Posts Tagged society

Everyday Bravery

Many times in the past decade, I’ve been stared at. I’ve been asked why I’m dressed in a certain way, heard some (frankly ridiculous) jokes and generally been on the receiving end of some very visible confusion.

Mostly this is because I’m Out in Public wearing my ‘work clothes’ – robe, cloak, staff etc. But sometimes it’s when folk see my tattoos, or a particular t-shirt statement.

Going back even further, I was sometimes stopped when out and about because I was dressed all in black, including hair and trenchcoat. Apparently this was fine when one is a teenager, less so when an adult.

I have never understood how some people can accost a random stranger in public and berate them for how they look. Even light mockery. I learned to have a small smile on standby, so that I didn’t reply with something rude; that way, at least one of us is being polite.

But then years ago again, I quickly learned what was acceptable and what was not, through being openly laughed at and ridiculed when I failed to conform. I vividly remember wearing an outfit that I absolutely loved (a long hippy skirt and top, nothing too shocking) and rushing back to my room to change, blushing wildly, because of that terrible laughter before I even left the house.

I still don’t quite understand that, either. How wearing something that I absolutely love can cause such a negative reaction. How does this threaten people so badly? What harm does an unusual hair colour, period clothing or simply expressing yourself do?

Sometimes it’s a knee-jerk reaction, with no malicious intent. That’s (relatively) ok. Other times…

Apparently it’s my fault, of course. For daring to Go Outside not looking like everyone else. For not aspiring to that societal goal of Being Normal (whatever that means).

Which leads me to the times that I have called out to others in public.

I’ve told random goths how beautiful they look. I’ve run down the street after reenactors to compliment their efforts. It can be as simple as ‘I hope you don’t mind my saying, but you look fantastic.’

Nobody ever does mind this. There can be surprise, of course, at this unexpected woman complimenting them, but hey – it could be worse, right? See above for examples. And that’s not even mentioning when words become physical violence.

I see it on their faces as I approach. The mental ‘brace for impact’, the anticipation of a kick – and the surprise and pleasure when the interaction is actually safe and friendly.

I try to hold this in my mind when people approach me. I’ve often said how blessed I feel that the reactions to me are 99% positive (and 1% stupid). I’ve yet to be beaten up for my looks.

I know that I’m lucky in that respect. I hear the stories of trans folk who suffer by just being who they are in public. Goths beaten to death. Breastfeeding mothers verbally abused.

I see it all around, and feel it on my worst days. How dare I show my face. Anticipating that laughter again, the mockery, the judgement.

But I am trying to be brave as I grow older. To retort if safe to do so. Engaging with the speaker can be quite enlightening sometimes, as I explain what I’m about.

Other days, I don’t have the strength to do much except keep walking, with my head held up. That can be the hugest of victories. The naysayers didn’t win. The bastards aren’t grinding me down.

I actually feel it becoming paradoxically easier and more difficult as I grow older. Because while I care less what people think of me than I did as a youngster, I’m also aware that ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ is a Thing. Unfortunately. So I’m still exploring what I’m brave enough to do, day to day.

The world can be a scary place, of course. By walking my walk when I can, I try to shine a light for others. By affirming that folks look amazing just for being who they are and that I’m happier for seeing them doing their thing, can be a tremendously powerful act.

It’s not just about me, I know that. But when I’m stuck inside my head, with the world pressing loudly against me, standing up as Me, in my Truth, is a miracle. Sharing that validation with others is a gift that I hope I can always keep giving.

Go be You out there today, lovely friends. Know that I’m cheering you on.

This post is dedicated to all of those gorgeous people at Witchfest, with their finery and wonderful happy smiles, holding safe space for the community. I’m looking forward to wearing my new feathered hat in public too.

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Self

The dark nights of winter bring dark thoughts. Not negative, necessarily – more necessary. Those things we’ve been avoiding, not seeing, preferring not to think about.

As has been the case for the second half of this year, I’ve been finding the days extremely difficult to face, while the nights are calming. Quiet descends. Even the wee Yuletide lights are soft, not glaring. We’re decorating the house with green, with a baby tree to be planted outside come Spring. Himself is working on Yuletide and Christmas Day, so I will likely be too. And that’s fine.

I’ve been finding myself pushing back against what’s expected of me. Or rather, what I feel I should be doing. Be with wider families at Christmas? Impossible and impractical. So having our own plans at home. Stiff upper lip and keep going? Nope – rest and recharge, ready to move forward again.

That phrase, ‘finding myself’. It comes back to that, I think.

At various stages in life, I’ve reached the point of ‘I’ve had all I can stand, I can’t stand no more!’ (with thanks to Warner Brothers). I’ve stood in the street and yelled. I’ve chosen the untrod path that has opened up to me. Life has been very… unusual as a result.

But I’ve always wondered who sets these rules. Ever since I was small, I can remember wondering who established those social dictates. Courtesy and manners, sure, but so much of the social dance is made up of falsehoods and lies, smiling when you feel awful, hearing yourself speak nonsense to fill the silence.

Is this really necessary? I was told off for being rude when I was encouraged to honestly answer a question. You want honesty? Brace yourself.

Of course, that’s not always true. But honesty tempered with false flattery is diluted. And, I truly think, disrespectful and unhelpful.

It is up to us to use our words with care, to speak our truths in a manner that others understand the intention rather than brusquely steamrollering over someone else’s boundaries. That’s why I’d rather constructive criticism when it’s needed. Other people see things that we may need to be aware of, which we’re too close to see for ourselves.

Other times, I felt that I was the only one seeing the truth around me, but we were all in some unspoken contract to remain quiet, for the sake of ‘niceness’ or ‘not rocking the boat.’ Or people will outright tell me that I’m wrong. Really? Why? I don’t feel wrong…

As I’ve walked further down this overgrown and unexplored path, I remember moments from my childhood that have affirmed it – that I’m going the right way. Children aren’t stupid. They know what feels good or bad, what makes them happy or… not. They’re trying even harder to understand this crazy world.

One thing I’ve learned from others and have shared before is ‘feeling’ truths. It’s pretty simple.

Say your name. “Hello, my name is —.”

Now say a name that’s wrong. “Hello, my name is Bernard.”

(This usually results in giggles.)

Now say something else that’s true for you. And then a lie. The more ridiculous, the better.

Can you tell the difference? How each feels?

The truths strike a chord within, like a note ringing… well, true. The lies are like a gameshow klaxon for WRONG!

Because we know in our heart, mind and soul when something is true or not.

I’ve been exploring my truths for many years now, uncovering new aspects of myself as I grow, learn and get older. What used to be true once is now not. Some things need to be passed over and left behind. We don’t remain static all our lives.

I’ve been having deep truths thrown up to me, both from my subconscious, my work and from simply having thoughtful friends share ideas. Again, gently, in the spirit of discussion and debate, rather than effectively yelling into my face that I am WRONG!

It doesn’t feel that it’s ‘being wrong’, although part of the way we act stems from fear of that. It’s more that we’re ‘not quite right yet’. Following an untruthful path is something that I think we know – after a while, it feels like pushing through deep snow, through treacle, as our subconscious tries to put us back on track. Admitting that is a small victory, not a weakness.

Lately, I’ve been surprised at some random thought popping up. ‘No, that’s not you any more.’ Or ‘Yes! You want to do that new thing!’ I’ve faced events that I would never have imagined attempting in the past, and enjoyed them thoroughly. Whereas everyday, normal tasks have become difficult, almost impossible.

As I pass through another year, I’m trying to allow myself to explore what feels ‘true’, ‘right’… for me, right now. If it isn’t, why not? Is there an alternative route? Do I really need to do that thing? Or is it just challenging?

For example, running is something that is absolutely challenging, but which fires my body and spirit when it goes well. It’s something I was always told I was bad at – but when it’s just me, out there putting one foot in front of the other, I can feel the laughter bubbling up inside. I don’t have the energy to doubt, frankly! I have to keep going, because at the very least, I have to get myself home.

I’ve discovered that some clothes I’ve worn for years are not longer ‘me’. I don’t like the feel of them, let alone the look. It’s time to pass them on, to explore what works for me now.

I did wonder if this was some sort of social ‘midlife crisis’, actually! But then is that not a stage in life which we fail to mark, like entering adulthood or (for ladies) our crone-time? We’re constantly moving from one stage to another. Let’s free ourselves to see what that means, to stay relevant to ourselves, to do what we want to be doing right now, as best we can.

This isn’t about privilege either, although I know I’m blessed to be able to do this. We can get through what is necessary – but maybe in a different way to what’s become stale. Try to see a problem from all sides, or *gasp* ask friends! Again, not weakness, not if your friends truly know and care for you.

Part of my mind has been mourning the loss of that normal world: ‘job, children, workaday week’ etc that many people have. But that’s not for me. I’m so very lucky that I can work as I do. It means I’ll likely never be rich enough to afford a red sports car for midlife! But I’m more likely to be figuring out how to make something as it’s needed that suits me and mine, rather than buy something that I can’t afford for the sake of social appearance.

Perhaps that’s the ‘stage’ that we are constantly exploring how to push through. Appearance versus who we truly are. But giving ourselves the freedom to ‘play’ with it, to try different hats, should be encouraged, not mocked. I’m so very glad of friends who are excited to explore with me, as I applaud their own adventures.

Spending time in the quiet of the dark months allows for these thoughts. I’m (nervously!) intrigued as to what’s coming next…

Season’s blessings, my friends.

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