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The Courage to Bern

sanders-2016-feel-the-bernEarlier 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

Poverty Battle Royale: a commentary on welfare (part 3)

Note:  I wrote this post originally in August, before my husband lost his job.  Now that we are on food stamps and Medicaid because of our mutual lack of employment, my reasoning and rationale behind this post is even more personal than it was before. I have added references to my own experience in blue.  This is intended to be a multi-part commentary. Links at the bottom to subsequent posts.

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Therefore, I reject the notion that people who receive cash assistance just won’t do anything else to survive or to help themselves.  And frankly it’s comments like yours, usually founded on false assumptions and skewed “facts” that cause people to not reach out for help when they need it the most.  I do believe these programs need adjustments and in some cases a huge overhaul for improvements, but I suspect we may be coming from vastly different viewpoints here.  I want programs that provide better benefits, that cover more people and provide more meaningful interventions than what we currently offer.  We should be helping more people and not fewer.  I refuse to believe that we cannot or should not take care of each other.

But before anyone can suggest HOW to make changes, I believe there needs to be significant discussions about pinpointing and defining the actual problems.

In order to even do this much, we must…

  1. Dismantle the abusive and dehumanizing myth of “welfare queens”.  This will help isolate any actual abuse and identify unchecked errors that need to be remedied.  But more importantly, this disintegrates the angry & racist welfare narrative that has prevented empathy in both policy makers and voters. This old narrative perpetuates a righteous indignation too enamored with its own false sense of superiority to have a meaningful conversation about the issue itself.  Let’s be real, the “welfare queen” is a myth.  An exaggeration.  A lie.  A damaging lie told by Ronald Reagan on the campaign trail which incited an indignation founded in racism and sexism.  It was a formidable tool in getting white voters (the more likely voters) on board with his political and economic agenda.  A tall tale that has outlived its maker and needs to be put to rest so that we can approach poverty policy from a place devoid of stigma and shame.
  2. Next, there needs to be a long discussion about the true nature of poverty itself and the reasons it persists around the world, much less in a country as prosperous and abundant as ours.  This includes describing the very real biases that people hold about poor people, the disabled, the elderly and children born into poverty including class and wage inequality as well.
  3. Likewise, we must include conversations about the cultural values of personal generosity, survive vs. thrive, the role of charity in society, the pursuit of profits, sustainable outcomes, autonomy in personal or family decision-making, the role of sacrifice and hardship, and well, our values about humanity as a whole.
  4. We also need to critically re-examine our assumptions about marriage and family so that it better reflects the cultural and economic realities of Americans today.  Many children are growing up raised by grandparents so that the parents can work, go back to school or get back to health.  Likewise, many households are deciding to invite roommates or even the ex’s family to stay with them as a means of creating intentional community to provide better financial and emotional support to all involved.  Yet, rights do not always flow in the direction of reality.  This requires a critical examination of where our policy and legal assumptions about family need to be updated and retooled.
  5. We need to have a conversation about our policies that promote:  access to affordable health care (including substantial mental health care), keeping people in their homes, access to justice, availability to improve or access social capital, education equity, and of course, the economic cost-benefit of a living wage.  This also should address access to higher education, safe and affordable options for day care for working families and the cost of caring for our elderly.
  6. We must also reconcile our hypocritical messages about children and families in the United States.  We must encounter head-on the cultural disconnect between our agendas on abortion, prenatal counseling/care with our utter disregard for a child, the mother and the family unit once the child leaves the protective cocoon of the womb.  This includes critically assessing access to all family planning options, including sexual health education, birth control (including condoms), and screenings for STIs and cancer so that they are either completely free or covered fully by insurance providers and Medicaid. Include too foster parenting, availability for adoption, equality in education, access to nutritious foods, clean environments, support for parents through all stages of a child’s development up through college, remedying the pervasive cycles of abuse and violence and creating opportunities for higher education including student loan forgiveness.
  7. We must rewrite the myth of the American Dream which perpetuates a cultural standard of “with just some good, old fashioned hard work, you are able to have everything you need”.  Great, good.  But it’s not true for everyone.  Many people who are poor work hard too, often in multiple jobs; then they encounter tragedy or loss and are right back where they started.  Therefore, we must recognize that our policies and indeed our national narrative that distinguishes between  the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor.  We draw these distinctions in all of our communities—people who are either worthy (usually those who are like us) and those who are unworthy (not like us).  A rather exaggerated and selfish example of these distinctions is detailed here:  http://www.snopes.com/katrina/personal/volunteer.asp .  (“WHY THE FUCK SHOULD I HELP PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT TO HELP THEMSELVES!” has become our new national anthem ).
  8. And finally we must confront our history and our disappointing present policies that promote and enforce gross disparities in wages and living conditions  based on a pervasive culture of sexism, cis-sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism and racism.  We must recognize and come to terms with how privilege operates in our public policy landscape much less our personal lives.

Without these conversations, meaningful change cannot even begin.

Without widespread recognition of that there is a powerful and enduring cycle of poverty, the status quo will endure.

Without a significant policy shift that places an emphasis on meaningful interventions at all levels and entry points to poverty there will be no change.

I reject the welfare myth that assumes that those on government assistance are lazy.  This myth permeates because it gives fuel to the righteous indignation that many feel toward the poor.  Anger that is sparked by assumptions and judgments based on someone’s appearance (clothing, jewelry, phone, car, furnishings, etc.) or a news article (urban legend) that highlights  one instance of welfare abuse, which leads people to a panicked conclusion that there is widespread fraud within the system as a whole.

We assume laziness is the answer, but laziness doesn’t belong only to the poor.  You know who else is lazy? You are, Mr. can’t -be-bothered-to-introduce-myself-properly Man.  You know who else?  I am.  Ms. Didn’t-put-my-laundry-away-and-left-it-in-the-hallway Woman.  You know who else?  The guy who pays for fast food on the way home.  Or the woman who took the elevator one floor up instead of the stairs.  Or the teenager who played video games instead of mowing the lawn.  Or the couple that decided to sleep in and let the kids watch TV all morning. Or the politician who took a week off to unwind at his favorite resort.

Let’s be real, each of us makes thousands of decisions every day many of which could be characterized as lazy.  Yet it seems to be the national pastime to review and critique those decisions in order to be deemed “worthy” enough for our help.  Since when do we have such special insight into anyone else’s life that we get to judge them for every imperfect result they have experienced?

But guess who we judge for their choices more than anyone?  Celebrities and the poor.  Funny mix, isn’t it?  Well, no one is going to question whether you spent that $8 on a wheel of cheese; however, if you’re poor that’s cause for someone like you to automatically dismiss them to the “undeserving” zone and loudly confront them in line at the grocery store: “how DARE tyou spend ‘hard-earned taxpayer money’ on a luxury item such as cheese!?! The ungrateful sods.”   No one is going to question whether you ate a donut for breakfast, but if Jennifer Lopez does it, it’s on grocery stands for the next week.  “The fucking cow.”

Yet, dehumanizing suffering and tragedy and ignoring a desire for autonomy and dignity  is a very easy way to let yourself off the hook from feeling anything and taking responsibility for the contribution you’ve made to the system that created this mess. Demonizing entire classes of people is an easy way to dismiss the problems of the world while giving yourself a congratulatory handshake for all your “hard work”.  Achievement unlocked: Douchehattery 101.  But all of this is just another method of playground bullying except this time you don’t have to see them cry when you do it.

Sorry, but that is not the world that I am here to create.  I do have ideas and I do have critiques, but they involve better targeting of our resources combined with an expansion of aid available for longer periods of time.  All of these are based not in anger or prejudice, but in empathy and a recognition of the realities of poverty.  Maybe it comes from the years of working with individuals and communities that astonish me with their creativity and resilience.  Maybe it’s from my struggle to survive the overwhelming bills and debt when I was unemployed.

Maybe it just comes from being someone who believes that generosity is a virtue and that each person is deserving of dignity and respect. Maybe it’s because I believe that we’re all in this together.

Click here to read Part 1

Click here to read Part 2

Poverty Battle Royale: a commentary on welfare (part 2)

Note:  I wrote this post originally in August, before my husband lost his job.  Now that we are on food stamps and Medicaid because of our mutual lack of employment, my reasoning and rationale behind this post is even more personal than it was before. I have added references to my own experience in blue.  This is intended to be a multi-part commentary. Links at the bottom to subsequent posts. 

Need a job

Unemployment is an income maintenance program.  This has an absolute requirement to look for work. Basically if you are offered a job, you must accept it if it falls within certain category requirements or equivalents, even if the job pays less than what you had been earning before.  It’s put up or shut up.

But on a larger scale, tell me how this scheme allows people to create their own destiny?  There’s no holding out for a better offer.  You cannot refuse a job.  If you do, that safety net is gone and you’re on your own. Never mind the impact that unemployment has on a resume or what taking a job isn’t your dream job does to your attractiveness to future employers who are looking for a consistent and solid work history.  Remember, employers don’t look fondly on any gaps in work history but they also want to see a gradual increase in responsibilities and achievement, something you can’t create when you have a temp job for 4 months.

And if unemployment required you to take a job A earning 25% less than your expected pay grade then in your next position Employer B is likely only going to offer you a modest bump up from your most recent all-time low.  It can have a very clear ratcheting down effect that makes it that much harder to get back to your pre-unemployment potential.  This, I can tell you from experience. I still haven’t broken the glass ceiling of my all time low to get back to what I was earning in my dream job 6 years ago, despite my qualifications and knowledge. A stint of unemployment longer than 3 months, can destroy a person’s bargaining potential for years to come. 

But the mantra is “any job is a good job”, right?  Sure, any job is a good job, particularly when it’s a step up from having no job at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right job or a long-term solution to crippling debt.  It doesn’t mean it will pay enough to feed your family.  It doesn’t mean that your children escape the detrimental effects of poverty.  And it certainly doesn’t mean you have significantly improved your chances of escaping poverty.

In Denver County, for a typical family of 4 to survive (2 adults/2 children), the adults would have to be working in jobs that pay an equivalent of $19.65/hr  ($40+K per year). Sounds reasonable, right?  But that’s the living wage, the actual cost of what it takes to live in this county.  The level of income they would need to qualify for most levels of aid (and to fall below the poverty line) is roughly $10.60/hr or $22K a year, still significantly below the wage they would need to earn to make ends meet.  Working a minimum wage job (at $7.25/hr, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year) gives that  family $15K to live on and pretty much automatically qualifies them for aid.

So, in order to make enough to get out of poverty in Denver county (let’s not include the debts accumulated in order to make ends meet or get utilities turned back on), they would need to be in one of the following types of positions: Management  ($45.62/hr),  Business and Financial Operations ($29.75/hr),  Computer and Mathematical ($38.14 /hr),  Architecture and Engineering ($35.93/hr), Life, Physical and social Sciences ($30.20/hr),  Legal ($33.05/hr),  Education, Training and Library ($21.37/hr),  or Healthcare Practitioner and Technical ($30.13/hr).  (Information courtesy of MIT’s Living Wage Calculator available here: http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/08031)

Do you notice any trends here?

That’s right, all of these are positions where one needs at least some post secondary training/education, significant work experience or a college or post-graduate degree.  If they are in a position that requires only a high school diploma with little to no additional training, they are more likely, if not absolutely assured, to fall below the poverty level.

Add to that anecdotal evidence of people who are looking to go back to school so they can improve their chances—only to subsequently be let go or have their hours reduced for daring to utter or even investigate that dream.  Employers have a lot of power to be as choosy, bitchy or negligent as they want.  Not all jobs are created equal or provide an equal opportunity to advance or maintain a living. And in at-will states, you can basically be terminated for any reason.

[Oh and another little tidbit that I noticed on that site is that a single parent with two kids pays about $2000 more in annual taxes than a 2 parent household.  Hence, a clear argument for the inequity applied to same-sex households with children and that disproportionately could land a same-sex household below the poverty level.   Fortunately, the reversal of DOMA will help remedy this situation but not completely.]

Another cost of poverty that you may or may not have considered is the constant stress that comes with wondering where the next paycheck is going to come from.  Sure, if you believe the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank) children living in poverty may or may not be going hungry each day.   But you still have rent to pay, right?  You still have electricity to keep on?  And in this day and age, you still have to choose whether internet is a good idea to pay for as you try to find a job or complete online classes.  Stress creates a whole host of health issues that, if left unchecked, could significantly lessen your chances of maintaining stable employment and thus ever escaping poverty.

Finally, let’s also consider those who are living just outside the poverty line.  In my example above, it’s the difference between those making $22K and those making $40K.  Quite a large number, if you think about it (two full-time, minimum wage earners  with two kids fit here).  These are people who are just one car wreck or one illness away from complete financial catastrophe.  Even the family with $40K a year is hovering in that danger zone.

Think about what causes people to enter poverty.  Think about the traumas, disasters and crises they may have experienced.  The death of a spouse, a chronic illness requiring daily medications or treatments.  The special needs child who requires constant care.  The snowstorm where they slid into another car and totaled their vehicle.  The lay-off.  The divorce.  The hurricane.

This isn’t laziness.  This is life and it is threatening to eat us alive every day.

Click here to read Part 1

Click here to read Part 3

Poverty Battle Royale: a commentary on welfare (Part 1)

Note:  I wrote this post originally in August, before my husband lost his job.  Now that we are on food stamps and Medicaid because of our mutual lack of employment, my reasoning and rationale behind this post is even more personal than it was before. I have added references to my own experience in blue.  This is intended to be a multi-part commentary. Links at the bottom to subsequent posts.
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Sometimes you meet some winners on OKCupid.  Earlier this month I met one the winners out there.  The self-assured, confident guy who is also sensitive, caring and intuitive (putting it lightly).  I have no idea how well that connection will turn out, but I’m willing to let it settle in a bit to see if it moves forward.

Then you meet some true assholes.  In fact, I’ve held off responding to most messages in the past few years because frankly I just don’t want to spend much time slogging through the waste of messages that I get on a daily basis. There was a time I replied to each and every one of the stupid messages I got, but now I’m much more comfortable with the delete and block feature.  First impressions count.  I put a lot of thought into how I approach someone before I rattle something off to them in the hopes they will reply back.  And if it doesn’t seem to fit, it’s not a biggie.  It means we likely weren’t going to hit it off in the first place.

However, every now and then, a message arrives and sometimes you have no choice but to relentlessly make fun of it.  I’m not normally a fan of mocking someone’s effort to find a special love, but sometimes the approach is so filled with hubris and presumptions that it begs to be publicized so we can point to it and make an example of it.

And in this case, this message from…let’s call him Timmy6917 (apologies to anyone with that username) was so arrogant, misguided and off-the-mark, that I felt obligated to spend a day researching my response which is posted below.

See, Timmy made three very crucial errors:

  1. He never once introduced himself, asked a question or even pointed to some commonality that might explain why he contacted me;
  2. He trotted out a lazy, conservative trope about welfare to a woman who is very clearly far left of center politically;
  3. He describes himself as “intelligent” and “sharp” in his profile, which sort of begs the question–who is he really trying to convince?

I needed to make sense of the rage I felt when I read his messages so I researched and I wrote.  I wrote 8 pages and could keep on going.  Writing out my thoughts on an issue that deals squarely with poverty and policy “suggestions” that rely on prevailing myths about poverty, I felt the need to expand even my own privileged horizons on this topic.  It was more cathartic than I ever thought it would be, or so I tell myself to justify the full day of work and sleep that I lost to this project.  It brought me back to a sense of pride for my political prowess.  All knowledge is worth having, I suppose. 

Disclaimer:  I did not actually send the following message to Mr. Timmy as he forever shall be known.  No, instead, I posted it as information for myself and my Facebook followers, many of whom know this subject far better than I can hope to emulate.  What Mr. Timmy got in reply was a curt notice that he failed to state an argument with his conclusion and that anyone who hopes to be a partner with me must demonstrate a minimal amount of kindness, respect and humanity.  I told him blatantly that the problem is not abuse of the welfare system, but rather limited and narrow viewpoints that shame those who live in poverty.  I have since gotten a reply from him, but haven’t read it because…well, I’ve already wasted enough time on someone that I never, ever want to meet much less fuck.  

Dear T,

Let me start off by saying that I’m not entirely sure what your basis is for the conclusions you’ve drawn.  You say Medicaid “is easily one of the most abused programs available”.  Okay?  Abused in what way?  Is it abused by the administrators of the program, those who receive benefits or the doctors/companies providing services?  And by cash programs, it would depend on which cash program (I’m going to assume Federal) that you’re talking about.  TANF? Unemployment?  WIC? Disability? Is your beef with the federal program itself or the state administration of these programs?  Or is it a state program you have an issue with?

But I hope to god that you’re not basing any of these broad opinions on the oft-debunked yet relentlessly persistent myth of the “welfare queen”.

Read the rest of this entry

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!

Scared to date

love-keyboard--large-msg-127265293321

So, it is says anything about the gravity of this topic, this subject line has been sitting here since October of 2011.

Hello. My name is Bella. I’m polyamorous and I’m afraid to date.

Hello Bella

Is there a support group for people like me? I have been polyamorous for almost 9 years now and for the past 4 years I have been afraid to date. I have been avoiding discussing why for a very long time, but like most things if I don’t just delve in and say it publicly, it will never get parsed out and thus never truly change.

Read the rest of this entry

A Manifesto for the Age of Soul-Starved

Tonight, I watched a portion of the State if the Union address. I was inspired, particularly at the end where the President called upon the courageous acts of valor and the tragic ends found by so many children and families. I was so moved that i cried. I cried for those hearts and this country. Where did we go so wrong?

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Afterward was the inevitable mocking of our President by pundits and armchair activists alike. The accusations that Obama is stepping outside his authority (he’s not). but the ones that really got to me were the many, many messages i saw on Facebook that again, push for more guns, more ammo, more ways with which to “protect” ourselves. It’s not just the message that is discouraging, it is the rage with which it is delivered. 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

A peacemaker speaks

The shooting in Connecticut has been on my mind all weekend.  I’ve been somewhat silent as I watch friends on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere rally behind a cause that essentially says “more violence = less violence”.  This whole concept is just abhorrent to me.

It feels low.  It feels base.  It feels like moving backwards.

The suggestion that arming teachers and administration would somehow have prevented this tragedy tells me that people I used to respect and like would rather see more violence, more fear, more aggression than try to establish peace and compassion.  The fact that these suggestions are often accompanied by “evidence” that seems suspect or at least slanted doesn’t help their cause with me.  I will not say that the other side doesn’t have skewed statistics either, but at least they are not advocating for more violence so that definitely wins out for me.

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Reid Mihalko: Make a Joyful Noise

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For someone, like me who has long been a sex-positive advocate (although not really an educator), I was super geeked to attend one of Reid Mihalko‘s talks in Denver. I had seen his keynote address at Beyond the Bedroom back in October, but unfortunately was unable to make his other classes that Weekend. So this was a real treat for me.

It was only about 2 years ago that I really discovered my own personal trick to my orgasms. See, while I’ve been experiencing great orgasms by myself since I was 11, I was very reluctant to share those with others. I was happy to be on the receiving end of someone’s orgasm, but I wasn’t going to share mine.

Part of the reluctance came from the fact that I had worked with several older men in my adolescence, and for better or for worse, I learned quite a bit from them. And each day for almost 4 years I heard them complaining about how selfish the female orgasm was. How they had to “waste” their time trying to get a woman to cum. They hated giving a woman oral and often complained about the taste or smell. It left a clear impression on 15 year old me, so that by the time I finally gave my virginity to a high school senior a year later, I treated the whole experience as an experiment in -being the opposite of all these selfish women I had heard about.

Now, with the caveat in mind that I have known very few men to ever complain about a blow-job in general, I do consider myself rather adept at that particular skill. That has been my sure-fire claim to fame for almost all of my sexual life. Hell, I was coached by my first boyfriend, who is now gay. I listened to my male co-workers describe what they liked and what they didn’t. I am a quick learner and proud of the way I take time to learn a man’s body well enough to tease and please quite well.

By it wasn’t until I met Warrior that I found a cock that I couldn’t use those same tricks on. Hence, why I think classes like Reid’s are quite necessary. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know about sex, because there is always something new you can learn and a new way to approach each person’s individual likes and dislikes. And at the very least a new way to frame how you decide to look at your own abilities.

But more important than just learning technique is the breaking down of the shame and guilt we experience about sex. For a while after meeting Warrior I felt I was losing my touch and thus unenjoyable as a partner because i couldn’t make him cum from a blowjob. It took months before I realized that he needs a lot of sensuous build-up, because while his body is “online” and ready, his mind is in twelve different directions. And now I hold the honor of being the person (male or female) who has given him the most orgasms from oral ever. Why? because his orgasm isn’t about me. I could use the best technique in the world and it still might not happen. I could be the hottest woman on earth and it might not happen. But I can create an environment and experience where if it is going to happen it can and we will both be happy simply because we are together.

So, what does this have to do with my own realization two years ago or the class last night? We pick up some fucked up ideas about sex. I mean, here I was growing up to grown men moaning about how tedious the female orgasm is. I already had a lot off self-judgment around selfishness in general and wasn’t about to become the type of lover who was selfish and wouldn’t give the same level attention being given to me. In fact, I was the type of person who was determined to give and pamper, but never fully receive.

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