"To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom" -Socrates
I have recently come to realize how very true it is that people who are not willing to see, admit, or deal with their own dysfunction actually believe that they do not live with any. More importantly, they are often under the wildly mistaken impression that those of us who are willing to speak openly and vulnerably about our own issues are just either a) abnormally broken; b) self-pitying whiners; c) attention seeking, or d) all of the above. So deeply repressed and insecure are these folks about their own neuroses that they actually believe they have none. If people like this didn’t make life so difficult and painful for people like me, their repression would make me really sad for them.
As I’ve gotten older, I have less and less time for people who live this way; who treat me like there is something wrong with me just because yes, I’m willing to openly admit that there’s something wrong with me. Newsflash! There is something wrong with each one of us. Read it again! There is something wrong with every single one of us.
This world is fucked up on about 1,000 different levels. And the world stays fucked up, in large part, because of those of us who refuse to see, admit, or deal with our own unique — and our culturally created -- fucked-up-ness. Speaking openly and vulnerably about the difficult truth of being human is not the cause of the fucked-up-ness, it is the cure. Pretending perfection does not make us perfect, it makes us rigid and repressed. Hating folks like me because of our willingness to speak vulnerably and openly about the difficult truth of being human is not a strength, it is a debilitating weakness. A staunch unwillingness to see ourselves — warts and all — restricts our own growth and thus thwarts the growth of the other folks for whom we are responsible. It keeps all of us small and stupid and mean. This mean repression is not unique to white folks (though in my experience, white women do corner the market on this) but it IS a symptom of white supremacy and the myth of perfectionism.
My whole life’s work — both personally and professionally — has been and remains about liberation from oppressive, abusive systems. This liberation is not possible when we can’t see, admit or deal with the ways in which we collude and are complicit with these systems’ expectations of us, especially regarding our treatment of others. (Another newsflash! The Patriarchy WANTS white women to talk shit about each other behind our backs. When we engage in this behavior, patriarchy is winning.)
I’m not saying that in order to be involved in the project of personal evolution and liberation from abusive systems, every person has to be publicly writing or publicly open about their dysfunctions and disorders. In addition to my liberatory work, I am also a writer, a poet and, in general, an expressive creative. So, yes, I write openly and publicly about my shit. Lots of us do. Other folks who write publicly about their issues have changed and saved my life on many occasions. But knowing oneself and being vulnerable and open about our particular issues does not require this public level of expression. It does, however, require honest and open interpersonal communication which requires just as much — if not more— courage. It also requires compassion, humility, critical thinking, and a profound love for oneself and humanity.
I hope those of us stuck in this place of false bravado and perfectionism, might start to bravely face our own problems and insecurities. Our liberation is bound up in one another’s. So, for all our sake’s, I hope there comes a day when we can all truly know ourselves and tell ourselves and those closest to us, the truth about who we are. I have faith that this will help lead to a future in which we are less consumed with our judgement of how other folks live their lives and more focused on freeing ourselves from our own debilitating arrogance and repression.
About JodiAnn Stevenson
JodiAnn Stevenson lives in the U.S., in the Northwest Corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, on The Big Lake. Her writing has appeared in numerous venues since 1996. She is the author of three published chapbooks of poetry: The Procedure (March Street Press, 2006); Houses Don’t Float (Habernicht Press, 2010); and Diving Headlong Into A Cliff of Our Own Delusion (Saucebox, 2011). Her mixed-genre work Marina Abramovic Is My Mother is available in the form of a short-run podcast. She has also produced eight chapbooks of poetry for The Broken Nose Collective which she co-founded in 2013. JodiAnn was founder and co-managing editor of the feminist micro-press, Binge Press and its sister journal, 27 rue de fleures, from 2004 until 2017.
A (more or less) complete list of publications and appearances: