Category Archives: Spirituality
The more spiritual nature of my blog. No specific religion, but various means, methods and paths are represented here.
This post hit me in the gut right when I was at my lowest, mired in Imposter Syndrome and knee-deep in panic. This was a small light that emerged in the darkness, illuminating one of the deepest, hardest truths of my life.
Sacrifice as proof of worth?
I am not as familiar with the Giving Tree – I managed to encounter Shel Silverstein, without much time spent on this book. However, this criticism of this story rang a clear, resonant note of truth within. Sacrifice of talents…using them to meet the needs of others is a major reason for my anxiety and internalized pain.
This why I have a complicated relationship with the Catholicism of my youth. I still believe in the divine – I don’t call it god or any specific name, but I feel connected to something bigger than myself, far more infinite and loving than anyone can imagine. I’ve felt this presence since I was a kid, a guiding presence that was on my side, lovingly cheering me on even in my mistakes.
But Catholicism invaded at a very young age with messages telling me to fear God. The introduction of shame was packaged with meaning and redemption. The judgment meant I was answerable for every small transgression – such as merely thinking about sex. Any violation had to be confessed and absolved in order to still qualify for heaven someday. Humility or humiliation?
That isn’t to say that I didn’t genuinely love some aspects of Catholicism. I am drawn to a sense of ritual to anchor my spirituality. The Mass exemplifies the elegance in which all the senses keep your body present in the moment: incense, music, movement and body connection, the wine and bread, the visual presentation of the mass and its setting. There is something divine in the visceral celebration of our humanity like that.
But the spiritually connective ecstasy I experience in the rituals of faith are soured in seeing the shallowness of the people who claim community with me. The hatred they sow, the majestic righteousness they promote, the private deceitfulness they practiced were abhorrent. And because I was a “true believer” (in middle and high school), I had an obligation to be better than the average Sunday catholic.
That pressure was doubly true for a “visionary”, someone seemingly “chosen” to fulfill a mission. Someday I’ll share more about it, but at the young age of 12, I had been called to be the “hands of Mary”. My world changed. Faith was no longer an aspiration, but a leadership skill. Little old ladies asked for my blessing. Priests were at the ready to advise (I chose my confessors wisely).
My role always has been to provide healing, light and love in the world, to be the tangible and conceptual hands of the divine and loving feminine. The challenge of this role: this path would be paved with sacrifice, selflessness, imbalance and fairness, infinite patience, and the constant fear that I am not giving enough.
Someone else needed my gifts more than me.
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed” . A moment in the mass that is so sincerely that I tear up anytime we get to that part (and I hate how they’ve changed it).
My parents taught me kindness and hard work, but Catholicism amplified those qualities so that anything less than perfect performance was swiftly declared a sin. A true examination of conscience reveals all the minutiae of errors in word and deed and imposed shame for the sin of having faults and bad days. Any kindness I refused my fellow human being was a black mark on my soul, a disappointment to god. Anything less than perfect patience was selfishness. Asking to be loved back or simply accepted was greedy. I was so good at turning the mirror on myself, at holding myself accountable, that I confessed the tiny little lies I tell myself to cover for my flawed self.
I was a literal expert at tearing myself down. Why pretend I am better than I really am? Why bring attention to myself by promoting my achievements? Why take the credit when others’ contributions were more significant? I viewed my pride, my selfishness and greed with such disdain. These were what was going to land me in hell, I knew it. I reasoned that if I put myself through hell now, I might not be judged as harshly later.
In high school, when I found out I was in the running for salutatorian, I deliberately blew off a couple of classes to ensure that I wouldn’t take that particular spotlight. I figured other people deserved it more and that I wasn’t harming them by taking myself out of the running. I didn’t want or need the spotlight and such attention feels inappropriately arrogant. To this day I can’t even take a compliment because fuck…how selfish would that be?
Self-Destruction isn’t Love
So…here I am at 41 years old constantly struggling with imposter syndrome, trying to lead a major arm of a local nonprofit and still trying to make a difference with the individuals I encounter. And this locus of worth, the laden expectations of the purpose I chose for myself is what is holding me back. I have so convinced myself that by possessing certain gifts and talents, that by choosing a larger purpose for my life, that I must deny any benefits that allow me to live in celebration or accomplishment.
The consequence is I have trouble believing in myself or in my own value in these roles. I chase after everyone’s goal-posts, trying to please everyone’s expectations of me at once. Constantly struggling with never feeling “good enough” or “smart enough” or “pretty enough” because I judge my best efforts as never enough – I could always do more, be more, share more. Thus, I am easily manipulated by others’ disappointment in me, including lovers, co-workers and random strangers. I succumb to the friends who say I’m not there for them enough. I break myself making it up to the partners who resent that I’ve chosen work instead of them.
I have impossible choices, all driven and decided by the lack of value I find in my own reward and happiness. I fall on my sword at every opportunity – because I should be held accountable for not being all things to all people. How fucking dare I not be infinitely grateful to serve in all the divine perfection I am allowed? How dare I not be grateful for the gifts god gave me? Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – for the greater glory of god.
