So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

30 October, 2007

Finding the Hanged Man

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend who said she envied me the smoothness and integration of my faith -- including, y'know, the raving crazed mysticism -- with the rest of my life. Which is sort of one of those topics of conversation that's a going thing, given that I'm doing a boatload of ordeal work at the moment, and helping/challenging my liege with his boatload of ordeal work, and a variety of other subjects, so hey, what the hell.

A while back on a message board I read occasionally, someone started a thread saying, basically, "So, if I were going to choose a religion, which one do you guys think I should pick?" I suspect they were expecting a bunch of "Mine, of course" answers.

I answered, "Whichever one is most in accord with your experiences and understanding of the universe; failing that, whichever one helps you to be the best person you can be, mitigating your flaws and enabling your strengths to shine; failing that, whichever one you find most beautiful."

Nobody acknowledged that answer, of course; I'm used to my crazed polytheistic empirical mysticism getting a lot of blank stares and drifting off in search of someone closer-to-paradigm to argue with. I get similar lack-of-responses to, "You want a relationship with my gods, go ask them yourself. I'm not their pimp."

But really, that's the answer to how I do it, how I don't wind up conflicted, where it all twines together. I drifted a long way out of the sort of half-assed religion that my family did when I was a kid because it didn't speak to me or my understanding of the universe, flailed desperately at clinging at things that did not work for me because they were closer to something that made sense, got myself awfully tangled up in that, and finally stumbled almost by accident into something where the underlying structure, beliefs, cosmology, and theology all make perfect sense to me, include words and concepts that let me express things I've always felt to be true efficiently and thus actually get past that and into more practical development than articulation of axiom can allow on its own.

And 'almost by accident' is one of those moments of madness in motion: reading a book that was sound enough to be interesting but clearly flaky enough that anything it said wanted research corroboration; reading through a list of symbols and, upon one name and correlation, getting a profoundly vivid mental image, something truly striking and potent; going, 'okay, let's see if that's real' and stumbling on the way a bunch of organisations talking about the religion underlying the symbolset; looking at what they had to say, and recognising this sense of homecoming and familiarity there.

And maybe that was the goddess named in that list giving me a vision. And maybe it was my imagination sparked by an association and a symbol -- the relevant symbol, the sacred lotus, Nymphaea caerulea, the flower that in one myth opened to reveal the sun at the moment of creation, remains my preferred symbol of my faith, though I wear a winged scarab as an actually findable second choice -- in a fortuitous way that I happened to remember because it turned out well. Maybe it was many things, but more than anything else it does not matter what it was; it got me to where I am, whether it was a divine gift or a chance firing of neurons.

And then, again with the empiricism, saying, "So all this philosophy makes sense, how about the rest of it," taking up the basic ritual structure, testing it, and coming out of it with, "Wow, that's the most effective ground-and-center technique I have ever encountered." Which ritual structure is now a part of my controls on my depression -- something my current doctor recognises as valuable, which amuses me; the questionnaire for intake included 'do you have any regular meditative practice (including prayer)'. Which ritual structure was one of those things where ... I was amazed to find something I could do that didn't leave me feeling like a complete dork, frankly.

And I work hard within the structure of my faith, apostate though I may be in my own perverse way. I've written short theological essays and gotten told that those changed how people lived, which is a heady sort of madness, but if my theological ranting about shopping carts gets more people to put the damn things away rather than leaving them strewn in parking spaces, I'm certainly not going to object. I'm of a belief that the universe is basically good and requires active maintenance, after all; the more people maintaining, the easier it is for everyone.

Though I don't much believe in belief, when it comes down to it. What people do matters far more to me than what they think in the privacy of their own minds; the stuff in the privacy of their own minds is unverifiable. My level of hard agnosticism makes crazed mysticism actually very easy: I may refer to it as a god communicating with me, talking to me, sending me visions, but it does not matter whether it is a god, raw chance, my Jungian unconscious boiling up some interesting crack, encroaching madness -- I can only judge the worlds by my own perceptions, my own mind, and I don't claim to know what's in it or the nature of what I experience. I test out other theories sometimes, "Okay, if I'm crazy, then what does this set of choices mean", and mostly what it means that I've spent a fair amount of time and a bit of money pursuing things that have, as far as I can tell, made me into a better, stronger, more competent, more well-rounded and balanced person, and surrounded me with things and ideas that I happen to find beautiful.

I wish all my crazy were that useful.

