Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 is The Year of Revolution.

I was reminded the other day of a post I had written for Elephant Journal in 2014, called "The Year of New Traditions." It basically outlined in no uncertain terms that I would not be making resolutions for the New Year, but New Traditions. The new tradition I wrote about was making every unpleasant situation more entertaining.

By way of example, I wrote about getting my hair put up in a beehive and having tons of purple eyeshadow layered on to my face before heading over to the DMV to get my photo took. I did other equally victorious things that year, but generally speaking, that tradition of experiential improvement has held strong, and rest assured, has carried me forward to this very day.

Then came 2016. What a year. What the fuck. So much that I was pretty sure we had was lost. Things like common fucking decency. So I am making 2017 The year of the Revolution. 

My 2017 is going to be chock full of shit I have never done before. Why? Because I am going to die someday and I would like to get there knowing that I did my damndest to improve things before I left. And maybe not with the concern that I might have made shit worse.

On a small scale, I have already learned a new hand skill, and I am once again committing to being trained properly in the fine art of submission. I tell ya, the person who can successfully get me to submit will be quite the strong-willed mother fucker.

On a much larger scale, I have already taken steps to combat the dominant beauty paradigm and replace the patriarchal hierarchy that keep the common woman (and man) down.

What does this mean for you? Why should you care? That is one question I promise never to answer part of my Year of the Revolution. In actuality, I am only hoping to inspire you to do shit this next year that will not only change you, but change the mother fucking world. 

This is in some way a win/win situation in that I really don't have to give you any examples of how much needs changing. There are plenty of examples. Just google 2016 and see what comes up. I am sure you will see a million "top ten shittiest things of 2016" articles pop up. In fact, after I write this, I might just go ahead and throw my hat in the ring and write one of those.

​The other thing The Year of The Revolution will see is that I am going to be standing up for way more people who need it. And A LOT of people need it. I will also be speaking out more against injustice and trying as hard as I can to make the people attempting to oppress and manipulate the masses look like fools. I am thinking it wont take much.

I will be revolutionizing so much shit it will most likely be challenging to keep up, even for me. 

But it must be done. We have lost so much this year, and I can't help but think it is because we needed to make room. Make room for the good shit that we must create to replace it. It is our job, my job, to create more good shit. So as the old ways crumble, as those in power slowly lose their grip on the general populous, I will be there, waiting to fill in the void with love, flowers, butterflies and god damned rainbows. I will be there to replace the wretched stank of greed and corruption with compassion and community. I will be there to bring hope where there was none. I will be the bringer of light.

If you are thinking this sounds crazy, I understand. But consider for just a moment that it may be even crazier for me to sit back and see what happens; crazier for me to do nothing at all about it, or even worse, keep doing what I have always done. 

The crazy is not in the thinking I can change the world. The actual crazy is in the not trying.

So look out, 2017. More good shit, coming right up.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

What My Clothes Have Always Told Me

"Your pants fit you so well. I wish I could put on a pair of pants and have them fit me that nicely." I was watching my boyfriend go through his pants drawer, literally tens of pairs of pants, which all fit him perfectly in the appropriate places. His pants cuffs falling just below the ankle, his waist band fitting perfectly against his torso. He looked at me like I was crazy. "You have a hard time finding pants that fit you?" 

That is the reaction that most men give me when I lament shopping for pants. You see, I was blessed with short legs, a beautifully rounded and full ass and a very narrow waistline.  All through high school, looking for women's pants was horrifying. Even seeing a woman's dressing room gave me the willies for years after my teenage life. I could never find any pants that were the correct length that would also be the correct girth. I wish I was talking about penises right now... but alas.

So I settled for men's Levis. These gave me the option to choose the girth of my waist AND the length of my inseam. For a very long time, decades, actually, I was a solid 30 x 30. It was the easiest way for me to buy jeans. Otherwise I would just wear sweats. Those were easy too. And comfy. Not super attractive, but hey, ya really can't have everything.

My wasband hated that I wore men's Levi's. He bugged me about it incessantly. One year for my birthday he boldly presented me a pair of women's Levis. I knew when I pulled them out of the paper bag that he wrapped them in that I was in trouble. I tried them on and low and behold...yes! The crotchal area was so tight I thought I might be in danger of spraining my vagina. Thank goodness I only had to put them on once to prove to him how stupid they were. Evidently they even looked uncomfortable.

A bit later on in the day that I expressed my jealousy of my boyfriend's pants utopia, he and I were at REI looking for, of all things, women's pants for our upcoming trip. We picked out about 15 pairs before finally settling on a pair that was a bit too long in the leg, though they were petites. They also had a bit of a gap around the waist, but they fit well around my hips and bodacious ass, so I was happy. But I only found one pair. In REI. Where they sell tons of pants. 

This got me to thinking about what my clothes have told me all my life, and what I have done to counter that horrifying message. For most of my adult life, clothes have told me that I am wrong in some way. That some how, nature got it wrong with me. That I am not of the group of people that mass marketing and production can readily serve. For a long time, this ate away at me. This was back when I believed that fitting in was the easiest way to get through life. That I needed bigger boobs and slimmer hips to really be a part of humanity.

Sounds stupid, doesn't it? That you need to look a certain way in order to get along better...the sad truth is, this is actually correct. This is the damnedable misery of this crazy western culture in which we live. So I decided to adopt a whole different attitude. I decided that it was not me who had the problem, but society. I decided that I had been created as a vision of loveliness and perfection, and that any institution which gave me the message that I was in some way wrong, was most likely just after my money and my desperation. This decision freed me, not only from women's jeans, but from a littany of other ridiculous things that never quite suited me:
  • make-up
  • nail polish
  • underwire bras
  • eyebrow waxing
  • high heels
  • diets
  • purses
  • perfume-y type stuff

Not to say that I don't occasionally partake in these (except for the underwire bras and diets) but as a general rule, these things do not play a major role in my life. And you know what? I am still a woman! I still have a vagina, and hips, and breasts and all of the none-physical things that make me such. AND I like myself more, have more confidence, and have friends who love me for who I am. (I also found stretch jeans, which I have to say, have revolutionized my life.)

All of that said, it is not like this was easy. This took years of mental anguish and then, preparation to pull off. The world is constantly sending me messages that tell me that I am not enough, or too much, or not right. It takes cultivating a pretty strong filter in order to take in what feeds me and simultaneously reject the garbage. It takes constant vigilance. It takes focus.

But you know what? It is worth it. Because now, I am not feeding the monster that would consume me. I am not playing into the man's plan to bring me down. Instead, I am sticking it to him. 

And to quote a great human, if sticking it to the man is wrong, I don't want to be right.

What do you do to cultivate the filter which feeds you and protects you? How do you stick it to the man? Leave a comment below or email me. I would love to hear about it. After all , there is nothing like a good old fashioned sticking it to the man story.

As if It was Your Last

"Live every day as if it was your last." This is the message I received from a man I met on Instagram. I thought about that for a bit. What would I do if this were my last day? How would I behave? If I am going to be honest, the first few hours of the day would most likely be aimlessly reckless and frantic. Last day on earth? That is a lot of pressure, and frankly, I am not sure I am equipped to handle it.

Most of the things I would want to do, I actually do already, and it brings me great comfort knowing that I am spending my time so well. There is just one thing, one plan I would make that would ensure that I made my last day the very best it could be.

After the dust settled and the shock wore off, I would go about finding the best food I could, the most beautiful, delicious, amazing food, and I would spend my last day eating. I would eat only what I want, only as much as I want, being careful to save room for the next amazing and delicious meal that I had planned for myself. 

I would share my meals with certain people, have specific people cook for me, and in general, include the special people in my life in specific ways so that they understood how much they have meant to me.

This is my relationship with food; I love that it can be comforting, that it can be art, that it can be medicine, and orgasmic, and community building, and of course, satisfying. Food brings people together. Food is a universal experience that each one of us experiences differently. This is why it is magical; because it can be anything to anyone, depending on the person.

I used to have a very different experience of food. At the age of 21, my body all but stopped digesting. It sounds crazy, but after 21 years of emotional and physical stress, my intestines were pretty much ready to call it quits. To that point, I had been eating lots of deep fried foods, sugar, alcohol, and really, anything else I could get my hands on when I was either drunk or stoned. My body was pissed and it showed me this by sending intense stabbing pains throughout my intestines and stomach every time I tried to eat just about anything.

I went to my Naturopath and she gave me three options: eat a carefully planned and balanced diet, take a bunch of pharmaceuticals for who knows how long, or surgery. I opted for the food plan, I started eating Macrobiotically, and this was tough; all the food was plant-based, and every meal contained fermented foods such as pickles, miso and some type of sea vegetable like Wakame,, Kombu, or Hijiki. No raw veggies. No fruit juice. The only things I could drink were Twig tea, Amazake, and water. Coming from Chicago, and being used to the wide variety of crappy food I had been eating, this plan was somewhat heart wrenching. I could never eat out. Everything took hours to prepare. I had to balance the energy of my food in order for it to do the proper things for my body. I actually had a Macrobiotic coach,  but I fired her when she scared the crap out of me because I accidentally cut my collards wrong. Long story short, there was a lot of pressure associated with this diet.

A year later, my Naturopath and Acupuncturist each told me I could stop the insanity; that my body needed meat, and I could start, very slowly, re-introducing regular people food into my diet. So, naturally, I went to the store and purchased a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. I remember feeling anxious; I had worked so hard for so long eating clean, that while I desperately wanted the ice cream, I was kind of freaked out about what it would do to me.

So began my several-decade struggle with food. It started with the stress around the strictness with which I had to eat for that year, and then, became this weird pendulum swinging back and forth from overeating sugary fatty treats to picking at kale, brown rice and miso covered tofu. My weight fluctuated wildly though I worked out constantly. I was always thinking about what I should and shouldn't eat, always worried about how much of what I could eat. I still wasn't eating a whole lot of meat, but my sugar intake was insane.

Years later I read a book that stated that in order to have a good relationship with food, you must eat whatever you want, whenever you want, but make sure that before and after, you really check in with your body and see if what you want is really what you want. This practice took years to perfect, because there was always some part of me, in the back of my mind, that doubted. WAS I really allowed to eat whatever I want, whenever I want? Wouldn't I just wind up eating Macrobiotics again? Wouldn't I gain a bajillion pounds if I ate anything I wanted at any time I wanted? Actually, it was weird. The better I got at checking in with how my body actually felt about my food, before and after I ate it, the easier it was to eat.  I read that sentence and it seems like a thunderclap of obvious followed by a lightning bolt of epiphany, but for some reason, listening to my body had never occurred to me, even AFTER I went through a year of eating fermented food and sea vegetables. Years later, I would find myself working at a food co-op, overseeing a bakery and eating cake every day for breakfast. Why? Because I really, really wanted to. Until I didn't. Then I stopped. Roughly six months later. Roughly.

But I know I am lucky. I have put myself in a place where eating high quality, local, organic food is encouraged, supported and most importantly, affordable. It is not like that for most of the people in the US, nor is it possible to get actual truthful information about food or even how to eat. Even if you are listening to your body, there is so much misinformation out there about food and how to eat, in addition to the body shaming and ridiculous expectations for body image that we put on ourselves, it can be pretty challenging.

I hear about all kinds of diets and eating plans, but the best one I have ever found is the one that my body dictates. If I am really listening to my body, I know I won't go wrong. Even if it is my last day. Even if I am with friends who are all eating differently. The food that is best for me is the food my body chooses.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Confidence and Body Alteration.

Every few days I pluck my whiskers. Every day, I ride my bike for at least an hour. Every few days, I do yoga. Every six weeks, I bleach my hair. I wear a bra almost every day. Sometimes I wear boots with heels. Sometimes, I wear make-up. Every year or so, I get my brows done. On super special occasions, I get a mani-pedi. Every once in a while, I wear a pair of control top panty hose. These things, all of them, alter my body. I can tell you that if I didn't do everything I do to feel good, I would look entirely different.

