The catfish and the earthquake.

When it comes to change-agents vs. builders, I think ideally, people are capable of being a bit of both.

Of course, different personalities lend themselves to being better at one attribute than the other, finding that balance like everything in life. The idea of tearing things down to their foundation stresses me out at times, but that is because I find myself to be a builder. And I have regrets about that immediate inclination to live with the framework and build within it rather than taking time to step back and see the entire purpose of things. And whether the space leaves enough people to grow, breathe, and live healthily and freely.

I used to have this friend. We were very similar type thinkers except she wanted to instigate change all of the time. I found it difficult to relate, still grasping with how things exist and how we can build something great based on the present foundation. Also, I feared the change she wanted to bring. How it could hurt people, how it was not thinking of people subjectively and how that might impact their lives. In retrospect, that is pretty weak-sounding. When you think about some of the most important change that has happened across the world. But you gotta be aware of the importance of having buy-in. You need support. The structure won’t allow for recklessness. It can’t when too many people live within it.

Ultimately, I struggled with her ethics at times. As trivial as it was, I worried about the aftermath and whether everyone was going to be okay. I worried about individuals. She saw things differently than I did. We agreed on compassion and empathy but maybe she had more faith in the strength of others.

And when she asked: Didn’t I want things to change. I thought: Yes. Of course I did. But not in the way that she was trying to instigate it because I believed in the current framework of goals and motives and felt there was only a partial toxic-ness that could be compartmentalized. I didn’t think the whole thing needed to be ripped apart. We can compartmentalize and sometimes that’s the best thing to do. Other times, we build around flaws and mistakes which will end up coming back to haunt you eventually. There is an error in learning to make-do with one’s current situation.

And how long does it take for you to see outside of yourself? And, can you see how it might be damaged?

She had a tattoo of a catfish along the length of her arm because there is a folk story in Japan (heritage on her mum’s side) that a god must hold this catfish still beneath the earth. Because if it gets loose, it will wriggle and cause an earthquake. It destroyed villages. Here is one version of the folk story but I’m sure it was retold again and again in different ways.

The catfish, the destruction, and the need to recreate things.

In some indigenous theory, especially indigenous feminist theory, I read about builders and it primarily being a “feminine” quality, which I always hate to read about. Because I hate gendering community and action. And I hate the masculinization of action and change. Especially how that takes form in politics and struggle and protests and the like.

If I have to be honest, I don’t like that I am playing to a stereotype. As I said in the beginning, it’s so important to balance these traits of change-making and building so that at the end of the day, you can be a part of it in a meaningful way. There is a fine line between change-makers and shit-disturbers and most of it has to do with whether you’re going to stick around to help make things better. But then I wonder if that is even necessary anymore. I think about those who need change, like really need it in areas of  their life. Do they believe that.

And maybe that is one of my issues with influencing change or the challenge I have with trying to not cause damage around me, the people in my life, or my inherent environment. To suck it up and take it. To worry about others and their space to live more than I concern myself with my own. To make due within the current structure, building a smaller space for myself to feel okay in. Rather than restructure the whole formation of everything despite the consequences.

My friend and I were quite similar but I had her on a pedestal when we first met because i thought she was amazing and insightful and a good leader. Eventually, I saw her as more of a peer but it took time. And it’s not good to have friends on pedestals because it can end up hurting you due to one’s unconscious expectations of them or misunderstandings of what they are capable of. 

For the longest time I’ve considered being a builder or a connector, as such a strength of mine. I do think there’s a lot of value in it. A lot of community building that is necessary for things to run well. But sometimes I find I lean too hard on it. And I wonder whether it’s actually just a fear of things falling apart. Maybe sometimes it is and how difficult it is to see a broken structure that you’re trying to repair that will eventually cave in on itself. It doesn’t matter how good you are at building. You can’t beat mistakes and flaws and cracks in the foundation. Even if it’s half-dilapidated… how hard it is to live within. How un-ideal, or difficult, or make-shift. How difficult to breathe or feel like you can really be and feel and act like you really want to.

She was an avid sailer, with big plans to one day live on a boat. Things happened, we grew apart. We don’t talk. I understand distance. 

On Friday, I had a dream of her. It was dark out and it was raining. She was standing on her sailboat and I was standing on the dock looking up at her. She had long hair, and it was whipping past her face as she held onto some ropes and moved along the vessel. She told me that although change is scary, it’s better for things to be unpredictable. And although it would be difficult, it was better to live for impermanence than expected sameness. In the dream, the waves started to get bigger around the boat and it started to rock harder in the water. There was thunder and lightening in the sky. And we both laughed, because in real life, our laughter could shake the earth. 

I can’t remember if I climbed up onto the boat before I woke up but I would like to think I did. 


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