Loving is hard as fuck. Lately, this has been the lesson. No matter how open I think I have become, no matter how much I believe I have grown, there are still some people for whom I will not open my heart. I didn’t think this was true until I read an article the other day about progressives who are completely open-minded and loving and accepting of all sorts of people unless they happen to be conservatives, trump supporters, or any other type of right-wing individual or group; according to the article, progressives are quite intolerant of those people. As I read through the article, I had to admit, that writer described me almost perfectly.
Those people scare me. Even though I know that is how I have been trained to react to them, even though I know that this is how our system works. A people divided cannot ban together and overthrow the rulers that manipulate them, and I truly believe that this is what is going on in our country. We are being conditioned to mistrust, suspect, and hate each other. Over the course of the last few weeks alone, I have engaged in several arguments with different types of conservatives over trump, choice, and Muslims. I have become enraged at the short-sightedness and fear that they have expressed. I have become indignant at their ability to discount an entire group of people due to the actions of a few.
And I am no different. I have in the past marginalized conservatives, feared them, hated them. I have condemned them for not seeing the world the way I do, which keeps me from seeing them as human, and in the end is the very behavior I am condemning. This is the outer circle of my hatred. Like a tiny pebble of fear dropped in a pond, the ripple effect of hatred expands, and this is where my ripple expands to. This is the “other” I fear, the “other” I hate. The “other” I really don’t know. The next circle of hatred, inches closer, is for those who have condemned or marginalized me personally. Generally, these are women or men who for some reason are threatened by me in social or professional circles. It takes a lot for me to forgive people who ignore, undermine, or otherwise shit on me, or those I love. It has been a life-long struggle for me to get myself to a place where I do not in fact, hate them.
I have held so many jobs where one or two individuals have done things which have made my work life difficult, for no other reason than my lack of deference. This behavior of mine is not meant to be inhospitable, I simply don’t see people as above me, no matter who they are. Unfortunately, some people need that to feel secure, and when I don’t give it to them, it kinda fucks things up for them. When women are unkind, most often, it is because they see me as a threat to their relationship happiness. This occurs in social situations and usually has to do with a man they see as their property, which, even as I write that makes me want to copiously and prolifically projectile vomit all over my keyboard. A lack of funds to replace my computer is only one of the things keeping me from it. The other is that whenever I puke I feel like my entire stomach is going to follow the contents I have just expelled.
I experience this treatment when their boyfriends pay too much attention to me, or when my boyfriend is of particular interest to them. I too have behaved in this awful way when women I don’t know hit on my fella in front of me, or my boyfriend for some reason forgets who his gal is. In these moments, I am convinced that I have the power within me to crush sculls with my gaze. My stare conveys one of icy cold and violent energy, energy which could instantly incinerate a dump truck if unleashed. I am certainly not proud of this energy. In fact, I have very little control over it when it arises. I am hoping at some point that I can attain that control, and maybe even let it go. I think it might add years to my life if I am able to swing it.
The next circle gets real small, even claustrophobic. This is the hatred I have for myself. This is what comes out when I fool myself into believing that I am a victim. This is not self-pity. This is not attention-seeking. This is a dismissal of my value, of my power. This is an absolute disregard for the wonder that is me. This is the epicenter. This is where the pebble of hatred has been dropped. This is where my self-hatred begins, and if I want to change the way I see conservatives and people who have done me wrong, this is the circle I need to work on. This is the circle I must eliminate. In essence, I must keep the pebble of hatred from dropping at all.
Because I have just come to see this as the root of my hatred, I am nowhere near resolving it, but I know now that when I am shitty to anyone, it stems from my misunderstanding of who I am. It is my crooked perception that sees me as a victim, not a victor. When I see myself as a victim, I believe in that moment I am powerless, and that is when I lash out. That is when I become a desperate woman clawing at the cloak of reason.
If I saw myself as the powerful and lovely being I am, conservatives really wouldn’t bother me as much. They wouldn’t seem like such a threat because I would know that their value systems have nothing at all to do with me. Men at work (yes, I did that on purpose), would not bother me either. I would be able to let them have their allergic reaction to my lack of deference and go on my merry bad-ass way.
And this is where it gets good, real good. If I saw myself accurately, if I truly believed I was lovable, I most likely wouldn’t care much when women got angsty with me. I wouldn’t really give a shit if I perceived my boyfriend as paying too much attention to some random woman in my presence, because I would understand, on a deep level in my soul, that the actions of others have very little to do with my value. These experiences are in fact, nothing, if not a way to train myself to understand my own value.
This in itself is a victory; admitting that I see myself as less than. It is an embarrassing thing to admit, but one I must own if I am to conquer my hatred. And I must. We are at a point in our history, I think, where we can see where fear and hatred lead. I have decided that I don’t want any part of it, and because I cannot change the way politicians send my brothers and sisters to foreign lands to kill absolutely innocent strangers, and I can’t keep corporations from utilizing slave labor as a way to keep their costs down in order to make bigger and bigger profits, I have to do something about what I can control, and I will not add to that hatred. I will not be a part of the fear mongering, and I will work toward love in every way possible, until the day I die.
We have been taught to see violence as the answer. Taught to believe that war is hard, and if we are strong, that is what we do; we go to war and we win battles and we conquer our foes. But this is not the case, because in reality, this, this war, this violence, this is the easy way out. Pointing to people and forces outside ourselves is the source of our misery. Believing that if we only beat the “other”, kill the “other” will we be secure. But it is not the other that is the problem. And war and violence are not hard. On the contrary, they are much much too easy. Easy when too many people profit from it. Easy when we do not lose our loved ones in the making of it. Easy when it is justified by our uninformed and vague fears that we are at risk of losing.
We have also been taught to believe that love is flowery, that it is easy. That it is an idea which exists in the ether and descends upon the lucky and the young, but it is not. It is the hardest thing we can do as we face our fears about ourselves and the world around us. Love is hard when we have nothing to look at but ourselves. It is hard when we have to stand in our own shit and breathe in. It is hard when all roads of confusion, lack, and fear, point back to us. That is why it is so hard to do. That is why so many relationships end badly; why so many have lost loved ones to war. It is because loving is hard as fuck. It takes all your energy to choose it when you feel threatened or at risk, but we must choose it. It is the only way.
That is why I drew this picture today. I need a reminder. I need to remember that loving is hard is fuck. But I must do it anyway.
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I am, to some, a marginal Jew, to others, not at all, though I was born to a Jewish woman. It is this type of strange classifying that has taught me more than anything that religion is only as important as you make it, so I take as much good advice from as many different places as I can, which is how I found myself watching a Rabbi explain stress on Facebook the other day. Additionally, for some reason, I have always found Rabbis incredibly sexy, no matter what they look like. This guy for instance was most likely in his eighties. Didn't matter. Super. Hot.
Anyway, he explained that stress is akin to the feeling a lobster experiences when it has outgrown its shell. It becomes uncomfortable and the smallish shell limits the delicious lobster (yes, I am only marginally Jewish) in its movement until it goes down under a rock, sheds its shell, and waits for the new one to grow. During the time it is waiting, it is raw, unprotected, so it must use the protection of the rock until it is ready with a shell that is hard enough to give it security.
This is how I came to the revelation last week that I am a lobster. A delicious, succulent lobster. I could be worse things, I suppose, though my brother refers to them as the cockroach of the sea. Anyway, I realized a little too late about the lobster thing and thusly, I did not go under a rock as soon as I should have. I mean, I did, I withdrew from sex for the most part, discontinued sending out naked pics of myself, and I stopped dating other people. I even pulled back on my creative endeavors. But really, looking back, I think I probably should have just gone off in the woods for a while to figure it all out. It would have been better for everyone involved, most of all, me.
While it felt like my stress was about sex, (as it was brought on by the recurrence of my sexual abuse trauma), it wasn't. It was about love. It was about what I am willing to settle for. It was about what I don't ask for. It was about just going along with shit that kinda bugs me. I realized that to an extent, I am still allowing things in my life that I am not all that cool with. I could easily blame society, my mother, (like I did in last week's post), or my boyfriend, but as is always the case, my decisions, my values, my drive to be me is my responsibility.
As soon as I realized, with great relief, that I wouldn't have to stop having sex with people, I started pinpointing what I needed to change. It is funny to be in the position of writing a blog and creating images to inspire people to love themselves and stand up for themselves while being a person who sees that she has not been doing as well as she could with it. Is this irony? I think so, but after that Alanis Morissette song came out a couple decades ago, I became deeply confused as to the meaning of the word.
I came to see that in some way, I still behave like a victim, though I have long since been one. Because I was looking at the world through that lens, the actions and words of people dear to me were suspect. If I was the victim, then those people? Those people were the abusers. Those people? They were the destroyers. After all, "love" and "beautiful" were once used to manipulate me. They were once used to take advantage of my vulnerability. It is reasonable that I grew to not trust these words. I think "ironic" fits here pretty perfectly, Alanis Morissette be damned.
This is why I have had such a hard time believing people when they say that they love me, or when they tell me that I am beautiful. I see myself as a victim, so I perceive those messages as set-ups. It sounds crazy, even as i write it. But if I am going to cop to anything, craziness is something I can do. Victim, I have no desire to see myself as that, even subconsciously.
It makes perfect sense that I have chosen a casual sex lifestyle. I am quite capable of having sex without love because I was made vulnerable to such great pain when I wasn't. I wanted love so badly when I was 15 that I was willing to have sex, sex I was not yet ready for emotionally, thinking it would guarantee me the love I needed so badly. Now, I see that I am in a place where I would rather have sex without love; that when people I am having sex with tell me they love me, it has almost no effect. I am grateful for this, because this was what jarred me. It is what started to weaken my shell.
I was being told that I was loved and I had almost no emotional reaction to this information, except for suspicion and doubt. These experiences were wearing on my shell from the inside. Fissures and weak spots began forming. My shell began to limit me in ways that made me feel constricted and unable to operate comfortably. I became almost paralyzed with fear. Then, when I thought I could go no deeper into the darkness, my shell broke and crumbled away and I could breathe, I could move. I felt release.
But I have to grow a new shell back. I have to grow a new paradigm for my life.
This type of paradigm shift does not happen overnight. This type of subconscious de-programming takes focused, daily habit to turn it around; a re-training of sorts. So, I have started to develop a new daily habit to get myself out of the victim mindset and in to the champion mindset. Yeah, I am going to be the champion of my life. Utterly victorious in every way. I figure, why go half-way? Why be regular when you can be a champion?
When I look back on the week that my shell was cracking, I realize the pain led me to see something about myself that was holding me back. I could have stifled it, acted like it wasn't happening, or otherwise pretended not to care. I could have lived my whole life in a shell that was one size too small. But that is something I trained myself out of long ago. I know the rewards involved in going through life trying to be a better version of yourself. I also know the pain involved in repeating the same shit over and over again. The pure agony in feeling like you can never have different results, because though you don't want to, you keep making the same mistakes.
This shift has made me feel free. It is also terrifying. I am now committing to holding myself to a whole new standard. I will also being holding other people to a new standard. I hope they are ready for it.
I hope I am ready for it.
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It begins every February. So soon after the holidays. All the dates throughout the year that remind me that my parents are gone. It has been about ten years since my mom passed. I have come to love her more and more since she died, understand her more thoroughly, and appreciate her genius with each new experience.
Mom was a fighter. She was a rabble rouser. Very often, she was the loudest and crudest person in the room, and damn proud of it. She, like my father, wanted me to have kids. That was her dying wish to me. It was the last time I had the opportunity to laugh in her face. Not in a cruel way, mind you, but more at the boldness of her guilt trip. The laughter was my way of handling my surprise that even as she sat on the edge of death, she was still attempting manipulation.
I think she also knew that if I gave in, and maybe told her I would even consider it, it would have been a big step toward forgiveness. From the time I was sixteen, my mother and I battled; her guilt and my defiance would set the stage for our relationship until she died. After my step brother sexually abused me, my mother carried that around with her. She brought it up all the time; that he had written her an apology letter, that she should have known better, that she still felt bad about it. But I never could let her off the hook. But it was not about the abuse as much as it was about what made me vulnerable to it.
My mom was loved by so many. Her funeral was chock full of people wondering how they would go on without her. Some of them even said as much to me. I wasn't exactly still angry when she died, but I wasn't really upset that she had gone either. My mom had been in some form of pain for as long as I had known her. My first memories of her are of her crying in the dark. I felt that her death was a release from the pain with which she had always wrestled.
She grew into an adult having to hide who she was. She was a Jewish Lesbian at a time before it was hip. Before it was even safe. My mom had to deal with a world that would not accept her, and this must have reminded her daily of the way she was treated as a child.
But it has been ten years since she died, along with her pain, and I just had a stunning emotional episode stemming from my sexual abuse. Over the course of the last three or four gruelling, tear-filled days, I re-evaluated in a way that has exhausted me. I had new insights into why I have chosen this path for myself, why I am in an open relationship, and how I choose to love and not to love. I have had to look at all the similarities in my present relationship and the one I had with my mom. And it scares the shit out of me.
This is the darkness before the bright light of hope emerges on the horizon. This is the time where I am living in my shit, and wading through it in order to transcend. And it is, of course, Mother's Day. There is no way I can live my life without letting this holiday effect me. I know my mother loved me. I know she wanted me. I also know she was ill-equipped to raise me.
My mother could not make the requisite sacrifices necessary to raise humans. How the hell could she? She never got the message that she was astounding. No one who held any role of importance in her life ever communicated to her what a beautiful fucking genius she was. I could tell because she was clearly not aware of it. If she saw herself as the earth-shaking beautiful and brilliant change maker that she was, the pain that would eventually strangle and kill her would never have taken purchase.
This, unfortunately, is my guilt. I never told her. I was awed by my mother. I was astounded by her spirit. I see her in so many of the women I talk to; the women who were never told. The women who were not told for so long, that it became almost impossible for them to believe once it was spoken. I could never see past my own pain to let her know.
Over the last few days it has come to me that I was vulnerable to my abuser because I so desperately needed to feel love. I had for so long felt flawed, unloved, and unwanted that I came to a point where I would do anything to get it. It was also my mother's desperation for love which put me at risk. She wanted love so badly that she agreed to make her only daughter vulnerable. I hate knowing this becuase on some level, it has kept me from having kids. I never wanted to find my desperation for love at the root of the pain of my child.
I wish more than anything that I could let go of this, but as of today, I am still hanging on. I am still stuck in the place where I barely believe you when you tell me that you love me. I am still in the place that if you tell me I am beautiful, I think it is because you want something.
I have forgiven my mother. I have let all of that anger go. I am now just hoping that with the dawn and the approaching horizon, will also come some sort of release.
I totally get if you don't want to share this today. Kind of a downer, I know.
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