Thursday, February 25, 2010

Baring It All

There are different kinds of nakedness. There is the nakedness of the body. It is incredibly vulnerable to bare one's body publicly, especially if you, like me, don't fit into our culture's idea of immaculate beauty. I am overweight. I have stretch marks and cellulite. My breasts droop. But through sex positive activities and an empowering community I have become comfortable being physically naked in front of others. I haven't only been naked, I have sucked cock, masturbated, fucked a dildo, orgasmed and had amazing, no inhibition sex with my Love in front of others. I have literally bared it all.

But there is another kind of nakedness that I have been encouraging - sometimes even demanding - mostly behind the scenes of the Imps community. It is emotional nakedness. It is speaking our feelings, particularly our shadowy feelings - fears and insecurities, grief and anger, shame and judgment. I believe that healthy community and communication requires an openness far beyond what is comfortable or "socially acceptable." I believe that the only way to avoid the drama that often tears communities apart is to put everything out on the table. And yet I am finding myself hiding away when my own darkness descends.

When I am surrounded by my shadows, as I have been lately, I tend to keep it hidden. When I am struggling to be an evolved and well behaved leader or mother, friend or lover, I hide away in my bedroom with my discomfort, my loneliness, my shame, my passive aggressive impulses, my anger and sadness.

Recently I came across this blog post and these words resonated with me so strongly that I realize that to be in integrity with what I ask of others, I have to bare it all, to expose my naked truths and shine the light in my darkness. It is part of the revolution to be real with each other.

I think that our feelings - of loneliness, confusion, pain, and isolation - are given the most power to create desperation if and when we bottle them up or try to bear them alone. What Ronna and Anne Lamott are expressing, even advocating, is the idea that being open and honest - not sugarcoating the hard stuff - is what makes it all bearable. It's what reminds us that we're not alone...that everyone has hurts and battles and scars that mirror our own - it's the universal human condition! And where we find release and relief from those hurts, those agonies, is in sharing them. I don't think it’s so much about issuing ear-shattering cries of desperation for their own sake. But when given an outlet, a voice, they are much more likely to live and die as struggles, perhaps even crises, rather than eating us alive from the inside out, harbored as smoldering secrets, individual shame, and singularly shouldered despair. (I would add resentment.)

I think we most often stay silent in our hurts and struggles and failures, because we are afraid that if we call them out into the world, that we will be shushed, shamed, or silenced. (Especially as women.) But I also think that the power that we (again, especially as women) possess is the tenderness and truthfulness that are necessary in order to carve out safe spaces in which unfiltered real life and gritty true stories can find expression. No matter how heartbreaking, life-altering, or power-structure-shaking they may be. It is precisely in the telling of our tales, the airing of our secrets, and the sharing of our former (or current) shame, that these shackles begin to loosen and relinquish their power over our lives. The hurt begins to dissipate, the wounds to heal, the shame to evaporate. And the Phoenix rises out of the ashes.

Because I believe that the more often we say these difficult things out loud - these big, scary words and world-shifting ideas that challenge the prevailing notion of what is socially acceptable to 'put out there' - the more likely we are to find truer paths to healing. To kindness and goodness. Toward community and compassion.

The safe spaces we create as a community are not just about safe exploration of sex or gender identity. We believe it is our honor and responsibility to hold space for everything that is not harmful in order to facilitate healing, individually and collectively. We hold space for the light and shadow in each other, staff and guest.

However, I haven't really trusted the community to hold my shadow. As hostesses, we feel that we need to be positive role models, and until now, have interpreted that to mean keeping our dark feelings to ourselves (or only sharing them with each other). But I am realizing that being a positive role model isn't about putting on a happy face all the time and stuffing the darkness until we are alone. It's about being real. It's about showing what it looks like to fail, take responsibility for our failure, and then make changes to ensure more success in the future. It's about admitting when we are exhausted and in pain, physically or emotionally, and asking for support when we need it.

There has been talk about me recently, and yet only one of those talking has been willing to come to me directly to express their concerns. Without knowing who has been talking, I am unable to offer apologies and find mutual understanding. So I've decided to address the issue here, not knowing if those who have been effected by my behavior will see it, but it's the only forum I have to give context and to express the changes we are implementing to help prevent my falling down in the future.

It has come to my attention recently that I have been snappy during breakdown of the last few events. My tone of voice has been less than kind and even made someone feel small. There is concern that if it were to worsen, some people may be unwilling to volunteer during breakdown - a time when we need our volunteers the most. It quite literally broke my heart to know there was any possibility I might drive someone away with my shadow behavior.

What I have learned through my attempt to understand why I become snappish is that not only am I exhausted and less capable of controlling my emotional responses, but I often feel my experience as a hostess is unseen and/or taken for granted during breakdown specifically.

My experience (not my excuse) is that by the time breakdown comes I am extremely tired and my body is aching. Not only have I have been on my feet for one, two or three days with little to no rest or sleep, but I have usually been at work for the Imps the weeknights leading up to the event, after working full days at my regular job.

During breakdown I am trying to pull together items that I take home rather than go to storage. I am often having to quickly prevent people from packing up what I need. I also have to prevent them from being careless with our art. We have lost a lot of art due to people pulling it down and tossing it together without removing the adhesives on the back. The art is created with a lot of heart, time and energy by community members. Having to throw it away because it's been irreparably damaged due to carelessness makes me sad.

And then there is the experience of continuing to work until the last item is in the truck while volunteers stand around and socialize. I cannot stop or go home until it is all done. I recognize it is a responsibility that comes with the position I have chosen. While I do not begrudge any volunteer the decision to be done and go home on their own terms, I do have difficulty with them standing around and watching me continue to work while they talk and play. I have difficulty with having to work around them and their stuff, and taking longer to get out the door because they have be herded. And honestly, it frustrates me that my friends will sit around and watch me keep working, seemingly unaware or uncaring of how hard it can be for me to keep going.

What we have learned from this experience is that we need to bring more intent and care to the breakdown process. We are going to begin breakdown with a huddle - to encourage each other joyfully, to check in about each others' limitations, and to address logistical issues so that we are not operating chaotically or carelessly. We are also going to tell people that if they are not working, they need to leave the building.

While it was painful to be told where I have failed to be a good hostess and leader, I am grateful for the opportunity to recognize and implement the changes that need to take place to make breakdown a better experience, not just for me but for everyone. I am also grateful for the opportunity to look at where I need to ask for support and to be aware of how others may need support. There is so much work that we do behind the scenes. Most people only see the end product. As we expand the circle of leadership in the coming months, we need to be witness to each others' unseen work. We need to be careful not to take each other for granted or make assumptions about why we make the choices we do or behave the ways we do. We need to try to approach one another with compassion when something feels uncomfortable and remember that there is always a reason for someone's actions (or tone of voice). By baring it all, even our discomfort and frustration with each other, we will continue to grow the love in our relationships.

Namaste and thank you for listening.

No comments: