Who Are You When The Prince Doesn’t Appear?

25 Mar

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When I was a little girl and saw Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” for the first time, I was horrified that the evil queen ordered the huntsman to kill Snow White and to bring her heart back in a jeweled box. “Why would she do that?” I thought terrified and bewildered simultaneously. “Run Snow White, run!” I called out to the screen, as if the cartoon heroine could hear me.

Children are extremely impressionable. I also remember Snow White wistfully singing in that God-awful, breathy voice:

Some day my prince will come
Some day we’ll meet again
And away to his castle we’ll go
To be happy forever I know…..

As a young girl, this is what gets drilled into your head. Someday, a man will pick you. He’ll get down on his knee, pull out a box, and say, “Will you marry me?” Then you will tear up, wrap your arms around his neck and exclaim, “yes!” For most females this happens at least once in their lives and while it might not lead to happily ever after, it still is quite the princess moment. After all, it’s the apex of your life, right? To be chosen?

But what if you’re not? What if you’re not chosen by a life partner, or even by your parents? What if you grow up never fully feeling cherished, or like you belong to anybody? Who then are you?

My favorite answer? You are a flower.

Why?

Because flowers don’t sit around waiting for someone to pick them. They are beautiful and magnificent in their own right. Some get picked and put into a bouquet; others remain outdoors turning in the direction of the sun. Yet these distinctions don’t change their essence for their worth is not determined by anything external. They are divine creations of the Creator. Nothing in the world changes that truth.

Ladies, your worth is determined the day you were born. It is sovereign. No one can give this to you or take it away. You are flowers meant to bloom in your own right. Bloom away!

Dear Sisters, Do Not Lie About Rape. You Discredit Real Survivors When You Do

25 Mar

There is nothing more egregious than false accusations of rape or childhood sexual abuse. For every woman who actively lies about rape as an act of manipulation, revenge, or attention seeking behavior, a real survivor’s story gets discredited. For every woman who concocts a story, the harder it is for a survivor to tell hers’. Advances in this cause unravel and more victims get silenced, ridiculed, shamed and blamed, which is the last thing they need.

It’s true that trauma can create ruptures and distortions in memory and that details of rape are sometimes not clear. This makes reporting abuse extremely difficult. Yet this phenomenon is very different than pulling a rabbit out of a hat and out of the blue accusing an innocent man of rape. I don’t understand why women do the latter. It is a deep betrayal to both men and women.

For someone who has experienced incest or rape, few survivors feel like shouting about this from the roof tops. In fact, some of us will never be able to articulate a sentence about the events or the relationships that were endured. Others, as part of the healing process, find hope and strength in speaking about their stories. This is often the first step towards advocacy work and helping others. Yet it is the rare person who speaks about the event as a type of tabloid exhibitionism. For most, the memories are mired in shame, secrecy, and an uncanny form of repression.

So Dear Sisters, do not lie about rape. You discredit real survivors when you do.

The Big O – Yes, I’m Speaking Of Female Orgasm

23 Mar

Although Carl’s Jr. sells meat by portraying women getting their rocks off by eating hamburgers and women are sexually exploited daily, very few people talk openly or respectfully about female sexuality. As always, female sexuality is exhibited as something solely for the consumption of men’s needs and pleasures. But what about a woman’s experience of herself and her own pleasure?

Yes, I’m talking about the female orgasm, a topic that has been hushed up about for God knows how long and if talked about, is primarily bragged about in conquest in the football locker room.

As a Christian single woman, I’m also aware that I’m breaking a taboo in even bringing up this topic. Sexual pleasure is supposed to be reserved for marriage and there are conflicting teachings on whether masturbation is allowed. Some theologians say it is fine; others staunchly say it is a sin.

I have always been curious about the link between people’s life force and sexual expression. What is it that people are actually saying, “yes!” to when they cry out in ecstasy? Is it the pleasure they feel or does the affirmation extend beyond this to include an all resounding “yes!” to life? And can you have that same fierce “yes!” in celibacy as well?

I am in agreement with religious teachings that human sexuality, in its highest intended purpose, entails a covenant between two people and is not to be taken lightly. Sharing one’s body in union with another person is a profoundly intimate experience that involves a complete fusion of one’s being with another, even if only temporary. As a culture, we’ve come to take intercourse way too frivolously and relationships as well. The end results can be devastating to the human heart.

But focusing just on one’s relationship with oneself, why do so many people negate the profound mystery that occurs for a woman when she pleasures herself in this way? So often, I’ve heard women share that they are in essence at war with their bodies and their sexuality. They do not feel entitled to any kind of pleasure for reasons that might be attributed to disliking their sizes and shapes, or feeling they can’t relax, or because it reminds them of rape and/or incest. Without men exploring their bodies, some women feel their bodies have no value or beauty.

This is sad to me. A woman’s sexuality is her own. It belongs to her. It is then something she chooses or doesn’t choose to share with someone else.

