Proving a Negative

or, “Another Long Post I Don’t Expect Many to Read.”

Obviously I post here infrequently at best to begin with, but in case anyone feels like they’ve noticed a decline in my posting anywhere else (I feel like there has been a decline, but who even knows anymore besides The Algorithm), I thought I’d write something here as, I suppose, some version of an update. So…

Selfie of me, a white woman with long, dyed black hair and glasses, with my hand up as if I'm waving. My expression is neutral.
Hello.

Since May 2021, I:

  • became fully vaccinated for COVID-19
  • got a new car
  • got a new cat
  • lost my grandfather, the first grandparent and immediate family member of mine to die
  • finished another book cycle at work
  • somewhat-inadvertently worked my way off of the antidepressant that I started taking last year
  • spent some valuable time with my mother and siblings
  • had a cousin come visit me at home for a week after a two-year [physical] separation
  • flew on a plane (sooner than I would’ve cared for in a pandemic, but I didn’t freak out, so I’ll take it)

While it might not apply to all of those items, I feel like these last few months are taking on a theme of “transition,” and I confess that I welcome the change, undefined as much of any change for me might be.

I mean for this post to be about before May 2021, though. As the “subtitle” suggests, this is longer than most people probably will want to read, but it is my website and I am my own editor on it, and I have told plenty of you that I happen to really like the nineteenth-century writing style of “Let’s see how many commas, adjectives, and clauses we can fit in one sentence,” so I invite you to deal with it.


It’s been what I would call a pretty “internal” year and change for me, which sounds like a quarantine joke but isn’t—I’ve actually been going to the office two days a week for most of the pandemic, and I picked up Pokemon GO again, so the amount of time I’ve spent exclusively in my house isn’t the same as a lot of people I know. I mean “internal” emotionally and mentally.

I’ve wanted to explain why I’ve been so quiet, why I’ve been so flaky, why I haven’t checked in on people I normally would have, why I haven’t finished my conversation with you, why my phone says I have 79 “unread” text messages and probably a dozen more on Facebook Messenger as I type this, why I’m “mad,” why I’m doing anything that I’m doing that might seem amiss or concerning. I haven’t been able to get the words right and doubt I will this time either, but hopefully it’ll be better than nothing.

This post can’t cover everything, but it can cover a little of what has consistently dominated my thoughts and energy and affected my participation in many areas of my life and that I have wanted people to understand a little better.

***

About two weeks before lockdown in Massachusetts began, I requested a referral to behavioral health to explore the possibility of my having ADHD. When I had my initial appointment in April (on the phone, of course), I burst into tears pretty much immediately and was ultimately prescribed aforementioned antidepressant. It helped some. In July, I was finally tested and diagnosed with ADHD—inattentive type—and was apparently supposed to receive a list of recommendations but didn’t until almost a year later. In the meantime, though, we continued tinkering with med combos and, among other adjustments, I began the extremely frustrating process of recontextualizing my entire life heretofore with this information about myself.

I was a lot angrier than I expected. Self-condemning diary entries from middle school, consolatory notes from friends in high school, discouraging experiences in my professional and academic performance, countless memories of the last three decades, continuously revolving as I revisited just how much shame and disappointment in myself I’ve felt for being incompetent, inconsistent, without discipline, and apparently unwilling or uncaring enough to correct any of it. The symptoms have been there if anyone had known what to look for (for example, I made an entire website about my inability to focus long enough on anything to finish it), but no one did. I know why most people didn’t and in general can’t blame them, but that doesn’t give eight-year-old me, twelve-year-old me, twenty-year-old me, twenty-eight-year-old me any of the grace, support, and understanding I needed when I needed it, and twenty-nine-/thirty-year-old me has had to grieve those things for all of “us.”

There’s plenty of other unique-to-me baggage attached to receiving this particular diagnosis, but even accounting for that, I’ve tried to keep this piece of myself relatively close to the chest for reasons I haven’t totally teased out yet. Working through internalized ableism is one of them, and another is that this process has taken up significant portions of my time and energy without the extra element of other people, and it makes me, who was voted “Worst Case of Narcolepsy” for my senior superlative, even more tired than usual. I’ve tried to prioritize rest in this regard.

***

In my sophomore year of college, I wrote an essay about how my position on most issues was, at that point, “firmly on the fence.” In my memory, it was essentially a piece about how hard I’ve tried to see “both sides” and recognize the value of opposing arguments, opposing personalities, what have you, at the expense of my having any real position on anything and how apprehensive I was about the sustainability of this approach to virtually everything and what the consequences would be if/when I got off on any side of any of the various fences I was occupying.

