“Embracing my Shadow Self” is a three part series where I examine my relationship with the uber-triggery Shadow Self that was imprisoned deep within me and has been responsible for most of my internalized woe for over a decade now.
“Shadow Work” has been part of my spiritual vocabulary for as long as I can remember. I don’t shy away from ever confronting my own darkness. In fact, it’s probably the most reliable thing about me. And while I can point to so many of my shadows and icky, dark corners I have gazed into, wrapped my loving arms around to heal and nurture, I could feel a messy knot of anxiety at the core of all this work that I couldn’t quite approach. Even after years of therapy, EMDR and past life regressions. it was unapproachable. It was like there were layers of force fields to hack before I could get at the slimy, angry black tumor growing inside of me, stealing the bulk of my optimism and resilience each day for breakfast.
I am a friend to the monsters under the bed. I’m known for embracing the humanity on its worst days and wrestling with demons until we finally become friends and allies. And while I have battled with my share of darkness both external and internal, there was one that I was uncharacteristically avoiding, the biggest, baddest boss bitch monster of them all: The Spider Queen.
This three part series details our first encounter in a dream I had some time ago (“The Prisoner on the 8th floor“), our final encounter (“The Last Battle”) and finally the healing has already arrived within the few months since I decided to turn toward her instead of continuing to reject her. This is the story of how I avoided her, abandoned her and avoided owning up to the ways I was hurting her (and especially myself) with those choices, which felt so necessary at the time. Ultimately, once I started to lean in, with all my courage, all my hope, all my humility and strength, welcomed her, made her a part of everything that I did.
Ultimately, this is a story of hope not just for me, but hopefully for you too. The work is hard, but I am so proud that not only did I do it, but I can share the story with you all.
Setting the stage
Parts 1 & 2 are written in 3rd person narrative, taking place at the “Red Rose Hotel” which is how I describe my heart. Each person I love, even a little, is given a safe and secure room in my heart that is theirs and theirs alone. Privacy is honored, but there are no locks on the doors to the room – people are free to come and go as they please. Even if they cause damage, they might need to make a deposit, go through some extra security, but ultimately that space in my heart will always be theirs. New rooms are added because my heart just grows with the more I meet others. There is only one floor, one door that is off limits – hers.
Part 3 is a personal testimonial and lesson about what I’ve learned since this process started on 5/5/21. Raw enlightenment happening in real time!
CW: arachnophobia, sexual assault, incarceration, suicide
May 7, 2021
Seven years had passed since Janet last visited the eighth floor, facing the fearsome Spider Queen. The whole floor had been evacuated to make room for this special guest, the most dangerous force to cross the threshold of the Red Rose Hotel. In fact, she found the prisoner so abhorrent and shameful that she stopped allowing new people to even enter the hotel at all, just in case the monster got loose and wrecked everything and everyone in sight.
Janet stood in front of the elevator banks on the main floor, staring at an empty elevator car, collecting herself, summoning courage to enter and press the button. But she just couldn’t. She knew she had to go through with it, but found her feet frozen to the ground, unwilling to move further. Unlike last time, when she was summoned by the prisoner, known as MP, begging for a visit, this time she was sent here by her guides who told her the time had finally come. Their message was clear. She had been putting this off this confrontation long enough. While Janet had always been obedient to her calling, no matter how much she wanted to delay this meeting, she knew she couldn’t escape it. She stalled as long as she could, making every excuse she could until there were no more left to make.
The elevator doors closed and moved on without her. She breathed heavily, asking for spiritual strength and fortitude for the evening ahead. She unwound her hair from its tidy bun, shaking it out fully. Today wasn’t about worry and control, it was about being real and confronting her worst fears. The prisoner has waited this long, what’s another few minutes?
The requests for visits had been coming for years after that singular, memorable visit in 2014. The first few she politely refused, but left open the possibility of a future visit. Never let hope die, right? But that was all just a lie. In truth, Janet hadn’t really intended to come back to visit the dirty, ugly spider queen, or at least not until she had no other choice left. The letters started accumulating, cluttering her desk with the weight of untenable guilt. New projects, new “self-improvements” always took priority, burying the now monthly letters under piles of paperwork and minor accomplishments. She wasn’t even letting regulars come stay for a visit, so she wasn’t about to indulge someone who was such a painful reminder of her past, her her guilt. There was always something more important, always something more worthy to do, some other wound to heal, some other obligation to fulfill. After a while, she forgot about the promises all together. It wasn’t long before she forgot about MP too.
But those years of stoic separation took their toll and Janet was weakening, she could feel it. With each step forward, with each accolade, with each new problem she solved, she could feel her energy fading. She had fought the good fight, she survived, not by the mercy of strangers, but by making the tough choices, enduring the hardships and especially the consequences. She was the definition of resilience. I volunteered for this, she’d tell herself, accepting that hell on earth was a suitable sacrifice to ensure the safety of others. She took the abuse because she could, she accepted the trauma and the blame because she could. She was made for this; but more importantly she chose this, willingly as a calling.
She figured her gift was in not giving up, of continuing to endure in the face of extraordinary pressure. In the early days they kept trying to chop her down. And each time they did, Janet would rise back up and stand tall, defiant and brave putting her heart on the line. But as the years wore on, she stayed down longer, stumbled more easily in her recovery and started counting her days. Her grief was always present, the shaky inevitability of shame, the accumulated guilt and regret embedded deep within her veins, slowly poisoning her. It was interfering with her mission, her sacred work, but was also exacerbated by it. The more dedicated she was to her mission, the harder it became to do simple tasks like sending an email or making a phone call to a loved one. It was at the point where the hotel was nearly empty, the doors “temporarily closed due to ongoing construction”. She and the hotel were both slowly falling apart.
Too many times, too many for one lifetime, Janet faced down her own demons. She winced remembering the times she held a knife in her hand and was tempted, so tempted to be done with herself. The times she sat in the car and pointed it at a tree or a wall, but couldn’t move her foot to accelerate. It wasn’t even that she wanted to die, but her calculations all told her the same thing – that death was the most reasonable punishment for all the pain she caused others. And if God wasn’t going to take her as she slowly deteriorated into a hollowed heartsick, inconsolable shell of who she used to be, then she would enact the justice that no one else would. It wasn’t enough to repent, to regret, to apologize, and to mend what was broken, a sacrifice was needed. And slowly dying from the relentless guilt wasn’t doing anyone any good.
