Spring, summer and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition.

Mignon McLaughlin

Winter has come. Winter has come in the way I enjoy most: rough and brilliant, the world shocked. Children are in awe and adults don’t act normally; driving along you notice neighbours are standing together. They are taking a break, having helped each other shovel driveways and sidewalks.

Winter has come and we were not prepared. Aisha and I laughed, we needed shovels and wiper-blades, windshield washer fluid, and a car brush. My mum chastised me because we were truly not prepared for winter. 

We had a hilarious, truly Canadian moment when we returned from our lovely stolen trip to Stratford (K/W march was unfortunately not attended for a variety of reasons. I am really bummed and trying to figure out a way to get there anyway. Anyway) because we arrived home to a foot, or more, of snow. So, we parked across the street, clambered into our house, changed, trudged back outside with our new shovels and got at it. I wasn’t happy because I didn’t want Aisha to hurt herself; she was great though, cause she’s a power house and tried not to push herself too far. Anyway, we were about an hour in when we heard it: the plow. I couldn’t believe it. It absolutely re-covered the front half of our driveway with heavier, more compact, dirtier snow and the drivers behind the plow just laughed at our plight. I may have too because I am sure we looked ridiculous.  

So, as you can see, winter has truly descended. Our brief joy turned to the feeling winter gives you with its -30° wind chill and heavy snow. Only winter has the ability to cause deep-cold thoughts. 

What are these thoughts? The usual, really, just deeper. Trying to figure out social things that don’t seem to be folding into my brain easily. The connection between my thoughts? One’s obligation to be socially responsible, and what that actually looks like. Context?

There is someone I respect and enjoy my minimal interactions with but have never met. I know them in the F-world. They approached Aisha half a year ago, innocently, unknowing she was *ahem* with me. But I told them no – that was unacceptable. We established a boundary. Their response was mature, and they have become dear to both mine and Aisha’s heart. So, what are my obligations on Social MEDIA to stand up for this person? Let’s call them Sharon. I like Sharon. I have really pleasant feelings towards them: because they backed off when I asked them to. Well, Sharon, unbeknownst to them, was the focus of repeated ‘annoyance’ or uh, judging frustration. There was a group of people who really didn’t think Sharon was whatever enough to be so involved in this group. In fact, I found out they were dismissively talking about Sharon often, putting them down as if they were talking about how annoying the mud was in spring. 

Would you tell Sharon? Like, f***. It is Facebook people. But at the same time, it is Facebook. I watched a couple of powerful videos on FB today; “#OutThem”‘s conception video, a child governor who is a young butch, a home-chef making a batch of mean tortilla soup. That is what I want from social media. I don’t want to start or end my day, or have my break inundated, with casual hate. Do you know casual hate? The kind where it is ok to choose to say something rude, negative, or careless even instead of just not saying anything at all.

I do not speak up enough. And, honestly, I am kind of bad at it; I don’t get my point across, and people don’t really seem to hear me, while Aisha is amazing at speaking up. She gets huge — her voice, presence, everything feels so big. I love it. But it can also make me uncomfortable when the situation is more like an out of control Newton’s cradle than a metronome. 

Which means we have spent a lot of time discussing the character trait of ‘mediator’ versus ‘champion’ and where we personally succeed and fail in our social interactions.

Before I continue, I would like to say that I told Sharon about all of this. I did not give names, I did not describe the situation at all. I just told them that there were enough people in the group that did not seem to just accept, let alone welcome their presence and that I would want to know if it were me. Simple, straight up, and then I left the group. Because this is not the first time this has happened in the group, where I find I feel conflicted about where the lines are drawn on any given issue. The last time was a conversation/debate about anatomy that got, in my mind, way out of hand for a group that is supposed to be a like-minded, community-focused space. I recognized that I too should probably reconsider my participation if I was starting to feel affected. 

It takes a lot for me to get really bent out of shape (I think people think I am offended more often than I am) and I am an opinionated person. I am also sensitive and totally get overwhelmed, which can come out as anger or two-day-debilitating-sadness before an intellectual thought appears. 

I’m also struggling with a multi-layered thought I keep trying to re-work to steer this next part but, suffice to say, while I may choose sides, I try and stay completely bipartisan. 

So, Mediator versus Champion. Casual hate. Social obligation. Social Media. What do you think?

What is your level for tolerance these days? Winter has come, and I am reminded of the human condition. We are cruel, guys. Each group keeps saying to the ‘better’ faction of who is hurting them (women appealing to good men, gays appealing to non-threatened straights), “aren’t you tired of those ______ ruining your reputation and image?” 

I don’t know where I fit so I’ll say to everyone else – aren’t you tired of people being any kind of a-hole?

I know that the drama ensuing from telling Sharon anything means I probably made a landmine out of an ant hill. But Sharon really appreciated it. And that is who was the person unable to stand up for themselves.   

But then: Real life. How do you interact with strangers? Especially when they are important to someone important to you, but they have stepped on one of your booby-traps? They have made quick social judgments in jest, and therefore seem to be casual haters, tripping your ‘uh-oh’ vibes? Their viewpoints come from valid, socio-economic complaints and from a privileged side of frustration. I completely understand. The problem is, sometimes, there is a person sitting at the same table as you who could be the person these crude jokes are about. And I didn’t say anything. My heart hurts because it was Aisha who I didn’t stand up for. She understands, and we’ve talked about it. But this joking came just after another instance where I had already made these truly lovely people uncomfortable with my polemic behavior, I didn’t have the brain-mouth coordination to stand up again.  

I’m listening to the Heart Beat playlist on Spotify as a I write this and The Greatest Speech by Moguai just came on. I appreciate music so much for these moments. 

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor.
That’s not my business.
I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone.
I should like to help everyone – if
possible” 

– The Greatest Speech

Am I asking too much? Am I asking that we ask too much of those around us because I am asking that when we feel tired, or insecure, or left out, we just say so? That we stop being ‘up in arms’ for our friends, soften our hearts and instead say, “I know you are hurting” instead of attacking whoever has slighted them? I know. I’m a terrible friend because you can’t call me to vent. I am learning to ask; do you need me to listen or talk. If you say talk, I say, talk like me, or talk like you want me to. It’s liberating but weird, I am sure. People are forced to assess their anger and indignation before I can appropriately get on board. It’s hilarious really. 

But what do we do?

— Jo

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