Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Birth of Venus

It is said that Zeus ate his wife when she was pregnant with Athena. It had been prophesied that the child would be more powerful than Zeus, and I guess he just couldn’t have that. This put an end to his wife, but the child Athena continued to grow inside his body until one day she burst out through his skull.

And Venus, goddess of love, was born from the sea after Zeus’s castrated genitals were thrown into the water. I don’t recall who did the castrating, or why, but I think this too had to do with jealousy. Nonetheless, this tragedy gave rise to the birth of Venus, whose curvaceous form rose from the sea foam, naked and holy, while ecstatic cherubim heralded her arrival.

Athena and Venus are not alone when it comes to unfortunate birth stories. As it turns out, most gods and goddesses are born of misfortune.

I read these stories when I was young, on rainy Saturdays, out of a hard-cover book on mythology given to me by my grandmother. I was barely a teen and yet I wondered at the irony of it all. Zeus and his cohorts were gods, after all, powerful beyond measure. And yet here they were, destroyed by their own emotions.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that this collection of impetuous and tortured gods was all of us.

I think of you now when I read these stories, as you were a man undone by emotion. On the outside, you always appeared so calm and controlled. But I could feel the disquiet just beneath the surface. Perhaps that is why I stayed so long. I thought I could rescue you from yourself.
When I swam in the waters off the coast of Australia, I remember being surprised at how calm the ocean was when I dove beneath the pounding waves. You were just the opposite, like an upside-down storm at sea: deep, roiling waters underneath with a glass-like surface.
After you were gone I found the notes you kept in your planner. Each day you chronicled my faults. Oddly, you wrote of nothing else. Not of work or the kids, no ponderings of life. Just a diary of all the ways I did not appease your needs. I had gained weight, wrote too much, sat the kids in front of the TV, ignored you, went to bed early when you wanted sex, stuck you with the kids when I was sick, gave you a look. It was all there, recorded in your small, precise handwriting. The mundane activities of my day, as seen through your distorted lens.
Given your dissatisfaction with me, I was surprised that you reacted with such vehemence when I finally did leave. You turned on me, like Zeus devouring his lover. It seemed there was no end to the ways you wanted to destroy me.

I figured out much later that it was never me you were fighting. It was all those voices inside – angry, berating, telling you that you were never enough. They circled and dove in your head like angry sparrows. When I left, every black-edged taunt in your mind crystallized and was projected outward onto me. You looked at me and saw yourself.
I’m not angry at you, not now, despite the harm you brought upon all of us. You no longer seem like an affronted god ravaging my world. Just a broken mortal, injured beyond imagine.
I recognize, too, that you were a catalyst for my own healing. You were my whetstone.

Think about it. When I tried to walk away, you destroyed the path. I hid and you smashed in the door. I ran and you cut off my feet. I cried out and you burned my tongue. You put me in a position of having to constantly improve my game: fight harder, run farther, write louder.

You were my midwife, assisting in my birth. I should thank you for that, your contribution to my awakening.

When I saw you recently, I could see that the years in prison had not softened you (but then, how could they?). You walked into the courtroom with that same calm façade. The litigation was a game to you – see if you could hold me under longer than I could hold my breath. What you didn’t realize was that I was no longer playing the game. I gave that up long ago.

I could tell you were shocked by the verdict. I suppose you still expect reality to bend to your carefully crafted illusions. I watched you walk away after the hearing, the anger threatening to break through the surface.

Your history might tell you that pain begets pain. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes, pain brings love and darkness gives birth to light. I learned, out of necessity, that when we develop the courage to look long enough at our own pain without blinking, it will eventually lift, and then shift into something quite spectacular.

If you look closely at this world, between the folds of darkness, you will find a generous expanse of love just there for the taking.

I wish you peace. I wish you healing. I hope one day you will know what it feels like to be released from your wounds. And I wish you were able to see, truly see, the beauty in this world. If you could, perhaps you would be able to make out in the distance, beyond the ruins of our past, the magnificent glow of light emerging like the dawn.

For behold, Venus rises from the shadow of the sea.

This is my final post on Wanderlust. I shuttered the blog several years ago, but I have chosen to re-open it so the archives are available for those who wish to read them. Shutters are great when you need to close out the world, which is something I needed for a time, but they also keep the light out.

