Some musings on writing

It’s been a hard month for many of us.  I’m not just talking about the election, I’m talking about life in general.  Many people I know and love have been sicker this winter than normal.  Yours truly included.  People have lost loved ones; lost their homes; lost their jobs.  It is really easy to fall into a wallowing in my self-pity mode (where I seldom go) or my distract myself by never stopping to think mode (where I go a lot).  When I’m in either of these modes I find I don’t do a lot of writing or constructive work that isn’t absolutely required of me.

Thankfully the universe does provide.  One thing that got me out of my funk was an awesome guy from Australia contacted me about co-authoring a book with him tentatively entitled Sex Positive Now.  And while it’s been slow, we are making headway and working on the book.  I want to share our mission and  vision with you all as I love it.

Sex Positive Now Mission and Vision:

Our mission is to create a book and other resources to assist us in accomplishing our vision. Which is to create a new sex positive world: to support the change of cultural norms around sexuality and relationships.  In the world of Sex Positive Now people have the freedom and permission to be the sexual beings they already are.  Pleasure and joy are vital to our wellbeing. Sexual shame is a thing of the past. People are celebrated for their sexuality, gender, who or how they love. Consensual sexuality in all of its forms is healthy and life affirming.  

In the world of Sex Positive Now people can make conscious choices about their sexuality and relationships. This includes celibacy, asexuality, kink, polyamory, fetish and other forms of sexual and relationship expression. We are frolicking playfully with ourselves and each other.

Well working on this book has gotten of my ass (so to speak, since I can’t write standing up, no matter if it’s healthier for me.  LOL ) and I actually worked yesterday on my Principles book.  If you don’t remember I’m writing a book based on the 20 Principles to Try to Live and Relate By  that I wrote with my former husband Steve.

The title will probably be Conscious Relationships — 20 Principles to Try to Live and Relate By and other Tips for Healthy Relationships.

I’ve written about a lot of the book already, especially the Principles.  There will also be chapters on Conscious Polyamory & Monogamy, Happy Endings (ending a relationship and staying friends) and Difficult Conversations.   Today I am going to share a small piece about Difficult Conversations that I worked on yesterday.  Hopefully you’ll get some ideas to assist you in getting ready to have “that” conversation with a loved one.

Difficult Conversations

Sometimes we have to have difficult conversations with those we love.  If you take the time to prepare and go into the difficult conversation consciously you’ll find that solutions to whatever the problem may be will come easier than you think.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

  1. Purpose for the conversation

Ask yourself these questions.  Why are you having this conversation?  What is the problem?   What is its impact on you?  What do you think is the impact on the other person?  What would be your IDEAL outcome?  What is non-negotiable? What support are you committed to providing?  What do both of you agree to?    Is this about support or do you want to punish the other person for some reason?

Be aware of any hidden purposes for the conversation.  Look deeply at yourself so that you enter the conversation with support and good intent.

  1. Assumptions being made

Think about any preconceived notions you may feel.  You may feel intimidate, ignored, disrespected or marginalized by the other person.  It’s important not to assume that this is their intention.  This may simply be your reaction to the difficult conversation.  If you are going to make an assumption, assume that they are just as nervous and uncomfortable as you are and they also have good intentions.   Remember, impact does not necessarily equal intent.

  1. Buttons being pushed

Emotions are normal and they arise sometime without warning.  While we can’t control the emotions we can control our actions.  Are you emotions getting the best of you?  There may be a “backstory” that has nothing to do with the person and/or the conversation you are preparing for.   What personal history is being triggered?  We can avoid being overly triggered by being mindful of preserving the person’s dignity—and treating them with respect—even if we totally disagree with them.

  1. Attitude toward the conversation

If you tell yourself that it’s going to be a horrible difficult conversation, it probably will be.  And on the other hand, if you believe that whatever happens, that the end results will be good, then that will most likely be true.

  1. Who is the person?

Do they even know that there is an issue or concern?  What might they be thinking about what is going on?  How do you feel that they perceive the problem?  What might be their needs?  Their fears?  Do you have an idea what solution they might suggest?  Do not forget they are your partner, not your opponent,

  1. Your needs and fears and their needs and fears

Think carefully about what your needs are (write them down in fact) and what your fears are.  Consider what their needs and fears may be.  Remember this is not a battle or a contest with winner and losers. Look closely at any common concerns you may share.

