We don’t need the Olympics of pain

On May 15th I stood in front of a bunch of people and gave a speech, voluntarily. The purpose of this entire post might just be to tell you all simply that because I am so proud of it! 🙂 Okay, it was a very messed up speech and I got way too emotional but nevertheless unlike my master thesis defense I didn’t faint at any point, so good job me! As May is mental health awareness month, our support group was chosen to be part of the global Ally program of a mental health NGO based in Chicago (details after June 5th when we become officially a part of them). We are the first group based out of the US to be chosen so me and Livia were pretty stoked. We hosted an Art for mental health event and talked Art, suicide and self awareness, there might have been beers involved, but come on, its Germany!

All of this talk about suicide has become so routine that sometimes it bothers me how much it doesn’t bother me to talk about it now. But in all of those talks there are some details that I always conveniently side step, for instance the why of it, not because it emotionally draining to talk about but I am embarrassed by it, so terribly embarrassed. There wasn’t any point getting up there and talking if I couldn’t be honest to myself and others. So here is what I did, I told them a story first, the story of a space shuttle flight. It goes like this,

In 2003, mission STS-107 space shuttle Columbia took off for a fifteen day orbital mission around the earth. This was the 115th flight of the space shuttle program and a pretty routine one at that, but for the whole of India it was a pretty special mission since Indian born astronaut, Kalpana Chawla was on board as one of the mission specialists. As we all now know Columbia didn’t make it back to earth, it disintegrated on reentry, killing all seven astronauts on board. Until that day there hadn’t been a loss of crew for NASA on reentry so this was a complete shock to the entire space community. All the subsequent space shuttle missions were shelved and the investigations went on for two years, what the committee found out at the end of the investigation was pretty heartbreaking.

When Columbia took off fifteen days before the fatal accident, a piece of the foam insulation from the external fuel tank hit the right wing of the shuttle. Now, this was obvious from the launch footage. Nobody thought it could have done any serious damage  for two things, one- this has happened in a number of previous space shuttle launches and two-because it was a piece of thermocol (which is lighter than air) hitting a structure made of carbon reinforced carbon ( which is, well as strong as it sounds ). But, it did do damage to the heat shield and the shuttle didn’t survive the heat of the reentry.

Here is the deal, Columbia accident could have been easily prevented but no-one absolutely no-one saw it coming.

The point of me bringing up this whole story was just to say that sometimes we realize the breaking points only when we get there. For Columbia it was a piece of foam and for me it was a handsome Mexican boy.

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Credits: wuukasch

I know that I am stretching the story to the limits here, but my fuck-patriarchy-feminist-self needed something to lean on when telling a bunch of people (friends and strangers) that I tried taking my life for a boy. There might have been a whole bunch of repressed childhood trauma that might have made that depression as bad as it was but I cannot kid myself out of the truth. I am ashamed of it, but that is may be exactly why I had to say that. Because we are not running an Olympics of pain here my dears.

It may be high time we stop trying to one up our trauma stories and stop romanticizing heartbreak (of any kind) so much. Because there was absolutely nothing romantic about wanting to die day in day out. Out of all the heartbreaking suicide survival stories that people have told me over the past two years my reason is the silliest but that isn’t going to stop me from telling this openly again, because for all of you out there who are feeling shitty about feeling all the things that you are feeling and not finding a good enough excuse for it, here, you have a person who messed up big time for something very very silly.

As you can see I am very good at making circumlocutory stories 😀 in the next post I would write about the art and mental health part of the speech and put up the video if I feel adventurous or may be not! Let’s see.

Its been long again. How have you all been?

Love and hugs

Jo

 

 

Rest in peace Amy Bleuel: The Semicolon Project

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” A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life. ”

It is heartbreaking to think that Amy is no longer here with us. She has been out in the world constantly trying to raise awareness and educating people about the importance of overcoming the deep rooted mental health stigma. Whenever I have tried finding some resources online, I have read a story or two about how this project saved someone’s life and gave them hope.

Thanks for all that you did Amy. We know there is long way to go, but your efforts will not go in vain because your story isn’t over;

Rest in Peace. Love ❤

Would you read our book?

