Saturday, December 16, 2006
It's such a cliche to be blogging about breakups, but this is what's been on my mind lately. The thing that is so tragic about most breakups is how two people who came together in love and admiration of each other can end things with such rancor and anger. Is it because we found out the other person isn't who we wanted them to be? But if we wanted them to be someone they weren't, is that really love?
At the end of a long (for me), exhausting, conflict-ridden off-and-on relationship, I'm torn between joy at being free of it all, and grief over what is now passing away. Or rather both of these things exist for me right now; I'm trying to sit with both of them. And I am really trying to not inject more anger and insult into the mix as my ex- and I bring closure to this thing. But in the midst of all the accusations and hurt feelings, I find myself wondering if I'm as mature and sane as I think I am, or if he's right, if I really am cruel and weak. Or is he the cruel and weak one? Or are we both: cruel and kind; weak and strong, depending on who we are at any given moment?
I guess it doesn't matter. The only thing to do in this situation is to try and stay out of the argument. I've apologized, I've wished him well, there's nothing else for me to do, except heal. But it's so frustrating and demoralizing to know that someone who used to hold me in such esteem now things I'm some kind of crazy, demented bitch. Because I'm not. Or I don't think I am. I've screwed up royally in my life, and I've also done the right thing, too many times to count. But in the end it always seems to be the bad things that are remembered. I suppose that's why we're breaking up.
I just have to remind myself that I am not responsible for how someone else chooses to see the world, and I don't have to be liked by everyone. For the first time, the depression I find myself in right now is devoid (almost) of the self-criticism that usually accompanies these down times for me. I'm not thinking about how I will never find love, or how I've failed or how I've chosen badly, I'm only feeling the normal grief that accompanies a loss. This is huge for me. And I need to remember how huge it is, and how valuable.
Last week I got my hair cut, and I colored it this weekend. For me, changing my hair has always been a sign of a major life change. It's almost a cliche. The hippie honey-girl is gone (or at least dormant for awhile.) What's next is anybody's guess. I hope for lots of laughter, love, and light in 2007, and less angst, confusion, and bitterness, for me, for my ex-, and for everybody out there in cyber-world.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Last week I decided I was going to try to "manifest a healthy, strong, loving relationship." I'm surrounded by psychology information and resources at my job, and was looking at some energy tapping information, where you tap certain acupressure points to manipulate your energy flow...or something. I'm not totally sure how it works, but lots of people say it can be effective, so I decided to give it a try. What the heck...it's painless, easy to do, and I don't have anything to lose, right?
This particular exercise I decided to do entails tapping some points on your right ear while repeating a phrase that represents something you want to happen in your life, but stating it as if it's already true. So rather than "I want to be in a strong, healthy, loving relationship", I say " I am in a strong, healthy, loving relationship."You do this several times a day.
I started last Wednesday, and seem to remember to do it 3-4 times a day, so far so good. On Saturday, I went to a friend's holiday party. I had invited my ex- who several weeks ago told me he "just wanted to be friends." That's what friends do, right, invite each other to parties? We've been "just friends" so often in our on-again-off-again-on-again-off-again relationship that I figured we were all square. There didn't seem to be any hurt feelings or resentment or anything brewing, I mean I had seen him a day or two before for another social event and things seemed fine.
At the party, as you can probably guess from all this set-up, everyting was not OK. Near the end of the party, after sitting around brooding in the dark living room for awhile, my ex- decided to sit me down and basically interrogate me about something that happened two years before, where we went out for a social gathering of publishing people but couldn't find the group. He accused me of lying to him about it, implying that there really was no group meeting, that I was covering my ass in a lie or something...I'm not even sure what he was implying, it was so crazy. I got upset at the accusation and we got in a fight. He also threw in some other jealous crap for good measure. What a way to end a party.
After 6 years of fighting and making up, I'm really not in the mood to make up anymore. I don't know if he's getting more unstable, or I'm just getting better boundaries, but I'm feeling like the friendship/relationship whatever it is is finally over. It hurts like hell, but I'm so used to the pain by now, it's like I know exactly what path it will take. It reminds me of that scene in 'Trainspotting' when the heroin addict decides to quit cold turkey, and you see him stocking his room with all the supplies he'll need to survive, since he's done it all before.
