On appearances 

The thing about my sexuality is that, ever since puberty, it has defined how I get looked at. Interest, envy, attraction, judgment, desire, jealousy. Wherever I go, I get taken in through how I look. And how I look has always been talking loudly. Louder than anything I can say with my voice. And none of it is because of my own doing, this is just how my genetic blueprint turned out.

At 11, I went from a training bra to a double D bra in the course of a few months. I was already acting like an adult, now I looked like one too. I remember a particular conversation with someone who was asking which college I was attending, and I had to respond that I hadn’t even started high school yet. All the attention I was getting always bordered on the overwhelming. And although she tried her best, my mother’s unresolved sexual trauma tainted her relationship with the sexuality my body exhibited. It’s hard to learn to be comfortable with how you look when your own mother isn’t.

The effect of my appearance were somewhat muted as I became overweight. I guess you could say that was one way I found to have some control over the whole thing. (Disclaimer: I am in no way making judgments about weight, health is a state that everyone needs to find for themselves, no matter what the scale says) I’ve always been aware that my borderline obesity was a part of my psychological unwellness. It manifested at its worse while I was also struggling heavily with agoraphobia and self-harming. Hiding at home and hiding inside my body. Loathing mirrors and cameras and reflections. Wanting to be overlooked.

When my healing transformation allowed me to stop carrying the past and to claim myself back, so much weight dropped off of me, and everything changed again. I wasn’t being overlooked anymore. So I had to make sense again of what everyone’s gaze meant, about me, about them, about our humanity, about our society. And, well, let’s just say it’s a lot to handle. It was for sure too much at 11, and at 31 it’s still barely ok. At least I have this project, to give me an outlet and to ground my consciousness about this into something concrete.

I have tremendous inherited hatred for my womenness. It has been a major blind spot of mine for the longest time. It’s hard to be aware of internalized misogyny. It takes taking responsibility for your own part in how you are treated by looking squarely in the face of how you treat yourself. And maybe I could have been onto it earlier if that had been the only message I received, but it wasn’t. The objectification of women is a consequence of misogyny but it’s also a corrupted form of adoration. That’s why women themselves are so ambivalent about it. I mean, I really shouldn’t talk in the name of all women. I guess from my experience, I can own the fact that I want to be desired just as much as I want to desire, and that if objectification is the only way to get that, I would have a hard time giving it up. It’s a good thing I don’t believe it is the only way. This is why I am out here, trying to shift things for myself.

The other thing that makes my appearance so difficult to accept is the fact that my sister looks so different. I guess I could describe it as I fit in the conventional norms of what’s considered beauty, and she doesn’t. And of course the norms are total bullshit, yet we all have to live in the world they rule. Me and my sister both. And she happens to have the blessing and the curse of being extremely self aware of her differences. When it comes to appearances, that veers heavily towards the curse. I have spent entire my life watching people stare at her. Most people are unconsciously showing their lack of familiarity with differences. Some people are straight up vicious as a way of being defensive against the unknown of what they perceive as a threat. But my empathy for and understanding of their behavior does not make it any easier to stomach watching my sister look at herself through how they look at her. Writing this out loud brings up a lifetime of utter sadness and useless rage at my powerlessness in these situations. It makes me cry because I have literally no other way to deal with this.

So, in case that’s not plain to see, guilt is the other thing plaguing me. I have read about the concept of survivor’s guilt, something veterans and survivors of disasters have to contend with. The thing is, the issues of survivor’s guilt are so close to what I experience, even though my sister is still alive, that I believe there is such a thing as the healthy one’s guilt. It’s probably easiest to notice in more extreme cases like mine, but it’s also arguably something everyone experiences for the privilege they have over others. And guilt is a nasty thing. It’s just as destructive as shame, I would say in just a more insidious way. Shame burns like I am being branded from the inside. Guilt is more like a poisonous vine slowly strangling all my organs.

All these things add up to what I see when I look at myself. But they are not what I want for myself. I want to reach for the power to own my appearance. I want to transcend my fears and shame and guilt. I want to not shy away from embodying my sexuality. It’s a huge responsibility, but at the end of the day, we all have our blessings and curses as the two sides of the same coin we’ve been given. The art is to rise to the occasion and let your own light shine bright.

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On hearing voices

Why on earth should the sound of my own voice make me even more insecure than the sight of my own naked flesh? I mean seriously, wtf?

When we say this person’s voice has been stifled, we ain’t fucking kidding. Not just a metaphorical voice, the actual vocal chord emitted voice! Oh so very little mermaid like.

I only just recently started enjoying the sound of my voice. I think I got there because my project makes me feel like I have an interesting voice. But still, when I had the thought, maybe I should record myself reading my posts, my initial reaction was oh hell no, not a good idea. Which of course is how I knew I had to do it. If I am to break free of my (a)shamedness, I have to stop buying into it.

Racing pulse. I can’t believe I’m more comfortable having my orgasms on the Internet than my spoken voice… How crazy is that?!

Oh well. In the spirit of manifesting myself fully and for the reclaiming of what has been silenced, here is me, reading me:

On broken records, read

 

On broken records

I want to be acknowledged as myself instead of as what’s projected onto me.

I want to be a subject, not just an object.

I want to exist in living colors, not in black and white rules.

From a New York Times article by Christine Smallwood on Greta Gerwig‘s latest film: “Gerwig wrote “Lady Bird” partly as a response to films about boys growing up. At the New York Film Festival, she asked the crowd: “What is ‘Boyhood,’ but for a girl? What is ‘The 400 Blows,’ but for a girl? What is personhood for young women?” In most films, girls exist to be looked at. […] Gerwig makes Lady Bird the one who looks: at boys but also houses, magazines, books, clothes and at the city […]”

What is personhood for women? What is looking instead of being looked at? These are simple questions containing a world of personal and cultural revolutions.

Still exploring my internal tug of war about Pornhub, I see the madonna/whore paradigm in action. A woman who’s sexuality is aligned with societal norms is a good woman, a good girl, a good wife, a good mother. A woman who’s sexuality colors outside the lines is a bad woman, a slut, a victim, a perpetrator. And there’s only two camps, so you’re either with us, or you’re against us.

No one is actually saying those words out loud to me. And yet they live inside me, imprinted in every cell. I hear them whispered, I hear them shrieked. They make me shy away from wanting what I want, they wake me up in the middle of the night, they make me fear who I am.

It’s impossible to know what everyone’s actual perspective on the subject is. Sometimes it seems we are archaically condemned. Sometimes I stumble into an echo chamber of deliverance. Blurred lines, out of line, fall into line, forgotten lines…

What is sexual freedom? What is sexual empowerment? What does the world look like when we don’t hate ourselves?

Ongoing struggles, never ending conversations. 10,000 years of civilization and who the fuck knows what was before. I may feel like a broken record about this, but I already know, I won’t have enough of a lifetime to ever make enough sense of it.

On post releasing crash

Burning through the chokehold of stifled freedoms. The epigenetic smell of charred flesh, the sound of neck bones. The inheritance of absolutes, deadweight in my gut. Nature recalcitrated, culture asphyxiated. I come in through the cracks, my purpose ciphered, like trying to hold on to the fog. How could there be an answer to the questions that don’t want to be asked? There is the tenderness of bruises inside the flush of my fever. What following the rules is meant to prevent. But there is no such game for me, I do not know how to play. Buried in the sand under the sea, to be resurrected by the waters. The wish of fallen eye lashes. Like the wish of fallen angels. Nothing plain to see, nothing evident to grasp. Liquid eyes and frozen hands. No more form than fervor.

On porn is in the eye of the beholder 

I have decided to accept that I am on Pornhub.

I’ve spent so much time debating and questioning and arguing about my presence on a pornography platform. Searching for an alternative, hoping for an elegant exit. Facing the fact that explicitness has no other place to live on the internet. Feeling slapped in the face when I load one of my videos and see myself next to ‘Try Not To Cum’ games and ‘Milf Who Want To Fuck’ ads. Wondering if I am being reckless. Enjoying getting new subscribers everyday, yet not changing the setting that sends every email announcing that to the Junk folder. Not knowing how to answer the comments I’m getting there, all positive but definitely of a different nature than the ones on Vimeo. Basically, being completely and utterly ambivalent about the whole thing.

