Trans-Empowerment: Believing In Yes

I often do the exercise of imagining what I might say if I got a chance to speak to a specific audience, so I was just spit balling a presentation for Connecticut Trans Advocacy Coalition’s Transgender Lives Conference which focuses on clinical professionals and transpeople.

Trans-Empowerment:
Believing In Yes

Trans people grow up being taught to fear & doubt their own nature, to distrust & deny their instincts and to avoid showing their own trans heart.  The experience of being shamed into silence by a resistant society is one they all share.  This workshop will focus on techniques for empowerment, encouraging the very individual capacities of transpeople and helping them find the resilience & confidence to share their unique gifts in the world.

The Legacy of No.

“Third Gotcha.”    Thin Ice, no margin of safety.

Politicized Choices: Got surgery just to shut people up

Shame

Hidden Dreams, Crushed Hopes

The armour, the armour, the armour

We see what we expect to see.  Cognitive bias.

Flawed projections of power
— Ours, playing out unconsidered and unhealthy power trips
— Theirs, using visual cues to box in the limits and obligations of power

Have to meet people where they are.

Without Peer

Origin Story: Sick/Broken/Weak vs Natural/Heart/Calling.  What does our desire mean?

So much easier to know what we are not than know & accept who we are.

Learn to purge or learn to manage?

Learning to fear.   Fear others, fear ourselves.

Imposed Political Identity: Others tell us what our secret desires “really” mean.

Beyond anguish & isolation, beyond believing we need to conceal our sickness.

Second adolescence, without camouflage or encouragement.

Beyond Despair.

Learning Your Own Lessons

People grow & heal in their own time and their own way.  You can’t teach.

Empowerment is a unique personal process, not a shared political goal. Empowered individuals do create stronger communities, but community demands do not empower individuals.

Beyond Comfort: Supporting Diversity

How queer is too queer?

Getting to “I would never make that choice for myself, but it looks great on you!”

Consciousness raising not call “call out” shaming.

Passing & Policing

Fear that noise will queer how people see us.   We are “and” people, not “or.”

Self policing is almost always over policing.

Conceal Sex or Reveal Nature?  Invisibility to Exceptionality

Torn Choices: trained versus heart.  Gender as a learned discipline, advertising abilities.

Gender Shift requires Power Shift: New ways of gaining influence.
How to flirt?

The core of empowerment is trusting your exceptional gifts will be seen, valued and accepted.

Open Enough For Feedback, Contained Enough For Persistence.

Needy: Move to not bleeding, not crusty

Out of the bubble: able to see reflection of vision, not just of assertions

Engagement, presence rather than separation, clinging

Effective Mirroring Is Required

Mirroring empowers you to feel what you feel and know what you know.

Bessel Van Der Kolk “The Body Keeps The Score”

The power of names: nothing you wouldn’t write on skin with a sharpie

Resistance reduces endurance, weakening us.  Mirroring restores that commitment.

Beyond Victim.

Lowest Common Denominator Support: Surrender Voice to Group

Power == agency & influence in your life and community.

The beauty of scars as marks of life

Returning the Gift.   Being Of Service.

Open enough to engage feedback, solid enough to hold to inner knowledge

Unleashing Exuberance

2/3 of help is giving encouragement.

A therapist is someone who sees something in you that you do not yet see in yourself.   This includes not only blocks & twists but also possibilities and brilliance.

Transpeople are people who can: succeed, love, transform, become new, claim peace, be empowered, etc.   Believe that or be gone.

A dream shared is a dream that begins to breathe.

We are not alone.


=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+

How did I get this outline?   Simple.  I just took all the things that were done that disempowered me over my life and reversed them.

Too many people believe that the best thing you can do for those that stand up, stand out is to pound them down, trying to teach them how to fit in, how to be normative, how to follow the rules that keep everyone scared and compliant.

In the end, I decided that this was way too much for an hour presentation, especially for an audience that has no grounding in this kind of thinking.

 

Scaffolding

Many people see my sharp, open and disciplined disciplined mind.

What they don’t seem to see is that mind was structured as scaffolding to protect and repair my big, battered femme heart.

