Update: New Article Posted

I was recently approved and selected as the editor of the Bella Online website for the Folklore and Mythology section. My first article has been posted: Prometheus and Coyote: The Theft of Fire. I will be adding at least one article per week, more if time permits. If there are any specific folklore related questions you’d like to have answered or just articles you’d like to see, please feel free to let me know, and I will add them to my list for article ideas.

 

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My Reflection on Charlottesville

As someone who is simultaneously fascinated and horrified by war – as a history major, if it were offered, my concentration would be in war studies – what happened in Charlottesville is devastating and terrifying.
 
One man, James Alex Fields Jr., decided to escalate an already tense situation by giving into his impulse for violence. A woman, Heather Heyer, paid the greatest price for his actions, and several others were injured. Beyond that, thousands upon thousands of people have been traumatized. 
A video was released by VICE that shows quite a bit of what happened during the protest, as well as what was said:

The only person to blame for the death of Heather Heyer is the man who has been charged with her murder. That was sheer impulsive violence, and it wasn’t premeditated. That’s what it means to be charged with second degree murder – that’s what the killer was charged with.

Yes, there are people on the Alt Right celebrating and claiming gratitude – if you listen carefully to the comments that Cantwell makes in the video, he expresses a desire for an ethno-homeland. An ethnic nation. A white nation. A nation based on ethnicity. A desire for land.

In all the ethnic conflicts that have occurred across the globe, there’s a common inciting factor – a desire for land. For territory. Cantwell expresses this desire, and out of everything in this video, that sentiment is the one that terrifies me the most.

Because he sees other ethnic groups, other races, as posing a great threat to what he views as his own ethnic group. He is basically saying the US is being overrun by non-white people, and now white people have nowhere to stand – no home to call their own.

This is terrifying because people will listen to this. People will buy this. He’s selling a false promise of a freedom from fear, but there are desperate people – there are smart people – who will take the lines he is spewing and take them seriously. They will view him as a leader, someone to take their cues from, and this is so incredibly dangerous I don’t even know how to explain how dangerous it is.

Because Cantwell has taken the USA – a diverse melting pot (that’s what we’re supposed to be, with mixed races, mixed ethnic groups, mixed religions, mixed classes – strength in difference) and he’s divided it into two camps. He has taken the us. vs. them mentality that already existed (alt-left vs alt-right) and twisted it into an ethnic conflict  – white nationalists vs. every other race and ethnic group in existence. He has taken a political split and turned it into a racial and ethnic split.

This is how all wars start. 

Someone claims that a specific group of people has taken away their homeland and are actively working to keep that homeland from them. It doesn’t matter if there is truth to the statement or not – if enough people believe something, it becomes the truth they live. The truth they fight for. They truth they are willing to die for. The truth they are willing to kill for.

When people can no longer see the humanity in a person, they take up arms. They fight. They kill. They die. This event may be the beginning of one of the worst ethnic conflicts the world has ever seen – it has the potential to be far, far worse than the civil war ever was. When the civil war ended and Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces, President Lincoln issued a pardon. Because people are more than the causes they claim to represent, more than their political viewpoints, more than their ethnicity and more than their race. People are human. 

It is when humanity is forgotten, wars begin. It is when the other becomes the source of all the problems that war becomes normal. Our country has been sitting on the verge of an ethnic war for decades. This incident may have been the one that pushed our countrymen to their breaking point – fights will break out. Violence will become even more normalized than it is now. And it will become almost impossible to acknowledge someone’s humanity without being accused of being either a Communist or a Nazi. That’s the stage we’ve reached.

I won’t engage in this kind of violence against my fellow humans. I won’t stand for the incitement of violence against other people because their views are radically opposed to my own. I won’t condone murder. I won’t condone violence for the sake of pursuing a political or ethnic agenda.