But the truth is, this is what’s real right now. The split is what’s real. There’s no other place for me to have this conversation, and trying to build a safer space equivalent would require resources I do not have. So, if I am to move forward, I need to start with where I am. And right now, I am on Pornhub.

To tell the whole story, I have to talk about an essay I encountered this summer that has radically changed my mind on the question of pornography. “Some Harms to Women of Restrictions on Sexually Related Expression”, by Leonore Tiefer, from her book Sex is Not a Natural Act (Westview Press, 2004). Tiefer is a sexuality expert known for speaking against the medicalization of sexual dysfunction. Her book is a collection of essays challenging the consensus reality of sexuality. Essentially, she posits that sex is a potential and a construct, something more human than just a biological drive. She’s not always easy to read but she certainly takes sex positivity to the next level by removing the mandatory aspects from it. In this particular essay, she makes several amazing points, such as the fact that pornography is best understood not through literal interpretation, that the morality of masturbation is a huge subtext behind the argument against porn, and that repressing sexually explicit material actually robs women of the opportunity to make up their own minds about it. Her perspective resonates so much with me, I’m so grateful to have found someone who dares step out of the classical debate about porn. Having highlighted every second sentence, I wish I could post the entire essay here, but I’m a big believer in copyright, so instead I’m going to encourage anyone interested to go find her book. I will permit myself one quote though, as I feel it speaks to me directly: “Shame and ignorance make cowards of us all, but now is no time for cowardice about women’s sexual practices and imaginings. Censorship harms women because women need sexual empowerment, not sexual protection. Antiporn campaigns say that porn gives men power. But in fact, men already have power. Explicit sexual materials and performances can contribute to women’s sexual power. People who do not like certain types of pornography can avoid them. Or better yet, they can create something completely new.” Like music to my heart…

That being said, I’m not sure I’m ready to call what I do porn per say. I still claim the subtle but fundamental distinction between material that aims to depict arousal versus material that aims to create arousal. This to me is the essential difference between my art and porn, the difference between showing you what I see and showing you what you want to see. Well, come to think of it, it’s not like this dichotomy doesn’t exist in every other art and entertainment form.

Also, and this is an important point, I don’t mean to say that it’s all peachy now, that I don’t think the pornography industry has any issues. I’m still very much aware and afraid of its potential for exploitation. But, looking at the news these days, it should be clear to everyone that you don’t need to be in porn to be subjected to predatory behaviors. The power imbalances that enable abuse need to be addressed everywhere.

My art comes from a place within me that is conscious of the shame my sexuality is entangled with and yet still believes in the transformational beauty of sexual expression. I have had to keep myself safe through many dark nights of fear, yet hope rises in the morning light, asking to be embraced. Sunrise Orgasm is from almost exactly a year ago, the last full orgasm video I made before Vimeo closed my account for the second time. I held on to it because I kept hoping I could release it on a different platform, and because I needed time to remember how to be more courageous than ashamed.

Watching it again now brings up an enormity of feelings. Wondering what the hell I was thinking but being proud of myself. All my beauty and all my flaws exposed as one. Moments of grace next to moments I wish I could cut out. Everything I would do differently but how this experience can never be relived. The way this is both boring and mesmerizing, so private and political. How my entire story is written on my body. How pleasure and awkwardness, confusion and surrender rise and fall like waves. The reality of orgasm, the time that it takes. How slow pace leaves so much room for the uncomfortable. The desire to see and feel myself, the struggle to show up, to exist as myself. All laid bare to judge or to celebrate.

I can’t know for sure that I’m doing the right thing in sharing this. I’m still terrified that my work raises so many questions for which I do not have answers. But there is something about this that’s asking not to be denied. If that makes me a pornographer then fine, so be it. Call it porn or call it art, I don’t care anymore, they are your eyes, you decide what you see.

Sunrise Orgasm, on Pornhub

On hoarding

I’ve been holding on to all this writing… It’s a funny thing, to hoard thoughts like that. I think there’s a fear that I can’t say them out loud unless I know they make sense. But it’s not my job to make sense. It’s my job to be myself. So here they are, in no particular order, so that I can make room for what’s next…

*

It’s day 30 of my menstrual cycle. I seem to have regained the capacity to express myself. That usually means my period is about to start. The more I observe myself in my cycle, the more fascinated I become by how it influences me.

