Month: April 2014

For Beltane: Charge of the Mortal Body

Happy Walpurgis Eve/Beltane to those who celebrate. To those who don’t, a brief translation: Hooray hooray first of May – outdoor fucking (consensual only please) starts today!

As seems to be something of a tradition between me and the Lord & Lady on Beltane  ((we’ll get to my muddled theologies later)) the calm quiet voice proffered some poetry. Normally it’s erotica you could read without sixth graders giggling. This year what came to me as I waited for my ritual bath to cool was an addition to the charges, along with my mind being taken along specific paths about how I answered the calling I had to Wicca because it was a religion that allows for change. This was accompanied by visions of several people digging in their heels over that that I am to ignore.

This is being released as Creative Commons: Attribution – Diana Rajchel 2014

I will likely revise this a few times myself. The gods are excellent at raw vision. The editing is our job.

To make it more Pagan humanist/Pagan natural friendly I suggest striking the lines “parented by the God and Goddess” and replacing it with “lineaged from nature” or “rooted from nature and seeded in the stuff of the Earth.”

So, Happy Beltane. I give you to use in your own rituals and discussions of why sex – and the refusal of sex – are to be kept holy as celebratory acts:

Charge of the Mortal Body

I am birthed by nature itself, parented by the God and Goddess and gifted to my ancestors with only one promise: continuity. I am here for seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months, years: so long as I dwell upon Mother Earth I am granted the gifts of the mortal being. I am sovereign to consent and deny; I may worship or not; I may partake of mortal doings or withdraw from them. These are the gifts of free will that nature has provided. Because I am aware of my place in nature and conscious that I have an ancestry I also bear the charge of knowledge: that my fellows are sovereign to consent and deny, to worship or not, to partake or withdraw. The gifts of pain and pleasure live in my body and are mine to give willingly or to keep for myself. All other bodies I encounter are sovereign, their pleasure and pain to be shared willingly and honorably or not at all. All mortals are the deliverance of only one promise: continuity of life. In all else, whether child, man, woman, or beyond gender, they are sovereign. I honor this in the mortal bodies I encounter as I honor that I am here with only one promise to deliver: that so long as I am here, I represent the continuity of life.

Please flag and report those IPs!

This entry is part 5 of 16 in the series Sexual-Violence-Ed-for-Pagans

Again, so as to keep my brain clean and my homicidal rage to a minimum I don’t generally read the comments on blogs. I especially don’t read them on Pagan blogs. Most comments are phrased from a world view that’s twenty … whoops, thirty years out of date and manages to misconstrue a lot of the Pagan ideology that was true of that time.

So, as I’ve said, this whole lumping rape into sex into pedophilia thing is in fact not a grey area. It is plain as day to me with no confusion, no cognitive dissonance and no doubt. You don’t fuck or fuck with children. You also do not support, defend or interact with people that do.

I’ve read several – several – blog posts where people are commenting/complaining/even trying to accommodate people who say things like “well, maybe he was just looking at the pictures.”

I get why you would complain.

But why the fuck are you not writing down their names and ISP numbers, checking the sex offender database and forwarding all that to the feds?

Some guy complaining about how men are treated in Paganism – after it’s clear to the point of national news certain men have misbehaved routinely and have been indulged in it – on a post about another dude being arrested for child porn is a screaming red flag.

Whatever – a lot of it is polytheists who are pointing at the general Wiccan and Pagan population with contempt. But if they’re not taking names and reporting it too, they deserve just as much contempt as they are distributing.

Let’s segregate sexual violence from the sexuality spectrum

This entry is part 1 of 16 in the series Sexual-Violence-Ed-for-Pagans

One of the common responses to the Kenny Klein scandal is “let’s talk about sexual ethics.” On the surface, that’s the logical leap.

But under the surface, it’s wrong.
It inadvertently implies that somewhere, in a teeny tiny corner of spectrums and scales, there might – just might – be acceptable room for a pedophile, or rape, or non-consent.

Why?

Because we’re classifying the violence with sex. We’re acting like sex has any degree of violence to it, as though in its most natural form it’s a violent act.

