This post was going to be about having finally finished reading the submissions to Nine Lives Later: a dead cat anthology. About the amazing pieces that will comprise it, about the challenges ahead and how excited I am to produce it and share it with others. For me, the anthology and the theme are important in many ways. Important because we can use it to address violence, sexuality, relationships, the deep structure of things, and (perhaps most prevalent) grief.
In short, for those as curious as the cat we’ve all lost… the anthology is coming. I will start developing the manuscript. I will spend some time this weekend sending, with a heavy hand, the notices for those whose pieces didn’t make it. I hope to have that manuscript finalized it by the end of January 2017, and in print soon after.
I have always been a cat person, and have lost my fair share. Loss never gets easy. And I am lucky that insofar, I have never had to comprehend a personal human death, aside from my Grandfather when I was two. I am afraid of it. Every day.
And on November 8th, many of us realized another kind of grief. I grieved the idea that the following day I could state as fact, that women could truly do anything a man can do, even become president. The idea that my country was full of confused people who are maybe misguided but who would ultimately not be able to side with the waste of skin that is Drumpf. The idea that a woman with qualifications, grace, knowledge, and good policies would defeat the embodiment of sexism and predator behavior was something I thought my life, especially this year, had been moving towards. I believed in Hillary Clinton. I thought the dawn was coming.
Here we are now. The cat is out of the bag. Racism, sexism, bigotry and hate are alive and well in the United States. “Now we know,” I’ve heard many say. But didn’t we already? Even my inclination to use that idiom is incorrect here. Nothing about this was a secret. And while I admit, I was stunned too, I also hear the part of me that, at least as far as sexism is concerned, infuriated because we’ve been trying to point this out for so long.
And for being too privileged, too sheltered in my liberal PNW bubble, and not believing racism for the extent that it reaches, I apologize. I knew it was real, I just didn’t know how Presidential it could be. I failed so many people in doing this. We failed. I will do better.
Please do better with me.
I called out from work the following day, because I’m privileged enough to have a job that gives me that flexibility. That provides paid sick leave, which felt appropriate to use as I’ve been sick morally, emotionally, and (now physically, as I woke up with a cold today). On Wednesday morning, I posted something stark, raw, and vulnerable on Facebook because I didn’t know what else to do. There are SO MANY reasons why this election is our failure, but I hoped if people saw what it did to me, they could forget that saying “it’s not personal, it’s politics.” I hoped they could see why so many of us are terrified. That there is nothing more personal that our rights being taken away, than our autonomy being denied. I’ve copied it below, but feel free to skip over if you aren’t ready to read some facts about sexual assault.
Trigger warning: Sexual assault
“We have a sexual predator for a president. And for the next four years, at least half the people in your life will be continuously triggered by his demeanor, his language. And we don’t get the option of a trigger warning.
I can’t go to work today, because I can’t stop crying. Because today a man like the man who assaulted me at 3, the uncle who assaulted me at 13, the other uncle who would make continuous jokes about me being a slut until I cut him out of my life, the man who raped me at 19, and every cop who asked what we were wearing when it happened, or why we would let ourselves be alone with them… Today that man won. Again. Anyway. No matter if we reported it, if we pressed charges, no matter what we do. He won. We lost. And you’d think I’d be used to it after all my lifelong practice. I just don’t know what to do anymore.”
None of this is easy. It is not easy to know how far we still have to go. It is not okay to realize what your anxiety had been telling you all along is true: I’m not safe. The world is not a safe place.
So much of my time spent in therapy has been telling myself this: When they anxiety ramps up, remind yourself you are safe, you are loved, nothing is chasing you. Your body is remembering and reacting to the past, not to right now.
And I can’t tell myself that anymore.
For a long time, I thought I was broken, that PTSD is just another way to say “damaged goods.” That my brain had been re-wired each time my body was discredited, each time it didn’t matter what I felt when someone did something to it because they could.
And in the last few days, fears have been proven to exist outside my brain. Nothing is okay about this man leading us. About this man gaining access to nuclear codes.
This country has shown that at least half of it (based on those who voted), do not care if I am safe, or if I feel violated anew when Drumpf talks about all the ways he’s proud to violate women’s bodies. And I am not disabled, a person of color, an immigrant, a Muslim, or trans. I can “pass” through the world, safer than many, and prey to more.
Over the last few days, my cat Ichabod has enjoyed my sluggish behavior. She has curled up on me, and been the one assuring thing I woke to at 4am (not sure if I dreamed someone was knocking at my door or if they were really there, hoping it was my ex-partner come to hold me, afraid it was someone coming to hurt me). I held on to her, listen to her breath so I could remind myself to breathe. But she can’t keep anything down, vomited three times in one day, alternately food, then bile, then more food after she tried to eat again. I am terrified I brought this, too, somehow upon me. Reminded of when I was first putting out the call for submissions for Nine Lives Later and it seemed that everyone I knew began losing pets, left and right. Now that I’ve read all the submissions, and have to send out acceptance and rejection notices, I am nervous.
I would have thought, no, she can’t die. The world can’t be that hard right now.
On Thursday, November 10th, 2016, I made myself go back to work. I showered, dressed in all black. Drove the 45 minutes to Anacortes, a small town on Fidalgo island. The same town that much of my past sexual abuse happened in.
I turned on the fluorescent lights and set up my laptop in the basement of the Anacortes Housing Authority. I was somehow able to make eye contact with the staff there, ask questions, do my job. I was thankful, so thankful, for the mindless task that was the spreadsheet work I was lucky enough to have to do that day.
I was the only auditor on site, as my boss had called out, like many other female co-workers of mine. On Wednesday night they’d had an entrance conference for our audit, with the board of commissioners, the staff, etc. All the metal folding chairs were still set up in rows, facing the table where I was working. All day, as I asked about funding, got an understanding of the continuous decline in federal funding that housing authorities face, the chairs seemed louder. Emptier. What would happen now? What about the staff, who are paid far too less to do the simple, good work of maintaining decent housing for low-income residents? Housing like the kind I grew up in, that kept my family from being homeless when my mother left my father and the abusive community she grew up in. What about the people who need their homes?
Around 1:30 I felt the panic and anxiety, the What Ifs and What Nows behind me like a bear, like a wolf, like our president-elect. I had to move, so I packed up my things early and got in my old car and ran the fuck away.
I recently deleted the Facebook post, retroactively ashamed that I’d told anyone, hearing something I read once and can’t remember where, “Don’t let the wolves see your wounds,” over and over in my head. I keep forgetting to eat, and struggling to when I try. This is where we are now. Or where I am. Still running. Tired. The grief will never be done with us because life will never be without loss. My cat will die someday, and so will a piece of my history when she does.
Once, my ex tried to comfort me after a confrontation with a loved one over street harassment, rape culture, and victim blaming. He said that the world is really changing. That what we’re feeling is the last gasp, the desperate lashing out of a dying culture. He promised me, they aren’t winning.
Maybe this is the last time.
Here’s a bit of history for you in terms of the phrase “cat is out of the bag“