I don't think I'll be seeing any dead babies crawling across the ceiling, but it is funny how no matter how many times this happens, it still hurts almost as much as the first time. But, that's old news.
The day after the fight, I was lying around depressed, and a thought occurred to me: What if this is the first stage of my manifestation? What if the universe, or my chakras, or whatever is at play in these types of things, has heard me, and that getting my ex- out of my life is the way to open up to a new relationship? I realize that the fact that we pretty much constantly fought during our relationship, and that we also fought several days after I started my new manifestation regime, doesn't exactly prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the ear-tapping works, but I do wonder.
I've known in my heart for awhile now that having my ex- be such a big part of my life doesn't bode well for me finding a new, healthy relationship. He took up so much of my psychic energy, even when we were just friends, that I often wondered if our closeness was one reason why I was still single. Now that this has happened, I wonder if I'm seeing something shift in my life. Maybe I'm getting stronger; maybe he's losing his grip on me (or I'm getting better at shaking it off). Maybe this means I'll finally have the strength to let him go and let someone new in. Until I know more, I'll be tapping my ear like a fiend. Only in private, of course, I don't want to scare off any possible love interests!
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
So last Thursday night I was on the bus coming home from work. Normally I take the BART for this leg of the trip, but there was some delay on BART, so I took the 72 bus instead. It's a LOOONNNGGG bus ride. For some reason, I was just sitting there without a lot of jibber-jabber in my head. That's not normally the case for me, but this night, I was just sitting, my mind relatively quiet, observing, open to the people around me.
The first thing I noticed was the noise. This was one noisy crosstown bus. I think if I had been more my normal self - more in my head and more judgmental - I would have been really pained by the noise. There was a group of high-school-age kids in the back talking back to each other as kids will, a woman talking rather loudly into her cell phone, and two other women having a loud conversation. As it was, I let the noise just wash over me, and it did feel like some sort of sonic wave.
The next thing I noticed was peoples' energy, bouncing around inside that steel box. The lady on the phone was getting mad because another passenger was looking at her as she talked. Two young girls were eating sweets (one had a huge, rainbow-colored lollipop, the kind I didn't think they made anymore) and talking quietly. The two conversating women were swapping stories of their painful childhoods - and they did sound painful. One said the last time she had seen her father was when he had come running to her house, t-shirt covered in blood, looking for shelter. The punk-looking guy next to me was staring out the window but his fingers never stopped moving.
Eventually, as I watched the restlessness on that bus, I realized what I was seeing. It was like I opened up to what was really going on. And what was really going on were that everyone's egos were desperately seeking comfort, bouncing around inside that bus like ball bearings in a pinball machine.
The lady on the phone was seeking acknowledgment from her friend on the phone and also making a big show of getting up and moving so the guy watching her couldn't see her. The comfort of self-righteousness is one of the nicest feelings there is. The girls eating sweets were enthralled with the comfort of the food. The two women sharing horror stories were wanting their pain to be seen - really seen - by the other, and also wanting it to be OK that they didn't feel responsibility to treat other people respectfully because, as one of them said "Nobody ever said sorry to me." The loud kids in the back of the bus were seeking comfort in numbers, seeking physical and psychic safety by taking up space. The guy next to me was, like me, en route to something else that would give him some kind of comfort. A lover, maybe, or a concert or a drug deal. I was going home to be safe in my cave, where I was in control and nobody could touch me unless I wanted them to. We were all just bare-naked egos in that bus that night, crying like little babies wanting to be fed and held.
I know that this is true of most people most of the time. I joke sometimes that you can take the person out of the schoolyard, but you can't take the schoolyard out of the person. All of us at some time or another, and most of us most of the time, are in the schoolyard, at least in our psyches. We hit and kick when we think the bully is coming after us, or we ingratiate ourselves in exchange for being left alone; we seek solace in something outside ourselves - food, love, sex, booze, TV, self-righteousness, religion - because we aren't getting our needs met elsewhere and don't know how to ask; we seek cameraderie with others so that we can feel safe and not alone, the way zebras do on the plain, and we'll do whatever we can to be accepted by our crowd, to not get kicked out and left for the playyground bullies.
