On Cheating and Two-Day Shipping

1743666_10202379234856907_1284630896_n

Dear Pomona,

Temptation and vice have been occupying my mind lately. I’ll begin with infidelity, a topic that both terrifies and enrages me. My parents’ seventeen-year marriage ended after a spate of affairs and my mother falling in love with another man. Their divorce was devastating, and to this day I feel the residual pain of a broken family. Many friends and family members have cheated or fallen in love with others, ended marriages both good and bad, and moved on to new life dramas. And I, feeling somewhat like a throwback to another decade or century, cling to my marriage like a baby koala to its mother’s back. Although I adore my husband and am perennially attracted to him, I fear that infidelity lies in wait for us.

A couple of weeks ago I sat in my therapist’s office, ranting about a close friend who confessed to me that she had fallen in love with a married man. “It’s absolutely wrong!” I pounded my clenched fists against my knees. “He has young children. You don’t mess with that.”

Hot rage inflated my chest and belly, like a volcano erupting. My mother always told me to put money and valuables away if I was staying in a hotel rather than leave them out and tempt the maids. Isn’t flirting (or worse yet, falling in love with a married man with young kids) the same thing—offering him a window out of a house full of noise and mess? What couple with kids has enough time for themselves and each other and wouldn’t be tempted by an exciting new romantic escapade? Not many issues are crystal clear to me in life; I often see many points of view at once and sway about in a sea of relativism. But I sensed down to my tendons and bones that falling in love with a married man is unequivocally wrong. I could feel myself astride a high horse, back erect and chin held high, surveying those below me who engage in illicit flirtations.

“I think you need to bring the temptress in here” my therapist mused, pulling me abruptly out of the saddle. I was taken aback. What does she mean? I want nothing to do with temptation and lust for other men. “Tell me something you are enticed by.”

I  racked my brain. “Chocolate, I guess. But not really.” I felt noble, yet ridiculous. I must have some vices. “ Well,” I admitted, “I do like online shopping. Not that I do it much, but it’s pretty tempting. I mean, that whole one-click thing on Amazon is just devilish.”

“Okay. Great, perfect,” my therapist smiled and sat forward in her chair. “I want you to embody Amazon, okay?” I nodded reluctantly. “What would you say? Close your eyes and see how your body feels.”

I blushed and sank down into the leather couch. I took a deep breath and tried to take on the attributes of an online shopping site. After years of somatic and gestalt therapy, which once brought on an acute sense of the absurd, I now willingly take leaps into the lesser-known aspects of my psyche. My voice became a creamy whisper. My shoulders began to relax; words ushered forth. “I have everything you could ever want or even think of wanting,” I purred, “in every color, shape and price range you can imagine.” Suddenly I was wrapped in a deep purple, velvet cloak, my body a hidden world of pleasure and gratification. The couch caressed my back, as it would a lover. “And I am so discreet that I won’t even send a receipt to your email account,” I continued in a sultry whisper. “No one will ever have to know about us.” Oh my goodness! I thought. This is so much fun.  Much better than playing the pious Protector of Marriage.

“Wow! You are the perfect affair,” my therapist laughed with delight.

“Yes,” I continued, now basking in my power, “and I bring you pleasure twice; once when you make your order and again when you receive the package.” I spent the next half hour being the temptress, a far cry from the straight-laced, risk-averse self I know so well.

Sometimes I wonder about therapy. After my allotted fifty minutes, I left with no strategy on how to confront my friend or make peace with the plague of infidelity around me. Incorporating vice and temptation into an otherwise upstanding life continued to confound me. I did feel lighter, more relaxed, and open to new aspects of myself. Throughout the next week, I carried with me the possibility of being at once seductive and safe, provocative yet ethical. I didn’t make any new online purchases, but I felt the lure of unspoken desire.

