How So Easy?

My diaphragm
feels hollowed out.
My eyes are heavy,
red and stout.
My breaths are
laboured, shaky, slow.
At the thought of love
I used to know.

If only
I could understand.
Was reciprocation
just sleight of hand?
Else, how is a heart
once fervently met
so seemingly easy
to forget?

Gender Equality Part 2:  NAKED BABES AND STUFF!

Happy 2015 and welcome to Gender Equality Rant, Part 2! Aren’t you all so excited?! Thought so. Let’s jump right in….

I am not one to be easily offended by the sight of a scantily clad – or even skyclad – fellow lady-person. My feelings about her will tend to be on the “You go, girl!” end of the spectrum. That said, I understand that the current cultural norm can still lead to various degrees of discomfort, and sometimes a few mutual misunderstandings.

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with the seashells that she sells.
Following on from Part 1, I feel like there’s another unhelpful attitude that modern-day feminism seems to be perpetuating; i.e. shame regarding people’s enjoyment of female sexuality. I understand what they’re trying to say, but they’ve been colouring outside the lines quite a bit.

There should be nothing inherently shameful about wearing a T-shirt with half-naked women (or men) on it. There should be nothing inherently shameful about drawing such women (or men); about utilising the allure of an attractive figure in a sales campaign. We’ve dealt with enough shame as a society and we’ve often seen, or indeed felt, the toxic psychological effects of it. Our “Still not asking for it!” campaigns shouldn’t contradict our calls for social egalitarianism. Do you see what I’m getting at?

Women are sexy. Seriously sexy. Seeing them own it reminds us that life holds beauty, that it offers us something beyond everyday banalities. They make us feel alive, they make us aware that we ourselves are sexy. They make us want to celebrate that. Feminists, let it be so. Let’s not throw the “Yeah baby!” out with the bathwater. Let’s remain liberated and not cower in fear of others’ desires dictating to us who we should be. And, by all means, let’s show them that there is EVEN more to us than sexiness.

But wait! Seriously, that’s not all!
Because some feminists take this reaction-to-female-sexiness thing too far, many people misunderstand the valid concern that actually lies at the core of it. Many women have moments when they feel like the monster cleavage rules the world, and that they’re kinda-sorta obligated to go there if they want to be worth anyone’s consideration. And I don’t just mean romantic consideration. At times, this means basic human…. noteworthiness. By men, by women, by friends, by co-workers.

Once in a while, society does make us wonder whether it sees anything in us other than sex appeal. Not that we don’t want our sex appeal to be noticed, but – call us crazy – we think we’d be worth something to you in jeans and a loose T-shirt, or in a sharp-looking suit. People can be “hot,” or generally awesome, to me in all sorts of ways for all sorts of reasons that needn’t have anything to do with raw sex appeal.

There are aspects in our mostly westernised culture that raise question marks above the heads of many a woman about her worth. It’d be sad to just turn a blind eye to this. It’s ridiculously simple, really. All people should be made to feel valuable in our cultures, for a variety of things. For being human. Not just for being hot. Everyone wants to be sexy…. and no one wants to be just-sexy. (Except in the instance where “sexy” could also mean clever, cute, efficient, funny, lovable, strong, kind, etc. But you know what I mean.) As a society, we need to make it clearer to all people-groups (perhaps especially women, in the existing context) that they mean something to us for more than just one consumerist reason. Surely, we can all see the need for a bit more of that….. yes?

Gender Equality Part 1: Sieg Fail!

Ah, the feminazi. A concept with which we are all way too familiar. A nasty term…..that speaks to a nasty truth.

If there’s one thing I’ve been mulling over this year more than anything else, it’s gender equality. Or really, gender relations, to be precise. And so I have decided to treat you to a blog trilogy on the subject! Yaaaaay. No, but really, shit is getting real. We’re warring with each other in a way that….sometimes scares me. And for whatever my voice is worth, I’d like to call a timeout….  *Prrrrrt!*

The pros: So, why DO they call it feminism? Why can’t it just be “gender equality” or fall under the umbrella of humanism? How very elitist and ostracising, right? I can see why this question comes up. There are some attitudes within the feminist movement that make one wonder sometimes, let’s face it. But actually, I don’t think the name itself needs too much bitching about. Because then we might as well moan about the term “gay rights” and “black awareness,” and that’s the best way ever to get completely sidetracked from the real issues.

As a woman, I would be a bratty little ingrate if I didn’t give feminism some serious cred for my ability to vote, wear pants when it’s cold or just because I feel like it, have most any job I want, have control over my sexuality, own my assertive personality traits….. I could go on. Dismissing the movement altogether just seems a little ridiculous to me. Also, when I hear someone say that there’s no need to still be culturally aware of gender issues, it smells strongly of denial. Feminism has its place and it can be of immense use to so many of us. It exists to empower ALL humans by focusing on gender challenges, no doubt about it.