I remember talking with a Christian friend who shared he felt masturbation was a sin. He said it led to fantasizing about others, which was both a form of idolatry and adultery (if the individual who was the object of desire was married). I agreed that coveting someone else’s partner was problematic and that fantasizing about someone taken was not a good idea. And yet I shared with him that for women, masturbation can be a profoundly healing act, particularly if they have been abused. It’s a way to take power back and a way to practice self-love. Furthermore, women are far less prone to visual fantasy than men are.

I am more inclined to think about orgasm as an extension of our life force. William Reich, who was a little out there as a psychoanalyst had a similar notion, although I wouldn’t say I’m agreeing with Reich’s practices. Nonetheless, he was on to something. Why is there such a link between orgasmic release and emotion? Why can experiencing contact with oneself in this way, induce such pleasure, but also tears,  if there is suppressed sadness in one’s spirit? What is it about allowing oneself to surrender that opens the heart to all of its feelings? What is it about intimacy with oneself that we as a society simply can’t tolerate? Is it not the basis of all relationships, to know and be comfortable with one’s own heart, feelings, and bodily experience in the world?

I think of small children who have to be taught not to touch themselves (or at least not to touch themselves in public). I think of all the ways in which we as children are socialized away from our innate and direct experience of the world. I think of how we have to find our metaphoric “yes!” when life presents its challenges and limitations, losses and grief. In fact, it almost feels biblical for are we not all crawling back to a state of union with something much higher than ourselves? Don’t we all want to return to Eden, to a time and place when we all knew bliss and didn’t hurt ourselves and others?

Yes, this is proof-texting 2 Corinthians but I quote it anyway because it is a bigger affirmation of the sacred than orgasm. The orgasm can be sacred and it can also be a form of escape and idolatry. But our faith is never that. “For in him every one of God’s promises is a ‘Yes.’ For this reason it is through him that we say the ‘Amen’ to the glory of God. But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.”

What’s in a Word?

21 Mar

In Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, Juliet asks, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And so it would. Juliet didn’t care that Romeo was a Montague. She loved him just as much despite his family name.

In this context, words are interchangeable and don’t really matter. However, words do matter and often take on very strong energies. We can use words as deep terms of affection and connection and as weapons of mass destruction.

I think of certain words that seem to resonate with gentleness. The word “aloha” in Hawaiian means affection, peace, compassion and mercy. It also signifies hello and goodbye. In some ways the word is akin to the Hebrew word Shalom. Similar in its benevolence is the Hawaiian term “mahalo,” which means thanks, gratitude, admiration, praise, esteem, regards, or respects. I wonder the long term impact of speaking words that resonate with melodic goodness. Why do certain words seem to vibrate with a higher frequency of love than others, and is there a way these words can leak into our consciousness, infusing their definition into our very hearts and minds? Is there a way to invite in affection, peace, compassion and mercy, simply by saying “aloha” and meaning it?

I have never been one to pray or chant much over a particular word or phrase but I like this concept. I like the idea of inviting in affection, peace, compassion and mercy for others and for myself.

Aloha.

 

 

 

Weep, Pray, Swim

20 Mar

It’s an interesting time when one feels her life, as she knows it, has disintegrated. When we lose love or experience a sense of betrayal, we can be rattled at our core. And even when love simply changes or runs its course, and there is no discord, the aftermath can be more trying than any other experience. So what then do we do to rebuild our sense of self and direction?

Author Elizabeth Gilbert, coined the phrase, “Eat, Pray, Love,” in her spiritual memoir. What better thing to do when suffering than to nourish oneself physically, spiritually, and relationally? Yet surrounded by water recently, I thought, why not “weep, pray, swim,” as a prescription for healing? Tears bear witness to our pain, washing the heart clean of its fears, anger, and disillusionment. Tears usher in peace, compassion, and love, moving in like the tides upon the shore. Living Water is God Herself, reaching out to touch us on the earthly plane, reminding us that She is near. And swimming moves the feelings and energetic debris, lodged in from the day, week, months, and years. The salt water purifies us of toxins and transforms us. As we emerge from the sea, bathed in the Spirit, we experience new life. We also begin to experience forgiveness of ourselves and others.

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The other day, I looked around me and saw that life was more than good. Life is rainbows and people and beauty. Life is blessings and new opportunities, as much as it is also pain and chaos. Life is surprises and joy and the unexpected. And we ourselves are more than beautiful. We are glorious even in our terrible humanity.

When Phoenix rises from her ashes, she wears a fire red bikini and laughs when the waves nip at her feet. The sand reminds us that like the sea glass lying on the beach, time and hardship do not wear us down. They shape and beautify us.

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Sometimes, we have to just get into the water and paddle out, into our lives. Only then, do we see from the proper vantage point.

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The Beauty of the Wolf

14 Mar

When I was a child, if I expressed anger, I was promptly told I was acting like a “little animal.” I was to go to my room until I could act like a “little girl.” Crying was allowed but the common temper fits of toddlerhood were unacceptable. Years later, I struggled to register the emotion of anger. It took acting classes to access the feeling within me.

We live in a culture that is emotionally illiterate. At extremes, we numb everything out, either through sex, food, substances, work, or the Internet, or because we numb everything out, we have melt downs in the most inappropriate, unhealthy fashions. (At the most dangerous end of the spectrum, people go postal brandishing firearms).

Yet all emotions serve an evolutionary function. They tell us that something is wrong and that we need to respond to whatever is not right in the environment and/or lives. Something needs attention. If we listen to our emotions, they provide us invaluable clues and resources for our well being.

Anger in particular is a powerful force. I liken it to the quality of fire. When channeled appropriately, anger can change our lives for the better. Anger can liberate the world from injustice. Then it is life giving and like fire, it can bring warmth. When not dealt with adequately, or dealt with at all, it can be like a flame in a forest fire that eventually consumes everything in its path.

What I find particularly disconcerting is that as females, we are conditioned to “be nice” and in this, we often lose touch with the healthy dimensions of anger. Anger is a reaction to a real or perceived threat. It helps us set healthy boundaries, stand up to betrayals, and make positive changes in our lives. And yet so often, women are viewed as bitches if they express their discontent, even if their feelings are completely justified. We apologize for our feelings just after we’ve stood up for ourselves. If served up a plate of bullshit, we often say, “Thank you, thank you very much,” instead of saying, “No thanks. That is crap.”

It’s not just women whose instincts get ironed out of them. I think of the wonderful film, “Wolf” with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. In it, Jack Nicholson’s character, Will has been grossly taken advantage of by a colleague at work who steals his job and sleeps with Will’s wife. Resentful yet passive, Will swallows his fate until one night he is bit by a wolf. At this, the spirit of the animal enters his being and suddenly his instincts are fully alive and well. He no longer is a tame, domesticated drone who doesn’t know how to fend for himself. Instead he takes his power back in beautiful ways that restore his dignity.

I think of my beloved cat who used to always hiss at the vet. At home, Hafiz was docile and loving, but when he felt threatened, he knew how to dish it out. He knew how to protect himself. Would a mother wolf teach her cubs to let predators harm them? Absolutely not. So why then do we often let people hurt us and just smile as if it is no big deal? Why are we afraid of hurting the feelings of the people who shamelessly hurt us?

I invite the beauty of the animal within us all to recognize danger and to recognize bullshit, even if it’s disguised as filet mignon. I invite us to recognize when we’re safe and protected and when we are being treated with respect. The spirit of the wolf is a beautiful thing.

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Will You Play With Me?

9 Mar

The other day within an hour of being around a family friend’s child, the little boy approached me and with quiet earnestness asked, “Will you play with me?” As I nodded yes, he gently led me to the living room where his toys were scattered and we began to play. Although the toys were appealing what fascinated him most was the switch that could dim the lights. As he lowered the lights, making the room grow dark he pronounced, “Now it is night.” Taking my cue, I rolled over on my side and began to gently snore. Then the lights came back up. “Now it’s day.” I stretched out my arms and sighed, opened my eyes and said, “Good morning.” Looking at him I continued, “I’m hungry. Are you hungry? What shall we have for breakfast?” We settled on pancakes and bacon and then went through the procedure again. The lights dimmed, I snored, the lights came back up, I awakened and then we ate pancakes. We did this at least ten times proving yet again that Freud was not entirely clueless for repetition compulsion is most definitely an aspect of children’s play and a mechanism through which they can explore the events they observe on a daily basis.

It never fails to amaze me how much children yearn to play and need to play. It is not to be underestimated. The therapeutic benefits of play are profound which is why some of us psychotherapists use it as a central part of our work. But it isn’t just children who need to play. We all do. Animals. Children. Adults. All of us benefit from the intimate contact that comes through play as we enter the portals of our imaginations with another. So in a way, those five innocent words – “Will you play with me?” are like a secret password that if taken seriously initiate us into a very specific form of delight, exploration and experience of each other’s company.

The above words are a re-post from two years ago. They came to mind as I revisited the role of play in my own life. While all humans have the capacity for spontaneity and joy, life experiences can hinder the prominence and regularity of play in our lives. Trauma in fact, can abort it. I look back at my childhood and see patterns where play simply stopped. I think of the adults who would routinely say, “Not now, honey. We’ll play later,” and I remember when my mom started drinking to the point of black out. Focusing on my mom’s well-being became more important than slumber parties or dress up.

As adults, many things interfere with our abilities to play. We are told to grow up and get serious. There are bills to pay, chores to do, and things to look after. In my life, these attitudes were passed on to me in my DNA, costing me an acting career because to act for a living would be the height of frivolity, right? For many of us, play is something that comes at the end of the to do list and sometimes simply gets channeled into sex, the consummate form of adult recreation. We forget the deeper needs behind the simple words, “Will you play with me?” Instead of inviting others in, we tune them out or tell them they aren’t playing right. We tell them to get off the playground or that they’re not good enough for our team. Some of us break the rules and hurt others.

Play comes into our lives when we invite in the energy of the Divine; when we look at the ocean and see the way it dances.  Play comes when we can relinquish worry and reclaim deeper pieces of ourselves. It is in fact, a serious matter.

It is serious play and how we master life.

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