Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Float on Your Raft Down the River

I am in love. With my husband, of all people. After nearly a decade of marriage. Imagine that.

"Who's that new page?" I asked my co-worker, watching this guy with long sexy hair glide across the library.

"I think his name is Will."

"He's kinda cute," I remember saying.

I remember specifically saying "he's cute" because it was so unlike me to make a comment like that about someone I don't know. I'm not the kind of chick who ogles much. I'm usually too wrapped-up in my own inner thoughts and neuroses to even notice other people until they start talking to me, and even then I tend to not view people through a sexual lens.

You know the stereotype of bisexuals fucking around a lot and not being too picky about their sex partners? I'm not that kind of bisexual at all. I've never met someone like that, as is the case with many stereotypes.

I'm a monogamous bisexual, with a low libido and high standards.  Not exactly a horny bitch. Sorry to burst your porn-inspired fantasies. I've had my share of sex partners, but I also made a conscious decision to remain celibate for five years in my twenties so I could "find myself". What I ended up finding is a Hitachi Magic Wand. I now understand why doctors once prescribed vibrators to female patients with the common ailment of the time, hysteria. My magic wand certainly helped me find inner peace. Or maybe that's just my G spot.

When I was single, once I decided to have sex with other people again, I was more apt to let you get into my pants if you said something clever or funny than if you were just physically attractive. Looks were never as important to me as intelligence and an awesome sense of humor.

Then I met Will and I discovered that sexy complements clever and funny. I totally lucked out.

I was thirty when I first saw Will in the fall of 2001. He was twenty, but I would have guessed more like twenty-five. I've had more than one person tell me they think Will is "an old soul". He exudes the confidence and wisdom of a much older person. I remember when Will started working in my department every Friday afternoon, we would talk. I was at the end of a relationship with a woman named Kristin, and even though it was a bad relationship, a terrible, horrible, no-good awful relationship, it still never occurred to me to cheat on her. I might be crazy, lazy, moody, messy, and certainly neurotic, but I'm loyal as hell.

I don't get adultery. I mean, if you want to fuck someone other than your partner, either ask them if they want to swing, or break up with them and move on to someone else. Don't be a selfish prick, or yoni, whichever the case may be.

Kristin and I broke up by the beginning of 2002. She started sleeping on the couch of the one-bedroom apartment that we shared with our three dogs and six cats. We had a few more months left in our lease agreement and we were too broke to break the lease. So the first time Will came over to my apartment, I was still living with my ex-girlfriend.

One of the things I admired about Will from the start is his open mind. He never once asked me if I wanted to have a three-way, something too many of the men I had previously dated assumed I was into because I'm bisexual. Will was always a gentleman.

I'm no lady, though. I did everything wrong.

You know how when you break up with one person, you're supposed to give your heart a little time to heal before you move on to your next relationship? Or, at least, the first person you sleep with after you break up with someone is just your "rebound" relationship and nothing everlasting?

Not for me. I broke up with Kristin and within a few weeks Will asked me out on our first date. He had just turned twenty-one, he informed me, when he brought our beers from the bar to our table. "It sure is good to be able to buy beer legally."

Oh my God, what am I doing on a date with this kid? I thought to myself.

I had turned thirty-one the previous November. After breaking up with Kristin in January, I told myself I was done with dating. I would never get married. I'd adopt a kid and be a single-mom. I'd work at the library and publish novels and raise my kid on my own. It sounded like a happy life. I was ready for it after way too many tumultuous relationships.

Then this hot twenty-one year old guy asked me out. We had a beer. Watched a movie. Headed back to his place. He played guitar and sang to me in his bedroom.

"Listen to this one," Will said. "I just figured this one out today."

He played "Lay Down Sally."

It totally worked. He was in my pants within minutes after finishing the song.

Every day I've been with Will I have felt like I can be myself. I've never known another person who makes me feel so comfortable and confident. It's easy to love other people. What's hard is to learn to love yourself. I not only love Will, I love myself around Will. I love us.

Despite my doing everything wrong, we got it right. We married, had Katie nearly two years later. It's become an incredible life.

And I still have trouble not thinking it's all just a dream that will slip away some day.

Not only am I a low-libido, picky bisexual, but I'm a total Debbie Downer about everything. It's a wonder anyone ever slept with me.

The reason I have trouble accepting the reality of my wonderful life is because I didn't plan it this way at all.

