Just Lunch

It’s just Lunch – More Goo

Ninth in a series [gs *]

So, I spend the morning after that lunch aimlessly poking around in the goo in my heart, trying to figure out what happened. What, exactly, felt yucky? What did I do to prompt that bugling-eyed ook to start slithering my way? I’m not thrashing yet – I don’t feel that stuck at this point – but I am sensing it’s a distinct possibility, and I don’t want that to happen. I seem to thrash a lot and it embarrasses me.

Later in the afternoon, this first day after our lunch, I get an email from lunch-guy – which is much too soon. The timing itself alarms me. And then there’s the subject line: ‘I see Christ in Christine’ – and the instant I see that, my gut turns over. I hate that christ/christine thing. It has history. What it means to me is never what it consciously means to the speaker. To me, it means, ‘I’m gonna suck you dry!’. It means ‘I don’t know the slightest thing about you, but I’m assuming you like being compared to christ, and I’m projecting a whole lot of martyr-y shit onto you, and you’re going to like it’. It resonates, spiritually, to me, with ‘I’m gonna to ride you hard and put you away wet. And you’re gonna like it.’

I can almost feel his giggly throbbing as I read it.

Not a good subject line to see in my email box – which of course he can’t have known (at least not consciously). But this means either I have to: explain to him that it’s not the compliment he meant it to be, and why – which even I don’t entirely get; leave myself open to the potential for a repeat of that minor accidental (but pukey) psychic violation; or just shut the exchange down altogether right now. Tell him to stay out of my life, without a shred of explanation – which seems rather immature and unfair.

Another complicated decision he’s innocently dumped in my lap, and even though I still can’t rationally articulate exactly why, I’m starting to feel seriously encroached on.

Inside he says:

Thank you again for yesterday.

Thank you for the warm touch, the loving glance and the soulful intimacy. It made my heart soar (and another body part very stiff, but we won’t talk about that right now! : ))

Seriously, I was deeply moved by the Divine Light in your eyes, your open and loving Heart and your complete willingness to be present and vulnerable. Looking forward to reconnecting again soon.

The Divinity in me wants to merge with the Divinity in you (in a spiritual way). If you have any other ideas on how to make that happen, please let me know – the [xxx] store was an awesome start! : )

[suggestion for a time to meet again]


Now that’s just too much! I can’t go there. I sense thrashing looming on the horizon, and I’d still rather avoid it. I shut the email quickly and decide that I never have to respond if I don’t feel like it. I can even tell him to go to hell if I want to.

I tend to expect myself to be nice. To be compassionate and respectful and non-judgemental, to take care not to say things so bluntly that feelings get hurt. I pride myself especially on my diplomatic writing skills, and when I’m accused of being hurtful I feel ashamed and I spend way more time than it’s worth, explaining to myself why I was so rude and figuring out what triggered my rudeness and how to not do that again, and so on. 

For a woman whose mother raised her with a proper 60’s feminist scorn for niceness, I’m pretty damn pathetic. Especially considering how far I tend to fall from my target. 

So to give myself permission to tell him to go to hell, and know I’d be fine with it if that’s what I actually did was kind of a big deal. But there was no need to rush. I wasn’t certain what I wanted to say yet, and it felt good to decide not to take his urgency-cue and to allow myself to respond in my own time. The whole thing was becoming a distraction to my normally-disciplined writerly self, and it clearly wasn’t settled in my heart yet.

I tried to let the whole thing slip back into my unconscious, trusting that after letting it gestate in the dark, it would return to me clear and complete, and I’d know exactly what to do next – as I find happening more and more lately with everything.

In other words, I ignored his email.

I find that when I react too quickly, by the time I pause, the ground is strewn with bodies – and the only fallen body connected to me is my sense of myself as a decent rational person – a sense I’m finding myself less and less attached to lately, but there’s no need to be rash.

In the following days, things kept bubbling up. I realized at one point that I was angry. I also realized that lunch-guy had ignorantly stumbled into an arsenal of triggers for old rages that had nothing to do with him, and I was having trouble sorting out which part of my anger belonged to him, and which part he had simply stepped into the path of.

Still, the whole tone of his email, like that of an inexperienced young man falling in love, assuming all feelings were mutual and not taking care in how he used his words, was irksome. Talking to me as though I were remotely as breathless and blown-away and thrilled with our new friendship as he was! Whether he deserved my anger over old triggers or not, his presumptions were annoying.

But perhaps the thing that offended me most was his ignorant assumption that I was harmless – his innocent expectation that I was no more than a cuddly, sexy mommy. On one hand he was throwing himself at me, and on the other, he was not taking me seriously at all. Who did he think he was dealing with? Only an idiot would hear even half of what I told him about myself and fail to recognize the intensity, complexity and power in who he was looking at. No-one ever takes me that lightly. He didn’t even have the sense to be scared. 

I was pissed that he left it to me to be the only adult and make sure things turned out ok in spite of his wanton childishness.

Vulnerability is one thing, but you still don’t throw yourself in front of a full speed train and expect to come out intact. People could get killed. You still have to exercise some judgment. I never asked to be responsible for his tender heart, but here he was slopping it all over my lap.

To be continued. . .

Just Lunch

It’s Just Lunch – Terminology

Eighth in a series [gs *]

This seems like a good place to clarify some terminology and values. If I’d done this up front, we wouldn’t have this story now. Rule number one in a dialog or conflict – make sure we all understand how we’re using our words. Number two, figure out what values are at stake for each participant.

In this instance, there are three or four ideas (terms or values) that seem essential to our misunderstandings:

The first is ‘oneness’. I could be misreading, but it usually sounds to me that by ‘oneness’ people mean something that resembles pouring two glasses of water together. Once combined, there is no difference between one quantity of water and the other. ‘Oneness’ generally seems to mean erasing difference and almost definitively to mean the absence of conflict. It always sounds so happy – like oneness is identical to ‘pure love’.

This happy ‘oneness’, though usually posited theoretically as an underlying cosmic fact, is usually spoken of casually as if it were something to be achieved or not achieved. To say “I want to be ‘one’ with you” presumes that in the moment of saying it, you are not. This happy ‘oneness’ is thus articulated from the perspective of separation.

In Buddhism there is a saying of mistaking the moon for the finger pointing at it. Whenever I hear that happy-sameness-oneness word, I see a finger waving around with a case of mistaken identity (same with ‘pure love’)

This happy ‘oneness’ seems to have been lunch-guy’s working definition – I could be wrong about that, but I was trying to discern his meaning for the term, and I didn’t get any clues that contradicted the above.

My ‘oneness’ is not like that. To me ‘oneness’ means we’re all part of one larger whole, upon which we depend utterly for every breath. There is no point at which you can say, absolutely ‘this is separate from that’. Thus, whatever state we’re in, we are still, always, symbiotically enmeshed with everything else. My body, the oxygen in my veins, the genetically not-me mitochondria in my cells, the micro-bacteria in my gut and the parasites in my eyelashes, along with the thoughts in my head, the aches in my joints, as well as the pulsing overlapping energies of all of those entities and whomever’s energy-body penetrates into ‘mine’ – these are all ‘one’ in my use of the word. And by extension, the ‘one’ of ‘me’ overlaps with the ‘one’ of everyone near me and everyone I’ve ever ‘connected’ with and all are subset of a larger ‘one’, in unending layers. But those parts of the whole are not all the same.

My oneness is more like an ecosystem, where wholeness and health demand diversity (which inherently includes difference and conflict). My oneness is not, a priori, happy or loving – or anything else. It’s simply a fact.

I don’t make this distinction to split hairs, or to badger, I make it first so you might see how lunch-guy and I got snagged in our conversation, and second because I think it’s important. In my experience, if you try to gloss over or avoid differences and conflicts and all the not-happy feelings, you may never get to anything deeper. The magic in the muck will forever elude you. So, as he was gushing ecstatically over his new-found finger, I was contemplating what a poor stand-in it was for the moon.

Plus, that conflict-evading happy oneness is more achievable (I think, I haven’t actually experienced this) in a context of generally equivalent privilege – or where only superficial agreement or change are necessary. Where there are differences in power and privilege, any effort to impose happy oneness (i.e. to deny, whitewash or side-step the conflict inherent in those situations) is merely a refusal by the privileged to acknowledge those differentials. It is the privileged imposing their own narrative on ‘the other’ – which really doesn’t make those others want to be ‘one’.

