Final Post

This is the last post I am writing for, as I no longer am using that name and I am no longer interested in writing non-fiction or embarrassingly earnest pleas for compassion in late capitalism. I’ll leave it up for archival purposes, but the domain will go back into the pool in February 2022. I may put my writing online in the future, but it will be under an alias. There is nothing about a public persona, clout-chasing, self-promotion, or begging for market value that interests me. Writing is just a way for me to walk my brain so that it doesn’t kill my body prematurely.

– MM

Final Post

Life’s an Adventure, Not a Plan

Martial Arts for Liberation and Social Justice from A Martial Arts Manifesto by Southpaw podcast.

This post is a bit of an ode to my friend, Sam Yang (he/him/Comrade): aka Liberation Martial Artist aka yangfluencer aka half of the Southpaw podcast duo aka someone I “met” online in the pandemic era who has been a great inspiration and support to me ever since (even if I cannot handle being in the Discord chat!). This past weekend Sam posted a video essay that really struck me titled, Have Gi, Will Travel, about his decision to leave a cushy job in the finance sector to travel the US as a wandering martial artist. Check out Part 1:

While the typical way that we conceive of politics in the US is linear, rigid, and predetermined, Yang calls us back to adventure and complexity: embracing impermanence instead of grasping for control, exercising compassion for all people instead of fostering empathy for the few people in our immediate circles, celebrating the spaciousness of boredom and spontaneity instead of set plans and goals that we didn’t even consciously make for ourselves. It’s a truly liberating vision of what it means to be human and to take care of ourselves and others. To watch the full supercut (it’s about an hour long), sign up to support Southpaw on Patreon or leave a tip via Ko-fi ($1 minimum). I loved this video essay so much that I made a donation on behalf of a couple friends. If you cannot afford to donate, send me a message and I’ll donate on your behalf and send you the link. That is how much this piece means to me <3.

Life’s an Adventure, Not a Plan

Free PDF of my book Hard Bones!

Don’t want to support Amazon? Download my book below for free! It is nicely formatted for printing in the “booklet” format (about 40 sheets double-sided). Just three asks:

  1. If you can afford to donate something for the book, anything helps. I’ve been unemployed, but I start at Safeway on Monday so anything really does help: Venmo: @Heather-Squire Cashapp: $squireheather
  2. I still want to donate to the Thai democracy movement tho, so if you only have $1 to donate, send it to Prachatai, an English and Thai-language news outlet that is telling the truth about dictatorship and the movement for democracy in Thailand. Donate via PayPal: ♥️🖤 []
  3. Please leave a review.
You can also watch me read the whole damn thing. About 3 hours long.
Free PDF of my book Hard Bones!

Tools for Your Healing Journey

I am writing this now, one day after I decided to go full no-contact with my family of origin, because I am still so close to the feeling of “before”, which I know will fade with time. Two days ago I anonymously published a short essay detailing some of the abuse I endured throughout my childhood. I published it anonymously because I was afraid – mostly of being rejected and called “attention-seeking” by my friends and acquaintances, or even worse not being believed. In the still fresh aftermath, I realize that those thoughts were just projections of my horrible inner critic, still sharp even after so many years of putting in the work to heal. In reality, telling my story was for me and for other survivors of abusive family systems. The most important person that needed to believe it was me, as painful as it is to acknowledge that I could both come from an abusive and loveless home and actually turn out to be a decent and empathetic human. I do realize that I wrote this in a way that sounds like I’m an authority. I just want to clarify that I am not an expert in anything except my own experience. I write this in a “you do this” kind of tone because I am writing the perspective of the chorus of healers, therapists, priests, monks, shamans, friends, researchers, and that arc of the moral universe that eventually got loud enough inside of me to drown out the destructive voices of my abusers (including the ones in my head). I’m excited to begin this new chapter in my life surrounded with the love and support of so many people, including myself.

We might have clear memories of certain parts of our childhood trauma histories, but often it is buried deep inside of us because we had to do that in order to survive – showing anger or fear would only lead to more abuse. The deep feelings of rejection and betrayal and worthlessness imparted by our abusive parent(s) sunk deep into our developing brains, leading to self-hatred and a distorted sense of self we carried into adulthood. This pervasive fear and stress was not just damaging to our minds, hearts, and skin – but also our nervous systems. This means panic attacks, autoimmune diseases, and addiction. If any of this sounds familiar to you, I want to tell you again that you are not alone and that what happened was not your fault. You can find help and support. 

  1. Educate yourself about trauma, narcissistic abuse, mental health, PTSD/C-PTSD, and how your brain works. You don’t have to buy books or become a published author on the topic – you just need to have a basic understanding of how your brain and body process traumatic experiences, what narcissistic abuse looks like in family and romantic relationships, and how the collective trauma of oppression experienced by different groups impacts and exacerbates individual trauma (eg racism, poverty, heterosexism, etc.). There are so many resources you can find for free online these days. I started a YouTube collection of the ones I found most helpful.

2. People will tell you that the most important thing is to “love yourself first” and it will hurt and frustrate you. Even if you think that comment is trite and unhelpful, just accept that the comment is coming from a place of good will and move on. It doesn’t actually matter if they have the perfect intention or truly understand your suffering – this is about you. You do, in fact, already love yourself. You would not have gotten this far, through so many horrible things, if there wasn’t a glowing core of love inside of you. The problem is that you cannot feel it right now and that is ok. It makes sense that you have erected walls to protect your heart – your defenses have kept you alive.

3. Protect your empathy compassion. If you find yourself annoyed hearing about the suffering of others or the thought comes up in your head like, “Oh, it probably wasn’t that bad,” or “They just want attention,” or “I’m so tired of hearing about racism,” – take it as a sign that your mental health may be on a downward trajectory and pay attention to it. Humans are social animals who need to give and receive love in order to survive. You will never heal if you allow the abuse you experienced to destroy your connection to society at large – and if it’s left unchecked you’ll find yourself repeating the cycle as an abuser yourself.

4. You are not “too smart” to end up in an abusive relationship (and if you were born into an abusive family system, you didn’t have a choice in the matter anyway). This isn’t about intelligence – most of us rationally know that we shouldn’t let our natural impulses such as selfishness or the need for connection dominate every other aspect of our lives. Sometimes a little selfishness is good – particularly when you set boundaries: we check that impulse against our own empathy and respect for other people. But if you grew up in an abusive household that lacked unconditional love and care, your brain was affected and you likely became conditioned to chasing that love in a way that is mirrored in your adult romantic relationships. Obviously it’s more complex than that, but you are already educating yourself on how your brain works so you get the basic idea.

5. You need love more than anything, but it probably feels so far away and impossible right now. Cultivate platonic intimacy instead of chasing sex and romantic relationships, which can become addictions of their own. You probably have a few friendships situationships that aren’t actually supportive or nurturing – those are not what I’m talking about. There are people all around you – well right now they are all online, of course – but there are good and caring people with open hearts that would love to hold space for you and to have you hold space for them. They might be acquaintances that you are Facebook friends with, but never really pursued because they were not “cool” or into partying (numbing) pre-Covid. Maybe they are more introverted. You are not going to find that in reactionary online spaces or even some of the more liberal political spaces, so don’t expect it. Explore your own softness in the safety of solitude. Learn about radical self-love and entertain the possibility that we all need a bit of it these days. Make yourself a Spotify playlist of songs that have big nurturing/mothering energy and listen to it often – Beyonce, Bjork, Lizzo, and (newer) Ke$ha. Sing all those love songs to yourself, as if you are whispering a lullaby to a scared child.

6. Rationally accept your friends love you, even if you don’t feel it right now. I know it’s hard to trust on the worst days – especially if you learned growing up that love is transactional and inconsistent. If there is a possibility that this is all an elaborate ruse on the part of your close friend to one day humiliate or abandon you, there must also be a possibility that there is something about you that they find so delightful, so worthwhile, so endearing that they stick around because their life is better with you in it. If both are possible, it doesn’t actually risk anything to go with option B because that pain is inevitable. When you choose option A, you suffer twice – in anticipation of the pain and when the pain actually happens.

7. Sit and breathe. Exhale with force and even noises if you’re feeling it. Don’t bother reading too much about mindfulness or meditation, as judgement often arises from all the different theories and ideas. What is important here is to remember that breath is life – we do it all the time and never stop breathing until we die. I held my breath without knowing it for most of my life, always holding in my rage or anticipating some other disaster. When you just let yourself breathe, feeling the air fill your chest and flow out, you can calm yourself if you are triggered into a state of hyperarousal. This is especially important if you know you need to confront some really ugly things in your past one day. These things might be really scary and painful and they might fill you with rage. Good – you need to finally feel those feelings in order to stop them from haunting you. If you practice deep breathing now – 2 minutes here, 5 minutes there – your mind and body will be more prepared for when that time of feeling your anger finally comes.

8. Learn about self-compassion. It might be awhile before you feel it and that’s fine. First you can practice having that compassion for other people. For instance, it might be really hard to identify your own abusive childhood or manipulative relationship. But what if you saw a stranger treating a child that way? What if your friend’s partner was talking to them in a really demeaning way or gaslighting them all the time? You would probably do something about it – maybe seek out a person to talk to or if it was right in front of you and really bad you might intervene. When you look at it from this outside perspective, with compassion in your heart, it no longer matters that the abusive person had an abusive childhood or suffered from depression. What matters is getting the child or your friend to safety and making sure they get extra love to help them heal. Think about this often. Journal about it. Read the accounts of people who were abused and got out. Let yourself feel sadness and anger for their suffering. This will prime you to start seeing it in your own life.

9. Get a therapist and understand that they are human and limited. I signed up for Medicaid and got a therapist that I see about once a month. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. Even once a month can give you the time to vent all of your ugliest darkest feelings to a compassionate listener that isn’t your friend or partner. Our loved ones cannot be the only people you talk to about your trauma and abuse. They are only human and cannot possibly carry it all, no matter how much they love you. Pretty much any therapist will gently push back against your cognitive distortions, keep you accountable as you try to change some habits, and remind you of your progress. If you aren’t connecting with your therapist – if they are racist, don’t take you seriously, or don’t remember you, etc. – get another therapist. The process takes time, but its worth it. You are investing in the happiness of your future self.

10. You are the only person that knows the depths of your suffering. Sometimes it will seem like nobody but other survivors will “get it”. But the validation of other people is not what will be healing – it’s the validation you give yourself. For me that meant “going back in time” to re-parent myself. And since I don’t have a healthy experience of parenting, I decided to imagine myself as a tough and loving foster mom who adopts that brilliant and scared little girl, taking her away from the danger and giving her all the love she never got. And part of that love was to give her a new name, which is why I decided to change my name.

I’m sure I will have a lot more thoughts on this in the future, but like I said I wanted to get it out while it was all still so fresh that I can feel both the before and after states in my mind and body.

Heather Squire is dead! Long live Madelyn Mae!

Tools for Your Healing Journey

20 More Films to Wrap Your Head Around the Housing Crisis

Two years ago I compiled a list of ten films that I used in the class I taught about the housing crisis. Since that time, the housing crisis has not disappeared and in fact has only been exacerbated by the continued financialization and land grabs by private equity firms and the massive loss of income brought by Covid-19. As the Biden administration settles in and the process of managing our expectations over what is needed and what is possible, it is more important than ever that we root ourselves in the truth of housing as a human right. Here are twenty more films to educate, agitate, and move us towards action.

1. PUSH, The Film

2. Decade of Fire

3. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

4. Priced Out: Fifteen Years of Gentrification in Portland, Oregon

5. Land Grabbing

6. Comuna Under Construction

7. Ȟesápa: A LANDBACK Film” [first installment]

8. Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle [UK]

9. Techos y Derechos [Spanish with English subtitles]

10. We Will Not Be Moved

11. 99 Homes

12. Mobile Homes: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

13. Segregated by Design

14. What It’s Like to Be Evicted in the Middle of a Pandemic

15. Evicted

America’s eviction problem is now being described as an epidemic. Our half-hour documentary, “Evicted,” takes an in-depth look at the issue across the Kansas City metro through the lives of those most affected.

