Small transgressions, consent and rape culture

I am writing this in a bit of a huff, and at a medical conference, where I was hoping to be free of predation, free to focus on what I am trying to learn, but I just want to make it very clear that (and I think I can speak for other women)…

I am tired of being treated like a sexual prospect.

I realize that many men cast a dating net like they are fishing at sea, willing to catch and throw back anything that swims past, hoping they might catch something meaty that will satisfy their appetite for a bit.

I am not one of those fish.

I realize many men think it’s innocent to offer a strange woman a drink without first knowing her name, or to ask a lone woman’s name at a bar without first introducing himself, as if by going alone to a restaurant and sitting at the bar is an invitation to intrusion.

It’s not.

I realize many men think it’s okay to put their arm across the back of a woman’s chair at a bar after talking for a bit, despite not knowing her name, and likely because she started talking to someone across from you.

It’s not.

Some men think it’s okay to send a Facebook message to a female stranger (friend of a friend), claiming to be interested in her passion and claiming to have seen her in person, when in fact they are just trying to find out if she is available (IOW not dating someone).

It’s not.

I don’t think I have to go into detail about these 3 incidents, one on each day I have been in Charleston for a medical conference, for people to understand the gist of what was happening.

Perhaps I SHOULD explain though, for those who can’t see how incredibly rude, shallow, entitled, desperate and insensitive these actions are. Yes, these are strong words, and I will stand by them, because I have had a lifetime of dealing with these actions, and I feel myself defensive of body, mind and spirit just existing in the world because of persistent daily predation. I cannot be in public either physically or virtually without experiencing it. That could explain why I have spent so much time at home the past year.

*********Incident 1:

I arrived in Charleston, South Carolina Wednesday evening and took a nice walk to check out the area. Somehow, I happened upon a very cool little place called “5 Church” on Market St. I was lulled in by the music, originally thought it was actually a church, until I saw the dinner table outside. I walked inside, and was washed over with the soothing music of a thin bearded man playing guitar and a woman playing what seemed like a bass cello (don’t judge me for not knowing what it was). I am no expert in music, but I do know it was sublime. 5-church-charleston_catchlightstudio-7165-1024x683

And time slowed down, as I paused to take in the soft warm lights, the long table filling the entire middle of the room, angel wings disguised as lights hanging over the bar, and above them a cathedral ceiling full of white writing on a black background. On the right side, the largest words were “There Is Only We,” one word per panel, and on the left side “The Art of War,” and in between what must have been a decent portion of The Art of War.

A woman asked me if I would like a table, and I chose the bar because I didn’t want to take up an entire table, and I wanted to watch the musicians. I picked a chair, as I usually do, that had at least one empty chair to each side of me. This is because I am wary of men in public places. 

I sat and looked around the place, passing over the head and face of the man to my left so that he would not think I was interested in engaging, because I wasn’t.  I turned my back to him and settled my attention on the musicians at the front of restaurant, feeling the music waft through my body. I was in heaven.

My neighbor let me be for a bit, but it wasn’t long before he asked from behind if he could buy me a drink! I told him “Thank you, but no.” He tried to cover by saying that the establishment gives him free drinks, so he feels the need to pay it forward. I nodded unbelieving and turned back around to watch the musicians. Perhaps that was supposed to make him appear special? That I should care and treat him differently because the employees there do? It was certainly a comment meant to lend him credence. I really did want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I always do. I want to believe that people aren’t creepers.

Needless to say, he gradually found more and more ways to work his way into my silence. We did engage in a tad bit of conversation, and then other people came in, at which point he took the opportunity to move to the seat next to me, asking after he was in the seat if it was okay. What was I going to say? I didn’t want him there, but it would have caused a scene to say so. This slight but persistent transgression is how they work their way into your space.

He then asked my name, to which I bristled, cocked and turned my head, making sure not to turn my body toward him and fired off, “What’s yours?” and I forget his reaction. It was too lame to remember. I won’t go over the entire interaction, but over the course of the interminable destruction of my sense of peace, he insinuated things like “in case you fall in love with me” and any number of seemingly joking references to the possibility of ME falling for HIM. Whoa Nelly! Thank GOD he didn’t touch me. I might have slapped him at that point.

Now, he was a pretty meek, unattractive older man, so my mind played awful tricks on me, wondering if perhaps he was being facetious, and I should laugh with him at his expense. I wondered if I should be less judgemental. I alternately wondered how on earth how I was going to tell him he was freaking me out (or that I was freaked out in the more NVC way of stating his), or trying to remember how often I had been in a similar position, or wondering if this really was as wrong as it felt to my mood, my body, my sense of safety in the world. YES!

Why is it wrong you ask?

  1. Because my body tells me so.
  2. Because it’s not flattering to be offered a drink when you are a lone female.
  3. Because it’s not flattering to be asked your name before someone knows anything other than your outward sex and appearance.
  4. Because I did not express interest in hanging out with this man, although I “let” him sit next to me in a public space. (in today’s society, that makes it my fault somehow for the transgression….)
  5. Because it assumes I have interest in engaging
  6. Because he never asked if I wanted to talk with him.

