Archive | psychology

A Most Intimate Act :: Change

[[ For the first time ever I am instituting a comment policy. This post contains things that plenty of people will find offensive, for good reason. It is in the public domain once I hit ‘publish’ and so I want to be clear about what kind of comments I am willing to entertain. Not that I get a lot- and I see them all before they are published- but this, again, may offend some folks. You are welcome to comment and ask me about my process or provide constructive criticism on my process, but I will not be publishing comments that are hateful towards me. I’ve had enough hate towards myself for what I did, I don’t need more. I also will not publish comments that commend me in some way- I’m not looking for that, and what I did was what any decent human being should be doing; I don’t need kudos for it. ]]

About a year ago I found out I was a TERF. That translates to “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist.” What it means is that I was a feminist who did not consider trans women (male -> female) as actual women. (Why this is a ‘radical’ position makes no sense to me, now that I am further down the road. It seems pretty un-radical. They have started calling TERFs “FARTS: Feminist-Appropriating Reactionary Transphobes” which is far more accurate.) And I was a TERF because I had one question, and it was this: “didn’t trans women benefit from all the good things about being seen as a male while also getting to have the space and freedom to look and act as women – and all the psychological benefits of that?” I was essentially asking, “don’t trans women get the best of both worlds without having to deal with the shit of either?”

The answer, of course, is no. Trans women are far more likely to be killed (especially trans women of color). Rather than having the benefits of the binary gender norms, they actually get the short end of the stick of both- neither men nor women accept them. Trans women are women, as I now understand. But they rarely get to be seen or treated that way.

I am not a trans educator (although I certainly sympathize and offer what support I can), so I don’t want to pretend to know everything. What I want to look at it what it took for me to change my understanding of this issue such that I could go from being an ignorant transphobe to being an educated trans supporter.

First and foremost, I changed because I was curios and I suspected that I was in the wrong. Or, at the very least, that I had something the wrong way around and I needed to understand it rather than remain ignorant. This, in fact, is a very vulnerable place to be and it is why change is a very intimate act. To say, if only to myself, that my ideas, position, or understanding of something might be wrong is a blow to the ego. It means we are imperfect, it means that our thinking or perspective may not be complete, and admitting that is a level of ego death. It is a psychologically frightening place to be, which is why a lot of people don’t go there.

After having the courage and awareness that I might be wrong, I had a safe place to go ask my questions. I was in a progressive women’s group on Facebook and I knew that I could ask my questions there and, even if I was seen as an idiot, I would be treated kindly and get a truthful answer. Perhaps because I am always after the truth it made it easier to look for and accept when they kindly said, “You’re wrong and here’s why.” The women in the group pointed me to articles about TERFs, explaining why they were not truly feminists. They connected me to trans and non-binary educators like Alok Vaid-Menon (who has some really beautiful things to say about men and their fear of themselves). Mostly they answered my questions without making me feel like an asshole. And because I didn’t feel like an asshole for being curious, I remained open to being wrong (which is when I truly felt like an asshole, once I understood it).

As I began to read things and listen to trans educators, I realized how wrong I had been. How little I had understood. How my privilege as a cis-gendered, white, middle-class woman had allowed me to choose blindness to the difficulties of trans women. Again, this took the ability to sit with my own psychological and emotional discomfort. I had to accept that I had been deeply wrong and purposefully ignorant- that’s a place where I seriously felt like an asshole, which isn’t fun to feel.

These are things most people don’t want to know about themselves, so they don’t do well with change. This is why change is such an intimate act- we must see parts of ourselves we do not like, do not wish to admit that we are. To see those things, to accept them, to choose to engage them and work on them- that’s big psychological work. It means we are getting down in the mud with the smallest, nastiest parts of ourselves and that’s hard work.

Once I was able to learn, understand, and sit with my discomfort I then had to let my new understanding lay the foundation for changing my feelings about it. Most of us make decisions from our feelings- despite what we might like to believe. You only need to look at the last American presidential election to see this at play- folks voted for someone they felt good about, even if he was obviously a liar and incapable of performing the job. The facts there were clear, but people were lead by their feelings. So, when it comes to change, you know it hasn’t happened if people still feel the same as they did before, even if they ‘understand’ things differently. As stated, this was the next step in my development- I let what I read and understood about trans women begin sway my feelings about them, their lives, and their place in feminism. This is also psychological work; work that a lot of people don’t want to do.

Of course, I came around to understanding that trans women are women and changing my feelings about them. I feel far less hard-hearted and defensive about trans women now. I welcome them into the feminist fold and I’m keeping an eye out to make sure they feel welcome wherever I am. I am glad to have a new understanding and to feel differently about trans women. [And I don’t want any kudos or applause for this; I did what any decent human being should do.]

Again, having said all this, change is really hard and very intimate. In order to change we must have safe places where it’s okay to be ignorant or ask stupid questions. We also have to grapple with our feelings and possibly change them when we’re given credible, new information. We have to entertain the possibility that we might be wrong. It’s very tricky and uncomfortable territory. So, when we hope that people will change, we might need to think about these factors. People are likely not going to change because they get yelled at in social media. They are likely not going to change because they have been given some well-researched articles (although this can help break some of the ground loose, sometimes). People are going to change when they can consider that maybe they’ve been wrong. People are going to change when they have places to ask questions that don’t make them feel like idiots or assholes. People are going to change when they begin to feel that they need to or when who they believe themselves to be no longer matches up with what they believe.

