Friday, September 9, 2011

A Powerful Lesson in Not Taking it Personal

Re-post from my other blog, in reflection of the initial responses to my last blog post on not shaving my legs.  What can be possible if we don't immediately react in personal hurt from criticism, from other's upset?  What activism can be possible if I can see that it's all working, and that upset is a sign of it working?
This post comes from a post I did on my blog at work with Cafe Gratitude.


WOW!  Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting my PhD in Not Taking it Personally.  A couple of weeks ago I wrote a powerful declaration of what I’m up to in the world and how I am using my physical body to portray it and be the change I wish to see in the world.  I am proud and empowered by literally taking Gandhi’s words into my life and make my life be dedicated to rupturing the oppressions that I feel and see in the world.  How this shows up, is that I don’t shave my legs and I’ve recently tried stopping plucking the hairs from my chin.  It has taken me several steps to get to this place of first noticing where I’m feeling disempowered, then making a difference, and now- speaking out about it.  I thought that I had it all figured out, that I was on top of any feeling of unworthiness and truly in my power as a woman fully in choice and freedom around my body.  Well, rarely are we ever done and finished with learning lessons.  As I’ve heard time and time again- as soon as you declare something, everything else shows up.
Immediately after posting I found comments on my blog that were hateful and degrading to me and my commitment.  I found that a link to my blog was mentioned on another website with dozens of responses and reactions to my commitment with disgust and hatred.  I felt attacked, alone,  diminished, defensive, angry… and then I recognized what work there is to do from my seat.  My emotional reaction to the circumstances of their comments is my work to push through.  It’s human to feel sadness with criticism and defensive with aggressive words… and it’s my job to stay in my commitments and weather the storm.  As Kindred Spirit reminds me, upsets are not personal:
When my emotional experience is not pleasant, I often place the responsibility outside myself, leaving me a victim of some external circumstance.  Upsets are wake-up calls and direction-markers, pointing out where I am being something other than oneness.  Upsets are not personal.  Freedom lies within.  If I can realize that when someone else is upset it’s not about their circumstances or the actions of others or myself, I will be well on the way to mastery….  I hold upsets or unwanted emotional experiences like I hold the weather.  There is nothing to resist because it is just passing through. (p. 19)
It’s a hard thing to take on… but not taking hateful words personally is incredibly freeing. If I can stay in my seat through the harshest of criticism, then I’m able to truly get through resistance and into transformation (both for myself, and be open to seeing it in others).  I’m considering that their reactions to me are like the detoxification process.  Being the change I wish to see in the world takes on another level of responsibility:  not getting defensive or taking it personality when that change meets resistance.  By being strong, keeping my seat, trusting that it’s all working… I see that this is my training for leadership in uncharted territories.  This is my work in causing transformation in the world- I need to be ready for whatever storm comes back at me.  Surely, if I am making a stand for something powerful, powerful resistance comes back to balance that out.  “Breakdown as breakthrough” has a whole new meaning.  I am inspired by my impact being so potent and recognize that this is the life that I’ve signed up for.  It’s all working.

What criticism can you let go of?  What are you taking personally?  I encourage you to practice keeping your seat, holding your commitments through the storm of upset.  Only there can you keep your power, and center unconditional love.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Why I don't shave my legs

I'd like to speak to those who wonder why I don't shave my legs and how I have a beard.  I'd like to say, for three reasons:   

First, I chose to stop shaving my legs when I awakened to how much pain, anxiety, time and effort I spent on keeping them hairless.  In my first Women's Studies course, we were given an assignment to take note of what products we use to beautify ourselves for the day.  I suddenly had my attention on what I was doing for the last 10 years subconsciously and realized what pain it brought me, no matter what type of hair removal I tried.  I realized the absurdity of the obsession that I had with such a miniscuel aspect of my existence, and realized that it was something seriously obstructing my potential to impact the planet.  I found that my half hour a day shaving my legs (which is necessary to maintain against the strong, fast-growing fur that my body produces) added to almost 4 hours a week that I could instead be writing with, attending rallies with, being in service with.  This is what first had me stop shaving my legs, which ended up becoming a powerful realization that I was trapped by my obsession with trying to look normal.  All in all, I don't shave my legs because I realized that I was trapped by doing it in the first place.  I'm limited when I try to be like others, and I was consumed by ensuring that no one found out my natural state.  What I like to ask instead (which is not a simple question):  Why DO women shave their legs?  If you identify as being feminine- why do YOU shave YOUR legs?  The question of why I don't do something is confusing when the rest of the world IS doing something.  Typically we ask why the chicken crossed the road, not about the one who stayed behind.  Get my drift?  I'll address this more later when I talk about facial hair.