I was hard-pressed to figure out a way to tell this man that I didn’t want to talk to him, that I wanted him to leave me alone, that even though I was replying to him, I was not interested, that his advances and insinuations were not a compliment and were insulting. We live in a society where for me to be direct and state my disinterest directly would have caused a scene and would have become even more uncomfortable.

I think men know this and keep pushing on.

They have the ammo of my potential “blown up” reaction in their pocket, with the slingshot judgement of Bitch to throw out if I dare express how disinterested I am.

We live in a society where my clear body language of my back to his face was not clear enough, and was not respected. We live in a society where a lone female is viewed as a target, a sexual prospect. It sickens me. He even bragged about his multiple properties, and unabashedly offered for me to stay at his place in Asheville, and spoke about his 7 year old son, and after I mention being a single mom for my daughter’s life, he spit out that he is a single dad. I didn’t challenge him by asking where his son was on this Wednesday night as he sat drinking at the bar a block from his home, or why his most recent photo was of his son at 4.

He offered to be a tour guide, and give me his number I didn’t know how to say that I would never call it. Perhaps I figured I would let him think his ploy worked somehow, leaving the potential that I would override my obvious discomfort, talk myself out of that and into calling him. My bad, totally. I never learned the skills of being direct. I am just now learning them. Needless to say, after entering this restaurant in soul awe, I left feeling violated, uncomfortable, and deflated.

*********Incident 2:

The next night, I walked a long time along King Street, checking out the sites and atmosphere, looking for the place that felt right, had the right balance of males and females, good food, and a non-predatory atmosphere. I finally found what felt comfortable after probably a mile of enjoyable adventuring at Macintosh. Again, I sat at the bar, where I felt very comfortable with one large seat on either side of me. Excited to finally get some dinner, I studied the one page menu, and within 2 minutes, I had a blonde guy to my left, and a large suit to my right. I sat upright and far forward enough to make it clear that I was not there to be picked up on, happy to be on my own. I was uncomfortable enough that I considered leaving, but I relaxed a bit when it seemed clear that the guy to my left was too into his computer to care, and the guy to my right did not make the expected approach or awkward comment. I kept my gaze very much forward so as not to engage. macintosh_charleston__0001_1.5-1160x619

When the suit did finally engage, it was pleasant enough and he didn’t ask personal questions or make comments that made me feel uncomfortable. He had a wedding ring on his pudgy hand, which I know well means about nothing. I think people who travel a lot are desperate for connection, understandably so. I also am jaded, because most of the men that have expressed interest in me while travelling were married. Everything was fine, and we chatted about random things while I chowed one of the most amazing winter vegetable plates ever, and he downed at least 3 whiskeys on the rocks. Somehow, I started to get the sense he was saving his appetite.

He asked how old my daughter is. I told him 19. He looked bewildered and then gave me the extremely awkward up and down, and said he didn’t believe me. He told me I was beautiful. I said, “Thank you.” And then the cute younger guy showed up to suit’s right. We each engaged him in conversation, but as soon as I held an individual conversation with cute guy, I noticed suit’s arm go across the back of my chair. It was clearly a territorial move, or was I “overreacting”? Again, I felt decidedly uncomfortable, sat up very straight and forward away from the back of my chair, and the hand went back  to his lap. This happened at least 3 more times over the span of 10 minutes or so. The cute guy mentioned music upstairs, and suit asked if I was going with them. I looked him directly in the eye and said, “No.” I wanted it to be clear that IF I went anywhere, I was going with myself.  He left within a few minutes of that.

Why was it wrong?

  1. Because my body told me so
  2. Because you don’t just put your arm across anyone’s chair
  3. I didn’t give my consent for that type of closeness

It wasn’t a huge transgression, but it was a boundary tester, and unfortunately, I was torn because it was small enough, but certainly uncomfortable enough to confuse the hell out of me in figuring out how to deal with it.

Afterward, I mentioned it to the cute guy, and he asked nonchalantly if I told him it made me uncomfortable, and I told him no, I didn’t know how. It’s very strange when you have decent conversation with a stranger, no intention or acknowledgement of any attraction, and you don’t want to “overreact.” My, how that worry has been drilled into my consciousness, my entire being.

Somehow, I have been programmed to not rock the boat, to not overreact, to therefore not set boundaries early, and often. Meanwhile, small transgressions are being “allowed”, and meanwhile we are feeling uncomfortable, and before long we end up in a situation way, way over our heads. This, my friend, is how date rape happens. How rape happens. How men rape women and let the society’s programming convince themselves it’s somehow their fault. Because they should have said something, right? Yes, if they had been taught how, or that it was okay.

You know what happens to the girl who speaks up in movies, right? Yep, she gets bullied into submission, either through ridicule or actual physical violence.

*********Incident 3:

I received a random Facebook instant message from a non-friend three days ago. He said,

Amy, tell me about your fundraiser for [your daughter]. I just noticed you were posting about it. I’ve been off Facebook for a while now….and Hi BTW! Last time I saw you was at L’s I think. How ya doin?’

