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Posts Tagged ‘fearlessness’

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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Those were the words that followed me home last Thursday.

I haven’t posted here in quite some time.  I just really haven’t felt like I had anything important to say, and that my blog had become some kind of me, me, me drivel.  Not what I wanted.  So I’ve pulled back.

Recently, though, a few things have brought me back to a place of feeling like I have something important to say.  So quick catch up.  By now, if you’ve read much of my blog, you know that the main focus I have is about fearless living, and not letting anxiety or uncertainty stop me from doing the things I know are my path.  I’ve zeroed in on intentional, deliberate, “create your own best world” behaviors, and bless the Goddess, it works!  Over the past couple of years, I have found a womon who I wake up every morning feeling more grateful for than the last; I have and am making friends who are interested in real intimacy.  I have ditched my house and moved to a pedestrian-friendly, super active, unique kind of town that also has a deliberate vision for itself, and I’ve committed to being that pedestrian who uses mass transit to get her places.  My work rejuvenates me.  I travel, with or without companions.  And I make time for the activities I love and the ones that are good for me.  I forgive myself for mistakes.  My life is so unbelievable!  And every big thing has come by baby steps.  Even the scary ones.  I am living the life I designed – but then you are too! (That’s something to think about, eh?)

So, what does this have to do with hearing those startling words?  Well, I’ll tell you.  I have always felt that I had firm moral convictions, liberal political opinions, and a sort of  covenant with my community to help uphold common values.  Most days, that means picking up some litter, or offering the homeless guy a breakfast.  It means greeting strangers with a smile, direct look in the eye, and a pleasant, “Hello.”  It’s a commitment that is very important to me.

So, Thursday, I get off the train coming back from work.  It’s about 4:00.  Across the street from the station is a park that I usually cut through to get home.  I’m walking beside this older guy in his late fifties.

As we walk, I notice that there is a group of about fifty highschool students standing in a large circle in the park.  I say to the guy beside me, “Is that a fight going on there?”  He doesn’t acknowledge me, but veers down the hill toward the group.  When he realizes that, yes, indeed, it is a fight, he turns and walks the other way.

Oh, but not me!  I storm right up through the crowd saying in a loud and firm voice, “What is going on here?” (You know that voice your mother used with you when she caught you doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing.)  The scene in front of me was the saddest thing I have ever personally witnessed.  One young man had another in a headlock and was punching him repeatedly with upper cuts to the face.  You could see blood fly and hear the wet smack every time he landed a punch.  The other boy was trying so hard to get away.  The kids were cheering and laughing watching him being beaten down.   I totally went into playground teacher mode and  marched right up to them demanding, “What are you thinking?!” 

Now let me give you a little visual.  Here I am, a 48-year-old womon of size, in a screaming orange dress that may be a little too small (and has a rip in the skirt), wearing a bright green backpack, and Chacos.  I didn’t have time to wash my hair that morning, so it’s a little flat, and as usual, I have no make-up on.  Not really the look of authority.  But unbelievably, these boys stop.  And I am grateful, because the boy who was being pounded was so covered in blood.  His nose looked sideways on his face, and I watched him spit out a tooth.  He looked scared.

Everything was quiet for a second or two.  There were three of us standing there in the middle of that gang of kids.  Each boy I made eye contact with looked a little abashed.  And then my golden moment was broken.  A girl, a girl, screamed, “Bitch!  Go away and let us get back to our fight!” and threw something that hit me in the shoulder.  I didn’t look at  her.  I didn’t look to see what was thrown.  But I was suddenly afraid.  I could tell by the “oooohs” that gang mentality was emboldening these kids.  A few more girls started screaming at me.  My cell phone was in the back pocket of my backpack and I couldn’t reach it without taking the backpack off.  All of the wise, “this is not the way” words that were forming in my head suddenly ducked for cover, and all I could come up with was, “You know what?  FINE!”  and I walked away.  I didn’t run, and I didn’t look back, and I was terrified.  But when I got about fifty paces away, I did stop.  I did get out my cell, and I did call 911.  The kids had been watching me walk away, yelling and screaming, and when they saw me on the phone, they scattered.  By the time the police said they would drive by, not a child was around. 

The absolute worst part of this, the part that is so horrific to me, is that almost every one of the teenagers witnessing this fight had their cell phones out and were recording it.  Not one of them was calling 911.  They were more concerned with the potential YouTube value.

What will become of us if the almost womyn of our society cheer for violence, as if it is a spectacle put on for their pleasure, instead of working for peace?  This is what keeps me up at night.  The ringing, high-pitched voices of angry teen girls shouting, “Bitch!” at me because I stopped the violence.  Guess I’ll be walking with cell phone in hand from now on.

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connections and space Peace PagodaI was talking with a friend the other day (okay, we were emailing and the last installment was yesterday) and we were discussing the need for space.  Physical space, to be alone, all alone, especially when you’re in a deeply intimate relationship.  And not just any space – space that feels like it’s yours.  She had asked me a while back which be more difficult – admitting I missed my girl, or realizing that I really don’t.  I totally misunderstood the question and thought it was about the demise of a relationship, but it was really about space.

It’s funny that we are taught that humans are such social creatures, because most of the people I hang with have real boundaries about how much time they want to spend in the company of others.  Including me.  And I sometimes feel guilty about my need to be all by myself.  Being in a long distance relationship means that I do miss her all the time, like the sound of a brook through the bedroom window.  Sometimes it’s fully present and all I can focus on, and sometimes it’s not even noticed.  I find that I don’t notice the missing when I’m engaged in something I want to do.  Being alone is often what I want to do.

In past relationships, my partners haven’t understood the need to have space for a day or a week, or even an hour.  And not just, “I want to be in another room from you,”  but, “I want you to go shopping without me and do lunch and let me have this space empty except for me for at least 2 hours, please.”  Somehow that seemed personal to them.  So I have spent many years fighting for the right to have space.  And accommodating my partner’s needs to have my presence.

That’s something that is different now.  In this relationship, maybe because we took it so slow, maybe because the distance is so great, maybe because we are so very intentional with each other, and check in at every point, I have freedom.  I know and have experienced the, “I need space alone and it’s not about you.”  From both sides.  And it works really well.

To be honest, the first time I was on the receiving end (she needed space), I said all the right things and did all the right things, but it was such a different experience that I had to sit and really process that it wasn’t about me, and I didn’t have to get insecure or needy.  And I didn’t need to share that processing with her.  Huh.  Okay, maybe I went through that a couple of times.  But one thing I know is true – we are our actions.  And  my actions were loving and respectful and what I wanted to receive when I needed space.  And so, I grew up and was open to being able to trust her a little bit more.  (Which is scary and leads to the need for more space!)

One of the things I wonder about needing space is why.  I’ve come up with a couple of things and I think in different moments they are all valid.  Gonna’ bullet these, because I probably want to come back and explore them more deeply later.

  • I find I have a greater need for space the more intimate I become with someone.  It’s new territory and hits all my trust buttons, and I get worn out, unsure, and afraid. 
  • Sometimes I need to be able to be me without feeling like there might be even the slightest chance of judgement.  Indulging in popcorn for dinner, or the cheesy movie I would never admit that I had seen.
  • I like me and need a date with me every once in a while.
  • Sometimes (and this is going to sound weird) I sit and savor the lonely.  Makes me more grateful.

My biggest gratitude today is that I have this freedom with my love and she has it with me.  It makes us strong and allows us trust.  I most deeply appreciate that my friends are on this same path of healthy investigation and growth.  We can talk objectively and emotionally about this stuff and in that process, I get the gift of being more available to trust and intimacy with them, too.  Maybe I will be a social creature one day! Ha!

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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 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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I’ve been thinking a lot about personal boundaries lately.  How to keep them safe, when to stretch them, how to be graceful about them (putting them out there and making it known the line is getting pushed) and what to do when they are ignored.  This is so much a part of living fearlessly and being intimate.  All of it goes into trust.  But my personal emphasis right now is on self-respect and responsibility to myself.

I’ve had a couple of incidences lately that have violated my boundaries in large and small ways.  Taken individually, I think that the relationship between myself and this other person would have been able to build some kind of bridge to healing and helped us grow together to become closer.  When I brought up the issues, though, what I received was flat out denial and lies. 

This makes me think that I have become more invested in this relationship than the other person.  I keep assuming that they care about me, and that they want what I have to offer and, in order to get that, will respond in kind.  What I have come to realize is that they want what I materially have to offer, but feel no sincere motivation to be reciprocal or respectful.  In the past with this person, I have tortured myself with what might happen if I stood up and held my ground, and then allowed myself to be emotionally manipulated.

I can’t do it anymore.  We want different things from our relationship and our lives, and I can’t be a party any longer to my own destruction.  So, tonight I will set the boundaries really, really far away from the reach of my home and heart and make clear the conditions upon which I would be willing to spend time with this person down the road.

The hardest part is that the love won’t ever stop, and I had to choose between two griefs – losing him, or losing me.  Maybe one day…

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Last night I had a really interesting conversation with a new potential friend.  She wanted to know – if I am committed to living fearlessly, why aren’t I intimate with everyone I know?  Don’t we refuse intimacy because of fear around what people will do with our deepest secrets?  Isn’t not trusting someone the same as living in fear?  Her question made me stop and think.  What I came up with is that in some relationships, intimacy is not necessary.  The clerk down the street doesn’t need to know that I am a left-leaning, Femme, feminist dyke.  It won’t affect the way money exchanges hands.  On the other hand, I would never dream of changing the way I relate to my lover in that store just because of who the clerk is. 

We also talked about intimacy in relationship to friends vs. lovers.  I find that I build intimacy with friends and lovers at about the same rate, but in vastly different areas.  My lovers might learn first about what my sexual desire is, or have more stories of my childhood.  My friends may learn about my passion around my hobbies, or my philosophical beliefs.  It’s like cutting a diamond.  You can chip away at one side or another, but in the end, you’ll see the prism of light through a completely transparent person.  That’s living fearlessly.

In my relationships, the levels of intimacy grow deeper with time.  Mostly they grow deeper by choice.  Sometimes they grow deeper because of necessity.  When I reach a crossroads with a friend, when I start to feel like we’re dancing around topics or conversations become uncomfortable, then it becomes necessary to look at my fear and walk through it.  What do I lose when I share who I am with my friends?  Nothing.   So what do I fear, the potential judgement of my friend, or the potential loss of that person in my life?   What is holding me back from being honest?  When I realize that I don’t really want to feel pain and it’s pain avoidance, then I can walk through and know the joy of my own truth regardless of the outcome.  That too, is living fearlessly.

I don’t have to be intimate with everyone I meet to live fearlessly.  There are some people I don’t choose to be intimate with, not because I’m afraid of what they will do, but because I am simply not interested in them.  No judgement, I just don’t have  the inclination.  And that’s my truth.

Did I mention that I love a good stimulating conversation?

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