The toll this has taken on my mental health cannot be understated or dismissed. “Just stop thinking like that” they tell me, as if turning off years of programming and self-flagellating reinforcement is simple because now I’m suddenly “worthy”. Nah, it doesn’t work like that.
That’s not to say I haven’t done heavy lifting on this subject, but when you’re “smart”, you are likewise talented at overthinking everything. And combined with the Catholic examination of conscience, it’s easy to feel like I’m not going to ever be good enough.
But more than anything, these noble messages that equate sacrifice with pure love during childhood imply that our gifts, our talents, or unique value aren’t our own. Our gifts are meant for the consumption of others. Our gifts are meant to be shared with humanity, even if it means we subsist on anxiety and eggshells the rest of our lives.
“You’re meant for something more” is what we tell our smart kids, our spiritual kids, our mature kids. And those kids become adults who sacrifice themselves at the altar of humanity’s betterment. We learn fast, are adaptable and aware. Our skills of observation, of reading the signs of adults around us serve as a shortcut to help us excel and thus generate more to share with humanity. The better we get, the more we have to give in return.
I am trying to find balance with this right now, which is why I had to take a sick day. But that one day of self-care cost me sleep the next night because my conscience wouldn’t allow me to let anyone down. Sacrifice myself so others aren’t ever challenged to be inconvenienced or uncomfortable.
I almost quit this time last week – for no other reason than the fact that I don’t find myself worthy of this level of responsibility. I have always felt my “accomplishments” were just a payment toward the debt that I owe to the divine for the weighty charge I have been given. I will forever be paying back a debt I never incurred. Whereas those who have taken of my time and energy will never be asked to replenish what was given. (Consider the analogous application to the environment).
I chose a life of spiritual servitude, that any other day of the week I choose gladly – but last week it just unraveled me because …I’m exhausted. Too many have asked for more when I clearly have nothing left to give. And it hurts when they fault me for not having enough for them when I don’t have enough to keep myself going. But no matter whether it’s work, friendships, family or more they don’t see or care what it is costing me.
I sincerely believe I am capable of giving my all in the name of love, but my biggest challenge is to demonstrate that love for myself, to allow myself the worth of replenishment. If I am worthy enough of scorn, I’m likewise worthy enough for their forgiveness. And with the gifts I have offered the connection will always feel incomplete until I’m willing to receive.
Each of us shares our life with someone.
In all actuality, we share our lives with many someones.
Our orbits pass through one another, sometimes crashing through the orbits of others everyday. With every action, with every word, with every choice, we send ripples of significance. We each influence someone, several someones, in our day-to-day lives and in the memories reverberating in those we may never see again. And even the most obtusely selfish among us can serve as an inspiration to someone else. One ripple sends another and another.
We are all connected. Maybe positively, maybe negatively – no matter how brief, no matter how intense, the connections we share are inescapable. What happens to one of us reverberates through the rest of us.
Even in the darkest of my depressions, it is this truth that keeps me going. This truth has been the basis of my life and my calling. It is the guidebook for my decision-making, the tome I refer to when I feel I’m off my path. I gravitate toward connectedness with others, even if it means breaking faith with what the world would have me do with its rules and expectations.
It is the universality of our connectedness that gives me hope for our future but likewise makes me fear for our present.
We live in unprecedented times. When I was 15, I cared deeply about politics, but it didn’t rule my every thought or conversation. I worried about getting my homework done, navigating increasingly more adult decisions. I didn’t have to worry about my life or the lives of those around me. We didn’t know the earth was dying.
My son is now 15 with a keen mind for politics and history. He doesn’t want kids because “why bother when the earth will be uninhabitable by the time they’re 10”.
It breaks my heart that my son, my bright light of hope in this world, cannot see any hope in our future. He watched with panic and anxiety when Trump announced, foreseeing a time that brown people would be locked up. Fearing for my Mexican family, that election was so difficult to endure for us both. It became real to us – we were being collectively targeted and threatened.
Combined with the regularity of lock-outs, the proliferation of cyber bullying and the rapidly empty responses to climate change, he has nothing left to believe in. He watched his country, the adults and parents who should be watching out for his generation, elect the most unsophisticatedly inhumane of any candidate possible to usher his generation into adulthood. Environmental protections are dismantled, a sledgehammer has been taken to a woman’s right to choose, and racism, sexism and discrimination is sanctioned and protected.
We have a generation of children who have been force fed a steady diet of fear and impulsive intolerance. Even for the kids not directly in harm’s way today, the multitude of dangers they have to navigate put my youthful grievances into clearer perspective. The trauma, the low, constant hum of human suffering accumulated slowly over time.
Who would they be if we hadn’t done this to them?
We all belong to each other.
This isn’t about my kid vs your kid. This isn’t about comparing our suffering. It’s about recognizing that we share the burden of carrying that experience with and for each other. Without your experience, how can I possibly ever understand mine? We serve as mirrors for each other, reflecting both the pain and the resilience, the fear and the healing. By sharing those experiences, we give context to someone else’s.