And there is nothing wrong with that. After my whisker plucking vid came out, I got a lot of people telling me that they were confused about my message, that they didn't know if I was telling people to love themselves the way they are, or to change the way they are.

I believe, down to my toes, that you should do whatever you need to do to feel good about yourself. If that includes plucking your whiiskers, getting breast implants, getting your eyes done, so be it. It is your choice and if it helps you feel good, no one should  tell you that your are wrong. 

That is the whole thing about confidence. You must OWN it. You must make it yours. Part of confiidence, is telling people to fuck off. Part of it is doing what you damn well want to do. Part of it is getting to know youself well enough to know what will make you happy. This shit does not come from outside sources. It does not come from your parents, your partner, or your priest. It comes from deep inside.

A large part of my message, such as it is, is to do confidence YOUR WAY. Not my way. Not the way the mass marketing machine would have you do it. Not the way Oprah does it. No. confidence, to be truly powerful, must be cultivated on an individual level, without regard for conformist standards or consumer culture. 

The best any of us can do is be ourselves. Not our neighbors, not our sisters, not our parents clones. 

Be just who you want to be. There is power in that, and in that power, you will find your confidence. You will find your value. 

Do confidence your way. 

​Then show us what you got.

The Memory of My Body.

I still remember the first time I tied my shoes. I was so proud of what I had done! I was so happy I felt like I could fly. I remember the first time I rode my bike without training wheels, too. I remember the first time I hit a baseball, the bat's vibration stinging in my surprised hands. I remember the first time that I threw a perfect spiral. I remember the first time I did a handstand, a back flip, a somersault, I remember the first time I beat my brother in a race. I was so amazed at what my body could do. I was so proud of it. I loved my body.

I also remember the first time my body kept me from something. I was playing baseball with the boys. I was eleven and I was developing. The coach took one look at me and told me I couldn't play because I was a girl. My father argued with the coach, telling him that I was better than most of the boys. It didn't matter. My dad was pissed. I was mortified at my body. And it would not be the last time. 

Since that day, I have been discounted for being a woman, for being a girl. I have been objectified, belittled, and otherwise marginalized. For a long time, it pissed me off. I thought it was some external battle I had to wage against the men of the world. I believed that the way I felt about my body and myself was wholly on other people.

But I was altogether wrong. At about 43, I realized that there was so much about myself, about my body, that I did love, so much about what I could do that was unique, significant and special, that the thing I had to work on, the thing I had to change, was how I let the world's brainwashed opinion effect me. I realized that I had to go from being reactive to being proactive. I realized that the only person who had to love my body was me. That the only experience of my body that mattered was my own.

From then on, instead of reacting to the way certain men treated me at work, instead of engaging with them on their level, I decided to not engage, to pull back, and to treat them like misbehaving dogs; just ignore them. I realized at a certain point that their bad behavior was not a reflection of my value, but a reflection of what they believed theirs to be, and I allowed them to have that. 

I decided that all the messaging that I have access to, I can turn off. I can stop buying. I can shut it out. I can call bullshit. I can also prepare myself for it before I see it. I can set my mind to knowing full well that I am valuable beyond measure. I am beauty incarnate. I am unique in a way that must be celebrated. I do not need to compare myself to anyone else because in every situation, it is apples and oranges. 

We are all a combination of skills, abilities and talents. A multitude of integrity, courage and depths unknown. We are connected in this way. We all have so much in us. We all have potential.

The trick is going forward behaving as if we have value, because to some extent, we have all been treated as if we don't, men and women alike, and we are all just trying to get past this. We are all trying to get past the programming that tells us that we are not good enough, programmed by people who thought that they were not good enough. People who could not see beyond their pain.

We must learn to see beyond our pain. We must find a way to rise above our fears. There is no other way. Fighting each other will not solve it. This must come from within. This one thing, this determined focus for our betterment, must be our practice. It must be our practice to stop fighting each other; to stop fearing each other. There is nothing outside of us that is more frightenting than what is contained within; but we distract ourselves by telling a different story.

The distraction throughout our history has been a story of the other; fear the other. Hate the other. Anyone who does not look like you, think like you, buy shit like you, cannot be trusted. People who have less, people who have more, people who believe in different gods than you are seen as threats. As if the other is not in some way linked to you. The other distracts you from yourself; from the fear that you have regarding what is inside of you. The truth of this is painful; hard to accept, but true nonetheless.

As for my body, I do love it. Even as I watch it age, I am grateful for it. I have had an extraordinary life thus far, and seeing that has made my life that much better. I have come from a place of self-loathing to this, and in order to not fall back there, I take time for myself, before my day starts, to set myself up for success. I know that if I am going to believe in myself, I must use Jedi-like mind strength and ward off the invasive forces that seek to make me doubt my value. This is the unfortunate way the world is. For now.

But, if the individual can choose out of love instead of fear who they want to be, if people can truly love and accept themselves, they will be able to do this for each other. The fear of the other will vanish. That is my goal. To eradicate the fear of the other.

When I die, I want the memory of my body to be of a strength that was impervious to hate and fear. I want the memory of my body to be of a strength that was based in love.

You Don't Have to Get Naked.

"People take your naked body so literally." I looked across the table at my date, and shortly after being offended, I realized he was right. I had been discussing my desire to help people be more confident within themselves, starting with their bodies. My date was suggesting that people might be somewhat freaked out that I might ask them to get naked.

I have been doing this project for six months now, and I realize, more now than ever, that it is not my body that is the point. It is not that it is a challenge to come up with inspiring phrases. It is not that I am putting them on social media on several different platforms in order to encourage and inspire.

While this is all important to me, it is not the point. The point, is that on every level, we are scared to reveal ourselves. Not necessarily our bodies, but our souls, our thoughts, our hearts. This is what is truly challenging; to admit to your deepest desires, and your most terrifying fears. 

There are so many things that I will never be. There are so many places that I will never see. But I am free to choose, and that, to me, is the only freedom I need. I am very afraid I will not be accepted. I am scared to death I will be criticized. I worry constantly about what other artists think of my work. I worry about failure. I ruminate for hours on how painful it would be to be betrayed. I do. But, I have a choice and I have history and some experience to help inform my decisions, I can let these fears and anxieties control my behavior, or, I can push past them; I can live beyond them.

I ask myself how vulnerable I want to be. How much do I want to share? How much will sharing my pain help other people? I am not hoping to get everyone taking naked selfies. I am not hoping to have people do what I do. I am hoping that in their own way, people will find a way to be vulnerable, even if it is only incrementally. Even if it is only with themselves.  I am hoping that I can inspire people to be naked by being more honest, more authentic. More human. 

I have made this practice, this very personal and meaningful practice, public because I believe that the very demonstration of courage will help inspire others to be courageous in their own way with whatever they are ready to do. And that is the point. That you do what you are ready to do. You do not have to rush. You do not have to pressure yourself into doing anything you are not ready for. And being ready does not mean it is easy. It does not mean that you are completely comfortable. It means that you have what you need to handle what might or might not happen. That is all. It is not a guarantee. It is a risk. 

This naked selfie project is still a risk for me. That is why I continue. I keep finding new ways to expose myself as I am ready. I keep finding ways to take risks. I keep finding myself in this project and finding that I am not as scary, deep down, as I thought I was. I am not as horrible as I once believed myself to be. I am finding new ways to love and accept myself. That is why this is a practice. Because I am within, and I am attempting to draw myself out.

Be just who you need to be, and when you are ready, see how much more you are. Discover how much more you can possibly be. Surprise yourself with your depth, your vulnerability. Show us your human side. We need you. 

Whenever you are ready.

Why I Train.

"I volunteer to pull out of this. It is becoming too much work to set this up." 

This was the text I received from a gentleman in Seattle when he discovered that I was not up for just meeting then immediately going somewhere and having sex with him. He followed up by telling me that it was too much drama and work already. He told me all that he needed was stress relief. 

This is the kind of shit that makes me concerned for humanity. I mean, why even bother meeting someone? Just turn on the computer, go on over to Tumblr, and look at all the millions of free porn blogs there. Get some stress relief that way. Don't use another person for it! That is a waste of a person!

Which brings me back to me, as it always does. I want to be in a place where this shit does not bother me. I want to be in a place where when this happens, I can know that it has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with who he is. I want this to not hurt my feelings, but, alas, it does. 

That is why I train. I train my mind; not my brain necessarily, but my gut, my heart and my brain, interactively to react differently. If I don't I will react emotionally. I will believe that the flaw is in me. And while I am all for embracing and loving my flaws, I am not into taking on someone else's idea of who I should be because it is convenient for them. That just pisses me off and starts me down a very dark, ugly path.

So I train, because in a sense, I have been brainwashed. I have been brainwashed into believing that in order to be lovable, I must be perfect. Being human is off the table. I must have my hair a certain way, I must wear a certain type of clothing, I must be a certain weight, and behave in a way that is not a problem for anyone. Cellulite? Oh, hell no. And my eyebrows? They must look perfect. The number of things society asks of me, and of women, and yes, men too, is exhausting. I used to try to do it. For a short while, I believed I would be loved more thoroughly and by more people if I looked a certain way. 

You know what? I was miserable. Two hours to get ready every morning does not a happy woman make. Feeling miserable every day helped me to see a basic truth of life, and I have stuck to it ever since. It doesn't matter how many people love you, nor does it matter how deeply their love goes, if you are not being yourself. If you do not feel good being who you are, if it is a pain in the ass to do everything you think you need to in order to be palatable, you will have no ability to feel that love. 

That is why I forgive people who tell me I look too much like a man, or that I am too thin, or my nose is too big, my tits are too small, or my ass is too ginormous. Those people are brainwashed, and they think no better of themselves than they do of me. And THAT is the real pain. That so many people believe that they have to twist themselves up into something that approximates perfection is profoundly damaging,. because it damages them, it damages society. it damages any chance we have at creating a community of supportive and loving people who root for each other instead of tearing each other down.

 Wanna know why so many women are competitive with each other? They are caught up in a society that tells them that they are not allowed to be human. This puts them in a cage of sorts, and a person in a cage is almost incapable of supporting someone who is free. They want company in that cage. I don't blame them. That cage is a shithole.

It is not that I am against make-up, or heels or dresses or long-ass nails or any of that stuff. A lot of women rock that shit and look good and feel good doing it. And that is a beautiful, wonderful thing. But it does not have to be the only beautiful wonderful thing. It can be just one kind of beautiful thing in a field of other equally wonderful and beautiful things.

All this is why I train. I train myself to have compassion, for myself, and for others. I can forgive the guy telling a woman who I truly adore that she has to wear spanx under her wedding dress...after I get over wanting to tear his arms off of his body. Because what he needs is love, acceptance, and the message that he too is trying to live up to an unattainable standard that is making him miserable. You might argue that he needs a swift kick in the ass, or a tongue lashing, but I guarantee you, it is not love that got him to this judgmental, pain-filled point, it was most likely more the latter. 

We don't need to be perfect. What we need is to be human. So I celebrate, support and cheer that everywhere I go. I am not interested in everyone looking the same, acting the same, saying the same shit. I am interested in the chaos of a culture that thrives on diversity. I am interested in what could happen if we were allowed to follow our hearts. I am interested, finally, in a human experience; not a perfect experience. 

So I will keep training. I will not waste the experience of another person because I need to let off steam. I will not blame people because they cannot see beyond their own pain to be kind. But I absolutely-every-mother-fucking-time will stand with you when you need me. I will celebrate you when you stand in your own skin and smile at me. I will, finally, allow you to be as human as you need to be. 

And I will love you for it.