Thank you all for your comments, both on this post wishing me and mi’lady happiness together after one year, and on this one, offering suggestions and advice and sympathy on my work and life situation. All of those comments were really helpful, and helped me see my situation a bit more clearly. Having folks listen and getting their input, especially folks who are in or who have been in similar situations (isn’t that everyone, though?), is so, so meaningful.

I think you’re all right. You’re right that I need to figure out what’s right for me, and do it. You’re right that I need to carefully weigh my options and have a plan. You’re right that I should decide what’s most important to me right now. You’re right that I should know that whatever decision I make isn’t wrong or right, it’s just a decision, and it’s not ultimately determinative.

So here’s the thinking I’ve been doing since reading all your comments.

– I’m not very good with money. This is for many reasons: (1) San Francisco is friggin expensive. (2) Mi’lady and I don’t live together, but we do spend many evenings together, and we haven’t yet mastered the skills involved in planning ahead meal-wise in the most cost-efficient way (i.e., we’ve found it’s oftentimes more cost-efficient to get cheap take-out than it is to buy ingredients necessary for cooking, but with a lot more planning and kitchen resourcefulness, this shouldn’t be the case). I spend WAY too much money on food. (3) Cabs, Zipcar, and Caltrain. While, yes, San Francisco has public transportation, it (a) isn’t terribly reliable if I need to be somewhere by a specific time and can’t afford to miss 3 hours of work to be there (e.g. for a doctor’s appointment); and (b) doesn’t extend in a cohesive fashion beyond SF, so that whenever I visit my grandparents in Palo Alto I spend $12 round-trip on Caltrain PLUS cab fare to/from the Caltrain station (because, hullo this is really dumb planning, the Caltrain station in SF is off in bumfuck and it takes me a good hour by public transit to get there when it’s only a 6 minute cab ride), OR I just take Zipcar, which isn’t cheap either. So I end up spending $70/month on my Muni pass and at least $150/month on cabs, Zipcar, and Caltrain, but probably more like $200. You tell me: is this reasonable?

Okay, I’ve gone on waaaaay too long about money. Next item.

– In addition to being bad with money, I’ve got excellent benefits at my job, and since I’m on prescription meds, and am currently undergoing an expensive but insured orthodontic treatment (straightening my bottom teeth, which were not-very-noticeably crooked but which were exposing my gums to decay) I’m loathe to give this up.

– I’ve got three applications pending for graduate school. This means that within a few months, hopefully, I’ll know whether and where I’m going to graduate school. This is a pretty major consideration, since it will give me a much clearer idea of what the next few years of my life will look like, and will give me a natural out of my current job.

– There’s this nagging question, though: if I don’t do it now, then when? I would love–LOVE–to have time to work on my projects I’ve been wanting to work on. One of them is getting back to playing piano much more consistently, and finding some other (queer?) folks to play chamber music with. Maybe do something fun/eclectic with it, who knows. Another is writing about this thing I’ve had in the back of my mind for years, and it’s sort of gasping for air now while I’m holding its head underwater. But what time do I have now to work on this? I don’t. What time will I have while in grad school? I won’t.

So, all these considerations in mind, here’s what I’m thinking.

Before I do anything, I need to know whether I’m capable of living on a shoestring budget. This means I need to design one, and implement it. Preemptively. While I’m still employed, all the extra money can go straight into savings. And this will take some tinkering, I’m sure. I’ll start cutting back bit by bit. Can’t cut back on rent, but I can certainly do my darndest to cut back on food and cab rides. I’ll figure out what the least I can live on is, and then I’ll plan around that.

And then I’ll make sure I know what the health and wellness resources are in San Francisco, should I be uninsured. Would I still be able to get my prescription at an affordable price? Are there therapy clinics for the uninsured/unemployed? Could I learn how to find alternative methods of therapy, like reading or doing meditation or something like that? Or at least make sure I have enough cost-free self-care and wellness initiatives to counterbalance that need?