People often tell me that I share too much online. And I do. I know better than most the consequences of sharing so much. But I also know that dee in my soul, I share my ideas and experiences so that others might find something that resonates with them. If my story can help even one other person, then I experience a transformative effect for the pain I’ve lived through. I reclaim more of who I really am and I experience a greater freedom in living my most authentic life.
So many of us have been through some horrible things, things that we’re only now starting to find a voice for. Many of us are grappling with the outcomes and consequences of shame, guilt or trauma. That realization has a ripple effect around us, even momentarily altering how we see ourselves and the world around us. And if, in this moment we can collectively mourn for the people we never became, if we can reconcile the betrayal we feel, we might recognize that we have more in common than we think.
In these moments of crisis, in these days of uncertainty, we have a choice whether to silo ourselves away in a tower of enforced misery, or whether we might deserve the strength of sincere companionship. We have a choice to model for our over stressed and over burdened children how to handle emotions like fear or distrust, how to maintain resolve when it looks like all is lost. We can show them leadership. We can show them another way.
Connecting with one another, making ourselves vulnerable to share in the burdens, collaborating on solutions together may be the only way we can ensure that our children will survive their futures.
We all belong to each other.
We all want to be loved, to be found worthy of our intended’s affection, to be worthy of our parents’ pride, to be deserving of close friendships and to bask in the joy of romantic passion. Only by realizing and engaging with that connection will we be able to create a world of abundance, security and peace for us all.
It is now fully 2018. I’m successfully writing the correct year on timesheets. I’ve had time to think about the new year and set intentions and avoid the bad habits long enough to feel like I gave the resolutions the ol’ college try. It is well beyond the time that we would expect to see a “Goodbye 2017 and Hello 2018” type of post out of me, which is why I’ve been sitting with the draft of this post for at least three weeks now.
What I had originally intended to post was my own version of this post by writer Courtney E. Martin who had blogged her answers to 7 questions about aligning intentions in 2018. I wanted to post something similar, but as usual, I started to overthink my answers, allowed it to interfere with the message I wanted to send.
I’ve lost half my life to being a People-Pleaser
I’ve been overthinking my entire life. Controlling for every error, every judgment, every consideration imaginable. And I’m devastated when I fuck up. How could I have allowed myself to make such a stupid mistake? I have spent most of my life controlling for what other people will think of me. In finally overcoming my sense of undeservingness I now have to face the facts about why I care so deeply about what other people think.
I have a pattern of anticipating how I can please others that has resulted in a life so well-controlled by anticipated shame and judgment that I am holding back my own truth, my own needs and desires. Some of it is trauma-based, some of it is personal wounds I kept from healing, but almost all of it is a defensive means of restraint so that the minimum number of people will be displeased with me as possible. It has also been a way for others to control me, to keep me from voicing my needs and holding them accountable for not meeting them.
Nowhere was that control more destructive than with my sexuality. That judgment, that repulsed look in someone’s eye when they hear I am polyamorous. The body image issues that I swallowed with each compromise of a blowjob when someone was too upset by seeing my fat. The compromises, the shame, the guilt in such conflict never trusting in my own voice and intuition.
Who am I when I stop letting others tell me who they want me to be?
The only choice I had was to strip away everything that I had believed about myself, about my motives, about my injuries, about my own narrative, to take away everything that had been whispered or yelled at me. To dig out the stinger those words and actions embedded under my skin.I had to strip that all away so I’d have a chance get back to the purity of what sex means to me: the connection between two (or more) human beings who want to be there in this moment together. In it’s purest form, it is the intimacy of that shared moment that drives me and motivates me, that led me to say yes to so many experiences that can shine forward as fond memories for me.
By stripping away all the dicta, the meaningless words that don’t ultimately matter, I had to surrender to my own truth.
My truth is I have always cared to talk about the experience of sex that aligns with a soul’s purpose. I don’t mean only serious sex or lifelong committed relationships. I mean that one-night stand that awakens your passion, fuels your inspiration and then disappears. I mean that moment when you are accepted in all your fullness by a lover. I mean that 500th time you’ve had sex with your partner and they accidentally find a new way to make you moan for more. I mean that long-distance crush who teaches you the meaning of patience and resilience. I mean the sexual encounters that help us open ourselves to the connections that teach us about ourselves, allow us to glimpse possibilities within. I care about what sex can do to heal the soul with joy.
This is what I offer.
Goddess of the Crossroads: No one can do it for you
I have never felt comfortable giving people advice, telling them what they should do or what they shouldn’t do. There are always so many considerations, most of which are highly personal and relative to how you view the world. I can reflect what I see, but I can’t make the decision for you.
My talent, my work (even with advocacy) is to understand the invisible patterns and connections between and within people. Those dynamics motivate and inform the choices available to someone at any given time. What I care about is being a guide at the crossroads – not instructing you on what choice/path to take – but advising on how to:
- Know yourself well enough to know your priorities & boundaries;
- Evaluate the choices in light of those priorities;
- Predict the path ahead so you’re prepared for what you face after the choice including the collateral consequences to others; and
- Identify opportunities for alignment with the person you most want to become.
But all of this is about stripping away what everyone else tells you about how you should feel or what you should do. Ultimately this is your life to create and craft as your own. No one, not me, not anyone can tell you what choices to make. We can only share our experiences, our knowledge and our support. The rest is about surrendering to the power of your own truth, to forge forward on your own and for your own reasons.
I’ve been scared about whether there’s a place for me as a sex educator or blogger. Is there a place for the more spiritual side of sex without it being labeled as Tantra or New Age? Is there a place where we can recognize that even dirty, kinky sex is sacred and that even sex labeled as sacred can be abusive? How do we better attune ourselves to both surrender and control, to both trust and responsibility? Who can play with the dualities but a woman who has stood at the crossroads more times than I can count? Who knows better about the sacrifices we need to make to please others than the woman who chooses not to sacrifice a vital part of herself in order to fit in?
I can no longer ignore the next step of my journey is surrendering to my own truth and living that truth as honestly as I can. To be the woman I aspire to be, I need to be comfortable in my own skin, making choices that align with that higher purpose. I have lived with the inner conflict and turmoil of distrusting myself, of suppressing my needs and desires to make others happy. I have watched as that stole the joy from my sexuality, made me so self-conscious that I removed myself from any new adventures. I have felt the pain of obeying others at the sacrifice of myself. And here I stand, stripped of the artificial expectations of others, surrendering my shields and allowing myself to experience and share life as fully in the moment as I can this year.
Only by surrendering to our deepest truths, to the power of this moment, will we able to step toward the future we deserve.
I’m always flirting with the danger of being a little too stuck in the past. I revisit old lovers, I regularly journey wistfully in nostalgic reverie, I seek out connections to the past at any opportunity. I want to live in present and often do, but I like to revisit where I’ve been. It’s useful to gain some perspective, to reframe the thoughts I have about who I was. Ultimately, it gives me some insight and inspiration into where I want to go.
A few days ago I turned 40 years old. (Yay!) I was lucky enough to spend a full 48 hours on things that nourished my soul. A chakra massage, tarot readings from two different people, joyful celebration, quiet contemplation, a party, a blessing, a clearing, a purging of my darkness. See, the overwhelming message that came through to me (even with The Last Jedi) was how I needed to let go of the remnants of the past so that I can finally move forward to a place of deservingness and peace. I need to stop examining the past to piece together my shattered worthiness and instead needed to accept my own light, accept my new role and create a future of bright, shining energy.
This is my own personal Tower. This is the structure that has been holding up my life, created from memory, from experience, from learning, and above all from distortions about these. This structure of service without reward, of absorbing the darkness in others so that they might find their light has been such a primary source of identity for me. I’ve been resisting tearing that down, but it’s become so apparent to me that this is the last piece of “suffering” I must do in order to fully feel like I can move forward into the structure I’m building for myself.
The time has come for me to step into Who I Really Am.
The Origins of the Tower
Growth is accepting that not every structure in our life is meant to remain. We must either tear down the old, worn down Tower of self or a wrecking ball will come through and force us to rebuild.
Some of you have seen me talk about “tearing down my tower”. The Tower, a reference to tarot, is what I use to refer to those sacred institutions, behaviors, beliefs, reactions, etc that we use to process the outside world. Whether it be religion, sexuality, expectations in friendships, family values, politics, we each construct a Tower for ourselves, the structure for our home, our life, our relationships, our spirituality, our outlook on life.
The walls of our Towers are adorned with paintings of our grand achievements, statues of the important people in our lives, wall-to-wall libraries containing the knowledge we’ve accumulated along the way. Each is unique to our own self.
Our first Tower was built by our parents, caregivers, and others in authority when we were children. They were shaped for us so that we should be taught how to treat others, what to believe spiritually, what we find beautiful or loving, what priority learning should have in our lives. It provides us with shelter and protection.
I have always been a Colorado Girl at heart. I grew up in a moderate sized town that all the time feels much smaller than its borders might seem. Everyone back home is connected. Strangers are looked on with pitiful suspicion and yet the residents constantly complain about the rich culture they have.
I will always be from here. I will always have crisp, cool mountain streams flowing deep in my veins. I’m perhaps as Mountain Mex as you get. And this weekend I spent the night at our cabin about an hour or so outside of Denver. I’m drafting this as I sit on the porch, Husband making dinner, meditation music in the background, kid is giggling to himself as he reads a comic book. I can hear the distant grumble of a motorcycle but know it won’t ever come past this place. I feel the freshness of the mountain air and I spent 10 minutes just watching clouds and their ever evolving shapes.
I am finally, fully at peace.
Connecting with the earth, grounding myself by climbing up some small boulders and meditating while facing Longs Peak. I was so utterly and fiercely at peace in that moment. Rest finally has started to set in. The kind of rest that only another Colorado Goddess would understand.
What I have been avoiding the past few months is the wisdom of rest, of obeying the cycles of the earth. I’ve always disobeyed sleep–“sleepiness is weakness of character”–and I barely eat regularly. I don’t like routine, I rebel against a set routine. But I can and do honor cycles.
My period started on Thursday. And so did the emotional fallout of what was triggered in me by the eclipse. I broke down into sobs on the way home that night. Overwhelmed and envious of those who can so easily engage in the carnal desires that used to be my realm of expertise. I always tend to resent and resist the ebb and flow of my own body, of my own spirit, of my own needs until finally nature wins out.
I talk a lot about the transformations that I have felt over the past few years, but the one that is still faltering is my ability to allow a relationship to flourish into what it should be sexually and emotionally. I have been out if he habit for so long that I start to overthink things, worry about not falling into the same traps I have before. I choose to wait it out, make them wait until my trust is finally ready. I never fully allow myself the ability to just give in to the tides of the moment. Not only must I always be the responsible adult, I also must never make a mistake.
Resistance of my nature
Over the past several years I have convinced myself that I am undesirable or that if I am desired it’s because I’m skilled at adapting myself to what others need me to be. And when I find those who do desire me physically, I construct walls because I believe that if they experience physical attraction to me, they may have trouble with the spiritual connections I desire.
Thus, I’ve grown very tentative in my romantic potentials, always staying only distantly engaged because I don’t trust myself and I don’t trust their desire. It’s not just men, I apply this hesitation to women as well. I have wonderful and beautiful people in my life, but I have always questioned my worthiness of that love and attention. I shut it down, deflect it, only minimally engage with it because I don’t want to do something wrong to be found unworthy.
But when I’m here, in the mountains, I’m clear. I’m grounded. I’m confident. I’m secure. Time moves more slowly. My spirit feels aligned but as flexible as a new aspen tree. And I recognize myself again.
In this moment, with this freedom of sky and nature, I can feel my body begin to succumb to the subtle joys of stillness. I can feel myself begin to unwind, my mind less concerned with details and more concerned with falling into a rhythm within. I accept this gift for what it is. A moment of replenishment, a moment of resilience, a moment of radiance. No resistance necessary. It is about me choosing my own experiences and using the energy i gain from the mountains to manifest my core desires once again.
Permission to be free
I have done a lot of work in my professional life, work that due to the emotionally heavy nature of what I do, has taken a toll on me personally. No wonder I haven’t been willing to give myself over to sex with new people. Because my body knows what it needs and it isn’t the awkward passions of a night out, or the insubstantial promises of pleasure.
Pleasure, my true face of pleasure, is a vulnerable experience and I do not give that to just anyone. They must also be worthy of me.
Knowing that I can and do direct my experiences helps me find perspective in my sexual reluctance lately. I know exactly what I want and it isn’t some unknown who can’t be bothered to be present enough to see me for who I am. It isn’t the Twitter follower who ignores the rants I write or the bad days I’ve had and thinks I should spend my time flirting with them.
No, what I need is a lover. An honest to goodness soul nurturing lover, willing to give of himself or herself to fully feed me, and to be fed spiritually by me as well. I want someone I don’t have to fumble with and who is fully present in a erotically healing space together with me.
I just won’t settle. I won’t settle for bad casual sex. I won’t settle for rushed, entitled sex. I won’t be pressured into whiny, insecure sex. I choose the sex and the situations that are right for me.
And sometimes what is right for me is time by myself to think and feel. This weekend is right for me.
Today (Saturday) I have meditated, read a couple of chapters in a book about the many faces of the god and goddess, played a game with my family and felt my spirit nurtured with the passion for my home state. No Trump propaganda nonsense. No screaming Twitter tirades. No worry about the state of my house.No internet. No tv. Just music, books, crocheting and my writing. My family — Husband and the Kid — and my connection to the mountain.
This week I’ve been a very busy sex educator, but not a terribly prepared one. This always happens. I get word that I’ll be presenting. I have plenty of time to prepare. But I leave it until the last minute to get my notes together and to prepare a loose outline of what I want to cover. Then throw in packing, finishing up the taxes, my period and a heap of work pressure and I’m pretty primed to be stressed by the time I arrive at the hotel tomorrow and fully drained by Sunday.
This is how I sabotage myself and drive my perfectionism into overdrive mode. It’s a vicious and ugly cycle that keeps me running from one extreme to another. I spend most of my time so amped up and I don’t know what to do with myself when it’s calm. My stress, my guilt, this ugly pattern of high powered ambition matched with crippling fear of failure. Eventually, I stack so much on myself that I’m not fully present either as a partner or a presenter.
It’s just another way to make myself undeserving. My procrastination, my addiction to stress hormones, my anxiety and perfectionism, my insecurities are the manifestations of my fear that I am just not deserving of the success I want in this arena. Because…
If I’m successful, I have to show up.
If I’m successful, I’m responsible for being present within that recognition.
If I’m successful, I have to own it.
