Vulnerability: the Self-Vivisection of Music, Submission, and Love

“You know….you clearly don’t know what it takes for me to be bold.”
-from the song “I Found a Boat” by Scarlet Sails

Holy fuck, I sang on the boardwalk Sunday night. In front of people. I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen. I mean, some part of me knew it would eventually happen, but I wasn’t certain it was going to be this past Sunday.

See, I’ve been talking with a friend about performing; they invited me to join them on the boards since they have a busking license. A few months ago, I asked them if they would learn the guitar part of a song for me that I really feel the need to sing and hear every damn day. I’m trying to learn it on guitar, but it’s slow going, so I was hoping they could help me get out there. So we set up time to rehearse for this past Sunday. Spent some time singing the harmonies together on a song they wanted to sing lead on, a few times over, and I played some stuff for them, and we worked on the song I asked them to learn. It was great. It was beyond great. It was something I’d dreamed about for decades…singing and playing with another musician in this way.

And then they asked if I wanted to go out and busk. Like…right then. That day.

The “sure” that flew out of my mouth surprised both of us, apparently. It seems I just….had found a pocket of courage and decided to run with it. I’ve wanted this for so long. To sing in front of people like this.

Now, some of you who know me might be all like, “but you’re a burlesque dancer who sings!” Or, “but you’ve been in choirs and musicals!”

And you’re absolutely right. However, there’s always a kind of character involved. Always someone else. And even when I was myself, like in choirs, I was still…part of the choir. Which isn’t me, right? It’s a group. I can blend in. Even when I’ve done solos…I was a bundle of nervous…but, it’s still with the choir. I know, I know…it’s weird.

There are just so many facades; this way, I don’t have to actually, fully be vulnerable. Because obviously, the world would end. Or at least that’s what my fears and anxieties scream at me. I mean, the actual world we all live in wouldn’t end. Cause, duh. No matter how illogical my fears are, I know that the world does not revolve around me.

But my world, the world where I have people in my life that I care about, things I enjoy doing, (or people whom I enjoy doing and things that I care about…y’know six of one…)…it feels like it would all come crashing down. I battle Imposter Syndrome on a regular basis. I also have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, as well as clinical depression. On top of all that, I’m an introvert.

They’re all managed. Mostly. But management is not a cure. It doesn’t all just magically go away. I’ve worked my ass off for over two decades to learn, to grow, to manage, to adapt, to push myself outside of comfort zones and try to open up.

However, there’s still an underlying, paralyzing fear that all the people I care about would leave if they knew what I really felt. The crippling fear and panic I deal with every day that I try to bury under all the layers of socially acceptable I slather on. The smiles, the banter, the glamour, all like a duck trying to swim so smoothly on the surface, but hiding the frantic feet churning water as fast as possible to stay ahead of everything, seek out every possible threat, protect myself in all the ways I learned when I was a kid.

The thing is…I made a decision a long time ago that I didn’t want to hide from pain. Or fear. Or, basically who I am and the things I am passionate about. I wanted to face it all head on. I’ve learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the persistence to keep going, Do The Thing, even when you’re shaking and terrified. I’ve worked for years, on therapist’s couches, in cars on long drives talking with people I trust, over the course of hours and days in solitude crying and processing, and in so many other ways, to keep opening myself up. Over and over. Some things are easier than other to talk about, act on, be. I am very comfortable being a creative, polyamorous, kinky, pansexual gray ace.

However, I’ve realized there are three basic things that strip that all comfort away from me: submission, music, and love.

Writing, art, dance, and creativity in general are ways I peel off certain layers, but submission, music, and love are the ones that cut to the quick, tap a vein, and various other metaphors that try to explain how I feel like I’m cracking open my chest and leaving all my gooey innards on display in some weird self-vivisection. Making the parts that people don’t see completely vulnerable. The parts I try to hide, because life has taught me when you let people see those things, it hurts. They laugh, they leave, or…they let you know that it doesn’t matter to them. That is probably the one that hurts the most. The indifference. It sounds stupid to admit…but I want to matter. I want to be valued. And at certain times, in certain ways, with a few people…desired.

