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The Focus of Desire

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THE FOCUS OF DESIRE

One of the good things about being a cocaine addict is that it gives you focus. You’re never unclear about what you want or how to get it. You get your paycheck, you go to your dealer’s house, and you get what you desire. If you need more cocaine than you can pay for, you sell some to your friends at an inflated price and then they become better friends because you have what they want. And need. **

Later, you give up cocaine when the fact that it kills young and otherwise healthy people is made painfully clear to you. Then you have to rely on alcohol to give you what you want. It’s cheaper, but the clarity is missing. What you desire isn’t as obvious. You settle for laughing uproariously with other friends who drink too much, and you occasionally get drunk enough to have a heartfelt conversation that feels like intimacy only it’s not. You make mistakes.

Sex is always good for a quick shot of dopamine, but in my case it usually made the emptiness worse because although it satisfied for a time, it could not give me what I was really seeking. I didn’t know precisely what that was, but I was becoming dimly aware that I was a bottomless pit of desire, craving love and acceptance and belonging and meaning.

It wasn’t until I started sniffing around spirituality that I identified the deep desire that lay beneath all of my clambering needs: peace. I distinctly remember writing that in my journal, lo these thirty years ago. “What I really want is peace.”

Finding Peace

Peace is not a familiar feeling when you’ve grown up in an alcoholic household, or any other kind of dysfunctional home — which probably describes most of us! Many “adult children” of imperfect parents don’t really know who they are or what they want because they’re too busy worrying about what other people think of them. We are people-pleasers, afraid of rejection. We often don’t like ourselves; we have this chronic feeling of not being good enough. Out of fear, we work tirelessly to manage everything and everyone so that nothing feels “out of control.”

Peace is hard to come by under these circumstances, which is why so many of us numb out with sex, drugs, carbs, alcohol, social media, TV, etc., etc., etc. Oh, there’s the occasional pearly pink sunset or lazy Sunday afternoon with your lover. But I’m not talking about a peaceful feeling, I’m talking about a deep-down peaceful spirit. Being OK with the world, OK with yourself, and OK with everybody else.

beauty and darkness

I have found this deep and lasting peace through my growing belief and trust in a loving Higher Power, which I call God but I don’t call “He.” My God is Love. My God is not bound by time and assures me that my spirit is not bound by time either. My God is crazy-powerful, but often subtle, so I have to pay attention and be on the lookout for Her fingerprints.

And they are there. I’ve seen them often enough now to know for certain. I am intimately known; I am being cared for and upheld; I am part of a divine plan to bring goodness and reconciliation to the world.

I know this. But I forget. And that’s why I love Lent. It’s a time to intentionally re-enter the house of peace and linger here, not needing to rush off.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” — Isaiah 26:3

** I apologize to nice Christians who think they are signed up to read a nice pastor-lady’s blog. This pastor has a past. And I especially apologize to my grand nieces who sometimes read this blog and who don’t know about Great Auntie Mel’s mixed up past. I am more than happy to tell you all about it if you ask, and especially to tell you why you should not emulate my journey.

Warning: You May Find This Disturbing

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This week I’m sharing a (very) personal essay I’ve just had published on the blog of So to Speak, a feminist journal of language and art. I’m giving you fair warning that it’s not a very pleasant story.

Secrets in the Dark

The woman has been roughed up. There’s a bruise on her cheek, and her blouse is ripped. Her long brown hair has been hacked off with a pair of scissors, and several of her teeth have just been brutally yanked out. A crowd of filthy men and women taunt her, shoving her along a darkened street. Her voice breaks into a raw, bitter wail. “There was a time when men were kind, when their voices were soft and their words inviting.”

If you’ve ever seen Les Misérables, you probably recognize this gut-wrenching scene. Fantine, a factory worker who has just lost her job, has sold her hair and teeth to pay for her young daughter’s room and board.

Anne Hathaway plays the role in the latest film version of Victor Hugo’s story of love and hate in the French Revolution. She’s painfully beautiful in this scene, bruises dark on her pale skin, eyes sunken and hopeless as she’s pressured into prostitution to save her daughter.

A French army officer has just finished doing his business on top of her. She’s belting out this song, and I can hear people all around me sniffling in the dark of the movie theater.

“I had a dream my life would be

So different from this hell I’m living.

So different now from what it seemed

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”

Even the guy behind me with the annoying belching issue seems to be crying. He starts breathing badly, and I wonder if he’s having a heart attack or something. I’m considering turning around to ask if he’s OK, but I don’t want to embarrass him if he’s crying.

His labored breathing suddenly evens out, and I hear the sound of a zipper being closed. Apparently he’s successfully put himself in the French officer’s place and has had his way with Anne Hathaway in the dark.

les-miserables-screenshot-anne-hathaway2-300x187

♦ ♦ ♦

“Why didn’t you move?” My therapist’s face had that inscrutable look she gets, and her question seemed as impenetrable as her expression.

“Move?” I echoed. “Why didn’t I move?” An irrational shame nudged a blush up my neck as I tried to remember: Did I even think of moving?

Doctor Z nodded and leaned forward in her chair, elbows perched on her knees and fingers pressed together in a teepee under her chin as if trying to keep her mouth from dropping open.

“Well, I thought about it for a minute, but — I know it sounds stupid — at first I couldn’t believe it was happening. Like, I must be wrong. Then I thought that he was obviously a mess, sick, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.” I paused, and my therapist raised her eyebrows. “Wow,” I said.

“Yeah, wow,” she said.

“But I felt trapped. Moving didn’t really seem like an option.”

“Why don’t you journal about this? Writing always helps you. I’ve heard you use those words before, feeling trapped, not trusting your own experience, not being able to take care of yourself because you were worried how it might make someone else feel.”

Doctor Z pulled some papers out of her black bag, the signal that our time was up. I wrote her a check and drove home with only half my mind on the road. “Why didn’t I move?” I kept hearing the question.

♦ ♦ ♦

Journal entry:

Tough therapy session. Why didn’t I move away from that guy in the theater? Why did I feel so powerless? The other thing I can’t figure out is why I was afraid to tell anyone, even my friends. Like I had done something wrong, or the whole thing was so disgusting and ugly that I had to hold it in, protect the world from it. Not pollute other people’s lives with my pain. Just like when I was a kid. Don’t tell anyone what’s going on in the house; don’t tell the neighbors about Daddy passing out. Put the vodka bottles at the bottom of the trash bag. It’s all a secret I have to keep. What a burden for a little girl!

My mom. The queen of denial. She’s the one who taught me how to keep a secret. When she caught me on the couch with my ninth-grade boyfriend’s hand down my pants, she said, “I know I didn’t see what I just saw,” and she never said another word about it. Mom didn’t even want to tell the doctor that Daddy was an alcoholic when he was lying on life support in the hospital! As if they couldn’t tell. I broke the secrecy code and told the nurse our shameful secret. Daddy died anyway.

Now that I think of it, Mom’s was the voice in my head at the movie theater saying, “That couldn’t have happened. I must be wrong.”

♦ ♦ ♦

“Good work,” said Doctor Z when I finished reading my journal entry. “What else?”

“Well, I guess my family was so focused on our shame and secrecy that what I needed didn’t matter much. It’s like I learned that I’m not worth taking care of — I don’t believe I have any rights. Mom never took care of her own needs either — trying not to upset my father always came first. That’s why I was more worried about how that guy might feel if I moved than I was about my own feelings.”

I picked up the cushion on the sofa and began messing with the stitching. “Have I ever told you about when I lost my virginity?” I asked, though I knew I hadn’t. It all came out in a rush. “I was sixteen and I was at a party in an upstairs room with an older guy, kind of a friend. We were messing around and he got really aggressive. I said no to him, told him to stop. I said I didn’t want to, but he went ahead and I thought, ‘Oh well.’ I wanted him to like me, and I guess I figured it wouldn’t be worth the fight. I’ve always felt ashamed of that.”

There was a silence while we sat with my shame and I continued to unravel her cushion.

“You were sixteen, Melanie. Just sixteen.”

“Yes.” More silence. I couldn’t look at her.

“You’re an adult now. You can take care of yourself. You don’t have to be a victim . . . you have choices.”

“Yes, I have choices.” I did not sound like an adult. I sounded like a little girl parroting her mother’s directions. I waited for further instruction.

“Don’t forget to breathe,” Doctor Z reminded me, as she often must.

I exhaled a laugh, set the cushion down, and looked her in the face. “Yes, I do have choices.”

♦ ♦ ♦

Journal Entry:

I am going back to the theater tonight. It’s been nearly two months since Les Mis, and I was telling Dr. Z how mad I was at that asshole cause I felt like he had stolen my theater from me. I usually go every week, but the thought’s been making me nauseated.  “I can’t imagine sitting in that seat again,” I told her.

“Well,” she said, “you could sit in a different seat.”

“Oh yeah,” I said, laughing at this obvious solution. “I have choices.”

So I’ve been planning on choosing a new seat. But that’s still making me mad. He stole my spot and I feel l like a victim. So I think I’ll march right down that aisle and sit in my regular seat, twelve rows back on the left. If somebody sits behind me, I can always move.

………

You can visit the So to Speak journal here.

 

Unspoken Words

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“SEXUAL?” Amanda’s voice holds an accusation.

“What?” Mark doesn’t look up as he taps each letter with his pencil eraser and then writes down his score.

“Oh man, way to double-score the X!” Frank shouts out, a little too obviously trying to break the tension.

“More wine?” Jan’s distraction is only slightly more subtle. “Your turn, Mandy.”

Amanda ponders her Scrabble tiles and then carefully places them down, one at time, the N above Mark’s E, the V below, followed by E and R. “Never,” she says. “That’s eight.”

Mark writes down her score and still doesn’t look up. “Eight years of wedded bliss,” he stage-whispers in Frank’s direction without a trace of bliss in his voice.

Amanda shoves her chair back with a screech and disappears into the bathroom. Everyone stares at their tiles, pretending they don’t hear the nose-blowing coming from behind the bathroom door.

AFFAIR, spells out Frank.

“Frank!” Jan smacks Frank’s arm.

“Not yet, but I should be.” Mark downs his wine like a shot of cheap whiskey. “I’ve had plenty of chances. She barely talks to me. Shit, maybe she’s having one. Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve had sex? ”

“About three months, I’d guess,” says Jan quietly.

“What — does she talk to you about it?”

“Mark . . .” Jan shakes her head. She’s been picking out tiles from the Scrabble box lid and now sets them down to spell out MISCARRIAGE.

The room is dead quiet. Only the golden retriever under the table seems to be breathing. The toilet flushes, and Jan quickly scoops the tiles back up as Amanda comes out of the bathroom.

“Oh, Jesus. Why didn’t . . .” Mark gets up and hurries toward Amanda with his arms open wide.

“I told him, Mandy. He needed to know,” says Jan.

Amanda melts into her husband’s arms, and they sway together as one, like a sail rolled protectively around a ship’s mast in a storm.

409

This story was written in response to today’s WordPress Daily Prompt: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/daily-prompt-game/

Daily Prompt: The Perfect Game — You’re set to play poker (or Scrabble or something else . . .) with a group of four. Write a story set during this game. Or, describe the ideal match: the players, the relationships — and the hidden rivalries. Photographers, artists, poets: show us COMPETITION.

Sex, Shame, and Cowboy Boots

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I grew up during the time they call the “sexual liberation,” and you may surmise from that what you like. As near as I can tell, this liberation was a backlash against the hypocritical, dishonest prudishness of earlier generations. The stated “norms” of the 40’s and 50’s weren’t really the norms at all, and led to some messed up beliefs and a TON of confusion and shame. And I’m not even talking about the head trips that were laid on gay people.

Liberated People

Perhaps as a personal backlash against that liberation backlash, I believe that sex is at least a semi-private affair. I know that puts me in a distinct minority in America.

It’s not that I don’t have opinions about what constitutes healthy sexual behavior; I just don’t need to share them with anyone unless I’m asked. I won’t say that I don’t care what you do, because I think that broken sexuality can pollute an entire culture and damage its youth. I know that my own unhealthy sexual behavior as a younger person came from warped family and societal dynamics, and it caused me a lot of pain, not to mention the male wreckage I left in my wake.

All that said, this post is not going to be about sex. I just used that title so you would start reading. It’s not really about shame either, and not at all about cowboy boots. I just wanted to get your attention so I could talk about myself.

No, not really.

I want to talk about YOU. Who are you, and how did you get here?

I know that some of you are friends of mine, and you read my blog because you are kind and because sometimes I make you laugh. But what about all those other folks who either “follow” me or “like” my posts, or just pop by for a visit. Seriously, close to 5,000 views – why?

I set about this line of questioning because I recently passed my six month anniversary of blogging and have been nosing about the spiffy statistics that the WordPress platform keeps for us. Much to my delight, they have kept track of all the Google, Yahoo, and other searches that have landed people at my site.

I wanted to share some of this fascinating — and sometimes scary — data.

What Color is Shame?

I once did a post called What Color is Shame? I intend to write more about shame, because y’all are clearly a bunch of basket cases – this post has received far more searches than anything else on my blog. Not searches for shame, but THE COLOR of shame. What’s that about??

Close to 50 people have searched for a variation of “what color is shame?” A goodly number spell that “colour,” which makes me suspect that the Brits have some shame issues going on.

People found my blog by searching for other colors, too, such as “what makes a vagina brown or pink?” No idea where that one came from. But see? This post does have some sex organs in it, after all.

Kicked Momentarily into Writerly Fame

Regarding cowboy boots: I posted a cartoon of a cowboy boot, because I was talking about my Texan dad. Now lots of people arrive at my blog because they are curious about cowboy boots. In fact, that phenomenon recently led to a huge high for me, closely followed by a resounding crash.

If you are a WordPress blogger, you know about being “Freshly Pressed,” wherein the WordPress Gods select a few blogs every day out of millions of posts and give them special recognition. Recipients often write about how their statistics go crazy, and they get a ton of hits all at once.

So some poor schmuck was having computer issues when s/he came looking for cowboy boots – a stuck clicker or something that led to several hundred hits on my blog, followed by a certainty in my mind that I had been Freshly Pressed.

I’m famous! My writing career is taking off! It’s about time they discovered my dynamic diction and scintillating syntax!

And then . . . scratch that. They were looking for a cowboy boot. A tilted cowboy hat, in this instance.

Random Roamers

Several have searched for “bald women” or “bald girls,” which gives me the heebies. In fact, I’m relieved that visitors do not have my home address, especially the ones searching for “axe rubber ducky” and “rubber duck sex pictures.” (See? More sex!)

I am glad that many people are interested in the spirituality of Attention Deficit Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which I want to write more about since I have both issues. A surprising number are interested in finding out if Maya Angelou is a CIA spy, and one person apparently has reason to believe that Yoko Ono works for them as well.

File:Yoko Ono 2007.jpg

CIA Operative Yoko Ono (courtesy of Wikimedia)

To the person who Googled “Diarrhea on a plane” and ended up on this Writing with Spirit blog: Bummer – I have no idea why you were sent here, but I hope you found what you needed elsewhere.

And just because, here are some searches that I am glad to be associated with:

Slow dancing with the moon

Move in rhythm with God

Bittersweet truth

Spiritual white cloud over a person’s head (don’t you love that?)

Jesus, I’m a mess

And of course: The spiritual realm and bee stings; and Sting on the butt.

Peace out, dear readers. Thanks for sticking with me for six-plus months.

Related Posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/on-pollinators-pain-gay-guys-and-gratitude/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/the-spirituality-of-attention-deficit-disorder/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/what-color-is-shame/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/hey-girl-youre-bald/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/rubber-ducky-exposes-cia-sexual-harassment/     SEX, SEX, SEX!!

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