Hitchhiking New Orleans to St. Louis — shakemyheadhollow

“People don’t hitchhike any more.” “It’s harder to hitchhike these days.” I started hearing these comments in the 1980s, but I never found them to be true. Until Jackson, Mississippi, two days ago. OK, I admit, I haven’t hitchhiked in the U.S. since the early 1990s, so there’s a gap in my data. But still, people […]

via Hitchhiking New Orleans to St. Louis — shakemyheadhollow

My Partner Was My Future: Or How Disney Screwed Me Up

Bakersfield: Home of the Now

As a girl who grew up in 90s America, I and other women my age were treated to a delightfully weird mash-up of feminism and misogyny. We had Daria, Gwen Stefani’s “Just a Girl” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer subverting expectations of women: brainy, openly sexual, physically strong, pierced, pessimistic. At the same time, those women were often talked about in relation to whether not not they had a partner and we were demonizing women in media, including the Anita Hill and Monica Lewinsky stories. (Read a neat perspective about media coverage in the 90s here.)

I also grew up with Ariel, Jasmine and Belle, who wanted to be independent women and see the world…until a man came around. I’m so excited that Disney is finally making characters like Elsa and Judy Hopps, but I grew up with the idea that happily ever after with your prince was…

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All the words that poured out of me. TL;DR: Ugh.

Words make up the bulk of my relationships. I choose mine carefully. Sometimes too much so.

Integrating my stream of consciousness blog space with where I’m attempting (and failing) to write fiction and self-help may not be a good idea. I really don’t have the energy to comb through that subject in any way right now. Fuck it. I’m gonna say whatever I want. People I love read this and then I get support because I’m not a bad person. Even if I was a shitty maid of honor.

I got fired. Well, technically, I stepped down. I was given the option to step down and took it. The other options, all of them, involved still more money. I am maybe coalition building (Sorry, HD) but I’m mostly just sad.

Why is it that we live in a world where girls are sold impossible fairy-tale dreams from infancy? No one can live up to them. For the girl, she’ll never be enough. If she’s pretty like Ariel, she won’t be smart like Belle, or one with nature like Pocahontas. A girl must find her love and get married. And of course, it doesn’t really matter. But doesn’t it? I’ve rarely seen a comedy movie, animated or family, where someone doesn’t end up happily monogafied by the end. (“Monogafied” being a word I just word scienced into existence with my powers of English degree. It means coupled off in a hetero-normative couple.) As girls, if we aren’t going to grow up and get married, what ARE we supposed to do? Well, you get a job and then be good at it and still be sexy and young and then get married and make everything go together with your vagina magic. No self-care needed.

I don’t want to diminish the Second Wave and all their dedicated work in the trenches of 1950s sexism. That being said, standing on a platform that our mothers carefully crafted for our futures, we see still another gap too big to cross. We’re still not there.

These fantasies of imaginary happily ever afters harm our boys, too. They grow up thinking they can’t feel fear or confusion or hesitation. They need to be big, strong, unfeeling heroes that charge forward and save everyone. Then they get married and….what? He works a 9-5 in a stuffy office and donates sperm to kids he’ll never see? They miscommunicate forever because he has no emotional training from growing up exclusively male and she has no ability to be honest because nailing a husband means survival.

Does anybody know what we are living for?

My sister of choice, a woman whose daughter calls me “Auntie”, is spending big money on her wedding. She can (apparently), so cool. It makes her happy and it’s her money. I don’t know why that surprised me. Steph lives in southern California. Big weddings are popular. There is big money in the industry surrounding crazy huge weddings. They happen so often in our culture that not only do we have a TV series about it, but it has a spin-off show about the couples who were already featured and now are having critical marriage problems. We condone this huge wedding nonsense on such a level in our country that we bundle it as entertainment.

How many conversations does Snow White’s prince have with her before he kisses her dead body? Or Aurora? If Belle were in a realistic situation the live action wouldn’t be starring Emma Watson; it’d be something starring Ashley Judd and listed under “thrillers”. Granted Disney has gotten better, but now we’re adults. Our basic relationship skills have been formed. Few people spend dedicated time introspecting and then changing. Change scares most people and many stay scared. We live in the age of the Internet. There are plenty of distractions from ourselves. And as we grow further and further from our own selves, we lose the ability to reach out to other human beings. We’re all living in a small cave inside our minds, walking around with the motions of what society instructs us to do.

Why? I’ve been given the word “milestone” a few times recently. According to most accepted American customs, there are a few traditional milestones: birth, graduations, marriages, babies, retirement, death. At those moments your loved ones gather to celebrate your next phase of life; your passing into a new place and a new way of experiencing the world. That seems cool phrased as such. However, in reality, it usually involves fights and drama, money and debt, travel and panic, rushed pictures and superficial performances.

