On Being Vulnerable

Is this what vulnerability looks like?

Is this what vulnerability looks like?

I feel like vulnerability is such a catch phrase lately. Maybe it’s because I spend hours a day in my office googling TED talks, and listened to Brene Brown’s videos (here ) on vulnerability and shame recently, but it feels like a word that’s in the air. And it’s a word that I often have difficulty with, even just in definition, let alone in practice. I get squeemish thinking about letting people see my soft underbelly, because that could leave me wounded and hurting.

“Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.” –Brene Brown

But recently I have been compelled toward vulnerability and connection to others in a way that I have been afraid to be before. With my coming out post, and sharing it with non-anonymous people in my life, I opened myself up to friends and family in a way that is often foreign to me. I risked judgment and scrutiny. And in recent conversations, as well, I have found myself both hurt by some, and completely blessed by a connection and intimacy with those who haven’t understood, but have sat with me in the revelation and loved me regardless.

And so I’m reaching out, and up. And making connections that scare and excite me, and letting myself embody the person I have always been, but was afraid to show the world. It’s nice to know I’m surrounded by so much love from my husband Boof, and friends, like Mari, who sits with me drinking wine while our kiddos tear around the backyard. I feel like my marraige and friendships and family life is in such a good place right now, that I am bursting at the seams.

these 'dresses' have nothing to do with vulnerability. but we now know where to go if Mari and I were to start a cult...

these ‘dresses’ have nothing to do with vulnerability. but we now know where to go if Mari and I were to start a cult…

In what ways are you vulnerable with those in your life?

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Coming Out in Light of the World Vision Kerfuffle

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With my students I talk a lot about how we, I think as a culture, tend to define our things but what we are not, or what we don’t like. We might say things like, “I’m a Democrat,” but it feels more strongly like “I’m not a Republican, and therefore I have chosen the other box, default Democrat.”

But today, in light of the shitty week I had with the roller coaster of World Vision emotions (that you can read about how it started here and ended up here and some cool thoughts about it here), I thought I’d break a rule and tell you all:

I’m not straight.

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I fully recognize that I live in a world with a hetero normative story line. I am presumed straight by those who meet me, and ‘lie by omission’ when I don’t ‘set the record straight.” Because I am married to a man, I am assumed to be straight. Just like because I don’t have a wheelchair, or guide dog, I am assumed to be able-bodied (rather than looking at the invisible disability of chronic mental illness). This idea of ‘passing,’ is something I am familiar with on a daily basis, and get the privilege of choosing if, and when, and to whom I come out, if I do at all.

So last week I had drinks with a friend, and as we were discussing the World Vision drama, and all my frustration behind the big flip-flop, I said…

“I was telling Boof this, that people don’t realize. I have his protection in church. I am accepted and loved and welcomed with open arms because of him. They see me the way they want to see me, as a straight, married woman with a child. I am the walking white woman stereotype, in their minds. But without my husband, if I was on my own, and openly dating, or was married to a woman they would think very very differently of me. So this decision of theirs, it could affect me. I could not be hired because of who I am. “

And his response:

“Are you a lesbian?”

It wasn’t a question with judgment attached. He had been tracking my conversation and, since he’s in a relationship with a woman who identified as lesbian, seemed to be trying to understand. And that’s when I got quiet. Because no, I know I’m not a lesbian. I know that like I know I’m not black. But the question brought back memories, of being in high school, or after college with no boyfriend or ‘marriage prospects,’ and my sister saying to me ‘mom and dad think you’re a lesbian.” It brought back memories of being called ‘Sir’ when I had short hair and was shopping in the mall, or gasp, even wearing a bikini. I said, “no, I’m not a lesbian, but I’m not straight.”

My parents are deeply religious fundamentalists, and were probably part of the group of evangelicals that would take their money away from starving African children to prove a point. They will probably never know me beyond what they see on the surface. But I balk at the labels, because straight doesn’t fit, and lesbian doesn’t fit, and bisexual doesn’t fit either. A student once asked me if I was pansexual and I said I don’t know, because I’ve never been attracted to someone who’s trans. It’s not that I don’t like labels because they feel too labelly, it’s that I haven’t yet figured out what label actually fits. It’s like shopping for jeans, do any of them REALLY make my butt look good? I mean, for realz yo…

But what I do know, is that I’m not straight.

