greygirlbeast: (sol)
[personal profile] greygirlbeast
Someone should really tell whatever moron/s started using "baby bump" that it sounds like a disease. Then again, we are referring to pregnancy.


The heat is unrelenting. Yesterday, we were essentially confined to the middle parlour and bedroom, as the temperature in my office exceeded 90F. In the "cool part of the house" the temperature reached 86F. Somehow, in the haze of heat and being too addled to get work done, we stupidly managed not to flee for to a library or some other AC-protected place. We stayed here. All day. And around 7:30 p.m., my body temp went up to 100F, and I stopped sweating, and I started slurring, and...yeah. So, I spent the whole evening cooling my body down as best I could. The fever broke quickly. The meds that make me sensitive to heat were likely responsible. At least we head out to Readercon 22**** tomorrow and get three nights of AC. Also, if you are owed an eBay package, we apologize, but it won't go out until after the convention. Monday or Tuesday. It's just been too hot to pack books and get them to the p.o.


A terrible, strange dream just before I woke. I lived in a house at the end of a small lagoon or inlet. I was younger, maybe a teenager. There was a thin and frightening man outside our screened-in porch (side of the house, an old house) speaking Yiddish. I called to my mother, and when he spoke to her, he spoke English with a Russian accent. There were great trees, like pecans and oaks, all around the house. Later, we went somewhere, and when we returned home, and I saw that there were men in the water "walking" dolphins, the way one does with sharks or dolphins, trying to revive them. There was a sort of turn around, and as my mother used it to point the car towards the driveway, I saw more dolphins far up above the shoreline. They were tangled in a fence, though the fence was really fishing net, and the dolphins there were actually ichthyosaurs. Thick underbrush grew all around the netting. I wanted desperately to help. I got out of the car, and, looking back at the inlet, saw that the water had become violent, a great frothing, sloshing mass, churned by the trawling nets of gigantic factory-fishing ships that hardly even fit into the tiny body of water. The snap-on heads of yellow rubber ducks were washing up onto the shore. There was a child greedily gathering them. An orca had stranded itself, and I tried to help it, but was afraid, and never went very near. In the foaming white water, orcas and sharks and dolphins and ichthyosaurs all struggled to stay clear of the nets that were pulling up great mountains of fish. And this is all I can remember.


My thanks to everyone who left comments yesterday regarding "triggery." Some were quite good. I was especially amused by [ profile] lady_theadora's:

I first saw these trigger warnings when Coilhouse began to use them all the time, as you've previously mentioned, and I think they're pretty damned redundant. I mean, really, you're on the fucking internet people. You're always one click away from porn, snuff, and/or Nigerian royalty. If you haven't figured that out yet, maybe it is time you learned.

Indeed. And the thing with Coilhouse posting those warnings, it was almost enough to make me stop reading the zine; Coilhouse posting "triggering" warnings is like the Sex Pistols apologizing for...well, anything. Absurd. Anyway, yes. I have a story, which I've never told publicly, and which might be too personal and TMI and all that, but I think I need to tell it, as partial explanation, and in response to [ profile] lm. Unfortunately, there's not room here to post [ profile] lm's entire comment (this is going to be long, as it is), but you can see her/his full comment appended to yesterday's entry. I'm also dropping paragraphs from the quote, to save space (and I apologize for that). There are slash marks where graphs end and begin. In part, [ profile] lm writes:

...I have definitely been in a situation where it would have been incredibly helpful to be warned about potentially "triggery" things./Namely, when my mother hanged herself several years ago, I frequently found myself watching films with unexpected scenes of someone being hanged or committing suicide. This was something I was working very hard NOT to picture or think about, and as a result, I basically stopped watching new visual media for about a year - and because my primary social outlet was a film night, this turned me into a hermit, which also really wasn't great for me at the time./I did actually search online to see if there was an online database of non-friendly-to-suicide-survivor films, but there was none./I really didn't expect any handholding through this problem, and the only time I was genuinely annoyed was when people who knew my recent history recommended movies/shows to me that ended up containing said "triggery" material...but on the other hand, I wouldn't have complained one bit if the media had contained a disclaimer!

Okay. Now, that said, here's my story:

On Christmas Eve 1995, five months after the suicide of Elizabeth, the person whom I loved most in all the world, I was alone in the carriage house (where I was living) in Athens, Georgia. I'd spent the evening writing one of the last scenes in Silk. It was an especially graphic and disturbing scene, and I finally said fuck it, I can't do this, not that night, not alone. I drove to a nearby theatre (I was still able to drive back then), and bought a ticket to the first movie on the marquee, which was the vapid Jumangi. When it was over, I still didn't want to return to that empty house, and so I bought a ticket to see the midnight screening of Heat, with Al Pacino, which turned out to be a halfway decent movie. Anyway...