Second, I want diversity/difference between people to be truly recognized as and expressed as being beautiful and necessary. Only if I stand up for my own diverse qualities can I further us all recognizing difference as something to be celebrated.  My hiding of my unique traits or my aim to blend in confirms the socially created perspective that it needs to be hidden, that it is wrong and that that "normalcy" I aim to be like IS natural and right.
I grew up learning that I needed to strike a special kind of balance of being unique and fitting in to be loved by others.  While being taught that diversity is beautiful, I saw nothing but one body type and beauty norm named as truly beautiful.  Those whom I identified with most were tossed aside, ridiculed, or assured that there must be something else that they are good at (examples:  "well, at least you are funny" or "it's what's inside that counts").  Having body hair was and is considered to be freakish, or manish, with an association of perversity, of grossness, or that there's something fundamentally wrong.  No child should feel like they are fundamentally wrong.  No child should grow up trying to hide themselves.  I am most proud of my decision and what I look like when I am in the presence of children.  Every child or young adult who sees me and notices my body hair has evidence in their lives that women are not all hairless (which I believed when I was little and had me feel alone). The more I love my body as it is, the more I can hope to rupture the assumed agreed upon limits of beauty.

Third, I want people to recognize that gender is an illusion (specifically) and that we are often making expectations of others based on our standards for a socially constructed and unavailable "normalcy" (in general).  To break that down:  we're all making it up.  Not only are we all making it (reality) up (as we only experience life through a limited scope, view and language), but we are making ourselves and others right or wrong on how we fit this view of reality.  So here I am, a hairy child, believing that I am gross, wrong, alone... using all of my energy to cover up my natural self, frantically trying to shave fast enough so that no one knows that I grow hair, that no one knows that my body hair is so thick.  I would spend over an hour before a date, trying to reach every last inch on my body with my razor only to feel utter shame when my boyfriend at the time pointed out a missed spot and grimaced.  Perfected femininity was always beyond my reach, no matter the layers of make-up I wore, the hours I spent plucking and shaving my body and no matter the pounds of body-weight I lost through Jenny-Craig in high school or the specialty bras I wore to make my body shape just right as I lost body weight through that program.  Perfected femininity is actually beyond all of our reaches, it's what keeps women forever running and forever hiding behind a mist of products.  I was (and I see so many other women currently are) obsessed with the need to stay feminine and look female, which is defined by it's separateness from masculinity and maleness.  As I've studied gender, sexuality and identity performance over the past 9 years, I've recognized what power these ghostly standards of the never truly defined "gender" have over all of us.  I am frustrated with the hold that gender has in all of our lives, where it's continued perfected performance and our social agreements on it, has created the assumption of what is natural and unnatural, normal or an abomination, and right or wrong.  To be honest, when I was growing up, I truly felt like there was something wrong with me... and I learned quickly that others felt the same way about themselves.  Why are we all partaking in this system that doesn't serve us?  Why are we fertilizing the soil of this invasive poisonous tree?

