Reflections from a flight home

On my flight back to Portland, by way of Salt Lake City, I sat next to a very friendly young guy- 21 years old, Mormon, and exceedingly friendly. In the culture of staring at phones while in public places, lest one catches the eye of a stranger and feels obligated to say hello, his immediate engagement in having a conversation with me was startling. And refreshing.

He asked me what I do in Portland, and I held back little in telling him about teaching Human Sexuality. After just teaching the week on sexuality education, I was highly curious to know how this person connected his religious background to his perception of relationships and sex. He was able to talk articulately about being committed to abstinence, not feeling ready to get married, and loving to date (he goes on 3-4 a week with different people). He also asked for my thoughts on what kind of sex ed I thought teens should get, and seemed to be able to hear me talk about comprehensive education and allowing teens to have choices and options over their sexual and relationship decisions.

Talking with him reminded me of an experiential assignment I have this quarter in my sex therapy class: I’m supposed to find some kind of sex related event to attend, one that pushes my comfort zone. I’ve been a little bit stuck with this- what am I uncomfortable with? I’ve been to swing clubs, strip clubs (male and female), tantric events, kink events, and poly meetups. I haven’t been to all gay male spaces or cuddle puddle events (and other things I’m sure I’m not thinking of right now), but I’m not uncomfortable with them. But I realized something very important during my conversation on the plane: I am uncomfortable talking with someone from a conservative religious background about sex. That sort of blows my mind. It was challenging for me to explain my perspectives without using language that could alienate him or result in some kind of disengagement. How can I be diplomatic when I have such strong beliefs of my own about sexual and relationship rights and autonomy? 

Thanks, Taylor, for a wonderful conversation and for reminding me where my growing edges are.

My Framily

For the second time in my life, I am in a class requiring me to create a genogram- essentially a family tree that uses symbols to denote characteristics like gender identity, family ties, marriages, divorces, family secrets, miscarriages and abortions, pets, sexual orientation, mental health diagnoses, substance abuse, and any other applicable dynamics. In mine, I also include domestic violence, poly relationships, education, and geography.

A few years ago, I discussed creating a critical sexual genogram, which is a variation on the traditional method that I totally love.

The last time I made one for class, I created it based on family ties and marriages. This time, I decided to include my framily- those friends of mine who have, over time, become family to me. 

Especially right now, when the world seems like total shit, it is extremely strengthening and heartening to me to see, on paper, the people who rely on me and who I rely upon, who I trust and love and care about. Who I know are genuinely kind and compassionate people, who are all doing their best in their own ways, of making the world a better place.

I talked to my sister on the phone tonight, and she was asking me, How do I not let the stress I’m experiencing from all of The Shit get to me? There’s only so much I can do! I have to work and I can’t know everything about everything, and there’s so little in my control.

I feel you, sis. Making my genogram tonight was so helpful though- people matter. People doing their best to be kind MATTER. Small actions matter. It can be hard to remember that, especially when we have been watching such big, destructive things happening so quickly. Creating community, building authentic relationships, continually striving to be more compassionate and loving people- that all matters, and it does make a difference.

Cheers to small actions, kind deeds, and the people who make the world brighter. I love you all, FramBam. You help me keep the hope that things, eventually, will be better for everyone. 

Superstitious

I’m sitting/sweating in my 83* kitchen, with a bowl of orange chicken courtesy of Costco, listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious.”

Something deep has shifted for me this summer. Something deep inside has shifted in a way that will never shift back to a “before.” There is only “now” (and the “future,” which I could never predict anyway).

This week I’ve eaten: Chicken burrito. BshelovesmeshelovesmenotBQ kettle chips. A truly insane amount of 85% dark chocolate. Green chile chicken sausages. A disgusting amount of mac ‘n cheese. Malted ice cream. And now the orange chicken. I’m PMSing, to be sure, but also going through the most unique “break up” that I’ve experienced.

Pretty much everyone who cares about me could have (and did) predicted that I’d be here now, three months later, a bit heartbroken and (yes, still) confused as fuck. It was still worth it, and maybe it’s not entirely over. (If she’d text me back, I could get on with that conversation).

Besides feeling heartbreak over someone who didn’t even think of us as “dating,” (despite sleepovers, falling asleep in each other’s arms, kissing, having emotionally and mentally intimate conversations, and being treated like each other’s “daters”- introductions to friends and families and touching lower backs in front of people) this summer has also been a witness to:

-My desire to have my own bedroom. I’m moving up into the attic! J, you can do whatever you want with that front bedroom.

-Conversations with our best friends about them moving into our basement. Communal living has never been more appealing to me.

-My concrete realization that touch and time are too important to me to go without in relationships.

-My sister and her girlfriend becoming engaged, and several other friends getting married or engaged.

-My decision to leave my full time job in lieu of teaching (continuing on with Human Sexuality and adding Women’s Reproductive Health) and dancing and continuing on with school.

-Intense community (dis)engagement in my local sex worker community.

-The closing of Club Sesso in Portland. So so so so much sadness over that.

-Further questioning of what it means to be queer, poly, communicative, assertive, and respectful. Why have I now met so many, and felt the attitude from others, that you can’t really be a woman who loves other women if you also love men? I don’t like it.

-Questioning unhealthy and abusive dynamics in relationships that are close to me.

-Some continued self-acceptance, appreciation, and love for myself and my physical body.

-Questioning of the importance of sex (shocking perhaps- especially if you are a longtime reader of mine). Specifically- witnessing the development of the feeling of romantic love without sex happening in a relationship. I’m still letting that sift through my brain.

-Reading a few books, all of which I would recommend- Janet Mock’s memoir on growing up trans, Redefining Realness; Sarah Katherine Lewis’ memoir on her work in the sex industry, Indecent; and local Sarah Mirk’s Sex From Scratch. I’m also in the middle of both of Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.

-My overhaul of my OKC account. I even bought the stupid A-list membership so I could change my username.

When I opened my computer, I felt excited- I haven’t let myself have this kind of down-time in so long. And enough down-time to where I have the energy and interest in blogging. I want to do it like I used to do it. And maybe I will, but like I said at the beginning, there can never be a “before.” There is only “now,” and for today, right now I am doing this thing that I love.

I hope all of your summers have been rich and full heart-achey and full of learning and longing and love. Hopefully I will see you all soon.

Happiness and Sex

Hi there lovely readers!

Back again, in my new crazy, off-the-wall way. This time, with a Q&A with some friends who recently finished writing a book on sex and happiness!

Authors are Ariel and Rodrigo: Rodrigo is a Brazilian Happiness Coach and Ariel is a Relationship Coach. They are co-founders of The Portland Happiness Center here in Portland! Read more about their work here:

Now for the Q&A:

What was the catalyst for this book? What made you decide to write on the topic?

We have always been interested in people and our relationships with people, as a subject matter. We both travel a lot and have lived in different countries, experienced different cultures. I had recently gotten divorced and Rodrigo had recently married and so the subject of finding happiness through our relationships was a big topic between us when we would talk. My divorce had a lot to do with the sexual part of my relationship. The idea for the book came out of these discussions. Not just our connections with others, but sex itself as a factor in our happiness levels. At one point I said I wanted to ask people on the street “are you happy? Are you having great sex?” And take a poll to see how many people were having satisfying sex and were all those people really happy? But instead of talking to people on the street we decided to have some longer interviews. 🙂
What was your main research question when interviewing people? What were you hoping to learn about?
We thought that we were going to prove that if you are having great sex with someone you’d be happier. We set out to prove that. But our hypothesis kind of flew out the window with our first interview!
We asked a handful of questions:
-what was your most influential or most important relationship?
-how important is sex for you in a relationship?
-are you able to separate your own happiness from what is happening in your relationship?
-how long can the sexual life carry the rest of the relationship?
-how does orgasm play a role in your happiness level?
And a few others… We just ended up having conversations with people. We talked about things like cultural differences, expressing what you want from your partners, happiness base levels people see themselves at… We also talked about open relationships, asexuality…
How many people did you interview? What were some of the demographics represented? (Age, gender, sexual orientation, relationship style, race/ethnicity, country of origin, etc)
We interviewed about 18 people, some of which we didn’t include for certain reasons. Ages ranged from 21 to 70… men and women, straight, gay /lesbian, bisexual,  We had people in monogamous and open relationships, people who were single too… We had Black, Brazilian, Japanese, French… We had several white Portlanders as well. A range, but we wished we could have kept going and interviewed all kinds of people. The book is just a starting point. We would like to take the same questions to say, rural China. Or to places where people are really ingrained in a culture different than our standard culture here. with lack of time and resources, we got a slice of the people around us and were pretty much dependent on who responded to our requests for participants.
What were some commonalities and differences that you heard among your interviewees and their experiences?
For this you’ll have to read the book! Everyone seemed to have a different take on the questions. Which was incredible! In general we found that people are trying to find happiness, through themselves, through others whether their relationships with others are romantic or not. That we all need a support system via human connection. How physical and how monogamous or not those connections are seem to be very individual.
Are there any stories or experiences that stood out to you or impacted you? What were they and why did they stand out?
Oh boy. Well everyone’s story was unique and after each interview Rodrigo and I admitted we gained so much hearing that person’s story. For me, because of my own outlook on life, I found that discussing the idea of monogamy vs open relationships was most interesting. I have come to the conclusion in my own life that a single person can never fully satisfy the needs of another. So does that mean we engage in an open relationship? Or do we simply have continuous casual relationships? What about companionship? I don’t have an answer but this theme was of particular interest. I also loved the story one man told of finally being able to let go of the anger he had for someone who could never apologize to him for breaking his heart. That he was carrying around this anger for years, and it wasn’t serving him. He finally learned that this person would never be able to say what he wanted to hear. It was very moving, and I’ve found most of our dysfunction in relationships stems from us having expectations of others that are not fulfillable on their ends, and attachments to others that create codependency. We can be interdependent- in fact we need to be – but codependency is a precarious place to stand. If that person leaves we fall.
How have the interviews shaped your own self perception of your experiences? What have you learned about yourself from listening to others?
Rodrigo and I learned so much about ourselves through this project. It brought up so many thoughts and questions in our own lives as well as for future projects. I almost feel like there was a piece of my own experience in each person we interviewed. Even if demographically we were extremes, there was a commonality in the search for happiness, love, physical desire… Some interviewees I found I could really relate well to and others I felt quite the opposite … The ones with whom I had opposite experiences and outlooks, they influenced me more because it made me question “why DON’T I think that’s important? Why DON’T I see life like that? Why do I feel I could never live my life that way?” Those questions really made me think and evaluate my own relationships.
What questions do you still have? Did any new questions come up as a result of writing this book that you would want to investigate?
We have so many more questions! We are ready to start the next book to help answer them. 🙂
In the end not only did we fail to prove our hypothesis, we also failed to come to some big conclusion. In the end, everyone sees things differently and everyone’s wants and needs are unique. We can agree that we need people around us to be happy, to lead fulfilling lives. Without human connection we do not thrive. And it is also true that the more  people and connections we have, the healthier, and happier we are as individuals.

I’m Alive and So Are You!

So it’s been a while!

Thank you to everyone who has asked or emailed me to check in. It means a lot to me! And if I haven’t written you back yet I will 🙂

A month has gone by and I stepped away from SR mostly because I mentally couldn’t keep up with myself. But I’m back.

In my world, in no particular order:
I start school (again) today
Work is going well. I’m officially a supervisor!
My dear friend who I have been crushing hard on for two years finally realized it was a good idea to try dating me! 😉
Domestic violence is a hard thing to see and hear about
I did one nonsexual escort date and long story short, I got paid $2500 and J and I have gone out to dinner with both the dude and his wife (more on that to come)
I still LOVE dancing
I only have one box left in the house to unpack
We’re flying home next weekend to see the fam
I want to go Hawaii SO BAD. Especially since today is the first really dreary day in Portland.
Have you checked out Bitch media?The falll issue is called Love/Lust and has several excellent pieces on the questioning identity, feminist porn, and more
Still trying to figure out why my most comfortable state is naked. Or rather, trying to be naked more often

What’s new with you all?

Roller Coaster

The past couple of weeks have been so full and so good.

!!!

I was offered my supervisor’s job last week and I’m doin’ it! I start officially in a week! Pay raise, more stuff to do… it’s going to be great.

We got our floors done in our house and they’re gorgeous and we moved our furniture in!! It feels like we are living in a house instead of camping in a crummy structure! I’m in love. I don’t like feeling “in love” with stuff, but after so much time and work, I feel in love with the labor and end result.

I love the summer and the beach and baking cookies every week and sexting with new sexy friends and snuggling and skin and sun and my puppy dog and starting a new program in the fall. I love that my mom is coming to visit this weekend and that my little sis started med school and that one sister in law is starting rotations and the other just finished residency. I love that J takes care of himself by calling in sick when he needs a day off and that he is so meticulous and thorough and energized when it comes to doing house projects and up for having fun outdoors and indoors with friends. I’m just really loving my network and my life right now. Being on the upswing of things feels damn good. Remembering my upswings is helpful for the downswings- it always changes.

Relationship and sex wise… The night J and I moved all of our furniture in we had really hot, raunchy sex. It’s like the psychic space cleared up once our physical environment felt in order. I loved it! And it totally re-emphasized to me the importance of physical space and energy as a barrier or supporter of mental clarity and sexual energy… A new friend has been making my heart race which is delicious! 😉 And other new friends are fun and bubbly and make us both smile. I’m excited to continue to explore all of these.

Life. Is. Good.

Loss & Comfort

A woman I went to high school with, but was never friends with or connected to, lost her husband this past week in a car crash. She’s been on my mind ever since I saw the news. Imagining her grief has brought me down the past couple of days. I just can’t imagine my life if something like that happened to J.

I have had to fall asleep the past couple of night channeling my inner Byron Katie; it has been keeping me up and distracting me throughout the day. He shouldn’t have died. That couldn’t have happened. It wasn’t time yet. And it’s not callous or un-empathetic, but my soothing response to myself is: He should have because he did. It could have because it did. It was time because it was.

It was a devastating reality check for me: I really cannot control much of how my life runs its course. I can control my thoughts and beliefs (and even that is up for grabs) and how I behave. That’s about it.

Imagining going through that kind of unexpected, unfair, and traumatic loss makes me feel so small, and it also makes me feel so grateful for the time I do have with the people I love. Hold your people, show them you love them, and stay in the moment- it really is all we have.

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