Posted by: scintillatingspeck | September 30, 2016

Selfish Mama.

I asked yesterday on Facebook, “What can I write a blog post about?” and a few people responded. The consensus seemed to be: write about my daughter Lily and her art, and write about mothering.

This brought up a pang in me, or maybe several. Or, let’s face it, a whole tangle of emotions. Enough to write about, in fact.

First, there is the whole question of what is the blog for? Is it to respond to the desires of my readers? (I don’t fault my friends for genuinely responding to my question, mind you. I am questioning whether I should have asked in the first place, or whether I should have modified the question.) Is it to examine and tangle and untangle the thoughts and emotions that move through me, sometimes fluttering, sometimes blasting? Is it to serve me? Is it to serve others? Is it to become a better person or a better mother?

I think if I can answer what the blog is for, it might help me respond to the inquiries about Lily and mothering, and why it feels challenging to me. Because I do think the central purpose of this blog, for me, is about meeting my own emotional/creative needs and being witnessed. I don’t think it takes away the other needs that can be met, the needs of readers who want their curiosity satisfied, or want to see their own thoughts and emotions mirrored, or feel challenged by someone who might think/feel differently. But the primary purpose? Let’s call it selfish.

As anyone who’s spent time examining the current Stories about motherhood in this culture can attest (yes, Stories with a ponderous, capital S, with a punishing weight), a prevailing Story is that of the Selfish Mother and how evil she is. She can be selfish for just about any reason. It hardly matters what choices she makes, in fact—those choices can always be framed in the context of selfishness. She goes to work? She stays home? She thinks about her own needs or the needs of others besides her children? She dares to not fade into the background like a ghost? She requests to be heard and seen? Heresy, I tell you. Any mother who has needs and insists that those needs are important is a heretic.

I don’t believe that when my friends asked to hear more about Lily or my thoughts on mothering that they intended to provoke this particular line of thought, but it’s what comes up for me.   (Yes, friends, I see your good intentions, and I know your hearts—I know you don’t want to elicit a painful rush of feeling in me.) I think when I asked “What can I write a blog post about?” I was in part asking, “What do you want to see about me? How can I connect with you? I feel far away from you. I feel unseen. I feel like my voice has been muted and I’m trying to find it again.” I realize that if I had had the wherewithal to articulate it in that way from the get-go, it would have gone differently.

When the only suggestions I received were to write about my daughter, her art, or my relationship with her, I felt pushed aside. I felt like people didn’t understand why I maintain a blog. I felt like I was being told, “You should fade away. You should showcase your child. That’s what good mothers do.”

I do showcase my child rather frequently on Facebook, I should add. And I do feel like that’s a fairly appropriate medium in which to do so. I like to post items related to Lily (with her consent): pictures of her, interesting or funny things she says, art that she’s been making. These are, invariably, far more popular (as evidenced by “likes” or comments) than anything I post about myself. I don’t want to set this up as some sort of popularity contest between me and my child, mind you, but I think it’s important to point out. I love Lily, and I love that others love and appreciate her. But it’s not that much of a stretch sometimes to feel like I should be a Lily-vessel and a Lily-facilitator to the exclusion of being myself. That message, regardless of intent, comes through.

It’s complicated further by the fact that I deeply love being Lily’s mother, and engaging fully in this most demanding role, by far, than any other I’ve ever had. I don’t intend to demean mothering. It’s sacred to me.   I do, actually, want to write about mothering and what it means to me.

But in the context of this blog? I started this blog in 2008 (about a year after Lily was born) with only the vaguest of notions of its purpose. I wanted a creative outlet. I wanted to put my own ideas Out There; I wanted to revive my long-silent writing voice; I wanted to think out loud, and artfully, if possible; I wanted witnesses. I wanted to center my own mind and heart in a place that was mostly about me and the way I see the world. I wanted my own voice to be a revolutionary force, at least for myself, and possibly for others. I wanted to make experiments in vulnerability.

I still struggle with the prescribed boundaries of what is meant to be “public” or “private.” What do I need to keep private about myself? What about people who are close to me, like Lily? How much of that privacy is for meeting our own needs, and how much of it is about not rocking the collective boat? The more Lily grows, the more aware I feel of her preferences, her desire to influence how she is perceived, as she strides into her gradually-maturing selfhood. I don’t want to foist my own preferences and needs on her. Over time, I’ve felt more and more that I need to have a public voice about supposedly “private” matters, that it’s those matters that are the most relevant and important for me to write about. My blog is public. Most things I post on Facebook are public (a decision I made over a year ago). Lily is such a huge part of my life that it would be silly not to include her in my posts, but at the same time, I feel protective of her needs, some of which she hasn’t even grown into yet. Some might even argue that Lily isn’t capable of providing full consent to my posts that include her, that she can’t possibly understand all the implications. I tend to disagree (at least in her middle childhood)—I think we are in the midst of actively learning about consent by practicing it and talking about it, so it’s a good example of learning through real life. In the meanwhile, I do avoid posting anything about her that I think she might feel embarrassed by, now or in the future, although I can’t prevent whether she might eventually feel horribly embarrassed by me being me. (Cue the chorus of parents who are nodding vigorously, wondering how they ended up with teenagers who are so mortified to be seen or associated with them.)

Back to the issue of how mothers are supposed to be invisible. Mothers are, after all, women, and among women, mothers are supremely expected to take on the role of servant, at least in this thoroughly warped and insane culture. We don’t have a culture of mothers being accorded even remotely-adequate support, respect, and love. Show me the mother who is getting all her needs met—go ahead, show me. And I said needs, not wants. Who is getting enough sleep? Who is getting enough time to herself? Who is not besieged with some variety of judgment or anxiety? The cultural beliefs that mothers should be servants, that mothers are subordinate to the needs of their children (or just about anyone else), that mothers should be largely invisible as individuals—these deny mothers their full humanity. These beliefs are deeply damaging and oppressive, and they are put forth both consciously and unconsciously from all directions.

I believe that mothers absolutely must put themselves first, if they are to live fulfilled lives AND be decent mothers to their children. There’s a saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” There’s a reason for that. Why do you think so few people are happy? Mama ain’t happy. And that goes from the planetary scale of Mother Gaia to the very individual human scale. And if nobody is putting Mama first, then Mama should put herself first. Call me a defender for the Selfish Mama. But everything, everything flows from there. If Mama’s needs are met, she is the most generous being you ever saw, patient, kind, able to respond in spades to the needs of others, as well as able to clearly discern and communicate her boundaries. If Mama is silenced, put down, ignored, unloved, or otherwise abused in a variety of heinous ways, with her tribe scattered to the wind, her unique gifts devalued, AND expected to be an ever-giving fount of service to others? No, it doesn’t work that way.

Selfish Mama is a bit of a misnomer, if by being “selfish” we mean “more able to address the needs of others by attending to one’s own.” It’s long past time to dismantle the notion of maternal selfishness.  To quote Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar, I don’t want simply to be “the place the arrow shoots off from” but “to shoot off in all directions myself, like the colored arrows from a Fourth of July rocket.”

May we recognize mothers, first and foremost, as human beings with their own visions, gifts, needs, and voices. This is not an issue of obscuring the needs of children, but an issue of basic respect for all people, mothers included.

May we endeavor to create and strengthen the relational web of mutual support that uplifts all of us.

photo credit: Marlowe Rafelle

photo credit: Marlowe Rafelle

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | September 29, 2016

Boundaries and stories.

It’s been too long since I last posted to this blog.

There are always a thousand and one reasons to be silent.  First are all the requests, explicit and implicit, from others, to Not Talk About Them, and by extension, not talk about my decisions, choices, and trajectories.

Then there’s the plain fact that if I’m going to write in any sort of real way about my own life, I’m going to alienate some swath of people.  I am still not hardened to those losses.  I know I can’t please everyone—I don’t want to please everyone—but the conditioning goes deep, this sense that I have failed as a human when people turn away from me, especially when I’ve tried to be honest and vulnerable.

And sometimes I turn away from others.  I try to hold myself and the others with compassion.  My Inner Wise Woman says:  Whether you turn away, or I do, let us trust that these are acts of self-care.  May we uphold the importance of boundaries.

Boundaries.  They keep coming up.  They keep whispering to me, “You need to know yourself better.  You need to be more clear.  You need to say No a whole lot more, so when you say Yes, it carries the energy of conviction.  You need deliberation, rest, and patience.  Stop overriding your own instincts.”

So much of my pilgrimage, traveling back home to myself, has been about recognizing internalized stories.  I try to unravel those narratives, to question them, to hold them in my hands and dismantle their pieces so I can decide, do I want to keep you?  do you serve the greatest good?  are you killing me?  are you molding my thoughts and behavior in ways I don’t like and haven’t been able to see?

Selves are made of stories.  I tell stories.  I live stories.  It’s what I was born to do.  I take the clay of my life and push it this way and that and say, “Look.”  I use my senses and my intuition and try to translate the staggering flow of information.  There is so much.  There is so much.  Sometimes I lapse into silence.  Sometimes I fear the stumbling of words, the choppy attempts at communication.  I was dutifully trained to be a perfectionist, and I am still taking a sledgehammer to that monolithic barrier, hoping that out of the harsh flurry of flying stone chips, there will be something comprehensible left to present.  Here I am, writing, trying to praise myself for writing anything at all, hacking hard at the cruel, implacable stone of judgment.

I want to understand boundaries, form, structure.  I don’t want to be a passive recipient of lines and definitions set up by others.  I also don’t want to dissolve into formlessness just yet.  I want to tell stories that make sense.  I want to define myself and my life in ways that make sense.  I guess this is a longing to be sensible.  And not sensible in a stodgy, gray way, but in a way that’s alive and downright magnificent.

Chalk this blog post up to “stuff Jen writes to herself that she apparently needs witnesses for, but isn’t remotely satisfied with how she’s articulating things.”

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | July 18, 2016

A New Culture epiphany.

It’s been about a day since Lily and I departed from New Culture Summer Camp East in Mt. Storm, West Virginia.  We were there about 10 days, living and breathing in community, focusing on intimacy and connection and growth.

I want to write about it.

I don’t know how to do justice to what I experienced.

Inner Wise Woman, of course, has a response to that last statement: Oh, lovey.  Go back to what you just wrote on Facebook.  Put it here.  Be messy.  Let go of the shoreline.

Okay.  Here’s what I wrote on Facebook:

At the library in Bristol, right on the very edge of the border between Virginia and Tennessee. It seems an apt place to be, in this liminal space. I’m trying to get focused enough to write a blog post about my time at New Culture, transitioning away (somewhat) from that mind-heart-body space and into “old” culture, but as Sarah reminded us during closing circle, we are in an ever-flowing river of experience. This helps me re-immerse in the current of What Is, my constant, devoted companion, this river I/you/we are in. I’m letting go of writing anything perfect in favor of the stumbling, dribbling, gushing, seeping movement/sound of my own voice.

‘Tis the gift to be simple and free.

Here is my offer to myself: to not get it right the first time.  To allow myself to circle back and keep reflecting.  To make every time I sit down to write a new beginning.  To feel the unconditional love of the Source, no matter what.

When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.  To turn, turn, will be our delight, ’til by turning, turning, we come round right.

What is my piece of this turning?  What is my current epiphany?

I was afraid to say it, at first, but I did.  I said it in a public fashion.  I took the risk of being misunderstood or ridiculed, especially by myself.

I am a goddess, I said.  And this allows me to see the divine in each of you.

Wow, does the gremlin smack her lips and prepare to eviscerate me in glee, shrieking, “Narcissist!  Egomaniac!  Who do you think you are?!  Are you now going to the woo-woo New Agey side in a fit of blind, ungrounded, irrational, bullshit bliss?  Is it all about you and your vanity?  Did witnessing the pain of the world flip you into some other totally disconnected dimension?  Have you cracked in a whole new way?”

Well, yes, actually, I have cracked in a whole new way.  And it’s not about self-absorption, although this mind-heart-body is what I have to work with.

I saw myself.  I saw myself through everyone’s eyes, and I was, I am, beautiful, in form, in ether, in relationship, as an individual, as a dissolved piece of All That Is.  I start here, with this I who is not really an I, this illusion of an I, and I feel it in my bones and fingertips and the soles of my feet, and it makes me dance.

I am a goddess, and I get to want things.  I get to take myself seriously and very, very lightly.  I get to play.  I get to create.  I get to take apart.  I get to radiate.  I get to uplift and honor the divinity in each being I encounter.  I get to contain every emotion, every thought, every sensation that has ever crossed my path.  I get to witness the passion play unfolding before my eyes.  Every bit of matter and energy that makes up Me in this form is endless, even after my human form passes.  I am endlessly changing.  I am the river that flows to the sea, and the sea itself.

This is power.  Not the power of domination and exploitation, but the power of presence, collaboration, co-creation, all art, all music, truths unveiled in their infinite shapes.  Sometimes the power is a mother, the Mother of all Mothers.  Sometimes she is utterly terrifying.  Sometimes she pulls us apart in order to reach the essence underground.

