— Geneen Roth
I just finished watched the film The Intouchables. It had been sitting in my Netflix queue for quite some time.
Yes, I understand that the caregiver character was kind of chauvinistic, and it got old after a while. I also understand that the handicapped character was rich, and that money opened him up to care and art and life experiences that we non-rich people would likely not have had.
But there were still real lessons here that I needed at this time in my life.
The power of friendship. The power of touching someone else’s life. The power of reaching across ridiculously perceived boundaries to simply care about someone else, and how that care can transform you.
I also saw on screen a lot of myself in the character of the handicapped man who was clearly depressed about his life condition. Obviously I am not a quadriplegic, nor would I ever claim to know what that feels like. What I do know, however, is exactly how easy it is to fall into the trap of dawdling on what you don’t have. On how difficult your life is. On how much you have lost, or on what you can never be or do now because of XYZ.
I am so tired of living that script.
I for one have a chronic health condition called fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed in 2009, after being afraid as hell that I had multiple sclerosis for half a year. I could fill up an entire page of symptoms I have had from this messed up health condition. But the fact also remains that there is a lot I can do. There is even more that I can do, and then suffer for it later in body aches. Heh.
My point here is that I can sit every day thinking about how much it sucks that I can’t physically be “normal” like other people. Or I can appreciate *what I personally can do*, and find ways to make myself healthier and stronger, while caring for my condition. The 8 miles total of walking I did in one day a month ago was way too much, and I straight up wanted to COLLAPSE. My body took like 4 days to recover back to 100%, and those first two days were hell on earth. I took a 3.5 mile walk this past Sunday. That was nice to have done, but it was warm outside, like 85 degrees, and I do not do well with heat due to the fibromyalgia. That last half mile kind of did me in. I could sit here and complain, or I could say: Lesson learned. Get up and take your walk earlier in the day when it’s cooler. Or make sure not to do more than 2 or 3 miles at once.
I am making sure to truly take breaks from walking when my body can’t handle it. I am stretching more. I am listening more to what my body is trying to tell me, and working with it. Not just complaining or experiencing loss. This is something very new to me. I’ve simply never done this before. I always had an identity when I was younger of being “strong”. I discovered in high school that I liked lifting weights, and was good at it. I also have very long legs, and walked extremely fast.
Fibromyalgia has kicked my ass. My final ever attempts to lift weights in 2010, a year after having been diagnosed with this condition, were disastrous. I suffered injury after injury. I used to NEVER have a problem. I used to be strong.
I still mourn my formerly strong self. But the reality is that as we move through our lives, we inhabit many different bodies. The body of a 4-month old is not the same as the body of 14 year old, or a 44 year old. Part of life is learning to deal with this as we grow and change. Part of life is the lesson seems so strange and inconceivable when we are young: That 30 year olds are people too. That 40 year olds are still desirable and still have sex. And you will be fucking LUCKY if you are around at 80 and are active and in good health. And if you still want to have sex at 80, get your groove thing on.
Years ago a friend of mind pointed out to me that I am so ungrateful. Last week when I was out for a morning walk, I saw a woman coming out her house and she was walking with a cane. I personally have experienced times maybe seven or eight years ago, long before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia where I would leave my house in the morning to go to work, and after maybe seven steps, I felt like I literally hit a brick wall. All the energy was literally gone from me. Absolutely nothing left. I was expending everything inside me just to walk as fast as someone 70.
My thought as the film ended just now was: *All of my complaining…It is messed up how hard it is for me to practice some freaking GRATITUDE.* My point is I still have a chronic health condition that is absolutely no fun. But damn it, I can walk. And as my friend pointed out, I can do something about my ingratitude.
I can walk. I love to walk. I love how centered I feel spending time outside, watching the birds and seeing all the green growing things as I take my walks. How happy I am that it is Spring. I struggle with depression. But taking these walks in the morning sets my day and makes me feel uplifted and powerful. It puts a smile on my face. It makes me feel like I can change my life for the better. How glad I am that I am fighting both inertia and excuses, and taking some control over my physical activity. How empowered I feel that I am doing this exercise for me. Not some idealized version of me, but for the me that I am now. I am appreciating what my body can do NOW.
It would do me some good to just be thankful for everything I have. Not just for everything you have now, but for everything you HAVE HAD. Friendships present and past. Lessons learned. Experiences had. Love that has touched you. Emotional and spiritual connections that have helped you feel as though you are part of something greater than yourself.
It is really a choice, isn’t it? To look at the loveliest moments in your life and think how much better your life is for that. Instead of looking at those moments and lamenting what you don’t have anymore now.
