#myfearlessyear2014

How to Transform Discomfort to Strength

“Even though February was the shortest month of the year, sometimes it seemed like the longest.” ― J.D. Robb

Well. It's February.

Each February, I find myself giving myself a pep talk about how Februaries aren't all that bad, really.

C'mon, I tell myself. It's not that bad. A little cold, sure, which has gotten quite old by this point. But it's a short month, and soon March will be here, and that will mean that it's practically spring.

And yet it kind of does feel that bad. Overly long, inspire of its dearth of days, dreary, and not all too warm (here in Montana, anyway). I'm ready for the sun warming my bared shoulders, for sandals and tank tops without any jackets, for naked feet pressing into the earth.

But

it's not that time of year for us [yet].

So I'm trying really hard to practice being in the here and now, no matter how much I may dislike it or long for spring or feel uncomfortable. (Doesn't putting it like that make such an endeavor seem so much easier than it actually is? In reality, this kind of works makes me feel like a rookie in the big leagues.)

But I've been having lots of opportunities for pressing into the uncomfortable. One of the biggest of which is my reason for being mostly absent online in the past couple of months -- I've been working on becoming a certified OULA (sassy dance fitness for body, mind, and soul) teacher. And now I am one! I just learned this weekend that I passed my audition and that I'm in. What a relief and a joy!

And what a journey. A good one, but not one without discomfort. First there was attending the training weekend (on no sleep, might I add, thanks to a puking toddler), and then teaching my first song there. Then I taught my first song in a real class, and then a few songs, and then a whole class all by myself. And even now that I'm certified, there are new challenges ahead -- getting insured, applying to be a sub at gyms, and bringing in students so I don't find myself in the red with space rentals, to name a few.

I take in a lot (a lot) of articles/podcasts/videos/blog posts on being an online entrepreneur, and read a lot of inspiring success stories. But something that I feel too many of these stories gloss over is the discomfort involved -- the discomfort of trying, of failing, and even of succeeding.

Every positive opportunity comes with its shadow side of discomfort, of nervousness, maybe even of fear and anxiety. This is true for me, and I'm guessing I'm not the only one. So if you've been dismayed or surprised by the difficulties that come with even the good things in your life, you're not alone.

Press into the discomfort, don't walk away from the good in order to avoid the discomfort. By sticking with it, by facing at what's hard while celebrating what's great, you will eventually transmute that uncomfortable aspect into strength.

What kind of strength? It depends on what the opportunity in question is. For me, in pressing forward through my OULA training instead of fleeing when it got hard or [really damn] scary, I gained courage to perform in front of an audience. I discovered that it's not too late for me to be a dancer. And -- perhaps best of all -- I've regained a great deal of vocal power by pressing into the challenge of singing, shouting, and generally making a ruckus while teaching a class.

So if you're walking through a door into a spacious new opportunity only to be knocked sideways by an unexpected challenge, discomfort, or difficulty, stop and take a breath, then look that sucker in the eye. What strength or gain is standing beyond it, just for you? Is it worth it to press through that mucky part to stand in the sun? If so, keep going. Endure. Screw up your courage. Be gentle with yourself. And most importantly, do that hard-but-leading-to-awesomeness thing. I don't think you'll regret it.

p.s. If you need a little support, perhaps my mini e-course, Your Fearless Year 2016, might be of some help? Get it for just $10 USD with discount code BEFEARLESS16.

I Believe in the Night {On Decembers}


There's something about December.

I've long resisted it.  The depth of night . . . the buzzing of the holidays . . . the overabundance of delicious and bad-for-you things in all the places. 

I used to say that this was my least favorite time of the year.  And that was before my baby was stillborn days before Thanksgiving.

But this year feels different.

Maybe it's that I'm resting with the hibernating earth, staying away from the manic hustle and bustle of holiday to-do lists and presents and unnecessary obligations.  Maybe it's that I'm doing the holidays my way, perhaps for the first time, and choosing only what is nourishing and enlightening for my spirit.  I feel like I'm wrapped up in a cloak of star-marked night, breathing in time with the bears sleeping winter away in their mountain dens.

Maybe it's that I'm pregnant -- a time that always makes me feel more visceral, more embodied, more sexy and sacred.  Maybe it's my body waxing around the seed of life in the darkness within that makes me appreciate this time of thick, cold night.

Or maybe it's that it's my fearless year (just for a little while longer now), and I'm reaping the benefits of challenging myself to find treasures in winter's darkness. That I'm learning to not run from the dark, but slowly turn my face toward it and invite it in for tea.

This year is different.


I hope next year is different in the same kind of way, too, more and more different-in-a-needed-way, as I learn to trust this soul of mine, and the feeling coursing through my marrow. 

I hope I never forget to honor these long, dark nights. 

I believe in the night, when dreams run free across the stilled landscape.  When the moon wanes and waxes and wanes above, her eternal dance that tells us so much about ourselves.  When the stars play behind the wandering clouds, and all the earth is a question.  When I teach myself again and again, and sometimes learn, to surrender to myself, to this body, to rest.  When slumber makes us children again for a time, trusting in what is, if only for this night.

I nestle into December's darkness and try to heed the quiet throb of my own heart's pace.

"You, darkness, of whom I am born–
I love you more that the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illuminates
and excludes all the rest.
But the dark embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me,
people, nations–just as they are.
It let’s me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.
I believe in the night."
- Rainer Maria Rilke, from Rilke's Book of Hours*

Your turn: how is your December different this year?  Is it a welcome kind of different, or something less desirable?  How would you like it to be different next year?  Let your thoughts wander over how you can make December 2015 a good-different for yourself.


*affiliate link

My Fearless Year: Farewell, For Now


Well, my dear Fearless year, we've had quite the time, haven't we?  We crashed into 2014 together, intent on growth and success and soul-knowing.  And we did it.  We grew.  We saw some successes (and some failures).  And today, I know my soul far better than I did at this time last year.

It's been quite the year.

I wrote a book.  And published it.  And then wrote most of another book.  And a book of poetry (coming soon, I hope). 
I did a lot of things to my hair, intent on discovering what is most me-ish.
I pierced my nose, after much dreaming, and made plans for future tattoos.
I made art.
I made love.  I enjoyed my first orgasm.  And then a bunch more after that.
I fought for my marriage.
I fought for my soul, reclaiming it for myself from all those darn shoulds.
I fought depression
I released.
I said hello, hugged beloved kindreds.
I said goodbye.  And it hurt.  A lot.  Especially when my farewell went unnoticed. 
I traveled (twice!!).
I went down a scary water slide . . . and liked it.
I said no.  And yes.
I explored.  I found a cave.  I found my self.
I thrashed.
I burned
I howled at the moon.
I said hard things.  I said nothing.
I made mistakes.  A lot of them.
I cursed more.  I listened harder.  I tried to love better.
I wore real lipstick for the first time, and loved it.
I charged forward, and stepped back. 
I rested.
I healed.
I danced wild. 
I (with some help) gave a new person life within me.
I whispered "I love you" an extravagant amount of times into my beloveds ears.
I was afraid.  I did it anyway.  And sometimes I didn't.

Quite the year.  I've never lived a year so full, I think.  Not ever. 

What I've loved about my Fearless year is how I went after it, sometimes aggressively, went after the life I longed for, the self that I wanted to be, the way that I wanted to walk in the world.  I went for it.  And what I found difficult about my Fearless year in hindsight, is, um, that selfsame aggression.  Sometimes I went too hard (and sometimes not hard enough).  I was not always the most nuanced in my awakening.  I stepped on toes, quite a few of them.  For that I am sorry.

But

I also pulled my own toes out from a number of different heels, of things that snagged my soul and kept my knotted up and small.  So, for all my mistakes and stumblings, it was worth it.  I look back at my Fearless year and am satisfied.  Because I went for it.  And that is, if not everything, then a lot.

Thank you, my Fearless year.  You taught me a lot about how I want to be, and how I don't want to be, and who I'd like to walk with, and where.  You taught me that fearlessness is not a state of walking without fear, but a state of being fearful but daring to walk anyway.  You taught me about the nature of courage, and how sometimes it is loud and sometimes it is soft, and sometimes it can look a lot like sleeping, which was unexpected.

I felt so young this year, my Fearless year, so full of life.  And then sometimes I felt excruciatingly old.  That was harder, but you had lessons for me there, too.  You taught me more in the art of turning the everyday into magic that is no less sparkling for its mundanity.

You taught me to be me, and you taught me well, I think.  And now it is time to say goodbye, my Fearless year, to release and renew and rediscover.  I'm sure I will meet you again one day, and perhaps even one day soon.  But for now, we part.

Thank you and thank you and thank you, my Fearless year.  I will never be the same, and I will never stop being grateful for that.










 





We are Made For Changing

one of my poetry holiday ornaments -- find them all here, with new ones like this going up soon

I really don't know what brought it on.  Maybe it was the early morning dark, or the fact that I was still bleary from recent sleep.

But all of a sudden, it dawned in the dawning hour -- the next shifting.

Don't you know, we all shift in small ways and large throughout the day, month, year, and all years together?  Or we should (and not that icky, "do more, do better, rush rush rush" kind of should -- I mean the slow and nourishing and natural kind).

We are made for changing, not for staying the same.  Look out the door, the window.  See how the earth makes way for roots and greenery, how the trees blossom then turn skeletal, how the sun and stars and moon turn and turn, always turning.  Watch the snake shed her skin, the woman shed her bloody monthly lining, the child shed his baby teeth.

We are, all of us, made for changing, growing, shifting.

This morning, my next one came.  Or arrived.  Or began.

I had begun to think that it wouldn't.  That I was trapped in this sameness, and while it's not a bad place to be, you may have heard that we're made for changing.

Then, there it was, blooming wide in my heart and mind: I don't want to live that way any longer.  I can't. I have decided that I won't.

And that was it.  An end, a beginning, and the start of a new middle-ish place.  I can't say where this will bring me, only that I am glad.  Because I am made for changing.

I wrote it down so I wouldn't forget it:


A declaration?  An anthem?  Maybe.  A fitting way for starting to bring my fearless year to a close?  Absolutely.

I've been wanting this for a while.  But I wasn't brave enough, wasn't quite ready.  I was too afraid of what -- who -- I might lose.  Until I saw that I lose those things, those people, anyway, because I guess people can sense when you're not being all of you, or that maybe you really weren't meant for each other anyway, not in this here and now, at least.

This time, I'm ready, I think (I hope).  I feel like I can't afford not to be.  We are made for changing, you know.

I can't, I won't keep asking permission for the things no other person has the power to permit or deny.  I refuse to keep asking if I'm allowed to be who I am, because I am.  You are.  It's allowed.  It's necessary. 

Just like that, the inner walls of stasis and stagnation begin to crumble.

Because we are made for changing and changing and changing, becoming ever more of who we truly are at the core.


Your turn: what are you asking permission for that perhaps you don't need to be?  What's one think you'd like to try on in order to become more fully and authentically you?

When Forwards Feels Backwards {On Depression, Pregnancy, & Other Things}


This summer was hard.  Hard.

It shouldn't have been.  Everything lined up.  My son was napping regularly and sleeping well, not to mention continuing to exponentially grow in cuteness daily.  I had time for creating -- lots of time, in fact.  I traveled -- alone! -- to a writing retreat and got to meet some of my dearest kindreds.  The weather wasn't too oppressively hot, much to my relief.  I was in good physical shape, doing dance workouts that fed my soul as well as tended my body.

It should have been a glorious summer.

But it wasn't.  It was hard.  Damn hard.

* * *

In June, I stopped taking my depression medication (under medical supervision).  At first, everything was okay.  Great, even.  But then my eyes started leaking all. the. time.  And then I got tired.  Really tired.  And soon after that, the iconic what's-the-point's set in.

And the summer that should have, could have been wonderful felt like a forced march with no known destination. 

Most of all, creating was hard.  Sitting down to write or paint felt like an exercise in self-hatred.  It got to the point where I had to either step away or risk losing my love for these outlets entirely -- not to mention launching myself deeper into depression, and possibly back into eating disorder land.  This has happened before, and it's not an ordeal I care to repeat.