I can’t help but feel like rest is a dirty word. When I need to rest, how I need to rest… It always ends up making me feel like I’m scoring high on the mess-o-meter. But why is there a meter in the first place? What the fuck am I trying to measure?

I do this thing where I have imaginary conversations with people in my head. I came up with this line a while back: When they ask you what the hell I’m doing, tell them I’m trying to be alive before I die.

Always looking for the meaning of things, it’s a lot to ask for. It’s just that, free floating in the void of everything and nothing, I need something strong enough to keep me in orbit.

I don’t remember a single day of my life where I haven’t thought about death. Most days it’s only fleeting. Some days it’s compulsive. I think that’s why sex is at the heart of my art. Sex is one of the few things strong enough to keep me in orbit. To balance out death and loss, to take me back to life. And to take me back to love. Love is the only thing meaningful enough to stick. Everything else always seems to slide off after a while…

*

All the ways that I am torn

I want to be earnest
I think I’m coming off cheap
I want to free myself
I might just be needy
I want to mean something
I’m trapped by my inadequacies

I am by no means the only woman exploring her image. Some days that makes me feel like I belong, like I am one of my generation. Part of something bigger, part of something human. Most days though that just makes me feel insecure, like I’m being redundant, unimaginative, fake.

How can every opposite coexist inside my head? How much ping ponging can a mind handle without hurting its integrity?

I am not one to believe that cutting anything away is ever the solution. I would rather learn how to cool off the flames of contradictions, how to make peace out of enemies. I think learning to breathe with everything is the way to start.

I guess the question is, how do I feed more oxygen into my sense of self? Ha, and I’m right back to breathing! Maybe breathing is the answer to everything. I do know for a fact that it’s the only way I have of influencing my nervous system (cardiac coherence, check it out if you need a quick non-pharmaceutical fix). And I guess a lot of people have been talking about breathing for a lot of centuries…

The thing about breath is, it’s one thing that includes two poles. It’s not like you can skip one or prefer the other. There is no inhaling without exhaling, like there is no eating without shitting, no waking without sleeping, no living without dying.

Maybe that’s why even when I’m doing well, I’m still torn. Because that one way momentum I so wish for, that got-it-all-figured-out consistency I’m told to seek is actually unachievable. And undesirable. Because the light and the darkness, the void and the matter, the in and the out don’t exist without each other.

*

Something is coming into focus for me. One of the reasons I keep falling off track all the time is because of how involved I get with everything. I think I just can’t keep up with myself. It’s like I don’t know how to regulate my own volume, how to maintain sustainable levels.

I extract so much meaning, I engage so deeply with what I encounter… It turns almost everything into an all encompassing high. Of course that’s not necessarily a bad thing, that’s kind of a great thing actually. It just takes its toll in ways that make me need to retreat, give myself a chance to digest, come up for air, regain my footing. From letting so much light in, you end up with extra long processing times.

It’s probably one of the reasons I so often resist engaging with new things. Because I know that once I allow something in, it will seep in fast and deep. It’s also why I am most afraid of the things I actually want. I want them so much, and yet I wait and wait, taking my time, avoiding, a bit of both. Trying to make sure I am ready before I open myself. You don’t open the floodgates if you’re not sure you can handle it. Especially when you want to ride the rushing waters and not just be swept away by them.

A long time ago, I used to wonder if I was bipolar. I was worried for a while, but I honestly don’t think so anymore. Most of it is the flow of my menstrual cycle, something that should be normal, acceptable, and why not even enviable. Then the rest of it is just one of the many ways that I am me. One of my evil re-christened as what is best in me. I am an extra sensitive spirit with a fast revolving mind and a heart that somehow keeps expanding… My my, won’t you listen to that. I’m starting to sound like someone who likes herself!

*

Got herpes on my lip again. It appeared for the first time in a decade three months ago, then it took weeks to get under control while never seeming to completely heal, and now it’s back.

I feel like my body is a battleground. The forces of good and evil, the past and the future, all that I don’t want and all that I do want. Everything clink clonking like the sound of swords and axes hashing it out.

