“So sometimes I need to be reminded that my body is mine.”

Today’s post comes from Return the Gayze, a blog I was alerted to by a Facebook post linked to me by a friend in a private message…you know how it goes. However I stumbled across it, I needed to share it with you.

The post is about massage, about pain, about buried trauma, about what we can offer one another as healer and client, as survivor and witness, as human beings who are made for touch.

Susan tells me that her job as a masseuse is not necessarily to get rid of the pain, but rather to bear witness to it. To recognize it. To affirm it. She says that we live in a country — a world — that teaches us at every level that our hurt is a story we made up. And we internalize that to our core and write it into every muscle in our body. “I am wrong, I am wrong, I am wrong.” She says that sometimes acknowledgment can be its own sort of antidote. That sometimes people just need to hear that what happened to them was not their fault. That people tend to know what is best for themselves, they’ve just been told over and over again that they don’t.

Read the whole thing, by Alok Vaid-Menon, here.

Unhappy Hour

unhappy-389944_1920

Rob Brezsny of Free Will Astrology is the only astrologer whose email newsletter I subscribe to. I don’t bother with astrology most of the time, but Brezsny’s attitude and message and cheeky grace (“Free Will Astrology,” I mean, what’s not to love?) get to me, and he frequently writes things that inspire me with their hippy-dippy yet fiercely wise fun-loving awesomeness.

Here’s one, that I offer as my recommendation to everyone today who is suffering from grief, anger, loss, injustice, and pain. I don’t know yet if it works, though I’m thinking of trying it.

 You’re invited to celebrate Unhappy Hour. It’s a ceremony that gives you a poetic license to rant and whine and howl and sob about everything that hurts you and makes you feel bad.

During this perverse grace period, there’s no need for you to be inhibited as you unleash your tortured squalls. You don’t have to tone down the extremity of your desolate clamors. Unhappy Hour is a ritually consecrated excursion devoted to the full disclosure of your primal clash and jangle.

Here’s the catch: It’s brief. It’s concise. It’s crisp. You dive into your darkness for no more than 60 minutes, then climb back out, free and clear. It’s called Unhappy Hour, not Unhappy Day or Unhappy Week or Unhappy Year.

Do you have the cheeky temerity to drench yourself in your paroxysmal alienation from life? Unhappy Hour invites you to plunge in and surrender. It dares you to scurry and squirm all the way down to the bottom of your pain, break through the bottom of your pain, and fall down flailing in the soggy, searing abyss, yelping and cringing and wallowing.

That’s where you let your pain tell you every story it has to tell you. You let your pain teach you every lesson it has to teach you. But then it’s over. The ritual ordeal is complete. And your pain has to take a vacation until the next Unhappy Hour, which isn’t until next week sometime, or maybe next month.

You see the way the game works? Between this Unhappy Hour and the next one, your pain has to shut up. It’s not allowed to creep and seep all over everything, staining the flow of your daily life. It doesn’t have free reign to infect you whenever it’s itching for more power.

Your pain gets its succinct blast of glory, its resplendent climax, but leaves you alone the rest of the time.

 If performed regularly, Unhappy Hour serves as an exorcism that empties you of psychic toxins, while at the same time — miracle of miracles — it helps you squeeze every last drop of blessed catharsis out of those psychic toxins.

Get more at Rob’s site.

Childhood, consent, and learning to be human

In anticipation of my talk on embodied consent in September, I’m going to writing a lot about consent in this space. I’m away until August 10, so for the next two entires, you’ll be getting reruns. Here’s an oldy but goody that practically went viral when I first posted it.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can make me think I deserved it.

Can’t we do better?

What imprints do we receive as children?  When you were five, or six, or seven, what messages really stuck and taught you how people ought to treat each other, how you deserved to be treated, and what options you had for interaction with others?

I know for my part, I was teased a lot as a kid.  I was overly tall, overly smart, and overly quiet.  I was an only child, I moved a lot, and I didn’t get a lot of lessons on how to interact with kids my own age.  When I reported my tortures, I was told to ignore them because “they were just jealous.”  Even at six, I could tell that this was 1. patently untrue, and 2. totally useless to me in salving my pain.

A couple of pieces have crossed my path this week, too, about the power of adults to help kids negotiate consent with one another.  While one piece focused on how rape culture starts young, with the pernicious “boys will be boys” narrative, the other focused on the solution: how do we teach children to ask each other for consent, and to honor that consent?

I think it’s important that teasing and bullying be stopped by adults, and punished.  But I also wonder how much more we could do with teaching kids about how to ask each other permission, even for things they might initially think are definitely going to be a no?  “The ‘overarching attitudinal characteristic‘ of abusive men,” says Kate Elliott in the piece I linked above, “is entitlement.”  How much better might the world be – both for young people and for the adults they will become – if we taught kids to respect each other’s bodies at an early age?

As an illustration of this, I present this adorable story from my friend Kaz, who teaches swimming to kids at MIT.  It makes me wistful: I wonder what my childhood could have been like with a teacher like her, who not only called out bad behavior but sought to teach kids how to deal with each other like the little human beings they are.

Story below, in its entirety.

***

Ah teachable moments. Today I actually got to educate my kids about what consent is, in a completely non-sexual context. This one little boy, who’s totally the sort who will try to get attention any which way but how, splashed one of his classmates, right in the face.

Me: Hey, buddy, I saw what you did there. That’s hardly friendly. ::to the little girl in question:: You okay?

Little girl: Yeah, but now my eyes sting. (this happened when she had her goggles off)

Me: ::to the little boy:: That really wasn’t nice. Would you please apologize to her?

Little boy:: ::sheepishly cause he totally got caught:: I’m sorry.

Me: Now, that might have been okay if you had just asked her first.

Little boy:: What? ::stunned look on face::

Me: Splashing can be fun. Some people don’t mind being splashed as long as it’s their choice. But you have to ask. It’s called getting consent. It means that the thing you want to do is accepted by the other person, and isn’t a bad surprise. The other person may say, no. If that happens you can’t hassle them about it. You accept their no, but you may still ask other questions. For instance, you may ask if it’s okay to ask again at some other time. Regardless, other person may also say yes. Either way, it’s a good idea to ask. Plus, it can make things more fun.

Little boy: ::mind blown:: Really?

Me: Yup. Here, I’ll show you how it’s done. ::to little girl:: Hey. I really want to splash water in your face. Right now. Can I?

Little girl: No, thank you.

Me: Okay, then I won’t. Maybe some other time?

Little Girl: *giggling* Wait, I want you to ask me again.

Me: Okay. Hey, I’d still really like to splash water in your face. Can I?

Little Girl: Yes. As long as I get to splash back.

Me: Sounds great. Let’s! ::we splash one another and laugh about it::

For frame of reference these kids are around age 7. After I explained, they suddenly got much better about asking one another for consent about all sorts of things. “Hey, I’d like to go first this time (for dives) can I?” So on and so forth. It was kinda of mega awesome. I feel all spiffy.

 

My favorite response yet to the #yesallwomen thing.

In the wake of the horrific shootings this week, Twitter and other social media have been a-flurry with defensive remarks from men (hashtag: notallmen) and responses from women (hashtag: yesallwomen). The dialogue seems to be going past each other, in a way that neither increases understanding nor gets at the heart of why these awful things are happening.

In the midst of this, a therapist has written this marvelous article, about secondary trauma and how we might better understand all of this.

In short:

  • The women of this world express to men their experiences of what they go through on a day to day basis, living in rape culture.
  • The men of this world who are trying to understand, who want to help, who want things to change, feel helpless, depressed, and like part of the problem, and express these frustrations to women.
  • The women go, seriously, I just shared these horrible experiences with you and now you want me to soothe your hurt feelings? Screw off.
  • The women still feel unseen and unheard, and the men screw off, having nowhere to put their secondary trauma.

