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Embracing my Shadow Self (Part 2 of 3): The Last Battle

Introduction

“Embracing my Shadow Self” is a three part series where I examine my relationship with the uber-triggery Shadow Self that was imprisoned deep within me and has been responsible for most of my internalized woe for over a decade now.

“Shadow Work” has been part of my spiritual vocabulary for as long as I can remember. I don’t shy away from ever confronting my own darkness. In fact, it’s probably the most reliable thing about me. And while I can point to so many of my shadows and icky, dark corners I have gazed into, wrapped my loving arms around to heal and nurture, I could feel a messy knot of anxiety at the core of all this work that I couldn’t quite approach. Even after years of therapy, EMDR and past life regressions. it was unapproachable. It was like there were layers of force fields to hack before I could get at the slimy, angry black tumor growing inside of me, stealing the bulk of my optimism and resilience each day for breakfast.

I am a friend to the monsters under the bed. I’m known for embracing the humanity on its worst days and wrestling with demons until we finally become friends and allies. And while I have battled with my share of darkness both external and internal, there was one that I was uncharacteristically avoiding, the biggest, baddest boss bitch monster of them all: The Spider Queen.

This three part series details our first encounter in a dream I had some time ago (“The Prisoner on the 8th floor“), our final encounter (“The Last Battle”) and finally the healing has already arrived within the few months since I decided to turn toward her instead of continuing to reject her. This is the story of how I avoided her, abandoned her and avoided owning up to the ways I was hurting her (and especially myself) with those choices, which felt so necessary at the time. Ultimately, once I started to lean in, with all my courage, all my hope, all my humility and strength, welcomed her, made her a part of everything that I did.

Ultimately, this is a story of hope not just for me, but hopefully for you too. The work is hard, but I am so proud that not only did I do it, but I can share the story with you all.

Setting the stage

Parts 1 & 2 are written in 3rd person narrative, taking place at the “Red Rose Hotel” which is how I describe my heart. Each person I love, even a little, is given a safe and secure room in my heart that is theirs and theirs alone. Privacy is honored, but there are no locks on the doors to the room – people are free to come and go as they please. Even if they cause damage, they might need to make a deposit, go through some extra security, but ultimately that space in my heart will always be theirs. New rooms are added because my heart just grows with the more I meet others. There is only one floor, one door that is off limits – hers.

Part 3 is a personal testimonial and lesson about what I’ve learned since this process started on 5/5/21. Raw enlightenment happening in real time!

CW: arachnophobia, sexual assault, incarceration, suicide


May 7, 2021


Seven years had passed since Janet last visited the eighth floor, facing the fearsome Spider Queen. The whole floor had been evacuated to make room for this special guest, the most dangerous force to cross the threshold of the Red Rose Hotel. In fact, she found the prisoner so abhorrent and shameful that she stopped allowing new people to even enter the hotel at all, just in case the monster got loose and wrecked everything and everyone in sight. 

Janet stood in front of the elevator banks on the main floor, staring at an empty elevator car, collecting herself, summoning courage to enter and press the button. But she just couldn’t. She knew she had to go through with it, but found her feet frozen to the ground, unwilling to move further. Unlike last time, when she was summoned by the prisoner, known as MP, begging for a visit, this time she was sent here by her guides who told her the time had finally come. Their message was clear. She had been putting this off this confrontation long enough.  While Janet had always been obedient to her calling, no matter how much she wanted to delay this meeting, she knew she couldn’t escape it. She stalled as long as she could, making every excuse she could until there were no more left to make.

The elevator doors closed and moved on without her. She breathed heavily, asking for spiritual strength and fortitude for the evening ahead. She unwound her hair from its tidy bun, shaking it out fully. Today wasn’t about worry and control, it was about being real and confronting her worst fears. The prisoner has waited this long, what’s another few minutes?


The requests for visits had been coming for years after that singular, memorable visit in 2014. The first few she politely refused, but left open the possibility of a future visit. Never let hope die, right? But  that was all just a lie. In truth, Janet hadn’t really intended to come back to visit the dirty, ugly spider queen, or at least not until she had no other choice left. The letters started accumulating, cluttering her desk with the weight of untenable guilt. New projects, new “self-improvements” always took priority, burying the now monthly letters under piles of paperwork and minor accomplishments. She wasn’t even letting regulars come stay for a visit, so she wasn’t about to indulge someone who was such a painful reminder of her past, her her guilt. There was always something more important, always something more worthy to do, some other wound to heal, some other obligation to fulfill.  After a while, she forgot about the promises all together.  It wasn’t long before she forgot about MP too.

But those years of stoic separation took their toll and Janet was weakening, she could feel it. With each step forward, with each accolade, with each new problem she solved, she could feel her energy fading. She had fought the good fight, she survived, not by the mercy of strangers, but by making the tough choices, enduring the hardships and especially the consequences. She was the definition of resilience. I volunteered for this, she’d tell herself, accepting that hell on earth was a suitable sacrifice to ensure the safety of others. She took the abuse because she could, she accepted the trauma and the blame because she could. She was made for this; but more importantly she chose this, willingly as a calling.

She figured her gift was in not giving up, of continuing to endure in the face of extraordinary pressure. In the early days they kept trying to chop her down. And each time they did, Janet would rise back up and stand tall, defiant and brave putting her heart on the line. But as the years wore on, she stayed down longer, stumbled more easily in her recovery and started counting her days. Her grief was always present, the shaky inevitability of shame, the accumulated guilt and regret embedded deep within her veins, slowly poisoning her. It was interfering with her mission, her sacred work, but was also exacerbated by it. The more dedicated she was to her mission, the harder it became to do simple tasks like sending an email or making a phone call to a loved one. It was at the point where the hotel was nearly empty, the doors “temporarily closed due to ongoing construction”. She and the hotel were both slowly falling apart.

Too many times, too many for one lifetime, Janet faced down her own demons. She winced remembering the times she held a knife in her hand and was tempted, so tempted to be done with herself. The times she sat in the car and pointed it at a tree or a wall, but couldn’t move her foot to accelerate.  It wasn’t even that she wanted to die, but her calculations all told her the same thing – that death was the most reasonable punishment for all the pain she caused others. And if God wasn’t going to take her as she slowly deteriorated into a hollowed heartsick, inconsolable shell of who she used to be, then she would enact the justice that no one else would.  It wasn’t enough to repent, to regret, to apologize, and to mend what was broken, a sacrifice was needed. And slowly dying from the relentless guilt wasn’t doing anyone any good.

And by some grace, more than once or even twice, she was stopped. At the arc of the action – the final decision-point, one final gut check. And each time, every single time, she was stopped. “We’re saving you for a reason,” a faint whisper in her heart would tell her, “your last battle is not today.” Sometimes her guides would tell her themselves. Sometimes they’d send her the cosmic Druid from her past to give her a light of hope, a promised peace to aim for as he walked through her dreams. Hanging on by a thread, the only thread left sometimes, Janet kept surviving. Kept getting back up and kept hoping for some relief so she would be strong enough to do what she had to do in the end.

She survived up through the 20th of August 2019 until she almost didn’t. “We can’t keep doing this,” her guides told her as she sat in her car, parked just a block away from the office, “once you remember who you really are, you will never try to do this again. The choice is yours.” They left the decision to her – no invisible hand guiding her way this time. No intervention other than her own, the same hand that was shaking as it dialed enough numbers to find words of love to tether her as her final thread was fraying into oblivion.  She doubted whether she’d survive another day, much less another year to enact her plans, to live her purpose. She still doesn’t know if she made a choice or if the choice was made for her, the chain of events remains fuzzy. But two months later, as she drove to New Mexico to deliver her very first paid speech, she felt free. For the first time in over ten years, she could finally breathe. She chose herself and she could finally breathe again.