And yes, sometimes this particular madness drives me to places I would rather not go, forces me to confront issues I would rather not face, demands effort from me that I would rather not spend, and maybe some of that is a futile wasting of effort against the indifferent face of an uncaring and unpersonified universe, and maybe some of that is real. I don't claim to know what proportions that might be.

But I reach for the dawn of the first time, that sacred beginning implicit in every moment of continued existence, that first breath, the moment the waterlily cracks open and spills sunlight, the clean perfection of being, and I find something there so beautiful that my heart returns there again and again, to the place it has never left.

21 October, 2007

Centres of Power

I was talking with a visiting friend the other day about the "Spoiling Feminism" post, and, after a bit of reflection, commented that if I could inject one bit of comprehension into the brains of people I argue with sometime, it's that people are most powerful when synched up with who they are. Then I read Trinity's frustration at the blogs over BDSM, and decided to write about this.

I have commented before that getting into a stable d/s relationship as a submissive has been the single strongest contribution to my development and maintenance of a sense of personal power and capacity. And I'm not going to use the "empowering" buzzword, because that's nonsense; I did not get this power as a gift from outside, handed to me by my liege, or from thumbing my nose at some orthodoxy or other -- I got it from being able to put my integrated self in motion. If, gods forbid, something were to happen to him and our relationship, it would not go away, because I know what it's like to have that power now.

And I know that this concept will get a bunch of little twitterbirds with the, "But DH, you're a submissive, and further you're in a relationship with a man, which means this is all about perpetrating the hegemonial status of patriarchy somewhere in your subconscious and Come The Revolution people like you will be heeeeeeeealed" like is suggested in some of the comments to the post that Trin gave up on, but, y'know, unfuck the twitterbirds. (I'm not gonna fuck 'em, for sure.) If you're one of those little birdies, shut up for a minute and actually listen to what I'm saying, okay?

One of the big ways that systems keep themselves in power is to keep people who might challenge them off-balance. I wrote a while back a piece about how crazy Western culture is about the core biological impulses colloquially referred to as "the four Fs" -- food, fighting, fleeing, and reproduction, as it was taught to me long ago in class. Everyone is kept offbalance by this shit. And people who are of their own selves outside of the parameters of the normal in whatever way get it worst of all, because there's this constant modelling of the boundaries of what is a real human that stops somewhere short of us freaks out in the desert.

And I read stuff like the comment thread at Amptoons and watch people scurrying around drawing their little personal lines of who's the monster off the edge of the map, and who needs to be corrected and cured. And I see sequences that go like this, in paraphrase:

"Sheyeah, right, like a couple with a male dominant and a female submissive is counter to social norms."
"What makes you assume that I'm a submissive? Huh? Isn't that kind of fucked up, that a feminist dealing with a kinky woman assumes that?"
"Well, okay, no, I didn't mean you specifically, but there are people like that out there, and their stuff is clearly just asking for the Evil to come in."

Maybe, grudgingly, Trin's allowed in the sandbox, but I'm presumed to be a concussed idiot led down the garden path by the patriarchy or some other such blitheringly offensive nonsense. If I were a top or a domme or something else, well, maybe I'd be allowed a model of power, but as it is, my stuff needs to be questioned more, examined more, evaluated in terms of well, really, is this what I really want, truly, even after I've had my goddamn consciousness raised?

I had this big revelation a while back, working with one of the tools of Feri witchcraft, the Iron Pentacle. If one traces the points of the star around in the standard 'drawing a star freehand' way, the Iron Pentacle starts with Sex, goes down to Pride, back up to Self, across to Power, and down to Passion, before returning to Sex. Tracing the pentacle that way, each point is the previous one in motion, the ripple of that point.

I learned how Pride emerges from Sex from watching a lover's orgasm, and then expanding the metaphor.

The big reveal for me, though, was how Power is Self in motion. The more centered in myself I am, the more whole and complete, the more manifest, the stronger I am, the more able to act, because each act is backed in the fact that I am real and whole and putting my whole self behind those actions. When I am dissolute, when I am off my center, when I am acting from a place where there is self-doubt, I have no power, I have no capacity to move, because I constantly question whether the action is legitimate, the choice meaningful, the motion well-chosen.

I used to have those moments of doubt, back before I had my relationship with my liege, about whether it was okay for me to be a submissive, if this part of my Self was something that I should accept or question, correct, and get heeeeeealed from. I held myself as incomplete, refusing to give that portion of me any legitimacy, and thereby sabotaging my capacity for self-worth, acceptance, and effective action. Even when I shook most of the conscious stuff, gave up on the question of whether or not it was okay to 'give up my power', I had this lingering offcentredness about whether or not it was okay. I had relationships where my kink didn't mesh well with a partner or caused issues of one sort or another. I wound up in doubt that the sort of interaction I wanted was possible, or whether, if possible, it was going to be welcome or acceptable to anyone.

Having a partner who not only connected extensively with that part of myself, not only loves and accepts it, but who gives me the support that those fragile and ill-assimilated portions of myself need to have to integrate and bring myself together -- this is something that has meant that it's been possible for me to get into therapy after years of mumbling that I need to do so, has gotten me to wrestling with personal demons and strong enough to face them, has not only revealed to me what power I have when I'm actually in possession of both a lever and a place to stand but gotten me able to start working on becoming more Self-possessed, so that I have even more real, genuine, making a difference to the world Power.

Because I'm in a place where it's okay for me to be who I am, to be my Self, I'm actually able to do the damn work of figuring out how to be a gods-be grownup, and learn how to bring to bear adult Power. And because I recognise the huge wellspring of strength that that centeredness is, that rooting myself in my Self has granted me, I find myself caught in a sort of strange baffled wonderment at the people who want to try to convince me that I should be something else, should conform to their political fetishes, should lobotomise my understanding of power to 'being bossed around' because they told me to. Do these people not realise they want me to be a child, and further to be consciously constrained to weakness? Do they think that this is appealing to someone who strives to live in a place of I-Am-In-Motion-Making-Ripples-Of-Power? Be someone else, be still, be frail?

I am many things, and there is not a place where one stops and another starts; I strive towards actual wholeness. Someone may come in and say, "Well, being a submissive may be one thing, but that creates a vulnerability to these kinds of abuses", but being a submissive in motion does not create different Power than not being willing to put up with bullshit in motion does -- both are me, both are the ripples of Power that come from Self. Being a submissive is not about allowing my Self to be diminished, as the handwringing twitterbirds would like to suggest: it is allowing my Self to move.

19 October, 2007

Wine and Ice Cream

Two sessions with the therapist and I'm already fighting with myself about going.

Not because I dislike her; she's reasonably easy to talk to, laughs at most of my actually funny jokes, asks reasonable questions, doesn't flip her shit about my having a husband and a boyfriend (though required a little correction about what that means), holds sessions in the first therapist-held room I've been in that was actually a comfortable place to be in (and I've been in and out of therapy rather a lot in my life). The problem is not the therapist.

The problem is not the effort to get to the therapist, though it took a fucking hour and a half to get there today from the point I was dropped at the train station. I can read on the subway; I may actually start reading fiction again (especially since I have Farthing to get through, and after the fourth person asked me "Hey, have you read Kushiel's Dart?" like, this month, I snagged it). It arguably does me good to get me out and about a little, and I can run city errands in the space there; I'm intending to take up tai chi next week because I need that sort of physical training at the moment.

No, the problem is the actual being in therapy.

We're still doing the introductory 'Okay, this person is trying to figure out context for me and get enough background on my situation to start being able to do anything' stuff; today we talked about my name (I don't use my legal name), religious affiliations, my liege, and attempted to explain the giant snarl that is my anxiousness in my dealing with my husband, where it came from, and why I sit here and stare at it and degenerate into hopeless blubbering. I'm sure at some point we'll talk about my mother, and that will be a trip and a half.

And I just ... don't want to deal. I have so much crap I'm dealing with right now, relationship stress, life stress, health stress, my mother sent me a 'Gee, what's up with you?' email a week and a half ago and it's sitting unresponded to because I tend to stare at stuff from her for about two weeks before replying, not actually recovered from the wedding stress, that the prospect of going to therapy leads me to wanting to make sardonic declarations like, "And because I don't have enough shit to deal with, I'm going to go unearth more of my fucking issues!"

Like the flashbacks. I talked about flashbacks today, and the stuff the flashbacks did to me. Like fucked up my relationship with my husband. Why? He has the same basic body type as the guy who assaulted me. Which means when I get flashback triggers off him, I get them hard. I haven't had the flashbacks badly for a while -- I can summon up the scene at will with this almost surreal vividness, but it doesn't come up and try to take me over like it used to -- but there's still this sort of lingering anxiousness about it.

