There is something so pure about sitting down to the computer, the pad of paper and purging myself of the attachments and expectations in my life. A torrent of words flowing without restraint. The blessed opportunity to be fully free with my expression, my words, my voice.
But for a long time now, my words have seemingly dried up, my voice too parched with anticipated embarrassment to speak. I have plenty of ideas and none of the energy to communicate them appropriately. I keep believing there was some magical time in my life where I didn’t feel that pressure, that potential for rejection, and where I could just pour my heart out.
As nostalgic as I can get, when I look back through my own journals, I now see a clear pattern of memories that remind me that even back then I wasn’t telling my full truth. I was documenting a prepackaged response designed to align with the person I always wanted others to see me as, but not necessarily what my full self truly was or would become.
My life has been a series of self-conscious, half-remembered events that reinforced how neurotically awful of a person I believed I was. I was careful to avoid ever expressing anything that indicated I was anything less than a perfectly faithful, compassionate, and accommodating soul. Even in my obvious struggles to take the high road with the boys who were breaking my heart, I blamed myself. Not misogyny by proxy, but because I believed it was the holy thing that a visionary would be expected to do. Even though I was seeking out deeper truths and meanings, I rarely spoke about my spiritual calling and especially kept very quiet about the sexual component of it. I would only mention it to shame myself for any perceived failures to be a girl worthy of that calling. I wrote, not for myself, not to document the truth, but to set the narrative for the story I wanted to be told instead of the true one that sits in my heart. Yet I still treated that as truth.
For as creepy and paranoid as this sounds, I have always lived my life as if I’m being watched and will be judged throughout. Mindful that someday any of my writings might have an audience who would be critically unkind, I always aimed to demonstrate my self-awareness, my willingness to accept responsibility for my actions and bad deeds. My journals were a companion piece to the sanitized confessions I was making to the priests. As I read through those journals, I could remember the places where my pen hesitated, the specific decision points where I could have given voice to my truth, in my own space, but didn’t. What was important to me, even then, even in the words I used to describe my own experiences and feelings, is that I was portraying myself in accordance to the avatar of a visionary I wanted people to know about me. It was an image that denounced my childish anger and my greedy needs. Hands clasped in prayer (but in a cool way) “Lord, I need nothing from you but clarity. Please give your servant clarity so I don’t mess up everyone’s life”.
I was trying to contain myself in a vision of what I thought people might want from me, instead of admitting and dealing with the actual pain I was feeling. It was another way to justify the sacrifice and suffering.
It is also why I believe the phrase “fake it ’til you make it” is complete bullshit. Even when I thought I was being true to that vision, I wasn’t. I was only hiding my truth from myself, punishing myself for what I lacked instead of celebrating what I had.
I remember one specific journal entry from April 1994, the entry right after I gave my virginity to someone after breaking up with my boyfriend. Not only was I beating myself up about it, but I also understood why it was bothering me: “I guess as an only child who had to be in control all the time, I find it hard to be out of control.”
I was convinced at the time that my feelings were out of control. Staying up late at night worried that my sex drive was out of control. Not only did I believe myself to be selfish and jealous but I was strategic in how I portrayed it. Hesitating as I wrote to choose whether to take the high ground or tell the awful truth. In my mind, I was a flawed, immature, and insecure girl who was chosen, likely by mistake, for a big spiritual calling. I started from a place of unworthiness for such a grand mission that I spent the past 30 years trying to beat myself into submission to become a person worthy of such a demanding role. I modeled myself after others who stood for equity, justice, under an umbrella of divine love. I was brutally honest with myself so that others wouldn’t have to be. I conformed myself to what would most allow others to forgive my inevitable lapses when my human flaws leak out and sour my good intentions. I control the reader’s point of view of me. And so in my expressions, my deeds, everything I said to even myself about who I am was meant to conform to a model that was aspirational at best. A constrained and captured essence of deeper realizations that helped me survive the chaos of my world.
I admit I’m so very confused by the spiritual people who complain about wearing physical masks and yet won’t address the mental ones they continue to wear. Aggressively declaring “Love and Light” as they actively resist attempts to listen to someone else’s truth is as restrictive as face coverings. Just like the ones I wore in my journal. Portraying myself to be all about “love & light”, who was I trying to convince?
“I have sinned so much. Give me the strength to get through the days. Help me see my many failures. Help me trust in you. I will not promise, but I will control myself according to your will. Help cure me of my selfishness, greed, and pride. Let me just fall into your arms. ”
April 13, 1994 (my 16 year old self)
And yet, those words were chosen, deliberately to prove to myself that I was the problem, not the men who were fucking with my heart. I manipulated my own intentions, begging forgiveness instead of demanding apologies, showing how contrite I was for my transgressions even though theirs were worse. God, or Spirit or the Divine, knew the content of my heart just as well as I did, but instead, I was trying to convince myself and the future, the unintended audience of the sincerity of the responsibility I felt to have acted better. I can still feel the rage I was suppressing, the excuses I had to forcefully set aside to defiantly turn a harsh mirror on myself. To prove I could withstand it.
Those restraints on even my own history, my own view of myself are worth seeing in context. I deliberately made myself small so I would never be too big for anyone else, so I wouldn’t exceed the small container of tolerance that I imagined others would give me room to occupy. I deliberately robbed myself of the triumph of all the ways in which I exercised control over that moment in my life, so I could meet the finger-wagging judgments of those who came after me.
I deprived myself of the miracle, the true awakening of womanhood, where I was able to truly choose my sexual expression with someone else. I got to choose how, when and who I was going to give my virginity to, but I also chose why. I chose to a path the showed me an innate power I have. But despite what I remember and felt, the words in my journal barely even hint at the awakening that this was for me. The mask I designed to fool even myself actually diminished the true joy I felt and instead punished me with unearned shame and guilt. A way to fit in to the image I thought I needed to maintain to make everyone else happy with me. The truth was far too expansive than I ever was willing to document or admit; I needed to control the narrative, constrain the truth in order to fit in the small container I restricted myself to.
Part of what I see happening around us is that our illusions of control, the containers that we used to compartmentalize, and thus, the ways in which we think we exercise direct control over our lives, are breaking down. This aligns with these changes of the Tower (that i’ll be posting about in the next two weeks), where our overall systems of power and control, are crumbling past the point of meaningful repair. But even more specifically, whether it be in the jobs we’re doing or communities we’re sharing in, we are starting to feel the squeeze of trying to fit into the containers that once held our lives, or rather the image of our lives, together.
The family feels different now that we’re all working and playing in the same space together in drastically different ways. Work feels different when the office politics are now seen through the unfiltered lens of Zoom. We feel more raw and numb than before, an awareness we hadn’t noticed before. We’re noticing that not only are those masks meaningless, but the ways in which they contain the full complexity of us, reducing us to two-dimensional avatars of ourselves is no longer a comfortable place to live.
So, my promise tonight with this post and all others that come behind it is that I will share more than the mere impression of my truth. I’ll get into the nitpicky, down and dirty truth of my perspective, my experience, my background, and my vision. I’m tired of pleasing audiences who view me through the cracked lenses of their own self-pity or defense mechanisms. Their truth isn’t mine, but I will listen to it nonetheless. Because witnessing the truth in one another is the only way we’ll survive the challenges coming our way. Living in our truth, breaking out fo the containers meant to keep our lives in tidy conformity to the whims of a collective world that is on its last legs.
Over the past week, I’ve been working on quite a few projects that align with the work I really want to do in the world. From launching a Patreon to recording a Divine Feminine Roundtable, my heart’s calling is taking off in ways I wouldn’t have dared imagine even a year ago, much less 9 years ago when I first started this blog.
Originally, it was a way to transfer my energy away from LiveJournal, to continue writing and share with anyone who might be listening. It was a way to reclaim myself after being outed for using my voice. This journey has been long and difficult, traumatic, and even heartbreaking at times. But it has also given a safe space to stretch out my voice and connect with people in ways that I hope help them feel less alone. It’s given me an opportunity to cultivate a vision and speak deeper truths.
But it’s also noticeable that I don’t post often. Perfectionism often gets in my way, but so has this burgeoning new project of me. So, I’m making a few changes and updates that hopefully will give us additional ways to engage with one another.
Welcome Warrior (aka Ted Morris/AudaciousGrowth)
Yep, the man you’ve read about on my social media posts, my polyamorous partner of 12+ years, is now going to be adding some of his own posts to this blog. Audacious Growth aka Warrior aka Ted Morris will soon be posting his own perspective on the SharpSweetBella blog.
Ted Morris is an experienced therapist, having worked in community mental health systems, working primarily with men engaged with the criminal justice system. He recently launched Audacious Growth, a personal development coaching business specializing in working with men who wish to deprogram toxic beliefs and patterns to more fully integrate the Divine Masculine into their lives.
Here is a video of Ted in action during the June #OneHeartOneEarth summit, presenting about the Shadow Masculine
I can’t think of anyone better suited for this work than Ted. Welcome, my love!
