The Power of Showing Up

“Mom, do me a favor and don’t ever just give up, ok?”

“Ok, giving up isn’t really my thing…”

“Yeah, I know. I know it’s hard right now with school and things.”

“Thanks, E. Are you worried I’m going to give up?”

“No, maybe, I dunno. It’s good that you’re asking for support, I like that you know when you need it and that you ask for it.”

“That’s part of being human, we all need to care for each other. Asking for help is in no way giving up, sometimes it’s the only way to make it through.”


“You know why asking for help is a really good way to prevent giving up?”

“No, why?”

“Because once you ask for the support, you have to show up to receive it.”


The power of showing up over and over, consistently, consciously, continuously is known to the folks who do it and keep doing it. The fantasy of laying low and the busting on the scene for the dramatic climax is a powerful trope in our society, but it’s a belief that keeps us from investing in the imperfect moment of now.

This is not a post about the grand entrance. This is not a post glorifying the moment the seal is broken. This is not a post about thunderous revelation or lightening bolt epiphany. This is a post celebrating the persistence of being. The middle span between high and low where foundations are created.

On this night ten years ago there was a Blue Moon. I went into my backyard and meditated under that moonlight. It was that night that I began my process of showing up. First I had to learn how to show up for myself, then for my children and now my community. It’s taken me 10 years to learn how to do this.

And there is no grand entrance on the horizon. Just more showing up. Just more making sure shit gets done. Just more responsibility and more incremental rewards. Happy self, happy kids, happy folks. The swings between high and low are minimal in my life. I keep as even a keel as possible.

It’s witches’ New Year’s Eve, for this witch, it’s the eve of a new decade. Tonight I’m celebrating a decade of getting shit done. Wearing the cloak and hood as the goddess of thankless tasks. Asking for the continuing strength to end what needs to end and begin what needs to begin.

Things Unsaid

I am having a moment. Fuck.

I’m transcribing the interviews from my thesis fieldwork, and while there is a lot of words to capture, there are also a lot of silences. It’s interesting to me, that when the person is speaking and their thoughts are flowing, I can hear myself in the audio making little sounds of affirmation, indicating that I’m with them and that their making sense and yes this is all very interesting and important. Because it is.

Some of what I’ve recorded is brand new to my field. I spent a year reading everything I could on the intersection of race and alternative sexuality; specifically consensual non-monogamy in US urban cities. The silence around racial privilege in polyamory is bright and shiny. Which is why I chose this topic… because of what was missing. The things left unsaid are startling.

We can not talk about sexuality in the US (or anywhere else Colonialism has ruled) without addressing racism and racial privilege. Can NOT. If you don’t want to talk about race and privilege, then kindly see yourself out of the social sciences. Go to psych, or maybe O-chem. Or how bout geology… yes, go over there. Rocks, that’s an awesome place to talk about colorblindedness and all that good good bullshit that makes eyes roll the world over.

So given that context, it’s not surprising, that there are silences in my interviews as well. Places where I didn’t think to push, or want intrude on the speaker, silences where my outsider status to what that person is relating is very, very apparent. Which is how it should be, right? I came to them as an outsider, as an academic, representing an institution and a discipline with a racist history and currently operating within the context of racist ideologies.

However, unlike the lack of information in the field of sexuality studies as a whole, the silences captured in my audio recordings feel like respect. Like it shows the awareness of my privilege within this dynamic.  I am grateful that, despite my formal training and intrinsically extrovert personality type, I was able to keep my mouth shut. The dilemma I am foreseeing though, is how to keep that form of respect intact through the process of analysis. I am worrying about my advisors, who may not be as concerned about acknowledging systemic and structuralized racial privilege as I am, asking for more, expecting deeper probes, wishing I had taken better advantage of the participant’s time.

I can see it from their standpoint… and that’s when I see academia as a place of higher ignorance.

All this really means is that I am going to have to defend my methodology. I am going to have to say some things often left unsaid to academia by academics. I will put the weight of authority on the words of the people, and not try to fill in the blanks left by my, and therefore academia’s, ignorance with some all encompassing sociological theories. Knowing something about a subject is not that same as knowing everything about a subject.

Hopefully, another person interested in the intersection of racism and mononormativity will read my work and see the bright and shiny silences. Maybe then they will craft another study. Maybe they will even take the time to critique my work. Maybe their framework for analysis will have better insight because of the things I’ve left unsaid. This is how the field will grow. How resistance to harmful ideology is built brick by brick, written paper by paper.

Until then, I’ll  be here typing. A lot. For a while.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement

Image design by Rha Bowden.

I was on the phone with my dad, mostly talking about the weather. And not in that humdrum pass the time kind of way, no, we actually like to talk about the weather. Even when we don’t mean to, our conversations drift toward storm patterns and new measuring instruments. This time I was talking about the Occupy tent cities in Oakland, San Francisco and Seattle, and my dad brought up the weather systems in each city.

“Oakland is great for a long term outdoor occupation, look at the weather right now!”

“That is true.”

“San Francisco and Seattle, though, that’s a lot of sea air, lot of cold moisture.”

“Mm-hm, well that’s part of the reason why the police are so determined take the structures down in the middle of the night. The people need them.”

“Sure, sure, I understand this Occupy Wall Street stuff… it makes sense you’d be supportive, with all your student loans, and single parent with young kids, you’re the 99%!”


“Uh, Dad? You’re the 99% too.”

“Oh. Er, right. I uh guess I am.”

I’ve written about the world of privilege my father moves through. He’s got them all. He’s the right gender, the right color, the right body, the right family, the right mind, the right sexual orientation, right legal status, right language, right generation, ect.

I don’t want to go into my dad’s finances as they’re not mine to share, but he is firmly deeply truly not anywhere near the 1%, in fact, economically speaking, he’s not even middle class. He doesn’t own any property due to a foreclosure from being laid off from the large firm he was a HR director at. He’s back to scraping by through self employment. No retirement, no substantial savings, no health insurance. And yet, he doesn’t identify with the individuals involved in Occupy Wall Street.

The Occupy Movement is one month old today, and it is indeed a global movement: “951 cities in 82 countries”. There are the most amazing multi-media maps at sites like Mother Jones and The Guardian UK  if you’re a data and/or media geek it’s really really impressive to see these live action data sets compiled and made available to the public.

But back to my dad, I think for him, it is all about perception and privilege. He can’t possibly be that bad off, he’s white! and college educated! and a US citizen! and tall! Really tall! He’s the same as the men in charge, right? They’re his people. All those bastard ass CEO’s and corrupt politicians, slimey, smarmy, selfish to the point of sociopathy hedge fund managers and bankers, they  would surely invite him to a round of golf, no?

No, Dad, they won’t. I’ve met a few billionaires in my time in the Bay Area, and no, Dad, as much as you may think you have in common based upon your shared societal privileges, they actually want nothing to do with you.

My dad believes he just hit a rough spot. He’ll be back on his feet in no time. He must have done something wrong. Sorry, Dad, this is a large scale economic global catastrophe. Bigger than any one individual’s bad decision. Yes, you did something wrong, you’re not in the 1%.

Welcome, Dad, to the land of the other.

Some of us have been here for a very long time. Born into a legacy of not being right. Most of us are in the wrong. We are the wrong legal status, we are the wrong gender, the wrong color, the wrong sexual orientation and sexuality, we speak the wrong language, come from the wrong family, have the wrong body, the wrong mind and we make all the wrong decisions all the time. That’s why we’re all not millionaires right? Why we’re not all upper middle class, why we’re not all middle class, why we are barely above the poverty line, why we are living in first world poverty. Why we have no security or stability, right? Because the billionaires are right and we, the 99% are all somehow wrong.

For the people who are just now seeing that their privileges aren’t protecting them to the degree they once were, I hope your awakening imparts a deep empathy towards those who’ve never had the luxury of that ignorance.

I hope we are questioning the values and confronting the inherent inequity that have traditionally supported our own domestic legal and global financial systems; ie colonialism.

I sincerely hope that this movement is not, as some have said, simply a demand for the return to the social hierarchy where your average 55 year old white male was secure and rewarded for his rightness and the rest of us were paying dearly for our inability to be just that.

To me, the Occupy Movement is calling ourselves out for that cruel, unjust and unsustainable plan of economic action. We arrived at this place because enough people buy into the idea that the poor deserve to be poor. That the disenfranchised are at fault for their disenfranchisement. Hell, the fact that we even have a term for the systematic deprivation of civil power is a big fucking hint. Enough people in the US believe that the only way for their bread to get buttered is if they snatch it out of the hands of somebody else. I guess it’s worked up until now, but then again, we’re all pretty much fucked unless we stand together for some serious, paradigm shifting change.

Homework & Horizons

This morning, I’m still in bed, one arm flung over my face, I hear C’s voice:

“Mom, what is the horizon? Mom, what is the vanishing point? Mom, how many points of perspective can an artist have?”

“Uh you wanna bring me some coffee?” I know there is a tinge of pleading in my voice. The boys have a break from school today, and of course C decided to wake up extra early.


I feel a mug pressed into my hand; cold black coffee leftover from yesterday’s pot. That’ll work.

“Mom, what is the horizon? Mom, where is the vanishing point? Mom, how many points of perspective can an artist have?”

Sipping at the bitterness, one eye opens, then the other, “Need some context, please, what is this for?”


tick tick tick, I’m waiting for the cogs to start spinning… Sip.

“In a landscape drawing the horizon is the line where the sky meets the ground…” sip.


“The vanishing point is when a line or object goes beyond the horizon…” sip.


“One point perspective means one vanishing point on the horizon, two point perspective means two horizons, and each object has two vanishing points to connect with…” sip.


“An artist can have as many perspectives as their skill level allows.” Sip.

scribble scribble scribble, “K, thanks.”



Of course, now I’m awake and left to my own thoughts. I didn’t tell C what I really think and feel about horizons; those imaginary lines boxing us in. The unreachable, untouchable plateaus that are supposed to tell us when we’ve arrived. Horizons mark the ‘there’ in ‘over there’. I didn’t tell him how often I feel hemmed in by horizons even though I know it’s all an illusion.

Vanishing points, to me, are the moments of heartbreak. The moment when what you want is no longer sustainable and you turn your back on something or someone you would have made the center of your world, but now must fade into the unreachable distance.

Perspective… I meant what I said about the skill level. You can see as many points of view as you have the patience and tolerance to stand. There is a mastery to broadening one’s perspective, built upon experiences and the confrontation of fears, a process repeatable and reliable.