I’m not good in a fight. It doesn’t take much to send me into the adrenaline rushes of panic, and afterwards, the emotional exhaustion is a huge cost to bear. Last year when I was more heavily involved with local politics, I routinely got into fights on twitter with the then Labour candidate, who considered aggressive, bullying language as normal for politics. That often left me physically shaken. It taught me that however passionate you are about the issues, if you don’t have a certain kind of mental and emotional robustness, politics is not an option. I hate that about our current system.
Part of the trouble is that I feel responsible. If someone posts something factually wrong, laden with misinformed hate, or random stupidity, I feel obliged to wade in and try to offer an alternative view. I am all too aware that big evils depend on little ones – silent complacency above all else.
What really knocks me about are the places where I’m trying to learn how to do better. How to be a good ally. How to make sure I’m not inadvertently silencing or excluding someone else. Those exchanges wipe me out repeatedly. The only thing I’ve learned is that I probably ought to shut up and go away. Too white (an accident of birth, but hey, I’m an oppressor because of that). And sure, women are oppressed, but I’m cis-gendered, or at least look like I’m ok in my own skin, and as a bi person my not being straight is invisible so that’s privilege, and pain might be a constant in my life, but again it being invisible is a privilege, apparently. It’s funny, I’ve never felt it that way, but who gets to say what’s privilege and what’s marginalising is an interesting question. These exchanges leave me feeling miserably guilty about what I have and how I am, rather than able to come up with something better. What good does that do? So I’m not reading anything on those websites anymore.
I come out of these spaces wondering who is entitled to speak. I don’t want to shut anyone up, presence and voice are so important, but I have come to the conclusion that the right answer is indeed to shut up. If it’s a conversation about privilege, I’m out of there. If it’s a conversation about who should shut up, I’ll shut up. As my silence is clearly the best thing I can offer, I doubt anyone will be offended by this anyway. Give me a real person, in a real situation who needs something real and I’ll give it my best shot. I’m all done with hypothetical people.
Beyond that, I’m all done with hypothetical conversations. If it looks like who would win a fight between Batman and Superman, if you have to start by imagining something like a spherical horse running through a vacuum, I’m out. I am sick of how much energy is thrown at arguing over hypothetical things, where those arguments make no difference at all. I’ll still hassle my democratic representatives, because there’s a point. I’ll still show up to conversations that are about doing something, changing things in our own lives, taking action in the wider world, demanding change – I’ll be there. If I think for a moment it’s arguing for the sake of arguing, then I’m out. Share your truth, your opinion and your ideas, by all means, but I will not do any more bun fights.
I don’t handle drama well. I’m an emotionally intense person and I feel everything keenly. I will be there for the real problems, as best I can with the resources I have, but make drama and I will walk away, and if I can manage to run, I will run. I’m going to be doing zero drama tolerance from now on, because it exhausts me and I am no longer willing to be run into the ground just so that someone else can enjoy flapping about being overblown. I reserve the right to judge who I think is for real and who I think is indulging in drama, and it’s not going to be open to discussion.
I give myself permission not to be responsible for other people.
I give myself permission to walk away from things that will hurt and damage me, and have no scope to achieve anything.
I’ll save what fighting I can do for the real stuff.