Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Already Knew I Had a Keeper

Ever since the wedding, I have been asked repeatedly if the ceremony changed anything. Usually, the person doing the asking is a married person who fully expects that I will say "yes, surprisingly, getting married has changed everything, even though I didn't think it would."

Well, it hasn't. Really, it hasn't changed anything other than the fact that I have an insane urge to giggle inanely when referring to my spouse as a spouse and not a significant other. But then again, I made my decision to keep my partner long before we got married, so the wedding was not that final moment of irrevocable commitment I think it must be for so many other folks.

I also wonder, though, whether the "it changes everything" experience doesn't also have something to do with a set of expectations that are suddenly triggered by married status. I read once that even though young women are under tremendous social and psychological pressure to be the "perfect girl", young wives are under even more pressure to be the "perfect wife," as evidenced by the fact that the relatively few women who resisted the dangers of "perfect girl" syndrome are still likely to fall prey to "perfect wife" syndrome. (I think this came from The Erotic Silence of the American Wife by Dalma Heyn, but I am not certain.)

There do seem to be some very strong social messages about what husbands and wives are and do. I know that my married sister is constantly categorizing my relationship with my partner in terms of gender roles and/or in comparison to our parents' marriage, a rubric that she also applies to her own marriage. She seems bothered that my relationship with my partner does not fall into her proscribed boxes very well, and that many of the gender roles seem to be reversed or scrambled between us.

I do not think that I have many expectations for gender roles or a different way of life labeled "married." Instead, we chose to become "married" as a prerequisite for having children, not as a lifestyle or attitude change (other than those that will come with kids). So for now, every time I am asked the excited question, "So, did marriage change anything?" I just reply, "No, I already knew I had a Keeper."

Monday, June 28, 2010

My Own Rubric of Success: Play With It!

I have continued to ponder the cause of my deep embarrassment over not having any kind of coherent 5 year plan for my energy healing, as I posted about here. I quickly deduced that I did not have a 5 year plan because I felt lukewarm about my practice. I had several layers of self-judgment over the whole thing, including laziness, inability to think of it with right and left brains, being a dreamer instead of a planner, and fear-of-failure induced self-sabotage.

Delving beneath all that, I found two things that were really holding me up: I didn't know what the standard of success was, and I am good at energy healing without being passionate or fulfilled by it.

I am good at a lot of things, but I am really only passionate and fulfilled by pagan spaces and lifestyles, hence the goal of living in pagan community in the woods and being involved with projects that promote interconnection, sustainability, co-creation, and sacred pleasure. However, I do not have a coherent plan for making an income off my pagan pursuits any time soon; it seems like stretching to just acquire the land I dream about. A stop-gap or contingency will have to be applied in the meantime.

Of my current income opportunities, I can either choose to work on growing the highly-flexible pursuits I currently have in the works, including my energy healing practice, or I can drop them and get a regular job like waiting tables or working for a nonprofit. Neither option is one that will fill me with passion and fulfillment. That decided, it makes sense to pursue the one that offers the most flexibility and best pay, which is the energy healing.

As for the standard of success, I get to determine that for myself. Having come up through a rigidly structured educational system that I happened to excel at, I have been so accustomed to having an external authority define the rubric of success that lack of one has undermined me without my realizing it. I have now sat down and written my own goals and plan to define success within my practice, and that simple act has lifted a heavy weight off my subconscious.

I have now decided to cease being lukewarm and instead to play with growing my practice. I am not a professional; never have been. I'm not sure it is in my personality to work at being serious and impressive. Instead, I will be a free spirit who writes campy ads posted on coffee shop bulletin boards and uses a blogger webpage because it is the best I know how to manage. Who knows, I may even decorate my xeroxed ads with crayon!

Friday, June 25, 2010

I Don't Know How to Be a Spiritual Professional

In a business meeting this week, my friend asked me to describe my vision of my energy healing practice. She is a successful massage therapist and asked some very pointed questions about what I am doing to grow my own clientele. My answers were vague at best. I share her office, using the space for 5 days at the beginning of the month while she is at Chinese medicine school.

She asked where I saw myself in 5 years, and I, the obsessive planner, realized that I am more of an obsessive dreamer than planner. I have been checking off the marriage, babies, homestead list, but as far as my practice, I am a bit lukewarm about it for a variety of reasons.

When I first began energy work, I saw it as my gift from God'dess to the world, and I was reluctant to profit from it. I started giving it away, and then doing it for donations and trade. After a few years, I began to feel like the scales were unbalanced and started feeling okay asking for more in exchange. I eventually got to a place where I am completely okay with making a decent amount of money in exchange for my work; I have other gifts as well, and if this one funds my ability to build with the others, that works for me.

When I do the work that I do, I go into a deep spiritual state, not quite a trance, maybe more of a fugue. I open my intuitive and visionary senses wide and all kinds of knowledge, insight, and imagery comes through. I am very good at what I do, but really, it is not me. It is God'dess (or the Divine, for my non-pagan clients) who works through me, I am but a sensor at the other end taking note of the flow of information. Because it is not me, it is hard to connect doing that work with something as left brained as selling, promoting, and making a living from that work.

When I think of myself in five years, I will probably be doing energy work in some form, and it makes logical sense to have a decently thriving practice. But I somehow have trouble seeing it as central to my passions. It is more like something I do on demand, almost instinctively, like breathing or talking with God'dess. It is too much a part of me to think of it as a product to be sold.

I am not sure how best to strike a balance with all of this. I think I will prescribe for myself an abundant and fulfilling clientele ritual and then some basic advertising and the set up of trades with other healers. I'll let it flow from there while I continue to ponder.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Love the Smell of Gender Parity in the Morning

I just read this NY Times article, Now, Dad Feels as Stressed as Mom, by Tara Parker-Pope. It says that men are reporting more conflict over their work-family balance, specifically that they are moving more into a nurturing father role from a solely providing father role, and so are more active in childcare and homemaking. This is bumping up against the classic workforce dynamic that does not expect men to have childcare and family-life demands that affect their availability as workers, or as the article puts it, assumes that men will be "largely unaffected by children."

One of my favorite bits of info from the article says that men are less likely to take advantage of flexible schedules and family leave, and more likely to take care of their family obligations in "stealth" mode. It conjures images of men sneaking out of the office to a Mission Impossible theme song, slinking along the row of cars in the corporate parking garage to their own carseat-laden vehicle. If the boss calls while they are at the doctor's office with the little tyke, he pretends he is out to drinks with an important potential client. "Hem, hum, yeah, I, uh, need to get back to this. Don't want to blow this deal," he mutters and hangs up the phone before his kid starts the usual post-vaccination wail.

Amusing mental images aside, I am encouraged to see more recognition of the shifting gender roles and the upswing of acknowledgment that more and more men are tapping into their nurturing natures and taking on more responsibility around the house to become more equal partners. I am bothered by the tone of the article overall, though. It starts on a campy note with the title, and goes on to cite facts about men and imply accusations about their women partners who doubt they are really contributing as much as they think they are. It comes across to me as a bit self-congratulatory on the part of the men, and seems to perpetuate some war-of-the-sexes thinking.

Instead, I would have preferred if the article took a more philosophical view of the shift: Look, these things are changing. Gender roles are shifting. Here is evidence that some men are making some of the shifts into the home that will balance some of the shifts out of the home and into the workforce that women began 50 years ago. No one has figured this all out yet, but isn't it cool that some of the hard work of social parity between (among) the genders is cooking along?

So I will file it away into my "hopeful signs badly interpreted by mainstream press" folder and move on, encouraged.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Reviewing Transition

I recently got an email restarting the Transition process and looking into Steering Committee type stuff in town, asking for all those still interested to reply. And I hesitated. I still have not replied.

I was excited about it several months ago, but I feel a little sour about it now. I wonder if perhaps our conflict of vision is what caused us all to walk away/take a break for these several months. I think I was one of the main conflict headers. I think that Transition is cool stuff, is necessary, is win-win, and I want to see it succeed. I wonder if my participation would hamstring it, because I would always be questioning some of the paradigm that seems to get a lot of people really fired up about it. I have seen a tendency for those excited about Transition to be folks who believe in the Peak Oil Apocalypse and the Enlightened Few versus the Ignorant Masses, and those are both Mytho-Realities that I actively question and choose not to live.