In the post, the author notes how men often don’t have a lot of emotionally intimate male friends, particularly if they are partnered, and that they get the majority of their emotional needs met by the women in their lives. When those women need to be listened to – witnessed, without judgment – about things that men by virtue of being men largely don’t experience, those same women cannot then be the witnesses for the pain men feel over what they’ve just been told. It’s like a therapist turning around to their client and saying, “What you just told me was deeply upsetting, and I think I need some support around how upset your experience makes me.” While the relationship is not analogous, sometimes witnessing needs to be one-sided. Which is why men need witnesses, too.

But Sarah O says this all better than I can summarize. Please, go read.

How to get high on life. No, seriously.

Black trunks

This week I dug this post by Mark Sisson, ex-marathoner and current loud advocate of what he calls a Primal lifestyle. While his dietary recommendations only somewhat work for me, I really love his attitude, writing style and sense of humor, and keep returning to his blog for inspiration.

Getting “high on life” may sound like a cliched holdover from the “Just Say No” generation, but I find it really valuable as a concept because I place a very high value on pleasure and ecstasy for optimal health and happiness.  While Sisson jokes around a bit (“If that sounds like it involves a shaman, some cactus cuttings, and monotonous chanting over a fire, I don’t blame you”), I do see and respect the spiritual benefits of meditation, chanting, ecstatic dance, and even the responsible use of substances to achieve ecstatic states and commune with whatever divine you jibe with. (For some people, those in recovery from addictions, for example, substances are out of the question: I highly recommend this great series called The Dance of Pagan Recovery.)

Sisson’s post, though, is more about that deep evolutionary drive we all have to experience pleasure. Pleasure, he says, 

is the carrot dangled by the body to get us to do the things we need to survive and prosper. It helps us reach important survival goals. But we’re not ascetics. Experiencing and appreciating pleasure as its own entity is necessary for true happiness and life contentment. Our genes expect us to feel good, not just do the tasks that feeling good compels us to complete.

The rest of his post tells us why things like different kinds of exercise, controlled risk, sex, nature, spicy food, music, and laughter help activate the pleasure centers in the brain. He classically does a ton of research, so there’s lots of juicy studies and links in there, too.

Even without studies, though, I recommend that this weekend, you put on some of your favorite music, have some juicy sex (solo or with a partner), and then go dance in the rain.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

It’s spring. Sex for everyone! (Except people who don’t want it!)

Because why not?

Hello, lovely readers! Yesterday was the first day of spring.  And with spring in the air, folks’ thoughts tend to turn to friskiness.

As a person who helps those who are struggling with body, sexuality and gender issues, one of the things that is clear is that there are not nearly enough images in the media of people demonstrating something other than standard, mainstream sexuality. While images of gay couples are becoming more and more common, the vast, vast majority of images in the media that depict sexuality show people who are white, able-bodied, straight, thin, and performing traditional masculinity or femininity based on their biological sex only.

With that in mind, and with the caveat that clicking these links will take you very firmly into Not Safe For Work territory, I wanted to share two links that I discovered this week that made me want to celebrate.

First, a Buzzfeed link, of all things.  Last week, this collection of boudoir images caught my eye. Not because I particularly enjoy looking at boudoir images: they are usually the most vapid and objectifying form of traditional feminine sexuality that I can imagine.  But these, advertised only as “impossibly sexy,” also contain a multitude of body types and skin colors, without making any mention of either. This mainstream presentation of larger women – and smaller ones! – as equally sexy was lovely to see, and sparked a conversation elsewhere.

In the course of that conversation, another friend pointed me to a Tumblr (this one is really not safe for work) containing words, images, and thoughts about all different kinds of sexuality and gender: queer, disabled, trans, asexual, cross-dressing, happily kinky – basically the whole gamut.  Named Sex Is Not The Enemy, the Tumblr seeks to bust open what people think about what is sexy, and more importantly, to bring sexuality – which is, after all, a huge part of what it means to be human – out of the shadows and shame and into the light – for everyone.

Highlights for me: a picture of a beautiful, proud, post-mastectomy naked woman; a set of paired photographs of people of varying body types posing to look beautiful, then posing unflatteringly on purpose; this adorable shot of an old gay couple (one of them is 100!) celebrating the anniversary of Stonewall.

A note that many of these images are far more graphic than the ones I’ve described, and may be in danger of changing the way you think about how people love.  You have been warned.

Happy Spring, everyone.

 

It's spring. Sex for everyone! (Except people who don't want it!)

Because why not?

Hello, lovely readers! Yesterday was the first day of spring.  And with spring in the air, folks’ thoughts tend to turn to friskiness.

As a person who helps those who are struggling with body, sexuality and gender issues, one of the things that is clear is that there are not nearly enough images in the media of people demonstrating something other than standard, mainstream sexuality. While images of gay couples are becoming more and more common, the vast, vast majority of images in the media that depict sexuality show people who are white, able-bodied, straight, thin, and performing traditional masculinity or femininity based on their biological sex only.

With that in mind, and with the caveat that clicking these links will take you very firmly into Not Safe For Work territory, I wanted to share two links that I discovered this week that made me want to celebrate.

First, a Buzzfeed link, of all things.  Last week, this collection of boudoir images caught my eye. Not because I particularly enjoy looking at boudoir images: they are usually the most vapid and objectifying form of traditional feminine sexuality that I can imagine.  But these, advertised only as “impossibly sexy,” also contain a multitude of body types and skin colors, without making any mention of either. This mainstream presentation of larger women – and smaller ones! – as equally sexy was lovely to see, and sparked a conversation elsewhere.

In the course of that conversation, another friend pointed me to a Tumblr (this one is really not safe for work) containing words, images, and thoughts about all different kinds of sexuality and gender: queer, disabled, trans, asexual, cross-dressing, happily kinky – basically the whole gamut.  Named Sex Is Not The Enemy, the Tumblr seeks to bust open what people think about what is sexy, and more importantly, to bring sexuality – which is, after all, a huge part of what it means to be human – out of the shadows and shame and into the light – for everyone.

Highlights for me: a picture of a beautiful, proud, post-mastectomy naked woman; a set of paired photographs of people of varying body types posing to look beautiful, then posing unflatteringly on purpose; this adorable shot of an old gay couple (one of them is 100!) celebrating the anniversary of Stonewall.

A note that many of these images are far more graphic than the ones I’ve described, and may be in danger of changing the way you think about how people love.  You have been warned.

Happy Spring, everyone.

 

“Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.”

From David Kanigan, great collector of the gorgeous, comes this photo and poem this morning.  I share without further comment.

honey-jar

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding and beauty.
To enter stone, be water.
To rise through hard earth,
be plant desiring sunlight,
believing in water.
To enter fire, be dry.
To enter life, be food.

~ Linda Hogan, The Way In, from Rounding the Human Corners


Linda Hogan, 66, is Chickasaw. She is an internationally recognized public speaker and writer of poetry, fiction, and essays. Her books Rounding the Human Corners and Mean Spirit were Pulitzer Prize nominees. In poetry, The Book of Medicines was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her other poetry has received the Colorado Book Award, Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, an American Book Award, and a prestigious Lannan Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. In addition, she has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. Her main interests as both writer and scholar are environmental issues, indigenous spiritual traditions and culture.

Image Source: Jon Brown. Poem Source: Christina Sanantonio. Bio Source: Linda Hogan’s website & wiki.

"Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body."

From David Kanigan, great collector of the gorgeous, comes this photo and poem this morning.  I share without further comment.

honey-jar

Sometimes the way to milk and honey is through the body.
Sometimes the way in is a song.
But there are three ways in the world: dangerous, wounding and beauty.
To enter stone, be water.
To rise through hard earth,
be plant desiring sunlight,
believing in water.
To enter fire, be dry.
To enter life, be food.

~ Linda Hogan, The Way In, from Rounding the Human Corners


Linda Hogan, 66, is Chickasaw. She is an internationally recognized public speaker and writer of poetry, fiction, and essays. Her books Rounding the Human Corners and Mean Spirit were Pulitzer Prize nominees. In poetry, The Book of Medicines was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her other poetry has received the Colorado Book Award, Minnesota State Arts Board Grant, an American Book Award, and a prestigious Lannan Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. In addition, she has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. Her main interests as both writer and scholar are environmental issues, indigenous spiritual traditions and culture.

Image Source: Jon Brown. Poem Source: Christina Sanantonio. Bio Source: Linda Hogan’s website & wiki.

[Rerun] When will it be safe to be a girl?

This week I stumbled across two posts about gender that really resonated with me.  Gender is a tangled and complex subject, and there are people who can speak far more eloquently about trans issues, the intersection of gender and sexuality, and breaking the gender mold than I can.  But I wanted to highlight these two articles, as they spoke to body identity, trauma, support, and strength.

The first made the rounds among my female friends who are into Crossfit and kettlebell training: This One’s For The Butch Girls.  In it, a fitness instructor visits a Pilates class to learn about it, and is treated in the following way:

After pointing me to my machine, the instructor turned back to the other students and said, ‘That one’s for the butch girls.’

Excuse me? Now, I get that not every woman wants to look muscular…This doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian. This doesn’t, in fact, mean anything about who I am as a human being or my identity in the world. 

So, it comes back once again to this idea of strength versus femininity. Of strength being in opposition to what it means to be a woman – that is, in opposition to some sort of archaic sense of what it is to ‘be a woman.’ Does being strong mean you are man-like? Does being man-like make you a lesbian? What if I’m a lesbian, but I’m not strong? Seriously. I’m being ridiculous because this whole train of thought is ridiculous. None of these concepts has any impact upon or anything to do with each other.

The article goes on to encourage women to find places – or make them, if necessary – where how they work out, or how muscular they are or aren’t, won’t be automatically judged in a particular way.  “Where you can lift weights and grunt. Where you can wear pink and rip your shins open. Where you can paint your nails, do your hair, and have calves that make men green with envy. Even a place where you can be as ‘butch’ as you want to be.”

The idea of there being limitless possibilities for gender expression is one that I hold sacred, and one that I’ve spoken about here before.  So this article spoke to me, as a woman who has weight trained for some time but was never much of an athlete, and one who has started rock climbing and loves it.  (Now there’s a place where female muscle is respected.)

But I wasn’t prepared for the punch in the gut the next article gave me.  The Girl Who Said She Was a Boy is by a blogger who has raised five children with disabilities.  I’m grateful she liked one of my posts this week and therefore alerted me to her sensitive and funny writing on this topic.  Her foster daughter, at age 7, started insisting that she was a boy.  She wanted to dress, cut her hair, and be identified as a boy, and her mother – particularly once she adopted her – supported her in this.  At the doctor’s office at age 10, “she blurted out to him that she was a boy and that she did not have the right part. She begged him to “sew a penis” on her.  He was very comforting and reassuring, and said she was fine the way she was for now and when she was older she could make that decision.”

I was already impressed at this point at the supportiveness of the mother, and the sensitivity of the doctor.  But I wasn’t ready for what happened next, as I was prepared for this to be the story of a transgender child.

At 11, her mother cautiously began to introduce her to what it would mean for her when puberty came.  To her surprise, Marie, was excited about the prospect, and very inquisitive.   And then, the truth emerged.

“She shyly admitted to me that she was happy to be a girl.  She told me she only SAID she was a boy because men ‘hurt girls’ and she didn’t want to be hurt any more. She said ‘the men’ never hurt her brother, so she decided if she was a boy she was safe.”

In a world still reeling from Friday’s events, I find myself wondering when it will finally be safe to be a girl.  Or to be a woman, in all the ways that one can be one.  A woman becomes strong, and she is seen as less-than, as not womanly.  A little girl wants to be a boy, because being a girl means pain.  The catch-22 of femininity still has us profoundly in its grasp.  Don’t be too strong or you’ll be threatening.  Don’t be too weak or you’ll be threatened.

What might happen if more of the world saw the human body as the sacred property of the human being, not to be tampered with, undermined, ridiculed or destroyed?