For more incredible information and excellent communication skills, please, read The Ethical Slut. For real, this should be required reading your Senior year of high school.
Identity Extensions – Part III: Sexuality – Sapiosexual & Queer
For more incredible information and excellent communication skills, please, read The Ethical Slut. For real, this should be required reading your Senior year of high school.
Identity Extensions – Part II: Religion – Wicca
Identity extensions – Part I: Nationality – American
2nd Week of August – New Hair in a Playful Color: Sangria
I’ve been struggling with what to post this week. Part of that is the last 2 weeks have been pretty emotional and exhausting, part of it is that I received an outpouring of support for my last post (both touching and overwhelming) so there’s some internal pressure because, like, people actually read this mess, and part of it is that I kind of struggle with identity in some ways. I was very tempted to go with my body positive post, just to have something simple to write (although, yes, that has issues, too), but I haven’t been doing the exercises I want to be doing with that and have, instead, been reading the books that were sent to me (In the Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant and The Finder of the Lucky Devil by Megan Mackie – thanks to the awesome peeps) as well as The Solitary Wiccan’s Bible and doing a lot of thinking. A LOT of thinking.
I am kind of fascinated with identity and how it’s formed, what it does for us, and where it causes issues. I am hoping to go back to school soon for my Masters in Student Affairs Administration, and one of the things that helped me to know that would be a good fit for me was finding out that a lot of the classes focus on identity, diversity, and inclusion – all things I love talking about. There’s just one issue for me: I fucking hate labels. It’s not that I don’t think they can be good, but they are shorthand and people are inherently lazy. They have a function in terms of exploring identity and feeling a sense of belonging, but get dangerous when they become exclusionary and the basis of SELF. When the function of the label is so primary that anything that threatens what it means to be [this thing] must be addressed and eliminated. And at the same time, I also get the frustration of seeing people wearing your label in a way that misrepresents what it is. How do we ride that line between accepting and discerning?
Well, in academia, we start with defining. When I talk about identity, or the process of identifying as something, I mean the part(s) of you that you need to express and can result in a sense of belonging within a particular community. This is also complicated by the fact that we often feel the need to express certain parts more than others, we may have more private attitudes about certain aspects of ourselves and our expression, or certain aspects of our identity come into conflict – sexuality and religion are a common area of identity confrontation, which frequently causes something called cognitive dissonance.
Also, people really hate to feel excluded, whether or not they have any right to community they feel is excluding them or whether their own personal presence disrupts the feeling of safety within the community to which they feel they should have access. In that same vein, people tend to enjoy excluding others. When we feel we have access to a fairly exclusive community, we feel special, sometimes even superior. And when we finally feel like we belong, we want to protect that feeling. Having that feeling ripped away is one of the most painful things we can go through. And leaving a community where we don’t feel we truly belong can be one of the most liberating.
OK, that is the much abridged version, but as I’m not going to be teaching a class on this, especially in this post, I will leave further exploration to the broad fields of psychology and sociology. It’s a frickin’ huge topic.
Because it is such a huge topic I am not going to explore all aspects of my identity in this post – this is going to act more or less as a base post and my activity for the week is going to be to flesh out these aspects in smaller vignettes, if you will. It is the very nature of the beast that I will hit upon an identity that will be shared and, perhaps or maybe even it is likely, you will disagree. That’s okay, discuss it. I have some solid ideas on some parts, but not necessarily on others.
And the thing is I don’t actually feel like I belong anywhere. Part of the problem is, conceptually, I am aware that an identity and a community are vital for a sense of belonging, which is an important and needed part of the human condition, and I am also aware that identities and communities are socially constructed, frequently negotiated, and, for my money, at the end of the day, artificial. While we have Descartes going “I think, therefore, I am,” I end up saying, “I think, therefore, I am…. I think… right, guys? I mean, this is my experience with it, but you’re here, too… what do you think?” Even in the close and tight-knit communities where I, arguably, have a place and what could be termed a “right” to be, I am usually the odd-ball – the one with her own ideas of how this is going to work and what this means.
So, astrologically, I think it is pretty telling that I don’t have any planets in this House. According to one article I read, when you are doing a reading for a person, not having planets in the House of Identity and Self places extra emphasis on the person’s Sun Sign, the House it is in, and what sign the Ruler of that Sun Sign is in, and where it is placed. For me, my Sun is in Virgo in my 2nd House: Possessions and Values, Virgo is ruled by Mercury, which is also in Virgo in my 2nd House, almost literally right on top of my Sun – in fact, they are conjunct, within 1 degree of each other, which means they more or less act like one big super planet. That House is ruled by Leo, which is ruled by the Sun, which is in that House. That’s a lot of reinforcement of analysis and self expression.
Given this and given my life experiences, I would have to say that my identity and sense of self is heavily wrapped up in my analyzing process, the way I think, and the way I express what I think. Any time I am looking at belonging in a community there’s 2 questions that come up and recur, whether I recognize them or not: 1) What is my purpose here, both in how it relates to me (what am I getting out of this) and the community (what do they get out of me being here)?; and 2) Is this a community that allows me to practice my values and do they have compatible values?
There’s a lot that goes into the community section, but as for the self stuff, I think I express my identity intermittently and usually only if I think it is relevant to the interaction involved – kind of an assessment of whether the knowledge of how I identify will serve the purpose of our relationship. I’m fairly open if people ask, but even still I have found that there are both positives and negatives to expressing my identity on a need to know basis.
On the positive, I think it allows people to get to know me beyond the labels. Whether we like it or not, as people we tend to prejudge based on what we know of whatever label we’re working with. Also, there are several aspects of my identity that some people are really solid on, but I’m particularly fluid. Not necessarily expressing those aspects up front allows me to refine and play without feeling like I have to represent or qualify how I might not represent that label.
Some qualities of my personality related to me that I think defy labels:
On the negative, some people have taken suddenly finding out a part of my identity as if I was lying to them initially when they actually just assumed a normative experience. And in a lot of ways I feel that is on them, however, I do at least partially understand that sense of not knowing how to proceed because the person you are talking to isn’t part of the community you assumed them to be in. In addition to the “you lied to me” trope, I vividly recall a post from a guy I knew in high school stating that if you aren’t vocal about it, then clearly it’s not the Truth. He was speaking on religion. Now, I heartily disagree, however, I do occasionally feel like I am doing inclusion and diversity a disservice by not standing up and being counted as X thing.
I’ll go into some of these aspects in more detail later on, however, for now and to finish, here’s the current role call of my Identity:
If Lust met Love…
As Vices go, Lust is more interactive, like Pride and Envy, but really most closely resembles Gluttony – just with a specific appetite. Both involve mouths, of course, and the pleasures of taste and touch – smell, sight, sound – all mingled, all savored or skated over, moment to moment. There is the intense and aching desire that requires fulfillment, a basic need that has to be satisfied. But Gluttony only requires that the act be possible, Lust requires that the act to be participated in. And where Gluttony expels the wastes of the act in a form far less pleasing than the original delight, Lust… Lust creates something new, something vibrant, something living.
Perhaps that was why she enjoys it so. It simply could not be indulged anywhere at anytime. Not like Gluttony. It drove the hunger to heights far loftier and created a space for satiation in the immediate aftermath. Pleasant, addictive, felt throughout the entire being, and gone shortly thereafter, replaced again with an even deeper hunger.
There is no other reason for her to be here. The Perk Up and Play is not her normal milieu – all cheap espresso and blaring arcade games – but the bars were just too depressing tonight. No fire anywhere, just milky, soppy sadness. A poor excuse for any meal and hers…. hers had been too long in the waiting. No, tonight she needs a more active desperation, a hunger intense and unbidden and, therefore, more potent. A club would have been perfect, but one is under renovation and the other shut down for violations.
Heavily caffeinated would have to do. She sighs as she gazes through the window into the café at the jittery yet focused lot. She considers calling it a night, perhaps one more night wouldn’t threaten her stability and she could get an early start tomorrow evening… when she spies him, less absorbed than the others, jittery in a way that speaks of discontent and longing. He’s the one she needs.
First things first: tone it down. She is dressed for a night on the town, a look she risked in the dank bars as the overkill had seemed necessary and was less noticeable, but it isn’t a look that could get by here. Oh, sure, she would be noticed, but disbelieved and never approached. She needs something…. cuter. She feels the change begin before she even finishes the thought. Her high heels flatten into sneakers, her red dress becomes jeans and a cute t-shirt, just small enough to show her midriff if she lifts her arms, a Newsboy cap, and an oversize flannel shirt. She evaluates her reflection in the glass. Still too much, she thinks, as her face softens becoming rounder, sweeter, younger, heart-shaped. Even her eyes get treatment, rounder, wider, and (she smiles at this) just a touch bruised, like she had spent too many nights up gaming. Or maybe pining.
She purses her now slightly thinner, paler lips. It would have to do. She could already feel the effects these transformations were having on her energy stores, the deep hunger intensifying, aching in her loins. She would only tweak if it was truly needed to speed the process. In her experience, they never noticed such adjustments. She hopes with every fiber of her being that he isn’t gay. She doesn’t have enough energy for that change.
She just barely remembers to hunch her shoulders a little and walk quickly rather than walking fully upright and sashaying to the bar. She is out of practice with such scene changes. She grabs herself an overpriced and slightly burnt latte, doing her best to ignore her rumbling stomach and only allowing her eyes the briefest of glances at the pastries. What would it be like to be able to indulge at any time? To fill and then continue to fill? She shakes herself. Gluttony has no satiation and that was the point of it. She hurries away from the counter and does her best to casually wander up to her mark, her attention artificially on the game he is playing.
He glances up so briefly she thinks he missed her entirely, but then his eyes return. She can feel them, almost see them in the screen and already she can feel her power stirring deep inside, heady, thrilling. She has to control her smile as his avatar dies, momentarily diverting his attention, the color of embarrassment (so much like desire) crawls up his neck to his ears. Just a nibble… No, discipline! This is how you end up eating everything in sight.
“Oh, that sucks, man. You were so close.” She looks down at him, leaning forward, her small, young breast brushing his shoulder as she points to the screen. It pleases them both, she can tell, as his back tenses just enough to be aware but not overly uncomfortable, and the tingle of it rushes through her. Relief rushes through her, too. The attraction is there – she just needs to build on it. “You gonna hit continue?”
He nods and finally finds his voice. “Unless you want to play?” His voice is richly, deliciously masculine. She plops herself down on the chair next to him, unable to keep her knees from shaking as yearning pools in her center. Yes, Lust is definitely the best Vice. She pulls her knees up to her chest, wrapping her thin arms around them, and drinks in the way his eyes linger on her.
“I enjoy watching,” she says softly. His eyes shutter for a second, her heart skips a beat. “But…” What does he want?! “But I’ll play if you promise not to laugh. I haven’t played this one before.”
The smile he flashes is wide, warm, and genuine, full of pleasure. It heats her to her core. A playmate, that’s what he wants. Someone fun, sweet, ready to try new things. She can almost feel his excited pulse as he hands her the controller. This will be worth it. This might lead to several meals. His whole energy has changed, vibrant, thrilling, abundant. Her gaze gently caresses the curve of his spine, the quiver in his knees, the radiant light about him – yes, he is exactly what she needs.
The game is interesting. A PC puzzle game, together they solve the mystery of a friend’s disappearance, involving occult imagery and mysticism. The mood is dark and the mythology is off, but she picks up on the thread quickly as they cruise through levels familiar to him. The controller feels almost alive in her hands when she navigates them through a difficult puzzle of vessels and weights. He sits back, seemingly impressed.
“How did you figure that out so quick?” His lips quirk up on one side and a fetching splash of hair falls over his forehead. She stares at him for a moment, enjoying the sight and the heady feeling of his interest.
“The game is loosely based on Kabbalah practices from the Middle Ages. It’s off, but the general structure is there.” She points to a few of the symbols on the screen. “See how the symbols resemble Hebrew letters?” He nods, intrigued, and she smiles, drawing lines between them with her fingers. “The structure of the puzzle here is based on the Sephirot, or vessels. If you pour the compounds into each vessel in the right order to form the connections, the combinations and weight system opens the portal to the Divine Feminine, which in this case is Lilith, because… you know, horror game, I guess.”
He leans forward, his hand brushing hers and she feels the thrill of connection with him. “That’s fascinating. Where did you learn all this stuff?”
She pauses. She doesn’t have a lie prepared for this kind of stuff, hardly the kind of thing she usually talks about in order to garner desire. He pulls back, suddenly uncomfortable and she feels her face fall.
“I’m sorry. That was kind of a personal question. You don’t have to answer, if I made you uncomfortable.”
She reaches out and takes his hand. “No, it’s okay. I just… don’t usually talk about my past. No one’s ever asked…” His fingers squeeze hers and she squeezes his back. “I… was home schooled.” Kind of true. “My parents were super religious.” In a manner of speaking. “So, I guess, this seemed more important and interesting than calculus.”
“Definitely.” His smile is dazzling. She breathes a sigh of relief, relaxing into his presence. “So, professor…” he drops her hand and turns back to the game with an impish smile on his face, “What do we do now that Lilith is here? Any Kabbalah-esque playbook for this kind of thing?”
She shrugs, returning her attention to the even more busty than usual interpretation of Lilith. “I think they adapted pretty freely here, so your guess is as good as mine.”
He laughs deeply, delightedly. A new kind of warmth and anticipation spreads through her. Still a sense of hunger and desire, but more…. real, somehow? Less driving and impatient. A feeling with substance. She sits back to enjoy the game.
She is actually disappointed when they hit the save point. As he rises from his chair, a shot of panic courses through her. She hasn’t been focusing on feeding his need for her, she hasn’t been coquettishly touching him, he hasn’t asked her back to his place or even asked if she lives around here. She jumps up, practically bowling him over. His arms wrap around her as he steadies them both. Unthinking, she buries her face in his chest, inhaling his scent, embarrassed, yes, but mostly needy. She relaxes only when he does, his hand coming up to stroke her hair. His embrace is genuine, not the sham of a hug designed to get body parts close enough to brush, but an actual expression of acceptance and comfort. She sinks in knowing she will never get enough of this feeling, but, for once, knowing that it didn’t matter right now and feeling it at all was enough.
“Will you be here tomorrow?” she asks, unwilling to give him up just yet.
His fingers move on her scalp, softly massaging her, blissfully comfortable. “I can be. I work until 6. Is that okay?” She nods. “Good, it’s a date then.” She smiles into his shirt.
He pulls back and she turns her face up to his. The weight of the moment hangs between them. Magnetic. Gentle. His eyes are soft, full, hazy as they settle on her lips. She parts them, inviting, waiting, wondering if his lips will yield her the same sense of comfort and acceptance that his arms do. He leans minutely closer and she lowers her lashes.
“What’s your name?” he whispers.
“Cambion.” He blinks, his eyebrows shoot up. She replays the last few moments in her head. Had she just given him her real name? Or… well, her designation rather? Not like she had a real name actually. She usually just went with whatever she thought they would like. She feels the panic bubble up again. “Religious parents, you know?”
He smiles warmly. “Yeah, I get that. Mine is Amadeus, so it’s not like I have room to judge.” She feels her mouth twitch, first one side moves up, then the other until her smile is as wide as his. His eyes shine back at her. “Doesn’t seem to fit you though. Can I call you Cami?”
She pauses, tastes the name in her mind, rolls it around on her tongue. “Yes…. Cami. I like that.” She steps back, stands straight, and extends her hand to him. “Hi, I’m Cami.”
His chuckle reverberates through her. “AJ,” he says, as their palms meet. The handshake is slow, comfortable, and intimate. “Well, until tomorrow, Cami.” He lifts her hand to his lips and gently kisses her knuckle.
“Tomorrow, yes,” she whispers softly as their fingers part and he moves toward the door. She drifts along in his wake, seats herself by the window to watch him walk down the street. He glances back once, his eyes meeting hers with a grin and a wave. She answers with her own. And then he is gone.