And then, as if my Superego had sent me a red-alert telegram, I happened to listen to a Radiolab podcast describing online order fulfillment warehouses. It turns out there is no lovely, well-kept seductress fulfilling wishes both mundane and exquisite. The guest speaker had worked in such a warehouse. Like the underbelly of so many temptations, these places run like sweatshops, with the “pickers” worked to the bone in inhumane conditions. The woman recounted holding her bladder for hours on end, then scarfing down her lunch in minutes before returning to the rat race of filling boxes for online shoppers. A fellow picker was fired after taking a day off for the birth of his daughter. One summer, an Amazon warehouse heated up to the point that some of the pickers were fainting. Instead of installing air conditioners, the manager called paramedics to wait outside in order to spirit away the fallen. Or so the podcast claims.

I listened with resignation. Oh Pomona, is nothing sacred? How can I ever take any pleasure in online shopping now that I know what really lies behind the veil of my temptation? Is there nothing worth lusting after that doesn’t harm an unseen body in its wake?

My friend emailed last night to say that her paramour had decided to work things out with his wife. My heart leapt in my chest; disaster averted, the marriage will remain intact for now. Admiration for the couple grew. Perhaps the brown paper package arrived and the consumer had buyer’s remorse, I thought ruefully. I felt no pity for my friend’s broken heart. Shouldn’t play with what isn’t yours.

And now Pomona, I am back astride my elegant steed.  I have vanquished the temptress to the outer reaches of my personality for the time being, though part of me longs to be sinful and coy, or at least to figure out a way to bring those qualities into my life without hurting other people.

For now I content myself with asking the question what is it that I desire most in this moment? Whether or not I can fulfill the desire within my ethical bounds is another question entirely.

Sparing Words

story

by Whimsy Leigh

 

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. –Maya Angelou

 

When people ask me what kind of writing I do, I immediately tense up. What do I tell them? I should tell them something fast and easy so I don’t sound like an idiot. I should sound resolute and say something like, “Fiction, mostly,” and then just ignore the face they make, lest I misinterpret it. I should do this just to make life simpler for us, and skip the complicated truth. I never assume anyone has the time for that, do you?

I will not say, “I write poetry,” because I cannot bring myself to do that unless I have consumed alcohol one on one with the person, or slept in a tent with them. I mean, if they aren’t a writer. It’s too revealing, like saying “I sell marijuana,” or “I’m unemployed.” Then things just become awkward. People should be spared, because why would I stop there? I would have to go on to say, “I like to write essays,” and “I’ve been thinking of taking a screen-writing course,” and “I write short stories and flash non-fiction pieces like mini memoirs,” when most people just prefer one to five word answers when they ask such a question.  

This has nothing to do with being prolific, nor indecisive. This is about the truth of the human heart. I have no allegiance with fiction, no contract with essays, no monogamous relationship with poems. I don’t have the short answer, and it’s got me thinking. If I say, “I traverse all the forms,” I sound like a pompous ass. If I say “I write poetry,” they will shamelessly bum cigarettes from me, even though they have the verbal proof that I am poor. If I say I write essays, they will immediately conjure all the unpleasant memories of writing assignments in compulsory freshmen English classes they despised. If I say, “I write short stories,” they will want to know where I’ve been published, and if I say I am writing a novel, well then, they will know I have no job and am most likely just a bullshitter.

Since I’ve admitted freely, here on this blog, that I am a loose writer who will go home with the first idea that pops into my head after two glasses of red wine, I am out of the closet. I can flame. I can experiment and have flings and wear low cut metaphors and make up lies about the truth, all with impunity. I’m like a train-hopper in the night, just going for the movement through space, and the moonlight, the thrill of it. I don’t have to commit and I don’t have to stay in one place.

So, I am going to make up a patterned response for the question, “What kind of writing do you do?” and kill two birds with one stone:

All kinds.” I’ll say, to firstly, remind myself to be fluid in my process, and secondly–and probably even more importantly–to have a response that doesn’t commit that accidental self-sabotage I seem to unwittingly engage in, where I end up sounding like a self-deprecating, yet defensive, pontificating ass. Oh, and like I said, there’s always a lot to be said for brevity, so that’s actually three birds.

And then, without missing a beat, or giving them a chance to go any further, since there’s no point in all that (refer to above paragraphs) and neither of us really want to go there, I’m going to tell this really good joke I’ve memorized about writers stuck on desert islands, and then make a mad dash for the cheese plate.