And then I’ll think about alternative (part-time?) sources of income. Can’t rely on writing or activism, at least not yet, but there’s the substitute teaching option, and I could nanny (LOVE small children) but would need references (start off small by babysitting?), or I could bartend (anyone know of good/cheap bartending classes around SF?), or I could temp, or I could … ?

And then I’ll wait and see what happens with graduate school. I wouldn’t leave my job before early in the spring anyway, mostly because I’d need to give my employers a great deal of advance notice (out of courtesy, not legal necessity), and hopefully by then I’ll have heard back from the graduate programs. And if I know, okay, this is 5 months of living unemployed, then that seems very manageable. If I don’t get into graduate school, then I’ll have to start figuring out how I can leave my job and have a backup financial plan in place, so that I don’t find myself just indefinitely unemployed and getting increasingly depressed because of it.

But, however it turns out with regard to graduate school, I’m going to start planning now for at least a 4-month “sabbatical” either this summer (in the case of grad school) or next fall/winter (in the case of no grad school). Which means first and foremost: budgeting. Maybe I’ll start after Christmas? Turns out Christmas with divorced/-ing parents is mightily expensive. My sister and I realized that if we want them to get any gifts at all, we’ve got to be responsible for them. Sigh.

Oh! And I have the MOST amazing Christmas present to mi’lady, hence the title of this post (she now has the link to this website and reads it occasionally): a vocal effects pedal! She’s been talking about wanting one for months, in that way you talk about things you lust after but know you can’t have. They’re, gulp, pricey, but I can afford it while still living within my income and she’ll be SO happy. I’m a bit apprehensive, just because I’m not sure if it’s a model she’ll be excited about (I know nothing about such things, and only picked the model based on doing some internet research), but we’ll see… I’m giddy with excitement about giving it to her!!

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Posted by: alphafemme | December 4, 2009

difficult decisions

It’s freezing today, I can see my breath in the air.

I’ve been having a hard time writing this week. I think it’s because the magic that was our little retreat on the Russian River has faded into the dreary stress of work and business as usual.

What do you do when you don’t like your job? When the thing you spend the majority of your waking life doing (especially when you’re me and work a lot of overtime) is something you don’t care about? How do you combat that?

I try to combat that by doing things in my non-working time that I care about: writing here, reading, cooking, spending time with mi’lady (obvi), applying for grad school (almost done!). But it’s hard when I’m sitting here at work, and it’s the end of a week that felt like the longest week ever, and I know I just have to come back on Monday.

What do you do?

I’ve been thinking about leaving my job. I have some money saved, enough to live on, if I really scrimped, for maybe 6 months. I’ve thought about getting a part-time job (I could substitute teach, for example, which would allow me to dictate which days I work, and I’ve already got California certification–but subbing would be quite draining work, I think) and using the rest of my time to write and intern/volunteer with (for example) the rape crisis center I work for, or Femina Potens Gallery.

But, that’s scary. It’s scary to think about living on a shoestring budget, because I know that while my job makes me unhappy, so would constantly worrying and stressing about money. And it’s also scary because I would have to be very self-motivated, I’d have to make my own reasons for getting up in the morning, and to be honest, after a lifetime of having my goals set for me by other people and not really thinking about them beyond the very rudimentary “time to get up for class/work,” I’m not sure what a transition into “time to get up for writing” would be like. I’m not the most disciplined person, and I’m worried that (as has happened with me before on vacations) I’ll dilly-dally, or get distracted watching movies or reading novels or doing stupid internet stuff, and then I’ll get discouraged, and then I’ll wallow. And sink into depression.

I’m also scared that I’m hyping it up, that I have the Grass Is Greener Syndrome, in which, sitting here at work bored out of my mind and annoyed with my coworkers, I think, “gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I could go home? Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to get up for work in the morning? Wouldn’t it be nice if I could work from home and play with the cat during the day, listen to my music, make my sandwich at lunchtime?” I’m romanticizing it, this idea of not having to go to work. But what if, when I’m there, I still have the Grass Is Greener Syndrome? What if then it’s not wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-I-could-go-home, but wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if-I-could-get-out? What if I feel left out of the workforce, feel isolated and lonely and irrelevant? And sink into depression.

