Sunday, February 22, 2015

You Don't Own Me

My mind makes these amazing connections just as I wake up and sometimes they're so good I just have to write about them. That's how I woke up today.

I belong to many "tribes" that band together for many kinds of purposes. Sometimes it's a gathering for one special night, like when I went to a LA Times scholarship dinner, other times it lasts a few years like going to Pasadena City College. Though the experience of deep involvement may end, I am still a part of that experience.

The amount of attention each of these connections requires, depends on factors like my ability and or desire to participate. I put the scholarship and school on my resume, of course, but I don't do much beyond that.

Though I don't carry a card or badge for one of the tribes, my dedication does shine bright in my heart. I am a feminist. No, not a humanist or a participant in all of mankind.

I certainly like men, they're great. I especially love and value my husband. Who's also a feminist.

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver did a segment on Why is this still a thing regarding Sports Illustrated Swimsuit addition. Making fun of the controversy the magazine stirs up thus driving up the circulation to 10 times its regular issues.

I figured out why such rampant sexism gets so much play. Sure, it sells, I get that. It's more because sexist asshats can dodge the obvious degradation 11 months of the year.

Back in the day of video stores, most independent stores had a porn section. Usually behind a curtain, like some dirty little secret. These rooms usually accounted for 30 percent of the profit, but take up only 10 percent of the floor space.

My feminism drives me to point out when media objectifies women, though I am not calling for censorship of porn videos or Sports Illustrated. That isn't the point. And, making a stink drives traffic to the very thing we feminists wish to change.

One area of recent controversy pitting feminists and so called "men's rights" advocates against each other comes from a criticism of computer gaming. I think guys chose this environment as a rallying point because it also has that "just part" dodge. They can pretend and delude themselves that they're not objectifying women because it's only a bit of the game.

They don't go into the game to kill hookers, they didn't set up the rules. It's not THEIR fault the points are more important than people.

I am a feminist because it's the way to deal with bullies. Ignore, turn their rhetoric back on them and tribe up. That's my strategies.

I believe we can adjust these objectifying sexist humiliating items by putting forth more women in places of obvious power. We need more CEOs, more senators and candidates in general with a feminist agenda.

I'm a realist. We're never going to eliminate these dirty little secrets from the world. Lets try to reduce the percentages. And remember, living well is the best revenge.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Make Your Own Kind of Music

We all learn to live and be in the world based on our experiences. Some teach us to love ourselves, some to feel confusion over ordinary events and some to catch fire with rage filled outbursts.

It's tough to know how much to react to the past. How long do we grieve over our losses? It seems to be different for everyone. I accept that reality. I suggest you do too.

Bullying came to mind lately when I tried to find where I outlined some strategies for dealing with people who treat us with disrespect. Though I found a couple of posts about it, apparently, I didn't write about the strategy my husband uses. At least not on this blog.

I have said that I use the ignore strategy most often and I concentrate on what my friends and I are doing. This works the best for me. I don't want to give a bully or mean person any more energy than I have to. I find stepping aside is the minimum amount of energy I am willing to expend.

My husband told me of his turn about strategy and I see it as a useful, possibly more male oriented method for dealing with bullying. Say a bully uses an insult to try and humiliate you. He starts with, "You're ugly. " Rather than denying his statement, turn it around on him. Tell him, "You're not ugly! Don't let people talk to you that way."

Often bullies don't expect this and it confuses them. Anything they say, reflect back. Be aware that being confused and reflected upon might anger a person who's intent is to hurt you. Best to leave before this confusion turns to violence.

Ask for help from people you love and trust. Hang out with people who are doing things you enjoy. Have your own group of friends. Sing your own special song.

You can even do these strategies, ignore, turn about and do your own thing, if the bullying is a memory from your past. I do it all the time.

I see the person who hurt me and use my mind to avoid them. I think about something they've said and imagine what I might say to them now. My mother and sisters called me a black sheep. I can say that I am so sad that they thought that about themselves. It really explains a lot. Hurt people, hurt others.

That idea emboldens me. Makes me think, wow, how sad that they are driven to hurt someone from their own place of pain. They're standing in fire trying to drag me in. I can douse them with water from outside. I don't have to let the flames consume me too.

