The inside of a copper bracelet etched with "Always give a damn, never give a fuck."

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Every weekday, I drive to work and scan radio stations until I find something worth filling the air for the next one to three minutes. Sometimes it feels like a bit of a magic 8-ball or a tarot card: what is the vibe for today, o radio oracle?

Today it was a good one. Under Pressure by Bowie and Queen. The initial suspense — is this Ice Ice Baby? I would be thrilled with that, too, to be clear, but it’s never Ice Ice Baby.

This is our last dance
This is ourselves

Under pressure

I like the concept of one-word resolutions for the year ahead, but I can’t tell you what any of my past ones were. I’ve tried to thrive and to nourish and to be emblematic of a number of other growth-oriented words, but after the last couple of years, I think I need to go back a step or two.

Parenting a neurodivergent kid in a world that is hostile is hard; having a household that operates differently from “normal” is hard. That’s not blame or shame; the existence of these things isn’t hard intrinsically, the people aren’t hard, but the world around us can be hard because difference means having to fight for things people don’t understand unless they’ve been right where you are.

Some of those challenges are internal — comparison to others, wishing for an easy button, imagining other paths instead of working with what I have… that’s on me. Some of it is very external; it’s ableism, human rights failures, and ignorance, both willful and incidental.

If only we’d set boundaries, take away their comforts, do a parenting course
Our children are traumatised and nobody cares
Put them into therapy to overcome themselves
Take a break, have a cup of tea and grow a spine
How will they survive the real world?

Stop making it so bloody hard for them in the first place
THIS is the real world

We Bring Our Children Home, Kristy Forbes

The external saps my capacity to re-frame the internal and life becomes a cycle of hypervigilance-crisis-recovery. It often feels like I’m running full tilt at just keeping things somewhat together, and there’s no time or energy or ME left for joy while being fully aware that our somewhat-together isn’t nearly together enough to pass societal muster if I’m looking at us from the outside in.

So. To thrive is to heal. But to heal is to put my fight behind the things that matter — dealing with the expectations, accountability and actions that are legitimately worth the fight versus trying to put out the fires of self-inflicted pressure.

I tried to find a word that exemplifies letting go of what weighs one down while actively seeking restoration where it needs to be sought, and I’m going with unburden. I want to feel light and see and celebrate the magic around me. I know I need to unburden myself from the things that actually don’t matter so I have the capacity for the things that really do. I am tired of caring what the outside looking in thinks, wants or says.

I want to put my own faith behind my own self and know that I am doing what I need to do even when I’d rather be doing something — anything — else.

(I do think the bracelet I got myself in the summer of 2020 after a really awful time sums this all up better, though. I got it after an intense period of lighting myself on fire, metaphorically, to keep people warm, as a clearly-not-heeded reminder that not everything is worth self-immolation: Always give a damn, never give a fuck.)

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