So to go back to my previous question:  Why DO feminine people shave their legs?  I'd love to know.  I know that my excuse used to be "I think it looks better"... but then I recognized the socially created and agreed upon standards of beauty that held that thought together.  Do I truly find it more beautiful, or did I grow up completely emerced in that it is beautiful?  This is something that I am caught in every day, and it's the reason why I continued to (after 8 years of not removing body hair) pluck my chin of facial hair.  I didn't realize how asleep I was to the connection between it all. 
Then I met Amelia.  I first saw Amelia in a performance by her burlesque troop.  Amelia is of course, unforgettable.  She is one of the most intelligent people I know, one of the most thoughtful and generous sweethearts in my community, and one of the most fierce and direct no-nonsense women I know.  She is courageous and kind, daring and transparent.  I adore her, and I learn from her.  Amelia is a sparkle queen. Amelia plays a femme gender role while having a pronounced beard.  In her strip shows, Amelia wears pure sparkle red lipstick and fills her hair with flowers.  Her beard glows red in the stage spotlight.
One day Amelia asked me the question that I asked you above:  Why DO you pluck your beard?  I was stumped.  I so subconsciously removed the hairs from my chin, that I didn't realize that it was something to not do.  Meeting Amelia for the first time had me realize my inconsistency, but I felt justified in my somehow continued belief that I just don't find it beautiful.
When I heard myself say that, I realized that I was playing into the same game that kept me trapped in shaving my legs.  I realized that I plucked every day, as a means to keep others from knowing that I even naturally grew hair there.  I realized that it had become a trap, where I was unable to go without plucking in fear.  I was scared of being rejected by others, scared of not being loved.  I realized that I plucked out of fear, and that I was perpetuating future fear by maintaining the illusion of normalcy.

I stopped plucking the hairs from my chin three months ago, and I've developed a family of long brown hairs in a goatee like fashion.  I'm seeing what it's like, sort of like a new hairstyle on my head.  If I can truly step out of being afraid of it, then I am truly free.  I feel that if I have the ability to walk both lines (hairy chin or not) without fear of judgement or wanting to look normal to some other degree... then I have the real freedom of choice in how my body looks, and if I like the beauty of this look or that look.

I am committed to getting us all to recognize the power that we have in our lives, and the impact of our continued choosing to go with the current flow.  I am committed to us recognizing that WE'VE built these walls of separation and that we are calling the shots on what is right or wrong.  My life is for being the change I wish to see in the world, and I know that change is often hard to be with.  I invite you to look into what you've been perpetuating, what is hindering your fullest potential, what fear keeps you from exploring.

I have moved my blog over to  Join me here for current updates and more thoughts on beauty, gender, subversion, normalcy and more!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rethinking "The Man"

I've continuously heard and caught myself referring to "the man" as the problem in the world.  Of course, "The Man" is a vague anonymous reference to a body-less entity created by my subconscious through gathering evidence from every bad decision every rich white guy in a suit has ever made.
I'm beginning to see that I've been making an assumption, which has really caused suffering in me. I've always seen "The Man" being the problem, that there is literally some type of person who is innately wrong, deep down evil, and out to blow up the world.  I've associated the personhood of "The Man" being the problem... that if we could just get those people out of power, that we could put some so called opposite person in there and that we'd have a shift.  I agree that we'd have a shift, but I'm starting to see that my obsession of "The Man" as the problem and not "the perspective" being the problem is having me suffer as I write off people as being evil or good.  In my head I'm in the middle of a battle and so I'm always in defense, always looking for better footing.
Poorly scanned image comes from my book of diagrams.
When I approach the world always in defense, you bet I'll find evidence that there's a war going on. I've turned internally and have even been in defense of myself, not being certain of my own standing.  Over the last 3 years I've actually deactivated myself on numerous occasions in fear of myself, in thinking that deep down that I'm an evil person.  I fit the bill for "The Man" with my privileged status in many areas.
This view of the world isn't working for me; I know that for sure.
As I approach the world in defense, I enroll people around me to approach the world with caution.  My fear and defensiveness might even look like aggression, as much of the fear in the world looks.  I've created a battle in my head, which perpetuates battles going on in the world!
What were to happen if I could step back from my defensiveness and trust?  What if I could get off of my fear and acknowledge that there are no evil people, only others being defensive just like me?  Fighting war with war isn't working.  Me being scared of my own shadow isn't working.  For the sake of peace, for the sake of a peaceful mind... I'm lowering my gun before "The Man" does.