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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!

Post Poly Con

This is more of a stream of consciousness.  I’m on my way home from a trip to Philly where I presented at PolyLiving 2013. It was a wonderful time, with many people who inspired me with their commitment to one another.  It was difficult being at the conference without a partner to share that energy with.  I felt a bit off the whole time.  I thought at first it was because I was tired from all the over-thinking preparations I put into the event, but realized through the course of things that I really wanted a partner there to pour that energy into and share with.

polyamory

The energy at a poly event is distinctly different from the energy at a kink event, which is the majority of events that I’ve done so far.

Read the rest of this entry

Call of the Darkness

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees; but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.

–Friedrich Nietzsche

I have always responded to the call of darkness.  The lure.  The fact that so many others are frightened of it pushes me deeper into the woods, into the caves of humanity to witness and share in the deeper parts of the psyche. But not just to witness, to stand guard, to lend strength, to share and participate and give the wounds salve until they heal.  It’s not the draw of the macabre.  It is the draw of desire and spirit.  Pure and hallowed to delve deeper than the normal person would.

ImageI serve the darker edges of humanity but specifically the wounds we carry.  Wounds…be they physical, psychic or emotional tend to cause us the greatest amount of fear in our lives.  And we guard our deepest, darkest fears more than anything in the world.  Sure, you think about people who seem to wear their woundedness on their sleeve…almost boasting that they’ve suffered through life and are here to prove to humanity their strength.  But what I’ve found is that they don’t put the greatest wounds on display…only the ones that they can wear without harm, without exposing the deeper ones that lay underneath.  Those….those they guard fiercely and fight anyone who tries to disturb them.

The only superpower I really have is I am the person people trust with the greatest of their wounds.  Their sorrows, their intense pain, their embarrassments, their sense of not-good-enough…these fears of divine dis-love that they try to keep secret from the rest of the world.  They tell no one.  Not their spouses.  Not their lovers.  Not their parents.  But they tell me.

They tell me or rather….they show me.  They creep slowly through the recesses of their psyche, the part they are barely aware of normally.  The instinctual and immediate part of themselves that they can’t access unless someone trespasses against that territory.  They invite me in.  Grasping my hand for strength,clutching at the light that I bring with me for fear.  Fear of the monsters laying in wait to overcome them and take control.  Maybe if I’m there the monsters won’t attack.  Won’t hurt them.  Won’t try to take over their world.

And even now as I write this, I’m flooded with the memories of when this has happened.  When I’ve seen all of someone, even the big, bad monster they thought they were holding at bay.  The anger, the greed, the resentment, the frustration, the hurt, the deception…I’ve seen so much of it.  And it is beautiful.  It is beautiful because each person’s big, bad monster is an accumulation of humanity.  It is a creation of our selves…and it is a part of ourselves.  It is the part of ourselves that we’ve discarded, hoping that it will never return.  Hoping that it will never find a way back into the light.

And I am overwhelmed with emotion because these people I have encountered have trusted me with it.  With something so precious, so grotesque and fearsome…something that resembles them far more than they want to know.

Because at the end of that journey, I show them.  I bring a light to the mirror and stand them next to their monster figure and show them…this is you….and I love you both.  I love the monster and who you’ve tried to become in order to hide it.  I love you both.

It is almost too much for them to bear.  To feel that something so ugly within themselves can be loved and cherished.  “Aren’t you afraid?” they inevitably ask me.  How can I possibly be afraid?  I can’t pretend to love someone without loving the fullness of who they are.  And by embracing the beast I can now finally love the full person.  Does the beast lash out?  Yes.  But only because it has been relegated to the darkness for so long it can no longer recognize how it feels to have light surround it and hold it safe.

But more than anything, I embrace the fullness of someone.  Their light and dark…and I show that it is possible to melt the divide between light and dark within our own lives.  That by embracing your own darkness and treating it with kindness and love that we heal the fears that placed it in the darkness to begin with…and that itself is love.  True, abiding love for our own self.

This kind of healing isn’t a wound to be worn on the shoulder as evidence of your own bravery, to prove that you’ve suffered…it is one that glows from within and is embodied in your full presence and countenance.  It is not a braggart’s courage,but a wounded soul who is now radiant with the joy of life.  Nothing more needs to be said.  No words are needed.

In an instant  I can tell the difference between those who have walked through their darkness and embraced what they have found….and those who are still hiding it, protecting it and projecting the lesser wounds as their evidence of their “confidence”.  I can tell…and the more one brags about their wounds, their victimization, their suffering, the more those words are just really big, giant “Keep OUT!” signs to loved ones and others that they will do everything in their power to keep their secret monsters safe and in the dark. They don’t trust themselves, they don’t trust their partners and they surely will never trust a professional to lead them to true healing.  I don’t bother with them.  They will continue to live a false life soaked in duality, an alchemy that falls flat and leaves them sour and needy.

No…I praise those who have done “the heavy lifting” and I await them at their next crossroads…when a new dark corner threatens to swallow them whole. I stand alone and wait for them to see me and invite me in when either everyone else has abandoned them or are too shallow to see the transformation, the little death, that must occur for them to heal and move forward.

And I am rewarded…like in the quote above…with roses and riches.  Such beauty and such abundance of soul.  I alone have been entrusted with their stories for I saw their darkness and did not run away or avoid it…I stood by them and loved them to the very end.

So….much….beautyImage

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