibian in my hand, like a strange green jewel.
One day, I’m about 7 years old, with two little black dogs and my toddler brother, we are at the stream normally abundant with tadpoles and frogs but this year we only catch one. One. I’m upset and frustrated… where are they? And then my little brother stumbles and knocks over the glass jar so the water and solitary tadpole tumbles out and is lost somewhere down the grassy bank. I search in vain for the tiny creature but after some time I have to accept that it is probably doomed to a fate of slowly dying out of the water. I scream at my brother and hit him so that he starts to cry and the guilt is still with me now, my responsibility for the tadpole’s death and my brother’s tears.
My father suggests that the old lady next door, the one who has two giant St Bernard dogs, has been feeding the pukeko too much and so their population has increased and they’ve eaten all the frogs. In any case, I never see another frog on our farm and years later, I will read about how sensitive frogs are to pollution and I wonder about agricultural runoff in the stream.
The St Bernards died, my little black dogs died, the old lady must be gone by now and my parents sold the property 10 years ago now and only recently did I really allow myself to feel the heartache of that. Late one night while I was suicidal in New York, I experienced my first real feelings of homesickness and the understanding of just how much was now completely in the past. And now, while we are all in lockdown waiting for the plague to pass, that homesickness is acute again. I’m homesick but actually also timesick. I’m longing for a time when tadpoles were everywhere, nature seemed to be thriving and life was endless. Timesick for back when a sunny day was only a wonderful thing, not poisoned with premonitions of drought, famine, plagues and pestilence.
I’m here. Now. Lying in bed in this rental property in a rich Melbourne suburb where I feel completely out of place. I try to tune out from my spiralling thoughts and fears for a moment and into the simplicity of the sound of rain. Can I listen to the rain, just for a moment, without thinking about death?
I imagine the water as it falls from the sky and soaks into the earth and suddenly I want to feel my feet on the cold, wet dirt. I get out of bed and walk out the front door in only my underwear and as I step outside, the security light comes on and abruptly I am exposed to the neighbourhood. But it is late and dark and only one car passes swiftly by. I stand still and watch water sparkle in the streetlight, wet leaves and mud are cold on my feet and the rain is cleansing. After a time, the security light goes off and, slowly so as not to activate the light again, I raise my arms to my sides and this is how I stay until my hair is soaked and my body is chilled all the way through.
I’ve been thinking about the long-lasting effects of emotional abuse and my own story in context of that. For the last few years since it happened, I’ve worked on developing a better kindness towards myself, realizing how deeply I am inclined to be invalidating towards my own emotions and experiences. I’ve been unpacking some of my childhood trauma, having recently read Pete Walker’s incredible book on CPTSD and realizing how my experiences in the formative years of my life left me with some fawning type behaviors, specifically, a habit of not listening to my emotional needs, putting those of others above my own. I also discovered how powerful my inner critic was, so that instead of having defenses against the emotional abuse I experienced, I felt every word my ex said as “truth”.
Honestly, there are still days where those words of his still sting and my partner, Wes, pointed out that since that time I have a new way of beating myself up, the words “I’m a worthless piece of shit” became a regular refrain inside my head and I often have had to request reassurance from my two partners that I am not, in fact, a worthless piece of shit. However, my partners comforting me is a temporary salve, to truly heal I am unlearning habits built over a lifetime and coming to find a healthy adult voice in myself who is less critical and more nurturing.
That said, learning to be better towards oneself and unpacking trauma isn’t the sort of thing where you do it once and everything is fixed. It’s a process and an ongoing project, potentially without a specific end but a slow unravelling, a gradual changing of old habits, rewiring of deep neural pathways so the result is a slow sort of transforming, over time, into not exactly someone else but definitely a self who is kinder so that you come to hold your memories and emotions in a different way, a way that is more compassionate and containing the wisdom that only comes with time and hindsight.
But then as time and life bring new experiences, there is also the discovery that old wounds have created new problems, problems you may not even realise are there, so thoroughly have they incorporated into your sense of self.
Dani and I have been partners for approximately two years now and for the past half year, Wes, Dani and I have lived in the same rental property that is only ten minutes down the road from Wes’s other partner. Learning to live with a new partner has not been without its challenges but overall, things have been profoundly harmonious. My connection with Dani is growing in importance, as has Wes’s with his partner so we no longer use the term “primary partners” as the relationships have grown in equal importance, all vital, each with its own unique and irreplaceable value. I couldn’t imagine my life without either of them, they are the loves of my life. I’m pretty damn happy and grateful for this abundance of love and so I cannot help but feel a connection to the concept of polyamorous family utopia. For all the challenges life has thrown our way – and there have been many – we are so lucky.
Though Dani and I have only been together for two short years, I already feel it to be a lifetime partnership with the sort of certainty that is rare for me. Of course we all grow and change but there is a depth to our connection that is not just due to our D/s dynamic, but the immensity of our ability to understand one another in the realms of art, emotions, values, dreamscapes… in fact, looking at this blog, I realize how infrequently I’ve written recently and I believe that’s because for awhile now, my storytelling has happened while lying in bed in Dani’s arms, the late night conversations where you rediscover the stories of your past through new eyes and so your self-perception starts to shift. I like who I am when I’m with Dani, I genuinely like who I am.
But he often has expressed to me, over time, how he sometimes felt there was someone else in our relationship and that someone else was my ex. I couldn’t quite understand what Dani meant and frankly felt a little defensive, yes I would bring up my experiences with my ex on a regular basis but this was because I’m a talker and I like to use words as a means of unpacking my emotions and behaviours so that I might gain greater clarity. In truth though, I was also seeking reassurance that Dani is different, that the way he sees me is different to how my ex saw me, that I could trust my experience and judgements. It’s been frustrating for me though, in so many ways I feel as if I am “over” my ex to the point where I’m sick of thinking about him and sick of talking about him, it has often been the case, now, where my only feelings I have towards him now are frustration and anger. Get the fuck out of my mind. But it’s not that. Not really.