It is my heart that quickly makes connections, sensing the love or fear, the twists or truths in the world around me. It is my heart that took the beating of denial, of isolation, of the pounding that tried to make it into something it never was and never was going to be.

The scaffolding that lets me monitor, protect, control and process the intensity of my own feelings is often seen as very useful to others.   I use it to take care of their needs, to enter their world, to be the concierge that they want protecting and serving them.

While they love how my scaffolding feels protective, creating safe space explore the surprises and terrors of life, it was never, though, was it built to serve them.   It was built to serve me, to take care of me, to protect me.

My mental health is fine.   My emotional health, on the other hand, has always been on the critical side.   As I get older, with less excess energy and much less hope of change, the state of my heart has become dire.

For decades I sent out bulletins on this damage almost everyday, using the best and most powerful language my head could find to express the trauma my heart went through, the damage that keeps growing as I have less and less return to heal it.

I went through all the words in the world that I could find to expose the price of my experience of being pounded down, denied and shredded.

The scaffolding I used to do that work was strong, creative and impressive.   All the while, though, the heart that powered everything I do was becoming more weak, more scarred and more at risk.

Now, when I have to put energy and focus into the scaffolding just to face a world of small insults, of insensitive assaults, it is always at the cost of maintaining my own heart.   While fighting for others is good, a gift, having to fight again for myself while being tied up in suspicion and disgust is always costly.

I am not my scaffolding, no matter how much of me was used to create, grow and maintain it.    It may be what people see, may be what they demand be extended to serve them, to do the jobs they demand I do, but it is not me.

I am, rather, my essence, my spirit, my heart.

And that part, I fear, gets more frayed and flaccid everyday.

Seeing Evil

Emma knew that Clinton was complicated and evil because her fellows Sanders supporters told her so.   Trump, though, seemed simple and human, so she voted for him, even though she is a transwoman who ended up supporting a party that has made many actions directly against queers like her.

We live in a culture where we are trained to pick out what is different, what is wrong, what is weak, what is bad and what is evil about other people.    We beat on how they fall short, on the times when they failed, betraying us.

This is what we grew up with, a demand that we be who others expect us to be.  We were to eliminate our differences, be ashamed of our limits, and strive to be normative, fitting the role we were cast in.

Todd Rose’s “The End Of Average: How We Succeed In A World That Values Sameness” is all about this shattering and abusive pressure.   Rose knows that the only way we can succeed is by bringing out our unique strengths, by revealing our own light, not by trying to comply with imposed expectations and focusing on eliminating difference.

If human accomplishments are valued by how we hide and spin our failures, rather than by how our risks and commitment was moral, brave, honest and lead to better outcomes, well, then people will always avoid the possibility of being seen as queer, flawed and complicated.

My sister is being pressured and threatened at work because she is who she is, an incredibly committed and smart introvert with a powerful work ethic rather than who the bosses up the chain think she should be, a swinging dick extrovert who forces her reports to also become aggressive, demanding, driven  and compliant in their actions.

How you make hourly workers who have toiled for years with the routine work of keeping a store stocked and ready into big balls players is beyond her.   It’s beyond anyone, really, because if they were that ambitious, they wouldn’t still be putting out dress shirts everyday.

Instead of valuing her strengths, working to use them more effectively, she is told that maybe she doesn’t really belong because she doesn’t have the blood lust.   Can those managers above her see how she quietly trained new people, solved problems, got the best out of staff?   No, because they are not looking at what she actually brings, only at how she doesn’t match the imposed expectations of their demanding bosses who want bigger and more aggressive because they are sure that will bring them the success they need to satisfy their demanding bosses.

This is a culture focused on lack and deficiency, which makes it a culture focused on spin, defensiveness and blaming.   Rather than coming together to find better solutions a diverse team can implement, we end up trying to impose canned rules and then looking for a scapegoat when they don’t succeed.

We look for deviance which we mark as damage, valuing the shiny people who look nice over the messy ones who actually waded into the fray to take the risks and get things done.

We look, in other words, for evil.   Who is to blame for our failures, who needs to be pounded into line, who caused the loss?

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Peace never comes from looking for evil, from avoiding the complex, from trying to impose your simple and fundamental rules on others.

The quest for perfection, in an organization or in a human, is not the quest for eliminating all identifiable weaknesses, rather it has to be the quest for balance, for grace and for cooperation.   There is no one perfect answer, no matter what people who live by the book may tell you, there are only good, effective answers that work in the current context, taking stock of current needs and long term costs.   Every choice comes with a price — saying yes to one thing means saying no to another — and making those trade-offs always demands compromise and attention.

We do the best we can, which means focusing on getting better, making better choices is always, always more useful than focusing on eliminating failure.  God, grant me the courage to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Confusing symbol with meaning doesn’t mean we make things better, only that we miss the possibilities which are right in front of us but are beyond the fearful limits of our current vision.   Simple may be comforting as it purges complexity and it’s complications, but the world our creator left us is is full of spectacular connections and nuanced interactions.

Knowing what you are sure is evil is standing for the negative, standing for judgment and sickness.    Being open to the good that exists within the messy choices is standing for the positive, standing for possibility and empowerment.

I have been judged and found complex, overwhelming, challenging and evil.  My difference is confounding rather than valued, scary rather than enlightening. People already know what they want, and I am not it.

Those people will, in the end, have to live with the results of their choices.   They can either take responsibility and learn from the outcomes, or they can look for someone to blame, wanting to purge the evil which blocked their simple and beautiful dreams from coming to fruition.

If they are seeing evil, though, it is doubtful that they will, as so many masters of antiquity have told us to do, seek that evil within themselves.   Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

After all, there is always another scapegoat whose destruction should remove the evil we see, even if that evil is located inside our own eye.

Little Balls

Those who write on restroom walls
roll their shit into little balls.

Those who read these lines of wit
eat those little balls of shit.

It’s so much easier to eat shit when instead of seeing a whole bucket of it in front of you, they are cute little balls, rolled in sugar or nuts.

When I performed Christmas kindness a few days ago, I knew how to do it.   I created little moments in which it was easy for others to connect, to offer a drop of kindness, to feel virtuous and a bit merry.

Can I rest these heavy hams in your cart?  You look like you are running chores for a party!   Small and easy, shallow and simple.

As Pete Schweddy knows, it’s the packaging that makes what you offer special and desirable.    Make it mouth sized and glistening so people just can’t stop putting it in their mouth.

Slip the big lies right down them, one sweet & salty ball at a time.  Do that long enough and you get an electorate that rejects the complex in favour of the tasty balls rolled by television hosts who are trained to make even the most disgusting things easy to swallow.

I was in marketing.   I produced and hosted a live daily television show.  I know how to make those little balls so cute and easy to eat that they just slide down with no thoughts or questions, just enter right into the bloodstream so their message takes its place alongside all the other shit you ate.   Yum!

The message I have been trying to get out for the last thirty years, though, isn’t about ease, simplification, packaging and shit.  Instead, it has been about content, about meaning, about context, about thinking for yourself.   It is about regurgitating all that shit you ate, getting clear so you can go back to powerful human values.

That’s not something people want to hear.  Going on a shit-free diet means that you can’t feed yourself the rationalizations and hopes that get you through.   It means you can’t easily participate at table when everyone else is happily, mindlessly eating what has been put in front of them.

Maybe worst, it means you become a target of the shit, someone who is out to destroy the lovely simplicity of the world, the place where easy and comforting shit soothes and mollifies us.

I tried to roll what I was offering into little balls, easy to digest, complimenting the everyday diet, but I failed.    I just can’t get the roughage, the seeds, the nutrients inside of sweet little packages, can’t pack it into soundbites of simplicity that are easy to swallow.

Audiences come to be entertained and comforted, not to be challenged and educated.   They want what they already know, so if you feed them what they expect, laced with a bit of whatever poison you are pushing today, well, they leave happy and convinced.

Play to their tastes, to their desires and yearnings, to the illusions & dreams that they hold and what you offer will go down a treat.

I can’t do that.   I just can’t.

Bah, Humbug!

Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s old sidekick and drinking buddy, used to quip that there was only one day a year that he didn’t drink, New Year’s Eve.

“It’s too full of dammed amateurs,” he explained.

I do spirituality every day of the year, but there is one day a year when it feels very bad, and that is Christmas.

It’s just too full of dammed amateurs.

People who think they can live their life without consideration and practice of honouring the spirit within, only to make up for it with a big, one-day binge, well they bring out the worst in me.

I felt them all around me, rushing and pushing with their ego to get what they needed to have a “perfect Christmas,” unaware and unkind bullies who want to have the facade of the holy day without all the painful, messiness of doing the hard work to be open, present and loving in the wider world.

For me, the moments of respect & piety are in the small interactions.   I like to shop for groceries on the eve, being kind to men who don’t usually do this work.   They are running errands for the woman making the holiday, or they are on their own, trying to humbly make their own holiday.   They are ready to take a moment of consideration, shared wit and kindness.

Standing in snow while waiting in the line for fresh, hearth baked bread, one woman grumbled about how they should plan for the rush, while men knew that this ritual of a bit of enforced and shared suffering just reminded them how lucky they were every other day of the year.   Camaraderie and community were revealed, amen.

I did the small human interactions, and they felt good, revealing connections with others that would have just been brushed past at any other time of the year.

Inside, though, rage isn’t far below my surface.   For so many at this time, it is separations that are illuminated, not connections.    We don’t identify with the humility of staying in a manger, of relying on the wider circles to help each other out.

Instead, so many create an enclave where personal success is celebrated and their choices are proclaimed as spiritual, kind and open.   Instead of hearts being opened, beliefs are rationalized, put in a spiritual spin, laced with gluttony, booze and the replay of vindicating psycho dramas.

The divine context of Christmas comes out in a reversion to ritual, playing out the old-time religion from the simpler, better times.  Instead of an embrace of the complex and nuanced beauty of creation, laced with the challenge to open up our soul, many hold tight to a rejection of the connections and problems revealed by the way we live today, wanting spiritual beliefs to reduce the world, not expand it.

One day Christians don’t see the festival as full of mystery & transcendence, rather they see spirituality as something canned, ready to pop open for a fast baste in the sanctity of how things should be if on those damn people hadn’t got their greasy hands on it.

You have to meet people where they are, take advantage of any opening, let them heal in their own time and their own way.   I do that everyday, of course, holding my heart open to create space for transformation, vulnerability and blossoming.

On Christmas, though, the amateurs really get under my skin as they just plunge on without any respect for the traditions that hold what is really important.

The traditions of Christmas aren’t there are a fundamental absolute, just sensations to be enjoyed.   Rather, they exist to hold the spiritual values which those we loved wanted to pass onto us.   As we go through the milestones of years, taking new parts in the pageant, it is those encapsulated values that we need to guide us in a world that can easily become dark and cold.

We change, the world changes, but the essential stories of goodness that humans have created out of sweat, blood and long, difficult experience strive to hold eternal truths about the way to live a good and righteous life in reverence to the creation that connects all.

For people who want a quick, canned holiday, this is not only irrelevant, it is beyond understanding. They don’t have the time, focus, discipline or will to touch the spiritual everyday, to engage their own healing and obligations.

Ed McMahon loved the convivial culture of the imbibers, the craic and the connection and he just didn’t want to see damned amateurs disrespect it and screw it up with a cheap and messy binge.

I love the revelatory culture of the spiritual seekers, the theology and the connection, so seeing damned amateurs disrespect it and screw it up with a cheap and messy binge hurts.

Sleepers, awake! I want to cry out, opening them to the profound depth that spirit demands in a life.

They, however, are partying, trying to recreate an experience for which there is no original, so my call is written off as just another holiday rant to be forgotten tomorrow in the cold, sober light of a returned “real life.”

May your festival be meaningful and transformative, letting you understand the ancient stories in a new way.

Or, failing that, may you just have a helluva party.   Just don’t bother to wake me when it is over.

Suspect

“I never imagined that anyone would ever find me an evil person, declare me a suppressive personality, so corrupt that they would lock me on a ship for months, pounding me everyday to make me compliant with their belief system,” said a mother who followed her child into Scientology so that he would not have to disconnect from her.  She spent five years putting herself aside to keep the family together, knowing from the beginning that the cost of failure would be the destruction of her family in the service of what the masters at Scientology called the greater good.

She couldn’t imagine that anyone would declare her so corrupt and evil that she had to be beaten into compliance or frozen out, stripped of her connection and personhood, her love shattered.

In my case, though, from as early as I could remember, I couldn’t imagine anyone embracing me, finding me delightful and wonderful, being there with love and affirmation.

For me, I knew that I was seen as evil, corrupt and suppressive from a very young age.   I asked just the wrong questions, saw through the manipulations, and refused to be compliant with the demands of others when they tried to demolish and erase me.

I suspect that most people have the childhood experience of being seen as good, as sweet, as cute, of being valued, liked and even adored.  That’s why they go into relationships expecting the best, believing that their own essence will be seen and liked, that the will get what they desire and what they need, no matter how many warning signs come up beforehand.

Their belief system doesn’t include the idea that others may be vicious and manipulative to them, doesn’t encompass the belief that they need to be smashed and broken just to fit into others expectations and demands.

This was never the assumption I made when I looked at the people around me.   I was always suspect, always defended, always questioning, always looking for the way that I was going to be hurt “for my own good,” as they tried to teach me why my nature was wrong, corrupt and evil, why I had to have my spirit broken so I would be compliant, docile and unchallenging.

Theology saved me, not later, but as a child.  Understanding what was right and what was just coercive was at the heart of my private world, from the time when I was three and tattled on the bus driver’s rule breaking, when I was five and called out “Mrs. Hughes, The Burnt Out Fuse” they brought back from retirement to teach our kindergarten, when I was nine and excelled in a confirmation course dripping with theology, when I was twelve and sent to the therapist who finally told my parents to stop using “Stupid” as my name in the family.

The believer is happy, the doubter is wise, goes an old Hungarian proverb.   “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Phil McGraw often asks his television targets.

Happy, well, it never seemed to be an option for me.   If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, goes an old bit of southern wisdom, and in my house, well, Momma weren’t never happy.    She carried the pain of growing up as a woman with Aspergers like a crown of thorns, always ready to lash out against anyone she saw as not doing what she wished, causing her distress and making her life miserable.   Everything was about her, and in her view, we were all failing because we weren’t making her happy.

My brother ran, choosing flight, my sister froze and I fought.   As the oldest child, the scapegoat, I don’t think I really had any other choice.  There was family I loved to be protected.   Even to the end, fifty or sixty years later, I became a full time caretaker not to be nice to my mother but to protect my father from her demands as he got less and less able to meet them.   I helped him take care of my mother.

There are so many reason why people found me challenging over the years, too hip for the room, too intense, too questioning, too x-ray, too everything,  that there was no time or place for me to learn how to trust, how to believe in the possibility of love.

Barry Humphries, Dame Edna’s creator, said recently that he always had the confidence that if he did what amused him, the audience would follow.  I always had the trust that if I did what amused me, the audience would be lost and angry.

My life has been based on willpower and performance, yes, but always in the cause of struggling to find ways to speak the truth that I could get past the rage, bitterness and fears of the people around me.   If they wanted to see clearly, they already would see that way.   Instead, they wanted to be comfortable, to find healing that tasted good, was easy to swallow.  Sugar truth up, make it sly and camouflaged, letting it build over time rather than coming in one hard swallow.

I knew that people were more than sanguine to brand me evil, corrupt and suppressive and throw me out, which meant I knew that if I wanted to get anything done, I had to be a guerrilla fighter.   Manipulative was my method, though I was always clear to make my true intent known.

Learning to let go of my needs, though, to stop trying so hard to fill the holes torn into my soul was very hard, but I knew moving beyond desire was the only way to relax and not be so prickly.  The ego has to shrink, even if releasing my deepest desires meant I had no more hope of having them come true.

