Dangerous Compassions

pumpkin carving ritual, Colombian food, mental health efforts that ignore root problems of capitalism and misogyny

Yesterday was community lunch.  I forget we were doing pumpkins–R had bought five pumpkins.  The mood became lighthearted.

I had the largest, orangest, fattest pumpkin.  You know I was supposed to carve it–instead I hugged it.  That pumpkin seemed real and good, and I needed to hold onto it more than do a tradition-process and make some art out of it.

So I watched J get maniacal.  It was pretty weird to see all the tools she tried to create her pumpkin masterpiece.  I made a list of the tools she used.


bottle opener


melon baller

long thin yellow metal thing–saw?




Then G made a traditional pumpkin with the missing teeth grin.  The eyes were cresents, though, not triangles.

Ming used the little pumpkin we got a few weeks ago at Gilcrease.  He did something minimalist.  It was fun to watch him work–I can’t remember seeing him do that before.

I thought modern cameras could handle the backlit thing, but maybe not.

Ming’s trying to look like his pumpkin–that was the idea of this picture.  That’s why J has the hand-whiskers–her pumpkin has toothpick-whiskers.

It’s hard for me to be around people, but I was ok.  Then Ming and I went to a mental health meeting with Latinos Unidos at a Colombian restaurant.  Our expectations were very low, for networking, so it went better than expected.  We brought fliers and zines.

The first speaker told the story of his sister’s suicide.  The speaker had been diagnosed in college with bipolar 1, but he didn’t tell his family.  Then his sister started having manic episodes and was in and out of the hospital until she killed herself.  The way he told the story, it was sad, but it was fascinating.  He wishes he had told his family about what he had been through because he thinks it might have helped his sister.  But mental health discussions were taboo in his family.

The second speaker runs a huge anti-suicide non-profit.  His son commited suicide ten years ago, and he carries guilt.  He said the last thing he told his son was, “Stop being such an idiot,” and that’s very painful for him.  His org does fundraisers, like walks, and they have a wine thing coming up.

He talked about how people blame themselves for the suicides of their loved ones and shouldn’t.  I find it complicated.  I want to help create a world with more communication, connection, love.  We’ve created a culture where capitalism means money is more important that caring for one another, and misogyny means nurturing is looked down on as irrelevant or at least optional.  So in a way, we are responsible.

The third speaker was a private practice therapist who is Latina and works with mostly Latino clients.  She talked about stuff specific to Latinos, and it was interesting to hear her take, about how moms “wait too long to get help,” or bring the kid with a mentality of “fix my kid,” and the mom doesn’t want to go to therapy, but then if the kid does first, the mom might.

She talked about how there’s a lot of alcoholism and trauma.  I thought it was a little general, but it was interesting to hear her perspective.  She talked about seeing a lot of men too. 

The whole event was very mainstream–take your medicine, medical professionals know best, people need to be locked up in mental hospitals at times.  Medical model with no creativity.

The second speaker talked about how his granddaughter was diagnosed bipolar and a weird story about her therapist calling the ambulance on her during a therapy session.  The guy said his granddaughter turns into a she-devil when she doesn’t take her meds or the meds stop working right.  I found it offensive that he called his granddaughter a she-devil–he seemed to be going for a laugh, but no one laughed.

I know dealing with difficult people can be a struggle, but I wish that someone whose whole deal is suicide prevention would know better than to demonize a person with mental health stuff.  I guess it’s good he can be honest about how he feels about her?  But I wish that wasn’t how he felt.

There was some free food, so on our way in, we got our hands stamped to show we belonged, eating the free food.

I think it was actually a money stamp, kind of a joke.  Ming asked a worker if the food had meat in it, and she assured him that it did, which was the opposite of what he wanted, of course.  I had rice, fried plantains, and fried yucca, then some fruit salad.

We gave radical mental health collective fliers to a few people–it was good.  The organizer got a job on a political campaign, so there was an announcement that her org was being turned over to someone else to run, to avoid conflict of interest.

In this post I talk about actual community of carving pumpkins together and fun with humans we can be vulnerable with, then in part two, attempts at community in order to deal with rampant disconnection and failure to love–mostly due to capitalism and misogyny.

I wish we didn’t need suicide prevention orgs holding wine fundraisers and talking up biopsychiatry.  I want to live in a world where the system works, people get what they need as the norm not the exception, feelings are ok to talk about, difference is respected, nurturing is the most important job in the world, and we’re there for one another in a real way.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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