[New Year, New You] Some Enchanted Evening

So. The last few weeks have been difficult. Which is putting it mildly. I learned things about people that I never knew and it not only rocked my world, but it has brought down a company, and affected many, many other people in the process. Lines have been drawn, so many people came forward with stories of their own, and somewhere in it, I found the courage to write my own story and share it with a community that is dear to my heart.

Since then, I’ve been in the process of re-examining my life over the past decade or so, as a result. I put a full stop on all kink I was involved in, from established relationship dynamics all the way to potential new play partners. It fucked with my head that someone I thought I knew and whom had helped build my foundation in kink had manipulated and groomed and abused so many people, including people who were underage. So I talked to everyone I was in a relationship or playing with, even casually, and those I was negotiating with and stopped all kink.

Statuses were changed on Fet. Routines were changed. Plans were cancelled. It felt hella awkward at times, and painful. It also showed me how much kink in simply part of my life in intrinsic ways that I hadn’t realized before. I put a fuckton of casual kink (especially pain play) into sensual and sexual experiences with others. There are some other discoveries and epiphanies I’ve been working on during this process and I’m grateful that the people in my life currently all took it gracefully and supportively. I’ve needed some time to reflect, to question, to rebuild. I’m likely going to need more time, but I can feel myself slowly come out of it with some newer realizations. For instance, I actually had begun to rebuild slowly a few years ago. As I learned more about informed and ongoing consent, I knew better so I could do better. There’s never going to be a point where I’m done learning and that’s actually an oddly comforting feeling. I always want to strive to be better and do better.

All of this, and watching the explosions unfold, and the rebuilding that I see others doing and I’ve done, and the healing, and the struggle to make sense of it all, and to get answers…has all taken a lot of time and energy. I don’t just mean my own; so many people have been affected by this and each of us has our own story. For my part, here especially, it’s a means of explaining to myself and anyone else reading this why I haven’t kept up with the New Year, New You prompts.

That all being said, I am back, bitches!

It’s incredibly fitting that I came back to it on the week after Deb had said we should do something nice for ourselves (I did and wound up writing it before everything exploded and scheduling it to appear smack dab in the middle of all the shit. I had forgotten abou tit until I started receiving notifications that a few people liked the post. The internet can be a strange place, sometimes.)

But now it’s all “back to work, bus slave.”

So! Back to work. When last we left off, I had yet to detail how I was going to make my goals come to fruition.

UUUUGGHHHHHHH.

Okay, here we go.

Here’s what I wrote on week two as my goals for this year and following I’ll add what I’m going to be doing to help myself work towards each goal in specific detail. (The kink category is coming off the table for the moment.)

  • Creativity
    • music: practicing uke 5x per week for at least 20 minutes, making at least one video a month of uke playing/singing and posting it somewhere on the interwebs, crafting new burlesque routines
    • writing: this prompt will take care of once a week for twenty-three weeks. I’m also signing up for Cannonball Read
    • drawing: I’m planning on announcing a project I have for myself on FB soon that will help with all the creativity and the authentic connections.
      Spirituality
  • Spirituality
    • these writing prompts are helping me practice more
    • reading Deb’s book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want (which will also help the creativity, as I’ll be writing a review of it for Cannonball Read)
    • seeking out tarot and continuing with my Angel divination deck
    • intentionally visiting nature more
    • trying to find another yoga instructor/class
    • meditate again (this one’s hard because it’s tied to kink for me in that I meditate best on my knees. But I have some difficulty with kneeling currently, from a combination of knee pain I should try to overcome and some recent grief associated with some relationship issues)
  • Kink (for now, not a priority)
    • seeking out play that will put me on both sides of the slash
    • seeking out people I can bounce with
    • actually writing up and posting my class descriptions
    • applying for at least one event
    • reaching out to people in the scene to learn more
    • reading more
    • taking more photos
  • Health
    • mental/emotional – therapy, letting go of the past, allowing myself to feel my emotions as they happen, all the others help with this one, too
    • physical – more activity. Current job will help with this. Once I am out of training, walk around floor for at least 20 minutes a day. Eating better. Taking gluten, sugar, and dairy mostly out of my diet. Drinking more waterAuthentic relationships
      • seeking out the people who are authentic in my life
      • moving away from those who aren’t
      • making sure I am clear to the universe that these two things are my intention
      • making myself vulnerable
      • work on holding space for myself and for others in pain
      • personal responsibility
      • gratitude. Endless gratitude and expressing it to the authentic, glorious people in my life
  • Cleaning
    • organizing costumes
    • organizing closet
    • donating items
    • selling things
    • coming up with a schedule for regular household cleaning