When I’m not successful I can avoid it–the responsibilty, the ownership, the risk, and the reward. But that avoidance, the wallowing in the seeming inevitability of failure, is what invites my inner shrew to take up residence and keep me stuck exactly where I am.
The shrill call of the inner shrew
I hate that term in general, but it’s the voice that lurks within all of us that tells us we’re not good enough. “No one is going to listen to you”. “You’re not an ‘expert’ and everyone will see you’re a fraud”. “If you’re not 100% careful, you will get disbarred.” It really never stops. That self-talk that says I’m not good enough or smart enough or gosh darn it, nobody likes me. It’s a relentless critical nagging in the back of my head.
This voice is at its strongest whenever I’m at my weakest. When I’m worn down by stress and anxiety already present in my life, it’s easier for that voice to beat my psyche to a bloody pulp with all its accusations, suppositions and assumptions. So highly critical of my own success, that voice gives me excuses to sabotage myself at every turn. To stay stuck where it’s safe.
Self-doubt accumulates and builds over time. It starts as just a slow drip. An occasional stray thought that goes through your head sounding plausible and rational and then it dissipates. But then the next drop falls and the next, each dissipating more slowly, like each new doubt gains power from the one before it. If I’m not careful, I’ll go from the very reasonable “You really need to double check those stats before the conference” to “Everyone is going to hate you and they’re never going to invite you back and you’ll never date again and die without ever feelings NRE ever again.”
I can go from a drop to deluge to drowning in 10 minutes flat.
As a sex educator, I talk a LOT about self-care. It’s a tool in dealing with the inevitable fuck-ups you’ll encounter along the way. We all make mistakes and have bad experiences in our relationships and sexual expression. Self-care is a great tool to recover and get yourself back out there again.
But it’s just as much about recovering from the moments where our own inner shrew seems hellbent on beating us down, especially in our thoughts and fears about our intimate relationships. She’ll criticize us for needing care. She’ll belittle our attempts to ask for what we need because she’ll convince us that we’re not deserving. She’ll wrap us in indecision and fear of rejection, causing us to stay silent about boundaries or unmet needs. She’ll convince us that we’re not smart, or pretty, or fun enough to be loved.
We steal our hope to protect us from success
It wasn’t until last night that I realized how insidious my own relationship with this voice is. My son was having trouble sleeping before a big day of testing. He was putting so much pressure on himself to succeed, to force himself to perform even if he was already giving his best. It was making him sick with worry and fear.
This is the curse of my family — growing up Latino, I was taught I had to prove myself by giving 110% all the time, every day. It was ingrained in my upbringing, rewarded but not always recognized. Stopping for something as silly as self-care was a luxury and indulgent. Vacations were few and far between. And don’t even get me started on massages, manicures or parties. The point was drilled into me, not just by my Mexican family but by the Catholic Church, that I am not worthy and nothing I could ever do will make me worthy in the eyes of either the mainstream or the divine.
What a depressing and utterly exhausting way to live. So undeserving I felt I was that I purposely threw some of my tests in high school just so others would get awards and not me. I don’t like the spotlight in general, but recognition was far beyond the scope of what I could hope for or want for myself. I just didn’t deserve such accolades. That voice told me that I had to be perfect in all things before I could be entitled to any rest.
To see that reflected in my son–beating himself up in the same sick way I’ve done it to myself, it really hit home.
It’s time to Tame the Shrew
Recently, I’ve had some remarkable experiences where I’ve had to accept that maybe, just maybe I’m deserving of my own success–if I would stop standing in my own way long enough to receive it. I’ve had to start coming to terms with the fact that it’s not the voice that is my problem, it’s the fact I keep listening to the voice and allowing it to lure me away from what I want to achieve. I have been giving my power away to a liar and the thief of my joy.
Back to the context of my current situation: I am 2 days away from a weekend of presentations, connections, debates, potentials, emotional enlightenment and not a small amount of consternation with my family about missing Easter dinner.
Freedom of Choice is my best method to taming this voice. I get to choose what I want for my life. I don’t have to be subject to the fears and victimization that this voice tries to impose. I can choose how to prepare myself and own that choice no matter what the outcome. Should I choose to prioritize self-care over researching that one last statistic, so be it. Own it. Should I choose to write an outline for the Poly Political Agenda but skip doing one for the self-care workshop, so be it. Own it. Should I choose to prioritize a hotel weekend with Warrior and Blush over mingling with new couples, so be it. This is my choice and I own it.
By keeping myself locked up in fear all the time all I do is make it harder for me to achieve the successes that I want. I allow my procrastination to accumulate, the self-doubt dripping down from on high to make it excusably sloppy so that I will never know what it feels like to truly shine in my element. But if I want to be the woman I have always wanted to be, I have to step into that right now and choose to live my life in such a way it drowns out the voice of that indidious, traitorous shrew.
It’s time for me to rule my life as the Queen.
The past five years have been unusually dark for me. Full of family turmoil and career drama. I’ve had plenty of reasons to run and hide, to isolate myself from the world. I stopped dating, I stopped really socializing too. I locked away in my little protective bubble where nothing could touch me. And how fitting that this spring I’m starting to emerge into who I have always wanted to be.
