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Posts Tagged ‘being real’

It seems this is the season for long-term couples to look at themselves and their relationships and decide not to be together anymore.  Okay, really, it’s more the season for one half of the couple to do that.  I’ve got a few friends who are making the transition from ‘us’ to ‘me.’ 

What I really want to talk about is the freedom that comes with the untangling, the dis-enmeshment of a breakup. (I love that new word I just made up!)  So many of my friends had been living with the constrictions of their relationships – afraid to do things, buy things, go places because their partner disapproved.  The relationships had a power imbalance that was subtle, abusive, and insidious.  It grew out of patterns of behavior that may have started benignly (“Honey, you’re so much more savvy with money – you do our finances”)  but grew into chains.  (“Can I buy this?  Is it in our budget?”) 

I have a friend who just last week finalized her divorce and she’s been slogging through it for a year now.  Her husband told her out of the blue and began a systematic tearing down of her, beginning with the finances.  She has been on the defensive, first trying to regain his love, then trying to hold on to anything, countering his every legal move, let’s just say it’s been exhausting.  But now it’s done and she is finally able to sit back and look at her life – think about what she wants, where she’s headed, what is important to her.   

What I notice about her is that she is finally prioritizing herself again – for her – not so she will be a good “catch.”   She has stopped being driven by fear: that he will leave her, that she will not have the American Dream, that the kids will leave her too, that her friends will judge her because she failed.  She smiles now. 

Fearless living my friends.  Makes you amazing!  Allows you to love yourself first and others unconditionally.  Every person I know who moves from ‘us’ to ‘me’ has been given that opportunity.  Some grab it and hold it and own it for the rest of their lives, and others refuse the gift, too afraid to believe.

My hope and wish for all of my friends, especially those who are hurting, is that they will grab the chance, kick fear to the curb, and fly.  Wouldn’t it be beautiful to see all those womyn with wings?

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Another interesting meta-phrase, “I miss you.”  Was talking about this with a friend who was feeling particularly lonely and said those words.  Followed by something to the effect that saying so seemed needy, didn’t it?

Now, let me go back to the truth that communication is never as clear-cut as we would like it to be.  I say something, or write something, or even move my body and the first thing that happens, even before I do any of those things, is that my mind considers my purpose, my audience, what I know of that audience, and what kinds of response I have received in similar situations with others and with the intended audience.  All of these filters come together to help me choose the way I convey my message.  And then my message hits your filters.  I can say ‘your’ in this case, since you (whoever you are) are reading this.  And those same filters come into play, except from your perspective.  So, really, do we ever communicate exactly what we want to communicate?  Ah, too big a question for me!

But back to ‘I miss you.”  I have a pretty standard overall feeling about the receiving of that meta-phrase.  It’s a compliment.  It says, “You are important to me.  I want to spend time with you.  I enjoy your company.  You bring me joy.”  Why else would we miss? As the receiver,  ‘I miss you’ are words that I enjoy hearing.  It makes me think about the giver and often spurs me to find a way to make more real time with them.  Because, honestly, I miss them too.

But now to the perspective of the ‘sender’.  I think that all of the above apply in any situation of saying, “I miss you.”  But emotional state is a big factor.  When we are doing something that we know the other person would love, we might give them an ‘I miss you,’ because we want them to have that fun experience.  Or when we’re doing something that we think we would enjoy more if that person were there, we can have an ‘I miss you’ moment.  Both of those are happy and celebratory of that person. 

But when we’re feeling low and/or sad, it’s a natural tendency to think about what external things would make us happy.  Often it’s a good friend or lover.  Connecting then and letting them know you miss them feels weak or wrong or needy because we’re not in great shape.  But really, let’s look at that.  The people who are important in our lives are important because we can turn to them.  Because they support us through everything – the good and the bad.  And to recognize that – they’ve helped us feel good, shared their joy –  to want that when we are down, isn’t that normal? 

What a gift to give someone!  You enhance my life.  Thinking about you makes me smile and right now, I could use a smile.  I miss you.  I would feel better than I do right now, if you were here.  It would help me get out of my own way.  Telling someone you miss them is not a demand for time or attention.   In this case, it’s an acknowledgement of not feeling good and one possible solution.  It’s still a celebration of that person.

Okay, so, ‘I miss you’ has been sent, it has been received and now the reaction.  This is where needy, greedy, happy, grateful – judgements come in. 

As I have been writing this, I’ve been thinking of anther friend who has just gone through a really sad break-up.  It came as a surprise to her and she has had a hard time really believing.  Her ex would probably even say that the deluge of texts, e-mails, snail mails, etc. would amount to stalking.  And every one of those communications had some form of  ‘I miss you.’ 

So, as I’m writing this, I’m also thinking about that, and what I’m writing is losing form and purpose, because I’m writing about people who care about one another, and who want to spend time together, but I’m writing as if my truths about this meta-phrase were universal and then I’m trying to accommodate the ‘I miss you’ that is not a reciprocated feeling.  so.

I think what I’ve come up with in my muddle is that I still believe ‘I miss you.’ is a compliment.  I still believe all of the things I have written about it.  Whether one takes the compliment or not, is up to them.  But the needy part, the part that feels ookie to the receiver is not the I miss you, but the rest of the message – “What is wrong with me? I can change.  Please come back.”  All there, although maybe not in those exact words.  We mix the compliment with the tragic lack of self-esteem and have that, “Ew!  Yuck!  Get away from me now!” feeling.

Remember when I talked about our filters?  I think we’ve all had the ‘I miss you’ around a lost partner or friend.  I know I have, and I’ve had the ‘I can change’ feeling too.  And I’ve communicated it.  I think that’s where my friend was coming from when she said something to the effect of ‘sounds kind of needy, doesn’t it?’  We start to associate missing someone with them not wanting to be around us.  So the more important someone is, the less we want to reveal that they are.  Because if you are important and I want to be around you, you are going to leave me because wanting you around (or to be around you) is needy.  And nobody likes needy or clingy.  How sad that our experiences can be so convoluted that we become guarded with our joy in each other. 

I know I’m just beginning to unlearn it.  It’s a part of an intentional life.  A life not ruled by fear.  And so to my very best friends, (and I know you’ll get this message) “I always miss you.  You help me be the best womon that I am, and you make me feel more alive.  I wish that I could spend so much more time with you because of who you are and who I am when I’m with you.  There is richness in our togetherness that I cannot find anywhere else and I carry it with me when we are apart.  I love you.”

lifetimes

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house for saleA couple of years ago, I wrote a post called Leaving This Life.  It was about really examining where you are, who you are and whether or not the compromises you’ve made in your life have taken you so far from your intended path that you aren’t able to fully live as the person you know yourself to be.  It was a post full of joy and wonder, excitement and self-awareness.  It was a call to change – not just change –  intentional change.

Well, it’s been two years now, and the thing that strikes me is that while I haven’t moved as quickly as I thought I would have, I have stayed committed to bringing together my surroundings, social views, relationships and personal integrity in a way that reflects me as I understand myself in this moment.  Key words: in this moment.  I’ll get back to that. 

Being deliberate and thoughtful about what I want and need, really weeding out what I thought others wanted and needed from/around me, has been a really long process.  I know that I am a people pleaser.  What I didn’t realize is how deeply that is ingrained in me.  How I actually try to anticipate a desire and have it ready, which paints a false image of who I am.  In examining what I want, I was really torn – over and over again.  Not by anyone’s expectations or desires, but my perceptions of these things.  I really had no idea that I had so few concrete knowings of what I want.  I have many concrete knowings of what I don’t want, but it’s actually taken two years to come up with wants.  Funny how we can know another’s desire, but not our own.

Along the way, there have been distractions and derails from making forward progress, but even for those, I have to be grateful – patience isn’t my strongest suit.  So the gift of being prevented from jumping before I really, really thought is one I have to thank the Goddess for.

So, I am moving out of the suburbs.  I am not moving to a rural area as I had thought I would.  I don’t ever want to mow a lawn, shovel snow, pick a weed, maintain anything ever again.  I am moving into a city.  A small city, that is vibrant and eclectic and has reasonable rents.  It is also very pedestrian friendly.  And I am manifesting an apartment  by water and in a park.  With a washer and dryer in the apartment.  Because when I looked at myself, and my personal needs, without considering anyone else, I rediscovered some things.  Valuable things and silly things – things I like and things I want to reframe.