The cons: I’ll be honest, though, I’m really concerned about this whole gender war thing we seem to have going on lately. A huuuuge amount of feminists are overly angry. And yes, I absolutely get it (stay tuned for Part 2 to find out just how much I get it). But, for one thing, it’s ridiculously unproductive. Hardcore feminists seem to be alienating people left, right and centre. Now, I don’t think a lot of them actually mean to be doing this. But they are. (Seriously, feminists, you are. Just take a deep breath for a minute and look at what you’re really contributing to – good intentions notwithstanding.) And for another thing, it’s painfully ironic. Ostracising because we feel ostracised; verbally bashing because we feel verbally bashed; being over-sensitive because we’re faced with an overly brash culture? Hooooow exactly do we plan to continue having a MOVEment if we can’t get beyond that point?

When I compare feminism to the way people behave(d) in the gay rights struggle, apartheid or the civil rights movement, I have to shake my head sometimes. We need only look at the latest Rosetta-Matt-Taylor-shirt controversy. I absolutely know it’s hard to feel welcomed as a woman in so many different circles. And I know it’s hard in a way so many guys aren’t remotely aware of. But…come on! If a lovely, sexy, liberated, tattooed chick-scientist were wearing a shirtful of ripped bros, you’d high-five her. Maybe some of you would say “Cool shirt! But, like, wear it AFTER your big moment, maybe?” Instead, the reaction was…..rather disproportionate. So, I mean, hasn’t it become glaringly clear yet that we need to wind down the whiney-ness?

I don’t say this just so we can make friends, win popularity contests and influence more people. I say these things for a very significant reason. It’s not only that we’re doing a piss-poor job at picking our battles, or creating unnecessary animosity. What really freaks me out is that we’re fear mongering. We’re keeping ourselves in bondage and teaching our little mini-ladies to expect the worst from men, from society, from life. We’re making the guys in our lives feel sneak-attacked / spied on / afraid to make any kind of move whatsoever. We’re making trans and genderqueer people feel like they don’t belong any-freaking-where. We’re setting ourselves up for some heartbreaking relationship failure by destroying trust across the board. It’s becoming a spiral I find harder and harder to watch and something I just cannot convince myself to fully be a part of.

Obbbviously not all feminists are doing this. But so many are (male and female feminists of all orientations). In ways they don’t even realise. I have certainly not been immune to harbouring misandric tendencies. Even the mild ones can be harmful. None of us are really above that. We can all do with some humble reassessments of our own ‘tudes from time to time. It’s been hard. This whole gender war thing feels like a very personal struggle to me. If I’ve managed to make it sound like I’ve never experienced gender-related hatred….ahaha. I’ll rectify that for you real quick in Part 2. In the meantime, let’s all breathe a little more deeply and count to fucking 20 if we need to. Because….we need to. This is getting ridiculous.

“Comparison is the death of joy.” –Mark Twain

How is it possible to be so implicitly familiar with this concept and still unable to stop comparing? I just genuinely don’t know how to help myself. I suppose there’s a part of me that fears I won’t grow nearly enough as a person if I don’t look around me / don’t learn from the other kids. I’m a far better person today for the experiences of being fascinated by someone and learning a hell of a lot about life through them. So I s’pose I’m afraid of letting go of that and moving completely to the beat of my own drum. Does it follow, then, that I don’t…. trust the beat of my own drum? Sure sounds like it (heh).

Maybe I also don’t give myself enough credit for the changes I’ve made? Maybe I should adjust my view to “they did provide ample inspiration, but I found those qualities in myself and made changes because I wanted to grow.” And I guess no one is an island. We’re all shaped to an extent by our experiences and the people around us. Ubuntu and all that.

I don’t know, I’ll have to reason all this out further in my head. Sometimes all I know is that I reallllly want to be…. ‘on the same level’ as the person I feel admiration for. I don’t want to be that person – and I mean that sincerely – but, I guess, it boils down to the fact that I’m not ok with where I’m at in life. When this feeling is at its worst, I find it inexcusable that I’m not ‘at that level’ of functioning yet. Like I should have grown waaaay sooner. So it would seem the question then becomes: how do you start picking yourself up from that sense of dissatisfaction and low self-efficacy, and forget about it for long enough that you can build it back up again?

(Perhaps I should just throw this out there…. Dyspraxia plays a large role in all of this. Not that I believe it defines me, but its effects are keenly felt.)

Romantic Disillusionment, INFJ-style

I found out last night that a family friend of ours is getting divorced after 14 years of marriage. This news really, really shook me. They were one of those couples that you’d expect would be the last ones on earth to ever get divorced; and she was one of those women I looked up to for so many amazing reasons – not the least of which was how deeply and easily she loves. I still admire her. And I really hurt for her especially, because I know she gave her all.