And there's nothing wrong with all that - it's the way humans are. But that day on the bus I saw it clearly than I usually do. I'm usually as blind and ego-driven as everyone else, and I was on that night, too, but for some reason, I saw something differently, some break in the curtain between what we tell ourselves is real, and what is actually real. It was like when the light falls in a certain way, illuminating a familiar object differently than normal, and you see that object in a new way, for just a second. I felt a strong compassion for everyone on that bus, for the little kids inside us all, who just want to be loved, acknowledged, appreciated, and touched.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
The holidays, man. Why do they make us so crazy? I think I've gotten a grip on them for myself (everybody does, right?) , but the mania around me always unsettles me - and the crass commercialism just pisses me off. I think it's all related to the expectation that everyone should be happy around this time, (and if you're not happy, buying stuff will make you happy!) and the reality that peoples' lives don't follow a set calendar schedule of jollity.
It makes me tired. Maybe it's also the weather that does it - the cold, the early dark, the clouds, the rain. This is the time of navel-gazing, of going inside and facing the dark, both literal and metaphorical. I find myself not wanting to get out of bed on the weekends, watching too much TV at night, wanting to drink more. It's also the time of being cozy and warm, if we're lucky, watching the hearth fires and twinkling lights the way humans have for millions of years. The Festival of Lights (our ancestors' way of fighting off wintertime depression) is right around the corner, yet with all the lights, so many of us are sad, depressed, lonely, or irritated, frazzled, and stressed. I suppose that's not exactly an original thought.
I'm feeling the depression in my bones again, and I'm trying to just let it be, to sink into it a little bit and not fight it. It's normal, at least for me. It's not a disease. it's a physical reaction to external events, both natural and human-made. It's probably the psychological equivalent to hibernation. It's time for me to curl up inside myself, like a bear or a squirrel.
The problem is that in this society, there is no time to stop, and just be. I feel unfriendly and anti-social when I get this way. People jar me, like rubbing sandpaper across sensitive skin, even when I like them and they're being perfectly civil, but I feel like I should be out amidst the crowds, smiling cheerfully, happy in the groups that make up my life - friends, family, coworkers. I feel like I'm letting them down, running out of time to be a social success - it feels wrong even though I know it isn't.
But, I am thankful for many things, including being able to spend several days over T-Day weekend with my family in the redwoods in Guerneville (that picture above is the view from the back deck of the rented vacation home). I'm thankful for: having a family that doesn't judge me, or at least not obviously so; spending a few days bonding with my beautiful and intelligent 18-month old niece; getting to watch the mist dissipate in the morning over the Russian River and sitting in the hot tub late at night looking at the stars; having the capacity to be sensitive and self-reflective, even when it hurts; sitting and drinking ginger tea, wrapped in a red robe, while it rains outside; books; the Cowboy Junkies on my stereo; a day to give myself permission to fall apart.
Monday, November 20, 2006
I remember once, about ten years ago, I had a short-lived relationship which ended when my boyfriend broke up with me because he wasn't in love with me. It was my first experience with being dumped, and I didn't take it very well. We tried to remain friends for awhile, and at one point, I remember he picked me up from work. I had painted my fingernails a dark, dark red color, and the minute I got into his car, he saw them and said "Been in a dark mood lately?" That memory is inextricably linked in my mind with being dumped.
Today I'm wearing blood-red lipstick even though it's a normal workday. I like the color. It stands out and makes my face look pale and serious. My lips look like I just took a bite out of a living thing. I was staring at myself in the mirror in the bathroom at work this morning when I realized the connection between my lipstick and the dark red nail polish of ten years ago.
This weekend, I was once again relegated to "just friends." I think this is the fourth time this has happened with us, in six years. I realize I'm not bitter about it, the way I have been in the past. I don't blame him, really. It can't be easy knowing I feel this ambivalence, and with the fact that we haven't been getting along very well lately, it makes sense to me to end this. I probably would have done it if I was stronger.
But I do feel depressed, and defeated, like curling up in my house with my head under some pillows. I feel no desire to tell anyone or to seek comfort. My only comfort right at this minute are my blood-red lips. I can't quite explain it, but I feel like wearing this lipstick always. It takes itself seriously, it won't be fucked with, it's the opposite of ambivalence. Like the fingernail polish, it knows what it is, and maybe I feel like when I wear it, I know who I am, too.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
What Is Love, Anyway?
