Shallow Breaths 1

One of the Authors I look up to the most described her start in writing as the place she could breathe. The place she could be absolutely honest. The place she can lower her defenses long enough to survive the rest of life.

I have continued to sit with this for a couple of days, most notably for the reason that a friend sent me an article about ausitic “masking”. Here is the link. And holy hell I felt seen.

So I started thinking, how much do I breathe? Sadly, the answer seemed to be “not much”. I breathe at the end of the day when I have two children sleeping next to me a some low pressure British reality TV show playing in the background and I contemplate whether or not I should go to sleep as I am so tired life is blurry.

That’s… not cool. And certainly not healthy. And I can blame children and schedules and my Taurean need for excessive amounts of sleep and everything else. And for a long time I have told myself that its just not my season for writing. But if writing is where I can breathe… and one of the only places I can breathe… then every season is the season for writing. Because every season is the season for breathing.

Let us breathe.

And, in all honesty, let’s begin with some shallow breaths. Because while yoga would have us believe that you can just slow down and immediately start that shit, I would contend that in this analogy, we cannot start with deep breaths. Deep breaths require a level of focus not found in the five minute gasps we grant ourselves in quiet moments and in the learning how to take off our masks and in pulling the truth from outside of us to lay on a page and present to the world.

Shallow breaths, on the other hand, doable.

For instance: I consume damn near every article I find about “picky eaters” because I was one and seem to be raising one. Now, admittedly, as a white woman, I manage to take everything too personally, so please hold that information as I go on. This last article I was reading started with acknowledging that dinner was often a fight in her household, with her father being extremely strict and forcing her to sit at the table for hours to eat perfectly good food that her mother had prepared but that could often have uncomfortable and unexpected textures that would make the food hella unappetizing. I nodded to myself. This battle would make food difficult for anyone, especially a child. But then the author completely switched gears and blamed the mom. It was mom’s fault. Mom never let her into the kitchen. Mom ran a one woman show in there and if she could have only helped prepare the food then maybe, maybe she would have been more adventurous.

So, of course, I applied this directly to myself and my picky eater. And called bullshit. Again, I understand this was not written about me and my picky eater. I have absolutely no idea what the rest of the author’s home life was like. How much time she spent there. Whether the power struggles extended to her clothes, friends, hobbies, etc. If she had siblings who were also picky eaters or whether they were vacuum cleaners who tried everything put in front of them. Even acknowledging these unknowns, I call bullshit.

I try to let the kids into the kitchen. I want them to learn skills. I want to share this with them. But goddess dammit sometimes it is just my happy place and I need to be alone in it. I am beyond blessed to have the most helpful children. Who are home with me, all day, because we homeschool, and love being by my side. And its amazing.

And exhausting as every living fuck.

“Moms, it might slow you down a little. It might require patience. But inviting kids into the kitchen could change their whole perspective about the world of food.”

“Might?” Fucking might? Have you tried going on a walk with children without being slowed down? Cool, let’s now add raw meat, hot pans, time sensitive steps, sharp knives, and brains still developing so listening skills are not at their absolute best. I mean, sounds like a great fucking time. An awesome way to wind down at the end of the day where you have given your family your absolute all and helped them identify their emotions and set up art/science projects, joined them in the constant clean up efforts to keep your house from becoming a safety hazard, clutched your heart as they learn skills like bike riding and climbing by failing a few times before flying and know you *have* to let them get a little hurt. Hard fucking pass fram. Mom’s are allowed sanity time, and allowed to have it in the kitchen while making food for everyone else.

Especially because let’s face it – mom’s dinner is not where we learn “adventurous eating”. I make the same 20ish dishes in various forms on a cycle of repeat. My mom did the same thing. As did her mom. As does every cooking mom I know. We cook from our comfort zone.

If anything, my picky eater is more adventurous when we eat out than when we eat at home for the *lack* of being able to peek behind the veil. And whether home or out, it is his autonomy that drives what he eats and what he doesn’t. Safe, secure, confident, good day? High chance he will try a new food. Bad, sad, hard day? Bring on the chicken nuggets. Because he’s a person and frankly most adults operate that way too. I want comfort food at the end of a hard day. Not because I’m afraid to try new things, but because emotionally I gain comfort from the familiar instead of expending energy on the unknown.

So… can we not blame a mom jiving to her own beat for a half an hour preparing food for a family that may or may not fully appreciate the effort? Can we acknowledge that not only is that not how human psychology works, but that requesting that *every* activity be made about the child we teach children and ourselves that boundaries aren’t important when they really, really are?

“Thank you, but now is not a great time to help mommy. I don’t want you to get hurt, but also, I really need this time for me. This is some me time. I would love you to help me another time, though.”

I’m all about opinion pieces. And acknowledge and understand that everyone’s experience is unique and this author might have been desperate for a peek behind the veil and, I dare say, some connection time with her mother.

At the same time, I feel the need the point out that the endless power struggles with her father and the implied lack of autonomy miiiiiiiight have been a driving factor in the need to control what graced her lips? Just me? Cool.

To adults with mother wounds: I am sorry and hold space for you.

To mothers: I see you especially. We are doing the best we can in a society that robs us of our resources and guilts us for fighting for our own sanity and space. You keep doing you.

To picky eaters: the world is full of so many things to experience and enjoy. If you like ordering chicken nuggets everywhere you go – you do you and fuck the haters. So long as your mind is open to other people doing things differently than you and still being valid, honestly, you’re doing better than a lot of the world.

A Eulogy for my Perfectionist Child Syndrome

*Pro tip: if you ever delude yourself into thinking you’re so far along in your healing journey that you’re running out of things to address say, out loud, to the Universe, “But what would I even talk to a therapist about?” And just wait. It’ll come. Like a goddamn dump truck.

*Based on a true story.

Today, in a partner meeting in which topics of budgeting and cost saving procedures were brought up, I felt my anxiety spike. SPIKE.

Was the blame placed at my feet? No. Was pressure to solve the issues put on me? Nope. Was anything brought up in any way that could be considered remotely accusatory? Also no. None of those things. And I have been begging and pleading for budging for…ever. For always. I am the cheap partner in a bougie triad. I should be joyous. Busting out the excel spreadsheet and entering data sets to my heart’s content.

Instead, I was forcing myself to breathe without hyperventilating. Why? I took the time to ask myself. Why am I feeling this way? This is what I wanted. Changes proposed would actually take things off my plate, reduce my stress, and pad the budget.

If you must know, the answer seems to be two fold. The first is due to Perfectionist Child Syndrome. This comes when your parents are so stressed (or other things, for my parents it was stress) that if your parents notice you, it’s because something has gone wrong. No attention means you are doing well enough to not break through their other stressors. Your teachers tell them how wonderful you are in class. You have straight A’s. When you’re at home you keep your head down, and eat what is given to you, and smile when you are looked at to reassure them that all is well.

If they bring something up, or want to talk, or need to show you something – it’s negative. Grades need to be better. Manners need to be minded. Rooms need to be cleaned. Something is not good enough.

So when *anything* I do, or have a hand in, is brought up to be changed in any way, my immediate reaction is “if this task/pattern/chore/emotion is getting noticed, then I have done it poorly” which brings intense anxiety.

A less than helpful problem solving response.

This brings us to the second part. Namely, my ability to blow shit way out of proportion based on irrational and crippling fear. Because if I am doing something poorly enough to be noticed, then what value do I bring to the relationship? And if I have no value, will they let me stay?

I am secure in my partners love, and so I thought that I was wholly secure. Turns out not. Turns out I have deep insecurities about my value. I know my partners love me. BUT. But if I keep the house clean, if I make elaborate meals for dinner, if I homeschool the children to excellence, if I single handedly maintain the budget, if – if – if – then they won’t leave me. Then they will decide I am worth keeping around.

And let’s not mince words: I am wholly dependent on them. I bring in not a single dollar to our bottom line. Oh, don’t bother quoting me the math. I am well aware. We would bleeeeeed money if I were to try and work outside the home. Childcare, increased car, food, and clothes cost. Increased stress for all parties. In no scenario do we gain money by having me work outside the home. If anything, it can be considered that for room and board, I am a 24/7 nanny, decent housekeeper, and quite a good chef while also being an errand runner, laundress, grocery shopper, personal assistant, teacher, and bookkeeper. Which, based on industry averages, is a HELL of a deal.

Yet. Despite all I bring to the relationships, I feel deeply inadequate. Like I have to earn my place in the home, a seat at the table, and the privilege to homeschool our children.

And to be extra-ordinarily clear: my partners say, if not daily then multiple times a week, that they see me, and what I do. They see the effort and the work that I pour out. That they value me and appreciate me. In no way have I *ever* been made to feel as if my place was precarious, my value dependent on my cleaning lady/chef/teacher output. This is something that I wholly put on myself because I have drank deeply of the poison of capitalism. I have gargled that stank until I reek of it. And I hate it. I can rail against it until I am blue in the face. That no one should be broken down into only what they can provide in monetary worth. That productivity is not the golden standard to what is or is not worth my time. That everyone has a place at the table, regardless of their ability to bring tangible gifts to it. And that emotional labor, child rearing, house work, and general life maintenance are valuable labor and deserve recognition and inherent worth. And turn around, look at myself in the mirror, and feel terror that I haven’t done enough today.

Maybe it’s because the fear of god (literally) was put in me as a child and I feared for my eternal soul if I didn’t do enough to prove my faith to a god who watched me all the time to judge my every thought.

Maybe it’s because we live in a society that literally drowns us in messaging that the most essential labor (and therefore laborers) are replaceable and therefore not worth living pay, basic human consideration, or any kind of meaningful recognition. Let alone dignity, honor, and contentment.

Maybe it’s because only women are ever asked if they will choose children or careers while it is an assumption that men can have both, because their partner will shoulder the extra burden – for free.

Probably it’s all of that and an (un)healthy dose of trauma passed down by ancestors and a (not) fun glitch in my brain that requires a daily dose of prozac.

What matters is that I name it. And then strike a match and, much like capitalism, the patriarchy,  and the idea that America is a Christian nation, not stop rooting it out and burning it down until there is no trace left.

What matters is that it stops with me. And my kids do not toss at night wondering if they did enough to earn their place in this world, or their home. As if a place in a home is something to be earned. As if love is a currency to be traded on.

What matters is that I tell myself a truer story – that I am worthy. Of love. Of a home. Of safety and security. And then I tell everyone that truer story.

So here it is, this is the match struck: I am safe. I am worthy. My value is not dependent on my output. Period. I’d say may my perfectionist child syndrome and irrational fears rest in peace but fuck that. Fuck that hard. Let’s burn those bad boys to a crisp and then piss on the ashes. Let’s dance naked around the grave, shoot silver bullets into casket, and let out a string of curses that would make my racist grandmother blush and my gypsy ancestors proud. Let’s show them a full moon full of glorious cellulite as we twirl, sexually satisfied and shameless about our jiggle, while swearing oaths that those who come after us will never see the fears we conquered.

Let’s just… live.

Give Me The Chisma

For those who don’t know, chisma means gossip and is pronounced “cheeze-mah”. And I’m going to be super upfront about the fact that I *live* for chisma. Do you know someone’s drama? Do you need a safe place to unload it? Hello, here I am. Let me listen. I will not interfere. I will not judge. I will listen, wide eyes, munching on popcorn and nodding or gasping on cue. I cannot tell you how much I cherish chisma.

So when Eilan was giving me the deets on his office drama – I was *there* for it. I was drinking it in. Relishing the details.

Until the details started to take the shape of my own insecurities. “He really just wants someone to partner with, you know? She stays home all day. She doesn’t do anything. She is totally cool just being supported.” And he glances at me, and instead of the side eye part of me is always expecting to imply that I am not doing enough, the look is easily interpreted as “thank goddess my partners are awesome” and I had to mentally take a step back.

What?

Like, he does know I am home all day, right? And that I have been (falsely) accused for years of having no ambition? And that as our children are rather young, I’ve got at least a decade before I have any plans to pursue any career outside the home. I *often* do not change out of pajamas. It’s been a month since the last time I wore make up and I am extremely contented being supported.

And he does not and has never seen it that way. It is not his money it is our money. He has said, multiple times, that he cannot afford me. I’m not just a sexy lady parading around the house in my pajamas making half baked plans to get the body of a super hero while downing my 3rd cup of coffee while my body pleads with me to drink some water. That’s who I see in the mirror. He sees a badass who nurtures his offspring while making multiple dinners because god forbid the littles eat something other than peanut butter and honey sandwiches. He sees a woman who keeps the house running while he is out working so that he can come home and just relax. He sees the woman who makes sure all of our bills are paid on time so he can focus on work and family and have a hobby. He sees the woman who does yoga cards with the kids at night which somehow almost always involves pretending to be a family of cats that need to curl up together and snuggle because apparently thats what cats do. He sees the woman who gets up in the middle of the night to gently guide our offspring back to bed, or at times, open the warm covers and hold them for a while after a bad dream. He sees me teach them how to sound words and add double digits and try to get them to remember the shape of Europe. (“I remember that one! It reminds me of syrup!” – 5 yr old) He sees what I do. He sees me and all the effort I have poured into our family over the past 8 years and he never looks at my lack of a paycheck and thinks “this is a woman without ambition” but that “this is a woman who has decided that for now, her energy and ambition is better spent in the home than out of it and I am so thankful for her”.

He sees my stretchmarks and thinks “my kids made those when she grew their bones inside of her”. He sees my saggy boobies and thinks “she nursed them for 4 years to give them the best she could”. He sees me close my eyes and count to 10 when I cannot even with the emotions of a 5 year old capricorn and sees me apologize when I don’t catch myself in time and teach said capricorn the meaning of sarcasm. He sees me hunched over my computer reading the 328249248th article on childhood development and trying to figure out next year’s history curriculum. He knows this “job” of mine is demanding. But because of him, it is not thankless.

Because of him, when I see those stretchmarks in the mirror and feel the gentle, constant tug of my stretched out boobs, and see the *now trendy* dark spots under my eyes from another night of broken sleep I can hear, ever so faintly, the words he has repeated to me over and over and over. “You are sexy.” “You are beautiful.” “You are worthy.” “I love you.” “I appreciate you.” “I choose you.”

Until it builds into a crescendo that covers my existence and writes the words “YOU ARE SEEN” over my skin and over my sky and over my eyes. Until meaning flows from my fingertips and covers everything I touch. Until I begin to believe it. Until I let it transform me. Until my guilt is washed away and I’m laying on the living room floor just BEING and feeling the sun slowly trace its way across my skin as it flows across the sky.

And because of some (not okay) things that have happened in the past, because of accusations made against polyamorous partners (that non monogamous men are not family men and do not value their partners and that polyamorous women are just being abused and don’t know it), I need everyone here to know that this is my chisma.

I’m not saying we don’t fight or get our feelings hurt or have really, really, really shitty days. I’m not saying we don’t have misunderstandings and work to do on our shadow selves and trauma to heal on our child selves. I’m not saying we’re always great parents and great partners. I’m not saying there is no conflict and its nothing but shiny happiness behind closed doors. We’re people. With flaws. With baggage. With children who have intimate access to our buttons and hands that looooooove pressing them. With hormones and prozac and endless work to keep. going. forward.

I’m saying that I can consume gossip with gusto because the biggest conflict in my own life is the fact that I need to learn to see me how my partners see me. I’m saying that if it weren’t for the fact that I am hilarious, my life would be exceedingly boring. Polyamory is not inherently dramatic. I’m saying there is something fucking *magical* about being loved for who you are and not having to hide the fact that you want to go to bed at 8:30 and your partners giving you a kiss and crawling into bed 3-5 hours later after they have been *themselves* and awake and doing stuff. I’m saying that the biggest challenge in my life right now is my own brain and the pile of laundry that I swear to Hathor never gets any smaller. Ever.

In the end, I think don’t think I’m writing this for my polyam fram, or other moms, or even women in general. I think, actually, that I am writing this for those who don’t understand that “alternative” means “authentic” and nothing else. My alternative life is more boring than most monogamous relationships I know of for the simple reason that I am more fulfilled than my monogamous counterparts. Less is expected of me because it is understood that I cannot *and will not* fulfill all of my partners needs and that I need to spend a significant portion of my energy fulfilling my own needs.

And to be clear, I don’t think that polyamory is better or a more valid option than monogamy. I just think those that embrace polyamory are more likely to embrace authenticity and authenticity is the key to fulfillment. And doing the work. And learning how to communicate. And doing shadow work. And nurturing our inner children. And accepting our full selves (even the parts that live for gossip). And accepting our flawed and still perfect partner(s).

We don’t do this for the drama. We don’t do this to be “different”. We do this so we can live our best lives. We do this because it’s who we are. We do this to make our lives *easier*, not to make your life *harder*. We do this because we cannot stand the thought of another generation of children thinking that something is wrong with them. We do this because we are burdened with the weariness of a hundred ancestors and have no more capacity to do anything other than LIVE.

I Don’t Get It: A Discussion

As much as there has been the decline of the mommy-blog, there has been the rise of the mommy vlog – or – more accurately, the mommy reel. Look, I know there is mommy tiktoks but I never downloaded it and watch the best stuff on insta anyway. ANYWAY.

I have laughed until I have cried watching these amazing women relate, hilariously, the struggle of motherhood. Of long term partnership. Of raising littles. Of raising boys. Of raising girls. Of navigating Target. Of wiping butts. Of screaming in frustration and then apologizing and then learning to do better and then sitting in your car, rocking out to Avril Lavign and crying into a brownie while promising yourself that those little munchkins aren’t going to change me.

But there is one part that genuinely continues to baffle me. Kind of. Let me explain.

Recently, one of my favorite mommy vloggers had a whole schtick about how less than helpful her husband was being during homeschooling in a pandemic and how focused on sex he seemed to be instead. And she was NOT having it. The point was made that he is always in the mood and they have stuff to do!

And this is when I begin to think that we brilliant, hilarious, strong, informed, courageous women are having ISSUES in the bedroom. Because I cannot know this many women, directly or not, who don’t enjoy sex.

It’s sex. It’s fucking fantastic – literally. It’s good endorphins and hormone dumps and feels amazing. And if it is not those things – there are ways that it can be. If your dear husband – partner – whatever – is not being a selfish prick.

What on earth is more important than 15 minutes of fucking? What cannot wait 15 minutes? Lock the door. Undress each other. Kiss. Feel good. Do I always finish? Nope. Does he? Also nope. *Finishing is not the goal.*

*Connection is the goal.* *Feeling his hands on me is the goal.* *Feeling him in me is the goal.* *Feeling him is the goal.* *Being felt is the goal.* *Letting myself be desired, wanted, chased is the goal.* *Feeling good is the goal.* *Teaching my kids that time together is more important than anything else is the goal.* *Getting those feel good drugs in my system is the goal.*

Now, granted, I understand that there are times and ways that are less than ideal for the sex. I, for one, really struggle at being interrupted for the sex. It is already difficult for me to close one tab in my brain and switch to another. Doing so unexpectedly and quickly is nigh impossible for me and makes it truly difficult to enjoy sex unless we have a long time (almost never happens, thanks pandemic) to get me in the mood. I dislike having sex on the first day of my period. I definitely cannot have sex if I get too tired, because for me, too tired equals nauseated. The neither of us enjoy sex if we have just eaten a large meal. There are a myriad of times in which we politely decline advances because the timing is poor for one reason or another. But to decline the majority of the time strikes me as… off.

I know it is a staple of the family comedy, a man who always wants sex and a wife who treats sex like some grand prize that must be earned with shallow yet large displays of affection but this – this was never meant to be our reality.

So ladies… what’s up? Are we no longer attracted to our partners? Is it because they are not fulfilling our needs emotionally? Physically? Are we resentful of them because we are doing more and not having meaningful conversations with them about this? I get it, communication is hard. Telling a guy that he is turning you off with his less-than-can-do attitude is not a fun conversation. But it’s got to be better than turning him down constantly and depriving yourself of the sex. It’s got to be better than another 20-40 years of being in a sex deprived relationship with simmering resentment. This is our future we are talking about. Our life.

I love you guys. We lift each other up. We turn terrible days into comedy gold. We join each other in solidarity that raising kids isn’t hard – it’s impossible and our sanity is often sacrificed. But this common ground of sex being something our partner has to earn or some extra burden we carry – no fram. I am not taking part.

I am here for you. I will hold your hand while we talk about hard things and have hard conversations with our partners, and ourselves. And I understand that we have all had less than stellar to downright traumatic experiences around sex. It is complicated. No two women are the same. And I’m not trying to get anyone to feel bad about how much sex they are having. I am only trying to address the underlying theme in so much feminine humor that sex is our burden instead of our joy. That sex is for men. That sex is some treat we dangle instead of a cake we get to eat together. Often.

Tell me. I want to know. What. Is. Up.

Not Dead Yet

In a perfect storm of bad timing, I got a bunch of new followers in the middle of a time when I had so much on my plate that writing got shoved right off of it. Long story short: we all got COVID! I had mild cold symptoms for a few days and then promptly lost my sense of smell and taste. The kids each had a fever for about a day, and then they were completely fine. Satya just got really tired, but pretty sure that was less COVID related and more to do with the fact that she was taking care of Eilan 24/7. Speaking of Eilan, he got hella sick and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. He’s home now, recovering, and – blessedly – off oxygen! Which is the shortest recap of a month long saga in the history of my writing, but it’s what I’ve got.

In other news, today is a day of mourning for me. Winter seems to have passed WELL BEFORE HER TIME and that bitch Spring is already moving in. I am not okay. I’m gonna have to mow next week and GAH JUST NO. NO. It is JANUARY. And I need to be thinking of when and how to begin planting my garden. And while this is usually something that brings me joy, despite the fact that I am planting a future graveyard of plants that have no chance in hell’s chance of surviving, let alone bearing edible fruit, today there is no joy. Just a simmering resentment at the lack of cold and the fact that I’m going to have to fight my other two partners to not turn on the AC later this afternoon.

Today I am not just on the struggle bus, I am driving it and this is the bus from Speed. There is no slowing down. There is no getting off. There is just endless pedal to the metal refusing to even consider an off ramp. All without Keanu Reeves to make it better. Buckle up, bitches.

To make it even worse, I cannot describe to you how awful eating is without taste. It’s doable, but terrible. It’s a great diet plan, if that’s your kind of thing. Because when you can neither smell nor taste your sugar, it becomes an unpleasant glob in your mouth that is completely unworth the effort of chewing. And so I find myself rather unwillingly on the ‘everything is tasteless’ train. Blegh. That being said, when the only difference between a kale salad and some pie is texture, it’s really easy to pick the salad. The salad at least doesn’t make me angry that I can’t taste it.

When my prozac and sugar cannot help us, what is a mom to do? Target, if I’m being honest. A few days ago I rage bought 14 organizational tubs of various sizes to try to once and for all organize the kids’ room. While rage buying off the app, I also saw some STEM activities hella discounted and rage bought those too. Which ended up being today’s saving grace. Invent, children. Craft in your super clean room. Let mom rage type into her computer and talk to her internet friends while you see how much glue it takes to put a googly eye on a sparkly pom pom.

And also Nintendo. I’m sorry if you are PC gamers, or XBox folks, or Playstation peeps, but the Switch is just unbeatable when it comes to gaming when parenting. It’s portable, for one. So I can sit on the couch and cuddle and do it while NOT taking up a TV screen. I can pause instantly and repeatedly and just walk away for two hours and come pick it back up with 0 consequence. Animal Crossing? Hell yes, dinosaur obsessed daughter, let’s take a walk through the museum and see which fossils we still need to find. Let’s chat with that super cute cat and run away from the bear with the grinch eyebrows. And currently losing myself in My Time In Portia, which, frankly, is one of my favorite games of all time and YES I DID buy the sequel on kickstarter slated for 2022. SO WHAT.

To be clear, I’m not getting any sort of kickback for my advertising. I wish. I’m just being honest about what’s working over here. And it’s not the essential oils I cannot smell, it’s not meditation, it’s not nature. It’s gaming and independent play for my youngins. And by independent play I also mean shouting “GO PLAY OUTSIDE” at the top of my lungs and then contemplating (but never following through) with locking them out. So I guess nature might be helping them. When it’s not raining and gross outside. I digress.

All of this to say, I’m not dead yet. I’m here. I post rather constantly in my stories on Insta and respond quickly to questions about polyamory and parenting and politics. I am determined to get back on a schedule for writing and pumping out content.

Question is: what do you want to read about?

For Me And Me Only

Three years. That’s how long it took for the residual guilt to fade of not reading the bible, or doing a devotion, or any other form of spiritual practice as I relaxed in bed before falling asleep.

Last night, as I stayed up a little later than usual terraforming my Animal Crossing island, I realized that I felt good about doing something that genuinely made me happy instead of mildly guilty that I wasn’t doing something to improve myself. For anyone who hasn’t been indoctrinated into believing that every waking moment of your life should be in service to others and productive – it was a huge moment for me.

Not only was I not doing anything that could be considered productive or service to others, I wasn’t just okay with it, it felt good.

Fram, this is akin to orgasming for the first time. Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s akin to orgasming and not feeling conflicted about it for the first time.

Goddess this must be confusing for anyone who was not raised to have crippling emotional handicaps to keep them obedient.

I felt peace going to sleep after doing something that brings me joy. I was the focus of my own attention and did not feel any backlash from it. I enjoyed my own life and my own hobbies and my own body and my own decisions. I reclaimed that shit. And it brought me to tears.

Honestly, the more aware I become of the work that needs to be done, the more in awe I am that I function *at all*. I have to work, with intention, over years, to rewire my brain to enjoy basic leisure activities. Is it any wonder I have anxiety? Or borderline eating disorders? Pleasure was literally shamed for as long as I can remember. Anything enjoyed had to be tightly controlled. My body, my mind, my soul was not my own. My agency was removed from literal birth. Because, according to American Christianity, that was when I was ‘tainted’ by original sin. From birth onward, my very nature was evil.

Pleasure without purpose literally put my very soul in danger of eternal torment. But to be very clear, and to never use the double speak with which I was raised, pleasure without “someone else’s purpose” put my soul in danger. Pleasure for my purpose was automatically sinful. Enjoying something for the sake of myself – unthinkable.

Women, specifically, were raised to be vessels. For children. For male pleasure and ease. For church labor. But it’s a delicate balance, of course, because if we had figured out that we were being used, it’s not as if we lack numbers or intelligence to mount a revolt. Which is, of course, where the mandates of Paul come into play, but also where we were taught to turn on ourselves and each other.

A thought occurred to me, after masturbating to Bridgerton, that in American Christian circles, life for women really hasn’t changed that much. One scandal and your name is ruined. And by ‘scandal’ I definitely mean spaghetti strap tank tops. I mean. Someone could see you.

You think, perhaps, that I am exaggerating. I think you never knew my friend “Samantha” who was raised in the same church as I was and lauded as the poster child for “courting”. She “dated” a boy by writing letters for two years because they met before her parents would allow her to date. When she turned 18 and was allowed to date, he proposed, on the day, and they shared their first kiss. It was so wholesome it made Little Women look a little dirty.

I, on the other hand, got severely reprimanded for wearing spaghetti tank top straps and was mostly an outcast because my mom was a divorcee and my older brother was a bit of a rebel. (Okay so he totally brought condoms to the Youth Group valentine’s day party but joke’s on them because a chick totally got pregnant later that year – holy hell was *that* a scandal that money had to buy innocence – I digress.) But he was 8 years older than me. 17 and 9 and I was the one getting chewed out about enticing the opposite gender?

Which brings us back to our point. At 9 (for the record, I hit puberty at 15 so don’t think I was a busty 9 year old, not that it should matter) I was getting told that my body had to be hidden so as not to “ensnare” men and make them sin. 9. Not weirdly, I also remember that as the time when I began to hate my body. When I noticed my eyebrows were too thick (jk I have a unibrow and bless tweezers) and when I noticed my legs had hair and that my nose was too big and my lips too thin. It’s when I began to think that all of my friends were prettier than me (also a definite thing because idk how it worked out that way but all my childhood friends became total hotties). It’s when my shame/hide/stuff cycle kicked into full gear and I took everything I liked about myself and stuffed it deep down inside. I started living a dual life at 9. A life filled with shame because I liked video games and wanted to speak out about things that I thought seemed messed up. Like my mom being treated differently (worse) because she was divorced. Like men doing things that women could do better but couldn’t because they had vaginas instead of penises. Like wanting more from my life than marrying and having babies. Like wanting to make potions and live in the woods and NOT live my life under the scrutiny of male eyes.

Not to live under the scrutiny of ANY eyes. Until this year I have almost never felt the ability to be myself while around anyone. (HLM you know you’re the exception to this rule you glorious goddess of a soul sister.) Do you know how hard it is to work on a failing relationship when you have a mental block about being yourself in fundamental ways while around anyone whose opinion you value? Especially your spouse?

And I want to pour gasoline onto this mental fire for anyone currently struggling with this. I used to not write in front of my spouse because I was afraid he would be upset because I wasn’t either a) paying attention directly to him or b) keeping the house in order.

He has been sitting next to me as I write this particular piece and has stopped what he is doing three separate times to tell me how fucking gorgeous, amazing, and wonderful I am. CLEARLY my fears were in vain, fram. I light up, like we do, when we do what we love. Whether that is create a new plaza in my regency/witch themed animal crossing island or write the new ex christian liberation manifesto. This is who I am. And I am ADORED for it.

Suck it, Pastor Dave.

Secret Sauce

Short one today folks. But important none the less. While I cannot say that I have ‘many’ friends, being an introvert with a rather complicated ranking system in my brain – don’t ask, I won’t tell anyway – I can tell you that I have known many people for a long time, friends or not. And they all have one thing in common: They are better looking in their 30’s than they were in their 20’s. Period. Across the board.

Women? Check. Men? Yup. Married? Yes. Single? Uh-huh. Kids? Even with the tiny life suckers. *Everyone* looks better in their 30’s. It is an almost universal truth. I look better in my 30’s. Both of my partners look better than ever. My friends are getting hotter.

*We are only just beginning to hit our stride, fram.* I need us to believe it. I need us to understand the good gifts we are to the world, to each other. I need us to revel in our secret sauce – Our Age. Our experience. Our humor. Our wisdom. Our courage. Our god damn tenacity. We are still here, still fighting, still growing, still changing, still healing despite everything from shitty advertisements, to sexist management, to violent presidential rhetoric, to global pandemics, to crashing economies, to excessive debt, to the demands of parenthood in 2020. We are queer. We are non conforming. We are loud. We march. We speak up. We demand more and better and good things for our neighbors and our children and our elders. We hold each other. We are allies. We are changing the world by changing ourselves.

And we look good as hell doing it.

*Note:* Except racists addicted to orange tans, cheap hair dye, and brown nosing. You all look absolutely ridiculous.

Functionally Alive

Okay, here’s the thing. To everyone on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list – bra-fucking-vo. You are the gifted and talented and frankly, I am in awe. Look at you, you wild sons of bitches.

To everyone else already in their 30’s feeling like they blew it and are now stuck in whatever hellscape being a millenial in the US *is* – I’ve got good news. You are not in your 30’s. I mean sure, your body has been chugging along for 30+ years now. But can you really call life before say – 15 – living? You have almost no agency, no critical thinking skills, and due to us living before the internet – very limited access to information outside of your adults. I realize libraries existed but if you have ever visited a rural library in the late 90’s – then you know about how white bias can affect libraries. That and funding. Anyway. Was what we did before that really forging our path through life? No. Not here, anyway. I had been to a few different states. I had been force fed a whole lot of toxic Christianity. I regurgitated beliefs like facts on a test, both of which I did exceedingly well. I had kind of exerted a little influence over my sense of style but much of that was due to being unable to get many new clothes, but the other part was again, living in rural Iowa where I was not bombarded with advertisements all day.

What I’m saying is this: I have been doing this living thing with the choices and the agency and the relationships and the responsibilities for, at most, around 17 years. And that is giving myself a solid 14 years of adolescent cushion because it has been about 3 years now that I have been actively addressing my mental and emotional health, finding information at the source for myself, unlearning toxic spirituality, and pursuing the life I want instead of the one that was wanted for me.

So I’m not 32 and late to the game – I’m 17 and right on time. Or, even better, I’m 3 and precocious as hell. Either way.

It’s not that I’m 32 and will probably die between 80 and 90 and thusly have 2/3 of my life in front of me. It’s that my life, my ability to make my own choices, the ability to heal myself from what happened as I was forming, etc just started. I’m just getting the hang of this. Literally everything is in front of me and I’m barely past the tutorial.

Let’s make our lives what we want them to be. Starting now. Let’s build a foundation on which to stack the next 50+ years and not assume the shitty one that was given to us is our only option. Or our best option. Or the most secure. I refuse to say that because I have not had wild success at 32 that I am not going to get it.

I know we cannot just will our circumstances away. I know that we are millenials mostly and that we are trying to claw our way out of wells we never wanted to be in while the older generation remembers, loudly, how wells were only 2ft deep in their time and they could just step right out and how lazy we must be to not do the same. And then continue to be extremely bad at math and write and pass legislature that keeps us buried. I know. I also know how my only two options are to marvel at the injustice of it all or to keep clawing.

But I can always change me. I can always get better at something that brings me joy. I can always continue to heal. I can always reach out to others and tell them they are not alone. I can always remind myself that we are more than what we are dealt – or even the first couple of hands if we’re being honest.

