In Xanadu did Kublah Khan a stately pleasure dome decree

Monday, September 4, 2017

Camp Is My Overdue Schoolyard

A recent Facebook meme encouraged Me to open up a book and read the first sentence on page 57 to see My love life described with uncanny accuracy.  It said:

25% More Growth!

Admittedly picking up a big gardening catalog tends to skew the results, but still.  Uncannily accurate.  Lots has been in flux this year.  I've recalibrated in My head how I interact with john.  Tarin has gone. boy m is less and less physically present due to family issues. boy d appeared at Fusion but now may need to move away for work.  Through all this I have been weirdly ok.  Which is to say - intermittently devastated and depressed and yet fundamentally fine and capable of joy.  I hear this is normal and healthy.  I find it bizarre and yet it is a massive success.  Allowing Myself highs and lows of joy and grief is the opposite of depression.  I have it from a number of very expensive and persuasive professionals over the years that this is how normal people experience life, they take it for granted. 10 years after ending treatment for clinical depression, I really do consider it an achievement that I can sob over My dear slave's departure (with another person in the room, no less! Being emotionally supportive!), then go to camp only days later where he is present, and enjoy the hell out of Myself... aware, yes, of the slight pricking of discomfort occasionally, but nonetheless fully living the experience.  I had a great time at camp and the split did nothing to harm the experience.  Much of My life that would not have been possible.

I come from good hardworking Dutch and German farming stock.  There is no drama. The emotional temperature is always measured in degrees Kelvin. The painting "American Gothic" is a dead ringer for the portrait of My grandparents in its colors, its timbre. On the spectrum of emotional heat, if Italians are on one end, My micro-culture is on the other.  It's sort of emotional Kremlinology, knowing what's happening is something derived from microscopic research of tiny shifts.  When things are fine, no need to talk, there's nothing you need to say.  When things are bad, no need to talk, doesn't change anything anyway.  When things are fine, everyone is quiet and modest and not taking up more space than absolutely necessary.  When things are bad, everyone one is doing everyone a favor and just making themselves invisible.  Come to think of it, invisible seems to have been the ideal.  It was normal until I realized it's really fucking weird and inhumane.

Things were more acute for Me because I was alien to that land and therefore ostracized with my funny accent and knowledge of not only where the Mediterranean is located but how to spell it correctly.  Then I turned out to be smart (maybe pulled along by high octane parents, too) and was skipped a grade, so clearly I thought too much of myself and needed to be taken down a peg through years of being tormented.  So I just sat on the school bus for two hours a day and read.  Sat by myself on the edge of the school yard and read.  Sat in my desk and didn't talk to anyone. Sat at home and read or played the piano or milked cows or did chores.  I had two shining moments in childhood: both involved kicking/ punching a boy who had long tormented me.  (Oooo, never thought of it that way before. Hmmmm...) Having grown up in such social isolation, I didn't learn all kinds of things. The research says it is through play that children learn how to decode social threat from real danger; it's how we develop social skills, through that sort of pack rough-and-tumble play.  Well, I was on the remote edge and on high alert at all times, never knowing which kid on the bus or in the class might be the next to say or do to me something that I was unprepared to handle. Hypervigilance pays some handy dividends but it is tough to unlearn:

I'm reading a book, I'm not here.

If I'm totally focused on this task, because you can't see me.  That makes me such a small target it won't cross your mind to come after me, so I all is well.  Even if you say something awful, it bounces off the book.  If I never respond, it officially never happened.  Turn the other cheek and all that.

Ostriches might bury their heads in the sand, but I highly recommend books. They get you into college.  But the la-la-la-la-la-not-here technique has major disadvantages in adulthood, especially in bed.

It occurred to Me singing My way down I-95 today that DO camp events are the playground I never had. At both events this year, I have stepped out of My comfort - read safe - zone to be more silly, more playful, more bouncy, more...