As I start the packing and culling process, I am amazed at the ways I have changed.  This is where I get back to that “in this moment” thing.  I have found, stored in boxes, hanging on hangers in the back of the closet, in the way back corners of the kitchen cabinets, in the titles of the books on my shelves, the vestiges of who I was in a moment and was sure would never change.  So funny! 

So, I’m intentionally trying to leave room in this process for the unexpected.  I don’t want to lock in to any one idea or belief about myself and set up my world around that.  It’s taken me 24 years to recognize and extricate myself from the box I put myself in, in my early twenties, I sure don’t want to do it again! 

Music for Today:  Changer and the Changed – Chris Williamson; Only Thing That Stays the Same – Indigo Girls; Me and Julio – Simon and Garfunkel; Follow Me – Sarah Bettens

Reading: The Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast Pillow Book – Bill Richardson

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Been thinking about that three word phrase, “I love you.”  I know someone who doesn’t use it often, because, as she says, “‘love’ is one of those meta words that can mean different things to different people.”  She prefers to go straight to the detail, the aspect of love that would inspire an ‘I love you,’ and make comment on that. 

It used to bother me.  And honestly, sometimes it still does.  I like being told that I am loved.  I’ve been looking at the whys of that, and what saying ‘I love you’ means to me.  I totally agree that it has become a catch-all phrase, and sometimes I am guilty of using it that way myself.  As I become more linguistically aware, and more intentional about what I want to convey, I have also been examining what I mean when I use the meta phrase.

My truth is that ‘I love you’ has different meanings for me in different contexts.  In order to use that phrase with someone, I need to have a clear, defining conversation about what it means in connection to them.  This is something I am learning to do, and it is something that has made me stop in my tracks on the way to saying ‘I love you.’  I think that’s a good thing.

‘I love you’ is more than just an expression of strong feeling.  It is a promise, a commitment, an acknowledgment, an appreciation, and a sharing of joy.  Beautiful, “here is my truth about you,” joy.  It has no expectation of reciprocation in any form.

For some, it’s a bid for attention, a contract, a binder, and a softener of blows (“I love you, but…)  In other words, it is conditional and part of a power grab.  At its mildest, it’s a statement of insecurity (“Do you love me too?”)  At it’s most damaging, it is coercion, a non-consensual expectation of ways of relating.

I saved this blog entry to drafts because I didn’t have time to finish it, and recently told my lover about it.  It led to a really deep conversation about what we mean with ‘I love you.’  It was caring, and sweet, and unpacked baggage, and was really, really clear. 

One of the interesting things we discovered is how often ‘I love you’ means, ‘I’m grateful’ and ‘thank you.’ May we always be so lucky as to be blessed with appreciation and gratitude for each other first and foremost.  lifetimes

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When children are little, they go through a stage where they can only have one friend.  The best friend.  The only friend.  And they want that friend to have only them.  Inevitably, the one friend makes another friend.  For the original friend, it can be devastating.  They aren’t willing or able to share and anger and hurt ensue.  Later, we learn that there is room for all friends.  That no one person can be the only friend.  It’s not healthy.

As adults, however, society has trained us to believe that this is the way of lovers.  To find one and only one.  That person has to be the sole partner, and if they turn out not to be, if it turns out that we are not the entire reason for their being, anger and hurt ensue.  I could go into the whole patriarchal reasoning behind single partners, having to do with ensuring that the offspring actually belong to the particular male that chose the woman, but that’s really another post.  What I’m more interested in is the delineation we keep between friends and lovers.  When you’re my friend, there’s more than enough love to go around.  I can have lots of friends on many levels.  I can have all sides of me fulfilled by my myriad friendships.  But when it comes to lovers, I have to choose one.  If I find myself physically attracted to another, I must fight it, or be seen as betraying my first lover.  I don’t get it.

It took me awhile to really examine my beliefs around lovers and what fit me most, and then even longer to put it into practice.  It took some experimenting and some tweaking, but I’ve been living my truths for some time now and every day, I feel so good, so happy, so blessed that I can’t believe I am in the societal minority! 

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe in love, commitment, and happily ever after – I just believe that a person can do it with more than one partner at a time.  And right now, I’m living that blessed life, with two fabulous people with whom I share a committment to be together, as friends and as lovers for at least this lifetime.  Today I am grateful.  Today I am blessed.  And today I am humbled by it all.

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More than a few of my friends are sideways people, and within that group, many of them also have depression.  One of my most intimate friends and I were having a conversation about her depression and it struck me how very responsible she feels about it. Not about having it, but about her perception that she burdens others with it.

Now, I’m not talking about getting the blues, or even seasonal affective disorder.  I’m talking about the kind of depression that is there, more often than not.  The kind that, even when you’re not feeling it, you know it just took a day trip and will be back soon.  The kind that you live with like a parasitic twin. The kind that feeds off of you, some days more, some days less, and you can’t control it.  You never know how each day is going to make you feel, and an attitude adjustment simply won’t fix it.  Exercise, meditation, diet, sleep – none of it really ever fixes the problem.  Sometimes it helps, sometimes not.  Even medication can be a long shot.

The process of building relationships with my friends who are sideways and have this disease ensures that we will always be moving slowly around getting to know each other.  Trust is not easily given and experience has proven to my friends that intimacy breeds the “I want to fix you” syndrome.  There’s also the fear of being percieved as being needy – especially on bad days.  And so there comes that wall.  The wall that keeps my  friends from opening up, from sharing too deeply, and from being able to trust completely.  The internal view that they are flawed, somehow, and as I said, a burden.  Everyone always eventually leaves or is pushed away – in either case, gone.

Everything about us can teach us a life lesson.  It’s not the situation you find yourself in, but how you deal it.  Depression is an aspect of my friend that I accept just as much as her eyes, or the way she makes me laugh.  Some days I hurt to see her in pain, and it’s taken quite a while for her to trust me with it’s existence.  Other days, we can joke about it and it’s not so scary. 

There is a real conscious awareness on my part that while I wish my friend didn’t have this, she does and I can do nothing about it.  I can sit with her, hold space, and be loving enough to have frank conversations and acknowledge it.  Never, never is it my place to offer suggestions, or try to do the pep talks.  It’s minimizing and disrespectful.  It is always my place to love her unconditionally, be there whenever, and allow her the knowledge that I’m not going anywhere and that she is never a burden.  I choose this relationship, and all that it entails.  It’s no more work than any other friendship, which is to say that it is no work at all.  It’s simply love in action, which is what I hope to always bring to all of my relationships.  Intentional, unconditional, fully present, respectful love in action.

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Been a while since I posted.  Many things have happened.  So first an update.

I’ve been working hard to reclaim my space, and find forgiveness.  Neither one has been easy and neither one is really complete.  Time and action are required for both.  I’ve been really kind of surprized at the mental and emotional blow that incident hit me with.  I became kind of paralyzed and numb, walking through my life and seeing friends without really connecting.

Luckily for me, I have had the most amazing womyn enter my life and take me out of myself.  I am blessed with the best of friends and the most wonderful lover ever.   Through their gentle emotional connects and real, physical help, I have come to a place where I am not stuck any longer.  Yay!  It’s still a day to day process and I have to really let go of the resentment that I was unable to do the things I needed to do to get ready for the Season of No Light.  But I’m making it.

Okay, on to other stuff.  I love story.  So much so that I am in charge of a grant at my school to sponsor storytellers to come in and teach my students how to go from the oral tradition to the written form and back again.  At the end of September, I went to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee with my lover.  It was interesting on many levels.  First, let me just say that we totally loved it!  The weather was perfect, the town was lovely, with an amazing little chocolatier that you definitely wouldn’t expect to find in a town that has mostly just it’s main street to boast of.  Earth and Sky Confectioners made a perfect treat for the end of our days!