I want to be very clear as I wrap this up that this post was never intended to be a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ and ‘hustle harder’ etc. Fuck that shit. Medicare for all. Housing is a right. Tax the rich. Defund the police. Free college. We all deserve to rest. Living wages. Freedom from high interest debt. What I am trying to say is never listen to the voices that tell you it’s too late to change yourself. That you can’t learn that new skill. That it’s too late to be the person you want to be. That you can’t try again. That you’re too old to get in shape. Too old to learn to code. Too old to try that tiktok dance. Too old to tell off your racist relative. Too old to change your political party. Too old to heal. Too old to change your mind. Too old to change your religion. Too old to say sorry. Too old to say “I was wrong”.

We are only just beginning. Every moment, every choice left is always in front of us and it is NEVER too late.

Freedom

“We are FREE in Christ Jesus!” Is a sentence I have heard more times than I have had sex and I’m almost 8 years into my marriage soooooo. A lot. I’ve heard it a lot. And frankly, even if you weren’t raised evangelical – I bet you have too.

Freedom is thrown around by the church like a tie die hacky sack at a shoegaze concert in Colorado. Or, like how my son used to shout “Frog!” loudly at the top of his lungs while not being able to pronounce an r and his g’s definitely sounded like k’s every single time he saw another person for almost 4 months. That’s right. It was my favorite. However, when the church uses it, it is neither entertaining nor does it brighten my spirits. Almost entirely because they are saying it wrong.

Again, this is not a thing I have against Jesus. I like Jesus. It’s the church who claims him that I have a problem with. Because things freedom does not look like:

Heavily policing what women wear in order to enforce a strict code of modesty and begin the indoctrination that their bodies are dirty, dangerous, made exclusively for the enjoyment of men and of bearing children for those men, and that male happiness and indeed thoughts and actions are dependent on our ability to cover up skin.

Being taught that any hobbies that would not have a place in a new Little Women reboot are useless, and indeed sinful because they waste time and women’s time is never to be wasted – by her – on something she enjoys that does not have an element of productivity for others in it.

Being taught that women are obedient first, and everything else that is good and quiet second. The only way she will be blessed is to be submissive to a man, indeed many men, including her pastor, father, future husband, and sometimes brothers and sons depending on denomination.

Being taught to ignore your own experiences and suppress your own intuitive connection with the divine. Granted, this is more like a part b to the point above, but distinct enough it needs its own paragraph. If you have so much as a conversation with the divine that one of the men over you would find questionable, you are to immediately dismiss that conversation and assume you are being tricked by the devil. IF what you believe/realized/received/connected to was REALLY the good one, then He will reveal Himself to the man in authority over you and thusly give you blessing. Otherwise, trust any man in authority over you more than yourself. Always. Else you will most likely burn in hell.

Rejecting any personal aesthetic that involves attention or an affinity for any color not prominent in the rainbow or an Easter palate. Self care is a small list that begins and ends with prayer and might have ‘eat a salad’ or ‘drink some water’ or ‘exercise’ in between. Any sort of indulgence is a waste and selfish.

Peace is more valuable than truth. Especially when that truth is personal and the peace involves anyone else. There is only one truth that should be proclaimed whenever possible, “Jesus is Lord” and I swear there is a secret but well known rule that you get brownie points if it’s written in cursive on a T shirt bought from a grocery store. But seriously, racist grandpa? Shush yourself, he is Jesus’ problem. Petty aunt who passive aggressively compares the grandchildren in a ranking system? Smile and nod. Gropy uncle who aggressively hugs every kid and strips them of their personal autonomy? Children don’t have any say over themselves since they were born sinful, manipulative little turd nuggets so you should blatantly encourage them to not listen to that voice that tells them to stay away from dangerous people and hug their uncle.

Importantly all of these truths can be boiled down into one: do not be yourself. Be a quiet, giving blob of selflessness that constantly allows yourself to silenced while forcing yourself into a cookie cutter mold of a fictional woman from the 1800’s with an endlessly sunny disposition and a penchant for getting walked on.

*side note* Men do not have it easy either. They are discouraged from having emotions, showing emotions, wearing color, being unique in any way, showing weakness, displaying anything other than americanized masculinity, or having close friends that do not attend the same church, or are on a team together, or are women they do not intend to marry, or are not appearing masculine enough. Also the happiness, financial stability, and eternal souls of their nuclear family rests solely on their shoulders. Like they get to enjoy sex but have to keep themselves locked away too.

And locking ourselves away is the opposite of freedom. It is why we are depressed, lonely, and secretive. We have to be secretive because otherwise we die and we don’t actually want to. We want to live. We want to be free. We want to be everything we are. We want to be everything we are made to be. Because deep down we know we were made this way. We’re just told it’s wrong. That we’re wrong. And we’re not.

We’re not. We’re not. We were not born sinful turd nuggets. We were born impressionable, adorable whole people with likes and dislikes and intuition and curiosity chock full of wonder and questions. We internalized so much because we wanted so badly to be good and loved by the man in the sky who said he loved us so long as we were nothing like he made us to be. Or for parental approval. Maybe both. Kids are complicated.

The point is: it’s hard to realize all of this and live out the unlearning because our very vocabulary was fucked with. We were taught freedom and loyalty and unconditional love (agape, you’re welcome) and wholeness and clean and safe and all of those things were somehow twisted into meaning other things.

I am still working on it. Daily. To untangle all this garbage in my mind. Sometimes, doing so feels absolutely absurd. Because it’s often just pointless rebellion, like laying on the floor of my living room that desperately needs to be cleaned and vacuumed and instead shouting “I am more important than this!” at the top of my lungs while spread eagle in over-sized sweatpants. (Truly, I am a *joy* to live with.) But doing that kind of absurd rebellion always reminds me how absurd it is that what I am doing is rebellion. And that helps me breathe a little easier. And get my shoulders down from my ear lobes. And see that the divine truly does not care if I wear black on national holidays.

