Each of us shares our life with someone.
In all actuality, we share our lives with many someones.
Our orbits pass through one another, sometimes crashing through the orbits of others everyday. With every action, with every word, with every choice, we send ripples of significance. We each influence someone, several someones, in our day-to-day lives and in the memories reverberating in those we may never see again. And even the most obtusely selfish among us can serve as an inspiration to someone else. One ripple sends another and another.
We are all connected. Maybe positively, maybe negatively – no matter how brief, no matter how intense, the connections we share are inescapable. What happens to one of us reverberates through the rest of us.
Even in the darkest of my depressions, it is this truth that keeps me going. This truth has been the basis of my life and my calling. It is the guidebook for my decision-making, the tome I refer to when I feel I’m off my path. I gravitate toward connectedness with others, even if it means breaking faith with what the world would have me do with its rules and expectations.
It is the universality of our connectedness that gives me hope for our future but likewise makes me fear for our present.
We live in unprecedented times. When I was 15, I cared deeply about politics, but it didn’t rule my every thought or conversation. I worried about getting my homework done, navigating increasingly more adult decisions. I didn’t have to worry about my life or the lives of those around me. We didn’t know the earth was dying.
My son is now 15 with a keen mind for politics and history. He doesn’t want kids because “why bother when the earth will be uninhabitable by the time they’re 10”.
It breaks my heart that my son, my bright light of hope in this world, cannot see any hope in our future. He watched with panic and anxiety when Trump announced, foreseeing a time that brown people would be locked up. Fearing for my Mexican family, that election was so difficult to endure for us both. It became real to us – we were being collectively targeted and threatened.
Combined with the regularity of lock-outs, the proliferation of cyber bullying and the rapidly empty responses to climate change, he has nothing left to believe in. He watched his country, the adults and parents who should be watching out for his generation, elect the most unsophisticatedly inhumane of any candidate possible to usher his generation into adulthood. Environmental protections are dismantled, a sledgehammer has been taken to a woman’s right to choose, and racism, sexism and discrimination is sanctioned and protected.
We have a generation of children who have been force fed a steady diet of fear and impulsive intolerance. Even for the kids not directly in harm’s way today, the multitude of dangers they have to navigate put my youthful grievances into clearer perspective. The trauma, the low, constant hum of human suffering accumulated slowly over time.
Who would they be if we hadn’t done this to them?
We all belong to each other.
This isn’t about my kid vs your kid. This isn’t about comparing our suffering. It’s about recognizing that we share the burden of carrying that experience with and for each other. Without your experience, how can I possibly ever understand mine? We serve as mirrors for each other, reflecting both the pain and the resilience, the fear and the healing. By sharing those experiences, we give context to someone else’s.
People often tell me that I share too much online. And I do. I know better than most the consequences of sharing so much. But I also know that dee in my soul, I share my ideas and experiences so that others might find something that resonates with them. If my story can help even one other person, then I experience a transformative effect for the pain I’ve lived through. I reclaim more of who I really am and I experience a greater freedom in living my most authentic life.
So many of us have been through some horrible things, things that we’re only now starting to find a voice for. Many of us are grappling with the outcomes and consequences of shame, guilt or trauma. That realization has a ripple effect around us, even momentarily altering how we see ourselves and the world around us. And if, in this moment we can collectively mourn for the people we never became, if we can reconcile the betrayal we feel, we might recognize that we have more in common than we think.
In these moments of crisis, in these days of uncertainty, we have a choice whether to silo ourselves away in a tower of enforced misery, or whether we might deserve the strength of sincere companionship. We have a choice to model for our over stressed and over burdened children how to handle emotions like fear or distrust, how to maintain resolve when it looks like all is lost. We can show them leadership. We can show them another way.
Connecting with one another, making ourselves vulnerable to share in the burdens, collaborating on solutions together may be the only way we can ensure that our children will survive their futures.
We all belong to each other.
We all want to be loved, to be found worthy of our intended’s affection, to be worthy of our parents’ pride, to be deserving of close friendships and to bask in the joy of romantic passion. Only by realizing and engaging with that connection will we be able to create a world of abundance, security and peace for us all.
It is now fully 2018. I’m successfully writing the correct year on timesheets. I’ve had time to think about the new year and set intentions and avoid the bad habits long enough to feel like I gave the resolutions the ol’ college try. It is well beyond the time that we would expect to see a “Goodbye 2017 and Hello 2018” type of post out of me, which is why I’ve been sitting with the draft of this post for at least three weeks now.
What I had originally intended to post was my own version of this post by writer Courtney E. Martin who had blogged her answers to 7 questions about aligning intentions in 2018. I wanted to post something similar, but as usual, I started to overthink my answers, allowed it to interfere with the message I wanted to send.
I’ve lost half my life to being a People-Pleaser
I’ve been overthinking my entire life. Controlling for every error, every judgment, every consideration imaginable. And I’m devastated when I fuck up. How could I have allowed myself to make such a stupid mistake? I have spent most of my life controlling for what other people will think of me. In finally overcoming my sense of undeservingness I now have to face the facts about why I care so deeply about what other people think.
I have a pattern of anticipating how I can please others that has resulted in a life so well-controlled by anticipated shame and judgment that I am holding back my own truth, my own needs and desires. Some of it is trauma-based, some of it is personal wounds I kept from healing, but almost all of it is a defensive means of restraint so that the minimum number of people will be displeased with me as possible. It has also been a way for others to control me, to keep me from voicing my needs and holding them accountable for not meeting them.
Nowhere was that control more destructive than with my sexuality. That judgment, that repulsed look in someone’s eye when they hear I am polyamorous. The body image issues that I swallowed with each compromise of a blowjob when someone was too upset by seeing my fat. The compromises, the shame, the guilt in such conflict never trusting in my own voice and intuition.
Who am I when I stop letting others tell me who they want me to be?
The only choice I had was to strip away everything that I had believed about myself, about my motives, about my injuries, about my own narrative, to take away everything that had been whispered or yelled at me. To dig out the stinger those words and actions embedded under my skin.I had to strip that all away so I’d have a chance get back to the purity of what sex means to me: the connection between two (or more) human beings who want to be there in this moment together. In it’s purest form, it is the intimacy of that shared moment that drives me and motivates me, that led me to say yes to so many experiences that can shine forward as fond memories for me.
By stripping away all the dicta, the meaningless words that don’t ultimately matter, I had to surrender to my own truth.
My truth is I have always cared to talk about the experience of sex that aligns with a soul’s purpose. I don’t mean only serious sex or lifelong committed relationships. I mean that one-night stand that awakens your passion, fuels your inspiration and then disappears. I mean that moment when you are accepted in all your fullness by a lover. I mean that 500th time you’ve had sex with your partner and they accidentally find a new way to make you moan for more. I mean that long-distance crush who teaches you the meaning of patience and resilience. I mean the sexual encounters that help us open ourselves to the connections that teach us about ourselves, allow us to glimpse possibilities within. I care about what sex can do to heal the soul with joy.
This is what I offer.
Goddess of the Crossroads: No one can do it for you
I have never felt comfortable giving people advice, telling them what they should do or what they shouldn’t do. There are always so many considerations, most of which are highly personal and relative to how you view the world. I can reflect what I see, but I can’t make the decision for you.
My talent, my work (even with advocacy) is to understand the invisible patterns and connections between and within people. Those dynamics motivate and inform the choices available to someone at any given time. What I care about is being a guide at the crossroads – not instructing you on what choice/path to take – but advising on how to:
- Know yourself well enough to know your priorities & boundaries;
- Evaluate the choices in light of those priorities;
- Predict the path ahead so you’re prepared for what you face after the choice including the collateral consequences to others; and
- Identify opportunities for alignment with the person you most want to become.
But all of this is about stripping away what everyone else tells you about how you should feel or what you should do. Ultimately this is your life to create and craft as your own. No one, not me, not anyone can tell you what choices to make. We can only share our experiences, our knowledge and our support. The rest is about surrendering to the power of your own truth, to forge forward on your own and for your own reasons.
I’ve been scared about whether there’s a place for me as a sex educator or blogger. Is there a place for the more spiritual side of sex without it being labeled as Tantra or New Age? Is there a place where we can recognize that even dirty, kinky sex is sacred and that even sex labeled as sacred can be abusive? How do we better attune ourselves to both surrender and control, to both trust and responsibility? Who can play with the dualities but a woman who has stood at the crossroads more times than I can count? Who knows better about the sacrifices we need to make to please others than the woman who chooses not to sacrifice a vital part of herself in order to fit in?
I can no longer ignore the next step of my journey is surrendering to my own truth and living that truth as honestly as I can. To be the woman I aspire to be, I need to be comfortable in my own skin, making choices that align with that higher purpose. I have lived with the inner conflict and turmoil of distrusting myself, of suppressing my needs and desires to make others happy. I have watched as that stole the joy from my sexuality, made me so self-conscious that I removed myself from any new adventures. I have felt the pain of obeying others at the sacrifice of myself. And here I stand, stripped of the artificial expectations of others, surrendering my shields and allowing myself to experience and share life as fully in the moment as I can this year.
Only by surrendering to our deepest truths, to the power of this moment, will we able to step toward the future we deserve.
I’m always flirting with the danger of being a little too stuck in the past. I revisit old lovers, I regularly journey wistfully in nostalgic reverie, I seek out connections to the past at any opportunity. I want to live in present and often do, but I like to revisit where I’ve been. It’s useful to gain some perspective, to reframe the thoughts I have about who I was. Ultimately, it gives me some insight and inspiration into where I want to go.
A few days ago I turned 40 years old. (Yay!) I was lucky enough to spend a full 48 hours on things that nourished my soul. A chakra massage, tarot readings from two different people, joyful celebration, quiet contemplation, a party, a blessing, a clearing, a purging of my darkness. See, the overwhelming message that came through to me (even with The Last Jedi) was how I needed to let go of the remnants of the past so that I can finally move forward to a place of deservingness and peace. I need to stop examining the past to piece together my shattered worthiness and instead needed to accept my own light, accept my new role and create a future of bright, shining energy.
This is my own personal Tower. This is the structure that has been holding up my life, created from memory, from experience, from learning, and above all from distortions about these. This structure of service without reward, of absorbing the darkness in others so that they might find their light has been such a primary source of identity for me. I’ve been resisting tearing that down, but it’s become so apparent to me that this is the last piece of “suffering” I must do in order to fully feel like I can move forward into the structure I’m building for myself.
The time has come for me to step into Who I Really Am.
The Origins of the Tower
Growth is accepting that not every structure in our life is meant to remain. We must either tear down the old, worn down Tower of self or a wrecking ball will come through and force us to rebuild.
Some of you have seen me talk about “tearing down my tower”. The Tower, a reference to tarot, is what I use to refer to those sacred institutions, behaviors, beliefs, reactions, etc that we use to process the outside world. Whether it be religion, sexuality, expectations in friendships, family values, politics, we each construct a Tower for ourselves, the structure for our home, our life, our relationships, our spirituality, our outlook on life.
The walls of our Towers are adorned with paintings of our grand achievements, statues of the important people in our lives, wall-to-wall libraries containing the knowledge we’ve accumulated along the way. Each is unique to our own self.
Our first Tower was built by our parents, caregivers, and others in authority when we were children. They were shaped for us so that we should be taught how to treat others, what to believe spiritually, what we find beautiful or loving, what priority learning should have in our lives. It provides us with shelter and protection.
I may have just jumped off the deep end without thinking. Today marks the first day of the #Summer100 #Sexblogger challenge run by Victoria of Pretty Pink Lotus Bud as a means of connecting sex bloggers, providing insight, support and an increase in traffic. And in the Trump age, where threats to sexual freedom are more eminent than they ever were before, we need to be focused on building community and supporting one another.
I started blogging in December of 2003 on LiveJournal. I remember vividly it was just a month after giving birth to my son and I was fed up with the mixed messages of parenting advice. I had spent most of my pregnancy physically unable to have sex, relying on masturbation to take care of mine and my husband’s needs. We were still monogamous back then so the frustration I was trying to express wasn’t about multiple relationships, it was about being able to feel sexual at all. I still hadn’t been cleared for postpartum sex, but I was frustrated that none of the books, none of the articles I had read prepared me for how to balance my sexual feelings with the feelings inherent in motherhood. Most parenting advice assumed that you’d be madly in love with your kid and wouldn’t need any other affection to keep you going. And in the late night hours of yet another round of breastfeeding, I was fed up that people like me would never get good advice from mainstream moms. Apparently, children are supposed to be all we ever need.
LiveJournal was the place where I could allow that energy to be seen, where I could give voice to my frustrations and where I could interact with others who felt the same. Blogging was personal back then. I am nostalgic for the way relationships formed and how communities interacted in this pre-Facebook era. I was writing every day, multiple times a day. Maybe it was sharing memes or reacting to the latest drama that my poly husbands found themselves in, but I was writing damn near every day.
I talk a lot about being outed. That slut shaming event hurt my career, hurt my psyche and broke our momentum as a family. Ten years later and I think we’re all finally recovering. I kick myself for not being more resilient, for allowing that event to take my voice and my writing from me. I kick myself for not being a better example to other sex bloggers out there of how we can recover from the assumptions and the harm inflicted on us by slut-shaming. And in looking through the blog roll of the people participating in this challenge, I’m not surprised to see that it’s still happening.
Fourteen years I’ve been blogging about sex. Not regularly, not with any singular message. I no longer do scene reports or summarize my adventures because since the outing, I not only haven’t had many sexual adventures, but I have been reluctant to share them with a wider audience. Once you’ve been shamed publicly, it’s hard to feel safe to share publicly.
But this is my fear talking. I signed up for this challenge to get back to a more regular presence and voice for what I do, for the message I send, for the connections I value.
Part of the challenge is to link back to some of the other blogs on the list, to help promote each other and give each other a boost. And I’m so glad to see 1) so many people of color on the list and 2) so many people who are writing joyously and thoughtfully about their experiences. I’ve been scared to do that for so long that I hope being part of this challenge will help me push past that comfort zone, where I challenge myself to share more of my life with a growing audience and with the people who inspire me. My intention is to gain more confidence in my writing and to grow it into a ritual of release that benefits you, the reader.
Now, I can’t guarantee I’ll get to 100 posts because I’m in the middle of a major and immediate job transition. Not only do I worry about job prospects but I also am consumed with the business of wrapping up my contract. But the intention has been set, the commitment made and I have you all to help keep me motivated. I am doing what I can to re-educate the fear right out of me, to give me a new experience of success, of personal rewards that flow from transparency and authenticity.
So, welcome to the #Summer100 challenge, the Bella Rosa way:
vulnerable as fuck and ready as ever.
The past five years have been unusually dark for me. Full of family turmoil and career drama. I’ve had plenty of reasons to run and hide, to isolate myself from the world. I stopped dating, I stopped really socializing too. I locked away in my little protective bubble where nothing could touch me. And how fitting that this spring I’m starting to emerge into who I have always wanted to be.
I’m sure the isolation served a purpose, allowed me a chance to rest, regroup and plot my way forward. But so much hurt, so much shame, so much trauma and I was more stuck than empowered. Contrast that to where I am now, more social, more vocal, more grounded in who I am. I believe strongly that this is where I need to be right now, in a space of manifestation and creation, fulfillment and passion. It’s time for me to start making some of my own dreams come true and actualizing the purpose I have for my life.
It’s even more important for me to be in this space…
Right here and right now
I can’t even say how long it’s been since I used the word “passion” to describe myself. I’ve been in survival mode for so long that passion had hardened into a strong shell of resentment over the years I had to put aside what I wanted and desired to avoid judgment and shame. And that passion barely had any embers left until the beginning of 2016.
It was a shitty year….we know this now. And when I had started writing this back in October, I had no idea how bad it would get. I had no idea that so many of us survivors of sexual assault would get activated and retraumatized all at once. I couldn’t see that coming. But to have that same person now in the White House is even more terrifying. And more threatening. Read the rest of this entry
A few weeks ago I talked briefly about being in the midst of an early personal spring. Whenever I have break-throughs like this, sudden realizations of patterns and purpose, I want nothing more than to capture that feeling, bottle it, keep it safe.
I keep wanting to capture these feelings, because I don’t want to be without that joy of discovery for very long. I don’t want to fall back into old patterns of self-doubt and disappointment about my life and especially my path. It would be so much easier if I could just bottle it and hang onto it for those moments when I’m down and out, succumbing to the darkness of the overwork and drowning in the sorrow of feeling stuck.
But that defeats the point of having those emotions in the first place. The point isn’t so much to capture as it is for it to make the hard work, the suffering, the darkness all worth it. It provides more motivation to keep moving forward, to slow down the progressive bad habits that have kept us stuck in the first place.
Today I found myself longing to capture that joy again. After a long conversation with the person I consider to be my soul sister, I had such a strong sense of clarity that even Warrior talked about how inspiring it was to see it.
I kept trying to capture it, to not lose it. Especially because it’s a day off for me and I don’t want the stressors of work tomorrow to interfere with the enormous job I have ahead of me. But that worry of losing it interfered with my ability to actually feel it. It took me out of the moment of joy and into an immediate space of worry and dread.
So tonight, I’m making a conscious effort to just be present in this moment and this sensation within. Enlightenment won’t make a difference if I don’t fully embrace it when it shows up.
Earlier tonight a friend of mine posted this article criticizing the #FeeltheBern fervor drowning out all of those Hillary supporters who are just as passionate about their candidate.
I took an hour to pen the following response while my kid waited patiently for supper. I decided to post it here because, I needed a place to expand on these ideas that I have felt too inhibited from proclaiming to a wider audience. In the 10 years since the event described below, I have changed my view on politics and what I expect from our system.
And here I talk very frankly about being forced to create new ideas about myself and about the concept of loyalty. Take from it what you will, but it is my story and my reasons for believing we are on the precipice.
The choices that we make today for ourselves and our generation matter more than ever. Read the rest of this entry
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.
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.
These 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.
Here 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.