Remember, I had decided to not marry, to be a single parent, a career woman. I did not NEED romance in my life. In fact, romance and flowers and greeting cards and forced holidays celebrating love make me gag. I'm too cynical and frugal for all that nonsense.

I have a hard time floating on the raft. The other day, a friend of mine suggested whenever I feel my anxiety creeping up, I close my eyes and imagine I'm floating on a raft down a river.

"Fuck that!" I said. "I'd rather swim."

I like to be in control of my own body. My intuition tells me most sexual abuse survivors have control issues. When someone uses your body for their own sexual gratification, like a toy, an object, once they release their grip, you feel like running away, hiding in a cave, no one having access to what is now under your control.

The problem is, life happens. As much as I like to feel in control of my own body, life is beyond my control. Will and I wanted to have six kids. We are blessed to have one. I felt sorry for us, for awhile. I worried that Will would want to find someone younger and more fertile than me. A pit of anger swelled in my belly when friends would complain about their children of unplanned pregnancies.

Why can't I have a bunch of kids? Why is it the ones who don't want them get them, and the ones who want them don't?

Our daughter Katie is eight. I rarely even think about my subfertility now. Once it was such a burden I carried in my barren body. Now I'm fine with it. I love our one, fantastic child. Being her mom is amazing. It wasn't what we planned, having an only child. But it's what we got and it's better than we could have imagined.

I need to give up making so many plans and just lie back on the raft and enjoy the ride. I read a meme the other day that said, "If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans."

Isn't that true?

I am not a rich and famous Pulitzer-prize winning novelist. I am not the matriarch of a big family. I am not as independent (and in control) as I thought I'd like to be. But it turns out I like the raft better than I thought I would.

I used to work with a woman who said whenever she felt stressed, she imagined herself floating in the dead sea. She was one of those adventurous kind of people who take action and meet goals and chase dreams. A Jewish woman who was born under Soviet, and therefore atheist rule, she moved with her family to Overland Park KS, and then, a few years before she turned forty, she moved to the place she felt most at home: Israel.

It's a good thing she was such a go getter. Turns out, she didn't have much time to finish her bucket list. She got stomach cancer and died at the age of forty.

But you know what? Last I'd heard, she was happy. Wouldn't you take short and happy over long and suffering?

The other day I was feeling sorry for myself. I was standing at the reference desk at the library, starring off into space. Someone could snap my picture and put me in one of those demotivational poster memes. I'd recently applied for two full time jobs, one in my own department doing the same job I'm doing now, just more hours, and I didn't get picked for either of them.

The reason I had decided to go back to work full time is because I was getting sick of sitting at home, waiting for the rejection letters to pop up in my email from agents I'd asked to read my manuscript, hoping to get it published so I could get on with this plan of riches, fame, and honors.

So I was standing there at work, feeling sorry for myself because I didn't get what I thought I wanted, because life didn't turn out as planned, when a little old man wobbled with his cane toward my direction. I smiled at him. For the most part, I love old people and little kids. It's my peers I have the most problems with.

"May I help you, sir?" I asked.

"Yes you can!" He said.

During our conversation, this old man told me the reason he likes to read mystery novels:

"My wife passed away. She had dementia. And she had diabetes for thirty years." He said, like he was just happy he had a chance to know her. He raised his hand and knocked a knuckle on the top of his bald head. "I gotta keep my mind sharp," the old man said, then he wobbled away, and get this--I swear he was whistling.

I stopped smiling when I realized that I'm a complete asshole. Here's this old man, he lost his wife, he totters around the library looking for ways to keep his mind intact, passing the time til his time comes. Here I am, relatively young, healthy, happily married, wonderful kid, comfortable life, feeling sorry for myself, worrying about what other people outside my inner circle think of me. This old man has lost the most important person in his life, but he hasn't lost his whistle. Why can't I be that grateful?

Why do these thoughts run through my mind so persistently:

My boss must think I'm too much of a spaz. Why else wouldn't she give me the full time job?

My co-workers must think I'm pathetic if I can't even get hired in the same department that I'm already working.

These agents know no one wants to read my depressing shit. Why else wouldn't they accept my manuscript and offer me a deal?

While these thoughts are soon forgotten:

I love my husband. My husband loves me. I love us.

I love our daughter. I love our family.

How wonderfully blessed I am.

Forget about your plans. Accept what you have and make the most of it. Find comfort in the people you love and the people who love you. Live and love and laugh like you mean it. Don't worry where you are in life. It's not a race. It's not always comfortable and it doesn't always make sense. But it's better when we focus on love to overcome fear. When we learn to be grateful for what we have, not envious of what we lack. When we trust the Universe or God or Us or whatever you call that energy that connects us. When we say, OK, and hop up on that raft and float along the river. 

