Friday, February 9, 2018

Middle age- or middle school?

If you have ever been interested in a date, googled a date, joined an online dating site, or perused a relationship article as a woman, you are likely to see one of these images pop up:

Let me backtrack here. I'm a woman of reasonable attractiveness. I'm almost 50 but I don't look it. I'm fun, maybe a little too flirtatious, somewhat "extra" at times, kind-hearted, sassy, always have something interesting to say or some weird project idea for saving the world. I'm intelligent and insightful.  I have not a lick of trouble getting dates, and I (sorta) pride myself on being the middle aged version of Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" : I go on too many dates, but I can't make 'em stay... (we'll return to that later when you will see how I totally change my own mind.) However,  I didn't always feel wanted or with options.
In fact, I went through this torture chamber called "middle school." In middle school, I was wanted/not wanted/mostly not wanted by my peers and especially boys. As we all know, middle school can be the most brutal training ground that ranges from the absolutely ridiculous (I mean, come on, me as the fat girl taking the Presidential Fitness Challenge? No thank you...I'll slink back to last to being picked for freaking dodge ball) to the utterly horrendous (Brad Drew kicking me in the thighs most mornings until I had bruises, all while calling me "Fat Ass")
There was also the usual amount of catty girl junk, never fitting in ANYWHERE in ANY social situation, adding to my feelings of an ugly duckling who never gets to find out she is a swan. Socially betcha.
On top of that, my mom got remarried, I had last name and parents-in-court drama, I got my first "C" and we are talking grades, not cup sizes. Gee, no wonder I still have body dysmorphia.
My point is, middle school for me was BRUTAL, just brutal.
Fast forward now, to me, working with middle schoolers in a place that cultivates respect and values humanity, and models restorative justice. It's miles away from the 80's meat grinder I went through and the kids are relatively nice to one another.
Still, I overheard a very telling conversation. A girl was speaking about how her boyfriend broke up with her without telling her. My ears perked up. Then she said she wasn't sure if they were dating or not.
But still. He didn't tell her they'd broken up. Somehow he opened that "we're dating" door, because obviously, she would not have been confused if he'd closed it completely.
It was an immediate big drama in one little sentence, and completely in keeping with what middle schoolers do.
The sad thing is, I completely understood this conversation not because I'd experienced it from any boy in middle school and knew what that was like in the good old days. Heck, boys didn't even know I was alive until I was 22.

It was because it was almost an exact replay of what happened to me LAST MONTH only with a middle-aged man. Only his breaking up with me was more "adult" in that he did it by unknowingly having my friend notice he was back shopping on a dating site, while he was simultaneously ignoring my texts. You know, ignoring calls and texts..that thing you reserve for telemarketers and people you hate. Without so much as a clarification conversation or acknowledgement that we'd been dating for several months.
Even sadder, this was the second time something like this has happened to me. In middle age.

Which brings me back to making him addicted to you. Why would you want someone, who for all intents and purposes is a seventh grader, to be addicted to you?
And in reality, why would you want ANYONE to be addicted to you?
Addiction is for those who believe in unicorns. Addiction is for middle schoolers who want drama and troubles. By the time you get to middle age, you've been relationally dinged up quite badly in many cases. Or, you've perhaps ravaged some hearts. Real, grown-up love is for middle age, and it means that in growing up, you can take those dings and fears and mistakes and turn them the fuck around. Make your own fucking soulmates...don't wait for someone who will eventually be completely unsuitable to fire you up. Addiction is not going to turn anything around. Hard work is. Becoming more self-aware and compassionate is. Not losing your faith and hope is. Being more loving is going to save you.
I get it. All of those kinds of "Rules" variations are really in the service of having self-respect. But if you have self-respect, you won't try to "make" anyone addicted to you. A person you have to manipulate into loving you is not going to love you back the way you need to be loved.
Avoiding that pitfall takes maturity...more altruism...less self-centered egoism.
So, "I go on too many dates, but I can't make 'em stay." Oh, wait, now I hear the Principal on the intercom during homeroom: "Middle-aged woman, you can't make them stay because they run away like little boys. Look at their history. They stayed with NO one and have nary a clue about their patterns. They need therapy. You go on too many dates because you haven't grown yourself enough to weed out the boys from the men. MIDDLE SCHOOL IS OVER. LEAVE NOW.
(well, but in my defense, sir, middle aged men(-tal middle schoolers) will take me to nice restaurants and buy me cocktails. I won't lie. I like that. And I can take my middle school humor there-just not any middle school lack of empathy. So just for fun, there is no such thing as "too many dates")

I think that's where the phrase "you do you." comes in handy. And why I'm hard on online dating and hard on my own fine self these days. This is why I've complained so bitterly about online dating and the men I've chosen. Because middle school sucks, and hanging around with adults who act like the mean girls and boys in middle school sucks even more. SO much more. I don't want to be reminded of the horrors of not fitting in or being snubbed in the hallway or being rejected over and over and over. ( by the way, this is not meant  to give middle schoolers a bad rap, because I've been around them and most of them are kinder and more aware than the middle-aged adults I'm talking about.)

The great thing about growing up with all those dings is the ability to walk away knowing you will be just fine. It isn't devastating any more like it was in middle school. And as an adult, you realize life is so much richer with people who are banged up and beautifully imperfect in their quirky, loving hearts.
Besides, there are people to grow and love and there is a world that needs more heart, more encouragement, and way more kindness.
That's my place to belong.
me and my oldest daughterđź’—

A Woman's Grief

An angry woman is a grieving woman. A running away, shut-down woman is a grieving woman. A scattered woman is a grieving woman. A needy woman, a hurt woman, a drinking-too-much woman, is a grieving woman.

A woman who runs away from her life is a grieving woman. A woman who travels, who leaves her children, who has her children taken from her, is a grieving woman.

A woman who is spontaneously rejected by a man who can’t stay when things get real. A woman who is rejected by a man who can’t stay when he is asked to contribute. A woman who is rejected by a man who can’t stay while she is insisting she be treated like a human. A woman who is rejected by a man who can’t stay if he must have the same level of integrity she does, who can’t listen, who can’t see her as a person.

This woman, too, is a grieving woman.

A woman who fucks too many unworthy men, who cries a lot, who seeks the shelter of a mountain or a cave is a grieving woman.

We create a grieving woman when, as sisters, we betray her trust in us to understand the ways of woman, the ways of intuition and intimate knowing, the ways of making mistakes out loud and having compassion, the ways of taking care and safely nurturing, the ways of quiet power and life-death-life cycling.

We create a grieving woman when we judge her for her pain, for her calls to you and to the world to DO something about this madness, these acts of violence, these terrible injustices.

Yet what do we tell a grieving woman?

We tell her to let go. Just let go and you will feel free.

Let go of what? My grieving over things that literally cry through the cells of my body to be expressed? When I grieve, I AM letting go!

We tell her to take a break. Just sit in my box for awhile. It’s safer there. Don’t put yourself in places where you will be triggered.

Safe from what? Myself? My feelings? My wishes for my life? It is not safe from your judgment of me. Take a break from what? I have a perpetrator who is invested in harassing me STILL after YEARS. I can’t take a break, even if I try, because HE won’t take a break from his abuse.

We tell her to stop being so dramatic, not realizing that drama is created by conflict. And a grieving woman is not conflicted. No, a woman who has entered into her grief is as clear as summer rain, and just as precious. It is our conflict that creates the drama. We are the ones being dramatic by all the ways we judge her, criticize her, and tell her to stop.

We tell her to listen to us, to understand that we know best.

But we don’t listen to her, and how she needs to heal is different from what you think. We label her slut, whore, cunt. We disdain her sexual desire and her ability to get her needs met. Her freedom to heal makes many uncomfortable.

We watch her dances with the hardened eyes of the critic and not the soft eyes of the heart.

I say, grieving woman, dance here. You have plenty to grieve, to darken your heart, to try to liberate within you. Liberation comes with love, compassion, and acceptance, not with finger-wagging shaming.

