Visible + Vulnerable in 2019

Happy New Year! My main goal/resolution for 2019 is to build a business—one situated at the intersections of creativity and sexuality (the erotic)—specifically in the form of coaching, consulting and courses helping people become more embodied in their creative work/art/businesses and more in touch with and approving of their creative and sexual selves.

Part and parcel of that goal, tucked inside like a matryoshka doll, is another one: to open to being visible and vulnerable. This is simply a component of starting of business, but also, it’s a doxastic commitment for me—living my beliefs as opposed to just talking about them, implementing in my own life what I’m encouraging my clients to do.

As an artist, particularly as a writer, there is a strange disconnect that arises when your very private and introverted and personal work is published and becomes a public object in the world. Showing what feels like (and is, in fact) a piece of your soul with the world is a harrowing and wildly raw experience—and that is quite how starting this business feels too. Maybe even more so, because all these internalized voices about money + worth + capitalism come out to play.

So, in honor of this visibility + vulnerability goal, as part of my doxastic commitment—I’m beginning a regular(ish) blog. Welcome to the first post. :)

It will focus primarily on process rather than product (a central tenant of my coaching + courses) and will feature exercises + practices along with my own thoughts, musings and stories of my own creative/erotic process and life. So it begins.

This post is about some thoughts and images that came to me while meditating on this idea and practice of being visible and vulnerable.

Another resolution I have (I love resolutions and intention-setting, NYD is my favorite holiday) is to meditate regularly. I have spent my life wrestling with a highly-reactive nervous system that I thought, after years and years of trying everything from anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds to talk therapy to energy work to exercise, I would just never be able to change or adapt. Until recently, when I discovered that regular meditation made a radical and sustainable difference.

I had dabbled with meditation before, many times, and mostly just found it annoying and impossible. But as I started doing it more regularly (and with less judgment), I noticed a dramatic difference in my relationship to my own emotions and to outside stimulus—I felt like I was wrapped in an extra layer of protection, of non-engagement. I was able to see and feel things happening, and not get triggered or spin out.

It feels like my nerves are wires, and for so long the outer case was torn. I kept picturing exposed wires, cut and frayed and sparking. Meditation, then, has been like rewrapping the wires in new rubber casing, a few rounds of electrical tape for extra security. Things feel less raw, less frayed, less liable to spark. I feel encased, held.

Therefore I’ve made meditation a daily practice now, and given myself the resolution to help cement and sustain that practice. So a couple days after New Year’s, I drove to some nearby hot springs. (Hot springs are not a resolution, but maybe they should be. I am such a Cancer water baby.) After bathing for some time I took a break to meditate. The imagery that came to me during this meditation was rooted (quite literally) in the idea of feeling safe and grounded, secure in myself, while being visible and vulnerable in the world. It is a guidepost I intend to use as I move forward into 2019, and I hope it can be useful for you as well. (Recognizing that hearing about someone else’s meditation can be a lot like hearing their dreams—disorienting, hard to follow, and potentially meaningless—I will try to keep this brief and to the point.)

I was focusing on my breath, when an image arose unbidden, of a cave. This was unexpected as I don’t often visualize things when I’m just doing regular breath meditation, but also not unexpected as the hot spring were in a cave. This was quite a different cave, however, a long, high-ceilinged great hall of sorts, dripping with stalactites. Soon after this image arrived I felt my spine begin to pull straighter, longer, my head rose noticeably.

I suffer a lot of neck and back pain and tightness, having sustained multiple (compounding) injuries over the years, most recently being a serious case of whiplash after being rear-ended a year ago, that has resurfaced recently in the form of hip and sciatica pain on my right side. Often the pain comes up during meditation, enters my awareness, and I try to note it gently, without trying to change or fix it. That part is difficult, as I usually do want to fix it, either by moving or by breathing deeply in that area, but I find it’s far more effective to just note it, approve of it even. And that sometimes that makes the pain lessen or evaporate.

But now suddenly, without trying, my spine was loosening and lengthening and it felt great. And also a bit scary, destabilizing. I felt myself swaying a little, rocking almost, disused muscles quivering slightly under their new shape and utility.

The image came then of a tall skinny tree, rocking in the wind. I felt too high, too big. Vulnerable. Visible.

The cave image flashed again and then I saw roots. Deep, digging, winding roots burrowing into the rock and soil. As I pictured this, I felt my spine stabilize a little. It felt… stronger. Less at risk. The image shifted then, vacillating between buried roots and a trunk stretching skyward. The tree thickened and strengthened. Visible, vulnerable, but strong, flexible.

Then all at once I saw the tree trunk twisted and gnarled against the years of harsh winds. I felt my back twist to the left, the right side folding over and in on me. I saw my body in the car crash, thrown forward and then to the right by the clenching seatbelt. How my right shoe flew off and I found it on the passenger side of the car. I saw my body in movement. A body thrown. The sense of shock. I didn’t see it coming, I thought. I hadn’t even looked in the rearview mirror.

That thought had rung inside my head and body after the accident, and I knew, even then, how it was the same phrase from my last relationship. An utterly entire deception and betrayal, a quintessential gaslighting nightmare. I didn’t see it coming. How I knew my body was holding what my emotions had experienced, and hadn’t had the words or thoughts to process.

Now my body, and my tree, bent and rent and pain and stiffness returned. I sent down more roots. Watched them wriggle and grow. My tree grew up and over its crooked wounds. I’m not trying to change you, I told my tree. I love you. Its crookedness remained. It grew taller anyway. Visible. Vulnerable. Strong. Flexible.

It still swayed in the wind but it did not shake. My muscles stopped shivering. I sat, erect and comfortable. There was room for breath in my spine.

This, I thought, is what I am trying to do. With myself, and to support others to do in my work. To offer a moment’s (maybe longer) acceptance, approval. Of our own harrowing experiences and all our colossal mistakes. To keep growing in spite of, because of, our wounds. To be vulnerable and visible again, anyway.

What this imagery means to me, what I think it was telling me, is that as much as I stretch and grow and reach out into the world, I must equally and in commensurate measure take care of myself, turn inward and ground in the people, places and practices that make me feel safe, secure and accepted. I must do the work on both ends, then.

I have come alone to these hot springs many times. The first time was not long after my mother died, 13 years ago now. There are many wounds these waters have soothed. This was Ute and Arapahoe territory once. (Correction: It still is.) Today, the hot springs resort features the head of an Indian man in a headdress for its logo. I sit here and I try to grapple with conquest and genocide and colonialism and cultural appropriation, while I sit in the warm healing waters the earth offers up.

I also wrestle with thoughts on my own internalized sexism, misogyny, the bashing of all that is femme and feminine. My first round of meditation failed/ended when a group of loud young women came into the quiet area. At first I found myself highly annoyed by them, and then I found myself ruminating on the demonization of the feminine, of femininity. In so many of its iterations. (All of its iterations?)

How we make fun of the way young women talk—the vocal fry, the question lilt. We criticize women for wearing makeup, or not, for how they dress. We criticize girls for selfie culture (and yes, these girls were taking selfies in the private cave area), for photoshopping, for the need for approval. For cellulite, for hair, for lack of hair, for being too sexual, too sexy, not sexy enough, sluts, prudes, hot, cold, angry, sweet, passive, people-pleasing, selfish. For being mothers or not being mothers. For being too femme, too butch. We blame women for being fat, unruly, imperfect. We attack women and their bodies for failing to meet impossible standards and we berate them for trying to meet these standards at all. There is no line, no safe space between enforced femininity and self-expression, self-care. We give girls and femmes an impossible, impassable route to womanhood. Womxnhood. Personhood.

As I float, the wounds that arise in and from my own body are first personal, individual. My mother’s death, my divorce, single-parenthood, gaslighting + deception + betrayal, losses I have had to choose, things taken from me, abuse, sexual trauma, my broken relationship to my own femininity. Tears salt the water. For the world we’ve become, and the response that’s been raised to what we were becoming. For the earth’s rising temperature. For the species gone and going. For my son and all the things I cannot protect him from. For the confusing sense of my own white privilege and safety, while I watch the world watch him become a young black man, while I gauge their shifting reactions. For the family I wasn’t able to give him. For the one I was. For the many, many mistakes I made along the way.

I feel my roots lengthen, dig deeper into the earth, give me strength to stand. The tears still come. For the girl I was and lost and found again. For the many-headed, multi-gendered self I am. For the impassable, impossible path to womanhood, personhood. For everyone whose sexual or gender identity does not fit in the box. For everyone who is not white. For everyone who is not a cis man. For everyone.

Root. Dig. Stand. Reach. Be visible, vulnerable. Anyway. Here’s to 2019.