I'm not there yet. Are you? 

Maybe the trick is to hold hands with the people floating down the river on their own rafts, until their support is enough you're ready to let go.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Green Brothers Do Big History

I'm excited about the new series offered by the AMAZEBALLS team at CrashCourse, Big History. It inspired me to doodle this picture of The Big Bang in honor of Throwback Thursday:

Then I remembered that John Green said the universe is beige. Not how I envisioned it, but sure, whatever, Mr. Green:

If you haven't seen an episode of CrashCourse, start here. Let the Green Brothers blow your mind:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Rainbow Sweater Dress

Katie and our dogs at the dog park

Katie has a new favorite dress. It's a rainbow hoodie sweater dress, handed down from Will's cousin's daughter. She slept in it Saturday night. When we woke up Sunday, she said she wanted to wear it to church. I gave it a sniff test, checked for an overabundance of dog hair, and said, "Sure."

When she said she wanted to wear it today for a presentation she's giving at school, Will proceeded to wash it, dry it, and...get this... IRON it.

I wasn't even aware that we owned an iron.

The other day, I let Katie wear a shirt to school that had a giant hole in it. When she got home from school, Will told her not to wear that shirt to school anymore. Katie looked at me like, but you said I could. I shrugged my shoulders and told her she could wear the shirt for PJs.

Parents don't have to have the exact same standards to raise a kid together. In fact, I think it's good for a kid to see that not all grownups think alike. I'm of the mind that kids should be messy and dirty and too focused on learning about the world around them to care about their appearance. Will thinks kids should learn to keep themselves clean and presentable.

And guess what? We're both right. We come at parenting from different perspectives, but that's OK. I think it will make Katie into a more well rounded individual, with a style all her own.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Unbreakable Love

My parents each had three marriages. Five marriages ending in divorce and one ending in death, between the both of them. My grandparents on both sides either were divorced and separated by the end of their lives. I grew up with a mother miserable in her marriage to my father. He was verbally abusive and a control freak. It felt horrible to know that half of my blood came from him, such a jerk. I worried I would grow up to be like him. A yeller, a rageaholic, a serial divorcee who could never find unbreakable love.

As dad yelled at Mom, as he yelled at my half-siblings, as he yelled at me, we knew he wasn't just yelling at us. Because usually we had done nothing wrong. We mostly ignored him, wrote him off as a jerk, wrote funny songs about wishing he'd die, you know, all the sensible things people who grow up in dysfunctional families do to cope.

As I've matured, it's become obvious that Dad wasn't mad at just us. We were the straw that broke his back.

As my wise-beyond-her-years, eight-year-old daughter said to me the other day after asking questions about my rocky relationship with my dad, "He wasn't just yelling at you. He was yelling at his past, too."

My dad had a traumatic childhood. His parents, both oldest siblings of huge farm families, didn't want to have kids. They ended up having three, my dad, and my two aunts. Birth control was expensive and hard to find back in the Twenties and Thirties. There were no pills. Women douched with Lysol and prayed to God not to get pregnant again, and again, and again.

This way of life seems so foreign to me. I had access to birth control pills, condoms, all kinds of good birth control from the moment I first wanted to have sex. I never had to squirt poison up my vagina and ask God to spare me a lot in life that could easily kill me or my baby. I waited until I was thirty-five to have Katie. I was thrilled when the pee stick had two lines. Will and I had been married for over a year, and we had been trying to get pregnant for about eighteen months before I was able to conceive.

When we got married, Will told me he wanted six children. I was relieved that I wouldn't have to convince him I wanted a big family. Many people we know choose not to have children, or to have one or two at the most. Having a big family is rare these days. We live in a time when having a large family is usually a choice, not an inevitable burden. My medical condition, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, prevented us from choosing to have a big family. We've learned to love what we've got. We've had a lot of fun trying, but so far we've only been able to have one baby. I'm going to turn forty-four this year. I suspect our baby-making days are done, despite our desire to have more.

Our one child, Katie, is growing up surrounded by love. I have yelled at her one time, when she was about two or three, and I walked into the living room after having left her alone for what seemed like only a minute or two to find that she had dug feces out of her diaper and used it as Play-doh, smearing it all over our living room furniture, the TV, the floor.

Katie reminds me of this time, I guess because it was such a rare experience for her, having someone in authority who she loves yell at her, and also because kids like to point out the flaws in their parents. When Katie says to me, "Remember when you yelled at me?" its like when I say to my mom, "Remember when you sent me to Weight Watchers in third grade?" We love our parents, but we also like to stick our fingers on their parental bruises they acquired by stupid mistakes all parents make.

Will has never yelled at Katie. Neither of us has ever spanked her. She's one of those kids who has been raised to know that hands are for hugging, mouths are for kissing, and words are for expressing love. Before I became a parent, I thought that kind of parenting was hogwash. How can you get a kid to mind you if you don't yell at them or spank them? Then I had a kid of my own and I fell in love with her so much I decided I would try my hardest never to hurt her. I read a book called Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. It changed my outlook on parenting. Conversations, not punishments or rewards.

Saying I don't want to hurt my child is different than saying I want her to always be comfortable. I think hovering over children and treating them like fragile heirlooms is harmful for a child's well-being. The other day Will said he wanted to fix the air conditioning in my car. I said no.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because I hardly drive anywhere long enough for the AC to even kick in. I don't need it. The farthest I ever drive is an hour to see Mom and that's only like once a month," I explained.

"But what about Katie? Don't you want her to be comfortable in the car?" He asked. Will is an amazing parent. He always thinks of Katie first. His parenting style is both selfless and strong.

I thought about his question for a moment and then I said, "No, not always. I mean, I want her to be safe. She must wear her seat belt, and we must bring water to drink while we sweat, but no, I don't think kids have to always be comfortable. I think it's healthy to teach kids that life is sometimes a struggle. There's lots of kids in the world whose parents don't even have a car, let alone a car that has air-conditioning."

Will smiled like he does when I say something unexpected, nodded his head and said, "Right on."

I let my kid sweat. I don't buy her a lot of fancy toys or clothes. But I also let her pretty much eat whatever she wants, believing that a child should learn how to trust her body's natural cues for hunger and fullness. So far she hasn't gone into a sugar coma, and she's growing like a weed. I try not to pay attention to her when she's interrupting me while someone else is talking, because I don't want her to think the world revolves around her. I let her wear her hair messy most of the time because it's the way she likes to wear it. But when she comes home and tells me she got into a fight with a kid in her class, I sit down with her and listen to her side of the story before I punish or yell. We talk it out. We think of ways she could have handled the situation better. We think of ways that she can apologize and forgive. Instead of sending her away to time-out, or taking away her video game privileges, we talk.

I have the luxury to do so because we have one child to give our time to, we have books to read, we have our own choices. I learned how to be a good parent by growing up myself before deciding to have children.

When my dad was a kid, he got into a fight at school with a bully. Dad ran home. His dad was outside on the front porch. He asked Dad what had happened to his face. Dad's nose was bloody and his eye was swollen. Dad told him a bully beat him up. Dad's dad stood up, took off his belt, and beat Dad in the front yard in front of all the neighbors and kids and no one did anything to stop him.

"Why did he beat you?" I asked my dad when he told me the story when I was a teenager.

"Because he wanted to toughen me up. He wanted to make a man out of me. He told me to go back out there and defend myself against that bully. He didn't want me to be weak. It was his way of protecting me."

He was in second grade.

When Dad was twenty-two, after he got back from the War where he helped clean up bombed out cities in Europe and I suspect saw a cadaver or two, he walked into his Dad's house and saw beer bottles strewn all over. Dad's mom had recently left his dad. She could tolerate his alcoholism no more. She ran off to Nevada with another man. That weekend, Dad went to check on his dad. He heard the shower running. He walked into the bathroom and found his father, dead, slumped over in the shower.

The medical examiner said Dad's dad had a heart attack. He was 48.

Dad went on to marry, and divorce, marry, and divorce, marry, and divorce again. At eighty-seven, he recently proposed to this woman he dances with, but she said no. I think it has something to do with taxes. Or maybe she's leery of a man who's been divorced three times. Dad lives alone in a senior apartment complex. He dances, he plays bridge. He's on Sertraline. He seems happier than I've ever seen him. His only complaint: he hates to be at home alone.

Recently my sister had a party and invited everyone in the family, both my mom and my dad. They've been divorced since 1992. Time has lessened Mom's resentment. Sertraline has helped Dad lighten up. I sat there wondering what life would have been like if Dad had the psychotropic drug choices we have now when I was a kid. My life would have been so much better. Or when he was kid. Or his dad was a kid...

It's easier to have a healthy marriage and family nowadays. We have options. We have help. We have drugs. It's easier today than it even was when I was in my twenties. Every decade progresses and life gets better when we work at it.

When I was in my twenties, when lots of people in our culture decide to partner up, a close friend of mine said something that made sense, even though it stung to have the truth thrown at me. She said, "Becky, you weren't taught how to love. Growing up, you had no examples of what a good marriage is like."

She told me this when I explained why I couldn't be her bridesmaid. I don't believe in marriage, I thought. Kinda like how I used to think I didn't believe in going to church. When you grow up viewing institutions in a negative light, the last thing you want to do when you become an adult and make choices of your own is to join them.

So I waited longer than most people do to get married. I waited until I met just the right person. I met Will when I was 31 and he was just 21. We married when I was 33 and he was 23. When my mom asked me why Will's the one, I said because he's the only person I've ever felt completely comfortable around. As someone who has been diagnosed with PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder, that's saying a lot. I've had anxiety so long, it feels more like a character trait and less like a medical disorder. I'm anxious. I worry what people think. I'm really good at faking it. I can laugh and have a good time, but inside there is always a stream of anxious thoughts running through my consciousness.

But not around Will. He somehow calms my anxious thoughts. I knew Will was the person I wanted to marry when I realized he's the person I like to be around the most. It's as simple as that.

So when you hit on him the other night, and when my intuition told me to verify my thoughts with Will the next morning, and he said yes, you had asked him to have sex with you, emotions I have not felt in decades came rushing back. I was so fucking mad at you!

You were once my partner. Long ago. Two decades ago. My first long-term, monogamous relationship, but not a marriage. Back in the dark ages of our youth it was still illegal for gay partners to marry. Three years, we were together. And it was mostly awful. Fighting, drama, crying, breaking things, feeling like I was losing my mind. I was terrible to you. I was the worst girlfriend anyone could ask for. I screamed at you. I treated you like you were an idiot even though you are not. I punched you in the face.

I had turned into my dad--even worse! Dad never punched Mom.

I had to get out. I was turning into a monster. Something in you triggered such fierce anger in me. I wanted to love you enough that it calmed my anxiety, but I could not.

We broke up and it was the best thing for both of us. You got another girlfriend and I spent ten years more-or-less celibate, trying to get my shit together. I began eating healthy foods and moving my body. I talked to therapists. I read self-help books. I first took Lithium, then Amitriptyline, then Paxil, then finally, Sertraline. Sertraline really works for me. I guess I'm a daddy's girl after all.

During the time I was growing and changing and learning how to love, you dated a couple of people, but mostly you seemed like you were constantly searching for someone who could love you in a way you had never been loved. Completely, Without anger. Without jealousy. Without secrets and lies and betrayals. I'm not going to go into details about your family background. That's your story to share, not mine. But you were raised to think sex is dirty and your body is fat and repulsive. You were raised to stay away from boys because they only wanted you for one thing and that loving girls was a sin. It's no wonder you didn't learn how to love in a healthy way, too.

Years passed and we became friends again. We could laugh about the good old times. Yes, there were some. It wasn't all bad. I no longer felt romantically attached to you, so you were more like a good friend, or a sister. You signed my marriage certificate as a witness when Will and I got married. You bought toys for our kid. You came to family gatherings. Like a sister.

In the last year your drinking has gotten worse. You message me hateful rants in the middle of the night, and then when I try to talk to you about it the next day you don't even remember. For awhile now it's been a drag to hang out with you. You come over and talk about how lonely you are, how you wish you had a life-partner. I advise you to quit drinking because it brings out the worst in you, but you think I'm acting holier than thou, since I have my unhealthy habits too, drinking among them. You get mad and bring up old anger and blame. We fight, not as badly as in the old days, but still, it wears me down.

I feel guilty because I'm the one who bought you your first beer.

I've wanted out for several months now. I'm tired of being your friend. In a way, I'm grateful for your betrayal. Asking my husband, the person who turned my life around and taught me how to love, to have sex with you is the biggest betrayal. I thank you for it. It gives me an excuse to quit blaming myself for our horrible relationship. I can finally say, I'm done, I don't want to be lovers, I don't want to be friends, I don't want to see you anymore.

I've changed. I've grown. I've learned how to love. Will has helped me. Our daughter has helped me. Sertraline and therapy and exercise has helped me. My church community has helped me. I have helped myself.

You, on the other hand, have not faced your inner demons. You drink them away and pretend they don't exist. I don't blame you for your pain. You had a crappy childhood too. It's hard for a lesbian to grow up in a culture that tells her it's a sin to love. But you are an adult. You know actions have consequences and that it is wrong to ask your friend's husband to cheat.

I don't think it's all your fault. It never is with people. We learn to be cruel to others by having others be cruel to us.

Jesus was right to teach us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, to forgive those who trespass against us, to love God and love people. As simple as that.

Jesus was right to teach us to forgive, because it's more harmful to carry around resentment than it is to let it go. Hate is much worse for the hater. It's stressful. You think, "I'll show them! How dare they treat me that way! I'm never going to forgive them for what they did to me! I'm gonna hate them til the day I die."

You think you're right. It makes so much sense to hate someone who has hurt you. But one day you realize you're just going through the motions. You don't care about anything or anyone. You're miserable. Your hatred has consumed you. You hate those who wronged you, you hate the world, you hate yourself, you hate life. All you can feel is nothing.

Jesus said: Stop! Don't let hurt kill you. Because that's what it is, living without forgiveness. It's a slow, suffocating death.

Jesus said: Love! So I will love. I will not hate you. I will forgive you.

Forgive you and forget you.

After your betrayal, I know the best way I can love you is to leave you. Finally and for sure. Not lovers. Not friends. Not sisters. Just two human beings who are better off apart.

I don't ever want to see you again.

Still, I hope you find someone to love you the way Will loves me. Loyal. Eternal. Calm. Deep. It is a testament to my husband's loyal nature that he did not give in to his biological urges and say yes to you. We're coming upon ten years of marriage, and it's stronger than ever. No one will break us apart. I know that. It's a tremendous feeling to have for someone who grew up in a fractured family. May you find that kind of unbreakable love someday, too.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday School Teacher

Somehow I have tricked the amazing community of Grace. For some reason they want me to teach their kids about God and love and the mysteries of the universe. I began my first day as a Sunday School teacher today.

Ah, who am I kidding? I bet they don't expect miracles from me. Just love. And snacks. And reading stories and singing songs and creating things with Play-doh. I can handle that.

And because the other two teachers in our class are full of awesomesauce, and the kiddos are full of curiosity, it was a wondrous day.

I understand why people give their time to help others. The reciprocal good feelings. I feel good when I help you because it makes you feel good. This morning in Sunday School I spent an hour not thinking about my worries. Not once during my time with these gracious teachers and beautiful students did I think about war or disease or abuse or sickness. My mind was cleared of its catastrophes and calmed by seven small children sitting in a circle singing together, "this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine!"

I understand why the atheist Karl Marx said religion is the opiate of the masses. In my experience, religion is the Clonazepam of the anxious.

I like working with kids because they are so wise and not judgy. They like to test limits, and so do I, because however else is progress possible?

I'm excited to see what happens.

Here are some quotes I found today that I appreciate as I grow into this role of teacher:

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” 
― Madeleine L'Engle

“It's never too late to have a happy childhood.” 
― Tom RobbinsStill Life with Woodpecker

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” 
― Margaret Mead

"Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ” 
― Fred Rogers

" We spend the first year of a child's life teaching it to walk and talk and the rest of its life to shut up and sit down. There's something wrong there.” 
― Neil deGrasse Tyson

"Rebel children, I urge you, fight the turgid slick of conformity with which they seek to smother your glory.” 
 Russell Brand

"One thing I had learned from watching chimpanzees with their infants is that having a child should be fun.” 
― Jane Goodall

"A child whose life is full of the threat and fear of punishment is locked into babyhood. There is no way for him to grow up, to learn to take responsibility for his life and acts. Most important of all, we should not assume that having to yield to the threat of our superior force is good for the child's character. It is never good for anyone's character.” 
 John Holt

"When you read to a child, when you put a book in a child's hands, you are bringing that child news of the infinitely varied nature of life. You are an awakener.” 
― Paula Fox

"We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” 
 John Holt

"If our children are unable to voice what they mean, no one will know how they feel. If they can’t imagine a different world, they are stumbling through a darkness made all the more sinister by its lack of reference points. For a young person growing up in America’s alienated neighborhoods, there can be no greater empowerment than to dare to speak from the heart — and then to discover that one is not alone in ones feelings.” 
― Rita Dove

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Come! Live in the Light! Remix

***warning: frank talk of sex and abuse and possibly blasphemy

Physically, my body matured at a very young age. Mentally and emotionally, I was a late bloomer. I blame this on a combo of precocious puberty inherited from my dad, childhood sexual abuse inherited from our sick secretive society, and absolutely no libido.

