Aunt Flow and Body Awareness

I’m hanging out in the main lobby. It’s loud because that’s where everyone gathers. I’m doubled over, trying to figure out what I want to do. Classes haven’t even begun and my body is already pissed at me. Should I brave through it? I’m reminded of the day I got all the way to 5th period before heading home. Fuck it! I’m going home.

Flickr credit to: urszulakk

There was this time when I had to take the bus back home since my mother was at work. I tried deep breathing exercises, anxiously waiting. Already I imagined myself lounging under a steady stream of boiling hot water. I couldn’t wait for the release that only a two hour shower could give.

It was just after my fifteenth birthday party. I’m wandering around the halls, bent over and knowing that I’ve already ruined my new suede birthday outfit. When my mother takes me back home, I spend what feels like an eternity with a pillow pressed against my stomach, rocking back and forth. Sleep seems to evade me as I struggle to force myself into a REM cycle. Sleep is my only other release.

When I was sixteen, we finally went to the gynecologist. He tells me that because I’m skinny, my hormones don’t stabilize, which is why the cramps are so bad. I want to punch him in the face as my mother begins to recite it like gospel. “Gain weight,” she tells me. “That’s what the doctor said.” Even though I’m tired of my weight being used against me, I do notice some minute changes as my weight increases. The cramps aren’t as debilitating. I can actually eat something, and not spend all day in bed. But it doesn’t last.

College is easier – with no one to monitor how much water I’m using, I gladly take several showers throughout the day, followed by long naps. The pain comes and goes. Sometimes I get lucky and don’t need to miss class. Other times, I try to convince myself that physical health is more important than a lecture. Fortunately, I didn’t have to make this decision too frequently. Life got even better when I had no room mate. I spent all day sleeping, or just sprawled out in my robe, anxiously awaiting another shower. Normally two showers did it, but sometimes I’d need the extra one.

I stiffen when a friend of mine complains about the pain, saying that women should just suck it up. She either has the tolerance of a Greek demi-god or doesn’t know what it’s like to be in pain. I keep quiet unsure of how to express the reality of how some periods can be. I regretted this.

During the fall of my 22nd year of life, I head to the doctor’s again. This time in an attempt to complete a medical form so that I may teach abroad. I explain to her about my periods; I want to know, is it really a weight thing? She tells me it might be endometriosis: an illness that afflicts 10-15% of women. YES FINALLY! She gives me Depo, an attempt to stop my periods. I’m excited. A life without chronic menstrual pain? Sign me up!

But many, many months have passed since then and I’m no longer period free. My periods are unpredictable, and I haven’t really made much of an effort to track them. I strive for more body awareness, yet don’t know how. And at times, not sure if I want to.

 

What about you? Is there anything in your life that brings you chronic pain and you haven’t found a way to get rid of it yet?

How Atheism Enhanced My Goddess Worship

I’ve spent like an hour trying to figure out how to start this post. What way is the most interesting? Or the most controversial sounding?

But that’s really time consuming – and distractive. So I’m just going to tell you: I want to talk about god. Why? Mostly because as I learn more about atheism, I begin to re-evaluate what I believe in and why.

Essentially, I tell people I’m a pagan, but specifically, I consider myself a Goddess worshipper. It basically means I don’t acknowledge or identify with the male concept of deity. In Wicca (which is where I got my start), deity is divided into male and female: the God and Goddess. They’re equally important and one isn’t valued more than the other.

Unfortunately – I don’t connect well with male energy. I went to a single sex college, and a vast majority of my friends are female. Even in the blogging and twitter universe, a high percentage of the people I follow are women. So it seemed like a natural transgression to worship a female deity. When you worship, it’s about doing things to keep in touch with the Goddess. There’s prayer (which is basically conversation), performing rituals and altars that you can set up.

However, it can be extraordinarily difficult to find books relating to Wiccan spirituality. But I found an excellent one titled “The Circle Within” by Dianne Sylvan. The book breaks down how to create a spiritual relationship with the Lord and Lady, which I thoroughly appreciated. It’s the only book to date that I’ve found that relates closely to my own spiritual leanings.

So – how does the conversation about atheism enhance my relationship with my own faith?

The biggest question atheists asks is: how do you know? It can be difficult to answer this question without delving too into more spiritual jargon. I could say, “It resonates with my spirit” but that presupposes that the questioner believes in the human soul. I could say, “It just feels right or it makes sense to me” which is fluff – only a conversation rife with frustration can be conducted from this statement.

Why do I believe in some of the things that I do? Because I’ve experienced physical manifestations of my belief system. I’ve been around people who are able to confirm what has happened to me. I’ve been around people who are equally rational in their approach to paganism, and their own experiences.

Atheism allows me to take a step back and reassess, to make sure my spirituality isn’t just something that lives in my head. I need to live it everyday because I want to be able to explain to people what my faith is, and what it’s about.

I’m also an cerebral person, a lot of my process is in my mind. So although I know for a fact (mentally) that the Goddess is real, and I value other people’s experiences with Her, I don’t feel it in my body. There’s a strong disconnect that I need to address. I give praise to Her and acknowledge Her, but I need to work on the bond.

As I speak with atheists, I realize that the potential for me to just preach but not practice is still there – even though I’m part of a different ideology than Judeo-Christian Abrahamic faiths. I realize that it’s much easier to spend time in my mind, going over what I can or should do than actually doing it. That I keep waiting for other people to tell me how to practice.

Atheism isn’t my cup of tea, but in these past few days, I’ve learned a lot. Not just about other people, but myself as well.

What about you? Do you have a personal ideology or philosophy that you spend more time talking about than actually doing? Have you done anything to change or challenge that?

 

 

 

Ayn Rand and the Fight Against Beauty Ideals

Stop blaming society and the media for your low self-esteem dammit.

I love Ayn Rand because she speaks at length about self-esteem. The characters in her books are under constant assault; having their choices second guessed and being belittled because of their differences. Any other person may have crumbled under the scrutiny that Howard Roark and Dagny Taggart faced, but Rand’s characters have something that few people in real life do: a self sufficient ego.

Her characters are self-assuared in their decisions, and how they go through life. In The Fountainhead, many of the female characters didn’t find Howard attractive. Something about his overall demeanor repulsed women. Yet he doesn’t cry himself to sleep over it. In fact, he seems to pay very little attention to other’s opinions about him.

This is the approach I take in regards to women, media and self-esteem.

Who is to blame for your low self-esteem and self-hating beliefs?

You.

By resting all of the blame on an abstract entity like “society”, you become prey to the Victim archetype. It’s societiy’s fault that I am miserable and society will pay for this infraction! 

But -that’s a half truth. The full truth is that you allow these messages into your subconscious. You accept these illusions and fantasies as reality, instead of acknowledging them for what they are. Falsehoods.

But instead of re-directing the attention inward, and re-shifting the focus, the obsession is directed even more powerfully to destroying the illusion. The things we see daily are merely projections- our own thoughts, feelings and ideas for others to consume. The magazines and billboard ads are projections of the world their creators live in.

We live in a world where oppression, violence and privilege run rampant. Many of the individuals who enforce these illusions are products of this: white males who hold sexist ideas. Women who buy into patriarchy while becoming female chauvinist pigs.

Magazine covers, billboard ads, commercials – all of these are a reflection of deeply held beliefs in our culture. By attempting to destroy these images, you’re attempting to force these illusions to change their opinions about you instead of simply re-adjusting your opinion about the illusion.

For example: whenever I see a magazine cover I dislike, I simply ignore it. I don’t spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about it, or buy it to show to my friends so we can complain about it together. When conversations come up about body bashing, I don’t participate or give in to their self-destruction. I keep a reminder that the people in TV aren’t reflections of who I am or what I believe. And that I will only support media that aligns to my own personal belief system about myself and the world.