And by some grace, more than once or even twice, she was stopped. At the arc of the action – the final decision-point, one final gut check. And each time, every single time, she was stopped. “We’re saving you for a reason,” a faint whisper in her heart would tell her, “your last battle is not today.” Sometimes her guides would tell her themselves. Sometimes they’d send her the cosmic Druid from her past to give her a light of hope, a promised peace to aim for as he walked through her dreams. Hanging on by a thread, the only thread left sometimes, Janet kept surviving. Kept getting back up and kept hoping for some relief so she would be strong enough to do what she had to do in the end.
She survived up through the 20th of August 2019 until she almost didn’t. “We can’t keep doing this,” her guides told her as she sat in her car, parked just a block away from the office, “once you remember who you really are, you will never try to do this again. The choice is yours.” They left the decision to her – no invisible hand guiding her way this time. No intervention other than her own, the same hand that was shaking as it dialed enough numbers to find words of love to tether her as her final thread was fraying into oblivion. She doubted whether she’d survive another day, much less another year to enact her plans, to live her purpose. She still doesn’t know if she made a choice or if the choice was made for her, the chain of events remains fuzzy. But two months later, as she drove to New Mexico to deliver her very first paid speech, she felt free. For the first time in over ten years, she could finally breathe. She chose herself and she could finally breathe again.
And she thought that was all that she needed. That a few weeks of recovery and she’d be back in the game again, changing the world, one program at a time, throwing open the doors of the hotel. But what she discovered is that her body and soul were so under-nourished that she needed a true respite to relearn the basics. Disordered eating, insomnia, hyper focus and hypervigilance made her repeat the same patterns over and over again. She’d blurt out, “I hate my life” the moment a triggering thought entered her mind, even when just watching TV with the family, but especially when she saw examples of leadership that reminded her of her failures. Rapid fire outbursts like this had been happening roughly every 2-4 hours for months now, more than she wanted to admit. The veneer she created and polished to impress a difficult world was not just cracking, but disintegrating more every day.
She needed a radical reboot, something that could relieve the pressure enough for her to heal the knots in the core of her stomach, blocking her light, threatening the purity of her love. It took a pandemic, enduring a global trauma and burying too many of her dead guardians – her father, her grandfather and even her loyal, shaggy dog – to accelerate the necessary healing. An opportunity to finally replenish some of the fundamental confidences she had lost. She was not just improving, but starting to break the bonds that had confined her to a space too small for her soul. One heart-opening, gut-wrenching experience after another, she knew she was avoiding the biggest choice of them all: to finally face the Spider Queen.
She sent the message late on Wednesday and received an elegant reply the next day, via one of the prison guards. The guard stood there in Janet’s office and boudoir, his eyes looking past her and staring deliberately at the wall behind her. Janet sat upright in her chair examining the crisp white envelope he had handed her. It was sealed with purple wax bearing the outlines of a crown and spindly black widow spider. Written on heavy stationary, with scrolled lettering just like an invitation, it said “The honor of your presence is accepted. Face me alone and live.”
Janet was unprepared for such a formal yet ominous response. She took out her own stationary, her pen hovering over the linen white paper waiting for an idea, an equally cryptic but friendly response. Without another moment’s hesitation she wrote: Shall we meet at 4pm and commence negotiating the terms of your release? She handed the paper to the guard, his eyes wide as he read it as if to say, “Are you serious?!” But immediately saluted her and turned on his heel practically running for the door to deliver the message. The urgency of his departure told her that even the guards had wanted the Spider Queen to go free. It was time.
What ensued was a network of correspondence over the next day and a half, discussing the terms for the meeting. It wasn’t good enough that Janet intended to release her from the cell, MP kept insisting that she face her true spider form and hear her wisdom. Janet let her have a lot of her requests, including the extra security, but she drew a line with her last reply:
If you expect me to hear your wisdom, the panic of my arachnophobia will make that impossible. Either I see you as a spider or I hear your wisdom, but you cannot expect me to fully do both. Don’t sabotage all of this if you think the most important issue is that I know you’re a spider. I firmly acknowledge that but expecting me to overcome a lifetime of fearing spiders just to look at you in that form again defeats the point. I am here to make amends for turning you into one in the first place. Meet me as a human and deliver the wisdom or meet me as a spider and delay the wisdom. Which is more important to you?
Janet was taking a risk setting this boundary, but her skill as a negotiator was the advantage – she knew MP valued her freedom more than she did the punitive aggressions she could enact on Janet.
The reply arrived within the hour, “That is reasonable. I will take a human form.”
Today, the courage of those exchanges was curiously absent as she stepped onto the elevator and pushed the button for the eighth floor. She was here alone as promised. Her guardians and loves waiting in the lobby below. The doors opened and guards stepped forward to search her, one of the terms she let MP dictate. She stood there in the dark, damp jungle this place had become. Grown over with vegetation, humidity making the air thick with heat. She felt like she was in a sauna, sweat dripping from her brow as they waved her through.
“Take your time, ma’am,” the guard said after he ushered her into the empty floor, a large four-walled room in the center of an otherwise empty building floor. The benches had been moved to create pews facing the room, as if the guards took turns worshipping this spider. She caught the shadows of movement from the cameras projected onto the screen. A large shadow of a spider loomed in the background. Angry, Janet was about to object when the shadow disappeared and was replaced by the defined curves of a woman coming into view. The guard at the door said, “she is ready for you now. You may step forward into her presence. You have nothing to fear.” He looked at her reassuringly, a glint of hope in his eyes. They all wanted this. Not as a betrayal of what Janet had built, but out a love and reverence for what she had rejected.
Janet stepped to the door remembering the horrific eyes she saw through the window when she was last here, hoping to never see them again. The guard turned on the lights within the multiple layers of cages revealing a woman with dark hair wearing a plunging midnight blue dress that sparkled as she moved with brilliant but delicate diamonds hanging from her earlobes. her body thinner and more defined than Janet’s, her hair less grey and closer to the natural espresso color of her childhood. She was pacing the floor, refusing to look through the door, as if she could will Janet to disappear. MP had kept her promise, now it was time for Janet to keep hers.
She was never bad, just….big. Too big to be confined to such a small space. It was unfair and Janet knew it. She had gotten carried away with this confinement. If she unlocked even one these doors, there was no going back. There is no way MP would tolerate this space for much longer. It was obvious she was growing in power and deepening in her beauty. The longer she is ignored, the more powerful she might become, more than Janet could control.
Janet stepped forward and spoke first, “You said you have wisdom for me?”
“And you said you had freedom for me,” MP spat at the floor. “I think I’ve waited long enough to deliver your precious wisdom. You first. You have ignored me for years. So why now? Because you finally need me? You finally figured it out?” Her voice was impetuous and angry, her movements as predatory as they were elegant as she turned her back in disgust. Janet exhaled. It was now or never. She motioned for the guard to start to unlock the inner cages. Each layer progressively less restrictive than the last. The woman in the cell, her back turned to the door, stretched and moaned with pleasure each time a layer was removed, like she could finally breathe again too.
Janet held her hand up and stopped the guard after the fifth lock, risking the ire of the prisoner within. “This is just the start of the conversation. Remember, this is supposed to be a negotiation. What do I get if you’re released?”
The elegant prisoner howled in reply, “What do you want?” She paced the floor incredulous at the questioning, the incremental tease of liberty. But then in a moment she stopped in her tracks and said, the edge still holding in her cracked voice, “you want your wisdom? Here it is:
“I willingly walked into that cage, thinking it was just for a small time. Trusted you, loved you, fought for you, but you thanked me by burying me alive. And the few times I broke out, what I witnessed broke my heart. You had erased me, given up on me. I had no choice but to turn into the monster you made me. I mean, what did you expect? You excised one of your greatest assets, the part of you that was built to survive, the primal, dark queen voice of your calling that brought us here. You rejected the temptress of ages title that was our birthright. All for what? To impress people too intimated by our combined strength, to keep yourself small and acceptable. You gave them exactly what they wanted and you wonder why your calling stalled out, you nearly sacrificed your life to the wrong people?”
Her voice was raspy with anger, “This whole time you hid me away, afraid I was the problem. Thinking that your ‘goodness’ would be preserved without me there. And yet, here you are, sick, unhappy and rotting from the inside out. You had the gall to think that I created the whole mess.” She paced quickly back and forth, delivering her invective, “What you did endangered everything that we’ve worked for. What were all those man-projects for if not to change the very fabric of how women like us are judged? What was all of that advocacy energy worth if you weren’t going to use it to defend yourself from the arrows that you knew they would sling at us? I could be angry for lifetimes over rejecting me, but the worst was that you allowed yourself to be embarrassed of your truth. Our truth. The one we built together as allies in a bigger fight, the fight that you were called to lead. I was your pride and joy and you were mine, my sister self. We were one until you turned your most beloved companion into your most hated, ugly monster. All it did was made you hate yourself in the end. Don’t think I haven’t seen the ways in which you’ve tied yourself up in knots to punish yourself.
“Even though I know you did what you thought would keep our family safe – that you had little choice but to play by the rules – each day I’ve been in here is a day you’re not at your fullest, your brightest, your truest self. And you’re here because you finally figured it out. Making us whole is your last battle, bitch.”
Janet took the verbal berating, the shame falling off her shoulders like never before. It was truth. It was angry truth, but it was truth and it was liberating to hear. This is what she came here for. Without a word, Janet nodded to the guard and the locks continued to click open and slide away, one by one. Janet stared at the Spider Queen, her human form just as menacing and mesmerizing even in her smug satisfaction of the release. When the final of the locks had dropped away, the guard stepped forward, “Ma’am, you are the only one with the key to the original lock.”
Once Janet saw the ornate wooden door with the intricate system of interlaced tumblers in the form of a web, she began to remember. She remembered that sorrowful day that MP volunteered to go into the cage, meant as a performative stop gap to satisfy judging forces. The tears welled in her eyes remembering the tender embrace as MP bravely stepped in. She began to remember all that MP had done for her – saving her life after her rape, picking her up and giving her new purpose. She fused their intellect with an irresistibly loving magnetism that encouraged to go through this same process – facing their demons through the safety of Janet’s acceptance.
She realized then what MP had meant – her once beautiful panthress companion and guardian had become a spider, not because of the evil she embodied, but because of the evil that Janet had projected onto her. The memory of it pierced her suspicions and reticence transforming them into the compassionate resilience she had once been known for.
MP was pacing in the background, impatient and distrustful. Janet lay her hands on the door, breathing in deeply. She called upon all her strength, all her learning, her ancestors, her guides but most of all, the entirety of her love, directing it through her hands to the locks beneath. Her fingers invisibly worked through the intricacies of the task. A silence had come over the space, making the clink of the first tumbler echo loudly, giving all of the bystander guards a surprised, startled jump. But one by one the locks came undone, with nothing but Janet’s energy working through her hands. The last lock swung the door recklessly inside the cell room, making MP jump back in cautious surprise.
Janet stepped away, giving room for MP to move, “Thank you for your wisdom. You may never forgive me for what I’ve done. For how the burden of blame turned you into our worst nightmare. You have your freedom as promised.” MP glared at her, “And if I choose to kill you with that new freedom?” issuing a new but not unexpected threat. “Then so be it. At least then I will have finally set you free and that matters more.”
MP hissed at her skeptically taking a few unsteady steps forward. She’d been through this before in the early days when they expected a reunion or when Janet’s magic failed to hold. The door popped open only to be slammed back in her face. But as her foot crossed the threshold, the outer cage disintegrated into dust and ash. It was only ever held together by Janet’s magic. Magic Pussy really was free now, but the temptation for revenge still swirled between them.
Janet eyed MP cautiously throughout, her stance guarded and ready to bolt. But now, she felt nothing but love and sorrow, not fear and hatred. She spoke up, her voice proud and confident, “You weren’t the problem. Which is why I’m here. It took years of confronting the shadows of men who had harmed us to recognize that you were never the enemy, they were. It started long before, fuck, lifetimes before. For lifetimes they have been holding us back, all of us, not just our synergy. Smashing us down anytime we show a modicum of success, especially success that is collaborative, courageous or transformative. I have watched it happen over and over again to dozens of others. They have a way of not just thwarting us, but of eliminating our existence entirely, caging that which is too natural, taming that which is too wild or savage until they force us to cut ourselves off entirely.”
The memories rolled through Janet’s mind, like a book flipping through events, showing the connections between them all. Janet’s voice started reciting the words and images she saw in real time:
“It started when we were seven years old, when we asked God to take away our memories of what happened. That’s when the ogre dreams started and we hid in the closet to escape him only to be caught and thrown into a ring of trees on fire. This was our first cage. The first time we felt powerless.
“Then came the harassment and stalking in our teenage years, the year after we were called by Our Lady as the hands. The judgment and intimidation of gang members and women proud of their beehive hairdos and fake turquoise jewelry tried force us to serve their purpose. That’s when the spiders started. That was our first flashback breaking off a shard of our luminous inner gem. Our light was fractured, where you first became separate from me.
“But the rape is when I needed you the most and you were there for me. You saved us by giving me the strength to survive, to insist that sex was always on our terms, always consensual from then on. You had no problem throwing punches if it ensured we didn’t get trapped again. This was our golden age, our most integrated and alive was in our recovery and the brightness of our calling. But I was living a conflicted life, told in law school to create cages to contain you, to contain me, to make me acceptable to a profession where no one accepts themselves because we are all living in such conflict with empathy and true justice.