Here is a good summary of white privilege, if you don’t get what I’m saying here. The thing about systemic privilege is that it’s only clearly visible to those without the privilege. White people get to (are even trained to) be oblivious to white privilege, and men can be even more ignorant of male privilege. For the privileged, seeing it is a matter of choice and education. For the less-privileged, it is the mud they slog through daily.

The crucial thing for the privileged to know is that they can trigger anger, resentment, withdrawal, violence, subversion in a single instant of ignorance, and never even know what happened, in spite of terrible consequences for everyone. Those triggers can be released very easily and quickly, if the privileged are willing to deal responsibly with their privilege, but they can also destroy a group in an instant, if the will to acknowledge the impact of privilege is absent.

Being oblivious to the triggers of the non-privileged in any context is a dangerous practice, and one’s lack of intent is no protection.

Maybe it’s a sorry comment on my own life and decisions, but what I see happen most often when a non-privileged member of a group gets triggered, is that everyone dismisses him or her as incoherent, emotional, unproductive – they brush it aside and try to move on. People can be so eager for ‘oneness’ that they shut down the potential for effective collaboration.

It seems to me that awareness of the impact of privilege differentials has gotten lost in the mad dash to pop-spiritual feel-good-ism. A dash to greater meaning, peace, and connection seem warranted, but in the systems we’ve inherited, I think we’re still a long way from being able to implement that dash without trampling people underfoot and ruining what we’re trying to create. By my observation, rushing to outcomes or abstract ideals, without carefully examining the layers of our being-together as we deepen, almost inevitably involves one narrative dominating another. To me, that’s the same as someone, on some level, raping someone.

The missing voice passionately hates unexamined hegemony – seeing narrative dominance in action makes me want to rip heads off. And ‘happy-oneness’ is one of those narratives.

In any case ‘oneness’ – to me, is not something that we achieve or fail to achieve, because it already exists whether we know it or not. The question about ‘oneness’, for me, is never a matter of ‘if’, but ‘how’. Are we going to be ‘one’ in a shitty way that exploits or denies the other’s differences, and represses those underlying inevitable systemic tensions? Or are we going to be ‘one’ in a way that honors and respects each part of the whole in all of its unique glory? Is our ‘oneness’ going to be truthful and authentic, or is it going to conform to some mental agenda of who we should be in this moment? A ‘oneness’ that fails to surface conflict and differences, that cannot sit with ‘what is’ in the moment, an all-happy-sameness ‘oneness’, is at best a wishful illusion, and at worst, it’s a bid for power over something or someone.

Some days, just the word by itself makes me want to punch someone.

This is just me, based my life. It doesn’t have to be your interpretation. But if you try to ‘be one with’ me, (especially too fast) and you presume that I share your meaning, and that am going to do it your way, you’re probably in for a shock.

My ‘oneness’ is also based on my marriage. My husband and I would both say that the principles I think are necessary for group effectiveness; deep listening and respect for otherness; utter honesty about what exists in the moment; courage when ‘what is’ is conflict and pain – these are at the very core of our marriage, because we’ve learned, through trial and error, that this is what makes us stronger – as individuals and as a couple. We practice being with what is, and digging deeply into every little ripple on a minute by minute basis – and we experience, daily, that magic of discovery, breaking out of old deadening paradigms, increased connection, greater compassion, intimacy and erotic flow.

This leads us to our second difference in fundamental assumptions – regarding marriage. My idea of marriage is different from conventional assumptions. It’s not about procreation, convenience, tradition, other’s expectations, status, sex, love, security, or efficiency. No. For me, marriage is a spiritual practice. It serves the same purpose as sitting on a cushion for years and years, except it’s less abstract, more dangerous, and often very painful. To me, marriage is a crucible, a container that holds volatile elements together with the intent of catalyzing transformation. That’s it. Period. But I find it truly astonishing what comes from that crucible if you can survive it. To me, if marriage is not doing that, it’s not worth keeping. But I get that that’s just us.

I don’t expect anyone else to be practicing that kind of marriage, and I don’t judge other’s marriages based on my values. But I tend to be very careful around people whose marital intent is less clear, or less contained. Sexual polarity is powerful stuff. People who are less than conscious about how it works and who don’t know how to direct it according to their vows (whatever those were), are people looking for trouble. And I don’t want to be any part of that. I’ve learned those lessons.

Because of my view, my related word-use is broader than usual. If I refer to fidelity or betrayal, I’m probably not talking about fucking, or even touching. I’m talking about – if you say things to someone else about your marriage that you don’t say to your spouse. I’m talking about – if you share yearnings (verbally, energetically) with another because you aren’t getting needs met by your spouse, and you’re not telling your spouse about either the yearnings or where you are directing them. I’m talking, fundamentally, about two things 1) hiding ‘what is’ from your spouse, or 2) refusing to listen carefully to, or take seriously, your spouse’s ‘what is’. None of this necessarily precludes any manner of open relationships. But it does preclude lying or evading the truth – and that’s what I mean by betrayal.

And while I don’t judge other’s marriages based on my own values, a marriage (regardless of what type), has a powerful impact who you are and how you engage with the world. I don’t like to be around what I sense are messy marriages. People that lie to their spouses, treat partners disrespectfully, evade important topics that they discuss with others, violate one another’s privacy (by sharing personal details with others the spouse wouldn’t want shared), cast about elsewhere trying to meet needs they’ve agreed the spouse should meet (I don’t care how that is defined – I just want people to honor their intentions). I say Ick.

I’m not judging the people, I may even love them. I’m just saying – I don’t want to be around that behavior. I’m not the person you want to gossip about your extramarital affair with, unless you need a sounding board for making grown-up decisions about how to work through your conflicts with as little ugliness to the fall-out as possible. Nor do I want to hear you bitch about your spouse about things you won’t go home and address directly. It’s not that I judge you for being human – far from it. I just want you to handle it like a grown up, or else keep it to yourself. That stuff is so “80’s” to me.

I say these things so you understand where I’m coming from later on. Because I don’t think any of this was remotely conceived of in the mind of my lunch date that day, and those last three paragraph had a lot to do with how I responded to him.

Another word I probably interpret a tad differently from the lunch-guy is connection. It could get really esoteric, but I’ll just say that his ‘connection’ seems a lot like his ‘oneness’ – sort of mono-meaning’d and mono-colored – pretty. Mine is far more complex. Predator and prey are connected in the hunt, and in the kill. A baby and mother are connected in one way or another from conception through death. A master and slave are connected, lovers are connected. And a group, when it gets to the bottom of the U (in [gs Theory U]) and suddenly the future emerges, is connected. Like ‘oneness’, ‘connection’ to me is not about if, it’s about the quality of the connection – are we going to be conscious and responsible for how we connect, how our connecting impacts others? Or not?

Lastly, from my perspective, any interaction between a pubescent-or-older male and any female is fraught with gender and power and ‘otherness’ dynamics. Regardless of our wishes, gender, and the differences between how the masculine engages the world and how the feminine engages the world, are so wrapped up in power and privilege and meaning-making, that I still say – every interaction between a man and a woman is a microcosm of how each one of us deals with the power dynamics of patriarchy.

I don’t evaluate the dynamics between myself and any man outside the scope of gender and power dynamics. If you use male-privilege tactics to control or take advantage of any aspect of what is feminine in me, I notice it. If you choose to remain oblivious to your male privilege, I notice it. You may never have a clue, but I notice every little bit of it.

And if you want to get close to me, you have to learn how to honor womanhood – every woman’s womanhood, whether she’s your wife or your bus driver. So when I refer to male/female relationships, I’m not talking romance. I’m talking every single fucking sentence.

None of us is perfect, but, to me, any man who isn’t intentionally making at least a small-scale, interpersonal effort to stop taking advantage of the masculine hegemony (which is most powerfully upheld in these small, interpersonal dynamics) doesn’t get to use whatever gifts I have to offer.  You won’t necessarily know about this expectation of mine – I’m not out to control anyone – you just won’t see much of  me. I’ll be invisible to you, because I’m done with that game.

At least, I’m trying to be.

So – whether you agree or disagree with how I use my words, in what follows, at least you’re informed.

To be continued. . .

Just Lunch

It’s Just Lunch  – Goo Detection

Seventh in a series [gs *]

For the rest of the day, after lunch and hand holding, I feel profoundly exhausted, and by evening I have a headache around my eyes. I’m not really sure how I feel about the whole exchange. Something feels wrong. I can’t quite define it, but I know that there is some part of today that I do not want to make a habit of, and it would be an easy habit to get pulled into. Still, the lunch-guy’s intentions, his sincerity and vulnerability are compelling. You might think I’d be thrilled to have found such a simpatico new friend – and I probably would have, twenty-five years ago. But not now.