Innocent enough, I suppose, except that

  1. I knew deep down he was beating around the bush to get my response
  2. I could sense he had an entirely alternative agenda
  3. He didn’t live in town
  4. His profile advertised single (damn straight I checked this out before replying)
  5. I had only been to L’s house twice, and I am pretty sure he wasn’t there
  6. He was too lazy (or not actually interested) to read the flipping fundraiser to even know it was my daughter, or he would have known all that it was about.

I battled responding, and then let the worry of “overreacting” get the better of me. Surely he means well, Amy. He’s not a creeper like the rest.

‘Hi Chris. Hopefully you read about the fundraiser on the website. It’s for my daughter’s college tuition for Berklee music school. I have not been to L’s often. Twice I think.

I should have added that I could feel the creep factor strong, but he seemed nice enough, right? 

Today, while in session at the medical conference, I get a ping back, and it’s him.

I haven’t been FB much at all lately. So didn’t read much {IOW he didn’t actually give a shit}. Are you dating? Just curious.’

Truly, am I supposed to be flattered that you express fake interest in the most important person and event in my life right now, and feign a connection through someone I like and respect, in order to weasel your way to my response so that you can treat me like an object out for grabs?

I know, I know, he was being nice, right?

No.

It was innocent enough, right?

No.

He lied to get my response, to open the door enough, to test the boundary just enough to see if I was a Sexual Prospect.

I battled for about 3 minutes how I would respond. I asked myself how I could not come across as a bitch, was I overreacting, how could I be clear without making any potential future occurrence in our small town less than excruciatingly awkward, and then I did the only thing that felt right. I set a very clear boundary.

‘I am not interested in dating you.’

‘Sure, thank you. I hope that didn’t offend you. Take care.’

‘It did.’

Not only did I set a boundary, I let him know that I was, indeed, offended.

This is big for me. This was monumental for this 43-year-old fiercely independent woman. Because we are programmed to be scared of setting our personal boundaries, to honor our bodies, to justify away all the transgressions of our humanity, both within and without. It was small for some, but huge for me.

Why was it wrong?

  1. Because my body told me so
  2. Because falsehoods hurt everyone
  3. Because I am a human at the end of that instant messenger
  4. Because I am not on a dating site. Just because you are looking for that does not make it okay to assume I am.

He apologized, and this is where the self-doubt comes in. Was I too harsh? Should I not have told him that it did, indeed, offend me? And then I remembered all the times my boundaries have been crossed, and all the times I turned against my intuition, and that it led me down many a dark path.

And I have compassion for the men that truly don’t understand how this behavior perpetuates our current rape culture. I am not even going into the many subtleties here. And I am only speaking to male/female interaction because this is my personal experience. In no way do I claim that it’s the only time this happens. But, I am not going into that.

I am not here to justify my experience according to all the social norms and political correctness flying around out there. That is what got me, and so many millions of women in the world, here, in this predicament. I am sharing this to get it out of me, to learn how to (no matter how awkward it may come out) express my boundaries, be honest about my confusion, hopefully name and voice something that other women (people for that matter) experience as well.

In re-reading this post, I see a lack of NVC skills and practices, but a part of NVC tenet is to understand that someone’s reaction is theirs, right? So, I have enough faith in whomever reads this to understand that I have my stories that are woven in here. Judge all you want. You have not lived my life, my experience of being preyed on, if you judge.

And if you understand what I share, if some part of you resonates with this, trust it.

Trust that your body knows best.

Trust you are not overreacting when you honor your boundaries and expect that of others. 

Trust you deserve utmost respect.

 

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Pity Party

***saved this for some time, but working on being raw, so I am releasing it, as it no longer has any hold on me.***

It’s a pity party kind of afternoon. Movement certainly moves emotions, which is probably why I didn’t move for 5 months. I mean, not more than the typical jaunt to the loo, or to the frig, or to the shower. Maybe a few rolls in the hay. Basic life stuff happened. And that’s about it.

Oh, and I fell for a man.

And then, after 6 months of not feeling he was really into me, all while we were hanging out, and I ended my celibacy…not because he asked me to, but because I wanted to.

With him.

Yep, the whole 6 months, I just didn’t feel he was into me, and I finally shared my feelings in a heaping mess of tears. I essentially broke it off, because my conclusion was that he wasn’t into me, so why should I invest myself so much? Inside, I was begging for him to tell me I was wrong, to allay my fears. But no, he was just sweet and tender, like I wanted him to be all along. He reached out to me and caressed my hair, and held me lovingly. And I realized that’s what I had been wanting more of the whole time, that emotional presence.

That was three weeks ago. We didn’t talk for a week, and I was feeling like an ass, so I asked to talk to him on Mother’s Day, and it was good, and I thought we were on the same page. I apologized, I expressed my feelings, I cried. He was sweet and attentive, like I wanted…. I thought we were going to try to continue dating, but I didn’t hear from him for a week and a half…. Ok, one thing that you gotta know about me. I am a bit obsessive, but it’s not just about guys. It’s anything I am interested in. I love to dive in and get to know a person, a subject, a movement form, whatever catches my interest. And, I had been the main person keeping this relationship moving forward. So, I figured I would wait until I heard from him…..and every day I woke up wondering what was wrong with me, why was I so sad, why was I so attached? Why the hell has he not texted or called? Why did it matter if he contacted me? What is this sadness? Why the hell has he not reached out to me? Why can’t I just be mad at him? That’s always the easy way to move on….the easy way to move on.

Maybe I don’t want to move on.

I want to move in…to me.

I have lots of energy lately. I have worked out, and hiked, and generally been energetic and full of life and focus and interest, and it’s beautiful. Today, I even had the energy and actual desire to clean some of my home! Seriously, I don’t clean. I have a housecleaner come very 2-3 months. Otherwise, I spot clean. Maybe it was all that cleaning, that moving, that did it.

Sadness, moving up and through me. I wish I could understand it. I don’t want it right now, but I let it out anyway. And I am alone, so incredibly alone, and it’s beautiful and sunny out. Life’s been dull for months. I should be outside, hiking, running, laughing, using my body! Yet, I am in my house, pacing, pacing… so I walk to the park. I look at my phone.. no text from him still..how many days? Last Wednesday, so 10 days. Ouch. Six months of nearly every day to Nada. Zip. Abyss.

Go on a walk, yes, go on a walk outside. It will make you feel better. Do I take the phone? How about the journal? I am feeling inspired to write, but I want to move, and I don’t want to carry much. But I might want to take pictures, so do I take the phone? No, because then you will wonder why he hasn’t texted you. So I grab the journal, and the phone, and then I put them down and untether.

And I walk to the park, crying, moving, crying, wondering what the hell is going on inside my own self. And it’s hot and beautiful out, the sun burning through me. It cools my tears.

A chime in a near distance, and my heart quickens, all senses alert. In the next instant, I realize that what I thought was the sound of a text on my phone was a wind chime, a beautiful, sweet, tinkling wind chime. I am an addict! Like Pavlov’s dog, I wait for that little hit of dopamine, that microgram dose of affirmation that someone is thinking about me, that perhaps someone likes me, that I am not utterly and pathetically alone. And I am glad I left the phone at home…..

Because a pity party is best alone, at least to start. And a pity party can only continue without distractions from what’s bubbling up inside. And it can also only end without distractions from the outside.

And I wondered during my walk, and sitting and leaking tears on the park bench, how we can BE on the inside. I mean, we are inside of ourselves, but we spend so much of our time outside of ourselves, and living our lives according to the outside. It seems so simple, but it’s freaking profound.

And I will spare you from the million thoughts that raced through and around my head during that eternally short time on the bench, but it became clear that I want to know myself from the inside, to live more on the inside, or rather From the inside out.

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Pulling Double Duty: Happy Father’s Day to all Truly Single Moms

Most Father’s Days, I give myself a pat on my back and celebrate being both Mom and Dad for my only daughter. Today, as my daughter prepares to move out, I forgot…..until I received the sweetest voicemail from a fellow single mom who wanted to celebrate US for doing Double Duty all these years.

I have to admit I don’t quite know what being a Dad really is. I have an amazing Dad, who has saved me from the same failed relationship twice, once on the West Coast, last on the East Coast. Yet, I never got to witness a father grow into his role. I never got to struggle through that with a man. It was my choice to leave my daughter’s bi-coastal dad, and while I don’t regret my choice for multiple reasons, I do regret not having that family unit for myself and for my daughter.

I have met several fathers in this tiny town of Ashland, Oregon, who somehow manage to co-parent their children, stay active and in their childrens’ lives, and make the best of it. They are extremely supportive of their ex-wives, keep their mouth shut when needed, speak up when needed, and learn a different struggle. I have witnessed this more than the beauty of the family unit.

For my daughter’s entire life (she is now nearing 19), I would cry when I saw a father that was engaged and proud to be both a doting father and loving husband. I gave that up, because I knew it was not possible with the man that pollinated me. That doesn’t mean I didn’t long to have that and provide that.

Somehow, I managed to marry 2 more times, and each time the pivotal point was how they treated my daughter. We were a package deal. And those marriages didn’t last, and somehow….through the course of my daughter’s life, through my wish to have a family unit that I had given up, my daughter has had 3 fathers, all of whom are not in contact with her. And that kills me. If only I could turn back time, I would not undo my life for my sake, but I would for her’s.

So, I was the soft one, the hard one, the one who took her out on dates, and out to concerts. I am the one who took prom pictures, and spied on her internet activity. I was the one to set limits and consequences, and to talk about life and lessons hard learned. I was the one to teach her (or not) lessons about life, love, responsibilities, money, friends, school, morals and ethics, self-care, boundaries, relationships, cooking, cleaning, nature, self-reflection, and more. And it was tiring. I got to enjoy my daughter less, because I had to pull double duty. I have moved my daughter from the East Coast to the Southwest, to Maui, and to the West Coast.

And today, she is moving out.

And today, I got to be the dad that my dad was to me. Staying active has paid off, for I did the heavy lifting down one set of stairs and up a new. I had the joy of helping my daughter move safely into her new place. While it is tiring pulling double duty, I do get to partake in every aspect of helping her, and that’s a blessing. There are no parental duties doled out to one over the other.

fathers day standing stoneOn this Father’s Day, I flexed my muscles in support of my daughter, and then I celebrated by wine and dinner at her work, watching her at her first job, full of pride for the woman she is becoming. Double duty isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the hard work.

To all you single moms out there who hustle every day, and take care of every detail, who shuttle your kids around and advocate at school, and somehow manage work and children and playdates and afterschool activities….without the break that people in co-parenting relationships get…for the single moms doing your best to take care of your kids’ needs and still somehow take care of your own too…for those who must be the sole disciplinarian, sole counselor, playmate, life coach, family doctor, shuttle driver and comedian… HUGE kudos to you for pulling Double Duty.  Reach your arms out and wrap them around your awesome self in a big hug.

You are amazing.

 

 

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Convergence Divergence

I came on this page to write a letter to someone, and then I saw the Daily Prompt: Blossom. I don’t know about you, but there is something about the word Blossom that makes my heart swell, and I am reminded of the quote:

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom -Anais Nin

And I find that I am up against some tightness in my life, and not sure where to “break through,” but I sure know I want to blossom again. I have been in this stuck place for quite some time, and the more I look at where I am and talk to the amazing entrepreneurial people in my life, the more it is clear to me that I don’t believe in what I do.

When people ask me what I DO for a living, I tell them I am a Pharmacist, but I don’t say it with pride, and it’s not that I loathe what I do, or that I am not proud to be a Pharmacist. The problem is that I don’t believe in our Sickcare System. We have hundreds of thousands of people trying to take care of our population, but the insurance companies have tied our hands behind our backs. We document in ways that are not meaningful, and we focus on externally defined clinical measures, and we reduce the time with patients to get more through, all so we can survive and keep our doors open.

The problem is that people are getting sicker, and the truly heartfelt HealthCare providers are either burned out and leaving, or they are starting concierge services outside of the System. Not everyone can afford this……But, I digress. I could go on and on about our SickCare System, but I am here today to put words to this divergence within me.

A little over a year ago, I realized I wanted to dance and perform again, so I found a small local dance company and performed with them last April. This January, I found some ballet and modern dance classes in Portland and San Francisco, and it was AMAZING to feel my body respond after 11 years off! And I come home to my tiny hometown of Ashland, and there is just not enough here to get me in dance shape and to perform. My work as Director of Pharmacy is certainly not fulfilling that part of me. It fulfills other analytical, strategic and creative parts of me, but it doesn’t touch me deeply like movement and dance. My work does not help me get closer to myself.

So, I decided to start bringing more somatic experiences into my life (stay with me…..I am going somewhere with this). By day, I was building my little Pharmacy empire, and on weekends and evenings, I was doing Contact Improv and going to workshops like Orthobionomy and the Psoas with Liz Koch. You know, my timelines are all messed up. This really started last year when I did Mogadao Sacred Sexuality Workshops with Sarah Byrden. The Mogadao work so spoke to me that I have done pretty much everything Sarah has offered in my area since then. I did a 5-day backpacking trip in the Trinity Alps with 11 other women (Sarah included) last summer, where I entered a portal of existence that felt more consistently awake to the synchronicity of life than ever before. Recently, I went on a writing retreat called Writing Back to the Body, with both Sarah Byrden and Kate Grey, in the most beautiful area of Hood River, Oregon. Wow! I couldn’t believe that all the times I had gone to Portland, I had not continued north into the Columbia Gorge. Put that place on your Bucket List! At the same time, I was starting an online course with Sarah to take more time to learn her work, which I had started in person with her the prior year.

So, now I have somatic experience, sacred sexuality work (which includes qi gong), and what is called the Gateless writing method at the most recent retreat working their magic in my life. The Gateless method is an amazing way of not only fostering an immensely safe and loving space between a room full of what may be strangers, but also a surefire way to turn off your inner critic and see what comes through. 

multnomah falls

Feeling radiant after a week of Gateless writing, sharing and loving

During the retreat, I realized that the Gateless method could be used in so many ways, and potentially with dancers. If I could have tapped into that and seen that the critical way is not the most fruitful way, I may not have put aside my dance shoes for so many years and I may not have suffered 24 years of shame and guilt and wondering. So much wondering…

It didn’t take long before I contacted Suzanne Kingsbury to sign up for the Gateless Teacher Training in July. I explained to her that I have this profession of pharmacy that I worked very hard for, and it allows me a good living. Yet, what I am most passionate about is movement and the spiritual alignment that happens through conscious movement. I explained to her that I want to find a way to marry what feel like 2 divergent sides of myself. I was offered the Golden Scribe scholarship, and am excited to say that I will soon be certified in the Gateless Writing Method!  

Yep, I signed up for the training, and instantly entered the Convergence Zone.

You know how sometimes your life goes through phases of being almost freakishly synchronistic? My last couple weeks were very much that way, and it has me feeling nervous and excited. I went home to visit family in New Mexico and to celebrate my sister’s wedding. Well, after 5 days of being with the whole family, they left town and I had a whole week to myself in my parents’ home.

Ok, you ready for this? The Mogadao Institute was founded in Santa Fe, New Mexico by Zhenzan Dao, the man that trained Sarah Byrden in the Sacred Sexuality work she teaches. He had been in silence for quite some time, and recently came out of silence and started teaching again in Santa Fe. I had the immense pleasure of entering 2 days of training with him and his students, two of which I did the backpacking trip with last year, and who moved from both Oregon and Montana to train with him! It felt so new and like a reunion at the same time.

I could write a small book about the magic of Santa Fe that week and what transpired in the classes with Zhenzan and his students, but I will save that for later. Suffice to say, the sky was alive, and so was my heart and my curiosity. I left knowing I would train with Zhenzan at some point. And that Wednesday, after gong fu and Mogadao yoga and then meditation, I met with my best friend Shane Robinson, whom I had met in Albuquerque 16ish years prior, and we had both lived in Maui at one point, and now he happened to be flying into Santa Fe! Lives converging on this planet over thousands of miles, over and over, I refuse to consider merely a coincidence.

Many other magical things happened, but the magic of the possibility of the Mogadao training and the softness and strength of reverence and daily attunement to our body’s needs speaks to a place in me that is timeless and not of this current realm of reality we live in.

And so, what led me to a Sacred Sexuality course was curiosity of having a more intimate experience with my partner at the time, and I was inspired from there to partake in my first backpacking trip, deeper communion with nature, more embodiment, a writing retreat, Gateless Teacher Training, and potentially training someday….someday with a monk named Zhenzan Dao in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Life is a beautiful unfolding of possibilities and connections. We have only to trust in that unfolding and allow ourselves to blossom into our desires.

To be continued….

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So you want inside?

Let me start with this:

‘If you can’t fall in love with my inside, 

Don’t bother touching my outside.’

If you want to be in my life, and be the subject of my sweet love, I need the following:

Presence – love me with your presence, not an eagerness-to-please puppy-like presence, but a full-bodied willingness and devotion to bringing all of yourself to meet and see all of me.

A willingness to be seen – you accept and love yourself enough to allow others (me) to see all of you. I can see it anyway, so open up and drop the disguise. You are so much more beautiful raw and tender.

Touch – not the ass-grabbing lusty touch (not yet), and not the possessive arm around my shoulder “she’s mine” type of touch. I want and need the small touches, the hand on the small of my back, the reaching for my hand, the brushing of my hair and my cheek with your hand….hands. They are so powerfully sensuous and healing. I want deep embraces, long hugs, breathing together, exhaling together. Your touch, your reaching out, tells me you want to connect, that you like to connect with me, and that you are proud to be seen with me.

Laughter – Not the kind that is constant and tells me you are actually just awkward and self-conscious, but the kind that lights up the room, that shows me that no matter how hard life is, you are able and willing to see a silver lining. You can laugh at yourself out of compassion for your humanity, which means you can laugh WITH me not at me.

Commitment – I want to know, before I share those most sacred parts of me, that you are committed to being emotionally aware, that you care about my long-term well-being, that you are willing and wanting to be there when I am vulnerable and raw and tender.

I want you to reach out to me as much as I reach out to you. Meet me in the middle. Are you committed to self-growth, to facing the shadows that will arise in both of us, and to working through those consciously? You must be to be with me.

TruthFull – If you lie at all, do not call on me again. Withholding is lying. I only tolerate truth in my life. I am forever seeking to unearth more and more of my truth, and if you are on that path, then we can share the trust built in immense vulnerability in the sharing of our most intimate Selves.

Answer Me – I have an insatiable curiosity. Be ready to answer questions. Understand it is because you are important to me that I seek to understand you. If you hide yourself from me, be ready for an inquisition. This goes back to being present and honest and committed to truth. I cannot sleep when I have burning questions, so talk with me. I am not a mind reader. Help me understand.

Not only am I inquisitive, but I need communication. Trust is built through honest, frequent communication about desires, needs, issues, uncertainties, and even the mundane things like how we plan our times together. On that note, I have a hard time asking for what I want (hence this writing), so please understand that, and when I ask for something, PAY ATTENTION.  It was hard for me to ask for what I want, so it’s important if I do.

Integrity – I don’t want a hero. I don’t want someone who claims to be something he can’t then fulfill. Be a man of your word. Have your words and actions match. Don’t lead me on with ‘maybes’ and ‘I’ll try’. This goes back to commitment and honesty. If you aren’t into it, just say so. Don’t cop-out with maybes. They put me on a hook of hope, and I am done with that.

If you want something, tell me and then let’s make it happen. If you don’t want something tell me, and let’s actually not do that again. If you are unsure, for God’s sake, tell me and then let’s discuss what that means.

This is not a job for the faint of heart, for the weak-willed, nor for anyone out of integrity. Loving me (loving Anyone) is a calling. It beckons you in the middle of the night, it leads you again and again to the place where we meet, looking asking, holding, waiting……

Waiting for the knowing that nobody else makes sense, and that whatever our love is, it is good, full-bodied, wholesome, passionate and true.

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Reconciling Great Love Lost

How does one reconcile the loss of  what we cellularly feel as “great Love”? How does one trust after having the love of your life leave suddenly, violently? How does one trust again when someone who you trust so deeply turns on you?

My divorce from two years ago is rearing its head, and I am realizing and finally acknowledging the true effects of what happened. I loved this 3rd husband with more of my heart and soul than the others. I loved all of them, or I would not have married them. I loved them deeply, but my first one was fraught with mental abuse and generally unmeetable expectations on both sides. I was so young.

My second one, we let each other live our lives. He was very good to me, except that he was not faithful to me, and never admitted it, even though I caught him over and over. After 6 years, I realized I could never trust him again, and left. I loved him, I accepted him, and I found him help, and I knew I deserved more.

With my third husband, the stars aligned to bring us together.  I feel like a kook when I say this, except that it’s TRUE. We looked at each other after our first kiss, and both said, without hesitation, that this was not our first lifetime doing this. We merged. Our lives merged. Our soul journey merged. And, in retrospect, this wasn’t the healthiest thing. I will say, though, that I finally felt safe. And the instant I felt safe, he threatened divorce (SO out of the blue), and we went downhill from there. He tried to take it back 3 minutes later, but the damage was done……he was gone just under 10 months later.

But enough of that. Now, now….NOW, I don’t know what love should feel like. I want excitement, desire, trust, comfort, Knowing….acceptance. I am fully willing to give that. And last night, as I sit wondering if the current object de mi corazon is thinking of me and wishing he was….I realized that what missed from all 3 husbands was their curiosity of ME. None of them wanted to know ALL of me. And while the first 2 did not reject me for my dark side, my third one certainly did.

But it’s not just the dark side. They were not curious about my dreams, my aspirations, what makes me tick, what ticks me off. They did not ask me what turned me on. My first was very explorative in bed, but none of them showed an interest and ability to meet me. I can see that I was not able to meet myself, so it makes sense. My third, same thing. He showed enough curiosity to quell my fears, to find out how to capture me, but the curiosity didn’t last.

Now, I find myself wanting companionship, wanting love, wanting someone to want to be with me. I felt wanted by my husbands, but perhaps I gave myself too quickly. I have virtually reconnected with the person I lost my virginity to many moons ago. He says he reminisces about our times together (24 years later). I thought I meant nothing. He asked how I am, and I told him that I am now guarded, and that I want a man to knock on the door of my heart, and not stop, until I am ready to answer the door, until I trust he means it. 

I am tired of being the second option. I am tired of being with untrustworthy men. I don’t want second best. I want soul-shaking love, the one that allows me to blossom fully. I feel it best to remain guarded somewhat, but then how does love come in? Is there anyone out there emotionally healthy that also is willing to go the extra mile to show his interest in me? Who is willing to stay open through it all? Who loves himself enough to choose love over loneliness and protection?

I could say the same to myself, and I do. I like someone. I open up, but like a flower, I will close my petals when the sun isn’t shining. I may not bloom again, at least not for that person. Life is too short for being second choice. Life is too short for so-so love. I just don’t know if I will ever feel mutual love again, but I hope and I remember, and I ache inside, and I try and give myself more love to ease the ache. But it hurts to lose love, and it hurts to not have someone to lean into and to trust.

God, I want to trust again. I so want to be able to trust again….

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In The Mirror

I feel sick to my stomach, and all I want to do is lie down and pass out. How did I end up with a freaking complexion mirror for this prompt? I know it will only bring out the OCD in me, the nit picker, the critic, the one who is never happy.

I don’t want to look at my self, so I remove myself from the room to lie down, but am uncomfortable still, and walk back into a room of women staring intently at themselves. I need my blankie.

Excuse Me. Hope I’m not disturbing what I am so desperately resisting doing.

I feel sick, and the couch and my blankie feel perfect. Lying back, I let another long belch out. Between cramps and digestion issues, I couldn’t be further from comfortable, so let’s just dig in! How about that eczema?! Take a look closer, because, you know, you Have to in order to not go cross-eyed with these mirrors.

I can’t see the whole picture, just exaggerated bits, like every single pore, clogged, the etching of the past 2 years on my face, the whiskers. Holy HELL! When did 2 whiskers become 5, …..8?!

Skip to the eyes, the seat of the soul. Icy blue, unmoving, challenging – don’t pass. It’s easier to look from the side. Fuck, I don’t want to do this. That’s why I write abstract. I don’t want to reveal the boring truth that I am not as happy as I claim to be, that I don’t believe myself, that I believe my critic, that I hate the way my body feels, and I don’t want to touch or see my own body.

It’s the same old shit, day in, day out, and it hasn’t gone away. Years of therapy, eating disorder treatment, meditation, blah, blah….it’s still there waiting to eat me alive.

Oh yeah, the mirror…..ever notice that you can actually see through the mirror? No, like an optical trick, so you don’t have to see the detail, just an essence of you overlaid on what’s behind the mirror.

Ah, this I can do. Golden strands of hair between my hand and the canned lighting above me, and if I move the mirror to touch my face, I can put the can where my pupil should be.