The herpes isn’t the only thing my body is struggling with. My menstrual cycle, my gut, my mood, my weight, my fitness… Everything keeps going up and down. I even have a cold and ear pain coming on and off. I’m working on it all, but I go from motivated to frustrated. The past few years, I’ve had big stretches of time where I was ruthless in my management of myself. These days I seem to have as much counter will as iron will. Honestly, I’m not convinced that being overly controlling is the way to go anymore. I was doing better to some extent because I was limiting myself. It may be easier if you don’t allow certain experiences, but then you’re not having those experiences. And I think, at this point in my life, I am starving for experiences. Whatever consequences they might bring can’t be worse than the pain of missing out.

*

I’ve been watching Margaret Atwood’s stories on the screen, and thinking about how different it is from reading her on the page. It’s late and it’s raining now, and this thought is stirring in my head… The page can be a woman’s refuge in ways that the screen cannot be, because the screen can be a woman’s dungeon in ways that the page cannot be.

Because of how our sexuality gets turned against us, we have to divorce it, or fear being participants in the hurt that happens to us. And/or the only other choice, the one that’s rarely a choice at all, to learn the way that we are wanted to be sexual, a way that can be used, sold, controlled. Either case, it makes us walk around life like our hearts have been cut out of our chests. Seeking in vain, in other places and other people, our own stolen power.

Unwhole. How can anyone who feels unwhole not be utterly sad, angry, despaired, depressed? Hysterical. From the Greek hystera, uterus. The origins of the world. Now not so doctor kosher a term, and yet I can’t help but feel it might very well be the perfect word to describe the state of this world.

When I write, do I hear the sound of my own voice? What do I see when I look at myself on the screen? Can I see the hollowed out parts? Can I hear the secrets I keep? Are all the reflections and artifacts adding up to a whole or are they patching up the holes?

I want to think that I am being clever. That I am an artist. That at least I’m trying. There is so much to be unearthed. There is so much noise and so much silence. What does it take to break through? What does it take to mend the broken seams?

On (a)shamed

Still Sisyphus-ing.

The thing about what happens when you’re growing up is that subject and object cannot be separated. What happens to you gets processed as who you are. Being shamed becomes being ashamed. It becomes a matrix that rules over how you see everything, trickling down into your behavior, so you can keep proving to yourself that this is the reality. This is how early circumstances become conditioning. This is how we don’t leave the room, even after the doors have been unlocked.

My shame matrix is multi-layered. Like a wall with coat of paint over coat of paint. I work on freeing myself from it, each round feeling like I’m taking off another pair of stained glasses. Life looks brighter for a while, until something else happens and I get triggered. Becoming aware again of the feeling of weight on my nose. I thought I was seeing only through my own eyes, but no, there’s another pair of glasses on there, distorting what I see, what I feel like I can do, or can’t do. So it’s back to the shedding work, the remembering, the crying, the trying, the yearning, the waiting. Then one day I notice I don’t react quite the same, I feel lighter. And I realize I’ve taken off yet another pair of glasses.

I’m still thinking about how much my Vimeo account saga acted as a trigger playground. The first time, positively, because I fought for myself and won. That’s such a rare experience for me. That’s what gave me bounds of fresh energy. A feeling of earned freedom, like I was jailbreaking straight out of the shame room. This is how I was able to work on my project the way I did, in such a driven and direct way. Then the second time, negatively, because I tried but it didn’t work. The fact that Vimeo shut me down so completely made me feel like I couldn’t be heard anymore. It made me feel like I was back in the locked hospital room, back in my childhood bedroom, back in the shame room. Back where you truly belong, whispers the distortion venom in my ear… I know that’s just another pair of fucking glasses, but now I’m back in the matrix, ruled again by the old conditioning. And the thing is, it may not be, but it feels real. It feels like the doors really are locked.

I believe that everything exists for a reason, but that without balance, proportions go out of whack and you end up with corrupted files. Shame exists for a reason. It can be an appropriate adaptive behavior. But living your life inside the shame matrix, living your life as an ashamed person, that’s a fucked up proportion. It’s like chronic inflammation. It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for anyone.