So I did.  I pulled back.  I spent more time at home, focused on snuggling my sweet son, and waited for fall.  Because surely the cool spice-scented air of fall would bring the refreshment and soul-growing it always seems to.



But it didn't.  And then I became pregnant.  It was (is) a planned and wanted pregnancy, but oh those first trimester hormones had me reeling more than I already was.

Now, though . . . now, I slowly feel myself coming back to my self.  There's something about pregnancy that, as the second trimester draws near, protects me from depression.  It's happened in my two previous pregnancies and, thankfully, seems to be happening again.  I'm finding some words, finding some energy, some much longed for want to.  And that is very good.

* * *

But.

I look at this year that I called my fearless year, of all things, and only about one third of it so far feels fearless.  The first part of the year, I pushed every envelope I could get my hands on, challenged myself and my thinking, tried on new practices and ditched old ones, and set so many things alight in the renewing fires of needed destruction.

This summer, though?  I existed. And maybe, when depression comes back on the scene, maybe that's enough.  Maybe that's fearless.

But what it feels like is backwards movement.  Like I lost all the ground I'd taken.  Even writing these words, a thing that used to feel fluid and effortless, feels odd, awkward.


For the last year or so, I felt like I was in the midst of a battalion of lioness women charging up a mountain toward its pinnacle of freedom and authenticity and love and enough.  And now, it seems like all of those women are [awesomely!] continuing onward and upward, while I'm trying to extricate myself from a mud hole somewhere around halfway -- or worse, slipping back down in slide of scree.

And it's scary.  I wonder if I'll ever reach that peak.

* * *

But then I wonder -- maybe it's not about reaching the peak.  Maybe this isn't the peak that I'm supposed to be sweating and loving myself toward.

Maybe I'm supposed to be climbing another mountain entirely.

* * *


It's a funny thing about pregnancy -- that while it is a very real and literal growing, there's also an internal stripping away.  

It was most stark and obvious in my first pregnancy, which ended in an excruciating and incredible life-altering stillbirth, but happened with my second, too.  I came home with a beautiful baby boy tucked against my breast -- and a sense of my soul tearing away from itself and morphing into something new.

I already feel it happening this time around, and this time instead of being scared of it or flailing against it, I am trying to allow.  

Because maybe at the end of this pregnancy, I'll know if indie-publishing-mama truly is the present incarnation of my soul goals, or if I should be looking at some other work.  Maybe I'll have a clearer picture of who I am, and how I want to be that glorious woman.

Maybe I'll find the mountain I'm meant to climb.

* * *

That doesn't mean that depression will never rear it's ugly head again, of course.  But I've learned (the harder way) that I need medication to help me fight this very real disease, and that that's okay.  That my life, my mothering, my creativity, my courage, my everything are better when I'm getting the help I need.  

There is no shame in this.  I already knew that, but I was stubborn, didn't want to rely on what might be a crutch.  

But when you have a broken leg, you need a crutch.  And sometimes, when you have depression, you need medicine.


And while part of me hopes that when I start taking my medication again sometime after this pregnancy ends I will find myself back among the lionesses, growling and purring and climbing together, I have a suspicion that I very well might not.  That this part of my journey is perhaps more intimate, more solitary.

* * *

There's no good way to end this post, of course.  I'm still here, twelve weeks pregnant, incubating both this child's new life and my own, wondering.  I am wiggling my toes in the mud and keeping my eyes open for the next signpost to show itself to me on this odd and winding path.




It's a little early to be thinking holiday shopping, but holiday shipping is not to be toyed with, so make sure you order your Epiphany Art Studio holiday gifts by the end of November to guarantee delivery by Christmas!  Check out these yummy one-of-a-kind handmade poetry ornaments.  And don't forget my fabulous art originals, fine art prints, and the sale section! I'm also still offering signed copies of my sassy love story for people who don't like love stories, The Light Between Us.

Love, Unqualified -- Part 2


(find part 1 here.)

We love.
We love.
We love, without condition, without a "but you," without excuse. 

We respect.  We preserve dignity.  We look for the value of each other.  We can do these things, wisely.

But how?

