I honestly haven’t been avoiding these challenges, but when Warrior has a long weekend at our house I have a hard time finding the mental space to write. And as he and I negotiate whether he’s moving in after his divorce, these are the things that keep me hesitant.
Anyway, all of that is to say that these challenges have been on my mind this weekend but I haven’t gotten around to writing them.
Day 3: Write 3 nice things about your body.
This one is definitely one of the hardest for me. My body is a source of significant angst for me and it’s hard for me to admire myself or to ignore the faults for the beauty of this vessel. So, for this one I had to imagine what I might say to a lover or a friend in giving them a compliment or gushing about what I love about them.
- I love how soft and silver my hair is. I have good hair days more often than not and I love my silver streaks, even the silver poking out at the roots. I love that it’s given more texture and depth to my hair. I still love the streaks of red, the patches of black. But silver actually has made me look younger.
- How can anyone not enjoy my breasts? I mean they aren’t perky and taut, but they are soft and infinitely touchable. Even my gay leather brothers love snuggling close because of them. And for the lovers who pay attention the right kind of teasing, the right kind of play can induce orgasms.
- I also really love my eyes. I want my eyes to communicate what may be difficult for me to find words to encompass. They change color and turn a bright sea green when I cry. While others prefer my smile, I like my eyes better.
Day4: write three nice things about you that aren’t physical
Umm…that might be harder because while my body is superficial, there’s a shred more objectivity. I can compare against others (“Why yes, we agree that your boobs are rather extraordinary compared to a, b and c!”) and I can piggyback onto the components bestowed upon me. But internal stuff, well, I could think that I’m nice and kind, but am I really?
But I guess that’s true point of this exercise–to say something candidly nice about ourselves without the safety net of knowing whether it’s true. It’s about embracing that it’s true for us.
- I value my spirituality. I care deeply for my calling in life, for the meaningful connection to ritual and symbolism. I feel called to serve a more divine purpose in life, to serve as the hands of the goddess, to be devoted to the service of humanity and to give of all of my talents, all of myself to this calling.
- Of all my talents, I have an inane gift for acceptance. I’m not easily scared by the darkness of others. I give love through my unconditional acceptance of who someone really is in their soul. I try to abandon judgment and shame but my acceptance doesn’t always mean approval, it is just a loving embrace of their path and their humanity and the vulnerability and trust they’ve placed in me.
- I likewise find my greatest courage comes in moments when I am at my most vulnerable. I am always willing to risk being seen especially if it might help someone else find their own courage or light. I am willing to face my fears, to use my voice, to connect to others, to wade through darkness even if I make a fucking fool out of myself because the risk of staying hidden becomes larger with each passing day. Visibility is vulnerability. And I am secretly so proud of myself each time I can show trust in the compassion of others.
Day 5: Treat yourself to a food you love.
Every Sunday Husband and I have been sitting down for lunch to plan out our menus for the week. Today I had a huge craving for G&B’s Fish n Chips. Half order of prawns, chips, a side of curry sauce and a Bloody Mary. It is quickly becoming my favorite part about Sundays. They now know my order too!
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.
Write about why you want to do this challenge:
As I am getting back into being more actively, rather than passively, polyamorous I find myself hitting against a lot of dark edges of my core self. The part of me that finds myself undeserving of attention or recognition or care or love or admiration or…or… it’s fucking exhausting always passing up opportunities because I don’t find myself deserving of keeping them. I do this with the people in my life. I do this with my work. I do this with my own abundance.
Maybe it’s about healing the Catholic in me. Or the Mexican in me. Or the genuine overachiever in me. But this is my core work. And my commitment is to shining some light in this awful pattern of mine and healing it from within.
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.
It’s 9:45 pm here on October 11th. I got home late and am making an ambitious (for me) dinner of shepherd’s pie. So as I wait, I think back on another marginally bad day. It wasn’t horrible, it just was angsty. And most of the angst was mine. I was impatient, unorganized, forgetful and foggy all day. And it wasn’t until later in the workday, when I was beyond the point of salvaging it that I finally realized why I was so on edge.
Today was National Coming Out Day
For the past 10 years I’ve been flirting with various forms of outness, to varying degrees. And to the point where I’m essentially out to everyone except extended family. Even professionally to some degree it’s been know how I identify. Especially over the past year or so I’ve become far more comfortable with being out.
But today it was scary and triggery. It brought back memories of a workday interrupted by a call from a friend telling me that a website had posted my online journal and that it was circulating. It brought me back to the pacing through the hallways going mad from the ringing of the phone. It brought me back to 8 months of unemployment and 10 years of trying to scrape my way back to believing that I deserved to make an earning even close to what I was making before. It brought me back to the rumors, the panic attacks during the news, the fear, the cowardice, the ignorance, the victimhood and the punishment. It brought me back to a night where I was as close to suicide as I’ll ever get and breaking down to ask for help before I could finish the act.
I didn’t come out on Facebook today like I had wanted to. I have family who, as well intentioned and loving as they are, tend to call my parents over ever minor quip I post. As much as I love my parents, my coming out isn’t worth them having to field phone calls from worried family members and well-intentioned, but clueless friends. The choice to come out is mine and not theirs.
So, instead, I came out on Twitter, reminding all 686 followers of who I am.
Those things are some of the easier to identify things about me. It’s what most people care about when they talk about coming out. But identity is such a rich and powerful blend of concepts, stories, and aspirations that simply saying I’m bisexual, polyamorous, kinky, queer, Chicana, femme, Mother, wife, lover, educator, lawyer, spiritual and geek is just a superficial part of the story. Some of it is the sensational part of the story because ooooh—bi, poly and kinky–that’s out there. But it’s just scratching the surface.
There are other aspects of identity that go beyond the census items of nationality (American), race/ethnicity or income. There are the aspects of self that evolve over time but create the refinements of self that truly identify us closer to our core. Those aspects of ourselves are just as precious and vulnerable, worthy of being spoken as personal truths.
So tonight, I define more of who I am. Coming out as the woman I truly am at heart:
I am a public servant. I have always been drawn to government, politics, and the business of policymaking. But moire than anything I have been drawn to a life of being in service to the public in some capacity or another. Right now I provide direct services through a nonprofit,. but in the past, I’ve served in capacities that were more about the public good than my own advancement.
I am half white and half Mexican but identify as Chicana. This is very important for me to distinguish. I love both of my families, but the Mexican half of my family was the most influential in my upbringing. My dad’s family valued education but watching my Mexican grandparents’ pride when my mom earned her master’s struck a chord with me. It told me the legacy that was going to be passed to me to build upon. It is a responsibility that I take seriously. My father’s family is full of intelligence, accomplishment, and distinction–my role with them is less to carry on their legacy and more to just not fuck it up. But what I accomplish for the Mexican side of my family, like a law degree, creates a path for others to follow. I’ve already helped one family member with his law school application and LSAT prep. We rise together.
That said, I am also very privileged. Because my last name is white, my skin is light and freckled and my hair turning gray faster than my more indigenous parts of the family, I’m a dead ringer for your standard, run-of-the-mill white girl. That’s not what I feel inside and so I get somewhat defensive during conversations about race. I am so eager to relate to people that I end up ignoring my privilege, the same privilege that makes it easier for me to be heard. It has been an uphill battle for me to remember that my story isn’t more important than anyone else’s, particularly those who don’t get the benefits that come with passing for white, cis, het and able bodied.
I am bisexual and married to a man. So another privilege I carry is that I at least am always perceived as heterosexual. I’m not, of course, and that’s where some mental health issues come into play for many of us–being misidentified, ignored and rebuked within the LGBTQ community (mostly getting derision from the Ls and Gs) creates an insidious amount of hardship as we try to navigate our way through the world.
I am bisexual and I have known it since I was 12. But to the outside world, I had a fairy tale wedding and lived happily ever after. And while I love my husband dearly, part of why I love him is that he’s never had an issue with me living my life as fully as I am able. He’s always given me support and encouragement, to pursue what makes me happy–including exploring my attraction to women and non-binary/gender nonconforming folk. Ultimately this is aided immensely by being polyamorous–we negotiate the terms of our marriage and it decidedly doesn’t look at all like the heteronormative ideal. And I am happier for it.
Finally, I’m coming out as a visionary within the Catholic meaning of the term. Again, from the age of 12, I believe I was called to something powerful. This calling initially spoke to me through the images and rituals of the Catholic faith–I was strong in my devotion to the Church at the time (see, I still capitalize it). But as I grew into the woman I am, I recognized that Catholicism at its core no longer fit with the calling that I was given. It was just too large for such a narrowly-defined faith structure. So, I departed from the Church. I still miss it sometimes–going to Mass and adoration, praying the rosary, the cleansing I’d feel after confession. It is like my hometown. I’ll always have a connection to it. It’s part of my story. But it’s not where I choose to live now–I have moved on. My calling is what matters most to me, not ascribing to any one issue of faith.
With all of that said, I have an update on the shepherd’s pie: I burned myself making it last night which is why this is posted late. i’m doing better today–but I guess I also need to add clumsy to the list of identities that I have.
The past week has been a challenge for me. Triggering events from start to finish. The last time I felt like this I was on the verge of a breakdown. That breakdown was avoided by paying attention to the signs and finally heeding the advice given to me for years and years: meditate.
When I did just a 5 minute meditation everything changed. You can read all about it here (and then stay for the guided meditations). I was able to transform a breakdown into a breakthrough.
Gawd, that sounds cheesy.
The truth is I was able to exert some amount of control over my life. I allowed my heart let go of some of its fears. I felt some of the natural insecurity subside. And everything started to become so…open.
I’ve done a lot of thinking recently about the walls I’ve built up around myself. The lack of dating. The refusal to engage flirtatiously with someone. The counter-intuitive pulling away if someone accidentally gets too close. But that refusal to dream big is far beyond just relationships and potentials. It’s how I’ve chosen to see my calling. How I’ve perceived my own personal power. How I’ve advanced my own dreams. I temper everything so either I don’t disappoint anyone or so I don’t have to experience disappointment either.
In this journey over the past 6 months, I feel like that openness has expanded beyond what I’ve ever achieved before. I can see and feel so much. And in so doing I’m starting to draw people toward me again. By reclaiming my passion, I’m able to give voice to a power within that has been cocooned away healing its wounds over the past few years.
I’m not a stranger to trauma. I’ve had more than my fair share over the past few years. It’s not fair and it’s not right. But the worst of it was in 2012. While there were a few noteably amazing things that happened that year, it overall was a devastating year. It was the last time I was able
to trust anyone or anything. Because even though I passed the bar that year, I was being torn apart by grief. Grief for an abusive brother (yes, you can grieve abusive people too).
Retraumatization showed up in so many forms compounded with heavier forms of secondary trauma thrown in. It had an impact of everything–from insomnia to flashbacks, to uncontrollable crying, to an inability to have sex at all. I really couldn’t function at all after the bar exam. To the point that i even injured my knees and ankles and have trouble walking for months. My body was reflecting my inner world.
This journey to where I am right now started when I was at my lowest then. When I thought I would never feel again, a few days before my birthday I had a dream that allowed me to believe that I would recover. That my soul would come back to life. It was so visceral and so real that 4 years later I can still feel the presence and subject of that dream in my everyday life.
So, let’s call that presence “The Druid”. Let’s say this presence has been growing in my awareness since that dream. Wild and controlled. He is an image from another dream years ago. He a priest of nature and me a priestess of love. Committed partners but both with the freedom to honor the organic connection that is created between people.
So since that day 6 months ago, it’s like this Druid spirit has been growing in influence in my life. I’ve been growing more weary of making my life conform to anyone else’s standards. I’m willing to honor consciously discussed agreements for my partners, but no longer willing to hide behind the walls. The Druid spirit calls me from behind my walls. He calls me to build myself back up again.
Every event that has happened to me has been for this: to find a path to rebuild and renew myself. Every obstacle in my path has been to get me closer to my true self, to find control over my surroundings, over my destiny. Everything as been to gain insight into who I really am–without the chamelon skin and delayed wishes.
It’s felt…big…all this time. But I have been impatient for results. And after having one of the hardest weeks on the job I’ve ever had, I took some clear time for myself. And honestly it has been about savoring the sweet joy of being present in the moment. To sit on the back porch at night feeling the breeze around me. To allow the sensations of life to permeate my life on a deeper level. To be completely emotionally open and honest with Warrior. All of these have been acts of radical self-love. A level I never thought I would achieve.
The lesson here is: Fear not for your path, my friends. Listen to the whispers in your heart, follow the light offered to you. Those whisper, that light and your trust– They will lead you home.
Tonight is about my truth. My whole self out on display, unedited and unfiltered (let’s call it mildly filtered to be safe). This is the part where I start writing and don’t look back.
It feels like fall here these past couple of days. Cool thunderstorms and mild nights. The sounds of crickets during dusk reminds me of growing up in Pueblo. Nights like this were state fair nights, where I could hear the sounds of the midway join with the crank and bounce of low riders up ass up into the air. We lived half a mile away, so the sounds would keep me up at night just like Christmas. We would walk to the corner at starlight and watch the fireworks that would go off at the end of the rodeo. The whole block would watch. And I’d hear the crickets chirp between the bangs of launching rockets.
It meant summer was over.
And what a summer this has been. National tragedies like Orlando and the shooting deaths of black men by the men in blue sworn to protect them. In a year already punctuated by the deaths of our heroes and fallen comrades in authenticity, we are at a turning point. Where we go from here will matter so much more.
Tonight I am sitting on the back step inside the house. Smoking and drinking a glass of wine. My wine cup is stupidly simple because it’s sturdy and makes me feel luxurious in a down-home, could-give-a-fuck way. I picked 4 of these up at Ross or something for like $2 each. But I love it. It’s corny and vintage and it’s all mine.
I really like the idea that things belong to me. Help define me. Are a part of my identity. So why do I choose polyamory? Because it’s more like a feeling that this person belongs in my life not that they are possessions that I hoard. They contribute to who I am. They have a thread of importance that stays with me throughout my life. That pieces of us will always reside in each other.
Even when that hurts like hell.
I’m exchanging messages with Husband about what kind of pizza he wants. I’ve given up on cooking today. I had a kid therapy appointment and an EMDR session for myself. Hence the smoking. And the wine, I guess.
All the while I’m deciding not to worry that my menstrual cycle is off or address the jealousy I feel at the birth of a friend’s baby. I’m a monster, I know. But I put off hanging another baby until I “addressed my health issues” and with my youngest now 12 years old I feel like I missed my chance.
My cat, Starbuck (or her psuedonym: Princess Fuzzy) is peeing in her box right next to me. It’s disgusting and oddly cute because of how much she trusts me. I don’t sleep well without her nearby me, so I guess you could say I trust her too.
The boys (Husband, Warrior and DistractaMonkey) are watching the Major League Lacrosse championships. I stepped away because I found myself yellin at the tv and fuck me, I’m not one of those moms.
So, I smoke, write on my tiny screen, and drink. And think about all the ways in which I am totally not ever going to turn into my mom.