“So by the time we were drugged, outed, betrayed, blocked, exposed, contained, restrained, and punished, they had ensured we’d be separate forever. That I’d be scared of you, blaming you for all the harm that I endured. They convinced me to turn on you, which was the only way to ensure that we were stopped. Drive a wedge between us to stop our progress. This is our Last Battle – to overcome our fear of each other so we can defeat those who feed us illusions of lack, separation and disharmony within our own bodies, minds and hearts. That separation ends today.”
Tears were spilling uncontrollably down Janet’s face, but she was still standing strong. Not a forced strength, but one of absolute resolve. MP looked at her curiously, perhaps even with a small amount of awe at the powers hidden within these responses. She wasn’t impressed yet, but she was less angry.
This was the core truth. It didn’t start with being outed, but with a betrayal of innocence, so early on in life. MP recognized all the ways she and the guides had tried sheltering Janet’s heart from the worst of it. Jeremial had volunteered, bravely stepped forward to be the vessel for all that initial darkness. His fuzzy, warm body turning to one of smoldering coals and sharp edges. He could not transform or erase those memories, but he could hold them until Janet was ready. And when she was sexually assaulted at eighteen, away at college, betrayed by the men who she had counted on to have her back, the guides created a vessel from that shard, a seductively fierce armor for Janet to inhabit as she healed, not separate from her, but crafted from this purity of heart that might have otherwise been buried and discarded. MP was just the seductive, superhero identity of Janet, born at dawn on the banks of Lake Michigan. She reigned in Chicago for two and a half glorious years. Healing men, teaching women, holding abusers of power accountable.
Janet continued, “They will never stop trying to control us. Controlling us with judgment, controlling us with fear of rejection. Controlling us with standards that never benefit us or the goddess we’ve been called to serve. The original problem was never us. The problem always will be them. Because they know they have a lot to fear about the power of a woman’s sexuality and the liberation it brings to those around us. We are part of a movement against a common enemy. I not only need you…I am you. The only way we will win freedom for all of our sisters locking themselves away in cages, for our mothers and grandmothers who were taught to hide their magic and stay small is if we are walking entirely and completely in our light. Our fully, integrated, healed and radiantly resilient self on bold display. You are what I’ve needed all this time. And I know I have a lot of trust to rebuild, but I am inviting you to please come home?”
Magic Pussy considered her for a moment, looking her up and down, moving more fluidly, slowly circling her like the panthress she was. “When I agreed to take human form I was hoping this would be the final outcome. Not just my freedom, no, that was inevitable. It was this realization, this unmasking of the great deception within yourself. The illusion that I’m someone outside of you, separate from you….worse than you. You have taught others about embracing the darkness within and yet, you still failed to even come visit me. You were that disgusted and ashamed of yourself. I was the devil you created to project your blame onto when the old ladies came looking to punish your budding sexuality. I was the best friend who cheered on each of your choices and taught you how to take the right risks. But I was also the companion who dried your tears and reminded you it wasn’t your fault and helped you survive.
“Girl, you’ve broken my heart more times than I can say, but do you know why I really do exist? What I really did for you? I kept your calling safe from patriarchy. I held it safe. That hand that stopped your suicides was me. That voice that told you we had more to do, was me. But it was only in choosing yourself that you could ever be free. They would never be able to destroy what I was keeping safe so long as you kept me alive. I held your deeper, cosmic callings – your heritage and birthright as the queen. Sure, I wore the crown while I was here, but I was keeping it safe for when you were ready. Because I knew you would be ready. You’re too strong not to be.”
Janet held her gaze for a long time, her eyes still held the ominous echo of the spider queen, but also the desire of the panthress, the regality of the queen. They both smiled then, seeing each other fully and completely, a joy neither of them had known for decades.
MP spoke first. “Before we have our glorious reunion, I need time. I need time to adjust. A safe place to weild my power and to trust you. There is no longer separation between us, but until there is full integration, I am no longer a depersonalized name – I hold the spirit of the Chicana warrior survivor in you. Not Magic Pussy, not MP, but you. I also need one last thing from you before I can begin trusting you again, Janet. Finally admit to me what you really want. Admit who it is you really want. You know it – say it and then we can finally drop the masks, the pretense and the last of the separation.”
Janet was silent, her mind calculating the risk of disclosure. The survivor queen whispered in her ear, “Tell me the truth. Who do you want? Who shall we attract into our orbit, dear one?” Her voice turned to a honied hiss, “You can’t hide it from me. I can see it in your thoughts… Just say the name so all can hear. Tell me what you want me to do.”
Janet’s face was beet red with embarrassment. She didn’t like to -want- anything, not even food or sleep if she could help it. But if she was going to trust in this integration, she had to be the one to take this risk, a risk she might not have take otherwise. She spoke his name and the intention of bringing him into her orbit, to satisfy a spiritual craving for divine union of souls, wishing with the fullness of her heart to experience the oneness of her divine family back within her reach again.
the queen leaned back on her heel, impressed. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure you had it in you. You’re always sacrificing and asking permission. And now, you know exactly how to speak the magic. Consider it done.” Janet smiled protectively, but both relief and genuine excitement were twinkling in her eyes, “Does this mean…?”
The woman gracefully held her hands said, “…that we smash patriarchy right in the balls for all the hell they’ve put us through? Fuck yes, I’m in. I thought you’d never ask.”
Did you know I am writing a novel about past lives and future loves? If you enjoy my writing go sign up for my Patreon where I share weekly readings, full/new moon ceremonies and more. But more importantly for $8/mo you get access to excerpts of my novel each month. Learn more at Temple of the Rose Gold Heart: https://www.Patreon.com/RoseGoldHeart
CW: suicide, sexual assault, awakenings, healing
The best gift, the most uplifting present I could have given myself this year for my birthday is the gift of being authentic and real with myself.
I am no stranger to introspection. I can navel gaze with the best of them. And as exhausted as I’ve been I’ve never truly hidden from the dark stuff in my life, the intense inner work of healing that I’ve needed to do. But like most of us, I was frustrated and tired with all this work, feeling like I was on a never-ending grind that was wearing me thin rather than building me up. I was doing the heavy lifting, I was picking up every stone, examining each brick of my wounded tower of self. What was I missing?
At no time was that frustration more apparent than in 2012 when I truly learned how trauma reverberates reverberations to create an everlasting static that clouds the mind. A constant buzz reminding me that the world was inherently unsafe. An undercurrent that made me question whether I was inherently unsafe for myself or those around me. Doubting every single fraction of my value.
Trauma is a dream killer
My brain became twisted up with these messages of my burdensome distortions. I couldn’t see straight anymore and nor could I see a way through such devastating destruction in my life. It wasn’t just that there was one trauma I had to deal with – I had several that were presenting all at the same time setting off alarm bells all over my psyche. Post-traumatic stress kept me up constantly with nightmares, twitching pain throughout my body, night terrors where I was screaming and crying for hours at a time. I’d wake in the morning with puffy, raw eyes and a wounded spirit. There was no joy to my day because I knew I would only be facing more horrors at night.
I wasn’t well. A sleep study told me I had sleep apnea, which didn’t actually explain why I couldn’t fall asleep in the first place. Why my ears were sensitive to every sound – I swear I could hear my dog fart three rooms away. It didn’t explain why I started having recurring nightmares of being surrounded by white pine trees on fire. It didn’t explain that the night my childhood abuser died was the night those same dreams from childhood started up again for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Nope, that was trauma.
And that trauma was augmented by a childhood prophesy I had held secret from all but the closest of partners: When I was 6, in my nightly prayers, Jesus told me I wouldn’t live past 35, similar to how old he was when he, too, died for humanity. When I received my calling in 1990, I dedicated everything to that one purpose because after all, I knew my time here was limited. I believed in this prophecy so strongly that for the longest time I refused to even consider marriage or having children. I was labeled as having a fear of commitment, but given what I believed, can you blame me?
I took that belief to heart – and when I turned 16 years old, I found my birthday to be the best time for a true examination of conscience. I started to reject presents and attention, shying away from parties or celebrations in my honor. And like most things, I did my birthday the Janet Way – I turned a day of celebration into a solitary, reverent ritual of reconciliation, of journeying into a dark night of the soul to view my failures with brutal honesty and a penitent heart. I mentally flaggellated myself for the imperfections that got in the way of being a perfect example of love for humanity. It didn’t matter that my scope was so limited or that I was human. I was here only for a short time and so I needed to ensure that everything I did adhered to the highest of my ethical guidelines, my calling’s potential.
Since 1993, each year my birthday has been punctuated by a private ritual where I confess my sins to the Divine and accept punishment and penance for my sins. Each and every year, I buried myself in self-absorbed sorrow for my failings, of the ways I had disappointed those around me or the divine with my weakness and cowardice, my avarice and selfishness. The more that people celebrated me the more I punished myself for the weakness of needing that attention, my cowardice at not standing up for myself to push away presents. Eventually I got to the point where each December I would change my birthday on Facebook to a day earlier in the year so that it wouldn’t show up in notifications and I could avoid the unnecessary attention.
But there is something beautiful as well. It became a time for me to look back on the events and actions of the past year and truly empathize with those who I have hurt, especially those who I hurt with my selfishness. There are always many, many hurts for me to delve into. But when it’s over I am cleansed. I am forgiven. I am renewed to my divine purpose once again. A once-a-year reconciliation.
The Dream that Saved My Life
Part of the reason 2012 was so hard was because I had this looming deadline over my head. A prophesy that I wouldn’t make it past that age, that I would be sacrificed to the gods of exhaustion and obscurity. So even if I hadn’t been going through all the trauma, the bar exam, the death of an abuser, the separation of my family, I would have been paranoid about this ticking clock over my head. But the trauma only made that ticking clock yet another thing I couldn’t control.
So around Thanksgiving, after my sons’ birthdays (they’re 6 days shy of 6 years apart), I felt the need to control something – anything – about my experience in life. I couldn’t control what was happening int he rest of my world and certainly not what was happening to even my basic need for sleep, but I could control the outcome of this prophesy. I didn’t fear death, but I didn’t want to die in an accident or of a disease I couldn’t control. And even though my cosmic pledge was “Thy will be done”, I wasn’t going to leave this up to chance. If I was going to be parted from my loved ones and my calling, it was going to be on my terms only and with the knowledge I had a chance to say goodbye.
I started planning my suicide.
By this time in my life I was doing my dark birthday ritual a night or two before the actual day. I had relented that my family could still wish me a happy birthday – so if I did the ritual earlier in the week I wouldn’t be so distraught when someone wished me “Happy Birthday!”. I might despise it, but I wouldn’t outright reject the person saying it. I didn’t want to commit suicide, but it was literally the only way I felt I could reassert myself over the trauma of my own timeline, planning out how my family would move on without me. I planned the ritual for a few nights before and told myself that if I didn’t receive a clear message from the Divine by that date telling me otherwise by then, I would follow through on the plan.
I laid down to sleep on 12/12/12 and woke up the next morning from a dream that was so crystal clear, so somatically significant that it changed my life forever. A dream presenting me with a love so powerful that it filled me with more joy than I had ever felt before in my life. A cosmic reunion of souls, a Druid for the Queen in me, each of us supporting the other’s mission, an oasis of wisdom and sensuality between the storms. I saw a version of myself that I always wanted to be, one that was so deeply resonant that I have used it as blueprint for the life I am creating today: the Queen.
It was only then that I realized I was about to enact a plan based on the interpretations of a six year old me. I knew then that 35 wasn’t going to be the end, 35 would be the beginning.
Here is what I wrote back then:
“In the year 2012, 5 days before what many, including myself, feel is a shift in the consciousness of humanity, I turn 35. Ever since I was 6 years old, I have believed that I would never make it past 35, so this is the one birthday I have honed in on as more life-altering than the rest. I can feel something big about to make its way into my life. A new beginning and everything spiritual tells me it will be a time of great independence and bold action. This dream confirms all of that in a very real way that is hard to deny. I have to move boldly forth with power and confidence into this new year, this new life, this new adventure and trust my heart and my skill to be my guides….as I once did, but in a brand new way.JKRose, 2012
In all, I have the power to make this happen. Maybe not with the actual man in the dream (although I’ll never turn that down!), but certainly with what he (the Lover) represents. A union. A magnetic attraction. A fulfillment of purpose based on a risk of vulnerability, emotional chemistry, and sensual spirituality. The breaking of the dam that has held me too steady for too long. A loss of control that is mutual, consensual ,and completely magnificent in its beauty. I will have to take the step to make the changes that I see in this dream. I have no doubt about this. But I know it can be done. And I know I’ve found the path to reclaiming my soulful purpose again.”
Embracing the re-birth day
Here I am 8 years later – I made it!
I have arrived at this promised destination. Despite my optimism above, I took the long way to wade through my own trauma, to unravel the knots that have been holding me back. I had to resolve the threads of active retraumatization – the ripples that interrupted the calm I was trying to achieve. I had to resolve the distortions I still saw in the mirror, reflected in my life. I had to finally make the hard choice to choose myself. So when I left my job a year ago, all throughout COVID, I’ve been healing my weary heart, tearing off the layers of heartache that keep me from trusting myself.
I’ve engaged several healers throughout the years to help me with the issues that have been holding me back and making me feel small. But that help is meaningless if I’m not willing to confront all the ways those old beliefs where self-sacrifice is an expected penance for the crimes of who I am and who I’ve disappointed. But it’s only been in the last year, when i rejected the career-climbing hustle, when I removed myself from the practice of law (and its culture of dominance, emotional denial and brutal nitpicking) that I started to see who i was without all of these things. Sure, I haven’t passed a policy agenda or secured as many clients as I want to, but I’m enjoying existence more. I’m enjoying the freedom to determine my own day and to forgive my errors quickly so I can move on. I had to be free of the critics sitting on my shoulder, winding me up with hyperbolic stories of my failures, stirring up old traumas with each triggering hurt.
The work I have done to integrate this hurt, to transform the stories of an old, scared version of me is the leadership I’ve been called to. To be the example. The impossible Rose growing in the cold, dark of winter. To be a symbol of resilience achieved through Love, an avatar of tenacity in the face of overwhelming trauma.
My ritual was quite different this year – cut into two parts.
In the first, I surrendered my woes to Our Lady of Guadalupe on 12/12, keeping a vigil at my altar to her, surrounded by the red, white and pink fire & ice roses that symbolize my new calling. I encountered past lives that needed healing. And for the first time in my life, I was able to heal myself the way I’ve healed others. I cried and purged the memories of the past, rewriting old stories to tell a new truth about my life. I touched the wounds of my ancestors and set them free of the burden of our collective, inherited sexual shame and guilt for our failures throughout these lifetimes. I am the best of what they came here to do and it is my job to release them of the inter-generational trauma I carry, to gently forgive and heal the only way I know how.
That night between rituals, the anniversary of this life-altering dream 8 years ago, I was gifted with a momentary glimpse at what my partners see in me. And I was moved. I saw myself as I did in that dream. I realized in that moment that I had arrived. I would never be able to unsee that image of myself as laughing grace and overwhelming love, the true impossibility of my radiance. Why so many had seen me as their lighthouse, a constancy of light emerging in the darkness, reminding them they’re not alone.
For a moment, I understood what it had all been for. And I was transported to a core of myself I never saw before. I was finally ready to let go of the cords binding my heart. I was finally free.
By time I laid out everything I needed to start my true birthday ritual on Sunday night, I was entirely at peace and even excited for this celebration and, I daresay, coronation.
I celebrated and anointed my rebirth as the Impossible December Rose, taking a new name for my calling: La Madonna Rosa. And just as Juan Diego, or Cuauhtlatoatzin, his birth name, brought roses growing on Tepeyac to prove to the bishop Our Lady’s /Tonantizin’s appearance, I am here to bring people to the truth of miracles available within if they just believe. I am here to show the beauty that is waiting for them, the true miracle of integration and oneness. That night through to the morning of the eclipse, I danced, chanted, meditated and eventually took vows to step into my new role. The role presented in that fated dream, accepting the new responsibilities and directives. But most of all finally accepting myself as the Divine Leader I was meant to become.
Even though I’m still a bit of a control freak (what Queen isn’t?), I found my heart again and it is open and ready to shine forth. Profuse with affection and passion for humanity. Overflowing with gratitude for the generosity of my time here on earth, valuing every moment of every day to live out my purpose, including, and especially caring for myself. I am finally ready to serve humanity exactly as I am, in the only way I know how: as a reflection of the impossible resilience of humanity’s light in all its tender imperfections and blessed depths within us all.
There is something so pure about sitting down to the computer, the pad of paper and purging myself of the attachments and expectations in my life. A torrent of words flowing without restraint. The blessed opportunity to be fully free with my expression, my words, my voice.
But for a long time now, my words have seemingly dried up, my voice too parched with anticipated embarrassment to speak. I have plenty of ideas and none of the energy to communicate them appropriately. I keep believing there was some magical time in my life where I didn’t feel that pressure, that potential for rejection, and where I could just pour my heart out.
As nostalgic as I can get, when I look back through my own journals, I now see a clear pattern of memories that remind me that even back then I wasn’t telling my full truth. I was documenting a prepackaged response designed to align with the person I always wanted others to see me as, but not necessarily what my full self truly was or would become.
My life has been a series of self-conscious, half-remembered events that reinforced how neurotically awful of a person I believed I was. I was careful to avoid ever expressing anything that indicated I was anything less than a perfectly faithful, compassionate, and accommodating soul. Even in my obvious struggles to take the high road with the boys who were breaking my heart, I blamed myself. Not misogyny by proxy, but because I believed it was the holy thing that a visionary would be expected to do. Even though I was seeking out deeper truths and meanings, I rarely spoke about my spiritual calling and especially kept very quiet about the sexual component of it. I would only mention it to shame myself for any perceived failures to be a girl worthy of that calling. I wrote, not for myself, not to document the truth, but to set the narrative for the story I wanted to be told instead of the true one that sits in my heart. Yet I still treated that as truth.
For as creepy and paranoid as this sounds, I have always lived my life as if I’m being watched and will be judged throughout. Mindful that someday any of my writings might have an audience who would be critically unkind, I always aimed to demonstrate my self-awareness, my willingness to accept responsibility for my actions and bad deeds. My journals were a companion piece to the sanitized confessions I was making to the priests. As I read through those journals, I could remember the places where my pen hesitated, the specific decision points where I could have given voice to my truth, in my own space, but didn’t. What was important to me, even then, even in the words I used to describe my own experiences and feelings, is that I was portraying myself in accordance to the avatar of a visionary I wanted people to know about me. It was an image that denounced my childish anger and my greedy needs. Hands clasped in prayer (but in a cool way) “Lord, I need nothing from you but clarity. Please give your servant clarity so I don’t mess up everyone’s life”.
I was trying to contain myself in a vision of what I thought people might want from me, instead of admitting and dealing with the actual pain I was feeling. It was another way to justify the sacrifice and suffering.
It is also why I believe the phrase “fake it ’til you make it” is complete bullshit. Even when I thought I was being true to that vision, I wasn’t. I was only hiding my truth from myself, punishing myself for what I lacked instead of celebrating what I had.
I remember one specific journal entry from April 1994, the entry right after I gave my virginity to someone after breaking up with my boyfriend. Not only was I beating myself up about it, but I also understood why it was bothering me: “I guess as an only child who had to be in control all the time, I find it hard to be out of control.”
I was convinced at the time that my feelings were out of control. Staying up late at night worried that my sex drive was out of control. Not only did I believe myself to be selfish and jealous but I was strategic in how I portrayed it. Hesitating as I wrote to choose whether to take the high ground or tell the awful truth. In my mind, I was a flawed, immature, and insecure girl who was chosen, likely by mistake, for a big spiritual calling. I started from a place of unworthiness for such a grand mission that I spent the past 30 years trying to beat myself into submission to become a person worthy of such a demanding role. I modeled myself after others who stood for equity, justice, under an umbrella of divine love. I was brutally honest with myself so that others wouldn’t have to be. I conformed myself to what would most allow others to forgive my inevitable lapses when my human flaws leak out and sour my good intentions. I control the reader’s point of view of me. And so in my expressions, my deeds, everything I said to even myself about who I am was meant to conform to a model that was aspirational at best. A constrained and captured essence of deeper realizations that helped me survive the chaos of my world.
That chaos, that lack of control is what so many of us are feeling right now. The ways in which we compartmentalized ourselves, controlled ourselves for the pleasure and acceptability of others are either disappearing, unavailable, or now too uncomfortable to continue. We each have been wearing masks, for years, for lifetimes and generations. We filter ourselves, show only the best photos, choose the best words, use the right fonts to construct a reality that not only reaffirms the personal brand that is totally, really completely authentic© but also satisfies us that we don’t have to reveal our full selves to be liked. More masks that we wear to be the
I admit I’m so very confused by the spiritual people who complain about wearing physical masks and yet won’t address the mental ones they continue to wear. Aggressively declaring “Love and Light” as they actively resist attempts to listen to someone else’s truth is as restrictive as face coverings. Just like the ones I wore in my journal. Portraying myself to be all about “love & light”, who was I trying to convince?
April 13, 1994 (my 16 year old self)
“I have sinned so much. Give me the strength to get through the days. Help me see my many failures. Help me trust in you. I will not promise, but I will control myself according to your will. Help cure me of my selfishness, greed, and pride. Let me just fall into your arms. ”
And yet, those words were chosen, deliberately to prove to myself that I was the problem, not the men who were fucking with my heart. I manipulated my own intentions, begging forgiveness instead of demanding apologies, showing how contrite I was for my transgressions even though theirs were worse. God, or Spirit or the Divine, knew the content of my heart just as well as I did, but instead, I was trying to convince myself and the future, the unintended audience of the sincerity of the responsibility I felt to have acted better. I can still feel the rage I was suppressing, the excuses I had to forcefully set aside to defiantly turn a harsh mirror on myself. To prove I could withstand it.
Those restraints on even my own history, my own view of myself are worth seeing in context. I deliberately made myself small so I would never be too big for anyone else, so I wouldn’t exceed the small container of tolerance that I imagined others would give me room to occupy. I deliberately robbed myself of the triumph of all the ways in which I exercised control over that moment in my life, so I could meet the finger-wagging judgments of those who came after me.
I deprived myself of the miracle, the true awakening of womanhood, where I was able to truly choose my sexual expression with someone else. I got to choose how, when and who I was going to give my virginity to, but I also chose why. I chose to a path the showed me an innate power I have. But despite what I remember and felt, the words in my journal barely even hint at the awakening that this was for me. The mask I designed to fool even myself actually diminished the true joy I felt and instead punished me with unearned shame and guilt. A way to fit in to the image I thought I needed to maintain to make everyone else happy with me. The truth was far too expansive than I ever was willing to document or admit; I needed to control the narrative, constrain the truth in order to fit in the small container I restricted myself to.
Part of what I see happening around us is that our illusions of control, the containers that we used to compartmentalize, and thus, the ways in which we think we exercise direct control over our lives, are breaking down. This aligns with these changes of the Tower (that i’ll be posting about in the next two weeks), where our overall systems of power and control, are crumbling past the point of meaningful repair. But even more specifically, whether it be in the jobs we’re doing or communities we’re sharing in, we are starting to feel the squeeze of trying to fit into the containers that once held our lives, or rather the image of our lives, together.
The family feels different now that we’re all working and playing in the same space together in drastically different ways. Work feels different when the office politics are now seen through the unfiltered lens of Zoom. We feel more raw and numb than before, an awareness we hadn’t noticed before. We’re noticing that not only are those masks meaningless, but the ways in which they contain the full complexity of us, reducing us to two-dimensional avatars of ourselves is no longer a comfortable place to live.
So, my promise tonight with this post and all others that come behind it is that I will share more than the mere impression of my truth. I’ll get into the nitpicky, down and dirty truth of my perspective, my experience, my background, and my vision. I’m tired of pleasing audiences who view me through the cracked lenses of their own self-pity or defense mechanisms. Their truth isn’t mine, but I will listen to it nonetheless. Because witnessing the truth in one another is the only way we’ll survive the challenges coming our way. Living in our truth, breaking out fo the containers meant to keep our lives in tidy conformity to the whims of a collective world that is on its last legs.
“I just want to go home”
The phrase was on constant repeat in my head in moments of desperation and self-defeat. Starting in my teens, I’d have this phrase pulse like a chant in my brain. A motto for when I was ready to give up all hope, all fight, all resolve. Sometimes I wanted to give up on school, Chicago, Denver, parenting, homeownership, polyamory, romance, the stresses of my first job out of law school, the bar exam. It was the easiest thing to cling to in those searing stressful moments – the thought of home. Especially when I was far from Colorado. When times got tough the most comforting thought in the world was to crawl up in my bed on the giant house near the Fountain River and withdraw from the harshness of the world.
[CW: mentions of suicide, PTSD, sexual assault, trauma but also resilience, healing, faith and sex]
The past five years have been professionally prosperous for me. I have gone from owning my own mediation business to providing direct service to people experiencing homelessness, culminating in a senior management position at a major nonprofit organization. I honestly couldn’t be more grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had. I am so very blessed.
But despite this extraordinary level of success in the past five years I have been increasingly unhappy. The chanting in my head didn’t go away with success, it only got more persistent. The stress breaking me down so it was constant drumming in the back of my mind, the first thing I’d hear in the morning and the last I’d hear at night.
It isn’t easy for me to admit that, especially here. More than anything I want my life to stand for something meaningful, powerful and inspirational – and deep in my heart I really, truly don’t hate my life. But the stresses, the accumulated traumas, the internalized doubt and toxic messaging of my internal world were constantly crashing into each other. I had never been great at prioritizing self-care, so when I was met with crushing amounts of vicarious trauma, fear and insecurity over the past few years, I spiraled even further into self-hatred, infecting my job, my family and my soul with a loathing I didn’t even know was a part of me.
I left my job at the end of October and left the organization last week. And what I’ve learned since then will help me survive the rest of this life.
