This is my response to a few things today. NOPE.

Nope #1:

Explain to a stranger (albeit a reasonable one) on the internet how I am “actively challenging oppressive structures” in order to capital-A-advocate for PoCs after I just explained how I live my life and the humanitarian projects I am involved in. NOPE. The world is a damn big tent with plenty of problems to go around and we can’t all be capital-A advocates for everyone. Work your strengths, your connections, your opportunities and work to make the world better how you are particularly situated to help. Unless you are prepared to lay out your comprehensive plan to counter oppressive structures of the guardianship system for women in Saudi Arabia AND your plan for eliminating FGM AND your plan for making sure that women have access to safe and effective birth control AND your plan to stop blight in trees AND your plan to stop extinction of the black rhino AND… Do your thing and let other people do theirs.

Work together wherever you can but stop demanding that everyone have a plan for everything because then no one ends up having an effective plan for anything.

Be advocates for as many things as you can that you think are good and worthwhile, but only be an “A”dvocate for the things that you are able to dedicate yourself to & please stop expecting me to have the same level of dedicated activism in the areas that you are working on. It doesn’t mean I’m not concerned, don’t care, or am not making a strong effort to understand and/or make a difference. (Because I VERY strongly care about issues that people of color face in my own country and others.)

Nope #2:

Ask me to trust & resume a relationship with someone who just broke trust in a major way without explanation or resolution. NOPE. Actions have consequences and when we really screw up badly we don’t get to expect that other people will give us an immediate redo. This is not a video game. Fix your issues and try again later. A lot later. (P.S. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a fun film to watch with the kids & includes 3 lives.)

Nope #3:

This heat in California right now. Seriously. The state is on fire again.

A Blow to the Heart

I’ve been MIA again. I’ve been working to support an atheist in danger in another country for several months and it’s been long, arduous and stressful. But just when it seemed that we reached a point where real progress could be made – he was safe – something really terrible happened.

Instead of using the money I sent him to secure his new apartment, he used it all to purchase a ticket back to his own country from which we’d spent months trying to safely extricate him. To make matters worse, he apparently intends to kill himself.

There’s nothing I can do to help. Angry. Infuriated. Devastated. Sad. Done. (The image I chose for this post fairly accurately portrays how I feel when I allow myself to think about the situation.)

I don’t regret my attempts to assist. I don’t regret getting to know him. But I’m sad. I’m tired. And I hope he uses whatever remains of the money to try to live. No one asks to be suicidal, and it is a pit of despair.

I’ve learned a lot recently, about what refugees and asylum-seekers (not just for religious reasons) face in terms of mental health challenges. Sometimes we think it’s just a matter of money and options. But the truth is that it’s more complicated than that.

Sometimes people can’t accept, or even see, the options in front of them, even when they are plain as day to outsiders. That is the insidious nature of depression. It takes away your choices – makes them unrecognizable.

There is no threshold level of pain or “bad enough” you must meet in order to ask for help in improving your mental health. (I finally learned that about six years ago.) But in many places there is no way to get help, even for people who might be willing.

My friend Yasmine started an organization for this very reason. The need for this hit home today when I realized what was happening with my friend – because he has become a friend over the past few months.

Free Hearts Free Minds caters to Ex-Muslim atheists who are isolated in their own countries. The organization provides a series of six FREE life coaching sessions. please check it out and if it’s something that seems worthwhile to you, they never have enough money to cover the requests so they happily accept one time donations and monthly support.

This was a discouraging and painful experience and it may become much more painful as I wait to see if he lives or not. It hurts to have trust broken when you’ve poured your heart and soul into helping. But it isn’t going to stop me. I’ll just be a bit more guarded, a bit more cynical. But I think it’s always worth trying to help, even when we can’t control the outcome. Compassion is what makes us human.

P.S. The organization I listed is just one way you could consider helping. (Please take a moment to click through and read about it though. Here it is again.)

P.P.S. Giving money was a calculated risk. I say calculated because I’d spoken with him almost daily for months I have developed a good level of trust, for good reason. But desperation changes the equation.