16. East Lake Meadow: A Public Housing Story

17. Human Shelter

18. Airbnb Dream Or Nightmare

19. Tenants Rise Up!: Fighting for Housing Justice in the Bay Area

20. Housing is a Human Right: Eviction Defense Workshop w/ Jamaal Bowman and Housing Justice For All

20 More Films to Wrap Your Head Around the Housing Crisis

Anger as Family Heirloom

Girl With an Angry Belly block print by Heather Squire

This post goes out to the family member who is subscribed to my blog, but is blocked on social media. When your family of origin is a primary and consistent source of pain, sometimes all you have is boundaries. I’m choosing to address their concerns after having some time to think and cool off from their own fiery aggression.

The final chapter of my book Hard Bones is an essay about neoliberalism written for an audience that does not have the benefit of the education and study necessary to take a long view of what is actually a very short period of time: the last 70 years since the end of World War 2 and the GI Bill, which helped millions of mostly white families own a home for the first time. The history of how this happened is fairly complex and difficult to communicate to the average reader lacking the scaffolding to make sense of it – I should know, I wrote part of my Master’s thesis on the topic and taught an undergrad elective based on it. As often happens on the Left, it is easy to get caught up in the pedantic review of facts and figures, losing the forest for the trees – the forest being a deep and empathic understanding of the role of white supremacy and settler colonialism in determining policy whose implications continue to unfold today in the form of neighborhood segregation (which is worse now than it was at the end of World War 2), vastly diminished Black wealth, increased vulnerability to Covid and other diseases, and a host of other hinderances to full citizenship and thriving in the Black community (extensively documented by researchers in the last 20 years). This is not new to Black, indigenous, and other people of color who have lived with that reality, but it is not part of the worldview of many white people who never had to give much thought to it. How could I make these historical facts come alive and engender empathy and solidarity?

Courage When on Fire, block print by Heather Squire

My solution was to tell a story that people could relate to, so I told part of that story using my grandparents as an example. I posted this specific fragment on my blog a few months ago:

…My Pop-pop arrived in the US at the age of four from Kingston, Jamaica aboard the ship Abangarez. He was drafted and was awarded a Silver Star at The Battle of Anzio in 1944. He returned home and got a job at the Bristol Myers Squibb factory, raising three children with my grandmother in the simple row homes near the factory. Both of my grandfathers were union members – a Teamster and a Machinist.

This is of course a vast over-simplification of my Pop-pop’s life, but I didn’t have much to go on beyond Ellis Island’s records and a few family anecdotes. Besides, this story is not about him in particular, but his generation in general. I didn’t really know him or my Mom-mom growing up because my mother declared them “worldly” and only made the hour drive to their modest retirement community a couple times a year, and only for a few hours. They both passed away when I was in high school and the only impressions I had of my Pop-pop were his dollar bill gifts, his temper, and his liberal use of the n-word. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that his Jamaican heritage was not totally that of a settler, however it was scandalous enough to merit being a family secret. One of the family anecdotes is a quote from him to his children, that they should “Tell people you are from Jamaica, Queens, not Jamaica, West Indies,” but it was always treated as an example of his sharp wit and not hard evidence that he “wasn’t fully white”. would later tell me that 2% of my DNA is connected to “Cameroon, Congo, and Western Bantu Peoples”, but that doesn’t tell me much. I’m still curious about it because the history of racialization, immigration, and identity in the Americas and the Caribbean is interesting, as is the history of “passing” in order to survive racial apartheid in the US.

The family member that this passage enraged is in possession of memories big enough to fill a book about my Pop-pop, but they are hers alone. I can confirm that the row home he purchased through the GI Bill was actually in a mixed-race working class neighborhood and that there was only a few thousand dollars worth of wealth transferred on after all the bills were paid – the granular is always more complex than the macro and if hard Bones is ever published, I will probably just yoink the whole section to avoid the proprietary concerns of my aging relatives. But the rest is an abstraction related to this collection of people I share DNA with, but who decided long ago that I was the family asshole for calling out the abuse, for escaping, for being weird, for being involved in politics, for getting tattoos, for leaving the church, for calling addiction what it is, and for not performing up to their standards of strained normalcy. But for as much therapeutic/spiritual/self-help “work” as I have done over the years to avoid turning into an angry, disassociated, and unstable person, they can rest assured that their poison still haunts me and repeats in my actions before I can even grasp it. I possess the family heirloom and intend to be buried with it alone.

Anger as Family Heirloom