And she thought that was all that she needed. That a few weeks of recovery and she’d be back in the game again, changing the world, one program at a time, throwing open the doors of the hotel. But what she discovered is that her body and soul were so under-nourished that she needed a true respite to relearn the basics. Disordered eating, insomnia, hyper focus and hypervigilance made her repeat the same patterns over and over again. She’d blurt out, “I hate my life” the moment a triggering thought entered her mind, even when just watching TV with the family, but especially when she saw examples of leadership that reminded her of her failures. Rapid fire outbursts like this had been happening roughly every 2-4 hours for months now, more than she wanted to admit. The veneer she created and polished to impress a difficult world was not just cracking, but disintegrating more every day.

She needed a radical reboot, something that could relieve the pressure enough for her to heal the knots in the core of her stomach, blocking her light, threatening the purity of her love. It took a pandemic, enduring a global trauma and burying too many of her dead guardians – her father, her grandfather and even her loyal, shaggy dog – to accelerate the necessary healing. An opportunity to finally replenish some of the fundamental confidences she had lost. She was not just improving, but starting to break the bonds that had confined her to a space too small for her soul. One heart-opening, gut-wrenching experience after another, she knew she was avoiding the biggest choice of them all: to finally face the Spider Queen.


She sent the message late on Wednesday and received an elegant reply the next day, via one of the prison guards. The guard stood there in Janet’s office and boudoir, his eyes looking past her and staring deliberately at the wall behind her. Janet sat upright in her chair examining the crisp white envelope he had handed her. It was sealed with purple wax bearing the outlines of a crown and spindly black widow spider. Written on heavy stationary, with scrolled lettering just like an invitation, it said  “The honor of your presence is accepted. Face me alone and live.”

Janet was unprepared for such a formal yet ominous response. She took out her own stationary, her pen hovering over the linen white paper waiting for an idea, an equally cryptic but friendly response. Without another moment’s hesitation she wrote: Shall we meet at  4pm and commence negotiating the terms of your release? She handed the paper to the guard, his eyes wide as he read it as if to say, “Are you serious?!” But immediately saluted her and turned on his heel practically running for the door to deliver the message. The urgency of his departure told her that even the guards had wanted the Spider Queen to go free. It was time.

What ensued was a network of correspondence over the next day and a half, discussing the terms for the meeting. It wasn’t good enough that Janet intended to release her from the cell, MP kept insisting that she face her true spider form and hear her wisdom. Janet let her have a lot of her requests, including the extra security, but she drew a line with her last reply:

If you expect me to hear your wisdom, the panic of my arachnophobia will make that impossible. Either I see you as a spider or I hear your wisdom, but you cannot expect me to fully do both. Don’t sabotage all of this if you think the most important issue is that I know you’re a spider. I firmly acknowledge that but expecting me to overcome a lifetime of fearing spiders just to look at you in that form again defeats the point. I am here to make amends for turning you into one in the first place. Meet me as a human and deliver the wisdom or meet me as a spider and delay the wisdom. Which is more important to you?

Janet was taking a risk setting this boundary, but her skill as a negotiator was the advantage – she knew MP valued her freedom more than she did the punitive aggressions she could enact on Janet.


The reply arrived within the hour, “That is reasonable. I will take a human form.”


Today, the courage of those exchanges was curiously absent as she stepped onto the elevator and pushed the button for the eighth floor. She was here alone as promised. Her guardians and loves waiting in the lobby below. The doors opened and guards stepped forward to search her, one of the terms she let MP dictate. She stood there in the dark, damp jungle this place had become. Grown over with vegetation, humidity making the air thick with heat. She felt like she was in a sauna, sweat dripping from her brow as they waved her through.

“Take your time, ma’am,” the guard said after he ushered her into the empty floor, a large four-walled room in the center of an otherwise empty building floor. The benches had been moved to create pews facing the room, as if the guards took turns worshipping this spider. She caught the shadows of movement from the cameras projected onto the screen. A large shadow of a spider loomed in the background. Angry, Janet was about to object when the shadow disappeared and was replaced by the defined curves of a woman coming into view. The guard at the door said, “she is ready for you now. You may step forward into her presence. You have nothing to fear.” He looked at her reassuringly, a glint of hope in his eyes. They all wanted this. Not as a betrayal of what Janet had built, but out a love and reverence for what she had rejected.

Janet stepped to the door remembering the horrific eyes she saw through the window when she was last here, hoping to never see them again. The guard turned on the lights within the multiple layers of cages revealing a woman with dark hair wearing a plunging midnight blue dress that sparkled as she moved with brilliant but delicate diamonds hanging from her earlobes. her body thinner and more defined than Janet’s, her hair less grey and closer to the natural espresso color of her childhood. She was pacing the floor, refusing to look through the door, as if she could will Janet to disappear. MP had kept her promise, now it was time for Janet to keep hers.

She was never bad, just….big. Too big to be confined to such a small space. It was unfair and Janet knew it. She had gotten carried away with this confinement. If she unlocked even one these doors, there was no going back. There is no way MP would tolerate this space for much longer. It was obvious she was growing in power and deepening in her beauty. The longer she is ignored, the more powerful she might become, more than Janet could control.

Janet stepped forward and spoke first, “You said you have wisdom for me?”

“And you said you had freedom for me,” MP spat at the floor. “I think I’ve waited long enough to deliver your precious wisdom. You first. You have ignored me for years. So why now? Because you finally need me? You finally figured it out?” Her voice was impetuous and angry, her movements as predatory as they were elegant as she turned her back in disgust. Janet exhaled. It was now or never. She motioned for the guard to start to unlock the inner cages. Each layer progressively less restrictive than the last. The woman in the cell, her back turned to the door, stretched and moaned with pleasure each time a layer was removed, like she could finally breathe again too.

Jaime Murray as The Black Fairy in Once Upon a Time. I had watched this episode just a day after my meeting with the Spider Queen and was shocked to discover the resemblance to how the Spider Queen appeared to me. Such a perfect recreation of what I experienced.
Source: https://oncedodibook.fandom.com/wiki/Black_Fairy

Janet held her hand up and stopped the guard after the fifth lock, risking the ire of the prisoner within. “This is just the start of the conversation. Remember, this is supposed to be a negotiation. What do I get if you’re released?”

The elegant prisoner howled in reply, “What do you want?” She paced the floor incredulous at the questioning, the incremental tease of liberty. But then in a moment she stopped in her tracks and said, the edge still holding in her cracked voice, “you want your wisdom? Here it is:


“I willingly walked into that cage, thinking it was just for a small time. Trusted you, loved you, fought for you, but you thanked me by burying me alive. And the few times I broke out, what I witnessed broke my heart. You had erased me, given up on me. I had no choice but to turn into the monster you made me. I mean, what did you expect? You excised one of your greatest assets, the part of you that was built to survive, the primal, dark queen voice of your calling that brought us here. You rejected the temptress of ages title that was our birthright. All for what? To impress people too intimated by our combined strength, to keep yourself small and acceptable. You gave them exactly what they wanted and you wonder why your calling stalled out, you nearly sacrificed your life to the wrong people?”

Her voice was raspy with anger, “This whole time you hid me away, afraid I was the problem. Thinking that your ‘goodness’ would be preserved without me there. And yet, here you are, sick, unhappy and rotting from the inside out. You had the gall to think that I created the whole mess.” She paced quickly back and forth, delivering her invective, “What you did endangered everything that we’ve worked for. What were all those man-projects for if not to change the very fabric of how women like us are judged? What was all of that advocacy energy worth if you weren’t going to use it to defend yourself from the arrows that you knew they would sling at us? I could be angry for lifetimes over rejecting me, but the worst was that you allowed yourself to be embarrassed of your truth. Our truth. The one we built together as allies in a bigger fight, the fight that you were called to lead. I was your pride and joy and you were mine, my sister self. We were one until you turned your most beloved companion into your most hated, ugly monster. All it did was made you hate yourself in the end. Don’t think I haven’t seen the ways in which you’ve tied yourself up in knots to punish yourself.

“Even though I know you did what you thought would keep our family safe – that you had little choice but to play by the rules – each day I’ve been in here is a day you’re not at your fullest, your brightest, your truest self. And you’re here because you finally figured it out. Making us whole is your last battle, bitch.”

