(no subject)

This last year I’ve been doing a lot of volunteer work. A *lot* of it. Like, up to 20 hours a week of it.

First, there’s the harm reduction stuff. It’s getting a lot of traction, we have support from some agencies with budgets, and we attended 8 events this season. This is an 800% increase on previous years, and gives us enough data to do something really interesting with, both academically and politically. This is awesome, but it’s also a lot of work. There isn’t just the data and the writing up to deal with, there’s the setting up of an entity that allows the work to scale, collating all our support into a single point of contact, developing processes and induction for our volunteer base, advocacy work, and furthering the long term strategy (changing the law).

The cool thing about this work is that without fail, everyone who finds out about it is positive. People go out of their way to tell me how great they think it is, how much they admire what we’re doing, and how wonderful they think we are for our efforts. It’s very validating. I mean, I’m sure there are people who disagree with what we’re doing and I’m seeking them out so that we can assess how to approach changing their minds – but in my experience, the response has been universally positive and supportive.

Contrast this with my other volunteer work, for Kiwiburn. When I took it on I said I’d do it for three years and I have. It’s been a productive three years for the event, starting with a restructure and continuing with the development of process and job related paperwork (not a lot of which existed prior and which has felt a lot like pulling teeth since nobody’s keen to spend their vollie time writing process documentation). Last year was particularly tough with a review by NZ’s state health and safety agency, a mass exodus of Operations volunteers and replacing them, and a number of unprecedented spanners-in-the-works that required delicate handling and weren’t ever going to have a friendly outcome for me personally. And then there was the bit where in order to have an event at all, we had to have a volunteer drive, 3 days into which the Volunteer Coordinator quit and I’ve been doing that ever since too. On top of Chairing the ExCom which mostly involves trying to facilitate a group of opinionated people to some kind of constructive consensus on some really tough decisions, again and again and again. Essentially, I worked my arse off for Kiwiburn last year.

All of which added up to – well, not a lot tbh. We do get thanked, on occasion. Some of us who work on the main decision-making committee make a point of thanking each other occasionally, because, well, if we didn’t then it just wouldn’t happen. I can count the times I’ve been thanked by the Kiwiburn community for my work this year on one hand. Mostly they complain about the decisions we make, tell us we are power hungry and hypocritical, accuse us of being corrupt (which is probably ironically funny since KB is a not-for-profit and nobody gets paid but oddly enough it still hurts when people say it), and make suggestions that involve doing anything except what we actually did. People seem to forget that those who volunteer to organise Kiwiburn are community members who simply care enough about it to donate their time throughout the year. I’m not sure why they think we do it, but I can say with conviction that it’s not:

- money
- power
- validation
- appreciation

Because we don't get those. Anyway, I’m stepping down from Kiwiburn on 31 March. We’ve almost finished voting in a new Chair, I’ve got some applications to replace me as Volunteer Coordinator, and I’m considering dropping the Cleanup Manager role too because I really struggled watching my friends drive away and leave me behind after the event this year, and because despite asking multiple times I still haven’t had an update from the landowner as to whether we did a good job or not. Frustrating and saddening is not what I want in a volunteer job.

Basically, I’m over it. And while I’ll work up until the day I finish because I said I would, the ongoing struggle to turn opinions into cohesive action is increasingly a chore. I ended yesterday feeling like no matter how hard I try my work for Kiwiburn will never be appreciated and I’ll never be good enough. Then I thought about the slew of communications I have received in support of the harm reduction work, the positive media we’re receiving, and the way I feel as if I’m making real change in the world through my work and people are appreciating it, and I realised it’s another no brainer.

I would love to be the person who turned Kiwiburn into a great environment to volunteer in, but I think that’s up to other people. I hope they do better, I hope the work we did supports the new team to have time to work on feelgood exercises and morale. Meanwhile I’ll be over here, doing something that actually makes me feel good about myself.

Tats’ Year of Being Selfish, underway.

We got married! At Kiwiburn!

Sort of, anyway.  Our celebrant got his certification just before the event and we decided that the paperwork was too much stress to get done in the time we had, so we had the ceremony anyway and will do the paperwork later.  We had a sort-of official photographer (a friend who is a photographer who agreed to take some pics for us).

It was a burner wedding, the vows included such words as 'hot as fuck' and 'entropic heat death of the universe' and everyone said we were adorable*.  It was very sunny so there was a lot of squinting.

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If you're not from New Zealand, have a listen to this and tell  me if you can understand any of it.

(it's mostly in English)

Here is a picture

Of me displaying the grace and poise for which I am known...

This was taken during the photoshoot I did back in December.  I still don't have the final shots but as you can see I'm sure I will look like an elegant queen in them.. *cough*

Photo by Brett Stanley (http://brettstanleyphoto.com/)

Meanwhile, Kiwiburn is just under a week away and I have almost all the costume stuff done.  And the props.  So naturally now I'm having brainwaves about things that will take just over a week to make.  *ahem*

I'm back on holiday after taking on a 4-day contract last week because I'm a filthy capitalist.  I could get used to this sporadic working thing.  Just to make sure I don't, I'll be spending the next month doing almost nothing but volunteer harm reduction work at festivals.  It's normal for me to lose about 5 kilos over the summer, but I usually only go to one event. I have three more before I'm done and I may just fade away to nothing.  This is why I haven't made my wedding dress yet - I have no idea what size I'll be by March.

On the upside, I wrote my vows today. Weddings are weird.  I hope I don't fart.  But if I do, I know at least one person will find it funny and that's one of the many reasons I'm marrying him.

Tats Year of Being Selfish

Sometime over the Christmas period, the realisation dawned on me that I've been subordinating my needs for the sake of peace/getting along/being liked for a very long time.  Not in every way - I have no qualms defending my views on drugs, feminism, human rights, politics etc.  And if someone has a go at me I'll generally defend myself.

But for things that don't really matter, things like deciding where and when to eat in a group, asking for what I want, and putting my own needs before those of other people, I've been a bit hopeless.  We are all taught from an early age that people won't like you if you're selfish, but I think Mini-Tats may have taken this admonishment a little too literally.  As a kid I  was constantly struggling with big emotions in a world where any emotions are frowned on, and moving from place to place all the time trying to make new friends (but never having to keep them long term because hey, we'll move again soon), and generally just wanting a set of rules I could abide by for emotional safety.  Turned out that being low key and easy going and non-demaning and never prioritising my own personal wants and needs over those of others worked quite well for Mini Tats.

Now I'm a grownup and subordinating my needs leads to resentment of people I love, who are actually often unaware of the extent to which I've told myself that what I want is the easiest thing to let slide for the sake of having friends. And I've realised that actually, I matter.  What I want is important, if only to me, and I am the best advocate for my own needs.  I will be a happier person if I do put my wants and need forward for consideration sometimes.  And true friends are not going to ditch me for saying that actually I'd like my needs and wants to be prioritised.  But in order for them to prioritise them and thus make me feel like I matter, I have to express them first.

So I've decided to make a conscious effort to recognise when I'm shoving what I want aside to avoid being 'selfish', and to attempt to advocate for myself.  Hopefully gently and thoughfully, but since I find it so hard, to start with it'll probably mostly be aggressively.

Oh look, my navel has lint in it.

Anyway, I think I'm doing ok so far.

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The other area in which I've decided to push myself forward more is harm reduction.  I've been working at it for 9 years and it's starting to take off (mostly because of my work) and people with more resources and status are becoming involved and I am probably going to have to fight to stay in the conversation.  Happy has been saying for a while that I should be considering how to make sure I get credit for the work I've done, and I think it's time to start listening to him.

Be assertive not aggressive.  How does that work again?

(no subject)

Today I lifted my bulbs and put them away for the summer.

Bulbs are really easy but they are also an exercise in delayed gratification. In summer I dig them up and store them away because otherwise they rot in the ground. They live in a box in the shed for four months and in April or early May I plant them. Then it's another four months before they do anything but then it gets really pretty for the next two months when there are no other flowers around and it's worth it.

Also I planted these.  They are so bright my camera can't handle them and they makie me happy:

I like the way gardening (and farming when I get the opportunity) has a rhythm that you have to work with, it facilitates a kind of thinking that I reckon is good for you.

Dark post - sorry to the new people

I have been advocating for drug law reform since 2008. If anyone is interested in why, here is a post I wrote when I made the decision to do it (with bonus NIN lyrics).

In the last couple of years, my focus has been on pill testing/substance checking at events as a way of reducing the harms associated with drug use. It's pretty simple - in an illegal market there is no real quality control and people are not able to know for certain when they ingest something that it is actually what it's supposed to be. We use chemical reagents or infrared spectroscopy to tell people what's in their sample and they can then make an informed decision about how they treat that substance.

I can say with conviction and also with the data to back it, that users of drugs make sensible choices when they have information about what their drugs actually are.

This is what I was doing over New Years, with the help of some friends who are passionate enough to risk being arrested alongside me. I can tell you exactly how many people were able to avoid ingesting something that wasn't what it was supposed to be because of us. How many people who might have died, but didn't.

I will be telling the authorities that.

I can also tell you that if I told you the name of the event, they could be shut down because the law makes them criminals as soon as they admit they know people use drugs at their event.

So providing harm reduction services is essentially illegal. To avoid legal risk they are supposed to turn a blind eye and let people risk death. This is stupid and wrong and there is absolutely no logical reason why we should allow this ridiculous situation to continue.

I will be telling the authorities that too. It won't be the first time.

When we got back into internet range, the first email I opened had news of a good friend and a member of our harm reduction crew, who has been struggling with mental health and addiction problems for several years. I had known he was in a relapse cycle, and over the holidays he took a deliberate overdose of a legal substance and now he is going to die.

There is a lot that can be said about the inability of people with mental health and problematic drug use issues to get the help they need, about the artificial stigma associated with drug use that means users are criminalised instead of helped, about how support agencies are underfunded, about how problematic drug use is most strongly correlated with trauma and social isolation and how our law exacerbates that in the most vulnerable people and the stigma makes them feel even more alone. But you're smart enough to figure that out for yourself, right?

My friend has a heart bigger than Texas. He wanted to expand on our testing service and set up a project that looks after people who are having difficult experiences with drugs. He wanted to use his own struggle to benefit others because he knows what it's like to struggle alone, and he wanted to provide the emotional support that is so lacking for people with problems in this society.

Now, he can't, and he'll never be able to, and I place the blame for a lot of that squarely at the feet of those who continue to perpetuate the stigma around drug use and made him feel so alone in his struggle.

I will be telling the authorities that too. They are doing it wrong and people I love are getting hurt because of it. No more.