Category Archives: My Image
Posts where my image are featured or highlighted in some way. Sorry kids, no nudes here.
I keep a document on my computer called “scraps”. It’s the little phrases or bits of paragraph that I pull out of whatever I’m writing for this blog or the other writing projects I have going. When I write, I always take one pass to just get all the words on the page. One, big exhale of thought. No matter how circular, intricate or even scattered those thoughts are, I write down literally everything I can, feelings and all. I store so many ideas in my head, recognize so many connections between other concepts and themes that I can only make sense of It all by manifesting it in words – spoken or written.
I have always preferred writing to speaking, precisely because I can edit. Maybe it’s the perfectionism driven by my old Catholicism, or maybe it’s because I have more at stake with my writing if I publish it online, but one post could take me months to write and edit. I’m always paring down, not just because of word count (screw you, internet, I’ll write a 1200 word blog post if I wanna!), but for clarity, saliency, and simple relevance. As I pull out phrases that sound really awesome, bullet points that aren’t as relevant, paragraphs and links that will become the basis of their own posts, I can’t allow myself to let go of the idea, so I copy and paste into my “Scraps” document for safekeeping. This gives me the emotional freedom to edit without feeling like I’m losing an important thread of myself.
No edit button for real life
However, I can’t edit myself in real life or in real time. I can talk. Fuck, I can talk a lot. But most of what I’m doing is verbal processing of all the many connections I find between ideas, observations, and knowledge that are separated and disjointed. As I apply words to thoughts, it all starts to make sense to me. I start seeing the patterns, identifying areas of opportunity, understanding what actions I should take.
And in my most glorious moments, this is my realm, my territory, my kingdom: The intimately meandering conversations that all seem to circle around a profound point or theme, where topics range from science and pop culture to spirituality and personal trauma. Only by connecting and sharing with others with a genuine exchange of perspectives and experiences can I ever truly make sense of my own experience. I’m at my best when the conversation is organic, intimate, private.
My biggest stresses come from the inability to edit myself when I’m in a more formal, public and scrutinized environment. I am very purposeful with my words and I want the correct meaning to be conveyed at all times. When someone is hurt or offended or confused by what I say, it’s important to me to take responsibility for that, to learn from that experience, to do better the next time. But with that responsibility comes an inescapable compulsion to heavily edit myself before I say anything ever again.
I don’t want to ruin someone’s life because I was wrong about something I said
I’ve been public speaking since I was in 4th grade. That year I went to Space Camp and was asked to present to all the classes at my school about my experience. Eventually, I was also invited to speak at other schools as well. As time went on, as I participated in other experiences, I got very used to getting up in front of a crowd, rattling off something from the top of my head and delivering a succinct and precise message quite successfully.
It was one thing when I was a precocious teenager with ambition and spunk. It’s quite another when I’m an adult professional speaking with authority or as a subject matter expert. That shift, somewhere between college and law school, I started second-guessing myself. Maybe it was my first contracts class where the professor made an example out of the fact I hadn’t done the reading (my schedule changed that morning, jackass). Maybe it was the fact that most of my law professors agreed that I’d make a terrible litigator. I was too transparent in cross-examination to make a good lawyer. It definitely was influenced by the judge who dressed me down in front of the whole court for a typo back when I was a student attorney.
Once I graduated and progressed in my profession, I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I had “authority” now, people would take what I said and might make life-altering decisions from the words I uttered. I don’t want to be wrong. I don’t want someone’s life to be ruined because of the advice that I gave. So paranoid am I am about it, that after every speech, presentation or class, I have a panic attack – not before a speech, but after. That’s the point where I’m wishing I had the ability to edit myself, to re-answer that one question, to double check that statistic, to not sound so full of myself. My anxiety spirals me into a place of such distorted fear and dread, that I need to remove myself from the event for at least 15-30 minutes to restore some equilibrium.
Control helped me survive; letting go helps me heal
Editing gives me a sense of control. Control over how others perceive me, control over how the how much information I share. Control over my environment and experience. Control is safe. Control is how I’ve been able to survive. When I’m able to write, I can pour my heart out, edit and present the small gem I carved out of the raw, self-indulgent mess.
But healing isn’t complete unless we can let go of the things that no longer serve us. An authentic life isn’t about controlling how others view you – not self-editing or hiding one’s intentions or persona forever. It is about trusting that you’re enough, that you can handle whatever happens, that you trust enough in the universe to support your attempts at authenticity.
At some point in our journey we have to step into the light and be seen for who we really are. Stripped away of the artifice and masks of constructed stories, letting go of the clutter of thoughts we have about what others want of us and decide for ourselves that it is simply enough for us to exist as ourselves in our present reality. Healing is letting go.