Fighting with this sister is the worst. I hate fighting with either of my sisters. They are cut from the same this-is-it-and-fuck-you cloth that I am cut from. Fighting with them is terrible. But fighting with this sister is worse because I don’t know her as well. I’ve known Allison since she came home from the hospital. I’ve watched her skills in getting away with shit grow over the years. Steph and I met in high school. I can’t think of her as less than family, but I can’t read her like I’ve known her since birth.

I also have to face the facts that I haven’t been communicating. I read a book upon being named as one of the maids of honor, and it gave a list of things never to say to the bride. I couldn’t believe that any woman would advise other women to lie to their friends with such canned phrases. With further research, I was heartbroken to find countless wedding sites, Buzzfeed-type sites, and advice columns saying to do that same thing. We, as high ranking wedding party people, should not mention how much things are costing. Because someone is going to sign a document and throw a huge party we can’t be straight with matters of money. What kind of sense does that make?

What dynamics are we, as women, setting up for our daughters and nieces, showing them how to lie effectively to their friends and sisters? What the fuck are we doing?
“Suzy dear, when you and Peggy grow up and one of you gets married, the other should be ready to spend hundreds of dollars and lie in favor of not canceling if she asks for your opinion in a moment of life-changing seriousness, no matter what you have seen, heard, or think. Okay, girls? Now, who wants cookies?”

I can’t say that I blame my sister, although throughout the last few months I have now and again. I’ve always known I hated weddings. Being a part of one was just all the more disgusting. The level of consumerism and patriarchy should be enough to make anyone turn up their nose. Plus, I just lost being in my sister’s wedding, so I’m bitter about a bit of this.

Knowing Steph, I should have known that the money would become a problem. I should have made sure that I’d looked her in the eyes and made sure she knew I didn’t have money. I did tell her. I have the copy of the email I sent to her bridal party and herself explaining how I had no funds and I was worried about it back in January. Everyone knew. People I don’t even know got to hear about Brittany, the maid of honor without a job.
“Oh, so she must have kids?”
“No, no. No kids. Just her. She lives with her girlfriend. She just doesn’t work.”
“Oh.”

I really don’t know how those/if any conversations like that took place. Still, various Masterpiece Theater pieces have been mentally performed in my mind about the shame of the broke maid of honor and the bride who suffers through for her poor friend. And maybe it’s me. I am crazy-ish. I have depression and PTSD, at my very best. If I can sleep about twenty hours a week I’m doing well. I lose time occasionally; although admittedly less and less over the years. If I could stuff all of my head inside and tune out like I did in high school I bet I could hold a job and just not feel my life around me. And I think there are lots of people who can do that. Much to everyone’s annoyance and mostly my own, I am not one of those people.

I’m unwilling to say that I’m broken or wrong as a person because of this limitation. One of my favorite lines in Game of Thrones plays in my mind when I think I’m broken:
“Some people are always going to need help. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth helping.”
I am not good at doing all the normal adult stuff. I limp along as best I can, but I am not good at most of it. My friends all know that my plans are subject to last-minute change, always. I may flash and be freaking out instead of making that movie we’d planned. I may lose time and not even know it’s the day we’re supposed to hang out. I have tactics to help me and my friends work with me. Or they aren’t my friends. Over time people have been weeded out of my life because of this reality.

Steph told me tonight that there was no way our friendship could end. I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving Steph or her daughter. I think she’ll always be my sister. Right now she’s not treating me in a way that most of my friends treat me. And we’ll have to fix that.

I’m exhausted thinking about it.

I am entitled. It’s wrong of me, but I’ve been ruined by years of therapy work on boundaries and creating safety and healthy communication. I won’t settle for certain interactions because I know I don’t have to do that. If I’m uncomfortable, I can leave. If something is said that is not ok and it’s not agreed to be put away, I can leave. If even after trying to work things out and loving someone, if I’m not happy, I can leave. I get to walk away from love if I’m not happy. That seems crazy out loud. For so long I felt undeserving of love. I told myself I’d better cling to all the love I can because it will all end sooner or later and I’d be alone again.

Now I don’t worry about being alone. I like me. I like me enough to be alone if it’s better for me. I don’t worry about running out of love. I’ve maintained an active poly lifestyle for the last three years. Over that time I’ve seen love multiply, not divide. Instead of feeling the need to keep someone in the wings of my life for whenever my relationship ended, I maintain a few relationships that have different timelines. I am never without someone to hold me. I don’t worry about telling people to back off. I shut my mother out of my life for three years. If I can do that to my mom, I can cut anyone off. That doesn’t mean I want to do that. It just means that I will if it comes down to me or you.