I see you even when you don’t see yourself, and I love you even when you don’t see your worth.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Dating Through the DSM

The Washington Post just published an article about January being one of the busiest times of year for online dating. I've had some really odd experiences with online dating. Not with online dating, per se, but with the men I've dated. Some were really generous, nice men. Some had some serious quirks. I made some great friends. But I didn't meet a person there who wanted a real relationship, or even what they said they wanted. They kept falling short in some way or other, or  I was in a weird place too and fell short myself. In the spirit of starting off the new year really devoted to change, I got off those sites to really ask myself why I was on there and what was the point? I don't want to be one of those people who just keeps repeating mistakes, and the whole thing has bothered me for reasons I could not fully articulate. Here are some of my reasons, written from the viewpoint of dating in your forties and fifties:

1.The setup is too much like shopping.
When you are just another option among options, you become a commodity, a menu item, a pair of shoes to be sent back. It's dehumanizing. I am not the cheese plate that doesn't satisfy and you have to send back. I'd rather be treated like a human being among human beings, and while it is true that many human beings would make suitable partners, having a shopping mindset makes others (and me) TOO picky and does not allow one to truly commit to one person and be happy. It makes me overly judgmental and critical when I don't need to be. If I am to open my heart fully to one person, I cannot have the presence of twenty other suitors in the back of my mind.

2. I cannot compete with "Dream Girl" and the illusion of a soulmate/the ONE/a magical unicorn appearing
Soulmates do not exist, at least not in the way some people think of it. In the minds of some, there is this perfect ideal who is lurking behind one of those online profiles and will be the ONE who will carry out with you all the Disneyland fantasies of romantic love and who you will feel bliss with forever.  This kind of love does not exist except in the context of certain personality disorders. It's always a grand illusion that allows a person to blame others for not living up to an impossible ideal and to ultimately prevent real connection. Real, grown-up love is a choice people make based on feelings, yes, and also based on thinking straight and making sure core values that make a relationship work are there. Most of the time I watch "soulmates" become total disasters. Things like honesty, reciprocity, openness, trust, consistency, friendship, and emotional support are important. Then that person becomes your soulmate based on things you've built and shared together.

3. I am too old for middle school dances
I really get tired of playing games like pulling the petals off the daisy: "he loves me, he loves me not." I get tired of online dating being an issue in a relationship, and in my mind, there does come a point at which you become grown-ups and say "We're not shopping because we are clearly in a relationship." Any ambiguity from anyone is a sign of immaturity and basic insecurity or just lacking the balls to pull the plug because you like the sex and all of those are jobs for therapy. I get tired of awkward text-back tempos, or lack of texting back, or communication in general, to the point that it creates instability and disconnection. I no longer have any tolerance for lack of reciprocity. This is middle age life, not middle school. As Mark Manson wrote, "Why would you ever be excited to be with someone who is not excited to be with you? If they’re not happy with you now, what makes you think they’ll be happy to be with you later? Why do you make an effort to convince someone to date you when they make no effort to convince you?

What does that say about you? That you believe you need to convince people to be with you? (Hint: it implies that you wouldn’t even want to be with yourself.)"

Let that level of disrespect stay in middle school, runners.

4. I'm a feminist
As a feminist, I want to stay away from any place where women in general are disrespected and either placed on pedestals or used for sex or used to work out misplaced anger towards all the women who have hurt you. Two words: hookup culture. While there are wonderful men on there who do deeply value women, the set-up lends itself well to misogyny and most often we call those truly wonderful men "husbands". I want to be able to talk with men about patriarchy and gender roles and our shared experiences and frustrations with that setup. I want to have deep conversations with men who are oriented towards social justice and are willing to practice what they preach (meaning they are not misogynists disguised as helpers of humanity.)

