Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Last Week with Eanlai

I spent last Saturday afternoon back at Eanlai's for prompted writing using the Amherst Writers and Artists method. The first prompt was to write about something that happened behind a wall.

What I really want to say is that sometimes I feel like I'm behind a wall from everybody and everything else already. I feel distant and other and unworthy, and like I'm observing people who are speaking an unknown language. There must be meaning to what they're saying, but I don't get it.

That said, sometimes I do have some empathy, and can sense how other folk are feeling, and I wish them well and want to help them or let them know that I share their feelings.

Things that happen behind a wall from others are meant to be private, not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but something meant only for the participants -- drawing so much meaning from their relationship that even in the absence of the literal wall, a metaphorical wall keeps the observer from appreciating how much of the interaction already happened. How much of the hidden iceberg consists of past adventures and arguments, pet names and in jokes, unexpressed judgments or compliments about each other's actions, attire, or attitude. Together, a couple or family, or pair of friends create a separate life, that arises from and between them, a life that is mysterious and hidden.

In a more literal frame of mind, I watch a lot of TV shows about factories that make various items, including food. And I am endlessly fascinated by the machinery, the ingredients, how the parts of the process fit together and produce the final result. Often the workers have to open a cover or slow down the mechanism to reveal the process.

In these shows, they take us behind the walls and inside the machines. And I start to wonder why I would want to eat anything that was made in a factory.
____________

The next prompt was to write a story where the weather plays a role. Ever the over-achiever, I wrote two:

Somebody left the outside door open at the end of the hall where my bedroom was. I wanted to close it, but feared I would lock someone outside, in the cold.

But I was astoundingly cold that night. Changing into pajamas for sleep was as unthinkable as wearing a bikini in a blizzard. I wore two pair of socks, two pair of pants, five layers of T-shirts, shirts, overshirts, and coat, and still shivered.

Now this was Northern California; the temperature could not have been below freezing, but I was chilled to the bone, through the bone, into some bony dimension of being hitherto unexplored.

The night was endless. I curled up on one side, and the other side chilled. I turned over and the chill shifted accordingly. The very air burned inside my nose unless it had been warmed by passing through the blanket. But then it seemed to lack oxygen, so I cycled between the burning air and the burned out air.

Then post-nasal slime choked its way down the back of my throat, and I began to suspect that the chill was not so much in the room as in myself. And when I finally reached daylight, my lack of a voice confirmed that I was sick, not just cold.

___

The still warmth of that day in '89 has always struck me since as earthquake weather.

After the BART train shuddered to a halt at Embarcadero Station, we mystified travelers made our way through the partly lit station and stationary escalators up to the slightly crumpled sidewalk. The air was a pleasantly warm temperature, but the unavailability of public transportation had me walking uphill towards my home, and I gradually overheated, removing layers of clothing and tying them around my waist.

The power was out most places, but I found one store still doing business, with an ancient manual cash register, and bought a bottle of water and a snack.

Time passed, the sky grew dark (except for the glow of fire over the Marina), and I finally spotted a light at the home of a friend, who gave me a ride the rest of the way back to my own home.
_______________

The next prompt was a poem by Noel Coward claiming that all the notes we ever heard and all the phrases those we loved have spoken to us lie deep in our minds waiting to be recalled:

All the notes I ever heard linger in my mind much more clearly than words spoken by loved ones, tho' I do remember some of them as well. Or do I remember remembering them?

My memories pale and shift with the recalling. I remember trying to remember a particularly sweet moment with a dear friend, and the sweetness ebbed every time I remembered it - like the fading clarity of a xerox of a xerox of a xerox. The juice gets pressed out and worn down with each visit.

But how does that compare with how well a memory retains its sweetness while unopened? If years pass before the event comes to mind, is there going to be any juice left at all? Or will I even be able to remember the event? Or even to believe that such events once happened to me?

If the risk in leaving the book of memories closed is total erasure, then I really should savor any sweet memory while it lasts, and write it down in as much detail as possible, both to cement it more firmly in my present recollection, and to have enough of a prompt in the writing to perhaps ignite the embers of the memory's lingering warmth.

I think I almost deliberately wiped my memory of people, places, and events when I was plucked out of Harrisburg at the age of 11 and dropped in Berkeley to live with a different relative, and again when he died four years later and I was moved to Southern California. My emotional survival in each new situation seemed to require letting go of what came before, to minimize the pain of looking backward, and to motivate me to become rooted in my new home.

But I've lived in the same city for 40 years now, and there is no value to me in washing away my past. So, can I hope that Mr. Coward is correct, and that all of those memories lie hidden somewhere in the subbasement of my consciousness? Maybe with practice I can get more of them to come swimming up, perhaps in response to writing prompts, bits of what I read or see on a screen, or my dreams.

Music seems to linger more securely in my mind than words. I've always been a singer, and music that I've learned and performed sticks pretty well in my mind. And I studied music in college, so a lot of orchestral music came into my consciousness then and lingers there, helped by the LPs I bought so I could enjoy them again. I seldom play those LPs, though, in part because I seem to lack the patience to just sit there and listen, but if I read or do other things, the music goes by unheard. It's a puzzlement, and a growth opportunity.

_______

And, finally, we wrote four minutes to the prompt "What I meant to tell you." This piece should be read after rereading the one about the last time I talked to my mother, from the previous post.

What I meant to tell you is that I now realize you intended that core dump of wisdom as a gift, since you had nothing else of value to leave me. You intended me to profit from your mistakes and experience, and to avoid some of the pain you felt. I meant to tell you that I realize you did the best for us that you could, that your own upbringing did not equip you to raise healthy children, so you passed us on to relatives that you believed would do a better job than you could.

I meant to tell you that I enjoyed Santa Monica summers and Christmases at Disneyland. That I realize how you must have scrimped and saved all year to pay for those trips and provide us with the season's best toys. I meant to tell you that I forgive you for your failings and thank you for what you were able to give us.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Writing at Kathy's

We're trying a writing method that involves listening to Baroque music in the presence of a lit candle, and writing on unlined paper, without prompts. So here's what came out:

Writing to Baroque music may produce the Mozart effect in people who don't have music degrees. But I know that this piece is from the classical period and is Albinoni's Adagio. I seem to recall it being used in the soundtrack of the movie The Elephant Man, at the end, when he decided to kill himself by sleeping lying down. So the piece is inexpressibly sad to me, although also quite beautiful, and of the sort of music I would really enjoy playing on recorders with some friends.

Which leads me to wonder why I've pretty much dropped out of recorder playing since I retired. I stopped going to the week-long workshops in Oakland and Carmel Valley, and to the monthly chapter meetings in San Francisco. I have trouble with stairs and roommates that may account for some of my unwillingness to go out of town, and needing to find a ride or a parking spot late at night is a disincentive concerning the chapter meetings. But that doesn't seem to be enough reason to quit.

Maybe I'm just not enjoying playing as much as I did before. I don't work at it enough to get any better at playing fast notes or long phrases. I don't know. Maybe something about taking early retirement makes me feel more apart from the gang than I usually do? I do know that getting chastised by a teacher for trying to help another player in her class really hurt my feelings. Maybe I feel bad when others seem to expect me to play better than I actually do?

P.S., this piano piece is not Baroque, I think. Maybe it's by Chopin or Liszt.

I really prefer writing to a prompt. Lacking one makes me think of my mother's saying: "When I'm alone, I'm in bad company." I tend to wind up thinking about things I don't understand or don't like about myself, and feel powerless and unwilling to change.

For example, I probably would get more accomplished if I spent less time checking email, playing Sudoku, etc. But I know how unhappy and conflicted I get when trying to give up an unedifying habit. And how could I limit the time I spend doing anything in particular without keeping track of my time, which is really repellent?

Maybe consciously substituting something equally gratifying (if I can figure out what that might be) for that activity maybe half the time would be doable.

Maybe I should get back into some carefully crafted affirmations, like: "I'm awake, alert, alive, enthusiastic." Something not so far removed from reality as to be a joke, but with a decent amount of aspiration. Maybe including my old standby: "I love myself unconditionally." or a more moderate: "I regard myself with humor and compassion."

The third musical selection was baroque, and the fourth as well.

What do I get from the candle flame? It reminds me of Shabbat candles, also of the candle I lit at bedtime for company in the depths of depression. It made me feel less alone, and almost relaxed enough to fall asleep.

One of my favorite aspects of music is how crunchy harmonies resolve. The contraction and release of tension in the music is very fulfilling and relaxing.

Another growth opportunity I have is the many records and tapes I don't listen to. The closest I get to music is turning on the classical radio station when I'm driving in the car or paying bills in the kitchen. Which provides some nourishment, but leaves me feeling like I'm hiding from the memories and feelings attached to the music I chose to acquire: classical, Broadway shows, women's music, the records we cut at Cazadero Music Camp.
____________

Then we wrote to a prompt about someone I once knew well but haven't seen for several years, beginning as follows:

The last time I talked to my mother may have been the time she phoned me and, with no fanfare or time to get a notebook, stated every piece of wisdom that she had acquired in her sixty-something years of life and twenty-something years in A.A.

At the time, I wondered what had prompted her to lay it all on me, and was a bit irritated that she had intruded on what I was doing at the time (whatever it might have been) and proceeded to talk my ear off for much longer than I was interested in listening. I basically kept making little noises to falsely suggest that I was listening, and waited for her to finish.

Now, of course, I wish I had paid closer attention, taken notes, and responded somehow to her attempted gift. But I didn't, and, probably not too long thereafter, I got a call from her neighbor informing me of her death.

I suspect that her angina was getting worse, and she began to feel mortal. I deeply regret not having paid more attention at the time.

On the other hand, I still remember maybe a dozen sayings and pearls of wisdom that she had repeatedly shared with me and my brother, so I've received some of her wisdom. And I don't know how helpful would have been ideas that she divulged only under fear of approaching death, without other context.
___________

Our final prompt was, would I like to write a book, about what?

I've always wanted, maybe not so much to write a book as to have written a book. Seeing my name and words in print is intensely gratifying to me.

With a career in legal writing under my belt, many words of mine about various legal subjects exist in print. Several of my prayers appear in the synagogue prayerbook, and a few of my poems have been published in a pamphlet.

But what would I fill a book with? Musings about my mental blocks, economic justice, and spirituality? Memoirish little bits about this and that, in no particular order?

There should be some way to piece together some of my hard-won wisdom and quirky foibles into a form that one or two folks might find of interest.

Unless Blogger is lying to me, the blog where I post my scraps of thought has fans as far away as France. And if I self-publish, nobody has to be sold on the value of my stuff but me. And convincing me of that value would be half of the barrier to publishing my words. And I expect the other half of the barrier would be to stop editing them and let them go.

And if I publish an e-book, no trees will be felled in the dissemination of my thoughts, which are worthy at least to rearrange some electrons on sand.

Today's Harvest

Two pieces written without prompt, waiting at a table with one or two others for the teacher to arrive:

It wasn't supposed to rain today, and I dressed accordingly. But it rained while I was stuffing envelopes at the SPCA this afternoon. My first clue was that the patio was wet when I left the building. Then the water drops on my car and the dry area underneath it confirmed the diagnosis.

It's odd that I didn't notice the rain while inside the building, since there were windows near where we sat, and the room was fairly quiet. But none of us heard the rain - or at least commented on it aloud.

It sure snuck up on me. And then the rain came again, only for a minute or two, as I parked the car at home. But then it very kindly stopped so I could stay dry on my way into the house. Most obliging of it.
___________

The clock ticks steadily. It sounds like a tin soldier marching. Melodies form in my mind to keep time with it. My teeth try to tap in time with it. I think of meditation and the passage of time. Raindrops and tick-tocks blend together in my mind, and I wonder if there's a leak in the building. Chinese water torture comes to mind, but so far the sound is inoffensive.

I'm sitting here with Beth, and, although neither of us was able to write at home, here we are putting pen to paper - in the absence of our teacher - because this is the time and place for our writing class, and because two of us together have many times the creative energy of one.
______________________

Then we came up with our own prompt about the relationship between sleeping with women and being a lesbian:

Being a lesbian does not require an active love life. Being with a man is never going to be a possibility for me, no matter how long I go without a woman in my life. Being a lesbian is who I am, not what I'm doing.

Not only is it the fact that women turn me on and men don't, but it's also that I've turned my back on the whole female mystique - dresses and make-up and high heels, and seeking to please the male gaze and to generally be subordinate and dependent.

Now I know that there is such a thing as a straight feminist, so the terms lesbian and feminist, although they overlap considerably, are not synonymous. But for me, a lot of my feminism preceded becoming aware of my lesbianism, which then made a lot of sense once I knew. And for me, feminism implies having no need for men, even for sex. On the other hand, men come in handy when I have something heavy to move.

So, anyway, my current lack of a sexual partner does not undermine my lesbian identity at all.
____________

Then the teacher arrived, and gave us the prompt to write something dangerous.

What would be very dangerous would be to reverse the tilt in the playing field that causes money to flow towards the wealthy few and away from everyone else. We need to change the tax law so that investment income is taxed at twice the rate of wages. We need to shrink the amount that is exempt from estate tax and level at least a 50% tax on the first tier of estates, and higher rates as they get bigger.

And we need to put those tax revenues back into the social safety net: universal healthcare, social security, highways and bridges, day care, free public education through grad school, all the stuff that made this country great.

Even the oligarchs are starting to realize that they can't make money from selling products if no one else has money to spend on them. Honestly, folks, student loans that can't be discharged in bankruptcy? It's a formula to create a permanent underclass. Everybody who works full time deserves a living wage. Everybody.

Walmart would still be profitable if it paid a living wage to full-time employees. The family should be ashamed of having employees who qualify for food stamps. Are they some kind of royalty, to be lording over serfs by divine right? Something is very wrong with America.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More Stuff

On the cue, what do I want to do with my writing:

I've always wanted to be published, and self-publishing is a piece of cake nowadays, if I can put together a reasonable number of pages of stuff I'm willing to share with the world.

I want people to want to read what I've written, to be warmed and moved and amused and inspired by it.

I want a written representation of valuable parts of me to be preserved for posterity.

I want to improve myself--self-discipline, clarity of thought, preservation of memory.

I want to move politicians and citizens to make choices that make life better in this city, state, country, and planet.

I want to be remembered as a capable writer and a spiritual person.

I want, why not, to have an audience for my blog that watches for new entries, hangs on every word, and raves about it to all their friends.

____________

Writing to the cue, you'll accomplish more later if you have a little fun this weekend.

This is obviously not addressed to retirees, who have room for fun every day of the week. That being said, I do approach Monday in a more positive frame of mind if I have some fun thing from the weekend to report if someone asks.

And being in a positive frame of mind certainly helps me to accomplish more. Feeling hopeful rather than depressed or sad helps me decide to just do what I need to get done. Contrariwise, feeling deprived or sorry for myself makes me want to suck my thumb and disappear into several books of mind candy, and real candy, too, for that matter. But if I've had some fun and am feeling comfortable in the world, I have more confidence in my ability to get stuff done and do it correctly.

As I have heard said, life is short, eat dessert first. I think starting with doing something fun helps me ease into accomplishment better than holding off until I've finished the job to have some fun, or, really, a steady alternation between fun and duty may be best. This is, of course, assuming that we are not in the best of all possible worlds, where I can somehow manage to have fun at the same time as I accomplish what needs doing. Which happens now and then, I'm sure, even if I can't remember many occasions now. I do enjoy doing the oddest things, such as stuffing envelopes at the SPCA.
____________

Written to a cue to write about a block other than writer's block, such as blocks about exercise or travel, or agoraphobia.

I've had all three types of these suggested blocks, over the years. They come and go. I've moved through each of them for a time, every so often.

I travel at least one week each year, and I try not to go more than a single day without leaving my house. As to exercise, I've joined several different gyms and quit, and started various exercise regimes: XBX, Wii Fit, yoga, tai chi. I can't seem to keep up with any of them for longer than a few weeks. If I have enough different programs that I can tolerate for a while, though, maybe I can cycle through them long enough to be doing something more often than not.

My personal theory of change is that I don't. The thought of adopting any particular practice every day of my life until I die makes me feel trapped and sad. I have no faith in my ability to make any change in myself and maintain it indefinitely.

But I can do a little thing most days, or one of several things most days. Especially if the consequences of not doing that particular thing are, say, painful. I can be motivated for a while to stretch, say, to avoid pain. But not indefinitely. Once I get used to the absence of a particular pain, I'm less motivated to do what kept it at bay, and gradually I forget about the activity, until the pain returns.
____________

A flicker of motion

on the telephone pole.

My gaze fixes on

a large squirrel,

with an extra-fluffy tail,

climbing down the pole

in defiance of gravity.

____________

Two eyes glinted at me from atop my bed. Too far apart to be my cat's, and, anyway, it takes only a second to see that they are actually buttons on my pajama top.

I must have blackwatch plaid flannel pjs and bathrobe nowadays. can't remember when, but at some point that plaid became the color scheme of comfort and sleep.

I recently bought a blackwatch flannel shirt, and I'm afraid to wear it most places--either folks will think it a pj top, or I'll be so comfortable in it that I'll nod off behind the wheel.

The eyes looking from atop my pillow are wise and bright. The iridescence arises from their origin as the shells of a sleepy sea creature, attached to the rocks in a tidepool, clinging firmly against the rushing waters.

The eyes speak of tenacity in all circumstances, of knowing your place and clinging to it in the face of all odds, of letting the universe bring all that you need directly to you, because you are so firmly planted where you are, where you need to be, where you belong.
_________

What does the book say?

"Dust me," or "read me," or "I remember when you put in a pile of books on your dresser and stood on me to change a light bulb," or "This is the third time you reassembled that tacky metal bookcase and crammed me into it. Why can't I go live on a wooden shelf?"

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

This Week's Crop

another personification piece:

The wall outlet screams in silent shock.

Writings on an outrageous thing I did, first in prose and then as a poem.

The kids who lived in the Berkeley hills rode the same number 7 bus to school each weekday morning. We knew each other, and we got familiar with the back of the driver's head. For no reason we could see, he usually parked the bus on University Avenue and stepped outside of it for a minute or two each morning.

I watched closely as he opened and closed the door for himself, and one day I left my seat after he left the bus, and closed the door behind him.

He yelled at me to open it up again, and told me that if he hadn't set the parking brake before leaving the bus, it would have rolled downhill when I closed the door. So now I know that a separate brake engages when the door is open.

I've occasionally wondered why I did that. I'm usually a goody two-shoes, color inside the lines, kind of gal. Only now, nearly 50 years later, do I have an idea. I've had abandonment issues most of my life. And I think that his leaving us alone in the bus frightened me a little bit and angered me a lot.

Step away from us, will you? OK, we don't need you either, so there.

-------

Abandonment

The 7 Euclid bus
took us to school each day.
We made it ours.
The driver, not so much.
For some reason,
he stepped out of the bus
for a time
each morning on University Avenue.
This didn't sit
well with me.
I studied the controls, and
one day
I closed the door
behind him.

-------

Limbs Dance

Trees thrash in the wind,
their green and brown
arms telegraph the speed
of the air moving from
one place to another.
They bend, but any
sound they make is
barred by the window.
Some moments
they don't move at all
and I think maybe
the wind has died.
Then the whole tree
shudders in renewed response,
and I sit inside
cozy and warm
and applaud.

_____________

I write because my mother and brother wrote novels and short stories. It may be a genetic predisposition.

I write because I can - because grammar and syntax and spelling and organization all come easily to me.

I write to cement my memories, so I can be reminded of them when they've faded from my mind.

I write to get down what I'm thinking and how I feel about some sticky situation.

I write to record achievements, accomplishments, and other good things.

I write because reading has given me such pleasure and insight, in the hope that I can do the same for others.

I write to leave something of myself in the world after I am gone.

I write because something may pass unnoticed if I don't write about it - something good I want to remember, or something not so good that I need to confess.

I write because minds live on in the written word, and mine deserves its time in the sun.

I write to encourage my friends to exercise their political power in good causes.

I write so others can recognize themselves in my struggles.

I write to make folks laugh.

I write to fill the many journals that I've bought because their empty innards seduce me with the possibility of filling them to the betterment of myself and the world.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A List Poem

Written in Janell's class last Monday:

My Longest Plane Trip So Far

Packing proceeds smoothly,
I find everything I seek
after remembering everything I might need.
I am calm and optimistic --
no headache, no indigestion troubles me.

The airport shuttle comes
precisely when promised,
blue paint gleaming in the sun.

My bags nearly hop aboard themselves,
so eager do they seem to travel.
The ride to the airport is smooth,
nice women converse with me
and carsickness does not dare intrude.

My bag practically checks itself in,
and I proceed through security
in a meditative state.
After locating the gate,
I buy a book of sudoku
a bottle of water
sugarless gum
and a few snacks,
then hit a candy store or bakery
for some true indulgence.

I remember more than a dozen
cross-country flights in my youth,
starting when I was small enough
to sit in the aisle and sing to myself
while the stewardesses stepped over me.

The long flight unrolls at a stately pace,
classical music
followed by an adorable comedy,
followed by an acceptable meal.
Then I use alcohol
tranquilizers
and meditation
to get somewhere close to sleep.

When I swim up to consciousness,
scrape the sleepseed out of my eyes,
and look around the cabin,
I feel comaraderie with my fellow travelers.
That sound is the landing gear descending.
That was the flaps opening.
Bump, we're back on land.
Here I am in Auckland,
en route to Sydney.
Another, much shorter, flight to go today,
but nearly there.

Being a kid who commuted cross-country
really helped build my travel muscles
for today's marathon flight.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Performance Piece

This is what I delivered from memory at the Feminist Festival of Transformational Art. It's assembled from pieces I wrote for various Mothertongue scripts, for my synagogue's prayerbooks, for the heck of it, and for the festival itself:

Hi, there, my name is Dana.

I joined the Festival because I wanted people to laugh at my wit and recognize themselves in my foibles and trials.
I wanted to help the other performers realize their intentions.
And I wanted to hear what they have to say and learn from it.
____________________

So, here’s what I have to say. When I was little, I hated the color pink. It was too girly and feminine, and conflicted with my self-image as a tomboy. Blue was my favorite color then, the boys' color, the color of strength and action.

When I was in law school, a woman friend told me that pink blouses would look good with the blue clothes I usually wore. You know what; they do. Now I'm a fairly butch lesbian, so all of my pink blouses come from L.L. Bean, and my favorite one is plaid flannel.
________________

How did I become butch? It might have something to do with being raised by single men from when I was nine years old until age 15, first my widowed grandfather, and then my divorced Dad. When I was 15, Dad died, and my brother and I finally went to live with our mother.
___________________

Here are some things my mother said to me:

"When I'm alone, I'm in bad company."
"Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional."
"Pray for potatoes and pick up the plow."
"They tell me I was a cuddly drunk."

"That poncho is ugly," the one I designed and made for myself out of fake fur.

When we first came to live with her, she said to us, “I figure you’re grown up enough, and I won't try to raise you. I’ll just make meals and write checks from the money your father left you.”

Many years later, she said: "I want you to complete the following sentence: Mother, I hate you because ..." I declined to respond, knowing that I wasn't ready to say, and she wasn't ready to hear, what might come up. My brother, not so canny, had replied - 'I don't hate you, but I don't love you either, since you weren't there while we were growing up.' After that, she never had a good word to say about him.
_____________

In light of that caliber of mothering, it makes sense that I’d be fond of flannel. I'm driven to seek softness to make up for my lack of cuddling as a child. In fact, I have quite a fetish for softness - for really soft sheets, towels, and T-shirts, for fuzzy plants and my cat's fur. My nearly irresistible urge to pat a crew cut - on a man or a woman - or to stroke velvet or fur that's being worn near me.

I also wonder about my thing for silver foxes. From my 30s, at least, I've had a soft spot for women with short silvery hair. So much so that my longest relationship was with a woman 15 years my senior. I'm probably still seeking the mothering that I missed as a child. But now I'm the one with short silvery hair. Hey, maybe I can be the mother that I've been looking for.

Getting back to my father, though, he never remarried after the divorce, but sometimes there was another man living in his house when my brother and I visited him. Only after his death did I learn that he was also gay. So, we never talked about his gayness or mine. Maybe it would have helped me with my lesbian identity. God knows, my years as a Christian didn’t help.

In fact, I’m still angry at the Christian Church because of the damage it did to my developing sexuality. As a little kid, I played doctor with my friends, male and female alike. I got crushes on my girlfriends in school, but it wasn’t until college that I had a full-fledged affair, with my roommate. So far, I knew my sexual activities should be kept secret—but I had no problem enjoying them.

Then, when I got involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, I was told that homosexual behavior is an abomination. OK, I thought. I was in love with God at the time, and it didn’t seem too much of a sacrifice to end the affair.

After moving to San Francisco, I started meeting gay Christians and Jews and envied their freedom to be both spiritual and sexual. But I couldn’t just pick up my sexuality where I left it. By rejecting my entire sexual being, I damaged it big time.
__________

For example, sometimes I “clutch” during sex. I start wondering if and when I’m going to have an orgasm, and then I shut down.

I think, “Am I going to come?” “What can I get her to do that would make me come?” “Could I ask for the vibrator without hurting her feelings?” or “How long before I can just get her to stop?”

Then I try to stop thinking at all, and maybe start up my mantra to help with the rapidly mounting anxiety. I want sex to be fun again.
______________

I was also left with body image issues:

Two different women look at me from the mirror. The one I see most often has a round face, a pasty complexion, and acne. Her expression is blank; she is plain. The other woman has cheekbones and a chin line. Her skin is clear and she looks wise and confident. She is attractive and I enjoy looking at her.

How can the women be so different? How can they both be me? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is the difference in my head rather than my face? Is it that how I feel about myself affects how I look? Or maybe I just look better at some times than others.
I don't know. But it would be nice if that attractive woman were the one I saw most often. 
_________

And I’m still working on other issues. I put off doing the things I need to do, and I do other things I know I’ll regret. In short, I’m at odds with myself. I have this committee inside my head, and not only does control shift wildly from one member to another, but sometimes it’s completely deadlocked.

So how do I kindly and gently, and with curiosity and humor, recognize all the recalcitrant parts of myself, and persuade us that we're all on the same team? That we'll accomplish more and be happier if we act together? Perfection ain’t gonna happen, but a little progress now and then would be nice.

I'd like to have compassion for myself when I get stuck in a painful place, instead of beating myself up about it. I'd like to remember that hope can return when I journal, meditate, take a walk, stretch.

Even if I just remember to breathe with awareness. Although each breath is a new one, I'm inhaling molecules that originated in the stars and have been breathed before by many, many people over the millenia since they were created.

Remembering these things helps me realize that I’m just another human being, no better and no worse than others. And that’s enough.
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So now I’m going to close with a hope of mine:

I want to write something with such beautiful images that reading it would lift anyone's heart, would give hope to the most despairing person, would bring a smile or a tear to any face. I want to write a picture so beautiful that it creates in all who read it a yearning to be better, a yearning to live in hope, and the recognition that this beauty is here and now, right here, right now.