I will always choose me. Always. I have to. I need me in order to survive, and I can’t kill myself. I closed that door. I don’t even want to hurt myself, really. And so if I have to live, and I need me to do it, then I have to pick me. Every time.

Planning a wedding is mad stressful. I have three girlfriends getting married over the next couple years. It looks insane from the outside. Just like parenting looks big from the outside and is way bigger in reality, I assume planning a wedding is even bigger than I know. I’ve never done it. And not only is Steph planning a three-day estate wedding (it’s three days, but the wedding is only one-how is that phrased?) but she’s raising a kickass kid, working, taking care of Eric’s grandpa, and saw both her parents go into unexpected surgery last month. She’s got a lot. I don’t want to minimize. I also don’t want to be minimized.

“Then do something that isn’t minimal. Like fucking earn a living, you lazy ho.” My self-talk generator is a bitch.

At the end of the phone call Steph told me to relax. It’s no longer something I need to worry about. I’ll be able to attend the wedding with the money I’ll save on the dress, hair, makeup, nails, shoes, alterations, dry cleaning, hotel, food, drinks, car rental, airlines, bachelorette party game supplies, food and drinks for three days at the bachelorette weekend, money for tours and fun during the bachelorette weekend, and whatever other costs would have popped up. As it is I wasn’t able to fess up for the bridal shower flowers, which Steph covered for $200 in my name. I didn’t get her a pair of panties for her panty tree or a gift for the shower. I don’t know if I’ll be able to get a gift for the wedding. It’ll depend on plane tickets and if I can refund my bachelorette weekend ticket. I regret buying supplies at Michael’s for crafting that damn sash.

She asked if we were ok, and I told her no. I love her and I’ll be there, but this is not ok. I feel like I publically humiliated myself (and am adding to it now?) for months in front of her bridal party. I was edged out of planning because of my economic state, I guess. I don’t know why exactly because I was edged out. I was held responsible for not making it to a shower that was supposed to have airfare provided. On top of it, I was told that I wasn’t “being a friend”. That part really sucked.

I have to look at my boundaries. I need to spend some real time thinking about what I’m sending out if this is what I’m getting back. I know changing myself affects my immediate world, but maybe Steph and I have shifted orbits. Maybe she’s beyond my understanding. It doesn’t mean I don’t love her. I just have no idea what the fuck she is doing. Or what the fuck I’m supposed to do.

Well, now I won’t do anything but try and return wedding things to buy other wedding things. That is much easier.

I’m gonna work on my meditations. It’s halfway through the month and I’m only 1 for 10. Granted drop, death, and drama have been thick this August. Still. I am not just a lazy ho. I want to reach out for the goals I’ve set. I have goals. They just don’t involve veils. And I don’t want to be sorry about that, please.

A blog post containing venting, ranting, and crampy complaining.

Can I just be a self-centered gripping bitch for a moment here, please? If you said no, please stop reading.

There should probably be a disclaimer stating that I am a privileged, white, able-bodied cis woman who has more love than she knows what to do with. I also have internal organs slowly, steadily, rhythmically reaching out of my body and to the moon above us for the last forty-something hours. My skin has yet to burst open from the effort. My heart beats blood into this personal anarchy which only encourages the process. I think my eggs travel through my legs before reaching their destination. Or, they may be like so many other women before me, asking their friends to dress as decoys to prevent kidnapping and inevitable destruction of property via rape. I imagine the fated egg within me, talking to her girlfriends.
“We all know I’m gonna get ready and go out and no one will be there.”
“Psh, girl, at least you’re going out!”
“I knew someone who went out last year and we never heard from her again.”
“No shit.”
“Huh.”
“Well, whatcha gonna wear, anyways?”
Eventually, after clothing is matched with shoes that will be ignored and shimmery jewelry to distract from the shine in her eyes, she’s ready to go. She begs her friends to come with her.
“Well, not WITH ME with me, girls.” They burst into collective knowing giggles. And of course, her girls rally support around her.

The rallied girls dress up in small aching shoes and uncomfortable matching dresses. They parade around before the egg starts her fruitless journey. They go to my thigh and dance, decorate, and make me crave my monthly blood. They travel away on weekend to my lower back. They indulge with alcohol and drugs, which I support if only to numb the pain and terrifying future. All along these anticipatory traditions the egg follows her own journey. Despite her friends support, she is alone. Maybe for the last time, she is truly alone.

I have to wonder, is there comfort or fear in that solitude?

Changing subjects.

One of the most selfish feelings I’m having this month is about my friend James, who recently passed away. Suddenly passed away.

It makes me cry to know that James liked to read everything I wrote. And he won’t read this.

Being me, I have to drag out my trauma to play with all my new encounters. My trauma jumps around like a new puppy, excited to see a new friend it can distort. The knowledge and loss of a beautiful human sits quietly, the excited puppy jumping and lightly barking as it circles its new companion.

I blame myself for the death of my friend. It’s irrational and nearly insane. This was a terrible heart attack’s fault. I am not to blame, his family is not to blame, his paramedics are not to blame; it’s an awful thing that just happened. The way life just happens. One day, you’re hanging with your girlfriends and one announces that she’s going for the big one, and boom, life happens. One day you’re at home with your loving family and boom, death happens.

As a fan of Rick Sanchez, I feel I should be less emotional about this whole process. As a person who doesn’t believe in an afterlife, I should feel comforted knowing that James took every adventure he found along his journey. I should feel grateful that I still can remember him with other people who loved him.

While I’m at it, I should be cleaning the dishes, or the floors, or the bathroom, or all of those things. I should be sanding down the desk so I can repaint it. I should be putting the bed frame together so the bed isn’t on the ground like I’m nineteen. I should be repotting my plants and training the vines to accept their new trellis. I should be working on craigslist to find better carpet and that inverse thing my girlfriend needs. I should be doing yoga and trying to feel my whole body. I should be eating a well-rounded dinner that has a variety of colors and half the meat I think I want. I should be practicing self-love with encouraging, supportive self-talk and time set aside for physical gentleness to myself. I should brush my hair. I should be acting as a better sister, daughter, niece and granddaughter. Fuck, come to think of it, I should probably be being a better aunt, too. One of my nieces hasn’t heard from me in months. I should be finishing-scratch that, rather starting-my thank you cards for the best birthday I ever had. I should be writing the two meditations I missed writing because wedding drama. I should be writing the erotica I’m working on for this stunning woman I’m dating. I should be seeing my friends, who are long-suffering and full of forgiveness. I should probably write thank you cards to those people, too.

I’m in love with Jared Black. He’s been in a favorite among my phone contacts and at my feet for years now. He scares me to no end with his boundless acceptance and love for me. He is good. That someone as fundamentally good as he is would pursue me makes me confused and fluttery. That’s right, I said fluttery. Fucking deal with it.

I’m also in love with my girlfriend Niki. She is a rock alight with stars that shows me another path home. She makes me curious and kind. I am fueled by the constant emotional challenge to stay present, grounded, and open. She carries me between nightmares and hushes my panic back to sleep.

I’m mid-tumble (so, shoulders over knees?) into love with another woman made of light blushes and deep kisses. She’s a sparkler of joy and I want to stand under her colorful fiery rain for as long as I can.

During July of next year, it’s likely that I’ll be shifting my home base from Colorado to Louisiana. I hesitate to say I’ll be moving because I am sitting in my Colorado home right now. I’ll be bouncing between the two cities, between the pulls of my heart, living the dream. I’m being handed tools to build myself up. I’ve been gifted with these materials since Steve dropped me on my ass.

My ex is going to be at my friend’s memorial. And of course he is. James was in the same social circles and everyone loved him. In fact, Steve knew James before I did.

My ex is gross. Not just because he’s someone who made impossible promises and used my money and then dumped with me next to nothing. Although that does suck. Mostly because he thinks it’s cool to straddle the line that exists between “fun, negotiated scary things” and “a violator of women”. It’s not that he’s harmed anyone on purpose because I have not seen him do so. However, there is the implication. Just the implication. It’s enough.

On my thirtieth birthday, I received a text from a number I did not recognize. I showed it to my partners, who had flown into New Orleans to be there with me. It read “Happy birthday Brittany”. I thanked the nameless number and asked for an identifier. The reply was a romantic throwback to a time in my life where I could be downgraded to “just a girl” who deserves love for around 60 seconds. I replied the same way that the same two partners replied immediately.

“Gross.”

He replied back with his name, which I knew. I thought the single-syllabled response I provided contained all of the following implied statements:
How dare you contact me today?
How is it that you can manage to make everything about yourself?

His reply showed me that as usual, it hasn’t occurred to him that the fact that I don’t talk to him and the fact that I won’t let him hug me means I want nothing more to do with him. Steve has served his purpose in my life. He introduced me to amazing people. He brought me into a place where I can communicate openly and expect the mutual respect that comes with clarity. He showed me what living with a kind father can look like, and taught me all the reasons not to move with someone you don’t know very well. Steve never sought to harm me, and he sure as fuck didn’t break me. But he did treat me poorly, and he ended things really badly. I’m not a fan.

His reply was along the lines of, “It’s me, your ex. I thought you would recognize me by that phrase. Hope you had a great birthday”.

That’s nice. It is. He didn’t have to do anything. I didn’t do a goddamned thing for his birthday. But he went out of his way to text me. That’s sweet. Right?

Then why do I feel so belittled by a phrase he’s polished in his mind to shine like a gem and not the kicked-over rock from the back roads that it is.

“Just someone who loved you for a minute. :-)”

I feel like I want to punch that happy face emoticon right out of his fucking phone.

People love me for multiple minutes, bitch. Whole years, in fact. Fuck you and your minute. The minute I spent on Steven Fanara was full of passionate strife and lies painted up beautifully. It wasn’t a waste, and it’s not a regret, but it’s sure as fuck good to be done with that. Done with him.

And yet, he’ll come up to me tomorrow night. When I’m failing my sister by missing her bridal shower and mourning my friend who should’ve had much more time. Steve will wander into my field of feelings and expect recognition for his existence in this world. The whole idea makes me wanna vomit. Maybe I can hold it in til I see Steve.

All that to say, we’ve come full circle on my selfishness. That I’m thinking of my petty issues when someone is dead is insane. That I think my gut pains merit the airing of such thoughts is absurd.

It’s exhausting to recognize and greet my feelings as they arrive throughout my day-to-day. I have so many other things that I think should come before my fucking feelings. I see others successfully contain themselves and manage in the outside world. I load another bowl and think about what I might hear if it wasn’t a constant playback of abuse on low volume instead my brain. Would it be quiet? Would I miss the sounds of a child crying herself to sleep?

Tonight I have plans that sound fun and exciting. I’ll be with a woman I love standing near, especially when she lets me hold her hand. I’ll be seeing friends I’m building dynamics with, and people will tell me they’re happy I’m around. Before that, my girlfriend will come home and let me hold her. Tomorrow I have more plans, less exciting but important and hopefully healing. I have plans for almost every day I’m in Colorado this month. Then I have plans for New Orleans in September and more Colorado plans for September. Then California plans for October and Indiana plans and then back to Colorado. Come November, the next time my calendar is not filled, I may book myself to do nothing. I may hide for days under my blankets, hoping the early snows will cover me from all the things and people.

01/10: Cradled by the Water

It’s likely that the last time you were cradled in someone’s arm, you were a child. The nearness, intimacy, and safety found in being held is powerful. It ideally is a part of our childhoods and infancy. It may bring up feelings of being protected. Those are the good vibes that are seeking for this meditation.

As mentioned before, this process is meant to examine physical sensation and revising self-talk. Parts will be uncomfortable. Sometimes, it may feel stupid to be sitting alone in your bathtub, talking to yourself. I have felt that way. No matter how lame I may have felt in some fleeting moments, these practices, when repeated and tweaked, do work for me. I cannot promise they will work for everyone, but I have high hopes.

Run yourself a bath. I like mine hot hot hot, but this is about you. Choose whatever temperature is most comfortable for this first meditation. For the first bath, let’s refrain from using yummy bubbles or smelly oils. Just you and the water.

Things will vary depending on person size and tub size. One of the “poses” should fit for you and your tub. Hopefully more than one.

When the tub is full, let anyone in the home that may need you (partners, kids, fish) that you’ll be MIA for the next 40-60 minutes. Make sure you have a glass or bottle of water within reach. Set a timer for yourself. This is time that you are carving out for your health and well-being. This is good for you. You deserve this space and effort. Do your utmost to release yourself from guilt, shame, or other unhelpful feels over doing this practice.

In the bathroom, make sure you have your towel and any robe or clothing you may need. I always like candles. Tealights can be found at any dollar store, and those work well. Candles soften the lighting of a room. Your body will lose its sharp edges with the soft light. I find that people don’t spend much time with only candles for lighting. It changes the look of a room. That changes the way the mind reads the room, and what your brain tells you about the room. Candles are a forgiving light source. I find myself able to be more forgiving in their presence.

Now you’re ready: full tub, reachable water, dim lighting, private time set aside. Yay! Now, let’s soak.