Scrapbooking for Dementia

gandghart

Dear Pomona,

Grandpa’s memory is in pieces. I set a family album in front of him at the care home for people with dementia. After a recent stroke at 89 years of age and six days of not eating, the man who always had a smile of acknowledgement for his grandkids does not appear to recognize his first; nor my life partner who have come to visit him. Despite this lack of recognition, remaining scraps of memory still tell his story.

My younger sister recently put photos of family together for him to look at. There is one of him and me, two years ago, smiling together, my arm around the Grandpa who was steadfast for our family his whole life. My father passed early and Grandpa did me the honor of walking me down the dirt path when my partner and I got hitched. That, he seemed to remember; when my Mom told him we were coming to visit.  He didn’t remember me by name, only “the one who just got married”.

We flip the pages of his life in front of him. Most of the photos in the albums are unlabelled and I have kept personal notes for the day that there will be no one to ask. This is something I used to do with my Grandmother. The person whom he wanders the halls of the care home at night searching for — his wife for sixty years, gone for eight years now. They met on a blind date, just like my parents and this is how I met my lifepartner, as well. Determined to return to a home life that he will never see again, he packs his bags daily at the care home, sometimes in a laundry basket, a box or a plastic shopping bag and daily his things are unpacked by a member of the staff who does this for all of the residents.

While we sit together, he looks at the pictured parts of his life, as if he is seeing them for the first time. His arms seem noticeably more collapsed into his body from the recent stroke, even though he still has use of his hands. Our conversation feels almost pointless and I am aching for some way to connect with the heart of Grandpa who seems lost deep inside. I pull playfully at his strong hands. Curious he resists, but smiles.  I think back to when I was a kid and we would play a game, that one where you start by floating your hands above another person’s palms. Then, the person, whose palms are facing skyward, slyly tries to slap the top of the other person’s hands, before they retract them.

I remember how he wouldn’t hold back on the slap, which I took as a sign of respect. I noticed early in life, whenever he would smash his thumb or cut his finger, it was no big deal. If asked, “Need a band aid for that?,” he would scoff and say “Nah.”  A trait I still proudly possess, in everyday country living my unladylike hands are regularly nicked, scratched and callused, just like his were; much to the lament of my partner who rates them relative to grades of sandpaper.

Early in my life, Grandpa let me work with him on whatever building or maintenance project he was doing. It didn’t matter to him that I was a girl. Things just needed to get done. Later, he would work with me on my car. His “do-it-yourself” attitude was formative for me. Up to a year ago, whenever he visited me he would help with some project on the homestead. Even after several botched surgeries in which he lost use of his shoulder muscles. He would use one of the floppy arms like a prop to support the one overhead using the drill. At 86, when visiting him I found him ontop of his roof with a skill saw cutting in a skylight. Always restless, Grandpa seemed happiest when engaged in a project.

I try to match his congenial stoicism while visiting him, the pain of seeing his active life end this way hurts way more than a smashed finger. We will be returning in a few months for his 90th birthday. When I hug and kiss him goodbye, I have to consider it might be the last one I give him while he is alive and note, that due to the stroke, we are the ones actually dead to him. The tears come. I hide my face as I head to the door, knowing that he doesn’t need my sadness to be the last page in his scrapbook.

I am back on the homestead now. During caretaker chores, I recall stories of Grandpa’s boyhood mornings of milking cows, feeding the chickens and pigs, before walking miles to school, even during the hard winters of North Dakota. To this day, it is still customary to see him in a short-sleeved shirt on a day that calls for thermal layers. A heated strength I wish I had inherited from him.

Grandpa and Grandma were happy to build their adult lives away from the farms they grew up on, two generations later I returned to that life and recently, so has my sister. Our work is considerably easier with modern conventions, but our daily waking at first light seasonal duties are similar caring for goats, ducks, chickens and large food gardens.

A valley friend once remarked on how our community of agrarian folk are “durable” people. I know this is something that I inherited from my Grandpa. The fraction of his former self that he his now, is still supported by a backbone of humor, laughter in the face of adversity. His caregivers recognize this as they joke with him in their day-to-day interactions and comment to my mother about how they appreciate his no-fuss amiability.

In a moment of lucidity on that most recent visit, he commented to me how his “brain is mush.” I make a note of his mocking self-reflection, that he follows with a smirk and an “Oh, well” shake of the head. I think now, if it had been physically possible for him, he would have ended it with a “That’s Life” shrug of his shoulders.

A Love Letter

My Dearest Winter,

I caught a glimpse of you again yesterday, and it has filled my heart with longing. I heard your voice in the rain as it fell on my roof, and now all I want is to be wrapped in blankets by the fire, drinking wine, and listening to you as snow piles up by the door. I wish to sleep with you, I need to play in you, and I desire to revel in your moisture.

When you arrived in September, it was too early. I was not ready for you yet, so I ignored you. Then you reappeared in December, alive with rage and ferocity, though you did not last. I thought you would soon be back, but you disappeared- leaving me alone for weeks. How sad it is that I didn’t realize how much I needed you until you were gone. How could I have been so blind to your loveliness?

Now I see your beauty in the bare oak branches, and as Orion moves across the sky. I miss your long, cold nights. You rejuvenate me with your quiet, dark ways. With you, I nurture my soul, heal my heart, and calm my mind. Without you, my dreams do not take hold.

WinteryDitchTrailOaks

I cannot let you go this time. Though we have passed through Imbolc and the days are growing longer, we still have time to relish in each other’s company. If you will come back to me, I promise that I will not forsake you for Spring. I will lie with you, care for you, and cherish every moment of our final days together.

Please Winter, give me another chance. I love you and cannot go another day without you here, surrounding me. I need your grey winds to take my breath away and smother what I do not need- so that I may live and grow again.

Yours forever,

Meganzer

Pope_Francis_in_March_2013-2

Reflections of a Recovering Catholic

Dear Pomona,

Today I am grappling with the question of whether or not powerful people can really affect positive change. Can a politician or leader who works within an inherently corrupt institution do any good?  You see, Pomona, while I am a wayward Catholic, the Pope has become my new hero.

The other night, I looked up from an inspiring New Yorker article about him and asked my husband, “Have you heard much about Pope Francis?”

My husband, who stood undressing in the corner of our room, responded, “I have no time for the new Pope. He is nothing to me.”

I bristled. “But wait. He’s talking about tolerance and economic inequality and not judging people. Don’t you think that’s good?” I hated the way my voice sounded—sniveling, seeking approval.

“He’s the head of an institution that has fucked up so many people, especially women and children, for such a long time. His personal views don’t really matter in the scheme of things,” my husband replied, now getting into bed and opening his book.

I felt an edge of anger, an itch to spar. I laid the magazine down. “Have you even read anything about him? Do you even know what you are talking about?” My voice rose. Our worldviews are remarkably similar, and I found myself savoring this difference, wanting to highlight and explore it. Does one really have to renounce “the system” in order to make any real change? Is there any value in working from within an institution that is morally questionable? Pomona, I don’t the answers , but I am curious.

I stayed up late finishing the New Yorker article, occasionally poking my husband with new information to bolster my case:

“His mentor was a communist.”

“This doesn’t mention that the child abuse happened in South America.” (I stand corrected.)

“Rush Limbaugh despises him.”

My husband grunted and rolled over, unwilling to engage.

I finished the article and wanted more. I found a podcast on my computer about the Pope’s analysis of neo-capitalism.  This guy is awesome, I thought, as I drifted off to sleep. He has risen to a pinnacle of authority and is now using the proverbial pulpit to sway the Church left.

My husband and I both fall into the category of “recovering Catholics.”  While he was brought up in a large Italian family and I was raised by an Irish Catholic mother, our experiences growing up in the Church could not have been more different. My family attended a liberal, urban parish, giddy in the post-Vatican II era.  The rector stepped down after refusing to read an anti-birth control edict from Pope John Paul II. We engaged in regular community service, sang folk songs about love and forgiveness, and our priest used a puppet called “Blue” during most of his sermons to make mass more kid-friendly. My husband had a more traditional Catholic upbringing, steeped in guilt, repression and hierarchy, and taught by humorless, punitive nuns.

The next morning at breakfast, I posed the scenario to him: “So, say you are growing up in Argentina and you start studying theology and you get really into it and see the life of a priest as a way to help the poor, and you don’t know any better and gradually you move up through the ranks, and next thing you know you are a bishop, and you think ‘Wow, if I play my cards right, I could really make a difference.’” 

My husband was smiling at me. “Okay,” he said slowly, amused by my tenacity.

“So, at what point do you renounce the church?”

He barely paused. “The minute the child sex scandal broke. How could I be part of an institution that condoned priests preying on kids like that? It’s sick.”

I hardly stopped to take in what he had said. “But think about all the Catholic kids living in homophobic countries in the world. The Pope is now saying he can’t judge homosexuals. Think of the impact on gay kids. That’s huge.” He was not swayed. “He washes the feet of prisoners, for God’s sake. Is that not radical enough for you?” I demanded. My husband shook his head.

I wanted to cry in frustration, to have him agree that the Church could be redeemed by honest and compassionate leaders. And yet I was grateful for our debate, glad that our politics are not so perfectly aligned that I have no reason to explore my beliefs. Then I also remembered: he felt personally oppressed by the Church, while I was embraced by our particular parish. Childhood imprinting is indelible.

A week later, I picked up Time magazine at the dentist’s office. The Pope’s face was plastered on the front—“Man of the Year,” the caption proclaimed. I stared at it for a full two minutes, fascinated and wondering. What goes on in this guy’s mind? And how the hell did he get a bunch of medieval cardinals to vote for him?

In a perfect world, the Catholic Church would be tried at the Hague for atrocities against humanity and sentenced appropriately. But the reality is that hundreds of millions of people believe the Pope has a direct line to God. I, for one, am thrilled that the new Pope speaks out against economic injustice and espouses social tolerance.

At the same time, my husband’s unequivocal abhorrence of violence against women and children makes my heart glad.

Long live Pope Francis!

Merry New Year’s Eve Magic

 “I want to be magic. I want to touch the heart of the world and make it smile. I want to be a friend of elves and live in a tree. Or under a hill. I want to marry a moonbeam and hear the stars sing. I don’t want to pretend at magic anymore. I want to be magic.” ― Charles de Lint

Dear Pomona,

We haven’t yet met. And here I am introducing myself to you on this last day of 2013. It seems odd that this is the case, a balance between a final goodbye and hello. But maybe, too, it is fitting, for I am not thinking so much about the past and what this year has held and meant, but what I wish to create in the future: Magic. That’s what I am thinking of. And magic making.

This last week, I watched The White Queen, a BBC mini-series based on Phillipa Gregory’s historical novel series The Cousin’s War. The story is full of complex characters corrupted by the allure of power, which instigates family strife, the overthrowing of kings, bloody battles and beheadings. But amidst the betrayals and the gore, there also presides love, loyalty, sex, and magic. Throughout the story, the main character Elizabeth (the White Queen) harnesses the elements in favor of her causes—Magic making of the ancient, goddess-born ways that resonates within my being from some far off time and place.

Often my daughter proclaims: “There is no such thing as magic!” This from a young woman who comes home for winter holiday during her second year of college and proceeds to listen to the entire series of Harry Potter on audio from start to finish (we are currently in the midst of the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban) while we either cook meals or play monopoly or drive anywhere in the car. She is captivated by the magical world of J.K. Rowling and many other novelists, but when I express my belief in magic, she becomes more muggle than witch, with her scientific reasoning.

This is what I want to say to her:

Magic exists. Who can doubt it, when there are rainbows and wildflowers, the music of the wind and the silence of the stars? Anyone who has loved has been touched by magic. It is such a simple and such an extraordinary part of the lives we live.” ― Nora Roberts

And so, I wish to be a magic-maker.

Every New Year’s Eve, to my exasperation, my husband asks me, “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?” I’m not sure why I have such a strong, negative association to the New Year’s resolution. I suppose it’s because I have always associated it with a desire to fix and change something about myself. Not that I am resistant to improvements or think I don’t need any. That is most certainly not the case. It’s more that firstly, I don’t like the idea of beginning a new year by setting myself up for failure. And secondly, to do so seems to be placing myself in a negative space—you know, with the kinds of popular resolutions people are prone to making, like losing weight, getting fit, finding a better job, drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking. Of course, these are all worthy and healthy resolutions to aspire to. It’s just that word, resolution, implies a problem, for it means “the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.: the act of resolving something” (Merriam-Webster). The act of resolving something can be a hinge to change for the better, so I don’t want to belittle this act. Maybe it works for some people. It has worked for my husband. But I choose to name this process differently. I choose to call it affirmation.

At the risk of sounding too hippy-dippy-new-age, let me elaborate. The definition of affirmation is “the act of affirming,” which comes from the root word affirm: “to say that something is true in a confident way; to show a strong belief in or dedication to something, such as an important idea” (Merriam-Webster). This is a different spin on the classic New Year’s resolution of seeking an answer to a problem.

Last New Year’s, I wrote a list of “affirmations.” I cast what once would have been “resolutions” to solving problems into the light of positive creation, as if those things on my list were already made manifest. “I want to …” was replaced with “I will …” leaving the wanting to the ether. And in some cases, I wrote “I have …” as if the thing I desired had already happened. Three specific and major accomplishments topped my list. Two out of the three manifested. To me, this is magic making. I waved no magic wand, made no earthly sacrifice to the Gods and Goddesses. But I did recite incantations, with the help of a pen. And this New Year’s, I will do so again.

Merry New Year, dear Pomona, and to all a good New Year’s Affirmation,

Laurie

What Makes You Vulnerable Makes You Beautiful

“If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”—Erica Jong

Dear Pomona,

It’s cold outside, the ice is covering everything, the birds are mostly quiet, the days are short and dark and I’ve been occupied with a few things that I must tell you about: music, desire, and vulnerability. Pomona, I’m having trouble sleeping because of these things. What do they have to do with each other? Everything.

First music: I recently created a radio show for a local pirate station in the hills of my mountain home. It all started after a late night conversation with a friend about a neighbor who has a show on the same station. I hadn’t actually listened to the station or any of the programs, but I was intrigued, so one afternoon while I was driving my son home from school, I put on my favorite music as I do most days and thought, “I could do that. I want a radio show.” So I went to the radio station website, checked out the shows, and realized they weren’t playing any of the music I loved; I knew this was my chance to create something new in my life. Something genuine, real, fun, different. I called the station, found a DJ who would train me, and from that, my radio show was born. I now play music once a week in a tiny trailer in the woods with mics, soundboard, speakers, and all. Pomona, this radio show is fulfilling me in ways I didn’t know needed fulfilling. I’ve always loved music, played classical piano for years, but there’s something so satisfying about putting music together into a perfect combination of songs, beats, lyrics, emotion, beauty and then sharing that combination with listeners and friends. It is a strangely intimate way to connect with people—something I crave and yearn for: authentic connection. Just the other day I ran into someone who told me they had listened and loved the show. And too, he had never heard any of the music before. This makes me so happy. Which leads me to desire.

Music is the current focal point for the turbulent desires I’ve been having the last six months. But not the only focal point and not the only desire. Beyond my desire to play good music, I have wild desires to be truly known. Desire to be read. Desire for a good time, for good drinks, for a good buzz. Desire to be wanted. Desire for other men beyond my husband. Desire to be a great writer. Desire for love. For beauty. For wildness. For great sex. For authentic experience. Desire for intelligent conversation. I’m burning up with all of this desire; I can’t keep quiet about it any longer! Pomona, I feel the force of this energy shifting my focus, pulling me in strange and new directions. The hunger is tugging at me, intensifying, taking me away from the safe nest of my home, of everything I’ve always been comfortable with. It is both scary and exciting at the same time. Some of this desirous intensity is satisfied by music, by the emotions expressed through song, by sharing music with people over the radio waves. But some of my desires aren’t being met. For instance, the last few months I’ve had this urgent need to be with people, to get to know them, to celebrate with them, to have interesting and engaging conversations with them. To know the world better together. This is not typical for me as an introvert, as a mother of young children, as someone who has been content for the last five years staying home. But no longer. My desire to connect with people has taken me away from home many nights and has always included drinking of some kind. I’ve lost whole days recovering from these intemperate and unrestrained nights. But too, I’ve also written some great essays influenced by my experiences. I know it is a total cliche to be the tortured writer who turns to drink and carousing for inspiration, but these experiences have fueled my writing. I want to feel guilty, to tell myself this is a sign of weakness, but I think it is more complicated than that. Is it just part of the creative process, of my growth as a writer? Do I need this stimulation in a way that is hard to articulate? Or is it something else? I’ve always had a lust for life and as Thoreau wrote, wanted to try my life by a thousand simple tests, to suck the marrow out of life. Because why not? Why have we been given this sun, this earth, this life if not to run away with it?

Here I lay it out for you Pomona and ask: what do I do with these desires that are overwhelming me? Do I temper this energy? Do I stoke it? I’ve been trying to write it, to take the passion and put it into words, but how do I put the fierceness of such feelings into sentences without being trite? Which leads me to vulnerability.

I’ve read a few things about this topic recently and here my letter to you comes to a head. I’ve just revealed to you the deepest things I’ve been thinking about: my want for love, sex, connection, experience and it makes me feel exposed to tell you these things. Vulnerability splits me wide open. The word vulnerable actually comes from the Latin vulnerare ‘to wound’ and that’s what it feels like, Pomona—I’m opening my wounds, or allowing myself to be wounded. Or perhaps judged. It feels scary to reveal desire. But then I think, what’s wrong with exposing my passion? What’s wrong with the truth? Isn’t that what we are all looking for? What use is it to hide what we want? Doesn’t truth make us human, make us love, bring us closer? Isn’t it freeing to express our desires, to make them known? To tell the world!

Today I confessed everything to my dear friend as we sat huddled with warm drinks in the corner of the coffee shop and her response was perfect. More than perfect. Divine! She told me not to squash the energy behind the desire, that to do so would be destructive and harmful. She told me to feed it, to nurture it, to let it flow out of me, to funnel it into my creative work. She’s right, I think, because in my confusion over these desires, I recently decided I needed to calm down, to mellow out a bit, stop going out, stop seeking connection and outside experience, and instantly, my creativity dropped off, my mood changed and I slumped into depression. I nursed a bad mood on the couch while staring at the snow. My friend then directed me to Brene Brown, who is a researcher on human connection, and Pomona, you must watch her talk on vulnerability! In essence, Brown says our primary purpose in life is to seek connection with other people and we can only have that connection when we expose ourselves to each other. We must reveal what makes us vulnerable. We have to be seen.

Through all of this, my steady husband has watched me with curiosity thinking all the time, What the hell is she doing? I realized then that I was keeping all of my desire to myself hiding it away like there was something wrong with wanting so much. I didn’t want to tell him because I thought it might scare him or push him away. I’m already a force to be reckoned with in our small little house—how could he handle more of me? So I admitted to him the things I was looking for outside of our relationship, the intense desires that were consuming me and just by revealing my true feelings and becoming vulnerable, our relationship has shifted in a beautiful way, bringing us closer and opening us up to new possibilities. Of course, this admission of desire could have gone wrong in so many relationships, but he has been open, accepting, understanding and that’s made all the difference and as a result, fueled a deeper connection between us.

I know this desire is a beautiful thing and will continue to present challenges and opportunities as it nudges me along. The energy of it is the genesis of all my current creativity, of all my joy, of all my potential connection with you and everyone else I want to know and know deeply. I won’t let it go dormant as many might or will or do. In fact, I’m going to let it burn. I’m going to let this desire continue to excite me in new directions. As Federico Garcia Lorca wrote, “To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.”

Yours in desire and damn fine music,

Melissa

298128141_cdb5724d85_o

Photo by Pozek