So my best ideas as that some changes need to made. I will therefore dedicate time in the following manner:

  • an hour after work for practicing uke, cleaning something (closet, costumes, laundry, purging things to give away/sell/dontate), and to read and unwind. 20 minutes for each category, which hits on uke practicing, mental health, and cleaning
  • getting up a half hour early to have time to meditate
  • walking around the stores I’m in for at least 20 minutes each day
  • writing – keeping up with the writing prompts again and continuing with the Cannonball Read challenge. Also figure out time where I can write things outside the New Year, New You challenge.
  • keep striving to be honest and open in my communications and allow space for others to be, too
  • also continue to examine things and make apologies and amends as I’m able to
  • work on video on one of my days off. February video will be up by 2/28.
  • announce creative project I had that will also help me connect with people. I will announce that by 3/15.
  • continue to work on finding time to rehearse with band. (Oh, because holy shit, on things that happened in the past few weeks is I started a band with two other awesome people. More on that later after we get a few more rehearsals under our belt.)
  • planning one full ritual for myself each month

It’s not hyper detailed, but it’s better than I had going into this writing and I will start implementing it tonight. Here’s to getting back to work.

Also, in terms of songs, it’s “Doing the Unstuck” by The Cure. All day, every day right now:

“But it’s much too late” you say
“For doing this now
We should have done it then”
Well it just goes to show
How wrong you can be
And how you really should know
That it’s never too late
To get up and go…

Time to get up and go, damnit.

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[CBR10 – Review 2/13] The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

(Cannonball Read book review #2 – original post @ CBR10)

When I first saw this book in Borders, I was intrigued by the cover and when I read about a Mormon gal on her own in the Big Apple, I was even further intrigued. Given that I just name-dropped Borders, that’ll give you an idea of how long ago it was that I picked it up. Pretty sure it was around 2010. But something made me keep it through a move from New Jersey to Mississippi, then back to New Jersey. Then to Memphis. Then BACK to New Jersey a second time. Finally, after seven years, I started reading it in December of 2017 and finished it last week.

One thing I appreciated about the format was that while each chapter was a part of a chronological progression in the author Elna Baker’s life, they were also bite-sized. I could finish one chapter while waiting for an appointment, in the bathroom (it can be really hard to find books that are good for bathroom reading), or before bed.

As for the subject matter of the book, it was an interesting read for me because it was so far outside of my realm of experience. I’m a solo eclectic Pagan and the closest I’ve come to Mormon culture is seeing The Book of Mormon on tour in Memphis, knowing that some of favorite dancers/choreographers are Mormon, and when I was really young and just discovering polyamory, my then boyfriend and new girlfriend came out to our best friend by saying that we were “Mormon”, referencing the churches known stance on having multiple wives. So…not the most well-rounded understanding of the religion.

Baker’s voice drew me into her narrative and I learned a lot reading this book. I didn’t know about the “Magic Underwear” (Temple Garments, or special underwear that male and female Mormons wear as “symbolic and/or literal protection from the evils of the world”), the strong push towards marriage (specifically within the Mormon faith and in a Mormon church) and family being the ultimate goal of life, and I had no idea about the single’s dances (designed to foster the goal of marriage and family). I have had other friend’s who had conflict within their family because they were dating people outside their faith, but none of the actual Mormon faith. I also tend to gravitate towards friends and chosen family who are either in moderate religions, atheist/agnostic, or born-again Pagans like myself who left behind the faith of their youth and, as such, have to deal with varied levels black sheep status in their family. You could say that I’m not exactly a conformist. So this book was very interesting because Elna Baker is very dedicated to being Mormon and upholding her faith as well as she possibly can. And going to school in NYC as she’s coming of age as an adult with her own life definitely challenges that.