With my questioning, I do not want to sabotage the very fervor that would lead to Transition success. Or, as the voice of an old friend and activist whispers to me, perhaps they need my voice questioning those paradigms that keep them limited, so that Transition can be successful. My friend would tell me that my input is highly valuable and I would be an asset to the committee instead of a hindrance. I admit to having a little less confidence than that.

Relatedly, I find that my focus of what I want to work on is changing. My projects seem to be contracting into the personal: baby-making, alternate streams of income via drums, growing my healing practice, and acquiring land to raise our family on. On the one hand, I absolutely believe in the bigger picture and its relevance to all our lives. On the other hand, my kids and partner come first. I am conflicted about it a little, but then again, I can feel myself relaxing into my own advice to other friends who became parents before me: You are doing what you can right now, and that is enough. There is a reason most activists are the young and old. They have the time and energy to work on the bigger picture, while the parents are raising the next generation.

I'll have to keep pondering the Transition question. I think I will call a friend who is still involved and see what she thinks about my contributions and how they will play out in the politics of the thing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Holding Hope with an Open Hand

Well, we're not pregnant this go around, so we have collapsed the probability wave of Shrodinger Pregnancy 1.0. Can't say the redo is any great hardship (that much pleasure is great for stress relief!), though the story of conceiving right away was quite tidy and appealing. However, we have had a magical "Perfect Timing" on the whole kids thing for years now, and just because the story would have been tidy does not mean it was perfect timing. Ego makes way for spirit, and that is the way I prefer it, honestly.

I am a little surprised how quickly the disappointment wore off. Yes, it was keenly felt for a few hours, but come morning life just seemed to go on. I feel calmer now that I have a longer perspective on this. I also now understand the cultural norm of keeping pregnancy tries private until everyone is "sure" it took. It is just too difficult to have that many hopeful conversations and then have to give disappointing news. I have never been all that great at keeping my trap shut, though, so we will see exactly how private I manage to stay. I am blogging about it, after all.

It can also be fitting that we conceive after the fertility ritual of the flinging of birdseed at the feast, too. A symbol of community support for our family is highly appropriate. But this time I will hold my attachment to an immediate conception after birdseed flinging loosely, in an open hand, so that it will not be so hard to let go of it if that is divine will. There is, of course, also the issue of the astrological sign of our offspring, and I cannot know nor truly predict what that should be (even if I do amuse myself with calculating sun signs speculatively). Again, Perfect Timing is invoked, and I will trust my spellwork to be effective.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

There are Benefits to Lack of Copyright

Have a fabulous TED talk about the benefits of no copyrights in lieu of a post. This says more than I could on the subject and is fascinating!

Sadly, Blogger will not allow me to embed the damn thing, so have a link. I'm sure TED will appreciate the traffic anyway. *blows raspberry at blogger*

Johanna Blakely's TED talk: Lessons from Fashion's Free Culture

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Wedding Feast

Well, yesterday we had the Wedding Feast to make up for the festivities we had to cancel due to the flood. It turned out quite well. For the wedding, we had 107 people RSVP that they were coming, and it was overwhelming. We had projected in the 50-75 people range, and were only inviting close friends and family, so we were rather stunned to have over 100 people say they were coming. Aside from the "where are they going to park?" question, we just felt very loved to have so many people want to come.

Then the flood happened, and the reschedule, and I never knew how very many people travel through the middle of June. At first all we seemed to get was negative RSVPs, but then the positives started rolling in. My partner's parents really went all out to get as much of the extended family there as possible. It worked, since so many of them are quite local. My extended family is all over the south and out west, so none of them came. All told, we had about 60-70 folks there, in the heat, to picnic/potluck and wish us well.

My Dad had asked what the agenda for the whole thing was, and I told him I wasn't sure. But in the end, we ate, and then we passed around cups of flower nectar and did toasts and blessings where two of our friends sang songs they had written for us, another friend played a song on the ipod, and others said a few words. Then there was the "Pelt the Newlyweds" birdseed moment (it felt like a tiny hailstorm, and our skin was so damp from the heat that the seeds stuck to our skin in little chains of fertility along all the edges of our clothing), and then we cut into the cake my sister had made. This cake was a gluten-free mix, transformed into a lemon raspberry jam cake with raspberry whipped cream over the top and fresh strawberries and mango bits confetti-ed over the top. It was fabulous!