I see so many similarities between myself and this woman as a person…. (which, I just realised, is perhaps a little arrogant to say after singing her praises ); and I’m now pretty sure I wouldn’t like to get married again. I may even be a bit relationship-wary altogether. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I say the shit that a lot of people keep to themselves. I cry openly. I’m cool with a reasonable amount of PDA. I laugh (too) easily. If I love you, you’ll know it – and so will everyone around me.  And this isn’t just during the halo-effect phase.  The day my husband asked me for a divorce, after five years of being together, I threw my arms around his neck in an almost tackle-hug and kissed him as he came through the door, completely unaware of the things he was getting ready to say.

It’s hardly the cool, suave way to go, but it’s something about myself I don’t think I’d like to change. But man, it’s a vulnerable place to be, and I just realised again how important it is for me to find someone whose heart will be 100% in it…..for the long haul. Someone who won’t allow the ins and outs of life to make him forget about showing me now and again that I still have his heart. And then to take care and not lose myself. And communicate communicate communicate – kindly, without accusation.

Some days that all seems a little on the unlikely side though. I feel like that’s all too rare a find. And I’ve had people make me feel bad about my overly high, typically female expectations. I just don’t know anymore.

Positive Belonging — a.k.a Facebook Has Its Perks

I never thought I’d be this ridiculously happy about joining a facebook group. Afrikaners Against Racism (Afrikaner = white South African, principally Afrikaans speaking). I got outrageously excited at the discussions I saw going on there. People share things from mainstream media and other sources, talk about situations, etc, that bother them and discuss the inherent subtleties of racism.

Like the literal worship of the Afrikaans culture and language. It sickens me, and yet it’s an integral part of who I am. Sometimes I feel odd speaking and loving Afrikaans. It’s so difficult celebrating its sounds and idiosyncrasies with other people, because they take it to that god-awful superiority complex level, waaay more often than not. In this group you get to celebrate who you are without automatically also peeing on anyone else’s parade.

There are still widely socially accepted paradigms among Afrikaners that just reek of wrongness to me. Sometimes even quite inexplicably. I don’t often encounter a white person I can mention these things to. I mean, without it turning into a big debate (there’s your idea of how prevalent our superiority complexes still are). So I guess that partially explains my immoderate delight at discovering the group. The subtleness of people’s public attitudes is another reason. It’s that feeling of “Thank god I’m not the only one – the only fellow Afrikaner – to see through all this bullshit.” These subtleties are being talked about by many, which means it may, in time, become harder and harder to ignore or deny.

You know, if I’m totally honest, browsing through the group today was one of the few moments I had the motivation and felt the right kind of energy to truly enjoy my Afrikaner identity. Being a whitey in South Africa isn’t always easy on the psyche, especially when you genuinely give a damn.

Wicca/Paganism – Why On Earth?

After coming out, I’ve been contemplating the best way forward concerning future explanatory blogs about my newfound pagan path.

The purpose of this blog is to express myself openly and hopefully share some things that people can appreciate or at least chew on.  I learn a lot from reading others’ blogs and musings, and any sharing I receive back as a result of my own blog is a wonderful bonus.  I really do love discussion, though I want to go about it in a way that will remain enjoyable and meaningful to me, for the most part.

Bearing all that in mind, I’ve decided to focus on describing/explaining what it is I like about paganism; what drew me to it and why it’s worked so well for me so far.  I may say some things about Christianity in the process since that is my background faith – negative things sometimes, though not always.  I don’t hate Christianity.  Not even close.  Or any other system of beliefs for that matter.

Hence, having just said that, I will make it my first reason for adopting this wonderful faith – its view of other worldviews.  It is such a tolerant, reasoned and, one would hope as much as possible, non-patronising attitude.  Other (very different) ways of believing are seen as equally valid, correct and useful.  How can that be, you ask?  Well, a belief that helps there is the idea of each person having their own karmic path.  Often a lot of emphasis is also placed on one’s intuition as a human being.  Though it’s not the be-all and end-all, it is believed to be there for an important reason, not to be ignored, suppressed or taken too lightly.

So, my view of you as a Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, Satanist, or Hindu – for example – is not that you have it all wrong and are missing out on something.  It’s that you’ve found a truth.  A way of expressing your human experience that works for you, that perfectly satisfies your karmic purpose in this lifetime and fulfils your intuitive drive.  And since I believe the Divine is all/is in all, you are no less of a ‘spiritual’ being than I am.  By virtue of living in this universe as a human being, you are part of one vast organism – something I see as an intelligent, sentient, divine expression.  And even if, as an atheist for instance, you do not see it as that, you are still part of this universe, this physical reality, which puts you on an absolutely equal footing to myself in my view.

In the same vein, proselytising is not something pagans generally feel the need to do at all, which is a big change from the Christian worldview and has done me so much good psychologically.

Mysticism – I’ve always been somewhat of a mystic even as a Christian.  I like to think of myself as a reasonable mystic, though I’m sure there are those that would understandably contest there’s no such thing.  Well, surprise!  Teehee!

So, I never went on “The Holy Spirit told me” tangents, but I’ve always craved experiencing and learning about mysterious spiritual things that are as yet empirically unproven.  When it comes to flights of fancy, I suppose you could say I have a first class ticket, though I do like to be as logical as I can about how I arrive at the beliefs I have.  The idea of psychic abilities, divination, energy play, etc are very exciting ones to me.  Right now I’m very much in the learning/philosophising/theorising phase of my pagan path, so I’m holding off a little on the mystic part for the time being.  I also don’t like to jump into these kinds of experiences uninformed/too glibly.  But you can bet your prettiest Tarot deck I’ll be dabblin’ soon enough   ^.^

Magic(k) and psychology – To be perfectly honest, mystic and all, the whole magic(k) thing did scare me off at first.  I guess this is hardly surprising considering my background.

I put these two in a ‘category’ together, because to me there’s so much of the one thing inherent in the other.  They’re certainly not the same thing, but they are wonderfully closely related   ^.^   For example – and I speak only for myself here – I see most psychotherapies as a form of magic(k), or as containing a significant dose of it.

Likewise, there is sooo much psychology to be found in spellcrafting.  Magic(k) overwhelmingly has to do with effecting a desired change/outcome.  To even desire a certain/different outcome requires at least some inner reflection and self-honesty.  Finding the best way to put forth your intention, and assembling the energy of the outside world to help realise this change, is a very psychological exercise in itself too.  To say I’m interested in human psychology is also an understatement, I admit.  Hence the appeal of this religion’s strong focus on magic(k) (and therefore, I believe, psychology).

Nature reverence – I love that this religion also grounds me in a big way – brings me down to earth.  Although pagans often speak in terms of the magic(k)al and the mundane, there is a commonly held belief that the physical, scientific, practical, natural things in life aren’t really unspiritual at all.

There is great reverence and appreciation especially for things as found in their raw form in nature.  These things are believed to contain energies and properties that we can use to enhance or improve our dynamic, ever changing lives.  We can likewise also enhance these ‘things’ by interacting with them in positive ways.  I take much more pleasure in the world around me and have so much more respect for it since ‘becoming pagan.’  Man-made things included, but certainly the natural world so often taken for granted.

Balance and variety – In terms of its theology Wicca/paganism offers a beautifully balanced and varied perspective.  It is a commonly held and time-honoured perspective, though open to interpretation and diverse expression.  It’s so easy to make this theology truly your own.  There’s more than one acceptable name for the Divine/God/the Universe/the Chi…….  Whatever works for you, that’s the name you use.

For our human minds to understand and work best with this concept of divinity, it was divided into two complementary poles or aspects – male and female.  This became known as The God and The Goddess, symbolised or embodied respectively by the sun and the moon.  With this theology the balanced, cyclical nature of life is celebrated – light and darkness, night and day, summer and winter, new year and year-end, ocean and land, anger and love, life and death; and everything in between.  (Note that these things aren’t seen as good vs. bad, but rather as complementary poles that exist regardless of our opinions about them.)

This concept of God and Goddess is then divided into further aspects with various names, attributes and stories.  As a wiccan/pagan, one is free to ‘adopt as patrons’ any of these known gods and goddesses, should you wish to.  If the Greek pantheon speaks to you, you’re welcome to incorporate their worship and use in your practice.  Pagans can draw from various other spiritual backgrounds and worship any and all kinds of gods/goddesses.  I know quite a few who ‘work with’ Mother Mary and Jesus among other entities in their own practice.  For example, if having a depiction of Venus on my altar helps me in some way, or I find it effective to ‘make use of her attributes and energies’ when doing a certain spell, the attitude of paganism is – go for it!  I find this beautiful and freeing.  And, as a consequence, there are almost as many different flavours of Wicca as there are human beings, though they still have strong similarities binding them together under one umbrella.

Practical life-consequences – This really is a blog post unto itself and one I am so looking forward to writing, but I thought I should give it a mention here.  My life just works better now.  My skin feels better on me, and I feel better in it, since finding these new lenses through which to experience life.

Those are the likes that came to mind, really in no particular order.  Whoever you are, whatever you believe and don’t believe, my sincere hope is that it’s working for you and helping you have the life you want.  Blessed be.