I used to like it when I'd be cruising shot-gun down the road in my friend Heather's penis car and we'd hear the Naked Raygun song, "Libido". We called Heather's 1973 Nova a penis car because, young feminists ourselves, we agreed it was ironic for her to drive such a masculine car. We were hipsters before hipsters were cool.

I liked the Naked Raygun song about the protagonist's disinterest in sex because I could totally relate. In an era of songs such as Madonna's hit, "Like a Virgin" and George Michael's "I Want Your Sex," I felt like the oddball at the orgy.

Not that I was asexual. I had my first crush at age 4: Radar O'Reilly on "M*A*S*H". I had my first sexy dream in third grade: Han Solo. (Not Harrison Ford, mind you. The fictional character of Han Solo.) I put posters of "Duran Duran" on my wall in eighth grade, but I found myself drawn to the least flashy and most unattractive of the fab five: Roger Taylor.

I honestly think I was drawn to him less because I found him attractive and more because I subconsciously thought of the other drummer named Roger Taylor, the one from Queen, one of Mom's favorite bands. Mom used to play their eight-track tapes while she dusted the house. I have fond memories of that fun and innocent time in my life.

I had fictional, innocent crushes on people as I was growing up, and occasionally I'd "like" some kid in my class, but only because my friends had kids they "liked" and I didn't want to feel left out. I had no interest in wearing sexy clothes or trying to be flirty or any of that. I just wanted to play basketball, or barbies, or watch "Mork and Mindy".

My first major crush on a real person ended as most every one's does, embarrassingly. My love for R.W. (I'm still too embarrassed to mention his name) was unrequited, except for some minor 3rd base action, and although I have him to thank for my love of Pink Floyd and red wine, he crushed my heart. I swore off boys for a few years after R.W. told me to quit showing up at his back door.

I'd always been sexually attracted to girls. Even more so than most boys when I was very young. Androgynous girls. Tomboys, as they were called back in the day. At age four, I walked up to a kid I thought was so cute, and I asked the kid, "Are you a boy or a girl?" Like it was a question she'd been asked a thousand times before, she said, "I'm a girl." That's all we said about it and we went on to play.

I'd also always been sexually attracted to boys, but not mean, tough, uber-masculine boys. Androgynous boys. Sissy boys, as they were called back in the day.

Seems I'm mostly attracted to people who like to rip off the gender binding and kick over the fence that holds us within certain gender boundaries. I'm a sucker for androgyny.

As a late-teen and an early adult, I was a serial monogamist who dated both boys and girls, just one at a time. Each person had his or her merits, but the relationships never worked out. I was in a bad place psychologically in my life.

That's when I broke up with my latest girlfriend and moved into my own studio apartment. It was the first time I ever lived alone. When I was born, I had four siblings and two parents waiting for me at home, and another sister who lived with her mom. All my siblings were older when I was born, so instead of growing up with the kind of brothers and sisters who torment you, I was treated more like a living baby doll. They loved taking turns taking care of me.

They also dropped me on my head. Forgot to latch my high chair so I tumbled over, face first, on the kitchen floor. I got diaper pins poked into my little newborn hips, and slid out of a baby buggy my sister and brother were pushing back and forth, like I was some kind of ball, rolling out into the middle of the street. Mom had to pick gravel out of my little baby cheek. It made me the resiliant person I am today. And maybe, perhaps, a little brain damaged.

But mostly, my older siblings were wonderful, kind, entertaining, funny, and inspirational. I have spent my life trying to be as awesome as they are.

It wasn't always good. There was lots of muck too. I was sexually abused by my brother, who later died of alcoholic induced liver failure, and his friend who I lost track of long ago. It's funny to think of me being treated like an inanimate object when it's a baby doll or a ball. That's cute. But it's just sick when the inanimate object I'm treated like is a sex toy to two hormonally-charged pubescent boys.

I can't talk for all sexual abuse survivors. Each person reacts to trauma in different ways. When I was a young woman, I reacted by regaining control of my life. I lived alone for ten years. I put myself through college. I took care of a cat from the time he was a kitten til he died at age 14. I paid my bills and went to work. I read self-help books and talked to therapists. I took meds my doctor recommended. I invested in a Hitachi Magic Wand. I felt great.