Near the end of Heat, Pacino's character's daughter, played by Natalie Portman, attempts suicide by slitting her wrists in a hotel bathtub. This is precisely the way that Elizabeth had committed suicide (the big difference was that the Natalie Portman character lived). The scene was graphic and well-played and emotionally sort of devastating. Maybe not to everyone, but to me. I watched it. I didn't look away. I cried through the rest of the film. When the movie ended, I went home and went to bed.

Now, was the film "triggery"? Well, yeah. Certainly, in that it put me right there at the moment of Elizabeth's suicide and elicited an intense reaction from me. But was that something I should have avoided? Should I have been furious or resentful (or whatever) that no one warned me? Should I have complained to the theatre management and demanded my money back? Should I have posted to Usenet, warning everyone? To all these questions, my response is an unqualified "no."

Seeing the scene, being forced unexpectedly to confront it, making it real for me in a way it had not been, was the true beginning to my road to learning how to live with a pain that I knew would never, ever go away. Oh, it would dull with age, and with other relationships (though it was almost a decade afterwards before I found myself in a meaningful relationship), but I will always, always be haunted by the event. And, by the way, I'm not a suicide "survivor," because I didn't attempt suicide. I'm a bystander. I'm someone who dealt with the consequences. Maybe that's just a matter of semantics, but I feel it's an important distinction.

In the years to come, I would spend a lot of time in therapy dealing with her suicide. I would spend almost all my writing time writing about it (and I still do); suicide is a primary theme in my fiction, especially the novels. And it was by these means, by persistently and directly confronting the greatest horror in a life that had had no shortage of horrors, that I reached a place where, usually, finally, I no longer wanted to follow her. Not by flinching or avoiding or staying away. By facing the truth head-on. And I'm not an especially strong person. At least, I don't see myself that way. I did what my therapists advised, and what felt right to me, and by happenstance, beginning with accidentally seeing that scene in Heat. Oh, it fucking hurt, yeah, sure. But it was also my path to recovery.

So, my point is simple. I do not - will not - accept that we recover from the tragedies of our lives by avoiding the fact of them. We do it by confronting the fact of them, and art - in all its forms - is one path by which we can do that. I don't see this as a "your mileage may vary" thing, either. You look into the abyss, and the abyss looks into you, and you keep looking and don't dare turn away. You tell the abyss, "You can't have me yet." (to murder and bend the words of Friedrich Nietzsche) You learn to understand and cope. But you don't flinch. You don't look for warning labels so you'll be protected from the truth. You develop calluses, scars, and this changes you forever, and it makes you stronger.

Oh, and my thanks to [ profile] kaz_mahoney for this quote from Akira Kurosawa: To be an artist means never to avert your eyes.

And this is long. And that's enough.

Not Ever Flinching,
Aunt Beast

Note: I have requested NOT to participate in an official signing at Readercon this year, so if you want stuff signed (and I'll sign as many books as you bring), I'll be signing after my reading and my How I Wrote Two Worlds and In Between solo talk. And, if you catch me in the hall, that's usually okay, too. Common sense dictates when it's not okay to ask me to sign (restroom, when I'm eating, when I'm having a conversation, when I'm rushing to get to or leave a panel, etc. - yes, all those scenarios have actually been played out).

Date: 2011-07-13 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't have much to add, just that this is such a beautifully written post. This is why we still need blogs, so that we can share these important things and not talk in soundbites.

More and more, these days, I find myself agreeing with you on the whole issue of 'triggering'. Anyway, thanks.

Date: 2011-07-13 06:27 pm (UTC)
rosefox: Me looking out a window, pensive. (thoughtful)
From: [personal profile] rosefox
I'm in favor of trigger warnings on fanfic, but usually because I use them to pick out the stories I want to read. It's like a tagging system! Very handy.

Like [ profile] lm, I basically stopped watching movies after the death of someone I loved, in my case because he was killed in the World Trade Center collapse and for a while it seemed like every-fucking-body was making movies with subtle or overt references to 9/11. (I Am Legend gave me actual flashbacks. I walked out while I was still capable of walking.) I didn't avoid the fact of Liam's death, but I avoided being made to relive it. Your choice--your need--to confront your tragedy worked for you, but everyone grieves differently.

That said, the thing about movies and books and stories is that the definition of "good" almost always comes with a considerable component of "punches you in the gut". So nothing is safe, really, as hard as that is for PTSD'd people to cope with sometimes. Maybe that's the truth we all have to come to terms with eventually. People die. Flashbacks happen. Nothing is safe. We just have to soldier on through the terrifying world of emotionally manipulative media, because if it didn't manipulate our emotions, it wouldn't be worth the price of admission.
From: [identity profile]
Thank you, and thanks for sharing. That was so beautifully written.

Date: 2011-07-13 06:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You look into the abyss, and the abyss looks into you, and you keep looking and don't dare turn away. You tell the abyss, "You can't have me yet. [...] You develop calluses, scars, and this changes you forever, and it makes you stronger."

Yes! This! And even if you don't feel ready to face your trauma, you simply can't expect the world to protect you from it. Sooner or later though, we all have to meet our monsters, if we're going to live and survive anyhow.

Date: 2011-07-13 07:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
We do it by confronting the fact of them, and art - in all its forms - is one path by which we can do that.

This. Precisely this. Thank you.

Date: 2011-07-13 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Now, see, I don't even remember the Portman scene — it didn't intersect with my demons. But I sure as hell remember the scene in WALL-E that devastated me, and I remember the scene in Grosse Pointe Blank that I'll never be able to watch again without feeling a fierce wrenching sadness. It's weird how art randomly finds you when you least expect it and perhaps most need it, and draws out some of the poison.

One proper use of a 'trigger warning,' now that I've thought about it some, might alert a reader/viewer if the treatment of a potentially traumatizing thing trivializes it. The Heat scene was, for you, a well-crafted and serious handling of a suicide attempt, but what if you'd wandered into a movie that depicted a suicide attempt in an offensively comical fashion? Or, what if you'd happened across a TV airing of Harold and Maude with all those jocular suicide attempts -- would that have struck you, in the frame of mind you were in, as disgusting or weirdly cathartic? It's a rhetorical question, obviously, since you can't literally send to know how you would've reacted; what I'm fumbling for, perhaps, is to think about a work that dredges up feelings sort of pointlessly and thoughtlessly, instead of what Heat did for you. And it occurs to me that a lot of fanfiction carries trigger warnings, and a lot of fanfiction is pretty poor and falls back on, say, rape as a go-to plot device rather than treating it with any sort of thought; so perhaps some 'trigger warnings' might keep a reader from being pissed off in the wrong way, or a non-constructive way — i.e. pissed off not because the story features rape, etc., but because it handles it badly — rather than being wounded in some way.

So if I'd known you in 1995 and I was aware of some sort of clownishly handled suicide-attempt scene in some movie you had a chance of wandering into, I might want to give you a fair warning — not because the scene would break you in some way, but because it would seriously annoy you the same way a Sarah Palin speech would, and who needs that kind of annoyance when life provides no paucity of annoyance all by its lonesome?

past and future events

Date: 2011-07-13 07:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The day you all saw a book on a vehicle's dashboard, I saw a few dozen rubber duckies with different personalities, also on a dashboard. I know this because the duckies were wearing costumes.

I'm sorry to hear about your tragedies.

Hoping you have fun this weekend.

Date: 2011-07-13 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well said AuntBeast. There's always something "triggering" me to remember some tragic event(there's so many) that has shaped my life and cause me to start feeling all emotional and/or teary eyed. But I think I cry too easily, everyday. My eyes are watery just from reading your entry and the comments. I think people should try to face their demons unless they just want to sit in an empty room for the rest of their life.

Date: 2011-07-13 08:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
i use the term 'suicide survivor' because....well, i almost didn't survive the suicide of my boyfriend. and many others don't, but that's what works for ME, and i don't particularly care if it doesn't for others. that's their choice.

i largely feel the same way about trigger warnings. i choose to warn on some of my entries, but i don't demand anyone to do so on anything. after all, i'm on the internet.

Date: 2011-07-13 08:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You are so incredibly eloquent. Thank you for the words.

Date: 2011-07-13 08:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Your attitude towards triggering matches my own and gives me the more courage to maintain it.

The books from eBay: what if we're going to be at Readercon, too? Would it be easier/cheaper to transfer there? Or more of a hassle than waiting?

Date: 2011-07-13 08:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

I will bring along any books owed to anyone who is going to be at Readercon. It's not a problem at all.

Date: 2011-07-14 01:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Lovely! I'm Carol Hanson, the payment address would have been cimeara [at] dragonbear, and I'll try to find you there, thanks!

Date: 2011-07-14 02:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Great! I will be sure to pack the book in a safe place.

Date: 2011-07-13 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I believe you are completely right. Although I will reserve the right to avert my eyes, it's not up to me to advise someone else to do so.

A person I and my husband had known for decades stepped off a nearby bridge and killed herself a little over a year ago. A few days later Caprica had a scene of a woman attempting suicide doing the same thing. The look on her face of joy and utter peace as she stepped out into the air was very cathartic and healing for us. We weren't sure we wanted to see that scene, but there it was, and it made us hope and believe that the person we had known had found the peace and safety she had been looking for all her life. A close friend called us up right afterwards, hoping we hadn't seen it, and I was able to tell her that it actually helped us to start to come to terms with it all. Not sure we'd have watched if there had been a "triggery" warning (though it's not like we couldn't see it coming), and that would have been too bad.

Date: 2011-07-13 09:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I was wondering, though - as an author, you're really more of a professional triggerer. (Triggeress?) Considering the subject matter you gravitate to, I expect you've triggered the pogo-jumping shit out of many people. I don't like the silliness of calling it "triggering," as though it was a manic tiger with a spring ass, but I'm sure that every adult media evokes the unendurable for someone. With all the controversy there is about how responsible artists and scientists are for their work, do you ever become self-conscious about the sometimes dangerous power a sentence or image could (and will) have on others?

Date: 2011-07-24 04:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm actually very curious about the answer to this question myself.

Date: 2011-07-13 09:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The most "triggery" thing I experienced is one of the films you would least expect, and not even a particularly good film - Ghost. I saw it on the night that a good friend had his life-support machine turned off and I cried through it, proceeded to get extremely drunk and screwed up, but then I coped with his death. The idea is to look into the abyss and say fuck-you; if I avoided everything that "triggered" me, having been close to suicides, a survivor myself, and to murders, I would have to dig a hole and hide in it until the end of time. Avoidance is denial and I will not be made weaker in this way. Thank you for your words and your memories and may you keep on doing it.

Date: 2011-07-13 11:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I like what you said.
And I'm glad someone else mentioned Wall E. For me,dealing with my own self destructive tendencies, and being the product of a suicide, I am comfortable with a lot of the "bad" stuff. I find it is the normal family films and some commericals that out of the blue I have a hard time keeping myself from crying for no reason.

Date: 2011-07-14 01:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you, just thank you.

Date: 2011-07-14 02:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can definitely appreciate your perspective, and once again, I do think it's pretty ridiculous to have to censor everything you say. I've been writing fiction about suicide, self-mutilation, and other possibly "triggery" disturbing things for years--since long before my mother killed herself. And I never posted warnings unless required to by someone else.

When my mother died, I plunged into a state of depression such as I had only seen before in, well, my mother. I spent all my time with this program going in the back of my head, replaying my imagined story of my mother's last days, fixated on her suffering and the pain of death. I have never had a problem confronting, dealing with, or overcoming pain--that's kind of been one of the defining features of my life, actually. But in this case, the pain was so terrifyingly immense that it had to be dealt with in small doses, in a reasonably controlled environment. There were several times where I was caught off guard, forced to confront some aspect of her death that I wasn't ready for...and the emotional aftermath of these events led me to the very edge of suicide myself.

I appreciate that film helped you to confront your pain. However, for me, I was already confronting that pain, constantly. When I saw a movie, it was to ESCAPE the horror of my life, not relive it. As [ profile] rosefox said above, "I didn't avoid the fact of Liam's death, but I avoided being made to relive it. Your choice--your need--to confront your tragedy worked for you, but everyone grieves differently."

Date: 2011-07-14 06:17 am (UTC)
mithriltabby: Buddha zen-zapping Slick (MAX ZEN)
From: [personal profile] mithriltabby
Looking at the truth without flinching is strong; some people can live out their entire lives without doing that.

Date: 2011-07-14 06:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I personally like movies where people hang themselves.

Date: 2011-07-16 08:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My problem actually had more to do with a very close loved one hanging herself than it did the movies depicting the act. Hopefully you will never have to/have never had to deal with something that painful in your own life.

Date: 2011-07-14 07:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My father shot himself on my 10th birthday, in 1986.

When Dead Poet's Society came out, in 1989, my mom heard that there was a suicide by gun, and refused to let me see it. She didn't tell me why, she just sent me to see The Guardian a supernatural rip-off of the Hand that Rocks the Cradle instead. When my movie ended, I left my theatre and found hers.

I walked in just as Neil shot himself.

I would have been fine, I think, if I had watched what came before. If I'd had context and the chance to see the narrative that led to it. But without that, it was profoundly jarring. I love the movie now, but I couldn't even try to watch it for years afterward.

Date: 2011-07-15 07:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Anyone else find it fascinating how we have all had similar experiences that made us deal with something that most people will never understand? And also the ways that we found to deal with it.
In my family my father's suicide is still referred to as an accident. I'm glad other people besides myself face the truth of the matter.

Date: 2011-07-16 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is a great post and I agree with you 100%. I had a similar experience involving an accidental viewing of DOLORES CLAIBORNE when I was about 13. Granted, it's not a very good film, but it was the first time I'd encountered an explicit depiction of child abuse in a film. It was extremely upsetting, but, like you said, it was the first real confrontation I had with it since my own personal experiences, and probably the most important breakthrough I've ever had with or without a therapist. "Triggering" experiences in general have helped me through a lot of things and have also helped me realize probably I had previously ignored.

Just wanted to share.


greygirlbeast: (Default)
Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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