I look back and know with 100% surety that the moments in my life that have meant the most to me were all moments of connection. We have the ability to make other people’s lives better. So many of us, myself included, struggle with isolation—even when we are surrounded by other people, sometimes feelings of isolation can be abundant inside you.
I can be someone’s shining light. Just as the poor guy in The Intouchables ended up being the shining light for the quadriplegic man.
It is time for me to stop moaning about how no one loves me, and start accepting the fact that I am someone’s shining light. I don’t know who they are yet, I but I know they exist. They (best friends and loves) have existed before and they will exist again. But lord if I keep beating myself up because of what I don’t have, my light may not be shining so much when I meet them.
Gratitude. Awareness. It is all a choice.
Keeping an eye out for the discoveries you have yet to make. As opposed to perceiving your life from a place of loss or emptiness.
Keeping an open place in your heart, for the people you have yet to meet. Instead of being filled with despair, be grateful you have a place in your heart that is currently open, and will embrace the right people with love and gratitude.
Shutting off the negative self-talk. (I could write an entire book on negative self-talk, my constant companion.)
Taking steps to forgive those people in your life who have left your life for whatever reason.
And not just waiting for someone to come into your life that will make you feel loved, or better, or connected. But taking that look at yourself and figuring out what YOU can do for yourself and for others.
I mean, really? Is life just about waiting and receiving? Or is it about being and doing? Maybe there is someone whose life would really benefit from the light you have inside you, and you don’t even realize it.
I was never a huge fan of Amy Winehouse. Never listened to her music apart from one song, I think.
Still, on youtube I ran across an old video of her singing “Stronger than Me” live, and I instantly became smitten with the melody, though you can’t at all understand the lyrics. I like the studio version of the song though it’s slightly less chill.
I have to say upfront that I do not agree with some of the lyrics of song. Yet I still recognize a lot of myself in there as well. It’s complicated.
I think we all deserve respect.
Funny how people like to say phrases like that. They sure do sound good. They help us build up narratives about ourselves in our own minds, like how we’re awesome people!
Funny too how quickly these stories about how everybody deserves respect can kinda get thrown out the window when people show up and aren’t quite what you expect them to be for their sex. Or the role you want them to play in your life.
Take submissive men, for example. When confronted with a submissive man, do we give him the same respect at all times in practice, that we would someone else? Even if his behavior is the antithesis of what we’ve been taught a man should be? Do we take it upon ourselves to question his sexuality, if he identifies as straight? Do we question his manhood? Do we put him down, even a little, in our own mind?
What about guys who aren’t submissive, but are simply nice, caring, polite, non-aggressive peaceful people? Do we question their sexuality or their manhood?
I’m a feminist. I personally am in the business of flipping the proverbial bird to a whole bunch of stereotypes.
That doesn’t mean I’m perfect. Like when I find myself having a knee-jerk reaction inside myself that I don’t want to be having, about someone who does not live up to my idea of what a guy should be.
Goin’ to The Bad Place
I suppose I’m thinking about all this because last week I spent some time with a particular person and I did not particularly enjoy the way it went down. We’d already seen each other once before, and absolutely nothing of import happened between us either time.
However as this night wore on, we lied down on my bed and were looking at some stuff on my phone.
There we were, lying next to each other, bodies close enough to one another. It was kinda nice. Regardless of whether any kissing or making out might have taken place, it still should have been a nice time, to simply be close to one another.
But that is not how it ended up. What went down was this line from Winehouse’s song:
"I feel like a lady and you my lady boy."
That sounds awful, I know. In actuality it was a bit worse than that, though. I’m not that stereotypically femmy. Maybe halfway between femmy and androgynous. So I actually wound up feeling like I was this physically strong dominating domineering totally UNGIRLY woman…Not at all what I want out of what is supposed to be a good time. I hated it.
I watched it all happening. It was heading down a Very Wrong path, and I knew it, but it was like I couldn’t stop it. That freight train was already a-rollin’.
Reminds me of those invariably funny clips in sitcoms when exasperated parents turn to their kids—who have just destroyed something yet again—and yell, *”This is why we can’t have nice things!!!”*
Well: ***This is why I don’t fuck with subs***!!!
If you lie up in my bed acting all subby, I’M GOING TO DOMINATE. Because no one else is doing anything. I don’t even want to do it, but it’s like there is nothing else left to do. The sheer fact that you’re being all subby practically compels the dominating part of my personality to come out.
And when it comes to guys, it causes me to be pissy about the whole endeavor. All hope will be subsequently lost: For me, because I’m not your domme, I don’t want to feel icky, and I actually wanted to have a good time. And for you, because feeling icky sucks and (right or wrong) I will show it, and make you pay for it.
Mind you: I have absolutely nothing against subs! We submissives are decent just like anyone else, I’m sure.
But that doesn’t mean I ought to have one in my bed.
With guys who turn out to be submissive, it’s like my disappointment in them combines with how easy it is to dominate, and with the fact that I’m rapidly losing respect for them. In the end, we are left with the now near-monster that is me.
At least that how I feel inside. See me dominating you in word and deed? Yeah, I know EXACTLY what you want me to do to you in bed, and guess what? I hate you for it.
Goin’ to the bad place. It’s not their fault; it’s mine.
What is exactly is the bad place? It’s watching yourself do things, and not liking it, yet those things being enough of a part of you that you can’t really stop yourself easily either.
It’s too natural. Too easy to slip into. Too difficult to slip out of before things go too far. Which is what makes it so dangerous. I flat out do not like who I become.
So I’ll just say it now: I need someone who’s stronger than me.
More masculine or androgynous than me.
More desiring to take the initiative.
Less in need of nurturing than me, even though you’ll still get it from me.
Less needy than me in general.
More dominant than me in bed.
Stronger than me.
"You’re way less flippant in person."
It’s true, too. :)
There is something really incredible about putting your heart, your intellect and your talent into something…and having done it so well that you make an impact on others.
I just did that.
Thank god I am done with this poem!!! Oh my god, it took so much out of me. It is a little draining, wanting to be DONE with something (someone?), yet continually having to think about it, in order to ply your craft.
I finally finished the poem today, just before I left for my voice lesson. Where I then presented it to my voice teacher, who loved it, and gave it much praise.
Then she said something I totally wasn’t expecting: She mentioned that I should find a way to be on stage somewhere to do what I do. That I should look into theatre, because I really have a unique stage presence. An ability to draw people in, and take them on this ride.
It really did surprise me, and gave me something to think about that I otherwise would not have considered.
My teacher also said that the more I write poetry, the more I have been able to change it from me just throwing out a bunch of strong emotion, to actually being able to craft my words and the meter into something spectacular. That makes me feel very good. It makes me feel like this is worth it. Having this outlet where I can pour my intense thoughts and feelings into, and intensively create something “real” from that.
I can’t wait for the next spoken word open mic, where I will get to go up on stage and perform this piece.
When you’re sitting here and it feels like it’s taking forever to create something. When you’re not sure whether the final product will be anything of note. When you don’t know whether it’s even worth it—not just feeling the things you already feel—but delving into them enough to create a piece out of art from them…art that happens to also be true to your story. True to the dominance, the submission, the wanting, and the pain.
Yes! It’s all worth it.
I am the first to admit I am horrible at daily life. Yet simultaenously I wish I had someone to take care of.
I can hear the words of my indominatable ENFJ sociologist former-girlfriend (who is no longer speaking to me) in my mind: “You can’t even take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of someone else?”
How can this be? Easy. It’s because I am good at taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves. The helpless. The needy. The broken and brokenhearted. The downtrodden. Victims of injustice. Busy girlfriends getting their master’s degree. You betcha.
Yes, I know, perfect extraverted academic ex-girlfriend who is now married to a doctor, I am a fuck up. I do not need to be reminded of this. I got it. But I don’t think another person’s worth should depend on how perfect they are. Can’t it also depend somewhat on what is in their heart?
Do I have to be perfect before someone can love me?
Remember how when you were riding an hour and a half two and from Americorps on the train, how I would go to the library and do your research for you? Remember how I would go to the store and buy stuff, and then come home and cook it? Remember how you had no idea how to use a comma, and I taught you? Remember how you’d ask me outloud every time you needed another word for this or that, and I, like, bought you a thesaurus? (Note: That gift was not appreciated. Do not repeat in future.) Remember how I would proofread all your papers for school? Remember when you were lying on the floor working on your homework and I would put happy things all around you and brought you tea, and anything else you wanted? Yeahhhh.
I’ve made a shit-ton of mistakes in my life, and will make a ton more. But I still think I deserve good things.
Sure, I may fuck up my own life beyond reproach. I have no excuse for that, because there is no excuse. But I will still ensure that yours is reasonably good, your retirement account is well-funded and well-invested, that you save money from every paycheck, eat well-balanced tasty home-cooked meals, receive intellectual stimulation, travel to neat places, get a bunch of emotional and physical affection, and are taken care of to the fullest when you are sick.
It’s good to remind myself every now and again that I do have some good qualities!