Some of the best parts, for me, were realizing that she used to be a plus-sized woman and through the course of the book lost a lot of weight. She talks honestly and hilariously about how she became a bitch and didn’t know until way later that how she lost so much weight successfully might’ve had something to do with prescription speed. Her observations of what the world is like as a plus-sized woman looking for love in all the right places and then what it was like after she lost weight was incredibly interesting. People treated her differently. She experienced female rivalry for a desirable guy in her local Mormon group, or ward.

I admired her spirit when faced with new adventures, from her family moving to different countries when she was younger to getting new jobs and putting herself “out there” (or saying “yes” to things, sometimes in hilariously questionable ways which lead to her inadvertently becoming a “serial convention crasher”.) Or selling high priced baby dolls to snobby, racist people. Or making out with celebrities. Or becoming a stand up comic. Or deciding to have plastic surgery to alter her body after her weight loss.

Elna Baker faced all these new adventures with an interesting mixture of devout and devious, though it was a little odd and hard to believe that someone in their twenties had such a lack of skill and knowledge in something like kissing. She’s frustratingly naive in some ways, but if the reader is frustrated, it’s also because Elna herself is also personally irked by her own lack of experience and knowledge. I had to remind myself that not everyone has sex-positive and educated friends who are sex workers, consent advocates and teachers, sex educators, burlesque performers, swingers, polyamorous people, asexuals. Not everyone worked for and taught at kink conventions like I did. Also, the world and the internet was a different place ten years ago when this book was written. But I admire her strong convictions but her ability to also explore the world and possibly question her faith a time or two, but come back to it even stronger.

The book is also peppered with her charming, hand written lists of what she believes as she goes on this journey, the guys she’s kissed, a fun Venn diagram of how to kiss, and a chart of “Advancements in Cloning vs. Elna’s Sex Life”.

By the end, her adventures have taken her to Zambia in search of the Atheist That Got Away, which was an interesting trip. Overall, the whole book is an interesting trip through one funny, intelligent Mormon woman’s 20’s. I really enjoyed Baker’s account of her life, her experiences, and all those regional Mormon singles dances.

 

[New Year, New You] Week 3 – Something You’ve Been Putting Off

DON’T WANNA!!!

That’s the refrain that’s slamming around in my brain and heart lately, for myriad reasons and pertaining to so many things. Chores what need doing, writing what needs to get writ, practice (magickal and musical) to…practice, bills that have to be paid, healthier choices to make, relationship decisions I have to face. You get the idea. Pretty much exactly where so many people find themselves this time of year, two weeks into the New Year that was so full of Possibilities and New Starts only twelve days ago. Or maybe you’re one of those lucky ones who have way more self-discipline and determination and you’re trucking along just fine with your resolutions.

If so, fuck you.

So sorry. My inner teenager stole my keyboard for a moment. The one who wants to sullenly flip off anyone who’s all wholesome, and has good advice (and even WORSE, backs it up with action), and just wants what’s BEST for me.

*Gag*

‘Scuse me. I’m just gonna lock the door to her bedroom and ignore the Smiths blaring at full volume.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to get motivated. Sometimes, your heart is breaking from a relationship issue you’re having and you find yourself sobbing into your keyboard at midnight about to send an email to someone you just shouldn’t instead of doing things you should be doing. Like any of the things I listed above. Or you had a longass day at work, your anxiety was working your last nerve for the latter part of it, and you came home to no one but your cats and all you want to do is watch an episode of The Crown and go the fuck to sleep. I mean, y’know, hypothetically.

Anyway.

I signed up for this damn writing prompt challenge and here the fuck I am.

And I had read ahead, so I knew this was the week dedicated to Something You’ve Been Putting Off. Fan-fugu-tastic. I also knew that in my last post, I had said that in this post I would make more concrete plans for my goals. S.M.A.R.T.en ’em up, if you will.

(For those who don’t know, S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound. It’s popped up a couple of times in my life this week. First, at work during training and then earlier today on Fetlife on a post someone made about goals. Those S.M.A.R.T. goals are gonna be part of the NEXT post, though. Yes, I’m putting something off in the Something You’ve Been Putting Off post. You wanna go listen to the Smiths with my inner teenager?)

So I’ve been thinking about those things, along with All The Things I’ve Been Putting Off.

I started listening to the song that was recommended for this week, which was awesome but also bittersweet because it referencing a song that was important to me and my ex-wife, but that’s fine. It’s not like the radio hasn’t been slapping me upside the heart with songs from my past lately or anything.

Moving along, the song she recommended was Regina Spektor’s “On the Radio”. I adore this song. But I’m also gonna offer another song that I found this week that seems pretty darned appropriate:

“Rescue” by Yuna

Yeah, she’s got a light in her face
She don’t need no rescue and she’s okay
Yeah, she’s got life in her veins.
She don’t need no rescue and she’s okay.

Which helped me get home from a ten hour day at work tonight, with my feet soaking wet because my fake suede boots aren’t waterproof and mother nature is dealing with some demons up in there and so it was 60 fucking degrees and monsoon-y today, and NOT watch The Crown. Nor have a gin and ginger. I did cry a bit around midnight, but I reached out to my best friend who thankfully leveled my heart with some hard truths I needed to hear.

Around all that, I:

  • brought the laundry up from the dryer
  • checked the basement for signs of water leaking in
  • made mac & cheese from scratch with hidden veggies so it’s marginally healthier, and also comforting and means I had dinner tonight, lunch for tomorrow at work, and some to bring to a friend I might be seeing on Sunday who loves mac & cheese
  • paid the one credit card bill I have
  • paid an overdue toll
  • paid my waaaay overdue and student loans (with about a week to spare before they reported my account as delinquent to credit reporting agencies)
  • pet the cats
  • fixed an extension cord/living room light issue
  • reached out to my sister and a friend I haven’t talked to in a while, just to say hi
  • messaged with another friend who’s having some anxiety issues
  • lit some incense
  • and am writing this post

And at work today, and on the previous days earlier this week I accomplished the following:

  • read a little every night
  • rewrote out the uke tabs/lyrics for a song I’m working on and a new song we’re working on with the band
  • oh, hey…started a band and had first rehearsal and scheduled the next one
  • passed my written and verbal tests for my new job
  • went “live” after passing them
  • threw away two pairs of shoes I’ve been carting around for over a decade (one pair were my Eddie boots from when I used to do Rocky Horror. Hard to let go of but they were literally deformed and cracking and flaking. Plus, I have a pair of Docs now. They’re MUCH better Eddie boots)
  • pulled seven things out of my closet that I’ve been holding onto for years but have never worn and am almost guaranteed to never wear. I mean, there’s one jacket that I might wear when I’m seventy, but fuck if I’m holding onto it that long
  • Started a pile of donate/sell/give away for clothes and costumes
  • went through one bin (of, like, eight) of costumes and burlesque outfits and started streamlining, including making plans to sell a Moresca pirate bodice I bought nearly ten years ago and wore twice
  • started looking at my books, DVDs, other stuff to see what I can get rid of

I’m tired just rereading all this, but I’m also sorta proud of myself. I’m doing things. I’m making shit happen. Slowly, but there’s a lot to sort through to get where I’m going. I’ve built walls and let shit slide for a while and now, the dismantling and cleaning and clearing is going to take some doing.

But I’m finally doing it.

Tonight, I chose the pineapple.

So, there’s this thing I don’t talk about often. My anxiety manifests itself in various forms, most of which I’ve tried to transcend over the past three decades or so. Most commonly, it’s the “if I just have something sweet, I’ll be fine.” The sugar boost (usually with chocolate) helps calm me down, especially if there’s chocolate. I mean, c’mon. You can’t argue with Harry Potter AND Science.

