Life After 40

I am almost 42. I have one adult child, and one child on his way toward adulthood. I’m single, have never been married, and live in an apartment in a state that makes it hard to breath a few months a year. And I am mostly ok with all of this. I’m down for a change in location, but that has to wait until my lease is up.

When I was 14 I couldn’t even imagine what my life would look like right now, because back then I thought 40 was soooo old. Now that I am here, and the majority of my friends are here as well, old is not the right word. Some days I am more tired than others, but my love for wild hair, high heels, and sexy bikers hasn’t changed or faltered. What has changed? My sex life! Dammit. Being single had so many perks in my dirty 30s, sex whenever and with whomever was one of them. The closer I got to my 40s however I noticed something happening. I’m pickier now, which is saying something because I was rather picky to begin with.

What was the biggest trigger? Drama. Why does there have to be so much drama attached to dating? Everyone and their dog has something to say whenever the dating starts, and most of it is negative or said with trouble making in mind. Why do people do that? Why on earth do other people find it necessary to interject on someone else’s love life? I could write a book just on the underhanded things that others, both male and female, have pulled in the name of “cockblocking” and still I would be no closer to discovering the why part of it all.

So now I take a step back, and hesitate. Do I want the drama in my life? Is this guy worth all that? Are his friends shady? How many exes are going to come out of the woodwork? Allow me to share this one story. A few years ago I reconnected with a guy from my past. He seemed so excited to be talking to me again, we texted, talked on the phone, made plans. He even flew across the country to spend Valentine’s weekend with me. Then, as soon as the weekend was over, I started getting emails from his exes. Long, drawn out emails, full of threats and pettiness. First one woman, who exposed all the crappy things he has done. Then another, who claimed to be still sleeping with him. By the third woman, I was done. Actually, I was done after the first one, but for some stupid reason I cannot recall I allowed it to carry on. How the hell did they get my email anyway? Oh. He gave it to them. He perpetuated the drama! WTF??? Who does things like that? A person who thrives on drama and loves women fighting over him, that’s who. Sorry bub, not worth my valuable time. This may be why I’m single, but my dignity and self-respect are worth so much more than a mediocre lay. Yeah, I said that.

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On Hiatus

I am taking a break from writing for a while. Sort of. Mostly. I will still write periodically, because it’s what keeps me sane and keeps the demons at bay, but I have some visual art projects going on right now, and my attention will be focused on getting them done and available to the public. You can follow along here to watch one project unfold, Maella and the Lake Michigan Merfolk.

Enjoy!

Motivation and Inspiration

Over the last three days I picked up paint brushes for a painting on canvas, for the first time in about a decade. I draw on paper, I paint random things like end tables and ceramic tiles, but I haven’t painted on canvas in what seems like a million years. My youngest has my oil paintings that survived from when I was 20 hanging on his bedroom wall. He’s proud to have them, all I can think is damn girl, you’ve come a long way!

So this most recent painting, my process was insane. I began by painting the white canvas stark black. Then I stared at it a while. I kind of sort of knew what I wanted to do, but I changed my mind about 20 times before I settled on an idea. Then, with my idea in my head, I researched various techniques and use of color. See, it’s been a long time, and I was out to impress myself. Then I started it. I painted a moon reflecting on water, and then had to wait and wait and wait for it to dry to add the simple detail of a mermaid silhouette. And boom! It was done. And it wasn’t half bad, if I’m to brag a little. Thought I’d hang it in the bathroom. I took a picture of it to share with my friends who knew I was about to tackle the canvas, then hung it up, unframed, in the bathroom above the toilet. My sister said my niece wanted it, and that made me smile, and told her maybe she’d get it for Christmas.

Then the unbelievable happened. I got a message inquiring details about the painting….you know, things like, how would I ship the painting, how big was it, how much do I want for it….WHOA. WAIT. HOLD UP. For real, for real? For real. Hot damn. Just the motivation I needed to flow with the inspiration. There will be more to come! If you want to see the painting you will have to check out my Instagram!

Cheese, Wine, and Bicycles

That title is so misleading, because it’s salsa con queso with frito scoops and I’m drinking the wine right from the bottle, but I totally went on a bike ride today, so there’s that. I haven’t ridden a bicycle since I was in SoCal for the winter, and that bike had a short life since it was parted out before I had a chance to move it from my old place. Some people. Whatever. As I slowly rebuild my life and work away from my burnout/breakdown, I discover that I am in need of a few things. One of them is my own bike. I have discovered (a little on the late side to be sure) the bike share program here, and am taking advantage of that. Well, today I did. I got in a six mile trip! We can keep the bikes until 9pm, so I am taking a break and writing here real quick before the next little ride.

I wish I had discovered them a few months ago, but I am glad they are there. Definitely need my own cruiser, with a big ol seat for my big ol bum.

Another step in rebuilding my life is getting a grip on my physical health. I’m not completely out of shape, but I could tell at the beginning of summer I needed to shape up. Taking a dip in the lake is ok, but body surfing is much more energy consuming, as is paddling around the outside of the swim area. That little exercise is tightening up those saggy arm muscles that I absolutely hate. But alas, summer will be over soon, and I will have to suffer through another winter here. I will likely never take up skiing, and there are no legit snowboarding areas nearby, so….I guess I have to dance and do traditional exercises through the winter to keep this up.

This post was a little different from my usual posts, but it felt right, so I write. Tata for now!

When the Nice Guys Aren’t Really

As an avid reader of comment sections (blame my behavioral health degrees, it’s digital people watching) I see all manner of quip and complaint. One of the complaints is something to the effect of women always saying they want a nice guy, but always choosing assholes. I never respond to those comments. I read and mull it over. Most of us women have dated our fare share of assholes. But do we actually get to be around many nice guys that are genuinely nice guys? As a general rule, no. There are a few. But then there are the nice guys who turn out to be total assholes.

Because not every relationship starts out with an asshole; they disguise themselves as nice guys. In fact, every jerkface I have ever dated started out as nice guys. They billed themselves as honest, displayed appropriate behavior, played the part of a good guy to a tee. Hence the reason for dating. Then, somewhere along the way, the nice guy turned out to be a creep on whatever level, and the true colors surfaced.

Then there are the nice guys who are always complaining about the girl who is always dating jerks and never the nice guy right in from of their face. The complaining turns into anger as the girl in question is called names, accused of being superficial or stupid, and pretty soon it’s all girls date assholes and never nice guys and blame has to be placed somewhere. That’s not nice guy behavior. So then the nice guy is not so nice after all. So where does that leave us?

That leaves us looking for those hidden gems, those rare and beautiful, genuinely nice guys, who don’t try to make us feel bad about our past choices, because, well, they are just that nice. And along the way, we will continue our search, weeding out the bad among you, listening to you complain about the choices some women make, tricking us into thinking you are the rare breed, and all the while keeping a weather eye out for the good guys.

A Culture of Shame

We are a nation of shamers. We slut shame, weight shame, age shame, personal choices shame, politically shame, race shame, and religious shame. There is someone somewhere right now, deciding to shame me for the way I dress, how many tattoos I have, how I write, or the fact that I am a single parent. White people are shamed for being white. Police are shamed for being police. Addicts are shamed for their addictions. Mentally ill are shamed for their illness. Pot smokers are shamed for smoking pot.

Why do we do this? Is it leftover from our Puritan days? Is it an ingrained part of religious dogma, to shame others? Some of the worst people for doing this, and I hate to admit it, are women. Women are some of the most vicious shamers out there. You claim to be a feminist but you like to wear make up and dresses and shave your legs and arm pits? Shame on you! The reverse is true too, many of the women who like to dress themselves up will shame other women for not shaving, free bleeding, and growing out their unibrows. I see it in comment sections of inflammatory posts all the time. Sometimes it seems like the “articles” are written solely to keep the shaming up.

Do this, not this, or you will get shamed. We have to be the most judgmental nation in the world. We complain about unreal standards, but shame anyone who decides to step away from the norm. If you don’t think like the herd then you get shamed. If you don’t jump aboard the latest social justice warrior train, then you get shamed. If you don’t live your life with conviction, you get shamed but at the same time, if you are living your life with conviction you get shamed.

We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. So how do we get by? With our heads held high and a personal knowledge that we are doing what is right for our circumstances. I’m guilty of shaming. Just this morning I was saying derogatory things about another person’s hairstyle choice. It’s his hair, he has to look in the mirror everyday, why let it bother me? I think we may justify our shaming as a method of keeping others from being shamed. One of those, hey if you didn’t do that, then no one would be shaming you, sort of things. In the process of that, we are still shaming.

As I write this, I am brought to mind a song by The Beatles that was remade by Guns n’ Roses: Live and Let Die. Shouldn’t we all have the “live and let live” attitude when it comes to others? What business is it of ours how someone else lives their lives? Honestly, the only time we should interfere in each others lives is when someone is being hurt. So, don’t shame someone because they enjoy having sex, or because they wear too tight clothes or worship (or don’t worship) how they see fit.

Shame the ones who are harming others. Shame the rapists, the child molesters, the ones who beat on their loved ones. That girl has her bangs too short and doesn’t shave her armpits. Who cares? That guy over there molests young children. Shame him instead, because that girl isn’t hurting anyone. That guy is wearing skinny jeans or sags his pants. Who cares? That woman over there just sold her daughter for drugs. Shame her instead.

We ignore the real problems in this nation and focus on the mundane. The way a person dresses, their sexuality (except rapists and child molesters), their political affiliation, their religion, their preference for tattoos, those things are none of our business. Yet, we focus on them to the  point of causing uproar on social media and making things go viral. We victim shame like no other. Yet, we barely react to those who bring actual harm to others. We, as a culture, society, nation, should focus our shaming skills. Shame those who deserve to be shamed. Shame that fat, nasty uncle who molested his five year old niece. Shame that abusive bastard who rapes his wife after he beats her face to a pulp. Shame those kids who watched and laughed as a man drowned in front of them. Shame those sick pedophiles who are kidnapping and trafficking children for their own sexual pleasure. Shame the politicians who decide there should be a statute of limitations on sex crimes. Shame the women who regularly abuse their partners, both physically and mentally. Shame the war mongers. Shame the rich who can do something to help, but chose to turn the other way. Priorities.

Ok, I’m off my little soapbox now, and I’m going to try my best to mind my business and not be a mean girl, while looking out for those who may be silent victims. I hope you all try to do the same. Perhaps, just maybe, if we focus our shaming on those who really deserve it, there will be less rape, less molestation, less abuse, less human trafficking, less apathy.

You Are Being Controlled

The other day I wrote a post about the power of words, and how words are used to define and control people. Well cats and dolls, I witnessed this in action just a few moments ago. The Facebook group “Women’s Rights” often shares opinion articles, and today they shared one that was something to the effect of “10 reasons why having a c-section isn’t really giving birth.” Before anyone read the article, about three quarters of the followers of this page were infuriated. How dare anyone tell them whether or not they gave birth, no matter how said baby arrived? Do you know such and such, so and so, this and that, yada yada.

I know that things aren’t always what they seem, especially in this age of sensationalized headlines intended to get clicks. Well, it wasn’t click bait, even though it had a click baity title. It was a satire article, oozing with sarcasm and clearly written to tell those who actually think negatively about mothers who have had c-sections exactly how foolish they appear with their “reasoning.”

But the title, much like other titles (what white people don’t understand about piercing my Latina child’s ears, why white girls should never belly dance, etc.) gets the blood boiling. Why is that? Because words have power. So much power in fact they can make or break you in the social media world. So much power, that riots will start in the streets over “wording choices.” So much power that we, even myself the ever loving wordsmith, find ourselves, and our emotions, under the control of the writers.

How do we break free from these chains? We need words to communicate, to explain ourselves, to find others who think like us. We need words to label everything, to assign meaning to everything, or else all would be meaningless. Even before words we used pictures, and those pictures held powers as well. I mean, for real, in ancient Egypt if you saw certain warning pics above a doorway or a tomb, you heeded that warning. If you saw vicious animals depicted in cave paintings in some random cave your caveman ass was roaming around, you would know there were vicious animals nearby, or at least at one point they were nearby.

Words are important, and now, more than ever before, they are being used as a means to control you. You are too old, too young, too white, too rich, too whatever to do whatever. Why do we hang onto the words thrown at us with every fiber of our being? Understanding the meaning behind the words, or the use of the words, doesn’t lessen the powers at all. It may make you more immune to their power, but for every one of you who are not affected by the words of others, there are at least 100 more people who are.

The best way to build your word immunity is through critical thinking and non reaction. Investigate. If there is a headline that instantly boils your blood, figure out why. Read the article, it may have a deceptive headline. Don’t react. Because people have opinions, and with the onslaught of vlogs and blogs, there are so many opinions out there being shared. Waging a keyboard war because someone has a different opinion than you do is exactly one of the ways you are being controlled. It’s up to you to end it. Build your immunity. Strengthen your own constitute. Stop being part of such a reactive culture.

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And We Dance

I would like to petition the social justice warriors to remove all forms of dance from their cultural appropriation list. All forms. Dance is not a cultural invention, although individual cultures and societies have their own adaptations and variations. Even the oldest and most venerated of societies, Egypt, India, et al, cannot lay claim to the invention of dance. Dancing is simply a part of the human condition, something we do with our bodies to convey a variety of things; happiness, sorrow, illness, sexuality.

A look into the history of body movement shows everything from slow and sinewy, sensual, to tantric and ecstatic movements. Movements common among humans, not just a particular section of humans. What provides the differences are choices in decoration and adornment. Now why are we going to let that be the factor in discontentment?

In every dance I do, every rhythmic movement I make, I am honoring the ancients, the ancestors, the would be gods and goddesses, the history of humanity, the Universe, my own soul. The very act of dancing itself is my exhibition, my offering to the Universe. What I wear when I dance should not be a point of contention, hence the petition. Certain materials are easier to move in, and the addition of jewels and coins adds aesthetics, even if I am dancing with myself. There is no appropriation occurring when clothing is inspired by the most ancient of cultures. They were the richest cultures, having access to the most beautiful materials and adornments.

As a people, no matter what our culture is, we strive to appear our best based on what the richest have decided to flaunt. Sensual people will always be drawn to silks and gossamer, jewels with bells and coins. Color is irrelevant; some like dark, deep colors, others earth tones, and others still pastels or neons. The problem with the assignment of cultural appropriation to anyone outside a certain culture dancing in the adapted style of that culture is as simple is as it complex.

It is clear by the state of the world today that not all humans are highly sensual. Many are however, and those who are highly sensual beings span the assigned races and ethnicities, and are a part of every culture. Our body movements are not taught as a matter of culture or society, they are shared interpretations of the vibrations of the Universe, moving us to express ourselves. What has come to be called “belly dance” (a Hollywood name, fyi) is actually one of the most ancient of dancing styles, with an obscure and debatable origin in human history. It is the main dance of my culture, the culture of highly sensual people moved by music, but it doesn’t belong to even us. It belongs to the Universe, and by proxy, to all of mankind.

As far as garb goes, each culture would be wearing their native garb, with only perhaps a scarf or belt to signify hip movements, in the past. Hollywood has inspired the proposed elaborate bras and skirts, adorned with jewels, bells, tassels, and coins that we see attached to the dance in various ways, mostly inspired by Egypt and Arabia, sometimes inspired by Asia as well. The most ancient cultures, the countries known for their beautifully dyed silks and delicate gossamer, their elaborate decorations and adornments with shiny metals and highly polished stones. Things that appeal to the highly sensual, no matter what their ancestry is.

So, before you get all heated up the next time you see a “white girl” adorned and dancing, stop and think. Is she sensual? Then she isn’t appropriating anything, she is being moved by the music and the beauty of the clothing and jewels. Just like all the other sensual people in the world. It is her connection to the Universe, and as such should be cherished. Not admonished. Encouraged, not an invitation into angry confrontation.

The idea of race assignment came from a man who was imposing his idea of beautiful on mankind. Now look at how we let that tear us apart. Embrace what is beautiful to you, and acknowledge that beauty in some forms is more universal than in other forms. Dance is Universal.

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Trigger Warning?

As I scroll through my social media feed, I see it all the time. ***TRIGGER WARNING*** Then the post to follow. Sometimes the post is about sexual abuse, rape, child abuse, or spousal abuse. Sometimes, it’s about drug use or a complaint about the in laws.

When I first started using the internet, more years ago than I care to admit, there were no trigger warnings. Information came at us at dial up speed (I was going to say lightning, but that would be a flat out lie) and there was no filtering it. Since then, parental controls have been put in place to limit the “dirty web” content from their children’s daily lives, and more recently, in the last couple of years, things are being labeled as NSFW (not safe for work) or with a trigger warning.

I understand the concept behind NSFW. People are at work constantly getting onto the internet while they should be working (guilty) and some content, if you are caught viewing it, could get you into hot water with the bosses. Ok. Understandable, and thanks for the heads up. Or, we could just get back to working and stop being on the internet so much. Hahahahaha.

Let’s move on to this other thing, the TW. A trigger warning is a heads up that content may be violent, sexual, or otherwise negative in nature, something those who have experienced trauma or have PTSD may not want to read because it could adversely affect their mental health. Are we enabling a weaker society, or are we protecting those dealing with mental health issues?

I did some research into trigger warnings, looking for educational based articles, or even articles from the psychiatric community. I was hard pressed to find anything other than mainstream media articles explaining why trigger warnings are needed and so helpful. Then, after a few pages into the Google search, I found an article from Psychology Today. It’s a well written piece that discusses the negative side of a trigger warning, and the fact that there is no evidence that trigger warnings are actually helpful. “Should young people be confronted with material in class that is disturbing and distressing? Yes, if we want to solve disturbing and distressing social problems such as crime, war, and illness. Should there be resources in place for those who find such material overly distressing? Yes, if we want caring and compassionate campuses. These are not mutually exclusive goals.”

Ten pages into the search for evidence that TW before content is helpful, I gave up. There is no evidence. In fact, years of psychology and psychiatry research have shown us the opposite; a trigger warning leads to avoidance, avoidance leads to further mental health issues and the inability to grow from experience. What’s more, the use of trigger warnings leads to stereotyping, name calling, and a further separation of humanity with this whole “snowflake” issue that has taken the vocabulary by storm. So, if it does more harm than help, why is it spreading like wildfire?

Here is where opinion comes in. I think it’s because people don’t like discomfort, and have found a way to remain comfortable. As a student of psychology, I have found that leaving one’s comfort zone is a part of the healing process. First hand experience has shown me that facing phobias leads to conquering those fears. Imagine if there was a trigger warning before every bridge (my former phobia). Oh wait, there is! But it didn’t actually say “trigger warning” it says “bridge ahead” or “bridge may be icy” or something similar. That in itself triggered my phobia for years. That warning gave me tunnel vision, measured breathing, and white knuckles on the steering wheel. That warning caused me to avoid as many bridges as possible, which incredibly hindered my ability to go where I pleased.

It took years of allowing that to hamper me before I finally took control of my own life, faced my fears, and conquered gephyrophobia. With that phobia out of my life, I was no longer a victim of my own fears. That milestone lead me to fighting back against my anxiety issues as well, and I live with my anxiety medication free. I fight that one on the daily, but my life isn’t anxiety, anxiety is a tiny fraction of my life. My life is so much more than that aspect, and I will no longer allow it to control me.

So while it is in no way an expert opinion, my personal opinion is that we should stop with the trigger warnings, and encourage each other to seek out ways to improve their mental health issues. Counseling, therapy, medications (when absolutely necessary and not just because), facing fears, talking about things, group therapy. There are so many healthy options, that do not lead to ostracizing, stereotyping, and more of that blasted “snowflake” rhetoric that seems to be the nation’s response to trigger warnings and safe spaces. Maybe it’s crass to say toughen up, but facing your fears does in fact make you stronger.

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How To Date in 2017

If you thought this was a how to guide that would expose some well kept secret behind dating in this particular day and age, you are wrong. Sorry to deceive you. But now that I have your attention, how do we date in this age of digital media, cell phones, texting, instant messaging? What’s worse than technology are all the exes…exes and ohs…

So many people are royally screwed up because of the time and effort invested in a relationship gone bad, that when someone new, someone bright and shiny, someone who has done nothing to make you think they will hurt you comes along, you tend to run the other way? Or worse yet, that wall goes up so high, no one can climb over it? Why is it so different now, then, say, 20 years ago? Is it just technology and heartbreak? Or have we gotten seriously lazy?

It seems easier to have a “textationship” than a real relationship. I’ve fallen victim to that little scenario. We start talking, maybe once or twice a week, then every couple of days, then every other day, then every day several times throughout the day. Then when it comes down to seeing each other face to face, things come up, or they got too drunk to be cool about the situation, pass out for a minute at your rental cabin, then bail at 4 am before everyone wakes up. That was fun. Not really. What happens is a loss of respect for the other person, whom I had some feels for at one point.

Then, on the other hand, the idea of dating someone is more fun than actually going through with it, which I am sure I have put others through myself. Maybe even currently. What is the real problem here? Are we being too picky? The song says, if we can’t be with the one we love, we should love the one we’re with. Is that right though? Isn’t that settling, something we were told never to do?

Sometimes that initial idea is great, but when I get to know a little more about person X, I find things that I don’t really care for. Many will tell you a relationship is about compromise, but I think that is way off base. Why should we have to compromise ourselves for the sake of being with someone? I am unapologetically who I am, why do I need to change myself for someone else’s approval? And vise versa, why should a man have to change himself for my approval?

I’m sure I have a laundry list of things I can’t stand and an equal amount of things I love in men. Is it superficial to desire my partner to have a stellar smile? Perfection is not needed, there is something else that drives a smile to be stellar. Is it wrong to want a man with a certain skill set? I mean, this is my life, here are my issues and positive qualities, can’t my man counter my issues and add to my positive qualities?

I see loneliness over take so many; many loved ones I have chose to be miserable in a relationship rather than be alone. But there is a distinct difference between lonely and alone. Alone, we can work out our own issues, heal our broken hearts, and learn to love again for all the right reasons. Lonely, we act out of desperation to end the loneliness, and end up making bad choices in partners, leaving us more lonely and heartbroken than before.

It’s all just so baffling sometimes, causing me to muse over the prospects and forgotten lovers. I’m wild, not broken, not meant to be tamed or calmed. I’m looking for someone to run wild with, a leather for lace kind of trade. Someone to kiss passionately, go on adventures with, talk about the cosmos at 3am. Until I find that person, then I shall remain alone, for there is no compromising my heart.