5. I'm tired of dating through the Abnormal Psychology textbook
I have dated so many people that fit into a textbook list, simply because so much dysfunction is crammed into one prepackaged online space. Just like you don't need an MD to know that the person coughing and sneezing in the back of the bus is sick, you don't need a degree in psychology to tell you when something is "off" about a person. I do have a degree in psychology and it's an area of deep interest for me. So, curiously enough, through dating, I have learned a lot about the following personality disorders: avoidant personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, and/or schizoid personality disorder. I dated someone who most likely had undiagnosed ADHD. I learned about attachment theory and attachment theorists are brutal on avoidants (probably because they are so protected they won't seek professional help for their issues) and even more sad was to learn about alexithymia, which to me, as a person with trauma issues, is just another form of dissociation.
 The behaviors are so extreme and so prevalent among men in their 40's and 50's it leaves you wondering "what the hell?" Psychology can help figure it out and then learn it and move on. Let the issue-addled men figure out how to get therapy.
I've learned to pay attention to the following red flags: when a man says an ex has abandonment issues and cannot explain his part or have compassion, when a man contemptuously says an ex needs to be in relationship all the time, when a man brags about his sexual prowess,  when a man writes "no drama". Often, these are the men who create drama through their abandonING issues, lack self-awareness, can't tolerate feelings, and are not relational. It is a setup for a one-sided relationship. One-sided relationships suck. And don't work.
Let's look deeper at the abandonment issue complaint, because there really are two sides to that story. A woman would not have abandonment issues if she had not had a crappy childhood. So those issues are not her fault and only someone who lacked basic empathy would not feel for that. Having contempt for a woman's needs means a man also has contempt for his OWN needs and parts of him that feel dependent or needy. That being said, it's a two-way street. A man having compassion for a woman will most likely make her feel secure enough to be able to turn off the needy childish behavior. AND it is completely her responsibility to heal her wounds so she has something deeper to bring to the table. I completely understand how hard it is to date someone who is needy. But in my experience, handling my abandonment triggers on my own does not make a man more emotionally available, interested in relationship, or empathetic. It just teaches me to handle my triggers and prompts my therapist to tell me, "stop dating men who need therapy."

6. I'm tired of superficiality. 
I want to look hot but I also want to be able to be my beautiful mess of a growing, creative, spiritual issue-addled self without worrying that some guy will bolt if I have a hair out of place or drive a crappy van or I have feelings or have my share of life disasters. I am a human being who makes mistakes, who gets anxious when I know I am being judged, and who blossoms and thrives when loved. I am also beautiful, talented, caring, kind, intelligent, funny, and supremely curious about life. I blossom and thrive when giving love. And while I work hard on any anxiety or "abandonment issues" I have, personal responsibility has to go both ways for a relationship to be rich and deep. The deeper conversations happen with men who understand this work of the human heart, and who understand there is more to a woman than looks or sex, and who take the task of awakening a woman's heart very seriously. I also come from a less materialistic place, in that a man is worth more than what he drives or owns. I'd rather a man have a good heart than all the goods.

7. I fucking need a break
Going back to number 5, part of my education has been about my own repetition compulsion. If there is a guy who is textbook avoidant, narcissistic, emotionally unavailable, misogynistic, uncommunicative, or unavailable in some way, I will be fatally attracted to that person and replay yet another rejection story. My trauma history means I got a lot of neglect and abuse heaped in with what I know of love, so it's time to change that association and use my good sense. Because my heart will take me to men who reconfirm the shame messages given during my shitty childhood, and that's just reliving dysfunction. Or trauma bonding. Or re-enactment. If you do what you always do, you get what you always got. When I'm in a pattern for choosing men whose goal in life is to avoid intimacy, I know there is a corresponding part of me invested in repeating patterns of neglect and disconnection, and so I need to engage in some really yummy self-care, deep reflection, taking ownership for my part, and making art in order to open myself up to a more secure, realistic love. I can't feel safe with people who remind me of my abusers or who can't put in to a relationship at the same level I put in. I don't want to become an obsequious woman who acts like she has Stockholm syndrome all the time, or who acts like a teenager to get some distant man's attention. Opening to what is real in love means setting aside my shame enough to know I am worth good treatment and not crumbs. I don't need to be a victim or a child to gain those crumbs, either. I also need to interact in the REAL world and learn to trust my intuition again so I can choose people I feel safe with.

