I came up in Cleveland.
A rust-belt polluted midwestern city.
In the 70’s and 80’s when I lived there, you couldn’t feel too much.
You couldn’t be a snowflake.
Snowflakes got pounded into the asphalt of the playground, gooey in the hot summer.
Snowflakes had their bikes stolen.
Snowflakes were tormented and brutalized.
As a teen, the punk shows I attended were violent.
People always got injured.
Often the cops showed up with their own brand of violence.
Feelings were physical: the throbbing of eardrums the day after a show or the bruised arms and shins, from the mosh pit.
That was feeling. You survived, or you didn’t.
Many tender friends I loved did not make it.
But I did.
Later, in somatic therapy, I would learn the price I’d paid for my survival.
I couldn’t feel shit.
Sensations or emotions.
I was numb.
Fast forward, now I practice feeling my aliveness. I cry every day.
You can imagine the healing that has been necessary to admit that.
It’s taken years of work to be able to hear the truth and wisdom my body shares.
I value the healing work we all have to do, and all the healing you have done.
However, this week two important people said versions of the same thing: Your purpose is not healing.
You are here to live, and healing is what you do so that you can actually live.
Healing is not your life’s purpose.
As a somaticist, I have dedicated my career to the study of bodies and embodied learning.
I hold a deep respect for the wisdom of my body.
When it tightens upon meeting someone new, I consider that important information.
The animal self that is me is responding to something that the mind that is me cannot perceive.
How do I discern when to listen to the wisdom of my body and when to listen to my brain?
Because while I want to listen to my body, I do not want not be at the mercy of my traumatic responses.
The story I am about to share highlights the importance of both your mind and your animal body.
My partner Ari arranged a hot air balloon ride as a birthday surprise.
Ever since I can remember I have longed to go up in a hot air balloon.
Around the age of nine, I read “The Twenty-One Balloons,” a novel by William Pène du Bois published in 1947.
The story is about a retired schoolteacher whose ill-fated balloon trip leads him to discover Krakatoa, an island full of great wealth and fantastic inventions.
It sounded so beautiful and magickal to fly high above the world, blown by the wind, no control of your direction.
It is an act of faith that you will return to the Earth, and land intact, before running out of fuel.
When we lifted off the ground, gently floating upward, I was fine for the first ten feet.
The sensation was gentle, pleasant like been floated in a warm pool of water, someone safe holding up your body.
By twenty feet in the air, my body started to freak out.
It was at about 50 feet up when I had to stop looking at the ground, raising my chin and squinting so I could only see the mountain in the distance, a familiar and comforting view.
Riding in the balloon, I had to use the manual override to not do what my body insisted.
The conversation my body and brain went like this.
Body: “Oh shit! We are gonna DIE!!!! Get down, get down, get down, get down in the basket!!!”
Brain: “Love, we may die. But it won’t be because we are standing in the basket and not crouching.”
Body: “If you make me stand, I am going to lock every muscle!”
Brain: “Okay sweetheart, that’s fine.”
Body: “No, I’m serious! I am gripping on as hard as I can! The edge of the basket! Ari’s overalls! The rim of the fuel tank!”
Brain: “Sure, go ahead and grip on, but you aren’t gonna fall, you know.”
Body: “Agh! This is terryifying!!! Get low NOW!”
Brain: “I know you are scared my sweet and precious ride, but your fate was sealed the moment you stepped into the basket. You will survive or not, but in the meantime, let’s be present for this incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Halfway into the voyage, the panic lessens.
My compulsive gripping stops. I let go of Ari enough to drink some water.
The urge to kneel evaporates.
I’m in love with the floating clouds, as we drift silently over the mountain tops.
This sacred world is lovely.
The trauma gurus on Instagram have huge followings because people need to heal.
There is another more insidious factor, though, trauma is compelling.
It’s highly marketable. Profitable. This should make you mad. It makes me furious.
As much money as I could make off your trauma, I don’t want to anymore.
I want to relish being alive and be compensated for teaching folks to savor life while you have it.
It’s trauma that made me cleave to the edge of the basket.
Trauma that inappropriately grooms our instincts, so we think we should hide when we have the chance to fly.
But the gripping would not save me in a crash.
The cleaving to anything (the basket, an identity, a narrative) will not save you as you float in the wind, blown by a force you cannot see but can wholly feel.
Moral of the story: clench all you want; you are still in a (metaphorical) basket 5000 feet above the ground, having no idea where and when this journey will end. Or how.
You can practice trust and letting go even as you cling to the edge.
These do not have to be binary.
Sometimes you listen to your body.
Sometimes you have a conversation; body and brain.
So you can live and enjoy, not just survive.
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If you have received goodness this week, hit reply and tell me how you are feeling!
Glitter is powerful beyond measure
as evidenced in the fact that it
can destroy social norms & straight lives with a single sprinkle.
& provides instant protection against boredom, curses, & squares.
Glitter is a mercurial messenger
It speaks worlds, while never saying a word
Glitter announces with flare that you live a clownish yet brilliant life;
that you are edgily poetic.
The harbinger of a party,
it lets you know something good is going on here or has gone on here
or that your straight friend has a wild hair you have yet to encounter
(you will know when you find shards on their bathroom floor. Someone is gayer than you think!)
Glitter is Dangerous!
Best friends with glue,
the sparkle is an odorless (read: harmless to your scent-sensitive friend)
yet potent poison, toxic to mundanity & muggles.
As a bonus, it is super effective in killing slugs plaguing your garden!
Don't be fooled by its beauty. It is capital "D" Deadly to the world order.
(see previous comment about slugs. There is a lot of potential for weapon development. Glitter bomb, anyone?)
Glitter is effervescent beauty
the most beautiful thing in the world
reflective, like light on water
bringing joy, fun, & delight as it
Glitter is the anarchist of the craft world
it refuses to follow your rules.
playful & often unexpected, it is uncontrollable, & nonconsensual.
it gets everywhere, especially where you don't want it
drifting in piles in the corner of your room, inhabiting your carpet, where it reproduces.
Once I dumped my Doc Marten & at least three tablespoons of glitter spawn fell out!
Strength! Glitter can wedge itself anywhere! Attach to anything!
You have lessons to learn about tenacity & stick-to-it-ness from glitter, my friend!
Glitter can hide in plain sight.
Highly & powerfully conspicuous,
yet when it turns on edge it goes invisible,
it lets the world know you are more than they can see:
who IS that beglittered genderqueer???
Glitter is radical resistance in a dull world
it generously gives you glam & glamour
the practice of adorning like a perfect (drag) queen
irreverent & unsurpassable
Queer as in fuck you.
Glitter is magick.
minuscule altars in piles of woodland duff,
eye-catching, bedazzling, & enchanting
creating illusory spectacles.
Glitter can time-travel
it touches your little kid heart & allows you to access your innocence
makes you a virgin again, & again, & again!
Every time you put on glitter, it's like the very first time.
Glitter is healing
Did you know that it has many mysterious & ancient healing properties (this statement has yet to be evaluated by the FDA.)
Excellent at easing the scars of trans bodies.
But wait, there's more!
Since it can make an instant rock star of anyone, it's especially good for treating social anxiety & queer awkwardness.
Also, it fills soul-holes with ease.
Glitter is the repository of queer memory
It is sentimental & sappy, possessive as a teenage boyfriend
glitter leaves a trace
reminding us everyday of our queer magick & power
it puts us in direct contact with our ancestors with just the tiniest spritz.
Glitter is Top Secret
how does glitter get made??
Nobody knows for sure!
Kind of like queers! Where do we come from? Unknown!
But queers & glitter are clearly a blessing from the heavens!
Glitter is Salvation
Reckless & unbuttoned
besmirching, shiny, delightful
An agent provocateur, who is an unpredictable annoyance to those most needing disruption.
Glitter Saves, yawl!
This morning, while out for my morning walk, I strolled by your house, just as you were getting into your jeep. The person who I assume is your housecleaner was schlepping a bucket and a vacuum up your sidewalk. She greeted me. I kept walking my fat body on, as I heard you, behind me, greet her as well.
She said to you, "You look so thin," and without missing a beat, you replied loudly, "I'm FAT!"
At first, I was startled. Here is a fat person not more than 10 feet in front of you. Initially, I thought you were speaking in a disparaging way about your body, in that way white women are trained to. There's even a name for it: "Fat Chat."
I thought you were speaking negatively about fatness, and the soft warm blubber your body carries. I stopped in my tracks, and looked at you. You don't read as fat. There is nothing I would look at and say "that person is fat."
I wondered if I should call you out on your unexamined fatphobia. I was bummed because all I was doing was taking a lovely stroll in my neighborhood. Then I heard what I've heard ten thousand times before: my body is wrong for being the way it is, which is fat. Ugh, it's so painful. My entire life people have made nasty comments.
According to the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, one-third of the world’s population is fat, yet fat people are discriminated against in all aspects of daily life; from employment to education.
Fat people face more than discrimination, though. They face death, but not in the way the medical-industrial complex who loves to use the word "obesity" and "BMI" (which are b.s. standards, BTW, look up the research) would have you think.
From bullying, to suicide, to medical bias resulting in deadly treatment mistakes to eating disorders as we try to fit our body into what society says we 'should' be… make no mistake, fat people are under unrelenting, merciless attack.
In 2010, researchers at the University of Michigan released disturbing statistics about how size intersects with childhood bullying. They found that fat kids were 65 percent more likely to be bullied than their peers. As a former fat kid, I can attest to this. Called "Russia" because of my size in 6th grade, the bullying made me not want to be here anymore. As in, at 11 I had a plan to take myself out. When I look back at my pictures from that time, I cannot see the "morbidly obese" child everyone assured me I was. I see a slightly thick, healthy kid who roller-skated everywhere. Weird, huh?
So I hope you understand why I was taken aback by your comment. It felt like a threat.
My healing has been about unapologetically taking up the full space of my body every day. It's been a struggle, and tens of thousands of dollars spent on therapies of all kinds later, I finally feel like I deserve to breathe.
So I do breathe, and fully. Taking a deep breath into my gorgeous fat body, I feel into my right to be here, walking in my neighborhood on this delightful sunny morning. I consider what to do about you.
I get curious. I think about the tools I have at my disposal. If I were to confront you now, it might come out all wonky. You would surely get defensive, and say you meant YOU, not ME, was fat. And looking at your straight-sized body, I would stumble over my words, and not be able to communicate what I want you to hear.
Which is this.
Yes, you are fat.
I believe in a world where people are what they say they are. I believe trans kids when they say who they are. I believe queer people when they say who they love. The ability to self-determine matters. You believe you are fat, so I believe you. You are fat.
Now, fat activists with bodies larger than yours may surely have some feelings about you claiming the word fat to describe yourself, but don't worry. I'll be right here to help you. We're neighbors, and that's what neighbors should do: be kind to each other. Be respectful of each other's bodies, and definitely not throw shame.
As I thought about it some more, I realized that perhaps you were more culturally sensitive than I gave you credit for. If so, I am sorry. I am still learning. I had noticed your housecleaner's accent, and that English was not her first language. From her melanated skin, I assumed she was Latina.
Perhaps you heard the concern in your housecleaners voice when she said, "You're so thin." Because I did. It wasn't a compliment she was paying you, but a worry for your health. I'm not Latinx, and I can't presume to speak from that cultural perspective, but I do know that different cultures have different interpretations of 'thin' and it isn't always considered a good thing. This is to say, your context of fat as unhealthy is not the global context.
If you were pissed about your housekeeper policing your health, I get it. As a fat person, I am used to people concern-trolling me. Being worried about my heart, my health, and my weight. I'm used to doctors telling me that if I just lost some weight, then my sore throat would resolve. If I could cut back on carbs, my shoulder sprained from weight lifting would improve. And losing a few pounds would do wonders for my mental health.
Medical stigma against fat bodies can have a deadly impact on us, as in the case of my fat friend JB who was disbelieved when she went to the hospital in agony with a ruptured appendix. She was told the cause of her pain was her weight, and she was exaggerating the pain. She almost died.
So perhaps you heard your housekeeper's concern, and being more culturally sensitive than me, decided to respond with a comment that would set her at ease. In that context, "I'm FAT" translates to "Don't worry about me! I am well-off, and I've got plenty to eat. Whole Foods is right down the street, and my pantry is full of high-caloric expensive organic foods. I'm cool."
I'll tell you what is really medically concerning: eating disorders.
At 16, I watched my friend Colleen die of anorexia, her frame wasting away to nothing. Colleen was 78 pounds at her death. My friend was murdered by fat-phobia, the belief that fat is evil, and that fat people are bad and deserve to die. Even as a teenager, I knew I had to heal my stuff around toxic diet culture. I had an eating disorder to heal, and so much body shame to work through.