Some of you might already know Juni Desiree through her blog(s), she is a writer, artist, and an awesomely creative person in general. A few months ago she blogged about a book she and her mom was working on. It was titled Please Tell (now Please tell someone), personal accounts of sexual and indecent assault. Juni invited writers of the blogosphere to contribute personal stories or a message to survivors, and she was kind enough to accept a very short piece I wrote. The accounts are kept anonymous so I don’t find it appropriate sharing here.

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Please Tell Someone

Stories like this are not easy to share nor are they easy to read but keeping our eyes closed to such issues or bottling up our emotions rarely help. That is why this book and every such book recounting personal narratives are important. If this book helps at least one person, somewhere on the globe not to feel alone in their recovery journey or if it gives someone the courage to stand up against such atrocities then I would say it has done its job. We would be ever so grateful if you would consider giving it a chance.

The book is available in a Kindle Edition and you can buy it here [amazon] and it is priced at 5 euros.

I would like to thank Juni and her mom for all the efforts they have put into this work. Bringing together voices spread across the globe in such a short span of time is not an easy task. Thank you for seeing it through all the challenges you had to tackle on the way and thank you for making me a part of this.

I am attaching an excerpt from the book in Juni’s words. I would also like to giveaway a copy to one of you readers. Just tell me in the comments if you would like to be considered for it.

Love,

Jo

Here is what Juni has to say about this book,

 In this book you will find courageous people sharing their accounts of sexual and indecent assault, encouraging messages for survivors, and some information about what options survivors have. These come in the form of stories, interviews, poems, blog posts, letters, and artwork. 

After almost 5 months of seeking contributors, there are 39 people from 14 countries, ranging in age from 18 to 62, included in this book. 

What I’ve learnt from collecting stories of sexual and indecent assault is this: 

  • Everyone’s story is different. Some stories involved strangers, some involved family members. Some were one-off occasions, some went on for years. Some were subtle, some were violent. I was surprised by the range of stories and it showed me that sexual and indecent assault can’t be put in a box. People might hear someone’s story and think, ‘oh, that doesn’t count,’ or, ‘that’s not as bad as…’ But I’ve learnt not to dismiss any person’s story. No matter what the circumstances, sexual and indecent assault is real, confusing, frightening, and a big deal.
  • Everyone’s journey is different. Some people have healed from their experience and moved on with their lives. Some are taking steps to walk forward and are on the road to recovery. Some are struggling daily and don’t feel they can ever recover or move on. It can be easy from the outside to think people should just ‘get over it,’ to wonder ‘why can’t they just know their worth,’ and to judge them, thinking ‘they’re not even making an effort to move on.’ But I’ve learnt not to judge any person’s journey. Every survivor is doing the best they can and they could do with support, not criticism. 
  • Though everyone’s story and journey is different, each person shared their voice because they have a heart to help survivors. They know the importance of survivors telling their stories and they have found the courage to share theirs. I admire their hearts and their courage, and I’m thankful for the insights they have given into what it is like for them to be a survivor of sexual and indecent assault. They have given me greater understanding and empathy for survivors. 

I hope their voices encourage many people.

 

100thousand poets for change

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She has unbrushed messy hair pulled together hastily to a bun around the nape of her neck, thick black framed glasses, a black or grey wrinkly Kurti- with a voice that demands attention and awe, she is speaking into a microphone to a big group of people, or she is leading a protest along the streets spurting out phrases like ‘fuck patriarchy’ or imagine this, a facebook timeline that is constantly updated with snarky, well-researched opinionated posts about recent political events (here also the girl behind the words has unbrushed messy hair)- these are my images that come to my mind when I hear the word activist.

I am sure a lot of us would like to live in a post racist, post sexist, and global-warming-and-psychiatry-believing world, but a lot of us also feel helpless in the enormity of the task ahead to build the world like that. Also, with the myriad responsibilities that come with adulting, it is sometimes a bit difficult to pause and care about a war happening on the other side of the globe. So we  feign an indiffernce and go about living our lives . Its not that we don’t care but we don’t know where to start or what to do. We just wait for someone else with a messy bun and a microphone to lay the bricks for building a better world.

There is a quote that I came across sometime ago, it goes something like this “A writer is important to a war as a writer”. Does it mean it is to possible to fight a war without being in the  the battlefield? Fight may be not, but prevent? we can try our best. Art has the extraordinary capability of connecting people and transcending boundaries. There might be as many ways of activism as there are people.