8. This town is small and it recycles
I can get off of dating sites and jump back on in 3 years and I will see the same people on there. Women talk to each other and after a few years, your dysfunction becomes apparent to everyone and you just can't hide. Not even on a dating site. For me, I need to work on NOT being one of those people who stays on an online dating site for years and years. I want to push myself past whatever issues are keeping me stuck. I want to learn from my mistakes.  I've had a LOT to overcome and realize this is the next level of growth for me.

Now, on to receiving delicious love and good luck out there!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018



Every day the little boys at my school
build a city and take it down
make another city the same way, only different
they are not really building, it is a game they play
based on power deferentials
I, too, do this when I join a man in his building
I take lines of love I've been given
build a city, tear it down with my little girl
The one I alone house
It's too small, she says
she needs much more concrete
to walk safe in your city's rootless men
she needs bones, marrow, thick lines
and to pick the sidewalks clean

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Attachment and IFS

In dating world, I get my triggers triggered, which is par for the course and helps give me practice to speak up for myself and my needs, and in a model I will explain later, to become a healed and strengthened person. Life after divorce means that you have to take responsibility for your part in any disasters of the relational kind. Trauma plays a big part in this, for people who have had an upbringing that modeled reciprocity, grace, consistency, healthy boundaries, and an ethic of love are said to be securely attached (according to attachment theory) and according to research, they make up roughly half of the population and will most likely stay married. If you consider that the divorce rate is roughly half, it makes sense that divorce can be correlated to insecure attachment styles. Therefore, it also makes sense that when you go out into the dating word post-divorce, you look to heal through yourself so you have something to bring to the table for another person, and hopefully find one who is consistent and secure.
In brief, in attachment theory, there are three main types of attachment styles: avoidant, anxious, and secure. Secure people have no trouble being dependent and no trouble being independent-both states are pleasurable and they easily attach to people. They have longstanding, stable partnerships that are ultimately satisfying. There is a lot of information on the internet about attachment styles, and you can find brief overviews here, here, and here.
BUT that is not the good part. The good part is not just awareness of your attachment style. Many sites tell you how you can heal and change your attachment style, but do not acknowledge that often, the extreme beliefs and patterns we form as a result of attachment comes from trauma and extreme, rigid beliefs in our families.
For healing, I look to Internal Family Systems. Bear with me, for this can be heady stuff, and IFS is truly innovative in its approach to therapy. For that reason, it goes against a lot of what we've been taught through self-help or modern psychological concepts that have made their way into the common vernacular. 

IFS holds that each of us is multiplicitous in that we have different parts of ourselves we use to adapt to different situations in life. Many people recognize an inner child or an inner critic, but we are so much richer and deeper than we knew, thanks to the development and discoveries of IFS. We get in trouble when we act from extreme inner parts instead of from our core Self. From this book:

“…a major tenet of IFS is that everyone has at the core, at the seat of consciousness, a Self that is different from the parts. It is the place from which a person observes, experiences, and interacts with the parts and with other people. It contains the compassion, perspective, confidence, and vision required to lead both internal and external life harmoniously and sensitively. It is not just a passive observing state, but can be an actor in both inner and outer dramas. Because most of us have had experiences in which we learned not to trust our Selves, its resources are often obscured by various extremes of our parts. In addition, while through imagery I can see my parts, I cannot see my Self because it is the me that is doing the seeing, and in that sense is invisible to me.”

IFS holds that each person’s Self embodies the following characteristics when leading a person through life: calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage, and connectedness. The Self is aptly able to lead a person's parts with vision and strength. When parts arise out of adaptations to extreme circumstances and take on extreme roles, a person is said to be blended. Parts are divided into three categories:

Managers: Managers are about control and keeping the internal and external worlds in check. They protect the system from intimacy, dependency, criticism through self-criticism and judgment of others, or they control through caretaking and focusing on others’ needs.

Exiles: Exiles are the parts managers protect everyone from. Exiles carry the burdens of shame, blame, and guilt placed on the system and are younger, child-aged parts. They are exiles because managers work so hard to keep them “out of sight, out of mind” by denying their needs, feelings, and desires.

Firefighters: Firefighters come when the big feelings of the exiles override the managers’ protections. They, too, serve to distract from the pain of the exiles but instead of managing and looking controlled, they lose control through addictive, extreme activities: bingeing on food, sex, drugs, stimulation, work, or self-harm.

The way to heal is to address the breaches of connection within one’s Self. Connecting Internal Family systems with attachment theory, an anxious attachment style could be seen as a system led by exiles- exiles who flood with their feelings, are needy and clingy, and who look outside themselves for validation and security. Avoidant attachment style could be seen as a system led by managers, managers who seek perfection, who distance through looking for an ideal that doesn't exist, criticize, withdraw, and dissociate. They don’t trust that anyone can meet their needs so they deny them and stay rigidly guarded against their significant exiled needs. They have the same strong exiles anxious people do, but their managers do not tolerate the feelings or wishes of exiles since they also deny those needs in themselves. Secure attachment style is a system that is led by Self energy, and an ambivalent attachment style is a system that is led by firefighters. When avoidants and anxious people meet, they trigger each others’ most extreme manifestations of the parts they are already blended with, and oftentimes this will lead to firefighter behavior. An ambivalent person is already locked into a pattern of exiles overwhelming managers and subsequently going into firefighter activities.
A dating pair can then become a replaying of childhood wounds and patterns, and reinforce each others' parts. They aren't relating to each other as each other, but as managers to managers, as managers to exiles, as firefighters to managers, as firefighters to firefighters, and throw some exiles in there since they are the ones crying out so desperately for peace and healing.
Sounds pretty gruesome, doesn't it? All that protection and fear happening.
In practice, it goes something like this. I just had a situation where a man full of managers triggered a bunch of my exiles through neglect and abandonment, and where before I'd been dealing with his distancing behavior some with my firefighters, some with my exiles, some with Self, I brought in a crew of managers to put the kibosh on the relationship because of a serious breach of contract. My manager stepped in and was mad as hell. I told him I'd lost trust and respect for him (which I have). His own managers came up and deflected blame to me and projected his issue on to me. It could have gone better had I been more in Self energy, and not let my managers be so charged. But I did speak up for myself, and know better now to push for trustworthiness in a partner, so that all my parts feel cared for. And angry parts protect us from further harm from people that are not safe.

Exiles hold burdens in a person- burdens such as unworthiness, shame, disconnection, and fear. The way to stop unhealthy patterns and heal attachment wounds is to heal the exiles and unburden them, and assure them that there is a loving adult (you) who will take care of them and love them, just like you would take care of any hurting child. Staying in Self energy is truly a practice that is lifelong for those of us with attachment wounds. More to come...I know I've thrown a lot of theory out there but it can be put into practice.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Inner Placemaking

The past few months I've been exposed to the idea of placemaking, which at its heart, is a community-based process for creating public spaces that are vibrant and mindful of social health.

From the Project for Public Spaces website:
"For us, Placemaking is both a process and a philosophy. It is centered around observing, listening to, and asking questions of the people who live, work, and play in a particular space in order to understand their needs and aspirations for that space and for their community as a whole. With this knowledge, we can come together to create a common vision for that place. The vision can evolve quickly into an implementation strategy, beginning with small-scale “Lighter Quicker Cheaper” improvements that bring immediate benefits both to the spaces themselves and the people who use them."

Part of that organization's view of placemaking centers on bigger picture of a place, preferring to see it as a whole entity rather than a string of isolated places. I have always been fascinated by the idea of structure, and how our culture looks solely at isolated parts of an issue without seeing the bigger picture of where it goes. Even psychological studies do this...focus on one aspect of a problem without considering the structure within which it is placed. Writers/therapists such as Terry Real do focus on the structures within relationships and he writes that within patriarchy, relationships are going to be unstable and unhealthy.
We also live in a culture that largely values superficiality. Social media both fosters that and combats that, depending on who you read. Often the facade a person presents is valued over the integrity of their character. I love the idea of placemaking for its focus on collaboration and creating shared visions which takes connection. It resonated with me as it is exactly like doing inner work, and also made me think how some people can create and curate an image that is beautiful but their inner life is a tortured mess and they are harmful to others.
Inner work is the art of changing your inner worlds so they are more habitable and also being able to collaborate with others to bring life to their inner places. Paying attention to how we structure our hearts with each other is important. If our hearts were pavement, and we brought life, light and harmony, connection and dancing to that pavement, we would have made a place habitable for others. If we bring a dark forest of fear and secrets, we make ourselves uninhabitable and our forest spits out defense mechanisms. Consequently, when we connect with someone else, it is important that we don't trash their hearts through our absences, fears, criticism, pain, anger, neediness, refusing to take responsibility, refusing to share the space, refusing to care for the place you hold in someone's heart.
And that is the beauty of placemaking- reciprocity. Collaboration takes reciprocity. Anywhere there is a wound, whether a wound of public space or a wound of a private heart, the crux of the wound is lack of reciprocity. Only one person deciding to care for a place doesn't ultimately work. Then it's one person's wishes, desires, and needs and does not consider others. Or, those others have decided not to care for a shared space and have created an abandoned-lot relationship, a wasteland that gets ignored, an anorexic cityscape. In order for the wounding to stop, reciprocity has to enter in, and all sides must have a hand in taking responsibility for what they create.
I just recently thought of this in my own life. I am feeling retrospective about my year with regard to relationships, and what I can learn, and my own inner system. I want to create a place inside me that is habitable by love, rather than inviting others to come trash the place through their absences, blame, shame, or criticism. I have to clean up the parts of myself that take on those messages and continually unburden my insides, much like clearing a dirty lot of concrete blocks and debris. Then I can start to cultivate and curate the people of my heart who give me the words of their heart, who will give as much as I do, whose spaces we can heal and beautify together. It means not condemning the inner children but helping them. That's already happening...have you ever been held while you cry? Has anyone ever said to you, "why would anyone leave you?" or told you you were beautiful? Or that you are not worth mistreatment even when you feel that you are?  Or who heard your guilt and pain? or told you "I'm grateful for you"? Or bought you and your kids gifts when they knew you'd had a lean year? Or who patiently waited for you to work through something even though it was messy and painful? Placemaking of the heart requires kindness and engagement. It is important not to trash our inner places, in ourselves or each other. It involves building shared experiences, shared vision, setting healthy boundaries around reciprocity and responsibility-meaning engagement and regard is reciprocal, and care for the other is reciprocal, as well as cleaning up messes you make.
It corrects messes, just like communal placemaking does in our environment. Placemaking of the heart corrects harm and neglect.
In my heart, I know this is the beauty that washes away the rough spots, the hardened places, the hidden sadness, the ravages of neglect, the violence of insensitivity. This is the kindness we need for ourselves and each make ourselves a place of love in this world, to be able to offer that to the places in each others' hearts.

Friday, December 22, 2017

A New Way

bell hooks' statement that there was not a day that she was not set upon by a predatory man really stuck with me. I asked her about envisioning a new way, and she agreed that was part of our work.
I think many people envision feminism as making females equal within the structure of patriarchy. But females becoming good at stereotypical male values still occurs within a structure of dominance, what bell calls "dominator culture." It's still "Father knows best"- the best way to do something and you'd better keep up and break OUR glass ceilings if you are a woman.
What if more stereotypical female traits such as collaboration, mutuality, nurturing, reciprocity, empathy, beauty, intuition, etc. were placed within a structure that allowed those traits to be valued above the traits of dominance, competition, conquering, power-over, blind ambition, ruthlessness, etc.? It would take some doing to unseat patriarchy. The thing is, patriarchy limits men and creates in them emotional cripples. They lose touch with the parts of themselves that are vulnerable and emotionally available, and parts of them that are other-protective rather than self-protective and self-serving.
I have never thought equality with men meant I try to be "male" just as well as a man. My feminism centers around an ethic of love, where people are valued for who they are and happiness is found in altruism.
I think one path to imagining new structures is to look at existing structures, especially those that existed before neoliberalism and colonialism. Use-value versus exchange-value. In the following video, the pride of the tribe was wrapped up in how much they could GIVE, not how much they usurped in the name of power. It's an interesting way to structure power in a community: