Monday, May 4, 2015

Reflections on the A-Z challenge

I'd like to reflect on my experience of the A-Z challenge this year, even though I did it on my other, shared blog, and only wrote half the entries, and was barely aware when it was going on.

Nice things:
  • It was my most uneventful, least stressful challenge in the four years I've done it. I pre-wrote all 13 entries in March and they were easy and enjoyable to produce.
  • I got to play a lot in writing these posts. I'm not very good at writing poetry, but I enjoy it a lot. So for a number of A-Z entries, I chose different poem forms and wrote stuff that was mostly pretty tasteless (see this one about love with a Reptilian alien or this one about someone trying to get off before a meteor crashes into Earth), but easily got me in my "writing zone"--that place in which I'm totally present and completely enjoying what I'm doing. For a few of them, like this one, I used the poetic format to sublimate emotional experiences, which is also extremely satisfying. I jammed out a few stories as well (like this one), mostly in the 2nd-person format that is usual for the Hot Pink Books series.
Less nice things:
  • The lack of stress correlated to the lack of engagement. Since it wasn't even on my personal blog, and since Karen posts everything, I didn't visit anyone else's blog during the challenge, which really is a big part of the experience. 
  • I've been studying Jacques Lacan lately. Or rather, I read a few articles he wrote, understood next to nothing, and have been poring over this article for a few days, which makes him slightly more comprehensible. From what I gather, one of Lacan's great contributions to the realm of psychotherapy is the idea that when we first enter the world, we experience it in as undifferentiated a state as is possible in a human body. We first get the idea that we have a "self"--and the ego starts to form--when we see the other and realize that it's a reflection of us. But because that reflection isn't reality, merely an image that separates us further from reality, it creates an aggressivity with ourselves and others, our relationships with the world. We can never truly know anything--we simply make meanings out of language and further separate ourselves from the real by entering into the symbolic, separative, violently forced world of words. Yet we continually strive to develop our false sense of self, and in that striving we fear the pain that others can inflict upon us as we look to find truth in our reflection and are confronted with the bastardization that is the only thing we can actually achieve in the process
    • Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying that during this A-Z challenge, I was particularly aware of the games I play with myself with regard to ego, audience, the gaze of the other, a false sense of self and how that impacts me.

Friday, May 1, 2015

New novella release: Cock-sure

I was thinking that this has got to be one of the most anticlimactic, sidling, semi-embarrassed novella releases ever, but that seems to be the way most erotica actually enters the market. So here it is: my latest release from Hot Pink Books, the Regency-era-themed choose-your-own-erotic-adventure novella, Cock-sure.

The story: 
As a poor gentlewoman living in Regency England, you dream of a life of simplicity and long for the day your handsome neighbor Bartholomew might offer for your hand. However, your mother has informed you that unless you marry your landlord, Mr. Peabody, he'll send your father to debtor's prison. 

Torn between duty to your family, your infatuation with Bartholomew, and your own sexual curiosity, you embark on an erotic journey on which your choices can take you from the height of the fashionable world of the ton to the depths of ruin in the seedy underbelly of 19th century London.
This novella is a little darker than the previous two I wrote (Cinderella Bared and Intercorpse) and there are fewer places the choices lead, but I spent the extra space on character development and more detailed erotic scenes. My favorite of those scenes was inspired by a surreal encounter in the parking lot of Caribou Coffee a couple months ago, which transpired after a first date with someone who was bland and somewhat uninteresting to converse with, but who was very, very hot. It's not often that real life translates so directly into fiction, but this guy was straight out of the Harlequin formula--emotionally unavailable, somewhat cold, a control freak, with kind of a cruel, objectifying passion. A jerk, but a muse as well.

I've been unsure of what the theme of the next novella is going to be. I thought about writing one about Minnesota, but after brainstorming it I looked at my notes and realized that I had actually successfully creeped myself out. Too close to home! I've written an initial scene of a time-travel one, but it's not grabbing me. So we will see...


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Finding oases amidst angst

I noticed recently that I'm not that excited about getting things that I want. It's much more exciting to want and not have, to feel that gulf between myself and my object of desire--to sense the element of improbability, the challenge of going against the grain.

It's harder to appreciate things that are easy.

I've been feeling rudderless and angst-ridden lately, adrift amidst some vaguely uncomfortable existential thought-forms, experiencing a disconnect from both others and myself. It's been triggered somewhat by my embarking on this program of study in existential psychoanalysis and phenomenology, in which I'm reading philosophers who seem to be, for the most part, very mentally oriented atheists. (They may not all be atheists, but that's the energy it's been triggering in me--because one can never know...and these readings force you to examine your beliefs until you see that there is nothing behind them except for the structures and culture that surrounded your infantile consciousness)

My mini existential crises were amplified by a pms-spike of hormones last week that drove me to reach out blindly and text my massage colleagues asking if anyone wanted to trade.