Submission is one of the quickest ways to, appropriately, bring me to my proverbial knees. Some people have made the mistake of thinking that submission is weakness. Which is bullshit. Submission is absolutely not weakness. It’s been said before, by multiple people in many places, but I will say it again: You cannot take power away from the powerless. There is a core of strength and solidity to submission that is anything but weak. There is also tremendous vulnerability in submission.

There have been very few people in my life with whom I resonated in any way as a submissive. For various life reasons, my submission is beyond back-burnered. I’m grateful for all the experiences and the people I have resonated with, as my submission is something I guard very closely and wound up shutting down for a few years because it just hurt too much and I also battled some serious “I’m a terrible submissive so why bother?” demons. I’m especially grateful for the people who helped bring my submissive out of hiding. There was a brilliant combination of some gentle coaxing, some distinct challenges issued, some blunt truth, and a hefty dose of magic involved and all that has given me the courage to be open to the rare times I do get to be submissive and also hold out hope that one day I will have opportunities to be submissive more regularly.

When it comes to love, you’d think I’d be more…skilled and less scared in regards to it, being polyamorous for over 15 years. But no. There’s still true terror. I continually push myself past it, as best I can, but it’s always there. I’m realizing lately that there is part of me that struggles to feel worthy of the people I love. Like…I think they’re wonderful. But why would they want me? Also, it’s fucking hard to admit that I…have desires. That I want things. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what they are, and then once I do….communicating them is terrifying. It’s one part being an adult and being prepared to hear “no” because that’s always a possibility and one should know how to hear that maturely, and one part, “omg, what if they want that, too?!” I mean, it should be awesome if they want the same thing, right? But then my brain goes, do they really want it? Why do they really want it? If they wanted it, why didn’t they say something? It all boils down to a baseline fear of do they really want me? And if signs are pointing to yes…why do they want me? Followed by, but sure and then they’re going to leave. There are some people who’ve come into my life that I constantly have to shout down the jackass parts of my brain about. I might’ve written a little about it here. Constant process, learning to love myself.

And then there’s music.

Dear *insert dieties here*, music. They say that scent is one of the most powerful memory triggers, but for me, the most powerful is music. A certain song can throw me backward 20 years. When I find myself falling in love with someone, I go on a quest for music (and sometimes the music gets delivered right to me, which is AWESOME) to help me understand what this particular type of love means to me. I also look to music to help me process most emotions or to amplify certain emotions. I’m forever grateful to people who’ve introduced me to types of music or certain groups/performers that I hadn’t experienced before. There are certain singers/bands that will always be entwined with specific people because they’re the ones that exposed me to that music. My best friend has said that I experience the world through music and I think it’s true. It’s my first filter. I often think in song lyrics. They’re flying around almost always in my head. Music is infused in all I do.

And when I write my own stuff, and sing it…it’s…it’s like stripping away everything and flashing the world with my soul. It’s immediate. Visceral. I can’t hide behind the covers, a computer screen, nor sprint for the nearest door. I mean, I guess I could run and hide. But if I’m committed staying there and singing…it means I’m actively choosing to stay and be seen. It’s one of the purest forms of sharing. It’s so raw.

Sometimes it feels obscene to be that raw. Like, surely there are propriety laws or at least common social mores to observe. Someone is going to accuse me of, like, corrupting minors or breaking a law, right?

And because the Universe works in mysterious wonderful ways and helps to keep you on the path of opening up when you decide to, I found this poem on a friend’s FB earlier this week when I started writing this post. I now need to look up the works of Nayyirah Waheed.

Aaaaaand speaking of the Universe and its mysterious wonderful ways, also as I was in the process of writing this, I was reintroduced to this quote:

“Most people believe vulnerability to be weakness, but really vulnerability is courage. We must ask ourselves, are we willing to show up and be seen?”
– Brene Brown

Sounds similar to what I had said above about not being able to take power from the powerless and how submission is not weakness, either. It’s all connected. And at least for me, in my heart…music, submission, and love are points of vulnerability. Opportunities for courage. Offering another fucking opportunity for growth.

And man, this year has been one of grieving, change, and growth. I sometimes can’t keep up with all the emotions/experiences and being an empath on top of it makes it even more challenging. I’ve also been traveling a lot lately, and it’s difficult to be traveling with people I care about and not always be sure what to do with all the conflicting things that I’m trying to process. The past and the present and the future all swirling together. There have been many tears and only a few answers so far, and I get so frustrated with myself when I can’t control the damn tears.

Vulnerability means that I can’t always close myself back up the way I used to. It means sitting with the grief and uncertainty and insecurity and figuring out how to proceed. Sometimes it fucking sucks. Sometimes, though, it means other things. Like creating music with someone you respect, trust, and care about and just…being seen. When it’s that, it’s fucking awesome.

Sunday was fucking awesome.

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To be kneeling again…only kneeling again…

The subject of kneeling has been a difficult thing for me. For as long as I’ve been in the scene, which is getting close to twenty years now, I’ve wanted to learn kneeling positions but for various reasons, such as the timing or interests of partners not lining up except once, it’s not been a Thing. For that one time it did, it was like a light shone from inside of me. A light I had almost forgotten existed. I also began to find that meditating on my knees was a thing that brought me great peace and clarity. When I first started, I also began to find that I could kneel for longer as I practiced.

However, bodies are funny things. Sometimes, they can’t do the things they used to be able to do. I don’t know if I fucked it up or if it’s a product of getting older, or both, but somewhere along the lines a few months ago, my right knee began telling me that kneeling wasn’t such a good idea anymore. I tried many things. Adjusting positions. For the Gorean positions I was practicing, the ones involving being on both my hands and knees were better, but still had some issues, especially for more than five or ten minutes. I tried adjusting the positions, but that still only helped for short term. Eventually, it became something I couldn’t sustain.

This sadness this has caused hurt so badly that took my breath away. I’ve literally found it hard to center myself via breathing and meditating because my body wants so badly to be on my knees. Wants…so many things that that means.

And yet…we can’t always have what we want.

But.

A few weekends ago at TES Fest, I was in a scene. At various parts, down on my knees. It was like the sun had finally come out. (The impact and endorphins helped a lot, too) I tried so hard not to get overwhelmed with the fear of how fleeting it was. Tried not to hold on to it too tightly and just embrace where I was in the moment, because there were other things going on, too. But I was so grateful. After the scene was over, I tried not to get lost in the fact that it was over. That I wasn’t sure when I wound be on my knees again. Not sure how possible it was going to be for many reasons. Since life has been relatively busy, I managed to put it aside for awhile.

Then my best friend took me to Santa Fe this past weekend for my 40th birthday. On our last day there, we were treated to a 90 minute session at 10,000 Waves, a spa that is known for it’s soaking tubs, both private and public. Our treat was a private suite with two teacup soaking tubs.

Do you know what’s incredibly possible and a helluva lot less painful in a warm, 2′ deep teacup soaking tub?

Kneeling.

Do you know what I did for the majority of the time I was in that tub, as soon as I realized this?

Knelt.

At first, I cried. I tried not to make it all sobbing, because y’know, there with my best friend and we’re supposed to be having a relaxing experience. But once I got some of the tears quietly out, I threw all the gratitude I had out into the universe and felt everything in me relax. I meditated, I asked the universe for guidance with a lot of the difficulties I’m currently having with D/s, relationships, life. I opened myself up and felt the pain of not knowing how often I’d be able to kneel but also being so grateful that I could do it at all.

Once that all flowed through me, as I concentrated on just breathing and letting whatever I felt happen, I got…giddy. And started to draft a filk of “Human Again” from Beauty and the Beast. I don’t know if I’m the first, but seriously, after a while, all I could think was “To be kneeling again, only kneeling again, when my body once more feels at ease. I’ll be where I belong, dear god, it’s been so long since I’ve felt so much like me…”

There’s more, but it’s not quite finished. Gotta work on that.

Right now, though, I’m just so glad I got that out, that I had these two experiences to show me that things can change, and they might end, but there are still possibilities I never expected. The core is still there in me, regardless of if I’m on my knees are not. Now I just have to figure out how to tap into it more.