Lily's depiction of Kali on her arm

Lily’s depiction of Kali on her arm

I couldn’t tell you exactly how this coalesced for me at camp.  I think I have been preparing for this for a while, and maybe it was enough to be among people with a radical willingness to Show Up in order to facilitate such insights.  I saw myself, and I saw others, and I witnessed the shifting dance of separation and no-separation.  I get choked up with gratitude at such courage.  I know this is the spirit that moves culture.  I know this is our practice to manifest abundance, freedom, and justice in the world.

May we all know our own power and magnificence.  May we own it.  May we have others to remind us of it when we forget.

Our beauty transcends our speckish selves and fills the sky with a billion stars.

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | May 17, 2016

Breaking down hierarchies between Self and Other.

I don’t know how to classify these thoughts, these knowings that keep tumbling through me.  And not just me, this illusion of an island of me, but through those closest to me, and probably through those furthest away, too.

We could chalk this up to Relationship Anarchy, maybe?  It’s a good concept, I think, because it eludes definition, and anything too narrowly defined is just not big enough.  RA is all about dismantling hierarchies:  not privileging one person over another, not privileging romantic relationships over aromantic ones, deliberately blasting through illusions of competition and scarcity.  I was communicating with one of my loves about this, and it dawned on me: there is another hierarchy we can tackle in how we relate interpersonally, and that’s the false divide between Self and Other.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it on this blog, in all sorts of contexts and circumstances: We are not separate.  Separation is an illusion.  This is not just talk.  This is not ethereal.  This is the truth.  It’s not just between “partners” or “friends” or whatever labels we want to apply; the very labels reinforce the notion of separateness.  We are endlessly creating meaning through language, and I think we are well-served to recognize that language is colonized.  I don’t know how to write about this without language and words keep coming up short.  I keep referring to myself as “I” or “myself” and talking about “you” and “us” and it’s not helping.  I just need to point it out.

It’s a material issue, and a spiritual one, and I suppose we could also chalk this up to some kind of continual religious epiphany, except you can see how colonized my language is even in referring to “epiphanies.”  I have to laugh.  How did I end up with this particular magnetic poetry box?  You know, where you get a bunch of words in a box with magnetized backings, and you can move them around on your refrigerator in different configurations?  It will never be infinite.  I can keep learning new language and new metaphors, but how steeped I am in this culture.  I can’t escape it, and I’m starting to comprehend that I don’t have to.

Maybe all language, all culture, all religion, all pilgrimages, all creative and intellectual pursuits lead to the same place?  I say that as if I’m afraid to name it.  What name could contain Oneness?  Do I need to become a theologian?  (Something inside me tells me No.)

It doesn’t matter how I got here, because this is where we all are.  I keep saying things that I’m slightly concerned make no sense.  This “here” is infinite love.  It doesn’t eliminate horrors and suffering.  It doesn’t erase the vagaries of existence.  I can’t really stomach making statements that seem to gloss over reality.

I keep pushing ahead and trying to write about this so I can integrate it more, observe the edges of my understanding.  It’s a challenge when edges keep dissolving.  It’s part of the lesson.  Stasis is an illusion.  What isn’t illusion?!  We’re clouded with illusions but they are no more substantial than dust.

I’m writing this as me, you, us.  This sentience gives us the chance to bear witness and melt in the face of beauty and compassion.  We strive; we don’t strive; it doesn’t matter.  It all matters.  This is energy; this is matter.

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | May 12, 2016

Writing towards intimacy.

I don’t know how to tackle this. I am trying not to let the weight of years press on me. I want to feel organized. I want to feel momentum. I want to feel FLOW. (Or like David Petraitis said, conjoining flow and focus, flowcus.) Maybe I can get there, finally.

Maybe it’s important to acknowledge just how hard the past two years have been. Maybe the reason I couldn’t get a firm grasp on my book was because it was literally impossible, in the face of feeling so depressed and alone and unsupported. Maybe the terrible burdens of secrecy and shame can be thrown off, now. Maybe I don’t have to give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks of my relationships or how my approach to intimacy has shifted and grown.

SO: I think the central theme of my book is INTIMACY, and pushing against the forces that squelch it, and trying to make it EMBODIED and REAL. I don’t want a diluted version of life, parsed out in tiny doses of officially approved shape and size and parameters. None of that. I don’t have fucking time for that. I have a finite life and I’m going to live it, and I’m going to do my utmost to model to my child that a meaningful, full life is not something to aspire to, but something to immediately grasp, taste, hold close and love madly.

I need to write about DISEMBODIMENT. I need to write about the intersections between personal trauma and collective trauma. I need to write about the breakdowns in connection and how we have to jump the guardrail if we’re ever to have a prayer of getting real with each other. Brené Brown really hit the nail on the head with her work on shame and vulnerability and what we need to do to live wholehearted lives.

This isn’t being fluffy. This isn’t some cutesy tale in the vein of your average hearts-and-flowers love story. It won’t fit the narrative. It only fits MY narrative, and that’s all I want, to get personal, to know what others’ gritty, messy, gorgeous, personal stories are, and how our stories join together. They always do, when we allow ourselves to be open.

I took a journey I didn’t think was possible, and I’m still on it, and it’s not done with me yet. I’m not sure how to get perspective in order to write the book that I need to write. I don’t want to write a book for the sake of having it done—I want it to be the book that calls out from deep necessity. I need to find a way to spell out that INTIMACY, in its myriad guises, is what offers redemption while we are alive, what so frequently gives us meaning as human animals, what transcends the fear of destruction and death. I want to say: I wanted to know my own heart and whatever it had to say. I wanted to share it. I wanted yours to speak to mine, directly, without these infernal filters that clog up relentlessly.

There are structural elements that need much more clarity. I need to study and practice. I need to bring my cognitive abilities into the service of my heart, into the service of accessibility. The practice of writing, as far as I can tell, is most spiritual when this integration of head and heart can take place. My head has not been tidy. My life has not been tidy.

I think all I can do is keep spiraling back to what’s centrally important and stop berating myself about not having a Product to present to the world. It seems the only way forward to creating a real, tangible Book is to forget about the final product and focus entirely on process. It brings up colossal amounts of internal shit for me. Inner, younger Jen can’t comprehend that it’s not about making the grade—she still thinks that’s the measure of value even when it leaves her hollow and desperate. Inner Wise Woman says: Sweetheart, it did a number on you. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry you had to grow up in a culture of ruthless competition and hierarchy and soul-stomping. But listen: you are dismantling it daily, in every act of disobedience. You are finding a different piece of ground to stand on, a wild place, with uncoerced fruit ripening on trees and shrubs. Soon you will be spreading a feast and inviting everyone you know to join you.

Photo on 2016-05-12 at 12.12

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | May 9, 2016

Insider. (Outsider, continued.)

About three weeks ago I wrote about feeling like an Outsider.

I wrote then that my explorations into this topic were to be continued, and here I am, continuing.  The only thing is, I’m finding it mighty hard these days to hold onto the outsider-ness.  It’s as if I approached the topic, only to have it melt away into nothingness.

How can I see myself as an outsider when we’re all insiders?  I’m an insider.  You’re an insider.  We aren’t separate.  I realize that sometimes I’m able to access this truth, and other times it’s far more difficult.  I’m willing to accept that my realizations will wax and wane, and that the waxing and waning has little to do with enduring truth.  I am such a speck.  I love my speckishness, and my absolute, immutable connection to All That Is.

The other day a stranger said to me (right here in this same café where I’m sitting now, Haymarket, in Northampton, Mass.), “You look familiar.  Have we met?”  Then she realized I just reminded her of someone else she knew and she didn’t actually know me.  I said, “It’s okay.  We’re all related, anyway.”  Her face lit up.  I can’t stop thinking of that light.  It was a perfect moment of mutual recognition.  I live for such moments.

We are, literally, all related.  Every living thing on Earth is related.  I’m related to every sycamore tree.  You’re related to every hummingbird.  We’re related to every otter that has ever lived.  We’re related to geniuses and despots and the one perfect gardenia that will never be forgotten.

This seems connected, somehow, to the seeming conundrum of having a sense of place.  It’s something I’ve longed for, something I assumed might always be elusive to me, as the child of immigrants and diasporas.  Where is my community?  Which land claims me as its own?  Could I ever consider myself native to a place?

I realized, it doesn’t matter.  I’m native to Earth.  I am absolutely, definitely, 100% beyond the shadow of a doubt, native to Earth.  This is where I belong.  I’m on the inside of this magnificent biosphere, wandering around on the thin crust of brilliance.  It doesn’t matter who rejects me, or how I think of myself, or any anxieties that crop up—there is nothing I or anyone else could possibly do to make me not belong to Earth.

When I let myself love and be loved, it’s impossible to feel like an outsider for long.  What is this sheer magic of heart alignment?  this singing joy, this steady gaze, this blazing thrill?  Do I belong in these arms?  Is this what I was born to do, to love profound and wide, in the uncharted oceanic depths?