I really envy all those people who seem so in love with their partner, so sure that they made the right decision to be with that person, even when they're fighting or going through something stressful. I've never had that, at least not for any length of time. Oh, I've had relationships, but I've always been plagued by this idea, after maybe the first year, that it just wasn't going to work out. There's always something about the person that I don't click with, something that drives me batty about them, or something that makes me think 'RED FLAG! RED FLAG!" . Either I'm not physically attracted to them, they bore me, or they have different ways of viewing the world that it just doesn't seem possible to work through.
As I've been getting older, with no foreseeable strong, secure, lasting relationship in sight, it's been on my mind more and more. Is it just that I'm not the kind of person who can be in a relationship? Am I too something: too stubborn, too judgmental, too set in my ways, too introverted, too sarcastic? Am I kidding myself when I dream of having a stable, committed long term relationship with someone who loves me, warts and all?
The thing is, I do have someone who loves me like that, I just don't know if I love HIM that way, unconditionally, willing to forgive his flaws as he's willing to forgive mine. I find myself now in a place of ambivalence with him - do I stay, do I go, do I do something else...? Is it my predeliction for ambivalence cropping up now, or is it that this really isn't the relationship for me? Should I listen to my mind ("You've broken up and gotten back together 3 times in six years!") or to my heart ("He sees you the way you've always wanted to be seen. He treats you better than any lover ever has.")
I've been reading a lot of books about zen and mindfulness in relationships these days, and they all say the same thing: ambivalence and confusion are okay. The true path to love is to stay with those feelings of confusion, not fight them or try to pin them down. And intellectually I can buy that. But the western part of me, the one that grew up in a couple-centered culture where you're aren't really successful in life unless you have a significant other, is yammering away at me that I have to figure this out, and figure it out NOW. Either stay, and commit to this man, or go and find someone else. But DO SOMETHING.
I don't have a biological clock. I don't want kids, and never have. I have a good professional job and own my own home. I don't need anyone else at this stage, except emotionally. And I know intellectually that being in a relationship doesn't guarantee anything: not security, not happiness,not love, not having someone to grow old with, not anything. I know that. Yet there's a part of me that thinks if I just find that right person, I'll finally be happy and can stop searching for happiness. And that part of me is standing behind me , looking at this whatever I have with this man, and saying "that's not happiness!"But I don't know what happiness looks like. Emotionally, I feel like happiness should be a state of pure, uninterrupted bliss, but in reality, I think happiness is knowing in your soul that you can deal with whatever comes down the pike. And I don't know that with this relationship--whatever it is. But is that true, or is it only my projection?
Nobody in my immediate family has ever had a healthy, long-term relationship, as far as I can tell. There's a long history of infidelity and divorce. So I never learned what it was to be in a healthy relationship. I know that's at least one of the core reasons why I can't seem to build one, either. I'm swimming blind here, trying to make it up. That's freeing in some ways and debilitating in others: I feel like I have the tools to build whatever I want, but I have no blueprints. The only thing I can do is try to pay attention, try to treat people well, and try to be loving to myself and others around me. Maybe that's really the only answer, but man, it sure doesn't fit into that fairytale romance crap I grew up believing: one man, one love, one white picket fence...
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
I borrowed my mom's photo album of my kid/teenager photos last week, as part of my attempt to come to terms with my childhood and figure out how I got where I am today. One thing struck me when I was leafing through the album: I was never ugly.
Ever since I can remember, I've thought of myself as ugly. As a young kid, I had a major overbite that required a purple nylon headpiece that I wore through my first years of school. Then, when I was 10, I developed acne that has never really gone away. I took Accutane for a year or two, which stopped the worst of it, but that was in college. By then, I had already developed a self-identity as the "ugly girl", at least in my own head. I thought of myself as this impossibly ugly monster girl, who would never be loved by a man and would forever be an outsider, in the shadows. In addition to the overbite and the acne, I was pathologically shy, almost autistic, as a young girl, and so I really never had many friends and never had a boyfriend until I was in college. This only served to prove to me that I was too ugly for the rest of the world.
Even now, at 36, I struggle with my self-image. I still think I'm ugly: big, hulking, tall, big-boned, long-nosed, scarred, lanky-haired, ugly. I know I'm not, really, but it's hard to shake that self-identity. But when I looked at my kid pix, I realized: I never was ugly. It was all in my head.
It makes me smile in relief, but it's also very, very sad. I think about the quarter of a century that I've spent hating the way I look, when in reality I was a very cute, smiling, eager, blond-headed kid, not very different from most kids. I just wish I could go back in time and say to myself, in some way that I would really believe it: "You're not ugly, you're beautiful and vibrant and everybody can see it but you."
Now I have a task cut out for me. I have to get off this self-imposed trip about me not being attractive. It's been a chip on my shoulder for my whole life, and now it's time for it to get off and go take a hike. It's the story I always tell myself about myself, and it's never been true. And it's so hard to get rid of.
When I'm with my female coworkers, I always feel like I'm the "big girl". I feel sort of clumsy and unkempt next to them, unfashionable. When I see pretty, stylish girls, I always feel like a troll next to them.
In relationships, it comes up, too. I've not had many relationships, and I always used to blame it on the fact that I just never was as cute as the other girls. "Guys are so shallow," I'd say to myself, "They just want the cute, tight little mini-skirted girls, and can't deal with an intelligent woman like myself."
But what if A) it was more complicated than that, and B) I actually DID get interest from guys, I've just most often been the one not interested in THEM? That means I have to change my whole self-identity, from the victimized so-called "ugly girl", to the one who has always had the choice as to how my life has turned out. Shit.
That means I can't blame anyone else. I mean, I could blame society for feeding me media images of women who represent unattainable beauty standards (and believe me, I have), but I've always been smart, and started calling myself a feminist at 19, so really I always had the tools to look past that crap. I can't blame my parents, because they, or at least my mom, always told me I was beautiful.
And I suppose blame isn't really important, anyway. The point is for me to start constructing a new story about myself. One where I am the heroine of my own life, which is what I always fantasized about as a kid. I always wanted to be the straight, tall, proud warrior-woman (with a big white horse, of course!) who did battle when necessary, wowed people with her various skills, and inspired courage in others. Wait a minute...could it be...that I really AM that woman (without the horse, of course)?
Constructing a new story about ourselves is healthy, for us and for the people around us. I've dated several men with chips on their shoulders, and it's no fun. I know the one I've been carrying around has caused its share of problems with the people around me, most notably my boyfriends. The question is: how do we even start rewriting our own personal stories? It's so easy to repeat the old stories, I mean it's second nature by now, right? Most of the time we don't even realize we're doing it.
I'm not sure how to start, except by being aware when I go into that old headspace again, and consciously rewriting what I tell myself about myself, until that new story becomes second nature. I don't want to spend another quarter-century telling myself something about myself that's untrue.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The Money You Bring to Vegas, Stays in Vegas
I just came back from a whirlwind weekend trip to Las Vegas with my mom and sister. It's the first time we've gone away, just the three of us, or at least the first time in recent memory. We go out to dinner together occasionally, but not as often as we used to now that my sister has an 18-month-old daughter.
Vegas was a total trip. It was fun to see all the lights and crazy expensive hotels and the chaos of the casinos. We stayed at the Luxor, a hotel built to resemble various Egyptian artifacts, including a gigantic Sphinx overlooking the main drive. You could just barely see some desert mountains from our hotel window, and the contrast between their ancient calm presence and the frenetic activity of the Strip was something to ponder. I would sit in the hotel window, looking at the light changing on the hills in the distance, and wishing I was out in them. I love the desert. Lights and music and crowds are interesting to me for about ten minutes, but the earth never loses its mystery.
At one point, on the second day, when my sister was napping and my mom was taking in an Imax show about the Nile, I went outside to try and get some peace and quiet (and actual air). I sat out by the pool (or should I say 'pools', since there were three pools and I think three hot tubs out there) on the grass and tried to rest, but the piped-in 80's pop music left my brain frazzled. When there was a pause in the music, I could hear birds and crickets, and I wanted to listen to them, not to U2 tunes that were popular when I was in college, and a country-western song about Jesus saving some woman from crashing her car.
