Monday, November 14, 2005

a personal revolution

I wonder why we only celebrate certain holidays? Ann has a theory that Sundays have a special energy because so many people take it easy on Sundays. This might be true in the West where supposedly the tradition is Christian. But what about the energy on other days of the week in cultures where another day might be special?

I asked a man from India one day, around the time of Dewali, to tell me about the holiday. I really don't know anything about it. Oh sure, I read stuff, because even in the newspaper, around the time of Dewali, they do the obligatory "multicultural piece" about the holiday. After all, there is a huge Southeast Asian population in the greater Toronto area. It would be nice to know a bit more about our neighbours.

Anyway, the man paused, then in his customary sarcastic tone, he corrected me, saying: "It's today, it's not coming up, it's today." Oh well, that's nice, but tell me, what do you do to celebrate it, what is it about, what's the story behind it? I really want to know.

Well, he gave us the super-duper-micro-condensed-extra-special Coles' Notes version: it's to celebrate the victory of good over evil, there was a's to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

Hah! Just like my Joulupukki in Finland these days is dressed in red and looks suspiciously like the Santa of Coca Cola commercials! What is that? Where did my mysterious tramp Joulupukki go?

I Googled Dewali and found that it is celebrated over about 5 days, and there are lots and lots and lots of stories associated with the holiday. Check it out for yourself! What was my Indian acquaintance so afraid of? Why was he so reticent? Did he think I needed a Christianized version of the story? Did he think I would think less of stories of many gods and goddesses? Did he think I would think poorly of colourful, lustful, extravagant, lush and opulent gods and goddesses involved in convoluted, agonizing and passionate interrelated plots, story upon story?

Stop, already! Please, please tell me juicy stories with complex, earthy characters who get up to all sorts of things. I don't want the watered down, sanitized, disinfected, commercialized, benevolent, smiling Santa and the distant, ethereal saintly madonna smiling vaguely at a plump, white infant. She looks so saintly and distracted in so many paintings, it's a wonder the child doesn't simply roll off her lap! Did anybody ever ask if the baby Jesus pooped? Did the poop just miraculously disappear?

So, in thinking about that for the last several days, I also realized that my personal coming out has not happened. I have a huge hesitation about talking about my personal complexities. While encouraging others to be more of their authentic selves, I have issues myself. And no, I'm not ready to be completely real yet either.

Only a couple of my really dearest friends know how frightened I am of money, for example. No doubt I am known better than I think I am known, but I have not confessed my weaknesses to anyone but those couple of best friends. Mostly, I pretend to have a brave face.

Another issue is talking about sexuality. It is probably the most taboo subject still, in our society. I believe sexuality is a continium of experiences and practices and preferences, ranging from the earliest comforting sensuality of a mother's kisses and hugs, to anything you want to imagine; and I resist labels and boxes that try to compartmentalize sexuality. The desire for labels, boxes and definitions may be the desire to thereby contain the "other-ness" of other people which would otherwise frighten us. I believe sexual desire is a natural longing for connection to others, skin to skin. It is as natural and simple as breathing.

If we tried to control, dictate, formalize and order breathing the way we do sex, it's easy to see breathing would explode into very weird expressions indeed, leak out, becoming twisted up with the unnaturally strong desires for power, as an example.

It is from and within that sexually twisted culture that I live and write. I cannot easily describe my desires or pleasures without all the built- in fears and judgments that play out within my own head, and I am accutely aware of the subliminal feedback fraught with embarrasment and discomfort when I do talk about my own sexuality with most anyone I know.

Without feeling the need to explain our sexual relationship, I would like to say that with my friend Mike of the roadtrip, discussions of sexual topics was incredibly freeing for me. But with many of our acquaintances, who asked about our trip, the feedback I got was of the kind that tried again to judge, compartmentalize and label...without actually being open enough to really hear what I might have had to say.

It wasn't really even that frightening!

Shortly after I came back, I re-read Suzie Bright's "Full Exposure" . In the introduction, she states that "there is no such thing as a person without an erotic story...a personal erotic identity." She argues that "sexuality is a creative process and that erotic expression of any kind is a personal revolution."

"How many people are willing to name their erotic character as one of their most demanding or enlightening teachers?" she asks. "In our efforts to be honest or realistic about sex, we often can't even get past the naked basics."

I guess, that is what expresses my frustration the best. When I talked a bit about this with my beautiful, aware and perceptive daughters, I said at one point: "I don't feel I can be open about my lifestyle..."

"What lifestyle!" they laughed. 'Mom, you don't even have a lifestyle."

Ah! Even they have a fantasy about Mom's sexuality, a safe little story they prefer to tell themselves. But, I will blunder on.

As Maya Angelou said:
Some of the things I know, I know only because older women have told me
their secrets. I have lived and am living long so that I can tell my
secrets to younger women. That's the reason we women go on


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