I have a new space where I write now, but it seemed best to post this piece here, where it can act as an apropos full stop to a tumultuous and unimaginable chapter of my life. ~Peace~

Saturday, July 18, 2015

I don’t give a rip about Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby is all over the news. You can read the transcripts of his court testimony from 2005. You can read that his wife believes the victims willingly took drugs and had sex with her husband, and that she’s made her peace with that. You can read about the petition to take away his presidential medal of freedom, and how it probably won’t happen.You can read a hundred different dissections on how this has killed his career.

You can read about Cosby all day, every day, whether you want to or not, because it’s in your face.

Personally, I’m tired of it. This amalgamation of newsworthy angles on the topic as seen through the lens of entitlement. Cosby this. Cosby that.

Do you know what I want to read about?

The women.

The forty women who have come forward to report that they were raped by Cosby. The god-knows-how-many more who have yet to come forward, or who will take their silence to the grave because they don’t want to be publicly crucified, or who have perhaps already died and will never bear witness. That, I care about.

I want to know how the experience has affected them. And not just in the obvious ways we are all accustomed to hearing from rape victims: the physical and emotional scars, the self-recrimination, the shame, the PTSD.

I want to read about the stuff beneath that. How many years of therapy did it take to reach a point where they could even date again? Did they stop trusting their ability to make good decisions? What might their careers have been if they hadn’t had that kick to their confidence? How did it affect what they taught their children, both explicitly and in the hundred silent ways they modeled a defensive stance against an untrustworthy world?

How did it affect their health ten or twenty years later? Are they experiencing back problems, pelvic pain, depression, anxiety, reflux, migraines, sleep disorders, heart disease, cancer? How many days of work have they missed as a result of all of it? How much money have they lost? How many years have been shaved off their expected life spans?

And beneath that still, on a level they may not even be able to articulate, do they understand that this was not about sex, but about power? That it happened, in part, because their power was intimidating and confronting to a man, who responded by trying to crush it?

And in the years that followed, as they began to straighten out their crimped souls, breathe deeply again, even voice their stories out loud, did they still carry with them a visceral memory of that equation: that their power causes fear, and fear causes retaliation?

How many years did they walk around with their power center closed up tight like a flower bud, because what good is your own power if it slays you? And did they continue on in their lives, allowing themselves to experience just enough of that life-giving energy to take some tentative steps forward, but not enough to attract too much attention?

If they are introspective enough to recognize that they have responded to this violent betrayal by dimming their own light, will they blame themselves and not the catch-22 conditions of a social structure designed to ensure that exact outcome?

Maybe, just maybe, a day will come and one of them will decide, fuck it, I’m going to stand up tall and put all my gifts on display. Let my power rip. Belt out my song even if I’m pilloried for it. Because what good is a life half-lived? Maybe people will rail against her because they value their own fantasy more than they value the pain of an anonymous woman. But by then perhaps she won’t care. She’s high on her own truth.

So yeah, Bill Cosby. I don't care how he’s dealing with this. He is simply one of thousands upon thousands who have chosen to use their power and privilege to harm another in an attempt to fill a void within themselves. He is just another sorry-assed cliché.

But the women? They have some pretty phenomenal stories to tell.

I'm just sitting here, with half the planet, waiting to hear their songs.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

No, I don't need to respect your opinion
Since the landmark SCOTUS vote for marriage equality there have been a lot of emotional exchanges on social media. Some of it has gotten ugly. I've also seen several pleas for tolerance of differing opinions, and specifically for respecting the deeply held religious beliefs of others.

While I’m all for both tolerance and freedom of expression, I found myself bristling at some of these peacemaking requests.

At its heart, it’s because I’m uncomfortable with the underlying premise that this is merely a debate about personal beliefs.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A litter of nursing kittens

Look what I have under my roof at the moment. Pretty adorable, aren't they? Yes, I'm a foster mama again. These kittens are about two weeks old.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Should you think twice before telling your story?

Image Source:
If you had asked me when I was younger what sort of activity I would find most fulfilling, I would have never said: “Sharing really personal information on the internet, yo.” Even today I’m a bit surprised how quickly my writing edged over into the intimate, and how much satisfaction it provided. Humanoids…we’re so unpredictable.

I’m not alone in this, as there are a number of bloggers who write very openly about their lives. Telling our stories publicly can be a little scary. The world is full of lions and tigers and judgement and internet trolls. Such candor is probably best left for the intrepid and the blissfully naïve. But if your story is about domestic violence, there may be another really good reason to remain quiet: safety.


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