Friday, 14 May 2010

love, again

i finished reading the first half of Endgame. i was folding down the page-corners each time he wrote something relevant to this blog, and now the whole damn thing is folded. my 'jensen' tag stands to get embarassingly large, but what can you do? this guy is doing all my work for me - so much of the stuff i wanted to do with this blog about linking up abuses and oppressions and looking for the universal truths and functions of it, reading this book has saved me years. *and* in volume two, my friend who is half a book ahead of me tells me, he talks to lundy bancroft!! like, i was getting all ready to tie jensen in with bancroft on this blog and then dreaming of emailing jensen to tell him how he's so nearly there but just needs to talk to this perpetrators-expert dude bancroft, but they're way ahead of me. oh to be a geeking-out fly on the wall. sigh.

anyhow, what was playing on my mind, as i read the last few pages, was to do with love. i've written before a bit about how love and passion are policed, pathologised, occasionally criminalised, including by 'well meaning' social workers and the like (do i need to keep on with the well-meaning disclaimer? can i start saying something less polite soon?). the weight of this was brought back to me as i was finishing up volume one and came across paragraphs like this:
"...Everything the culture taught me: how to submit, how not to make waves, how to fear authority, how to fear perceiving my submission as submission, how to fear my feelings, how to fear perceiving the killing of those I love [he's not just talking about people] as the killing of those I love (or perhaps I should say the killing of those I would love had I not been taught to fear love too), how to fear stopping by any means necessary those who are killing those I love..."
this all struck home with me, hard, how much i fear taking action against abuse, oppression, destruction, how the state of fear is infinitely more comfortable, and how i deal with that by loving less. numbing, depression, caring less, shutting down my love to only those closest to me, or only those things and people i can immediately see. and then - what does it mean? how can i love those closest to me without loving the other people, the other things?
"we are only free, when we are supporting the freedom of others"
(my biggest internet crush of the moment is all for Mai'a)

which is one side of things. but also, how hard is it to love in the face of that policing and pathologising? i was thinking - the women i work with often love with their all (others are numb and shut-down, but that's a different story, and a reason why there can't be a one-size fits all approach to DV work right). but the social workers - they can't afford to love, and empathise. they can't really know what it is, or how could they do that work? i wonder what their definition of love must be, and what it's got to do with (their own) 'good' families and ownership and 'security' and hoarding. they are probably really having no fun. i mean, i don't have a lot of time for the oppressors-as-wounded worldview but then sometimes -. what can you say?

i was also thinking about how i have to hide from my colleagues and people 'in the sector' (!) just how much i love my job, or rather, my work. it's not ok to be passionate about it. the management could pathologise me as 'driven' and starting looking for 'boundary issues' i might have. i was too driven when i was twenty, but i work damn hard on my boundaries and have figured them out over the years, at least within the framework of the voluntary sector (if i ever start doing the grassroots work i dream of, i think those must be somehow different boundaries to figure out).

i made some personal mistakes along the way, though i'm pretty sure my 'clients' were not impacted. like for example she didn't know it, but i did fall in love with one woman, not in that way, but in the example she showed me of mothering and of courage and awesomeness. when things went wrong for her i cried and cried - but of course she doesn't know this. then she made things right for herself. i 'should' have had stronger boundaries and not empathised so much. i got in a mess for a weekend. my managers never found out either, thank god. and.. well, what's wrong with caring that much, once in a while?

well, it was agonising... when you (allow yourself to) love something, pain is going to be part of it. so - i allow myself to love some things - a certain amount, and then draw lines, and exclude some things, and love some things abstractly. like the gulf of mexico. women i work who are eligible for benefits in the uk or who have enough income have more choices and options open to them if they are being abused. it's safe enough to empathise with their troubles, to try and figure it out with them. the gulf of mexico, on the other hand... and women with no recourse to public funds. many agencies switch off on hearing those words. it's too much, a stretch of empathy too far. i won't switch off. but i know there is something happening to my heart as the situation becomes bleaker for my longest-term 'client' with no recourse. i can feel myself starting to shut down as i can't bear to think of all the implications of her lack of options. it's safer not to love or care 'too much', to be A Professional. which, of course, entails not fighting as hard for what she needs. which is why we have all been professionalised - offered privileges in return for leaving behind the people we were trying to work with. at risk of losing these privileges, we then fear caring, loving and fighting.

No. it's becoming so clear how much it being not-ok-to-love is so much a part of how oppression functions. this kind of work has to be driven by love, and feeling and acknowledging pain has to be part of it. as supporters, we have to find ways of supporting each other in this. 

i love the groups, the women's support groups, i love the many moments every week where i can see amazing change happening, i love the women i work with. i want the crushing structures that make people feel mental for feeling highs and lows, or who lock people away and/or take away their children for loving, to end. and even more, i want the systems to end that make it impossible, too frightening, to love people (and places, and seabirds). and, jensen would say, what am i going to do about it?


  1. :::blushes:::

    last week i sat down for a couple of hours and just read your blog and loved it. so glad i found it. and i am so jealous, i havent gotten to read endgame yet, only excerpts from it...and i *want* to so badly cause i loved-changed/deepened my vision- the two books i did read. i mean' it is from him that i learned--i dont identify with abusive systems. i fight them/oppose them/stop them.
    and honestly i think that it is beautiful that you let someone in yr heart, a client, that you cried for a weekend. i do this. its okay. i fall in love with the women i work with. yeah, there are times when it gets a bit messy, but in a way, ppl can come to you and be so vulnerable with you, and tell you their deepest moments, and i kind of feel like they deserve a reciprocity.
    but still it can also hurt like hell. but god isnt it more beautiful to hurt like hell because someone you love is hurting, its the hurt that is really human, vs. being numb all the time. i dont know.
    i mean it is such a gift when you let someone hurt you, esp. when the power difference is made so that you can hurt them w/o consequence to yourself.
    just thinking this through...

  2. thank you. i guess it is ok. it's funny, i spent weeks afterwards trying to work out what had gone 'wrong' cos i got so upset. now it finally makes sense that nothing really did go wrong.

    about the reciprocity - i think about that sometimes and get confused. - in terms of what reciprocity do my 'clients' see/experience/want? once people get a bit recovered, e.g. having been coming to a group for a while, people start to ask me questions and there is very much a sense of "well you know so much about me, what about you?". my colleagues get by with a few references to their husband and kids, but being queer and polyamorous i get pretty evasive (working in the field of Relationships with overwhelmingly hetero and monogamous ppl given my erm, unusual, situation is a whole other topic!). sometimes i think it's good to be such a blank slate as it helps women feel they won't be judged as they can't make assumptions about what i might think based on my identity, other times i feel bad that it's all so one-sided - because, as you say, people are sharing their most intense feelings and experiences and it's such a privilege to hear it and people are taking such a chance to trust you in that way. and then i say nothing about myself! but then i *do* show outwardly how much respect i have and i like to think the love and care is evident..?

    i know that in the few counselling sessions that i've had i've *wanted* anonymity/blankness from my counsellor, i totally don't want to know about her complicated relationship to the universe as i just wanted my issues to be centred... but this doesn't make sense to me in terms of longer-term relationships, and communities... surely it would have to be different to be 'sustainable' in a community... i don't know

    "its the hurt that is really human, vs. being numb all the time." mmm, this reminds me of a long ongoing conversation i have with a close friend. we have both chosen the side of love & hurt, but i am guilty of retreating to numbness still, sometimes.

    i think i need to spend some time thinking about your last sentence.. thank you for reading, and writing