Of all the things that enrage me about that damn assault, the fact that it fucks me up in my partnership with someone I hadn't even met at the time, who has almost never been anything other than completely supportive of me (and the exceptions I can think of all have to do with my mother lying to him), that's the thing that hits my 'cannot forgive' buttons. And it would do me some good, somehow, to get myself unstuck from something that happened now over half a lifetime ago, because I recognise that that black hatred I have for the guy is something that keeps me connected to him and keeps that loop of my brain still wrapped around those moments that are seared into my memory like a goddamn cattlebrand. I'm fine with hating him, but I'd kinda rather do it in a casual way that doesn't invest me in his existence like this.

I haven't spent this much time thinking about the flashbacks for years, and I'm now fuming about the damned things. Just ... of all the things. Of all the things. I just ... resent it. There are much better things to have stuck in my damn head. Like, say, the tune to 'It's a small world after all'.

Today I decided after therapy that it was a day for wine and ice cream.

I have wine and ice cream.

I still have to go back next week.

17 October, 2007

Love and "Lies"

My favorite love song in all the world is called "Lies".

"Lies" is by the late, great Canadian folksinger, Stan Rogers, from Home in Halifax. (Link goes to the MP3 download page; the CD is throwing errors at me.) It's a sweet and soulful tune, very real and present in the world, with the magic of love in it. It's there in the words, which I've linked above, but the music, the revelation of it, is this most amazing thing.

We have here this woman, taking her moment of peace for her coffee after seeing her children off to school, caught up in self-doubt and her perceptions of her age, girlishness lost:

Is this the face that won for her the man
Whose amazed and clumsy fingers put that ring upon her hand?
No need to search that mirror for the years.
The menace in their message shouts across the blur of tears.

Time, childbirth, and labor have taken their toll on her, the way they inevitably will. Her husband was, once, amazed to have her pledging to him, but she cannot escape the fear that she has lost what he wanted of her then. She wishes that the mirror which reveals the marks of her age to her would lie to her. She is inutterably human, familiar in her frailty.

And then she gets up, shakes off the mood, sets the mirror aside:

And thinks ahead to Friday, 'cause Friday will be fine!
She'll look up in that weathered face that loves hers, line for line,
To see that maiden shining in his eyes
And laugh at how her mirror tells her lies.

To see that maiden shining in his eyes and laugh at how her mirror tells her lies.

To have that partnership of years, through all the aches of time and age, and to still have the true mirror be the eyes of the beloved, which will still dance no matter the marks on the face: that is the love I have always wanted. Work and children and years and all, and still to dance with it.

I amused a friend recently by commenting that I'm an old-fashioned gal, not willing to marry a person who isn't willing to be a parent to my children -- amused because of the wild nontraditionality of my family life in so many ways. But I want this, the amazed and clumsy fingers, the moment of quiet when the kids are off to school, the too many lines to erase or disguise, and the laughing joy of each other.

Friday will be fine. And all the Fridays after it, and all the rest of my breathing days, Friday and otherwise. That, there, is what I breathe in moments of "I love you".

This month marks thirteen years with my husband, and two years with my liege.

May we be mirrors for each other for years to come.

16 October, 2007

Shrinking the Head

I just wanted, somewhat after the fact, to drop a thank you to all the folks who wished me well for my going off to seek clinical treatment for the innards of my head. I've been to the therapist; I'm going to see her again this Friday and then see her on Tuesdays afterwards.

I think it'll go okay.

I'm having a weird time of it of late, so I'm sort of cycling around whether I want to write about some of the things on my list to do someday, more current events, or something else. A lot of trying to deal with a blowup of reasonably epic proportions my liege and I had is sort of occupying my brain; dealing with the therapist is occupying another large chunk of my brain. Plus, y'know, all the other stuff. Plumbers. Plumbers are occupying my brain, for the shower, she leaks, and other minor preoccupations. Tomorrow we're having people come by and remove the tree that's growing in the gutters. (You think I'm joking, don't you?)

I'm very tired, and I'm muddling through.

Thanks for your care, guys. It's good to be wished well.

13 October, 2007

Spoiling Feminism

Over at Daisy's place, there appears to have been some noisy discussion while I was off getting my head shrunk. And one of the comments there included the sentence "I think too many women not being feminists spoils feminism."

And I say to that, oh look, I'm the enemy of womankind again. Which I've been told, on and off, for long enough that I just shrug at it, slide it off, want to quote that last paragraph of "The Personal is Political" back at them, wondering if they ever actually read it -- that last paragraph that says, "Look, women are leaving this movement in droves, and we can't blow that off -- have we ever asked them why? Are we expressing something wrong? Are we missing something important, here, that these supposedly non-political women could tell us?"

