Archive for May, 2013

Shadow Comforts

May 9, 2013  |  journal entries  |  2 Comments

“Put nothing between yourself and your grief.” —Tara Hardy

So I get raw. Strip away that which makes me numb. I try to substitute something else, unconsciously, until I realize and strip that away too. Showering feels good, turning up the water just a little too hot. That wakes me. Movement feels good, but I am so sluggish I can rarely remember to do it. Like my brain tricks me to stay still and not feel. Close and collapse and tighten, it silently urges.

But I don’t want to.

It’s so much easier to push it down, push it away. Easier to numb out the heart. Easier to harden. In some ways, I wish I was that kind of person. I miss the ability to turn things on and off. Or—can you miss something you’ve never had? I am envious of it. Want more of it in my own life. Want a little light switch on the back of my neck. That’d make for an interesting tattoo. I have enough marks but sometimes I seek more needles, more things staring at me, yelling, you survived. Marking time passing. Marking a different state, so I can remember that things always, inevitably, change.

I have thrown myself into shadow comforts. Films, tv shows, food, alcohol, sex, power. I even started smoking again. Quit now, once I left New York there wasn’t quite the need to regulate my anxiety so daily. I caught a cough the week I came here and didn’t shake it for long enough to stop wanting them every couple hours. I wonder if the same will happen for a drink. Still, in the evening, when I’m done working, when the boy comes home from work, I crave a little something in my glass. Something liquid and smoky to sip on. Ice cubes clinking.

I lied. I do want to.

But I’m trying not to. I’m trying to be aware. My brain that is seeking aliveness, awakeness is sometimes at odds with the part of me that screams, I can’t feel anymore of that stop just make it stop I don’t care what I have to do just stop. Take a deep breath. Feel down into my feet. It will pass. It’s probably temporary. Just wait, and feel it, and be still.

Those are the easy shadow comforts. There’s also Facebook, reading things online but not really reading them, being way too busy, sleeping until noon. I am on entirely too good of terms with all of those habits these days. I am not good at being still, but I’m not good at moving either. I’m not sure where my aim is, so I’m not sure how to move. The apartment where I’m staying has an arrow on the wall above the bed and I stare at it when I can’t sleep. How do I become an arrow? How do I find a target at which to aim? How can I make myself sharp enough and strong enough and capable of riding the wind enough to find something close to center? I filled out a form today for a coaching session with a I’ll-make-your-business-better coach and it asked, Where are you now? Where do you want to be? … That’s kind of what I need to figure out. Sometimes I think, I could do anything, if I only knew what it was.

But grief is a fog, something that envelops, “its tropical heat / thickening the air.” Something I am choking on, sometimes without warning. I’m all fine, thin sunny air with lemons and lemonade and ocean breezes through the leaves making the most pleasant sound, then I get a flash and I’m on the floor, searching for that one foot of air that isn’t already black. Floundering. Grief. I don’t know what happened. It feels like a before and after, the landscape devastated, muddy brown everywhere. The rage bubbles up like the electric tea kettle water which is probably done in the kitchen and now back to cold. Push the little button down again and make the blue light appear. Does twice-boiled water have any benefit? I’m floundering now. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I will make some tea and get another sweater because I haven’t been able to warm up at all today.

I’m trying to listen. What does my body need, what do I need, what do I want, what would feel good. Maybe not even good—nice. What would feel not like a football thrown by a pro straight to my chest. Anything but this. Anything but this. “Shadow comforts say, ‘Come home to your life.’” wroteJen Louden. I’m trying to come home. I know there’s a boy and some fresh vegetables, even a bit of chocolate, my most important things. Funny how little I have discovered that I really need. Thirty boxes in storage waiting for an address, four suitcases from sublet to sublet. I don’t need much. I’ve been looking at photos of myself all afternoon and now I feel the ghost of me behind each of these lines. My own image is starting to come into focus. I already know the answer to all of those questions. I don’t know what that means, but I know it’s true. It’s not time to sit still. It’s time to move. I have already purged. I have already fed myself full, gorged on honeysuckle and lavender ice cream, water with meyer lemon that puckers just right, all of my favorite things I am letting myself indulge in. I don’t know what else is going to happen, but I know I’m heading toward home. The compass of my body is telling me it’s time.

Let’s have some shots of joy, shall we?

May 8, 2013  |  journal entries  |  4 Comments

DSC_1825I’m getting some new headshots done today by the talented Meg Allen, with the aim of reflecting me as a little bit more west coast and a little more joyous.

All the recent headshots of me, while technically beautiful, like this one by Kristy Boyce, which is one of the most gorgeous shots of me I’ve seen, have me looking so … miserable. The agony just seeps through and it’s depressing. I can’t use it for much. “I don’t mind earnest, or stern, or serious—I play all of those things a lot, and it kind of goes along with the bad-ass-top thing I am portraying,” I wrote to Meg this morning. “But these just look … sad.”

I keep thinking about this head shot of Sherman Alexie’s from a few (10?) years back—he’s open mouth laughing and it’s gorgeous. I remember being captivated by it when it was on the back of his book Ten Little Indians, and thinking how it was so unconventional, and also had so much deep joy.

alexieI don’t know if I can occupy some joy like that, but I’d love to try for some levity and some (deep dark, mischievous, shadowy, BDSM-style) playfulness, at least.

So that’s what’s on the agenda for today.

Cornea (My Father’s Eyes)

May 8, 2013  |  poetry  |  5 Comments

My mom received a letter
from the person who
got my dad’s eyes

after he died.
My assumption is that
flesh has no opinion
of its own, so
they don’t now look
at Chinese food all-you-
can-eat buffets and salivate
taking a few extra General
Tso’s chickens, just because
my father did.
I assume also that

the wildflowers
everyone tends to call weeds
did not become their favorite,
did not become that
which scatter the hill
outside this person’s kitchen
window, did not become
part of the visual jokes
of forgetting. So what

will happen? What’s it like
to see through another’s
eyes? And if we meet,
if we cross each other
unknowingly on the streets
of my small hometown,
will there be a confusing
moment of recognition, when
they look at my brown hair
brown eyes slightly expanded
waistline femur bones just
a little too long and I’ll
write them off as curious
about my unconventional

presentation but they’ll
get a flash of a six year old’s
birthday party, a velveteen
green dress with white
tights and polka dots, a cake
in the shape of a hot
air balloon, and they’ll
shake it off, isn’t that
funny. I won’t see them, but
will you recognize me, even
just a little?

Protected: A little more of the truth

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Protected: This is how we wake up.

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Protected: Rife’s Bow Tie Birthday Party

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Seven years ago, I started this project named Sugarbutch

May 1, 2013  |  journal entries, miscellany  |  6 Comments

the very first Sugarbutch avatar

the very first Sugarbutch avatar

Once upon a time, I was struggling to become a butch. My first girlfriend called me “Sugarbutch” and it stuck. Though my college girlfriend and I talked the talk of gender and sexuality, we were stuck in lesbian bed death—not that lesbians own bed death, exactly, any couple of any gender or sexuality can go through spells or years of time where they aren’t having sex, but lesbians have a particular corner on that market. (I have some theories about that, for another time.)

We were together four years, and had sex six times in the last two years. Six times! I counted! I was going crazy, tearing my hair out with desire and want, getting off in secret and feeling guilty, feeling depressed and anxious and unmotivated. I wasn’t writing. I couldn’t write anything without writing I want out of this relationship but I wasn’t ready to face that. I couldn’t get sex off my mind. So I decided that anytime I wanted to have sex, I would either go to the gym, or I would write erotica.

… So of course I wrote a lot of erotica (and didn’t really go to the gym). At first, the writings were all what I wished we’d done, what I was daydreaming about.

avatarYou did this little twist with your hips this morning that made me want to press you to the wall, hard, and take you right then.” … “Mouth open eyes closed, fingers pinching your nipples, working every lingering inch of me inside you. It didn’t really happen this way but it could have.” … “I can’t even hold a conversation with you anymore because every word in my mouth is clouded with why are we not kissing right now?

I started writing things, sentences, syntax that I actually kind of liked. And as I started breaking through, I started discovering what was inside the block: a deep unknowing—on both of our parts.

I was struggling to become butch, but I was also struggling to become myself.

So I did what I knew to do with writing I kind of liked and was afraid to own: I put it online. I wanted to study myself, more than anything else: to study sexualities, genders, and relationships. To make a graduate study of these things, to read all the books and read all the blogs and listen to all the podcasts and ask all the facilitators I could find what their best philosophies are for these tricky topics. It became a sanctuary, a writing prompt every day, a practice, a deepening of what I knew about myself and how to be me in the world.

It has been a personal study. This place has been the place where I’ve become me.

with Rachel Kramer Bussel during the Sex Bloggers Calendar photo shoot, 2008. first time I showed my face online

with Rachel Kramer Bussel during the Sex Bloggers Calendar photo shoot, 2008. first time I showed my face online

Of course, my college girlfriend (here known as “The Ex”) and I broke up. When I started writing and telling the truth to myself again, I couldn’t stay. It was a mess. I didn’t know how to leave. I didn’t know that not having good sex in a monogamous relationship was enough of a reason to leave, but I now do believe it is. I fell in love, hard, and got burned. I started healing, and grieving. I dated and explored and studied, I wrote and wrote, I started teaching. I fell in love again. There’s a lot more to all of those stories, but you can mostly read those for yourselves in the archives.

Somewhere along there, I started asking myself: “Now that I got everyone’s attention, what do I have to say?

I’ve been puzzling through that, trying desperately to make a living to enable me to keep doing my work these past few years, which is part of why you haven’t heard as much from me. I’ve been trying to come into integrity, into integration, bringing who I am offline together with the vision of myself I came to know through words. I’ve been struggling to create myself a life I can settle into, one that is sustainable, that can last, that can feed me and carry me into the work that I know I have to do in the world.

I haven’t figured that out entirely, yet, but I am getting closer. My life has been radically restructured in the past year, and I need some retreat and some quiet and some inner work so I can feel into what the new mission of my work is here beyond my own personal liberation. Telling my own story has been and will continue to be an important part of it, but there is more to it than that. I seek structure and vision in a bigger way, and I don’t quite know what that means yet, but I can feel that I’ve been moving steadily toward it.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for all of your comments and support. Thank you for your emails (even when I don’t have time to write back as thoroughly as I’d like). Thank you for coming to my workshops and buying my books. Thank you.

I love my job.

7thbirthdaySome of the other anniversary posts:

(The anniversary of Sugarbutch starting was Monday, April 29th, but that was my first day after a long 6-day training and the day before I left for a two-day trip to Madison, Wisconsin, so it took me a few days to get to it. Now I’m hitting “publish” from an airplane 30,000 feet up, zooming back to the Bay Area. We live in the future.)