She stares at her face in the glass, memorizing it, surprised to find freckles on her nose and cheeks. It doesn’t matter now – it’s part of her. She makes her way home, content, not even noticing that, somewhere along the way, she forgot to be hungry.
A seriously rough week… I even have a footnote for a side rant.
Welcome to the first bump in the road on my spiritual journey.
I had intended this post to be on my relationship with my body. I was working on body positive concepts and had an experience last night that is completely relevant. I’ll use them when I do that post. But something happened early on in the week with two of my close relationships that just ripped the carpet out from under me, required some deep soul searching, and left me staring into a mirror I really didn’t like. Less like a bump in the road and more like the time I jumped a HEMTT off a “speed bump” (concrete poured over tank treads and sand bags) and caught some air time between an up-armored Humvee and a pile of rusted metal. Nobody died, but, man, we were all shook up.
I’m not going to go into the incident right now for two reasons: 1) it’s a little too fresh at the moment and I am still processing some of it; and 2) astrologically, it involves 4th and 5th House stuff, particularly where my Pluto and Saturn are hanging out. Silver lining – their placement makes more sense to me now, even if it is troubling. Instead I’m going to summarize what I saw in the mirror and how I shifted gears this week into a more independent frame of mind.
I have serious trust and control issues. In all fairness to myself, it makes sense. I was molested at a young age by a grandfather figure and, for a long time, blamed myself not only for my own experience with that, but also for the fact that it happened to my sister, who I should have been protecting. I felt I should have noticed all the little signs and listened to my gut. I have been carrying that around for a long time, forgiving myself and letting go in small bits and pieces, which has only been complicated by further assaults and an emotionally, sexually, and borderline physically abusive relationship. The trust issues I’ve known about and acknowledged for years.
The control issues came as a punch in the face. Knowing what it has been like to be in situations where I wasn’t in control of what happened to me and knowing that I can read situations and people in a way that makes it easy for me to be manipulative, should I ever choose to be, I shy away from exerting control over other people. And I thought I was doing a good job on that front.
My reaction to the incident this week was partially understandable – there were multiple reasons not to trust the situation based on how he has behaved in similar situations in the past. But he has made progress and, when I took a moment to step back and ask myself what would have made me comfortable, I realized that I wanted full control over the situation, to insert myself into a relationship that isn’t mine in order to be sure that I could know what it was, that everyone else is being honest about all the things. Logically, I know that’s neither fair nor practical, but it has raised some serious questions for me on how to proceed. The amount of hurt and anger I felt, the absolute sense that I was right and anyone who disagreed with me didn’t have all the facts, the ache of betrayal and abandonment, and the way that I couldn’t even follow my own directives to let him initiate working it all out were all way off from the person I want to be. There are definitely things we need to work on together, but, in all fairness to him, trust is an uphill battle with me in an arena that’s not his strong suit.
I also realized this control issue goes much deeper. I don’t like getting drunk*, I’ve never experimented with anything beyond marijuana (which I don’t like – that loose, floaty, spin-y feeling? HATE it!), and I don’t even want to take certain medications, because they all constitute for me a danger of losing control. I absolutely hated when I shattered my ankle, because I needed help and had to rely on other people. I want to experiment with BDSM, but I don’t trust anyone enough to let them top me and I don’t trust myself enough to top others. I can’t guarantee that I could step out of that space or that I would even want to.
I don’t follow my dreams, because I can’t guarantee needed outcomes for my security. Sure, I tell myself it’s because I have a little boy, and while I could live on Ramen and out of a backpack if I had to, I can’t do that to him, but, really, the closest I got to pursuing my dreams before I had him was to go to a monthly writing group. There was nothing holding me back and instead of striking out on my own and having an adventure, I chose to go home and hide. It’s been an ugly and sobering mirror to look into.
My biggest fear right now is I don’t know if this is something I can change. There’s some evidence that control issues as a form of security may be part of my make up, but, well, you never know until you try. (Yes, clichéd as hell, but I’m feeling it.)