I had a similar thought about Vegas that I did when I went to Burning Man about 4 years ago: We are not supposed to be out here. The bright expanse of reddish yellow desert that stretches in all directions from the city seemed like the real world; all the lights and explosions, sequins and velvet curtains, fake architecture and bumper-to-bumper traffic seemed not only false, but actually damaging to the planet. Not that I refused to participate. I drank, ate expensive meals, saw some extravagant shows (Cirque du Soleil's 'Love', using music from the Beatles, was fantastic!), took pictures of the lights, rode in a gondola at the Venetian, oohed and ahhed over the Bellagio's water show, bought souvenirs. And I enjoyed it all, too. It's just that in the end, the red hills constantly changing color and form in the sinking light kept tugging at me from the corners of my eyes. They were so much more beautiful, grand, and expansive than the seven-zillion-watt Vegas Strip, all the cacophony of the gambling machines, and the flashiest chorus girls on any stage.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Why the Leftist Anti-Porn Movement is Wrong
Are three anti-porn articles in leftist publications in the past couple of months a coincidence? It started when I saw the Utne Reader's Sept-Oct 2006 issue, with a series of articles indicated on the cover as: "Porn Culture: What It's Doing to Us." Then I was looking on Alternet and found a blog post called "Who's Co-Opting Feminism?" by Christy Burbridge at Feminista, that questioned the feminist creds of pro-porn feminists. Then today, I picked up a copy of the East Bay Express, the Berkeley-Oakland( supposedly) liberal weekly newspaper, to see a cover story on how internet porn is behind the rise in sex addiction.
One of the Utne articles claims that we're living in a "porn culture", where we're surrounded by sex all the time and so it's either making us into sexual freaks or numbing is to "real" sexuality. That's funny, how can we be living in a porn culture when a movie that shows any full frontal nudity in the non-sexual context of the story garners a movie an X-rating or at the very least an R and a stern warning about nudity before the film starts ? Not to mention that "happy sex" in American-made movies (depictions of people having healthy, fun, non-exploitive sex) is virtually nonexistent. Plus the fact that in most of America, sex-education in schools is hugely controversial. Where's the ubiquitous sex? In my experience, American culture is deathly afraid of sex and sexuality in almost all forms.
Another article was titled "That's Obscene! Or is it? Why Censoring Evil Does More Harm than Good", reprinted from Dissent magazine. Now porn is evil? I think that's going a little too far.
I remember traveling to Europe when I was 15 for a school trip with my liberal Catholic high school. One of my first memories of Paris is walking by a newstand that sold magazines, and seeing naked people on the covers of magazines, just hanging out there on the walls of the newsstand, for everyone to see. No brown paper covers, no hiding them behind the counter. I don't read French, but I think some of them weren't even porn mags. I was shocked. Shocked! Then later, as an adult, I reflected back on it and came to the conclusion that it's better to depict naked bodies as normal than to hide them in shady corners, both literal and metaphorical.
I've been a feminist since I was 19 (probably earlier than that, actually, but I didn't use the word until I was 19.) I used to be staunchly anti-porn, but now I'm a raving pro-porn, pro-sex feminist. My only complaint about porn is that there's so little good stuff.
This is not to say that the porn industry is some bastion of fairness, cleanliness, decency, and good hygiene. I know that's not true, and I'm sure there are people -men and women - who are exploited in it, just as there are people exploited in every industry . There are horrible fetishistic acts depicted in some porn that is - and should be - illegal (child pornography, snuff films, etc.) Being a pro-porn feminist isn't the same as saying "anything goes." But most of the porn I've seen depicts consensual sex between adults. True, it may not be particularly hot sex, it may even be really stupid sex with stupid music, no plot, and ridiculous looking actors. But you can say that about most current non-porn movies, too.
To my mind, the leftist anti-porn movement is really an anti-sex movement, and it's misguided. It's sexual fear that drives it, not the will to help people exploited by the sex industry. It's the same old hysterically religious sex-fear that drives fundamentalists in all religions to force women to cover up their bodies,lower their eyes, and shames them as "sluts" if they enjoy sex or have too much of it.