Posted by: scintillatingspeck | May 5, 2016

Surrendering to joy.

floating gardenia

It would behoove us to become accustomed to the advancing and receding of emotional states, all of them, in this human embodiment we are all inhabiting.  It’s a challenge when some of them are so acute and so excruciating.  We label them negative or positive, embrace them, flee from them—mostly flee from them, in my estimation, based on my tiny little speckish perspective.  I see people numbing themselves constantly in this Nation of Alienation.  I understand.  I have fled, too, over and over, appalled at the towering mountains of injustice and terrified of my own supposed unworthiness.

The “negative” emotions, the rage, the sadness, the grief, the envy, the desire to withdraw, destroy, sulk, wail—these are so easily painted as bad.  But they are what they are.  They do not demand some horrible action.  They do not have to be intolerable tyrants controlling us from within.  We can let them exist, give them a voice, give them some love, in fact.  They have their reasons.  They have their rhythms.  This is what it means to be alive.

When there’s a long cycle of “negative,” it can be profoundly disconcerting when the balance tips towards the “positive” emotions, the joy, the playfulness, the radiance, the love.  At least for me.  It’s both a relief and a source of confusion, as if I am so used to confronting or fleeing the dark that I hardly know what to do with the light when it appears.  But I think the key is in dismantling the whole notion of having to confront or flee.

No confrontation.  No flight.  Only surrender.

This sounds downright dangerous in some ways.  Who would recommend surrendering to the dark?  But let me tell you what I mean by surrender.

image source: (although as you may recall, this is from the film “The Wizard of Oz”)

I don’t mean surrender to the Wicked Witch of the West.

I don’t mean surrender to wallowing in fierce waves of depression and rumination.

I don’t mean surrender to impulses that are bound to have hurtful consequences.

I don’t mean surrender to external forces that are harming us.

I mean, just let it be.  Let the feelings be, and lay down the ideas of their inherent rightness or wrongness.  Lay down the defenses—we can use our defenses some other time, when it makes sense to use them.  Lay down and let love guide the river.  Our heads (or at least my head—I don’t know, maybe yours is on the ball) are notoriously unreliable at managing certain tasks, including coming up with the notion that everything is a task to be managed.

What I want to emphasize, though, is that this kind of surrender is not just important with what we deem dark, but with what we deem light.  Funny how I’ve managed to focus so much on that “dark” stuff in a post called “Surrendering to Joy,” eh?  That’s a bit of fleeing you’re witnessing.

There is so much joy, beauty, and love in my life right now, it’s astonishing.  Someone told me the other day that I deserve it.  Really, I deserve it?  Yes, you are intrinsically deserving.  I realize that the dregs of an old belief are still lingering, that I couldn’t possibly deserve it.  It’s attended by anxieties: what if I’m a fraud?  What if my inner undeservingness becomes obvious and all the joy goes away?

This is when Inner Wise Woman steps in.

You are a sweet, shining speck, love.  No more and no less.  This feeling of unworthiness?  Let it be.  You’re just a human.  You are a tiny microcosm of the universe.  You don’t have to fight the beauty that overtakes your senses—you can lean back and enjoy it.  That’s all.  No justification, no striving, no proof, no system of punishment and reward.  The world is not what you were taught, not a machine, not a hierarchy, not a competition, none of that.  There is love and magic all around and inside you.  Look!  You can surrender to it now.


Posted by: scintillatingspeck | April 17, 2016


I’ve been circling this idea, this belief in my outsider-ness, for the better part of a week.  It’s about time I commit some thoughts to pixels, I think.

A friend of mine pointed out that in my telling stories about my life, he was noticing a pattern: that I see myself as an outsider in almost every context.  He suggested that I might need some healing around that, this sense that I don’t belong and don’t fit in, before I get drawn into any geographic relocation.

Maybe I was particularly receptive to hearing it that day, but it struck me rather forcefully.  I mean, the truth of it.  It’s a big part of my personal narrative.  I’m feeling like I need to peel back all the layers of this “outsider” role and see what’s there, what parts of it could be softened and made malleable, what parts give me strength, what parts hobble me like a ball and chain.

On the one hand, there are aspects to relish about being an outsider.  I don’t feel beholden to lumbering, fossilized notions of what constitutes a successful, meaningful life.  I’m free in ways that many people aren’t.  I’ve chosen to reject certain well-trodden paths in favor of maintaining my own sense of integrity and authenticity, even if that often comes at a high price.  Being on the outside of various established systems, institutions, and hierarchies allows me to have a perspective that “insiders” just can’t have.  It’s one thing to be a reform-minded soul immersed in a less-than-optimal system, and quite another to be a radical, on or beyond the fringe, refusing to accept cultural norms and structures as a fait accompli.  This kind of outsider-ness is not something I’m willing to give up.  I want this freedom of movement and action.  I want this access to varieties of knowledge, dangerous knowledge, intuitive knowledge, that is not available in the prescribed doses and formats.  I want to honor this part of me that snarls at the notion of questioning being an “outsider,” that growls Do not cage me.

On the other hand,  I need to delve deeper into the ways that believing in my “outsider-ness” hurts me and keeps me isolated.  I don’t think it’s an unmitigated boon to see myself as a misfit.

Obviously, to some degree, I’ve internalized the messages of industrial civilization which would necessarily paint someone like me as weird, crazy, and unworthy.  The baggage is old.  It’s all entangled with childhood wounds around wanting to be liked but also feeling incapable of adjusting to various expectations.

Earlier this week I wrote little notes to myself about outsider-ness, and one of them reads: Maybe I belong more than I think or feel I belong.  Maybe what I tune into so much is other people’s feelings of isolation, weirdness, ill-fittingness, not-belongingness.  It’s not just those feelings, though—it’s all the feelings.  It’s not that hard for me to find the shared ground with others, to empathize.  And yet I ricochet between feeling deeply and universally connected and feeling withdrawn and alienated.

It’s a habit for me to flee.

To be continued.

(Continued, here.)

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | April 5, 2016

Why Relationship Anarchy?

Relationship anarchy has been much on my mind of late.  What is it, and why is it so compelling to me?  What is it about RA that feels more fitting and comprehensive than a concept like polyamory?  Why does it feel important, even urgent, to keep seeking out a relational philosophy that feels congruent?

I’m not sure when I first came across the term “relationship anarchy” but I think it was sometime last year.  Since then, I have been reading more about it, in bursts.  (For a good introduction to the concept and further reading, try  RA is not all that amenable to a snappy, brief definition, which is one reason I like it.

So why does it draw me so much?

It’s not rule-based.  Contrary to popular opinion, relationship anarchy (or any kind of anarchy) is not the equivalent of chaos.  Instead, it explicitly rejects the notion of setting rules as a basis for interaction.  Each relationship is allowed to naturally and organically express its form and to change over time.  Consent and boundaries are still important, but these are not expressed in the form of rules or contracts.  I’ve seen some people argue that polyamory is rule-based; for some, it certainly is, but for others, I don’t think that’s the case.   But in poly circles, there isn’t consensus about the necessity or desirability of rules.  I have encountered some poly folks who have insisted that rules and contracts are absolutely necessary in all relationships, and I disagree with them entirely.  RA helps me to clarify my stance in this regard, but I still think it’s possible for someone to be both polyamorous and a relationship anarchist.

It deliberately breaks down hierarchies.  The language of polyamory, in the relatively short history of the idea, includes such concepts as “primary” and “secondary” and even “tertiary” partners, with all kinds of embedded assumptions about what that means.  Not all poly people adhere to hierarchical patterning, but it seems to be a relic of the hegemony of monogamy, marriage, and the ownership model of relationships.  RA addresses this head on and declares that no relationship is inherently ranked over another.  This includes not just “partners” (usually defined by the mainstream as the presence of sexual intimacy), but also friends and the full range of relationships that humans can have.  In this absence of ranking, there are still limitations of time, energy, and attention, so it’s not expected that everyone will be treated identically—however, the deliberate dismantling of hierarchy is a priority.

It’s tied to other manifestations of anarchy.  Relationship anarchy is an extension of hundreds of years of thought, inquiry, and action about anarchy in general.  As people become curious about RA and how it can help them move towards increased freedom and integrity, it can be an organizing philosophy of practice to extend to all areas of their lives.  If we question the oppressive systems that dominate how we conduct our relationships, and realize that we can decolonize our minds in this regard, what’s to stop us from decolonizing our minds about all oppressive systems, economic, educational, governmental, religious, etc?

Sex is not the ultimate marker of intimacy.  This is a crucial point.  Hand in hand with dismantling hierarchies of relationship is the notion that the presence or absence of sex is not a determining factor of how intimate a connection is.  This is not a condemnation of sex at all; sex is still a beautiful and meaningful expression of intimacy, but it’s simply not the only way to express intimacy.  A relationship is not more important once some magical line gets crossed when sex happens, if that line ever gets crossed—there doesn’t need to be a line.  There doesn’t need to be a relationship escalator.  We can adore and have intimacy with friends, and not reduce it to “just friends,” regardless of sexual activity.  We can stop privileging romantic couples as the ultimate expression of fidelity, commitment, and fulfillment.

It’s radically inclusive.  One of the things I like the most about RA is the idea that I can include all my loves in it.  None of them have to identify as anything.  They don’t have to have the title of “partner.”  They don’t have to sign on the dotted line.  They don’t have to carry a card.  They don’t have to wave any banners.  If they become inspired by the philosophy of relationship anarchy, great, but they don’t have to.  They don’t have to be poly, or mono, or hold any particular sexual orientation, or be anarchists.  The practice is more important than the labels.  All that really matters is the love.

That’s what it boils down to.  All that really matters is the love.

Posted by: scintillatingspeck | March 22, 2016

Depression and ADD as acts of resistance to the Culture of Busy.

What if depression, ADD, and a whole slew of other “disorders” or “illnesses” are, in fact, our bodies’/minds’ wisest attempts at resistance and reintegration?  I know there are many who would vigorously reject such a notion, pointing to the obviously painful and maladaptive aspects of these conditions.  But my readings, thoughts, and experiences are guiding me in this direction.

I’m focusing on depression and attention-deficit disorder (ADD) at the moment because of my own long history of depression and the fact that I suspect my daughter Lily would qualify for a diagnosis of ADD.  For that matter, I might qualify for it myself, at this point.  I don’t know, and I’m not inclined to get either of us tested and processed by the psych-pharma-industrial complex.  And in part, that’s because I’m not convinced that these are Problems That Need to Be Solved.

There are plenty of Problems, to be sure.  Like the fact that we live in the Culture of Busy, which is my shorthand for the Culture of Unmitigated Insane Behavior, including but not limited to: fomenting greed, competition, isolation, oppression of all sorts, soul-killing, poverty, hatred, polarization, violence, biosphere destruction.  Must I continue?  I really don’t want to spell it out every time.  But spell it out I must, if it’s to provide the needed contrast to pointing fingers at individuals for their own misfortune, claiming that if only they were happy enough, or relaxed enough, or focused enough, then everything would be fine.

But underneath, we know it’s not fine.  We’re supposed to get with the program, fall in line, jump through the hoops, adapt to the Way Things Are.  But what sense does it make to adapt to conditions that are fundamentally wrong?  To be able to say, “I didn’t rock the boat; I didn’t cause problems for others; I fit in, sort of; I didn’t have to confront my fears or move towards my own liberation”?

Depression slows us down, causes us to turn inward, ruminate, not be able to function like “normal” people.  I’m hardly a fan of the suffering aspect.  I don’t want to suffer, and I don’t want others to suffer.  But it gives me a modicum of consolation to think that this could be an action of last resort in the realm of resistance.  No, I don’t want to play this game.  No, I don’t think all the false positivity is a good and healing thing.  No, I don’t want to contribute to an economy that primarily serves the most wealthy rather than everyone.  No, I don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not.  No, I don’t want to set aside my grief over real losses.  No, I don’t want to ignore the travesty of the air, water, and earth being poisoned and killed on a daily basis.  No, it can’t wait until I do something productive.

I see Lily and her defiance of schedules, timing, and efficiency in a different light than I was raised to believe.  She knows how to tell time.  She doesn’t want to, though—she doesn’t want to monitor the clock, develop that ingrained, automatic response that says I must bow to the agenda, probably someone else’s and not mine.  She relies on me to manage our scheduled activities.  I tell her it’s still important to respect the time of others, to be on time to meet friends and attend events, and that in the future I can’t always be the one to do this for her, that she will have to learn to do it herself.  I don’t want to shove it down her throat, though.  I’m more reluctant every day to insist, to nag, to get upset and anxious when she drags her feet and wants to play-act a scene from the latest chapter book she’s been reading.  We have enough leeway in our schedule, as unschoolers, to allow for flexibility.  It doesn’t come without anxiety on my part.  I started reading a book about how to manage ADD without drugs, using behavioral interventions, but they all seemed mostly geared towards kids who are in school and having them adapt to that environment.  It seems like the mainstream goal is to have compliant, obedient children, that they will be happier and learn more if they can just fit into an environment that many find artificial, confining, and geared towards meeting the goals of others rather than one’s own intrinsic strivings for meaning and success.

But I’m raising a revolutionary, and I’m not sorry.

Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: