Thursday, October 22, 2015

Starvation Economy

There is not a woman who comes into my office who does not hate her body. I wish I did not have to be so categorical.  I use the double negative on purpose. They hide in their pantries, stealthily binging out of sight lines. Cramming in all the "bad" things, loathing loving each bite as the only thing that quiets their isolation. It's not about food. It's about love.

I was a fat kid. Sequestering cookies in alleyways hoping the squirrels wouldn't find my stashes before I got home from school. Hiding the evidence. Hiding my weakness. It's my biggest hurt. Swallowing my isolation in baked goods. Burying my loneliness, ashamed that I felt it. I was surrounded by people in my home. My mother moved us into the collective of women when I was only two. Making up for deficits of absent fathers and grandparents and family. Making up for deficits in her capacities.  Yet I was still only watching, never feeling that they really wanted me.

At school I was terribly bullied for a while. The girls would surround me to try and make me cry. And I would. I would perform for them, like a trained seal. They would poke at me and say all the things that I believed to be true. That I was not good enough, pretty enough, strong enough to stand up to them and not give a fuck. They echoed back at me that it didn't matter how smart I was, how kind I was, how funny I was, I was never going to matter.

During my Masters I had a course about trauma. One day we were lead by a woman who does Theatre of The Oppressed; A drama therapy approach where you tell a trauma and people perform it for you in front of an audience. Exorcising demons. Telling stories of pain, exposed in public to be released and re-storied. No one wanted to give a story, so I risked and gave mine. The story of when I was 10 and my classmates and I were playing on the stage of the auditorium on a balance beam. The beam was not secured properly on one end. I have very good balance. Even in my awkward prepubescent pudgy time. I got up on the beam. Happy to try and access the small of amount of grace I could muster. Then one side of the beam sank, falling and pitching me onto the floor in front of all my tormentors. The queen of the the torturers, turned and pointed, laughing. "She's so fat she broke the beam." All kids turning and laughing. Me sprawled and hurt and crying on the floor. Fallen from grace, once again prone and broken and all alone. Ashamed. I went home and never told anyone, diving into books and toast and butter and sugar.

The students performed this piece. Silently miming the emotions. I looked around and the classes' reactions. They were crying. I could see tears in my cohorts eyes. Part of the process is for the audience to say how this felt for them. To express the impact and the feelings that came up. To offer me the love and the compassion that I should have had and join me with their own hurts. As we went around the class, each person recounted their own feeling of shame and exclusion. Immigrant students rejected. Daughters crushed by their parents. Lovers humiliated. It hit everyone that they knew the feeling. The feeling of having their pain exposed and stepped on cruelly in front of the world. They offered me their own pain in return. The girl who had to play the tormentor needed the most support. She felt sick.

In polyamory they talk of the concept called the starvation economy. It is the idea that love is a limited resource; parcelled out to only the deserving. You must take your limited resource from one to give to another. This mindset is almost fundamental to us and it is a falsehood. Love is not quantifiable. It can't be counted. I have starved my body at different points of my life. Feeling proud of growing my hunger and not satisfying it. Every pound counted and lost, a sacrifice so that I would be deserving of being wanted, so that is  world could see how I could do without. Then I could be invited in to their economy of love.

I want to heal those wounds in others. Let these women see that their beauty is in their capacities to love and be loved. That they don't have to hide in their pantries shoving shame down their throats. These days, when that 10 year old girl finds herself in front of the pantry door, looking to go in and quiet my emotional clumsiness, tripping on feelings I can't control, I remind myself that my love is good enough. That my Home is not pointing and laughing at me. That I am on the inside. I step away from the door and put my head in his lap. That the hunger I feel is one I should be allowed to feed. That I can eat his love. I can eat my chosen families' love. That it will not make me sick and ugly. There are no austerity measures. The supply will always meet the demand.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Out and About

I will nickname him "Home." I have another name for him, but only those closest to me ever get to hear me call him that. Home is at the essence though. I have not written in a very long time. Or in not in any substantive way. It's actually his fault. I have fallen so much into his love that I did not want to expose it or put words to it. There are things about the way we are that sometimes need to be safely locked away.

As an audience you know me to be non-monogamous. Nothing has changed here. Except it has. My world is expanding. Rapidly. I said to him today that I wanted to get back to writing. He said are you going to write about me? He looked hopeful. I said, "I don't think so," not knowing that it was finally time to come out. I had stopped writing because he was becoming my world. I write about my world. I did not want to share the intensity and the fear and the excitement that I had been going though. Plus half you guys are coming from okc, and really, do you want to hear how amazingly, horrifyingly in love I am?

I am a relationship counsellor. Every day I have couples in my office looking to me to help them reconnect. My floor is littered with pieces of hearts and stained in tears. I talk about vulnerability and radical honesty. About how we bond when we lay our darkest thoughts at the feet of our partners and they reach down and pick them up and tell you that they love even this part of you. This is what he does for me. He loves the darkest part of me. He has the key to the last tiny closet that holds that bit of me that I never wanted to show.

Yesterday I felt like bolting. Like a wild horse, crazed by the confines of the stall. "Let me go," I said to him, but he says what he always says, "No baby, you don't get to run." He takes out the key and opens the closet and reaches in. "This in here is mine. I get to love all of your bits. Even this bit."

We share a house now. My daughter and dog have adopted him instantly. Like he has always been here. "You were made for me," he sometimes whispers in my ear.  I hand him the key and think he is right. It's time I start writing about my world again. So it was time to introduce you to my Home.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

This Kind

I am giving you hopelessly crushed,
writing your initials with mine in hearts 
on my notebooks and back pack kind of love.
Giving you can't concentrate in class,
staring out the out the window daydreaming,
kind of love.
Giving you first time ever in love, love
The un-erasable love,
written in sharpie on my jeans kind of love. 
Little girl love. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mushroom Cake


Dedicated to Philip Seymour Hoffman
This is not post about that. It's the final instalment of the Hart trilogy and it just seemed right that I should write it today as I texted him the news that Hoffman had OD'd.  In case you  might have been wondering what happened in my holiday rom-com caper. Was it Hughes or Solondz who won in the end?  It's deserving of a post regardless. 

As Hart sat across from me in a certain restaurant where in the past, it's soup had been so delicious it made me giggle, he said, "This makes me so angry." Grinning from ear to ear he took another bite. 
"Fucking mushroom cake, I mean c'mon."

I got it. Fucking mushroom cake. How can  I write to describe a taste so wonderful it makes you angry? I can only write of the feeling it gave us. The knowledge that all of a sudden all other food that had been put on our lips in our lifetime was simply mediocre in comparison to what possibility had just been shown to us. The inescapable fact, that as you swallowed, you were one bite closer to never tasting it again. Yet you are forced to keep taking bites because it is so extraordinary. Realizing that one of the most sensual moments of your life will only be a memory in a matter of minutes. Angry Joy. Simultaneous emotion. Wonder and loss. Painful in its fleeting. 

It was a week of angry joy really. I knew the risk. That seeing this overly romanticized ghost from my past was playing with matches. My worst case scenario, I imagined, was if he were a bore. Or an asshole. Or just plain irritating, and I would be forced into politeness when all the while counting the minutes till he left.  I never imagined angry joy. Who imagines that? Who imagines a feeling of complete comfort and familiarity, like you remember it from some distant dream coupled with that kind of lust you only feel the first time you touch somebody? 

"I haven't slept as well since I was a 7 year old, " he said and I agreed. Feeling weird. Knowing as I slipped my hand across his chest and around his ribs to nestle on his shoulder blade, curled inside an armpit, head on chest, listening to his voice, that I was living déja vu. Knowing too, that this was in a bubble. 3 more days. Trying to imprint smell and feel,

I could write about the week in detail. I would like to keep every little part  written down somewhere so that I can go grab one when I wanted one. Already the week is fuzzy and unreal, with only snapshots of moments sticking out anymore. I feel too oddly protective of them though, to write them here. It's not that they are secret, it is just they wouldn't feel the same to you.  I will sum it up. Bed, joints, music, skin, words and food. Focus. 

On New Year's Eve, his last night in town, we stare at each other annoyed and dumbfounded that Jim Henson was the only famous person we both ever cried for. Like mushroom cake, words don't describe the meaning of coming to realize this perfect bite is about to be the last bite. Perfect connection at the moment of loss.
"Fuck you.. " he smiles at me
"Jim Henson. You asshole, " I shoot back at him.
"Of course it's Jim Henson. Fucking Jim Henson."

He went at 5 in the morning, An early plane back to the other coast. We are rooted in our distance by kids and work. It is our reality so we chat and text and he is my friend. I sent him a mixed tape of angry love songs, my tribute to Hughes. It felt like Hughes while it was happening, but it ended like Solondz. The irony of having perfect fit taunt you from an impossible place. Funny and dark and sad. No real start or end, just an excerpt. Out of context. But so well written and directed.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Solondzed

Happiness is probably my favourite movie. Well it's up there at least, cause who am I to choose favourites? I prefer a grouping to a singularity. Regardless, for those of you who have not seen Happiness, you might well be thinking, sounds like a charming movie. Nothing wrong with happiness. For those of you who have seen the movie, you might well be thinking, what the fuck is wrong with her? And for the tiny few of you who get it. Get why Happiness is such a fantastic movie, this post is for you.

Over a year ago I posted about the breaker of my young heart. Astoundingly named Hart,  which is why I mentioned it before. And his actual name is really that, and I wish I could change that I used it. I used it back when he was  mostly imagined. He was constructed out of memories drugged with young person passion, so he was not so much a real thing as he was the perfect story. And I had to use his name, because it was such a perfect name.

I was sitting playing nerdy boardgames with my ex and kid. We have family board night in a kinda cool little cafe that has some superior coffee. I was distractedly looking at my phone while my kid was off playing with a friend. I saw an email came in. It was from Hart. The real one, not the imagined one. I was surprised as my heart actually skipped a beat. But I left it. To be read later, when kids are in bed and ex husbands are home.

He was feeling nostalgic. It made me smile that I was a source of this for him. When I wrote the post Superheros, I was in those feelings too. What I want to say here is not the details, but the feeling, the very strange sensation of walking slowing into your memories with a person you have not seen since those memories were made. I sent him to this blog, but to the front page, knowing Superheros was in there, buried and dripping with young girl angst. I thought, if he reads down far enough he will find it. I woke up the next morning with a message. He had.

We started going over memories and trading one liners and I caught myself flirting. With Solondz -esque compulsion I could not keep myself from talking to him. Here I was chatting with a memory.
Though bit by wit we started to catch glimpses of the older versions of ourselves. And with what I can only describe as discomfort, I began to yearn just slightly for the lost possibility. He did too, and upon his discovery of my love of the afore-mentioned movie, it came into sharp focus what he had lost. A girl who could see the humour in the pain.

I got him on okc. To get him laid, I guess. Who knows, he seemed to be in need of connection, and for me it's always been a good place for that. He lives a million miles away, so compulsive need to seduce aside, it was impractical. Plus it's funny. It's Happiness funny. It's bittersweet, sarcastic and darkly human funny. The kind of funny that not so much makes you laugh out loud, but rather makes you shake your head and shut your eyes. He showed me who his first date will be with, and she looks perfect. I don't mean, sparkly teeth, shiny hair and nails perfect, but smart and sassy and able to hold her own, perfect. She looked like a good fit.

When Hart first wrote to me, he wrote of compersion. It's the word poly people give to the feeling of happiness you feel when your partner is happy with someone else. You are happy for their happiness. It's a Solondz kind of happiness. One that hurts to feel. Happiness and irony and pain all in one. Hart later wrote that what we we doing felt like the opening of a movie, and maybe it is. Perhaps more in the middle or the end. But it has the elements.

It's not a Huges', boy meets girl/ boy loses girl/boy gets girl... it is  more, boy meets girl/ girl loses boy/boy finds girl/girl gets boy to go online to find another girl/girl ends up back where she started. In there somewhere, the boy keeps losing the girl too. But it's whimsical and funny and smart and filled with nostalgia. It shows the reality of trajectories. How sometimes you just jump in at an opening and jump out again at another. I love Solondz Happiness, its hard to watch, but if you do, there is stuff in there that is beautiful.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Rub me the right way


I feel like I am coming out from under a rock. The Masters is done and now I have been unleashed into to world "qualified." It's strange, our identities. We wear them like clothing. My last fashion statement was a hit at parties. "Oh a massage therapist? How interesting  I have this clicking noise in my shoulder...."

My new counselling therapist incarnation brings out some the same kind of thing, albeit a very wormy can indeed. "Oh that's amazing. You know my uncle is a pedophile..."
People have always offerend me their skeletons though. I seem to invite the TMI. Truth be told I like it. I am interested. As you regular readers know, I love a good story. I don't get invested in the moral, I more just enjoy the journey. My story today kinda bridges that gap, the massage therapist meets emotional pain gap. I am not sure it has a moral, it was just a day I spent and I thought I would write it down.

Last month I had a vacation planned. A small one. Superman and I had rented a beautiful cottage and I was about to head off for 5 days of peace, quiet and dirty dirty sex. I havent really had a vacation in a long time and it was truly well deserved. As is our destiny, best laid plans and all, became unravelled.  He had to fly off and rescue family and I ended up taking my other favorite boy instead. He was about to leave to move to another coast and was a lovely substitute cuddle, but I was still a little sad that my time away had been upended. Massages were in order at a local spa I decided, and my friend and I set off, happily high to cook ourselves in hot tubs and get rubbed by people trained to do so.

I had called the spa and asked for an experienced therapist, because truth be told, I am not easy to massage. Let's just say I have lots of stuff, and I really don't like being petted. I need an elbow or two and some strong hands and I love gettting massaged. This particular day I was ready for it. I just wanted to lie down, close my eyes and let some hands take away some of the crap that had decided to crawl under my shoulder blade and hide.

So there I sat..patiently waiting, and time kept ticking by. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen. I could feel the anxiety rising. Where was he?  I went to a staff member and said, "I had an appointment 15 minutes ago and no one came to get me." I felt like a kid whose parents were late picking them up at school. Panicked, sad and worried that they would never show. They called and looked for him and assured me he was coming. I didn't believe them and my eyes started to sting with tears of disappointment.  Finally this very frazzled looking middle aged man showed up. He looked a bit like a younger Nelson Mandela, strangely enough. Not whom I would have pictured, but my experience has told me, that the most unlikely looking massage therapists were often the best. He was profusely apologetic. He told me he had made a mistake and had given the previous client 90 minutes instead of 60. He said, don't worry, I still have 90 for you. I was so relieved that he was there that I didn't mind. I just told him I understood. I was a massage therapist too and I knew how things happened. He was there now and that was all that mattered

We walked to the little hut. He was still so filled with apology, and I did my best to assure him. It was Ok. As we entered into the cabin he looked at me and said, "I have had my mind all over the place today. I don't usually make that kind of mistake. You see, I just found out this morning that my wife has a brain tumour."

The information hit me like a punch. But trained as I am, I didn't show it. I told him with as much empathy as I felt that that was terrible news. I was sorry to hear that. I said to him, "I understand. Just massage me. No need to talk or think." For those of you who are not massage therapists, you may not quite get it. There is something about going into someone else's body where you can leave yourself at the door and just enter into the moment of exchange. It is a very beautiful place we go sometimes when we work. Hokey as it sounds, it's healing to massage. It's hard to explain in words, but he knew what I meant and he gave me a very grateful smile. He said, "It won't affect the massage."  I said, "I know."

For the next 90 minutes I received one of the best massages I have ever had.
How do I really explain how absolutely beautiful that afternoon really was? I think I will just leave it at that.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Strong

 
 I have started seeing clients. My course work is done and I am now unleashed and allowed to scamper through the minds of those who are willing to let me. I had my very first client last week and all self deprecating snide comments aside, it was a truly moving experience. She was my kind of client. She is dying. Or at least she is in all probability dying. She was certainly coming to terms with this as a possibility. She is a cancer sufferer, or at least that is what she is now. What she was before was an entrepreneur, matriarch, socialite and the centre point of strength for her family. Now she is someone new. Someone everyone is uncomfortable with.

     Her daughter called me. She knew I had met her mother in a coping skills seminar I had given several months ago. I facilitate these all day events at a local cancer centre where skills and support are given to patients to help them cope with the multiple levels of stress and emotions that go along with being branded with the big "C" (or hushed, whispered little "c".) I had left an impression on her mother, she said  and she wanted  her to come see me because she felt she was not coping well. Every second word out of the daughter's mouth was related to strength. She is not strong enough, she is not fighting like she should, I am worried I am not strong enough, she was always so strong and now she isn't anymore, can we find some way to give her the strength? I felt for this daughter, whose love and respect for her mother was so apparent. You could see she was reaching out, not knowing how to make her mother back into the woman she used to be.

      Strength is such a loaded idea. What is it to be strong? We always think of it as a great character trait. Strength of mind, strength of body, strength to bear pain, strength to hide your feelings. You hear these stories in eulogies of how wonderfully strong the dead were. No one says, they were vulnerable and hurt and needing support. Instead we champion the stoic. Go into the night with your head held high. Why is this so laudable? Why not go into the night kicking and screaming and holding out your hand clinging to love and looking to be buffered from the fear? Because it hurts the ones around you. It burdens those who love you. It is scary to show your pain. It is even scarier for those who love you to see it. Both sides end up feigning strength. Shoring up their walls to hide their terror. It contains it supposedly.

       I saw this woman. And after about half an hour she was able to cry. She said to me, "oh, that feels so good. I have not cried in years and all I really wanted to do is cry." I told her that I had a very positive attitude towards crying, and I thanked her for being able to feel safe enough to do that in front of me. I wanted to talk to her about what it meant to be strong, since this was the word that was pervasive. I said, what is the strongest tree? In your mind is it a redwood? Giant and immovable? Or stop and think for a minute about a palm tree, slim and flexible. Delicate almost in appearance. When hurricane force winds blow who is left standing? It is not the old giant tree with its rigid trunk and unyielding branches. It is the palm tree, bending over to impossible angles, washed over by the force of the attack, accepting of the onslaught, that will survive. These are trees that were born to withstand trauma.

     To me strength is feeling. Strength is reaching out and admitting that that you are hurting and being able to accept help. Strength is being able to see your loved ones in pain and allowing them let go and bend with the wind, while understanding that it will not break them. Strength is not about building an impenetrable wall over which nothing gets in or out. Strength is about resilience and showing your pain and knowing that it will flow over you like a hurricane. It's true, some storms are too strong and we can become uprooted, but if our very design is to bend and flow with the wind, most of our storms will pass over us making us stronger and ready for the next one.

    So I dedicate this blog to the sufferers. I get angry sometimes with the rhetoric of fighting and strength that comes with cancer. It puts this onus on the ill. It makes them feel like they are failures when they look at their fear and their sadness. It makes them feel responsible when they have no energy to get up and fight. I say to them that your strength is in your reaching out your hand and saying, I am scared, I am lonely, I need your help. Your strength is in bending, and coming close to the ground where we can touch you.