So great, that I began thinking, huh, maybe I'm not going to end up in a mental institution like Jack Nicholson's character in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". Maybe I could actually find a mate and we could have a family and a life together that sometimes sucks but that's mostly wonderful.

I met Will at the library. He made me feel tingly. His smell. His long hair. His steely glare with those big brow bones framing his icy blue eyes. He's tall and strong. His hair is soft and smells like flowers or linen or sunshine. He sings and he cries at the end of good movies like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Fisher King" and dear God I love him so.

We got married and had Katie two years later. It's been rocky, but so rewarding. I've struggled with my anxiety and depression, finally diagnosed as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder, but I've also learned a lot from it. I've learned to let go, a little.

I've learned that sometimes it's OK to let other people do things for me without it feeling like they're doing things TO me.

Will helps me enormously. He is an equal partner--totally--in our relationship. He takes care of Katie just as much as I do. He cooks and cleans just as much, if not more, than I do. He does all the lawn work. He works full time and he's been with the same company for nine years. His reliability is fucking hot to me. Someone who has been through trauma, like me, seeks out the dependable, the care-taking, the warm arms and firm embrace.

It's weird to give up so much control of my body to another person. But I trust Will. He's the only person who's ever made me feel orgasmic without simultaneously feeling anxious. He's all, hey babe, lay back, take it easy, relax, let me take care of you.

I never thought I wanted any of that crap until I met Will. The idea of letting someone rub the back of my bumpy thighs, my calloused feel, my jiggly belly--no. There's no way. People I allowed access to my body before I met Will were allowed to touch my mouth, my breasts, my hands, my vulva, and my back. That's it. Will, on the other hand, after a decade of marriage, has convinced me it's safe to let him lay his hands all over my body. I fucking love being married.

The loyalty. The trust. The understanding.

Some people like to be single, to be independent and strong and capable. I did too once. But I've found that having the support of a good spouse helps me allow pleasure into my life. I need the trust to let my guard down.

Don't let the people who took control of your body without your consent allow you to feel shamed by it. Your body is beautiful. Find someone you trust to share it with.

If you're scared at first to venture out into the dating world, I highly recommend that sexual abuse survivors get to know themselves through masturbation. I'm sick of society making it into a dirty thing. Masturbation is a healthy thing. Doctors prescribe it to men who have pancreatitis and women who have infertility. Check out the video, "Hysteria", about the introduction of the vibrator, which was used to treat women with the medical condition called "hysteria".

Masturbation helped me learn to love my body and all the amazing things it can do. I was a late bloomer. I didn't have my first orgasm until I was twenty-six. The day my Hitachi Magic Wand arrived in the mail in a plain brown wrapper from Good Vibrations in San Francisco. That was memorable. I felt completely and totally connected to every living being in the universe. It was intense. I'd finally broken the glass box I'd learned to seal around my libido after my experience with sexual abuse.

It's hard to get from a place of thinking of sex as bad and dirty and traumatic to full of connection and amazing sensations and universal harmony. But daaaaaaaamn! It's worth it.

Why do so many people shout out, "Oh, God!" when they come? I'm telling you: having an orgasm is life's reminder that we're all tapped into the same loving energy field: God. Don't let your abusers keep you from that feeling.

This morning after everyone went off to work and to school, I enjoyed a little me time. Afterwards, as I laid in bed looking out the window at the hint of glistening sunlight shining on the tree swaying in the breeze and the blue sky in the back, I said, "Thank you God!"

I'm a weird Christian. I actually don't pray that much. I dunno. Unless you're praying for someone else, praying for something you want seems selfish. I like to think God knows whats best for me without me having to give him hints.

But I tend to pray a lot after I come. "Thank you God!" "Thank you Universe!" "Thank you All-Encompassing-Love". I don't think about it really. It just happens.

This morning, I started humming one of my favorite hymns after I played around with my Hitachi Magic Wand. Then I started singing it with my own words:

To the tune of "Come! Live in the Light"

Come! live in the light!
Shine with the joy and the love of the World
We are called to be a sexy species
to live in the freedom of loooooooooooove!

We are called to act with passion.
We are called to love tenderly.
We are called to serve one another, to stop when you say no

Come! Open your heart!
Show your booty to all those you want!
We are called to be love for the loveless,
so all jealousy and unkindness will be no more!

Sing! Sing a new song!
Sing of that great climax when all will be one!
God will reign and we'll walk with each other as poets and lovers united in love!

Sorry, David Haas.