Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Week of Quiet Introspection

Photo by Michael Holden
My girl is at Burning Man this week.  Which means I am hanging out with the critters at her place and taking some time this week to do a bit of introspection.

I've worked through a lot of my insecurities over the past year but also know that I have more work to do.  I'm a bit surprised about how I'm handling things lately, this week specially, but it's all very rational and well thought out, if that makes sense.

Instead of letting my emotions take hold of me based simply on my thoughts as opposed to the facts, I'm reeling myself in, sitting myself down and focusing on the now.  Focusing on the facts.  Those things that I know to be true.  Not things that I think up in my brain that are there to stir up my emotions and build up the walls again.  I'm tired of the walls.  I'm tired of turning my emotions off or being angry and bitter.  I'm tired of missing what's right in front of me and enjoying the moments I am blessed with while dwelling on what 'could' happen. 

Today I found myself missing her a lot and I allowed myself to feel it but I stopped myself from getting sad about it.  I was able to do that by remembering the amazing journey she's on of self discovery and growth and how blessed I am to bare witness to it.  Then I gave myself a pat on the back for the journey of self discovery and growth that I am on, as well.

Still, I'm counting the days until she returns.  While I'm counting, I've got plenty of projects to keep me busy.  Plenty of projects to help me to learn to stay in the moment.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” - Anais Nin

Saturday, August 27, 2011

One Year Later

One year ago today I worked my last day as an accountant.  One year ago today I stopped living for others and started living for myself.  One year ago today I realized my own co-dependence in life and decided that it wasn’t working for me anymore. 

Everything I did in life was based on everyone else’s expectations of me.  Everything I did, I did because I believed that by doing those things I would earn people’s love and by earning people’s love I would somehow develop my own sense of self worth.  I was so enveloped by this idea, this co-dependency that I completely lost myself.  To be honest, I’m not sure I ever really knew myself.  This co-dependency has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. 

Over this past year I have explored my passion for photography and writing and within those passions I have learned so much about who I am as a person. 

Photography takes you to places you never knew existed.  I mean, think about it for a moment.  That shutter only takes but a fraction of a second to open and shut.  It captures that exact moment in time.  It not only captures it but it makes you stop and look at it.  Carrying a camera around has made me look at life at a deeper level.  It’s made me slow down and notice things around me.  When you get right down to it, it’s made me live in the moment.  I was absolutely present in each and every one of those moments I’ve captured. 

The past few months I’ve notice that I haven’t been carrying my camera around as much and I can feel a difference in my perspective on things. 

Writing affords you the pleasure of creating your own space in the world, or other worlds depending on the genre in which you write.  Writing, for me, is like breathing.  There have been days when all I can do is think about this one thing, or several things, that I absolutely have to stop and write down before doing anything else, no matter what I’m doing!  It’s like the toddler at your feet screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy look! Mommy!”  If you don’t pay attention to it you just won’t be able to finish the task at hand. 

Not only has this past year of my new life blessed me with words, it’s also blessed me with a realization of a dream I’ve always had which is to be a published writer.  The first erotica story I wrote for a BDSM anthology was actually accepted and will be published in the Spring of 2012.  It’s being published by Cleis Press and is edited by the amazingly talented Sinclair Sexsmith.  I’m not publishing under a nom de plum so look for my name when the book comes out.  I hope you’ll be :ehem: satisfied with the story.

Considering where I started, I’ve come a long way in the last year.  To gain a bit more clarity about where I started, check out my post from September 28, 2010, Forming New Habits. Rereading that post made me realize just how far I’ve come.

The road doesn’t stop here, though.  I’m excited to see where it takes me in the next year and look forward to finding out more about me.  

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Am I in your way Sir?"

So, the other day I stopped in at a grocery store out in the burbs near my work to pick up something for lunch before heading to work.  I'm in my usual wear: jeans, boots and a gray t-shirt that says "FOOTBALL" on the front of it.  No hat.  Sunglasses on top of my head. 

As I'm standing in front of the 'Grab & Go' case the woman stocking the case asks me, "Am I in your way Sir?"  Immediately I think, "Should I say anything or just nod?  I'm just not in the mood for profuse apologies."  Speaking would more likely get them whereas just nodding would let the moment pass peacefully.  I found myself saying, in somewhat of a deeper voice then I actually have, "Oh no. I'm just not sure what I want."  Then my hand went up to my chest and I sort of beat on it with a flat palm.  You know how guys do sometimes?  Almost like I was beating on my chest because my voice didn't sound right.  Like I had a cold or something.  Or it was some sort of primal Tarzan thing.  Who knows? 

Her response to me was simply, "Ok. Let me know if I can move out of your way or get you anything."  I thank her and go about grabbing my food, paying for it and walking out of the store.  All the while thinking, "I just passed for a guy even after I spoke.  Cool!" 

Why was it cool?  I'm not a trans guy so I'm not really trying to pass as a guy but there have been times when passing was just easier and most definitely safer.  On this occasion, though, I think it was more about affirming my masculinity. 

I have to say, it felt pretty damn good.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thoughts On Our Butch and Transgender Community

While reading through a few blog posts this morning I came across this one over on Butch Wonders about the tension between our butch and transgender brothers and sisters.  So many thoughts ran through my mind and this feeling of....I'm not even sure how I'd describe it...came over me.  I had to stop my morning, open up Word and just start writing about it.  I wrote a bit, stopped to enjoy some coffee and ponder it more, wrote some more, talked a bit to my girl about it, wrote some more, walked away from it then debated about whether or not to throw in my two cents.  I'm really not a fan of conflict but sometimes you just need to speak your mind.  So, here's me speaking my mind on this subject.  

It really rubs me the wrong way when I read about the tension between the butch and transgendered communities.  A part of me understands the reasoning behind both sides of the issue but why is there still a need for an ‘us’ and ‘them’ box?

What I don’t understand is the idea that we as a community want society to change their way of thinking about our community and accept us as part of society yet we, as a community, can’t seem to change our way of thinking and accept those within our own community.  We’re stuck in the old ways of thinking.  We’re not totally accepting of each other and are quick to put each other into a box, plaster a label on it and shun it forever more.  We’re quick to say who belongs and who doesn’t based on our outdated ideas.  We need to move forward!  Bring along that history of us, the lessons that came from those times and move forward.

The gay alphabet has changed to include our transgendered brothers and sisters.  Stop shunning them and get over your own shit.  I know that sounds harsh but it’s true.  It really is your own stuff to deal with and has absolutely nothing to do with them.  They are as much a part of our community as we are a part of theirs.  Don’t leave them behind!  Bottom line, before others can accept us as just another part of society, we have to accept ourselves within our own community. 

We can’t expect others to change when we can’t change ourselves.  Gandhi said it best.  “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Maybe I’m way off course here, and if so, please enlighten me but in my opinion we need to stop spending our energy tearing each other apart and focus that energy on coming together to move forward.  We struggle so much in our oppression that we start to tear each other apart.  That’s hasn’t ever worked for a movement and it’s never going to.  The only way we’re going to move forward is together.  Unified as one within the movement.  Accept each others differences, embrace them and move forward. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

International Butch Appreciation Day

I'm not sure who created the theme for today but I have been told that today is International Butch Appreciation Day. In honor of this day I spent some time reading about the word butch and it's history, or herstory.  As I was reading, I couldn't help but wonder, "Who came up with these definitions? Who gave these words the negative connotations that they once had?" Also, "Who has the right to define what butch means to me or to anyone else for that matter?" Who has the right to define who or what I am?

In my humble opinion, no one but you can define who you are. I define myself as Butch. I don't wait for someone to give that definition or title to me. I give it to myself. What you think is 'butch enough' is completely your idea, not mine. I am butch enough for me and that's all that matters.

Reading through my blog from this time last year, I found this excerpt that I wrote after attending the Butch Voices Conference in Portland.

No matter how much I am against putting myself in a box by claiming the title of ‘butch’, I have learned that the title encompasses many things and has so many definitions. For me, the thing about words and titles is that I can take them and define them for myself. I am me. Like I said to one of my friends the other night, I like to think of myself as mostly a guy but I’m not. I’m a woman. I like things that are stereotypically things that guys like and I present as masculine but that’s only a small part of who I am. I am a complicated being filled with thoughts and feelings and likes and dislikes with a little bit of mystery locked in there.

That's a jumping off point for my definition of what butch means for me. From this stem many branches of the complexity of me. Some of which are still growing and I am still discovering.

Define butch for yourself. Don't give anyone the power to define who you are. That power is yours and yours alone.

With that, I will leave you with a couple of my favorite Butch writers and their kick-ass words for Butches.

Unsolicited Advice To A New Butch 
By Sinclair Sexsmith

There is more to you than this identity. It makes everything make more sense, and without it you might be lost, but with it you are only ever on one path. You contain more multitudes than that.

Dance. Cook. Read. Make peace with your body. Look at the stars.

Don’t make everything about you. Willingly admit you are wrong, even if sometimes you know you are right. Eagerly say “I’m sorry.” Easily say “I love you,” but learn to recognize your own worth. Keep the borders of your kingdom well-watched and flexible. Keep your muscles flexible. Climb mountains. Pick wild flowers, even though they wilt. Because they wilt. Don’t let people make you wilt. That’s doesn’t have to have anything do with you. Listen to their stories. Remember that we yell because we do not feel heard.

Make a list of ways you feel heard.

Learn how to partner dance so you can make your partner look beautiful, spinning and open-mouth laughing on the dance floor. Cook. Read. Make peace with your body.

Elevate the discussions over brunch with your buddies and use them to try out your date outfits. Downgrade your tee shirts to workouts and loungewear and upgrade your presentation. Make a list of places you can wear your very best suit that are not weddings or funerals. If you don’t have a suit, invest in a suit. There’s a reason it’s a classic. It’s okay to get it at a thrift store. It’s okay to stop shopping at thrift stores now that you know how to use money. Practice rocking a tie on special occasions. Make a list of special occasions. Thursdays can count as special occasions.

Remember that your lover craves your skin and friction and kisses not despite but because of your masculinity.

Dance. Practice cooking at least one impressive date meal and, if you like watching them put something you made in their mouth, teach yourself more. Read. Make peace with your body.

Get a traffic cop vest, because you are stuck directing and deflecting in the middle of the intersection between male and female, and though the fifty-car pileups have mostly ceased, though they have cleaned the rubble from the ditches, though the seasons have faded the bloodstains on the concrete, you are still there, in the middle, while a pickup truck brushes past close enough to touch the hairs on your calf and a Mazda full of machismo is threatening you from the window.

Know you can survive this. Your body crosses borders most of them never question.

Dance. Cook. Read books like Stone Butch Blues and Dagger and Butch is a Noun and learn where you came from. Learn who else is out there in the world with you. Suspend your own stories and practice seeing another’s perspective. Make peace with your body.

Learn to recognize femmes, even if you don’t date them. They recognize you. When a girl on the subway gives you The Eyes, she’s a femme. When the only straight girl in the dyke bar says she likes your tie, she’s a femme. When your waitress jumps in on your conversation with your buddies to ask “so what’s a good drag king troupe?”, she’s a femme.

But two femmes in bed are not just waiting for a butch to come along (necessarily), so don’t laugh when someone tells misogynistic jokes in bad taste. Be a gentleman. Practice the art of consensual chivalry, always be on time, and remember: it’s better to have a cock and not need it than to need a cock and not have it. Always be prepared.

When the girl you thought you’d spend your life with leaves you, know you can survive this. Pour the whiskey down the drain, keep your stovetop spotless, and delete her number from your phone. Move your best friend up to her speed dial spot and call just to say hi. Cultivate your friendships before your breakups so you are not alone.

You are becoming more like yourself than you’ve ever been. Trust in your own deepest experience. Trust in your own evolutions.

Dance. Cook. Read. Make peace with the supposed conflict between your breasts, your inner folds, your monthly bleeding, and your cufflinks, your swagger, your monthly boy-cut #4 and the razor-shave on your neck. You possess this innate ability to contemplate apparent opposites and hold them both; to dance with two seemingly contradictory things simultaneously—a talent most people can never perfect. But you can. And you are not alone. These mentors, this legacy, this lineage, this heritage, this style—this is where you fit, this is where you are not dismissed, this is where you finally get kissed exactly how you’ve always wished.

This is the process of blooming into whatever multitudes you are at the core of your being.

Look at the stars. Remind yourself how small we all are, how big your life is, how many paths you are exploring. You can do more than survive this—you can thrive in this.

A Butch Roadmap
by Ivan Coyote

Happy International Butch Appreciation Day!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Butch Voices Art Exhibition

Even though I am unable to attend the Butch Voices Conference this year I am sending down two of my photos for the art exhibition they'll have around the conference.  Last year I showed photos that didn't really have anything to do with people.  They were landscapes and a photo of a chicken, Baxter. 

This year I'm changing it up and expanding my exhibition photos.  I've been working on my people photo taking skills this past year and have captured some really wonderful moments like this one, which I've title Sweet Love.

© 2011 Wendi Kali
This was taken in an Irish pub on the Oregon coast where this wonderful couple, and my good friends, spent their 21st Anniversary together.  They have many sweet moments like this and I have been lucky enough to capture a few of them. 

I've also been working on taking pictures that somehow tell a story.  I captured this moment a few months back when I first started dating my girl.  I'm betting you can figure out the story.  I've titled it Good Morning.

© 2011 Wendi Kali

These are the two photos of mine that will be shown around the Butch Voices conference so if you're going to the conference, be sure and look for them.  Check out the other art around the conference, as well.  We have some amazing talent in our community. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

New Page - Ask Me Anything

By the way, in the spirit of keeping up with the blog-o-sphere, I've added a new page to this blog.  It's one of those "Ask Me Anything" pages!  I can't quite figure out how people can ask questions anonymously but you could always create a bogus email account if you really feel the urge.

So, ask away!

A Stream of Consciousness Writing On Stress

Photo by Del Rapier
I can feel the stress in my shoulders, neck and jaw.  My head pounds from the tension in those places squeezing off the blood flow to my brain. 

Stress is something I’ve dealt with a lot in my life.  For 7 years I was a single parent who found it more then hard to ask for help from anyone.  Not even the state in which I lived.  My son’s other parent never paid the support I asked for when I divorced him so making a living and supporting my son was all on me.  It was a heavy load to carry and I constantly tried to figure out what to do with my life so I could make more money to pay for what was needed and still have time with my son.  It was a struggle and it was filled with daily stress but I did it. I worked full time while going to school part-time and raised my son during those years.  I did what I had to do to make it work.

One of the lessons I learned from those days is that stress and worry didn’t help me to get through those times.  They made things much more difficult to get through.  Yet, today, as I sit here on the couch typing this, I’m doing the same thing.  Stressing myself out over things I don’t have much control over.  Worrying about work and finances.  Putting a ton of pressure on myself to be someone I’m not. 

Hey Wendi, guess what.  You’re not perfect and you know what?  That’s okay. 

It’s okay that I’m not the completely put together person with the huge credit score, no debt, financially well off, muscle popping, big bodied, Zen master who can love unconditionally without worry of getting hurt.  Who I am is the tall butch lesbian who is stronger mentally and emotionally then I ever have been in my life, doing my best everyday and giving my love freely and as unconditionally as I can and that’s okay.  It’s not perfect but it’s perfectly me right now. 

Despite knowing this, I still struggle with being okay with myself.  Accepting and loving myself as I am is a daily process.  Loving someone without attaching myself to and losing myself in them is also something I’m working on.  Enjoying, being fully present in and treasuring the moments I get with someone I love instead of worrying about whether opening my heart to them completely will eventually bring me pain is part of this work.  Putting up the defenses and building a wall around my heart only allows me to miss out on those precious few moments we get in life that are completely surrounded in love.  I don’t want to miss those anymore.  As a matter of fact, I want more of them!  

Pema Chodron describes this idea really well in her book When Things Fall Apart: "We think that by protecting ourselves from suffering we are being kind to ourselves. The truth is, we only become more fearful, more hardened, and more alienated. We experience ourselves as being separate from the whole." She goes on to say, " When we protect ourselves so we won't feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart."

Reprogramming my highly trained brain is not easy.  I have to constantly be aware of my thoughts and feelings in order to stop and redirect them towards something healthier.   I really believe that loving myself is the key to all of this work.  It’s the foundation for everything else.  And if it isn't, it's a damn good place to start.