Friday, January 31, 2014

We Are Not All One

This may actually come as surprise to those who've heard me talk about particle physics before. Not that I'm anything more than a semi-educated layman in these matters, but I do try to explore the more scientific side of some New Age ideas. (Fun website:
In essence the particle theory is that ALL known matter (skip dark matter for now)- are comprised of the same sub-atomic particles. So that means everything from you to the sun to your computer and everything is, at its smallest known level, exactly the same. So seems kinda easy to make the jump that we're all the same at a macro cosmic level too, right? What about holographic universe, that the entirety is contained in the piece? Well, there is a reason these calculations are still called theories. All my examples can be extrapolated to reflect other possibilities and interactions.

Back to the point (I swear I have one) is that while the particles seem to be limited (previously unknown interactions are being discovered at a phenomenal rate), but combinations built on combinations are not. You are not a star at the moment. You are presenting as human (or at least mostly so). Your computer is not a coffee mug and so forth. I am not you, nor am I even a reflection of you, or you of me. My combination is not yours.

The concepts of "we are all one" and "everything in the universe is a reflection of you" are ripples of monotheism. (An interesting blog article that gave me the idea for that phrase can be found here: Confronting the Black Hole) When we realize that we are indeed our own sovereign entity, when we recognize our interactions are with other entities in their own combinations-of-existence, we can recognize diversity as positive. The "we are all one" narrative is downright harmful when someone uses the concept to perpetuate their own idea as "the way it should be for everyone." E.g. theology in politics. Or assuming that privilege doesn't exist, we're all African, etc. (Those are some very weighty topics on their own, but the underlying theme of we're-all-the-same is pervasive.)

A gift of recognizing we're not all one is to stop comparing ourselves to others and allow us to be in the moment with who we are. My partner and I are not "one", we are two individuals who choose to walk our paths together. We do not assume each other to to feel, think, or see the same way. To recognize that we have the ability and right to own our individuality and to change by informed choice is incredibly empowering. Here's where it really gets hard: figuring out who you are! That can be frightening as well as freeing. Fortunately, this is a process not a result. Have things in common. Share likes and dislikes with others, but let go of the assumption that everyone is you. They're not, and when you acknowledge that you can actually see them for who THEY are, not as you want them to be. The implications are enormous, but just for today, really LOOK at someone consciously and without expectation or judgement. Who is there?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Birth and PTSD

In this post I want to tackle the ideals that are forced onto people regarding this extraordinarily important event. I say "people" because it affects all genders and backgrounds and their expectations for themselves AND for others. I realize that to say "women" is to show cis-gender privilege, so please know that I include ALL persons-with-a-uterus who choose- or would choose- to use said organ. A person-with-a-uterus forced to use it against their will or desire is not covered here because that is a fucking horrible thing that deserves its own forum for discussion. 

I write this because more than a decade later I realize my own PTSD was still being triggered when coming across these myths/expectations. The more I discuss it the more persons I find who tearfully share their own stories, having been trapped in feeling that they are alone in their pain and trauma. (Should you choose to share your story, this is a safe place to do so. All comments are moderated.) If some of the below points are true for you, I'm glad your experience was good or empowering! It's the expectation that a good experience is the norm is misplaced and damaging.

These are what has affected me personally that I'm discussing but there are obviously more, for example: Someone (any gender) who doesn't want to birth and/or raise children is somehow a soulless deviant. That one really pisses me off. I have 2 children, 2003 & 2008, there's a 5 year gap between them because making the choice for a second pregnancy was not easy. I am very, very grateful that I HAD the choice at all. 

I need to acknowledge some facts regarding my privileges as a white, cis-gender (not het or main stream religion, but neither was readily apparent), married, of-appropriate-age woman. I had ready access to (mostly) competent medical care that wouldn't bankrupt me. I didn't have to be concerned about how I would be received or treated due to all those things that give me an unfair advantage. I would later have access to counseling and medication and receive very little flak for seeking those things. It makes me mad that other people don't get basic human rights and courtesy. I'll do my best to not let my privilege downplay anyone else's experience. If you do feel that way, I am truly sorry and accept that I've screwed up, even unintentionally.

This needs to be discussed because people feel isolated and unaware that this can happen- and that it happens far more frequently than patriarchy wants to admit. Here is a study reported by ScienceDaily that shows 1 in 3(!!) persons suffer at least some symptoms.

So, let's look at some of these expectations around birth:

1) It's a grand miracle.
2) A person will feel amazing love for the child.
3) It's beautiful.
4) That the pain disappears almost immediately.
5) That the pain is forgotten.
6) That it's totally natural and doesn't need medical help. (Maternal death rates are still horrifically high and incredibly disproportionate to persons of color and low income. Report here on the WHO webpage.)

I'm incredibly fortunate that I didn't have anyone *in my face* insisting that these things are true, which is a product of said patriarchal expectations and extremely hurtful. The birth process can be gory, bloody and dehumanizing. All pretense at dignity may be stripped away involuntarily. Even ridicule in the moment from medical personnel and family is not uncommon. For those who have experienced such ridicule I don't need to clarify, but for the rest: if you or someone you know has asked/demanded/wondered/commented on why this person isn't conforming to the standard the asker expected, then stop making it all about you and be kind and unobtrusively supporting instead. 

Trigger warning: I left out the gory details, but this is not a comfortable or pleasant story.
I have birthed two children and have had one miscarriage. The first birth was vaginal, in the hospital with medication, the second by emergency caesarean section. I was incredibly happy with the c-section. The overall difference was how I was treated in addition to the fact I suffered less physical damage with the c-section despite the fact I was cut open without being properly anesthetized first.

The first time was without dignity and lacked in compassion. Even with medication it was, bluntly, horrible.  I was unable to walk without assistance for 2 weeks and to add insult to injury, all my muscles had been damaged, including bladder control. Physically I required additional restorative surgeries; one 18 months later and another just last year (2013) that took out the uterus as well finishing the repairs.
For nearly three years I was unable to have sex without significant pain, pain which subconsciously tied itself to the time I had been raped.
3 months after the birth of my first child, (I suspect this happens more frequently than anyone I know talks about) at a post-partum check-up I hesitantly mentioned to the nurse doing the intake checklist that I thought I was feeling depressed. "Well have you been curled up in a corner crying?" she snapped irritably. 
"Uh, no..." (As it would turn out, that was actually a "not yet".)
"Then you aren't that depressed."
Because all of those expectations above failed, the medical system failed me, I felt tremendous guilt as if I were somehow to blame.

I would go the next 3 years without treatment while the chemical damage continued in my brain. I now have bi polar II, for which medication mismanagement nearly brought about my death in 2011.

I'm alive. Too many times I've heard or read about people who didn't make it, who commit emotional or physical suicide. Please, please reject the expectations and be present. As a Pagan, I refer to this non-judgmental, loving, compassionate listening as holding sacred space. You can do this for yourself, as well. It's hard, damn hard sometimes. Even with a good amount of therapy behind me, strong interpersonal relationships and a solid spiritual foundation, writing this is difficult.
It would also be strongly remiss to not mention my partner's active love and care to which I give high credit for why I've done as well as I have. I've also built a network of friends and friendly acquaintances who have willingly listened, become educated, and demonstrated compassion. I had to utilize that today. That is what I hope to accomplish here on a larger scale: opening the dialogue to maybe prevent even one person suffering as I did and to encourage everyone to approach each other compassionately.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Friendzone, aka You don't get to own me.

On my fb page I shared the following image, which is a pretty damn nice way of phrasing it: 

This is a man's response it received (not from any friend of mine): 

"The problem with that post is that it makes it sound as if women aren't just as (and in most cases I have seen, more) shallow and materialistic as men. The "Friendzone" works both ways. Yes, men and women have different 'plumbing' and our mental algorithms can vary from slightly to polar opposite, yet in the end we are all human and have the same shitty faults. I think it's about time we stopped trying to figure out who is to blame or which gender is better. I think it's time we start focusing on what we can do to improve ourselves and through that improvement increase our chances of finding that special someone who's insanity matches our own."

Welcome to male privilege and patriarchy folks. If you just nodded to any of that post, that's a HUGE fucking problem.

My response on facebook:

"Unfortunately, your comment actually ignores the entire point and tries to shift the blame back onto women. The point is that men expect to be entitled to a woman's body regardless of how she feels. This is called rape culture. It's why the "friendzone" is so despised by men, a woman is a 'bitch' or 'shallow' just because she doesn't happen to want to drop her pants for every dude who thinks he deserves it because he made a pretense of treating her like a f**cking human being. 
Let me be very clear: bringing male privilege to my page will not go well."

That's the short version and here's why agreeing to that post is THE problem. To be able to justify and/or ignore despicable behaviour simply because the majority agrees with you is the ESSENCE of privilege. "But I don't do those things!" you might say. Are you sure? What makes you feel discomfort? Are you being challenged? Would you have stood up and said, "Wait a minute, expecting her to conform to your idea is kinda fucked up and proves the whole thing to begin with." 

If you can look me in the eye and say yes, I have and do confront people of my own identity to change this, then we're on the right track. If your response is like this person, "well what about THEM," you ARE the problem. If you're experiencing discomfort, GOOD. I'm not here to coddle your ego. Dig into that shit and get rid of bad programming. It's empowering to do so, for yourself AND others. 

If you still think a "nice" guy earns sex because he didn't force someone, here's a enlightening post in comic format.

 Change isn't easy. Growth isn't comfortable. Writing this is also about challenging ME to sit up, take notice and fucking do something about it. So what are YOU going to do today?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Message on Boundaries.

I write in a journal occasionally. Glancing over recent entries I saw this meditation report and thought it would be interesting to share. That particular evening I was drinking tea and getting ready for sleep, but felt an anxiety attack coming on. Such a thing would keep me up for hours as thoughts would spiral inward on an obsessive-paranoia track. Sleep would bring rage dreams. 
Instead, I settled myself in a sitting position in my pillows and checked my breathing pattern. My thought focus was the hermetic Principle of Rhythm, rising above the pendulum swing of emotion. As my body dropped into a relaxed state, the following formed...

Raging river tossing about through a gorge on its way to the sea. A solid stone bridge arched over the frothy water, as solid as the bedrock from which it was formed yet covered in scroll work and interwoven knots. I sat in a lotus position at the apex of the bridge. Serenely I watched the river and understood this to represent struggle and difficulty. At first it seemed to be only my own but I soon realized it was all struggle.

I began to see people frantically thrashing about in the river and I wanted to throw them rope life-lines. However, one end needed to be secured to something for them to be able to pull out of the water. Immediately noted that I could help a couple personally but doing so would quickly pull me down as well.  Projections appeared jutting out from the bridge that I could secure the ropes to. These represented different aspects of support: faith, family, compassion, forgiveness, and more. I can offer tools and direction but cannot be personally invested in others' struggles and outcomes. 
I noticed I had my own line but that it was not attached to the bridge. Among the field of stars behind me that held the Gods, my line went directly to Her. It appeared not as a rope, but a silver-grey cord. As I watched, it encased me fully in a shimmering second skin. Completely at peace, I turned back to the river. Several fellow priests, of Hers and Others, joined me on the bridge. We stood in solidarity. There is much work to be done.

I rose to awareness just enough to resettle into a comfortable position to sleep. Anxiety was completely erased. The next morning the vision was just as clear and I wrote it down, though the significance of virtually every piece didn't settle in immediately. 

This was a fresh reminder of maintaining boundaries while assisting other people in their journeys. It is just that: maintenance. When I'm not certain where that lies, I know I can look to my Goddess for direction. Just being able to break out of the anxiety spiral is incredibly important. Frequently this past year I've been getting a distinct message: get your shit together, there is no time for you to waste. Doing so is not necessarily easy or simple, but oh-so-worth it. I'm excited for what's next!

photo credit: Daleberts via photopin cc
photo credit: Fabio Ricco via photopin cc