  1. Your contribution to the problem

This one is the hardest for many of us.  Self-reflection.  What have we contributed to the problem?  We can probably make a long list of how they contributed to the problem.  That’s the easy part.  It’s what our contributions are to the problem that is harder and very important as we prepare for the conversation.

Have a great day and a Happy Ho Ho or whatever you celebrate (I try to celebrate everything, to cover all my bases.)  I’ll talk to you next year.

Our Future

I’ve been pondering what I wanted to write about following the election and what I want to talk about is our future.

First I want to acknowledge the initial anger and fear I felt at the results of the election.  Anger and fear that was quickly replaced by sadness.  Sadness has been my prevailing emotion this past week.  I’m sad that our world quickly spiraled out of control.  I’m sad that many found that electing Trump was a mandate to be able to vent their fear and hatred of people of color, the LGBT community, women, immigrants and others in violent and destructive ways.  I’m sad that many of those I love now live in fear.  I’m sad that some are even talking about leaving our country.  I am filled with sadness.

We are not born racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynistic or with whatever other hatreds fills our souls.  Most of us though are born into racism, homophobia, sexism and misogyny.  We are products of this messy thing we call life and because of that none of us are perfect or without flaws.  What causes us to go from being a babe in arms to arming ourselves against our neighbors? Where does this hatred come from?  A friend of mine once said that anger and fear ferment into hatred.   She is so right.  And when our politicians and leaders (not just Trump) speak that anger and fear and it is allowed it to ferment we get what we currently have.  A sad state of affairs and a country that I wish I could say I didn’t recognize, but it really hasn’t changed much from when I was young.  In fact, it feels that we’ve gone back to a time when speaking our hate was okay and again, I’m sad.

So, our future?  What do we do?  I can’t speak for any of you and I will never tell you what to do.  I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.  I’m going to continue being the best person I can be.  I am going to speak out when I hear someone voice hatred; in whatever form it may take (liberal and conservative).  I’m going to be there for my friends who are marginalized and mistreated.  I’m going to keep the conversation going, even amongst those who do not agree with me and even with those who wish I didn’t exist.  I’m going to keep being a sexual subversive and keep teaching and advocating for healthy sexuality.  I will not allow my anger and fear (which I do have) to ferment into hatred.   Most importantly I am going to Love.  That is my future.  What is yours?

More On Gifts

I am a believer that life is constantly giving me gifts.  Even when I least expect it “poof” there they are.  My favorite gifts are meeting new people that reach my heart and make my life better by just existing. I want to share some of those gifts that I recently received.

I had cellulitis in my leg for over 2 weeks in early October. It was truly one of the more unpleasant experiences of my life.  And yet, I got gifts.

One gift was that I got closer to an old friend who kindly became my chauffeur for most of my doctor visits.  I could not have gotten through all of this without her.  And she was only one of many friends who stepped up to help.

Another gift was I got to meet a man who changed the lives of many.  My Infectious Disease Doctor turned out to be the doctor who took care of the first HIV patient in Seattle in the early 80’s.  He and his cohorts were responsible for making sure that all patients were cared for and none were turned away (which sadly was the norm during the early days of HIV).  I was honored to meet him and to actually have a conversation with him about his incredible journey.

This past weekend I was a presenter in Victoria BC at a kinky conference.  I always get gifts at conferences.  Meeting new people, exploring new places and having conversations that change lives.  I want to make a difference in this world and one of the gifts I got this past weekend was watching the faces of attendees to my workshops really get what I was talking about when it came to polyamory and jealousy.  Twice I had people tear up and tell me later that what I said changed their lives.  That is why I teach.  I also connected with an amazing couple who I hope to deepen the connection even more.

However, the biggest gift was on the ride home on the Clipper ferry.  I sat at table with 5 other people.  Three of them were a family from California.  In the almost three hour trip we talked about a lot of things.   When we got to politics was when the conversation got deep. We talked about our fears of a Trump presidency and what it could mean to us.  That was when they shared their stories of how they came to America.

He had come to the US in 1975 from Vietnam at the age of 9.  His family was fleeing the country and they ended up in Fresno of all places.  His father was a business man and his mother was a school teacher and yet in 1975 the assumption was that they were uneducated refugees.  His father became a janitor and his mother worked at a factory in assembly.  And their hard work made it possible for their children to go to college and have a good life in the US.

The wife came to the US from Vietnam at 17 in the early 80’s  She was one of the boat people.  Her family put her on a boat filled with other refugees and she sailed away, not knowing if she’d ever see any of them again.  Many of the boat people never reached US soil.  Many of the women were kidnapped and raped and killed by Thai pirates and others.  She was a lucky one.