That’s the closest I can get to a label. NotStraight. Unless I tell you about energy. And how I am attracted to energies that complement my own, and that often means women. And sometimes men. And sometimes I’m not attracted to anyone at all (except of course my husband, right?). I’m married, to a man. If I weren’t married to him, I might be married to a woman. Or I might not be married at all. I might date a man, or a woman, or nobody. I don’t know. I don’t plan who I’m attracted to, or who ends up clicking with, and it goes beyond genitals, though those are fun aren’t they?

People who know me intimately will not be surprised by this news. It might give some an ‘aha’ to explain the previously unexplained. Some already know, like my graduate school peeps and some coworkers who I share openly with because it’s come up in conversation. This isn’t some big coming out manifesto, as I don’t even know what I would be coming out to or for, other than the fact that the World Vision kerfuffle affected me deeply. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of feeling like without Boof I would be less of a person in Christian circles.

Monday Morning

 

Internet Refugee

I feel like a refugee. I know that’s dramatic, but this feeling of being displaced, shuffled around, trying to assimilate in and ‘pass’ for one of the locals when grieving the loss of a family. I wrote about the OffbeatFamilies shutdown yesterday, and have managed to stay away from the shuttered doors, and have tried to nestle in to Offbeat Home & Life, a place I previously felt comfortable. But then I started reading the comments, which is advice they say NOT to do in most internet communities, because snark+ runs rampant. But the Offbeat Empire has felt so safe…and then…I come across comments like this:

Ooooh… I’m sure this makes me a terrible person, but as a childless-by-choice OBH&L reader I’m glad there’s not going to be birth stories and breastfeeding articles in here…. cuz it would totally ick me out, but I’m sure I’d end up reading it anyways cuz it’d be like a train-wreck, where you don’t want to look but you can’t tear your eyes off it. Then I’d probably just have to stop coming in here, and that would make me sad.

But hooray for Harry Potter!

Ugh. So birth and breastfeeding is icky to you. Awesome. And my parenting choices are like a ‘trainwreck,’ which is also awesome. And makes me feel super comfortable when I’m mourning the loss of a place I loved and content I loved. Imagine if I went there and said “I love reading about colored wedding dresses, but gay dudes kissing is sooooo ick, and a trainwreck and so I’ll probably not come back.” Hurtful, right? (and soooo not my views in reality, FYI).

But I was feeling kinda okay about squatting over there, but now I’m not so sure. So of course I’ve begun spiralling. Where do I fit in? I’ve bounced over to Mutha Magazine, and Mommyish, and Birth Without Fear, and think ‘oh cool, these might feel like home someday,’ but just like expatriating, that day isn’t today and so I feel displaced.

Which calls into question my own feeling at home here, on my own blog. A blog with a name I’ve questioned for awhile and with a handle that I’m not entirely comfortable with. Monk-Monk sometimes feels too…unhuman, if that makes any darn sense at all. So don’t be surprised, if like a post-breakup, I dye my hair to change my identity. The blog equivalent might be a look change/name change/handle change. Still me under the bloggy makeover, but I thought I’d give you a heads up that my mind is swirling about new taglines and titles and how to move forward in internet refugee empowerment.

Gut Punch

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It takes a lot for me to feel safe somewhere, to let my guard down and really just hang loose. Like when you come home from a long day of work, take your bra off and slip into your favorite long-sleeve track t-shirt from high school (so what if it has holes in it?!) and your husband’s oversize hand-me-down sweats. Even better is when you feel so comfortable with someone, that they can come over for a glass of wine and you don’t scramble to put the bra back on, or even contemplate changing back into those skinny jeans you wore all day at work.