I worship a pantheon of war gods, and I absolutely refuse to endorse this war. The only violence I’ll ever condone is those actions undertaken in self-defense or defense of family/friends from an imminent threat. If someone is attacking me physically, I will fight back. But I will never give someone the advantage of forcing me to punch first.

Even if I hate everything a person stands for, hate the ideology they support and the rhetoric they spew, I will not condone violence against them. If they commit a crime, then let them be judged by the law. Vigilante justice isn’t justice. It’s just another crime. Another act of cruelty.

In the coming days – and they are coming, anyone with even an ounce of sense can see that – I will do my best to provide a refuge. A safe harbor for all who need it. Regardless of your viewpoints, I will do what I can to be compassionate and kind. Hatred solves nothing – it does nothing but create more fear. And fear perpetuates violence in a way nothing else can. I don’t care who you are – if you have committed no crime, if you have done no harm – I will provide a space for you.

Because in all this insanity, I refuse to bow down to it. I refuse to be drawn into a war I didn’t ask for, a war I don’t support, a war that can and will destroy the country and people I love. So, if all you can spew is hatred for things you don’t understand or agree with, try on an empathetic pair of shoes and work on seeing it from the other person’s eyes.

In the end, we’re all human. That’s all we ever really have. I won’t let anyone steal my humanity from me. Now, everyone has to make a choice. You either have to choose a side and let yourself be riddled with hatred… or you can choose to step back and refuse to endorse violent conflict that will lead to war. Unless we step back and take a breath, gather our humanity and turn it into our shield… the place we are headed is all-out war. There is no getting around that.

Book Review: Three Parts Dead

While I’m taking classes over the summer and studying for the GRE, I’m also working on getting caught up with some reading that is way overdue. I have a summer reading list that is currently about 30 titles long, and I’m sure I’ll be adding titles to that list as the year goes on. My staple genre will always be fantasy, and the last book I read is no exception to that.

Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone, the first of the Craft Sequence, begins with the death of a god and the Craftswomen who have been called to investigate the cause. The magic wielded by Crafters is nothing other than the necromantic arts. They can resurrect the dead – up to a point. There is something about dying that prevents complete resurrection. The personality cannot be held intact. And Tara Abernathy, the main character, has been enlisted to aid a more experienced Crafter in her investigation into the death of a god, Kos the Everburning.

In Three Parts Dead, Gladstone has managed to combine fantasy and legislation in a way that makes investigation seem three parts danger, one part paperwork – and even the paperwork can be deadly. There are gargoyles, vampires, necromancers, gods, and humans that all have separate agendas, and Gladstone does an amazing job weaving these plot elements together. I rarely find books that are able to surprise me, but the foreshadowing he uses is so subtle that the resolution of the plot isn’t made completely clear until the end of the book. That’s not an easy thing to do, and I’m particularly impressed with his skill in weaving such complexity into a book that became a page-turner. I consumed it in three hours, and I’ve put the rest of the series on hold at my county library.

Gladstone took some impressive risks with this book, especially when it comes to combining law and fantasy. I’m not sure that it has ever been done before, and this book is far too underrepresented for how apt a writer Gladstone is. On top of combining two risky genres, the main character in the story is a black woman. Within the fantasy genre, minorities are still incredibly underrepresented, and Gladstone’s contribution in that area was (and continues to be) sorely needed.

No matter the reason you pick up this book, I have a hard time imagining anyone who would be displeased with it. For me, the first book of this series, the Craft Sequence, was such an amazing read that it has gained a spot in my top ten fantasy series of all time – and considering how well-read I am within the fantasy genre, that’s no mean feat.

Poem: I Shake

I shake when I meet someone new,

but I know they cannot see the tremor

because I have learned to hide it so

well sometimes I even fool myself

into thinking that I’m not constantly

worrying about what it is that this

new person is thinking about me.

 

I learned to hide the fear, the anxiety

I had that the people that I liked

would fail to like me in return, that

the people who I met would find me

wanting in a way I wouldn’t understand,

a way I wouldn’t be able to fix because

the trouble would have to be with me.

