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 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
I’ve only recently begun to truly accept and comprehend the traumas of my childhood and through this comes a new understanding of the mood swings that I’ve always experienced through my life which perhaps could be better explained as implicit or emotional flashbacks. I am in the midst of one currently and I feel… a bit shite.
Too personal to write about here (yes, even too personal for me) my childhood experiences, which I thought I had left well in the past, are with me today in many forms that have caused me a great deal of undue pain and toxic shame. They are deeply related to my problems with suicidal ideation and mental anguish.
To work past them, I have to feel my way through them. It’s hard work. I’m doing ok. My partners, Wes and Dani, have been deeply supportive and kind through this process. I’m loved and I’m ok.
(Cross posted from a post specifically made for my Facebook)
I feel uncomfortable posting as many scary climate crisis stories as I do but recently I went to a talk by a climate psychologist who said that one of the problems with climate activism has been this idea that we shouldn’t scare people. This idea, she said, isn’t a useful one because in times of emergency, we SHOULD be scared. We should be scared and then we should act on that fear. Fear can be a motivating emotion if we are provided with actions to take.
I agree with what she said. We are currently in humanity’s darkest hour, we are currently in the midst of an emergency. The Amazon and Great Barrier Reef are being destroyed for profit by narcissistic billionaires who seem to have a death wish, the Arctic is on Fire, India is running out of water, The Maldives are going underwater, in some parts of the world, fruit is burning in the sun before it can grow while in other places, floods are turning land into toxic swamps. Does this scare you? Good. That means that you are sane. Fear is a rational response to danger and we are in great danger.
I do feel uncomfortable spreading terrifying news when I know so many people are struggling just to get by, I don’t want to make people feel more depressed and anxious when their lives are already so hard… but we are in a climate emergency and we need to be facing it and acting on it. We are all in this together and if things are going to get better, we all need to do our bit.
Talking about the climate emergency is an important start. The more we discuss it, the more we can find ways to take action together. This topic has become a taboo one, it’s a faux-pax to discuss the climate crisis. It doesn’t make me popular to discuss this, I know it doesn’t because my “likes” dwindle, people unfollow me, I feel like a party pooper and I worry that people will get sick of me. (And as someone whose psychologist described as a “binge eater of emotional validation”, the idea of people disliking me is really hard to cope with!) After all, nobody likes to be bombarded with horrible news and I do try to balance the fear out with action and hope. Join Extinction Rebellion! Plant trees! Become an activist! Because fear without action is paralysis. Fear without hope is despair. I have so much hope because I see so much momentum all around. But I also see what grave danger we are in and I can’t just sit down and be quiet about it.
So I’m sorry to bombard you with scary news but, frankly, I’m scared. Some days I wake up from dreams of rising oceans and burning forests and my heart is racing. I’m sorry to bombard you with horrible news but soon I’m going to have a niece and I want to fight for her future. I want to face what terrifies me so that she can live on a planet that is full of life, love and beauty.
I know it’s popular to hate on humanity, to fall into apathy, cynicism and bleak nihilism. But I love humans – I’m surrounded by incredible, good, beautiful, kind people in my life and I know that if I know good people, there must be millions more! And I love the diverse, incredible, awe inspiring natural world that surround us! I don’t want us to drive ourselves off a cliff into misery and possible extinction, I want us to fight for the beauty that surrounds us! I love humanity and I want us to thrive.
So yeah, I feel uncomfortable sharing the articles that I do and I hope you will not resent me for it. But I want us all to face the truth and I want us all to fight for something better.
A couple of times in my life, people have been angry at me for the way I cling to hope and beauty. I have been called naive, childish, ridiculous. My first love told me that my sunny optimism was sickening. Desperate attempts have been made to snuff my sunshine. I didn’t let it happen and I won’t let happen.
It’s not that I don’t see all the ugliness in the world, my heart breaks on a daily basis for all the horror and violence, all the brutal, stupid, absurd pointlessness of it all. I could give in to it all… I could and sometimes have and when I have, I have seen arrows pointing directly to the cliffs I wanted to walk off, the trains I nearly jumped in front of. I have so much compassion for those who have surrendered their hearts to cold indifference and cynical shrugs, it really can feel so profoundly hopeless, the temptation to shut off to it is profoundly understandable. To build up walls to protect our fragile hearts.
But I can’t do that. I tried once and the only thing I felt was empty. I look back at the void I felt, the lack, something I experienced only so recently and can still sense the hollow echo of… and I know I cannot go back there. So instead, I challenge myself to be radically open, beautifully vulnerable, ferociously soft. I challenge myself to stick to this softness with a warrior like determination, to do whatever little things I can to try make little pockets of light in this world. I believe those pockets of light are seeds, I believe that abuse is a disease we can catch but love is a seed we can plant and spread. It’s fragile, terrifyingly fragile and there is so much brutality in the world that threatens it… but that is why I guard it like a mother hen protecting her chicks.
As I grow older, I cling to hope, to love, to kindness with an increasing stubbornness. I have compassion for the way light fades in the eyes of beautiful people, it breaks my goddamn heart but I understand because we are all doing our best to survive in whatever way we can and some of us have been so much more hurt by the violence in the world. But I’m tenaciously clinging to my own light as if my life depended on it because… well, it does.