Here's my why.

I was raised in a culture of privilege feminism. By which I mean that the majority of the concerns I heard described as feminist were all the preoccupations of the professional classes: good, high-paying white-collar jobs. Wage gap. How do we get our girlchildren into the maths and sciences, into the boardrooms, into the White House.

Basically, I grew up in a culture in which people were presumed more or less immune from violence and poverty, in which higher education was presumed as a given, in which it was taken as automatic that girls would grow into ambitious women who would go forth and change the world, not by activism, but by proving that the glass ceiling was a lie.

And I grew up wondering what was wrong with me, because I had no such ambitions. My earliest fantasy about what I wanted to do, from when I was a kid? I wanted to have a private zoo, a rambling pile of land full of interesting and exotic animals, some place I could spend my time exploring and just being in. I don't remember why I gave up that notion; I suspect it was because I started to contemplate the shit involved. After that, I think I settled on being a writer, which is where, more or less, I have stayed; writing is a strange ambition, and one that I can't fit in my head at the same time as the politics of what it was to be a good, ambitious woman that I was steeped in as a child.

It was still a given that I would go to college, of course. It was pitched to me in terms of, "Well, the breadth of experience will be good for your writing", and I agreed, and planned a physics major because of the tendencies to occasional science fiction. But it was also just ... a given, that this was the world I lived in.

My givens fell apart a bit when I went mad. The first of my friends to have a major break of that sort was hospitalised; when others wanted to go visit her in the hospital and asked the college for help in doing so, the college administration said, "You shouldn't be concerned about that kind of people, you should pay more attention to your studies." That kind of people. The kind of people that couldn't hack it at Wellesley, that Mecca for training the ambitious professional-class women who are going to change the world in politics and by simply proving the glass ceiling is a lie. The kind of people like me. My madness was not something to heal me from, something to nurture me through, something that the great tradition of strong Wellesley women was strong enough to handle; it was proof that I was Not Their Kind, not the strong, independent, good woman ideal of my upbringing.

I dropped out, I temped for a while, spent a few months unemployed, got a secretarial job. My parents wanted me to come home where it was safe; aside from the emotional traumas of their place at that time, I knew that if I slithered back with my snakey tail between my legs, I would have accepted that I was a failure. An irrevocable failure. I fed myself, housed myself, with the largesse of several forgiving people, with the support of others for a bit, but eventually I proved that I was not a failure: victory was simple survival, and I survived. I proved I could. Privilege feminism didn't want me.

Threaded in and behind this was my own wrestling with my sexual assault, something that I could for years not talk to anyone about. Perhaps I was sheltered as a child, but the discussion I had seen about sexual assault was focused on things like, "Some women claim to have been raped by their boyfriends. Is this a real problem? Are these real rapes?" I saw no genuine feminist work on this, no discussions of what it means to consent. And I had been assaulted, by a boyfriend, who stopped with the assault before he reached penetration -- not a rape by any standards, it took me years to acknowledge it as a sexual assault at all, out of this misguided belief that I was somehow diluting the experience of genuine rape, stranger rape, violent rape, by daring to have flashbacks to what was not stranger, not terribly violent (though there was some physical coercion attempted), and not rape. And out of the conviction -- which I still, to some extent, have -- that if I spoke up and claimed my past, my experience, there would be people who would ever thereafter dismiss me as damaged goods, no longer human, merely 'the assault victim'.

Maybe it's better now. But I hear stories, sometimes, and I don't think it is.

Around when I was thrown out of the holy halls of privilege feminism for being too fucking crazy, I met my first people who were vehement about being feminists online. This was a singularly unpleasant experience. They were of the "Men can't be feminists" school, as well as of the sort who flock together and back each other up with constant bullying of people who disagreed with them. Many of the people who disagreed with them were men, primarily for the reason that they were raving sexists who insisted that their vehement anti-egalitarianism and misandry couldn't possibly be sexism because their genitalia excluded them from being sexists. No, men were just pigs, and you could tell which men were worthwile by whether or not they agreed with that statement. If a woman argued with that statement as sexist and expressed an unwillingness to put up with this sort of bigotry -- this was me, once -- that would get a "How nice for you" response, with the 'little girl' unspoken. They had no problem with bullying men into silence, of course, because men should know what it feels like to be shut down and repressed. They fangirled each other utterly unabashedly. They disagreed with a transman who said he had no shared understanding of what it means to be discriminated against as a woman. They said men couldn't be feminists, but said the transman could be one if he wanted. (He declined; he said, more or less, "My mother was one of you, and raised me to be a good little feminist of the men-can't-be-feminists school. She's not forgiven me yet for being a man.")