Being ashamed really is like being in locked room. It keeps me isolated even in the middle of a crowd, even in front of someone who loves me. Like I’m locked away in a box inside my head. It keeps me away from what nurtures me. Making my videos freed me, and I made them because I felt free, but I feel so out of step from that loop now. Vicious cycle versus virtuous cycle. It’s pretty clear how Vimeo restoring my account the first time acted like a permission slip for me. But now I don’t have the luxury of an outside party giving me what I want. I can’t make Vimeo embrace me again. But honestly, that would be a shortcut anyway, and it would rob me of what I really need. I need to learn to empower myself. No outside permission necessary. It sounds so easy written down. I wish it was as easy to get to.

So I’m back to the shedding process. Being aware that I’ve got a big pair of stained glasses on my nose. That that’s why I wake up in the middle of the night like my head is on fire, feeling like anything I do is wrong, because I am wrong. Knowing that it’s not real even though it feels like it. Knowing that it’s ok, because I’ve taken the red pill, and I’m on track to take off yet another layer, yet another filter, so that life can be that much brighter again.

On me

The desire to be accepted whole, all parts known and included. That is what I want.

When I speak. When I stay silent. When I reveal myself. When I hide.

My good girl. My not good enough girl. My wanting to be seen. My wanting to be left alone.

My own voice. My head under the covers trying to hear it. My days long food and tv binges. My hating myself for it and my wanting more of it. My art making. My todo lists crushing. My endless thinking.

My exhaustions. My elations. My turnarounds, my breakthroughs, my breakdowns.

My moaning and bitching and cussing. My sweet sound seeking. My awakening. My sleeping.

My crazy creatrix. My wild sex goddess. My monkey mind. My inner child.

My inauthentic habitual self. My fearful victim self. My shy vulnerable codependent self. My impatient rushing destructive self. My old tired grumpy self. My mothering caring empathetic self. My spongy no boundary self.

My softness. My hardcoreness. My prettiness. My prickliness.

All me. All of it is me.

On continuing 

I feel like I keep writing the same post over and over again… Go Sisyphus Go.

I just finished updating my website. All the videos have been reconnected. I cleaned up the phantom leftovers from the original Vimeo account. I linked back all the deleted pieces to their new home on Pornhub. I even got my Tumblr feed back in order.

I choose not to be ashamed of myself.
I choose to reframe failures as experiences.
I choose to accept that I am no better, and no worse, than anyone else.

I can’t even describe how much mental effort it took to do so little actual work. Sharing my videos is the opposite of straightforward. I keep reminding myself that the fact that this is so complicated is exactly why I need to keep doing it. But that does not make it any easier.

If I have harmed or offended anyone by uploading material on Vimeo that was too explicit, then I earnestly apologize. I know why I thought it was ok, and I understand why others did not think it was. I also acknowledge how essential this step was for me. The positive reactions I received opened up an entire world of feeling relevant. The rejection that followed revealed an entire layer of shame that’s asking to be healed.

I want to move on so damn much. I guess it’s taking me as long as it’s going to take to learn the deeper lessons, the ones you can’t even know you’re going to learn while going through the process. Life is like playing in a jungle gym. If you think going up is good and going down is bad, you’re not gonna have fun. It’s moving through it all, ups and downs and sideways, that makes it magic.

Looking at my work again for the first time in months, I am reminded that my art is mine. Sure, it raises a lot of questions. Am I just asking for attention? Am I too much? Am I cheap? Gremlins rolling around my head. But then I sit up straighter, chin up, and allow myself to say, what I do is odd and original and evocative and raw. And worth continuing.

This project is a crazy ride. Going from feeling like I have nothing to offer, to feeling like I have a voice, to feeling like I am doing it all wrong, to making peace with myself, to wanting more again… Tumble tumble, following the white rabbit, not sure of anything… There is no courage without fear, and no trust without surrendering.

 

Let           Light           Touch           Pine Love

 

 

On courage

The great epochs of life come when we gain the courage to re-christen our evil as what is best in us. Friedrich Nietzsche

Reading these words hits my heart with such a sense of recognition.

It’s a challenging quote for a world so intent on knowing where the line between good and bad is, so intent on being on the right side of the distinction.