Patreon-Only: Password Protected Posts
You may have noticed that a new category has popped up called “Members Only”. I have made the decision to put some of the more NSFW (Not Safe for Work) or more personally deep or revealing posts behind password protection.
Part of the work I’ve been doing on myself includes holding better boundaries with the outside world. This includes how often the general public gets to access, use, and judge my image and words. There are some posts that are meant for the public, that align with my calling that will always stay public, but to get access to a deeper part of me, I need a way to ensure the safety of that content by ensuring that those who use and view it are more than casually invested in this aspect of me.
The launch of my Patreon campaign seemed a good time to start this process. This level of access is $12 and available to a limited number of patrons. There are other levels of support as well that get access to monthly messages, a community Discord channel and more. All of this contributes to the overall vision I am creating for my business: Rose Connections.
When I started this blog 9 years ago I didn’t have a specific vision of what I wanted it to be. loving the grey areas, the overlapping concepts, and celebrating being present in the flow of life. But I want things to be easy to find – for you and for me. So many categories will become tags and some really big tags will become categories. Most of you won’t notice, but hopefully, if you want more info about a topic, it will become easier to find.
Rose Connections YouTube Channel
Yes, you can now listen to me in addition to reading me on our various forms of media. My new venture focuses on three main tenants I view as the building blocks for creating a better world:
#RadicalReflections These are videos that are about self-reflection, growth, authenticity in truly knowing, and owning your own story. It’s about climbing your own mountain to see the world from a new perspective. You’ll hear me refer to this as “Silver Mountains”
#RelationshipReboot These are videos that discuss how to transform our connections with others. Whether it be professionally or personally, these videos reframe all of our human relationships to be more productive, understanding, and connective. You’ll hear me refer to this as “Rose Gold Flames”
#RadiantResilience These videos focus specifically on the leadership skills and analysis required to leverage our lived experiences into meaningful social change. Embracing vulnerability and humility, recognizing the patterns that have hurt humanity, and encouraging the authenticity of others is how we can create a better world for all.
You will also find a monthly Divine Feminine – Divine Masculine exchange with Ted (posted later today). I will also be posting Trauma-Informed Social Change videos from time to time as well – just my personal commentary on policies, ideas, and trends that highlight this new project of mine.
At first, it was like a Throwback Thursday post, taking a look at one of my old LiveJournal posts, updating it, commenting on the context of it and drawing forth a lesson learned. But the only problem with looking back is that sometimes, often times the reality hits you.
And for that post, it was the reality of displaying my lack of awareness of now-obvious red flags I saw in a capped “Master” in our community. But then I noticed not only some subtle victim blaming language but the potential to stir up old traumas that the local kink community is still healing from. I noticed some curious flaws about my own self-aggrandizement that exposes me in a way that is far more vulnerable than I would like. I imagined all the people who would either bury me in mockery or expose a subtle victim-blamey thing I wrote as evidence that I’m a fraud not to be believed.
That reality was too much to stomach, so I moved on.
I started another post. Same concept but this time it was on my very first blog post ever. This time about motherhood. Safe, nice topic, right? Nope. The post made me look like a resentful mother. A selfish woman bitter with being saddled with a kid. I started writing defensively (or writing like an attorney, if you rather). I was trying to justify why I would write such horrible things about my experience of motherhood. I imagined all the mommy blogs that would be in an uproar and would question my fitness as a mother.
So, I abandoned that post too.
I then start another post. This time one about the spiritual aspect of my calling. But then I started hearing the critique in the back of my head, the whispers of “attention whore” and I just devolved into a pit of anxiety and fear, having finished nothing tonight.
The Root Cause.
The past hour has been a silent scream of “release me from my writer’s block”. Feeling an invisible pressure to produce some content, I’ve been almost overrun with ideas, but no confidence in my potential execution of those ideas. They’re all bottlenecked in the space where courage combines with words to express ideas. And because this site is far more personal narrative than “sex education”, I likewise, get worried I”m not providing the right content that people actually want to read.
There are a lot of bloggers out there who do this thing better than I do.
See, this is the actual problem. At the root of this all this anxiety is this double dose of insecurity offered as fact:
a) a lot of other bloggers out there
b) do this thing better than I do.
Immediately I’m hit with waves of emotion: shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger, envy, powerlessness, and holy shit, so much fear. They just cascade through my body in these well-worn grooves, cutting a path through my spirit, fracturing the sparkling confidence I want to have.
