Fairy Tale Bruiser or Theme Reveal

 

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I have always loved stories. When we define ourselves, we use the words we see ourselves through. They are the words that define the story we tell ourselves,as well as others.

I remember discovering fantasy and science-fiction and feeling as if the world had shifted beneath my feet. I think Anne RIce might be my intro, followed by Octavia E Butler, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Tom Robbins, Gaiman, Jacqueline Carey, Terry Pratchett, Mercedes Lackey, Laurelle K Hamilton, Patricia Briggs and many many others. I always tended towards fantasy and I always tended towards women. I loved women that carried swords, hunted vampires, struggled to defeat the monsters within themselves and in general, kicked butt.

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Michael Sowa

 

My favorites were always the fairy tales. While I believe it is common to think that anyone who loves fairy tales is waiting for a prince , fairy godmother or some magical intervention to swoop down and make it all better, that was never how I saw them at all. There is always an orphan, a terrible plight, a loved one in jeopardy or some other extreme example of someone in need. I enjoyed the struggle of characters that were more real to me than most of the humans in my life.

When  I was around 13 a psychiatrist noted that I had sociopathic tendencies, a made sociopath as opposed to one born without the capacity for empathy.  This really meant that while most of good little girls and boys were taught lying, stealing, violence and

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Malisande and Phedre; Kushiels Dart by Jacqueline Carey

skullduggery were inherently not only wrong but dishonorable, I was taught how to do them well and rewarded as my skills developed. It is a bit like being taught that right is left and left is right. It’s gonna fuck you up in a myriad of small and substantial ways. You can learn to accept the “right” way of things, but it’s not the same integral aspect of your personal foundation, that the people around you seem to be built upon.

If you had to pick your own path and there was no road map given by the people who raised you, what would you pick and choose to build yourself upon? For me I found  that map in it the pages of books filled with heroes and heroines that fought personal demons as much as real monsters upon their paths.

In a week or so April will be upon us and so the A to Z Blogging challenge will begin. I have examined a lot of ideas regarding the theme I want to explore and this concept of finding myself in stories, in rewriting my own tale keeps clinging to my thoughts no matter jamie-and-clairewhere I turn. I have never been good at short stories. I envy and adore the storytellers that have mastered the small gem of a moment, a day, a single experiences and can spin it into a tale that sticks to everything you hear afterwards, reshaping the weft and weave of future experiences. This project has been something that I have used to force me to write, try new things and both fail and succeed at both.

My project for this April will be combining the idea of fairy tales, self-definition and how I continue trying to find a path toward being the bitch with quick wit, a loving heart, honor and strength to confront the shadows.

Just remember that in most good tales, a lot of tears, pain, breaking and growth happens to get there.

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Image: Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues By Diana Rowland

 

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Buckets, Bowls, Cups OR Mixed Metaphors on Jealousy, Love and Acceptance

In my daughter’s preschool classroom they taught them the concept of “bucket fillers” and “bucket dippers”. The bucket is the physical, mental, spiritual YOU. Have you heard this before? It is based on some of the first concepts of Buddhism I was ever exposed to.

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For my daughter it was about giving and taking; doing Good, being Kind, sharing and cultivating a generous heart, these were all ways to fill not only your bucket but other’s buckets. Being selfish, mean spirited, hurting others, these were all ways that not only took from other’s buckets, but also from your own.  At every turn, the children were asked about their choices and if the were being a “filler” or a “dipper”. It was a convenient and easily accessible analogy for the kids and lead to longer more detailed conversations about Buddhism in our household and what it really meant to give and take.

I have heard a few stories used to teach this lesson over the years to young and old and i have been thinking about the concept often of late. Why? A version of this lesson has made it into my own explanations of what it means to share partners, to love openly and to be ethically non-monogamous.

I was a t a birthday party for one of my oldest friends and most favorite people and ended up in a conversation with a girl who couldn’t understand the dynamics of what being polyamorous meant. Partially this was logistics (hold on..she goes out with..and you do him and they do…AHHHHHH! *insert exploding head*)

Onward friends, to the hard won wisdom found, when I try to explain foreign concepts in simple terms to people that  already think I’m a nutter.

Ah yes buckets. Buckets are not sexy or cute, they make me think of mopping floors, puke and other unpleasant ways to spend a day off. Lets switch to bowls, okay?

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We each have a bowl (in my minds eye, mine would be a lovely hand carved wooden one that is wide and deep), in it lies all that we have to give and all we have to take.

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Doing things for others, whether we’re talking Good deeds or charity , are well known ways to be happier, because the act of giving time, money or care makes us both happy and more likely to give more.

This also means , showing up for the people in your life even when it’s inconvenient, smiling at a stranger, spending quality time with friends and making dinner can all be acts of kindness that fill our bowls. I feel like most of us already know this stuff, but it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves about the wonderful selfishness of giving. It is the kind of reciprocity that feeds instead of drains.

Another aspect of this lies in how we fill our bowls with self-care. Reading, going to the movies, meditation, exercise, bike rides, flour fights in the kitchen, baths or maybe just taking a nap on the couch can all add to what we have in our bowls and therefore what we have to give.

One more side this idea is accepting acts of kindness, time, energy and love. This is the part I always had a hard time with. Accepting other’s care has always been difficult. I like to take care of people. I like to feed them, listen and provide safe harbor; yet my life and this year in particular have been lessons in humility and gratitude. In the act of accepting what was being offered, my weathering-the-storm-manrelationships were strengthened in ways I couldn’t have predicted.  I realized again how fucking arrogant I can be and how that arrogance blinds me to other people’s need to participate, make a difference and be present. Maybe one day I’ll stop needing to learn this one, but I highly doubt it.

So how does this new-agey touchy-feely liberal hogwash tie into the sexy stuff?
I’m so glad you asked!

As I tried to explain at my friends’ party, the ability to share is all in how you think about it.

First I am giving my partner freedom, trust and acceptance. All rare commodities that make me happier because I can give that gift to someone  I love. If someone else speaks to an aspect of  their needs that I can not supply, I’m glad they found it. This could be sexually or a whole host of other things.  I am somewhat of a homebody, I lack some common levels of empathy and generally speaking I’m rougher rather than soft in most aspects of life and love. I do not expect to fulfill every need nor should I be expected to do so. I can give them those things through acceptance, trust and freedom to explore. As an aside, if you look around and can’t appreciate the value of these gifts, you are an idiot and deserve to lose them.

 

Second, I am caring for myself when I am taking care of my needs. The easiest example I can give is my bi-sexuality. Do Kinsey photoyou know the Kinsey Scale? It’s a common tool to test sexuality . I am a 3, equally homosexual and heterosexual.  To only have one gender as an option is like always being a little bit hungry , no matter how happy I am. Having both genders in my life makes me feel balanced and more whole.  Feeding that need instead of pretending that it either doesn’t exist or feeling like I’m wrong for wanting it in the first place, is pretty wonderful and fills me up in ways  (yes I totally see the pun…) I can’t explain easily without going off the mushy deep-end here.  This is an easy example, but there are all kinds of self-care we each can do to fill our bowls so we have more to give.

Third (I DO so love lists), I have no need to change anyone. This means, I am not looking to any one partner to be anything they are not. I know that when I am completely accepted, it is …freedom.  We are all imperfect, dented and a little bit bruised from this life. I have scars and I have come to realize that I am not the only one and I find them the most beautiful part of the people I love. I can fill my cup and others’s as well simply by giving that back. I can accept what they have to give, accept it without expectation of more and always be satisfied. Acceptance is such a precious gift. I get to accept what my partners have to offer freely and with joy, I don’t need any one of them to be something they are not and they get my love and acceptance for who and what they are. This is such a drastic shift from the place I have often found myself, in a place of want, where needs are not being met simply because neither person can be everything.  No one is satisfied and everyone feels like they are wanting. It seems really foolish to think it could be otherwise.

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I am not jealous, because there is no need to be. My partners are telling me what’s going on, I am a participant in their world. Additionally, their happiness makes me happy. Why shouldn’t it? I am the person they bring their stories, worries and adventures to and I love that. Who else should they talk to? I love them and I trust they love me and if they don’t that’s okay too. Yes, I am not dependent on any one person to keep me upright and fulfilled but that isn’t even the point. The point is twofold. I don’t want them to be with me if I am not making them happy, if I can not be something they accept, love and are accepted and loved by. I want them to have that! I really do. My role in their life way be a for a reason, a season or a lifetime but in any of those situations it is not dependent on a single role or title I need to define them by or be defined by, myself.

I just dig them and that’s enough to fill our cups.

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My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life ~ Psalm 23:5-6

 

 

 

Morality (Radiolab)

Welcome to the first installment of my attempt at thoughtful exploration, or at least to think. I decided to try the Radiolab episode on Morality first, you know, start small.

This episode starts off with a two part thought experiment. You will have to make a choice at the end of each one.

Part One
You are near some train tracks, there are five workers on the track. They’ve got their backs turn to the trolley, which is coming in the distance. They do not see, hear or feel it coming. You can’t shout to them, and if you do nothing, they will all die.
You have two choices

  1. You can do nothing
  2. There is a lever next to you, which you can pull, causing the trolley to jump on to some side tracks where there is only one worker.

So, do you kill  1 man by pulling a lever or kill 5 by doing nothing?

My answer is pull the damn lever, and I am not alone. They claim 9 out of 10 people choose to pull the lever. What’s your answer?

Part Two
You are standing above some train tracks, on a foot bridge. There are five guys below, just as in the first question. The trolley is coming, again, they can not hear, see or feel its approach. You can not yell, signal or in anyway tell them of the impending doom. Next to you is a large man, and you realize if you pushed him, he would divert the train and the train would only kill the fat man, saving the five workers.
*For the sake of this experiment, let us assume you can not sacrifice yourself

  1. Do you do nothing, allowing all 5 to die
  2. Do you push the fat man and save the 4 workers?

There have been hundreds of people asked this question, and though most say “yes” to the first, the same amount say “NO” to the second part. Resoundingly so. When asked “why?”, most people can not explain why murder by lever is okay while murder by pushing is wrong.

They follow the path of science and look at how the brain reacts when deciding these questions of calculation and morality. Different parts of the brain light up with each question, on the first it’s a question of logic, while on the second it’s a more instinctual guttural reaction.  They ask the question, is morality part of our evolution or an aspect that sets us apart as creatures of reason?

For my two cents, I think I’d pull the lever and push the guy. Unless of course they were related to me, then fuck the bastards on the ground. Logic vs ingrained instinctual evolved reactions?

This episode goes in many directions and I don’t think I can cover it all here, but I wanted to focus on these questions and one or two other points. They bring into question how we think and why. Why we feel the way we do and how it informs our moral make-up.

I have one more layer to add. The M.A.S.H> question.

You are in a basement, in a war torn region, with all of your village; family and friends you have known everyday of your life. You are holding your baby, who has as stuffy nose. Enemy forces are scouring the village, and they will torture and kill anyone they find. Your baby has been coughing. If you cover the baby’s mouth they won’t hear, and your village will escape, but you will smother the baby and she/he will die. Do you sacrifice everyone’s life, including your own and the baby’s OR do you kill your own child, saving everyone else?

My wife said “I would risk it, I wouldn’t kill my child. That’s a cowards way out”, which I understand, but I have to ask a question. Couldn’t it also be perceived as the cowards way out to NOT kill the baby?. Perhaps not being able to make this sacrifice for the better of the many over the one is the ultimate cowardice? This goes against something so base within us, our children, the reason to continue on and be better. Even if you aren’t a parent, the whole argument of  “you have to think of the future” posed against any short sighted effort, whether it be pollution or choosing a job that helps others..it’s all for the future of what? The continuation of our species, right? Even the only mildly adjusted among us, don’t like to see children hurt, it just goes against how we’re made.

What would you do? Some days I would sacrifice my child. I would probably kill myself right after and follow them along that path, but I think I would do it. On other days when I hold my daughter, when she’s tired and her body is heavy and limp, trusting me to hold her? I realize I have walked away from logic and any life would be worth one more breath from her little body.  I’m not sure which path is stronger, weaker or morally bereft.This also calls in to question, the sanctity of life. My wife would argue that all life is sacred, hence the ban on swatting bugs in my house. I on the other hand, don’t see life that way.

When I was 13, my psychiatrist made an observation that has followed me my whole life. She said I displayed “sociopathic tendencies” , that I lacked a certain level of empathy, my sense of “guilt” was underdeveloped (or barely recognizable..whatever). The morality conversation, invariably smacks into the idea of empathy. Does it separate us from other creatures? Are we born with empathy in place? The Radiolab episode touches on children, exploring when empathy develops and how. Anecdotally, it seems like it’s both part of us as a species and something fine tuned by societal expectations. How then, does that effect those of us without the same societal expectations?

We teach our kids about hitting, fairness, being kind etc, many ideals we ourselves have bent and broken given the right circumstance (or person).  Yet what they are saying is that the core values, of right and wrong (“Do you kill your baby?”) strikes us in the reptile brain, a knee jerk denial taking hold. The finer points are harder to parse out.

Radiolab ponders if shame/guilt are the emotions that divide us from our primate cousins. I wonder about this a lot. I was never a guilty person, I felt and still do, that is a mostly wasteful emotion. It tears people apart, and I have rarely if ever seen any good come of it. I will add shame to this pile too. Regret, yes, I get that. Being aware you made a mistake, or hurt someone, and confronting that while trying to alter that behavior in the future, that I understand. Shame? Guilt? I would much rather have someones changed behavior over their heartfelt sorrow at a slight. Alternately, anxiety over guilt and shame from a past action seems to fell the strongest, brightest people I have known. Instead of these emotions being the things that makes us special, I wonder if they are the Achilles heel that foils the brightest among us?

Our daughter is testing and pushing, trying out things she knows will get a reaction. She will kill the bug her cousin wants to save, just to see what will happen. If she was at home, she would of saved the bug. She says hurtful things to her mommas like “I don’t like you, I want you to leave this family!”. She is aware of curse words but is not so interested in those, she is going after the ones she sees dividing adulthood from childhood, those that are not allowed to her, “stupid” being top on the banned list. My wife worries that she will become a “mean girl”, but I am fascinated by this emotional growth, this mental drawing of lines in the sand.

What is “good” and what is “bad”? How do we figure it out? What IS morality? She is making observations along the lines of empathy, trying them on, seeing if they fit her quickly growing sense of self. Watching her makes me realize that if any of us is still growing, still discovering our world (which I hope to be doing until my body ends), we are still doing this. I am still learning what is right and wrong, as I get older and the lines blur and reform. I have had high ideals over the years, things I believed to be absolute and almost all of them have been, if not broken, remade into different less black and white versions of themselves.

I am still defining morality for myself and trying to help my daughter figure her’s out as well, with differing levels of success. I would like to hear other stories and ideas on the subject, so please share them with me if you are so inclined.  One way conversations are rather boring, I hope you will join in.