I’m sure the isolation served a purpose, allowed me a chance to rest, regroup and plot my way forward. But so much hurt, so much shame, so much trauma and I was more stuck than empowered. Contrast that to where I am now, more social, more vocal, more grounded in who I am. I believe strongly that this is where I need to be right now, in a space of manifestation and creation, fulfillment and passion. It’s time for me to start making some of my own dreams come true and actualizing the purpose I have for my life.
It’s even more important for me to be in this space…
Right here and right now
I can’t even say how long it’s been since I used the word “passion” to describe myself. I’ve been in survival mode for so long that passion had hardened into a strong shell of resentment over the years I had to put aside what I wanted and desired to avoid judgment and shame. And that passion barely had any embers left until the beginning of 2016.
It was a shitty year….we know this now. And when I had started writing this back in October, I had no idea how bad it would get. I had no idea that so many of us survivors of sexual assault would get activated and retraumatized all at once. I couldn’t see that coming. But to have that same person now in the White House is even more terrifying. And more threatening. Read the rest of this entry
Yep, because I can’t always find time in my day to write and because the shit show of the news has captured most of my available attention span, I haven’t kept up with body positive February posts. Not that you were necessarily keeping track, but here’s my attempt to get caught up. These are somewhat big assignments, so I can only break it down into a few days at a time per post:
Day 9: Express appreciation for a source of support in your life.
It would impossible for me to narrow in on just one person in my life, or just one source of support in my life. I could talk forever about the gratitude and appreciation I feel for the sources of support I have access to in my life, especially my husbands and my family. But I thought I might highlight a few people who don’t get the praise and recognition that they deserve. Here are a few highlights.
- For Blush – To say she’s my girlfriend would be inaccurate unless you also include the fact that she’s the closest I come to having a true best friend in my life. She is the earthy, airy equivalent to my intense fire and watery adaptability. We have similar tendencies, similar callings, similar structures in our relationships. But offer each other a non-judgmental place to vent and work through problems as well as a place to obtain release without the strings of expectation or over-attachment. I love her feedback in my life and love the safe space she provides always.
- For S – To say that I look forward to his emails, to his manner of prose and his confessions of the challenges he faces in his life would be an understatement. He has an ability to see into my heart whenever I write and to pull out the main points much better than anyone else. He’s a writer, teacher and lover, and his messages never fail to lift my spirits, touch my soul. He “sees” me and that is one of the most powerful ways to support me in my life.
- For Chris (PA) – Well, there are two Chris’ in PA in my life, but if I were a goddess, this one would be the high priest of my temple. In fact, a lot of out interactions these days focus on me building my temple. He offers such unconditional support. When I’m feeling down, he’s there to remind me who I really am. When I face hardship or a loss of faith in the process, the system or my own fate, he is there to remind me that I am building something grand in my life, something worthy that only those who are equally worthy can witness. He promotes my spirit without making me entirely inaccessible on a pedestal. He guards my soul.
Day 10: Share a song, poem, book, movie or TV show that helps you feel body positive.
There are two of them. I always listen to these songs back to back in this order:
English translation of the lyrics:
I fell down, I stood up, I walked, I rose up
I went against the stream and I also got lost
I failed, found myself, I lived it and I learnt
When you fall harder, the deeper the beat
I keep dancing and writing my lyrics.
I keep singing with all the doors open
Going through all these lands and you don’t have to travel so far to find the answer
and don’t you worry if they don’t approve you, when they criticize you, just say
That’s me That’s me That’s That’s That’s That’s That’s
That’s me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me
I keep on walking, keep on laughing
I do whatever I want or die trying
Nobody cares what I’m doing, the only thing that matters is what’s on the inside
I like to be on the sand, bathing on the sea without a reason without a care
To sit down doing nothing, looking far away and being relaxed
and don’t you worry if they don’t approve you, when they criticize you, just say
That’s me That’s me That’s That’s That’s That’s That’s
It’s me me me me me me me me
I’m like this I’m like this I’m like this
and you don’t even know me
I’m like this I’m like this I’m like this
and you don’t even know me
You know what I mean
You know what I mean
and don’t you worry if they don’t approve you, when they criticize you, just say
That’s me That’s me That’s That’s That’s That’s That’s
That’s me me me me me me me me
Yes, That’s me
Writer(s): Liliana Margarita Saumet Avila, Eric Frederic, Joe Spargur, Federico Simon Mejia Ochoa
And here is the 2nd one by Meghan Trainor. I first heard this song when someone posted this video on their Facebook and I fell in love:
What’s not to love about this song? It praises loving yourself and makes me feel powerful and desirable.
Day 11: Write a Body Positive Letter to your past self
Oh holy shit. This was a hard one to do, partly because crawling into the brain of my past selves is an exercise in confronting many of the same insecurities I feel today. I am in tears at a coffee shop writing this…But I suppose that’s the point, isn’t it?