The very process of letting go, though, ended up removing another level of social connection between me and other people.  Most people are defined by what they desire, forming bonds over shared wanting, usually for reasons of identity and status.   I think of cliques of high school girls who roam the mall, each only slightly varied in their uniform, finding comfort and power in a pack identity.

We know who others are by knowing what they desire, so if they have renounced desire, walked away from it, they seem weird and impossible to manipulate.   Shared interests, usually shared impulses, form bonds, so when someones interests are baffling, queer or non-existent, how do we trust them, connect with them?

This is the social pressure that organizations use to enforce compliance, the desire to not be seen as aberrant,  to fit in as one of the pack.  No matter how hard Scientologists pounded on that poor mother, she was beyond the point of surrendering to their coercive demands for compliance with the expected norms, so they declared her suppressive, an outcome she could never imagine before she joined in.

My move away from desire, not shaping my choices to please & delight a social group, but instead standing alone, relying on my own hard work to resolve and clear my choices, lead me always to know that I was vulnerable, likely to be attacked and abused in a way that was justified by my inability to comply with the immense pressure to be normative.

I learned very early to suspect the people around me, and in turn, the people around me learned to suspect me.  It was a relationship based in distrust and fuelled by the x-ray vision I needed just to survive parents without theory of mind.

My distrust wasn’t vindictive or nasty, rather it was protective and useful.  I needed to stay safe and if I used my insights well, I could actually make family life better for everyone, working for change and enlightenment.  The older I got the more I learned how to act for good, but that intention was there from the first.   After all, I was just a kid and a kid wants & needs love in their life, wants to make things better.

When they sent me to that counsellor in eighth grade, I only agreed to go if they would help my parents.   They did promise, but of course, they lied to me for my own good, because how could I have any awareness of where the real problem was when I was such a challenging kid that I needed mental health assistance?  Having people lie to me “for my own good” was so typical though, that I learned how to evaluate everyone.   This later angered salesmen, including an old boss, who were very frustrated not to find an unfiltered port they could manipulate me though.

Other people, I guess, never saw the lie coming, never sensed the manipulation and sickness that others tried to hide.   They couldn’t imagine that anyone would find them so challenging that they would try to beat them into compliance.   I could imagine, though, because as a nail which stuck up, I felt it pound down on me so many, many, many times in my life.

People love Scientology because it offers “certainty,”  the absolute promise of absolutely definitive answers, allowing them to be certain of their standing.  Straight or gay?  Man or woman?  Broken or blessed? Good or evil? They demand a definitive answer.

Childish awe and wonder, blind trust in something bigger and more powerful than I am, well that never felt safe to me. Instead, it felt infantilizing, oversimplified, and reductive in a way that was never, ever open to me.

After the crackpot pastor who loved my fifth grade theological bent — a pal’s father and someone who ended up institutionalized for a while —  the next pastor was an ex Marine chaplain who felt the need to attack those who protested against involvement in Vietnam from the pulpit.   He hated me, sure I was cheating, angry that I could stand against the institutionalized power he climbed the ranks to embody.  Why couldn’t I just show him the respect and fealty he deserved, obeying rather than challenging?

To me, answers had to be validated, checked and compared, shown to be consistent and connected across views and experiments.   No one person or group held the truth, no one book or tradition was perfect, rather only the threads running across, transcending singular subjectivity and the demand for separation held essential meanings.

I learned to live in the question rather than the answer, so the questions of “What do these people want, what are they willing to do to get it, and how much are they in their own delusions?” were the first things to go through my mind when someone started to play out their own game on me.  There were always things I could learn from the stories and choices of other people, but they weren’t always about what they wanted me to see.   Rather, my vision was of  how their actions connected with others I had met in the past, finding patterns which were often unconscious for them.

The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone. (2002)   How can you be other than alone, though, when there is no one you can trust to be safe and delicate with what you share, understanding it deeply and holding it tenderly?

The best way to capture what you need is to invoke it in the world.   Becoming a mother and creating an empowering, joyful and loving world was the right way for me, but it wasn’t a way that was open to me.  Spinster was the best I could manage, so spinster was the way I shared my heart in the world.   It wasn’t really a satisfying or rewarding role, but it was the best suspect & isolated old me could ever manage.

