Monday, July 31, 2017

FEMININE CASTRATION


Sounds pretty dramatic, yes? Maybe not dramatic enough. The idea of a man feeling castrated is pretty common in contemporary society. It can be a bit cartoonish: the idea of a man whose balls have been put in a metaphorical vice by work or women or life, someone who has been domesticated and who doesn’t feel he can properly express his masculinity (or, more accurately, that he has been cut off from experiencing his masculinity). I am saying this about men but it could be applied to anyone who leans toward the masculine and who believes they are unable to—or prevented from—experiencing their masculinity in full swing.

I like to feel my femininity in full swing. I mean that in a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and sexual sense. Note the last two, as they are the major taboos. My femininity in full swing means that I feel comfortable, and even encouraged, to be wise, intuitive, imaginative, creative, sensual, loyal, profound, and receptive. I can be soft, and not have that softness seen as weakness. I can be wise, creative, imaginative, and profound, and not be viewed as an anomaly or a spectacle (“a dog playing the piano,” as someone on Mad Men called a woman being creative). I can give to others the totality of myself, without being seen as a sucker or a sap. Basically, I can just be the fullest expression of myself in a space and among people who will accept this fully—and who will cherish it, and me.

You want to know when I feel safe to feel and express my femininity? Basically never. Hardly ever. People openly and with much hostility critique masculine behavior overall, often with the popular refrain of “toxic masculinity.” I think masculine behavior is rarely given the benefit of the doubt. The core insight I have about masculine men is that, often, they are often just trying to be helpful—helpfulness and succeeding at helping people seems to me to be a very important masculine trait that is often misunderstood and denigrated (I denigrated it before I really looked at my biases toward masculinity, and tried to understand the behavior I attribute to masculinity from a more wholesome and aligned perspective). However, those who exhibit all types of masculine behavior, both negative and positive, still feel (or seem to feel) on some level that they can act in a masculine way full time and be respected and taken seriously.

I do not feel that way AT ALL with regard to my femininity. Why? Because there are many aspects of femininity—or, to be more accurate and more politically correct, I will say my femininity—that are simply unacceptable. I am emotional, and emotionally expressive. I feel shy and nervous at times, and exhibit shyness and nervousness. Never, not one time, has that behavior been received positively, or even neutrally. And you can say: “Well, that makes sense. Shyness and nervousness are negative traits.” OK. I can agree they are not optimal traits. But they relate to something I love about myself: my authenticity. I don’t walk into the room, put on a mask of confidence, and perform the Aimee show, while the real Aimee hides in her dressing room. I walk into a room as myself. If I feel nervous, I feel nervous. You will see it. I spent most of my life wanting to hide it, because it was considered so unacceptable. Now I like it. I’m not a trained seal. I’m a human being connected to her emotions. I want everyone to see that, at all times.

Here’s another real doozy. My sexuality. I am attracted to one person (to this point it has always been a male and I suspect it will continue in this vein) at a time. When I feel a strong attraction, I consider it extremely valid and important. It usually doesn’t go away for quite some time. And while I am in that state, the idea of being physical with someone other than that person repulses me. Which makes my focus on my object of desire intense, one could say. Should I apologize for this? Should I get over it, and be more “free” sexually? Should I be more of an independent woman? More Sex and the City? I’ve tried that. I’ve tried everything, trust me. This is me, and it (sexual fidelity) is 100% what I believe to be a feminine characteristic (at least in my world). Being this way is no picnic in a world that makes a mockery of true desire and emotion in sex and love relationships. I’ve felt unending shame regarding how I conduct my sexuality. But apparently no more! I don’t care what this seems like to other people: pathetic, desperate, clingy, etc. I’m, with regard to sexuality and many, many other topics, the most open-minded, non-judgmental person I have ever met. As long as it is consensual and does not involve children or animals, it’s all beautiful to me, even the situations I wouldn’t want to experience myself. I love it all. I just don’t feel any way other than how I feel. And how I feel is DEFINITELY NOT what people find appropriate, by any means. People hate this. It is seen as the biggest weakness in contemporary culture. But guess what that means? It’s also the biggest strength.

Here’s another one: spirituality. That was a dirty word even for intellectual, pre-spirituality me, so I understand how people who consider themselves intellectual just can’t understand spirituality. I had a spiritual awakening, which TRUST ME you will not understand if you haven’t experienced it yourself. I don’t even understand it. I feel like it gave me life and also, in a very real way, ruined my life. But my spiritual awakening was the thing that brought me in line with my femininity. It was the thing that said to me: If this is your true self, why are you hiding it? Why are you so ashamed of it? Why are you aping other peoples’ thoughts and opinions regarding femininity, feminism, etc.? Why not come to your own truth about this stuff? People say that spiritual awakenings are like opening Pandora’s Box, and trust me they are not kidding. It’s also like looking in a mirror and seeing your true self for the first time. A part of you wants to die, truly, and a part of you, the curious part, just wants to keep looking. I found my core identity through my spirituality, and I would say that I value it much more than I value my intellect. They are not separate, but my pre-spiritual-awakening accumulation of “knowledge” now seems like a dusty stack of Encyclopedia Britannicas from the 1960s—fun to look through, but out-of-date and ultimately useless. It’s like I upgraded to a new operating system, though I never consented to this. It’s weird.

What is has given me is a perspective on my feminine identity that I find invaluable. I will pursue this course of identity to the bitter end (and it’s been pretty bitter thus far!), because—now that I’ve released the shame attached to it—I understand how vital and necessary the reclamation of the feminine is to the overall benefit of society. And I’m strong enough to deal with the overarching hatred expressed toward the feminine in society. I may feel that my femininity was castrated by society, but it is potent within me, and I am strong enough to unleash it whenever I want.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

BADASS


I was reading a review in the New Yorker yesterday, and they were talking about some chef—a woman—being a badass, I think because she bought her restaurant off Graydon Carter (or something like that).

In the contemporary world, a “badass” is pretty much the best thing a woman can be seen as being. I’ve been called a badass, and people have called the things I’ve made and achieved badass. And it is the thing I desire least to be, and the thing I desire even less to create or perpetuate. Potentially a holdover from both second and third wave feminism, the idea of a woman being a badass is so ingrained as good or great in our popular Western culture, we have scarcely thought about what the opposite of a badass might be. Or why being a badass is seen as positive.

If you look around, ESPECIALLY IN NEW YORK, the women who get applauded for their achievement tend to be, in some way, “tough.” I don’t mean this in an internal way, like character strength. I mean it in a highly external way—in the realm of looks and performance. They dress somewhat androgynously, or their manner of speaking is loud or very frank or possibly obscene, or they take on some other dominant characteristic that is not aligned with a stereotypical notion of femininity. Or, they don’t exhibit any emotion whatsoever, so even if their visual presentation is highly stereotypically feminine (makeup, dresses, heels) their restrained, unflappable manner is in some way androgynous, or masculine.

Think about, for example, Scarlett Johansson’s speech at the Women’s March. Her short hair. The way her voice sounded. She was the typical example of what people mean when they say a woman is a badass:


I’m not saying Scarlett Johansson is not at all feminine here. I’m not saying short hair is masculine per se, or that something about her is not feminine enough, and thus unlikeable. (I actually didn’t watch the whole recording). What I’m saying is that her look and tone of voice and “frankness” of have a certain hardness here, and that hardness is something many people view favorably. To a lot of people, that hardness reads as strength. A lot of female artists and writers have this kind of “take no shit” air about them. An exterior hardness that is viewed very favorably, to the point of being seen as spectacular—the thing a woman should absolutely be and have. I’ve known so many men who have applauded women for being “tough,” never understanding that what they were judging was merely an external hardening of character, rather than inner strength. People love “ballsy,” outspoken women, but this is because PEOPLE LOVE MASCULINITY AND HATE FEMININITY. On a very superficial level. And also on a level that runs bone deep, to the core of who people really are. That is the most factual statement that exists in this world. I beg literally anyone to differ with me.

All people favor masculinity. Not just men. We are in a world that is defined by one core human need: to earn what I call “Daddy’s love.” Because Mommy’s love was and is a given (which makes her weak) but Daddy’s love is withheld and must be earned, Daddy’s love is the love everyone wants. Daddy’s love is the treasure. Any time I’ve worked in an office, I’ve seen both men and women bend over backwards to please their male superiors, and talk endless shit about their female superiors. Women do this literally constantly. I observed this behavior particularly in people who would absolutely, in no uncertain terms, call themselves “feminists.” People are so frustratingly unconscious, and so blind to their own internal prejudices.

So, if you know (subconsciously) that Daddy’s love is the biggest and best prize, and we live in a world that overvalues achievement, dominance, and hierarchy (all stereotypically masculine traits) above all else—what would you do? You would either want to please Daddy, or you would want to become Daddy. In whatever way you can. Thus women being praised, and praising other women and themselves, for being badasses. WE COULD EASILY SWAP THE WORD BADASS FOR THE WORD DADDY. IT’S THE SAME THING.  

When I think about what people dislike about me, nine times out of ten it is my femininity. No, make that ten times out of ten. People think, because I am modest and shy, that I am stupid. Because I am sweet and kind, I am a sap. Because I like to dress in a feminine way and wear makeup, I could not possibly know anything about the Situationist International (which, in my opinion, is a cool thing to know about, if not exactly the height of intellectual rigor). I could not possibly be capable. I could not possibly be intellectual. I could not possibly know what I am talking about. I must be at home sucking my thumb and crying and playing with dollies.

People like to gaze upon femininity, but they do not respect femininity.

Thus the rise of the badass. Why can’t every woman be a badass? Why can’t all women be tough, and speak their minds, and raise their voices?

Because it is bullshit. It is bluster. It means nothing. Every person on this planet is a mix of masculine and feminine. I like the masculine aspects of myself very much, but, at this point in time, I choose to embrace and celebrate my femininity more because I have not been brainwashed by society into thinking it is bad. Or, more accurately, I broke the spell, and no longer think it is bad. I think being truly feminine is the most radical and important we can do in the current moment.

Here is a list of some of my favorite feminine traits and aspects:

Wise, compassionate, empathic, INTUITIVE, playful, responsible, responsive, communicative, cooperative, capable, receptive, kind, understanding, giving, thoughtful, imaginative, gracious, warm, insightful, emotionally expressive, sexually generous, loving, gentle, tender, patient, deep, nurturing, helpful, open-minded, creative, loyal, sensual.

How many of these traits and aspects seem weak? What’s missing here? There are many positive traits and aspects of masculinity that go hand-in-hand with these traits. Why do we tip the scales, continually, toward the masculine? How have we become so blind to the benefit (I would argue the utter necessity) of these feminine traits?




BABY MONSTER

A sibling of this little creature landed on my shoulder today (Sycamore Tussock Moth Caterpillar):



It will turn into this beauty monster when it grows up:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

PRETTY


I was recently sitting in a café, witnessing a relatively normal event I found extremely disturbing and bizarre. There was a little girl, 5 years old, in the café. Her parent worked in the café, and she was just hanging out, playing with brightly colored plastic sandwich cookies she kept in a little plastic baggie. A woman who looked to be in her fifties approached the little girl, and began talking to her. Clearly a stranger, she asked the little girl what her name was, and how old she was. During their short conversation, the woman very directly told the little girl that she was pretty at least 3 times. Each time, the little girl responded with a polite “thank you.”

The woman had the look of someone who cared very much about her appearance—she was very trim, dressed in tight jeans, her hair was coifed, and her face may have had some work.

I found the nature of this interaction completely crazy, yet also completely normal. In general, I find that women of the baby boomer generation and older place extraordinary emphasis on the physical appearance of others. Even the ones who aren’t like this woman, who are perhaps more alternative or “tough,” still comment on and analyze the physical appearance of other women and girls to a very heightened degree.

When I was young, I felt like my physical appearance was all people cared about. Whenever I was around adult women, it seemed like they were putting me under a microscope. I also felt scrutinized by men, but with women, it was like I was undergoing some constant external evaluation process that they had no shame in articulating directly in front of me.

Growing up, my mother was seen as very attractive, and she had a very strong, yet outwardly subtle, need for her appearance to be positively recognized by both men and women. She also could not stand to feel like she was competing, beauty-wise, with other women. While she had a few attractive female friends, these were usually transitory and superficial relationships, “party friends,” basically. I think she used these friends to create a little buzz around herself, like: “here I am, a hot woman, with my hot women friends.” Her more serious female friendships were always with women who greatly admired her physical appearance, and who, because they carried a fair amount of excess weight, would never compete with her in that category. I think she molded me to be a woman in this category. For various reasons related and unrelated to my mother and her competitiveness, my body held a great deal of excess weight on and off when I was an adolescent—only to be permanently lost within about six months after her death.

During my childhood, I was deemed pretty by older women, until I began to put on the weight. Then I was deemed ugly. The attention I received when I was pretty was positive. The attention I received when I was ugly was either negative or nonexistent. Neither had anything to do with me, and during both time periods, all I really wanted was to either be left alone, or for someone to talk to me about something I actually cared about (horses and books).

Young children do not know that they are pretty or ugly—if such attributes can be used to describe children (or anyone, really). Young children are not typically prone to analyzing the externalized images of themselves from a comparative, critical perspective. When you are young, everything is external to you except you. Dolls are pretty. Mommies are pretty. Cats are pretty. Horses are pretty. You are you. When little children take selfies, they do not judge their appearance as adults do. Typically, their ego structures are not formed to the point that they can imagine looking like anything other than how they look.

Which is why this situation with the woman and the little girl in the café struck me as so insane. First of all, imagine if that woman had been a man—particularly a man who read as heterosexual. His constant comment on her appearance would seem creepy. A good rule of thumb is that if you think what you are saying would be creepy for someone else to say, IT IS ALSO CREEPY FOR YOU TO SAY—even if it is more outwardly socially acceptable. Secondly, the little girl clearly had an interest she was displaying: her little plastic cookies. If one wanted talk to her about anything (which in itself is a little weird—why talk to a little girl you don’t know?), wouldn’t it be appropriate to talk to her about the thing that she is interested in? Her appearance, while an undeniable part of her, was not her own interest—that was purely the interest of the older woman.

I have often had encounters with older women in New York who felt duty-bound to analyze and critique my appearance. A few years ago, I bent over to tie my shoelaces in a relatively secluded area, and a woman told me that “everyone could see my underwear.” Her comment triggered my childhood feelings of being constantly analyzed and critiqued for my appearance. So, my response to this woman was a rather aggressive: “Well you can. Since you’re looking up my skirt, you can see my underwear.” I wanted to throw what I viewed as her attempt to shame me right back in her face, which I did (and which did appear to shame her). Now, because I’ve dealt more directly with these issues, I would probably cut her some slack and read her comment more along the lines of an attempt to be helpful. A lot of older women would do anything to spare themselves an embarrassment relative to their appearance, and believe that others feel the same. 

It is not the fault of these women that they put so much emphasis on appearance. It is unconscious and based on a process of socialization that we have all bought into. Which is why it is so destructive and insidious.

I put an extraordinary amount of pressure on myself with regard to my appearance, and would say that my relationship with all reflective surfaces in one of purely negative analysis and harsh critique. I never think I look good—even good enough to simply appear in public—although I can objectively understand that I look fine, and am even "pleasing to the eye." I am not perfect, and, for me, being less than perfect is the same as being worthless. I feel this way about my appearance, even though I can objectively say that my appearance, at its very worst, is completely “acceptable”—I cause no alarm when I enter a room, and people are happy enough to gaze upon me as they speak to me. 

Two months ago, I had the realization that I have never, not one time, expressed any inner gratitude whatsoever for my appearance. Objectively, I understand that my appearance is a "privilege," relative to something like a job interview. Yet I have spent a lifetime feeling that I am completely unacceptable looking, and thus completely unloveable. Two hours after coming to this realization about gratitude, I walked across the Williamsburg Bridge and encountered a man with a very large growth on his face. I thought about how this man must feel, having people look at his face and see something that, by society's beauty standards, "shouldn't" be there. I also thought: "he, potentially, may have much more acceptance of his appearance than I do of mine." I have no idea what his situation was, but I do know that my relationship to my appearance has nothing to do with what I actually look like. It is about what I was taught to value, and how I was taught to relate to others. It is about the fact that believing I was "ugly" and making myself "ugly" with weight was what protected me and kept me safe as a child—and was also what made my mother feel like she could be close to me. My "ugliness" would never threaten her beauty supremacy. 

This is not the way I want to feel, but it is the truth. I have never felt that my appearance was up to the standards of anyone who would look at me. I avoid cameras and having my image captured, because I live in constant fear that someone will take a “bad” picture of me, and if anyone saw this picture, I would not be able to receive their love. I feel this way also knowing that the people I love are loved for something completely unrelated to their appearance, and that—through many years of analyzing my own relationship to external appearances—I now do not view "beauty" or attractiveness  even nominally through the lens of external appearance. Attractiveness for me is so much deeper than that.

So this (along with other very damaging factors like abuse) is what endlessly analyzing a child’s appearance does to them. Even positive analysis. It makes them think that THEY ARE THEIR APPEARANCE. And if anything “negative” happens to their appearance in the formative stages of life, it causes them to think they are suddenly not worth existing. After being abused, having that abuse ignored, and gaining weight as a child—and subsequently being judged as ugly and thus worthless by the adult women in my life—I have never regained a sense of true value in myself as a human being. I can value my work, my writing, my “services”—i.e. what I can produce—but I can’t value myself. This is slowly changing, but it is my core wound.


So when I see a woman innocently praising a little 5 year old girl for her beauty, I feel enraged. What if something happens to that little girl, and she is no longer “pretty”? Will she still deserve to exist? Does she still have value? We need to look at how we talk to our children, and how we value them.

Monday, July 24, 2017

PATTERNS AND SIGNS


It is not easy being me. I tend to feel things that haven’t happened yet, and tend to respond to things before they’ve happened. I am not a psychic per se (I don’t know what that word means to anyone reading this; it seems to mean something different to everyone), but rather a person who is extremely capable of looking at a bigger picture and seeing patterns and signs. I am super empathic. I’ve learned how to control this, but before I did, I lived a life where I was basically reading and responding to people’s unspoken emotional needs at all times, to the utter detriment of my own needs.

Because of this, I often feel like everyone else is operating at a fairly normal, if unconscious, level of simple, day-to-day affairs, and I am constantly subconsciously raising my finger in the air to see which way the wind is going to blow. There is an enormous angel statue on the belfry of St. George’s church in Piran, Slovenia. It points south when bad weather is coming, and north when good weather is coming (or so local legend claims). It is like a weathervane I suppose, but massive in size. I feel like that statue most of the time. Because patterns and signs come to me so clearly and so tangibly, it sometimes feels like my life is living me, pointing me in the direction it needs me to go in. I don’t get the sense that others feel this way. When it feels like I am the only one experiencing life like this, I get frustrated. I feel misunderstood.

A prime example of this can be found in my interpersonal relationships. I’ve always known when a friendship has gone sour well before the actual event that defines “the end” of a friendship. With these situations, I tend to hold on until something occurs that hurts me (or I do something to hurt someone), because I want to believe that I’m wrong about the friendship being finished. I’m never wrong.

Another intriguing aspect of this is the realm of men and my relating to men. Since I was a teenager, I’ve attracted into my life men who were, in some major way, Mommy’s boys. This didn’t make them weak or wimpy, however. I’ve concluded—based on the many, many men I’ve known who’ve exhibited strikingly similar behaviors and traits—that these men were often used by their mothers as emotional stand-ins for their own absent, distant or inattentive husbands. These women thus created boys who turned into men who hate and resent what they feel women to be: controlling, abusive and emotionally invasive. This directly reflects my experience with men in my youth, where I was abused and subsequently made to be physically afraid of men, believing that they had no interest in creating a safe or loving space for me. That they had no interest in my health or well-being.

So that’s been a good match. And it’s been a real fun ride, let me tell you. I’m terrified of being used and abused by men, and also terrified that they won’t keep me physically safe. And the men I encounter are terrified to be emotionally vulnerable to a woman, fearing her abuse of this vulnerability. As I’ve delved more deeply into this, I’ve been able to read about the experiences of men who had emotionally controlling and manipulative mothers (some call this emotional incest). They tend to develop emotionally superficial physical relationships with women based on looks and status, because those things feel safe to them. Or, they go in the other, weirder direction, and re-enter the dynamic they had with their mothers by choosing a “Mommy” type figure for a lover.

This is the exact opposite, literally, of me. Because I felt so physically unsafe and so neglected in my childhood, I’ve become this emotional mastermind. It is very easy for me to read and feel emotions. I love emotions, because they represent, for me, the truest nature of a person. My whole life is based on being emotionally present for people, and understanding what they need emotionally. Yet when I tend to read emotions with these men, they begin to feel unsafe, like I will use this information to harm them in some way. Then they close up shop. Some have gone so far as to create a world where they denounce the things they actually really care about, in order to create a safe and private inner world where their feelings and emotions can’t be touched by others, and thus can really belong only to them.

I, on the other hand, have created a highly controlled world where I am physically safe at all times, to the total detriment of creating the potential of being loved and cared for physically. Well, I did do that. I am not in that situation currently. So that's scary. But good, in the sense that I am moving on from this stultifying and painful situation. 

I find this all super distressing, and also quite fascinating. While these are difficult topics, they are also, at their heart, simply questions. I find it very interesting and very valuable to try to find answers to these questions. The way humans learn to cope with unsafe childhoods is immensely moving and interesting to me.

Friday, July 21, 2017

FREEDOM


This is a word I’ve been thinking about today. I do not know anyone personally who I believe has experienced as much personal freedom as I have. I disconnected from my family mentally and emotionally at a very young age, and physically by age 17. Because of this, I really don’t have a lot of time or patience for “authority figures” or for following a normative path in life. I’ve always lived my life following my own desires and cleared my own path.

Most people I meet are not like this at all. They are the opposite. They are still connected to their families, and this leads them to have very normative, and therefore highly conditional, work and life relationships. It is isolating and lonely to feel like I am the only one traveling on this path. I long for relationships that satisfy me, yet I often feel like the relationships I foster demand a type of compliance to “normalcy” that I am not able to offer. They are based on conditions, not true connection or communion.

When you look at people who have really made a difference in this world, they are often people who lost one or both parents at a young age (or legitimately disconnected from them in some way at a young age). This is true of John Lennon, Barack Obama, and countless others. There is something about that formative break with “authority” that sets people on a different life path.

Often the women I relate to most have had a relationship with their paternal caregiver that was negative enough for them to denounce their given surname and use a different last name, because their given surname was or is their father’s name (I did this). When you grant yourself this type of freedom, it is not an act of rebellion or defiance. It is an act of survival. No young woman WANTS to disown her familial identity, even if it is only at the level of her name. It is not a “fuck you.” It is a “help me.” Changing your name is a big deal. Doing so is indicative of a completely denunciation of a formative aspect of one’s development.

I think people have a terribly difficult time grasping how difficult it is to not have parents, and to feel like you are charting the course of your entire life by yourself. I love my freedom because it means that my choices are mine, and no one else’s. I am living a pure life, and have pure thoughts and experiences as a result. I am educable, and I truly learn, because I don’t have a lot of the resistances that people who “follow” others have. All my interests are mine, all my passions are mine. I am incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to persuade. This quality is not immediately readable in my persona, which is gentle and tends to be misread as docile or impressionable. I am not impressionable.

Often, I think people choose to be followers because it is easy for them, and it allows them to not be responsible for their own lives. Most people want to be told what to do. I DO NOT WANT TO BE TOLD WHAT TO DO, so people assume that I want to create a life where I can’t assimilate or “settle down.” That I am just a rebel who loves to be contrary. I do not want this. I hate watching friendships fall away because I’ve evolved and the other person is still worried about what their parents will think. That’s incredibly painful. It makes me scared to get close to people in the first place. It makes me fear any work situation, because I feel like, at some point, someone will ask me to be less of myself or different than myself in order to make them feel better about themselves.

Being on my own has allowed me one huge advantage. I have experienced ego death countless times (now being another one of those times), and am no longer on an endless quest to fortify my ego. I do not experience a lot of people who have done this, so this is another point of extreme isolation for me.

Often, with friendships and especially with romantic relationships, I feel like I’ve been brought on for the sole purpose of ego fortification. “Make me feel like a good person.” “Make me feel powerful.” If I am continually in the process of understanding my own ego so I can interrogate it and, when necessary, transcend it, it is really impossible for me to exist in service to another person’s ego. Especially when this person has not made his or her internal awakening a primary pursuit, and who is therefore not on the same journey I am. I can’t be a loser to make you feel like a winner. I can’t be ugly to make you feel pretty. I can’t make you feel like you’re a great person if you’re not a great person. I can’t envy your life to make you feel better about your life. I just don’t have that capacity as a human being. I am on a different path.

This is the path of awakening. Every day, I wish I could be a person who could be satisfied purely by her material existence, which honestly has often been quite extraordinary. It is deeply heartbreaking to feel so isolated with my evolving journey. But when I hear people talk, I mostly hear how they are just parroting their parents or their friends or their employers. I just can’t relate. When I listen to them, all I hear is how they’ve (most likely subconsciously) ignored their own evolution and expansion in favor of superficial hierarchical goals—for feeling like they are better than someone else. This just doesn’t connect with me. I can’t pretend that the surface of life is what is important, when I know that we are here for a deeper reason.

We are here to make a difference in this world. I know that I had the childhood I had because I was being prepared to be someone who is capable of independent thought and therefore independent action. I feel that in my bones. I do not want to meet people who cannot or will not connect to that—who like me for the magazine I write for or for what they assume is some level of success or achievement. Or worse, people who like me purely for my intellect (which is honestly mostly a product of being so isolated). It is too heartbreaking.

I have begun to make greater emotional and physical demands on my relationships, and it has been interesting to see what these demands have turned up. If someone needs unconditional love and acceptance—I’m here. I’ve given that to myself, and can now give it to anyone who needs it. That’s my crowning achievement as a human being.

If someone needs ego fortification, they need to look elsewhere. I don’t have it to give, in any respect. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

METAPHYSICAL


Today I am thinking about my physical experiences on this planet, and how they relate to the state I am currently in, which is decidedly less outwardly directed. When I was a little kid, I loved playing outside in the woods behind my house, and I loved swimming in the lake at my grandparents’ house nearby. I had in general a very physical and outdoorsy childhood, at least the early part of it. I learned to ride horses when I was quite young, and I have ridden them on and off ever since. I love the physicality of horsemanship, but I also love the experience (which many horse people talk about) of the union of horse and human consciousness. This is something that happens when you really understand how to ride—at least it happens to me. I’ve had experiences riding horses where all I had to do was think a command—“canter,” “turn left”—and because the horse and I were so in-tune, the horse would automatically respond. That’s the magic of riding, when little you and this big, beautiful, powerful animal are functioning as a single unit. It’s like the connection between humans when they are in love.

The last time I really devoted myself to riding, around 2 ½–4 years ago, I rode a horse, a big thoroughbred, who was really high-strung. This is usually my preferred type of horse to ride, because they are so challenging, and when you get them on your side, they are exciting to ride. They are lively, they are responsive to the slightest cues, and you get to feel a sense of your skill at understanding how to deal with horses. But when they are not on your side they can be really difficult, and their freak-outs can be dangerous. With this horse, I started to tune out what I guess I would call my “ego consciousness,” and instead would go into almost an active meditation. When I could turn off my brain and take on what they call (in yoga) a drishti gaze, I could feel the horse relax and begin to respond to my gentle cues in a very pure, direct way. Horses are reactive to energy, so the trick to dealing with a high-strung horse (for me) is to be the calmer partner. This is not so easy, as I am reactive to energy and high-strung myself, but it is really interesting to be able to get a horse who is nervous to begin to calm and to trust you. When they start to trust you, they start to enjoy the experience, and it’s fun. There is nothing less enjoyable than riding a horse who doesn’t want to be ridden.

I am thinking about this all today because I feel like my life has gotten far less outwardly physical, and I am missing my physical encounters with the world. In the world of spirituality, they say you expand outward before going inward. Basically, you seek externally through travel and new experiences, relationships, etc. before turning inward toward the exploration of your own consciousness. This is definitely true for me. I feel like the first three decades of my life were super adventurous and exploratory. I traveled a lot, cycled through a lot of experiences, relationships, and so forth.

All throughout this time, and after, I always had this little voice that would insist on being heard, even though I really, really, really wanted to tune it out. I would, for example, get a job I was really excited about. Then I would discern this little voice (aka my intuition) telling me: “you don’t really like this job.” I would argue, like, “Of course I like this job. It’s a great job. Look how glamorous it is! Look at all the places I get to go! Look at the people I’m around! How could I possibly not like this job?” And then, soon enough, I would get to the point where I had to leave the job because I hated it so much. The annoying little voice was always right, and I felt great pain when I didn’t listen to it.

This little voice is still with me, but now it is almost as though I have blended with it to the point that it actually is me. I guess this is what people call authenticity. Before, I remember I would really battle with this voice. I would have mentors who I really respected, and they would often push me toward different directions in my life. The little voice would be like, “no, don’t do that—you won’t be happy.” I would tune it out and tune it out. Who could be smarter than my mentor? How could my mentor be wrong? But the little voice was always right. Annoyingly so. And I would experience great pain (sometimes a pain that was almost unbearable) when I would ignore it. And it would tell me some fucked up things. Things I never wanted to deal with. But, eventually, I learned the pain of not listening to the voice was worse than what it was telling me—even at its most horrifying.

I don’t have that pain anymore. But I also don’t really have the voice anymore either, which is frustrating, because I feel lonely without it. I can equate it to riding. When I ride, the horse is always external to me, and no matter how tuned in I am to the horse—and how tuned in the horse is to me—we are always quite obviously two separate entities sharing an experience. That experience is different for both of us. It’s a partnership at a physical and (for me) a metaphysical level, which is what makes it so unique and fun and mind-blowing. But it is always two realities temporarily uniting—not two realities becoming one. Because I have basically become one with my intuition (some people call this the higher self or the eternal self), I can no longer really “hear” it. I just am it. And I feel super lonely! I also feel that because I have spent SO MUCH TIME dealing with my internal dimension, via the metaphysical aspects of my own consciousness, my life has become much less externally motivated. I’m still quite physical and do yoga all the time, etc. But because I’m not seeking externally, I’m not going on adventures. I REALLY miss my adventures. I miss travel, I miss riding, I miss being with new people—I miss the external pleasures of the world.

I recognize that unless you are spiritually awakened what I’m writing here will just sound like a lunatic’s ravings. If you are spiritual you will probably understand what I’m bringing forth. Becoming spiritually awakened has encapsulated the deepest and darkest pain of my life into a nothingness, a teaspoon. As someone who has experienced so much pain and grief, I feel so much gratitude for this. But as a plain old human being, I feel that the last three years have focused so intensely on my internal experience—and my increasing awareness of it—to the point that I feel locked inside myself and desperate to get out. I want to feel the world again.

Friday, July 14, 2017

SENSITIVE


Today I’ve been thinking about different relationships in my life, those that have come and gone, and why that may be the case. Overwhelmingly, I can pinpoint any rupture in a relationship to my having my feelings hurt, and distancing myself as a way to protect myself. I have also hurt other people, and pushed them away. I am not an angel and don’t wish to paint my experience as that of a sensitive victim.

I do think I have different needs relative to many aspects of life. I think it has been hard for many people to understand and accept these needs. It’s been even harder for me to communicate them, and to feel like I actually deserve to have them met. I sometimes feel that people become interested in my company for one reason, and then get put off by who I “really” am. That’s a difficult thing to deal with. I think my life experience with my family and so forth has been tough, but I think what makes it tougher is the fact that I am so sensitive. I can’t just “go with the flow,” most of the time. As much as I enjoy my life, there are several aspects of life that are very overwhelming to me, though completely normal to others. Often the thing that overwhelms me the most is the energy of other people. That’s not most common complaint, and if you are not a very sensitive person, you might not understand what I’m talking about. But I can almost equate it to an allergy. If you can’t eat nuts because you are allergic (versus just thinking they are not tasty), you will alter your life profoundly to avoid consuming them or even being near them. It is life or death for you. I know people with nut allergies who choose not to travel to certain “popular vacation” areas they would otherwise want to visit, because their need to keep themselves feeling safe outweighs their desire to visit a place that they can’t guarantee will offer them a “nut-free” experience.

Similarly, to keep myself happy, I need to make sure that my life it also “nut-free,” though my nuts do not grow on trees. Mostly, my nuts take the form of other humans, or of certain social or work situations. While I have gotten a lot better about being in the moment and not letting situations overwhelm me, I still have a problem being around certain “energies.” Some people and some situations are just too much for me to know what to do with. Since I am in my own little sensitive boat with this particular allergy, it can make me feel very isolated and alone.

We, in our current culture, are not interested in making life easier for sensitive people. Especially the sensitivity I am talking about, which is ambiguous, and could be chalked up to just having an annoying or difficult personality.

Everything in this current life is about forming and accruing hardness and toughness. To be sensitive isn’t a plus. I’ve been told since I was a little kid that I am too sensitive. What that has equated to, in my view, is the sense that my gut feelings are not valid and do not matter.

We are a superficial culture, and this is evident in our abuse of language more than anywhere else (even instagram). If you do something against someone, saying “sorry”—even if it’s not heartfelt—is how you make it better. I equate American society’s current obsession with correct language as a part of this superficiality. Language should change. There are so many terms that would be so hurtful if they still existed in contemporary speech. Hurtful words should be eliminated from our lexicon whenever possible. HOWEVER. What is much more hurtful is the emotion and intention (conscious or subconscious) that drives words and actions. While terms often carry synchronous emotion—they just as often don’t. For example: I usually say “hi guys,” to my students, male and female, when I greet them. In no way am I privileging men or the patriarchy by using the word “guys.” It’s a term of casual-yet-professional affection—I adore my students, and also feel great resonance with the responsibility I have as a teacher to keep my relationship with them mutually respectful. I would never want to hurt anyone by using a gendered term. If someone expressed a problem with me saying “guys,” I would talk to them about it and work through it. But I know that the emotion behind my words is filled with authenticity, kindness and respect (all worked on and hard-won). I feel that this is infinitely more important than searching for a more gender-neutral term that might sound more “correct” to contemporary ears, but lack the immediate expression of love and kindness that I deliver by not thinking so fucking hard about it.

There is knowledge, and then there is intuition. The latter has always felt more true to me. I understand how much words can hurt. I’m a writer, and believe in the power of words. But I think we as a culture focus on the most superficial aspects of human dynamics as a way of trying to “fix” what is broken. I wish, instead of this intense focus on language, there might be a way to see language as merely the symptom of a way bigger problem.

That problem? Essentially: we hate ourselves and each other and we don’t know how to connect. That is so often the energy I experience in social settings, and it is one that makes me want to run and hide. Whether I am for or against a specific politician is beside the point. When all I experience is constant conversation about that politician delivered with an energy I can only describe as venomous, it makes me feel very uncomfortable. Our country is in this position BECAUSE of an opposing venom of the exact same viscosity. 

For once, rather than hearing or seeing it, feel the world around you. I know this sounds totally crazy. Up until 6 years ago, I would have been like, “OK I’ll get right to feeling the world around me. Sounds great.” I know what it is to be purely logical and rational, and to deny your emotional relationship to the world. But we have to admit: the world at large has driven straight past logical and rational. We are not working with that criteria anymore. You may be engaging with capitalism in a way that makes you feel sheltered right now (I, for one, am not), but you are not safe. No one is. When you feel the world right now, it feels amiss. And I am saying this as an optimist. I love the world, and I think humans do want the best for one another. I am not (anymore) reactionary to the factual horrors of environment and politics we are bombarded with on a daily basis. What I am, what I have always been (though I tried for most of my life to block this out), is someone who feels the world deeply. 

We need to change the way we are operating in this world. We need to start listening to sensitive people. We are doing no one any good by constantly complaining about a situation that is not an aberration from the norm, but merely a reflection of the true norm. When you are attracted to anger, venom and bitterness in the name of righteous indignation, ask yourself why true leaders, like MLK Jr., Ghandi, etc. never needed that energy to do what they did. We need our gentle and profound leaders to rise up again. We need a gentle, sensitive and profound world.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

SWEET


This is one of the terms that I often find people using to describe me. Do I disagree? No. I think I am sweet. When I walk out the door in the morning, I don’t hate the world, and I don’t look for things to hate in my experience. I look for the sweetness that life has to offer, and I think this perspective naturally gives me a “sweet” demeanor. This has been a hard-won perspective.

HOWEVER. When people call other people sweet, it can often mean that they feel like that person lacks qualities that would make them compelling, intelligent or effective. I remember having a job that I hated. During the time I was there, a man I worked with told me, “You are too sweet for this job.” I would have to be, in this estimate, much more unsweet—or tough, I guess—to be suited for this job.

In NYC, you often see that people gradually, over time, step into two different categories. The first is HARDENED. The second is DEFEATED. The hardened people are the typical cynical types, who have seen it all and done it all. Nothing impresses them, and they are the types who want to gather with their friends to gossip. They feel like they have conquered New York, and have so cemented their position in their community that there is nothing else to do but mock those who aren’t on the inside. They might be very accomplished in their chosen career, but it hasn’t led to a true sense of happiness. It has simply given them satisfaction at their social standing. They are rigorously attuned to the pecking order, and they assume this to be life itself.

In contrast, the DEFEATED feel as if New York (or the world) keeps fucking them over and over and over. Whatever they do, it never works out. Everything depresses them, and they are the types who want to gather with their friends to complain. They try to get “in with the in-crowd,” but instead wind up forever looking through a window at a world they will never belong to. They plod along through life, hoping things will change, but feeling as though they never will.

These two groups egg each other on. The HARDENED need to feel as though their position in life is extraordinarily enviable, in order to feel like they have any value at all, so they exclude the DEFEATED to keep them in their place. The DEFEATED need to feel like they are not good enough to belong (since their perception of belonging or mattering would mean having to really step up to the plate and truly make themselves known, which they are too insecure to do), so they continue to look to the HARDENED for approval, knowing (subconsciously) that they will always fall short.

So when people call me sweet, I always get the feeling that they are trying to push me into the defeated category. Unfortunately, I do not desire to be either hardened or defeated. I desire to push beyond these categories. These categories are nothing more than lame facsimiles of actual connection. Further, they reveal how much the nature of late capitalism has mutated to define the order of life itself.  

I desire to create a world (and perhaps this will never exist in NYC, but I still desire it and will work to create it, perhaps somewhere else) that can think of itself in terms beyond an artificial hierarchy that suppresses objectively necessary qualities like softness, sweetness, caring and most of all femininity. When one thinks of the quality of “sweetness” objectively, one can list its virtues: caring, kind, considerate, helpful, and of a pleasant temperament. These are not weak traits. They do not connote or denote incompetence. Instead, they suggest an individual who does not need to look outside herself (or himself) to find joy and belonging.

There is nothing wrong with desiring a community of like minds to share your life with. That is my primary desire, in fact. But so often, community is not based on this. Community is instead based on negative behaviors, including insularity, exclusion, suppression, exploitation, and rigidity of emotion and thought.

For example: I have known many men in NYC who have revealed to me that they deal with social anxiety. For a time, I seemed to be the flame these types of moths would forever gather around. Socializing and gathering and especially CONNECTING have always come naturally to me. I love talking to people and I literally fantasize about cooking big dinners for lots of people (when I’m not actually cooking big dinners for lots of people). That these guys had social anxiety seemed sort of “sweet,” in fact, like a bit of a chink in their armor that made them human—appealingly so. I was always happy to go out with them, knowing my presence in social gatherings helped them. In general, I really like men and male company, so this never felt like a chore or charity work. But I learned a valuable lesson: never cater to a trait that a man hates about himself.

Here was my biggest discovery: once these social anxiety types found their little patch of green in the community they wanted to belong to, they began to act horribly. I discovered them to be the worst form of excluders, treating the world as though it were an epic and byzantine high school, and every social interaction as though it were some ridiculous popularity contest. They didn’t find comfort or belonging in their social group—they simply found the ability to exclude others and to gossip. This was a really weird thing to discover, a very dark aspect of the male human psyche I had not expected and was deeply disappointed by: poor little Mr. Social Anxiety Disorder was actually just a mean girl in waiting.

But because I am “sweet,” I suppose, I accepted something I should have rejected. The shadow side of sweetness is putting other people’s needs before your own or believing that everyone has purity in their heart. If you are sweet, you need to never, ever do this. This is what pushes sweet into the realm of sucker.

But I want to suggest that the idea of sweetness be dragged from the garbage bin of cast-off qualities, and reinstated as a positive quality. I am not sweet because I am weak, stupid, or lack mental toughness. I am sweet because I see other qualities, like HARDENED and DEFEATED, as being far more unacceptable. I am sweet because it’s more fun to be sweet, and it’s more interesting to be able to gaze into someone’s eyes with a feeling of pleasure and interest and hope, rather than with a feeling of suspicion or envy. We are put on this planet to connect to each other, and when you have an open heart, that comes to you very easily. So please don’t call someone sweet as a subtle indication of their lack. It just reveals your own.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

PANIC ATTACKS AND THE FOURTH WALL


I had an unexpected and (for me) quietly embarrassing panic attack last night, so these are foremost on my mind today, as I am writing. I have something occurring in the future that I fear might also prompt a panic attack, so they are weighing on my mind quite heavily.

I’ve been under a great deal of internal and external stress lately relative to almost every aspect of my life. It has made symptoms that I thought I had somewhat gotten through (like panic) come back into my experience again. This is really challenging for me.

New York is a hard city to live in as an extremely sensitive person. Almost every situation I walk into feels too sensorially and emotionally complex, and it is very hard for me to understand and deal with these experiences. Loud restaurants with lots of people, for example, torture me. I often use friends as buffers or safety blankets, but that comes with its own set of problems.

Teaching was (and sometimes still is) a situation that has often sponsored my panic attacks. My base “trigger” for a panic attack is the expectation of performance, whether direct or indirect. Getting up in front of students causes panic, but so does being in front of people I don’t know (with the social expectation that one performs one’s personality in order to be social). While I love meeting new people and being social, I find that when I am with new people, it can, out of the blue, just be too much of an expectation of a performance.

Teaching is interesting, because I’ve actually been able to cycle through a panic attack by being honest with my students about what is happening. I tell them I’ve suffered from extreme shyness since I was child, that because of this I didn’t believe I could be a teacher. I then tell them that I learned some tools to cope with it, and that I am happy that I can now be a teacher while still dealing with my shyness, panic and anxiousness relative to performance.

I am hoping that this fairly radical honesty and authenticity can be incorporated in other aspects of my life beyond teaching. Years ago, I got absolutely skewered on a blog for my performance moderating a panel discussion. In that situation, I was in the throes of a panic attack that I could not shake off, and I had no idea what to do about it. It caused my performance to suffer greatly.

I love public talks and desire to improve my performance when I am invited to do them. I know that I have many things that I want to talk about in a public way. I also believe that, in my one-to-one conversations, I can communicate these ideas with dexterity and innovation. But it is much harder to break the fourth wall of a public talk than it is to break the fourth wall of a classroom environment. And I think it is even harder to break the fourth wall of a NYC social setting. I’m fully into adulthood, so these panic attacks embarrass me and make me feel like a child again. Which only makes them worse. My behavior becomes erratic, and, in the aftermath, I beat myself up about how I’ve behaved.

From what I understand, few people with completely normal and healthy childhoods deal with panic attacks in adulthood. I don’t have panic attacks because I am insecure or have low self-esteem, or because I haven’t “prepared.” I have them because of a deep physical fear/trauma of putting myself in front of people for approval. I grew up in a chaotic and violent household where hiding meant safety. Staying quiet, being by myself, playing with animals and reading and writing became the way I dealt with life. Staying in those zones forever would obviously severely truncate my existence as a human being. I do believe I deserve a more fulfilling existence. So I want to be able to tell others when I am suffering, rather than just act strangely. I am trying to figure out a way this might work. People are not very compassionate about this subject, I have found. But I am still looking for that compassion, because I believe it exists.

In general, I think the world I operate in needs some radical reinvention with regard to how it deals with authenticity and emotional expression. I feel like people are completely terrified of strong emotion, and this keeps everyone operating at this extremely surface level of expression. In my worlds, this leads to a hyper-focus on intellectual and political conversation (and sometimes just plain old mean gossip). Having, over the past few years, become much more engaged with my emotions and authentic self, I often feel let down by the relative superficiality of conversation in New York. While I like intellectual and political stuff very much, I feel like people’s guardedness around their own emotions keeps those conversations spinning in the same loops.

It is hard to want to be vulnerable, when you feel like you are the only one and you are throwing yourself into the lion’s den. But, at this point, I’m REALLY not sure what else we have to talk about. I’m not sure what else is real. I hate that I had a panic attack last night. For me, however, what is worse is the fact that it was my authentic experience, and I felt (whether correctly or incorrectly) that I could not trust that anyone I was around could truly accept that about me.