• Sigrid Ellis

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    Sigrid Ellis is co-editor of the Hugo-nominated Queers Dig Time Lords and Chicks Dig Comics anthologies. She edits the best-selling Pretty Deadly from Image Comics. She is the flash-fiction editor of Queers Destroy Science Fiction, from Lightspeed Press. She edited the Hugo-nominated Apex Magazine for 2014. She lives with her partner, their two homeschooled children, her partner’s boyfriend, and a host of vertebrate and invertebrate pets in Saint Paul, MN.
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    June 2017
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June 14 2017

I’m not who I was, seven months ago.

I care more now than I did then. I care more about people I know, people I’ve never met. I care about politics both large and small.

I read the news every single day, the BBC, the New York Times, Vox, the Washington Post, the Pioneer Press, Twitter, Tumblr. I take in all this information about the world and the people in it, and I care.

It’s painful. It’s enraging. It’s exhausting. It hurts, a lot, to care to helplessly.

*

When my kids were infants, I discovered I could no longer watch new horror movies. I could watch the ones I’d see before I had kids, those were still fine. But I could not watch any new horror movies. You see, instead of identifying with the protagonist, or even the victims, I imagined myself in the place of the grieving parents. Confused, afraid, uncertain how it was that their lives had come to this point of watching the morgue attendant unzip the heavy bag containing meat that used to be their child.

I couldn’t do it. I would burst into loud, snotty, sobbing tears.

When my children were infants I would find myself crying in the shower, probably partially from exhaustion, but also because my heart had left the safety of my body and was now sitting out in the world, raw and exposed to every passing harm. There was so little I could do to protect them, to protect my heart. Loving things, loving people, it sucks sometimes. It’s full of uncertainty and fear and helplessness and it just hurts.

*

When I was a young adult I was surprised to find that the world still existed. I had grown up knowing — not fearing, but just knowing — that the world would end in nuclear nightmare long before I had a chance to be an adult. I was not worried about this anymore than I was worried about the heat death of the universe. It was bad, sure, but simply beyond my control. No sense getting worked up about it.

After the Cold War ended, though, I began to realize that there were other bad things in the world worth my time and attention. I sort of tried caring about a few of them, but I always backed away from real, genuine involvement. I went to Pride, I voted, but I never volunteered time or money to making change in the world. I always told myself it was because I was too busy, and other people were doing the work anyway, and most problems weren’t going to be solved by me in the first place.

Those reasons were lies.

I lied to myself because caring about people or things was and is painful, and I did not like feeling hurt.

*

Since November 9th, 2016, I have not been able to stop caring.

It’s not a lot of fun, all this caring. I am frequently just angry, in my head, all day, every day. It’s an anger composed of seeing the harm done in the world, by action and inaction, and seeing other people refuse to do what is needed to stop the harm. The anger comes from helplessness, from knowing I do not single-handedly have the power to effect change, and begging other people to do what is needed. Sometimes they do it. Sometimes not.

I am furious that GoFundMe and YouCaring are becoming major sources of health care funding, when as a nation we have the capacity to provide for everyone. I am furious that the money that could save 24 million lives is instead being handed to the very richest people in our country.

I am furious that my country is refusing to accept the Paris Climate Accord, the small, self-generated promise to start trying to work on reducing human contributions to climate change. I am furious at the condemnation of the future, of my children and grandchildren, for the sake of some spurious concerns about making money.

I am furious that law enforcement organizations, including border patrol, are welcoming open members of white nationalist organizations into their midst. I am furious at the continued cultural insistence that black people are inherently monstrous and thus deserve to die at the hands of fearful police.

I am helplessly, furiously angry that I cannot do more, give more, be more for those in need. Every plea for funding that I can’t contribute to makes me angry. Every recalcitrant member of Congress in another constituency who I cannot call makes me angry. Every jury who lets another uniformed murderer go free makes me angry. Every municipal budget passed that cuts funding for arts, science, and education makes me angry.

Caring about things hurts, y’all. I really don’t enjoy it.

*

But I like who I am. I like that I will be able to look back on myself from some future time and say, yeah, I did my best. I like that my kids are seeing me call Congress, seeing me donate money and goods to those who need it, seeing me go to some marches and rallies.

I hear people say, “I just can’t care too much about what’s going on right now,” and I get it. But that’s not me here in 2017. I seem to have started caring, and it’s not really going away. Not yet.

I’m not who I was last November. This new, caring, me isn’t always happy about the state of the world, and that is frustrating as hell. But I am happier about being me.

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