Recieved 13th June 2018
JVA Köln, Tuesday, 29th May 2018
Hey again friends (and our tag along post control human)! This envelope contains ten A6 “thoughts” and this letter, the sixth of seven total (for now). Prison is full of sticky emotions, the kind you sweep under the couch with the dust bunnies and hope to never see or feel again. I don’t have names for all of them, and I can’t say whether it is because I don’t know the word in English, or if English even has a word for the emotion. The ones I do know – melancholy, pensiveness, bewilderment, among others – don’t even begin to describe the range of emotions I cycle through. The common expressions are there too; sadness, rage, joy, and everything around and in between. A friend once asked me if “no” can be called an emotion, and I’m starting to feel like it should be one. The notes you will find in here detail some of the things I have been feeling and on the back of each you will find a short explanation. Emotions and opinions, at least to me, are fluid. They adapt, evolve. The ideas and thoughts expressed in the notes therefore apply to the time they were written but may have evolved in my mind and not apply now. I experience my emotions stronger here, perhaps because I have no distractions to dull them. I don’t have my usual outlets (running, talking to a friend) to work though them quickly so I soak in them, like taking a bath not a shower. I have to let them wash over me, stick to me, try what I can to peel them off. When I feel angry, it’s not a fireplace crackle with flames licking at aged timber, it’s a wildfire burning unchecked. When I’m sad, it’s not a pitter patter drizzle on a window pane, it’s a gale force wind fast becoming a hurricane. Happiness, thankfully, is the same, not gently waves lapping a quiet sea shore but a tsunami to clear the build up of other emotions. A cleanse. This is what I get from the visits, the letters, the other acts of support, of solidarity. A tsunami inside my heart every now and then. I have never felt such happiness, and I am glad it overtakes the rest. So thank you, to all of you, the support is like sunshine after a long dark winter. Thank you. What else to say? I’m glad beyond words that each of you exist. We’re trying to make the world a better place. I am still here because there is fear, in our success, our triumph. Every day we are stronger, we are braver, our support grows. The letters I have received show this, many stating they are from “normal people” who just want to tell me to stay strong, they believe in me, in you, in us. Letters of thanks, of disbelief, of hope, of inspiration for social change. They call me friends, comrade, though I am sure many I have not met (yet). This is us, an ever expanding network of unknown faces, friends to lean on without ever previously spoken a word. A worldwide support network. We are the change. I will sit here, as long as it takes, measuring the days as an expression of the fear of the state. Don’t be discouraged my dear friends, whether we have met is irrelevant. Our hearts beat the same. We are fighting the same fight. We are the change. Today is day seventy one. I have no date for trial. I have no idea what is happening, how long I will be here for. Another week perhaps, or two, or three. Sometime though I will go free. I can’t wait to see you all, but until then I will write. This is letter six of seven, so there’s a few more things to say from me. I love you, I miss you, stay strong, stay brave, stay wild. Hugs and rage, <3 UPIII
Coat of Negativity. Thoughts. 14/5/18 After talking to someone about an upsetting or difficult topic, it can feel as though you have put on a jacket which someone has tied bags of something heavy to. Try as you might, the heavy and pressing feeling won’t go away. This is one reason self care is super good because it can help slowly slip off the jacket and separate your emotions from those of others. You don’t need to (for the sake of your mental well being) carry the emotions of other people as well as you own. It is too much. Please learn to let go if you feel the jacket on your shoulders, you’re carrying enough. Note 28/5/18: I wrote this one because I always felt heavy after talking to a particular person, maybe like I was carrying them on my shoulders. (Mostly, at the time, I wrote these for myself.) When I got back to my cell after the conversations with this person I took to meditating, and it helped a lot. I felt less heavy, less tired. There’s a picture I remember about depression that has a person sitting up, legs straight on the floor, with a cacoon like casing behind them, covered in slug – like slime, like a butterfly breaking out. It’s an accurate description of how I felt after mediating some days. For anyone who needs to hear it today, you don’t need to carry the world on your shoulders, you are already carrying enough.
Touchstones… Thoughts. 14/5/18 … are an abject(s) (some possible examples in the bottom corner) that is used to “ground” a person and cheer them up. Small objects that you can carry with you are especially good so you can pull them out when needed. Gifts from friends and family are usually a favourite to use as a touchstone as they are a reminder that someone cares/loves/misses you. A touchstone – especially if you find yourself cut off from friends and family – is a great idea to have to stay strong and look forward to seeing them again. Note 28/5/18: This one reminds me of something an old teacher of mine spoke about. As port of a project we had to “ground” ourselves in an object, an idea. I didn’t make good use of a touchstone in this context, but I find it very useful here. I have a jacket I haven’t washed, I should have by now but I can’t bring myself to because it is the only thing I have left of the forest, the smell of the mud, smoke, tofu, real smells. Smells of a place I want to go back to and, if I can, call home. Then there are letters, slowly more and more, from so many people. Photos of the forest, seventeen from a visit. A tattoo, for a family member, who has a matching on them. A jumper, from my best friend back home. A pencil case, from a friend who went free. So many. Things to look forward to, people who miss me and I miss them.
Repressed things. Thoughts. 14/5/18 There is one of these in most of our heads, that place we hide the memories of us saying/doing something we didn’t mean (among other things) that, when we remember them, all we want is to push it away and hide from it, like it never happened. What if we forgave ourselves for what happened? We didn’t mean it, why can’t we let it go? Why do we insist on making our existence harder and more painful than it already is? Do we feel we need to suffer forever for one moment we (or someone else) caused ourselves pain/confusion/hurt/other? We can forgive others, why can’t we forgive ourselves? We aren’t the same person in the memory, we have grown since then, do we deserve to keep suffering for a past event we won’t repeat again? Note 28/5/18: I felt super guilty this day, still do. There’s a lot in my head I don’t want to go near, that makes me want to run away. Maybe that’s why I like to be active, to run, because it feels like I’m getting away. I need to stop running. A lot of people here ask me about what it’s like to climb up to a treehouse, but thinking about it makes me wince. For several weeks I couldn’t even think of the forest, there was so much guilt, sometimes it’s still difficult. I smile at my friends here and say climbing is wonderful, which it was in the good memories I have, but one always overshadows them. Guilt like a punch, just like that day. Then getting caught, the inconvenience of it all. Taking up time, visits and letters, and whatever else I don’t see. It feels like I’m guilty for just being alive, for existing. I am so sorry for all my wrongs, I’m going to try and stop running. I hope you can stop feeling like you need to run sometimes too.
Personal space bubbles. Thoughts. 15/5/18 Some people like a lot of personal space (according to several studies, especially those from “country” areas as they are used to more space) and some very little (the studies suggest more commonly “city” dwellers as they are more used to invasions of space and are more allowing of it therefore). If someone feels you are invading their bubble they may step back or lean backwards in an attempt to regain their space. It is important to notice this as it can be incredibly uncomfortable to ask someone to move back/give space, this goes for touching too (hugs for example, please always ask!) as some people are very opposed to being touched. However well intentioned, it can be very distressing to be/feel invaded. By nature, personal space bubbles are very fluid and adaptable to different circumstances, for example, bubbles tend to be smaller around close friends than strangers. Allowances are made during rush hour on public transport. If in doubt, ask, and really pay attention to the reaction (some people don’t like to say “no”). It is super important to make sure everyone is comfortable and be aware when they are not. Note 28/5/18: The only people I let come near me and make physical contact are those I hold great respect and affection for. I also don’t like being crowded, it makes my skin crawl. Here, everyone touches you. Some people cling to me even, and I have to bite my tongue because they don’t understand when I explain. It’s like country to city, I have to allow the invasion. I don’t have a way to say “please, give me space” (super polite, because I really think “back off”). For example, showering. I have zero issues with nudity or someone talking to me while undressing but if you invade my bubble I will get annoyed. Naked or not, I don’t want to be touched, not by someone I don’t know. Cool in theory, doesn’t work in practice here. My body belongs to the state, as does everyone in an issue of Slingshot I got sent about creating another victim to make the victim feel better about being a victim. It is very real in prison. Victimize to feel less of a victim.
Forgiveness. Thoughts. 15/5/18 You are not obligated to forgive just because someone said sorry. Some things take time to forgive, some things you may never forgive. Both are okay. Some people only say sorry to clear their conscience – they deliberately wronged you and try to play the victim if you don’t forgive them. Even if they did wrong by you by accident it doesn’t mean you have to forgive. Sometimes, it is very difficult to forgive, sometimes it is easy. In an effort to see whether forgiveness (of them, of yourself) might be possible in some situations try and understand why the action occurred. Maybe they didn’t know better (still your choice to forgive or not), maybe they did. It is easier sometimes not to forgive, but it is very worthwhile trying to understand. Maybe if we understood more, we could forgive (or not) more. Note 28/5/18: TRIGGER WARING: ABUSE Over the last few years I have been subjected to a lot of abuse. Some done by people who didn’t know the effect their actions would have, others deliberating who would immediately (or shortly after) apologize and have an excuse of some sort ready, and I was a “bad person” if I didn’t forgive them. “A lot” I think is a subjective term, perhaps just “abuse” is better. It happened, I got over it, I’m at peace. Some people I forgave, the victim looking to victimize, I tried to help, and if it happened again there was no excuse. Benefit of the doubt. The abuser, another victim. I tried to understand, to think why, were they a victim too? Benefit of the doubt, and then no excuse. Sometimes no excuse or benefit of the doubt. I haven’t forgiven all of those I can think of, I might never forgive them. I’m at peace with it.
Understanding why. Thoughts. 15/5/18 We are all a product of our upbringing and our choices are informed by this upbringing combined with our unique and complex experiences of our surroundings. This also determines our reactions to other choices. However, when someone makes a certain choice/reacts a certain way we can be quick to forget that their background may be wildly different to ours which is why they chose/reacted that way. For example, if you learnt someone stole something, what do you think of them? What if you were then told it was a loaf of bread because they were hungry? Does it change your perspective when you know why an action was committed? It doesn’t excuse the choice/reaction every time, but it is very eye opening to think about why. Is there a way to help, if the why is something to do with a bad past experience? Can you change the reason why, or will it be the reason forever? People use “isms” as a why, can we change this? Can we question our own whys? Note 28/5/18: TRIGGER WARNING: ABUSE Some people abused me because they didn’t know better. Like Britney Spears giving her child whiskey to quit them, because it’s what her mum did to her. She didn’t know, but she worked on it and got better, learnt better. People use racism, sexism, speciesism even though we know we feel the same. Reification, someones appearance tells you how to treat them, or some totally meaningless thing that has been reified to have meaning. Money is colourful paper. Passports let you pass imaginary borders, also colourful paper. Question the things around you, the people. Extent your empathy, compassion. Some people don’t know better, that isn’t their fault. If you didn’t know something that is not your fault. But you can learn. You can know NOW. Explore, ask, question everything.
Self care – what does it look like? Thoughts. 15/5/18 We’ve all seen those posts, “take time to self care!” with an image of blanket, movie and/or hot chocolate. This is one example but is not the only form of self care. Self care is how you look after your well being (in all its forms). Too scared to make a phone call or pay a bill? Self care could be calling a friend to help, so the stress can be taken away and you can feel better. Some making you feel uncomfortable? Self care could be removing them (not attending events they are at) or yourself (going home or to a safe space without them) from the situation. It is a good idea to share self care ideas with the people around you as some of their strategies might help you, or some of yours might help them. Self care is not necessarily just a personal effort, as mentioned friends can form a very vital part. Having a bad mental health day? See if a friend might be able to help, even just to talk about it. When someone opens the door and says “actually, I might need help” it helps others to do the same. Please support your friends, and let them do the same to you. Note 28/5/18: I get super annoyed at the emphasis on “face mask” self care. “You need to buy this thing to help you look after yourself, that you actually don’t need, just so you can add to your financial stress.” That’s not self care, that’s marketing. The best thing I’ve done was to ask a close friend for a visit, “I really need a friend right now”. She does the same to me now, 2am calls, “I just need to talk”. We talk about how we look after ourselves, exchange ideas. Then we opened the door to more friends. “It’s okay to ask, I’m always here.” Sometimes I find a small thing in my day to call about, so maybe the call about small things, and then maybe big things. Small steps, making sure my friends don’t feel guilty asking for my time. I will always have time. This is my favourite self care, talking it out. Stay safe friends.
Accepting Love and Support. Thoughts. 15/5/18 Some people are quick to give and/or accept kindness from others, while some people may (sometimes for a very long time) be unable to give, express and/or accept that others care about them. Both are okay. It is okay not to feel as much as other people, or to feel more. Both are valid. In both situations though it is important not to lie about how you feel as it is very likely to hurt others (which may be a reason some people are slow to express that they care for others). It can be hard telling someone you care about them and receive silence in reply, so it is a good idea to express care for someone (“I love you”) in a way that doesn’t invite obligation and is open to rejection. Silence sucks. Obligation sucks. Rejection sucks. It happens and we need to be honest about it, with ourselves and others. If you care for someone be prepared for rejection and be patient. These things take time. Note 28/5/18: I’ll be the first to admit I’m not very good at accepting love. I’ll give love, in massive amounts, but I don’t know how I feel about being on the receiving end. I don’t want to lead people on, there are so many kinds of love. Friends, family, new romance, old romance, the list goes on. I don’t want my friendly “I love you” to be takes as a romantic “I love you” when I’m not ready. When I tell people I love them, that top level “friend-becomes-family” love, I mean it with every part of me, and I say it so you can hear it, not because I want to hear it back. I say it because I want you to know. Like a present on a birthday for you, and you can say “thank you” if you want to. “I love you” so I will support you, be there, whatever you need, always, heart open and arms wide. So, my dear Hambi family, I love you, no matter your thoughts on me. Every single one of you is important. See you soon.
Obligation. Thoughts. 15/5/18 It would be really swell if we could crush this idea of obligation. “Person loves me, I am obligated to love them”. No you are not, you can choose (or should be able to) whether you want to reciprocate their attention. “They are family, I am obligated.” - No. Family, blood related or no, should not ever make you do something that has the ability to compromise your well being. Obligation is frustrating. You should have the freedom to do things because you want to, not because someone (a person, the state, capitalism, take your pick) has told you you have to. Obligated to go to university so you can work for the rest of your life in a shitty job you hate with every fibre of your being so you can afford toilet paper? Five plus years of study for a (cheap) piece of paper with the words “congratulations for completing your capitalist obligation”? Can we end this idea of obligation please? It’s about time we start doing things because we want to, not out of obligation. Note 28/5/18: TRIGGER WARNING: MENTAL HEALTH I use the term “family” for those I see as people who support me, welcome me, listen to me, respect me and my choices. Close friends, “family”. I went to get my education to make some of my surroundings happy, “you have to so you can get a job.” My mental health was in the toilet. The solution? A locked psych ward. Prison feels like a holiday in comparison. I’m really okay, at times happy, joyful even. I have no stress here. No obligation. I have a lot of choice, to say yes or no to activities. I’m trapped but I feel free.
That feeling that you need to explain “no”. Thoughts. 14/5/18 When saying “no” it can feel like you owe a follow up “because...” as some people feel you owe them an explanation as to why you said no. You owe NO ONE an explanation. Don’t feel like it today? Cool. It makes you feel uncomfortable? No one should ask why you said no. You have EVERY right to say no. If they don’t leave room for a no, it’s not a “yes” because they didn’t let you say no explanation or not. Your right to say no (with no explanation) should ALWAYS be respected. You DO NOT need to explain your choices. Anyone who expects an explanation may need to be explained this. Note 28/5/18: “Why didn’t you come and see me today?” I didn’t feel like it. “Why?” Because I didn’t feel like it. “Why?” Because. I. Didn’t. Feel. Like. It. Stop. Asking. I hate feeling like I have to explain why I don’t want to do something or said no. Can I not just say no? Surely that is enough. If I want to explain I will. Sometimes I don’t get to say no, when people invade my bubble. That’s not an “it’s okay” because where was the choice? My wrist is starting to get sore from writing, I don’t think I had anything else to say anyway. Thats it for this envelope, I hope you receive the others too. REGARDS/Love and rage, UPIII <3