Monday, May 31, 2010

Drumming and Dancing is Good for the Soul

My partner and I just got back from our mini-honeymoon at ElfFest at Lothlorien. We have gone for the last several years, but this time we opted to splurge a little and spend an extra day, since it was officially coming out of the wedding money and it seemed appropriate.

ElfFest is a pagan festival on private land, which means a whole host of wonderful things, but for us especially, it means that it is naked-friendly. When we get there, we are usually still wearing mundane world clothing while we park in the unloading zone and scout a tent location, then schlep all our stuff over and stash the vehicle out of the way. Shortly after that, more colorful fest gear appears. We seem to just get more and more free and comfortable and naked as the weekend wears on. By the last day, right before pack up, we are lounging about with no self-consciousness whatsoever, maybe wearing something colorful/pretty/unique/bling-y, or maybe not. And maybe we get up from our lounging and change into something even more bling-y that we haven't had a chance to wear yet. Or maybe we just eat the tasty food our neighbors shared and grin at each others' appetites.

This year we purposefully found a location that was mostly private (it was a crowded festival with record attendance this year, so nothing was completely private) and hung a curtain, etc for a little more visual privacy, for obvious reasons. My partner spent untold hours wandering naked in the creek, we both did a good bit of visiting with friends old and new, and of course, we spent as much time as possible at the drumming and dancing around the fire. At ElfFest, the drumming around the fire runs from dusk til dawn. It is the most wonderful thing to go to sleep to, but it is even better to be there at the fire for as long as possible, dancing in the sand, cheering for the blue flames shooting out of the 6-foot log chimneys, and gasping at the performers on the hill who twirl and dance with flaming, well, anything. Fire poi, flaming swords, fire whips, fire staff, fire fans, and even a fire umbrella (that was a little odd). 

My partner and I both danced and drummed until we were exhausted, slept a little, ate a lot, and then went back to do it again. It was fabulous. And of course, I made all kinds of mental notes about what I like that they do, and how to take it as a model for a pagan community property here. Overall, a great weekend/honeymooners trip.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Babies are like Waterslides

Slippery and wet? 

No, really. We are actively working on the making of the babies this month (and may have been successful, but it is too early to confirm it), and I find myself a little in shock about the whole thing. Yes, we absolutely want children, and yes, we have planned for this, have spent 15 months getting ready, getting married, working on health issues, financial issues, etc. Emotionally, we want kids and the timing is right. 

And yet, the morning of Ovulation! we hesitated for a few minutes to process what we were about to embark upon. We had refreshed the altar, lit a candle from the wedding, lit the good Tibetan incense, said a few prayers, cried a few overwrought tears. It felt to me like that moment at the waterpark where you have waited for an hour to get to the front of the line for the Really Big Slide, the one with all the dozens of do's and don't's of where to put your arms and legs and eyelids, I mean down to a warning about not crossing your toes for gosh sake, and as you waited you just kept thinking about how it looks from the bottom landing pool, so curly, so up in the air, the people whizzing out of the chutes like small human missiles making impossibly big splashes, and you longed, you yearned to go racing down the slide so much you were willing to wait in that stupidly long line, but now you are at the top, the little traffic signal to tell you you can sit down and get ready is blinking, and yet, you hesitate. Do I really want to do this? This looks scary, the people down below are the size of ants, that's a lot of freefall, that's a lot of trust, my stomach is going to make a knot in my throat, and you know, I've never really been a big fan of that sensation, what if I just turned around and climbed back down these stairs I have spent an hour inching up, it'll be hard to get past that fat couple, it's narrow there, but I'm sure we'll figure out a way. Or maybe they will let me step to the side, I could let these nice people behind me go down first, just a little pause until I get my nerve up. But then the attendant looks at you, and you stop feeling afraid and just go sit down and wait for the green light to go, you stop thinking all together and do the little actions that will have the big consequences because you know that you wanted this, you chose this, you wanted it with all your heart when you were down at the bottom watching other people shoot out the chutes, and then suddenly, that light, that traffic signal light right there in front of you, turns green.

That is why babies are like waterslides. It only takes a few little actions, nothing too dramatic or difficult, just sitting down at the top of the slide when it comes to be your turn, and letting go of control when the time is right, and then wham! you are moving along a closed track, sluicing along in accord with gravity and hydrophysics until a body shoots out the bottom of the chute. It is only natural to have a second thought or two, a moment of cold feet, of check in, of Am-I-Really-Sure and Am-I-Really-Allowed-To-Make-This-Decision,-It-Is-So-Much-Bigger-Than-Me, but when the light turns green and the way forward is clear, it is suddenly so easy to just let go of the handle and slide.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Not a Voice in the Wilderness: Male Birth Control

Well, it seems as though I ask, and then I receive. Remember my previous exhortations to science to step up the research for a male birth control pill? Well, apparently someone is already on it. At the University of North Carolina, they have begun human trials to see if a blast of ultrasound could safely stop sperm production for up to 6 months. It would be low cost and effective, if it works out.

Although, as my partner said, "it's hard to trust anything that says 'safe' and 'stop sperm production' in the same sentence." And, of course, once the man has his treatment, he then has to empty his reserves before he is free of the wiggly little guys. I wonder if the treatment centers will offer an appropriate outlet for that, or if it will be homework.

This could be a fabulous innovation, and if not this particular method, something like it. Men should be able to make choices around controlling their fertility, too, and have a better range of options than the two--condoms and vasectomies--currently available. I know that fertility control is often thought of as the woman's burden, because the woman is assumed to bear the burden of the responsibility of providing for any oops babies, but isn't it time to set that kind of sexist thinking aside?

The old tropes of afraid-of-commitment-marriage-and-family-men and baby-hungry-shackle-a-man-for-life-women are tired and worn out. Let's think of something else. Let's finally acknowledge all the young men in the world who deeply and tenderly care about their potential progeny and who often feel helpless in the face of the social story that babies belong to women, all the time. And let's please fully acknowledge those women who have absolutely no desire to breed or beget children at any point in their lifetime. There is a full range of human experience that gets plastered over and shouted down by the binary gender wars, and that is ridiculous.

Let's empower everyone to make their choices about their bodies, fertility, procreation, and life arc for themselves, and stop trying to use these tiny little boxes to fit everyone. It just doesn't work and it leaves too many of us social creatures feeling isolated and alone. Let's embrace and empower each other instead.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Permission to Cut on Your Crotch, Please

FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is a horrible, horrible thing, right? It must be stopped. It is a perpetuation of nasty terrible patriarchy against defenseless little girls that deprives them of sexual pleasure and the proper function of their genitals. It is so awful that those not-white not-Christian people Over There do this to their children. It is a travesty. We need a crusade. We, the enlightened, civilized White People, need to go Over There and stop those Nasty Patriarchs. 

Baloney. Sometimes, hypocrisy knows no bounds. So it is okay to cut on the genitals of male babies, but heaven forbid anyone ever cut on the genitals of female babies? Or, let us conveniently forget that in the late 1800s doctors would perform clitorectomies on Western women to cure "hysteria". "Oh, you're having issues? Well let's just cut this part off, shall we? It'll make things better, I promise."

I'm not saying that I would volunteer for any kind of circumcision or genital cutting, myself. I think they are all rather horrible, honestly. I am happy no one ever cut on my or my partner's genitals, and we will not be doing any cutting on our children, either. In fact, should one of our children be intersex, I am willing to let their genitals be as they are until they are old enough to decide what they want or do not want to do about it (barring medical necessity, of course, and then only as much as is strictly necessary).

I just hate the fact that there is this presumption of moral superiority about it all. It is okay to cut on boys but not girls. It is okay when white people do it, or people in the West or the Developed World, but those horrible Africans over there, look what they do! They should be stopped! 

Yes, some of the forms of Female Genital Cutting look horrid to me, quite ghastly, really. But then again, have you ever seen a baby boy get circumcised? Oh the blood, and the wailing! 

Let's just NOT cut on anyone's genitals unless they are of age and choose to consent to it, how about that? Just change the laws to say that when anyone turns 18, they have the option of getting cut on. That way, society can pressure everyone, but everyone still gets to choose. We could even have a (gasp!) socialized medical program that pays for any cutting anyone wants to get done, including gender assignment for the intersexed and gender reassignment for transfolk. Sounds good to me. 

To see a prime example of the hypocrisy that has set me off on this rant, see this Feministing article about FGC becoming a possible procedure for the American Association of Pediatricians. Read the comments, too. Everyone is up in arms, freaking out. And the procedure in question here is a "ritual nick or pricking" of the clitoris, not even a removal of the glans or any of the labia.

Oh, and for those who have not studied your complete female genital anatomy, what we think of as The Clit is really just the head of the glans, which is connected to a shaft, connected to the legs of the clitoris, connected to the bulbs of the clitoris, and in all there are over 30 different parts to the complete clitoris, taking up all kinds of erotic space in the pelvic floor, and women who have had FGM still report having orgasms, especially if they think of their circumcision in positive terms, which a lot of them do. 

So let's just climb down off this patronizing moral high horse and admit our cultural racism and superiority complex, then maybe look at ways to end the hypocrisy. We could even try applying Consent to all genital cutting. What an idea!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Comfort-Planning is a Crutch

In poking around the blogosphere, I came across this Generation Meh post called the Truth of C'est La Vie. It sparked a few ideas in my newly defragged brain. Specifically, this concluding quote struck me:

"The best we can do is to do what we believe is best. Forget about micromanaging the vagaries of other people, nature, the universe and apologizing for a lack of omniscience. Life happens – to us, for us and all around us. Recognize this, accept it and don’t apologize."

Yes, life happens and no, we can't control that. But at the same time, I can have a plan. I can think through as many possibilities or consequences as I can come up with and make contingencies or affirmations or refresh my altar to reflect a certain set of intentions. 

Right now, I feel like I am inside the tornado of life. No, more accurately, I am attempting to lasso the damn thing and toss myself inside, even as I chant incantations of suggestions for where I might like to go, whispering them into its windy inner chambers. I am craving more control over my own adventure. I am fearing a lack of planning on my part, because the unknown is frightening. 

The question then becomes: Do I plan more, or do I give up more of my fear of the unknown? I would love to choose to give up the fear, but honestly, I am more likely to do more planning. Even busy-work planning. The kind of planning that is really comfort-planning, planning for the sake of soothing the fear. 

Instead, I think I will go back to my faith. Pray and meditate more. Keep my altars fresher, burn more candles and incense, keep the dust at bay. The problem I am having, I think,  with living a life of faith, is that sometimes it seems a long dark night before the next set of instructions come through.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Endless Hallways of Open Doors

Well, turning off my brain seems to have helped my panic levels about bread winning and my obsessiveness about becoming 5 year stable. With a little distance from the emotional turbulence, I have been able to stop and talk with God'dess about the whole thing. I asked for clarity about what comes next, and was shown an image of all the possibilities that are standing wide open right now, like so many open doors. 

It is true, I have a lot of different leads for how to accomplish different goals in front of me, like strings that run into the future, and if I follow the right bit of yarn at the right time, it will take me to what I am manifesting. The problem is knowing how to play them in harmony, like a concerto, instead of yanking at them all at the wrong time, like a cat walking on a piano. 

I asked God'dess again what to do, and was shown 3 particular leads: one to a possibility of land, one to a possibility of a co-creator of community, and one interpersonal connection that shows promise. Following up on those leads will be on my priority list for this week. In the meantime, I will brainstorm on how to expand the business I am already trying to grow (my energy healing practice), instead of scrapping it for a new and more involved dream. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I'll get these kinks out eventually...

My sincere apologies; somehow sometimes posts I have scheduled turn into drafts that won't post, seemingly at random. I will try to double check them more often, I promise. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Urgent: Must Win Bread

So now that we are married, I am feeling this sudden urgent need to get stable. I want to create a plan, a situation, that will give us at least 5 years of stability, rather than 6 months or 1 year. I have spent this week obsessing about where to move to and how to make the income we will need to raise our kids. 

This is, I know, premature. We are not even pregnant yet. But we are trying, the prenatal supplements and nutrition are in place, and at this point it is a matter of time as we wait for the next ovulation. Translated, this means that I have taken all the action steps I can (or that my plan allows at this point in time) towards babies, therefore, I am fixated on the next items on the list.

I would like to say that I find it amusing/interesting/ironic that I am having such a stereotypically masculine response, worrying about the bread-winning. I would like to add the caveat that I am also terrified of committing to 5 year stability, even though I have been decently stable in my current situation for the last 4 years or so. The difference is that I could have left or changed things at any time. I have the trappings of 1 year stability, I have just extended their contracts. Signing a 5 year contract (so to speak, and this is getting almost ponderously metaphorical) seems as daunting as it does necessary. 