That’s the rape culture in all of us, somehow making it a sex thing when it’s not.

Pedophilia and absolutely every other kind of rape and molestation are not sex. We need to stop talking about them as though they are part of a “sexual spectrum.” This normalizes the behavior and thus subvertly endorses it. It does not matter whether or not the perp is aroused when acting – the high comes from the violence, not from the biological mechanics.

These acts are violence that USES sex as the weapon of choice.

There should never be ANY room for discussions of sexuality revolving around rape or pedophilia because they are not a matter of sexuality – they are a matter of criminal pathology. To allow for any grey area at all is to leach poison into our already poisoned collective sexual consciousness.

Someone will say “but BDSM …” BDSM is an artistic interaction and is not sexual violence. It’s sex. It is consent to the point of artistry. Once the rules of a BDSM contract are broken, it’s rape. Again, there is no room for grey.

Note: I am hoping that the post titles alone are enough of a trigger warning.

An Addendum to Perfectly Nice People

This entry is part 4 of 16 in the series Sexual-Violence-Ed-for-Pagans

Here’s one I’ve witnessed and experienced that was left out of the original post How perfectly nice people contribute to rape and molestation:

OVERT MANIPULATION/ENABLING

  • Think about what this will do to his/her life.
  • Think about what this will do to his children.
  • What if it was your brother/father/sister/mother – how would you feel?

Odds are, if a person with children commits rape outside the home, that person is also engaging in violence inside it. Rape does more than just damage the skin – it does measurable neurological damage. That damage will last the rest of the victim’s life; some are lucky and can get treatment for the PTSD and worse that follows . Most are not so lucky – and most of that foul luck is the fault of irresponsible and lazy community response to the crime, or worse, outright community enabling of the criminal. So to be concerned about “what might happen to a rapists life” is just violence masquerading as an appeal for compassion. It’s unacceptable.

As to the “what if it’s your mother/brother/whatever..” Well, even monsters have mothers. Often those mothers are monsters, too. There is a reason that working moral systems elevate justice over love. It may not be your fault that you love someone evil, but it doesn’t entitle you to allow innocents to suffer. If you make that demand – if you see your brother do evil and you try to interfere with his or her punishment – you are directly participant in that evil.

This is the ONE AREA OF MORALITY WHERE THERE ARE NO SHADES OF GREY. Why is this so difficult for so many people to understand?

How perfectly nice people contribute to rape and molestation (Triggerpalooza, kids.)

This entry is part 2 of 16 in the series Sexual-Violence-Ed-for-Pagans

A highlight of last month was the arrest of a well-known-to-some Pagan man caught in a child porn sting.

The brouhaha over Kenny Klein is wholly justified: we’ve had more than one neopagan hauled off for trying to persuade nubile men and women in their mid-teens into beds. He’s the first guy we all know for sure went down for kiddie porn for children under 13 and the intense discussion of these charges reveal, to our communal shame, how many warnings and complaints we ignored.

In response many decent people of neopagandom have vowed to correct our actions. Over the last month lots of energy has gone into discussing how our community behaves when it comes to sex and sexuality. We are all about solving the problem, we are simply going to the wrong information to solve that problem. Sexuality and sexual ethics is not and was never the problem in cases involving sexual violence. We all know sex with children is malevolent and wrong – those engaging in these acts definitely know that. No amount of vowing not to rape children will stop pedophiles of any religion or non-faith from raping children. It’s a pathology. Petitions and sexual chivalry codes don’t fix that.

In one festival announcement that bordered on being predatory in its own right, there was a promise to “screen all registrants” before camp. That’s a cute bit of PR – but since this is the first time Klein has been caught, he would have slipped right on through and endangered the children at that camp, too.

Instead of looking at our own behavior and how we as a community contributed and even enabled his crimes, we are looking at the behavior of Klein and those like him as though a new moral code will make a damn bit of difference to someone who willfully breaks moral codes already. The only thing we have the power to change is ourselves – and for the most part, every proposal of “change” has been something that would do nothing to correct this situation. (There are exceptions listed in the blog links at the bottom of this post.)

We all want to know what the signs of a child molester are. But molesters know what they are and they are clever. They hide. They manipulate. They make us feel ashamed for thinking such thoughts about them.

The only sure sign of a child molester? Victims. And that “victims” is almost always plural unless a concerned parent happened upon the first incident while already toting a shotgun.

Whether Klein is a “true Pagan” or not (and “true Pagan” are words of utter bullshit, by the way) makes no difference in the much more serious issue: we failed his victims. It is an aching, glaring reality in the hordes of blog posts out there: there’s lots of talk about how we had warnings about Klein, but only the victims talk about how they were (mis)treated along the way. Call it rape culture, call it Peter Pan syndrome, call it Pagan fantasy culture at its worst – but also, call it our fault for not listening, for not paying attention, for dismissing instead of investigating.

Yvonne Aburrow gives a good overview of this.   Her perspective is old school, what I was told in advocacy training. It also relies on people being better and more self aware than they usually are.

The problem with protecting our own vulnerable populations is that as a group we share a tendency towards denial of bad behavior.

In theory we’ll of course believe a woman who tells us she’s been raped. We’re good people. We know all about rape culture, that it’s real. We are beyond rape culture, right? The Goddess disapproves of rape and all that rape in ancient myth represented tales of war and patriarchal oppression. We are good Pagans! We uphold the Goddess incarnate in all women! Of course we’d believe a woman who was raped – and not even think to question the shortness of her skirt, whether we can see her thong or if she was making out with more than one guy around the fire last night.

But then real life happens: a woman tells you she’s been raped by someone you know – a guy you just had drinks with, a guy who’s on your trivia team, a guy who just helped you move.

Then believing her is a very different story.

Even after she gets the rape kit and the DNA proves something happened, you dredge up anything  that can make this not be so – even blaming her – to convince yourself you’re not the kind of person that would befriend a rapist.

Maybe she’s just trying to get revenge in a bad breakup, you tell yourself. You look for every fault she has. Something has to be wrong with her – because there’s no way you’d just let this happen, that you might have been a passive party to someone else’s violation. You’d totally know if this guy was sexually violent. Yeah, he says some weird things about women and gets kind of touchy but that’s just geek culture/pagan culture/weird social awkwardness, right? Just look at how she acts around her sexual prospects.

Or: look at how she wears baggy clothes and no makeup – why would anyone even want to rape her?

This train of thought is wrong – beyond wrong. It’s a complete moral failure.

Sometimes there are signs when a person is creepy. Sometimes there are not. Predators disguise themselves – fooling the people around them is how they succeed in their hunt.

You are going to get signals something is up, though. Sometimes those signs come from the predators.

But often enough, the signs come from the people the predator huntsand all too often, you may well bat those aside, not even knowing that there’s a neurological button in you that the predator has found a way to press, even at a distance. The button that makes you ignore what’s right in front of you. The one that makes you want to steady that rocking boat.

The predator counts on us using that automated response every time someone says “hey, something is wrong here.” In fact, after years of manipulation and cultural indoctrination, these responses can be condensed down to specific words and sentences that actually act as powerful triggers – that can shut our awareness to the off position. After all, it’s much easier to hunt when the other members of the herd are oblivious – and getting them to make themselves oblivious makes life so much easier.

So, when confronted with a rape-in-the-neighborhood situation, most people are programmed to respond with dismissal, identification or denial.

DISMISSAL

  • “Oh, he or she is harmless.”

Variations: “socially awkward,” “is from a different era,” “has some old fashioned ideas about gender,” “likes to push boundaries.”

  • “I’m sure it was nothing.” The person was upset enough to bring it up. It’s something.
  • “It’s just a [cultural] [tradition] [personality] difference.”
  • “I’m sure it’s just a personality conflict.” ((This has been used on me too often to forgive. It almost always means that one person is behaving badly and people surrounding are too afraid to do anything so they let it go on, giving it tacit social support.))

IDENTIFICATION

  • “Once you get to a certain age everyone thinks you’re creepy.”
  • “I just imagine how I would feel in that situation.”
  • “Men in this community are treated so badly. Their innate privilege/masculinity is questioned all the time.”

DENIAL

  • “He has a boyfriend/girlfriend… he’s really attractive…he’s so nice… why would he need to rape someone?”
  • “He IS your boyfriend/girlfriend. Why on earth would he need to rape you?”
  • “I know him. He’s a nice guy. There’s just no way this could happen.”
  • “I don’t know what I saw.”

MINIMIZATION

  • “You’re exaggerating.”
  • “I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.”
  • “Maybe it was just a misunderstanding…” [once someone’s genitals come out there IS no misunderstanding.]
  • “Stop being a drama queen.”
  • “You’re taking this out of context/blowing this way out of proportion.”

AVOIDANCE

  • “I don’t want to get involved.”
  • “I’m sure this would be better handled privately.”
  • “Think about who this would hurt if this got out.”

COMPLEX AVOIDANCE

  • “You should take this to the authorities.”

This one sounds like the right thing to say. It should be the right thing to say.

If you have ever had to watch a police interrogation of a rape or molestation victim, you will know why it is the deadly wrong thing to say.

1)Most rape victims are accused of lying by the police. Usually they are accused of it several times during an investigation. There are cases when a woman has had to ask for a rape kit multiple times before she even gets one – and sometimes she isn’t even given one then.

2)An absurd number of police officers have domestic abuse and sexual violence on their own records. Gender seems to make no difference in that. It is starting to improve as people are registering that high risk jobs have can have nasty neurological impacts that make people more likely to become violent towards their partners and children. But right now, chances are the police are not just part of rape culture but the upholders of it.

3)In a Pagan context, there are no authorities. Often someone speaks to you because they perceive YOU as the authority in some way – and given the state of crisis, it’s not a good time to navigate the psychological conditions that cause that particular projection.

ADDITIONAL COMPLEX AVOIDANCE

  • “Prove it.”

Therein lies the rub. There are many situations in which if a victim seeks legal recourse – say, going to the police and getting a rape kit – that it’s more dangerous to get the proof then it is to just suffer with what has been done. Most rape and molestation happens at the hands of a known person and it escalates over time. In its final escalation, the victim is murdered. The possibility of getting caught has caused more than one perpetrator to move up the schedule on that.

  • “Well, why don’t you confront him/her?”

This comes from “very special episode” acculturation. In TVLand, the victim is believed, the authorities are called and the perpetrator confesses to all crimes, maybe even vowing to change while being hauled off in handcuffs. More than one therapist has witnessed how much confrontation of an abuser doesn’t accomplish.

“Why didn’t you say no/put a stop to it?”

This is something about rape (not sex) education that has changed since my day in the 90s. I remember attending education workshops where it was explained how over eager teenage boys would use emotional manipulation to get sex. This qualified as rape at the time. Of course, now sex education involves pointing teenagers to the nearest anti-contraception church in the most dire need of butts for their pews. They don’t care how they got those baby members or what’s done to women in order to conceive them.

As many an adult child abuse survivor can tell you, people will refuse to believe you even when it happens right in front of them, the police or other authorities sure as hell won’t believe you and confrontation of the perpetrator does fuck all.

Actually, it does do one thing that’s sort of useful, but not so useful it justifies the therapy bills. I’ll get to that later.

How YOU can stop the cycle of denial, minimization and avoidance

There is a way to stop this. Every time you encounter a situation where someone reports the horrific, respond the same way: ask relevant, non-leading, non-judgmental questions. It will be very difficult to do. Most people’s brains are all wired up with rape culture/dismissal culture. It can take some work to undo that.

If the Pagan community wants to implement anything that will make a difference, it should be in creating a standardized procedure in how the victims are treated and how their claims are investigated. The procedure should be re-examined in light of new research about sexual violence every single year.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or woman, boy or girl, trans or traditional: treat any accusations of assault and violation exactly the same way.

What you must internalize about rape and molestation:

It’s not a stranger jumping out of the bushes. Rape and molestation happens between known quantities. The majority of murders are also between people that know each other intimately (not necessarily sexual intimacy.) Often sexual abuse is a component of relationships that leads to murder.

So what are the right questions to ask? What are the right things to say?

This can be a hard one. People that have been violated are usually in a state of shock that moves into denial. It can go for days or weeks. A lot of things you think you’d do immediately if the same thing happened to you may well not happen if/when it does happen to you because of the shock.

Level 1: If someone comes to you saying “I was raped.”

Questions:

  • When?
  • Do you want to go to the police?
  • Are you going to go to the police?
  • Are you safe?
  • Are you able to get somewhere safe?
  • Can you say who?
  • What do you need to see done?

Note: Any coven or Pagan group worth a damn will make sure that the victim has NO reason to run into the abuser. Even if you’re determined you’re “not sure” forcing these people to cross paths for any reason is an act of abuse in and of itself.

Level 2: Someone did something I thought was off.

Questions:

  • What did the person do?
  • Can you tell me more about the context?
  • What did you say? What did this person say?

Do NOT respond with a conclusion or dismissal. Promise to look in on it and make some observations yourself.

Level 3: Confrontation

Confrontation will never, ever produce positive change in the perpetrator. Many of those us who survived abuse are well aware that there’s a pretty high degree of narcissism among people who abuse, whether it’s children or adults, whether it’s on the emotional spectrum or whether it’s across the emotional and physical spectrum with the sexual spectrum as a bridge.

What confrontation will do is prompt a reaction.

A perpetrator will deny, try to make himself out to be the victim, try to slander or speak for his or her victim, try to justify the behavior and insist that it’s normal. A perpetrator will most likely use anger to manipulate everyone in the room.

What an innocent person will do is look horrified and ask for guidance in righting the wrong or offense given.

It takes someone with super strong grounding in a very healthy place to confront an abuser and get anything useful out of it at all. Whatever it is, it won’t do anything to change the abuser – it will only provide information that only a very well trained eye will know what to look for. Since abusers installed those triggers that will cause breakdown/backing down into the people they hurt, those people are the ones who should never, ever bother with a confrontation. All that does is open the door for the abuse cycle to restart. It is up to the community members to help their wounded properly. Alas, rugged individualism can only do harm here.

Rape and molestation are not one-off, isolated behaviors. They are pathologies. If you hear about a person abusing sexually once, you will almost definitely hear about a person abusing sexually again.

Also, what the fuck is wrong with the people that think an older man or woman hitting on or “teasing” girls and boys under 18 is a grey area?

Read these, too – they say it well, and add dimensions to this discussion not covered here:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sermonsfromthemound/2014/03/silence-equals-death/

http://thespiae.oddmodout.com/2014/03/30/on-kenny-klein/

http://kvasiramongstthegods.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/a-huge-issue/

http://shaunaaura.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/of-pagans-and-predators-part-1/

http://shaunaaura.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/of-pagans-and-predators-part-2/

http://shaunaaura.wordpress.com/2014/04/02/of-pagans-and-predators-part-3/

http://shaunaaura.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/predators-4-amputate/

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pagan-musings/2014/03/31/pmp-sex-ethics-abuse-in-the-magickal-world

http://serpent77.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/what-can-we-do-now/

http://paganactivist.com/2014/04/09/pagans-mental-health-and-abuse/

http://www.polytheismwoborders.com/2014/04/you-will-be-heard-april-2nd-wyrd-ways.html

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/sermonsfromthemound/2014/03/erotic-ethics/

http://www.plausiblydeniable.com/opinion/gsf.html

http://thehouseofvines.com/2014/03/31/hanc-culpam-maiorem-an-illam-dicam/

Providing you with an entire trigger warning post (the whole Kenny Klein fiasco)

This entry is part 3 of 16 in the series Sexual-Violence-Ed-for-Pagans

In the next few days I am going to be posting my .02 on the Kenny Klein scandal. Almost everyone in the Pagan community has heard about this already but there are people who follow my blog even though they aren’t Pagan. The synopsis: a prominent member of the Pagan community was arrested on 25 counts of child porn possession and distribution a few weeks ago. So what’s going to happen: the next post, or possibly series of posts depending on what I find that still needs to be said, will deal with:

Child abuse, sexual violence, gendered violence and emotional violence. For some of you, you’re better off watching Tangled on repeat.

The one piece I definitely have planned is, to some guilt-ridden minds, going to sound accusatory. I want to say “oh, no no, I don’t mean that,” but I do and I don’t, I will and I won’t. Violence isn’t something that happens on a scale, it happens on a spectrum – and if you don’t live on that spectrum, you can’t even be remotely conscious of how you may well contribute to it. Just like practicing a non-mainstream religion takes a re-acculturation process, becoming a person who deals with violence instead of ducking it in culturally prescribed methods takes a total relearning of self. Most of us have, for good or ill, not had cause to learn the other language of behavior.

It makes me glad I’ve turned off comments. I’m tired of people reacting. You read, you react in the moment. With what’s coming I prefer to see a response – I want to see you sit down and really think about what I’m saying before you answer it in any way, if you do at all.

I have had my energy elsewhere – finishing contracted books for Llewellyn (got one more to go) and promoting the book I printed with Moon Books. But I also waited to dive into the discussion for other reasons: I wanted to see what facts floated to the surface, and while I never pay enough attention to climb on to the illusion of Pagan celebrity bandwagon (we all know who Gerald Gardner is but most have no clue about Cybill Shepherd, for scale.)  But for the rest of this week, now that I’ve done all that hard stuff with scheduling book appearances and the like, this horrific story has my attention.

Supplies: the complex thing about Mikey

Women taking a course in car care, maintenance, and operation in Tallahassee, Florida

from Florida Memory Flickr Commons Archive

The complicated thing about Mikey is that I did have sounding boards who kept warning me to get out. But they were other types of crazymakers, other types of blockers. They wanted this predator cleared so they could get a better crack at me.

Mikey did make it clear to me exactly how bad the women I called my “best friend” for years was actually for me – how bad her intents towards me almost always were. She liked the idea of Mikey and me together. She thought his calling me at 6 am when he knew I needed the sleep was romantic, not the abusive that it actually was. She figured I would eventually relent to his constant demands I take care of him.

There were others, of course, but most just sort of rolled their eyes. They didn’t recognize what was going on. One girl who had a thing for Mikey was relentlessly jealous of me – I can only imagine how bad he would have messed her life up if I hadn’t presented a distraction. While I have no liking for her as a human being, she is a human being and deserved to be treated as one. That’s not how this  guy would have treated her.

My sudden onset illness, as frustrating as it can be, probably saved me from what would have been one of the most abusive relationship of my life and also ended a female friendship that I have only come to recognize as abusive.  The constant hiving and allergies forced me to be reclusive.

It’s normal to have these patterns when you come from a dysfunctional home. You have to recognize dysfunction at home before the rest of the alphabet falls into place and you get the correct read on things. It took me awhile to see the source of it. Now I see all of it.

Now I have friends who would spot that kind of madness and tell me so right quick.

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: the Creative Desert

Orange mallow, showy desert flower, 05/1972.

from US National Archives Flickr Commons Collection

The creative desert is that uncharted territory. It’s the idea that just might work that people think are absurd. I’ve spent most of my life there, long enough to see rather a lot of vindication.

In high school, I went through a phase where I wrote letters to the editor all the time. Most of them were published – to the annoyance of adults who wanted that space for their own sounding board. In one of them, focused on the environment, I proposed that we mine landfills for recyclable material. At the time, landfill mining was unheard of.

My uncle read some of these missives of mine and had an absolute fucking fit. The landfill mining really sent him over the edge – it was just “absurd.” It’s far from the only thing he’s disagreed with me on where time has taken my side. Really, most of his attitude just had to do with me being female and his least favorite sibling’s least favorite daughter. I have to wonder, if one of his children had proposed it, if he would have taken offense to it the way he did with me.

Of course, now we have landfill mining.

Around 2003, the mass transit system in the Twin Cities was under heavy discussion. There was talk of building yet another highway that looped around the Cities. Thankfully people decided to move towards building mass transit inside the cities instead, helping to reduce car ownership and thus not just pollution but cost of living for city residents as they can. (It’s still necessary to own a car because of winter around here. However, using a car less is still pretty good.) I had posted on the Star Tribune suggesting they look into the old trolley system – there are still tracks and cars languishing in a corner of Dinkytown. Someone immediately posted a tirade about “pipe dreams” and “craziness” directed at me for daring repropose it.

Yet two years later the city had a feasibility study.

Last year, the mayoral election had installing a street car line down Central Ave. as one of its major platforms.

As I paraphrased before, new looks like crazy to dumb people. There are a lot of people who have tried to make me out to be completely nuts when not only am I quite sane, I’ve got a good sense for solutions.

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: My True North

GOODS Chandra Deep Field-North: The Secret Lives Of Galaxies Unveiled In Deep Survey

from Smithsonian Institute’s Flickr Commons Page

True North is difficult for me because I made a conscious choice to operate without a navigation system when I was about 19. Before then, I was under a great deal of pressure to “plan my life.” My parents informed me I needed to pick a major, stick with it, stay at the same college if I could, should take no breaks from school ever … you get the idea.

My parents were setting me up to fail. They were using their map, one that went obsolete in 1969. When I pointed out that they had an obsolete map I got a lot of abuse and denial heaped on me. It was my mother’s “advice” that got me to pick the wrong school in the first place. She thought I’d “be able to study there, with few distractions.” Looking back I realize that she was insulting my work ethic and slut shaming me simultaneously. This conception of me was so outer-space and inaccurate that it took me years to process that that’s what she was doing.

Throwing away the navigation system completely was the only way to banish her influence.

My life – my happiness – improved almost immediately. The only true north my mother wanted me to have was her.

That’s not true north. That’s letting a narcissist ruin and run my life.

I knew for sure that leaving my family made my life better. It wasn’t total direction, but it was a start. Without the map, I still worked plenty hard. I still wound up on the dean’s list every semester. I still found a job even in economies with no jobs available.

But making that choice to abandon the map has had its problems. In graduate school I was hopelessly out of the loop on most of the reading. I had done undergrad in journalism. The MFA in writing was lit focused and most of my class had voraciously read all that stuff that just kind of bored me. I’ve missed so many opportunities as a writer I try not to think of them. I have a sneaking suspicion that if I’d just stuck out that Wal-mart job or applied for that program in Dubai my life would now have a grander, more interesting dimension to it.

The other part of this is that in writing, your True North shifts. I have already been published. I will have three books out by 2015. So what next? Those were my major, elusive goals.

Perhaps I’ll try writing fiction, going down the tougher road of getting that published.  Mostly I want to gather up my wounds and get them healed and then look for direction from there.

All I know for sure is that I want to live a life I truly enjoy.

 

Filed under: Supplies

Supplies: 20 “in a perfect world” statements

Duplex Corset 1/3 ca. 1885

Library Company of Philadelphia Flickr Commons Collection

In a perfect world, I would

1. live somewhere warm

2. travel freely and often

3. dance a lot more

4. be able to see friends often

5. have the perfect social/home life balance

6. be able to write without back pain

7. never miss gym time ever.

8. find a yoga class that is not one of those obnoxious “flow” classes

9. get my herbal certification

10. maybe finish grad school (?) feeling a little weak on that one.

11. go on a writer’s retreat at least once a year

12. have Tae Kwon Do/Aikido training

13. have a housekeeper I trusted to clean my bathrooms

14. live in a place where I could safely walk everywhere

15. live near a major airport

16. find a spiritual group that I work well with (coming to terms with of all things a possible Celtic-inspired role/explanation for myself)

17. be able to see the beach/ocean daily

18. wear pretty, comfortable clothing

19. publish some fiction

20. be cured of my allergies

… I have a pretty damn good life already. It’s just the internal noise I’m trying to correct.

Filed under: Supplies