Feeling bad does not make you bad

I woke up this morning thinking of the phrase “you are bad and you should feel bad” which is often bandied around the place, and how insidious it is as an instruction to self loath ourselves when we don’t live up to our values, make a mistake, or be human in any way. And yes, I am speaking for the general population here, because the people who are bad, well they don’t feel bad at all.

Let’s look at some truly bad people you know don’t feel the remotest bit bad (a non-exhaustive list):

  • Elon Musk
  • Donald Trump
  • Jair Bolsonaro
  • Giorgia Meloni
  • Nigel Farage
  • Posie Parker
  • Gina Rinehart
  • Katie Hopkins
  • Rodrigo Duterte
  • Millionaire religious leaders

I could keep adding to this list, but that’s not my point. All these people are bad (no, this is not a topic for debate) and they don’t feel even the slightest bit bad. They revel in their awful view of the world, in treating other people as less than them, and/or in making the world an objectively worse place in order to enrich themselves or for kicks. You’re not like that.

You feel bad about something you did or something that happened to you. The fact that you feel bad indicates that you are not a bad person. Bad people don’t feel bad about the shit they do or that happens to them (often because they’ve insulated themselves against bad shit happening to them through money or other methods). Feeling bad demonstrates that you have empathy, an internal value system, emotions, and an ability to consider what is right versus what is wrong.

And yes, it isn’t pleasant when you make a mistake or when you have done something that does not align to your values, but that doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you a person. Everyone else gets to make mistakes or have moments of poor judgement. If you can extend compassion to others who are feeling bad because they’ve fucked up in some way, then you need to try and extend that compassion to yourself. It is fucking hard work, but you are worth the effort.

And when bad things happen to you, you do not deserve them. The universe is a random event full or more random events. Bad things happening are part of that collection of randomness. Sadly fairness is a construct that we can aim to live our lives through, but that won’t stop bad random things happening to you. And some of us get more bad things happening to them than others, which is also unfair, but at no point does that make the person on the receiving end of bad things a bad person. Even when other bad people suggest that is the case.

So, please extend love, compassion and forgiveness to yourself, in the way that you do for other people. Feeling bad isn’t fun, but it is part of the experience of being a person. Being a person is hard sometimes, but without the collective of us, we wouldn’t get to enjoy friendship, love, fun, silliness and passion. Let the bad feelings pass and remember that you are not bad.

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Let’s talk about large, Christian families

When people talk about large, Christian, families, they often think about the quiverfull movement, or the new one “pronatalists“. Both of these have elements of Christian Nationalism in them, even if the second isn’t actually Christian per se, and both believe that you need to have large families to ensure the proliferation of your beliefs.

What we don’t talk about is other large families – certain types of Catholics. Certain Catholics don’t take the whole quiverfull movement as a set of instructions, they just follow the Catholic Church’s teachings. Not to disparage this family specifically, they’re just the example which is in the media right now.

Caroline Langguth feared she may never be able to have children after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a 16-year-old.

More than a quarter of a century later, she’s preparing to give birth for the 14th time, excited to find out whether she’s having a girl or a boy.

“Every single time we’ve fallen pregnant has been this overwhelming excitement because we weren’t going to have these children, it just wasn’t going to happen,” says Mrs Langguth, who has daily insulin shots to survive.

“We just never put a number on it. Every time they turn up … thank you God for giving us another one.”


My husband, is one of 9 (surviving) children from a Catholic family. His family were friends with another Catholic family in the same town who had 15 children, and only stopped because the husband died of cancer. All these families clearly believe that contraception isn’t right (as the Catholic Church teaches) and that you get what God wants for you (lots of children).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifies that all sex acts must be both unitive and procreative. In addition to condemning use of artificial birth control as intrinsically evil, non-procreative sex acts such as mutual masturbation and anal sex are ruled out as ways to avoid pregnancy. Casti connubii explains the secondary, unitive, purpose of intercourse. Because of this secondary purpose, married couples have a right to engage in intercourse even when pregnancy is not a possible result


I mean thanks, Catholic Church for allowing me to have sex with my husband even though a viable pregnancy was not a possible result.

My mother probably would have gone down the same route if a doctor hadn’t told her 2 years after her stroke and pregnant with her fourth child that further pregnancies could potentially kill her. My dad went off and got a vasectomy. I’m not entirely sure how they squared that away with their Catholic beliefs, but on the other hand, it’s always better to save a living person’s life than future potential lives.

My father in law was furious when he found out that my sister-in-law’s husband had had a vasectomy, because “sex is for procreation, not recreation” and, this mindset is fucked up, just saying.

The thing about very large families is that the older children inevitably end up looking after the younger children. In some examples (such as the article below), this results in teenagers effectively becoming parents to their siblings (parentification), which ends up with childhood trauma, neglect and/or abuse.

Good luck to the Langguth family and to Caroline’s continued health. I hope the children feel loved and supported and that they got to experience their childhood versus having it taken away from them due to the expectation that they would care for and raise their younger siblings. I hope that as they go out into the wider world that they feel they have the freedom to question their beliefs and experiences and end up wherever they choose, and that they are happy.

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A (true) story about betrayal

So I thought I’d write this story out, because it came to mind recently about unfairness and betrayal by someone I thought was a friend – a thing that sadly hasn’t happened only once in my life.

Back in the late 2000s, I was friends with someone I’ll call Es. Es and I met through mutual friends a year or two earlier, and we moved in similar circles, seemed to care about the same things, and generally connected. So we also became friends and celebrated birthdays, hand-fastings, and other events together. We shared a lot on one of the many instant messenger clients at the time about our lives.

I trusted Es, and confided stuff in her. When I entered my first polyam relationship, full of anxiety and uncertainty, Es was there to listen to me and share her own stories that related to mine. I repurposed a blog around this time (no, I’m not sharing the link) and wrote about my feelings, the joys, the concerns, the anxieties and insecurities. I wrote about my new partner and how I was newly navigating having two partners, and then how I was navigating being one of many partners.

I shared this blog with a handful of trusted people. It was a private blog and was unlisted with search engines (it was a blogger blog, and that was an option I could choose at the time). So I felt safe writing about the people in my life, how I was navigating stuff, and my personal experiences.

Es was one of the people that I shared the blog with, because we were friends and already talking about this stuff. I thought it would save time overall because Es could read stuff, and then we could talk about it later, versus me having to take the time to explain everything each time. This worked fine until late 2006/early 2007.

At the time, my partner was struggling with another partner we’ll call Be. I can’t remember what the struggles were about now, it was a very long time ago and I’m not going to go back and reread the blog (I’m afraid it might all be cringe). I do remember asking my partner if he felt that the relationship with Be was worth it overall. Each time he answered that he thought it was, and so I remained a listening ear. Under no circumstances did I want to influence his relationship with Be, who I also liked, because that would be wrong and against my personal values.

I wrote about this in my blog, because I was writing about stuff, and Es clearly read it. At the time, though I didn’t know this, Es was trying to build a friendship with Be. I didn’t realise that Es was status seeking and aiming for something like appearing as an authority or something. I really don’t quite understand the motive. Anyway, Es read my blog post about my partner’s struggles and my commentary, and assumed that I was trying to break my partner’s and Be’s relationship up. Es shared my blog with Be, with the “concern” that I was interfering and attempting to break up her relationship.

Be commented to this to our shared partner, including mentioning that she’d read my blog. My partner asked me why I was writing stuff down, and I was initially confused, and then he told me what had happened. I was furious at Es.

I checked in with Be, and she was happy that I hadn’t done what Es had suggested, and we were cool, just asked that I change her name on the blog, which I did.

I confronted Es (via email) and asked why she did what she did. She refused to back down or apologise, said that anyone could have found the blog (which they couldn’t), and then showed me that if you entered a very long and convoluted search string that you could find that the blog existed, and that was justification for breaching my confidence and talking to Be without talking to me first.

I ended up having a miscarriage part-way through this whole confrontation (not related), so I just let Es have the last word and didn’t speak to her for years. It caused some minor dramas between mutual friends who didn’t know what happened, or didn’t realise how serious it was, but those were ironed out. If I see Es now at social events (thankfully very rare), I am polite, talk about general stuff and then go my own way. To this day I have never received an apology or acknowledgement of wrongdoing. It’s just something that apparently happens sometimes.

And some people wonder why I struggle with trusting others… here is one such story as evidence.

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Regret or sorry

I’ve been thinking about apologies recently and thought I had once blogged a good piece about them, which I can’t easily find. I did find this piece I wrote a long time ago called “Let’s try with some empathy” which has some of the bones of what I was thinking about:

How about instead of telling someone how they should react to something, you think a bit about why they might be reacting that way, how constant microaggressions might have worn them down, and how this might have been the final straw after they’ve been polite to everyone else whose pushed them down that day/week/month/year.  Think about how they might actually see the thing that you said or wrote, and how that might look from their position.  Actually apologise for upsetting them and then invite them to tell you what you can do to avoid upsetting them again in future – because people generally want to avoid having their feet stepped on, they will often provide you with suggestions/resources on how your organisation or yourself can be more inclusive, open, and less upsetting.

The only change I’d make to that post is include “trauma” after microaggressions. Because sometimes you trigger other people’s trauma instead of/as well as the microaggressions I was referring to in the original post.

Anyway, I was thinking about the difference between someone regretting something versus someone being sorry/apologising for something. For example, a company can regret to inform you that you were unsuccessful at obtaining a position there/their business is closed due to flooding/your favourite dish has sold out/etc, and all of this is not an apology per se, more a “I know it’s disappointing, and it might happen again in the future”. Regret doesn’t acknowledge harm and doesn’t acknowledge responsibility. A business, for example, may not have foreseen that there would be a run on your favourite dish, or that their business would flood.

Here is someone saying it much better than myself:

From a semantic standpoint, regret or concern – “I’m sorry this happened” – is not at all the same thing as a full-fledged apology – “I’m sorry.” The expression of regret sidesteps the central issue of fault, the admission of which is, after all, what an aggrieved party is seeking.

Eric Schellhorn, “Regret vs. Apology: Why Being Sorry It Happened Isn’t the Same As Being Sorry”, SFGate

Wikipedia has some good commentary on apologies as well:

The basic elements of an apology communicate:

  • That the person apologizing was, in some way, responsible for the unjust actions taken;
  • That the person apologizing is aware of the injustices that resulted from those actions; and
  • That the person apologizing intends to behave differently in the future.

And I know that apologies are hard. Taking a deep breath, listening to the person you’ve wronged without being defensive, hearing what is being asked of you, and then apologising is hard. Especially in a culture where always being right is the norm. Apologising isn’t a fun activity, even though it is a necessary one. It requires us to put on our big pants and act maturely. Sometimes we apologise for ourselves (the need to resolve the internal remorse) and sometimes we apologise for others (the need to mend/maintain relationships).

I’m not going to talk about forgiveness in this post, because I’ve written about that in the past (though mostly focussed on forgiveness from a Christian perspective), except to say, forgiveness can be granted without an apology sometimes, but generally it’s best to apologise if you know/have learnt that you hurt someone/s, and for that apology to be genuine.

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Psychological safety

So I read this article in the ABC today titled, “Difficult people can be highly destructive. Psychologist Rebecca Ray has tips for dealing with them” and I had thoughts, specifically about this bit:

At work, psychological safety means having the freedom “to innovate, be creative, make mistakes and speak up with your ideas without fear of being shamed, humiliated or punished”, explains Dr Ray, the author of a new book called Difficult People.

That idea can be applied to other relationships, too. In all interactions, we should be able “to show up as our authentic selves, to be able to be imperfect, and to be able to connect vulnerably”, Dr Ray says.

My first thoughts were about the number of psychologically unsafe workplaces I’ve worked in over the past 15 years (thankfully not my current one) and how creativity was stifled, mistakes were punished, and vulnerability was attacked. I also thought about how I survived those workplaces when others struggled to.

When I was 13, my family moved from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory/Central Australia to Bendigo in Central Victoria. We went from a town of 30,000 at peak tourist season to a town of 75,000 at least, all the time (population now over 120,000). I went from a school of 250 people from year 7 to 10, to a school where there was 300 in one year level – so the junior campus (years 7 – 9) had 900 students.

I went from a town where I fit and my weirdness was accepted to a town where I was an outsider and my weirdness wasn’t tolerated. Suffice to say, Bendigo and the school I went to were incredibly psychologically unsafe and the cause of a part of my childhood trauma. I definitely wasn’t able to show up as my authentic self, and was regularly shamed, humiliated and punished. Things at home were also not great at the time, so it was a shit sandwich.

When I went to university (briefly) after year 12, I found my people. I was also in a very abusive relationship at the time and the people I found provided some shelter and a reality check to that relationship. My people collectively showed me I didn’t have to put up with psychological danger, that I could just be myself and let everyone else tie themselves in knots. I left that relationship, left Bendigo, left the university degree that I was never going to get (well not that one) and moved to Melbourne with a new relationship that was so much more healthier.

I found more of my people, people who accepted the authentic me, who let me be imperfect (as much as I don’t enjoy that for other childhood trauma reasons), who let me be vulnerable when I could shrug off the armour of the past. As pretty much nothing could be worse than my teenage years, I stood on my own and looked at those who would attempt to bully me, punish me, shame me, or make me feel unsafe and wonder why. I figured that office politics had two options, “you could play the game, or you could avoid it” but of course you can’t actually avoid it. So I did the next best thing, made myself indispensable and untouchable.

I’ve worked in so many toxic workplaces, and it is upsetting and stressful, but that’s because I’m watching bad things happen to good people. I haven’t had a perfect run through all of them, but generally people who would attempt to make my life difficult change their minds because I don’t react the way they expect. I can build enough psychological safety about myself, and buffer myself against workplaces that aren’t safe.

So that’s workplaces, but what about people who I’m friends with or who I move in the same community with or who I otherwise interact with? If it’s a person I am rarely going to interact with, then I ignore their difficultness and do my own thing. I don’t let them inside the bubble. If someone I am close to ends up being psychologically unsafe, whether it’s something temporary or long-term I distance myself from that person. I have ended friendships because people are unsafe for me, because I’ve felt attacked or shamed for some part of me.

And this is also very gendered for me because of my childhood trauma. I am much more likely to feel at risk from people who were assigned female at birth than those who were assigned male. More girls and women have made me feel emotionally unsafe than men. And so I will walk away. It hurts, but my own psychological safety is more important to me than putting band-aid over band-aid on a relationship that is just going to keep hurting me.

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Complex trauma or carrying around a large rock

Inspired by BurningBee’s fabulous comic about realising how the world is different when you are properly medicated for ADHD, I’d like to posit my thoughts on complex trauma (C-PTSD) and how it’s like carrying around a big rock. Sadly I don’t have anywhere near the talent of BurningBee, so it won’t be illustrated (but if you want to illustrate it, hit me up).

Continue reading

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And then there were more stories about relationships

The first being this excellent piece from Roxane Gay, “The Honeymoon Hasn’t Ended“, which talks about how fucking weird it is when (usually hetero) couples seem to actively resent being in relationships, their spouse and their children. The way that marriage and relationships are seen as a chore, or suffering to be endured.

Please people, find happiness.

The second was this quote from a response to a letter in The Guardian, “I miscarried, while my best friend had a healthy baby. Is it time to move on from the friendship?

It sounds like part of the problem is you don’t feel properly understood. An event that’s become such a big part of your life and emotional landscape doesn’t seem to take up the right amount of space in how she understands you; like the map you have of yourself and the map she has of you don’t match. That makes it really difficult to have a friendship. It’s hard to connect when you’re not even really seeing each other.

And I connect with this statement as I felt massively misunderstood by a now ex-friend last year. There was more to it, but that is part of it. The friendship is over, the impacts are not. Unlike the advice in the remainder of the article, I don’t think there is a chance to resolve things. I’ve spoken to a lot of people since the event, and no one, those who know both of us or those who are further away, suggest that there is any way to repair the bridge that was set on fire.

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A story quote on relationships

I began reading this short story by Will McIntosh called The Savannah Liars Tour as part of a Lightspeed Magazine (Issue 68). This paragraph summed up several conversations I’ve had recently with people.

You never love someone the way you do when you’re twenty. When you fall in love at thirty, or forty, your past comes with you – your broken hearts and shattered illusions – and there’s just so much of it, so many additives and preservatives mixed in that your emotions are never as pure as they were when you were twenty.

The Savannah Liars Tour by Will McIntosh

The conversations I’ve been having relate to how I could never replicate the relationship I have with James with anyone else. Not with Scott (who I’ve been with for 15 years) and not some future partner. James and I fell in love and started a relationship at a very formative time of our lives, we built templates for ourselves for things that we value and look for in other relationships, but the deep trust and understanding are very much one of a kind. No matter how much I may want to, I will never trust anyone else as much as I trust James. It’s something that frustrates me from time to time, but as that quote says, my past comes with me and things will never be as pure.

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Art and trauma

So it turns out that when I’m going through my childhood trauma (knowingly or unknowingly) I tend to art, drawing, painting or writing poems. When I am happy, I rarely art, spending more time on other things that add to my happiness. So my art is pretty bleak, fairly abstract and reflective of my inner emotional state.

The art I’m about to share here is from 2006 – 2008, and some of it I remember creating, and others I have no memory of at all (which might also be the tamoxifen’s fault). This stuff is mostly distant enough for me to share without it hurting me, though there is one drawing in this group that is a common one, so common in fact that James thought that it was the drawing I’d just done recently, not one from 2006 or 2007 (it’s undated, but I know when I was using the art book it’s in).

Anyway, I’ll start at the top (metaphorically speaking) and share the photos of my art with explanations as I remember (or not).

Me, 4 Sept 2006

This one is apparently me. I was hurting pretty hard at the time, having survived an ectopic pregnancy (and not dying), struggling with a relationship that made me very anxious. I don’t know now (because I have no recollection of this picture) if the things inside are the pain, or the things inside are just the multitudes within me.

James (dated 6 Sept 2006)

This is a representation of James. As a dear friend pointed out, it’s the only one of the three representations of other people that I drew that pretty much fills the page. From memory (and we are talking 2006), this represents James through his many layers of person, with a pure centre. The spiral outwards is in bi pride colours.

Anne, dated 6 Sept 2006

These two leaves represent Anne. I remember wanting to show the green of life, but without hard edges because Anne is soft and tactile.

Simon, 6 Sept 2006

Simon was my other partner at the time, and this drawing has him as a kind of question mark, still looking for who he was and what he wanted, but also at the same time embracing.

The bottom of the well, September 2006

This image was the sole reason I took the trip to Alice Springs, by myself, in 2006. I was looking for ways to deal with the trauma of an ectopic pregnancy, and the prickling of my own childhood trauma (something I didn’t admit even then). My counsellor is going to love this when I eventually get around to sharing it with her.

Keeping my people safe (undated, sometime in 2006)

My lovers have a tendency to run towards danger, the type who would want to see the aliens when they arrive instead of running towards the hill and waiting to see if they were going to eat us or not. No matter how pretty the danger, I want to people them safe.

Holding my heart high, late 2006

I remember sitting and drawing this while hosting a community stall at Sexpo in 2006. Ended up having an interesting conversation with an architect who was impressed I could art, because he couldn’t, and really he just wanted someone safe to have a conversation with before entering the general awkwardness of Sexpo.

Me vs the rainbow people, late 2006

This was the first time I drew this picture, and I drew it again recently (because I forgot I’d drawn it this time) and showed it to my counsellor – though it was slightly different. This is me feeling that I am dull and boring and that all the other people, that my partners are in relationships with, are far more bright and colourful. Basically a cry of “why be in a relationship with me when you could be in a relationship with them?”

It’s a trauma response.

A you shaped hole, Nov 2007

So after my break up with Simon, which was incredibly brutal on me, I painted this, the hole that he’d left in my heart.

untitled, 2007

I have zero recollection of what this painting is, why I painted it, or what I felt at the time. Thoughts welcome.

untitled, 2008

Another absolutely no clue. Things were better in 2008 for me, so I don’t know if this was a representation of me burying pain in a deep hole or that it is lurking and might at any moment come forth. It’s weird.

A you shaped scar, 2008

I do remember painting this one. Hoping that the pain of the ending of the relationship was more of a scar now than a thing that kept hurting me. It took a lot longer than a year to get over that relationship though, so this painting is somewhat wishful thinking.

So that’s my art from that period. I suspect one or two paintings I made at the time and gave to other people might have been lost/destroyed, which is ok. I have vague memories of them, and they’re not hugely important to me now.

I probably won’t wait another 16 years to show my current art that I have made thanks to trying to deal with my trauma, but it’s not the right time to share it now. It’s too raw and present.

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OMG Catholics

So today I was minding my own business on Twitter, just kidding I was reading stuff like normal, and came across this dude offering any “Practising Catholic” $1000 if they had had pre-marital sex and were still happily married. So I poked that hornet’s nest because the shaming of teenagers and adults who want to exercise their right to fuck, by suggesting that they are somehow stained, dirty, sinful, abhorrent fornicators is fucking gross.

Disclosure, I grew up Catholic, I spent many years of my life Catholic, I have studied the bible, read most of it, did bible studies with Baptists, was in a Catholic youth group, and have done a lot of my own reading on Christian thought. I know stuff, I’m not formally qualified in any of this, and I wouldn’t want to be because omg that would be tiresome, but I have been immersed enough in this bullshit to know it’s bullshit.

Anyway, I poked the tweep and said that despite my husband and I now being atheists, we both had pre-marital sex and have been happily married for over 25 years, but probably didn’t count because we weren’t Catholic any more. The tweep congratulated us and hoped that we would find god again soon – sure, no.

And this then started a long discussion, with lots of other randos also piling on the original tweeter and other people espousing the same position, about what a “practising Catholic” actually meant, the nature of sin, and why pre-martial sex is actually bad. All things considered it was actually a fairly polite conversation, I only ended up blocking one person who decided that because of my twitter bio, I was incapable of knowing what I was talking about when it came to Catholicism.

The reason I’m dusting off the blog post, is that because this train of thought is way too long for a twitter thread, so I’m posting it here.

The first thing is the whole idea of “mortal sins“. Now mortal sins for those who don’t have a background in Catholicism is where you do a bad thing that is so bad you threaten your relationship with god. So the obvious ones are murder, rape, torture… no wait torture isn’t a grave/mortal sin… The less obvious ones are abortion, “scandal”, theft, masturbation, pre-marital sex, blasphemy, participating in Freemasonry (no really), divorce and contraception, among others.

And I really have a big problem with murder being on par with masturbation. And this is one of my biggest problems with the Catholic Church, they decided that they had to rank bad things, but then they rank them so badly, that masturbating, a perfectly normal human activity, is as threatening to your relationship with god as murdering another person. One gives you a moment of pleasure, another results in someone’s life being taken away from them. I mean seriously, what the fuck.

This is the same Church that put the sexual abuse and rape of children in their care on par with the ordination of women. One of these seriously harms a person for the rest of their life, the other means that a woman might be able to be a priest.

We also talked about the Catholic Catechism, which seems to only have been relatively recently codified in it’s current form in about 1985, and before that existed in several different documents. These are all the rules that govern what it is to be Catholic apparently. I’ve never read the document, I have no idea of its content, despite being a Catholic for about 30ish years.

The original tweep said that a true Catholic follows all the rules of the church, which is simply impossible. I asked him who could possibly do that, and he answered Saints, which is also hilarious because no, they didn’t all follow all those rules, no one does.

I’m all for people attempting to live life by a set of rules that they voluntarily accept, as long as they don’t also attempt to make me also follow their rules. If they want to aspire to be the best Catholic good for them, but they shouldn’t beat themselves up when they fail. I felt sorry for the original tweep in the end, because he said that when he failed the rules, he was no longer a “practising Catholic” and had to rectify that, and seriously that is an unhealthy way to live. I suggested that if he calls himself Catholic, then he gets to do that, and his god wouldn’t take that away from him. Me, the atheist, comforting the believer because he was being mean to himself.

So yeah… Catholics…

I fully expect to wake up to my mentions being a massive bushfire tomorrow, because I was responding to the US tweep late in his night, and there is the potential for this to be a huge mess during their day while I am asleep. This is what the block button is for.

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