If I’m going somewhere overnight that I’ve never been before, or I don’t know what the food situation will be, I’ll make sure to have something in my purse that will help me with anxiety. And sometimes, when I’m fighting an anxiety attack, or depression, I’ll crave something sweet. A cupcake, a brownie, a cookie. Rarely anymore do I crave regular candy. I’ve phased out and grown up out of most shit forms of sugar. Now I crave real bakery items, or high end chocolate, or other types of rarer things I have to make a special stop for.

Thankfully, I’ve left binging behind in my teens and mid- to late-twenties. It’s not that the feeling of a chasm in me that needed to be filled ever fully went away, I just gradually found other, better ways to fill it. Maybe some of them even helped to heal and close it a little bit at a time. Kink. Real, authentic connection to humans I liked. Music. Art. Dance. A job that at one time was one of the most fulfilling jobs I could’ve ever imagined. Being desired. Being partnered. Being married.

Some of these are great ways to heal old wounds, when applied well. Others…not so much. And lately, I’ve been taking stock of my life. My choices. Everything that’s led me here. It’s the holiday season and yet again, I’m left with very little holiday spirit and even less money than last year. I have no idea where to go from here in terms of finding fulfilling things in a career, in terms of kink, in relationships. There are big, scary things I have to deal with and I don’t know how.

But slowly…slowly, I’m finding answers. Slowly….slowly, I’m rediscovering the spirituality I allowed to be shamed out of me. I’m realizing that there are things I don’t want anymore, which is a step closer to figuring out what I do want. I’m grateful each day for the community of Amazon sisters which has sprung up around me over the past few years.

Still, each day is more of a struggle than I think most people know because I’m trying not to put it all over social media. I get that mental health awareness is and totally should be a Thing, but I also…don’t see the point in posting about all the negative things constantly. Especially when the intellectual part of my brain knows that anxiety and depression are lying to me and there isn’t much that is going to help by way of Fb comments of hugs, thoughts, and prayers. I’m not saying there isn’t healing and helping power in people putting good energy out for you…but there are also studies now showing that diminishing returns of social media. I want something real. My soul is desperate for connection and touch and creativity and kink. These things fuel me, help me burn bright, give me life. I feel like I’m suffocating lately from a dearth of them.

So every other day or so, I fight the urge to get a cookie. Or a cupcake. Or a brownie. Or ginger ale. Most days, I’m not happy to say I don’t win the fight. But I’ve been noticing recently that eating the cookie or the cupcake or the brownie has not been assuaging the anxiety anymore. In fact, I feel either the same or worse AND it tastes cloyingly sweet. Things that I used to adore. Are now…nothing to me.

I’m also not craving regular foods much anymore. Used to be that Vietnamese or Thai food would be my go-to, I-have-no-idea-what-to-eat-but-I-need-comfort meals. That’s not even there right now. I feel like I’m loosing touch with everything I used to hold dear and am floating somewhere, untethered.

Tonight, after a rough depression day, I steered my car towards a local bakery with THE BEST chocolate chip cookies ever. (And a cupcake that a metamour called “life changing”). I got there, parked right outside and then…then I remembered the fresh pineapple I had cut up in the fridge at home. For some reason, that seemed a helluva lot better an idea (1. free 2. my mouth said it would taste better 3. free) so…I went home. And had the pineapple. It’s not a major victory, but it’s something that I wanted to remember for myself and share for anyone else battling depression and anxiety.

Free writing: Failure

Feeling like a failure. Work. Wife. Life. Health. Creativity. Magic. Goals. D/s. Adulting. Activism.

Not good enough.

Who the hell am I?

Reading Brene Brown helps. Rising Strong. I need to rise strong. I feel beaten down. Broken.

Connecting with people helps.

Music helps.

My sister helped talk me off a proverbial ledge tonight by reminding me how I’m not a failure. As did my best (non blood) friend. I did my best. I’m doing my best. There is an epic level of insanity and change happening.

Say it out loud: I am human. I am not a bad person. I have worth.

And I will trust a small circle of people around me when I can’t believe in myself. Or do something for myself.

I just…want to do so much. Make gifts for friends and family that I don’t have time to make. Buy things I can’t afford. Celebrate something. The fear and folly of life? I have no idea.

Hope. Celebrate hope.

So disjointed. So much effort and so few spoons. Life unraveling, phoenix in fire. The immolation period hurts like fuck.

No answers right now. Just boatloads of questions and a long, lonely winter ahead to work through it all. Manifest some change. Figure out what’s next. What I want. What’s and who’s important to me.

Nothing major.

A small but powerful message from the Moon.

Moments of magic aren’t always big powerful rituals, a coven in a darkened room/ wood, all pageantry and pomp.

Sometimes, moment of magic and following the Path include letting the Universe know you’re terrified about leaving the job you’ve had for nearly five years, the people you’ve grown to love, the communities you helped build. That yes, you’ll still be part of those communities and those people you love say they’ll love you back in Life After The Change, but you don’t know what that will look like until it happens. Or doesn’t.

Before this year, I hadn’t practiced in…years. I’m embarrassed to say that I let other people shame me out of my faith at one point, and after that…well, life got in the way. I let life get in the way. But gradually, I’ve been finding my way back to the Path. I’ve also been learning to trust my instincts again more as I catch up to where I am and what I’ve learned when I thought I wasn’t practicing but actually, kinda was. But that’s another story.

Finding my way back today meant throwing fear and insecurity and anxiety out to the Universe on a mundane drive home from the grocery store and suddenly…the clouds cleared, revealing a luscious, one-night-shy-of-full Moon. And as I stared in awe, grateful for the red light that afforded me the opportunity, a feeling of calm washed over me and a voice, maybe your my subconscious, maybe the Universe, maybe the Moon herself, quietly quelled me.

It will be okay. I don’t know how, but it will be okay. You will be okay. 

Just start.

My best friend sent this to me today after I sent him an email jam-packed with pain that I’ve been having a hard time articulating.

Start now.
Start where you are.
Start with fear.
Start with pain.
Start with doubt.
Start with hands shaking.
Start with voice trembling but start.
Start and don’t stop.
Start where you are, with what you have.
Just . . . start.

-Ijeoma Umebinyuo

When I first read it, paralysis side-swiped me. But I’ve surrendered to it, and marinated in it, and as I was cruising a website, I remembered something about someone I recently met. That they’re a photographer. And the description of how they shoot and how they regard their models was enough to make me at least reach out and inquire about what it would take to do a shoot. Because I made a promise to myself earlier this year to work for: 

Radical personal body acceptance including:

  • more photo shoots
  • more acceptance of the three parts of my body I have the most trouble loving
  • actively hone body self confidence and increase time spent with people who bolster that in me and themselves and others

Also, it made me look up Ijeoma Umebinyuo and holy fuck, she amazing and now I need to read her book.

And even though I updated the list that promise was part of in March, to include a resurgence of interest I had then in sex, that part didn’t change.

I realized, I’m also starting in other ways, recently, too. I’m pursuing some play opportunities with old and new friends, writing ISOs for events again, and I made arrangements to go a new(ish) kink event with a friend next weekend.

It might be time for a 3/4 year check in post for that bucket list, now that I think about it, because I’ve also discovered two things that weren’t on my radar when this year began that I now want to try. Also, I’m behind in reading and want to kick my own ass into gear for that.

Now I just also have to figure out how to take better care of my body. Been trying to take better care of my mind. Got a therapist, who’s awesome. Started writing more, including writing about my pronouns and struggle with gender. I want to write more even more frequently, and I’m trying to write more songs. Went to a song writers meet up a few months ago. Have to go back soon. Also sang in public on the boardwalk. Want to do that again soon. Have been trying to find different ways to communicate with people to get needs met. Trying to make my life better. It just hurts a lot and is really difficult right now. But.

I’m starting.