Cages DTLA: A Review

Currently in its preview stage, Cages by Woolf and the Wondershow is an experience that’s hard to explain because it offers so much. The general story, for those being invited into the world Anhedonia, is that its citizens aren’t allowed to feel their feelings. It’s a dark, grey scale world where everyone’s hearts are locked away in cages. And I’m sure, you can imagine where the story goes from there, but I assure you it’s so much more than getting from this point A to the obvious point B. It’s not going to even remotely go the way you expect it to.

Promotion: I’m surprised with how minimal the promotion seems for such an intricate production. There’s a couple trailers, my friend and I listened to what music we could find by Woolf and the Wondershow before attending, and I read a couple of reviews that carefully dodged spoilers, (example from No Proscenium). It seems like the kind of thing you wander into, you let it pull you in until you can’t stop thinking about it. I know it’s in preview mode, but… the experience of walking up to where the show is very much felt like a descent into something otherworldly. That’s the level of thoughtfulness that carries through the entire experience, so this polar opposite of “in your face” promotion lends itself to a sort of sense of discovery.

Music: Whatever you can find of Woolf and the Wondershow on various platforms will barely prepare you for the evolution of their sound in this show. My body is actually aching for the soundtrack to be released. Aching, do you hear me? The weaving of so many different genres to create this almost 3D auditory experience had me in tears and sitting for the majority of the show in open mouth awe. Listening to each song feels like they’re teaching you a whole new way to feel your body and inviting you to rediscover all the things you have missed in your life outside this venue. Haunting melodies…no, you know what, I can do better than that. Each melody coaxes your attention through a mastery of dynamics, seeps into your bones with a reassurance that you are safe but you are going to feel something profound, and reminds you of the sweet spot between deep engulfing bass and delicate touches of notes where music can become a breathtaking experience.

And I still feel like this underselling it…

A Visual Feast: From the moment you step inside the doors all the way to the end of the show, there’s so much to look at and explore. Wherever your gaze lands, there is something happening, something changing. Curious, hungry minds are greatly rewarded here.

What the show accomplishes in using every single resource at its disposal is extremely pleasing to the mind in terms of timing, artistry, and storytelling. Nothing is just there, everything serves a purpose to enhance the depth of the story. I’m upset that blinking is a thing humans have to do because I walked out of there feeling like I missed half the show for it. Down to the costumes, the perfect combination of color scheme and texture sold you on the dystopian vibe while still subtly capitalizing on the hidden beauty of this place.  It seems to be the kind of experience that the more you go, the more you find.

 

Immersion: Keep your head up and your mind open and you’ll be dizzy with delight. From the charming bartenders who prepare your drinks with a elegant flourish to the cast members walking through the crowd with the attitude required to not get sent to the Emotional Correction Facility to the very space itself, with its apparent careful precision of the placement of each room; my friend and I wanted to live there. I’m leaving a lot out because even a single detail would demand more to be revealed and it’s so good to go and just experience it fully without a lot of introduction.

I walked into Cages with my heart feeling a little beat up and my soul a little too weary for words and left feeling like my heart had been stitched back together and my soul lighter than its been in a long time. I’ll be honest, I was worried the love story aspect of this was going to be sticky sweet, but it wasn’t. The show is very aware of itself and doesn’t overdo anything as it explores the balance between formulaic experiences meeting emotional discoveries. It’s poignant, inspiring, funny at times, and it’s obvious a great deal of heart went into this.

And I can’t wait to visit it again.

Tickets are available at https://www.cagesdtla.com/ . There is also a waitlist for free tickets. In between now and you seeing the show you can stalk obsess follow Woolf and the Wondershow on Instagram, YouTube, and Spotify, as well as catch glimpses of the show through Cages very own Instagram.

Until next time,

Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

RE: 5 Things Wrong With Goth Subculture Right Now

Rebel Market’s Cherish Marasigan wrote a piece called 5 Things Wrong with Goth Subculture and I’m going to take a red pen to this casual call out.

Dear Cherish Marasigan,

1 . Exclusionism You find issue with the distinction of what is and isn’t goth, as if the word standards doesn’t exist. Specifically with goth fashion, which if you don’t know, has a rich intense history.  “A simple black dress can be goth paired with the right edgy jewelry- if the person wearing it believes it is.” Okay, edgy is so subjective that I can’t allow it to be made in an agrument against goths being critical of someone’s demands to be regaled as Goth Fashion Royalty (TM).  Also, “if the person believes it is” is so ripe for controversy as it doesn’t lend anything of substance to the defense of simple aesthetic choices, that I’m almost speechless by its weakness. But you used the word “exclusionism” so what I’m guessing you really have issue with is superficial fashion choices not being given the same amount of credit as actually identifying with larger parts of the scene. 

Credit being credibility by way of authenticity, of course. A lot of actual goths have been ridiculed, ostracized, and many still have to conform to more conventional fashion ensembles for their livelihoods. So, you’ll have to forgive them, if they are disheartened by jersey knit material, simple cuts and smokey eye shadow being herald as the trend of the century when not a single goddamn goth has ever gotten ready for something in under an hour or more importantly, every single one of them has been harassed in some way for their expression.

Fashion is great and wonderful, but there is so much more to it for goth than wearing a costume to “express our deep dark sadness”. It’s communicative on a level that we borrow from post punk, it demands innovation with its steadfast DIY on some level and how we express our uniqueness, and it’s something goths labor for. So, yeah, we take issue with the watered down version being held up as the most genuine thing. We take issue with fashionistas wanting to be celebrated as goth queens when they don’t participate in any other way in the community.

2. No Lifestyle- While I don’t disagree with what you said, it’s phrased in a confusing way. Your other comments directly address the goth community as we generally see it now. Here, you turn to address the fashionistas a moment ago you were defending…. who’s side are you on? Where is your editor?

Because if you think goth does not have a lifestyle right now, right here, right this second….You might be doing it wrong….

3. Bad Public Image- “I don’t need to tell Goths that the public alternates between laughing at you and accusing you of Satanism or violence.”

The public laughing at you- More often than not, when alternative communities get an opportunity to be featured on a larger platform it is usually to be trotted out as an example of something juvenile, inadequate and unattractive. It’s usually mocking, seeing as a lot of those examples can be pulled from reality tv shows that feature a transformation out of their alternative lifestyle in some way. You know what helps with that? Featuring goths on your own platform as actual people and not brow beating them down back into the stereotypes that we’ve all collectively outgrown one way or another. Your comments here serve as support for that idea far more than it does to cancel it out.

And currently, there is far more evidence in mainstream media to suggest that the public is trying to borrow from goth in a lot of ways, Pale Waves and their aesthetic for example.

Satanism or violence- Why would you conflate Satanism and violence? I just want to know. Where have goths been violent? Why is being a Satanist something to be accused of? I genuinely want to know because relying on the misconstrued connotation of Satanism of your supposed target audience is weak writing and ignorant.

I ask again, where is your editor?

4. Unhappiness-If you think about it, no other group on earth intentionally projects unhappiness like Goths…Goths can do a tremendous amount to change this oversimplified image of Goths by, for example, being kind and accessible to others and creating funny Goth memes or upbeat videos.”

I actually had to take a deep breath here because this is telling. There are actually loads of content that do exactly that, but you’re not going to see them cruising through the suggested videos. Anyone who creates in the social media part of goth knows that you still have to hunt for those things because they don’t get as much engagement. You should know that, and I think you do in some way because you chose to write a more anger inducing post that you knew would get shared and not one that would celebrate the things you love about goth.

Furthermore, there are two sides to the idea of “projecting unhapiness”. One, is that goths, in their artistic endeavors, try to not shy away from the darker sides of life. Those darker sides being mourning, death, and grotesque imagery and metaphors. It is through their art they come terms with the most futile parts of being human and make their way full circle to a full appreciation of life. Second is the therapeutic effect of not feeling a demand to hide things like depression, suicidal ideation, things that “disfigure” us to the non goth world, and things that hurt us internally. Goth provides a space for healing and growth in ways that are unrivaled. So I would ask you to shift your perspective of goth from superficial consumerism where you benefit to one of understanding for the much larger picture of what we do around here.

5. “Why haven’t we seen anything new in goth” 

I want my time back for reading through everything else to end on this grotesquely, lack luster list of suggestions for directions for goth fashion to take. Primarily, goth has once again been featured in multiple runway fashion shows….I don’t know if I should really be doing your work for you, but Charles Jeffrey, Yohji Yamamoto, and Commes des Garcons all pulled from the collective bounty of goth resources for inspiration in their lines for this year….

I see this a lot whenever there is an out cry for “newness” in Goth. I assure you there are loads of new things being thrown into the culture but their success largely depends on people like you and me writing about it and sharing it as far as we can. And the goth way is generally if you don’t see something you like fucking make it with your own two hands. I take issue with your unwillingness to truly search for those things as if they should be conveniently laying around in a top 10 list somewhere as demonstrations of innovation are often criticized long before they are glorified.

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(left to right) Charles Jeffrey, Yohji Yamamoto, and Commes des Garcons Photo Credit: Vogue

The 5 Actual Things Wrong with Goth Subculture-

  1. “I shouldn’t have to work for it”- I think social media and its slot machine user interface have led us into a comfortable passive interaction with goth culture. I do see it changing though as more people are trying to present themselves as curators and authorities of sorts to the goth community despite its awkward format on social media. Do I think it’s perfect? No. But I do think it’s a step in the right direction as people remember we, as members of the goth community, are responsible for championing our interpretations of goth and sharing that depth we mention so often with some actual awareness.
  2.  Bigotry- let’s not lie, in the last several years some unsavory bullshit snuck into the scene and tried to establish a foothold here. If there is any idea that needs to be challenged by goths it is that we remotely tolerate that nonsense. While I’ve seen pushback against those who would espouse such negative sentiments, the association between goth and white only, goth and high level femininity, and the approach of “We don’t support it but we’re not going to challenge it.” when faced with opportunity to say something are still quite prevalent.
  3. The Loss of the Artist- as goth has become more accessible to mainstream outlets for whatever reason, there has also been a sharp decline in the respect for the artists who contribute to the scene. Whether it be in craftsmanship “Oh I’ll just find it on eBay”, music and attendance of live shows, or down to the events and what contributions are made to make those events awesome, such as djs, visuals and decorations. Do not take these things for granted because they won’t always be there and losing a club night or a space is heartbreaking for goths. (RIP Monte Cristo. I’m still friends with all the people you introduced me too. ToT)
  4. Entitlement- With the influx of really fresh blood or superficial baby bats, they brought with them this ridiculous demand for seats at the table with no effort. They don’t show up to events, or if they do they harass the djs “play something I can dance too”, they shop exclusively at brands known for stealing from small artists (which is the greatest fucking sin of all time btw), and they look down their nose or side eye every actual goth in the building. I’m not saying they should worship slavishly at the altar of goth gods, but I am saying checking the attitude at the door would make their interactions here a lot more enjoyable.
  5. Not creating content out of fear of not being liked- this one breaks my heart the hardest. Bring your weird storytelling, your curious, adventurous spirit and your creativity to the forefront. You are going to be awkward and clumsy at first, WE ALL FUCKING WERE, but you are going to learn and grow, and refine your strange brand of goth. If people don’t like that you don’t focus on fashion and clothing hauls, I say fuck ’em, because I’m sick of clothing haul videos. Tell me what you love about goth, tell me the weird way you took to get here, your first club, your favorite horror story, your most prized memento mori. TELL ME. I promise you, you do not have to do like it the fashionistas to be someone here. 

Until next time,

Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

You’re Not Impossible to Love

You are not too broken to be loved.

I think it’s great that you have this beautiful, romantic ideal of how you want to be loved and you deserve it. This ultimate full body experience of being loved and you should write it down and keep it close by so you don’t forget you deserve that kind of love.

I struggle with it myself. I’ve tried to live as if though “love” isn’t necessary in my life, remind myself that maybe those were just the cards I was dealt and that’s fine. But I don’t think anyone who loves me would be happy with me thinking that and it wouldn’t set a good example for people like me who do, in fact, need love.

You should remember there are different kinds of love. It isn’t just friend and lover, and you can define these different types with the people, you know, you’re involved with. So I don’t think it’s truly useful to write the things down you want in a lover per say, but how you want to be loved.

To me, it’s remembering that being social is still hard for me, so when I show up I hope it means something a little more than nothing. It’s in “tell me when you get home” texts and “good mornings” and “good nights” especially in “just thinking of you”. It’s in giving me space at odd times when I ask for it or squeezing my hand when you lead me through an event.

Love is felt in hugs that matter, not touching my hair, realizing we’re about to be too drunk for a glass each so we share a glass of wine. It’s you simply liking posts because you want to know that I know you saw it. When we go for late night drives with the music blasting, no conversation, it’s definitely hidden in “thank you for being patient” and less so in “I’m sorry I’m bothering you”.

It’s in disagreeing and arguing to reshape our weird ideologies we came up with as children and never had truly challenged until now, in stern talking to’s and gentler “are you okay”s. “Where are you going, who with, do you have your phone, when will you be back, call me if you need someone. No, look at me, call me if anything happens.” It’s in answering the question I asked and not the one you wanted to answer.

And I think it’s also important to know how you will love…especially if you didn’t listen and wrote about your ideal sexy partner. It’s fine.

I love like an inferno. I’m loud so I can rattle the very bones of your insecurities back into nothingness and strike fear into the contorted heart of your self loathing. I’m not always present, for obvious reasons, but I’ll show up when you need me, when you think no one else will come. I’ll be front and center, rallying like no other because I love you.

I love that my love is a heavy thing and my trust is almost impossible to earn. It’s heavy so even in the darkest moments you can never say no one loves you because you will know that I do. I could write pep talks for days that will last you weeks, wrestle you for your keys with no hesitation because we’re all getting to tomorrow, I’ll wake up a whole city to find your ass after you threw away your medication. My full trust is hard won because it’s valuable. It’s mine. I treasure it and so should the people who want it.

My love has short comings, I’m not quite skilled with the little moments, I’m still too scattered and heavy to be that light. But I’ll introduce you to people I think will be good to you in ways I can’t. I can come up with plans at the drop of a hat so nothing is ever truly impossible. I can hug you like it’s the most important thing I’ve ever done. I’ll ask questions because I care even if it’s hard to hear answers and I’ll tell you the truth to the best of my ability.

Is love supposed to hurt? I think it can be like a weird ache, like when you exercise after you haven’t exercised in a long time. It feels good but it’s achy, a little too unfamiliar, which means you’ve got to do it more. Not throw it all at one person who isn’t receptive, but to strangers with a helping hand, into little compliments to your friends, buying someone coffee. There are a handful of people I love with like my whole body, they check all the boxes: I’m safe, I trust them, we’re equally happy in our relationship. Sometimes, I think I love them too much because I get so excited I tire myself out quickly. (I have a liiiiittle body, and BIG emotions.)

But I think with any kind of love you find, there shouldn’t be this definitive list of “right” answers, or one is at the mercy of the other, even with BDSM (it’s supposed to hurt in a good way). Love in all its forms should empower you, especially when you’re in a dark place, it should be a guiding light out. It should mend all the broken thoughts of being unlovable into ways you fall in love with yourself. It should give you strength to ask questions that build trust and bring you closer to the person you want to be and the person/people you’d like to be with.

If you’ve got the awareness and the spoons, you can also write down how you need to improve being loving. Like I should being more of an active listener and demonstrating the respect people show me when they give me their time. (Been a little too space cadet lat-look a cat!) I should shake this weird possessive vibe I’ve got both in my life and my behavior, for so many reasons (it’s a 3/10, when I would like it to be a 1ish). Off the top of my head? If I really believe everyone should be friends with my friends, I need to leave a little more space for them to go build those relationships because that’s being a good friend. Let the unicorn friend be the unicorn friend. I need to ask better questions to build stronger trust with people, and probably share this post with people I want a loving relationship with. I could also relinquish the death grip I’ve got on my boundaries. They shouldn’t be concrete walls with no way in, they should be there but welcoming to those who deserve it.

And to myself, babe I could really work on giving myself a break every now and then and just introducing water and like I don’t know, a carrot to my diet.

You are NOT unlovable. You might just be in a place in your life where you need a little extra love. You might just be realizing that you’ve surrounded yourself with people you don’t check any of the boxes which is fine or finer still, with people who only check the boxes right now. You might not even know how you would like to be loved yet and that’s okay too.

17 year old me did not know any of this and even 24 year old me didn’t know half of this. I didn’t know how to receive love (sometimes I still don’t), how to show love, or even desire to be loved. But get this, the world isn’t the harsh black and white, loved or unloved place. I wasn’t unlovable, look at that list. Do you see those places for growth? For an entirely new version of myself to spring up that knows how to receive love, how to show love, and even EVEN desire to be loved? Because that’s how we got here!

You are going to make mistakes, you are going to bite the wrong hands, you are going to need to be loved in a unique way until you are strong enough to love on your own, and it’s not impossible. It’s not impossible and I am proof. It’s going to take some work, some truly heavy lifting but just like exercising, it’s going to get easier. It’s going to get easier and you are going to be so good at loving and being loved.

Until next time,

Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

Hello Demons

Let’s do this. Last night I was at a 9/10 on the suicidal scale. There are some demons I haven’t addressed ever, so I need to do that now because I’m a little too close to the edge for comfort. Bear with me. We’re going in head first.

It’s useful to imagine this as a combination of the many not helpful conversations I’ve had in my life centered around suicide and being suicidal.

“Your life is so good why would you want to die?”

There is no dollar amount, no house big enough, not enough material positions, not enough “success” that will stop me from being suicidal. My suicidal ideation is not borne from what my life is lacking, although that can be a reason people become suicidal. It’s a part of me, woven into the very fiber of my being. But let’s break down the sentence anyway:

Your life- What you really mean is your view of my life, a perspective shaped by what information I’ve chosen to share with you that is subject to various degrees of absolute truth dependent on what I remember, what I choose to share, and what you remember. Memories are slippery things, my dude.

So Good- A life is a life is a life and weighing one on the scale of “bad” and “good” is a dangerous thing to do with a suicidal person. Obvious reason why you don’t want to open with that? Obviously it’s not good, something is happening and bringing this or a combination of “bad” feelings, thoughts, memories to the surface. “So good” only has a chance as working as an argument if the suicidal person holds your approval, your interpretation higher than their own interpretation and their own feelings. A chance, mind you, because some people are really good at making you think you changed their minds about ending it all just to make the conversation end.

Why would you want to die? Don’t make the suicidal person justify their suicide to you. It’s one thing to think it, feel it in your head. It’s a very different thing to start saying it out loud, essentially making the case for your own death. And if the reasoning is to help the suicidal person, really think about whether or not you’re strong enough, equipped enough to talk someone down from a ledge. (And if that makes you feel bad, there are loads of resources for how to help suicidal people.)

“I love you. Please don’t die.”/”I need you. Please don’t kill yourself in my apartment (or some variation of this.)” 

Pro-tip: There’s a good chance somewhere early in this conversation the suicidal person has expressed concern over being a burden. So…maybe don’t put the cherry on top of that feeling by centering “your help” around how inconvenient their suicide will or would be to you. What are you really saying? “Please kill yourself somewhere else.” 

“That sounds like a stretch, that’s not what I said.” This is why talking suicidal people off of ledges is a difficult job that a lot of people cannot handle. Being suicidal is like a playing chess on a tilted board. Every single thing you say is being twisted against the feeling of wanting to die. It’s a voracious thing, it’s hungry for fuel for the fire. You’re not arguing with absolutely sound rationale. And if you’re not close enough to the person to know the difference between them being present in their own mind and when they are on the edge, staring into the abyss, you are not equipped to confront them at their suicidal state. 

“Geez, this sounds like a lot of work. Like maybe I’m not right for them.”

Listen. I get it. But there’s no telling when you’ll encounter another suicidal person and/or be the only one to help them. So the reasonable solution is not run away and avoid all suicidal people, but rather try and learn a different way to help people so you are better equipped to actually help them. 

Let’s focus on this being “too much work” part. Before you go, I have some questions. How do you demonstrate listening to someone? Is the focus of the conversation on them or you? Are you being dismissive? Are you checking for something you’re doing that is contributing to their suicidal state? Are you asking them what’s wrong? Are you asking how you can help? Are you doing anything other than seeing this as an inconvenience to you? 

“So how do I help someone who is suicidal?”

Here’s what helps me and my relationships: I always tell people at the beginning of the relationship that I’m suicidal and I have severe social anxiety (leaning on the OCD side). When establishing a solid relationship, this is someone I’m going to be around frequently, it’s important that they know some of the big triggers. Two of the major ones: 1) faking emotions or what I call, falsetto happiness. I’m a little difficult to begin with and being suicidal can put a heavy strain on relationships. Being able to voice disagreement or have an actual conversation without being punished* for it will make me feel safer and more comfortable. 2) sudden changes to plans, specifically more people being at something at the last second than previously discussed. Why is that bad? If I don’t know the people, I’ll feel pressure to function more an asset to the group even to my own detriment as opposed to being an actual person. It’s also sudden so I have no time to brace myself for how much energy it’s going to take to be “perfect” among the group. It’s one of my broken parts, I know. I’m working on it.

*Punished by way of passive aggressive remarks or being blocked off from support. “Oh well, you disagreed with me about this so I’m going to make you feel bad for disagreeing.” or “I didn’t invite you to this thing because you’re too sad and would bum people out”

Since I started communicating with people about the scale of suicidal, it’s gotten easier for people to help me and for me to accept help. Earlier this month I was at 4, which means I can be left alone I just need a little emotional support. Yesterday, I was at a 9, obviously I shouldn’t be left alone unsupervised and I need to reach out to the people I trust to get me away from the edge. But that scale can vary from person to person, you need to talk to your suicidal person to figure out what it is, because they might not even be consciously aware of it. Case and point: I’m only now figuring out the scale after 10 years.

There’s also figuring out how people communicate a cry for help as the suicidal feelings get more intense. Mine is disappearing, unsending messages on Instagram (deleting the true but “incorrect” statement to send the “correct” one), pulling away from anything social, “blacking out” my social media, and of course, falsetto happiness. As long as I’m posting and talking, I’m generally fine, albeit a little antisocial. There’s also a list of trusted adults who know more about how to help me when I’m in that state of mind or who should be contacted if something happens to me.

“I get sad too, what about me?” 

Just because there is a suicidal person in your life does not mean it’s either all about you or all about them. Establishing emotional needs early on when you are both conscious of your issues is super useful, even it seems hard at first. I don’t think it’s an impossible situation to have a positive outcome. (Several of my friends are also suicidal, and we have been suicidal at the same time.) Some ways to lay the foundation of such a relationship:

  1. Practice accurately articulating feelings and honest communication. You absolutely cannot be passive aggressive here.
  2. Know what comfort is to yourself and your person. When I’m having an anxiety attack, I need to be away from people, but I might not remember how to get out. This actually happened where I got “lost” in a club because the way out closed behind me from all the people and I started hyperventilating. (Super fun, love being broken. /sarcasm)
  3. Have an “emergency kit” you build together. Put some of your favorite movies, snacks, a list of things you like/love or enjoy about each other, whatnot in it. It might even serve as a symbol of safety to one or both of you, a marker of a safe place.

“What if I’m not there to help them?” 

Here’s a harder question: Are you their trusted adult? Because it’s extremely easy to lie in text.

You are awake to get the call: Basic check list: did they eat today? Have they been drinking? Did they take their medication? Etc. (And it’s important that this isn’t perceived as accusatory, hence why I asked if you are their trusted grown up because there can’t be pressure to lie for fear of being “bad”.) If I’m higher than a 6 and haven’t eaten, I need someone to get food for me. I used to starve myself as a form of self inflicted punishment (this isn’t a normal thing in my life anymore, it’s rare for me to do this now) and it’s in my current state a task that I cannot mentally handle (think of all the steps to prepare a sandwich). Make plans with them in the near future, send them photos of you together, tell them about something great they did and you’ve never able to forget, and most importantly ask them what they need right now. 

You’re not awake to get the call: You shouldn’t be the ONLY trusted adult. If you know they’re suicidal ahead of time, like before they make a full fledged attempt, you should have “emergency” things in place if you aren’t able to take the call. I have several emergency contacts with various sleep schedules and there a few places I can go if I really and truly cannot be left alone. There’s microwave ready meals in the freezer, and some other protocols should it get to a 10.

You also…shouldn’t beat yourself up if you miss it. You cannot exist happily, fulfilled at the mercy of your partner’s suicidal feelings and they shouldn’t expect you to. That’s why if this is big fear for you, you need to be proactive in the preventative measures, to reduce that fear becoming a reality.

I’ve had partners’ egos flip out at the idea they weren’t the only trusted adult or that they wouldn’t always be the one saving me. It’s possessive, unhealthy and contributes to several other issues. Breathe, babe, and focus on what’s important.

“So you’re suicidal all the time? Maybe you should look at how you’re living your life that’s contributing to that feeling. Just be happy.”

Let’s take this in parts shall we? 🙂

So you’re suicidal all the time: I fall somewhere on a scale of 1 to 10 on a daily basis, yes. Am I always actively trying to kill myself? No. Am I always aware of my suicidal shit? 99.9% of the time. It’s rare for me to slip back into 100% suicidal state because of all the steps I’ve taken to prevent it. It does happen still, at least once a year there’s an episode but it’s gotten smaller and smaller in the last five years. It’s automatic, tied to my anxiety, and mostly unresponsive to anti-depressants (as in anti depressants will make me more suicidal not less). There have been follow up questions like “Why don’t you kill yourself? Like why doesn’t it get you?” Because I’m not going to let it be stronger than me, as long as my heart is still beating I’m winning. Sometimes though, I get overwhelmed and my grasp on my will to live is shaky.

How you’re living: I’ve lived a strange life babe, even I don’t believe it sometimes and it’s only getting stranger still. So there’s this idea that being suicidal can only be born as a consequence of one’s actions. My suicidal feelings are not tied to external causes, like break ups and arguments. Life’s actually not as terrible now as it has been in the past, but that doesn’t matter to my issues. External factors can exasperate my suicidal feelings, sure, but I’m very aware of how one decision in my life has ultimately made six more decisions down the road.

I see it like this: your brain is a system, a system like a computer, right? And it’s got all these rules and ways of protecting itself and making sure “you” are happy. So in my brain there used to be a lot of rules about how valuable my life is, about what makes a life worth living, (and trust we’re going to get into it) and when to launch END_LIFE.exe and it used to get launched a lot.  So running with this metaphor, there’s only one person who has full admin rights to all the parts of the computer, me. Sure, I can take it to a shop that specializes in this model (a doctor), I could get some mods to alter my user experience (pills), I could get some beta testers (talking to people, friends, family) but ultimately no one is going to know this system better than me.

So to comment exactly on if I’m looking at how I’m living my life: I am and I’m learning something new every day. 

Just be happy: When I’m open about being suicidal, I am happy. Because I’m not hiding, I’m normalizing the conversation about mental health in my own strange way and I think it makes my relationships with people who care about me stronger. I don’t derive success in the same way as a lot of people who say “just be happy”. This was always wanted to do with my life, and sure it’s in the most roundabout way possible, but if there is one person who feels like they can keep going because of something I wrote…well, I might as well be a millionaire.

Here’s to this being of use to people other than my strange vanity project, but I think I’m just going to do a series talking about suicide, because right now it’s the only thing I feel comfortable writing about. Look at me, making plans for the future.

Until next time,

Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

Day 1: Goth and Where to Start

Day 1 of revisiting my love affair with goth and I’m trying to choose a starting point.

How would most newcomers get into goth?

Instagram seems the most likely option, as it offers both video and photos and is expected to reach an audience in the United States alone of 111 million. (I’m weird, just let me be weird and care about numbers.) So, if we look under #goth, in the top section (versus the recent)…

We get a lot of pictures of full body outfits which are primarily black, about 2/3 people featured are wearing at least some makeup, and a couple scrolls down decor, cartoons, and Marilyn Manson. 

Personal takeaway: It’s not that the images aren’t aesthetically appealing, I just wouldn’t call it engaging. It seems fashion centered (if this were to be my actual entry point) with zero reference to music of any kind. Breaking down the pieces of clothing through this precursory scroll, you’d find a lot of: jersey knit material, followed by cotton / cotton polyester blends, collars, at least 1 inch in width with, at minimum, an O ring in the center, platform shoes, most shoes were at least 2 inches thick, midriff exposed or, if covered, clothing was fitted to the waist, so cropped shirts but also noted, rarely any loose clothing. Less prominent features were: heavy makeup and then it was special effects makeup, harnesses on various parts of the body, Sinner or occult images or messages, and a few pictures of Robert Smith. 

I can see why the whole aesthetic argument is even a thing. But I don’t know if people are doing that because that’s the game of social media or if that’s really what they think goth is about.  I am a little put off by the lack of music (no pictures of records, playlists, podcasts/radio shows, song lyrics, album covers, event promotion of any kind, bands, artists, etc.[unless we count the one Hollywood Undead bandanna]) Most of the backgrounds were solid color walls, or blurred out forest backgrounds, so little focus on decor or…really anything not fashion focused.

I mean, obviously we’ll get to fashion eventually, but let’s say someone did want to start with music….

Using IFPI Music Consumer Report for 2018 for how 19,000 people globally (across 18 countries*) discovered new music:

-86% listening through on demand streaming (16,340/19,000)
-47% of time spent listening to on-demand music is on YouTube
-17.8 hours was the time the average global consumer spent listening to music a week (2.5 hours per day)

*The 18 countries were: Poland, South Africa, Germany, France, United States, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Netherlands, Russia, Argentina, Spain, United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, South Korea, and Japan)

Because geographic location is taken into account for how search results appear on YouTube (in addition to a ton of other factors like past search history), signing out of my account on YouTube and searching for “goth music” brought up:

  1. 1 Hour of Gothic Music Instrumental (1:08:21 video) [elements primarily from classical and chamber music]
  2. Top 200 Greatest Gothic Rock Songs (playlist)
  3. 80s Gothic Rock/ Darkwave Mix (1:09:13 video)
  4. 1 Hour of Dark Winter Music & Gothic Music (1:01:22 video) [elements primarily from classical and chamber music higher tone than (1.)]
  5. Baby Goth by Mary (2:50 video) [the trap version of Melanie Martinez]
  6. 1 Hour of Dark Vampiric Music [Dark, Seductive, Emotional, Gothic] (1:01:35 video) [classical and composed entirely by Peter Gundry]
  7. Dark Cybergoth Mix by The Enigma TNG (43:16 video) [leaning closer to industrial, created by The Enigma]
  8. Batcave Tracks: Goth Rock & Darkwave Mix 6 (32:29 video)
  9. My Favorite Goth Bands (31:26 video) [blogger video]
  10. Gothic Music Medley [Instrumental] (43:42 video) [elements from classical and chamber music]

I included the time stamps because of how YouTube recommends videos to users based on how much of that video has been “watched” and how many people have watched it (Game Theory sums this up pretty well.)So I’m guessing the longer mixes (seriously guessing) were just put on in the background, which is cool (provided they aren’t monetized which is a story for another day.)

I also clicked through the mixes to find the general sound if it wasn’t obvious from the title or accurate.  This made me so sleepy and I definitely didn’t want to watch more after this. Again, these things aren’t bad, just getting a lay of the land for general searches.

Although I don’t know how to translate this feeling into words (yet) I can see why if you like the fashion you would be drawn to a different kind of music than gothic rock (not because my top 10 results were mostly classical based). I think the general summary of today is goth is way more approachable as solely a look than music or a culture. From just using the images (and a really user friendly interface) it’s easier to piece together some idea of goth fashion than actively listen to hours worth music and cognitively process which sounds are the most applicable to goth as a genre. 

Overall feeling: Man oh man, this was not a fun day for me.
Total time spent: 2.5 hours

Day One Prompt: Short version: What do you expect goth to be?  Legwork: Using Instagram and YouTube what are the most common themes for goth fashion and goth music today.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

 

 

Rediscovering Goth

Currently, I can only imagine what a nerve-wracking hellscape someone new to goth must be experiencing. There are so many different ideas of goth and things to like, people to support, people to vehemently dislike, in addition to the constant flux of defining an identity under a label that is more volatile than ever. I imagine it’s a nerve-wracking hellscape for someone new because it’s like a joyless wasteland to me.

That’s a gross exaggeration, but…

Honestly, while I still remember all the things I love about goth, both the experience with it online and offline have been more negative than positive. The scene has been breaking down in factions more aggressively (but kind of knew that was going to happen five years ago, just not the way it did) and rageful rants about something trivial, superficial, on an aesthetic level at full volume is easier to find than someone just talking about what they like.

Maybe that’s just me?

Possibly. Do I hate goth now? No. Do I hate what it’s become? No. I just miss how I used to interact with it. It used to be more like an easter egg hunt and you could choose from so many different things. Now it’s more like a broken structure and you have to guess which piece of the floor is going to cave in from underneath you and drop you into irrelevancy or will it support your climb to the one true interpretation of goth. (I being a little sarcastic but also…kinda not.)

Again, this could just be my experience because of changes I’ve made personally, but I don’t quite feel like I’m wholly alone in this.

So I would like to try a little project. 

I’ve been flirting with the idea of doing A Year and A Day of Goth, obviously lifted from Wicca. I don’t practice Wicca itself, but I admire the structure of a studious and interactive approach. I don’t know if it will translate perfectly to the goth community or culture, but it seems better to fall back in love with goth then to just stay where I am, you know, kvetching.

While I’d love to write every day, that probably won’t happen. I haven’t written much in a year so I’m kind of out of practice. I might write more formal(?) pieces throughout this, but the year and a day is more for me and whoever wants it. (Formal pieces where there’s an outline and an effort to make a serious coherent thought take about three to seven days to write. The last one I did, Ambiguous Goth, got a lot of great feedback and I like doing them, but I want to keep this more lucid and fun.)

This is more for my own reference point.

I want to talk more about the definitive features of why things fall under the goth category and others don’t, so I’m going to avoid just listing bands and books. I am a little concerned because I don’t have the correct terminology to talk about music in the same way I could talk about literature or fashion but that’s what the internet and coffee is for!

