Saturday, July 23, 2016

Toxic Gender Roles



I read the following article on Father's Day.  Dear Fathers: Let's talk to our Sons.  I was glad to be spending the day with my not toxic, nor aggressive father.  I figured it wasn't the time to share the link since I'm not a father and don't have children so I was making off-topic unnecessary commentary.

However, I'm still thinking about the  article.  In fact, it was harder to find again because of all the articles written in the past couple of weeks on how toxic masculinity contributes to mass shootings.

Maybe I'm not off topic then.  It's certainly on the minds of plenty of people.

I'm white, I grew up in a protestant household, raised by educated parents who were still married to each other.  I had a lot of advantages and I'm happy to recognize that.  From as early as 5 years old, I started to reject stereotypical gender roles at a time when kids normally narrowly define themselves by their gender.  Being a boy just seemed more adventurous, free, and dynamic.  Being a girl seemed itchy, prissy, restrictive, boring, and powerless.

As an adult I became much more willing to accept and embrace female power, confidence, and my sexuality.  It was this search that led me to alternative religion.  Even in an environment that is seeking to re-balance gender roles and worship Gods and Goddesses, I found that I was questioned.  During my initial interview to join a coven, it was mentioned that I had found Paganism through a Goddess Spirituality Group.  I was aware, that there are Gods and men in this Tradition.  Is that okay?  Of course, I said.  I love the men in my life.  At the time, I found this question confusing as I was functionally heterosexual and was more comfortable around men than women.  Later, when I was starting my own coven, I was told by other female leadership that if they granted me permission to start this endeavor, I was not allowed to get pregnant within the first year or two of it's founding.  These two examples show how pervasive control of women's power and sexuality really is across the board.

15 years later my perspective has deepened.  I have been told that I'm a man hater because I want to be independent and can take care of myself.  Or because I don't enjoy performance femininity.  I have had very intelligent men tell me that while I am attractive, fascinating, interesting, and dynamic, they wouldn't want to date me because I might be smarter than they are.  My dad thought that particular response was comical.  His response? "You snagged the interest of someone who has talents greater than yours in some areas? Score!"

I have spent countless hours learning communication styles and techniques, body language, listening skills, and mirroring.  Yet, at least 3 out of 5 of my major relationships have ended with criticism, bullying, smear campaigning, and sheer cruelty because I am willing to stand up for myself to the face of aggressive and sometimes violent malignant masculinity.

Why is it that standing up for myself hurts more than cowering and being berated?  Some of it may be the culture that tells me I am being a bad woman for claiming my power or holding my boundaries.  Some of it is that while I have stood up for myself in such situations, it didn't change the problem or even make a dent in it.  The only good I did was that I ended my acceptance of and involvement with said malignant, detrimental, toxic mistreatment.

My open book honesty is threatening.  I am unwilling to shut up and put up or put out for that matter.  It's much more difficult to isolate, gaslight, or victim-blame a person who won't shut up.  My main goal with my outspokenness is that other people find their voice, see there is another way, and know they are not alone.  Nothing is more affirming and gratifying than seeing someone gain confidence in themselves.

Onward.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mammon and Grumbles


Caption=Mammon from Collin de Plancy's Dictionnaire Infernal 


For the past year I've been thinking about the concept of serving Mammon.  This a phenomenon that is prevalent throughout Western culture right now.  This idea is most available to us from Matthew 6:24.  The King James version reads,
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
The church is losing its congregation every year.  What are the people who leave their faith turning to?  Mostly, I think they are turning to nothing.  They can't deal with the hypocrisy or the politics of the very human church and feel they are better off going it alone, without the olitikos.  This also means many are going through life without the container of context.  Tradition, family, the certainty of culture all weaken.

So many find themselves going through the motions; uninspired, unguided, and without a higher ideal or sense of purpose.  You can serve beauty, a cause, your family, God, but standing for nothing means you'll stand for something unconsciously by fiat.  Going with the flow or the majority, or whatever is easiest isn't good enough.

Reaching for status or riches or hedonism is serving Mammon.  The glamor of Hollywood, the glitz of Las Vegas, fortune and fame--Mammon.  Seeing all forms of earthly pleasures, these will not bring lasting satisfaction but a momentary, illusionary wash of endorphins.

Every man for himself isn't good enough.  We desperately need each other.  Each other's support, love, varying perspectives, histories, and values.

The other side of not standing for something and living a life that has been deeply examined is becoming a slave to your complexes.  A couple of months ago I read The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis.  It's a fabulous book.  Today I'll mention one passage about being possessed by your complexes:
In The Great Divorce MacDonald says of the peevish woman in Hell: "Ye misunderstand me. The question is whether she is a grumbler, or only a grumble. If there is a real woman--even the least trace of one still there inside the grumbling, it can be brought to life again. If there's one wee spark under all those ashes, we'll blow it till the whole pile is red and clear. But if there's nothing but ashes we'll not go on blowing them in our own eyes forever. They must be swept up."

"But how can there be a grumble without a grumbler?" the Narrator (Lewis) asks. MacDonald continues: "The whole difficulty of understanding Hell is that the thing to be understood is so nearly Nothing. But ye'll have had experiences ... it begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps criticizing it. And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it. Ye can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no 'you' left to criticize the mood, nor even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine."

Is Hell, then just a state of mind that persists after death? Lewis asks MacDonald: "Then those people are right who say that Heaven and Hell are only states of mind'?" "Hush," said he (MacDonald) sternly."Do not blaspheme. Hell is a state of mind--ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind--is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly." 
--- I found the above passage here:  http://www.discovery.org/a/507

The more we repeat a phrase, a witacism, a tagline, the more we become the grumble.  It takes over until it no longer has any meaning.  You become the tagline, the phrase.  Unthinking, and identifying with the philosophy, you become the grumble and can no longer see enough perspective to see your way out to a new way of thinking.  You become the same stories, emotional scars, and grumblings your parents had and their parents before them.

This is a prison of the mind. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Who is Kylo Ren - thoughts on Ben Solo



Quotes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    Lor San Tekka: The First Order rose from the Dark Side. You did not.
    Kylo Ren: I'll show you the Dark Side.
    Lor San Tekka: You may try. But you cannot deny the truth that is your family.
    Kylo Ren: You're so right. [draws his lightsaber and kills San Tekka]

When Finn showed signs of nonconformity, he was sent to “reconditioning”.  Storm Troopers are brainwashed from birth and never given real names.  They are most likely exterminated when they show signs of individuality, thought or non-conformity. 

Maz Kanata
The only fight. Against the dark side. Through the ages... I've seen evil take many forms. The Sith. The Empire. Today, it is the First Order. Their shadow is spreading across the galaxy. We must face them. Fight them. All of us.

If you live long enough... you see the same eyes in different people. I'm looking at the eyes of a man who wants to run.


It’s the resistance
Don’t let these thugs scare you.


You still want to kill me. 
That happens when you're being hunted by a creature in a mask.
Get out of my head!


Ben Solo was a gifted and conflicted child.  Seduced by power and tortured by inner conflict, pain, and fear, he blamed his parents.  To that end, he killed his father rather than resolve living up to his father’s legacy.  He was prone to childish, violent temper tantrums, and sought only to control others.  He thrived on making others cower in fear.  He used brutish tactics to overpower and brainwash his victims. 

Yet, he always heard the call of the light, calling him back to the light side of the force, to God, to his mother, to the right path.  He wanted his history, his humanity to die, that he be released from his suffering. 

We all know that there is no release of suffering in the dark side.  That is madness in the isolation of a self-made hell. 

Anakin suffered. Ben suffered.  Their victims suffered.

Hope, Rey, the Resistance, and the light side of the force will prevail. 

But it is our commitment, the effort of our lifetime, to be carried out with energy, appreciation, forgiveness, non-condemnation, understanding, and grief.” --Norman Fischer

Monday, July 18, 2016

Post Mortem

So for the past few weeks I've been doing a post mortem of my recently completed relationship.  I was in a really good place in May and had started writing and researching more for my own edification.  I decided I was confident enough to start sharing thoughts on my blog again.  It seems like, yes, in fact, I had found my voice again and had worthwhile things to say. 

For a year or so after my huge breakthrough from NJ, I didn't have much to say.  All my energy had to go into rebuilding a healthy ego after the ego death I had suffered.  Later, I had hesitated for many months, concerned that my boyfriend wouldn't take it well.  In fact, my blog and online support system was one of the things he was unhappy about. 

I know this much.  I will never isolate myself the way I had in NJ.  I've been through too much to compromise the healthy practices and healthy boundaries I've set up for myself. 

I've talked about my process as one of recovery.  This is not from a place of victimization and blame, but one of growth and learning.  It's good to finally have found a really good therapist who is helping me do the forensics necessary to dissect the root causes of unsolved issues in my life.  Knowing this, it is not surprising that I am changing and this has caused upset in some of my personal relationships.  I am the healthiest I have ever been in my life; mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

I also used to think that finding your life work was a symbolic metaphor for engaging in life and finding satisfaction, meaning, and a sense of purpose.  I am currently at a place where I think that I might have a pretty well defined purpose that has been informed by life circumstances throughout my entire life.  From what I can see right now, it looks like this:

To redefine gender roles and the generalized statements about gender and sexuality that negatively impact our society.  To empower women and men find new ways of interacting from a place of generative gender identity.  To refute classic literature that bases its premise in Victorian sexual and gender theory.  To call out malignant gender assumptions that are currently exacerbating patriarchal wounds. 

All of this is about finding common ground and new modes of socially acceptable behavior.  It is about taking responsibility for yourself and your community.  It is about healthy power and empowerment.  I'm looking forward to tackling big questions and hopefully doing some worthwhile work to help heal the Western soul.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What is love?



The thing about getting disappointed and let down enough you become pretty self-sufficient.  One of the best things my therapist Jeff in NJ taught me was that he had my ex, then my husband, look me in the eyes every morning and say this:

"I love you.  I don't need you, but I want you, and today I choose to be with you.  That may change tomorrow, but for today, I choose to be with you."

It tore him up to say that to me.  It was freeing for me.  It meant that he was recognizing that every day is a choice.  It wasn't about need or desperation, it was about choosing to be present and choosing to engage with one another.  It wasn't a given.  I didn't have to be there.

I read an article about a month ago that said most of the time being in love is really about wanting to be needed by someone.  Yet, I don't need anyone.  Giving up everyone and everything for the sake of my sanity and my self-respect and self worth taught me that.  I can survive anything.  It means I'm not dependent and therefore am less likely to engage in codependent or desperate behavior.  It's freeing and empowering.

However, most people don't live in the that state of mind.  They need to be needed and not to be needed is painful.  How do they fit in?  How can they be valued?

What is love from this free space?  For me, its truly seeing another person.  It's wanting their happiness to be true to themselves even if it isn't what you want.  Love is saying I care about someone and I'll be there for them, through the hard shit.  It's not a game.  It's about loyalty and truth.  It's about treating someone the best you can.  Building them up, being supportive, and helping them fulfill their dreams.  It's about helping them see themselves when they are weak and down and blind.

Agape combined with Philia and Eros.  Agape.

I have 4 or so friends that I've had in my life for over 15 to 20 years.  What I love about them the most is we give each other the benefit of the doubt.  If we don't understand each other, we ask for clarification.  They know that I'm going to be upfront and truthful and I expect the same from them.  I've walked away with a heart full of tough love, and they've respected me more for that when we came back together.  It's a level of integrity that is so rare and precious.  We can look into the abyss together and face the terrifying darkness together.  We can laugh at our downfalls, and cheer at each others pinnacle moments.  Those are the people that will be patient and reassuring when I ask the same doubt the 10th time, and they know I'll be the compassionate voice of reason when they are hurting in the dark.

Yesterday was the 1 year anniversary of my mother's death.  I trudged through, cried a lot, and got up this morning ready to face the day again.  Despite all my misunderstandings with her, I know the work I'm going to do ahead will make her proud. 






Sunday, July 10, 2016

When the dank chill of fog dissipates, dawn will shed the light of a new day

So its been a little over 3 weeks since in the wake of the attack at Pulse and the throws of Mars retrograde in Scorpio, that my love life annihilated itself.  Considering that Pulse was a venue at which we were regulars and it was less than a mile from my house, the community dealt with living in a trauma field for a while.  Most of that has ebbed at this point.  Trauma fields activate personal traumas so it is not surprising that the combination of local trauma and astrology caused perturbations in my most intimate personal relationships too.

Yet, what bothers me most is that once that train got going, I couldn't stop it.  I just stood there on the side of the tracks and watched, anticipating in horror the inevitable destruction.  I also had the awareness of scales falling off my eyes.  I became disillusioned with the shared vision and could no longer deny the hard truth that my therapist and I had been monitoring for months.  I recognized both the unhealthy pattern and the escalation of its manifestations.  Furthermore it was confirmed very clearly in my dreams.

It's funny.  You listen to psyche and try to adhere to its mandates, but then doing so causes systemic suffering and grief.  Going "cold-turkey," no contact in order to fully break the connection, frankly, has sucked.  (Yay therapy!)  My desire to reach out has been like an addict in withdrawal.  I suppose that is the perturbation of the complex that is causing the discomfort, not the psyche itself.

A friend posted something this morning that really struck me.  (I'm not naming her out of privacy, but if she wants, I'll give credit).
i wanted more, i needed less
i wanted more
i needed less


Such is the dance of desiring connection with people who are emotionally unavailable to bond in the way I desire most.  I can't give up hope that I will learn better.  I must learn a better way.

I went to a concert soon after and listened to a song about chasing your dreams.  I realized that was me.  That was the story arc moving me toward the future and keeping hope in my heart.  That is the big difference this time with my last heartbreak.  I have something bigger than myself that is worth living for.  That is what keeps me from despair and utter regret.

So now, I am in limbo, waiting, counting the days.  I am taking it a day at a time, like an alcoholic on the wagon.  Choose good foods.  Go to bed at the right time.  Work hard. Workout hard.  Don't think too much.  Don't cry too much. Keep up a good face.  Just keep swimming.  You've survived worse.  This too will pass.

This is grueling and uncomfortable.  Either I work through it and move on, or I sink back down into the dark place.  I don't need to go back there.  I know what waits on the darkside and it's not worthwhile, nor generative.

When the dank chill of fog dissipates, dawn will shed the light of a new day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Do What You Have to Do


My life has been a journey of recovery in the past couple of years. Like sobriety, choosing to live, and live well has been a conscious effort. Instead of whining about what isn't right, I get out of bed and do what I need to do; work, take care of myself, try to keep my heart open. Weight loss, exercise, eating right, therapy, and actively working to keep a focused, positive mind has not been easy. It is a choice.

Every day you choose what you are going to do, where you work, who you are with. Make peace with it or make a change. Do what you have to to love yourself and create the life you want to live. No one will do it for you.

I've hated my career most days since I started insurance in 2004. In 2013 I started pushing for something different. in 7 weeks, I'll be going back to school to become an art therapist.
Do what you have to do. Take responsibility for yourself, your choices, your happiness. No one else will.

I have bad days. Some days I drink too much, eat crap, am lazy, feel sorry for myself, cry too much, or just have to deal with mental garbage all day. What counts is the overall trajectory. Where are you headed?

The course I set has kept me from loosing my orientation. It kept hopelessness and worthlessness, henchmen of depression at bay. My compass points due north.

Faith and hope. Onward.