The Final Embolism: Introduction

I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been light on Facebook and non-existent on Twitter. I’ve stayed home. I’ve worked. I’ve fixed up my house. I’ve binge watched GoT, Westworld and documentaries. I’ve been un-social (I figure antisocial probably requires more energy than I’ve got.)


Because I could not see the point.

Even as I write this, I’m arguing with that internal voice that teases, “There is no point.”

At times, I have been prolific. When depression strikes, I lose my words. It’s like there’s a slow leak and as I have ideas, thoughts, they leak out. There’s no permanence to them.

This was not like that.

Why I don’t write is a close cousin to why I do write.

It is not just because it’s a cheesy pun that I named this blog Heather Emmebolisms. I put some thought in to it. An embolism is a sort of blockage. When it is there, things cannot flow as they should. In writing, my goal was to free ideas that were on loop in my brain; to share my ideas and make space for something new. I shared these words, many based on my experiences as a female-appearing, queer, mentally ill, formerly-homeless abuse survivor, in what I am coming to see as a naively optimistic faith in the power of human empathy.

I think I believed, if I could explain my experiences well enough and pair it with an attempt at fair-minded analysis and understanding of the paths of others, that what I wrote would be an entry point.

When I was young, reading wasn’t just my escape. It was a tool toward understanding others. I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley and I changed. I read Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell and I changed. Heck, I read Lettin’ It All Hang Out: An Autobiography by RuPaul and I changed. Their openness to share their experiences made me more empathetic, more tuned in, more open.

Perhaps there was some hubris in the idea that I could reach people. But more-so, there was hope. There was a hope that the things other humans had done to me would not be so pointless if I could pull them out, lay them raw and use them. It lent them a purpose.

That was, in large part, why I wrote. Ego and altruism as bedfellows.

Then, then, then.

Then I saw that we rarely change. We wear the trappings of change, but we just shift and shuffle and slide, right, left, center. We sink until we choke on it and then we claw out and breathe air and say never again and sink.

As a little child, I knew my grandparents had lived in Germany during the second world war. My grandmother had been a child and my grandfather a young adult. My grandfather, who had been an intellectual and musical young man, never spoke of it. We knew not to mention it. My grandmother spoke of it rarely and I will not tell her stories here, but I will say there was a thread of easy horror to them. An air of inevitability about the ways we are able to hurt each other. Perhaps that is why my family found religion. It is easier to think that devils make us into sinners than that cruelty is, for some, a default setting. For some. For most. For all? I don’t mean sneering, b-movie cruelty. I mean passive cruelty. The passive cruelty that lets us exist every day without calculating the cost. We are creatures of a thousand small daily cruelties.

In my writing, I assumed we participated in these cruelties because we did not know better and because to live such a thoroughly examined life would be exhausting. I suppose I trusted that, as more voices were heard, we would see change. I felt hope. I felt hope as the Catholic Church was called out for their institutionalized abuse of children. I felt hope when high profile rape cases were called in to court and, finally, when the voices of 50 women were enough to appear to sway public opinion. I felt hope when the rights of marriage were extended somewhat and love was not viewed so narrowly. I felt hope when BLM and Idle No More stood in the path of passive and active cruelties and said no more.

But then, there have always been people crushed under cruelty who have fought right up to the edges of change. We dance this dance on constant repeat.

What has this to do with why I have not written?

It’s complicated.

I was a part of a family and they were a part of this dance. Over 20 years ago, I left that family. I had been thoroughly destroyed. I had been rendered elemental. I was storm and noise and danger. Still, I kept tendrils to my past. Umbilical cords of contact. They were, again, that hubristic hope. I hoped that if I were something enough (good, eloquent, consistent, demanding, damaged) that through those tendrils some sustenance would come.

While the hope was vague, there were elements that remained consistent. In my hopeful narrative, the man who sexually assaulted me when I was a child would be held culpable. As the police had not responded when I made my report, then it fell on my family to take action. It fell to them to say, we believe. It fell to them to elect to include me in a way that did not require me to share space with my assailant. It fell to them to make amends. It fell to them to assure the safety of the vulnerable people in their community.

And I was ready. I stood on tiptoes peeking in to their lives. I sent out signals, lit with fire. I assured myself that change took time.

Change does not take time. Change does not take.

Perhaps the capacity for change makes one more likely have someone victimize them. After all, what is survival, resilience, but a capacity to change. And when our ability to survive and mutate meets up with this inability to give, even a little, to save us suffering at their hands, we break because they cannot.

I’ve gone offside.

Or perhaps I haven’t. It’s this cognitive stubbornness that stilled my words.

I watched people give Rob Ford pass after pass after pass – enough people to elect him. This was a man who hurt women, insulted people based on their culture and acted, all around, like a vicious buffoon. I tried to understand why people voted for him. I analyzed it. I wrote about it. I avoided landing at the simplest answer.

Cruelty is easy.

Cruelty is so fucking easy.

Then I saw it again with The American. How many passes he was given. I gave up thinking, “This will be the one that turns people away…” far sooner than many.

It all came colliding together at once. How much energy compassion and empathy take. How short we fall, even when we try. How easy it is to be cruel. How thorough the lies we tell ourselves are.

I knew my family would not change. I surrendered to it. I knew that famous and powerful abusers would not see reprisal that matched the impact of their crimes, if they saw any at all. I expected it and I was not disappointed. I knew I would still participate in a thousand passive cruelties. I found my hope turned sour in my mouth. We do not change. We are like a die where, on occasion, a high number is face up, but we are always the same die. We always re-roll.

This is the final embolism. I will release it over several posts, like chapters. Here I will clear out the last blockages. Not in the hopes of reaching anyone, but because I still have some small hope: I hope that when I let it all out, I will again find myself full of words, even if it is in a new place, with a new name.

I hope I will want to write again. I hope I will re-find hope.