100thousand poets for change is a movement spanning the globe that aims at the transformation towards a more sustainable world. They have a global event happening every year in September where poets, artists, musicians, are all invited to share their original or inspired works and to reach out to fellow artists locally and globally to form a community working towards peace and sustainabilty. I have been taking part in this event for the past two years in collaboration with a local bookstore. And this year the event date is September 24th Saturday.

This might be a starting place for a lot us struggling to find an answer to the questions, what can we do and where can we start?

How can you participate?

  • You can share a piece of music or writing or art of any form that symbolises the kind of change that you would like to see in this world.
  • Check out if there are already any events happening in your area. The website has an exhaustive lists of events all over the globe.
  • You can host an event locally.
  • You can host a web discussion group focusing on topics like sustainabilty and peace.
  • Start a hastag and encourage artists to join and share their works online.

You can find more prompts and ideas on the website http://100tpc.org/.

A brief description about the event we are participating in this year locally,

With climate change in the news more and more, we often tend to ignore the issue or to succumb to numbness or fear. What’s needed is accurate information and clear thinking. As a start, we can remember and celebrate our connections to the earth and our interactions with and dependence on the natural world.

We invite poets, prose writers, singers, musicians and dancers to join us on Saturday, September 24 to share their original writing and compositions inspired by or featuring the natural world and human connections to the earth.

I encourage all of my fellow bloggers to use this powerful platform we have, on saturday the 24th to write, be it about race, culture, mental health, feminism, freedom of speech…..It doesn’t have to be a long piece with intimidating jargons and statistics and numbers, we have enough of that already. Let us bring forward personal experiences and stories. If it is just two lines of an unfinished poem, so be it. If it makes it easier for you I am going to share a short story of a talking frog.

I will leave you with this beautiful quote,

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Jo

 

How we arrange love!

 

” I did it, your brother did it, then why can’t you?”, asked my mother holding up the photo of a prospective groom in her hands. “Come on, look at his face, tell me one thing you don’t like about it? ”

“ Amma, it is not about this guy, I am just studying now, what if I don’t…..? “, I started talking hesitantly, but by that point, she had taken off her headphones and was trying to bring the photo of him so close to the webcam, that all I could see then was his extra red tie!

I tried yelling at the top of my voice to get her attention for a couple of times and then got tired and hung up!

It was a typical Sunday morning Skype conversation with my parents, a conversation that does not move an inch without bumping into the topic of my wedding!

I have seen successful arranged marriages up close, my brother’s for instance, he had  talked literally for ten minutes with my now sister in law before saying his capital Y-Yes! I am sure he wasn’t apprehensive, he said it with gleaming eyes and a smile he couldn’t wash off! And my parents, even after thirty-two years of arranged married life they cannot seem to spend even a day apart.

So don’t get me wrong, my disagreement is not towards the concept of arranged marriages, but towards a system that shows utmost hostility to anyone who refuse to follow the set rules of a religious, patriarchal society. A system where it is considered okay to break ties with a child because he/she did not think religion has the power to dictate their love, a system where a girl is asked to give up her studies or career at the glimpse of a rich, qualified husband, where a boy is not given the choice of pursuing his passion because having a ‘steady’ job is prerequisite for boys to enter the wedding market.

I got a call from my best friend this morning.

“What are you doing”, she asked?

“It is 6.30 in the morning, what do you think I am doing?” I replied half asleep!

She was unusually chirpy, “Check your WhatsApp! You are going to love this, she couldn’t stop laughing.”

I hung up and checked my WhatsApp, she had sent me a screenshot of a newspaper column, I zoomed into the picture to read.

Hindu Parents invite proposals for their daughter 26 years, fair, 5 ft 1′, doing Master’s abroad seeks good alliance from well to do and settled boys .

There it was, I described in 20 words or less.

I am here waiting for the love of my life to take a scan through the pages of his Sunday newspaper, and get swept off his feet.


 

The above text is an excerpt from one of my older journal entries. In India, along with the Sunday newspaper, there is a supplement sheet where you can give matrimonial advertisements. Giving a picture below so you can get the gist.

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