When you register, you are given a little square of fabric to pin to your clothing.  This is your admission ticket to all of the daytime shows.  My lover and I got to experience a number of really quality storytellers!  Some of our favorites were Sheila Kay Adams, who demonstrated an amazing ability to think on her feet and held an audience in rapture for over 15 minutes while a freight train rolled by, interrupting her story.  She’s a tiny powerful womon who can make you cry with laughter.  Gay Ducey, from San Francisco, stopped me in my tracks and made me call my doctor from Tennessee to schedule a mammogram.  ( By the way – it’s time for you to stop reading and go schedule yours – the latest recommendations be damned!  Go!  Now!  I’ll wait!)  Although she did crack a joke about bearded womyn.  My bearded girlfriend and I were quite surprized, seeing as she was from San Francisco.  Other stellar performers were:  Donald Davis, who told school stories about how teachers touch the lives of their students in ways they can’t really know, (how could I not love him?!), Nial de Burca, who flew in from Dublin to entertain us (what a sense of humor! and flair for drama!), and the Rev. Robert Jones, whose Sunday morning story was one I’d heard before, but was richer for hearing his telling of it! 

There were a couple of storytellers that we didn’t care for so much, but it was mainly that we didn’t connect with them or their style.  But one, one storyteller was really so offensive to me.  This woman’s resume led me to believe that she would be something to behold.  2007 Oklahoma Librarian of the Year, Storytelling Circle Award winner.  I was looking forward to hearing her craft a tale.  She strode onto the stage, this slim blonde powerhouse, like she owned it.  And she did.  She was speaking to her people.  The audience was obviously familiar with her.  Barbara McBride-Smith was preaching to her choir.   Ms. McBride-Smith is obviously an intelligent, well-educated Christian.  And as such, especially with her job in the educational field, I was expecting something that might not have been my spiritual cup of tea, but respectful.  And then she opened her mouth.  She referred to Jewish people as “those Manischewitz drinkers.”  She went on to reinforce several stereotypes in her stories in a way that made my jaw drop.  It’s been a couple of months, and I don’t want to put words in her mouth, so I won’t quote anything else, since I can’t remember the exact wording.  I was embarrassed for her that as an educator she had the opportunity to change opinions and open hearts and minds, but didn’t. 

 Jennifer Armstrong, a new voice to this venue, was probably one of the bravest womyn there.  In her story (and we saw her a couple of times) she rewrote Christian (the Lord’s Prayer) text to be more inclusive, and came out in this tiny little Southern town.  I saw people get up and leave her show, but I also saw many approach her after with congratulations. She’s from Maine, and holds her own Pie and Story Festival, which I plan to attend next year.  But for this year, I’m going up to Lewiston on December 11 to see her perform.  Anyone want to join me?

Which brings me to the other truly remarkable thing about that weekend.  I have lived in the Northeast for so long, I had forgotten what it is like to be an out dyke in a place that not only frowns on it, but has a culture of active discouragement.  So there we are, my lover and I, walking hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm down the only main road in this little town and I start to notice something.  People won’t look us in the eye.  We went into a little shop, and the teenager behind the counter nearly tripped over his own feet trying to point us out to the other employees.  Other lesbian couples (yep, there were a few) wouldn’t look at us, or each other – as if acknowledging we existed would get them pegged.  Now one thing you have to understand.  While my lover is probably one of the most beautiful womyn in the world, to the world-experience challenged (ie: never left their hometown) she can seem a bit exotic.  One of the things I most appreciate about her.  So when we walk down a street, we don’t exactly blend.  I had forgotten the discomfort of the hate glare, the challenge of smiling at ugly and actively laughing and enjoying myself when others around me would prefer I not exist.  I used to live like this.  I used to live in the South.  But it’s been years.  And so it has also been years since womyn who don’t know me have come up and thanked me for being out and visible.  And that happened to my Girl and I.  More than once.  There is still oppression happening in this country, and there is still a need for queers of all stripes to step out, be visible, and be friendly in the face of discomfort and hate.  I hadn’t realized that we would be a symbol of freedom in this place – I just thought we were going to hear good story, but we were, and we did it with joy and pride.  Next year (and we are going again!) we’ll be more out, more proud, and we’ll bring friends!

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