I am even more unsettled the next morning. All the ook of the world is slithering toward me, with big bulgy eyes spinning lasciviously, intent on slurping up my soul. I realize, more viscerally than mentally, that I’ve opened a dangerous door, let in too much, too close, too fast. Yesterday’s lunch date kicked it open, but it’s also related to all of what I’m doing right now – this ‘sharing my story’ stuff, how people respond to it, the way I manage my openness, my job of surfacing those complicated assumptions.

I feel kind of sick, and I can’t write, so I putz and ponder, and I know that I’ve stirred up a bunch of my own muck to work through.

There’s this thing I seem to do, but I can’t see it. It makes my husband uneasy. He calls it casting pearls before swine, disrespecting myself, giving away more than I’m supposed to, inviting others to steal a part of my soul. Being a more private person than I, he understands, in a way I seem incapable, the sacred and powerful nature of secrets – how they must be approached properly, with appropriate reverence and awe, lest they destroy the seeker. I value transparency, and having decided to reveal what, hidden, I find burdensome, I tend to blow the lid off dangerously. I’ve been working to mitigate this tendency, but apparently I’ve done it again.

My husband has learned from experience not to try to fix me, or prevent it from happening. It’s not a threat to our marriage, but it’s a threat to my well-being and purpose – and a hazard to semi-innocent bystanders. It’s an ugly distraction that I expend way too much care-taking energy trying to undo once I’ve done it. My husband knows I have to figure this out for myself, and that the only way I learn anything essential is by entering into it (as many times as it takes). But he also knows that when it starts to unfold, it helps to point it out.

Other people, if they get a whiff of it, are more ‘fix-y’. They start dispensing advice, which I hate, but that also alerts me that I’m doing it again.

The thing the fixers don’t get, but my husband does is – there’s a kernel of magic in this pile of muck. I know it’s in there and I have to find it. It’s related to this being-open business. It’s the thing the lunch-guy was looking for also, I’m not dissing his desire, it’s the same as mine. All the spiritual traditions tout this open, heart thing. There’s this place of connection to the divine. There’s this magic moment at the bottom of the U, the healing reunion, the rites of the Sacred Whore – and it’s in here – in this muck, and I know it. Yet everyone is so afraid of it, so self-protective (which I utterly understand, because being open in our culture so often invites violation – I can attest to that). Or else they’re throwing themselves into it too eagerly (like lunch-guy just did), ignorant of the others involved, ignorant of the inherent danger to themselves.  

And I don’t mean magic for me, a momentary solipsistic pleasure – I mean the Big Magic, the healing and connection and transformation the whole world is yearning for right now – it’s right it this very gunk. But like all strong medicine, it should be handled with caution, not gobbled like candy. I know because I, myself, have swung back and forth between the far reaches of this pendulum many many times. I’m still trying to stop the swinging.

But this is my work – to find that magic. And when I pull on my wading boots and start heading off into the goo, and my husband grows uneasy, and the onlookers yell ‘don’t do it!!’ from the sidelines, I know. . .

Actually, I’m not sure what I know, anymore.

I used to think all of that concern on the part of others meant I was on the right track. If this magic was safe and easy to find, it would have been found by now. But it’s dangerous, and the unease and advice I get from the sidelines is like my Geiger counter, beeping more loudly the closer I get.

That’s what I used to think, and I still do. But that’s not the whole story, obviously, because right now I feel sick and foggy, not magical. Especially when my mind wanders back to yesterday’s lunch, which it keeps doing, picking at it like a scab whose cause I can’t recall. 

And I feel utterly culpable, like the adult who let the kids get out of hand. Like the siren who lured the poor fisherman to be dashed against the cliffs. Like, if only I were more perfect, I’d have prevented this poor boy from misreading me, and now I have a mess to clean up. Because, he’s right, I could teach him a lot, but I don’t want to. He’s too inexperienced in his ‘connectedness’. He exhausts me.

Anyway, I’m trying to set it aside, and get back to my writing. But my mind keeps digging through the memory, trying to uncover where I went wrong, trying to locate my precise guilt, the precise source of some weird sense of shame.

I know it’s not over between us, but I don’t want to see that guy again (at least, now right now). I don’t want to read or hear another word from him and I don’t want to respond to his next approach, which I can feel coming. I want to pretend none of it happened, and I don’t want to take care of his feelings around any of this.

I just want to figure out what it is that I do that leads into this ook, that makes my husband uneasy, and gives me an eyeball headache, and a lingering sense of violation and shame. I want to find the source of this trouble and wipe it out. I want my un-ooked life back.

To be continued . . .

Just Lunch

It’s Just Lunch – Metanarrative

Sixth in a series [gs *]

As I’ve said elsewhere, this story unveils itself subtly, in layers. You might just have a nagging sense of confusion at this point. What is this woman’s problem? Why is she such a bitch? Why is she so stupid? Words or deeds don’t line up, lack of clarity about meanings, things that jar but it’s not clear why, a fundamental inconsistency. That’s as it should be. Stories have their own life, and must be told in accordance with their own inner logic. I’m just the teller.

Well yes, I’m the protagonist too. Even so, we all have many selves, and several of mine got dragged into this mess. They each have their own response and come to their own conclusions in their own way, in their own time. I’m letting them all be present and swirl around. and it doesn’t entirely come together until the end. Anyway, between being and telling there is a dimension I can’t control – the dimension wherein meaning is revealed. That dimension of meaning belongs (in all my narratives) to the Sacred Whore (and is inevitably shared with what I call ‘the missing voice’ – the traumatized and silenced omnipresent perspective of the sexually exploited and demonized women of prostitution over millennia). Given its sovereign, that dimension of meaning only reveals itself one filmy layer at a time.

We cannot enter her realm with one thrust. She draws aside one gauzy curtain – we penetrate that layer, then pause as she feels the nature of our presence. She tests our intent, and even our courage. She may shock us to make sure we’re awake. If we are conscious, attentive, present, loving and imperturbable enough, she opens another layer. Slowly. There is no fooling her, nor can she be rushed. Move in faster than she opens, and we will find ourselves back in the shallows. Slow down, slow way down. This languorous awareness is the wisdom she offers.

She is teaching us how to be present in another’s vulnerability, teaching us how to touch, the way of sustainable connection, trustworthiness in erotic communion – this, she tells us, is union – this attentive awakening to the exotic other’s experience that never rests on its laurels or takes the least wriggle for granted. This, is union – not that crash of opposite poles discharging into one another in a pseudo-connection that is broken by it’s own violence before it begins.  Not the ownership that is the one bond civilization fully understands. Another layer opens, another layer in, open and in, open and in – the only limit is our own ability to stay with her. That’s the slow-burning allure of the Sacred Whore.

Then the missing voice – she’s the counterpoint. In shock and shocking. Outraged by the weight of millennia, by the multifaceted torture that history reverberates through her. The slightest resonance of that his-story (to which she is zealously attuned) provokes fiery eruption. The missing voice concentrates Lilith and the degradations and insights of the whore, with the the perspective of poverty, the class hatred, the gender hatred, the hatred – not the intellectual disapproval, but the pure visceral explosive fury – of exploitation in all it’s guises.

As you ought to be catching on, the only thing that’s simple about me is a particular rage – clear, immediate, sharp. Beyond that rage, everything is complex, nuanced, ambiguous.

To know everyday prostitution is, in most cases, to already have known poverty and violence and profound alienation. To know prostitution is to know how, even in America, every day can be lived in a state of siege. To know sexual exploitation is to lie down with the enemy, and to know better than to completely close your eyes.

The contempt you may sense in me about the lunch-guy’s freshly broken-open heart comes from an awareness that never leaves me, that a broken-open heart is a luxury most of the world doesn’t have. I don’t mean a broken heart, or a heart that can love or be ground to dust. But a ‘broken-open’ heart has an exalted spiritual connotation, like an infusion of grace that cracks through a hardness, a suddenly-valued shock of vulnerability, and the miraculous taste of compassion. It smacks of a kind of security, privilege, and self-absorbtion. How special for you all. But when are you going to use that privilege and new-found compassion to strike a blow at the systems that keep you safe and make life ever-more-miserable for the least among us?

