trolls

You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens

The above Rumi quote, accompanied by this striking image, really hit home when I saw it floating around an INFJ Facebook group last week. I realised recently that I’ve reached a point in my life where though, up to this point, I genuinely feel I’ve been living with an open heart, something’s changed. And that something can only be described as having my heart be unbroken. Every worry, every fear, every last hurtful word that’s clung to the the inside and rooted itself deep inside, has been swept away, leaving nothing but a shining freedom the likes of which I’ve never known.

heart

Words are my weapon, but they are also my kryptonite. Part of pouring my life onto public pages isn’t without risk, and though I’ve dealt with Internet trolls before, my absence from the blogging world has had the pleasant side effect of not really giving them enough fuel to stick around. And it’s been a while. But with my last post (which somehow got into the hands of various festival organizers and performers across the country, and landed me an offer to write for another upcoming festival officially[!])  came another attack, and of course it was directed at my newfound happiness. I had to remind myself that this is the Internet, and that this is the reality of the online world. It’s not personal. There are just people out there who actually enjoy trying to hurt people. But though I think I’ve grown a thicker skin than I used to, the words still stung.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about words from the past and their effect on my current mentality. Words from my childhood, when I was called names in the school playground, or told by my own mother she felt sorry for whatever poor sod ended up with me. Words from former friends, telling me that although I was a wonderful person, my emotions and sensitivity were too much and that they’d rather abandon ship than have any presence in my life. Words from the friends and family of past partners that told me to go back to England because nobody wanted me in this country, or that begged them to leave me because I didn’t fit their mould. Words from exes, telling me repeatedly I wasn’t good enough as I was, that I had to be more to their liking, or telling me to shut my mouth and stop being a little bitch as they pinned me to the floor. Words from teachers as a newly landed immigrant, telling me to speak up and slow down because nobody could understand me, and a class in its entirety laughing in retort. Words from the well-intentioned, telling me I couldn’t possibly go after my dreams. And words from the Internet. Today.

There’s great power in words. They can capture the fragments of human emotion and weave them into something that can light the fire of the very soul. They can express the deepest of love or create the most vivid of imaginary worlds. But they can sting. They can burrow their way into a soul and masquerade as truth, distorting their entire world. The seeds of a person’s destruction. The below video served as inspiration for this post, because it’s true: children believe what they are told. And when those beliefs are formed early, when that foundation of thinking has been laid, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing every negative thing ever thrown your way. To this day.

Now, I did begin this post with a quote that at first may seem morbid, but the instant I read it, it struck a chord. I’ve had to have my heart repeatedly bruised, beaten and broken over the years in order for it to finally, truly open, and its opening has been the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced. Finally, it’s open to the truth. Yes, children believe what they are told. But children grow into adults and those beliefs can become the lens through which life is lived if reinforced and accompanied by a lack of self esteem. But the good thing about having this history, this damage, this repeated hammering at the heart, is that one learns the value of contrast. Only through the darkness can one truly define where the light is, and for the very first time, that light is shining brilliantly.

My heart has been broken to the point of finally opening, and with an open heart comes an eradication of everything that was ever false. A new lens through which to see oneself, and the world. A new way of thinking, and feeling, and believing. An heart broken open so wide that everything that was ever bad had no choice but to spill out, leaving a new vessel into which new truths are repeatedly poured with such passion and determination that I have no choice but to believe them, and remind myself every day that I’m not dreaming. I feel like the luckiest soul on the planet, and words cannot convey the depths of my gratitude. Fears, reluctant acceptance, self doubt… they’re all being erased, replaced with encouragement, confidence, connection, and an actual transformation.

The quote and the advertisement are most definitely disheartening in nature, but simultaneously can, if you let them, offer a glimpse of hope. That things can get better. Be careful with your words, for what you send out into the world may land somewhere it’ll stick, and you may move on with your life, years later in obliviousness to the effect they may have had, or may begin having, on the course of someone’s life. But even for the most sensitive of souls, words don’t have to be your shackles, no matter how heavy they weigh down. At the right time, perhaps with incredible luck and a little orchestration of the universe, they can also set you free.

“Nothing happened. And everything did. Your whole life you can be told something is wrong and so you believe it. Why should you question it? But then slowly seeds are planted inside of you, one by one, by a touch or a look or a day in a park, and they start to burst out of old hulls shells and they start to sprout. And pretty soon there are so many of them. They are named love and trust and kindness and joy and desire and wonder and spirit and soulmate. They grow into a garden so dense and thick that it starts to invade your brain where the old things you were once told are dying.”

— Francesca Lia Block

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A Royal Rant

This Friday marks an important date in the world’s calendar: the Royal Wedding. Now, some of you may be rolling your eyes and hovering your cursor over that red X, but I ask you to bear with me – this isn’t intended to be a gushy post of patriotism (okay, maybe a little), but to express why this event has – and rightfully deserves – captured the hearts of millions across the globe.  (Sidenote: isn’t this the most beautiful wedding image you’ve ever seen?)

Sadly, people’s reaction to my talking about the royal family usually tends to be one of apathy or of utter opposition.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard people say things like “why bother with a monarchy, they don’t do anything”, or even profess “hatred” toward people they don’t even know. In a way, the royal family seems to be met often in the same manner people talk about celebrities – they love to gossip, spread rumours, and thrive on stories that show them in a poor light. Just take a look at your local checkout stand, and you’ll see all sorts of defamatory headlines about pop stars or politicians, sold by the hundreds of thousands and making people throughout the world salivate. It’s awful, but it’s also a strangely intriguing behaviour – why do people try to tear down those in the spotlight without second thought to the fact that behind the magazine covers and paparazzi shots, these are real people with real feelings?

A couple of months ago I read a post from a wonderful writer.  It came following the Oscars, and really made me think:

It’s a night dedicated to people who love what they do, who pour their heart into their job at all hours of the day, and then get a bad reputation for it. They are the only people we don’t whisper about when we’re gossiping. Everyone else receives hushed voices, but for them, we gawk and squeal, and we forget that they’re someone else’s daughter or sister or son or husband. Someone else’s friends and families. They are real people with real passions. And each year, we expect more of them. We have the nerve to complain about the clothes they wear or the colour they dyed their hair. So many people in our world are guilty of the same indiscretions and yet we magnify their lives and their missteps and we forget that they stumble over all the issues that come with being human. We forget that they have to roll out of bed and go to work… that they’re real. They have big dreams, just like you and me.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton may not be movie stars, but they are real people who just so happened to be born into the public eye. They didn’t ask to be famous, they just happened to fall in love. And yet so many people in the world meet the mere mention of their names with an almost reflexive tone of scorn. Why do people do this to anyone in the spotlight? They’ll make judgment on people they don’t know, and spread rumous like wildfire without a second thought to bother questioning if there’s any truth behind them. They’ll jump on the bandwagon and spread criticism like the plague, without considering that the subjects of their scorn are real people with real feelings that can be hurt just like yours or mine.

To me, the Royal Wedding is a wonderful occasion. I love to celebrate anyone’s wedding, but there’s something special about something that only tends to happen once a generation. She’s intelligent, charming, and a beautiful role model and ambassador for England. He was raised by one of the most compassionate, caring mothers there ever was; his life was touched by tragedy and his grieving thrust across newspapers globally. Yet he faces the world with a positive attitude, does work in third-world countries, and has done a lot in his career to make the world a better place. Years ago, entire nations would rejoice at a royal event. People would hold parties and deck the streets and squeeze big groups into living rooms tightly around a little black and white television, celebrating the occasion, united and proud, happy for people that were synonymous with the country they loved so dearly.  There are still lots of people that do this – my heart gave a little leap when I saw the bunting decking the streets of London. But today, a large proportion of people seem quick to vocalise their apathy or distaste. They find reason for fault, create hateful Facebook groups, and the British security have to be out in full force thanks to the enormous range of threats to the royal family from protesters, terrorists, anarchists and anti-monarchists.

Do people really have nothing better to do with their lives than trying to take other people down?

It happens to a degree whenever somebody lands themselves in the spotlight. For every fifty people who’ll be happy for you, it seems certain that there’ll be five that will spread hate and gossip and try to rain on your parade.  A good friend of mine said it well when I last wrote about this sort of thing (after being targeted repeatedly by an Internet troll): “There’s always gonna be haters, and they only get more numerous and louder the more successful you become.”  Which is why I think it’s important to try to counter the negativity thrown carelessly about the world with kindness and support. Don’t join the bandwagon of gossip and rumours – if you don’t like something, keep quiet. Spreading hate isn’t going to do anything except make you look bad. If you’re in favour of something or someone, wear your support proudly on your sleeve. There’s enough pessimism and slander in the world already, and how are you going to feel at the end of your life when you look back and see that you chose to spend the time you were given actively trying to hurt others? Trying to tarnish reputations and ruin occasions of joy. I feel so strongly about this because I’ve been the subject of it, and I don’t want to live in a world where people are quicker to fuel the rumour mill than they are to stand up for somebody.

In two days, two good-hearted, loving people who just so happen to be under the microscope of millions across the planet, are going to celebrate their commitment to each other in a beautiful ceremony that will be talked about for years, at the heart of the country I’m proud to call home. If you have negative thoughts about the monarchy, please keep them to yourself and allow those who support them (as well as those directly involved) to have their day unhindered by hate. There is nothing worse than looking back on your once-in-a-lifetime day and remembering it for something other than the joyous celebration it deserves to be. Trust me. So, this Friday, I will be hanging my Union Jack, making the Royal Chocolate Biscuit Cake, donning fascinators and celebrating the Royal Wedding with my girlfriends as we wonder where on their journey the congratulatory cards we made for William and Kate might be. (Yes, we are secretly twelve years old. :)) 

Think for a second that whether you’re discussing a coworker or a celebrity, there are real people at the other end of your commentary. In this situation, there are real people with real feelings who’ve committed no crime other than falling in love, who would probably prefer an intimate celebration to a national event anyway.  And keep this in mind as you go about your day-to-day life, or your travels across the Internet. 

If someone passes on a rumour, question it rather than continue it. Stand by those you care about instead of keeping quiet while they’re under attack. Take a stand for positivity, and spread love in a world where it seems so easy to spread hate through text messages and cowardly anonymous comments. It’s easy to do what everyone else is doing, but it takes courage to stand up for what’s right. And on Friday, the decent thing is to show nothing but a spirit of congratulations, and allow the Prince and Princess-to-be to celebrate their love just like anyone else. Surely it can’t be too much to ask to allow them to have this one day?