If you can believe it, I have more clarity on my beliefs at thirty years old than I did at nineteen years old, and my fence occupation is probably at an all-time low at present. Still, some of my fears at nineteen proved valid, and my last post here on Non Finito Spaghetti, “My White Friends and Family, Please Read This,” got the reception I somewhat expected but somehow still hoped would be different. I asked for research into white privilege and the history of racism in this country and got paraphrased Google results about how “free Black people had also owned slaves” that, true as they might be, felt a lot less like “I’m understanding the role my race has had on my life in this country” and more like “I refuse to acknowledge my race or any role it has served in my life because, see, look at these Black people who did the same thing white people did” as if the relatively small number of Black enslavers could really compare to the centuries of enslavement in the Americas that overwhelmingly benefited and still benefits white people, especially in the US. I got people who I knew agreed with me already replying encouragingly to me and radio silence from most of those who I most desperately hoped would hear me.

It could have been much worse, of course. But the initial and persisting feeling is that people aren’t willing to listen to me the same way I’ve tried to listen to them. I can’t say there was no naivety at play, but I had tried to brace myself for this possibility the best I could, and it hurt anyway.

A lot of why I’d put so much energy in the past into not committing to anything is because I love people, deeply, and at risk of plagiarizing Anne Frank, I did and do believe that pretty much everyone is earnestly trying to do their best and is trying to do good, even if the result is not good or if I just disagree. I hoped my efforts would model empathy and self-reflection for those who might not be as naturally inclined to them, and I thought my [self-perceived] clear and consistent attempts at understanding people would maybe add some weight to anything I did feel strongly enough about to pick a side on. “Conceited,” “self-aware,” “un-self-aware,” I don’t really know or care what people would want to call that perspective from me, but I hoped all of it would amount to me being more than doormat.

All this to say that there are people in my life who, whether they’ve rebranded it for themselves as something like “meritocracy” or they know it for what it is, have communicated in varied ways that they support existing systematic oppression, especially racially but in plenty of other ways as well, and I’ve needed to figure out what to do about it for myself. That weight I’d hoped I had in my favor feels like it was a hope and nothing more, and I’ve tried to keep trying by way of random impromptu essays Facebook comments on posts where it seemed like there was an opportunity to engage meaningfully, but writing these random impromptu essays comments takes a lot of time, especially with the multiple revisions I make to remove as much charged/confrontational/”emotional” language as I can, so far doesn’t seem to get much of anywhere with anyone, are on posts that half the time get deleted anyway because of what I commented (or get me blocked, in at least one case), and I admit to my patience being shorter than usual these days and my time being more precious to me.

And I haven’t been a paragon of mediation even when it’s the core of my problem-solving approach. I make incorrect judgements on people’s motivations and don’t always offer the necessary patience to listen to someone I’m not understanding long enough to understand them. I owe people apologies right now and haven’t made them. I can’t pretend I didn’t have the built-in escape route from making wrong decisions in mind as a protective measure—you can’t make the wrong decision if you don’t make a decision, right? I do try to keep my nobler motivations the most in focus, though, to guide my actions as much as possible.

I know I can’t save the world or change the mind of anyone, really, let alone “enough” people. I try not to take it personally; I know it all goes deeper than the impact of any of my individual actions and that a lot of the things I want “fixed” aren’t “for” or about or because of me, but it very much hammers home how little influence I have at the moment for making anything better, which doesn’t exactly feel good either. I don’t feel like I’m much closer to an answer about what to do than I felt I was a year ago, so, barring Facebook comments, I’ve been keeping my distance from a lot of people while I work on it, whether they are the people challenging me most on this or are not.

***

Not unrelated to the above is the apparent and stunning descent into conspiracy theories and religious and political extremism that people in my life have made in the last year and the impact of that descent, keeping a barrier up in what in many cases were already difficult relationships for me and adding a barrier in relationships that weren’t as difficult prior. I don’t need or want to get too into any of this particular feature of the pandemic for me, but as far as the title of this post, it has a fair bit to do with the impossible task of convincing people who’ve already decided they believe in something made up that it is made up because it is impossible to… prove a negative.

***

So that’s the summarized bulk of the, I guess, personal developments since roughly March 2020 that I’m willing to put on the internet; now they’re in one place, which is perhaps convenient if I’ve talked to you about bits and pieces here and there or haven’t talked to you about any of it. This is an imperfect post—I miss feeling like I wrote well and feeling like I communicated well—but if “Perfection is the enemy of the good” hasn’t defined my last three or thirty years, I don’t know what has, so I’m publishing this because we’re going on a week since I started it and I need to move on. If you made it this far, here are pictures of my cats as compensation for your time:

Samhain, a goofus
Strife, a doofus

Or maybe Strife is the goofus and Samhain is the doofus. I don’t really remember.

Love y’all.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Proving a Negative

  1. Beulh

    Love you so much, Jerrika! Just wish life were simple – it’s not. 😒❤

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