For the longest time, I thought that loving someone, especially someone who is "other" than me for whatever reason (gender, race, income, culture, location, etc.) meant doing something really big.  Like joining the Peace Corps, or making buckets of money so I could donate more, or making like Mother Theresa and moving to Calcutta. 

But it doesn't have to look like that.  It could look like that and be valuable, of course, but smaller lovings are equally important and just as valuable.

Loving, the kind that lasts, starts in the mind.  Or maybe the heart.  Or maybe both.  Regardless, it begins within.  That's the spark.

So what it looks like for me is challenging myself and the stereotypes and prejudices I find entrenched within me.  Do I really believe that a person is less worthy of my respect and valuing of her because she is a lesbian, for example?  If so, why?  And I don't know if this is always the case for everyone, but for me, each time I challenge my prejudices, they crumble. 

I realize that I received a certain amount of cultural, social, and religious grooming that helped gestate some of those broken ways of thinking, and I begin to dismantle them.  

I discover, for example, that I can find no valid reason to believe that God loves homosexuals less, or that women are less capable as leaders than men, or that poor people are always responsible for and able to escape from their own poverty.

That is a good beginning.  The self investigation, the seeing, the rooting out.

And then I go further.  I question deeper.   

For example: What is life really like for the Black men and women of Ferguson?  Is the mainstream news accurately reporting events there?  What are their goals in not reporting the full story?  And what do, say, crime and prison statistics reveal about the reality that the Black American community lives in versus the White American community, or the Native American community, etc? 

I question -- myself and the status quo.  And I try to learn empathy.  I learn to forgive myself and others for not getting it right, and I attempt reparations where appropriate.  And I try to teach my son to do the same.  That, I believe, is both the spark for and the answer to loving, period.

Is this over-simplified?  Pie-in-the-sky thinking?  I don't know.  Maybe. 

But I do think that love, period, starts with really seeing each other, and really seeing ourselves.


What do you think?  How can we better love each other without qualification?

Love, Unqualified


The lines are drawn, "in" versus "out" made excruciatingly clear, and we dare to call this love.

We have forgotten how to love one another without lines, without boundaries, without exception.

Instead, we have made enemies of the "other" -- which is really just another way of saying that we have made enemies of each other.

We all can recognize the pick-up lines, the ones that say that none is unlovable, none is without value -- and then we turn around and refuse to love, refuse to value:

You are respected -- unless you are poor.
You are trustworthy -- unless you are Black.
You are wanted -- unless you are gay.
You are valued -- unless you are female.
You are our brothers and sisters -- unless you are not Christian.
You are a beloved part of our global community -- unless you are not Western.

"We love because [God] first loved us" -- unless we don't like you or we fear you or we feel uncomfortable to any degree for any reason when we are forced to breathe the same air as you.

This is the kind of "love" I see pouring out across the lands, the kind that [religious] leaders not only either ignore or allow but often promote. In versus out. Us versus them. We call it spiritual, Biblical, righteousness, but it is justified hate: hate that is justified by the majority in protection of the majority.

We have the audacity to say that God meant it to be this way. This, this qualification above all else, this turning of injustice into divine decree, is a horror to me. But then I remember that there are scriptures like this one and this one, and I wonder that maybe it's not so much of a stretch after all to learn to think that God wanted it this way, and I shudder.

For so long, I thought that the world was made more beautiful by a diversity of faith, but now . . . now the blind dualism of some of these faiths makes me ill. The gross acts perpetuated and excused and ignored by some faiths are so heinous that I'd rather just see organized religion removed from the earth.

We love because God first loved us?

How about: we love, period.

We love.
We love.
We love.

This is your challenge. This is my challenge. This is our challenge.
The world depends on it.

We love.

Coming next: Part 2 -- a few thoughts on the how of "we love."

Sex and Marriage: Thoughts on Waiting

https://www.flickr.com/photos/stolensnapshot/3827502237/
 image by Sam Davis via Creative Commons
I am angry.

This is a portrait of the woman, angry.

Because I was made certain promises, promises that did not come through.

Because every day I hear of more and more people who were handed those same broken promises.

Or -- dare I say it -- the same lies.

And I am angry.

I wonder if you will be angry, too.