 

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

 

In the last couple of weeks, as I’ve learned to practice surrendering and letting go, over and over, I have been given a lot of grace and insight about my life. I’ve discovered some not pleasant things. Part of what I’ve been given is the space to see these unpleasant things and also the space to let myself imagine what might come next, what might be better, what might help me live as a better, more authentic person. Because I’ve not been in a great place for the last 14 months or so, and it’s worn me down to a point where I see that I need to change (the deliberate letting go is a good thing, and necessary to my health and growth). When I look at it objectively, it’s a lot of small changes in many places- a come-uppance. But I think it’s going to feel like a major overhaul, so I’m getting anxious about it. I’ve learned that I probably don’t need to share 100% of my thoughts and emotions about it all here, but if anything useful comes of these changes, I will share about it. If I can alleviate any suffering by sharing my wisdom, I am happy to do so.

Change isn’t always something we get a choice about. A lot of people had to change today because Life gave them some shitty news. I am lucky in that the changes I am about to grapple with are of my own choosing. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be any less impactful or intimate. Earlier today I sat on the couch at a friend’s house and looked at the full moon shining on the water. I felt the most surrendered, sad, and soft that I have in a long time (I had yet another good cry). And that’s due to the tenderizing I’ve received in the last couple of weeks. But it’s from that soft, intimate place that I feel most confident about making the changes I need to make.

I hope you’re well, fellow travelers. I hope you’re able to make changes, rather than having them forced on you. And I hope that you will take every chance you get to change yourself for the better. 

With love and gratitude,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

2

letting go + surrender

There was a song playing on the radio Friday night that I hadn’t heard in 25 years, “Love…Thy Will Be Done” by Martika. And after being surprised that it had been that long (and humming a bit of her most loved hit, “Toy Soldiers”) I started thinking about the song and noticing that it was about surrender. I felt into the feeling of surrender and noticed that it was very different than ‘letting go.’ I finished my night and went to bed.

Saturday morning I exercised and cleaned up the remnants of a sleepover, but afterwards, as I was stretching, I thew on some alt-j and my mind turned towards the difference between ‘letting go’ and ‘surrender.’ (I think stretching your body helps stretch your mind.)

I’ve been working on letting go again (I need to remember it’s going to be part of my life, forever; it’s my soul work*, I think). For me, letting go has been a very active process. I think the level of work one has to do with letting go of something is directly proportionate to how attached we are to that thing/person/experience. Letting go is dismantling one thing and either simultaneously building something new or dismantling and then leaving empty space for what’s to be built next, but it is a very active experience. It is emotional exertion, work, release. It is prying the fingers open from around whatever we are grasping- sometimes over and over again until there is space, some looseness, some relaxation of the grip. Letting go is a very ego-driven determination of what’s to be done and then working on that process.

Surrender, in contrast, is activating a near immediate release. It is active in that I must decide to surrender, but after that, it’s just…surrendering. It is the attitude of “what will be, will be” and releasing into that, rather quickly. It is allowing Life to flow through, rather than directing where we wish to flow. It is the removal of self or ego as the determiner of the process. I choose to surrender, but then I get in the boat and float along with whatever comes (with hope that it will be something good for me). 

Both are necessary and useful, of course. As you know, if you’ve been reading anything of mine for the past nine months or so, I am all about using things skillfully (there is a skillful use for just about everything, we just have to find it and practice it; exceptions to this are any and all ‘-isms’). But I had forgotten about how useful surrender could be.

I’ve been reading Real Magic by Dean Radin. It outlines the scientific evidence for magic. It’s very compelling and if you’re into science + woo woo, I highly recommend it. One thing he notes is that some kind of surrender-like quality is necessary for magic to work well (or, at all). And I had forgotten how that has been true in my life.

 

Photo by Kunj Parekh on Unsplash

 

During my life as a Christian I prayed a lot. After I left that phase and moved towards Paganism and Taoism I began to see how prayer was a kind of magic, an interaction with the God/Goddess and the Tao. It all taps into the same energy, asking for something to come about. (Seeing these cross-religious connections is a big reason I became and Interfaith minister.) Based on what Dr. Radin writes, prayer is definitely a form of magic. Prayer has been very powerful for me at many points in my life and I have generally had good results from praying (which is to say: my prayers have generally come true). But one thing I realized from listening to that song by Martika is that I had not yet used surrender as a tool in conjunction with letting go.

I’ve been working hard to relax my grip, release emotional connections (desires, wishes, fantasies) and it’s been going rather well. I honestly feel like I’m about 98% done with the process (which means I’m feeling neutral-compassionate in general, seeing past/ignoring/understanding any bullshit, and not worried about public run-ins) . But surrendering is probably a tool I need to use to fully open my grasp and let the last grains slip away. To say “What will be, will be” and then go on about my daily business, unconnected, letting Life flow through me again. 

Some folks are better at surrendering than others. But I also think that surrender may be a tool we can only use when we’ve reached a certain level of letting go. When we’re contracted, connected, attached, hopeful, still fantasizing or wishing, it’s really hard to surrender. I am definitely not built to let go easily, so surrender is farther down the path for me. But I’m glad to remember that it’s there, when I’m ready.

What’s your experience with ‘letting go’ and ‘surrender’ friends? Are they different? Do you use them in certain situations or particular circumstances? Do they feel different to you in some way? How have you used them effectively (or not so effectively) in your life?

I hope this Sunday finds you well. You’re in my thoughts.
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

::: ::: ::: :::

11 Feb 2019. I’ve spoken about soul work before, in this post (about half way down), but soul work is also the work our soul needs to do in this life, the deeper lessons we signed up for before we even incarnated. I have talked about soul mates and how I don’t much believe in them (also in that post) but I do believe in them from a very specific perspective. Soul mates are anyone, literally anyone, who helps us grow at a soul level. Sometimes it’s beautiful, as in a wonderful romantic relationship that helps us heal our soul. But it can also be painful and difficult and the healing that occurs because of such pain can also grow our soul. Anyone who helps us heal our soul or make it stronger or clearer is a soul mate. And that is also soul work.

I’ve been thinking, a day later, about how music is getting me through this surrender period. I don’t like it, to be honest, but it’s the right path (very often, soul work is hard work; it’s not fun or easy or even what we want at an ego level, sometimes). And so, music is carrying me along. I think there is a recipe for a good “surrender” playlist. 

One Part Songs That Make You Cry (whatever yours are, these are mine):

Anytime You Need a Friend | Mariah Carey

Love…Thy Will Be Done | Martika (obvs)

Where Does My Heart Beat Now | Celine Dion 

This Isn’t Everything You Are | Snow Patrol

It Looks Like Rain | Jann Arden

Breathe (2 AM) | Anna Nalick

 

One Part Songs That Feel Like Prayers

Life Is Beautiful | Vega4

Somewhere Over the Rainbow | Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Better Days | Eddie Vedder

Sky Full of Stars | Coldplay

No Envy No Fear | Joshua Radin

 

One Part Songs That Give You Hope

One Life | Hedley

I Choose | India.Arie & Bonnie Raitt

Human | The Killers

Skankin’ to the Beat | Fishbone

Hallelujah | Panic! At The Disco

100 Years | Five For Fighting

 

What gets you though the hard parts, fellow travelers? It’s music for me, always music. 

17 Feb 2019. I’ve edited this post a half-dozen times since I wrote it. I’ve learned a lot about my self and my needs as I’ve tried to express myself and understand how this process works for me. What I’ve really come to see and feel is that letting go and surrender are very much like cleaning out an attic or old boxes from another life. It’s work. It takes time and sometimes it goes slowly. You can get easily captivated by small things and spend hours re-living old memories, dreams, and desires. You can easily throw some things out. You can want to smash other things against a wall. And you can also be surprised by what you find, what you didn’t remember being there. I didn’t remember that, besides lust + sensuality + connection there was also a desire for laughter + kindness + being supportive to someone I could care about + the desire to show someone how unique they are in the world, and to celebrate them. It shouldn’t have surprised me, because rooms in the heart are rooms in the heart, but it did. Just like cleaning an attic, you can get stuck there, in the dust and memories, if you’re not careful. But if you are deliberate and take one step forward each day, you can get the job done. Letting go of the memories and desires, surrendering to what comes next. We really do need both. 

21 Feb 2019. I want to write this down so I can remember the words and the feelings. And if it helps someone to read this, I want to write for that reason also. Now that the letting go is nearly complete (at least it feels that way) I am sitting with the feeling of not being wanted by the person this post is about. My initial reaction to the rejection was from the gut: “Fine. I accept the rejection. I will leave.” It was clear and true, but still a thing with weight and cutting edges. It was hard and heavy inside me. Now I am sitting with it and finding the feeling of rejection sitting more in my heart. I am humbled by it, but, perhaps for the first time in my life, I’m not letting it ruin me or my sense of self. I’m sitting with it- the sadness, the loss, the curiosity and just letting it exist inside me. It’s not fun to be rejected, but it is humbling to my ego (which is a good thing!).

I’m actually feeling a sense of compassion for myself and the other person, and I can feel that compassion might lead to gratitude. (I’m not pushing that edge right now, but I can sense that it’s there.) I’ve had to ask some questions in this process: what, if anything, do I need to learn from this? what, if anything, do I need to change because of this? does/should this rejection define anything about me or my value? (sometimes we need this kind of humbling experience to see where we are toxic or where we need to change and grow.) I know what my answers are, and, as I sit with them, I feel a sense of grounding and beauty about myself that I’ve not felt before. With my bed head, no make-up, and snuggled pjs and robe, I looked at myself in the mirror this morning and thought, “You’re lovely. And you’re fine. You’re real and beautiful.” This was a revelation to me, in some ways. A new level of self acceptance. 