 

I learned to view the people who didn’t

like me the way I liked them, the ones

who found no worth in me – I learned

to see them as the ones to turn to, the

ones to ask about the problems with me

so that I could fix myself as if I were a

broken tool in need of serious repair.

 

I don’t remember when I started to see

myself as a broken object, a tool that

had no function except that function

the people around me gave me, as if

I was nothing more than the item they

could use to assuage their own fears.

 

I don’t remember when I shook that,

when I started to view myself as human,

as a person, worthy of care and respect

in return for being human, being here,

but somewhere along the way I stopped

viewing myself as a tool for others to use

to vent their own anger, their own tears.

 

I shake when I meet someone new because

I am asking myself what I should expect –

will this new person treat me like a tool

or will they treat me like a human, and

what is it I need to do to make sure they

don’t mistake me for the former –

 

And I shake because I know I act against

the grain, I know I make people shy away

because I don’t fit into their definitions of

normal, and I worry that I’m going to have

to defend myself against an onslaught of

disapproval, of distaste, of disdain.

 

I hear others talk about how they act against

society because they don’t care what others

think about them, and inside, I am squirming

because I do care; I care so much it hurts, and

I don’t go against the grain because it’s expected –

it’s part of who I am, woven into the very fabric

of the person I have become, and I won’t reject

any of the experiences that have come to define me.

 

I can face rejection, I can face hatred, and I can

face it when the new people I meet decide that

I am not worth their time, not worth their respect

because they learn something about me they

don’t like. But facing it doesn’t mean it doesn’t

hurt, doesn’t cut to the bone, doesn’t make me

want to scream and cry and rage until I’m hoarse.

 

I shake when I meet someone new because

I know the odds are stacked against me – I know

that there are so many parts of me that society

rejects out of hand, but I don’t hate the people

who hate me for what they do not understand.

It hurts me, cuts me deeply, but I feel sorrow far

more often than I feel anger or betrayal.

 

Because I love to meet new people, to learn their stories,

to hear their tales and try to understand their lives

from the perspectives in which those lives were lived.

There are so many people, so many lives, so many paths

that are so similar and yet so different, and there is such a

myriad of human experience it steals my breath away.

 

Yet, I shake when I meet new people, and it may be

that I will always shake – out of fear of being judged

yet again, out of excitement at the prospect of meeting

a new friend – and I will always care too much.

That’s part of who I am, who I have become, and

I can accept who I am, even as my voice trembles

and my body shivers as I greet someone new –

I will always speak my truth, even if I shake.

Poem: Waiting

Waiting

I remember nights spent

staring at walls, waiting

for the fighting to stop,

waiting for a moment to

breathe before the world

around me fell apart.

 

I remember the solidness

of my sister as she lay beside

me, holding her breath at the

same time I was holding mine,

waiting for the chaos to pass.

 

I remember the yelling, the

words that never quite fit

together in rational patterns

and the solid thump of fists

meeting flesh while waiting,

frozen in tension, frozen in fear.

 

I remember never knowing

what the next moment held

contained within it, always

looking ahead with an eye to

the next moment I would be

holding my breath, waiting.

 

I remember so much waiting

that it is as if my entire life

became a collection of moments,

of snapshots of frozen terror,

to be relived over and over, as

each coalesced into waiting.

 

Waiting for the next terror,

for the next abuse, for the

next harsh word, the next

physical blow – the violence

turned into what I expected,

became what I waited for.

 

Now, I wait with breath held

for the next moment of frozen

terror to lift its head from where

it lays dormant – sometimes, I wish

it would rise, give chase – at least

then, I could finally stop waiting.

Reflection #5: The Challenge of Integrity

One of the difficult things about language is that words can often be empty. It’s easy to play lip-service to ideals, hard to live up to them. I’ve always prided myself on matching my morals to my actions, but I don’t often find myself in situations where I have to prove that I live by my morals.