* * *

I trusted.

This is a portrait of the girl, trusting those words spoken by others as certainty.  

Perhaps you've heard them, too.

Save yourself for marriage.  
True love waits. 
Resist the devil and he [and his sexual temptations] will flee from you.  
Sex is dirty.  
Your body is dirty.
You are dirty if you think/want/wonder about sex.
Save yourself for marriage, and you will never regret it for a moment.

I listened.  I waited.  I saved myself.

I will regret it for a lifetime.

* * *

I feel betrayed.

This is a portrait of the woman, betrayed.

The betrayal, the regret, was born on my wedding night.  The night that finally -- f i n a l l y -- after twenty six years of life, it was acceptable for me to be a sexual being.  Not too sexual, of course, but sex was finally permissible.

My husband and I came as virgins to the marriage bed.  And -- 

we walked away virgins.

We did not have sex until four months after our wedding.
I did not enjoy sex for years after our wedding.
And we didn't learn why we couldn't have sex until many weeks after our wedding.

This wounds us, wounds my husband and I to this day.

* * *

I was broken.

This is a portrait of the woman, broken in body.

Or really, not broken.  Not breakable.  That was the problem, you see.

I trusted the church, trusted the people who said to wait, wait for sex.  I told them I was worried, because I couldn't even wear a tampon.  It wouldn't go in.  It felt excruciating.  They told me this was normal, that all would be made right on my wedding night.

It takes a penis, I figured.

But they were wrong.  I was wrong.

Because what it really took was a surgery.  Did you know that a woman's hymen can sometimes be not-mesh, not-breakable, can be skin?  Skin with holes in it so she can menstruate regularly, unsuspecting?

I didn't.  And mine was. 

My gynecologist was shocked that I got to my wedding night without knowing this about myself, my body.  She said this condition is not uncommon, but quite rare to remain undiscovered in the way mine was.

One surgery, a complicated healing, and a full season of the year, we consummated our marriage.  And when we did, it hurt like hell -- for years.

But what hurt even more is that I had done what the elders of the church told me to do.  John and Stasi, Shaunti, the few women in my life who were talking about sex and such, the leaders of the local and global church -- you promised me that the wait was worth it.

And it wasn't.

* * *

I am hurt.

This is a portrait of the woman, hurt by some of the very things she was taught would save her.

It's not just about my irregular hymen.  That makes for a dramatic story, of course, and it was anguishing to live.

But even if my husband and I had fully, awkwardly consummated our marriage on our wedding night, I would still be angry.

Because my sexuality is mine.  It is a part of me.  It is mine to know, to enjoy, to create life with.  

And the church made it not-mine.

I believed that if I waited to have sex, I would be handing my husband a priceless gift.

But the reality is that I gave my sexuality to the church -- or to God, if that sits better with you.  And therefore it was not mine to give to anyone else.  I didn't have a clue about how my body worked, about anything but the very basic mechanics of sex.  

And I think that for a woman to reach her marriage bed without a working knowledge of her sexuality -- without knowing what makes her tick, sigh, moan, orgasm -- she has nothing to give to her husband but a passive piece of flesh.

An unknowledgeable, fearful woman lying flinching on a mattress is not much of a gift at all.

* * *

I am embodied.

This is a portrait of the woman, embodied.

Because now, I know my self.  I know my body.  She is mine, I have learned how to inhabit her fully.  

Did you know that I only recently had my first satisfying orgasm?

My husband and I will be married for seven years.  It took me seven years of idling passive in bed, certain that a woman wasn't "supposed" to be alive, active, asking, needing in terms of sex and the having of it, to finally throw all that garbage out the window.

And let me just say -- seven years is too damn long.  

I didn't -- couldn't -- enjoy sex for seven years because I didn't own my own skin.  I didn't own my own sexuality.  Because I was not fully at home in this luscious body.

Both my husband and I agree that we regret waiting to make love until after "I do."  Not just because of the hymen thing, although we both would have really, really (really) loved to have dealt with that before our honeymoon.  

But because sexuality is an aspect of embodiment, of personhood, of compatibility that should be taken into account when deciding whether to marry a certain somebody -- one that the church not only does not value, but ignores at best and demonizes at worst.