As a final wedding act, after everyone had left and it was just the two of us in our silks and pearls, we took our dried flower and ivy crowns that we had worn in the wedding down to the river. We kissed and then tossed them into the lazy green water. They landed next to each other, and it felt just right. Then we drove home, with the rest of cake carefully balanced between us, and took a long cold shower. It was heaven.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Obsessing over Shrodinger's Pregnancy

I have got to let go of my obsession with Schrodinger's Pregnancy (like Schrodinger's cat, we have placed egg and sperm in a closed womb. Given a non-menstrual--but not necessarily without bleeding--womb and lack of positive pregnancy pee test, the womb is simultaneously pregnant and not pregnant). I am driving myself nuts. Time will sort it all out. I'm just not a very patient person. 

So, instead of obsessing over early pregnancy research and encouraging my partner to engage in yet another round of muscle testing, I have been obsessing over drums. Making drums, finding the right materials for making drums, making last minute runs to evil national chain stores that I have sworn to not give money to in order to find out if they, unlike their fellow box-store competitors, have the right kind of fabric, only to discover that in the many years since I went in there, they have taken out their fabric section all together and the whole compromise of my ideals by setting foot across the air conditioned threshold was an utter waste of time.

Realizing how silly I am being, I have laughed at myself and taken my obsessive behavior to an appropriate arena: very silly computer games. I have a couple that I enjoy that involve matching three objects of the same color, and once the match is made, they disappear. They involve shiny things, tranced out music, explosions and shooting things, so this seems like a harmless way to take out my angst. Once the angst is worked out, I can't imagine I would keep playing, because they do get boring to a non-obsessing not-silly mind. 

The only challenge now is to get myself out of this loop before my dreams start involving matching three similar objects to make them disappear. It's odd when I'm having one of those back-in-high-school dreams, and I suddenly line up three desks and they go poof! with an appropriate chiming sound. Very odd indeed.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Drumming for Athena

We've been getting into drums lately, my partner and I. We are excited about playing them, dancing to them, and making them. My partner is such a wonderful perfectionist that drum-making might be just right.

As part of the new obsession with drums, for the last few weeks we have gone to the Parthenon at Centennial Park and drummed on the steps with a friend or two. For those who didn't know, yes, there is a full-scale accurate replica of the Parthenon in the middle of Nashville. It is made of a sandy colored concrete, but there is a nicely tarted up Athena inside and it is intact, which is much more than I can say for the original (which I have also been to in person. I like Nashville's better, honestly.). 

We have been going in the late afternoon and staying until almost full dark (or after). Between my partner and I we have 5 drums from tiny to medium large, good for hauling in and easy to switch sounds back and forth. Our friends bring instruments, too, so the sound is always changing. Sometimes one person will play three or four drums at once, all cradled in one lap.

This past week I found myself just wanting to absorb the sound of the drums. I lay down on the giant outer step and stared up the columns to the night sky, the pink glow of the city limning the scattered clouds. There is something wonderful, something that speaks to my pagan soul, about drumming on the steps of the temple. At one point we chose a spot on the water nearby and played to the ducks (I love ducks, they wiggle their tail feathers and it makes me laugh every time), but I didn't feel that same satisfying charge as I do when we are in full physical contact with the temple itself. 

I know, I know, the city or whomever would love to say that the Parthenon is just a gimmick, left over from the World Fair, but Athena has been consecrated (I have heard the story from multiple bragging pagans around many campfires, each claiming to have been the One to do it), and there is Power there. I have gone and sat at her feet, just to have a chat. It feels right, it is right, to live in a city with a Goddess Temple at its center, and I am gratified to play drums on the stones of the Temple.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Is Too Such a Thing as Little Bit Pregnant *blows raspberry*

Well, at this point we are waiting. We may or may not be pregnant, and it is too soon to confirm or deny via pregnancy tests. Muscle testing says yes, but emotional charge can make those results a bit murky. 

This is such a strange experience. I have heard that nonsense about how a woman can never be "a little bit pregnant" and I would like to say, here and now, for the record, that OF COURSE SHE CAN. Because if we are currently pregnant, then we are definitely a little bit pregnant. Once we are more pregnant, then there will be more consequences like outwardly visible physiological changes and a definite time line for the life changes we need to make, like moving into a house that can accommodate kids (our goal is to be moved and settled by 6 months along). But right now, we are such a tiny little bit pregnant (if indeed we are at all) that we cannot tell. 

Damn all this waiting anyway. Perhaps I should blame it on public education, but I never knew this much flex time was built in to this whole process. I thought a few days, maybe, but not 2+ weeks! And in doing some of the research about very early pregnancy (hoping against hope that I would find a tell tale surefire sign of knowing yes or no RIGHT NOW), I found out facts that I had never stumbled on before. 

I learned that it takes a whole 10-14 days for fertilized eggs to move down from the fallopian tubes where they got fertilized and implant themselves to the uterine lining. When this happens, a woman can have implantation bleeding. Which means that she could see blood about the time she is supposed to be having a period, think she is just having a weird one, and not even know she is pregnant until she skips another period in another month. Also, there is no testable amount of the pregnancy hormone that the pee tests test for until after implantation. So no hoping we are special and have extra hormones racing about that will give us an early positive. Grr. 
I think I am partially so impatient about all this because the "don't get pregnant/don't get a girl pregnant" messages were always so binary. "Have unprotected sex even once, and then voila! here comes baby!" Well, no. First, there were the 3 weeks we waited for ovulation, and well, that was a lot of baby-making sex with no baby to show for it. Then, we think we may have something on the line, but it's not like it thrashes about and tugs on the line as soon as it takes the bait. No. Two, three weeks go by. We think maybe we are, maybe we aren't. Everyone asks us as a first greeting, "So, do you think you are....?" and we have to answer, "too soon to confirm...." 

There needs to be a new safe sex message out there: one that says "You will be in pregnancy limbo for WEEKS and it will seriously affect your mental health." That would be a good one. And more accurate, honestly.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wicked Geisha

My extended social circle includes a friend who has been involved in a group called Wicked Geisha. I have no first hand knowledge of them, and do not want to comment on them and what they do specifically, but I find that the name alone sparks my own pondering.

Firstly, my friend is white and appears to be non-Japanese, as were the other participants I saw in a random sampling of photos. This raises my own concerns of cultural appropriation. I can say nothing definitive about how they specifically are or are not respectful and/or appropriating, but I feel I cannot go any further with this post without voicing that generalized concern. I sincerely hope they are appropriate and not appropriating, but I do not know one way or the other.

That said, the name Wicked Geisha intrigues me. I was reminded of this when reading this Sociological Images post about an example of how Asian women are marketed according to a stereotype of submissiveness. That post links this submissive stereotype with the idea of a geisha, described as "a Japanese woman trained in the art of serving and pleasing men."

So what, then is a "wicked geisha"? Is a geisha inherently wicked because of her sexual availability and prostitution, such that "wicked geisha" is a tautological, redundant term? Or perhaps a geisha who is extra good at being a geisha is extra deserving of the title of "wicked"? Or is a "wicked geisha" a geisha that twists or perverts the role of geisha? Is she perhaps not really serving and pleasing men, but doing something wicked to them instead? Is she an evil geisha, or an anti-geisha, like an anti-christ? Or perhaps she is really a he, or a lesbian, or engages in some other form of gender/sexual transgression. Could it be "wicked" in the northern US slang sense, as in, "wicked cool", meaning just extra awesome?

Since geishas are portrayed as transgressive within a Western cultural context in that they are a form of prostitute and that they go against feminist ideals since they are all about service to men, the descriptive "wicked" says that these particular geisha are extra transgressive. The question, though, is whether that transgression is a greater degree of their original offense, or a perversion of their original definition/role.Or could this use of language be about a different meaning altogether, like the slang usage of "wicked"?

Definitely an interesting question. Any thoughts? Any other interpretations of the phrase Wicked Geisha?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Generational Differences: Quit Criticizing and See the Silver Lining Already

A friend sent me a link to this article in the NY Times, The Why-Worry Generation by Judith Warner. The opening paragraph:
"For the past few years, it’s been open season on Generation Y — also known as the millennials, echo boomers or, less flatteringly, Generation Me. Once described by the trend-watchers Neil Howe and William Strauss as “the next great generation” — optimistic, idealistic and destined to do good — millennials, born between 1982 and 2002, have been depicted more recently by employers, professors and earnestly concerned mental-health experts as entitled whiners who have been spoiled by parents who overstoked their self-esteem, teachers who granted undeserved A’s and sports coaches who bestowed trophies on any player who showed up."
 As an early member of this generation and someone fascinated by generational differences, I take issue with some of the generalizations and judgments that seem to run through this characterization of the generations. Yes, there is something of a generational communication gap. For the most part, Gen Y/Millennials tend to demand that we be treated as people and respected for being, while many older generations think that all respect and worth has to be earned. I have heard a good bit of talk about how superior "earned respect" is to what I would call "inherent respect", and really, you can hear echoes of this in the quote above as it mocks "undeserved A's" and trophies for participation. 

The problem with "earned respect" is that, well, it isn't. First of all, the playing field is not level. Equal ability and performance does not lead to equal amounts of respect when it straddles the privileged/marginalized divide. Furthermore, if respect and worthiness has to be earned, it means that people start as unworthy and not respected, meaning that they are expendable. In other words, those who have not yet earned respect (from a biased system) are not yet people. 

You can hear these judgments of unworthiness in the article's choice of language, which uses words like "unmanageable", "narcissistic", "irrational exuberance", and "group psychosis." This language is belittling, judgmental, and is meant to put uppity Gen Y in its place, which is at the bottom of the pecking order and crazy to boot. 

From an older generational point of view, this makes sense. Given that life is inherently hierarchical, that any particular person is a nobody until they prove themselves in a rigged and flawed system, and that everyone has to follow the arbitrary rules of said system, it all works. I contend, however, that my generation is coming in with a different philosophical foundation altogether. 

I think we believe two key things that are turning out to be revolutionary as we enter the workforce. First, we believe that respect and worthiness is inherent. We are people, we are here, and we demand that we be treated with respect. We are not willing to "pay our dues" as peons because we don't believe that we have to earn our place at the table. We don't think it is okay to be stepped on for a while in exchange for being promised that we will get to do the stepping on others later, as we move up the ladder.

Second, we believe that the system is and should be fair and good. A fair and good system means that if a person follows the rules that have been laid out in front of them, then they should achieve the results they have been promised. For example, study hard and make good grades => get into a good college => get a good job. It is almost unthinkable that the equation might be a lie. Instead, we assume that maybe there is a soft step in there somewhere, a "find yourself" or "define good job" and we work on that. Also, a fair and good system means that it will make us happy and fulfilled. It would not be a good system if it didn't.

Yes, we are idealistic. Absolutely. We also grew up in an instant feedback world, so we can go a bit twitchy when employers don't give feedback because we are unused to the Void. But this can be a good thing, and it is definitely a revolutionary thing. What better way to create and manifest a world of mutual respect and personhood where systems of achievement are good and fair than to have people who live and breathe those ideals helping to shape and create it on a constant quick feedback loop? 

So yes, there is a huge paradigm gap between the generations. But then again, isn't there usually a communication gap between the generations, and isn't it usually based on changing paradigms? It's the same argument as "those damn kids and their loud music" only with the volume turned up a little for our loud and exciting times. Why don't we all stop criticizing each other and instead try to form cross-generational relationships that allow the inexperienced to learn from the experienced and the slowing down and burning out to get a second wind of vitality from the young and enthusiastic? Makes a lot more sense to me than wasting energy insulting each other. It's not like all the young folk are going to go away, anyway. 

And lastly but not least, I want to express my discomfort and take issue with the fact that the article proposes to talk about all of Gen Y, that is, all Americans born from 1982-2002, and yet it only references college graduates looking to enter white-collar corporate jobs. Mighty classist, and by extension, racist, isn't it? For shame. I would also like to acknowledge and admit the fact that my knowledge and theories about my generation are based on my own white middle-class background, and are therefore also less inclusive and less inherently biased than I am comfortable with.