Finally, we can all find our tribe. Those people who buoy our spirit and put that sparkle in our eye. For me, that first tribe started with science fiction conventions. All those things people teased me about in school became points of attraction.

I guess that wasn't the exact first, first there were my other friends with sight problems. We banded together and bonded over our struggles. In high school I even thought of us as a gang. The misfit gang. I wanted jackets of our own.

These days I have a cadre of gal pals from the gym, a bunch of friends on Facebook, IRC and even a couple people on Twitter. If someone starts teasing, it doesn't go too deep. My emotional skin has toughened up. Yours can too.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Evergreen

I celebrated my 51st birthday yesterday and mentioned that I might be a bit edgy. Someone comforted me about getting older. I love that part. I love being a grown up who gets to do what she wants with her own life. And I love cake.

Though I didn't get any. I'll get some on the weekend. There will be more free time then. More party party life.

My mind started to think about being ageless. The atoms that make up this body will continue to exist after the coalescence they currently represent dissipate. These bits of matter will group together to form other interesting things, like trees, water, air and even other conscious beings.

Ageless, weightless and fearless define my existence. My body will let go of all it's glory at some point. Until then, I'll let it carry my contemplative brain.

I often wonder what makes me this me? Why am I different from others who have experienced similar things? Why am I fearless? Why do some people cower at the thought of being alone or deny the opportunities of great adventure?

I named this blog Learn to Live Brave, but my friends didn't feel people would understand the title. We talked about alternatives and someone suggested My Fearless Life. This "market research" led to a bit of something I don't completely agree with.

I don't think fearlessness exists really. I believe in courage. That is, feeling the fear and going on anyway. Turning fear into action, that's what I want to do.

I breath out bits of who I am with each breath. Skin cells fall away every moment I'm alive. My hairbrush fills with follicles so often I wonder if I'm balding! Lucky others replace the loose strands.

Matter cannot be destroyed, only transferred. I've even read that losing weight doesn't get rid of the cells where fat lived. We keep those. They just empty out their contents. Kind of like a storage place without any customers.

No wonder losing weight is so hard. Those fat cells must get lonely for their "stuff."

Nothing stays the same. Accept that. I am ageless, weightless and fearless. Any of those sensations are transitions to another place. I love them, age weight and fear, for what they do for me while they're around. They have a purpose and I honor their value.

And now this is me letting go of permanence. Let go and learn to love.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Masochism Tango

Fifty Shades of Gray comes out today and I thought I would explore any manner of fetish methods for lovemaking. This lovely Tom Lerher song always brought a smile to my face so I decided to use it as title.

Masochism Tango  and 50 Shades both exploit the concept of pain as pleasure. Though I haven't read the book, I have know people that enjoy the practice. 

Not all bondage, dominance and submissive behavior involves pain. Some people enjoy limiting their own or someone else's movement. Wrapping yourself in nothing but plastic wrap to excite your spouse would be a form of bondage. 

Then there's piercing. While the initial studding might be painful, once the punctured area has healed, more often the stud acts as a method for enhancing pleasure. These more dense, usually metal, objects create a new sensation in an otherwise conventional sex act. Kissing someone with a pierced tongue or lip may produce a noticeable difference from a non pierced partner. 

Often when I speak of behaviors, some assume I partake. If I did, I would say so. I make no judgments on anyone else's consensual choices, but being tied up and or pain as pleasure do not excite me in any way.

I guess if have any kind of fetish, it would be creating stories sometimes involving sex. These usually have a science fiction theme so some involve alien encounters and exotic partners. I'll save such details for any future novel and short story writing. Suffice to say, I have a normal healthy fantasy life. 

Cindi Lauper wrote a whole musical based on the concept of dressing up fetishes. Kinky Boots won Lauper a Tony too. Gay men love to dress as women and many a joke has been made about guys who like to wear women's underwear. 

Some people like to dress up as characters from films like Star Wars Think Princess Leia in a chain mail bikini. Some engage in costume play featuring plush play toy like animals themes. Often referred to as "furry" by those who partake, I've know people who go so far as to pretend to BE that animal while in costume. Furries engage in sexual play and can even have sex without breaking their fantasy role. 