Janet took the verbal berating, the shame falling off her shoulders like never before. It was truth. It was angry truth, but it was truth and it was liberating to hear. This is what she came here for. Without a word, Janet nodded to the guard and the locks continued to click open and slide away, one by one. Janet stared at the Spider Queen, her human form just as menacing and mesmerizing even in her smug satisfaction of the release. When the final of the locks had dropped away, the guard stepped forward, “Ma’am, you are the only one with the key to the original lock.”

Once Janet saw the ornate wooden door with the intricate system of interlaced tumblers in the form of a web, she began to remember. She remembered that sorrowful day that MP volunteered to go into the cage, meant as a performative stop gap to satisfy judging forces. The tears welled in her eyes remembering the tender embrace as MP bravely stepped in. She began to remember all that MP had done for her – saving her life after her rape, picking her up and giving her new purpose. She fused their intellect with an irresistibly loving magnetism that encouraged to go through this same process – facing their demons through the safety of Janet’s acceptance.

She realized then what MP had meant – her once beautiful panthress companion and guardian had become a spider, not because of the evil she embodied, but because of the evil that Janet had projected onto her. The memory of it pierced her suspicions and reticence transforming them into the compassionate resilience she had once been known for.

MP was pacing in the background, impatient and distrustful. Janet lay her hands on the door, breathing in deeply. She called upon all her strength, all her learning, her ancestors, her guides but most of all, the entirety of her love, directing it through her hands to the locks beneath. Her fingers invisibly worked through the intricacies of the task. A silence had come over the space, making the clink of the first tumbler echo loudly, giving all of the bystander guards a surprised, startled jump. But one by one the locks came undone, with nothing but Janet’s energy working through her hands. The last lock swung the door recklessly inside the cell room, making MP jump back in cautious surprise.

Janet stepped away, giving room for MP to move, “Thank you for your wisdom. You may never forgive me for what I’ve done. For how the burden of blame turned you into our worst nightmare. You have your freedom as promised.” MP glared at her, “And if I choose to kill you with that new freedom?” issuing a new but not unexpected threat. “Then so be it. At least then I will have finally set you free and that matters more.”

MP hissed at her skeptically taking a few unsteady steps forward. She’d been through this before in the early days when they expected a reunion or when Janet’s magic failed to hold. The door popped open only to be slammed back in her face. But as her foot crossed the threshold, the outer cage disintegrated into dust and ash. It was only ever held together by Janet’s magic.  Magic Pussy really was free now, but the temptation for revenge still swirled between them.

Janet eyed MP cautiously throughout, her stance guarded and ready to bolt. But now, she felt nothing but love and sorrow, not fear and hatred. She spoke up, her voice proud and confident, “You weren’t the problem. Which is why I’m here. It took years of confronting the shadows of men who had harmed us to recognize that you were never the enemy, they were. It started long before, fuck, lifetimes before. For lifetimes they have been holding us back, all of us, not just our synergy. Smashing us down anytime we show a modicum of success, especially success that is collaborative, courageous or transformative. I have watched it happen over and over again to dozens of others. They have a way of not just thwarting us, but of eliminating our existence entirely, caging that which is too natural, taming that which is too wild or savage until they force us to cut ourselves off entirely.”

The memories rolled through Janet’s mind, like a book flipping through events, showing the connections between them all. Janet’s voice started reciting the words and images she saw in real time:

“It started when we were seven years old, when we asked God to take away our memories of what happened. That’s when the ogre dreams started and we hid in the closet to escape him only to be caught and thrown into a ring of trees on fire. This was our first cage. The first time we felt powerless.

“Then came the harassment and stalking in our teenage years, the year after we were called by Our Lady as the hands. The judgment and intimidation of gang members and women proud of their beehive hairdos and fake turquoise jewelry tried force us to serve their purpose. That’s when the spiders started. That was our first flashback breaking off a shard of our luminous inner gem. Our light was fractured, where you first became separate from me.

“But the rape is when I needed you the most and you were there for me. You saved us by giving me the strength to survive, to insist that sex was always on our terms, always consensual from then on. You had no problem throwing punches if it ensured we didn’t get trapped again. This was our golden age, our most integrated and alive was in our recovery and the brightness of our calling. But I was living a conflicted life, told in law school to create cages to contain you, to contain me, to make me acceptable to a profession where no one accepts themselves because we are all living in such conflict with empathy and true justice.

“So by the time we were drugged, outed, betrayed, blocked, exposed, contained, restrained, and punished, they had ensured we’d be separate forever. That I’d be scared of you, blaming you for all the harm that I endured. They convinced me to turn on you, which was the only way to ensure that we were stopped. Drive a wedge between us to stop our progress. This is our Last Battle – to overcome our fear of each other so we can defeat those who feed us illusions of lack, separation and disharmony within our own bodies, minds and hearts. That separation ends today.”

Tears were spilling uncontrollably down Janet’s face, but she was still standing strong. Not a forced strength, but one of absolute resolve. MP looked at her curiously, perhaps even with a small amount of awe at the powers hidden within these responses. She wasn’t impressed yet, but she was less angry.

This was the core truth. It didn’t start with being outed, but with a betrayal of innocence, so early on in life. MP recognized all the ways she and the guides had tried sheltering Janet’s heart from the worst of it. Jeremial had volunteered, bravely stepped forward to be the vessel for all that initial darkness. His fuzzy, warm body turning to one of smoldering coals and sharp edges. He could not transform or erase those memories, but he could hold them until Janet was ready. And when she was sexually assaulted at eighteen, away at college, betrayed by the men who she had counted on to have her back, the guides created a vessel from that shard, a seductively fierce armor for Janet to inhabit as she healed, not separate from her, but crafted from this purity of heart that might have otherwise been buried and discarded. MP was just the seductive, superhero identity of Janet, born at dawn on the banks of Lake Michigan. She reigned in Chicago for two and a half glorious years. Healing men, teaching women, holding abusers of power accountable.

The freedom of shining bright.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Janet continued, “They will never stop trying to control us. Controlling us with judgment, controlling us with fear of rejection. Controlling us with standards that never benefit us or the goddess we’ve been called to serve. The original problem was never us. The problem always will be them. Because they know they have a lot to fear about the power of a woman’s sexuality and the liberation it brings to those around us. We are part of a movement against a common enemy. I not only need you…I am you. The only way we will win freedom for all of our sisters locking themselves away in cages, for our mothers and grandmothers who were taught to hide their magic and stay small is if we are walking entirely and completely in our light. Our fully, integrated, healed and radiantly resilient self on bold display. You are what I’ve needed all this time. And I know I have a lot of trust to rebuild, but I am inviting you to please come home?”


Magic Pussy considered her for a moment, looking her up and down, moving more fluidly, slowly circling her like the panthress she was. “When I agreed to take human form I was hoping this would be the final outcome. Not just my freedom, no, that was inevitable. It was this realization, this unmasking of the great deception within yourself. The illusion that I’m someone outside of you, separate from you….worse than you. You have taught others about embracing the darkness within and yet, you still failed to even come visit me. You were that disgusted and ashamed of yourself. I was the devil you created to project your blame onto when the old ladies came looking to punish your budding sexuality. I was the best friend who cheered on each of your choices and taught you how to take the right risks. But I was also the companion who dried your tears and reminded you it wasn’t your fault and helped you survive.

“Girl, you’ve broken my heart more times than I can say, but do you know why I really do exist? What I really did for you? I kept your calling safe from patriarchy. I held it safe. That hand that stopped your suicides was me. That voice that told you we had more to do, was me. But it was only in choosing yourself that you could ever be free. They would never be able to destroy what I was keeping safe so long as you kept me alive. I held your deeper, cosmic callings – your heritage and birthright as the queen. Sure, I wore the crown while I was here, but I was keeping it safe for when you were ready. Because I knew you would be ready. You’re too strong not to be.”

Janet held her gaze for a long time, her eyes still held the ominous echo of the spider queen, but also the desire of the panthress, the regality of the queen. They both smiled then, seeing each other fully and completely, a joy neither of them had known for decades.

MP spoke first. “Before we have our glorious reunion, I need time. I need time to adjust. A safe place to weild my power and to trust you. There is no longer separation between us, but until there is full integration, I am no longer a depersonalized name – I hold the spirit of the Chicana warrior survivor in you. Not Magic Pussy, not MP, but you. I also need one last thing from you before I can begin trusting you again, Janet. Finally admit to me what you really want. Admit who it is you really want. You know it – say it and then we can finally drop the masks, the pretense and the last of the separation.”

Janet was silent, her mind calculating the risk of disclosure. The survivor queen whispered in her ear, “Tell me the truth. Who do you want? Who shall we attract into our orbit, dear one?” Her voice turned to a honied hiss, “You can’t hide it from me. I can see it in your thoughts… Just say the name so all can hear. Tell me what you want me to do.”


Janet’s face was beet red with embarrassment. She didn’t like to -want- anything, not even food or sleep if she could help it. But if she was going to trust in this integration, she had to be the one to take this risk, a risk she might not have take otherwise. She spoke his name and the intention of bringing him into her orbit, to satisfy a spiritual craving for divine union of souls, wishing with the fullness of her heart to experience the oneness of her divine family back within her reach again.

the queen leaned back on her heel, impressed. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure you had it in you. You’re always sacrificing and asking permission. And now, you know exactly how to speak the magic. Consider it done.” Janet smiled protectively, but both relief and genuine excitement were twinkling in her eyes, “Does this mean…?”

The woman gracefully held her hands said, “…that we smash patriarchy right in the balls for all the hell they’ve put us through? Fuck yes, I’m in. I thought you’d never ask.”


Did you know I am writing a novel about past lives and future loves? If you enjoy my writing go sign up for my Patreon where I share weekly readings, full/new moon ceremonies and more. But more importantly for $8/mo you get access to excerpts of my novel each month. Learn more at Temple of the Rose Gold Heart: https://www.Patreon.com/RoseGoldHeart

Does Confidence = Toxic? (Guest Post)

Perhaps it’s the influence of social media or a misunderstanding on my part, but it seems that confidence has become a frequently maligned character trait.  While certain character traits are intended to be non-threatening, assertiveness, for example, a sense of confidence seems to be viewed with disdain by many. At some point, a healthy sense of confidence became synonymous with arrogance. However, I believe that hiding your gifts under a bucket because they make others uncomfortable is neither fair nor healthy. When did confidence become a bad word?

Confidence is frequently viewed as threatening and aggressive, and sometimes it can be. I think we often assume someone may use their confidence against us as if it can be weaponized. It is common to feel threatened by someone who does a given activity better than you, but this does not mean you are being targeted. I think a large number of people feel threatened by a strong sense of confidence due to their personal insecurities.  They dislike in others what they feel is a deficit within themselves. Rather than saying “I wish I had that” or even better “teach me how to do that” we fall back on jealousy because we do not want to face our perceived short-comings.

Person in a gas mask with smoke swirling around and the words “Confidence = Toxic?” to the left.
Why do we treat confidence as if it is toxic?

Has anyone ever felt jealous of someone due to their abilities or accomplishments?  All of us have at one point or another.  As I became a more mature adult, however, I realized if I felt this way towards someone it was because I had a problem, not them.  I came to the conclusion many years ago if I was experiencing something as toxic as jealousy it meant I was feeling insecure about me. The good news is I am the only person I have total control over, so I can address my jealousy so it no longer influences me. I do not have control over anyone else so why should I feel negatively about their abilities? That doesn’t make sense to me anymore.  Have I experienced this from others? Absolutely. It usually left me scratching my head.  

Confidence resulting in overbearing arrogance and bullying is not true confidence, rather it is aggression.  My quick and dirty definition of aggression is getting your needs met by taking from the needs of someone else.  Our culture of winners and losers created this.  A key concept here is that other people do not have to lose in order for us to win.

I am not speaking about athletic contests which are deliberately set up with a winner and “not winner” due to an agreed-upon set of rules. I am speaking of day to day life where we all have to navigate a series of challenges, some expected, some not. As a coach, when I help someone with their level of confidence, I have helped them develop a life skill that can help them across all domains. I am not helping my clients with this so they can step on others. I am helping my clients so they can develop themselves and thrive.

 (General photo of person in business suit with boxing gloves on with blue bar caption that reads "Aggression: Taking from others to fulfill your own needs & desires")
Aggression: Taking from others to fulfill your own needs & desires.

Confidence does not have to be arrogant or self-aggrandizing.  A given individual may wield it in that manner, but I do not think that is its purpose.  True confidence and assertiveness should work together like a hand in a glove.  It is almost as if our culture views confidence as something in short supply, often resulting in judgment and criticism, such as “who does he/she think he/she is?”, or “You must think you’re so great.”  Taken to its most extreme, this may look like “nothing makes me angrier than someone who feels good about themselves.” Absurd, no? Confidence does not have to equal toxicity unless you apply it through that filter.  There is nothing inherently wrong with genuinely knowing you are good at something, particularly if it is something that required time and dedication to accomplish. A famous entertainer from the 1980s once said “If you try to stick your head above the crowd, someone will throw a rock at it.” Are we so connected to our perceived limitations that self-betterment is viewed as threatening?

Many people mistakenly view confidence as something that makes them better than others.  Again, this is not what confidence is about.  If my sense of self is sufficient and I feel I can learn what I need to learn to be competent or even excel at a chosen task… What is wrong with that? We are attached to our insecurities to such a degree that the accomplishments of others are frequently viewed as threatening. Is success a limited commodity only a precious few can attain? Is it only available while supplies last? The implication is we must get up early, stand in line, and hope we get some before it runs out. There is not a national scarcity of confidence and there is plenty for everyone. 

In the U.S. there seems to be a cultural penalty for having confidence or even a healthy self-image.  We experience too many mixed messages implying we don’t quite measure up (advertising for example) but changing that so we do measure up can often come with a penalty. It’s almost like we just can’t win.  What is our cultural obsession with a) not feeling good about ourselves; and b) being angry with and attacking those who do? My personal observation is social media has made this worse. It’s easier to be shitty to each other now without the consequence or pressure of face to face interactions. That is likely a topic for another time…

Confidence is inherently healthy and it promotes other healthy behaviors. Learning new tasks is a common example of this.  If I can learn one thing in a given field, I can likely learn another and another until proficiency and then later excellence is achieved.  Can I learn all things expertly? No, probably not. But if I can learn things I enjoy doing and get myself paid in the process, I am likely in a good place.  We have this cultural fixation on the strong, independent, rugged individual who marches to the beat of their own drum. We also dismiss them and sometimes target them outright and attack them until they “arrive.” After they arrive, they are still subject to cruel scrutiny by their peers or the media.  Celebrity culture, anyone? This is why the aforementioned entertainer spent so much time dodging rocks.

I think if we can adopt a supportive attitude toward each other rather than viewing the accomplishments of others as threatening, we will be more likely to view confidence-building as a natural progression rather than an attempt to unsettle the rest of the collective. If we can view this as a natural progression we all go through, helping each other excel becomes a natural part of life rather than needless animosity. Let’s be good to each other.

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.

Scraps of the Raw, Unedited Me

I keep a document on my computer called “scraps”. It’s the little phrases or bits of paragraph that I pull out of whatever I’m writing for this blog or the other writing projects I have going. When I write, I always take one pass to just get all the words on the page. One, big exhale of thought. No matter how circular, intricate or even scattered those thoughts are, I write down literally everything I can, feelings and all. I store so many ideas in my head, recognize so many connections between other concepts and themes that I can only make sense of It all by manifesting it in words – spoken or written.

I have always preferred writing to speaking, precisely because I can edit. Maybe it’s the perfectionism driven by my old Catholicism, or maybe it’s because I have more at stake with my writing if I publish it online, but one post could take me months to write and edit. I’m always paring down, not just because of word count (screw you, internet, I’ll write a 1200 word blog post if I wanna!), but for clarity, saliency, and simple relevance. As I pull out phrases that sound really awesome, bullet points that aren’t as relevant, paragraphs and links that will become the basis of their own posts, I can’t allow myself to let go of the idea, so I copy and paste into my “Scraps” document for safekeeping. This gives me the emotional freedom to edit without feeling like I’m losing an important thread of myself.

No edit button for real life

However, I can’t edit myself in real life or in real time. I can talk. Fuck, I can talk a lot. But most of what I’m doing is verbal processing of all the many connections I find between ideas, observations, and knowledge that are separated and disjointed. As I apply words to thoughts, it all starts to make sense to me. I start seeing the patterns, identifying areas of opportunity, understanding what actions I should take.

And in my most glorious moments, this is my realm, my territory, my kingdom: The intimately meandering conversations that all seem to circle around a profound point or theme, where topics range from science and pop culture to spirituality and personal trauma.  Only by connecting and sharing with others with a genuine exchange of perspectives and experiences can I ever truly make sense of my own experience.  I’m at my best when the conversation is organic, intimate, private.

My biggest stresses come from the inability to edit myself when I’m in a more formal, public and scrutinized environment. I am very purposeful with my words and I want the correct meaning to be conveyed at all times. When someone is hurt or offended or confused by what I say, it’s important to me to take responsibility for that, to learn from that experience, to do better the next time. But with that responsibility comes an inescapable compulsion to heavily edit myself before I say anything ever again.

——

I don’t want to ruin someone’s life because I was wrong about something I said

I’ve been public speaking since I was in 4th grade.  That year I went to Space Camp and was asked to present to all the classes at my school about my experience. Eventually, I was also invited to speak at other schools as well. As time went on, as I participated in other experiences, I got very used to getting up in front of a crowd, rattling off something from the top of my head and delivering a succinct and precise message quite successfully.

It was one thing when I was a precocious teenager with ambition and spunk. It’s quite another when I’m an adult professional speaking with authority or as a subject matter expert. That shift, somewhere between college and law school, I started second-guessing myself. Maybe it was my first contracts class where the professor made an example out of the fact I hadn’t done the reading (my schedule changed that morning, jackass). Maybe it was the fact that most of my law professors agreed that I’d make a terrible litigator. I was too transparent in cross-examination to make a good lawyer. It definitely was influenced by the judge who dressed me down in front of the whole court for a typo back when I was a student attorney.

Once I graduated and progressed in my profession, I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I had “authority” now, people would take what I said and might make life-altering decisions from the words I uttered. I don’t want to be wrong. I don’t want someone’s life to be ruined because of the advice that I gave. So paranoid am I am about it, that after every speech, presentation or class, I have a panic attack – not before a speech, but after. That’s the point where I’m wishing I had the ability to edit myself, to re-answer that one question, to double check that statistic, to not sound so full of myself. My anxiety spirals me into a place of such distorted fear and dread, that I need to remove myself from the event for at least 15-30 minutes to restore some equilibrium.

Control helped me survive; letting go helps me heal

Editing gives me a sense of control. Control over how others perceive me, control over how the how much information I share. Control over my environment and experience.  Control is safe. Control is how I’ve been able to survive. When I’m able to write, I can pour my heart out, edit and present the small gem I carved out of the raw, self-indulgent mess.

But healing isn’t complete unless we can let go of the things that no longer serve us.  An authentic life isn’t about controlling how others view you – not self-editing or hiding one’s intentions or persona forever. It is about trusting that you’re enough, that you can handle whatever happens, that you trust enough in the universe to support your attempts at authenticity.

At some point in our journey we have to step into the light and be seen for who we really are. Stripped away of the artifice and masks of constructed stories, letting go of the clutter of thoughts we have about what others want of us and decide for ourselves that it is simply enough for us to exist as ourselves in our present reality. Healing is letting go.

And as such, nothing from this post ended up in the scraps document. Because it is enough to just show up authentically as myself, without hidden agendas or constructed personas. I deserve to fully show up in the world as the raw, unedited me.

Lessons from Men: Sincerity is Sexy

Since I was a teenager I’ve gotten into the habit of not giving much weight to compliments. I don’t absorb them easily, don’t take them seriously and I try to avoid a lot of situations that would result in ever receiving them. As I age, now in my 40’s, I give them even less attention than I did when I was younger. I have fallen into a habit of dismissing them as useless noise in otherwise great conversations.

It’s no understatement to say that I don’t accept compliments very well. Whether it’s my intellect, my beauty or my impact, I’m very reluctant to accept positive feedback about myself no matter who it comes from. But when I receive romantic or sexual compliments, particularly from men, my reluctance turns to suspicion.

Here’s why:

The men who came before you ruined it.

My first job was at an ice arena in the 90’s. For a while I was the only female under the age of 50 who worked there, so most days, I was working with 3-5 men at any given time. When I wasn’t on the ice or behind skate rental doing my homework I was shooting the shit with the guys.

Leaving alone some of the more unsavory and illegal aspects of that job (the sexual harassment & uncompensated hours), every afternoon, when the rink was closed and we were between events, we sat in the box office or my boss’ office and talked about everything. I felt accepted in a way that I didn’t with others. The geeky boys at school rejected me, the jocks ignored me, the smart guys were weirdly protective over me and the beautiful boys didn’t know I existed. Not only were these guys paying attention to me, but they were giving me advice, insider information on how to attract guys.

 

My sexual education mostly had consisted of Catholic judgment tempered by access to a library with loads of books about puberty and sex. But even though I had resources I felt like a freak for my bisexual desires, the frequency of masturbation, the obsession over wanting to show off my body. I was able to contain the freak enough to date, to learn from the boys that I was with, but most of those messages revolved around seeking the approval of men.

Navigating Toxic Masculinity

So during those times at work I fancied myself a spy who had been given a glimpse into a deeper thread of masculinity. I gained access to the spaces where sexually dysfunctional assumptions are embedded in deep currents of shame. I knew even back then that these men were wearing masks to impress each other. Yet they were playing a game designed so that none of them would ever really win.  I knew that a lot of them felt pressure to brag and boast, to put up walls and hide their needs with a well-placed wink at their friends.

I also saw the men underneath. The ones who really wanted a happier relationship, the ones who were working through issues of self-worth and managing stunted independence. I eventually got to see the vulnerability, sometimes more acutely than their wives or girlfriends – because after a while, they forgot that I was a spy and they considered me one of them.

 

And while all of that would be ample reason to not trust their advice about boys, I was working from a skewed sense of self, insecurities run amok. Specifically, I paid attention to their strategies behind compliments. They taught me their code for how they talk about women and how to get what they wanted from women:

  • Tell a smart girl she’s pretty
  • Tell a pretty girl she’s smart
  • Beautiful – when you want her to fall for you.
  • Gorgeous – to keep her attention or get out of trouble.
  • Cute – girl next door that you want to fuck but might have to play the friend zone for a while before you can. 
  • Hot – to get her to act sluttier.
  • Sexy – the more breathless you say it, the more she’ll want to please you.
  • Nice/sweet – clingy woman who you’re trying to gently let down.

All of these strategies and definitions overlapped to a certain extent and varied from person to person.  But the lesson was clear – compliments were manipulations used to reinforce desired results.

From there I always had reason to doubt the sincerity of the compliments I received.  I developed a deliberate response system, using this code to uncover hidden intentions and build strategies of my own. I started seeing through the strategic use of eye contact when told I’m “gorgeous”. I could hear the impatient expectation hidden in their voice when told I’m “hot”. Poems and platitudes dismissed over and over. It’s all bullshit, packaged and sold as smooth seduction and I wasn’t going to get emotionally drawn into the value of the compliment.

I got to the point where I could anticipate each compliment through seeing the corresponding intention. I could easily weave through the different road signs and guideposts, avoiding pitfalls of falling for just any guy who called me beautiful. I modeled the frankness about sex that I wanted for myself. If I wanted to date someone, if I wanted to have sex with them, I just told them. No pretense, no seduction by compliment; I would just call it out. It didn’t always work in my favor – definitely got turned down a lot, but at least it was honest.

Expect and deflect.

 

Sincerity plants seeds of growth

 

Eventually and especially after going through sexual trauma, any compliment became seen as dangerous, a potential manipulation I had to guard against. And while I was only trying to keep myself from getting hurt, I know that this was also hurting those who really just wanted to connect with me by expressing their interest.  I’m honestly ashamed to think of all the really wonderful people who I’ve rejected because of the advice of these men.

I wish I could go back to the girl I was and tell her that the real lesson to take from the guys at the rink was how to discern insincerity from genuine interest. To notice that the way they treated women was more reflective of how they treated themselves. They manipulated because they were constantly wearing a mask that denied them the experience of connection. It was easier to define women and pussy as grotesque and mysterious than it was to admit that the 4 minute fucks they were hustling weren’t impressing anyone.

I would tell her that the people she would most value in her life, who would rock her world sexually and spiritually, would all have one quality in common:

Sincerity

An open heart, an open mind will always be the epitome of sexy for me. 

Whether it’s maturity or confidence, I know myself better than I did back then. I still have insecurities, but I no longer allow them to decide how I feel about myself or what boundaries matter to me. I simply don’t have time to waste on those who offer half-truths and generic innuendos. Nor do I care about the opinions of those who bring nothing but their desperate emptiness, no matter how much they try to hide it behind compliments.

I am most strongly attracted to those who are genuine within themselves. I care most about those who express empathy and even simple curiosity. Those who act consistently to express their own truth in a way that connects, rather than destroys. Sincerity always contributes more energy than it drains. And those who embrace their truth, no matter how ugly or damaged they feel it is, these are the people I want to know. These are the people I want to share myself with. And fuck, sincerity is just so damn sexy.

Manipulation doesn’t have the power to change someone. At best, it temporarily deprives them of the ability to make a conscious choice. Manipulations are the tools of the weak, those who can’t stand on their own with confidence.  Yet, compliments shared from a sincere heart are hard to ignore, kind of impossible to dodge. Once a sincere person shares their truth, it plants a seed of connection that give us new life, new energy, a change for the better.

Sincerity forces us to take off the mask and be seen for our honest selves. It is vulnerable and intimidating for certain, but it is entirely what our world needs more of right now.

Updating my old OKCupid profile

I’ve been using OKCupid since around 2005 maybe? It’s been the most Poly-friendly of dating apps for years. In fact, it’s responsible for bringing Warrior into my life (his ex-wife, my former girlfriend, met me from OKC).

My profile is as…thorough…as a profile can be. It’s got a ton of information in it. Enough for any prospective match to know what they’re getting themselves into. This profile has served me well over the years – I can usually judge matches based on how well they read my profile. But…like most things Janet, it says a LOT.

With all the changes they’ve been making recently, presumably for safety, as well as to keep up with the Tinder trend, I find myself updating a really old profile to fit with emerging times. While I disagree with the whole “real name” bandwagon (especially harmful to victims of abuse/stalking, members of marginalized communities and Poly/kinky members of conservative professions), if my name is going to be associated with this, I want to be more strategic in what I say.

I have used a variation of this profile since 2009. And while I have changed and grown as a person, my profile parameters have stayed the same.

Now, as I approach this task, feeling some internalized pressure to pare down what I say about myself, I have trouble letting go. My profile – my description of myself – is a statement of who I am, or at least who I believed myself to be, which is hard to let go of because it feels like saying goodbye to that woman.

So, to encourage me to start fresh on that profile, I’m preserving the original here so I don’t feel like I’m letting go of that past forever. But rather, I’m documenting the journey toward my new self instead. By putting this here, I allow myself to move on, to craft a new narrative of who I am and what experiences will feed my life in the months & years to come.

Saying goodbye to a wordier, more defensive version of myself, to make room for a better reflection of the power I bring to a connection and the path I want to be on today.

Enjoy the last remnants of the old me.

I was trying to pare down my profile to the essence and sadly I was unsuccessful. I admit, I’m not known my brevity, but I’m great at meaningful conversations, so maybe that makes up for it.

The most important thing to know is that I am happily and solidly polyamorous (couldn’t go back to monogamy if I tried). I have two primary partners (legal husband and Poly husband) and a girlfriend. I have two kids–teenagers–who make my life full and amazing. I give my family, including my chosen family, my all.

I am freedom loving, kinky, spiritual, a lover of laughter, liberal, expressive, way too serious, loving, passionate, vulnerable and confident although not usually all at once.

I love to experience that spark that happens between two people with great chemistry. Passion has been a defining part of my life, and it is a trait that is re-emerging after a long period of quiet reflection. I find passionate people, especially fellow geeks and politicos, especially attractive. Chemistry is found in the small moments, the crackle in the air during intense conversation or the overwhelming electricity of a touch or a smile. I just try to follow the connection and let it organically develop into whatever feels right.

I don’t respond well to pressure or uninformed expectations. I value honesty and openness. I tend to be find my deepest bravery and confidence in revealing my vulnerabilities and insecurities, and I’m trying to embrace the rewards of those risks. I celebrate small victories and learn from the crushing defeats; likewise, I tend to blow off small defeats and minimize large accomplishments.

I value thoughtful action, ethical behavior and compassionate communication. I love encountering the differences in one another that define our journeys. I recognize the inherent beauty and power of spirit. I try to be courageous every day and challenge myself to do what is right. I try to be ethical, approachable and understanding.

I embrace the term queer to describe my orientation. I am attracted to the whole person, inside and out, whether or not they conform to the gender standards or expressions others try to impose on them. But it’s not just gender…I love people who are equally fluid and open with their sexuality and therefore tend to gravitate toward bi (including curious, homo/hetero-flexible) or queer individuals. I consider myself a safe place for someone to explore and find acceptance for their sexual identity. However, I am not an experiment or a trainer for those new to their sexual exploration.

I crave sincerity in my relationships and reward that with my depth and passion. I am most strongly attracted to authenticity in all its manifestations. Most of all I enjoy being wanted for who I really am and am wary of surface level attraction.

I accept people, their interests, and their past experiences. I try to display the kind of openness I value. I am attracted to people who take personal risks in order to overcome their fears and past. I try to give people a safe place to be themselves without judgment or ridicule. But I’m not tolerant of deceit, manipulation or possessiveness.

I am trying to get back into finding and following connections again. After a very difficult few years where my family needed my full attention, I’m ready to start turning my attention to new people, new experiences. I’m ready for a renewal, a love for the life I want and have.

2018 is the year of the Crossroads Goddess: Surrender to your truth

Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash

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?

Surrender to your own truth, no matter how complex or multi-faceted it is. You don’t owe anyone conformity.

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

Surrender yourself to your highest truth in this moment. Just breathe and let go. Allow yourself to experience this moment and allow it be beautiful.

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:

  1. Know yourself well enough to know your priorities & boundaries;
  2. Evaluate the choices in light of those priorities;
  3. Predict the path ahead so you’re prepared for what you face after the choice including the collateral consequences to others; and
  4. 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.

 

Dear Hot Guy

Dear Hot Guy, (insert name here)

Thanks so much for messaging me. It’s nice to hear from you. Before we get started, let me establish a few things first just to make sure we’re on the same page…

I’m not an easy target

I’m sure that if you’re messaging me that you’ve noticed that I’m fat.  Let me establish right away that fat girls are not the low hanging fruit ripe for a hot guy’s selective desire. Just because I’m fat doesn’t mean I lack standards. Your presence in my feed or in my life isn’t a gift. And I can easily sniff out when your tone is tinged with a smug “You’re lucky that I came along to save you from a life of loneliness” when I enforce my standards and set my boundaries.

I remember back in middle school, when I had braces and frizzy hair, I would get these men, these boys, these hot guys who would come on to me. Whooo, I was so flattered. They liked me? They really liked goofy looking me? It didn’t take long to figure out that not only did those guys, not like me, that they publicly made fun of me for believing that they could ever like me at all.

I grew my first layer of armor soon after.

I have since learned my own value. I don’t admit (nor ever want to admit) my own beauty. I’ll accept that others might find me attractive, but that isn’t my true value in me. I want them to see me as a  woman who has the strength to withstand darkness, the wisdom to share compassion and the courage to prioritize my own self-worth more than any singular man’s attention toward me.

So, if you’re assuming I’ll be an easy lay because, you know, fatness (or age, or presumed cougar-ness or MILF or whatever). I promise, I have plenty of partners who keep me happy and I’m not salivating at the sight of your nude body. It takes more than the mere suggestion of sex with a hot guy to turn my head. That’s because…..

You are not the first; nor shall you be the last

Trust me, there will never be a drought of hot men who like thicker, curvier women. There will never be a drought of hot men who get turned on by older women. There will never a lack of hot men who love going down on a woman. There will always be hot guys with big cocks (and retailers that sell good approximations) And there will always be the hot men who secretly desire women like us but can’t get past their own self-loathing to declare it openly.

Likewise, there will never be a drought of hot men who are attracted to passion and soul. Those who respond to wit and intellect. Those who share openly with their hearts and who cherish what they see in mine. Ultimately, those men remain in my orbit, connected to a shared moment or purpose together that surpasses more than just their mere hotness.

Show me what makes you shine

I admit I’m a greedy bitch. I’m not driven by lust for a body alone.  Offer me more.  I want the men who have deep passions, generous souls and are pursuing their heart’s purpose. And I also want those who care deeply for others, accept their own vulnerability and take responsibility for their presence in the world, including their fears and biases.  Having that kind of wholeness offered is intoxicating. To have those qualities likewise come in an aesthetically pleasing …ahem…package is downright decadent and luxurious.

But once you’ve tasted the richness of someone’s soul, you’re not as thirsty for basic, low-effort dick. It will never matter how big you are or how you plan to “treat me like a queen” until I see more of who you are. Your hotness isn’t all that you can or should offer to me.  Your dick’s length or girth will never make up for a lack of personality or casual cruelty. Why would I waste my time on someone who thinks I only want his surface-level offerings?  Baby, I want so much more than that.

I want to be on your mind first thing in the morning, searching for messages I left for you overnight. I want you to crave my words and to respond to my touch. I want to see that flash of opportunity in your eyes. I want to explore deep into the chasms of your desire. I want to feel the tremulous waves of anticipation and share the inevitable surrender to pleasure and joy. I want to see the real you.

Allow yourself to be more than just another hot guy in my life. Supply more than lustful promises for my satisfaction.  Offer more than just your dick. Surely, we both deserve better than that. Allow yourself to actually shine from within, beyond the glossy surface you’ve been told that women want. Worship at the font of authenticity and humble yourself before your own depths. I crave connection to the wholeness and am waiting to see you trust yourself enough to let it shine.

Only then will I truly know how attractive you really are.

Wonder Woman: My first feminist icon

We all have our heroes. The people we look up to and who give us inspiration when times are tough. All of us have a mix of personal, professional, real & fictional heroes that are part of our lives. And this week one of my first heroes hits the big screen to fill the void of women’s voices in superhero fandom. In honor of Wonder Woman finally getting her own movie (and at that it appears a movie worthy of such an icon) consider this an ode, a love letter of all the reasons why this particular icon is my first and my favorite.

WonderWoman - DC

Origin Stories

I’ve been a fan of Wonder Woman for as long as I can remember, dating back to at least 4 years old.  Back then we had comics and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. I was too young back then to pay much attention to the story line, to know the patriarchal evils she was truly fighting. All I knew in those early years is that she was a woman who was beautiful, powerful, honest and looked a lot like me with her dark hair and light skin.  She was the earliest pop culture example of the type of woman I wanted to grow up to be.

Wonder Woman also fits in to some of my earliest and fondest childhood memories.

I was raised by mostly the Mexican half of my family both in tradition and in frequency and depth of connection. Every summer I would usually spend a week with my grandparents in a small rural community north of Denver. During the day I’d go to my grandma’s prayer group with her or join my grandpa at the library. At night, I’d get to play dress up after dinner and the evening news. Sometimes grandma and I would play cops & robbers or I’d dress up like a queen and we’d have a tea party.

But the fondest memory i will always have is when my grandpa, a tough, well-read and witty state patrolman, made me a golden lasso, a crown and bracelets just like my beloved Wonder Woman. He had spent the day cutting out the forms from cardboard and painting them to match Wonder Woman’s costume from the TV show which I would watch religiously on syndication every afternoon.  When dinner was over and the dishes had been done, he came upstairs and presented me with my very own Wonder Woman gear to wear for that night’s dress up.  It is still one of the best gifts I have ever received and one I wish I had been able to keep to show my kids.

Dawning Awareness & Adolescence

It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I identify as a geek. I grew up on comic books, Star Trek and Star Wars. I was a child of the 80’s where our popular culture started moving from B-movie sci-fi to a more pronounced market for nerddom. Dungeons & Dragons, Goonies, Thundercats and Revenge of the Nerds gave us a language to start uniting our nerd culture. Technology was about to make it much easier to find our people, to find communities of people who enjoy the same things as we do.

This was also the time that I was just starting to wake up to sex. I was an early bloomer (I grew out of training bras by 5th grade). And as the boys teased me and girls started to exclude me and make me the butt of their jokes, I clung to my traditions of sci-fi, comics and fantasy. I hollowed out a place for myself locked between childhood and adulthood. A place where I acted out fantasies with my Jem dolls, where the Misfits were sly seductresses tempting our heroes into sin. A place where I imagined Q could make me do anything he wished.

 

296p2

Panel art from Issue 296 of Wonder Woman called “Mind Games”. Cover Artists: Ernie Colan, Frank Giacoia / Writer: Dan Mishkin (Plot by Roy Thomas) / Pencils: Gene Colan / Inker: Frank McLaughlin / Letterer: Ben Oda / Colourist: Carl Gafford / Editor: Marv Wolfman / Story Title: Mind Games! [Info & panel from Amazon Archives]

But even here, Wonder Woman still had an influence. It only took a few comics to realize that there is a trend of her always getting tied up. One comic in particular, Issue 296 (“Mind Games”), features General Electric forcing Wonder Woman to play along with a mind control video game. And oh god, this image still gets to me.  The force by which the villain is trying to control her and yet, she still overcomes and is able to reject his desire to enslave her to his will. And yet, that force, the bondage, the temporary overpowering of someone’s will was the first time I remember ever being turned on.

 

shttp://www.amazonarchives.com/ww296.htm

 

BellaRosa’s Spring Serenade

I have to be able to capture this feeling. Elation. Joy. Gratitude. Pleasure. Freedom. Desire. Cosmic Awareness.

It’s been so long, friends since I last felt this joyful in myself. Confident and self-assured. Devoid of doubt for my purpose or of my voice. Absent are the rules that once restricted me. My body is empty of the worry that always consumes it and holds it hostage. My mind is free of the fear that accompanies my word. My heart so strong and self-possessed.

08-easter-egg-broken

See, a few days ago, something broke open from within. I liken it to a hatched egg, but it was more like breaking free of a cocoon after nearly 10 years. It was a catharsis that I was convinced would never come.

February 2006 was a very different time for me and a very different version of me. A foolish and overwhelmed version of me. I always thought that the events of that year were designed to take me down a peg or two. Indeed, I had grown too full of myself and didn’t have the maturity to really see the 10 steps ahead that I needed to, so very caught up in the everyday poly drama, the attention, the successes.

But now I look back on that time in my life as resetting my path, resetting my calling, breaking down the towers that I had built for myself because they were built on top of shifting sands. Everything had to crash down for me to start over again.

Starting over sucks.

An inelegant and crass way to sum up the otherwise beautiful process of transformation. But as you go through it, the pain, the doubt, the impatience all wears you down until you don’t think there’s any “you” left at all. It breaks apart your identity to its smallest parts, examining it, discarding the corrupted and hurt bits.

The most painful part is letting go of the expectations you once had for yourself, the image you once had of yourself. We become attached to that image, not because it’s great or even accurate, but because it’s safe. That image we hold of ourselves is safe and familiar. And most of all it’s easy. It’s so damn easy in fact that we never think about changing it until something, like life, threatens to take away that part of our identity.

TowerThese crises of identity can happen for any reason and at any time. And while I paid a lot of lip service to the need for us to periodically confront these facets of self. I likened it to the Tower from Tarot. You spend your life building up this tower of self, the bricks and materials made of the knowledge, wisdom, beliefs and memories we had accumulated during our lifetime. This tower houses not just us, but everything that makes us special, unique and different. But then an event, a person, a cascade effect of choices comes in and knocks it all down, like a wrecking ball. Devastation and despair ensues. Chaos reigns. To the point that when it comes up in a reading, I’ve seen experienced tarot readers get scared.

But I had always thought that if I was proactive and took the opportunity to examine the bricks and tear apart my own tower I could avoid the headache and the mess that would have otherwise caught me off guard. I was going to be smarter than everyone else!

Until it happened to me. It wasn’t just being drugged, being outed, losing my job, or gaining a lot of weight. It was the impact on my family. It was the depression. It was the heartache and doubt. I thought life couldn’t get any lower. But then my spiritual husband and I broke apart for reasons that seemed important at the time but don’t make any sense to me now. But the worst of it started 4  years ago when my oldest son ran away. The events of that year, 2012, changed my life and broke me down even further than I thought I could be. If I had cracked, broken but mostly whole bricks before, I had dust falling through my hands afterward.

And there was no part of my identity that didn’t have to be rebuilt. Yes, I was still polyamorous, but it was a different poly that I had started with. Yes, I was still a mother, but what kind of mother would I be now? No, I was no longer Catholic, but what did my sense of faith look like now?

The question when it all falls apart, is what will I build in its place? And ordinarily I would turn to some sense of higher consciousness to access the answers I needed, but not this time. That was the brick that had been shattered and shamed, blamed and broken beyond all others. No guidance. No light. No purpose. Nothing.

I cocooned myself away from the world. Only minimally engaging with the people I like or admire.

Until Now

496db3dc298df3ca3217bd786e9d7c59Here I am, free once again. Free from a few of the beliefs that inhabited the stones and bricks of my tower. Values like sacrifice at all costs. Habits like pernicious negativity. Beliefs like being replaceable in people’s lives. So much has changed. And yet it feels entirely authentic and natural.

I can’t get over the feeling that the universe conspired this break down to reveal the wise, wild, vibrant woman bursting to come forth. No longer the girl mourning the loss of her youth, but the wholly invested queen ready to rule her life.  I am discovering the dominant side of my switchiness. I am embracing the duality of my attractions to women and men. I know my limits but stretch my wings to try to overcome them. I am savoring the increase in attention from younger men.I am learning more about how to relax and just be. I love the grey in my hair, the wrinkles emerging under my eyes. I can feel the world in its wholeness again.

I feel renewed.

Welcome to Spring. My spring.

 

 

 

 

Internal Disappointment Processing

Self-awareness is a grand thing that cannot be over-emphasized as we interact with the world around us.  However, some people, including myself, who make this a priority, tend to skew the viewpoint a little toward whatever story they want the world to know about them.  Inevitably, with all of us, we end up with blind spots that trip us up and end up impacting others.  That blind spot is usually obvious once we recognize it for what it is: a struggle within to reconcile and identify the source emotion.

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So let’s just attack my blind spot emotion: Disappointment.  Disappointment is a close friend with regret.  However, regret is the disappointment that we apply to our own actions  and disappointment is what we apply to others’ actions.  Disappointment doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s often the result of creating and sustaining expectations that another will act the way that we thought they should or would.  In order to identify a feeling as disappointment you have to:

a) recognize that you had expectations;

b) believe you deserved or had good reason to have those expectations;

c) placed trust in someone else to meet those expectations;

d) relied on that person’s implied, express or assumed promise to fulfill those expectations; and

e) experienced a failure of someone to meet those expectations.

Disappointment can be general (“I’m disappointed I didn’t get any email today”) or specific (“I’m disappointed that my husband forgot our anniversary”).  Disappointment carries a deeper attachment to the result or even the process than ordinary breaches of social protocol.  It is personal and yet sometimes we judge ourselves for reacting to something so seemingly simple.

Disappointment is a blind spot for me because I rarely believe (b), that I deserve or have good reasons to expect anything.  I feel that undeservinginess so deeply that I have adjusted my whole life around that basic concept so I never have to feel disappointment in another human being. And like most things it was influenced by some distinct event at an impressionable time.

ImageTake my birthday for example.  I typically don’t celebrate my birthday and instead have replaced it with a spiritual ritual practiced in solitude.

Yet, I remember making a distinct choice to stop any public celebration of my birthday on my 16th birthday.  This was the birthday where my boyfriend ditched me to have a drugged-out one night stand with a co-worker. I swallowed the disappointment, the heartbreak because I felt so unworthy of the expectation of fidelity or honesty or to be special on my 16th birthday. And I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to be hurt like that again so i prohibited any celebration by family and friends from that time forward.

What is the old saying? If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed. Right?

(SIDE NOTE: I made an exception for my 21st birthday which ended up in that boyfriend dumping me just minutes after I turned 21 and was waiting for him to show up so we could go to the bar for my first legal drink.)

So here I am almost twenty years later. I can say with some certainty that I was completely reasonable to expect my boyfriend to spend my birthday with me as he promised instead of cheating on me. But that realization doesn’t change the new traditions I have created around this day for me.  Disappointment was the fuel to that fire; but denial and avoidance of disappointment has ensured that there are no birthday parties, no presents, no cards, no celebratory drinks or revelry of any kind.   Avoid disappointment,? Check.  Avoid any chance to feel special and included? Fail.

Expectations are a bitch, because it’s entirely out of your control whether people meet them. And people give you excuses that seem reasonable at the time.  But instead of owning up to the fact that I feel hurt or let down, I swallow it down where I plot my next attempt to circumvent any future disappointment

So how to fix it?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Admit to yourself that the icky mix of anger and sadness you feel is disappointment. Write it down and burn it if you’re afraid of letting anyone know you feel this. But say or write the words at least.
  • Practice telling the other person when you feel disappointed for small things.  Like when they text to tell you that they won’t be able to make it to dinner tonight because they’re sick, text back  “aww…I’m disappointed I won’t see you tonight.  Take good care of yourself”
  • Recognize and relate to their own humanity.  Trust me, as a human being you’ve done something, big or small, to disappoint another human being. Remember what caused that person’s disappointment and apply it to your own now.  Was it a miscommunication?  An assumption?  A crooked sense of priorities?  Stress? Excuses or not, these play into all of our interactions.
  • Express your disappointment. It doesn’t have to be a drag out fight.  But instead find an opportunity soon after the event in question to tell the person you were disappointed by something they did or didn’t do and how things can be better in the future.  Make it an honest exchange of information.  Yes, you will hear excuses or rationale, some of which are totally understandable, but just as importantly they will hear it from you directly how you feel and what you’d like them to do differently in the future.
  • Check but don’t eliminate all of your own expectations. There are times that our expectations can be pretty unweildy and can set everyone on edge (think Miranda Priestly from the Devil Wears Prada). If you’re noticing an increase in agitation or stress with the people you rely on, you may want to double check that you’re not asking the impossible and scale it back just a little bit.
  • Arrange regular time to check in about promises, rules, expectations in a relationship. Having a regular check-in with a partner, loved one or even co-worker about what expectations are on the table, what’s working and what’s not can be enormously helpful.  Don’t wait until there is a history of consistent fuck-ups, instead check in early and often (like every 2-3 months) to make sure each party knows what is expected of them.
  • Trust again. Maybe not the same people as before, but trust that your needs and desires are worthy.  It is amazing how less disappointment haunts me and hurts me now that I’ve started trusting that the world isn’t out to get me.  .

And the biggest show of that trust in my life? After twenty years of solitary suffering, I am actually going to celebrate my birthday!  Bring it on!

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