I have been fixating on the possibility of opening a thrift store as a way to generate stable income and family-friendly scheduling. For two days, I ran through all the reasons I could think of for why a thrift store could be a really awesome thing. Finally, I decided to get serious about it and sat down to write lists. I started with the Why This Is a Good Idea list, and then went from there. Five or six lists later, I wrote the Assumptions I am Making list, and it burst my bubble. Too many assumptions, one or two of them deal-breakers if things don't work out that way. I am not willing to work 70 hour workweeks to have my own business/thrift store. Instead, I want to dabble in it (I can concede 30-40 hours/week) and have it be successful enough that I don't have to do more. NOT the most viable plan right now. 

Once I realized that, I started to panic. I don't have a good enough plan, nothing is figured out enough for my comfort, what am I going to do? I decided the best thing was to pull the plug and turn off my brain. Once I got it out of its feedback loop, I could look at the bigger picture. To that end, I went to the library and checked out my maximum allowable number of books, almost all mental-bubblegum novels. I will spend the weekend reading fun romps that don't even leave footprints in the sand of my mind, and then check back in with everything next week. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Every Project Has Its Marshmallow

In yet another fabulously stimulating TED talk (about 7 min), Tom Wujec details a team building exercise where groups of people are challenged to build the tallest structures they can out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, tape, string, and a single marshmallow that has to go on top. He says that most teams spend time planning, jockeying for power in the group, building the structure, and then at the last moment they put the marshmallow on top, only to have the weight of the marshmallow cause their structure to collapse. 

This exercise demonstrates the hidden assumptions of any project, and all projects, he says, have their marshmallow. Interestingly, it is also the kindergartners who excel at this exercise more than most, and the MBAs who do the worst. The kindergartners do well because they use trial and error, including the marshmallow the entire time, rather than only designing one structure that creates a crisis when it fails at the last minute. 

In my own projects, I have noticed that I will plan it out, spend a lot of time designing and planning and breaking things down into steps, and then there will be that nagging sense of something else, something I am missing. Now I have a name for it: The Marshmallow. I have had more projects become frustrations if not failures or fiascos because of those damned Marshmallows. 

More importantly, though, I now have a plan for how to deal with the Marshmallow. Iteration. Do it, and then do it again, and keep doing it, all the way through completion, and learn from what does not work. At the end of 2008, I looked back on my year and dubbed it the Year of the Failures. (It was not crushing. In fact, realizing it helped me to understand my intense feelings of frustration at the time.) And if 2008 was about failure, then 2009 was the Year of the Fiascoes. (Forget failure, I was operating on a much grander scale!)

Now, with the Marshmallow Paradigm, these were not Failures and Fiascoes. They were Iterations. And the thing with Iterations is, the learning curve can be nice and steep and eventually lead somewhere. That's what I'm talking about.   

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Wedding Day Nashville Will Remember

I have a friend who is also getting married this year (October), and we have been bonding over our shared wedding stress. Her wedding is a much bigger affair than we had planned, with a rather private ceremony somewhere between Nashville and East Tennessee, and then a reception in her hometown in East TN and a reception in Nashville. We both began our planning as of the new year, though I had 4 months and she had 10 months until the big day. 

I shared my story of the wedding festivities ultimately being canceled ("imagine if your mom called you at 9 am on your wedding day to say you were going to have to call the whole thing off") and vented about how frustrated and overwhelmed I felt over a reschedule. In turn, she confessed to being envious that I had my Ordeal over with, and then later went on to say that really, she would feel quite relieved to be in my place. She added a story of family drama involving Irish hot-headedness around who played what music at the wedding.

I find all this interesting. First of all, why is she having such an involved wedding if it doesn't feel good to her? And secondly, it changes some of my feelings about the "tragedy" of the whole thing. I am quite happy that we are married now. Very happy, with the honeymooner's endorphins to prove it. I think I must have regained some of my innate optimism and hopefulness in the last week

Enough so that I went to talk to the lady in charge of the picnic shelter reservations today. She is happy to refund our money since we were so obviously flooded out, but also rescheduled us for June. She said that if it was still stinky from the flooding and stranded fish and we didn't want the reschedule after all, she was happy to just refund everything, let her know. And then my partner and I went to Scarlett Begonia, our favorite little fair trade import boutique in town, and they recognized us and asked if we'd had the wedding yet, and we said it had been flooded out, and they were so sorry. 

I told them all that I've just chosen to think of it this way: Nashville will never forget our wedding day.  

Friday, May 7, 2010

Story is Powerful Enough to Transform

The power of story is amazing to me. I have been upset about the way the wedding turned out: that it wasn't what I had envisioned, that everything will now need to be rescheduled, feeling disappointed, and just having trouble getting over the magical snap-back of having put so much into its manifestation only to have it not work. 

But when I sat down to write the previous blog post, it came out different. Instead of angst, out came a story that made things okay. Instead of all the worries and complaints and emotional bruises that I had been nursing for a few days, I wrote a story about miracles. And that story, summed up by the title Doomed with a Chance of Miracles, changed my story about the wedding. It took some of those seeds of hope that I was afraid to sprout and sent them shooting up into beanstalks of story and truth. 

Slowly, the wedding is changing in my head. I hardly lament the original dream anymore, but spend more time beginning to ponder the implications of what we learned for our married life together. I know I was highly emotional, but now that emotion is beginning to flow into perspective like chiaroscuro, highlighting, dramatizing, and creating intriguing mystery to run throughout our lives together. 

I have learned from one of my housemates that stories have a life of their own. I am often annoyed at how events and facts warp inside his gravitational field, becoming new things that say sometimes nice (and sometimes highly unflattering) things about those of us in his life. Corrections for factuality are never welcomed, because the story has been woven around the truth he wants to think. 

In this case, though, I think the story came first, and wrapped within it like a present was the truth I needed. Now, instead of the false bravado of jokes, I can have an easy peace with the story of our wedding day. It feels...warm. And now we can move on to the next step of figuring out what on earth to do about rescheduling.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Wedding: Doomed with a chance of Miracles

Well, a piece of the Apocalypse came to the wedding. Give me a few more (days, weeks, months) and I will consider it to be a grand thing. They are now calling it a Millennial Flood, something that only happens once in a 1,000 years. 

I had had this vision, though, of what the wedding would be. Of us standing together in the green of the park, in our beautiful silks, with crowns of ivy and flowers on our heads. We would be surrounded by so many of our closest friends and family who would bless and support us, and there would be sunshine making everything sparkle. 

Instead, there was a lush rain cascading down and we had a small ritual with a last-minute volunteer priestess held inside, with a little over a dozen of our nearest and dearest. It was a morning of panic that followed an entire day of increasing panic as we first changed to a drier venue, then canceled the festivities completely for fear of everyone's safety. 

Shortly after we canceled everything, the first miracle happened. My sister the chef (whom we had been desperately trying to reach by phone and were worried about) came charging in the back door under a little pink Dora the Explorer umbrella, clutching well-wrapped bundles to her chest. A few trips in and out of the rain, and then she shed her soaked hoodie and set to work assembling the cake anyway. And my gods, what a work of art! Four tiers of raspberry lemon dacquoise, piped with whipped cream, topped with fresh blackberries, carmelized lemon wheels, and fresh mint leaves. Also, a small army of from-scratch chocolate-covered cherry mice, complete with slivered almond ears.

The second miracle was my family. They live on the other side of town, and there did not seem to be any way for them to make it. And yet, as my other sister had come up with her boyfriend in his giant truck with a cab and a half, they decided to give it a go. As they had no power, I looked up the live Google traffic maps and made a couple of route suggestions, since the interstates were closed due to flooding. I know that when I called to check on them at one point, they were diverting into a Kroger parking lot to avoid water crossing the road. When I asked Dad about the trip, he replied in those understated tones that really meant, "It was harrowing." But they made it. And then my other sister popped back in with her whole family, so that all my immediate family was there, in addition to my household (there are 6 of us), my friend/former housemate/flower lady/priestess, a good friend and her baby who stayed with us for the floods, and a nearby friend/neighbor. 

The third miracle was a little thing, but not so little. I had been praying and sending intent and energy and affirmations and everything I had into having the rain stop around 1:00, in time for the wedding, just take a little break, I said, and I asked for a ray of sunshine. Just one little ray. When I figured out that the park was flooded and it was a lost cause on the weather, I pulled my intentions back and said, "Do what you will." There was a whole other line of storms slated to come through in the afternoon, but they never did. The rain slacked off in the early afternoon of the wedding and never really started again. And after our, well, wedding night that was really afternoon, I woke up to the whole world having turned golden. The sun was setting, and though it didn't break through the clouds, it was one of the most beautiful, magical golden glows ever, setting off the lush wet green of the trees. Luminous. Everything was luminous. And I knew--it was as close to my ray of sunshine as Goddess could give me. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

In the Woods, No 'Puters Allowed

We be mucking about in the woods today, no post for you. We will return to our regularly scheduled bloggage when I can feel my toes again....