If you really wanted to help sex workers who need it, you'd reach out to them and offer substantive help: legislation to make sex work legal so the workers can have health benefits, protection from abuse, and a way out if they choose to take it. Anti-porn people often protest that this would allow the sexual exploitation of young women to continue in southeast Asia and other areas of the world, but actually, kidnapping and slavery is always illegal (or should be), and so helping those women isn't a sex issue, but a human rights issue. There are people who are virtual slaves in many other industries that don't have to do with sex (check out this article on modern-day slavery). Legalizing and regulating sex work would actually help these women (giving them an avenue for legal recourse, taking away much of the shame that often stops them from seeking help) while also supporting and helping women (and men) who go into sex work by choice.
In my opinion, the real problem in this so-called "porn culture" isn't the sex, it's the violence and the lack of human compassion. The porn that gets most people up in arms is the violent and exploitive porn: the rape, cruel S&M, torture, children, etc. I agree that this stuff is cruel and horrible and needs to be stopped, but it's not the sex that's the problem: it's the violence. It's the violence in movies and TV that bothers me, too, and that leads to this violent and degrading porn. THAT's what I think anti-porn crusaders need to focus on, not making porn illegal or shaming us into thinking porn is bad.
What about the fact that most kids see something like 200,000 violent acts on TV and movies by the time they're18 (how many explicit sex acts - happy or otherwise - do most kids see in this time period? Probably not nearly as many.) Or the fact that TV news focuses on the most outrageous, nasty stuff and very little on the positive, good things that happen? Or that a Christian video game has kids killing "heathens" for points? Or that the leadership in this country thinks nothing of invading a country and killing hundreds of thousands of people who they then won't even acknowledge? THAT's the true shame of this nation - and of most of the rest of the world, for that matter. Not the fact that some people enjoy watching other people have sex.
Now if someone could just do something about all the just plain bad porn that's out there, I'd be happy.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
From The American Flag to the Purple Heart
I walked into the post office this morning to buy 10 stamps. The stamp machine at my P.O. in Richmond, though it was working this time, only sells the books of stamps with the American flag on them, and I didn't want those. I asked the postal clerk guy for 10 stamps with "...anything but the American flag on them." I've done this plenty of times at the P.O. and nobody's batted an eyelash. In retrospect, I guess I should ask for stamps with "...something pretty, like flowers or animals." I'm a girl, that's to be expected.
Anyway, I asked for stamps with anything but the flag, and the guy said "Why?" He's a middle-aged filipino man, and I know that immigrants have a particular sort of patriotism going. I didn't feel like getting into a political conversation at 8:45 in the morning, so I just said "I don't want to put it on my mail." Plus I didn't expect the question. How should I explain my feelings about it to a complete stranger who's undoubtedly seen more suffering, poverty, and war than I have?
He smiled and launched into a story about - I think - how he doesn't understand immigrants who come over here and say "I hate the American flag." I felt defensive, so I blurted out "I don't hate it.." but he wasn't listening, he was still in his story. When he took out 10 purple heart stamps and handed them to me, I just paid, thanked him, and left.It's true, I don't hate the flag. And I don't love it, either. I'm ambivalent about the flag. It's not bad, aesthetically, as flags go. It's got good balance, a simple, effective design, and a bold use of color. But to me, it doesn't represent what it represents to the people who so vigorously wave it at fourth of july picnics. The last thing the American flag represents to me is democracy, freedom, and truth. In fact, that is, literally, the last thing it represents to me. To me, rightly or wrongly, it represents jingoism, narcissism, consumerism, and ignorance. At best, it represents the concept of "We can do better."
So now, here I am, with 10 purple heart stamps, when what I really wanted were stamps that had no militaristic overtones at all. Flowers or jazz singers, or quilts, or American landscapes, or heck, even motorcycles! Is that irony? I don't know anymore, but maybe it's a good lesson for me. Maybe it's the universe laughing gently at me for thinking so highly of myself that what stamps I put on my bills is important. How silly! Or maybe it's yet another lesson in asking for what I want, or for standing up for my beliefs. Now I'll think about this lesson when I pay my next 10 bills, because I sure as heck am not putting purple heart stamps on my personal mail.