Perhaps you saying, "I'm FAT" is a way to confront your own eating disorder. To work through your own pain of being told your body isn't good enough, either because it's too thin, too fat, too this, or too that. But I do want you to know that one symptom of an eating disorder is body dysmorphia, perseverating on a perceived physical defect like a fat belly, that others cannot observe. So your housekeeper says you are thin and you respond with "I'm FAT," well, this is actually concerning.
Other signs of eating disorders include
It took a lot of work to heal my eating disorder. I had great support, and now enjoy the pleasure of eating and nourishing my body. I'm still fat, and I eat better than most people I know. I'm also wayyy healthier now as a fat and juicy human than I ever was when I was a dry husk, starving myself with diet after diet. I hope my story helps you realize that body size is not an accurate measure of health.
As I walked on, I stopped several times to ponder your two words, and the impact they had on my body and heart. After I got over the hurt, I realized we likely live in two separate paradigms. While we are both victims of body shame and a culture that wants to kill us, the difference is what we choose to believe.
You live in a world that tells you that in order to be loved, you have to change who and how you are. You have to restrict your food, exercise excessively, earn your right to be here. You may have never touched your curves and rolls with pleasure and wonder, taking delight in your yummy fat.
This contrasts with the size-inclusive worldview I've worked to develop. A paradigm of body acceptance that welcomes people of all body shapes, sizes, genders, ages, skin tones, and abilities to unapologetically and joyfully exist!
While fat acceptance is a worthy goal, fat liberation is where I set my sights. I want to be a fat person who loves their fat body (Have you watched Lizzo's Big Grrrls yet? OMG so good). I want to feel free to eat, dance, fuck, move, work, travel, play and live exactly how I want. Not in spite of my size, but because of it. I am committed to doing the life-long work to unlearn the shame and hate that oppresses fat bodies, trying to keep us from living lives of beauty and justice.
If my assumption is correct, and you are still hating your body, I want to issue an invitation to come over to my side of things, which is superbly, gloriously, and fatly wonderful!
What would happen if "I'm FAT!" was your mantra of confidence? You, being proud of your body and all it has survived. The horror and the trauma and the shame that got thrown at you as a young woman. It is possible, You can shake it all off now, and live a life of fabulousness and taking up all the damn space you want.
Okay, here's the last part I want to write to you today.
I'm glad you're fat!
Coming out and naming your fatness is a courageous thing to do. Everyone knows you are fat already, so it is counter-intuitive that you must come out. But you do. Coming out as proudly fat, claiming your body as sacred, not something to be erased or dieted out of existence takes so much bravery.
When you say proudly, "I'm FAT" you are smashing an oppressive, murderous paradigm that tells young people of all genders in every way possible that their worth is their weight. Colleen believed it. You don't. Good job.
You announcing loudly to the block that you are willing to fight for fat people's right to take up space, to be complex humans, and not just the funny, loveable but lonely desexualized sidekicks… well, I commend you.
I'm happy to welcome you to the ranks of activists like Mikey Mercedes, Marilyn Wann, and Evette Dion, the fat and black editor of Bitch Media. Evette writes, "Fat-shaming is stitched into the fabric of American culture. In fact, it’s so embedded in our everyday lives that we don’t often recognize when we’re perpetuating fat-phobia or the act of discriminating against someone because of the size of their body."
Hearing you shout "I'm FAT" with so much vigor reminds me of the joy I feel when I accept myself as I am, without trying to whittle away my feelings, my experience, or my body. All bodies deserve respect.
I'm glad I made it, and I'm glad you made it too. Us fatties gotta stick together.
I want to thank you for your comment. While I have been practicing using the F word to name my body and experience for 20+ years, today you showed me I still have work to do. Fat is not a bad word. That I reacted that way when I heard you use it helps me realize I've got to keep fighting!
I'm glad to have a fat ally in the neighborhood. Let me know if you'd like to go for a stroll and discuss how we can make the neighborhood a safe place for all bodies to be.
Big fat love,
Oh, and here are some RESOURCES my friend Scarlet curated to help you on your journey of body liberation:
Sonya Renee Taylor’s book The Body is Not an Apology is a great primer re bodies and our shame oriented culture. She discusses fatness along with skin tone, disability and other body traits that get oppressed. This is a great podcast of Taylor and Brenee Brown talking about the book.
Christy Harrison is a great resource. While she is not a fatty, she is an amazing fat ally, anti-diet dietician, author, podcaster and all around good human. Her site is full of amazing things to read and listen to. Here is a short blog entry she wrote that goes over some of the basics of diet culture and what it means to be anti-diet oriented. Her book Anti-Diet is life changing and so is her podcast. I also get her weekly newsletter and it always teaches me new things. Here’s one of my favorite podcast episodes.
Maintenance Phase is an incredible podcast by fat queers who go into the dark histories of all sorts of things related to fat phobia. They are also hilarious.
Here’s a super informative episode on the “The Obesity Epidemic,” how it was manufactured and fucked up all our lives. Other episodes discuss things like the history of weight watchers (being owned by candy companies), the Keto Diets harmful backlashes, Oprah Winfrey and The Master Cleanse.
"Everything You know about Obesity is Wrong" is a groundbreaking article that was released about 4 years ago focusing on the medical industrial complex and its oppressive, harmful impact on fat folx.
Here’s a podcast from another fat activist, Virgie Tovar. In this episode they discuss how Anti-fatness is actually anti-blackness and vice versa, candy, pleasure, and living your best life. She also had a great book called “You Have the Right to Remain Fat."
In the 30-plus years since my tire-screeching departure after grabbing my diploma from the sweaty hands of my high school principal, Northeastern Ohio has changed only in that it is now even more conservative. At 18, I drove away from oversized hair and stagnantly closed minds, determined to try my luck anywhere but the Midwest. I have no place here in Ohio and never did.
I’m spending the week helping my 80-year-old mother, from whom I am mostly estranged, care for herself after knee replacement surgery. It is 560 miles between my current mountain home to the burdened land where my ancestors have squatted for generations. I’ve covered those miles by driving North in my rickety camper built the year I graduated from high school that I euphemistically call “vintage.
Every day I'm there, I leave my mom's farm and drive to town to gather supplies. Each trip results in long stares and raised eyebrows from the Trump-loving locals. I rarely feel unsafe as a visibly queer and trans person, but here I do. The vitriol on the white Christian faces has driven more than one queer into the embrace of sin, AKA San Francisco.
It’s a long week.
As I ready myself to leave, I realize I don’t have to be home for another two days. The time spreads out in front of me, golden and sweet. I need this time to process the week with my mom. I text a friend, “I can’t tell if I am completely okay or totally disassociated.” My friend texts back, “Maybe it’s both.”
A solo-road trip sounds excellent, winding slowly back down south. I whisper my intention at the gas pump, “May today bring me exactly the magick I need.”
In the Southwest corner of present-day Ohio exists the Great Serpent Mound. It is the largest effigy mound in North America at 1,348 feet in length, 25 feet in width, and three feet high, complete with seven curvatures and a triple spiral tail. This holy mother was constructed approximately 2300 years ago by Native cultures whose names are reconstructions: the Fort Ancient Culture and later the Adena Culture.
Doing my homework, I learned that the snake surrounds an egg and was built on an ancient meteor impact site called an astrobleme. This meteor impact occurred during the Permian Period, about 248 to 286 million years ago. In the center of the structure, sedimentary strata have been uplifted several hundred feet, resembling the central uplifts of lunar craters.
I’m curious enough about the snake effigy to linger in Ohio. I drive for hours, leaving the highway for the two-lane country roads replete with pick-up trucks and Dollar General. Arriving at the mound, the park is closed for the night. I’m too nervous about sneaking in. I decide to wild camp in my rig and arrive at the mound first thing in the morning. I scout a good location, up a dirt road, in the middle of an empty field near the serpent’s head.
Traveling in Scotland, I was enchanted by their “right to roam” law which strikes a balance between the right to access land and water and owning private property. Basically, you can visit and camp on the land, swim in lakes and rivers, hike, and explore historic sites, even if they are on private property. This is a good law. Because, after all, how can one really “own” property? Can you pick it up and take it with you? No. The land is here for all of us to live on. We are made of it. Perhaps my anarchist sensibility runs too deep, but the concept of private property as applied to land is a weird construct.
I’m tucked in for the night, and the late dusk softens the world. I am aware that there are “right” ways to be in relationship with new and old places. How one approaches a new place matters. When first arriving in a place, it’s polite to make a land offering to the local spirits and guardians, thanking them for having you. I decide to do this in the morning. This was a mistake.
I crack a beer and am lounging in my camper when a car horn blares and won’t stop. Decidedly jarring, I pull on pants and stagger into the unrelenting high beams of a car pointed directly at me. A voice begins to yell at me, even before I can see it. I know this is most likely not going to go well, but I think it is probably best to deal with it head-on.
I approach, and in a big truck is an irate older woman, screaming her head off at me. Her words are barely decipherable. She is so enraged. I see an older man sitting in the passenger seat, and he looks confused. I can hear “MY PROPERTY!” and “GET THE FUCK OUT!” “MY PROPERTY!”
I gather from those words she would politely like to ask me to gather my things and go. I feel a bit scared but also taken aback. This woman is so triggered, and I am clearly not a threat. I say authentically, “I am so sorry. I will go.” It wasn’t my intention to disrupt her evening, merely to find a place to rest. How true my apology feels surprises me. Nothing in me wants to fight with her; I am just sorry.
The truck waits as she guns the engine while I prepare to leave and do. She follows me a mile down the road, flashing her lights and honking. I drive slowly, trying to decide what to do next. I realize that my reading glasses are lost in the back of the camper and that I have no cell reception anyway. I’m going to have to navigate by feel.
I’ve already scoped the location near the mound, and know there is nowhere good to camp, so I head down a dirt road, then another, and another. At each turn, I feel into it. Which is the right way to go?
As a child, my mother had several impactful talks with me about my “conscience.” These usually occurred after I had done something terrible: put the cat in the fridge to see what would happen or poured water all over the floor to make it slippery. From what I could gather as a child, my conscience was something inside me that helped me “feel” what was the good thing to do and what would piss my mother off.
It’s not precisely my conscience that I’m using to decide my route, but it is a felt sense. I follow my nose through the pitch-black night amidst curving winding roads. It’s late by the time I pull into the ATV state recreation area, thinking this might be a good place to rest. It’s private, and I hope no one will bother me here.
I lay down to rest, but my body won’t relax. I’ve done many sketchy questionable things when I travel. Still, I realize that the information I’m receiving from my body jives with what my brain knows. I’m in rural Ohio, but I don’t know where. No one knows where I am. I’m trans. I’ve told my partner I’m safe for the night. I have no cell reception. I have no glasses. I’m hidden from view in an area well known by locals. Probably it would be okay, but I shouldn’t risk it. I’ve got to find another place to be.
Again, I hop out of the camper and reconnect the battery terminals so the thing will start. Yes, it’s that janky. I start driving again. I had a good activist friend in college who doled out this good anti-authoritarian advice: When you don't know which way to go, go left. Left it was as I pulled out of the ATV park onto the darkened road.
Another 30 minutes of fields, curves, and occasional darkened farmhouses. It’s so late, and my eyes are weary. I start to pray out loud, to my ancestors, to the spirits of this land, to whoever is benevolently listening. “I need some help, y’awl.” Miles go by. Many turns. More prayers, “LIke, a campground. That’s what I need. Can you please guide me towards a campground?”
Suddenly, a bright green blaze crosses the sky over yet another field. An emerald blur from the right side of the field, down low to the left. It’s burned low to the ground. If it were light out, I would have tried to find where the meteor landed. My attention is drawn in the direction it fell, and there it is. A sign, faded and worn, with an arrow and one word: camping. The brakes squeal as I make the left turn too quickly.
More miles and miles of road.Five. Ten. Fifteen. I pass a cemetery. Decide not to sleep there.
Again, I speak out loud, “Y’awl, I have faith, but I am starting to doubt this story will end well tonight. A campground? Please?”
And then there it is. On my right, I see the dim outline of an RV. A gravel driveway. I pull in. Almost all of the spots are available. Finally, I rest.
When I wake in the morning, the sun is golden. The late spring green of the sacred world glows, and the breeze is warm. I eat my yogurt and berries slowly, savoring the morning. As I pull out, I blow a kiss to the ancestors, the guides, and the land.
Later that morning, as I wind and wind towards the direction I think is home, my heart cracks open. Too tired last night to consider the miracle of the green flash, the morning brings contemplation. I was guided. That is clear.
But why was going to the Serpent Mound not the right thing?
I’m fighting with the lady from last night in my head. She appeared like a middle-aged conservative white lady. Probably Christian. Why are conservative midwestern Christians so hypocritical? Why is their god so desecrated? What about love and acceptance, kindness to strangers, offering succor and respite to weary travelers? Christian charity? Ooh, I hate hypocrisy. And why am I fighting with someone who is not even here? Why was she so full of hate for me? Because it did feel personal when she screamed, “Why did you ever think it would be okay for you to be here???”
What did she see? Did she see a middle-aged person, like herself, who was unafraid to travel alone? To take risks? To read as queer and trans and other, amid a culture that kills its own if they are in the littlest way different? What was the trauma that had her read me as a threat?
As I ponder, I soften. I don’t know anything about her and her life, what dreams she may have had, or who she may have lost. I have received a gift from her: be soft with strangers. Be gentle, be loving. I’m glad I said none of the ugly things I could have. I appreciate the healing that has made my heart soft enough to be in a good way.
I can feel the land here, thrumming with life. When the tears come, I start to understand something new about the pain of colonization. I’m driving and crying, which is a favorite combo. When the grief gets stronger, the words “I’m so sorry” are what pour, repeatedly, from within. The same thing I said and meant to the lady from last night. Except now I’m saying it to the land and the original inhabitants. I am so, so sorry for what my ancestors did to you. For what we continue to do. From the marrow of my bones, I feel the wrongness. My deep felt remorse was precisely the same as I had spoken the previous evening: I am so, so sorry.
At that exact moment, as I round a hairpin turn in the country glow of morning, I realize: I didn’t make an offering to that land where I squatted. While part of what I met in that lady was a traumatized, raging, and entitled white lady, another layer was the rage of the untended great mother serpent. The unacknowledged rape of the land. The native tourism I had been about to participate in because I hadn’t checked in with my conscience and thought it would be cool. Understood through that lens, the wrath I had experienced was deserved. In fact, it’s a gift.
Queerness offers you a unique sensitivity to the world. Often painful, yet there are moments when you can be so grateful for the exquisite sensation of sensing your conscience. I appreciate feeling the difference between what is right and what will piss your Mother off.
Stop trying to be so good.
The world could give a fuck about your goodness.
Your realness is what's called for.
Your acknowledgment of all the capacity you have: to love, to hurt, to kill, to heal, to create.
Being good is about proving.
Proving that you are worthy to receive the resources you need to exist.
You are trying to be good when you worry about your carbon footprint.
When you recycle. When you send thank you notes, and when you turn off the water to brush your teeth.
You are trying to be good when you listen to someone you are not interested in listening to.
When you say yes because you think you should.
Trying to be good sneaks in all over the place.
Ask, "How do I feel when I am trying to prove myself?"
If you are honest, you will realize that you don't know what it feels like because you are always doing it.
I've been proving myself for as long as I can remember.
Even as I stepped out of mainstream culture, I stepped into proving that I was punk enough. Feminist enough. Earthy enough. Queer enough. Activist enough. Woke enough.
I've been puking my guts out while trying not to make a mess.
Proving runs deep in us, amirite?
Proving is woven with capitalism.
It goes like this: If you are good enough already, with nothing to prove, what will motivate you to work beyond your true capacity?
Capitalism creates internalized slavery.
"Success" is another word for it. Success is you proving your worth to the world.
Let's burn down that word.
I was in a somatic coaching session when I realized how trying and being have gotten enmeshed for me.
My somatic coach suggested that I get to be here, and take up space, simply by merit of being alive.
That I don't have to earn my right to take a breath.
She said, "Stop trying and BE."
This idea, while it made sense on the surface, like DUH, didn't sink in.
I couldn't understand why she was telling me this. I KNEW this already.
But I am good, and a good student too.
Leaving her office that session, I said (with great earnestness), "Okay, so my homework is to Try and Be."
She grabbed my arm fiercely and growled through clenched teeth, "No. Just Be."
Imagine that there is a competition you are trying to win.
Like a science fair. Or a ring-the-bell-at-the-fair strength challenge.
And because you are awesome, the person is coming towards you with your coveted prize.
They want to hand it to you.
They are following you around as you keep working on finishing your project.
You keep trying to ring that bell you've already rung.
They are trying to get you to take your trophy, your gold star.
But you won't even turn towards them. You ignore their existence as you keep trying.
In your head, your mantra rings: "You've got this! Keep going!"
You won't arrive long enough to receive your accolade.
This is what it means to not arrive to receive.
Proving is excellent protection.
If I am always in the proving, I don't have to trust I will be cared for.
I don't have to trust that others can and will meet my needs.
It keeps me occupied, confident I've not yet arrived.
Proving says, "Don't slow; you'll falter, then stop."
And what if that was true? What if you stopped?
What if you rested, even without earning it?
(Because honey, you HAVE earned it with all the striving you've done during your life.)
When I turned 50, my partner secretly invited many of my loved ones to record 1-minute videos.
I watched loved one upon loved one say something along the line of, "Rest, sweetie. Take it easy. Enjoy."
When I watched these sweet tributes, I was confused, then frustrated.
Why were so many people telling me to rest? I had a world to save.
Two months later, I experienced my first clinical depression as my body and brain set a boundary for me.
I couldn't work and had to rest.
I watched my life fall apart in slow motion with an interested disinterest.
What would happen if I let it all go? If I just stopped all the proving and striving?
My practices fell away, one by one. Gym, dance, prayer. On it went.
When I was underwater, moving through molasses, the 'being good' muscle atrophied.
Unable to be polite, I would suddenly leave dinners and hangouts, often only able to eke out the words, "I'm done now," as I plodded off.
That time in the twisted kingdom felt magical in a different way.
The magic of honesty without pretense or striving.
So much success-orientation got stripped away.
So much proving burned off.
When I finally emerged, I was different.
Naked. Softer. More connected with myself.
I was less willing to push through, and unable to work like the devil anymore. Not that I wanted to.
Sustaining recovery from depression has meant learning a new way to exist inside myself.
I have had to learn to honor my capacity, moment to moment.
Not being good is my saving grace.
The word "success" is slowly being replaced with "arrive."
I'm learning, finally, to arrive so that I can receive.
Stop trying to be good.
Start arriving to receive.
I'm not saying try to be bad. That's another kind of striving. (Although it can be more fun.)
Stop doing for a sec and soften into what's available right now.
Love, the world has sweetness for you if you'll allow it.
Your ancestors have blessings for you.
Your friends have more love to give.
Your community wants to celebrate you.
Stop being good. Stop striving. Start arriving.
Yes, dear one, the world really will fall apart if you stop proving and start arriving to receive.
You're not imagining it.
But maybe falling apart because we are all receiving goodness is just what this world needs.
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In the early-morning dream, just before that one bird starts to obnoxiously wake everyone up, I stand at a crossroads. The road behind me is worn and known, familiar. My origin story, what has been.
There is the road in front of me. A clear and pleasant path, its momentum beckoning.
To my right is a pivot, a sharp ninety-degree unknown, still adjacent. Same on the left, slightly less clear, but a path nonetheless.
This crossroads is suspicious. For one, it is too mathematical to be organic.
The classic intersection design of four right angles is tidy, manmade.
There exists, in magical lore, the binary-smashing 'third path.'
In the stories, when magical beings find themselves at the crossroads, there is always a bargain to be struck, an offering to be made, or a ritual to perform, before the character can move forward, assured they are on the right path.
But, as my psychic friend Verone says, you are always on your path. No matter which way you turn at any juncture, it is your path.
When I closed my company last winter, I realized I had no idea what came next, and taking spacious time to find out made sense.
In my dream, I want to stay right here at the crossroads, waiting. Not taking any of the available options, at least not yet.
Because, after all, the road less traveled is still traveled.
What would it be like to stop doing, and just be in the mystery for a while? To not travel on any road? To stay still, holy pause? Honestly, at the time I had no idea how.
Apart from the fact that we are dwelling in the mystery all the time, it is a novel concept to choose not knowing and ambiguity.
Pema Chodron writes, "As human beings, we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize everything around is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground, something predictable and safe to stand on, seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we are aware of it or not…we seem doomed to suffer simply because we have a deep-seated fear of how things really are. Our attempts to find lasting pleasure, lasting security, are at odds with the fact that we're part of a dynamic system in which everything and everyone is in process…whether we're conscious of it or not, the ground is always shifting. Nothing lasts, including us."
Uncertainty is the only ground we've got, but so rarely can we feel that truth.
I'm getting to the point where I prefer acknowledging that I don't know; I try to trust that the job of a mystic is to hang out in the mystery.
Those signs people have in their yard in my liberal neighborhood: "In this house, we believe science is real, love is love, women exist, yadda yadda."
It's not the sentiments that annoy me, but the assumption that there can be a statement made that is true 100% of the time.
This is not dwelling in the mystery.
Dwelling in the mystery ends where signs in the yard begin.
This morning I perused my neighborhood, sniffing flowers and observing how light and different surfaces interact. The mystery is present in a soft, unfocused gaze.
Why dwell in mystery?
Because the truth is you already are, every day, and admitting it is romantic.
When a soft whisper emits your lips, you romance yourself: "I don't know. How will this work out??? I don't know! I have to trust that it will."
Picking up the scent of mystery, you are a bloodhound sniffing out a lead in the butterscotch sunlight; "Where? There? Yes! Go!" The magic of the everyday world.
You dwell in mystery because if you know the end, reading the story is boring.
A ritual to give yourself to mystery
Smell your rose, and sip the water. Absorb the coolness of the water with the sunshine of the rose, meeting your body. Now repeat after me, "I dwell in mystery because mystery is all there is."
Feel for the velvet abyss, and let go, just a little.
Congratulations. You are now officially a mystery dweller.
Broken Dreams as a guide
Solid in our certainty, we dismiss mystery as piddle. As folly. As if because we don't yet know the how of something, it will never be.
We say, "Oh, that's not feeling like the thing right now." As if because we are away from our deep longings, they are somehow less potent.
I've seen it again and again, in my friends, in myself.
The things we love more than anything, making art, working for trans kids, writing poetry, creating spaces of beauty and meaning aka interior design, being outside with animals… we say, "Oh, that's not the thing right now."
Maybe it will make an appearance again on the longing list in the future.
What have you given up on in some deep underlayer?
That's the signpost guiding you home to mystery!
Take a meander down the boulevard of broken dreams without judgment. Really.
Tell your critic to take a breather, STFU. Get in it for the mystery.
Do whatcha wanna do
There is a new burgeoning skill: feeling for what is right, right now.
This happens on such a subtle level.
The more I'm paying attention and asking my inner mystery, "Yes? This? Now?" the better things are going.
What if we all gave ourselves to mystery and only did exactly what we wanted, even for one day? One moment?
I don't want to make compromises anymore.
All I want to do is what I want to do, what feels right, right now.
I don't want to push too hard. I want to arrive and to arrive, I need to not push.
I need to not besiege my heart with "choosing a path."
I need to do what I want to do, right now.
This is aaneasy path home to mystery.
Interrupt & Disrupt
Now listen to me.
You've got to get in front of those wired and habitual thought patterns.
You've got to disrupt the normal, the regular, if you want to feel the holy mystery you dwell within.
How to disrupt?
There are thousands of ways. Pick one each day.
Places worlds meet: the ocean and the shore. The forest and the city. The field and the wall. The garden and the street. The river and the bank.
You, too, can feel your liminal nature in the edge worlds:
Put your body in liminal spaces where the feeling of mystery is the only item on the to-do list.
The mystery eats patience for breakfast, nom nom.
When dwelling in mystery, you have to learn, as screenwriters and improv actors know, to kill your darling.
Your baby. Allow that brilliant idea to die, and lean into what emerges from the ashes.
Where you start is not where you end.
You must wait, trusting that creativity will not abandon you if you wait until the truth emerges from your body, not your brain. Wait and wait.
Write down all the ideas that come as you stand at the crossroads.
You can honor and acknowledge them without needing to pursue each one.
They will find a better home if you don't pick them up right now. They will still be there later if you need them.
The crossroads is an altar to the unknown and a temple of potentiality. All things are possible if you stop asking yourself, "But how??"
There is a particular feeling of allowing possibility.
Some part of you says, "That can never be me."
But the part of you that dwells in mystery answers, "Yes, here at the crossroads, we make space for all possible futures, regardless of how implausible they may seem."
Do you want to include "rockstar" on your list of possible careers? Do it.
Honor the impulse that can track that reality in whatever parallel universe it exists.
I'm serious. Write that shit down. All of it. Send me a picture of your in-progress hot mess!
It's surprising and scary, not knowing. Thank holy fuck!
Another lesson of the crossroads is to be available for surprise (thanks Joseph Kramer, for instilling this!)
When you wait, listen, feel, don't act, don't know, and don't try to know, something will eventually happen.
And what happens will be an expression of the mystery and will make perfect sense at the same time.
One day, after you've dwelt in the unknown for some undetermined amount of time, you will find yourself doing the thing.
You are already doing it; it is so simple.
Maybe there is a big revelation, but maybe there it is, quiet as a sigh.
When you are ready to dwell in mystery, decide for what initial period you will make no decisions.
Follow no paths as you wait for more to appear. 1 day? 1 month? Half a year?
This is your time to revel, celebrate, and not have to know a damn thing except what you want to eat right now or if you have to pee.
The mystery is a scary place to admit that you are dwelling.
Remember, you are already there.
This is just a practice of acknowledging and embracing mystery as your true home.
This is your chance to get off the hook of knowing, of having to take the next logical step on that path. Your crossroads resembles a jellyfish or medusa, with so many tentacles of possibility and no censor to say, "No, that doesn't make sense. You can't do that."
What helps in the moments of mystery-terror is to remember this is an experiment in letting go of control.
You have chosen to allow your heart-star to guide and express without your conscious mind driving.
You surrender knowing to watch knowing emerge, perfect and right.
What's under mystery's blanket?I used to play a game with my students.
I would place many things under a blanket: strawberries, essential pine oil, feathers, a kalimba, shells and beautiful stones, fur, chocolate, and rattles.
They did not know what was beneath the blanket, so I would tease them, lift a tiny corner, and put it back down.
Pretend I was going to reveal the whole thing and fake them out.
They were instructed to sit without touching once I finally unveiled the lush diorama below.
Take it in, allow desire to build until it was unbearable, and then pay exquisite attention as they allowed themselves to have the item that had inflamed their longing.
I did this exercise dozens of times. Without fail, my students would experience their embodied longing in new and profound ways, getting a sense of what the sensation of want feels like.
Dwelling in the mystery is a capacity you build.
To feel the mysterious, sacred world and be in vast potential is a muscle. The first few times you work it, expect shaky tremors.
From the get-go, your sense of wonder was damned and condemned: Don't use so much glue. Stop touching that tulip. Hurry up, don't dawdle!
I'm sorry that happened to both of us, and now it's time to reclaim our awe.
Time to wake up wonder.
Here's the last thought for those who want to dwell in mystery (that I learned from the whisper of a sand dollar thrown from the Pacific Ocean)If you want magick, you gotta leave space for magick.
I rub rose otto oil onto the skin above my heart each morning and evening, saying, “I am a soft and trusting heart.”
This is my justice.
A thousand times I’ve reminded myself of this: my life is mine to do with as I wish.
I want to be soft, I want to trust.
Intactness is an inside job.
Last night, I’m watching Corey Damen Jenkins teach a masterclass on interior design.
He conveys his belief that we all get to create beautiful spaces to inhabit. That we only will live in so many places in our lifetimes, and that at the end, he wants us to be able to say, “I lived in beauty.”
I check my phone, bad habit. The news about the school shooting in Texas.
Fuck. I don’t want to feel impacted right now. My preference is to watch this brilliant man tell me how to build a color board, and have a sweet night.
A smoky apparition saunters into the room, and presents me with a choice.
“Numb”, it whispers, “Don’t pay attention. Watch your show.”
I can almost touch its soothing fur, feel my pain dissolving in its murmurous voice.
I don’t have to care about this.
I already cared last week about Buffalo. I put in my time, my tears. Added my grief to the collective.
But part of my justice is feeling.
I ask my partner to turn off the Masterclass, and give tears their way. I give over to the despair, trusting yet again that feeling will lead to more feeling.
We all get to live in beautiful places.
And in this sacred world we inhabit, brutal beauty is haute couture.
How to live, to love, in this world?
Do you struggle as I do with internal paradox?
The part that wants to be here… and the other part that wants to be on a harmonious planet far from these people who did not receive the same instructions for incarnating & healing you did.
The part that wants to help your frail, aging mother…and the angry 15-year-old part, smoking clove cigarettes and wearing black leather who screams, “Never forget!”
Holding paradox means getting wide.
You have to make room for more than one truth.
Worship at the altar of nuance all you want, but holding all of it as real at the same time is harrowing.
Widening, unfurling from your midpoint, expanding out to the edges of your skin, you have more space for multiplicity.
How can we hold a beautiful, holy world, and elementary school massacres?
How can those things exist at the same time?
Sitting with me on the couch as I cry, my partner reminds me that horror is happening all the time.
He works as a pediatrician in rural healthcare.
The small, individual ruins never make the news, but instead, line the file folders of CPS.
A few months ago he had a mom whose two daughters under age ten had walked alone from Honduras to Mexico, and then to North Carolina. One was nonverbal by the time she arrived.
One example of lives forever impacted, that you would never know about if I didn’t write it. And countless others.
It’s too much.
Whoever came up with that axiom, “You’ll never be given more than you can bear” was a masochist. And a liar.
It’s too much for our tender hearts, every day.
To numb in denial, or to turn toward what is?
I feel so powerless when faced with horror, terror, oppression, suffering.
But I am not.
My power is in my choice to feel it.
To feel not just the hard stuff, but also the wonder.
I hold tight to my innocence.
Incorrectly, we believe children are innocent. No, they are inexperienced.
Innocence is hard-won.
I choose to remain in love with this brutal, beautiful world, just as it is.
Rose oil, soft heart, justice.
I am in my kitchen, preparing dinner.
The reddish-orange of the tomato skin sheens against the worn wood of the cutting board, crouching on the counter.
The knife blade, serrated and glowing, flows from the black plastic handle my hand grips. Late afternoon sun nudges the window frame above the sink. The gas oven hisses as it preheats.
Cutting into the fruit’s flesh, the warm smell of the tomato tangs my nose. Diluted juice and seeds spill across the board.
Slice by slice, I complete the job. The consistent thickness of wedges in a row is satisfying.
All I am doing is cutting a tomato.
The miracle is that I am completely here and now. I am present.
It is a moment of quiet grace requiring no effort to wrangle my attention toward the task.
How long it had been since I was entirely present chopping a vegetable?
Usually, my mind is elsewhere. I’m thinking about whatever I’m annoyed with or when the endless backyard project will complete. Wondering what time my partner will be home. Thinking about what I have to do later in the evening.
So few moments am I present with what is in front of me.
Like some of you, I too wrote cringey goth poetry in high school. In a recent re-read, a line of wisdom from my 17-year-old self jumped out. “May I never cease to realize my alive.”
As enchanting as the tomato moment is, there is also terror.
Am I missing it? My life? The little time I have to be here, experiencing? Have I ceased to know my alive?
Coming into presence means admitting absence.
Why is being here, now so freaking hard?!
According to the gospel of me, a life well-lived rests on three foundations: presence, creativity, and connection.
Presence is most elusive.
Do you struggle to realize your aliveness, to know it while you have it?
I have a theory.
Presence requires feeling. All the everything. The joy. The horror. The suffering. The grief. The delight.
To feel is sometimes to feel too much.
So we turn it down.
Check out. Overwork. Worry. Ignore needs. Hold pee. Resist moving.
The little numbings, the slight turning-it-down-to-take-the-edge-off are justified.
I’m not giving myself shit for them, and neither should you.
But when I am away from myself, I start to feel shitty. I feel empty, lonely, grabby.
I bet you can relate.
The only medicine to absence is presence.
Directing your attention back to this moment, to this breath. To feelings and sensations happening right now.
The poet Byron said, “The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain.”
I’d rather feel it all.
When my attention is here, and now, it’s better, even when it hurts.
I don’t want to miss it, my life.
I don’t want to regret not living and loving fully. So being present is what I practice.
Chopping vegetables. In beauty and in sadness. In joy and in pain.
All of it, now.
Odd how envy can point the way to true desire.
Have you ever felt envious of someone for something they have or something they do, only to find out later that it is something you long for? Something you dream of being or doing, but you haven’t given yourself permission?
At 8, I love books more than anything.
In the tiny Ohio town, summer at my grandma’s house includes the freedom to wander.
With the porch door slapping at my heels, I run through backyards of roses and apple trees. Past rusting cars. Over the metal tang of railroad lines.
Hot asphalt sticks to my sandals as I skip through the church parking lot and fling myself into the town library’s cool, dim interior.
Here, I fall in love with queer feminist icon Nancy Drew, leaving the dull Hardy boys to collect dust on the shelf.
It is this library where words catch my heart and never let go.
I find a book called “Bittersweet.”
With the complexity of one word, the world of poetry cracks the cave door and bids me to enter.
Rummaging the shelves, I land on a disintegrating copy of James Whitcomb Riley’s “The Old Swimming Hole.” I check it out.
Sitting in my treehouse, I read his gentle poems until the pages crumble, smudged with Chips Ahoy dust.
Along with snacks, I feed myself new words and images. I devour bucolic descriptions of farming life.
Most importantly, I discover a new feeling: longing.
Back at school, I memorize the call number 811, the poetry shelf in the school library.
Here I print my name in chunky pencil letters on the library call slips of Rod McKuen and Robert Frost.
No one comments on the strangeness of a third-grade child immersed in slim volumes with vague pastel covers.
That year, several poems litter our language arts textbook.
While my classmates crack up at Shel Silverstein, I prefer the quiet humanity of Lucille Clifton and the deep play of e.e. cummings.
Poems pour out of my kid fingers onto the pages of my denim-covered Gnome Notebook.
Roused by Riley’s poetic descriptions of light, many of my poems contain references to the “golden hour of eternity.” Also, dolphins, snowflakes, and memory.
To anyone who asks what I want to be when I grow up, I say, “a poet.”
One day my dad tells me that poets are a dime a dozen.
I stop saying that.
Her LinkedIn profile headline reads one word: “Author.”
Book after book pours out of her. She writes for a few well-known blogs.
The writing is okay, but it doesn’t move me the way great writing does.
Let me say that this woman is perfectly lovely. In every encounter I’ve had with her, she has been nothing but respectful and supportive.
But I hate her.
It is years before I can name the real feeling: envy.
I am envious of her.
Why does she get to write books for a living?
Why does she get published and get to dedicate her career to writing?
I’m embarrassed to say how long it takes me to admit that I want what she has.
I want to be a writer.
In fact, it is what I have always wanted.
Even as I type those words, the doubt comes in.
Writers are a dime a dozen. Writers don’t make money. Writers blah blah blah….
This, my friend, is a question of permission.
Have you ever wanted something so badly but not been able to let yourself have it?
Is there a longing deep inside you that you have buried forever?
You are in good company.
So how do we do it?
How do we allow ourselves to be our longing?
This is what I have been praying over, grieving for, and ritualizing the past two months.
Do I get to be a writer?
Do you get to ______?
When I tell my friend Jenny who’s known me since I was 15, I want to take a stab at writing, she says, “It’s always been writing.”
When my career coach gently asks, “What’s the worst that could happen if you try?” I burst into tears, terrified that I could live my whole life and not try.
Permission comes in drips and drops.
I don't have many answers about how, but I do know permission is a process.
Perhaps one day, my bio will read “Writer.” But until then, find me typing in the library.
"I wish my body would just cooperate." Mila says, deep frustration in her voice. "I'm having fantastic sex. Why can't I cum?"
We're sitting in my sex therapy office, having a conversation we've had several times before. In fact, it's a conversation I often have with my clients.
They are angry about something that their body is or is not doing, something that is preventing them from experiencing intimacy in the way they want.
It might be not being able to come, or not being able to stay present during sex, or not being able to speak to tell their partner what feels good. Perhaps they physically block themselves from experiencing pleasure, or can only orgasm by themselves and never with a partner.
In every case, there is a disconnect between what the person wants and what is actually happening in their body.
What my sex therapy clients usually come to understand is that there is a profound wisdom in the responses that our bodies have. These responses have developed over time, in reaction to the experiences we've had in our bodies. Our history is stored in our bodies.
"Is your body feeling safe enough to orgasm?" I ask Mila. Her eyes flicker away from mine, and her foot taps nervously, answering the question without words.
She blurts out, "We've never processed our breakup." Mila recently started sleeping with her ex-girlfriend of ten years ago, and is hopeful for a reconciliation.
"But that was so long ago. Why would it stop me from cumming now?" she asks.
She doesn't like my answer: "Your body remembers."
Mila's situation is not unusual. She's processed the painful breakup in therapy. She understands what happened between them. She has mentally forgiven her lover for leaving her. But until our painful and traumatic experiences are processed on a somatic level, body symptoms persist.
Her mind has moved towards healing faster than her body. Her body is reminding her to be cautious, to take her time, to build emotional trust with her lover (probably including processing their breakup) before surrendering bodily control (i.e. having an orgasm.)
Part of becoming a skillful, well-integrated human means attending to all the parts of ourselves, especially those bits we avoid. Focusing our attention on our wounds with the intention of healing means acknowledging the adaptive survival mechanisms we have embodied. It means seeing how our bodies express old survival skills, even when our minds have decided that those skills are no longer relevant to our current situation.
"Healing trauma, rather than avoiding or managing it, is possible through a somatic approach.
In order to have the sexuality you want,