So when I’ve nestled in, gotten comfortable, really let myself BE MYSELF somewhere, and then it’s….taken away…it feels like the wind is knocked out of me. Like I’ve been punched in the gut, and I am left wondering, ‘how will I survive this?’ Not to get overly melodramatic (is it my seasonal affective disorder talking?), but it feels like mini-deaths when something changes or goes away. I grieve. I find it hard to put into words. I mope about and scramble to try and fill a void that is my community-hungry heart.

This summer my beloved massage therapist Courtney Putnam took a sabbatical. And when she announced her blissful 3 months off, I knew…the writing was on the wall so to speak, that she’d be gone from the realm of massage therapy. While she has re-invented her practice to encompass many more awesome things (like healing retreats! and art sessions! and growth-coaching!), I am sad that I will no longer be able to afford regularly scheduled massage visits with her. I’ve been going to her since 2007, when I googled ‘body memory’ and found a blog post that spoke to my cell memory from a car accident. And then she happened to be in Seattle. And happened to be a few years older and had gone to my same elementary school, and was a Sagittarius. It felt like the stars had aligned. And now, I’m having to shift my perspective, to reinvent the way in which I want to have healing done, and it is exciting, but also a little bit intimidating. So in the meantime I’m dabbling in psychotherapy with a psychologist through my insurance, and working on some Groupons for massage, and delving into my new found love of bikram yoga.

And if that change wasn’t hard enough, today I learned rather abruptly, that my absolute favorite parenting community Offbeat Families, is being shut down. The site I wrote into a few times, that has featured my baby’s picture, that has propelled me forward into understanding different parenting topics. Gone. Like that. Sure they give a nice little summary, and it wasn’t good for business, but…as I said on my personal Facebook page:

I guess…I guess I just sorta feel blindsided. Like with the new branding, and everything felt really good, and I know that we readers aren’t entitled to the behind-the-scenes, but it sorta feels like being in a relationship that feels really comfy and good and then BAM one night of fighting they peace out and are gone for good (except they’ve left all their clothes behind, that still smell like them, and you randomly come across that picture of you two on the mantle, etc). I think I wouldn’t feel so freaking sad if I had seen it coming. Like a farewell Montage last week as we’re prepping to close the doors. Or a final blast of birthing posts to get us through the next week. I mean, Mondays are hard enough…

In the grand scheme of things, these are small losses. I will find other websites. I will make other friends, and expand my circle of healing goodness (as well as head back to Courtney for some extra special sessions when I get the cash), and life will go on. But god, in the moment it sucks…when I’m feeling vulnerable and the little losses seem to be adding up to one great big identity and life shift. And, sometimes I don’t want identity shifts. It feels exhausting trying to be all the me’s already.

How do you deal with the “small losses,” of everyday life? The coffee shop that changes their name, or the pizza joint that goes out of business? Or the bus route that gets re-routed or the jeans you wake up to find don’t fit anymore? Or what about when your favorite show ends for the season (or for good) or you put a good book down knowing the author has died and no more books will ever be published? What do you do then? How do you cope?

What’s your gut trying to say? An exploration of the Solar Plexus Chakra…

Zen Pen’s writing from the body challenge this week is to explore everything related to our Gut, and I’m finding it both challenging and enlightening. I thought that last week’s Heart prompts would be challenging, but not quite like how I’m experiencing the Gut prompts to be. I have been interested in deepening my writing-by-hand practice, but this week’s gut-lesson has felt so very blog-worthy, that I thought I’d share. To begin the lesson Courtney starts off by explaining:

When our solar plexus chakra is out of balance we may experience increased anger, fear, low self-esteem, apathy, resentment, compulsiveness, as well as a variety of unpleasant physical sensations. I think we can all relate to experiencing many of these characteristics and sensations. Perhaps our bodies are trying to speak to us?

Whoa.

That hit me in the gut (pun intended) quite hard. Because, if I were to sum up a chapter of this summer it would be called “Dealing with Angry Monk-Monk.” Though I’d probably use my real name. Unless I was writing an anonymous memoir. But I digress.