Those feminists are my most profound experience with feeling oppressed as Class Woman. Their standards of femaleness, their standards of behaviour, their expectations, their high-handed bullying tactics with any woman who did not fall into line, not only destroyed my idealism with regard to the concept of feminism, but left me feeling like a complicit collaborator with evil on account of my genitalia. I was left desperately wanting to say, "I'm not with them!" and terrified of doing so because they would descend upon me like a flock of cannibal harpies and try to savage me into submission. Eventually, I was cowed into silence, because I didn't want to spend the resources it would take to respond to their social wave attack, the constant floods of hatred and contempt. Even if I had not been a sensitive and deep-feeling young twenty-something and thus far too inclined to take their ravings personally, I would probably have given up on fighting the good fight eventually.

After my husband (then my fiance) moved up to live with me, I considered quitting my job. I loved parts of the work, and the rest of it was destroying myself. I was no longer able to write. Some of what I needed to do left me with a case of deep horror and utter shame, things that I could not have not done and still gotten the paycheck that kept a roof over my head and food on my table. I got to the point that I would snarl "Shut the fuck up" at the phone under my breath before picking it up and saying, "Cheerful Mandatory Office Greeting!"; I was sure that if I stayed I would start to get them backwards.

I quit my job. And had a second major stress breakdown.

Because at that point, I was Letting A Man Support Me. Privilege feminism didn't want me, but I hadn't given up on wanting privilege feminism, all the values that placed having that professional-class job and an independent income as the greatest good, while letting myself be supported by someone else's finances -- especially if that someone else had a penis -- was the greatest sin. I really believed that, believed that while I was a failure as a woman because I had failed school and could only manage pink-collar employment, believed that quitting my job made me a traitor to feminism, an ungrateful wretch who didn't understand what my foremothers had sacrificed.

I mentioned this once where the harpies could see me, the ones who made me afraid of discussing my experience with feminism, and they told me there was no way anyone could really feel like that. That was a patriarchal lie. Give them the names of the feminists who said that I had such an obligation. Give, give, give, justify your deviance, you are obligated to conform. It was years later that I first encountered other women who would admit to having seen it, saw it discussed in a way that wasn't followed with a knee-jerk, "That never happened" from someone calling themselves a feminist.

I had to give up on trying to be a feminist somewhere around there, because it was the only way that I wasn't destroying myself with complete self-hatred. I was not ambitious enough, not engaged enough, not political enough, not financially independent enough, not driven enough. I started being concerned about different things -- about the social role of motherhood and its ongoing degraded status, about family and community, about the social status of the arts, about the general shit end of the stick that caregivers get -- that were outside the scope of privilege feminism.

I kept running into people who insisted that a woman was a fool or a traitor if she didn't call herself a feminist. I tried to argue with a few of them, tried to point out how poisonous the ism could be. "No, if you believe these things, you're a feminist, whether you want to be called that or not", I got, in response to that, a complete papering-over and annihilation of my personal experience. My individuality would be devoured by the ism; I had no independent self. This did not encourage me to reconcile.

A friend reported a conversation on a bus stop or something, when she was out with her daughter. "What do you do?" "I'm her mother." "No, what do you do?" "I'm her mother!" "But aren't you a feminist?" I wasn't alone. But nobody believed me when I said that this happened. It wasn't big-name enough. It wasn't politically prominent enough. Just ordinary people on the bus stop. Ordinary people only have the power to promote hegemonial ideology if that's patriarchy, you see.

I ran into a feminist guy whose feminism was ridiculously parochial, full of, "I need to protect these women from their bad choices." He saw no problem with being nasty to women who chose sex work, casual sex, kink, or multiple relationships; clearly those women were damaged and needed to be saved. He wanted to know what was wrong with me that I enjoyed and appreciated the love and partnership of two wonderful men; I wrote about this before.

A couple of years ago, I met Little Light. Who actually listened to me; for the first time, I felt heard about some of this stuff. For the first time.

And that's why I'm one of those ungrateful bitches who's spoiling feminism.

09 October, 2007

Sufficiently Advanced Coping Mechanisms Are Indistinguishable From Sanity

A week ago today, I hit rock bottom and bounced.