To be honest, these are the words that hissed at the back of my own mind during the years when I could have been the lunch-guy, gushing about my wondrous spiritual experiences (well – I’ve never been much for gushing, but still). Think about the scrawny veteran standing in the gathering evening snow on the freeway exit with the cardboard sign and ask yourself how he feels about lunch-guy’s broken-open heart (or mine). Think about the streetwalker kneeling in a back alley in the cold, with gravel digging into her bare knees and a john slamming his dick down her throat for $10, while he preens about his broken-open heart (which is essentially my image of class warfare) – no, there will be no congratulations or admiration forthcoming from her. And no illusions either, about what ‘merging’ means to that guy.

This is not your cranky grandma having an ‘I’m going to wear purple’ old-lady fashion rebellion, berating some poor kid for walking accross her lawn. No, this is a conflict more ancient and intimate than Israel and Palestine, than Northern Ireland Catholics and Protestants, than Bosnian Serbs and Croats. This is a mutually re-inflicted wound so deep and so old it seems to have no beginning and no end. But this is a war in which the irrevocable losses are all one side – the abuse and oppression of the whores and the witches across the broad sweep of history, the Scarlet Letter and all those people in poverty who had no choice, the slaves of all types – ground into dust. But this is not just an epic war in which I identify with the losers – to me it is viscerally personal. It destroyed my family, narrowed my options, diminished all my people, and ejaculated an overflow of primordial rage into my body. This is a war in which my side bears the loss of life, sovereignty, and the other side bears the loss of communion and its own humanity.

The difference between this perennial conflict I’m talking about and those others I referenced, is that those other conflicts make themselves visible. And this one doesn’t. This is the archetypal war in which history goes to the victor – and if you don’t get what I’m saying here, that tells me who you are.

This war, I’m tired of pretending not to see it. Tired of overlooking the Ups and Downs of almost every social interaction, tired of my own patience and understanding while the privileged Ups remain ignorant of their myriadly privileged Up-hood. I know from the places where I am an Up that it is frightening and uncomfortable when the ‘Downs’ speak up, but the emperor will not go get himself properly dressed if everyone keeps pretending to see his new clothes. I’m tired of this mass-induced lying. I’m tired of this war in every way, and am especially tired of trying, unilaterally, to find some sort of Truth and Reconciliation act. Because it doesn’t work unilaterally, which leaves me beating my head against the wall.  So I’m trying to find a way through these differences, a way to a new place for all of us, but I’ve so exhausted my patience and understanding that when people insist of being blind, the only thing that keeps me from blowing someone’s brains out is to swear a lot and indulge my violent fantasies – but don’t worry, I know how to contain myself.

To know poverty, violence and prostitution and live to tell the tale is to know how to take the one and only power-source civilization provides such a person in abundance and use it to fuel the long struggle back into the world. This contempt may not be the ideal energy source or navigation panel, but I make the best of what I was given, and I get tired of being told my anger is not spiritual enough when it is the one thing that has kept me alive, guided me out of danger, and strengthened my strongest relationships. I will continue to work on my anger, because it makes me more alien, and because the war needs to end somewhere. I will work on the anger because that’s what the Sacred Whore does – she leads the way to reconcilliation, she serves the goddess of love.

But I am human, and I have never gotten to love by pretending not to be angry.

Anyway, a more accessible, concise, or placid (less ‘mean’) telling, my mistress of meanings reminds me, would mislead. And isn’t that exactly what this story is about? A misleading accessibility.

But from here on out, all the drama is on the inside – of course, I’m a whore, where else would the drama be? In the words and responses, the feelings, the psychological triggers. Flashes of fire that seem to come out of nowhere (but I know, if I dig, I will find sources – or at least, I’ll learn something new).

If you’re feeling impatient, go away.

oooohhhhh, the cardinal sin of a writer, to push the reader out of the story. Badbadbad badbadbadbadbadbad badbad bad. bad bad. bad.

Do I keep that badness in or cut it out? Keep it or no? Keep it, or. . .

just that question, no before that, just the editorial voice that says ‘bad’ triggers a flare-up – though I generally welcome the editorial chop-chop.

Expect the missing voice to do anything more accessibly – nudge her legs before they fall open on their own, and. . .

– this is not a simple story, and it isn’t an easy path. The least it asks of you is patience and a willingness to tolerate ambiguity. Oh, and a fat dose of crude language. If you can’t appreciate the offering enough to wait for it, well

here – watch me restrain my violent imagination – and where did that violence come from? My mother would assure you, I wasn’t born with it, au contraire. . .

Ok – please just bear with me, I’m doing my best to be honest here and I need your attentive patience – I’ll make it worthwhile. . .

there, wasn’t than nicer? See, I can do that. . .

If my foreshadowing has you lusting after a narrative of menace or violence: stalking or rape or raised voices – you’re in the wrong place. The only menace we’ll be facing here is threats to egos and propriety. The only danger is to our sense of ourselves. The only violence is in my language (which, I grant, can be unsettling coming from an old lady) Ultimately, it comes down to a battle over interpretation. It’s not a conflict about who is right or wrong so much as whether one set of definitions will dominate, if both can co-exist, or if peace consists of going our separate ways. It’s also about a universe of ‘shoulds’ that makes that conflict inevitable.

I failed miserably to assert my own reality in those moments (why? is what I’m still trying to discern), and contributed a bunch of gooey muck. Trying to behave according to an ideal that was beyond me, I surrendered to a misinterpretation that led to insupportable expectations and have been playing catch-up ever since. I wanted to set the whole thing back in order, but the initial conditions have had their impact. A butterfly wing that should have flapped in Brazil (an eye that should have turned away as we stood in the lunch line) caused a hurricane in China. I take responsibility for the whole thing, start to finish – because I should have known better. This entire narrative is about why I didn’t look away when I should have, and about how that missed off-glance relates to the collapse of civilization.

This story is dramatic, but only at those deeper levels we rarely explore out loud. Only psychologically, only in relation to theories or dogmas (those ‘shoulds’) of interpersonal interaction that swirl around us. It’s dramatic in what it reveals about the way my own embodiment of the missing voice and the Sacred Whore fit into that myriad of theories, and what it reveals about how some of those theories impact the active feminine.

In any case, all the action has already happened – now it’s about peeling back the layers of meaning. There are some emails back and forth. Offenses and hurt feelings. Definings and redefinings. And an ending yet to be discovered – the pearl wrapped in all these slippery layers. Throughout, the truth shifts. Sometimes I seem like a bimbo, sometimes like a rabid dog. Sometimes he seems like a vile stalker, sometimes like an innocent, yearning and wounded little boy.

The truth shifts as I try on all the possible lenses. It also shifts based on your lenses. There’s plenty here to react to. The readers that respond offline seem to have strong reactions, but they’re all different (and, often, quite telling). So, in the spirit of the narrative, you could ask yourself – what do your reactions tell you about your own lenses, as well as about mine?

I’m showing you as it happened  (to the best of my ability), not as I’d like to stage it prettily afterwards.

To be continued. . .

Just Lunch

It’s Just Lunch – Holding Hands

Fifth in a series [gs *]

As I tried to offer my hands over, or under, or around the table, for our handholding exercise, lunch-man said ‘not here’. This mall was near his workplace – friends or colleagues might walk by. He would be uncomfortable, and they might tell his wife, who would freak out. He wanted to go somewhere more private.

This was starting to feel like a red-flag to me, but some stupid logic that required a clearly articulated reason before knocking something off it’s trajectory had taken over, and though it no longer felt ok to me, I couldn’t, in that moment, find a good enough reason to say – stop the train, I want to get off.

People tell me the hand-holding part of this story sort of freaks them out, but that wasn’t weird to me. There are all kinds of realms where a hand-holding exercise would be perfectly reasonable, contexts I’ve spent ample time in. No – it was his need for privacy, combined with my psychic exhaustion that I should have, and didn’t, address directly.

I did, however, symbolically bring my husband into the picture by telling this prospective hand-holder that my husband was waiting for me, at the opposite end of the mall, in a bookstore. If he decided to get up for a stretch, he, also, could walk by. Which was true – we currently share a car, he was bored, he likes hanging out in bookstores, he tagged along for the ride.

‘Would he be bothered by this?’ my lunch mate asked. ‘No’, I answered ‘but you should know that, so if we bump into him you’re not surprised.’

Well, actually, my husband probably would have been bothered, in that particular instance. Not by the hand-holding, and not even by lunch-guy’s erotic confusion. My husband appreciates the difference between: what I can give freely; the parts of me one only meets by walking through fire; and the parts one only knows by living in fire. There’s nothing on the table that would feel like betrayal to him. But he would have been bothered, if he knew what was up, because of what happens when others, unaware of those lines, wander too close and I fail to warn them in time. He’d be bothered because, while this handholding exercise might be perfectly fine at another time, it was absolutely not fine, for me, right then.

Anyway – lunch-man wants to find a better place, and there’s no way I’m going into a completely private place with him right now. I’m not afraid of him, per se. But if he would so invade me psychically, in such a public spot, with no physical connection, what would happen with more privacy and more physical contact?

Even still, it’s not me I’d be concerned for. The animal instinct I’m trying to contain is not his, nor is it an erotic response on my part to his psychic groping – the first is insignificant to me (he’s way too domesticated to be a threat), and the second non-existent (ditto re: domestication). The animal instinct I’m trying to restrain is that if he gropes just one inch further, I will reflexively tear his head off. My restraint is getting exhausted, which is exactly what would have bothered my husband – he hates it when I drain myself out of politeness.

I didn’t ask what kind of place he had in mind. I told him we’d go to a place I knew of (in the mall) that had comfortable chairs, and far less traffic. He objected that it was still too public, I said ‘there are back rooms, they’re pretty far off the beaten path, no-one you know would be walking there at lunchtime, and they couldn’t see us through the windows’. But it would still have occasional shoppers and salespeople glancing in.

We got there, and I said ‘see, it’s not so bad’, he still felt it was too public and I said ‘Oh, c’mon! It’s not that big a deal!’

‘Are you challenging me?’. He asked.

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I guess I am.’

‘Ok’ he giggled, ‘I guess your role is going to be to push me outside my comfort zone.’ And suddenly, somehow, that made things better. I’d emerged from the mirror without shattering anything. I sensed that he realized how far he’d drifted outside of his league, that I wasn’t a blow-up doll imbued only with the characteristics he could imagine for me. He felt vulnerable to me now, in a way that was less invasive. I felt subtly in the lead, like he’d finally registered the differences between us.

Sales people greeted us. I whispered ‘if they try to talk to us, I’m going to tell them you’re my little brother’, and we jested about the logic by which that could be believable. I led him to a back room, selected seats in a direct line of the door, and proclaimed this was the spot. He wanted me to sit on the soft chair – because he was going to beam pure love into me, I was supposed to relax and receive.

As he said that, I felt an empty container pouring anti-energy into me. If I let it in, it would create a kind of vacuum in my chest, and I already felt drained enough. I knew that wasn’t the direction the energy would go, but I sat in the soft chair without comment. He took the hard chair facing me, with his back to the room’s entrance. We held hands, my palms up, his down, and he gazed into my eyes.

Occasionally someone would enter the room, which at first seemed to unsettle him.

I’d begun to realize, as we strolled through the mall, that he wasn’t just out of his league, he was, by my standards, pretty conventional. Not practiced in non-conformity. Uncomfortable sticking out. Worried about what people would think.

For me, that concern is a switch I can flip on or off. If I’m trying to fit in, be conventionally successful, influence people in the standard-paradigm world, then it’s a concern I’ll put just as much energy into it as anyone else. I’m a master of fitting in when I want to. But I flip it off the moment it’s not useful. I’ve always been a bit of a freak. Fitting in is a tiring skill I had to learn, not a cloister I dread stepping out of. Shocking people is just another part of a varied day in my world.

But in spite of his concern, no-one was going as far as being shocked by us. I glanced occasionally at the shoppers behind him and then smiled at him, as if to say – it’s all good. Clearly, no-one quite knew what to make of us sitting there holding hands, but Minnesotans don’t invade one another’s privacy, they averted their eyes. I’m a middle-class old lady – how untoward could it be? I imagined they might have thought one of us was grieving some great loss, and the other giving comfort. No-one stared, no-one came anywhere near us. They strolled casually through the room, but didn’t linger.

I had a sense of holding him in that. Of letting him know, with my eyes and the energy in my hands, that yes, you can be real and open in public. They don’t have to understand or approve, they’re not going to interfere.

So we sat, a little over fifteen minutes – the occasional person or two strolled cautiously behind him – holding hands, gazing (in a gentler way now), and somehow the chatting shifted. He talked about troubles with his wife. He seemed less all-pure-love-and-light-and-spiritual-jargon-y, more simply human. I started to feel some of my own energy coming back.

Then it was time to leave. He proclaimed how good he felt right then, how beautiful and loving my energy was, and I, per my most common response with him for that day, just smiled. But not forced.

Then, as we were standing up, he asked me, in what memory presents as a smallish voice, a wondering, lost-little-boy voice, ‘did you touch men with this kind of loving energy when you were a prostitute?’ Wistful might be the word.

It’s a meaningful question to me, and it was meaningful that he asked it. My hand, of it’s own, reached out and pressed lightly on his heart.

‘I tried,’ I said. ‘that was my intent, and I tried, at first. But most men didn’t want that. Some liked it, but most of them redirected me. They had other agendas. After awhile, I quit trying.’ We stood there together for a moment, my hand on his heart, and I could finally feel him, that delicate new thing emerging through a sadness, with it’s fragile wet wings not sure it really could fly. My hand connecting my heart to his, saying, without words ‘Yes, I can feel that yearning in there, and you can, yes, you’ll fly, just be kind to yourself, and be patient.”

Finally, it seemed, we had reached a place of communion. Relaxed and open and real with one another. As we headed out I said ‘good luck with your wife’.

‘Yeah,’ he said ‘thanks. I’ll need some.’

We started toward the front of the store. ‘You probably could give me some good advice with her,’ he says and he starts to summarize again for me all the ways he thinks she is currently challenged – recent stresses, etc., that he thinks she should be dealing with better, or faster or something, and that are getting in the way of their ability to connect.

‘The one thing I know,’ I say, finally feeling free to just say what I think, ‘is that I hate it when my husband interprets my problems as though he knows what’s good for me better than I do. That never works very well.’

‘No, you’re right.’ he says ‘I’ve been doing that, that’s an important reminder. I need to stop that. I need to just leave her alone and let her follow her own process.’

‘Well, no, don’t leave her alone either. I hate when my husband does that even more.’

Where do people get that binary – either you let me fix you, or I leave you alone?

I say ‘With me, that’s usually a bad move too. What I want from my husband is for him to just be present with me. For him not to analyze and fix me, but not to go away either. To be close by as I do whatever work it is I need to do.’

‘You’re right!’ he says ‘that’s really good advice – see, I think you can help me a lot! I’ll do that, you’re so wise,’ he says ‘thank you.’

We walk back out through the store, I go meet my husband in the bookstore, and we drive home as I tell him the story of lunch. It had it’s good parts and it’s less-good parts. I’m not sure how I feel about it overall, and I’m not sure if there is a problem to be addressed or not. I let it sink to the back of my mind, trusting that something will arise to tell me which direction to go with it before the next step is necessary.

To be continued . . .

Just Lunch

It’s Just Lunch – What Was She Thinking?

Fourth in a series [gs *]

Let’s examine the lunch-guy’s story and how ‘present’ I was able to be with it.

By the evidence he gave, he had a secure, conventional, stable (perhaps overly-mothered) middle-class (or better) upbringing – complete with youthful overwrought sexual fixation (a fixation, he alludes, that never passed – he implies online sex here, I don’t probe for details) resulting in a typical masculine lack of connection to his heart. Life continued into adulthood in the stereotypical manner – he’s rational, successful, has a traditional marriage (good domestic stay-at-home wife), kids.

Then suddenly a confluence of wondrous occurrences and Boom! His heart is broken open. The rush of tears, the days of cancelled meetings, the release of rage at mother and the phone call to pronounce he’s forgiven her (which freaks her out a little) and now he’s a new man. And isn’t it amazing that we’ve found one another, that we can see into each other, how rare it is that someone can look you right in the eyes, and so on and so forth, and his wife is having a hard time accepting his transformation.

He says how profoundly he was impacted by my disclosure in that meeting, it was this wonderful heart thing, but it also resonated for him on a physical level and he hopes I don’t mind him saying, but he got an erection, and it was all this great big wonderful discovery. I’m glowing, and pure love is pouring out of me and so on and so forth some more.

Now, he and I are having very different experiences sitting here together, but that possibility seems beyond his capacity to comprehend right now, and I’m having a hard time finding the proper, kind words with which to enlighten him. I think my challenge is in the gap in our respective awareness of what’s possible right now.

He’s talking to me as though what he’s feeling is what I’m feeling. As though what’s amazing and newsworthy to him is amazing and newsworthy to me.  The possibility that might not be true does not seem to dawn on him. I’m just a mirror, reflecting back what he believe’s he’s experiencing. Clearly, for him, this is big stuff he’s sharing, and I want to honor that. It’s been a very long time since someone has burped up on me like this (my secret prompts that – a good reason not to share), but it’s not for me to go all jaded and squash this new experience of his. How do I know how he’s supposed to unravel? You know, I’m trying to practice beginner’s mind and all that. 

But still, developing males and their spiritual struggles with the heart, the feminine, and the erotic – with chakras and transcendence and the effort to simultaneously satisfy and overcome the dick, and throw in the deadly mind and the heart-cracking-open and the now-I’m-a-new-man proclamation. . . These are old, old news to me. About this genre I would love to hear a new story, but no new twist is developing here, not yet, not for awhile by my estimate. And really – the part that I would find fascinating is years, or more likely, decades away. This story will have meaning to me when an old man has distilled it, not as a young man is just (breathlessly) beginning to live it. It’s not only uninteresting to me at this point, I don’t want to be sucked into any part of that story. But in this instance, that’s exactly what is occurring.

I need to shift his perception of me as a mirror of his exuberance, and I’m trying. I am. But he’s not taking subtle clues or gentle nudges, and I seem to prefer imagining myself gently emerging, gracefully three dimensional and autonomous, from the mirror I’m trapped in – I’m unable to shatter the glass.

And though I do know exactly what he’s referring to, and I recognize the layers of truth in his words, his words are not the ones I’d use to describe my side of the equation if he asked me. He’s utterly enveloped in a view that, in spite it’s familiarity, I really don’t share.

The world is filling up, lately, with recovering head-guys who have suddenly discovered they have hearts, which to them means they’ve hacked the code to the female universe. They’ve calculated the formula and are now qualified to tell women how to love, or communicate, or feel, or intuit, or fuck, or connect, or any of the things which were once the female’s sole province. Which bugs me, because they’ve only barely gotten a whiff. It’s just a new twist on the same old shit. There is no formula and these are living forces they’re imagining they’re bossing around, as though they could control them with their zeros and ones.

Even that might be acceptable, it’s a step in the right direction I guess. But when they proclaim their new discoveries as the absolute truth, and shut their ears to anything deeper, all they’re doing is maintaining their position on top. Their heads are so damned accustomed to being the expert, that once they catch on that we bleed, they’ll even tell us how to menstruate.  Anyway, even if it’s a small step in the right direction for them, it’s a huge leap in the wrong direction for me.

As he talks, I’m sensing a little mis-reading, and in an effort to be authentic and honest here, I say, “I hear you saying that, but if that’s what it is’ (pure love, pouring out of me) ‘I can’t tell.” He looks confused and asks “what are you feeling right now?”. And I say “this feels normal to me, just like, whatever you’re seeing, that’s my everyday self.”

Really. How the fuck do I know?? I live my life, I’m human. I don’t know what the hell ‘pure love’ is. I’m not even sure I’m all that much in my body right now. All this energy is up in my eyes, and they are telling me way more about him than about me, and at any rate – I just feel normal. Or even shifting into a vague dizziness that comes from being too ungrounded for too long. And why would eye-contact mean any one particular thing? I feel like he’s a toddler with his one new word, practicing it on everything he sees.

Sure, sometimes people tell me I’m glowing, or light is pouring out of my eyes, or I twinkle, or whatever. I don’t deny there’s a way I am that sometimes has this effect on people. Then again, sometimes people hate me. I get plenty of both. And, yes, sometimes I feel like there’s this way to be truly present, and yes, it feels pretty cool when I’m in it. I certainly hear more reports about glowing when I’m in that cool space than otherwise. It’s not like I don’t get what he’s referring to.

But I have known a lot of people chasing after enlightenment. I’ve heard a shitload of enlightenment-moment stories – there was this (whatever), and I felt this (whatever), and suddenly boom! my heart (whatever), broke open, shot up to heaven, dissolved into pure light – whatever. And now everyone must follow the same path I’m on and have a similar event and understand things exactly the way I do, otherwise I’m more spiritually evolved than they are. Can you hear me sighing, wearily?

I’m not saying those moments aren’t real & I’m not saying they’re insignificant. I’m saying I’ve seen enough clinging to those moments, long after they’re over, and enough toxic judgments pouring from those moments, and enough ugly ego and spiritual pride, and just enough attendant human aftermath crap that I decided a very long time ago not to get too attached to any of it. Plus it all still exists in a civilized paradigm of power, patriarchy, hostility toward matter and the body, and mistrust of (and efforts to control) the unconscious and the feminine – there’s no way it doesn’t end up warped in very predictable ways – which is where the real practice starts, not before.   I’m not interested in the labels, the interpretations, the expectations of what that all means. 

I try to listen, I try to pay attention. I don’t try to codify it. I try not to get caught up.

I try to live my life right now, and the rest is water under a bridge – except that where it’s gunked up I have to take some time to thrash about and swear and loosen the muck in order to get things moving again.

So now this guy is sitting there proclaiming he’s seeing pure love in my eyes (but I’m doubting that his interpretation is current, because what I’m feeling in the moment is more akin to willed patience), and I’m starting to sense that we’re nudging up against some old muck and I might be on the verge of thrashing.

It’s true that part of my intent these days is to surface exactly these madonna/whore, mind/heart/body, spirit/matter muddles. Part of my (Daimon-driven) role is to lure these things out from the cement slabs they hide under, to put those confusions on the table so we can all look at them together. Because, as it is, they are destroying us. So I don’t mind the projections as much as I’m just wishing he had just a little bit more other-awareness. He is so lost in imagining one-ness, in the froth of finding his fantasy sitting there warm and breathing in front of him that I’m finding it difficult to ground either of us. He’s a slightly bigger challenge than I’d anticipated. Utterly oblivious to what I’m trying to do. He seems to think this has something personal to do with him.

And, he tells me, his wife wouldn’t understand any of this, she’d be upset if she knew he was having lunch with me, especially if she knew I used to be a prostitute. He giggles, and I feel a little sick to my stomach.

People tell me all the time how expressive my face is. I don’t have any idea what it looks like but I do generally know what it’s saying, because it’s usually saying what I’m feeling. Hiding my true response takes a lot of concentration and is only moderately successful – I’m a phenomenally bad liar. So I’m certain that all this mono-emotion he’s perceiving in my eyes is actually a very complex storm of a whole lot of things. Therefore, I’m certain he’s not actually aware of anything that is really going on in this moment, and unfortunately, I’m only somewhat more so. I can see it happening, but I can’t seem to respond appropriately.

Because the more gooey and frothy he grows, the more careful I am with my face, forcing smiles that I’m sure look more concerned and cringy than like pure-lovingness. I’m not trying to be inauthentic here. He just seems to be in a very open and vulnerable space, and I’m honored by that. I feel like it would be cruel (and frighteningly easy) to drop the full weight of my jaded maturity on his head. This is a fragile moment, and I don’t want to hurt him. I’m aiming at careful, not care-taking. But in this instance, I don’t really have a handle on the difference. 

When I asked about his ideas (for manifesting one-ness), and he gushed about wanting to be like a little boy clinging to his momma’s knees, following me around and hugging me as often as he possibly could – that was breathtakingly vulnerable for an adult man to say, and understanding the importance of that, I wanted to honor it. At the same time, I could feel a pained expression crunch up around my eyes – the mere words brought on a sense of suffocation.

Well, you can see how it happens. This getting sucked too far in. And now he wants to hold hands.

To be continued. . .

Just Lunch

It’s Just Lunch – Just the Facts Ma’am

Third in a series [gs *]

So what happened at lunch?

Again, the eyes.

I arrive ahead of my lunch date, at an upscale organic cafe/coffee-shop in a little mall of expensive boutiques in a rich inner-ring suburb.

All the tables are taken, but I settle myself into the one empty overstuffed armchair facing the entrance, to await his arrival. Soon he walks in and I go to greet him. We make eye contact as I approach, hug hello, and move into line to order our lunches. Nothing unusual yet. But as we stand in line, I’m finding it hard to turn my eyes away from him. He’s staring again, peering into me, and I’m beginning to get that he finds this significant. He’s not just a regular eye-contact-y guy. He’s grinning from ear to ear, it’s making him happy, he’s beaming, he does ‘soft eyes’, and ‘joyful eyes’ and I feel that if I turn away, it will be like raining on his parade. So I relax into it. My job, as I see it, is to be present, not to second-guess his mode. I’m curious about what it all means, but I’m patient.

So, since his eyes don’t stop, neither do mine. However, it is beginning to interfere with talking to the counter person and ordering lunch. Luckily, the lunch rush is slowing down & no-one is standing in line behind us.

At one point he says “people are going to start thinking we’re freaks” which is mildly reassuring – at least he has some sense of public self-awareness. But ‘going to start’ seems wishful and I respond ‘they’re already sure of it’, and I’m starting to wonder just a tiny bit myself. I don’t mind a lot of eye contact, but there is something either clinging or challenging in this, something not right, and I’m trying to figure out what it is. My eyes want to take a break, but for some reason I don’t let them.

We find a little table, practically in the middle of the entry-way, (it’s the only one available) and sit down. We look in each other’s eyes some more and smile.

He says ‘I want to know how we can be one.’

I continue to smile while I contemplate an appropriate response and decide I need some clarification. “Do you mean ‘how is it that we already are one?’, or ‘how can we become one?’, or what?”

I’m not promising anything here, and I’m not trying to confuse anyone. But I’m serious. We are one. All of us. Already. Always. I know that (even when I’m raging with contempt) and I’m prepared to ponder the implications of that at any moment. Since I believe that we’re all connected, and that an inner (often unknown) purpose guides us, I can only assume that there’s a reason we’re sitting here together. What that might be, I don’t yet have a clue – we’ve exchanged a ton of eye contact at this point, but extremely few words. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m willing to give it a chance.

Anyway, I’m committed to this practice of being present, authentic and vulnerable in every possible moment. What makes this one any different? Why get suspicious now?

So I ask which he means – how can we already be ‘one’ (which I imagine would entail a highly philosophical, but interpersonally less gooey discussion) or how can we become ‘one’ (which seems infinitely trickier, but I’m willing to give it a chance)? He seems momentarily confused by the question, then says “all of it, everything. I want to be one with you.”

So I say “Other than the fact that we already are one, I don’t know that we can become more so. I can imagine plenty of answers to that question that I don’t want to be part of, so I’m not making any promises, but if you have any ideas, I’m willing to hear them.”

There’s no harm in listening. Maybe he knows some newfangled communication co-thinking techniques I’d like to be introduced to.

“I do have some ideas,” he says “but lets talk first.”

So we talk. We establish a little personal context. I’m married and have an adult son. He’s married and has much younger kids. He’s younger than me, but older than I thought. We share a little background about spiritual affiliations and schooling and then ‘tell me your story’ and then ‘now you tell me yours’.

My uncensored story is hard to capsulize easily, but I manage.

His involves a life of living in his head (both ‘heads’ to be precise – his words), and a recent dramatic life-altering, heart-opening experience.

Throughout lunch, he keeps up the intense eye-contact that I somehow feel stuck in, and exclaims frequently about how beautiful I am, how pure love is pouring from my eyes, how amazing it is that we can share this heartfelt connection, and how he wants to merge with me.

Eventually he asks more questions about my history, a little about prostitution, my relationship with my kid’s dad, my marriage. I love to tell stories, and we’re off into territory that perhaps he finds titillating (I get that in retrospect, but if so, it was mild and entirely un-intentional. But un-tempered male sexualities – you know – they’re pretty easily excited). Still I’m on solid ground, in control now, of the narrative, and the time passes, and eventually I say ‘so tell me about your ideas.’ Meaning, to be honest, “you left this stuff hanging, your ideas about being one, let’s put them on the table and wrap this thing up.”

I can see, as I write this, that I seem a little bimbo-ish here. But this part all took place before I was certain he was going in a direction I didn’t want to go. I was still gathering data, still trying to figure out what his trip was. I mean, I’ve experienced way weirder behavior that ultimately made sense. I like oddballs. I was just honestly responding to sincere questions. He was about as scary as a banana peel. I could have knocked him silly without impacting my heart rate if I was certain that was called for.

I could easily have responded differently – scared him off, shut him down, upstaged his whole agenda – it would have taken a lot less energy than what I did do. But I was trying to do a number of things all at once, in a combination new to me. First, to take him as he was, at face value. Not to second-guess, not to be cynical. I was trying to suspend my assumptions, as  you’d call it in [gs Bohmian Dialog]. Or to use Theory U jargon – suspend the voices of cynicism, judgement, and fear. I was looking around for the magic.

I was also trying to be authentic through all that (note the willful, unrealized verb compliment there), and the authentic truth is – I’ve put much of my life into unravelling these tricky, painful male/female/Eros dynamics, and if someone is interested in hearing my experience or my thoughts on those matters, I’m more than happy to talk about them.

Plus, he had this eager, something-bursting-out-of-him-manner throughout, as though he could hardly wait to spill some beans. I kept wondering what it was he was waiting to say. In spite of what sounded to me like a fairly common and predictable story, his manner kept me curious.

Anyway, eventually I asked about his ideas (re: one-ness), and after gushing about wanting to be like a little boy clinging to his momma’s knees, following me around and hugging me as often as he possibly could, he said he’d thought, earlier, before lunch, that perhaps we could just hold hands, and gaze into one another’s eyes for awhile.

By then, really, I felt spent. I’d already let it go too far, I could see that. Not too far in the sense that I’d led him to believe we’d have an ongoing relationship, not too far, I felt, in allowing some erotic attachment to form. No. I didn’t think that. But too far in just trying to stay present when we had subtly slipped way past my ability to do so, too far without clearly asserting my own reality in the situation. Too far in allowing him to slide into a situation where he was bound to be hurt.

I should have said no to the hand-holding, because my attitude in saying “ok” was not right, and I could have known that, if I weren’t so fucking trapped in my eyes, and worrying that my face was going betray my jadedness and crush his freshly-opened heart.

I said “ok, let’s do that”. Not quite getting what it meant to him. Not quite able to give it what it needed. Needing something in the completely opposite direction myself, and just wanting to get this over with.

I said “ok” and reached my hands out over the table to hold his (yes, in the midst of all those power-lunchers bustling back to work). He made a gesture as if that wouldn’t do, so I began to examine how to work around the table, and scan the cafe for a better seating arrangement now that lunch was dying down, and he said “Not here – this is too public.”

To be continued. . .

Just Lunch

It’s Just Lunch – Background

Second in a series [gs *]

Let’s back up a bit, before we delve into exactly what happened at lunch. The whole eye-contact thing needs more context, because that’s where it all began.

Let’s also pause for a disclaimer – I’ve been busy lately. I’ve had this discussion of “I used to be a whore” many times in the past nine months. And several times recently, among people looking for better ways of working together (it seems to be a hot topic everywhere lately, and I’ve been riding that wave). So, if you were present for one of these discussions, please don’t guess that you know who I’m talking about – it could have been any number of guys. And that’s somewhat the point – there’s nothing all that unique about this particular man, relative to the gooey-muddle we fell into.

Just as I represent both more and less than me in this story (standing in, as I do, for an archetype), he too gets the honor of representing his type. He didn’t ask me to put him in my blog, like an insect specimen pinned to black velvet. But I didn’t ask him to stomp through my mine-fields, trigger a volley of explosions, and consume hours and hours of my life parsing the nuances of his generic offenses. Then again, maybe I did, and maybe he did too. I always believe we get precisely what we need in a given moment.

In any case, I’ve chosen to write about our mini-disaster, but let’s try not to make it personal. Don’t think about who he might be as an individual, just think of him as an example, an archetype, a man-boy struggling through the inherent hazards of groping his way through the dark towards manhood.

Anyway, back to the group: the discussion had got round to a certain point where I knew, in a flash, that I was going to say my piece. How this fits in the context – how I justify to myself that I’m not just high-jacking conversations that had other goals – had to do with the challenges to how we show up fully and authentically, and how we deal with each other in that space. My story was an opportunity for everyone to practice.

From the moment I uttered my words, his eyes were riveted on me. Smiling. He’d already spoken enough that I’d assessed him, provisionally, as intelligent, self-aware, serious about the topics at hand, grown-up – I didn’t feel threatened or unpleasantly scrutinized by his intensity. He’s not a freak.

In fact, I live at a certain level of intensity myself and generally find an intense openness far preferable to safe, superficial, conventional interactions. And to me, intense eye contact is pretty much normal. I long ago taught myself not to do the exact thing he was doing to me, peering inside another, overtly, intently – because I’d learned the hard way that it makes people uncomfortable. But that’s still my default mode, which gets overridden in certain (no, most) contexts. Eye contact, in itself, can never unnerve me. If you stare, I stare back.