So, here we go:
At this point in your life, Spring 2004, you gave birth a few months ago to your amazing and wonderful little boy. You carried a life inside you, have been nurturing him to grow into a healthy and happy little boy. And you are impatient to finally act on all the return of your sexual energy. And you’re starting to delve into the world of polyamory, one salacious LiveJournal post at a time.
For the time being, you are keeping your inklings secret from your husband because you don’t want to hurt him, you don’t want him to feel like he isn’t enough. You remember being good at seduction and by this time in your life, you’ve decided to take a few tenuous steps toward exploring multiple partners and satisfying a voracious and vivacious sexual appetite. But because you have not yet found your local communities to create a safe space for this exploration, you are talking to people on Yahoo messenger who are more invested in the thrill of the illicit conquest than being a caring partner in your journey. But remember this:
YOU ARE NO ONE’S CONQUEST
You just met with a guy who we’ll call Mitch. A professional cheater. He meets you close to the office and you give him a blowjob in his Mercedes. When you meet with him again, he asks you to hike up your skirt so he can see more of you (since we’re just before the days of sending digital photos).
A moment of truth for you. No one but Husband has seen you naked since you gave birth. A birth that took a severe toll on your body. Stretch marks. Weight gain of 60+ lbs that no matter what you to try to strengthen your core you just can’t seem to get yourself back into shape. And a paranoia about food thanks to gestational diabetes.
Honey, I can feel the shame and self-blame washing over me as I write this. I hate how we’ve felt about our body. Our miraculous and beautiful body for what happens in this moment and for the moments you will endure after this.
Because in this moment, he looks at you, at your vulnerable state of wanting to be accepted and cherished like the good old days. He takes one look at you and says, “Well, at least you’re good enough for a blowjob” as he pulls your head down for a blowjob in his Mercedes parked in the law school parking garage. You will feel dirty and used and wholly disposable and that will carry through for years to come. But more than anything you feel ashamed. Ashamed that your body isn’t good enough for this beautiful man with the empty heart. You will feel ashamed that the men you will encounter after him will reinforce this message–leaving at the restaurant to pay a bill because your clothed appearance “sickened” him and turned his stomach. Finally, sending a naked photo of yourself at the request of the man who has been giving you orgasm after orgasm on the phone for the past 2 months–only to not even get a thank you for two full weeks. No response at all.
All of this crushes you. Makes you feel unworthy of love. You look wistfully at swingers’ websites, longing to be as pretty and desirable as them to be able to attend their events. Subsequent people you will meet will reinforce the message that big isn’t beautiful (even though to be honest, your size is pretty normal). You will enter the poly and kink communities already apologizing for your body before anyone ever sees it. You will compare yourself to other women, opting out of relationships if they start dating someone thinner than you–assuming that you aren’t desirable, you’ll start to withdraw from relationships to make room in that person’s heart for the thinner, prettier, younger, or sexier partner. You choose not to pursue connections because you don’t want them to see your flaws and deem you unworthy. You do the work for them.
You’ll continue to push yourself to own that vulnerability and at least try to take nudes, to share yourself and to project yourself as someone with confidence in herself, because it’s important to you to at least try. I know because I still do it today. I still challenge myself to show up, to show myself to some degree or another (although being outed certainly had a chilling effect on ever being so public ever again). You’ll reject the compliments and shun those who claim to desire you. You’ll assume that your tits are your only asset and you will tell your body every day that you hate it for the shape it took after this pregnancy.
But I am here to assure you that if you can recognize the opportunity, what is happening to you right now is not a reflection of who you are, but of the values that infect our society. You do not reflect those values and so to stand against them, to speak up against those standards is to pose a threat to them. Their words are not the world you want to live in. This will fuel your passion for social change–to change the very fabric of our societal values. This isn’t easy work, but these experiences are only a reflection of the reasons why the world needs an adjustment.
Trust me when I say that the most common word people use to describe us is “stunning” with “radiant” being a close 2nd. And that is extraordinary. Because that is what we want to be known for. This is who we are and what we want to project into the world.
We are Colorado girls. And we love what is natural and true to self. We are Chicana and driven by a fire and passion for societal change. We are amazing and beautiful and know how to seduce both men and women with ease and with compassion. What happens in these early days of your polyamorous expression is only a dismissive grumble from the unworthy world of the objectifying masses to the world of the thoughtful lovers. I promise, by the end of the year you will find people with a desire to truly see you and know you and they will change your life. Laz, Min, Husband, Hawk, S, BeachBum, Ambyr, and so many others will see you for not just the value that you bring into the world, but will absolutely worship at the temple that is your body.
Have heart, my love. You are beautiful and loved and these early experience will prepare you to establish your boundaries, assert yourself and eliminate anyone who cannot approach you with the awe and reverence that you deserve. Believe that we are growing more powerful by the day.
Don’t let these insecurities get you down…you will change lives in sharing who you are–stretch marks and all. You are sacred and holy and will one day rise as a queen and a goddess to guide those seeking the light in the darkness.