That self-shaming thought offered up as damning evidence of my evident and likely failure is my primary nemesis. We’ve battled this out over the years. This voice tells me everyone is going to hate me, that I’m never good enough, that I’m not yet deserving. This nemesis knows exactly what to say to get me to back down, to back away from my dreams.
And it almost worked this time.
We are All Attention Whores.
Let’s leave the pejorative alone for a moment. Can we just admit that it feels good to get attention?
As children, we sought the smile or laughter of our parents.
As adolescents, we seek the approval and companionship of friends.
As adults, we seek recognition from bosses and co-workers and respond to the acceptance and connection of lovers.
Attention isn’t a dirty word. It’s a healthy and necessary part of trust and companionship. We have different ways of expressing it and giving it, and there are certainly distorted ways to pursue and siphon it.
But the attention we most crave is acceptance and respect, both of which are about being seen and heard as a human being. It’s about knowing that someone is paying attention to what you think, feel and need.
Attention has also been used as a form of social capital. But now we digitally measure, value, and commodify it in the form of likes, clicks, and trackbacks. Attention is no longer a matter of mere perception. It is now a measurable fact. And let’s face it, the more likes something has, the more likely we are to share it, trust it and value it.
But attention is distorted when paired with judgment, cruelty, and ignorance. And each day, the old, overripe opinions of others are thrown at us with an unbearable velocity. This constant hailstorm of poor opinions, whether in our own lives or our political reality, has created an environment where opinions matter more than facts. We live in a world where individual perception matters more than collective reason and where personal choices and narratives are subject to a vote and a barrage of unsolicited advice and petulant “well, actuallys”.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with having opinions or even sharing those opinions, but now we’re sharing with the immediate accessibility that is difficult for the normal human to bear. It isn’t just one critic or one tacky review, it’s a cascade of cruelty denouncing your love of the new Ghostbusters movie or boycotting a celebrity or a coffee company because of their stance on gun control. It’s the woman who calls me a fat slut because I spoke out against Trump or the guy who told my kid over voice chat that he should kill himself because he sucks at playing Hanzo in Overwatch (doesn’t everyone suck playing as Hanzo?).
The numbers now tell us how many people agreed with that particular opinion. It’s an immediate vote counter, a barometer of just how many people think you suck, how much attention you’ve gained or lost, making any positive or negative outcome seem righteous and deserving. Get enough downloads, get enough likes, get enough engagements and you’ll be crowned the winner of humanity.
The fears I have, the voices of self-doubt that have always been with me are amplified every time I see someone I admire get torn down for who they are, for the beautiful perspective they add to the world, for the very things that make them just as valuable as the rest of us. Those feelings are amplified when I see the walls crawling with every judgmental, shaming and cruel comment we can imagine. It makes it feel like anything we say or do will be scrutinized to death, regurgitated with each subsequent failure or mistake that we made and ultimately we’ll be rejected and deprived of the acceptance that our emotional lives need to stay afloat.
Ultimately, it’s not my job to please you.
In the past year or so I’ve been embracing the idea that I’m not responsible for pleasing everyone all the time. I’m not responsible for making sure everyone likes me, nor would that ever be realistic. There are just some people who won’t resonate with what I have to say. There are others who will think I’m a bigger deal than I really am.
I AM responsible for being honest and ethical in my choices and dealings with others. However, I am not responsible for making sure everyone else is happy about everything that I’m doing. No matter how many factors I take into consideration, there will always be someone who is unhappy.
In my meditations over the past year or so a huge message just keeps coming through: My dreams will come true when I finally start to live my own life, instead of the one I know others expect of me. And while my mom would tell you that I’m just going to do everything the Janet-way anyway, you can bet that it is still heavily influenced by what I’ve learned of what is acceptable to others and what is not. I live in a constant dance of mitigating harms, juggling too many responsibilities and ultimately feeling guilty whenever I need time to myself to find my inner peace again.
And that conflict of accumulated guilt comes through in my writing. It comes through when I’m pre-emptively defensive over my choices. It comes through when I’m writing to make sure no one gets pissed off at me. It comes through when I hold off on a post because I’m afraid it isn’t perfect enough yet.
It will never, ever be perfect; nor should it be.
The harsh truth is that how I live my life, how I express myself in my writing, what I choose to do or who I share my life with is none of anyone’s business unless I have a legal or emotional commitment/duty to them. Each person has a choice whether to consume what I post or to move on. They have a choice of whether to interact or stay quiet. They have a choice in what words to use with me, what energy they want to direct toward me. I cannot anticipate or control each person’s reactions to me or the choices they will make based on those reactions. And I need to stop second-guessing their motives and accept that what I’m shown is what they intend to show me.