It seems that ever since summer started (which also happened to coincide with being off work for a daunting 3 months with kiddo), I have wrassled with my ANGRY side. Some of this anger has been leftover bits (think popcorn kernel STILL in your teeth from the movie you saw a week ago) from childhood that have been coming up and being replayed over-and-over again. I can’t quite shake that angry label I was given as a kid/teen, even though I know that, looking back, I wasn’t actually angry. I was afraid. Afraid and misunderstood.

And that’s often how I feel these days. Misunderstood. Like the whole world is staring at me in puzzled wonderment, on good days, and complete disgusted disdain on others. While I’ve managed to find a few friends, and a partner, who at least tolerate, and even-possibly-dare-I-dream-love, my quirks, there often times when I just feel all alone in this great big world of complexities.

So, I did a little more research on this elusive solar plexus chakra, which, according to one site is:  is a personal power chakra. This chakra helps us to wield our own power. Sounds a lot like internal locus of control if you were to ask me to relate it in terms that I explain to my college students. This idea that things are manifest from within, a lot of personal choice and personal power that propels us forward.

But websites aren’t enough. I prefer hands-on reading material, so I scanned my shelf for Caroline Myss’s Anatomy of the Spirit (one of the few books I’d take to a desert island). Bypassing the first few chapters, I went straight to the Solar Plexus chakra and began reading. And everything began to resonate with me, like:

The solar plexus chakra becomes the dominate vibration in our development during puberty. It assists us further in the process of individuation, of forming a self, ego, and personality separate from our inherited identity.

Holy shit. No wonder I’ve been feeling so blast-from-the-past when experiencing my ANGRY self this summer. That’s when I was labelled angry. As a teenager. And while I don’t want to blame everything in my life on my adoptee status, the fact that I didn’t really know my “inherited identity,” and was trying to individuate to something that wasn’t encouraged (perhaps another blog entry, on the conservative Christian idea of sameness vs. being a rebellious individual). I read somewhere else a few weeks ago, too, that “helplessness leads to feelings of rage,” which all seems to come back to this very idea of my gut center trying to develop as a teenager, but feeling so very caged-coyote-trapped by the constraints put upon me by my parents-as-ambassadors-of-THE-church.

Whoa.

At the end of the chapter on the Solar Plexus Chakra, Caroline Myss asks some questions, one being:

Are you continually wishing your life were different? If so, are you doing anything to change it or have you resigned yourself to your situation?

Now, it seems that she’s trying to get at the idea that the third chakra, when in balance, will spur you toward a more ‘internal locus of control,’ which will help you do something to change a situation. But, in reflecting on some of the earlier summer angst, where I had a hard time shifting, I think that my approach needs to be less fight-against-the-current (especially since this time of my life has certainly been a well informed choice), and more drift with the current, letting the days be how they are because they simply exist this way. Because when I think about that acceptance, that comes from a gut place that says, “yes, this is right. you chose this. rest easy,” the anger melts away.

What’s your relationship with ANGER? Are you constantly wishing your life was different?

(p.s., if you’re interested in joining Zen Pen, a 6 week writing course, Courtney is starting one again on Sept. 30th! I highly recommend it!).

Living your own Cloud Atlas?

I took this photo of performers when I was living in Jaipur, Rajasthan India.

So, on the recommendation of a friend, last week I indulged in the 2 hour 52 minute movie, Cloud Atlas. If you’re not familiar, the basic premise of Cloud Atlas is that souls are eternal, and are born into different bodies in different times and interact with other souls. This particular movie shows quite a few love connections across the ages, with souls somehow finding and interacting with one anther…really showing the meaning of SOULmate!

The idea of reincarnation was foreign and forbidden just a few years ago, but lately, I’ve begin to wonder….what if? There are quite a few interesting reads out there in book form, or on the internet, trying to prove that reincarnation exists. In some sense, it makes practical sense, since, if we believe that souls are eternal, what are they doing before we are born, and after we die, as we (in the Christian tradition) are sitting around waiting for the final judgment and re-establishment of paradise. It seems a lot to have an eternal soul that only gets to be in an Earthly body for max 100 years (and many, for much much shorter times).

One interesting story I came across, was that of Anne Frank/Barbro Karlen. Apparently, very young children, often ‘remember’ having past lives, and in some cases, these ‘lives’ are able to be figured out to be actual people. I watched a documentary once where a kid remembered being a pilot in war, and the details added up to be a real dude. So, in this case, Barbro was a young girl born in Sweden 10 years after Anne Frank died in Bergen Belsen, the story goes on to say:

hen she was less than three years old, Barbro told her parents that her name was not Barbro, but Anne Frank. Barbro’s parents had no idea of who Anne Frank was, as the book, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, also known as The Diary of Anne Frank, had not yet been translated or published in Swedish.

I can’t imagine having this happen to me, in such a detailed and difficult way. Barbro wrote about how hard it was for her as a young girl telling people who she really was, and feeling like she was a different person (having trouble calling her parents her parents), because people didn’t seem to believe her. And then discovering, at age 10, that her diary had been published and that she was really a famous person. Mind tripping!

But…less drastic than that, are those deja vu or other experiences people have where they report, “we had an instant connection,” or, “it was like I had been there before!” Has that ever happened to you? Other people say that if you have a particularly strong affinity for a certain location in the world, or particular time periods (like WWII or ancient Egypt).

Which makes me wonder, about some of my own affinities. Like, my obsession with India, and how I would confess to my close friends, that I am “brown on the inside,” meaning, that I actually felt Indian on the inside…which is a strange thing for a white girl to say, you know? And then I had a dream where I was seeing India from my own eyes, which sparked a trip there. Other things I feel an affinity for are ancient Egypt, WWII, and indigenous people in North America (either/both PacNW or plains). But, when I listen to the rational part of my brain, I just wonder if I feel an affinity toward those places is because I learned about them in school. Also, how can by interest in mermaids be explained? Ha! I’ve also had experiences where I’ve met someone and we instantly click…could that be meeting a soul I’ve known before? Perhaps?

So, what are your thoughts on the possibility of reincarnation? Any experiences where you were like “whoa, I’ve been here before,” or instantly connect with someone where you just feel like you’ve known them before? Do share!

Body Modification & Naked Gardening

wrist dermal anchor piercing

wrist dermal anchor piercing

I don’t know if I’m fully a member of the body modification community ( I certainly don’t feel badass enough for that), this week I did become the proud new owner of two dainty wrist piercings (known as microdermal anchors). One centered on each wrist. They’ll be my 6th and 7th piercing to date, if I include my now-defunct tongue piercing. My ears are the ones I care for the least. My nose is the one that I love and identify with the most, and my navel piercing feels so nostalgic…a reminder of my first real rebellion against my parents (whey have this fundamentalist belief against body piercings/tattoos). I was 18, in high school, and got it pierced a few hours before a track meet. Yes, I was crazy.

Why get my wrists pierced you might ask? Well, I’ve been wanting a new piercing for awhile (last one was my nose and it happened in 2003, so it’s been awhile) and I’m not a huge fan of earrings and I already have my navel and I don’t need any sparkles on my face detracting from my lovely nose hoop. When I saw these on that bridesmaids wrists I thought “oh, that is so beautiful” and “it’s just like Jesus piercings.” When I explained that to Boof he cocked his eyebrow, but whatever, I can have a crazy strange emotional reaction to something and roll with it. I didn’t get them to be like Jesus, per se, but this strange emotional connection of piercings on a wrist done in a way that turns pain into beauty just felt…fitting somehow. Like I can look down and feel this meditative quality to my jewelry in a way that a bracelet couldn’t provide.

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As you can see, only a few days old and they seem to be healing quite nicely. I’m worried about their longevity, picking such an easily bumped place (especially with a rambunctious 18 month old toddler), but I have high hopes that they’ll last for at least 6-9 months. The piercer said average is about that long, but his friend has had hers for 8 years. We’ll see!

So, I’m the body mod mama who lets her son garden naked on a sunny day.