That is probably because I make it a point to surround myself with people who I know aren’t going to act in ways that are counter to my own sense of morality. Among my friends, respect for others tends to be high on our list of priorities, so there’s not much reason for me to act in a way that implies defense of my own morality.

One of the principles that I have always lived by is that I do not tolerate disrespect shown to my friends, especially when my friends aren’t there to defend themselves. This has been true for me at least since middle school, when I broke away from a friendship because that person disparaged one of my other friends. However, I was a very different person in middle school than I am today. Back then, I was much more aggressive in the defense of my friends, and I didn’t care about the potential ramifications of my actions or the fact that I could potentially find myself alienated because I chose to defend someone that the rest of the group was disparaging.

Fast forward to now, almost fifteen years later, where I’m in college and much more aware – almost painfully so – of the potential fallout my actions can cause. The words I say, the actions I take – everyone around me is so much more aware of those that if I say the wrong phrase, people assume that I mean something I didn’t intend to say at all. It’s almost like I have to walk on eggshells to be able to say anything at all if I want to keep from offending the people around me or at least keep from being misunderstood.

It took me years to accept that people typically misunderstand me when I speak…it’s why I spend so much time writing. For some reason, in written language, I make more sense than I do when I speak. Maybe it’s because when I write, people don’t get the chance to interrupt me and thus cause me to lose my train of thought. I can say what I mean the way I mean it without having to constantly be on guard for the potential misinterpretation of my words through the patterns of the sentences I choose to use to convey my message. As a writer, of course, I have to be aware of this, but I can do so by reviewing what I have written. Once words leave my mouth, it’s very hard to back up and rephrase something that is misunderstood in a way that makes the original meaning clear.

In either case, communication is a delicate art. When I am around others, however, I am continuously aware of the potential for misinterpretation of the words I say. Because of this, I am also always aware of the potential misunderstandings of the actions I choose to take. This constant vigilance – it’s really hyper-vigilance caused by two decades of not quite fitting in (the gift/curse of ADHD) – can make it much more difficult to act with integrity in situations where it is called for.

Last week, however, I was powerfully reminded of what it means to have the courage of conviction. In a small group meeting, someone brought up one of my friends and started a conversation centered around trash-talking this person and making fun of this person. I don’t know if it was supposed to be a way for the person doing the talking to feel better – I don’t really care. I managed to listen to two sentences of disparagement against my friend before I couldn’t handle the situation. I stood up, told the group that I wasn’t going to remain in the room where my friend was being trash-talked, and I left.

The emotions I felt while doing so, however, were fairly complicated. I was angry that my friend was being trash-talked, of course. I was frustrated because the people in the room are also my friends and they were indulging in gossip, which is harmful to the target, especially when so many of them are advocates for different types of movements. But the one thing I wasn’t expecting to feel was on the verge of tears. Granted, when I get truly angry, I have a tendency to cry – when I’m furious, I cry, and it takes a lot to push me there. But that wasn’t the reason I was on the verge of tears. No, when I left, I was also highly aware that the group could end up trash-talking me in turn because I chose to remove myself from the situation. I refused to conform to their expectations, and I was highly aware that my actions may cause them to resent me.

As far as I am aware thus far, however, that hasn’t happened. I heard that there was some concern that I wouldn’t show up for a meeting later that night because there was concern I was genuinely angry (I was). That doesn’t mean the trash-talking didn’t happen, or that it won’t in the future. It just means that I was highly aware of every potential ramification of the choice I made by walking away from them when they were trash-talking one of my other friends, and I had the strength to do it anyway.

It would have been far easier to sit there and listen to the disparagement of my friend, to never expose myself to the potential for backlash, and to pretend that everything that was going on around me was okay with me. But my commitment to my integrity allowed me to make the harder choice, to take the harder path. Walking away from a situation like that is in no ways easy, and turning words into actions rather than let them remain empty – that is where the real challenge of integrity resides.

Reflection #4: Observation and ADHD Resources

This isn’t really a reflection, more an observation. Out of the last few things I’ve posted, I see that people have gravitated towards my post about ADHD and the relationship I have with the medication I take.

That got me thinking about whether there is enough information on the web for people who have ADHD to really explore, and I mean the real-life stuff that people care about rather than the science. I know there are some of us who love the science stuff – I actually own the book “ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says” by Russel A. Barkley, Kevin R. Murphy, and Mariellen Fischer (experts in the field).

But what most people want to know about ADHD is what life is like when you have it, not about the science. That’s true of anything though – we tend to be drawn to experiences rather than explanations, as we can see better through other people’s eyes than we can through the scientific nitty-gritty facts. It’s just how we’re hardwired.

So, as I was thinking about that, I was thinking about what kind of blogs and websites about ADHD exist, and there are a lot of them. Not all of them are high quality, of course (fact #1 of the internet: you can’t trust everything you read on the internet), but there are a few. All of the ones I am going to mention deals primarily with Adult ADHD, which, to be fair, can present some problems when you’re looking for resources.

The Websites

ADHD in Adults: This is where experts talk about ADHD, so it’s still pretty heavy on the science side of things. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing interesting there – for someone who has ADHD, it is imperative that you learn exactly what it means to have the condition. Living with it is unavoidable, but the more you know about ADHD, the better off you are in terms of your ability to cope with it. This is probably the best site to keep up with the current research about ADHD.

ADHD Roller Coaster: This blog is run by Gina Pera, who is the author of “Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D.? Stopping the Roller Coaster When Someone Your Love Has Attention Deficit Disorder” , and there are both personal stories and research-based news pieces on this site. This is a good place to go for a blend of professional and personal.  She has written other books, but this title is the one I own, so it is the one I chose to mention.

Totally ADD: This website is run by Rick and Ava Green, two Canadians who are responsible for the documentaries ADD & Loving It?! and ADD & Mastering It! The website itself is more of a blog where the two of them discuss the personal ramifications of dealing with ADHD, particularly the difficulties those who have ADHD face.

In addition to websites, there are some pretty good books that I’d recommend to anyone who has ADHD. A lot of them are science heavy, but there are a few that are books written by those with ADHD to share their personal experience with the disorder.

ADHD in Adults: What the Science Says by Russel A. Barkley, Kevin R. Murphy, and Mariellen Fischer. I mentioned this book very briefly, but it is one of the best books on the current science surrounding the condition. Barkley is the leading authority on ADHD, and he is the one who demonstrated that executive functioning is what is most-impaired in those who have ADHD, which was such a critical finding that a case could be made that his research completely changed the way ADHD is handled as a diagnosis as well as the way further research on the condition has been done.

Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, as well as their other books including Delivered from Distraction and Answers to Distraction are invaluable books. They were among some of the first I read when I was diagnosed, and I can’t properly express how much the science combined with the anecdotes of others with ADHD helped me come to terms with the disorder.

I Always Want to Be Where I’m Not by Wes Crenshaw may easily be the book that finally gave me the tools I needed to be able to cope with ADHD on a day-to-day basis without feeling like I was spinning out of control. He offers 13 principles for people who have ADHD to utilize, and I have found all of them to be incredibly useful. Out of all the books I have listed thus far, this is the book I would recommend if you read no other book at all.

Here’s to Not Catching Our Hair on Fire by Stacey Turis. This is a book that is 100% anecdote, as Stacey takes us through what she experienced as a gifted individual who happened to also have ADHD. This book is invaluable because it reaffirms the fact that ADHD does not discriminate based on IQ. This helps put to rest the idea that a person can be “too smart” to have the condition – which was something I heard a lot from some of my family members when I was first diagnosed.

There are, of course, many more resources, but these are the ones I’d recommend first to anyone who seriously wants more information about what ADHD is, how it impacts your life, and how to manage it.