Step into the tub. Sit down. Lie back. Breathe in through your nose, filling your belly and your chest, slowly. Exhale completely. Do this a few times. Let the water lap up around the edges of your body. Let the tub cradle you, hold you, and shelter you in warm movement. Can you expand your body so it takes up the whole tub? Feel the way you fill the tub and the way the water fills the other places around your body. Your breath is steady and yet fluid. It fills your body and flows out of you, like the water that surrounds you will move from your head to your feet. Your breath cycles through your body and the water moves around your body. Feel this process inside your breath and outside on your skin.

At this point, I tend to encounter negative self-talk. I think of all the “productive” things I could be doing instead. I think about the phone calls, the emails, and the chores that need doing.I think about that back shed and how I should probably be cleaning that instead of lying in a dumb tub, trying to feel water currents I created. Given my abuse background and my current society, negative self-talk is ingrained on the inside of my head. I don’t like it. It’s not useful. Changing it is possible, and it’s a bitch. Let’s try to start that process.

As any anxiety, judgement, or nasty-jazz-phrasing comes to your mind, observe it. It’s gonna try to rear up and bite you in the bare ass. Listen to the thought as passively as possible. Let it rage in your mind a moment. That is a valid feeling. It might not be logical, accurate, or helpful, but it deserves to be heard. Inhale, and exhale the thought. It happened, and now it’s gone.
For me, this is a process I repeat constantly. Negative thought or judgement, observe, exhale the negative. I have a new thought, I repeat the process.

It has helped me at times to have a different phrase or idea to replace the nasty-jazz-phrasing. Mantras and affirmations are personal notes we read to ourselves. It’s the short “I love you” we say to ourselves. They are important just as you are important. In the first meditation, lying back and letting the water cradle our bodies, try the mantra, “The water cradles me gently”. Repeat your mantra out loud. Roll the idea around in your mind as the water rolls around your body. You’re being cradled gently because that’s how you deserve to be treated. You deserve to be held close, warm and safe. Say the mantra with your eyes closed. Say it again with your eyes open. Let yourself feel cradled, protected, and held. Let yourself feel worthy of such actions. You are worthy. Don’t forget to breathe.

Our next movement is taken from yoga. If the exact pose cannot be used, invoke the spirit of yoga in general. Meaning: breathe deeply, slowly, and consistently. Be gentle in what you ask your body to do, and listen as your body replies with its limits and needs. Please make sure your tub is not too full, and that you have a towel on the floor to catch any accidental overflow. Slipping is not fun.

From the position on your back go into a slight happy baby pose. Bend your knees towards your chest with the soles of your feet aimed towards the ceiling. Hands can hug your legs in closer to your chest, or hold the bottom of your feet. This will look different for each bathtub. Please modify to prevent drowning or slippage. In this position, feel the different type of cradling that is happening. Your back is curved into the tub, the water is holding you differently. You may feel like parts of you are floating. Breathe with the water. Feel how you are supported and how your body moves with the water.

For happy baby pose, try the mantra, “My body can move with the water”. Your body can move because it is flexible. It is fluid. Your body is part of the movement around you. The water moves because of your body, and your body can be moved by the water itself. You are connected to the water. You are connected to your body. Breathe.

The last cradling we’ll do with the water tonight is for specific body parts. Over the years I have done this with every body part I can get to float. I recommend adventures in pools, rivers, oceans and lakes for full-body floating. This has been especially powerful when working with parts I used to injure. Sitting in the tub or sitting on the edge of the tub will work best. The idea is to let a part of your body float, and then reassert control. Let’s use the leg as an example.

Sitting in my tub, legs stretched out before me, I release the weight from my right leg. It floats slightly up into the water. I feel movement on all sides of my leg. It bobs slightly, moving with the water. The water cares for my leg by holding me. After a breath or two, I put force back into my body. I pull my leg down to the bottom of the tub. I can feel the control and action that I purposefully took. The water moved away, allowing me to regain my power. I switch legs and repeat the process.

The suggested mantra for floating parts changes, depending on the body part in use. For the example above, I’d use, “I can feel my leg floating, and I can regain control as soon as I desire”. Being an incest survivor, I felt like I didn’t have control over my body for many years. This exercise gave me a way to witness my control. I was strong enough to put power and movement into my legs, my arms, my head. I was the only one who had control. I practiced trusting the water to hold my body and trusting myself to be able to regain that control.

For those new to this type of work, I suggest ending between 40-60 minutes into the bath. You will know when the time is right for you to be done. Trust yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a slow, mindful practice. In comparison with most of your life, this should feel slow. Maybe painfully slow, depending on how much you like to multitask. It’s difficult. It’s also been worth it, for me.

Remove yourself from the tub. Drain the water. Wrap up in a dry towel or your favorite fluffy robe.