I liked how the 666 was working out, so I might do some variation of that so other people can do their own Year and a Day, baby bats and otherwise. I feel like it’s actually going to be more intense.

When it comes to approaching categories, like music, fashion, literature…it’s going to be significantly less structured than my other stuff. So instead of doing music all in one month or a week, it’ll be like “this is rabbit hole I fell down today”. Many of us talk about the research process we expect baby bats to go (or we went)  through, I’d actually like to capture that feeling of discovery again or feel it for the first time. For some reason, I think that would take the pressure off trying to “get everything perfect” and be more inviting.

So away we go.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels

Fake Empaths and the Shallow Hero

 

To be honest,  I’ve been drafting this piece for three years. Three years of reading, rewriting, interviewing, surveying, and observing to find anything that could support the idea that highly (and I mean highly) intuitive people are as common as the posts on Facebook would suggest. As with all my posts, I understand this perspective I have formed will irk some, so I would like to invite the shaken and bothered to question not only my perspective but theirs as well. If you do feel called out, however, I sincerely dedicate this post to you. Links are in bold and underlined.

Empaths are highly regarded as these supernatural lie detecting, room reading, emotionally giving people. But all they seem to amount to when repeatedly given opportunities to demonstrate these abilities is self-serving demons masquerading as angels in a society full of the broken and the sheltered.

Do I think empaths don’t exist? I feel a need to specify that we’re not talking about actual empathy. You know, the feeling one step above sympathy (understanding a situation is bad, ) and is born of having the experience of that very situation to offer a perspective (knowing the reality of the situation instead of imagining its gravity and ultimately knowing how that can make people feel). We’re talking about the people who glorify the emotional return they get from half assedly displaying a superficial idea of empathy, usually to people who know even less about empathy than they do. 

In my mind, it stands to reason that if we can have a pool of people where a small fraction of a fraction of them can be devoid of any empathy at all then we must imagine a world where people can also be overtly in tune with the emotions of others. I do believe these kinds of people exist. I just don’t believe I would be so fortunate to find so many of them in one city…

The qualifiers for empaths tend to be rooted in a heavily guarded and shallowly formed idea of other people, relying strongly towards misconceptions and stereotypes. 

From Live Bold and Bloom of the 29 traits listed, 20 of those traits are based off of trusting other people’s standards for supportive or empathetic behaviors or using your own judgment of demonstrating those things well. (Which if not actively pursued and challenged can be a recipe for a shallow understanding of the world around you.) One of the traits listed is being considered a great listener. Now you can be a great listener to someone who has never met a great listener before (or someone you want something from) and still be bad at truly listening to other people because you don’t like how they communicate.  You can be a bad listener in the moment because you are human (and emotional labor is really hard, surprise) and not have that negate your past experiences of being a good listener. My question is how do you challenge yourself to be a better listener to fulfill this narrative?

Is it in filtering out people with enough life experience to know when you’re just paying lip service and fostering relationships solely with people who make you feel good? Or is it in forcing this trait you would like to have  down other people’s throats until they (sometimes begrudgingly) agree to let you believe it? Or do you actually take the time to check in with people to find out if they feel you did what you claim to do? Do you ever ask if there are ways you can improve?

But maybe Live Bold and Bloom isn’t a good reference let’s look at five others…

Exemplore, Your Tango , MSN , Intuitive Souls Blog , and Bustle   all cite “being overwhelmed in public”, “experiencing other people’s physical ailments”, “being a great listener”, and some variety of emotional repression and/or difficulty with intimacy as traits of being an empath.

Hold up, difficulty with intimacy? Bitch, I know. I have been led to believe that being an empath meant you experienced a high level of intimacy with people sometimes even when you don’t want to. So how would someone with problems of intimacy be capable of effectively recognizing moments of vulnerability and honesty? How would someone with problems with intimacy be capable of exploring that relationship with empathy?

Overwhelmed in public? The majority of the population experiences some form of anxiety in various ways and several of those ways cited as triggers for anxiety include interaction with groups of more than one person. Experiencing other people’s ailments? Have you heard of the multitude of ways we try to reflect others to build a sense of familiarity and endear ourselves to people? And being a great listener? In a society that frequently tells anyone remotely marginalized to shut up and cannot be bothered to separate narcissism and narcissistic behaviors? I just….I’m at a loss.

So are these fake empaths actual a new breed of narcissist?

No, not really. These empaths tend to have a long history of being bullied or ostracized for being too sensitive (we’re defining it as high emotional reactions because not a single source did and that brings up more questions than it answers), too direct (“telling it like it is” was cited as a trait for empaths), or too emotionally withdrawn (which leans more to psychopathic behaviors than empathic ones because that limits your emotional vocabulary). But narcissism isn’t a word that should be casually thrown around because at the root of it there is no separation of the narcissist’s idea of self and other people…being other people. The empaths we’re talking about tend to, at the very least, allow people to live lives separate from them without their influence or control. Just because they aren’t outright narcissist, however, does not exempt them from their predatory behavior. And yes, sometimes the empath is the narcissist.

The empath has one goal in mind and that is primarily to fuel and cultivate an image of a benevolent, understanding to all and any, supernatural being. They will pursue this goal to the point of their own detriment (“constantly fatigued” was cited across multiple sources as a trait of being an empath). They tend to latch onto “troubled” people (Attracting “energy vampires” or narcissists was also cited.) who are broken in a specific way that the empath can achieve one of two things with. One is pull off a miracle of transforming the troubled person into a character that represents what they’re capable of as a benvolent, understanding to all and any, supernatural being. Usually, this is done according to a highly coveted group’s standards for what makes a person good or desirable and done where the trouble person doesn’t actively know it’s happening and has little say in the matter. The other is forming a relationship where the “prey” will constantly feed the empath’s narrative. The empath then forces their desired idea of ideal prey onto the person, dramatizing distressful body language, emotionally unstable behaviors, and the like to create a position of heightened awareness and eventually, authority. “I know exactly what you’re talking about. I could feel it before you said anything. I know….I know… I know….” to which the expected response from the prey is “Oh my god, you know me so well. Thank you for helping me.”