The last couple days I’ve been working on self-compassion exercises. I’m not entirely sure why it never occurred to me to look into this before as I’ve known forever that I judge myself way more harshly than I judge others, but for whatever reason it didn’t occur to me and it was one of the first things to come up as a tip for getting past control issues. I did find some comfort in the fact that the symptoms of my control issues, as they put it, are pretty mild (probably because I actively mitigate them), but it doesn’t change the fact that not being in control still causes me a lot of anxiety and it is definitely affecting trust levels and intimacy in my relationships.
I have spent a couple minutes several times a day recalling instances where I have had extreme anxiety over a lack of control issue, allow myself to feel that, then remind myself that I am human, everyone experiences a lack of control and may react poorly to it, and that I will get through this. I am enough to get through this on my own. The “I am enough” is kind of key, because I also realized that I seek a lot of validation when I am experiencing these stressful situations. Do I have the right to be stressed? Is it fair of me to be upset? I mean, really, take a second and marvel at how ridiculous these questions are, and yet I ask them all the time. I always have the right to feel what I feel, but it’s what I do with those feelings, how I express them that really matters. The self-compassion exercises have been very helpful for me in allowing the space needed to identify healthy steps toward rebuilding trust rather than “sham” steps that don’t so much rebuild trust as control anything I perceive as an attempt to abuse “trust.” I need to cultivate an actual willingness to trust others rather than spend hours studying CIA and psychology videos on how to detect lies and in various formats (an actual thing I did this week, like I could inoculate myself against trusting the wrong people by turning every relationship into a careful and thoughtful interrogation. I promised to share the dark crap.)
So, the astrology bit. I really thought this was going to be the easiest House. I’m starting something new – I’m good at that! The House of Identity and Self – pssh, I got this on lock! I know me and how I express, I could write books on this. I don’t even have any planets in this House. I’ll focus on body stuff, spend time looking in the mirror, appreciating my fabulous self – look at me, I’m doing a thing. But that’s Leo; confident, warm, optimistic, a little self absorbed. I did not expect to have the heavy shit front loaded.
But this is Aries’s House, the Ram. You are going to get gut-checked and, if you’re not paying attention, it’s going to take out a couple ribs. Aries is a Cardinal Sign, the initiators, and Aries doesn’t just initiate, he initiates HARD. I asked for a spiritual journey and Aries is blunt, direct, and combative. So, in addition to the self-compassion, it’s time for me to rely on the lessons of Aries: bravery, self-reliance, independence, the confidence and ability to go out and do one’s own thing without regard for what others think of you. The Tarot representation for Aries isn’t The Hermit going inward living in the wilderness for a spiritual search for individuality, but The Fool, going outward, enjoying the ride, and not just running the risk of falling off the cliff, but probably doing so. I hate the idea of looking, or worse, being foolish, but it’s time to test it out.
For the rest of this House and probably beyond, I want to commit at least an hour a week to going out into the world alone to do something I’ve always wanted to do. Whether it’s going on a hike at a park, taking in a class or lecture, getting a glass of wine, going to goat yoga, or enjoying the theater, the point is to do it without waiting for someone else to go with me and without the purpose of meeting new people, but to do this strictly for me. To let go of the sense that I can control what anybody thinks about me and the sense that they should care what I think about them. To remember that, right now, I need me and, yes, of course, I have obligations, but not as many as I pretend and I’m ignoring what I need to feel whole and alive. And that’s me. Just me. Healthy and happy and ready to be seen.
*Soap Box Moment: You can still get assaulted even if you don’t drink. You know how that happens? Trusting the wrong person. There’s about 7 reasons I have extreme difficulty with trusting people in general, but guys in particular. Just wanted to clarify, I don’t dislike drunkenness for fear of sexual assault. I don’t like it, because I like having full control over my limbs and faculties. The only way it links to sexual assault for me is that, should someone attempt something, I want to be able to fully kick that ass. It’s the intense feeling of betrayal and stupidity, mingled with the fact that it’s hard to flip the switch from liking/trusting someone to wanting to murder them that has held me back from inflicting some serious damage in the past. Yes, I’m bitter. I’m working on it.