Before leaving the bathroom lay down on the bathroom floor. We’re doing an end pose, one that I repeat after each bath. It marks a sort of transition between the work you just did and going back outside the bathroom. This is another yoga pose. You’re going to lay on the floor with your sitting bones against the wall. Your legs go up against the wall. Your arms lay open. Breathe. This will change the way your blood is flowing. It will change the way your mind is working. You will shift gears out of the mental work you’ve been doing, and be ready to go back into the world beyond. Take at least six breaths against the wall. Be careful getting up, as you may get a head rush if you move too quickly.

What the Water Gave Me: A Series of Bathtub Meditations (intro)

I have been practicing meditation for roughly thirteen years. I have been in groups where I’ve been guided through meditation, I’ve listened to audio recordings of guided meditation, and I’ve done some one-on-one with various therapists or doctors. In 2007 or so, I started building my own meditation material. I meditate in the bathtub. This ten-part series will take place completely in the bathtub.

Please note that I am not a professional in any way. I’m sharing my own experiences and practices. I wrote these to help myself. I have passed on small tips to friends over the years, sometimes it has helped them, and sometimes it has not. It will be different for each person.

If at any point during any of the meditations you feel too uncomfortable or unable to continue, please stop. Pause, maybe change your location or even take a break. While sitting alone with thoughts can be difficult, especially if they are negative or traumatic thoughts. If things are going too far in any way, exercise good self-care and take a break. Reach out to a friend or spend some time outside in the sunshine. The concepts you need to address will wait. Trust me.

Why the bathtub?
My family was always large when I was growing up. It included step-siblings, friends, parents’ partners, and lots of pets. The place where I could always guarantee my privacy was the bathroom. It was also the only room with a lock for most of my childhood. I would spend hours locked in the bathroom with my nail polishes, a book, and my radio. As I started healing, I found the bathtub to be the easiest place I could ground myself. The water temperature, the smell of different soaps, the texture of oil in the water, and countless other factors gave me tethers to reality. When I first owned a laptop, I started to play movies while I would soak in the tub. Over the years, I would find myself practicing new mantras, affirmations, and unraveling therapy concepts in the bathtub.

The benefit was two-fold. I was working on therapy things without feeling weird or awkward. Therapy already felt/feels weird and awkward. In the bathtub, I felt comfortable and safe. I wasn’t sitting in an office or at a work desk. I could dim the lights, or turn them off completely. It made me feel safer dealing with scary mental concepts knowing that I was physically safe in a place I knew well.
The bathtub also provided compartmentalization. It is easy to get sucked into constantly working on self-improvement. The result of that, for myself, was that I was always training and never practicing. In order to put therapy into practice, one needs time away from therapy to encounter the “real world”, which is not always a mentally safe place. In the bathtub, I was safe. It was a defined area and time where I could feel all of my feels. There were times when it took hours. However, it would always end, and I would dry off and put on clothes. I’d be back to “normal”. This gave me a clear line between when I was feeling and sitting with unfun ideas, and when I could put them away and find joy in my friends and life.

What do I need?
If you’d like to follow along with me through the month, a few tools might be helpful. I have been living up my bathtub love for over a decade. I have a lot of fun bath stuff that I’ve accumulated. Despite how much fun candles or bubbles or scrubs are, all you to do this series is a tub of water and courage. If you feel like investing a bit more, I recommend the following:
-at least two different scents of soap/body wash (ideally your favs)
-bubbles (can even be dishwashing bubbles in a pinch)
-candles (size, scent, etc at your discretion)
-loofah (sponge or brush or any sort of exfoliating cleaning thing)
-washcloth (small linen cloth, can use small dish towel in a pinch)
-plastic cup (or any cup for pouring water)
-portable music device (safety first: keep all electronics a safe distance from the water)

What will we meditate on?
The ten meditations are divided into two groups: physical grounding and internal self-talk. First, we’ll walk through finding your body in the tub. The first five meditations go through movement in the water, using your other senses to ground, and feeling present in your skin. At meditation six, we’ll switch over to self-talk. Because this is meant for beginners, newbs, and those who may not have tried before, we’ll go slowly. I’m working more on general concepts that specific instances.

My meditations were meant to battle my physical numbness and hateful self-talk. Each person is layered with their own past, and so I cannot write a mediation that would be ideal for you, specifically. The series is therefore intentionally loose. As we go through the ten meditations on basic grounding and restructuring self-talk, I hope you’ll see places to modify each meditation to better suit yourself. Please take any/all opportunities to personalize this process. It is your process, and you will reap any benefits therein. My ideal goal is that you can write your own meditations after working through this series.

Get your favorite body wash and run yourself a bath, my friend. Let’s get working.

Epilogue: The View from Thirty

In the summer of 2013 I left New Orleans with most of what I owned with a boy I hadn’t known for a year. We spent a month with his amazing parents in Boston. We took two days in Puerto Rico before we decided it wasn’t for us, after all. One short and highly educational week later, Steve and I boarded a plane back to Massachusetts. Aforementioned wonderful parents had kept his car, thankfully. We had a vehicle. Steve drove us to New Orleans. We got extremely drunk with our friends Max and Margaret and I got some belongings. We were robbed and delayed a day before we left for Colorado. Denver was my backup plan. We decided to go with that.

Within one month of Colorado living, Steve had ended our relationship. We’d broken up and gotten together again a few times since Boston. Two, to be specific. At the third time, I moved out.

Over three years, I moved a total of six times. I rented a room in a place I fondly call Casa de Crack and I had a California king bed in the suburbs. I dated and loved a married man which gave me countless lessons. I spent my late twenties refining my stance on kink and my place without the person who brought me into the scene. I spent my time focusing on teamwork. I was the only one left on the team now, and I could continue to not die.

Ironically, Kimberley moved to the Denver area. I was able to resume therapy about a year ago. Now when I see Kimberley, it’s still for ninety minutes per session. The difference now is that I see her every two-three months.

I’m far more self-sufficient than I would have ever been with Steve. We ended on decent, albeit fucked up, terms. We stayed friends until I felt secure enough to let that fade. I don’t like him to hug me anymore. I miss his parents most of all.

In Colorado, I started dating women. I fell in love, mutually, with a woman. I dated women and men. I was in a long-term relationship. I kept many New Orleans relationships alive. The Denver kink scene values education. I was able to learn things that I wish I’d known from the beginning of my kink life. I am proud to be someone who is known as a safe player.

I started buying my own legal weed. I sped through flashback work, without therapy, and now will go days without a flashback. I used pot as a new form of therapy. I kept up with my mental health reading. I worked like healing was my second priority. My first is to be useful while I live on the good graces of those who love me.

I’m not perfect, although, by the amount of love and praise I receive, I can easily see why people think I’m together.

I still don’t have a car. (Selling my car tops the short list of regrets I have about my Puerto Rican adventure.) I proved to be only able to wait tables and work at Penta. I was brutally fired from an office job after two short and terrible months. I was fired from a sushi place because I wouldn’t be bullied by a co-worker or language barrier. I was given money for rent from anonymous sources and then from people I asked.

The withdrawal from ending the Effexor was absolutely horrible. I was without meds for at least a year, which was a different kind of horrible. After so many years of hoping meds would not be a forever need, I started to think I might be one of those people who has forever depression. After I moved out of Steve’s apartment, I gimped to a therapist. She held my hand through getting Obamacare. I was able to see a fantastic doctor who helped me with a small dose of Zoloft. Because I live in a state that has made pot legal, I used marijuana for sleep. I use it regularly for flashback regulation, to combat nausea, and to sleep.

I bounce between two homes, both belonging to hearts that I own. My boy takes care of me in New Orleans and my girl keeps me in Denver.

At home, I work. I’m not paid but I’m not idle. I cook, clean, and help in other ways depending on my location. I’ve held several jobs since Puerto Rico, none with success. I’ve taken the advice of my wise Jared and started to work on redefining success. I don’t have to hold a paid job to be an adult. I don’t have to let myself see a failure in the mirror because I’m thirty and not “being a real grown-up”.

I had so many ideas on what being thirty meant when I was a kid. I felt sure that those people had figured life out at that age. Now, I see myself without a car, without a place of my own, any publications of note, without a marriage or a kid or even a shitty job, and I have to pause so I don’t panic.

I take a deep breath. Then I make myself take one more, because who am I kidding, one breath isn’t going to do it. If I can, I try for six.

I remember my coping skills. I think of Katniss in the meadow, playing her game at the end of Mockingjay. I have so many good things. I can create good things. I give good things to my partners, so much so that they want me around without being more than I currently am. I know I have worth. I also know that because of my past, sometimes I have trouble seeing reality. When I don’t see my value I tell myself that I’m just missing reality for a moment. It always goes back to normal. It just might take a while.

I’ve spent five years with the viewpoint that since I can’t die, I better figure something the fuck out. I’ve learned to humble myself. I’ve found new paths and discovered people I may have otherwise missed. It’s been hard.

I’m so fucking grateful that I have more time ahead of me to keep learning. I may never be good at it, but I enjoy living.