I’ve been wanting to day dream about what comes next for me- what my days and weeks will look like, because they need to change- and I haven’t really felt the pull to do that with paper, pens, visions, etc (to make it happen). But I can see that this experience needed to happen first. I needed the feeling of rejection to sit in my heart and show me something new, to help solidify a stronger, hopefully more flexible, version of myself. It’s not a fun experience, but it’s very valuable and helping me heal even more. 

 

 

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What The Sex Priestesses Know

[[ I have been stuck inside all day with holiday prep and a new dog. And cat sitting. That’s the only time I’ve been out- to feed a cat, twice. Forgive me if this doesn’t go as planned.]]

I’m writing to you on Christmas Adam- it comes before Christmas Eve and isn’t very satisfying.
Get it?
I know. I’m terrible.
Anyway…

I was struggling to think of a way to talk about sex priestesses, blow jobs, and Christmas, and then I remembered that Jesus had two Marys in his life: his mother, and his wife/consort: Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus, likely as his wife or as a fellow- and unacknowledged- apostle. (One of my favorite books, The Wild Girl, by Michele Roberts, is about Mary Magdalene and her relationship with Jesus- and her likely position as the Black Madonna.) Mary Magdalene has also been called a prostitute- as a way of demeaning her position in Jesus’ life- and so that’s where we’re going to start.

The piece I am sharing tonight talks about prostitutes as the negative side of the feminine. And I’m first going to tell you that is complete bullshit. What we think of as “prostitutes” in ancient history were often women who were priestesses that served gods of sexuality and sensuality. They were paid for their work- whether that was sex, divination, contacting the divine, or other practices which brought the divine into human interactions. So, yes, they were paid for sex, but that doesn’t make them prostitutes as we define them today. It also doesn’t make prostitutes, or modern day sex workers, negative.

Sex workers are absolutely not the negative side of the feminine. In capitalism, sex workers use their bodies to make money- just like everyone else. It’s nice if you get to use your MS Word skills to make money, but that’s just using your fingers and your brain- sex workers use their body and their brain. No difference. So, in this piece, I am not going to use the word ‘prostitute’ to represent the negative aspect of the feminine. What I think the author was originally trying to convey about this aspect of the feminine is the ‘manipulative’ feminine. The side that says, “If you shovel the snow, I’ll have sex with you,” and then doesn’t follow through. The side that listens with intent and compassion, and then uses it against you later. The side of the feminine that makes you wish you’d never engaged in the first place. The part of the Feminine that would trade herself for something- safety, money, respect- that’s the aspect the author is speaking about, I believe. But I’m going to call it the ‘manipulative feminine’ instead.

Lastly, this piece is heteronormative. The author speaks exclusively of man-and-woman sex and heterosexual relationships. This is not to say that the dynamics discussed here don’t apply to same sex relationships or any relationships in which fellatio is enjoyed- they do. So, if needed, please apply the appropriate pronouns or note the ways in which these behaviors play out in your relationship. Because anyone can be manipulative in a relationship and plenty of people give and receive blow jobs that aren’t in heterosexual relationships. Please keep all these things in mind as you read this piece.

And now that I’ve set the stage, here we go.

::: ::: ::: :::

Originally written by Gillian Pothier on Facebook.

Death of the Blowjob

“Ask any woman who has performed oral sex and they will confirm it certainly is a job.”
– the internet (specifically, the 1st site I found when researching the etymology of this term)

Blowjob:
From blow off (“to fellate,” to blow (someone) off, a phrase which originated among prostitutes, 1933) + JOB

**********

If you are one to give a man a “blowjob,” please do us all a favor– dust off your knees, wipe off your mouth, touch up your lipstick and GO HOME. Sadly, you are one of the Daughters of the Great Forgetting, steely and willing to sell your sacredness for a shallow sense of security.

You are throat-deep in transaction, choking on commerce.
You are of no use to our broken world because a woman who has forgotten her own magnificence can only EVER buy and sell.

You can wrap your lip-glossed lips around his cock all the live-long day but until you learn to wrap your HEART around his sex, the only thing you are in service to is getting him off. (Totes fine — but is the keg empty yet?)

Don’t demean yourself or HIM by “working” to please him, by performing a “job” or “maintenance” to keep him satisfied. It doesn’t serve the man nor the woman to feel like what is being shared is something called a “blowjob,” the word and act encoded in scarcity, commerce, and obligation.

The era of the blowjob is over.
In contrast to the lowly blowjob, cock worship is a royal, devotional, erotic act of creating a man as king.

Until you can open your mouth, your throat, and your heart in deepest devotion, in hungriest longing to envelop his sex inside your mouth: teeth, tongue, and watering flesh, you are no vessel for the healing function of Shakti. You are a petty worker, subjugated by every distorted thought that you have let yourself believe about what it means to truly respect and honor a man.

Cock sucking is soul sucking — and until you understand this, you are unconsciously perpetuating a lineage that keeps both men and women caged in a spell of erotic commerce and mediocrity.

The very moment you have a man’s cock in your mouth, you are either an archetypal emanation of “blowsy” — the manipulative feminine/prostitute — a woman who does not know her own wild beauty and feels like she needs to perform a “job” to keep his love — OR — you are a woman who knows how to create a man as King, Sultan, Pharaoh, Hero, Magi, Wizard.  (Hint: you can’t be both, angelface.)

The moment you place his cock in your mouth because you want something (other than HIM and his sex) or because you are trying to GET, you instantly energetically step into the archetypal lineage of the manipulative feminine/prostitute.

If there is any part of you that does not desire him in his fullness — then STOP. If you proceed, it destroys both of you because it is a lie.

Proceeding with “blowing him” when it is not in your highest alignment and desire instantly collapses you into a timeline of manipulative feminine/prostitute, and prevents him from birthing himself into his wholeness (as King).

As we collectively rise, these templates of inauthenticity, compromised integrity, and archaic covert timelines of The Seller (prostitute, manipulative feminine, “blowsy”) and The Buyer (collapsed masculine who uses money to “buy love”) are going to crash.

Interestingly, actual prostitution and sex work feels totally sustainable and clean energetically because of the overt agreement and integrity of that container. I have no intention of slut shaming/sex work shaming/prostitute shaming. The *archetype* of the prostitute at the level of the Feminine consciousness is, however, an energetic leak for women who do not self-identify as sex workers.

MEN: If you are letting a woman get you off at the most mechanical and basic level of heat, wetness, and friction, that’s cool AND there is zero magic in that game. It will never alchemize you into your greatness.

Allowing yourself to receive low-level mediocrity creates low-level mediocrity. That is law.

Please stand for something greater for yourself AND her than a woman who has forgotten who she is and lets herself perform “acts” and “jobs” in service to you. A woman who gives “blowjobs” is a woman who is hunting, tracking the scent of what she can get.

Instead of an alchemical transmission and imprint of giving and receiving the most exalted royal codes of remembrance and wealth, you are both just colluding with each other’s beliefs of scarcity and mediocrity. There is nothing sexy about lovers collusion to support each other’s archaic distortions.

WOMEN: You need to remember how to wrap your heart around his cock– not just your lips. Give yourself permission to enter into a bliss state of heart-shattering, wild devotion through the act of cock worship. By giving at this level of creation, you are preparing your heart and and your energy system to receive at levels you have only let yourself imagine. It is through this doorway of raw, primal devotion to your man/the masculine that will cause him to create for you (and all of us) a world that we can once again animate with our deepest feminine essence.

Devotion does not just create devotion — it causes it.

Our world would be a better place if women could understand and remember that they are the golden chalice — Cosmic Queens of the Highest Order — and their sex, their heart, and their devotion to the masculine..to a man and his cock…is what will begin to heal the broken-heart of our bleeding world.

********

Note 1: This piece is so heteronormative it hurts. I know. And I am not sure what I can do differently when my lens is alchemical and hieros gamos codes are part of my medicine.

Note 2: We’ve all been siphoned down archaic languaging expressions that are encoded to demean both men and women, as well as the erotic acts of devotion they describe. It’s up to us — as acts of love and devotion first to self, and then to other, to be in relationship to these expressions, and to consciously feel whether they can hold our beauty, our sex, and our devotion.

::: ::: ::: :::

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

 

I love this piece. I think it holds a great deal of truth. I know that my own enjoyment of cock worship is because I have felt safe, magical, devoted to my desire – and his. When safety and mutual desire are part of your sexual foundation, I believe healing can occur. At the very least, enjoyment goes waaaay up. I know that good sex can change the world for the better. And I think that this radical notion of removing the transaction of sex and returning to the union of sex is one of the ways in which sexual healing occurs.

For those of you who aren’t at this level yet, I want to be really clear: the power dynamics here are about not having power dynamics. The woman is so in love or so desirous of her lover that the blow job isn’t a job- it’s a joy, a worship of him and his body, a worship of his desire and sex. The same goes for guys going down on a woman. He is entranced by her body, her love, her energy. He wants to bring her pleasure and bury all of himself in her sex. Oral sex isn’t a quid pro quo exchange; in the above article, it’s holding the most sacred parts of our lover in the most delicate parts of ourselves, and promising it won’t bring danger, but, rather, devotion. (See also: The Spiritual Side of Oral Sex.)

What do you think, fellow travelers?
What has good sex done for you?
What has bad sex done for you?
Have you ever traded sex for safety? peace? recognition? (how did that go?)
Do you feel safe in the mouth of your lover?
What does safety, care, and desire do for your sexual encounters?

I hope you found this interesting, or at least thought provoking.

Big love on this Christmas Eve eve,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

 

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Patience and Pleasure

I have finally started to make some headway on a practice (tool?) that I’ve been wanting to get better at for years. It’s about finding pleasure as we have patience in Life, in requests, in wishes, and desires.

When I was first in the Sex Surge, I was directed to a teacher who talked about enjoying desire in, and of, itself. Primarily this was about not getting attached to a particular outcome. But to enjoy the desire, the wish, the request, the fantasy in, and of, itself. I will tell you: I sucked at this. I attached to outcomes like a mofo. Like most humans, I have a wish and I want that wish to come true. In the way I imagine it. Exactly the way I imagine it.

Of course, that rarely happens.

With time, I’ve learned to let go of some desires in a backwards way of letting go of attachments. But that’s not the same as letting go of the desired outcome completely and just enjoying the desire itself. But this week, I’ve started to get the hang of it. A bit.

I made a request of someone this week. And while I’m pretty sure of the outcome,* I am really enjoying just living inside the desire that was the ground from which I made the request.

::: ::: ::: :::

Before I made the request/wish/desire, I did some things that I know help. I opened up as much of myself and my energy as I could. I wanted flow, movement, options.

I opened as many portals between us as I could. I made offerings to my goddesses and meditated more deeply than usual.

I held open my heart and spirit as much as I could. This was hard to do, for a variety of reasons (and past lessons), but I let desire and courage lead me.

I also thought about what I most wanted from this request. (There are several things I really want, but I needed to decide what I most wanted and try for that.)

I sent good energy to the space between this person and I. (Not the person, but the interaction between us.)

I prayed for what I wanted.

And then I did something that I know helps greatly: I set my intention and purposefully rooted it in the understanding that nothing may come of it. That both outcomes (I get my wish/I don’t get my wish) are equally okay with me.

::: ::: ::: :::

I learned this practice of equanimity many years ago when I was a Christian. For whatever reason, I stumbled upon it and found it really worked. When I got what I wanted, I felt happy. When I didn’t, I wasn’t knocked for a complete loop; it was going to be okay. And it has been grounding in the truth that ‘this might not happen’ that has allowed me to find real pleasure in the desire of the request I made. Because I can imagine the request, imagine the desire that it came from, and just enjoy that – the feelings, the pictures in my head, the joy of taking a risk- without being attached to any particular outcome.

It feels weird, perhaps because we live in such a consumerist (gotta have it! now!) society, but it also feels good. And I’m finally finding pleasure in the waiting, in the wanting.

::: ::: ::: :::

You’re probably wondering what the request was, right? I can’t say, exactly. But it was the simplest desire I had (the other two were rather complicated) and the one I thought would be easiest to say ‘yes’ to. I wanted a simple conversation to see what doors might open. Because as long as we could have a conversation, everything was on the table: every option, every wish, every desire. Complete creation, complete destruction- depends on the desires feeding it all.

The outcome could have been cosmic in its awesomeness. I think it would have lead to fun, it would definitely be sensual (probably creative and sexy af), grounding in the best way (both the ‘grounding’ of making something imaginary real, but also the ‘grounding’ of letting the energy run through your body back into the Earth), and possibly healing. But it had to start with this request for a chat. [I didn’t make these things explicitly clear in my request, so that’s on me.  But seriously, did it need to be more explicit? How hard is it to have a conversation?]

And as I sit here, waiting for the answer (that has already come), I am enjoying feeling the desire of the request, of the possible outcomes, of the wishes and desires.

::: ::: ::: :::

One of the things I had to learn this past year, more so than other years, is that I can’t always have what I want. It’s such an obvious insight, but it’s also still hard for me to accept. I don’t ask for much in this life, so not getting things that seem like simple requests to me is tough. And I’ve had to learn that sometimes I can’t have what I want, even though I want it very much. The flip side of that is: I can’t have something, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. (“Can’t have” is different than “don’t want.”)

If you ever hear me saying, “I can’t” it’s only because Life (or someone) has told me ‘no’ and I’m listening. So, I can’t be attached/attracted/desirous of things, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still attached/attracted/desirous. It just means those things don’t get to be alive in the real world; they remain inside me.

I learned to play a strange game this year because of this. I call it “…Among Other Things.” When Life, the Universe, someone, or some situation tells me ‘no’ I do my grieving, but I also try to see why that ‘no’ might be useful or true for me. Instead of saying, “But whyyyyy???” I try to take the perspective of the Universe, the other person, or the situation, and see why the answer to my request was, ‘no.’ I list as many reasons as I can think of, and then I add “…among other things,” to the list, because Life has so many more ideas than I do.

In a weird way this game has helped me accept what I can’t have (or what others don’t wish to give) and also changed my perspective. Sometimes I’ve been able to integrate these things into my story enough that I can believe them (sometimes). But it’s partly because of this practice that I can take pleasure in a desire, wish, or request- because if it doesn’t happen, I have a way to see that the other side is just as valid.

 

If wishes were candles…I’d have burned the house down by now.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

 

I’ve spent the last few days enjoying the desire of my request, but also enjoying some wishes (fantasies?) about possible outcomes. I have found that I have to take a minute and calm myself down afterwards, and clearly remember, “This may not happen.” But it’s that simple action that has helped me enjoy this – to find pleasure alongside my patience.

But, I’ve also watched myself get a little attached at some points. I have stood in front of my altar, one hip popped out, my hand on the other, tapping my foot and looking at my goddesses: “Listen, you! I did not ask for much. I asked for the simplest thing I wanted! I don’t ever ask for more money or power or anything greedy. I simply asked for a chat. Couldn’t you just make that happen?”

The thing I know about magic and prayers is that they always work – they always tell me something about myself, my world, my inner work- but they may not tell me what I want to hear. It is quite possible (probable, even) that by opening up so much, Life will loudly slam things closed. I also know that we all have free will, and so the person I made the request of is quite free to say, ‘no.’ I’m much better at being okay with that now that I know how to play my game and also to gain resilience from pleasure.

::: ::: ::: :::

One other thing I’m enjoying is the feeling of taking a risk- of wanting, of asking. It has taken me a bit of time to understand, but I know that wishes without guts, wishes without actions, are nothing. They are air. Wishes can be quite alive, but they don’t actually become ‘real’ until we take action. I’m learning how and when to do that. I’m also learning that desire is a seed and risk is a kind of nurturing. Risk is a vulnerable tendril, reaching out and hoping. And there is a lot of beauty and joy in that.

[And if it makes you super sad to think about not having something or not taking the risk, it’s probably worth it to take the risk. Especially if it might bring you something you deeply want and the risk is low.]

::: ::: ::: :::

As a way of working with all this, I have also worked to take in as much pleasure as I possibly can. I think that extra pleasure helps feed our souls and increases our resiliency. Am I sad at the outcome of this? Of course. But I have a reservoir of pleasure to keep me buoyed up as I work through what is happening and what comes next.

Things I Have Been Enjoying For My Own Pleasure:

  • daydreaming (about many things, but mainly this request)
  • finished reading Good Omens (omg, fucking edit that book, ugh)
  • started The Little Paris Bookshop (which is wonderful on so many levels and beautifully translated)
  • decorated for Yule/Solstice
  • drank a lot of tea (a lot)
  • wrapped up in a blanket, warm from the dryer
  • watched holiday movies (Elf, The Family Stone, The Sound of Music)
  • long, hot showers
  • almond lotion afterwards
  • got my hair done (the salon: where I have no responsibilities)
  • laughed
  • hugged people I love
  • slurped my favorite soup
  • applied for our next rescue dog (send good juju!)
  • wore my cutest undies
  • cuddled into my warmest socks
  • curled up in my favorite chair with Christmas music playing and just smiled

I have also taken the time to notice what truly pleases me and then indulged myself as often as I can. It feels really good. And it helps me use pleasure skillfully.

::: ::: ::: :::

I’m not sure I’ve made a lot of sense in this post; I will probably edit it as time goes on. I hope you get the gist of it, though. That we can enjoy our desires, just as they are, with no need to make them ‘come true.’ (I mean, it’s awesome if they do, but it’s also okay if they don’t). And that if we can figure out how to enjoy our desires as they are (with little/no attachment) they are a lot more fun and life-giving than if we expect anything from them.

It remains to be seen what will happen in my situation (actually, it doesn’t), but I’m good, either way. I’m super glad I took the chance to do this- and learn and practice something I’ve really been trying to get better at.

And if this weird post has helped you at all, I’m glad.
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

*It’s not going to happen. That’s pretty clear at this point. Not because of anything other than inaction. If they wanted this, they would have acted. And they haven’t. Which, as part of this post, is totally okay. It’s part of not being attached to the outcome. I will probably have a tequila (which I haven’t had to do in years) and let it go. But the bigger point is that I’ve done so much better with just enjoying the desire than I ever have before. And that’s a huge win, even if I don’t get what I want.

 

 

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Going the Distance

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is that has made my marriage successful for the long run. In this modern age, in Western society, we ask a lot of our spouses (or partners, whatever level of commitment we’re at). We ask them to be best friend, lover, confidante, cheerleader, safety net, and also to split the chores. It’s a lot. And while my partner* and I aren’t all those things for each other, we play each of those roles at certain points in our relationship. Yes, he’s my best friend, but I also don’t have deep discussions about having a menstrual cycle and all the lessons that has taught me with him (that’s for my gal pals). He is sometimes my confidante, but not always; some things I hold inside myself for a while to process first. But we do well together, and I think there are some reasons why.

::: ::: ::: :::

We really want to stay together. There are a lot of skills that are necessary for a successful long-term partnership, but a lot of those can be learned if you don’t have them. What you have to have is the desire to stay together and the willingness to (be humble and) learn and do new things when needed. We have talked about getting divorced three times (over communication, values, and affairs), but when we came to the question, “Do I want you out of my life?” the answer was always “no” (and pretty clearly so). So we did whatever work was necessary to stay together.

I think the big thing to keep in mind here is that sometimes we feel like, “Jesus, this is hard work,” or “Fuck, I am so sick of you,” but that doesn’t mean we want to leave. And when someone does want to leave, I think we definitely owe it to the relationship to tell the absolute fucking truth about why it’s not working or what we want that we’re not getting to see if the other partner is willing to learn or change.

 

We do the work. I heard “When Doves Cry” by Prince today and the part where he sings:

Maybe I’m just too demanding/
Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold/
Maybe I’m just like my mother, she’s never satisfied/
Why do we scream at each other?

is so relatable for some of the work you have to do in long-term relationships. There were years when my husband would say something in a particular tone of voice and I would have this instant, visceral reaction and lash out at him. Turns out, his tone of voice was a direct emotional hit on something my mother used to do to me. I had to go to therapy to untangle that so our relationship could be easier. I had healing work to do from old wounds. The same is true for him. Long-term relationship is a path of development and healing. (If it isn’t, then LTR is a path of routine and numbness simply for the sake of safety. Some people dig that kind of routine, but I think it’s boring af. Who wants to be the same, do the same damn things for 40 years straight?) Sometimes that work is from places outside our relationship, and sometimes it is our individual stuff we have to work on. But, again, doing the work keeps what we have working as well as possible.

 

We support each other’s dreams and goals. My husband is a cyclist. Three years ago, he rode 10,000 miles on his bike in one year. The next year it was 11,000. And this past year (2017), he rode 12,000 miles on his bike. How did he do that? With our support. He wanted to reach those goals, so we helped him. (He also managed to destroy a pair of handlebars with his acidic sweat.) My husband has been 110% supportive of my work as a health educator for mid-life women. He sees opportunities to share my work in places I don’t even see them; and he’s proud to talk about my work. He supports my goals and dreams.

 

a set of bicycle handlebars that have been eaten through by acidic sweat

Will he do 13k miles this year? No. He’s learning to race.

 

We communicate until we understand each other. After twenty-two years together we have really grown in our ability to communicate well and also to understand each other. But we still have fights. The other day we were talking about something and I said, “We have always been different than other couples, and I need us to keep being different.”  And a few minutes later, he was telling me what heard me say, and it was, “We aren’t being different.” To which I was kind of stunned, because I was thinking, “that’s pretty much the opposite of what I said!!!!!” But we went back and talked until I knew that he understood what I was saying in the same way that I did. (To be fair, earlier in the same convo, I said to him, “Okay, what I think you are saying, is….” and he replied, “Yes, after two years, you get it.” We are both guilty of misunderstanding, but we both want desperately to be understood. And don’t we all want that in love?)

We also meta communicate, which means we talk about how we talk to each other. It’s not just “Let’s talk about why you hate doing the laundry so much,” it’s also “Let’s talk about why I don’t want you to call me a bitch when we talk about why you hate doing the laundry.” (He doesn’t do that. He would never.) Sometimes it’s what you say and sometimes it’s how you say it, and both are fair game for fixing issues.

 

We share about our growth as individuals. I think a lot of couples get worried when one partner grows and the other doesn’t. And this is a reasonable fear. So, one person shuts down because they are afraid the other partner is growing away from them and the other pretends not to notice until it’s too late and they either don’t like each other any more or they become ‘roommates’ or ‘players on a team’ together. My husband has had tremendous professional growth over the last 17 years and I have had tremendous personal growth in that same time. We’ve also had two kids and weathered some scary shit. It makes us see the world differently, but as long as we keep talking about how we’re changing, we have a much better chance of staying together.

 

We have fun and make great memories. We both love to go to concerts. We go together and we go alone. We love to travel and get the fuck out of small-minded Rhode Island. We travel to Quebec, England, and this year, France. We love to go out for quick dates (our kids are older). We love super quick make-out sessions in the laundry room and on walks around the neighborhood. One of my beloved’s favorite pictures of me is when we went blackberry picking years ago. We watch TV shows together and we laugh about crude jokes we would never tell other people. We make these memories and we relive them when times are tough- or just when we’re laying on the bed together, chillin’. (Which we also love to do.)

 

We try our best not to do the bad stuff. We don’t manipulate each other. We don’t gaslight each other. We don’t yell unless we’re expressing the intensity of our feelings. We don’t hold each other hostage emotionally (which is coercing by saying one partner must prove their love by doing xyz). We don’t lie. A few girlfriends before me (in college), my husband dated a manipulative woman. “If you don’t do all the housework, I can’t finish school, and I’m working hard for us.” She engaged in gaslighting– which is when your partner says things like, “no, that didn’t happen,” or “no, it happened like this…” (which is blatantly untrue), when they deny your experience or perception, or invalidate your feelings, among other things. These are hurtful, immature, and psychologically damaging tactics and they aren’t  part of successful long-term relationships. We keep away from them.

::: ::: ::: :::

I’m sure these aren’t all the things that have helped us stay together long-term but they are a good list to start with. Check back, I’m sure the list will get updated, knowing how my brain works. But these are the things that came to mind first, and they are the things that I go back to when I look at why and how we were successful. Now, that doesn’t mean these will be successful for everyone, but I think it’s important to at least talk about whether these measures are important in your own relationships.

Okay, my brain hurts. I love you all and hope you’re well. New moon soon!
Big love,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

* I find that I’m much more secure in sharing about my husband and our relationship now. In years past, I was deeply afraid that my desires would hurt him, would hurt or kill our partnership. But now that he knows everything, everything, I’m not as worried. I think I’m starting to spitball about relationships here so that I can look back, see what insights I have, see if they are applicable to others, see if they’re ready for my other website and work there. (It only took me three years to share this post over there…) You’ll probably be seeing more of this here because he’s the person I’ve learned all the good and bad stuff with.

 

 

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