This should be easy, right? I talk about life and people as your mirror all the fucking time. It’s easy to talk about others, to reflect to others. I don’t want to see my reflection. I don’t like what I see anymore. I try. You know, self-love, that illusive state of self-acceptance and compassion. Flighty mother-fucker she is!

Some days, the reflections of others are enough to override my own demons. Other days, they only incite the heavy tongue of my…..what shall we call that voice?

It doesn’t matter – because when that critic comes in, it doesn’t leave room for anything else. It shuts the blinds on light, snuffs the hearth, locks away the instruments, and pins the body immobile. Like a black hole, it sucks the breath out, and all your vitality with it…

God, the mirror. I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t like what it reflects. It’s not true. I guess I am a good person. I do mean well, but I am always waiting to be called out. I want to be. Someone tell me I am full of shit, please, about anything, because I want truth. I want it more than anything. I can handle truth.

It’s gotta be better than the tale I spin around the voices in my head. My grandmother was schizophrenic. I once walked in on her talking with God. “God, you know, you just need to cut off his big toe,” she said, very assuredly and matter of factly.

I grew up looking in the mirror, analyzing every centimeter of my 95-pound ballerina body. 3% bodyfat was as low as I could go before my body started eating itself. One day, I sat in the shower stall, slumped in the corner considering suicide. I was convinced I was fat, and perhaps it would be easier to end it than to deal with these voices, these incessant voices.

So, I really don’t like mirrors. They remind that dark side of me of what I am NOT.

And our time is up, and I haven’t really gone anywhere but in circles, and I am loving lying in my sea of blue today.

*Day 1 of “Writing Back to the Body” with Kate Gray and Sarah Byrden in Hood River, OR

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Tar Baby

Full, distended, smaller bites please

I can’t digest this muddled morass of happenings

Slow down little rabbit, take a breath,

come near

to what’s dear.

I cannot hear the echo of my longings

too much to digest

stuck

Tar baby, sleep it off, let dreams fly.

When it’s too much, I want to purge,

but is that not wasteful?

Too much to digest

Swallow it all. Swallow the pride.

Swallow the pain.

Pretty bird, don’t chirp. I’ll swallow you too.

Stuck halfway down, a-flutter, feathers

heavy with swallowed tears.

Churn, baby, churn — let loose your sluggishness

Oh, to purge all this.

It’s too much to digest.

It seeps out my pores, my eyes, fills my insides

with tar, slow, heavy tar.

Tar baby, Burn!

Stoke the fire, so small, so small

Let the smoke of wet flesh burn the

caverns of your soul.

Churning, burning, purging

I can’t see through you,

I can’t feel into you.

Hiding there in my body

Drawing the drapes over my eyes

Shrouding the seat of my power, my vitality.

But I remember sunshine, and white light pulsating,

piercing the darkness, penetrating the void

Burning purity

I remember the halo, the satisfaction

somewhat

like a distant land, a country visited, perhaps in a dream…

but a dream…

certainly dreams come true.

I once was a tree, a weeping willow,

draping tall and lithe over a puddle

and a plum dropped right through me

Sending ripples along my waters

out to tendrils of my longing..

And birds nestled in my throat

tickling my hair and singing my joy.

I was wholly me,

yet not of my body.

Eternal

Floating within

Dripping ease

Fluid, time-stripped

Pure essence

The memory – too much to digest

Turn it off, tone it down, forget.

I can’t reconcile where I was to where I am.

I can’t digest the losses I have endured

And it is mine to bare.

Burrow down, rabbit. Sleep it off.

Let the night slumbers

Shroud your sorrow.

*Day 1 of “Writing Back to the Body” with Kate Gray and Sarah Byrden in Hood River, OR

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When I Breathe Out

When I breathe out,

the waves rush through me

sputtering along the rocky edges

spewing foam

only to leave me barren

desolate

yearning

aging

agony, grief, despair hiss hot

scorching my tongue

brittle dry, crunchy earth of love

desolate womb, unborn’s empty cry

pomegranate heart

sand-filled buddha body

sinking

formless

gravity’s sculpture

mound of barren truth

unknown beginnings

**written Day 1 at a retreat with Kate Gray and Sarah Byrden in Hood River, OR

 

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Pixons of a mirror

Trying to capture what it’s like when I am writing with all of my senses alight.

Last night, nestled in my chair, super soft blanket resting on my legs that felt so tired, heavy, relenting.

Wondering, ‘How does one tie kinesthetic experience with visual, with emotional, all into one image?’ For when any aspect has focus, it is seeing the others through its own lens. It is a trifecta of 2 additional possibilities = endless possibilities, like pixons* of a mirror.

What I see is me writing-what I hear is what I see inside, what I feel emotionally has physical sensation, which has a visualization to match, always still watching myself write. Each sensation has a visualization of energy, movement, texture, that overlays my visual and physical reality.

Someday, I may be able to both experience this completely emcompassing physical, sensual, mental, emotional experience and write about it…. but for now, I made up the word pixon. Or so I thought. Seems it was already a thing with NASA.

*I totally made this word up in the moment…

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