I know what people want from me.   They want me to fit into their current understandings and capacities, want to be able to offer understanding and compassion within their context.   If I am challenging and queer, well, that makes me suspect, identifies my failure to understand and respect where they are right now.   They want to be kind, but if I can’t come to the common, normative place, well, who is then failing?

If I can’t share in a way that supports and affirms their expectations and beliefs, well, then what can I be but suspect?

And suspect, well, suspect is separated, isolated, distanced, alone, lonely.

I imagined people could find me suspect from my earliest days.  I knew the cost and risks of being held suspect.

At this point, how can I imagine anything else?

 

Continue reading Suspect

Celebrate Light

Somewhere tonight, in this cold, longest night of the year (at least up north), there is a party that you are invited to.

It’s where we gather together to help each other get through the darkness, where we celebrate the light that comes to the world not from the outside, but from the inside of every spirit.   Every time a child is born, every time we lose the sacred fuel and have to keep on until it can be replenished, the light that comes from shared souls keeps us safe and warm.

On a long, dark night, we have the blessing of time, of time away from the hurry-up, rush-rush demands of a commercial culture that just wants us to serve the machine.  In time out of time getting close to other hearts, feeling the connections becomes easier. more potent.

The only thing you need to come to the party is a open heart.   Open it and everything happens: all of who you are and the gifts you bring will tumble out, while you are able to embrace and delight in the gifts of the heart that others bring to the party.

Come early and help prepare, sharing your energy and care.   There is cleaning to be done, decorations to be hung, candles to be lit and food to be prepared, all the ways we make the space special and safe for everyone.  Someone has to melt the anchovies, or people won’t have the special memory that brings back shared days past.

The women will come together to shine themselves up, finding the festive attire and helping each other polish their appearance so they can reveal their own radiant beauty.    When we see ourselves through the eyes of others we see beyond our fears and into our possibilities.   We may even try on new shoes and glimpse a new part of our glamour that was previously beyond our imagining.

There are stories to be told, the old ones that remind us of who we are and where we come from, invoking ancestors and traditions and the new ones that reveal how our essence continues to blossom in the world, reborn again in a modern way.   Sharing those stories is sharing hearts, feeling the connections and opening places that we have never yet explored, or that we have put away, forgotten to make everyday life less challenging.

One more good day is always tough because we are, on some level, just frail human flesh, aging and suffering, fighting to move beyond fear & pain.   Tonight, though, we can remember that we are also something more, something beyond, something that touches the eternal and the infinite.   Our hearts open and the love tumbles out, the force of spirit that threads through everyone, if they are physically present or not.   They live within us, captured in story & emotion, and by holding the best of them, we can find and reveal the best of us.

As the night progresses, the music moves from playful & energetic to graceful & intimate.   We dance closer, feeling the warmth penetrate our skin, melting in the arms of another, safe & supported. No longer do we have to support ourselves on our own, instead swaying with partners who share the load, share the moment, share the scent, share the love.

As we drift off, comfortable in the shared warmth, our dreams move us beyond the mundane and into the places where we are able to show more of our hearts, feeling seen, understood and valued.   A world where we can offer the present of being more present feels possible because we have had a touchstone of it in this longest of nights.

Rebirth comes when the spark we hold inside can kindle again, raising to a flame we can share with other humans.   When they can’t move beyond their own limits to come together, life becomes almost impossible for us, alone and hurting in what feels like cold darkness.

When the sun rises again in the morning, starting her new cycle of life, giving more of herself everyday until the peak of her summer, we too can get up and get out, another milestone behind us, an another affirmation of the light inside of us written into our history.

I wish there was a physical party that you could come to tonight, seeing and sharing in a way that supported and affirmed you, but it seems to me that party only exists in our understanding and imagination.   Practical parties are usually so filled with the drama of looming fear and untouched pain that they leave us more battered at the end than the beginning.

I’ve been writing about these needs for a very, very long time now, up to just a couple of years ago.  This one, though, might have been the hardest I ever wrote.

May you find that space of shared light where play, warmth and heat all add up to a celebration of love.

It is a blessing that you deserve.