 

So instead of trying to fight an enemy that has no name, why not take it upon yourself to be more like Randian characters; self-sufficient ego bearers. Rejecting fantasies – not through dismantlement, but by shifting our own individual relationship to ourselves. For as long as women, men and children continue to have low self-esteem (an ideology that is passed down from generation to generation), nothing will abate the insatiable thirst for self-hatred.

You must take your battle within, first by looking in the mirror. And so the image in the mirror will change.

The battle for self-esteem can only be won within, not outside of ourselves.

It starts here – with you. 

 

What about you? What personal opinions and ideas would you need to change to make yourself less susceptible to external pressure to look a specific way?

Try to Learn – Despite Your Ignorance.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the discussion of privilege and social justice. How do we aim for more awareness

Flickr credit to: Anton Khoff

in a country that chooses not to be? Admittedly, it can be and is rather frustrating to meet people who don’t know that racism still exists or feel that women have earned sexual assault. When you turn on the news, or read a new headline online – all the oppression is maddening. So the people who had dedicated a great deal of time – if not their lives – to combatting ignorance are justifiably angry. Or just plain frustrated.

To a certain extent you would think more people would be on board, that more people would just know so that we can move forward.

But not everyone knows.

There’s a lot in life that many people – myself included – will never experience. For much of my existence, I didn’t know about child abuse or its survivors until I made a friend who helped enlighten me. I have learned that 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before she turns 18. How more than 60% of pregnant teens are sexually abused as children. That 90% of abuse toward children is committed by people the child knows (relatives, family friends, etc).

With over 39 millions survivors of sexual abuse living in America, this should be something that people should be enraged about, ready to fight against. And yet – nothing. I would say that victims and survivors of child abuse are one of the most silenced, and marginalized members of our society.

But I can’t forget that I became aware of child abuse through friends and memoirs I have read. I can’t forget that I became aware of how pervasive rape is by attending Take Back The Night at my all-women’s college. I realized how powerful fat shaming had become by reading stories of women who were severely neglected by hospital doctors.

We learn by asking questions, by trying to understand where each person comes from. 1 in 3 women in the United States is raped, but that number might not mean anything to you until you’ve met the survivors, until you realize the extent that women suffer at the hands of a callous judicial system –  15 of 16 rapists will never spend a day in jail.

And while all the statistics I listed here are readily available to you on the web, how many people would go out of their way to research it? Many men and women dedicate their time and energy to education, fundraising and volunteering to help spread awareness and yet many people remain ignorant. Disinterested. Or worse – indifferent.

Ignorance is much like a sleeping virus – you don’t know you have it until something triggers it. Then, you are bombarded with all this new information and an eagerness to learn.

And at this juncture we have a problem. The crossroads of where knowledge and experience meet YOU. You don’t know that you don’t know, so you ask questions. Maybe you’ll face rejection or insult. People saying that privilege has made you ignorant, and that you need to educate yourself. And yet here you are – attempting to educate yourself.

In a world where people continue to suffer daily at the hands of oppression, disinterest and hate – lack of knowledge is unacceptable. And yet there is it. In a world where numbers mean nothing until it personally affects us, the urgency for compassion can’t be ignored.

The need for both compassion and patience for those who “know not what they do (or say)” is overwhelming. We literally can’t have discussions with just ourselves or the people who support us – that is not progress. Even though it can be (and at times is) painful to talk to people who have no idea the kind of suffering many endure, to completely shut down is detrimental.

Some people are angry and belligerent – putting their ignorance on full blast. Some people are unassuming and timid in their ignorance. But no matter what – we must come from a place of compassion. If not for them – then for ourselves. Anger will stall the debate, and impatience will turn away those honestly seeking to learn.

I think it’s time to stop holding people’s ignorance against them. 

 

“To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”

Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881)