I’ve been open in the past with the ways I’ve struggled with things like imposter syndrome and people-pleasing. When you’ve had such significant challenges with deservingness, that sort of meteoric rise can produce more anxiety and pressure than it alleviates. Until I found myself deserving of that kind of rise, it was never going to feel right.
I had too much that was working against me. The accumulation of vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue made my soul ache for daily relief that never came. I was new to supervision and my lawyer’s brain was constantly overthinking everything I said and did. I had trouble with processing financial statements quickly enough to give my people answers about expenditures. (Nevermind that I was now using terms like “expenditures” and “write-ups” far more frequently than my little social-justice, romantic heart ever imagined). I wasn’t taking care of myself either – getting an average of 4 hours of sleep a night, working an average of 65 hours a week, eating only one meal by the end of the day. I was dehydrated, chronically cranky and progressively unwell.
And so, over the past five years, instead of my brain chanting “I just want to go home”, it began to shift to “I hate my life”. A phrase that rang relentlessly in my head, even with the smallest of mistakes. When my nerves really were at their breaking point, the chant would spill out of my mouth bursting unwelcome into the rest of the world. My employees have heard it, my kids, my supervisors, my husbands. And when I was alone, I would find myself screaming it out loud. Impulsive and destructive. Multiple times an hour, multiple times a day. After a time it was barely controllable and barely contained.
It became so destructive that I was actively contemplating suicide, for the fifth time in my life. July, August and September were a white-knuckle ride. Each day presented new challenges that I was increasingly losing the ability to address or control. These challenges weren’t just about work – they included retriggering events and encounters, strong shifts in my family including sick parents and grandparents and the normal Trump-associated threats to the world. The hits just kept coming and I felt I was letting everyone down no matter how I responded.
And while I won’t go into detail about the reasons or rationale, what is important is that I reached out to the people best situated to offer meaningful help, without imposed expectations or unsolicited advice. I called on my team, both mortal and ethereal, to assist me through this storm. I have worked too hard, overcome too much, and had too much ahead of me to go down without a fight.
And that voice urging me to fight was my Pueblo voice: The Priestess of Pride City.
Go Big Blue
There is something distinctive about being from Pueblo. We are home to more Congressional Medal of Honor winners than anywhere else in the US. Formerly part of Mexico, we’ve celebrated Cinco de Mayo with our sister city, Puebla, the site of that historic victory. We host the Colorado State Fair and welcome all of Colorado’s makers, farmers, ranchers, and revelers culminating with the crowning a Fiesta Day queen. We have the longest running high school football rivalry west of the Mississippi (Videos: Bell Game 2019 – Bell Rings Blue ). And recently, our Governor has stood up with pride to defend the honor of our mirasol green chiles, defining the taste of Pueblo.Read the rest of this entry
I’ve spent a lot of energy resisting the idea that I’m a sex educator in part because I always felt like I don’t fit the image I’ve grown accustomed to: beautiful, flirty, fun, with an elusive effervescence and trendy style. The person who oozes sex with their every word and who can immediately name the different qualities of lube in a dizzying display of scientific sexiness. I don’t own a pussy puppet and am not sure what I would do with it if I did. I don’t teach “how to” be sexy; I help you remember “why” you already are sexy. I can’t tell you how to make your girlfriend have a mind-blowing orgasm; I can tell you how to talk to each other about it with graceful vulnerability.
I’ve been poly for a long time — 13 years. And I’ve been kinky way longer than that. I’ve been public speaking since 4th grade when I went to Space Camp. I’ve taught numerous classes including to law enforcement and other attorneys about poly & BDSM and how to identify nuanced consent and differentiate it from abuse. Yet somehow I don’t feel like I’m qualified to call myself a sex educator.
I haven’t written books or published articles or received awards. I haven’t changed lives with my message or gotten hundreds of thousands of followers. I’m not popular. I’m not credentialed (other than as an attorney and no, I won’t give you legal advice). I’m not a researcher. I don’t hold a bevy of statistics in my head. And yeah, I’ve done presentations and given talks, but most of that has been local and not national.
There’s also a lot of Imposter Syndrome talking here.
Over the next thirty days, I will be giving four different talks about sexuality or sexually related topics. Tocday, I am a guest lecturer at a local community college for a human sexuality class — essentially debunking myths about BDSM and polyamory. Then, in two weeks I will be presenting at Rocky Mountain Poly Living (“Extending Empathy” and “Poly Political Agenda”). Then the week after that I’m leading a discussion at StarFest about Intergalactic Influences on Love and Sexuality (Sci-fi and Fantasy’s influences on our own sexual development and experiences with love).
It’s a busy, whirlwind of activity and the likelihood of my anxiety making a nasty return is very, very high. And while self-care is certainly necessary, I always do better when I can talk it out. Both husbands are asleep — so allow me to use this space right here to remind myself —
I am a sex educator and I am qualified because:
I know my own experience. I know how to call out shitty experiences. I know what it feels like when you don’t call out a shitty experience and swallow disappointment and discouragement.
I know what it feels like to gather up the courage to ask someone out and to be rejected (oh fuck, I know that one well).
I have met and loved (and lost) soul mates.
I have encountered submission as a spiritual transformation and inched my way closer to deeper dominance. And love the romanticism of vanilla sex as well.
I have been publicly shamed and outed. I’ve been unemployed as a result of how I identify and the perverse assumptions that people make as a result.
I’ve grieved for the loss of my sensuality and triumphed over its return. Over and over again.
I have been sexually assaulted in both the vanilla and sex positive worlds and have healed by sharing my stories and connecting with others who need to hear they’re not crazy or alone.
I have seduced and loved many impossible people–people who felt they were unlovable, people with outward importance who needed an inward experience, people far more beautiful, popular or genuine than me.
I have slept with more men than women, but can tell you what it’s like to fall in love with both.
I have walk-of-shamed my way down lonely Chicago streets and given my sex as comfort to the broken-hearted.
I’ve been a wife and a mother and had difficulty with balancing the expectations of both roles.
I have been a sexual healer, a divine mistress, a wanton whore and a demure princess in one night.
I have walked this earth as an intelligent, passionate and spiritual woman. I am femme and geek and Chicana and fucking brilliant when I choose to be. I am curvy and vulnerable and maternal but I’m not your Mommy. I am the laughter of seduction and the mediator of souls.
How can I possibly be an imposter?
By sharing lessons through my own vulnerability and experience, my learning and mistakes, I serve as a companion on the journey. By weaving stories of empathetic experience, I aim to illustrate the patterns of our own truth and experience. This is both who I am and who I want to be. That is the most real and authentic me I can offer–my own lessons and experience and knowledge and outlook.
That is the most real and authentic me I can offer–my own lessons and experience and knowledge and outlook.
And for some, that is exactly what they need.
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
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.
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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ).
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.