Hang on Zakkarrii, people can do those things and not being preying on people. 

Absolutely, but usually being a good listener means asking questions without an ulterior motive even when you might not like the answer. Cultivating relationships with genuine interests mean investing time, energy and caring about a person even if it doesn’t serve you. So for your empath friends you’re seeking to defend, do they ask you questions that sound like leading you to respond a certain way or do you genuinely feel you can tell them you disagree with their read of you without backlash? When you are masking your emotions for whatever reason do they fill in the blank or force you to play a guessing game? Do you ever feel like you’re being made to see yourself sicker or more broken than you really are? And here’s the real kicker for your bestie…while you were getting your ego bruised, your heart broken did they ever seem more excited than concerned? And then when you had outgrown some of your broken ways, did your friend the empath seem to grow in their own way or stay the same for years? I just want to know.

So what would a good empath look like? 

Generally, someone who is capable of establishing clear boundaries between their friendships and trying to solve everyone’s problems to the point of martyrdom, constantly questions and challenges their own perspective of other people, can admit they’re wrong and apologize, can recognize their own limits of experience and seeks to gain some understanding from the countless resources available to them.

The ultimate point of a good empath is that to be good at anything takes real work and I believe that work will be rewarding regardless of their real or imagined powers. If more effort is being placed in amassing relationships where the empath is not challenged in a healthy way than being invested in becoming a better empath…then I think you know how this story goes. (Unhealthy would be to achieve the two goals we mentioned earlier or to the point of sacrificing their own well being to uphold this narrative in their head. The part where it becomes unhealthy is when proving you can solve other people’s problems with or without their desire for help becomes more important than listening to what will help them.)

All fake empaths must be punished. 

Calm down skippy. Fake empaths lack the malicious intentions to qualify for truly monstrous beings. They’re hurt like a lot of us and their way of healing is to try to build a self-image that they don’t think anyone has for them. They don’t generally seek to control people but instead look to aggressively control this image of themselves, cutting out anyone from their life that would challenge it. Being an empath is very desirable and if you can convince several people you are one without doing any real leg work, it is unlikely you’ll continue to actively try to live up to it or be open to being questioned. If you want to help your empath friend live up to this idea of themselves you need to question them. If you want to believe in your empathic abilities, you have to be questioned and you have to take responsibility for putting your fantasy self before the real story people are trying to live with you. People correcting you or telling you the truth doesn’t make them harmful or toxic…but instead presents an opportunity for growth in all parties. Shutting them out doesn’t mean you won…it means your world and your life get to remain small and stagnant and eventually you will push away anyone who could have helped you actually be an empath.

Honey, they punish themselves every goddamn day of the week.

But being human is hard. 

For empaths and non empaths alike, I’m hearing this excuse for being a barely tolerable human being thrown out a lot. Yes, when your way of existence is called out, challenged with an alternative or is not measuring up to standards you thought you were measuring up to, it is hard. Because now you have to reflect, sometimes quickly, about where the difference between your idea of self and others’ idea of you truly lies. You can end frienships over it, you can change and grow and not be forgiven, and you can both grow to demonstrate new traits and behaviors and learn to appreciate them being demonstrated in different ways. The line between actual abuse and meeting a question for how you exist is bigger than some people seem to think. And we do not get closer to defining these things by ourselves feeling “threatened” or solving those problems by closing ourselves off.

In the same way fake empaths seek validation in declarations on Facebook, we seek to excuse our shortcomings by dismissing our potential to survive whatever imagined hell we think comes of changing our behavior. You’re right, you can’t please everyone and not everyone can appreciate you being this current version of yourself. But I doubt any of us have been 100% correct, or in the right, in the way we carry ourselves 100% of the time, especially when some of us don’t explore past the selves we “finished” creating in our youth.

It is perfectly fine to be comfortable with who you are and how you choose to express that, but at some point you had to put in time and thought into becoming that person. Maybe it didn’t seem like real work because remind me, what was your biggest objective as a teenager? Meeting all the new wonderful versions of yourself will take work, and you can choose to never venture out your comfort zone till the end of your days or dive into the bounty of all human existence has to offer. There are consequences for every decision, just some suck less than others.

The empath’s greatest sin is grossly overestimating their ability to perceive the absolute truth of the world around them and the true nature of the people in it without a real intimate conversation. The pursuit of the absolute truth is a problem philosophers have been looking to solve for centuries so I highly doubt an empath focused primarily on their own narrative has enough knowledge of the words “absolute” and “truth” to solve what many couldn’t and still can’t. If it is any consolation to the empaths I now leave in my wake angry and/or at a loss, there are people who enjoy the mind games you play. There are ways to play them ethically and with actual results that better everyone involved. Instead of tricking people into buying into your lies to set them up for failure because it makes you feel all big and magical inside. But that would require an actual conversation with a human being whose demonstration of self you don’t erase when it stops serving you. Everything is hard the first time you try it…

My idea of making a fake empath’s job even more difficult is to openly question them and do the things they don’t. Have real meaningful conversations with people, say how you really feel, and when listening to others instead of being defensive and shutting people challenge yourself to try an alternative. Because if everyone else become better informed at being an understanding and real human being…the empath will have less people to prey upon.

If you like strange rants and seeing how surreal a life can be, follow me on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. If you like supporting that weird ass life and keeping the world strange, my store is your oyster. If I hurt your feelings, @ me.

Until next time,

Don’t be hungry for life. Be ravenous.

Zakkarrii Edison Daniels