Friday, October 20, 2006
"THE GREAT ELEVENTH-CENTURY CHRISTIAN mystic, scholar, and physician Hildegaard of Bingen defined sin as spiritual dry-rot, aridity, and refusal to grow."
Sometimes I feel surrounded by people who can't - or more likely won't - change. People I've known for years who refuse to look around them, to do the hard work to make the necessary changes to lead the lives they want to lead, who complain incessantly about the same things they complained about to me years ago. I wonder if that's part of my feeling of depression and being mired in deep, dark mud. Sometimes, I, too, feel stuck in an arid land of shadows, with nothing out there for me except a bleak future of more stuckness, drinking too much, working when I don't feel like it, feeling ut of tune with the natural order of things and too tired to do anything about it.
But I look at myself in the mirror and I know that I HAVE changed, I HAVE done the work, and I continue to do it, because I believe that to not change and grow is to waste the breathe we're given by the universe, or God, or whatever you want to call it. Also I don't think I have a choice. I'm just naturally a person who thinks and reaches out, and learns, and grows. I'm not afraid of change, which maybe is unusual.
The people around me seem extremely afraid of change, and it's something I don't understand. I don't want to judge them, but sometimes I do. I often feel tired when I'm around them, and sometimes like they just don't "get" me. I wonder what to do about it. These are the people closest to me. What do I do - just walk away from them? Find other people to be close to? But it's not that easy for me; I have a hard time connecting with people, despite all my talking about reaching out and growing. I find myself staying at their level, not pushing them too hard because I don't want to hurt their feelings or make them angry. And I think it's keeping me from growing.
I'd really like to connect with a community that wants to explore these ideas. My process group does, to a point, but even most of them are resistant to change. We spend a lot of time pushing against each other trying to get an ego in edgewise - change comes in tiny increments, if it comes at all, and only after a fight.
Most people I've known who are really interested in exploring deeper issues tend to develop a self-righteous attitude about other people who aren't following their same path, and I'm trying really hard not to do this. I know life is incredibly difficult, and that everyone has their own path. I simply want to be around people who are willing to try harder, to push against the hard stuff, who can walk with me on the path of self-exploration, but who don't fall into self-righteousness and judgment along the way. It seems an impossible task, but maybe that's what my exploration is meant to be. Maybe my mission is to find those people and reach out to them.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
It was exhilerating and scary, because I have quite a history of not saying the things I need to say in relationships, especially when I need to say them in order to protect myself. I'm a practiced avoider. I tend to repress all my feelings of hurt or resentment, until they come out in a surge of anger later on, leading to more hurt and resentment. I'm trying really hard to get out of that habit, but I'm so afraid of hurting my loved ones or of saying something I'll regret.
So now I'm feeling proud of myself, but also anxious, because I don' t know if my partner did what he normally does last night (go over and over the conversation, start to seethe, and then drink too much to control feelings of anger.) In the past, when I've been really honest, I've actually lost him. Now I wonder if I have again, or, if he'll surprise me the way he did at times inour conversation, being open and understanding and forgiving.
I have to remind myself that he's an adult and has responsibility for whatever feelings he's having right now about me or the relationship. I have to remind myself that I'm an adult, who only has responsibility for my own actions, and not his. I have to remind myself that I'll be OK, no matter what happens with this relationship or any relationship. I have to remind myself that I finally took care of myself last night, and that that's a good thing, no matter what the outcome is. Oh, and not to mention that it's OK not to be in a relationship, too.
I sometimes wonder if I'll ever really be able to have one of those "normal" relationships, and even if there is such a thing. All those happy couples on TV and in books, it's not really like that for real people, right? In movies and love stories, there's no farting and bad breathe, and boredom, and conflicting sex drives, and little comments that get misinterpreted, and stupid fights, and wondering whether it's OK to let him pay this dinner bill, or whether I should contribute, because he buys me dinner a lot and I don't reciprocate as often as I'd like to, and worries over how to say the things I feel I need to say, and the creeping depression that's come over me in every relationship I've ever been in....I guess my life's no movie or book, but then whose is?
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
$2/ea, plus 2 stamps per zine for postage.
Honey B Temple, p.o. box 5383, Richmond, CA 94805