Likewise, I have a choice of what opinions I will allow in my life. The life I want, the life I already have is so rich and full of goodness, that I don’t have space to store and maintain the faulty opinions of others. Many people who go out of their way to interrupt my life with their opinions aren’t interested in connecting, they’re more interested in being right, in being heard, in being recognized for how right they are. I will never find approval or acceptance with them–our motivations simply don’t align–so their opinion isn’t something I need to carry with me past that moment.
This allows me to gradually detach myself from the responsibility of caring for the opinions of others. Allowing myself that distance has given me more space for compassionate observation. I’ve been finding immense freedom as I give less of my energy to the anticipated criticisms, harsh judgments, and the crushing gravity of others’ ideas about my life, my body, and my choices. Instead, I note the reaction, the responses and remind myself that not everything is truly about me.
I am giving myself permission to live my life by my terms, to experience my brightest joys, and to follow the dreams of my highest self. And to do so free of the weight of others’ opinions.
I may have just jumped off the deep end without thinking. Today marks the first day of the #Summer100 #Sexblogger challenge run by Victoria of Pretty Pink Lotus Bud as a means of connecting sex bloggers, providing insight, support and an increase in traffic. And in the Trump age, where threats to sexual freedom are more eminent than they ever were before, we need to be focused on building community and supporting one another.
I started blogging in December of 2003 on LiveJournal. I remember vividly it was just a month after giving birth to my son and I was fed up with the mixed messages of parenting advice. I had spent most of my pregnancy physically unable to have sex, relying on masturbation to take care of mine and my husband’s needs. We were still monogamous back then so the frustration I was trying to express wasn’t about multiple relationships, it was about being able to feel sexual at all. I still hadn’t been cleared for postpartum sex, but I was frustrated that none of the books, none of the articles I had read prepared me for how to balance my sexual feelings with the feelings inherent in motherhood. Most parenting advice assumed that you’d be madly in love with your kid and wouldn’t need any other affection to keep you going. And in the late night hours of yet another round of breastfeeding, I was fed up that people like me would never get good advice from mainstream moms. Apparently, children are supposed to be all we ever need.
LiveJournal was the place where I could allow that energy to be seen, where I could give voice to my frustrations and where I could interact with others who felt the same. Blogging was personal back then. I am nostalgic for the way relationships formed and how communities interacted in this pre-Facebook era. I was writing every day, multiple times a day. Maybe it was sharing memes or reacting to the latest drama that my poly husbands found themselves in, but I was writing damn near every day.
I talk a lot about being outed. That slut shaming event hurt my career, hurt my psyche and broke our momentum as a family. Ten years later and I think we’re all finally recovering. I kick myself for not being more resilient, for allowing that event to take my voice and my writing from me. I kick myself for not being a better example to other sex bloggers out there of how we can recover from the assumptions and the harm inflicted on us by slut-shaming. And in looking through the blog roll of the people participating in this challenge, I’m not surprised to see that it’s still happening.
Our fears are conditioned based on our experiences, our families of origin and our societal education. But it doesn’t have to stay this way. We can create a new experience and educate ourselves differently.
Fourteen years I’ve been blogging about sex. Not regularly, not with any singular message. I no longer do scene reports or summarize my adventures because since the outing, I not only haven’t had many sexual adventures, but I have been reluctant to share them with a wider audience. Once you’ve been shamed publicly, it’s hard to feel safe to share publicly.
But this is my fear talking. I signed up for this challenge to get back to a more regular presence and voice for what I do, for the message I send, for the connections I value.
Part of the challenge is to link back to some of the other blogs on the list, to help promote each other and give each other a boost. And I’m so glad to see 1) so many people of color on the list and 2) so many people who are writing joyously and thoughtfully about their experiences. I’ve been scared to do that for so long that I hope being part of this challenge will help me push past that comfort zone, where I challenge myself to share more of my life with a growing audience and with the people who inspire me. My intention is to gain more confidence in my writing and to grow it into a ritual of release that benefits you, the reader.
Now, I can’t guarantee I’ll get to 100 posts because I’m in the middle of a major and immediate job transition. Not only do I worry about job prospects but I also am consumed with the business of wrapping up my contract. But the intention has been set, the commitment made and I have you all to help keep me motivated. I am doing what I can to re-educate the fear right out of me, to give me a new experience of success, of personal rewards that flow from transparency and authenticity.
So, welcome to the #Summer100 challenge, the Bella Rosa way:
You know me. You always find me at the crossroads. Smoldering sweetness. Transient memory. Dark benevolence.
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.