And as such, nothing from this post ended up in the scraps document. Because it is enough to just show up authentically as myself, without hidden agendas or constructed personas. I deserve to fully show up in the world as the raw, unedited me.
Back in February, I participated in a body positive challenge. I was needing to feel more confident and sensual in my body, needing to accept where it is now. I’ve grown so weary of my body wearing my trauma for me. I’ve grown so tired of trying to protect myself from the opinions of others by covering up and denying that my body can be beautiful and magical and downright amazing when I decide it is.
But like most women, I have a complicated relationship with my body. When someone compliments me on it, I react rather adversely and predictably. “Oh no, it’s not.” In my mind, I’m just echoing the ongoing opinion of larger, older women’s bodies. In my mind, I’m enforcing a truth universally acknowledged. But what I’m really doing is rejecting my own beauty, even if it’s a sliver of what I’d want it to be. I’m denying that to myself over and over again.
Taking a Risk for Myself
For the past year, I’ve been inching towards making my living as a sex, relationship educator, writer, consultant something or other. Basically, everything that I love to do that isn’t the practice of law. To do any of this, I needed to start curating more of an online presence. It means more writing (yay!). It means developing content for a more expansive website. And it is showing who I am as an educator and professional. And because I’m teaching about intimacy and sex, that includes representing who I am as a sexual woman.
The only professional photos I have are ones I got done about 4 years ago for my mediation practice. And while I love those photos, they aren’t the best representation of what I offer as a sex educator. So I contacted my friend, Anthony Graham, with Broken Glass Photography.
I have tried and failed to do boudoir photo shoots. It usually becomes a last minute cancellation because I’m curled up in a ball crying with the anxiety of it all. Most shoots I see with women of my size and with my belly don’t look comfortable or at ease. And each time I would see such little representation of either women my size or women of color, I felt more and more that I didn’t have any assets worth seeing once you know that women of my size aren’t usually celebrated or revered. Read the rest of this entry
Selfies aren’t hard for me. I take them and post them often enough that some of you will think that this is just a normal day for me.
But what I don’t do is show my unedited side. I don’t show the frowns or the tears or the less polished aspects of myself for a camera. I brag that I’m authentic and real, but there is convincing evidence that I’m not always showing my full self. Part of that is my tendency to play the people pleaser, to feel like I need to be “on” all the time. How many selfies have I not posted because of some critical eye I have toward how I look or how I feel about those looks?
I can’t look objectively at my self. The loathing I have for my imperfections is deeper than I admit sometimes. I string along facsimiles of confidence hoping that it will cover for the deeper insecurities I have about my size, my uneven eyes, my flat hair, my giant nose, my freckles, my scars. But those insecurities cover up the darker corners of self-worth where the wounds of adolescence and childhood reside. The ones that were taught to be pleasing to everyone, to give them what they want even if it isn’t what I feel.
Shit, I’m delving into rape culture territory here–a burden most women shoulder without even thinking. Performing for the approval of others has been a big way I can fake self-worth and hide from the harsh criticisms of others.
But if I really want to be radical and sincere in my personal changes, I need to show myself in the moment. How I actually feel. How I actually present in the world. Unadorned, unedited, undeterred.
So for today’s challenge I give you an imperfect selfie. Fucking hard for me to post. The imperfection of my face, my body, my lack of great curves, my disproportionate structure–gah! It just gets to me. But I promised–so here you go. Unedited, no filters and only a tiny bit of cropping.
This is the me that is recovering from an acute PTSD episode that has had me on edge and loopy the past two days.
This is the me that has burned out and is in need of replenishment.
This is the me that is disappointed and hurt that my love isn’t reciprocated by the people I actually want to pursue.
This is the me that is fed up with giving the emotional labor to people who can’t be bothered to learn me and truly be there for me.
This is the me ashamed I don’t make more time for dating; and the me that is determined to not need anyone in my life.
This is the me of this moment. And maybe, right now, I just need my own acceptance and love.
Something snapped today.
I have known for a while that I might break. I’ve been wound too tight for too long without much opportunity for relief. And I know what you’re thinking: sexual relief *giggle*. And while I will get to that in a minute, I mean some actual soul-level relief.
I work in a highly stressful job. Stressful and immensely rewarding. Intuitively it seems like it should balance out, but it really doesn’t. There is a price to be paid for being positive and hopeful and optimistic in the face of overwhelming disparity, trauma, and hardship. And I have been paying that price for much longer than I’ve had this job.