People may become attracted to using leather, silk, fur, rubber and latex as items for stimulation. Sometimes in the form of undergarments or specific items like leather gloves used exclusively in the bedroom.

One could go on for quite a while on the various objects and experiences people find sexually arousing. Some of these are so common place as to be somewhat "normal." Like people who find long luxurious hair on women or beards on men a most attractive feature. 

Whatever floats your boat can be found out there somewhere. So long as every adult involved agrees to the activity, I say go for it. Get your kink on. Happy Valentines Weekend. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Total Eclipse of the Heart

Turn around, every now and then I fall apart. So?

Living in a powder keg and giving off sparks. So now I choose to make fireworks. Something that glows bright and brings joy to the hearts of children.

Ever notice the word "imperfect" becomes "I'm perfect" when broken apart? A shattered soul might expose their inner workings more often than a whole sphere of consciousness, and that's okay.

Flaws fill our lives with wonder. They challenge the box, the status quo with their need for attention. I need attention. I LIKE that about me.

None of you would know the amazing gifts I have to share had there not been flaws in my upbringing. Or maybe you would have, I don't know for sure.

Maybe it's possible I am the way I am and the dirt tossed on my psyche was just a thing that happened. The shine can't get dull.

Maybe when I say how I feel, it's a chance for you and I to connect. Maybe it's a chance for me to realize you need something from me. Maybe it's a chance to experience that others have their own inner space.

Sometimes it's a signal to part. I tend to hold tight. The part of me that does that, lost so much. They're the same one who can fly off the handle and "break up" when they get deeply hurt. Odd that.

I will try and ease off the clutch and let myself coast a little. If I can teach another driver to find the sweet spot, I should be able to find it for me.

Remember, the moon only eclipses the sun for a short time. It alway comes back.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Somebody that I used to know

Breaking up creates stress and mess. Even the best reasons and calm decisions leave us feeling let down.

It's been over 20 years since the divorce from my ex husband became final. I know I made the right choice and yet I still feel some regret.

Once in a while I look up his name to see if there are any web pages where I can see what he might be doing with himself. I noticed a LinkedIn account. I avoided visiting it as I wanted my spying to be anonymous. I knew it would let him know that I'd viewed his profile. I didn't want to intrude.

Curiosity got the better of me and I clicked on the link. The gray haired bearded man who stared back took me by surprise. How could he age so starkly? Any second now, I expected a voice to boom from my speakers, "You kids get off my lawn!"

Yes, I'm going to be 51 years old in a couple of weeks. Old enough to be a grandmother. He's old enough to be a grandfather. I knew this, but didn't "feel" it until I saw his picture.

After a few days, another kind of curiosity took me to look at my eldest sister's Facebook profile. I wanted to see what she had to say about the death of our mother.

I unfriended her last summer, but she still posted all her posts so anyone can see them. I saw a photo of my mother that my other sister had posted on her Facebook page. I didn't even know that sister used Facebook.

In the depths of writing my book, I've been thinking a lot about family. It's slow painful work. Plus today is my sister Cokie's birthday. Because she posted the photo of my mother, I also looked at her profile.

She looked happy. Part of me hopes she is, another part feels a deep sense of... what do I call it? Rage? That's the word that first comes to mind.

I feel justified at being angry, well to some extent. My ex and my sisters all deeply betrayed me. In a sense, they did so in the same kind of letting down. My ex cheated on me and I feel my sisters chose my mother over me.

They all chose someone else, someone I feel not as "good" or "cool" as me. My friend my ex took up with had plenty of emotional problems. And I'm SURE my mother talked about any number of difficult topics.

These are the issues that I once believed caused the rifts between them and me. My ex told friends that it was "okay" for him to sleep with my friend because "my wife is frigid and crazy." My sisters constantly told me to "get over it" whenever I tried to resolve the past.

I do realize that what they say are the issues, often only touch one layer of the truth. Though that understanding often comes much later.

Why would those who use the word "love" decide to act in such disrespectful ways? I often wonder what about me makes me so unlovable. It's not a truth, plenty of people care about me, but I'm deeply confused that it doesn't seem to be those who are supposed to do it.

I keep trying to give up the fantasy of a family connection. It still hurts. I cling to the awareness that my dad loved me. And my amazing husband Murry treats me with amazing dignity and respect.

I'm trying to make that enough.

Happy Birthday Sister. I hope you are happy and do find peace.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bridge Over Troubled Water

I lost count of the number of therapy type people I've talked to over the years. Though only two truly stand out, I have a couple memories of a few others. I'll start with the best and then talk a little about the other experiences.

John Bradshaw saved my sanity. Though I've never net the man, his series of lectures on PBS put so much of my traumatic childhood in perspective. I valued his insights so much that I wanted to go to his center for treatment.

There was no way I could afford the thousand dollar a day inpatient experience, but I did find a person to talk to who had training in the same therapeutic philosophy.

Hindsight tells me I needed a male therapy guy first. I needed to see a good person with a masculine viewpoint so I could deal with living with a very violent female guardian and my mother.

Though men did scare me a little, I liked them better than women. He wasn't an ex at the time, I asked my ex to go into the therapy room with me. It helped calm my fear that the therapy guy would mistreat me.

My husband Phil proved to be a good asset to my experience. He had insight of my daily life that the therapy guy couldn't know, plus he had a creative side that surprised even me.

This DID lead to my counselor referring to my ex and I as one person. He called it enmeshment. Though I don't think it was the whole truth, I could see it had some notes of reality.

In order to resolve a lot of emotional pain, my therapy guy suggested I draw what I felt. I made a lot of progress and through these drawings found bits of myself and gained a lot of insight on who I was and who I could become.

When I found a way to draw an image of the guardian who abused me the most, so much of the fear and pain she caused moved from inside my head to the drawing. I felt much freer. So calm, in fact that I could move on to a female therapy person.

My new counselor, Kristen, helped me understand the adult world. This might sound strange, considering I was in my late 20's when I went to her.

The truth of my rough childhood was no one taught me how to be "grown up." I mean I rejected violence and drinking so I just didn't know how to be calm and go about making friends or having a normal job.

My ex and I split up a few months after I started seeing Kristen. I got a job and started rebuilding my adult life. I didn't know how to handle when my boss treated me disrespectfully. Kristen taught me that it was okay to go cry in the bathroom and how to communicate better.

I still use her phrases of, "When you... I feel.. I would prefer..." whenever I feel stress talking with someone.

While I was working with my therapy gal, I attended Survivors of Incest Anonymous meetings too. I'm so lucky and grateful for the ladies of that group. I learned so much and got a really good handle on the flashback memories I occasionally experienced.

I learned that we would never forget, but in time could remember with far less pain. They taught me that personal history has only part to do with who we really are.

I moved too far away to keep going to therapy and Survivors meetings. Though I felt sad about this, I did feel I had a pretty good handle on my life.

I did have other therapy like experiences in my new area, though none of them rose to quality of the Bradshaw trained people.

I had tried counseling before, too. One lady I found from her column in the newspaper. I felt a little abused by the way she acted. I had an angry reaction thinking about the man who molested me. I told her I wanted to squish him like the bug that he was. She shamed me, telling me that I was wrong for having that though.

I left and never went back. I don't suggest anyone ever DO anything to people who harmed them. The consequences are too high a price to pay, but I see no problem expressing the feelings that come up. No matter what those feelings are. After all, that's the main point of therapy. It's a wonderful chance to talk about and resolve the past.

My last "therapy" session really made a big difference on my emotional state. After I ran from my doctors office, I felt deep shame at being "that crazy person." I called to find out if the medicaid plan I had would let me talk to someone about the incident.

The very nice woman listened with compassion and understanding. She assured me that my reaction made sense in context of my lifetime of experiences. She let me know that I had every right to be in charge of my own health and that it was okay to change doctors.

For those of us who grew up getting all kinds of mixed messages, it's sometimes maddening to have to do MORE work to recover. I know I am angry that I I have to pay twice. Once while I was an innocent child and once as an adult with flashbacks and uncertainty.

None of it is a guaranty to put us on a road to sanity. From my observation, no substance kept the pain at bay either. So I kept looking for answers. I'm grateful I found good and decent help.

Thank you, Scott, Kristen and Megan. I feel you saved my life, I know you saved my sanity.