I dressed as Eeyore and wandered around among strangers relaxed. I had sex with the boy two beds over wearing a dinosaur costume.  I allowed Myself to be orally pleasured, quite noisily, in a cabin that holds 25 people. I cuddled easily and quite happily with someone I know not at all. I rubbed mud all over an ex and kicked him on the ground, without stressing over it. I swam and walked naked for hours, bouncing, prancing, smiling, laughing, shaking My ass and My boobies at men, surrounded by people who do not know me, whose opinions of Me I do not know, and I did not have even a passing thought about how they might hurt Me. I was the opposite of invisible. I was fully relaxed and authentic, and somehow a somewhat new-to-Me organic personality came to the surface. It is really impossible to overstate what a big deal this is for someone who used to have a hard time walking through a restaurant to the table, because she hated the feeling of people looking at her. Honestly, I really was once the moral equivalent of Amish.  And all this was easy.  I didn't work at it a bit.  That's how I know it's real, and it's progress, and it's truly Mine now.

Camp is My safe place. Camp is My happy place.  Camp is the overdue childhood I am getting to enjoy now.  I will always be grateful to Greg of Dark Odyssey for giving Me this.

The poet David Whyte posits the interesting possibility that we might grow more innocent through our lives.  We might grow more innocent toward our deaths.  We normally think of innocence as something lost, virginity lost.  What if we could actually grow in our ability to experience wonder, joy, awe, to be amazed?  To not reason from the bad things that happened before, ever narrowing our possibilities, but instead to keep expanding them?  I discovered David Whyte's Poetry of Self Compassion a long time ago and I like realizing that I've managed to live my way into those ideas he planted with Me.  I'm suddenly reminded of a Rainer Marie Rilke quote I used to keep above My desk at work about 10 years ago when I was going through the depression:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and books that are for now written in a very foreign language. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you; you would not be able to live them. Because the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,  some distant day live your way into the answer.”

I did it. The distant day has come.

As I sang My way down I-95 today, I also considered faintly that maybe it is time to take opera lessons again. Maybe I am ready now to take that step; I wasn't four years ago when My teacher left. I really struggled to give Myself permission to make loud noises, even in a private voice lesson.  I might be ready to take up more space.  To fill a room with My body and energy and presence and voice.  To be a person who draws attention, be someone you want to look at, someone from whose luminousness it is difficult to look away.  And to feel so at peace and rock solid within Myself that I can be completely vulnerable, completely relaxed despite the risk of aural catastrophe and the judgment of a crowd; to let the music flow through the instrument of My body. To give Music its voice so it can be heard, and to do that without any feeling of responsibility for what happens.  To be a vessel, as the Bible suggests. Allow Myself not just to breathe, but to be breathed.  To allow Myself to be played.  There's a confluence here with camp and Dominance and owning a house.  It's a groundedness, a certainty, a feeling of being able to stand rooted in the center of everything internal and external.  I am the Mountain.  My feelings and thoughts, My arousal and voice are the clouds that shift around Me.

Even more radically, perhaps it is time to consider identifying as a switch. I really am in switch territory, when it comes to play at least.  Mountains are, after all, not monoliths. I find more and more I am playing with switches and playing in the sensual territory in between the labels in My head.  It is true that I have bottomed to fire play, scratching/knives, massage, and other pleasurable sensation for a long time; I just have thought of it in terms of being served, receiving service.  Maybe calling it service was a subtle mental crutch. Maybe.  It's something new to consider.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

I'll Wait For You

Fado fado.

Zhili byli.

Once upon a time...

I was fifteen and I had a sweet wonderful boyfriend, My first, named John. (No, not Chloe's john.) We met at Debate Camp and saw each only on fortunate Saturdays when our school buses had taken us to the same debate tournament. We talked on the phone, not local calls. I ate Jello pudding pops sitting on the basement steps with the door closed, and furtively described exactly how the pudding pop was sliding in My mouth, what My tongue was doing. He crocheted Me a scarf for Christmas and gave Me a little necklace, and shared his notes with Me from tournaments I didn't attend and those notes helped Me get to the State competition, where My partner showed up hungover so we lost. He called in songs to the radio dedicated to me.

One of maybe only 3 or 4 times John was at My house, My parents were there, My dad home from the road. John and I took the sofa cushions outside and laid on the ground fondling unsupervised while My parents had sex upstairs little realizing their oldest was in danger. The next time, I visited him, Getting Myself all the way 45 minutes into Milwaukee on pretext of doing debate research at the university library. Then quite terrified I followed his instructions to get on a bus, first time. Alone, unsupervised, off the radar, in a major city with no money, no phone. I nearly cried when he got on the bus one stop after me, knowing I was scared. We played on his bed in the attic of his home and the only reason we didn't go all the way was his ever interrupting sister.

That spring I was in a music competition and he took the bus across the big city. He said he didn't need Me to talk to him, he knew I needed to be in competition headspace and couldn't do that. He just wanted to see and hear Me play. He wanted to be there. And he was. And I indeed did My own thing that day. And I won. And he was proud of Me.

The rest of life in My junior high school year was not good, it was disastrous for reasons way out of my control, that I very possibly never thought to share with him, but he was wonderful. The memories are luminous. The way first love should be.

Then one day toward the end of the school year, he told Me he loved Me. He wanted to marry Me some day. I said...

...But I'm going to go away to college.

And he said...

...I'll wait for you.

And then I'll go to graduate school, maybe law school.

I'll wait for you.

And then I might have to move, and I will need a couple of years to start a job and build a career before I'm ready to get married.

And he said:

I'll wait for you. I'll wait as long as you need me to wait.

And I thought: Holy shit. I'm gonna be 30 and this first boyfriend of mine from 15 is gonna be following me around, and I'm not gonna want him any more but I'm never going to be able to tell him after all that waiting that I don't want him anymore.

At that time in My life, there was literally no one I could turn to for advice. And I had the crushing realization that it would be so easy to get knocked up at 16 by my first boyfriend in the sticks of Wisconsin. And I realized my only plan for surviving my life was to throw myself body and soul through the escape hatch of college, away from my dysfunctional family. I was suddenly terrified that the boy I loved and desired was a ball and chain, going get me pregnant, and I would never, ever escape the hell that was then my life without him.

So I dumped him.

No warning. No explanation. Just cut him off. Froze him out. A door slammed shut inside of me and crushed him. 

It was all I knew how to do. I had no words for the desperation to escape. Couldn't name the dysfunction. Couldn't explain the inchoate terror. I was a mountain climber fallen into the crevasse who calmly cuts off an arm to live.

I had the sense to feel badly about it, but had no clue what could be done.

A few weeks later, we were at the World Affairs Seminar representing our schools and avoided each other in the classes and dining hall. Friends of his came and asked me as envoys what had happened, he didn't understand, he wanted to understand. I had no answer to give them. Much later, I heard he remained devastated and unable to move on for years. It's possibly the worst thing I have ever done to anyone.

So as I walk around Summer Camp this weekend, and see Tarin occasionally, see him spot Me, and make an immediate hard turn to avoid Me, working hard to stay hundreds of feet away as if I were radioactive, I am reminding Myself of John, and not just because of karma. 

I am reminding Myself that once I felt an inchoate terror for which I had no words, and all I knew how to do was slam the door on the one person in my life that made me happy. I panicked precisely because they had made me happy, like Icarus flying to close to the sun. And back then, it wasn't John's fault at all, just as it isn't Mine now.  I did that once, or at least, a version of Me so far away now that it feels like a movie character, did that once.  I even regretted it terribly in the moment, but the only way out seemed to be through.

It gives Me compassion for Tarin despite the pain he is causing. I have been in that place, and it is very lonely. No one could help me then, and it was at that time in my life that I stood in a bathroom and seriously considered chugging a bottle of pills. I didn't. I soldiered on and I did make it to college  and much more, far, very far away. I escaped and healed and grew into someone else. Decades later I found John and apologized, and though he forgave Me, I'm not entirely sure I forgive that version of myself. We do the best we can. As Hawkeye Pierce tells Father Mulcahey in an episode of MASH:  Best is best.  But sometimes it's hard to believe.