It won’t surprise you that I care about caring. I care about virtually everyone I meet. A kid walking down the hallway who trips over his shoelaces–I care about him. An old friend from HS who is having marriage problems–I care about her. A celebrity’s family after a tragic accident or loss–I care about them. I don’t know these people, but I expend heart energy for them. My personal avatar should be a Care Bear.
Less than a week until a performance and I am fighting my anxiety. I am nervous about my endurance. Nervous about my injuries over the past few months. But more than anything nervous over my body and how it will be perceived.
This performance marks 4 years since I started taking belly dance lessons. My life was so different back then. I was in a long-distance marriage in addition to the legal marriage I am still in now. I had a girlfriend and was only barely flirting with Warrior. I was trying to please a Dom who lacked the consistency I really needed and craved. I was still recovering from being outed and I was in a job that was safe but utterly boring. I was feeling stuck in a pattern of my own fear, constantly focusing on what I seemed to lack especially when it came to having an outlet.
I realized not too long ago that I have been a dancer my entire life. Tap, ballet, figure skating, flamenco, ice dancing, the list goes on. When I went out clubbing I was proud to be one of the women to watch…and I used that power to urge otherwise neglected men onto the floor with me. Some of my favorite moments happened while dancing in a gay bar in Chicago during their salsa night. I was the only girl there who knew salsa and was a lifesaver for all the gay boys who only knew how to lead and not follow. Later that night I seduced one of the only straight men there and came while we danced on the floor. I’ve been involved in the arts in some way or another, but it is only in dancing that I feel like an artist.
Despite the hours that I work on my dancing, the fact that I can sustain a shimmy for 4 straight minutes and I continue to work on conditioning I am simply not what people expect to see of a belly dancer. my belly is lumpy and riddled with stretch marks. I am not lean and lithe like most dancers. I am curvy to an extreme. And while I have made significant progress toward accepting and loving my body, still the prospect of performing for an audience always puts a heavy dose of fear into me.
I have overheard people comment about my size, especially after fetish shows. Some negative and some positive. And for all the positive commentary I do receive, the negative sticks in my head even more. And as I put on my choli, bra and hip scarf I have to overcome those messages of “why the fuck do I want to see a bunch of fat notches dance?” that have become so internalized from a history of body issues.
I take some responsibility for allowing these messages to permeate but what bothers me is that people say them at all. Whether they hurt me or not is irrelevant. What bothers me is someone in the audience may overhear the comment and decide not to try out this form of expression (which is incredibly liberating and challenging for any gender or body type). What bothers me are the standards within the belly dance community that encourage us to cover our “less than perfect bellies” with mesh cover-ups. What bothers me is that message…from the shitty audience member or the belly focal queen who thinks she is preserving modesty in the community…is absolutely the wrong message.
The message I prefer to send when I am dancing is full of joy in my craft, openness in my every moment, gratitude in sharing this space with others and a freedom of expression nothing else in life can ever offer me.
So here I am showing this body, saying it is okay for me to be a little bit nervous…but even better for me to be proud of all the amazing, snake-like movements I can execute…and to surprise even myself a little with the curve of my body and the freedom and power in my spirit.
There has been a lot happening in my world of work these past few weeks. I have been building my own business and I finally have a paying client. So, which this isn’t a forever sort of gig, it is nice to know I will be paid for the work I already completed.
So here is a picture to satisfy until I have a bit more opportunity to write more.
Don’t have much time to update here but wanted to share a few tidbits from our own, personal kinky roadshow. Have pride will travel.
This weekend I am with my gay brothers in my hometown for their pride festival. After settling at the hotel we headed on the road again for an ice cream social. The gay community of Fremont County was just sweet and generous. They welcomed us with open arms. They seemed so supportive of each other. Which I think is essential when living in a small community like that.
And last night we ended up at the community’s only gay bar where my friends got introduced and I was oggled by every gay man in the space. Pictures soon to follow.
But right now we have the local pride parade. Just waiting for the boys to get ready to go.
Once I get back home I will update with more photos and a lot of insights on how it feels to be “out” in ny hometown.
A Loose Woman Speaks
I have burned with you in the fires; I have resurrected you from the despair. I’ve held your hand in the depths of your darkness. I’ve given you light to lift you. I’ve been here each time you’ve prayed out loud or cried silently.
Sweet and bold. Powerful and quiet. I will never leave you, my Love.
Blissful and melancholy. Radiant and cursed. Sensual and familiar. Rough and blessed. Vibrant and smooth. I embrace your duality and all the space in between.
Strike at the soul and be consumed within these flames.