I had a conversation with my husband about a communication glitch that was really unnerving me, which unearthed a whole bunch of tangled mess involved with my sense of overwhelming failure. That combined poorly with some ongoing stressors in my relationship with my liege and my ongoing state of somewhat questionable health.

Complete meltdown. Levels of shaking madness I haven't had for years, level of crazed. Crawled into bed with my husband and sobbed myself sick over what a terrible partner I think I've been to him, was not consoleable with his belief that I'm not as bad as all that.

The next day I dropped a note to a friend who highly recommended her shrink asking for contact information. The day after I called said shrink. By Friday afternoon, I had an appointment for a week later.

I've been muttering that I need a shrink for years. And there was always a reason I didn't get one. Hadn't gotten around to it. Hate making phone calls. We're moving, I don't have the time. Settling into the new place, which doesn't have decent public transit. Learning how to drive.

We're not getting a second vehicle any time soon. I'm not getting my license soon, either; I haven't been getting the practice in because I don't trust me on the road at the best of times, and certainly not when I'm shaking from stress already. Transportation is not getting easier, and I am not getting any saner.

I am tired of feeling crazy.

So I have this appointment. And I'm rehearsing in my head what I need to say, trying to build it up into enough of a rehearsed speech or something that I won't do what I've done in the past with shrinks, pull up the protective shell, not say anything important. Hoopjump to get through it and never show a vulnerability. That won't get me out of here. And I want the hell out.

I want to know what I should expect myself to be able to do. I seesaw wildly between feeling completely incapable of action and feeling that any failure to accomplish is a wicked and morally culpable slacking off, and I have no idea what a normal, unimpaired person should be able to do, let alone what is reasonable to expect of me. Where on the spectrum between "suck it up and stop whining" and "anything you accomplish in this state of damage is pretty much bonus" do I actually fall? I have no idea. I talk about things that I consider minor, not comparable to people with real problems, and get responses of, "That seems like a big deal to me", and I just don't know. Am I describing it inaccurately, or do I just have no acquaintance with normal, or what?

I want to work through the issues of having a probably-Borderline parent, speaking of 'no acquaintance with normal', want to know how to build a sensical sort of reality for myself. I want to know what of the damage done to me can be repaired, and how much I just need to build compensations for, brace my brain with structures so that I can handle the world.

I want to dismantle the complex of damage that leaves me feeling like a catastrophic failure as a wife, with its roots in lasting damage from the assault, poor depression management, some reality issues. I want to know how much of the lingering assault damage is mendable. I want better coping mechanisms for all these mind-processing defects. I want, maybe, to know what a normal cognition might look like, and what direction I need to shove myself in to approximate it.

I want to be okay.

I'm tired of being crazy.

04 October, 2007

Threat Displays

It's interesting the way arguing with people can sometimes illuminate things I already knew, but from a different, more compact angle.

This fellow turned up in a discussion forum and asked some questions, and despite the fact that he rubbed me kind of wrong, I did some responding. Up until someone posted to note that what appeared to be a name was in fact a pseudonym -- he was posting under the name of the main male character from the "Big Love" television show, about Mormon patriarchal polygynists. Which sort of left me with a thought of, "... oh, well then. That explains why he sounds like a sexist asshole."

But one of the things that I got quite clear on was this underlying notion in his conversation that women are passive in relationships, which seemed to be threaded through a lot of his basic perspective. He was baffled by the fact that I consider a guy who is threatened by the fact that I have other (male) partners (female partners are hot, you know, so that's maybe okay, especially if he can join in ... sigh) to be threatened by me.

But no, he said, from a guy's perspective it's that other guy who's the threat.

Now, the way I see it, that's treating me as someone with no agency. There's no recognition that I have chosen to be with someone, but a skipping off to 'that someone is a threat to me'. And the fact that if it wasn't that someone, it would, at some point, be someone different doesn't matter -- there's no recognition of my capacity for choice, for the fact that I am an active participant and factor in my own relationships. The woman is the passive possession of the man, and there is an ownership conflict here.

Those other people aren't "threats" because of themselves, because of who they are or what they do, but only because they exist and are chosen and desired. There is this illusion that if that object of desire is destroyed, the desire will cease to be; this guy suggested that one couldn't consider the woman a threat, because threats were to be obliterated. So her choice has to remain inconsequential, inevitable, without motive; all of the 'threat' has to be passed on to someone uninvolved, someone one does not have to deal with as an intimate. Someone one isn't risking losing something by hating.

And it's a horrible depersonalising thing to do to someone, an utter objectification: to hate them not for themselves, for who they are or what they do or any of that, but solely because someone else interacts with them in a particular way. It erases their humanness and casts them into a role, and because that role is deemed unacceptable, the person is unacceptable. The person who wishes to have that someone in that place, the supposed partner, is exempt from consideration in this; it's that other person's fault, the other person who is vile, the other person who is the threat to the way things should be. It doesn't even get to "If only you were someone who didn't want to be with them, you'd be perfect", more often than not, because that requires acknowledging that that person is genuinely someone other than the blow-up doll version of want-you-like-this.

I've run into people on occasion who thought I would be a great partner if only I were someone else -- more monogamous, more busty, more ambitious, curvier, more sweet-tempered, more compliant, less religious. If only I didn't have these other people in my life, if only I wasn't short-tempered, if only someone else was in my skin, I'd be so good for them. If only my agency could be subsumed into someone else's, if only I were more posable, more agreeable, more like their fantasies of me.

And I figure there are thousands of people out there who are more monogamous, bustier, mellower, athier than I am, so someone who wants one of those should go finding them rather than try to make me into someone I'm not. And if that someone goes beyond that to being actively threatened by who I am, well, ... I'm catankerous, difficult, and not interested in changing. Thousands of other people. Shoo, shoo. There's probably nothing wrong with what you want, but I'm not going to give it to you. Who I am is not what you want, not even with judicious editing.

I am the director's goddamn cut with the special features and the actor interviews. I make no apologies.

01 October, 2007

In Service

A little more than a week ago, my liege got married.

It was a small ceremony, close family and friends.

My husband and I were thanked in the program; him, for running the video camera, me, for brewing the mead that was blessed at the ritual and served to the guests, us both, for our respective emotional supports, which went unspecified.

I didn't sleep for a week or two before the wedding, not well; too much stuff that absolutely had to be done, too many minor tasks that I could help with or not. I twined ribbons around the little brooch he wore, I helped design centrepieces, I sat through endless discussion of liturgy and design and offered my opinion when it was asked of me; I didn't sleep well. The stress of the preparations was a matter of contagious burden, and I am not sure how much it was lessened by the sharing. There was no time that was not at least partially occupied with wedding preparation, wedding discussion, angst: his ring arrived in the mail the day before. There was too much to do. Could I do this thing?

We helped move the paraphernalia to the wedding site on the morning. I set up centrepieces, ran errands, did minor fetch and carry. His mother arrived, and I explained the guest books to her, finished my tasks, and retreated to the bride's room, where all of my spectacularly dressed female friends were helping her get ready. I was being politic, I told them; his mother does not approve of my existence, and this would be the first time we had actually met. I had not put the green streak back in my hair just to minimise the possibility of offense. I have no idea if she ever figured out who I am, though we were the last people to leave, the last people they said goodbye to. He took my collar off before they left; had put it on me in the morning as reassurance and reminder that our partnership endured in a code that I, at least, would understand.

Today, I think I finally hit physically recovered from the stress crash. I started sleeping again immediately, though I stopped being able to eat without nausea for a few days. But emotionally, I'm still stretched all out of shape, like an overinflated balloon. I have no reserves. I am ... okay, if one defines that by saying that in the current state of things I will tend to trend towards what might nominally be called normalcy. If 'okay' means 'not having a persistent impulse to break into tears', though, I'm not near there; I'm crying as I type, and I've spent much of the last two days or so feeling that strange salt-washed sensation around my eyes that is like wanting to cry without the horrible pressure in the forehead that comes with more intensity. Call it two fifths of the way to tears.

I was in service; I am in service; I will remain in service. I will do what must be done, even when I want to scream and flail and throw things and declare that someone else can be the goddamned grownup right now, I'm through with it.

I asked him to pull me down tonight, into a subspace where he could hold me, where I could regenerate some reserves, where he could take care of me for a while. Just to be close and held and ... not at work. And he held me with gentle, intense firmness, with laughter, with serious intent, with warmth. And eventually I will be okay, so long as I can be held there, in service but not being called upon to serve. So long as I can go deep down into that serene comfortable space, my head nestled against his chest, his fingers twined through my hair and resting on the back of my neck.

We came back downstairs because the rest of the family wanted to watch Heroes, and my fortune cookie said, "Inspiration within is waiting for you. It's time to go deep."