I think that if my husband and I had come to our marriage as whole persons, sexuality included and embraced, our early years as one flesh would have been, could have been different.  Better, if not in all ways, then certainly in some ways.

Not because we would have slept around, not because we would have mindlessly fucked anything of the opposite sex that moved our way.  But because we would have shared all of ourselves with each other, and known more fully whether we loved each other.  

* * *

I am speaking.

This is a portrait of the woman, speaking about what does not get spoken of often enough.

Because it's not just me, not just my husband and I struggling still because of how the sexual  realm was handled when we were younger.

No, there are many -- too many -- other couples whose marriages are on the rocks because of this whole sex thing.  They lacked that certain something, that special spark that forever lovers share, but they didn't know they lacked it because they didn't know each other fully before they wed. 

I know couples who felt a blaring lack of spark before they got married, and were told by trusted pastors to marry anyway, that it would come -- and, years and years and children later, it has not come.  

I know couples who are living in turmoil because one spouse has finally, finally awakened to his or her (more often it's her, intriguingly) sexuality, and now needs to the freedom to explore it, to own it, but the other spouse will not or cannot meet them there.  And so the light of growth, of embodiment, that had finally begun to truly burn is doused. 

We should have known who we were as fully as possible before rings were exchanged.  We should have made our marriage choices based on whole persons, and we didn't.  We couldn't.  We were told to do so was bad -- no, was sin.

And now I see an epidemic of failed marriages of those who perhaps never should have married in the first place.  

* * *

I am thinking.

This is a portrait of the woman, thinking about sex and lies and how to start fixing this big damn mess.

It's not just about sex, this mess, this epidemic.  But sex and the vilification of sex is a big part of it -- and an even bigger part of the rape culture that we live in (and yes, we do live in a rape culture -- and while the church is not the only one responsible for rape culture, the church is also a major encourager of it).

Do all Christian couples experience this disappointment in waiting?  No.  Definitely not.  And for those couples, I am sincerely glad.  I truly delight in and celebrate the uncomplicated nature of sex and sexuality in your marriage and your life.

For the rest of us, however, I demand alternatives -- an alternative vocabulary for discussing sex and sexuality, for exploring one's self before and after the wedding day, for embracing sex as the beautiful expression of love and intimacy that it is.  Because I believe that such alternatives will create more mature, responsible, and healthy people -- and marriages.


Here are some starters for sexuality-related alternatives I would love to see:
  • sex and the body embraced as the lovely gifts and works of art that they are
  • a discussion of what masturbation is and how it can be helpful, healthy, and fun
  • parents encouraging teens to appreciate their sexuality while also helping them to be responsible for it in a way that won't make them scared of it (i.e., encouragement for youths to know all of themselves, and be responsible for all of themselves)
  • authentic conversations about what sex is for, and how to decide for one's self when to have it
  • "sex = dirty" talk ditched
  • an end to the objectification of women and women's bodies, and, relatedly, an end to the overtly communicated lie that men are victims of their bodies' naturally functionally mechanisms of arousal
  • the glorification of virgins and virginity
  • abstinence-only sex "education" eradicated; it has been proven not to work
  • gender equality, equivalent rights and opportunities and respect for women in practice, etc.

As for my husband and I . . . well, we're making it work, or trying to.  We're becoming more and more whole, each of us more and more of who we are -- all of who we are.  This is hard to do when you're married and have a kid, hard to do now this work that was made for young adulthood.  But we're doing it anyway, because the alternative is soul death.  And we've had enough of that.

Your turn -- how has your experience of sex and sexuality and related discussion, vocabulary, indoctrination, education/lack of education impacted your current sexual/marital/personal health?  What would you like to see change in our culture, and in religious culture?  What do you think should stay the same?


*this post contains affiliate links

When We are Wanted


When you spend long enough doing a certain thing, no matter what it is, I think, you put down roots.  You meet people.  And you find things you might not have been looking for, but now would never, ever trade. 

Blogging has been like that for me.  I'm not sure why I started that first LiveJournal in 2004, exactly, except that I enjoyed writing, enjoyed being read, and thought making money off of blogging was a thing (uh, yeah).  And while I haven't exactly hit the financial motherlode, I have discovered exquisite treasures that I never expected.

Story Sessions, an online community of writers run by Elora Ramirez, is one of those things.  A few of my online friends had taken Elora's intro ecourse, Story 101, and I like what I saw of them and their writing enough to give it a try myself.  I enrolled in 101 in the spring of 2013, and have never looked back.  I went on to take Elora's next course, Story 201, and participate in online retreats and workshops. 


The writing part of Story Sessions is good.  It's really good.  Like, really good.  If you want help discovering your voice, discovering your why, pushing past fear, and finding your legs in the publishing industry, then Story Sessions is for you.

But that's not the greatest treasures that I've found here.

No, for me, it's the community itself, these amazing women, that are the unlookedfor diamond that fell, shining through the dust of excavation, into my lap.


So many people roll their eyes at me when I tell them that I met some of my best friends online.  That's not real community, they think or say.  Remote community can't ever compare to local community.

For a long time, I thought the same thing.  I thought that online community was lesser, less than.  I ached because I failed to find the in-person kindreds that I'd found in the women of Story Sessions.  I thought there was something wrong with me.


This June, though, those digital hands and feet grew flesh and blood.  I flew to Texas to take part in the annual Story Sessions retreat, and those women who were my "lesser" community, my "not as real because it's online" kindreds, stormed into my life and swept me off my feet with their unconditional love and caring.

I went into the retreat lonely, desperately lonely.  My soul has been leading me on walkabout, as you know, and to my dismay I've had to abandon the local friendships and attempts at friendships that I'd been selling myself to.  Not because there as anything wrong with those local people, not because they didn't or don't try hard to love me, but because (through no fault of their own) I felt wrong around them.

I went to Texas nursing this long-gaping wound of being different-in-a-bad-way, broken, of always being the outsider.  When I got to the retreat, I expected to be disappointed, to find myself the outsider once again.

And --

there were no outsiders.


These women, these women, they put their hands in my hands, rubbed my shoulders, pulled their fingers through my hair.  They celebrated my newborn book, and my heathenry.  They looked into my eyes and heard my words and found no fault there.

They saw me, and loved me -- as is.

No caveats.  No conditions.  No "I'm worried about you" or "you're on a slippery slope."

(Did you know that Story Sessions is a Christian community?  Doesn't sound like the "Christian" communities I hear way too much yuck about way too often.)

This condition-less love and acceptance -- well, I didn't expect it.  I hoped for it, but life had taught me that it was likely out of reach for me.

But it exists.  It exists for me, and for you.  It's out there, and it's powerful beyond the imagining.


In Texas, I found women who celebrate my quirks and eccentricities and odd little passions.  I found women who run after me, literally, when I run away, who see my soul weeping when I hide my tears.  I found women who reminded me of the sacred truths of my glorious soul, and who continue to remind me when I forget.  I found women who tell me that I am beautiful-in-all-ways, and mean it.  I found women who cry with me, who rage with me, who will not, cannot accept injustice.  I found women who I can snuggle on the couch with without wondering if I'm doing the wrong thing, and who love how I don't love small talk.  I found women who ask me to howl at the moon with them.

I found women that I'd bleed for.  I found the women that would bleed for me.

I found the artists and renegades and lovers and world-changers.  And because of them, I remembered that I am one myself.  
 

So -- if you're looking for a writing community, well, Story Sessions is a good one.  Story 101 is running for its final time, so this is your last chance to get in where it all began.

But be careful, because you're not only getting a writing education when you sign up.  You just might find that you've found your courage, and the holiness in the darkest places of your soul, and some of the truest friends that you could ever have hoped for.


Online community is real.  It is true and authentic and alive.  And the folks you meet online have the powerful ability to slip quietly into your heart and turn your life upside down in the best of ways.

I hope that this is the case for you, no matter what digital hook you may hang your hat upon.  It has been one of my greatest privileges and joys to discover it for myself.

If you're interested in the final run of the ecourse that started it all, you can learn more about Story 101 here.

https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?cl=176080&c=ib&aff=168836

*this post contains affiliate links