So that was how I discovered that one of my fellow massage therapists does shamanic healing work along with the normal stuff. It's not something that uncommon for me to run across--my best friend also happens to be a massage therapist who does shamanic healing work--but it's definitely a rarer sort of encounter in Minneapolis than in Berkeley. Anyway, I jumped at the chance, and we met yesterday.

The session was deceptively simple--feeling nothing more than like a guided meditation. Still, my body got uncomfortably hot, and I felt almost as if someone had placed a giant foot on top of my brain and was gently pressing down--making it squish and spread out, evening out all those convoluted wormy folds into a soft, gently seamed pat of play-doh. My thoughts slowed down. My breath slowed down. I didn't feel the angst go, or the dissolution of the cardboard walls I'd erected around me to defend myself against the abyss--but I noticed vaguely that they were no longer there.

Pretend you trust the world, she said.

The purpose of everything you've ever experienced is to bring you to this very moment.

After the session, I went about my usual. This morning, I woke up with hives dotting either side of my spine--and I can feel the itching going all the way from a little above my sacrum, all the way to my occipital ridge.

The last time I had hives was on Dec. 21, 2012. It happened in the wee hours of the morning, when the Mayan calendar ended. I do admit that I was a little bit stressed that day. But my point is that the physical body is the last place that manifests symptoms of things that are happening in the subtle body. And there's something that's moving...

Things need to be a little difficult for it to feel like magic when we get what we want. A little suffering is good for the soul, because we need magic. We need to feel like we accomplished something, so we separate ourselves from the effortless and matter-of-fact merging of desire with object.

That is well and good...but we need to remember that it is actually easy to get what we want, when we've built up enough challenge and suffering to make it magic. Sometimes we forget this ease altogether, so caught up we get in enjoying the stage of wanting and never having...

This is what I'm pondering as I'm pulling out my mammoth novel-in-progress. I don't know if I should rewrite the whole thing or if that would just make me cry. But I know I need to finish this, as one thing that I've learned about myself and my own self-created internal structures of carrot and stick, is that unless I've made some sort of headway on a writing project on a given day, I don't feel fulfilled. There may be no meaning I can ever truly grasp, but I suspect that the active search for one is enough.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

No exit

When I was fifteen and taking high school French, I read Jean-Paul Sartre's play, Huis Clos. The book, which translates to No Exit, is about three people in Hell--each of whom loves one and hates another in an eternal triangle. The message is that we make hell for each other.

Since then, I've occasionally entertained myself by thinking about what two people I would least like to spend all eternity with. One of the people never changes--it's this particular person I briefly dated when I was 20, who became so fixated that he harassed me for eight years afterward. The other one varies. Currently it's a massage client who I had a few hours ago who smelled terrible, groped me, underpaid the price by $20 and ran out the door before I realized.

What is it that makes some people so unbearable to be around, and others not? A friend of mine sent me this quote from here, which interestingly enough is also about Sartre:
Sartre argues that we, as human beings, can become aware of ourselves only when confronted with the gaze of another. Not until we are aware of being watched do we become aware of our own presence. The gaze of the other is objectifying in the sense that when one views another person building a house, he or she sees that person as simply a house builder. Sartre writes that we perceive ourselves being perceived and come to objectify ourselves in the same way we are being objectified. Thus, the gaze of the other robs us of our inherent freedom and causes us to deprive ourselves of our existence as a being-for-itself and instead learn to falsely self-identify as a being-in-itself.
The being-for-itself actuates his own being and is conscious; the being-in-itself is unable to change and is unaware of itself. 

What makes it hell to be around another person is when they look at you and they don't see you at all--they see some projected image that has nothing to do with you. They objectify you and refuse to acknowledge anything beyond their perspective. They have some emotional or ego attachment to their view of you. There is no meeting of minds or meeting of anything at all; the only way you can communicate with that person is if you diminish yourself somehow so you fit their picture of you and they can hear you. Otherwise, it's like talking into a pure vacuum.

Sometimes it's just as much of a hell to be ignored by someone...

Sometimes we get addicted to being seen as a false image someone has of us, and hell is that conflicting desire to be seen fighting against the fear of being seen...

Hell is a place in which you can never escape the game, the props, the stage. You try to call it, but no one listens, and eventually you succumb, worn down by their incessant insistence that you are who they say you are.

I am none of those things, you may protest, once you find some time alone and try to scrub the filth that clings to you from their objectifying gaze that possessed you by saying you are this. You scrabble to release the invalidation and return to the bliss of nothingness, of unselfconsciousness, but still you smell the stench that clings inside your nostrils and you feel the pinch of their fingers, hear the bite of their words. The mirrors of the funhouse cling to you and as you catch sight of one horrific image after another, eventually you wonder, am I that? do others perceive me so? 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The energy of desire

I've noticed lately that I've been stressed out. I don't have anything in particular to be stressed about, but my body's been going into an old pattern of constriction.

When I wake up in the morning, my whole body aches, I've bitten deep grooves into my mouth guard, and I remember dreams like today's: about my best friend phoning me from jail (which says that I'm projecting a feeling of being in jail onto an image that represents a part of me) or my son falling hard on his head--showing my worry over things I feel responsible for, but have no control over.

Life is good. But change is scary. 

A few days ago I was thinking about the energy of desire, about how inherent in it is lack (we want something because we don't have it). After we get what we want, the desire is gone. It occurred to me that I may be more attached to having desire and having a fantasy of something happening than actually getting what I think I want.

It makes me think about how feeling desire may be, in itself, an addiction--and like other addictions, desire is an energy that focuses and structures the ego where we have a lack of formed healthy patterns for directing willpower.

I got something I wanted...and this was a good thing; it actually made my body feel, when I woke up this morning, relaxed in a way I hadn't in many months. I felt like I could breathe, and I knew this thing I had gotten was the cause.

And then...I felt depressed. Because desire receded, and I realized how much I enjoy the chemicals that are stimulated in my brain when I'm obsessing or fixating on something--when I'm desiring. I've become, somehow, invested in a pattern of constriction and lack, because that's how I've learned to focus and drive myself. I've created a system of rewards and punishments out of a bunch of fake constructs in my brain.

What to do about it? I guess I feel a little better having identified that this is what's going on. Other than that, I guess it's good to find things I can actively do to create feel-good chemicals in my body. I'm thinking of doing two weeks of Bikram while my parents are visiting me. But that would mean I have to go to bed and get up in about 2.5 hours. I've made it very slightly likelier that I'll go by mentioning it here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Insecurity and letting go of labels

This is my monthly post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Note: I did three years in a row of the A-Z challenge and this year, my blog is taking a break from it. I'm still doing the challenge, but at my other site, Hot Pink Books, and I'm taking every second letter, while Karen takes the rest! I've pre-written more than half of mine and they're ready to go--a bunch of erotic vignettes and poems. I can't say they're particularly tasteful, but they were very fun to write.

So today I want to talk about the insecurity--and the joy--of letting go of labels.

I got married in 2006, and I remember that the first year of it, it made me happy knowing I was married, because this thing in me that had been not quite content could finally rest. I liked having the label of being a wife, and I liked the knowledge that I had a husband, that we both had acknowledged and validated roles within the framework of society. To me, I was deeply moved at the idea of commitment--that there was someone who was willing to say that he wanted to be with me for the rest of his life.

But the thing was, after a while the label became stronger than the reality. My temple of "commitment" became my prison and I felt diminished and invisible. "Love" became an excuse to treat each other like shit because we no longer liked who we were. 

I resisted getting a divorce because I worried about my kids. The statistics, and my personal experience, showed me that most kids with divorced parents suffer for it. But after a while it became too much of a sacrifice to stay together, and I realized that it's always better for kids to have a happy parent for a role model than an unhappy one...

So I've been reading this book, Ernesto Spinelli's An Introduction to Phenomenological Psychology. I've just finished the chapter on "The perception of objects." It talks about how when people look at pictures like this well-known one:

that unless they're told that there are two possible pictures, people will tend to only see one. Even beyond the young woman/old woman pictures, one could, depending on changing foreground/background foci, imagine out other possibilities.

There are infinite ways to see something. There are infinite frames we can create for a situation. We can tell an infinite amount of stories to make sense out of any set of elements. We can rationalize anything. Some stories are more plausible than others, but that doesn't mean that we can't, given the right focus, make those our dominant stories/frames/perceptions.

But we feel safer seeing just the old woman, just the young woman. Or seeing one or the other. We like our universe to be ordered, to make sense. We like to have our roles, our place in society.

All that is well and good--until the labels become ends in themselves instead of simply tools to help us create meaning in our lives and a context for movement and evolution of awareness. The key is in letting the label go as soon as it's applied...for anything we hold onto can become a prison if we don't know how to let it go.

Can we stand the insecurity of living a life without labels?

What if we were to love people without having them be our boyfriend or girlfriend, our husband or wife? What if we could just be present with who we love?

What if I were to let go of the attachment to calling myself a writer--to proving I am one--to continually striving to prove to myself that I'm worthy of an additional label--a professional--a traditionally published--a multi-published--and so on? What if I just did what I loved?

There is a lot of shit we waste our time on, and most of it is all in our own heads...