In addition, I’ve spent much of my life among people engaging in various (and often sundry) kinds of spiritual practices, personal growth programs, and so on. Unless they’re trying to tell me what to think or how to live, I’m perfectly comfortable, and usually fairly familiar, with whatever they’re up to. And deep eye contact often seems to go along with most of those practices. At least that’s been my observation.

What I’m saying is – it’s not a big deal to me one way or the other. Deep eye contact or avoidance, each person has the place where they’ll connect and I can meet them there.

But in my experience, eye contact doesn’t have a single meaning. I used to have a restaurant boss, a cook, who, if you didn’t stare him down, hard, as he moved into his nightly rage, you’d be the one he took it out on. Years before that, I once spent about 10 minutes (or maybe just 2. . .) in deep eye contact with a huge teen-aged boy who was holding a gun to my head and swearing he would kill me (I’d fired from his first job him earlier that day). By my figuring, there are as many messages conveyed in the eyes as there are in any other mode of communication.

So, in this meeting, I notice this guy’s response and return it for awhile, then I go back to letting my eyes follow the group’s conversation around the circle. But every time I glance his way, his eyes are there, ready to meet mine, with a warm, welcoming smile. When he talks, his words are supportive and affirming of my openness and my story. I interpret that as friendly.

I’m not sure what’s up with him, but I’m curious. He’s sincere, seems to have something he wants to say to me, and is young enough that I can’t imagine what his intentions could be at all untoward.

So when he approaches me later to suggest we get together, I figure ‘why not?’ It’s just lunch.

To be continued. . . .

Just Lunch

It’s Just Lunch – The Set-Up

First in a series [gs *]

I had lunch with this guy a little while back. We’d met in a group where I’d ‘owned up to my life’, which was relevant and significant in the context, and is always impactful. He’d wanted to get together afterwards.

The backdrop, and a major impetus for writing my story, is that for the past decade I’ve been studying and practicing the principles that allow groups to move beyond the dysfunctional muddles almost all organizations spend way too much time mired in. Serving those transformational principles that spark magic between people is the ultimate point of my story. This was a gathering with the same goals in mind.

I’m always open to connecting with others who are also exploring transformational principles – especially others who get how telling my story fits with that agenda. And this guy seemed to be of that sort. We had professional interests in common – I looked forward to our lunch.

Still, a woman’s suspicion immediately snaps into place – we know what he really wanted . . .

But I’m not new to this charged landscape – I was open about being an ex-whore for nearly a decade before I took my secret underground. My single-mother dating years all took place under that rubric – I’m not naive about the impact of the word ‘whore’ – it’s territory I’m relatively comfortable navigating, at least personally, one-on-one, if not in a broader context – socially, professionally, culturally.

So sure, maybe he felt a little harmless lust, but that possibility didn’t bother me. It’s how lust is handled that makes the difference. I expect adult men to manage their feelings around a woman, and he seemed like an adult. Plus, I’ve heard some fascinating stories in my life, triggered by the vulnerability of me telling mine – stories you’d never suspect are hidden among us – black-market stories, the kind you’ll only hear after you’ve offered your own. I was curious.

And anyway, I’m not looking for an antiseptic, anti-erotic world – I see that as a big part of our current trouble. I’m looking for a fully embodied world, wherein we are conscious of and responsible for our own sacred erotic energies, and we cherish, honor and respect those energies in each other. A world wherein we dance masterfully with those energies in the service of transforming our lives and our world. As opposed to using them to work out infantile traumas, numb repressed needs, or to exploit and demonize others. My whole story is about how prostitution once (if only in myth) represented the former, but has been tortured into a full enactment of the latter. My story explores how that happened, the separation that causes, and how we might repair that damage.

Of course, there’s a a big learning curve . . . . for all of us.

But I digress – we had lunch.

According to his follow-up emails, the lunch went way beyond his expectations and made his heart soar. For me, it was a slippery slope into a dynamic I’d pretty much forgotten about. A dynamic that started out, not predatory, not ill-intentioned, and at least in my mind, not even gendered or sexual – just one of differing interpretations and expectations.

It was all very subtle, and wrapped in an ever-so-correct, polite yet joyful, respectful, spiritually transcendence-seeking honorable earnestness. Therefore, I quickly realized I’d gotten myself into a gooey muddle of complex projections.

Oh, good, I thought! This is one of the reasons I started keeping a secret! (all this was coming to me as I broke from our over-intense eye contact to spoon up my soup). I didn’t like this dynamic (back in the day), and I didn’t know how to protect myself from it without hiding. I didn’t know how to show the light of my soul while simultaneously fending off the inevitable moths drawn to the flame. Predators, I could deal with, but these moths were more subtle, and sticky – and in the long term, nearly as hazardous. At first it took a ton of energy to get rid of them. Then I learned how to swat them dead in an instant, but that made me a castrating bitch. I didn’t want the responsibility of adding another innocent and misunderstood woman-hater to the population – it was simpler to just put this part of myself in a box in the back of a drawer, and avoid the whole problem altogether.

Once you get sexualized – however gently – dealing with men’s delicate egos around that is an impossibly tricky balance. The problem was, all my most powerful gifts went into that box along with my secret.

Anyway – I had a blurry understanding that this unpleasantness would arise again, along with all the other attendant hazards, once I took that box from the back of the drawer, pushed off the lid and popped out of it in all my glory – like a stripper from a cake at a bachelor party. But gooey projections from strange men was nothing compared to the other challenges I anticipated facing as I come back out from hiding and didn’t require worrying about it ahead of time.

And now here it was, unfurling in front of me. A perfect chance to figure out how to do this better. To draw my boundaries even more clearly (paradoxically – in the midst of my openness and practice of vulnerability), to find graceful ways of avoiding the gunk in the first place – ways that didn’t require boxes in drawers. Because far too many of us put away our strengths, for the sake of evading boyish goo without hurting their egos – or worse.

I wanted to figure out another way of dealing with that dilemma, because if we all start to ‘show up’ more fully, this stuff is bound to happen over and over again to everyone, and if I still find it a difficult trap (I, who have dealt with it many, many times already) what must other women experience? And regardless of its relevance to other people, I feel a sense of urgency in life and don’t have time for unnecessary muddles that don’t further my purpose. But I couldn’t practice that un-gooing dance without a partner, so this particular muddle was welcome, as long as I wrung from it every drop of practice I could – and a perfect partner this guy turned out to be. He’s helped me uncover far more than I anticipated, and become the perfect foil for writing about it.

So, in the words of some wise person somewhere, I leaned into the discomfort. I seized the opportunity to try on a different response.

Let me clarify – in the moment everything was fine. I was perfectly comfortable sitting there, making deep eye contact, swapping personal stories. But I could feel him moving in directions I wasn’t inclined to go, and idealizing me in ways I wasn’t interested in encouraging.

What I would have done in the past would have been simply to pull away. To shut down my heart, back up, move into mental presence and vigilance – hide out in a ‘head-space’. On the surface, my hiding in head-space might have looked just like what I did do, but it would have felt completely different. It would have messed up his fledgling efforts to follow his heart, leaving him confused and frustrated. It also would have added a new crust of disappointment to my own heart. Which wasn’t my desire – I know how to do all that already. There would be nothing transformative for either of us in a such a defensive ‘head-space’ solution.

It seemed my practice should be to learn how to remain open in the present, articulate my limits relative to his apparent expectations, articulate my own truths about what was happening even if they contradicted his, and thus taking the risk of offending him and being misunderstood. It was the need to do those things which made me uncomfortable, not the ’emotional openness’ of the interaction in that moment.

So, yes, I leaned into the discomfort, and watched a mini-disaster slowly unfold. He didn’t think he was having a disaster just then. He thought it was all beautiful. I wasn’t having a disaster yet either, just an opportunity for growth. And if I’d taken the common path, all this potential for learning would have been wasted. If I’d just smiled politely through lunch, and found a polite but dishonest way to shut the door in his face afterwards – like not responding to his emails, or professing super-busyness – doing the vague-evasion routine we’ve all become so adroit at – I wouldn’t be writing about this mini-disaster now.

By the end of our lunch, I knew I didn’t want to engage with him further without a lot more clarity around expectations. But time (for that day) was running out and I needed to feel my way carefully into that task – not just have a knee-jerk reaction like I usually do. I’d dropped clues throughout, and if he was a hair more astute than I was giving him credit for, the problem would go away on it’s own. I left the door slightly ajar, thinking I’d have time to let my next step emerge (if necessary), went home, and found that as I ruminated on the exchange, it became more unsettling than I’d given it credit for in the moment.

I also found I’d underestimated his sense of expectation.

To be continued. . .