Recently I had a breakthrough in understanding the reasons for why things were so traumatic with my ex. One of these reasons is the suddenness of his appalling treatment of me. Yes, in hindsight there were red flags and moments of bad behavior on his part, yet those two weeks in New York were a shock and a profound trauma because in fact his behavior did change dramatically when we were overseas together. Perhaps the intensity of being elsewhere overwhelmed him, he was, as he told me several times, regretting bringing me overseas with him as travel was “his thing” and I wasn’t doing his thing the way he wanted me to. In any case, the loving partner I’d believed him to be was replaced with this critical, angry, moody man who I was unable to please and was actually afraid of. The whole holiday had such a feeling of nightmarish altered reality that it wasn’t until last night, several years later, that I was able to really grasp how that whole fucking holiday was traumatic for me. Not a few isolated incidents, but the entire experience of being so profoundly emotionally violated, destabilised and routinely criticised while away from my support networks. Even the good bits were not as vibrant as I painted them to be – I was simply overemphasizing them as they were buoys that I clung to so as not to drown.
After returning home, my trust in love and my own judgement was so thoroughly shaken that I even found myself having complete breakdowns when Wes so much as changed his tone of voice a little. Wes and I had been together for over a decade and the man only has a track record of being a wonderfully supportive, kind and giving person, yet I had become afraid that his love for me contained resentment just below the surface, resentment which could bubble up and explode at any moment. Someone once described my ex’s treatment of me as “emotional rape” and something about that resonated with me so much that I even went so far as to email my ex while I was intoxicated and tell him this is what he’d done. (Yes, I know, don’t ever email your ex when you’re drunk. I know. I have few regrets in life but that’s one of them.) In any case, whatever you’d call the experience, it was profoundly traumatic and as anyone who has been through trauma tends to do, I had developed a flinch.
What I hadn’t realised was that I had also constructed defensive barriers deep within myself. Some of these blocks were obvious – for the first six months after ending things with my ex, I couldn’t orgasm without breaking down crying. But some defense mechanisms have gone so deep that I haven’t even known they are there until they’ve crumbled and fallen away. Like a week ago when Dani and I entered a new phase of our D/s dynamic and I felt what I can only describe in physical terms as if my ribs opened like a gateway and there it all was; was my heart, my guts, the internal stuff of me exposed, vulnerable and painful. It wasn’t a bad thing, in fact it was beautiful and I realized then what Dani has meant when he spoke of my ex being the third person in our relationship because for all that I’ve been deeply in love with Dani and shown so much of myself to him, there was a protective layer in front of my heart that I couldn’t even see.
A regular feeling I’ve had towards my ex has been frustrated, impotent rage. A desire to scream at him and somehow make him pay for what happened because I felt so strongly as if I lost something during that time and perhaps I’d never get it back. In fact, I’d lost it so completely that I didn’t even know what it was. It made me feel insane and I’ve had this despairing fury howling in my heart and a compassion towards every person who ever felt that someone else’s violence stole something from them. I would look at photos of myself before New York and I would swear I looked so much younger. I had, in my heart, a sort of hardness that I didn’t want there, a callous had formed and it was blocking… something. I felt old.
The other night with Dani, I felt a softening and an opening and he felt it too. If I had to put one word to that feeling, I might call it “trust”. Trust like a child loves their parents, trust like I loved everyone until I discovered that love can be weaponized and used against you. It wasn’t just trust in Dani, though, it was trust in myself, in my heart, in my judgement about choosing who to give myself to.
Adjusting to this feeling of radical softness is going to take time and I’m currently feeling pretty vulnerable. That said, I also know that over these past few years, I have learned to be much better to myself, much more capable of setting and asserting boundaries, much more compassionate towards myself and subsequently far more resilient. Perhaps it is these boundaries that have allowed me to re-access my softness, perhaps love like this should take time and of course that’s true but it isn’t just that. It’s…
The best comparison I can draw is when we’ve adopted cats who have had anxiety around people that has caused them to react in fear to sudden movements, sounds, strangers and such. Over the years of living with us, our cats have learned that they are safe, they have consistency, security and cuddles on a daily basis and so they have become calmer, more loving and more bonded to us. We’re all the same us animals, once bitten twice shy. Trauma puts your nervous system into high alert and truly believing you are safe, enough so that your nervous system can relax and your body can soften and open… this takes time and gentle, compassionate, consistent love.
I feel such a tender sadness towards myself who’s been on high alert for so long and an ever deepening alarm at the global and hidden pandemic that is abuse and domestic violence. I think about the profound trauma being done to so many people on a daily basis, I think about the relative size of my own trauma and how long it’s taken to heal from that and my heart sinks. I can’t stop thinking about this article about why calls to domestic violence hotlines are plummeting during coronavirus and I’m so terrified for all the women and children who are trapped, isolated and with nowhere to go. I think about how we are tribal animals and about how safety comes in strong community ties and the danger lies in isolation. Lately I’m thinking a lot about that.
My experience has taught me not to confuse healing with being “fixed”, I don’t ever expect to be exactly the same but I’ve been incorporating my experiences into my identity in ways that are feeling increasingly harmonious and right now I’d just feeling so lucky to be in a place of relative safety, where I can nurture my softness and open, ever deeper, to love.
I’ve not had much time for writing lately but I’ve been putting a lot of art on my website jngaio.com and making videos such as the one above exploring some of my anxieties surrounding the climate crisis through clowning.