And that goddess is not in a building. But goddess also isn’t in the people in that building either. That goddess is everywhere and absent all at once and no one can tell us about ourselves (unless they are well trained therapists, in which case my advice is to listen) and life is half of what we make of it and then literally half advertizing (thanks capitalism) and half all of the shit that happens to us and the people that happen to us and how we definitely happen to them. And it’s messy. It is all so fucking messy and THAT is so much more pure than the people shaped cages we are told to be.

Be free. Really free. And really messy.

Grey Hell

To every parent trapped in the grey hell of knowing their parents are toxic af yet wanting their children to have a relationship with their grandparents and for that to miraculously not turn out badly.

It’s exhausting. It’s mystifying. It’s incredibly painful. It is a true, unsustainable limbo. It’s the fine line between being a hard nosed hypocrite and a spineless snowflake. Or maybe. Maybe it’s not. Maybe I’m still dibbling in the koolaid. I mean. How is demanding that your extremely young children be surrounded by people who aren’t going to shatter their tiny hearts with narcissism and manipulation being a hyprocrite?

Do I know my children are going to encounter narcissists and manipulators? Yep. Add in there all the other types of people I don’t want them to get hurt by but know that they will. There’s a difference though, in knowing it’s going to happen at some point and dropping them off there for an afternoon.

How does blood justify the inability to communicate the most basic things? How does blood justify the refusal to acknowledge our family as a whole? It… doesn’t. If anything, their blood is a witness against their ability to understand what family is supposed to be.

And I for one, will no longer be silent. I will be sassy. I will be cheeky. I will say things to purposefully send them into a tizzy because when their buttons involve the basic dignity of oppressed communities – I say we just go for it at that point. Because, like american republicans, I just cannot take them seriously anymore. To pretend as if this is any sort of normal is just too much. I’m done. I’m done with truth not being a thing, making up facts and restating them loudly to prove some sort of point, of talking down to people, of treating others like social pariah’s for NOT listening to baseless facebook conspiracy theories, and casually deciding that the health of every neighbor, every friend, every disliked acquiantence is worth LESS than my discomfort level at covering my face in public. And I am 100% done with them treating any form of consequence for their gross, destructive, oppressive, insane behavior as the basest of insults to their very existence.

Them: “Can you believe all of this? A stolen election.”

Us: “There is actually no evidence -“

Them: “Well there is if you’re not brainwashed by the mainstream media.”

Us: “Like what?”

Them: “Did you watch that Tucker Calson clip circulating on facebook?”

Us: “No.”

Them: “Well if you’re not even interested in finding out the truth for yourself then why would I waste my time trying to show you the truth you’ll deny anyway? You know you weren’t always like this. You used to be such a godly girl. I bet its all the gays you hang out with.”

Us: “The gays?”

Them: “Yes. Your morally devoid friends.”

Us: “That I met volunteering?”

Them: “At a women’s clinic where they have ABORTIONS. YES.”

Us: “They also treat all sorts of mental health and fertility -“

Them: “I will not listen to your justifications of baby murder. Honestly. They should just cage those women up like the filthy immigrants bringing the china virus defying our LAWS-“

Us: “Actually, seeking assylum is not illegal -“

Them: “How would you know what’s legal and not? You won’t even say the pledge of allegiance!”

Us: “It is possible for me to know legal from not without pledging my allegiance to a system I was born in that I don’t necessarily agree with-“

Them: “You entitled snowflake! You could have been born in China where they kill Christians or a socialist country where your poverty is guaranteed or -“

Us: “Hear me out, though, democratic socialism is a thing -“

Them: “Of course you’re a communist! You always wore black on Easter and I always said it was bad luck and now you’re a communist. Next thing you’ll be a democrat.”

Us: *Silence*

Them: *whisper* “You didn’t.”

Us: “At this point what on earth do you think I would vote for that abuser -“

Them: “Biden is only being used by the Clintons! He’s not right in the head! He can’t even finish a sentence!”

Us: “Have you… no, you know what – I really just will not sit here and listen to extremely ignorant and certifiably false statements that cause harm to people I love anymore.”

Them: “How DARE you be ungrateful for all that we have done for you!?”

*The above conversation is a amalgamation of many conversations I have had with many family members over the past 4 years in which I realized that people I once looked up to have gone COMPLETELY off the rails and I don’t want them anywhere near my life or my family.

And granted, I am still close with family members I don’t see eye to eye with. This is not about striking a match with every relative you have a disagreement with. This is about removing yourself from endless cycles of insanity.

And protecting your kids from it too.

I have no doubt that one day my kids are going to be quite livid with me about choices I made about their childhood. I have definitely yelled (and apologized) to my mom about it and forgave her and acknowledged she was doing the best she could. I hope my kids give me the same grace, someday. Because we all fuck up. I apologize to my kids at least every week. I recieve apologies from them at least once a week. We, none of us, are perfect. But we keep trying.

We don’t belittle them for who they are.

We don’t take every mistake as a personal insult.

We don’t punish them for being different than us.

We don’t try to force them into believing anything under threat of eternal torture.

We do not start crying and yelling when they ask us for an apology or point out a wrong we did.

We do not place our convenience above their health.

In conclusion: I have tried, and tried, and tried to keep the peace. If the peace is dependent on me being ignored, belittled, and attacked – Fuck the peace. That is not a peace worth keeping. And these are not people allowed on my island, in my bliss, in my safe spaces, or – absolutely necessarily – in positions of authority or privilege with my kids.