My heart doesn’t know what’s good or bad. My heart just knows how tired it is of all this fighting. It knows that I have been at war with myself for as long as I can remember. It bears the scars that prove it. My heart isn’t concerned with questions of morality. My heart just feels.

Now that it is coming to an end, I’m realizing that I have spent this entire summer on a quest to make peace with myself. Going into it, my goal was to be selfish, in search of self-reliance. But in trying to think of only myself, I was forced to face the enormity of my internal battle. To face how much I seek the gold stars and brownie points that count towards my “good person membership card”. To face that as much as I want to be my own north star, I am in fact keeping my ear to the ground for the sound of the approaching rectitude police.

I got to spend some time alone this summer. Truly by myself kind of alone, not just avoiding others kind of alone. It’s not something I have a lot of experience with. Making every decisions for myself, not having to think of anyone else. Being in that space is what allowed me to open my eyes to the truth of my constant chastising, my constant berating of myself. It’s kind of like opening your eyes under water. It’s not easy, it feels like it would be better to keep them closed. But you keep blinking until things come into focus. And then you see. You see the water. Like Foster Wallace’s older fish passing by young ones: morning boys, how’s the water? The kids looking at each other all puzzled, what the hell is water? My weeks of solitude have opened my eyes and I cannot not see the water anymore.

Let me tell you, turns out it ain’t pretty the way I’m used to relating to myself. And it’s not like I haven’t been on an intense healing path for years, or that I don’t use concepts of non-violent communication diligently, or that I don’t already believe in the importance of trumping hate with love. That’s what really got me. The realization that trying to feel good about myself by doing the right thing is actually the very thing that hurts me. Cause it sounds great, doesn’t it, doing the right thing, being the good person. But when I look under the hood of that, I see how much fear, pressure and shame lives in the pursuit of goodness. It’s like a tension line, propping you up, but it comes at the high price that it might be cut, and that you might fall down, right into hell. Plop.

For whatever reason, I’ve always had the compassion that makes me look at people who have done bad things and still see their humanity. Murderers, rapists, dictators aren’t a different breed, a different race, a different species. They’re just as human as I am. Thinking like this makes me feel like a spiritual hotshot, but it never occurred to me before that by judging my own worth against some sort of goodness template, I’m not being very consequent with myself. Like not at all. You can’t truly opt out of the stigma of bad while still holding on to the doctrine of good. If I really believe that a murderer is a fully worthy human being despite having committed an act of murder, than why the hell am I constantly holding the threat of losing my worth over my own head? And how is that threat not an act of war actively killing my inner peace?

What is my evil? All the ways that I have failed. All the ways that I am different. All the ways that I am difficult. All the ways that I am me. Me. Not the imagined best me that I will be happy with when I finally get to be it. No, me, the me that I am right now. I could make a long list of all the things I wish to change about this me that I am, and I used to believe that working through this list was called living, and succeeding. But isn’t all this saint seeking really not evil avoiding? And isn’t all this evil avoiding really not self avoiding?

This realization has felt like being slapped in the face, hard. The only reason it didn’t topple me over is because it comes with the recognition that I am wholly worthy just as I am in this exact moment. That holds me up like strong roots going deep into the earth. Nevertheless, feeling bad about myself is not just a belief, it’s also a habit. So, predictably, the habit still kicks in, everyday, but now I have a choice. I can remind myself that I don’t believe I am bad because I don’t do good and bad anymore. I choose to opt out, return my membership cards, thank you but no thank you.

It’s funny, it even says it right there in the phrase: I feel bad about myself. Yeah you do, because you feel that you are bad. If I don’t feel that I am bad, I stop feeling bad about myself. It’s deceptively easy. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to see. But my heart has always known, it didn’t need to see it to feel it. It’s been trying to tell me all along, by letting me feel it. But I was all confused, thinking that feeling bad was the proof something was wrong with me, making me feel even worse, leaving me no choice but to work endlessly at making me good, or else give up from exhaustion, making me bad. But good person cards, bad person cards, it’s all just paper. The worth of anyone, of everyone, is not an arithmetic game of good and bad. We are all 100% worthy, 100% ourselves, 100% human.

Oh and about courage, I’m repeating myself here but the root of courage comes from the word heart. What is courage? It’s love. Loving ourselves as we are is how we come to the great epochs of our lives.