(Does it all end in depression?)

But, at the same time, I’m scared that if I don’t leave my job, that I’ll be setting a pattern for myself of not taking charge of myself. I don’t want to be the person who stays in a safe but unenjoyable job just so I can have security. I’m more interesting than that. I’d like to think I’m more bold than that, too.

How on earth do people deal with this?

Posted by: alphafemme | November 30, 2009

one year

Our little Thanksgiving vacation was perfect, in every way.

I neglected to mention before that it doubled as a celebration of one year of being together. One year! And I only love her more. I look at her sometimes in sudden shock, like how did I get here? What did I do to deserve this? What on earth, in my life, put me right here, in this moment, looking at this person next to me and feeling so overwhelmingly in love? It doesn’t cease to amaze me. The fleeting moments of “is this real?” immediately followed by the surge of warmth when I know that yes, it is. I love her. She loves me.

She slipped into my hand, one day. “I’m a hand bottom,” she said. Her hand sneaks into mine from behind, so my arm leads. “Well, I’m a hand top,” I said, “so we’re perfect.” “I also prefer holding hands with my left hand,” she said. And I like to hold hands with my right. Like a puzzle our hands fit together, the pieces are different but they match up.

What is this miracle that puts two people together and makes them love each other?

Posted by: alphafemme | November 24, 2009

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”

I love the holidays, starting around Thanksgiving and ending after Christmas. I’m one of those people who re-reads A Christmas Carol every year, who listens to Handel’s Messiah on repeat, who plays all the traditional Christmas carols on my piano and sings along, and who bakes more batches of holidays cookies and cakes than everyone I know together can eat. I realized this year, in light of all the introspection surrounding my parents’ divorce, that much of what I’m doing when I throw myself into the so-called “spirit of Christmas” is trying to re-capture some sort of intangible magic. I’m always seeking, somehow, to find that thing that makes me catch my breath in wonder, that thing that makes everything seem warm and cozy and perfect and exciting. I want to believe in Santa Claus again. I don’t know that I’ll ever actually succeed in re-capturing that, because the normal daily non-magic always interferes — it’s exhausting, it requires constant vigilance not to slip back into mundanity. I haven’t been successful yet. (Maybe when I have my own children some day?)

But, this year, especially in the knowledge that Christmas will be hard with my family, I do have some goals. I want to try my absolute darndest to make it special. Maybe it’s grasping at straws, but if I actually encourage that childlike excitement by allowing myself to indulge in many of the childishly exciting things, then I’m hoping that this holiday season will be special, and wonderful, and delightful.

Here are my plans:

– Thursday morning, mi’lady and I leave for what our friends have been calling our “Lesbithanksgiving”! We’re renting a tiny little studio cabin on the Russian River a few hours north of here. It has a hot tub. And that’s all we care about. We’re staying two nights, leaving on Saturday, and our plans for the 48 hours we’ll be there include nothing but bathing in the hot tub, sleeping, giving each other massages (we even bought massage oil for the occasion), reading, watching Mad Men, talking, and oh yeah FUCKING. We got a new toy that will get its debut! And we’ve been talking about all the sexy things we want to do to each other for days. After that rejuvenating mini-vacation, away from the stressful obligations of family that are so often present at Thanksgiving (at least in my family), I’ll be golden for embarking on the month of December.

– In the first week of December, mi’lady and I are (hopefully, assuming a certain stressful situation which I won’t bother going into here because it’s boring doesn’t interfere) going to go see Ovo, a Cirque du Soleil show, here in San Francisco. Granted, this isn’t Christmas-themed, but any spectacular show like that is bound to feel festive.

– The following week, we’re going to see the Nutcracker ballet performed by the SF Ballet! I haven’t seen this performed live, ever. As a little girl my sister and I had a video tape of the American Ballet Theatre’s version starring Gelsey Kirkland as Clara (she was one of my favorite dancers, back in the day), and we watched it every year (multiple times!), but I’ve never actually seen it live. I’m really excited about this, and these tickets were quite reasonably priced!

– And THEN, that same week on Friday, mi’lady and I are going to host a holiday party! Last year, when we’d just started dating, she had one at her house, and that was when her best friend walked in on us hooking up. Fun times. This year, we’ll co-host! Maybe even at my house, since it’s cleaner and much homier than her place (my roommate and I are much better decoraters, what can I say), and I’m going to bake lots of cookies and make mulled wine and hot toddies and roasted vegetables and any other ideas for vegetarian holiday party fare? And she’s in charge of the playlist :)

– Sometime in December we’re going to amble up to Union Street for their annual Fantasy of Lights. Lots and lots of pretty lights, candy canes, and general merriment.

– We’re going to watch Christmas movies! We probably won’t have time to watch that many — I mean, how many movies can two busy people actually watch together in one month? — but even if we just get one or two! I really don’t like It’s a Wonderful Life, she really doesn’t like Love, Actually, so any other ideas on Christmas classics? Last year we watched Home Alone, haha. And my favorite, The Snowman:

Other ideas?

– Just in case this needs to be said again, although I’m sure it doesn’t, I’m going to bake lots of COOKIES!

– AND, I want to decorate. Last year, my roommate and I got a tree! We took it home with us on Muni, since we didn’t have cars. We definitely got some funny looks and smiles. This year, I’m with a new roommate, and our place is way too tiny for a tree. But I’m thinking maybe a wreath, or at the very least some candles and some holly and ivy.

– I’m going to make sure that I have an infinite supply of cookies (have I mentioned that already?), Christmas teas, mulled wine and cider, and Christmas music. Just so that whenever I, or anyone else who’s around, need a good dose of Christmas, I can get it.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Posted by: alphafemme | November 23, 2009

why Alphafemme?

A long, long time ago—back in August?—I got an email from a reader named Asha, (1) asking where I came up with the name “alphafemme” and (2) saying that before she’d even read any of my blog, she felt a click—the word alphafemme, she thought, worked really well for her, and would I be offended if she appropriated it for herself. I promised her a post on the subject, and it is woefully overdue.

Let me first address the second thing—if the word alphafemme seems like a good fit for you in your identity, and even if your reasons for finding it a good fit are completely different from the reasons I will articulate below, by all means, if it feels good to you, use it. I think there’s a huge difference between deciding that alphafemme works as an identity label for you (which I would not call appropriation), and deciding you’re also going to publish a blog under the title “alphafemme” and write about (many of) the same things I write about or telling people that you’re me (which I would call appropriation). I would guess that most people are not inclined to do the latter, but I fully endorse the former! Run away with it people!

And now I’ll go back to the first thing, which is where I came up with the name “alphafemme” in the first place. I address this a bit on my About page (which needs updating anyway), but let me go into a bit more detail here.

After the obligatory coming out identity crisis, which I think many (if not most) queer women go through at some point or other (and I think this in itself is fascinating, and I totally want to write about this too), I started grappling with that all-important question: Who Am I? And maybe I have less self-awareness than most, but it took me quite a lot of trial and error to come to an understanding of my identity that felt right. I guess that was part of what I wanted this blog to do for me, to help me go through it all and decide what works for me and what doesn’t. And while I’ve (for now) finally settled on femme as a sort of umbrella-word for how I identify, it was hardly easy to come to terms with that.

I’m sure part of the insecurity in identifying as femme was internalized sexism, that some of the fear had to do with not wanting to choose what might seem to others to be “unenlightened” or, worse, hurting feminism. I’ve pretty much gotten over that now (see my post on femininity for a discussion of that), thank goodness, and am now fiercely, comfortably, and even subversively feminine.

But another major qualm I had with identifying as femme was this fear that I somehow didn’t actually know what femme meant, and that I would be scoffed at by other self-identified femmes for identifying as such. (“YOU’RE not femme, you have short hair!” or “but I hardly ever see you in dresses! that’s not really femme!” or “femmes don’t strap on! femmes don’t do the fucking!”) In San Francisco, it seems to me like everyone I’ve met who identifies as femme fits a certain image: dyed blonde or raven black hair, porcelain white skin, bright red lipstick, fishnets, tattoos… And believe me, these ladies are smokin’, but it’s just not my look. And so I was like, well, if that’s what femme is, then I’m not femme. (There are, of course, many other femme-identified ladies in SF who do also do not fit that particular description, as I’ve come to realize. Yay!)

And yet it still appealed to me. I still felt that my mild obsession with high heeled-peep-toe pumps and my growing infatuation with cooking still somehow made femme the right word for me. But since I was still kind of hesitant, it needed a qualifier. Something that made my identity mine.

It came to me last summer when I was watching old episodes of The L Word with a friend of mine, reminiscing about the pre-Dana’s-death days of the show. Or, rather, it came to my friend. We were watching one of the episodes where Bette is dealing with the protestors to her gallery’s art show. My friend turned to me and said, “she reminds me of you, she’s such an alpha female.”

“What does THAT mean?” I asked.

“Well… you’re strong, and fierce, and driven, and you’re always on top of everything, always in control. And you dress sharply feminine, powerful. But you’re also vulnerable, I think, I mean right? Don’t you sometimes just want someone to hold you and have someone else be the stronger one?”

And oh. my. god. YES. She was so right. I think my similarities to Bette end there (I’m not a raging bitch who cheats on my lovers in order to maintain a facade of Control Freak, and unfortunately I look nothing like her), but such as they are, the similarities ring so true. And “alpha” is an excellent way of describing me. I’m confident in my intellect, and I am meticulous, in control, ambitious, and driven. But I’m not just alpha. I’m alphafemme. I’m an alpha who wants to be enfolded at the end of the day. I’m an alpha who loves to pretend I’m a 50s housewife, a la Betty Draper, but happier (I’m currently obsessed with Mad Men). I’m an alpha with soft eyes and a maternal edge. I’m an alpha, with femme. Alphafemme.

Of course, to you, it can mean anything you want it to. If it conjures anything else for you, please share!

Posted by: alphafemme | November 17, 2009

femme (in)visibility

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, for months, really, and then when G posted about it recently it was just the shove I needed to actually sit down and write it.

There are so many layers of femme (in)visibility to me. There’s how we’re seen (or not) by straight people, by society at large. There’s how we’re seen (or not) by fellow queers. There’s how we’re seen by fellow dykes. And how we’re seen by each other. And of course, there’s how we see ourselves. And in all of this, there’s the personal, and there’s the political.

But I don’t really know how to write about it except in terms of my own experience. And of course, my experience isn’t representative of anything except itself. But I think there are probably parallels and similarities to and “mmhmm”s and head nods from other femme-identified folks out there.

It starts with not being able to see myself. That must be at the very root of it. As a little girl, I loved to play house, and I always wanted to be the mom. I loved to play school and wanted to be the teacher. I loved tea parties and dollhouses and dresses and patent leather shoes, I loved American Girl dolls and dress-up and imagining my future wedding. I was obsessed with Queen Elizabeth II as a little girl (I had a book about her written by her nanny) and with figure skaters and ballerinas. I fit snugly into my gender box. No questions asked.

Come junior high, I decided to start having crushes on the boys in my classes. Each year on the first day of school, I would scan homeroom for that year’s candidates. I carefully weighed my options, and within 20 minutes or so had selected the object of my external focus for the year. Seventh grade: Dillon. Eighth grade: Ryan. Ninth grade: Jason. In tenth grade I started dating, but never really cared much for the guys. In fact I think I was somewhat scared of them. Touching them, kissing them, doing stuff with them made me feel weird and nervous.

I’m not going to go over my whole coming out story here, but suffice it to say it took me quite a long time to come out to myself. I started questioning that year, tenth grade. I had a friend who I was in love with, but I couldn’t quite believe it. There was no way I was gay. It just didn’t make sense. I was a girl. I was supposed to like boys. That was that.

Understanding of sexuality is so, so so tied up with gender. That’s really what makes femmes so invisible. To ourselves as well as to others. There often aren’t any outward signs that we digress from the norm. They’re all inward. And society tells us (all of us, not just femmes) all the time that the inward things? Are figments of our imagination. Depression, addiction, anxiety, sexual orientation — it’s fabricated, it’s (no pun intended) just in our minds. You can’t get an MRI that says “whoops, there’s some depression in there, we’ll have to medicate you” or a pap smear that tells you “yep, yer gay alright, no two ways about it.” So unless you look different, unless there’s some physical proof of it (whatever it is), there’s plenty of room for people to doubt you. And judge you. And feel justified in doubting and judging. Because all that stuff? It’s in your mind. So I can tell you you’re wrong.

That’s what I, as a femme, was up against. Convincing myself that, actually, no, I’m right. That gut feeling that made me ask my mom, as an 11-year-old, whether it was normal to like other girls? That was right. Even though I liked ruffles and paper dolls and the Sound of Music. It took me so. long. to learn how to trust that feeling. I guess I’m still learning, really. In my first years after coming out for good, I went through all kinds of identity shifts, trying to settle on the self-expression that felt right for me. I just didn’t think it could be that I was both totally feminine and gay. I thought I was just fooling myself that I was gay. To be honest, I sometimes still do have those moments of doubt. “How is it possible that I’m gay?

And, dude, I’m gay. I fuckin’ love pussy. The best compliment from mi’lady is when she looks at me in wonder, after a good fuck, and says, “you’re so gay.”

In fact, I think that’s probably the best compliment from anyone. Even people who mean it as an insult. To be recognized as gay makes me puff out my chest and stand up straighter. Really. I just want to belong here. I want people to know that I’m a member of the club. Sometimes, I do get some sort of signal, a wink maybe, and I just about die, every time. Especially when it’s the older, butch lesbians, in their late 30s and 40s. A wink from them is so gratifying. Not transgressive, not presumptuous, not inappropriate. Affirming.

I’ve spent up enough time and energy proving myself to myself, you know? I don’t have much leftover to try to prove anything to anyone else. So I don’t try, not much anyway. And for the most part, I don’t let the invisibility get to me. But those moments of visibility are all the more precious because of it.

Posted by: alphafemme | November 16, 2009

divorce

I finally had time this weekend to have extended conversations with my parents, which hadn’t happened in several weeks. My dad moved out about a month ago, and when I last talked to him he was feeling optimistic, hopeful that he would be okay. And my mom was just relieved, albeit lonely, in the house they own together and raised three kids in, now all by herself.

A few weeks later and things are different. They’re both in the thick of processing. Tears, hurt, anger, disappointment, loneliness. I don’t relish the role of confidante that I seem to have fallen into for both of them. Not in the middle, exactly, since they’re not exactly tugging me in different directions. They aren’t talking about each other so much; rather, they’re each talking about themselves. And I’m glad they trust me, and in a way I’m even thirsty for details. It’s like this: maybe if I can know exactly what it was that, after 27 years, made their marriage collapse, then I can know how to avoid it myself.

It’s fear on my part, is what it is. 27 fucking years. And that’s just the years they were married — they were together for 3 years before that. 30 years. And I’m afraid.

“Honestly,” my mom says, “there wasn’t a moment during our marriage that I wasn’t thinking of leaving him.” Then why did you marry him in the first place? “I thought the things that nagged at me, the doubts, would go away. I thought he would change.”

Lesson One: people don’t change.

But why did you settle for him, then, despite the doubts? “I guess I just loved him so much that I was blinded by it. He was very romantic, you know. I thought that his love for me would inspire him to make the changes I needed him to make. But I think I didn’t really know how to ask him for what I needed.”

Lesson Two: unattended to, unmet needs grow roots and take hold, and at a certain point, the roots are too big and too deep to be dug up.

Why didn’t you try? “Try what?” To ask for what you needed? “I guess I thought I was supposed to leave them unsaid. I guess I thought it was my job to meet his.”

Lesson Three: your children will learn from you how to treat you. If you allow your own needs to be superceded by your spouse’s, then your children will learn that their own needs should be superceded by your spouse’s too. And it will take them a long, long time to unlearn that. Just like it’s taken you.

And Dad. My spirit-parent, my quasi-child. Still doing alright in your little attic apartment by yourself? “It’s hard. I feel resentful. Dismissed.”

Lesson Four: Break-ups, no matter how old you are, no matter how long the relationship was, no matter how dead it was before it finally died its final death, are, in essence, all the same.

That’s understandable, Dad. “But actually, when I really think about it, I realize that I don’t want her back. Even if she decided she wanted to try again, I don’t think I’d want to. Unless things could go back to the way they were ten years ago. Things were different then. She was different then. She’s gotten too independent.”

Lesson Five: Those bad patterns, the destructive ones, if they don’t get fixed will become such a fixture of the relationship that they are the very air it breathes, the water it drinks. And if that water dries up, the relationship dies, because it needs that water to survive.

“But you know what? I’ll be okay.”

They both said the exact same words.

Lesson Six: I’ll be okay too.

 

Posted by: alphafemme | November 16, 2009

if only dreams were real!

I dreamt last night that I was at one of mi’lady’s shows and Sara was there of Tegan & Sara, and she was kind of shy and talked to me! At the bar! And then we became really good friends and we went camping together.

And now today I feel bereft, because she’s not really my friend and I want her to be!

don’t surrender your loneliness 
so quickly.
let it cut more deeply.
let it ferment and season you
as few human
or even divine ingredients can.

something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft
my voice so tender
my need of god
absolutely clear.

-Hafiz

I’m not lonely right now, actually. I’m better than I’ve been in a long time. A month ago I hit rock bottom, and now I’m comfortably stable again, and have been for the past week and a half or two weeks. So I post that poem not because it’s leaking out of my soul right now, but because I suspect that, eventually, it will be. Because stability is an illusion, and although the downs feel so far away right now I know it’s just a matter of time. And you know what? That’s ok. Every time I plummet will give me another opportunity to learn how to survive. And so I post this poem right now as a reminder to myself, when the next wave hits. Whatever it is — loneliness, fear, insecurity, anguish, sorrow, emptiness — is beautiful in its own right, and is a gift to be embraced.

One of my favorite mentors, a woman at the rape crisis center I work at, teaches workshops on somatic healing (something I’d never heard of before, but am becoming increasingly interested in). She taught me that each finger represents an emotion to be cradled within us. I forget which finger represents which one, but I think they’re as follows: pinky is insecurity; ring finger is grief; middle finger is anger; index finger is fear; thumb is loneliness. Whenever you’re feeling one of those emotions, use your left hand to firmly hold the representative finger. Hold onto it, close your eyes, breathe in, breathe out, until you feel the warmth from your hand radiating from your finger throughout your body. And as you exhale, say to yourself, “this too shall pass.”

For some reason, to me it just feels right to put the finger holds and the Hafiz poem hand in hand. Whatever it is, welcome it, nurture it, feel it, cradle it, let go of trying to control it and force it away, and remember: it will pass. It always does.

Posted by: alphafemme | November 10, 2009

tidying up the clutter

I have about eight thousand drafts of posts waiting for my attention. There’s been so much going on, so much I want to write about. Sometimes having too much to write about gives me greater writer’s block than having too little.

I started writing about my thoughts on the Maine election, and the repeat of last fall. I started writing a post in response to G’s post on femme invisibility. I started writing about the changes that are going on in my life, the big things I’ve been doing and thinking about. I started writing about illicit sex, the sex I have when I’m not supposed to be having it, and why that’s so hot. And now I’ve started writing so much that I’m overwhelmed and can’t finish any of it! Ahhhh!

So, instead, I’m just going to spew verbosity all over this post, and maybe that will help clear out the “clutter” in my head. If I were a self-conscious writer, I would spew the clutter, and then trash it, but I’m not, so I’m going to post it anyway. Hehehehe.

1) One of my best friends from college was here last week, arriving Wednesday and leaving yesterday. We had so much fun, and I felt more San Franciscan than I have in a long time. Having visitors who’ve never been here before always does that to me. We went to the Academy of Sciences on Thursday for their weekly NightLife — so amazing, seeing the aquarium and the planetarium and the live roof at night, with music and drinks, without little kids running around. (Love little kids, but I can also certainly appreciate their absence!) We went to the Japanese Tea Garden and then walked all the way out to Ocean Beach — her first time seeing the Pacific. We went to the Lexington (duh), but then realized we shoul’ve gone to the Rickshaw because it was Rebel Girl. Oh well, we had fun anyway! We walked all through Chinatown and North Beahc and then took a cable car (MY first time on a cable car since my childhood!) back, and as it was passing by Union Square, with the ice-skating rink in the process of being set up and holiday lights starting to go up, I just felt so happy. The holiday season tends to do that to me anyway, but this time it just felt so magical. I don’t know. I felt like I was in a movie. I find myself looking forward to winter this year, to cups of cocoa and baking cookies and cuddling in the evenings when it’s dark so early, to going ice-skating and making mulled wine and escaping to the Russian River for Thanksgiving…

2) Friday evening, my friend and I went down to Palo Alto with mi’lady to meet up with another friend from college who lives in San Jose. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard since I left college. I have friends here, and I have a lot of fun here, and I’m happy here in San Francisco, but it was such a reminder to me that I have friends who know me inside and out, friends who make me feel at home no matter where I am, and friends where being around them isn’t socializing, it’s being, and it’s being in the fullest sense imaginable. And of course having mi’lady there made it even fuller, because I had it all in the same place. I can’t wait for my college reunion in May. Cannot WAIT. I also can’t wait until I have those kinds of friends here. It’ll happen, and it’s actually already happening now, slowly but surely.

3) Things with mi’lady feel so good and are so right right now. We’ve had some conversations about things like my relative introversion compared to her relative extroversion, and how we can balance that and make sure each other’s needs are met. We’ve had conversations about my relative planning compared to her relative spontaneity, and how to balance that as well. And I’ve had some internal conversations about learning how to let little things go. For example: She is working on recording with one of her bandmates, and tells me she’ll be over at my place around 9pm. 9pm comes and goes, no sign of her. She calls at 9:30, still in Oakland, happily making her way over to my place. I get frustrated. She gets defensive. We’ve had conversation after conversation about this. And I think my wanting her to be punctual is a control thing. It’s about sticking with plans and being meticulous, everything needing to be just so. But we didn’t actually have plans for 9. She’d just said that’s when she would be there. So… I let it go. Because really, it’s not that important. And because we’ve talked about it, I know she’s not disrespecting me. She’s just not so great at managing time. So is it worth arguing about? Again? No. It’s not. I was fully occupied the whole time anyway. Maybe a different time, if it has a bigger effect on me, if it feels like a breach of plans or a lack of respect or standing me up, then I’ll bring it up again. But this time, it just wasn’t important. And when she got to my place and I saw her, it was so much better that I’d let it go.

I’m such a meticulous person, I do things very particularly and have very specific ideas about things. I’m very organized and a bit of a control freak, and while a lot of that is good in my personal life because it keeps me functioning (and because I enjoy it! I love organizing!), it can be not-so-good when it spills over into trying to control her life. I don’t do that much, but sometimes in little ways I lose track. I’m learning, though, and it feels liberating to allow myself to let things go.

The point is, things are good. We haven’t had as much alone time as I’d like, but when we are alone, we make good of it.

**

So, for the moment, I’m in a good place. So much more I could write about, but at least I’ve tidied up a bit, and gotten rid of a bit of head clutter. Now there’s more room for writing about what I actually want to write about. Problem is I’m taking the GRE on Saturday and have a lot of work this week besides, so it remains a question whether I’ll have much time to write. If you don’t hear from me again, you’ll know why — but hopefully you will!

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