This couple and their daughter were so full of life and love and happiness.  It was amazing and I was privileged to be able to spend time talking to them.

They touched my heart and made a difference by just being who they were.

I love the gifts that come out of nowhere.

Healing The Past

I don’t generally do trigger warnings because I feel that we need to face those things that trigger us and not shelter ourselves from the truth.  That said, I do want to say that if you are one of my family members what I’m going to write about may be hard to read and you may not appreciate what I’m going to say about our family.  This is from my experience and from conversations I’ve had with cousins over the last several years.

Let me start by saying that the bulk of my family members are fundamentalist Christians.  I was raised by my Assembly of God Father and a more liberal Christian Stepmother (First Baptist) so I got some strange mixed messages from my journey through Christianity (and that journey is for another time).  My family preaches love and forgiveness for the most part, with a good amount of judgement simmering in the background.

Now to the painful part:  my family is built on incest and sexual molestation.  One of my dear cousins and her sister were continually abused by their father.   He also beat his wife, because the Bible gave him permission (something about how the wife and children are to submit to the husband as he submits to God – it’s in Ephesians)   Another cousin was molested at the age of 8 by his teenage uncle, who now, since he’s been saved, is urging all of us to come to Jesus and from what I know he has never acknowledged the pain and suffering he caused to my cousin.  And I just found out that uncle was molested at the age of 12 by his oldest brother’s brother-in-law.   I’ve heard stories about how one of my aunts left home early to get away from my Grandfather and some of her brothers (one of them was my Father).  One of my uncles had a step-daughter that our family used to jokingly call “wife number 2”.   And that’s just some of the stories.  My family is many shades of fucked up.

I was a lucky one.  My Father didn’t molest me.  However, he did beat me.  And when I look back at how he punished me I realize that there were sexual overtones in those beatings.  I had to remove my underwear, bend over bare-assed and grab my ankles so he could beat me with his belt.  He didn’t beat my half-sister or half-brother.  He beat me.  I remember when I was 11, him saying as he was beating me that he would “beat the wild seed of your mother out of you if it’s the last thing I do”.  That was the day I realized that his anger at me was because I reminded him of my mother.  The young woman who he married at the age of 14 (he was 21) and who he told on their wedding night that he was going to raise her like she needed to be raised.   Who, when she tried to leave with me, he forced her to give me up to him (in the 50’s teenage girls had no agency) and who I didn’t meet until I was 19.

Why am I writing this?  Because I realize that when we look at family trauma and want to heal we have to confront the past.  We have to start the healing with acknowledging what truly happened.  I can’t change the past.  I can’t make it go away.  I can heal though.  I also can acknowledge that I love my Dad in spite of his horrendous treatment of me and that he was a victim of his past as was his parents as was theirs, etc. etc. etc.   We can stop the cycles and refuse to let them control us.

The first step is acknowledgement.  Acknowledging what happened.  Not burying it or downplaying it, simply acknowledging it.

The second step is forgiveness.  Forgiveness does not mean acceptance of what happened.  It simply means we forgive them for what they did to us.  Forgiveness is not just for Christians by the way.

The third step is forgiving you.  Many times when we have been harmed we feel that we deserved it or brought it on ourselves.   Forgiving ourselves is a step toward acknowledging that we are not responsible for what our past trauma.

The fourth step is letting go of the past.  If we continually live in the past we will never heal.  We need to live in the now.  Being present and conscious and let the past live where it belongs in the past.  Not in the present or in the future where we tend to put it.

Finally, we need to break the patterns and not repeat what was done to us.  We need to be conscious enough about our past trauma that we do not inflict it on those we love.  We need to ensure that our children and those around us are safe and secure and know that they are loved and safe.  If, like me, you were beaten and physically punished as a child, your first impulse may be to do the same to your child.  If you are unconscious in your way of being and not present and aware of yourself you may repeat the pattern.  That is why we need to address and heal our past so it doesn’t become part of our future.

 

Gifts

Earlier this month I got to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of one of my amazing partners.  I was talking to someone about this and joked, “always a bride never a bridesmaid”, since I’d been married four times and this was the first time I was officially a bridesmaid with the dress and everything.  This got us talking about my marriages.  They asked if I regretted my four marriages and as someone fairly intelligent and together was I disappointed in myself for making four mistakes (I don’t remember the exact wording, but this was the gist of it). My immediate response was no way did I regret any of the marriages.  In fact, all four of them gave me amazing gifts.

Michael, husband number 1, was my hippy dippy guy who was responsible for many fun adventures in my life.  Most importantly, I would never have ended up in Seattle if it wasn’t for him.

Gary, husband number 2, was my shortest marriage (10 months).  He was probably the dickiest of my husbands and yet he also gave me many gifts.   The biggest gift was when we split up, he moved in with my best friend and they had an amazing daughter (their marriage was also short-lived.  He was not a great husband and he is an awesome father).  Their daughter, my goddaughter, is one of the most capable, smart and funny women I know.  She is the closest thing I’ll ever have to a daughter of my own.

Fred, husband number 3, was the first person who bonked my over the head with New Relationship Energy.  I never had before or after anyone wow me like that.  And that wasn’t the gift he gave me. The gift he gave me was Tony, my stepson.  I never planned on being a parent and having Tony in my life changed me forever.  And an added and even more wonderful gift was after being out of my life for over twenty years,  Tony came back into it bringing with him a beautiful wife, Mandy and my incredible, delightful, intelligent, artistic, amazing (I’ve got hundreds of other adjectives by the way) granddaughter, Jocelyne.

And finely, Steve, husband number 4.  Without him I would never have really discovered my kinky poly self.  I would never have found the communities I belong to.  I would never have had Beyond The Edge Café.   There’s a good chance that the Center for Sex Positive Culture would not have existed.  And I could go on and on.

After talking about them with my friend it was only a short jump to talk about how people come into our lives for a reason and all of our encounters and experiences have the potential of giving us gifts.  Sometimes they don’t feel like gifts.   Bad things happened to me as a child and as an adult and many of those things didn’t feel like gifts at the time.  Now that I’m older I realize that among other things,  I got the gift of resilience and strength from those bad things.

Being diagnosed with cancer in 2011 didn’t seem like a gift; however I got amazing gifts from my journey with the big C.  I met people I would never have met.  I found out how amazing my polycule is, as I never had to be alone during the experience. I was able to be a resource for others that were going through the same journey.  And that’s just a small portion of the gifts cancer gave me.

I can truly say I have no regrets about anyone or anything that has happened to me on my 63+ years.  I am full of gratitude for these gifts.

I urge you to look at the people in your lives, even those who caused you pain and suffering, and see what gifts they’ve given you.  Those times when the world was crashing in on you and you survived; what gifts did you get from those experiences?  By examining these gifts it may give you a different perspective of the world around you.  It may even lighten your heart and free your soul. I sure did mine.

Hate

Hate has been a constant conversation lately.  Between race issues, police shootings and shooting of police and our fucked up crazy political system, all I hear lately is hate-filled rhetoric on Facebook, Fox News, the RNC Convention and even from the liberal press at times.  This has caused me to look deeply at my relationship with hate and also to have some meaningful and amazing conversations about hate.

First what is hate?  Webster defines it as ” intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury”.    My dear friend, the Honest Courtesan, Maggie McNeill said, “Hate is when fear and anger are left to ferment”.  I think she nailed it.

Hate is a complex emotion, one, that in my opinion you can’t have unless you care deeply about the subject or person that is creating the fear and the anger that has turning into hate.   When we let our fear and anger ferment and take over the places in our heart that are filled with love, than all that’s left is hate.  I read an article that said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference and that you need love to be able to hate.  Which makes total sense.  The people I’ve talked to recently who “hate” Donald Trump are coming from love for their country and the people who live here.  Those who “hate” the current uptick in racism that seems to be taking us back to the 60’s, are coming from love of their family and the amazing variety of cultures and ethnicities that make up our world.  I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

One thing that has arisen from the conversations I’ve had, is I discovered that I seldom feel hatred for anyone or anything.  When someone asked why, I had a hard time articulating it at first.  Then I realized that hate resides in my heart, just as anger and fear reside in my full body.  A long time ago, I chose to not allow anything but love into my heart.  It’s not been easy.  I slip up and hate worms its way in from time to time.  However, for the most part I don’t hate because I don’t allow fear and anger to fester.  Righteous anger needs to be expressed.  And I do so.  And while I’m not totally fearless, it’s hard for me to fear much of anything.  When I feel fear, I do whatever it takes to make me feel safe again.  I’m a huge advocate for self-care.  I am constantly, actively expressing and dealing with my fear and anger, so there is no opportunity for it to turn into hate.

I don’t hate Donald Trump, or the young man who committed the Orlando massacre, or the police who murder people of color “in the line of duty”.  I can’t.  They were all babies at one time.  They were all innocent at one time.  Something happened and they were damaged and that damage created who they are in the present.  I don’t have to like them.  I can be angry at them.  I can fear them.  And I can’t hate them.

If you are consumed with hate, it stops your actions.  You no longer are able to articulate the problem and move forward finding solutions. Or it intensifies and turns your actions into something so destructive that it eventually  destroys you and again no solutions. We cannot allow hate to be the driving factor in how we deal with the current elections.  We cannot allow hate to take control of us when we are trying to create social change.   We simply can not allow hate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

religion and sexuality

I’ve been struggling this past week with the need to write about the events in Orlando.  Especially, since it’s come out that he was a frequent visitor of the club where he murdered so many.  Some are claiming that he was just casing the joint, however I’m convinced that he was suffering from internalized homophobia multiplied by sexual shame brought on by his culture and  his religion.

Islam is not inherently sex negative and neither is Christianity. In  fact, there was a time when the Islamic world was in the forefront of education, art, sexuality and science.  Between the rise of the Bedouins and the Crusades, that sadly changed.  And Christianity also had it’s sexy times.  Both religions have extremists and fundamentalists who take a rigid, sex negative view of their world, and the Orlando shooter was part of that extremism.

My father and his family were for the most part, fundamentalist Assembly of God Holy Rollers and a good chunk of my upbringing was within this church.  I even saw Oral Roberts heal the sick (although he wasn’t able to heal my cousin’s deafness) and went to several tent revivals before I was 11 years old.  I remember my cousins attempts at shaming me as a teenager simply because I wore mini-skirts (it was the late 60’s for Gods sake).  One cousin said to my aunt “Allena can’t be a Christian, her skirts are too short”.   This was my world, and if I’d had a different personality I may have become self-loathing and hate-filled as I grew into my sexuality.

When I was 18 I went to my first Pride event in Portland in 1971.  I was in awe and overjoyed to have met a bunch of people who I seemed to resonate with.  (I’d not quite come out to myself as bisexual and that was the summer I discovered myself).  As I was leaving the festival there was a man standing with a Bible and another two guys with a banner of people burning in flames.  “Queer” he yelled at me as I walked down the steps.  “Homosexual!”  I stopped.  “Do you know me?” I asked.  He yelled “Queer” at me again.  I started quoting the Bible at him (the judge not stuff and do unto others, etc. etc.  my biblical learning came in handy).  He spit and sputtered and yelled and turned red in the face and never answered any of my questions.  After 15 minutes or so, I looked around and a crowd had gathered and they applauded as I finished and I felt so good. (this is probably where I first got the urge to speak in public).  And there was even a quiet and thoughtful young minister praying quietly near me who appeared to be part of the festival.   I realized then that not all religion hated me or those like me.   Since then, much to my joy, I’ve  discovered there are sex positive religious organizations like ThankGodForSex.org.  An amazing Seattle based organization dealing with the shame that comes with religion.

A few years later I had my first (but not last) relationship with a Moslem.  Abrar was a young man from Pakistan and beautiful and sexy AND very religious.  When I’d go to his place he wouldn’t let me near his Koran as I was “unclean” and yet, he liked to fuck.  He would tell me “I could have been a holy man if it wasn’t for you American women.  You have ruined me” and yet, he liked to fuck.  I was young and not savvy enough to walk away when he said such things (plus sex was very, very good, even if it was just missionary style.  Did I mention he liked to fuck?).  Then there was this one day.  I was going down on him, since he like that before we fucked, and instead of stopping when he started to get close to cumming I kept at it, and of course, he came in my mouth.  He pulled out horrified.  “How could you let me do that?” he cried.  “Do what?” I asked.  “How could you let me do that?” he repeated.  “That was disgusting”.  Needless to say, that was the last time I saw him.

I mention this because it’s not changed.  People still allow their culture and religion to fill them with shame and when you fill someone with enough shame it overflows into anger, hatred and rage.  And then we have incidents like Orlando.

While I’m sad, heartbroken and angry about what happened I can’t bring myself to hate the young man who committed these atrocities.   While he was 100% responsible for what he did, he was a victim of his upbringing and culture, like many of us are and he never found a way to escape.  I can only pray (I know, I’m saying pray and I’m an atheist, but pray is the right word) that we find ways to reach out and deal with the sexual shame that is created by region and culture before something like this happens again.