mindingmybiz

This blog is my shared process in working towards integrating self-awareness with all other aspects of life, while on my way to becoming more authentic and whole.

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Men: A Call to Men, by a Woman

I’m coming out of the closet with being so fed up with the teeny tiny toxic man box, as a woman. I have HAD it with the ass backwards relationships between a man and his power, which is socially reinforced like it’s on steroids.

By the way, if you don’t know what I’m referring to when I say “man box” watch this:

Mr’s. please hear me. We have brave men who specifically support and speak into empowering women to heal and rise above the toxic social messages that imply or convey that they are second class citizens, and to instead know their worth and resist these sexist messages that society or their past tells them. I appreciate those men’s voices in support of women rising above a culture that tries to stifle them. It may be a long shot, but for whatever it’s worth, I offer my voice speaking into men’s lives wherever it may be received.

It’s challenging for a woman to speak to men about gender issues because an insidious part of gender issues, specifically related to gender violence against women, comes from living inside the man box, where women are considered inferior – easily dismissed or slammed for speaking out. I wonder if this means most men are receptive only to men when it comes to having a conversation about what it means to be a real man even though most men who live with women or girls want to be validated by them as being real men too, even if they don’t show it. I’ll take my chances that some men are receptive to voices that aren’t exclusively from men when it comes to this topic. I believe a part of the problem is that most men are unaware of being inside that same man box, even if they never become violent towards a woman themselves, and this is what perhaps contributes to keeping them silent and complicit – adhering to the invisible man code of omission in the face of commission when it comes to violence against women. I am witness to this, and I will not stay silent, though I am not a man.

I’m a woman who has unfortunately experienced domestic violence, has reached out to men in my life asking them to confront this issue and the man with me, and nobody answers that call. Instead I get a litany of excuses for their disengagement, even if that means a woman they care about is at risk for being seriously hurt or worse. Where are the men? They are hiding in that man box, which is preventing them from being the men they could be, because that means being vulnerable, taking initiative, and therefore putting their egos in the backseat so they’re free to take risks with other men. That is why I’m personally fed up with this man box. The only thing that fits neatly inside is a very fragile male ego.

As a woman, I don’t have that man box to contend with in order to feel validated in my gender. I am not stifled by the socialization of my gender that is highly controlling and restrictive when it comes to having emotions. When I do encounter this from other women, I believe it’s second hand to women who have been indoctrinated by men AND women who believe the man box is all there is when it comes to being men. It can restrict everyone to a certain degree, but less for women than men in my experience.

I know I’m a woman, I don’t feel the need to prove this by acting out in certain ways with men or women that violate or ignore the right to consciously have my own values. That is a gender-based prison our culture throws boys and men into, that creates barriers from ever being challenged from the inside out, by other men, or by women who are obviously not men, and therefore according to the man box, don’t really matter.

Sirs – please. Break out of that man box.

The reality is you DO have power which is unique to being a man. You can choose how, when, and where to wield that power but since it is power, there are big stakes involved. I am speaking as a woman who has been through the clutches of domestic violence, which in most cases though not all (some women do have significant physical and financial advantages over their male partners) involve a man using his advantages to evade his own inner emotional work, at the expense of his own family and exploits a woman’s vulnerabilities by going to great lengths to avoid his own. Although believing (albeit unconsciously) that entering into vulnerability or emotional work is optional at best, or God-forbidden – “women’s work” at worst. That the relinquishment of the only kind of power he knows – power OVER others, including parts of himself that he’s terrified or ashamed of, cannot be let go of. It’s as if his penis might shrink or fall off if he gets in touch with his emotional life.

Undoubtedly, you’ve been taught by a culture that you cannot afford to give up this man box. That the only thing to fear is, fear or vulnerability. But your shield of invulnerability is what keeps you caged inside the toxic tiny man box, and locks away your true sense of power – the power to consciously and courageously navigate through your own internal world and integrate that world with your external world. Your internal world of vulnerability exists whether you openly acknowledge it or not. Integrate this in a way that makes you feel undeniably and unpretentiously self-respecting and can entitle you to feel like the kind of man you will be proud of while in the vulnerable unmasked presence of those you’re closest to and know you best, your own family.

I cannot tell you how to do that work, as a man. I’ve never had to break out of the man box, but I’ve lived with men who are extremely attached to it, and it’s hurt. Profoundly. That kind of work IS man’s work. We women have our own work when it comes to getting out of our own unhealthy gendered socialization. It’d be presumptuous and arrogant of me to tell you how to breakout of the man box just like it would be if a man were to tell me how to heal my wounds from sexism or misogyny. The kind of traveling companion you need is a brother of sorts, a man who knows what it’s like to live in that box, and work his way out.

I can tell you that this refusal to STEP UP and LEAD your family, or your community, your department, your tribe of whatever proportions – with courage, humility, and self-respect is squashed when you live in that toxic man box.

The way UP is OUT.

The way to move UP from boyhood and into manhood with bravery, integrity, and strength that doesn’t dominate others out of a fear of vulnerability is to get OUT of this toxic man box, and get around other men who are doing the same. They do exist. Just as women who are healing from our own gender-based wounds, you cannot do this alone, which herein lies a challenge if you’re stuck in that box. You need others, and they need you, because you’re doing what your sperm has to do in order to create a new life – swim upstream. Graphic, but don’t miss the rich symbolism in how new human life is created.

One of my favorite quotes comes from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

“If you want to know what a man’s like take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

This is the kind of strength and leadership women want from their men in intimate relationships. It’s hot. It’s sexy. It’s admirable and will make most women take pause. But in order to get to that point, you have to stop burying what the man box says you need to bury – your feelings. The vulnerable ones, not just your feelings related to being pissed off or horny, you’ll need the rest of them too – they’re there.

Our culture does you a disservice when they sell you short with the man box, and you cannot escape being exposed to it – it’s widespread in our American culture.

Depending on how much or how little you’ve been exposed to life outside of the man box, you may need either a shovel to dig out your emotions, or an excavator. But who do you need permission from in order to begin doing this work? – YOURSELF.

Doesn’t waiting on other men or mainstream culture to grant you permission to be fully alive and consciously awake to ALL of your emotions render you vulnerable and dependent, which is a violation of that man box you adhere to anyway?

Our culture does no favors to you, women, or children by keeping you in that man box. Dig yourself out, don’t wait for someone else to rescue you or grant you that permission. If you don’t have it from other men in your life right now, that’s OK. Revolt. Find men who get it. If you give in to the man box, you may slowly die by burying core parts of yourself alive inside a box that cannot handle a man that’s fully alive – thinking and feeling independent of that man box. Dig like the quality of your life depended on it, because I’m willing to bet a lot of it does if you have any women or girls in your life that you hold dear. And do it wholeheartedly because, you are worth more than half-assing it.

For more resources go to:

http://www.acalltomen.org/

Thank you.

De-Colonizing Christianity

At a recent local para-Christian ministry meeting, I was reminded of one of the main reasons I left “the church”. Now, once in awhile I’ll attend a church service, but I feel more like an outsider, rather than “one of the flock” and I like it like that for now, and perhaps that won’t ever change.

A home was purchased for the purpose of doing ministry in the community. I think that is a WONDERFUL thing. And the people who were meeting all seemed to have loving and caring hearts, that wanted to reach out to others and help extend the kind of healing they’ve received, to others.

Please note, this is not an attack on the people, this is an attempt to raise awareness on implicit and unconscious biases of a group of people, and there are always exceptions, but my experience didn’t lend to the notion that I was bumping up against an exception, but rather a rule, because of the silence and complicitness within a group of people.

One of the modalities of healing which was shared was of Yoga. There was one very strong and vocal opponent of using Yoga. She is active in something called “Deliverance Ministry” where you deliver people from evil or demonic spirits. She said she had delivered demonic spirits from people who were well advanced into their yoga practice and believed it was in complete opposition to her Christian faith, believing it to be a dangerous practice. This stirred up some tension as there were others in the room in support of yoga. One of the peace-making attempts was initiated by a woman who tried to identify with the woman who was opposed to yoga by saying when she got really into essential oils, this was criticized by other Christians she knew as being “Asian” and the implicit notion was that it therefore, should not be readily accepted by Christians.

Well, I am Asian. Specifically – Korean adopted. I was born in Korea, adopted and raised by White American parents where I was raised “in the church”. Perhaps that’s why I feel so brazen in addressing these heated issues of both race and religion in one post. Part of me feels as though I’m one of them too, who held the same beliefs around Christianity, without being racially self-aware due to a huge lack of race being openly discussed or addressed in my transracially adopted home. It was as if my racial difference didn’t really exist, to the point where I often even forgot I wasn’t White, but Asian. Sorry, I digress, that’s a whole different blog post.

So, I was the only Asian or non-white person in the ministry meeting, and was offended by that microaggression or bordering blatantly racist remark. I spoke up and said “Can I just say, not all Christians are white.” Nobody else commented or responded. The one person who absolutely would have spoken up was on the receiving end of her own microaggressions or scrutiny due to being a yoga instructor. But nobody else spoke up. It’s as if I wasn’t really saying anything anyone else could understand. There was acknowledgment of the offensive talk around the demonization (literally) of yoga, since several others in the group also spoke up and came to the defense of yoga because they’ve had their own positive experiences with yoga, even though from one individual there was a strong resistance and accusation of yoga being “dangerous” partly because it had its roots in India, in Hinduism, this religion that worships false gods and idols, and not the “One True God of the Bible”.

While the following is my interpretation from the not so implicit bias – this is more or less how it came across to me – as implicit racism rearing its ugly but well-disguised “Christian” head asserting its implicit White dominance:

“Yoga does NOT have its origins in the White-European culture, therefore it’s an aberration and is to be feared, thus saith the Lord!”

And it is to this implicit racism I would like to speak quite explicitly to, if you could grant me permission to possibly offend you if you are a White Christian, who is not (in the words of my 13 year old daughter) been “woke” yet.

Granted, I am no Biblical scholar, credentialed theologian, or historian. I am just an average lay person who doesn’t have white skin, who’s intrigued by Jesus, but finds some of his followers, particularly White Christians – very difficult to deal with at times.

Here we go…

Oh – Trigger alert if you have White fragility and if you don’t know what the hell heck that is, you likely have it if any mention of your “Whiteness” as a race triggers you. I’ve learned this is a very fragile space to speak directly to, but for the grace of God, there go I…

Christianity is not a White-European based religion or faith. Jesus’ race was not of European descent, he was of the Middle Eastern/Northern African region and descent.

Reminder: Jesus was NOT White.

According to forensic scientists, Jesus most likely had dark-brown skin, dark brown eyes, and dark colored hair. And his first disciples were likely not White either. Please, stop colonizing Christianity. Like Yoga, Christianity does not have its origins in White-European culture.

A “false god” or “idol” you may need deliverance from is your White privilege that believes strongly albeit unconsciously, that anything that deviates from White-European based culture, including how one practices their faith (Christian or otherwise) is aberrant, and therefore inferior and to be distrusted. This ego that is implicitly racist, just might be playing the role of a false god, which should probably be humbly examined.

You can build a wall around your White implicitly racist egos, but you cannot isolate god or Jesus to those who look and act like you. But, you can be delivered from this false idol by repenting and turning on the lights to your own fears, insecurities, pain, and defense mechanisms which often scapegoat those for doing just as you do, but don’t look or talk like you. There IS hope for your liberation from White implicit racism. The Lord can help you become “woke” but first you’ll have to stop colonizing and White-washing Christianity.

The abundant life is enjoyed better when you’re awake. But just as the Native American proverb goes – “You can’t wake someone who is pretending to be asleep.”

My words are spoken in an attempt to wake some people up who are dangerously sleepwalking in their racial ignorance combined with their Christianity. I’m willing to assume that it’s not consciously intentional. So, now you can examine it with conscious awareness, if you so choose.

Will you now hit the snooze button and go back to sleep? Or will you stretch, and arise?

Fragility vs. Sensitivity

I am an emotionally sensitive person.  This is not to be confused with being an emotionally fragile person.  

My emotional sensitivity creates more incentive in cultivating self-awareness versus self-ignorance, because this sensitivity also makes me a more conscientious person who has to rumble with my ethics and guilt, and discern if it is healthy/ethical guilt, or if I’m being guilt-tripped beyond the point where my ethics have authority and I’ve crossed over into someone else’s primary jurisdiction of personal responsibility. Sometimes there are very fine lines, and grey areas of both/and. This is why boundaries are so important for me. It helps channel my attention and energy, which there seems to be more of due to this heightened sensitivity, and with that there needs to be heightened boundaries.

I’m becoming more aware of this innate drive to engage inwardly and do it with compassionate curiosity, because it’s nearly impossible to ignore and escape from due to my sensitive nature.

-Again, notice I said sensitive, not fragile.

An exquisite perceptivity resides within me due to this highly sensitive way of being. In and of itself, this high sensitivity is neither good nor bad – it can be both good and bad, depending on the situation, but alone it is neutral. Subtle or nuanced qualities register on my radar that often go over the heads of others. I sense, discern, and am aware of more, this is what it’s like to be highly sensitive. I have a sensitive radar, and have often been misjudged as being weak or “too sensitive” implying emotional weakness or fragility. But having this inner highly sensitive apparatus doesn’t make me fragile, nor does it make me a mind-reader.

Often, I will sense the presence of certain emotions, and that is where the conscious boundary is practicing being placed, thanks to Professor Pain in the class of Hard Knocks101. I sense an emotion, but can set a boundary with my Storyteller who immediately starts concocting a story about this emotion or the person, which has gotten me into trouble with mistakenly making boundary intrusions on others. I must say though, at times that Storyteller is spot-on or pretty damn close IF I’ve been invited into part of a person’s inner sacred journey before. But even so, this Storyteller is far from infallible, she’s still got human limitations.

Now, I will speak to this “fragility” label, because I’ve often internalized this. Just as there are special devices that can see infrared light which is invisible to the naked eye, this is how it is for me concerning emotions. Devices used to detect infrared light are considered a valuable resource when illumination and awareness of infrared light is valued. The device’s ability to do that isn’t slammed as being “weak” or “fragile. The capacity for emotional sensitivity can serve as a valuable resource for people with this emotional radar as well, when there is receptivity to emotional awareness. It can actually be a very valuable resource, when emotions are valued.

The opportunity available from this capacity is for me to connect more intimately with my emotions, and to the emotions of others. There’s a flip side though – it’s much more challenging to ignore or numb out from what I sense, even when I don’t WANT the awareness. Sometimes these emotions (mine or others) are inside of conscious awareness and sometimes, they are not. I am learning to expand the space in my conscious awareness, for there is where I have more freedom to choose.

This ability to sense subtle stuff does not make me fragile. On the contrary, I have the opportunity to turn towards what I sense or, turn my back on what I sense. I am learning to turn towards these with intention and curiosity, versus reactively invalidating or defending against feeling them, or projecting my own unwanted emotions onto others because they make me uncomfortable.

Emotional sensitivity is not the same as emotional fragility. Emotional fragility is often unconsciously dependent on being unaware and ignorant of an emotional life, for fear that the awareness of emotions will shatter you. 

The operative unspoken rule: “Thou shalt not be emotionally aware.”

Usually with the exception of one emotion (or if you’re super lucky- two, with happy usually as one of those “acceptable emotions”) – all others are rejected or denied because they’re threatening or “too heavy”.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands! [clap clap!] Meanwhile all other emotions are denied.

– And this is emotional fragility.

It’s usually an unconscious transaction that’s passed on from one generation to the next, which invests lots of energy into avoiding or turning your back on emotions (yours and others’) rather than acknowledging or let alone feeling them. It’s not usually a conscious option to connect to them for better self-understanding or empathically understanding others. Emotional fragility makes empathy nearly impossible, and when it is present it’s an extremely rare and limited edition.

Emotional fragility judges emotional sensitivity as a nuisance at best, and as defective at worst, because being exquisitely aware of emotions is threatening and intolerable.  This is generationally passed down until someone says “enough” to emotional fragility and digs into their own inner healing work.

Being sensitive means SENSING emotions, not creating them. It’s being aware and receptive of them as they naturally arise. Digging through emotions is what emotionally sensitive people can value, because burying them requires SO much more work.  Burying over emotions is what emotionally fragile people value, because emotional awareness itself is devalued, at great relational and eventually physical costs. There is a connection between our emotional health and our physical health.

Emotionally avoidant behaviors usually result in accumulating emotions and this accumulation comes with hefty taxes and unwanted side-effects because it’s running away from what ISemotional reality, from the inside out. It’s resistance. And what you resist, persists.

Emotionally fragile people depend on not feeling their discomfort and becoming closed-off and defensive towards anything or anyone who triggers these f-f-f-feeeelings. This doesn’t seem to work against them until the accumulation of emotional debt piles up and start burying them alive. Usually personal relationships, either intimate or in the workplace, start to unravel. The build-up of a denied emotional life creates a tumor that is not benign.

Emotionally sensitive people who have learned to welcome and honor their sensitivity will start to work with their discomfort, becoming openly curious about it when triggered. I’ve also noticed, their “bottoms” tend to be higher than the non-sensitive person’s.

Emotional fragility is often a life lived while walking on eggshells, using more and more bubble wrap around self-awareness, until you can barely function without rigidity and stiffness.  Emotional sensitivity often requires you to live life with resiliency because you can’t live life with bubble wrap around your emotions, so you experience quicker consequences when you don’t take regular emotional self-inventories, but you also experience deeper satisfaction when you do. The lows can be lower, and the highs can be higher.

I am emotionally sensitive and have spent most of my life trying not to be, confusing emotional fragility with strength and fortitude. I’m now seeing through that smokescreen. Emotional fragility is a sort of lackluster of courage and adapting to that lack of courage starts to take its toll. Emotional sensitivity can be cultivated, when you accept the invitation to your emotional world and connect inwardly in a compassionate place, then empathically connect to others. This leads to an authenticity that is built on a kind of inner strength and fortitude that is resilient – not fragile.

Empowered Consent

This is a hot topic right now because it’s so relevant, yet it seems so ambiguous.  It’s been all around us lately – in the news with celebrities, politicians, many high-ups in their professions, and religious leaders being accused and held accountable for NOT getting CONSENT in the realm of sexual activity, creating a tidal wave of #metoo.

I am a woman.  I am a mother — of 3 daughters.  This is a big deal to me.

Consent.  What is it?  What does it look like?  Or more importantly, what does it FEEL like?

I’d like to approach these questions as if they were coming from my daughters — from girls or women.  While of course consent isn’t only given by girls or women, I am writing from the vantage point of the female being in the position discerning whether or not she consents to engage in any sexual activity.

Consent is a fundamental human rights issue, regardless of your gender, race, religious creed, or sexual orientation.  Yet, I believe our culture sets up females in a very harmful confusing place.  Let her get clear about her “Yes”, “Wait”, or “No” relating to any sexual behavior with her.  So let me be clear here — my main intent is to empower her, from the inside out.

I’ve found myself asking these questions when it comes to consent:

What does consent feel like?  How do I even KNOW if I consent to something, or am ambivalently going along to appease and not “make a big fuss”.  And what about these more grey areas, outside of intercourse?  What about the “I don’t know” areas?  Slow things down so she can focus on her heart in this very important area.

These questions reflect the many blurred lines which create a very disempowered experience when it comes to consent.  I didn’t feel very empowered to consider ME, apart and separate from the guy’s wants, or in addition to any religious values regarding sexuality – all of which have value, but do not replace or silence my voice.  Even if I am married, I still have a voice.  Consent is still an issue for married couples.  Consent may be more open-ended when there is trust established, but not all marriages have that kind of trust, or this kind of trust has been broken some how.  That’s another grey area best reserved for a different post.

If at all possible, I think reflecting on this and talking to adults you trust, before being in the position of needing to make that call is essential.  And I believe that this is developmentally a very adult activity that one should use their own clear-headed and wholehearted judgment on because if not, the rewards are often pretty fleeting and costly.  There are long-lasting consequences that need to be considered which requires emotional maturity and a highly tuned-in sense to your own innate worthiness.  Yet I also acknowledge that unfortunately many of us find ourselves dealing with consent issues long before we even consent to that.  These are non-consensual activities aka. sexual harassment and assault, and are unfortunately too common still.  Our modern culture still sets up girls and women in a double-bind when it comes to her giving consent or not.  Her “No” can make her vulnerable to being ridiculed and even called a “bitch”, “tight” or a “nun” for example, making a big “fuss” over “nothing”.  Or her “Yes” can make her vulnerable to being called a “slut”, a “skank” or a “whore”.  Who wins in this double-bind?  Nobody really, with the exception of sexual predators/offenders while using their cultural privilege or positions of power (usually males) to assert their sense of sexual entitlement, at great expense to others (usually females but sometimes boys too) or those who callously scoff and blame victims of sexual abuse.

Let me be clear, I’m not just talking about intercourse, I’m talking about any kind of activity that has to do with your sacred bodies and your sexuality.  This could include a hug, a touch, a comment about your body in a sexual nature, being flashed/exposed to, or even just stares at your body – this is not just about intercourse!

Regardless of what your past experiences have been, now is always a good time to reflect on consent because consent is about boundaries and expecting respect.

Consent is something I believe requires a high developmental level of emotional and mental maturity and self-empowerment.  That self-empowerment comes first through co-empowerment through voices like mine, that uncompromisingly affirm your worth and your voice.  In an attempt to bring concrete boundaries through legislating consent, many states like Minnesota for example, say a child under the age of 13 regardless of the age of the perpetrator cannot legally consent to sexual conduct.  Their “yes” is NOT a “yes” because they should’ve even be in the position to have to decide, and if they are – it’s exploitation and the law recognizes that.  However, I would even extend that age beyond 13.  The minimum age for joining the military is 17 with parental consent.  18 without parental consent.  Something seems off to me.  It’s hard to put an age on the ability to truly consent to something so intimate, like sexual activity and the age of legal consent varies from state to state.  But instead of focusing on age, focus on maturity and emotional/mental health.  Who has the maturity to see the long-term consequences of their sexual activity, while weighing the negative and the positive, and making an informed and empowered decision about their own bodies?  Legislating consent is complex, but discerning it within you can be less complex when you feel empowered to do so.

Why is this such a big deal?  There are serious consequences to sexual activity that many don’t acknowledge or understand until later.  These consequences can be experienced either immediately or much later on, or both.  I’m not just referring to the obvious ones; sexually transmitted infections and unplanned/unwanted pregnancies.  I’m talking about your emotional, spiritual, and mental health that significantly overlaps with your sexual health.  You cannot compartmentalize these any more than you can compartmentalize the food you eat from only being pumped into certain parts of your bloodstream. Wait.  Let me semi-amend that statement — At least not without putting in a lot of effort to abandon, deny, or numb out from core parts of yourself, which unfortunately is all too common also when it comes to sexual activity.  Sexual health isn’t about black and white rules of conduct or conforming to “norms”.  Just because something is common or “normal” doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  Looking at your sexual health holistically, as it relates to your whole well-being is something not being emphasized nearly enough, and the fallout can be very painful.

There are definite risks and rewards tied to sexual behavior.  Sexual touch or any kind of activity in this realm is such an intimate and vulnerable activity, which is why it is so extremely violating in the absence of consent or knowing what all you are consenting to.

It is my belief that sexual activity is most safe AND most pleasurable when it is thoroughly and mutually consented to by mature enough people living from a place of worthiness, not using their sexuality to hustle for crumbs of fleeting worth.  Therefore I believe giving consent is an adulting activity, but am aware that many pre-adults are exploring this adult arena thinking they are mature enough to handle it.  I just hope for their own sake, it is all safe even though I’m reluctant to call that consensual.  It truly takes a high level of maturity and agency to give this kind of centered, empowered, and self-aware consent.

This is important, not just for those who have yet to make their first sexual debut, but for subsequent activity even when you’re in a long-term relationship because your consent can always be taken away.  In a long-term relationship like a marriage, the consent may be more open-ended because enough sustaining trust has been established, but it’s still your body and your sexual health.  In the places where consent isn’t mutually open-ended like in a new dating relationship, think of it as entering into a binding agreement or contract that requires your signature.  What are you consenting to?  Since it’s not as concrete as signing your name on a dotted line when you consent to any sexual activity, it can become very ambiguous.

So, in addition to your own set of conscious values and beliefs when it comes to any sexual activity, whether they be religious or not, here are some things to also consider.  Hopefully they will help you clarify how consent in the “grey areas” may feel.

Remember – if you aren’t even given the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” because there wasn’t explicit communication about any kind of sexual activity beforehand, it’s not consent.  It’s a violation. But if you are presented with an opportunity to give empowered consent while you’re adulting in life, notice what you notice.  Give consent to yourself to feel what you feel inside!  Girls and women need to hear this because we are so bombarded with messages that lead us AWAY from ourselves when it comes to our bodies and our sexual health.

If you aren’t confident AND relaxed in your “yes” – don’t just go along with it.  You don’t have to just take it even if it’s “just” a lingering hug or wandering hands.  Know your “No”.  Consent is about empowerment.  Give yourself permission to speak up as clear and as loud as you feel you need.  This is your body.  This is your sexual health.

It’s a bit more obvious when talking about sexual intercourse and consent.  But hear this — You have the right to not consent to activity way before it gets to that point, and if that’s not respected, it’s NOT OK.  You have a Green light, a Yellow Light, and a Red Light — be connected to it.  Any consensual relationship will give plenty of space for both people to do that.  Listen to all of your body’s wisdom, and if it’s hard to tell what it’s saying, know this is your Yellow Light.  Honor it.

If you can’t get comfortable in feeling confident AND relaxed in your “Yes” and your “No” — it’s a NO, at least for now.

If your answer is “oh fine” because it’s not a clear enough “no”, than it’s not a clear enough “yes” either.

I cannot over-emphasize this — If it’s not a self-aware and authentic “Yes!” – Honor that and expect it to be honored also or it’s not consent – even if it’s not about intercourse.  Consent starts way before intercourse.  Girls in our culture, beginning from a very young age are raised to people-please and care-take, even to their own expense.  We are groomed from a very early age to direct our focus and care away from us and towards others.  This is so harmful when it comes to our sexual health.  Start practicing redirecting yourself back home, within your body.

Notice.  Honor.  And enjoy that space of authenticity in your consent for your sexual health.

It takes practice.  If you are with a man who does not honor this space, your empowerment to have boundaries that value your worth outside of sex, that is a huge red flag that needs to be considered, not glossed over.  It isn’t a good sign of his character.

Consent is about clear, empowered, and authentic communication, between you and your body, then between you and another.  This goes for a kiss, hug, touch, or of course, intercourse — anything that has to do with your body and your sexual health.

The bottom line is you are worthy of respect, and so is your “No, and so is your “Yes”.  Engaging with life from a place of worthiness most certainly includes our sexual health.

I really wish every girl has a strong and loving woman to empower her in this area.  I aspire and hope to be that strong and loving voice to empower others now, as a mother.  And how awesome would that be to have strong and loving men to add their voice to empowering girls in this way also?

Step-In-Parenting (try this at home)

As a step father or step mother, you are actually stepping IN, not aside of a unique parental role.  You’re not replacing their other bio parent, but stepping in as a parental figure to fill in the gaps as much as you can.  These thoughts are a work in progress, but here are some guidelines coming from a bio-mama who loves her children and wants what’s best for them and their childhood that includes growing up in blended families.

You can customize this list for you and your own household, because each family —especially blended families, have their own unique set of circumstances and needs to meet in order to make their family work in a healthy way.  And these needs and circumstances evolve just as the children and hopefully, the adults do.

  • First and foremost:  Love these children as if they were YOURS.  This is not on the condition of whether or not their other bio parent is “in the picture” this is something you can consciously commit to regardless of the degree to which the other bio parent is involved.  There’s an emotional adoption that needs to happen from the beginning.  There is no “probationary” period for the kids, you aren’t becoming a foster parent, you’re a step-in parent that’s being grafted into this family tree.  Just as kids are adopted by their adoptive parents by the initiation of the adoptive parent, there is a stable and UNCONDITIONAL commitment to the kids.  To not have this happen is to create rifts out of your own self-protection.  You could be rejected, or not.  It’s not on the condition of them accepting you.  You’re not applying for this job, if you’re married or fully committed to a partner with kids, this is the deal.  You’re all in, or your not in at all.  Some things really are all or nothing.  Kids are extremely sensitive, their resilient but sensitive and will feel this sense of insecurity if you have not emotionally adopted them into your heart.  As far as your heart is concerned, these children are as if they are your own flesh and blood.  They aren’t “his” or “her” kids as far as your heart is concerned.  Legal custody and emotional adoption are two different matters.  You don’t need a court order to emotionally adopt these children you share a home with.  You need resolve.  You need a conscious investment of being all in, just like you would if they were your bio kids.  Many weddings where there are non bio children of either the bride or groom include making vows not only to their bride or groom, but to the children of the bride or groom, it’s a beautiful thing.  This is a stance you take internally to make this level of commitment to the children.
  • Ask your partner what they want and expect from your role as a step-parent.  Share what you see as your role also.  Identify parenting philosophies and parenting/family values and work as a TEAM and PARTNERSHIP in building these into practice.
  • Be open and humble.  You are learning how to build a relationship with children who didn’t get a vote in having you be in their own home and lives.  If you’ve never been a parent, be willing to place any preconceived notions about how children “ought” to behave and how parents “ought” to parent in one hand, and then open the other hand to receive new insights from your lived experiences with these children.
  • Know these kids well.  Most likely, you weren’t there from the very beginning, but you can invest in discovering on a regular basis how these young and growing beings tick, just as their bio parent hopefully does with them also.  The deeper you know and understand them, the better.
  • Reserve discipline for the bio parent unless there is a very deep and secure attachment or emotional bond that you’ve created with these children.  Support their bio-parent’s discipline, but save the most confrontational enforcement of it or initiation of it for their bio parent unless you have this secure attachment where they feel safe enough to just be themselves even if it’s not how YOU want them to be, which takes a lot of time and trust to develop.
  • If you have shared children with their bio parent, do NOT show favoritism to “your” child.  It hurts the whole family.  It creates wedges between your child and their siblings just as it would in non-blended families.  Be very self-aware and intentional about with this.
  • Your partner shouldn’t feel like a single parent when you are with them, or you’re not doing your job unless they want you to leave the parenting up to just them.  But if not, this will put a strain on them and your relationship because single parenting is one of THE hardest jobs on the planet.  This is why I call it a step-in parent, because they shouldn’t feel like a single parent if you’re there stepping up or stepping in, unless your partner doesn’t want you to be very involved.  Hopefully this won’t be an area of ambiguity, and if it is, talk and clarify as you go.

Your role as a step-in-parent is tremendously important and valuable, though it is often so under-appreciated and under-recognized.  It’s tough, it’s challenging, and will cause you to grow, but the reward is having the very fulfilling and satisfying feeling of building your family UP, no matter what DNA comes from where or who.  You are leaving a legacy that goes above and beyond DNA, but is made by sweat and tears from the labor of LOVE.  It will strengthen your marriage, your family, and yourself.  It’s not for the faint at heart.  It takes tremendous courage and commitment to be a step-in parent, but don’t all things in life that mean so much?

 

 

Trust the Truth

Dear You,

Please give yourself permission to be convinced of the validity of your unconditional worthiness.

Own the conviction that’s been welling up inside since the moment you existed and has helped you survive so much already despite struggle.  It is clear and uncompromising — this voice will not relent in its conviction:

You have worth.  Always have.  Always will.

Be convinced.

Trust in this conviction — it’s the only thing about you that is unchanging, absolute, and completely real independent of anything else.

Allow yourself to be convinced that this is a stand-alone truth.

It is completely independent of the way other people may see you or treat you, it is an unshakable and unyielding truth that always has been, and always will be — no matter what.  Though the truth is also that the human struggle comes because you’re hardwired to integrate and operate out of being interdependent with your relational and social environments (you are not a rock) which are imperfect, but this truth will still be the truth (the truth is a rock).

Even though as a human you shall inevitably try to fight it, deny it, distort it, swindle it, squander it, prosecute it, overhaul it, or dare to accept it – the truth will not diminish, though your experienced freedom is set on this.

Trust in your worthiness.  Trust in the validity of your worthiness.  This is the spiritual journey back home, to your roots – of unyielding worthiness.  The more you accept this, the more you will enjoy it.  You are meant to enjoy this – your worthiness.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set your free.”
john 8:32

Same Old… Same Old…

If you want the same old shit, then do the same old shit.  If not…listen up.

Denial thrives on blame.  Blame thrives on denial.  They work hard together to keep people successfully stuck.

If anyone wants to experience change that’s good for their soul, in any area of their lives, they’ve got to take up ownership in getting themselves closer to where they want to be.

Excuses and blame will never be in short-supply.  If you settle for excuses and blame, you settle for remaining stuck.  You’ve GOT to get passed excuses and blame if you want to avoid being stuck.

Movement.  Change needs movement.

Movement often needs to start with moving your thoughts and beliefs around, in a conscious awakened state.

What is it YOU are after?  Get clear on the “who” before getting clear on the “what”.  Do YOU want this?  Or is this coming from someone else who doesn’t live your life, but believes they know better how you should live your own life?  Big difference, you’re you — they’re not.

Now, after you sort out ownership of the desired change YOU are after, congratulate yourself.  You are stepping into your power by stepping into life ownership.  This may be a small step that nobody other than you will recognize, but it is a big deal.  Huge.  This is where your moxie will come from – life ownership.

Next – Ask yourself this, and wait for the answer from within…

Do you believe you are worth what you’re after?  If you do not, consider the possibility that you are settling for owning shame that is not yours.  Someone from somewhere, has projected their own shit onto you.  This most likely happened when you least expected or suspected it, or you wouldn’t have let it in.  Aka childhood or when someone you looked up to somehow mishandled your vulnerability, and therefore has kept you stuck without you even knowing it.  You’re getting yourself self-awareness, which launches you into self-empowerment.  You can’t change if you don’t have a sense of power.  Self-awareness and self-empowerment are musts in life, underlined with self-compassion.  Breathe.  These are biggies that most people struggle with in different degrees.  Find yourself a good therapist if you need support to sort through this because you ARE worth it.

Back to it, let’s not forget that you are after something good for your soul.

If you long for something to change to the point that it creates enough pain and dissatisfaction in your life without it changing, consider yourself officially: Invited

Invited to step it up in life.  Instead of focusing on things you feel you cannot do, focus on things you can do — today, tomorrow, or within the next few days.

Then – get busy.  Follow through.  If you know you have the tendency, more than not to “forget”, slack off, or trip up with excuses when it comes to delivery time – do yourself a well deserved favor and get yourself some kind of accountability partner.  This will up your chances of following through.  A requirement for accountability to work on your end is having humility and honesty.  Otherwise all bets are off.

If you need something more concrete, make yourself a plan of action in writing.  Even if it’s just one or two steps that are different than what you usually do, that’s enough to start with.  Most people need this concrete plan in the beginning, until there’s enough momentum to perpetuate the change you’re after.  Share it with someone you trust.

When you do follow through, no matter how small – tell somebody who can celebrate and congratulate you.  Recognize that force of pride welling up within you.  You earned that.  Keep doing what got you that feeling – by following through.

You can always re-evaluate your next steps.  You can always adjust, but make sure to keep your eyes on what you’re ultimately after.

Gradual steps for personal change make a difference.  And that is what you want –  a difference.  Change.  For something to change, something has to change.

Be compassionate and gracious with yourself, but be wholeheartedly committed to learning as you go, and keep moving forward.

Believe, conceive, and achieve.

You are worth it.  You really are.

Life Ownership

life-keyesWe esteem Home ownership status in our society, but what about Life ownership?

Currently this is a major theme of mine that’s been coming to the forefront, thanks to pain and discomfort that accompanies crises life.

Seriously – I’ve been known to say this before — pain is my greatest teacher.  It’s incredibly effective when I don’t numb it out, but instead honor it, because I’ve learned to recognize the wisdom it brings me.  I cheat myself out of receiving this deeply personal wisdom when I numb out to it through blaming others.  When I won’t look squarely at how I’ve contributed to any of this mess – either by acts of omission or commission, in an honest and compassionate way, I miss out.  Big time.

When I resort to only blaming others for all the hard things in my life and about all the circumstances I don’t like, I am also welcoming their future return.  Some of the hard things in my life are out of my control, that is a reality, but only looking at what’s outside of my control will perpetuate the hard things.

This is next part is hard to see and hard to say, but is an important part of healthy self-protection.  I need to move past blame or looking at what’s outside of my control and look at what IS inside of my control.  Taking responsibility without blame and shame is about moving forward, not looking back in regret.  It’s looking back at my life as a search and rescue effort, to search at how I got there and rescue myself as much as possible by protecting myself from ending back there in the future.  A huge part of this is about valuing myself enough to engage in healthy boundary setting with others by taking grace-filled and compassionate responsibility of what is mine, and not taking responsibility of what isn’t mine but is instead what others project onto me.  This is not about self-blame, because that involves shame and usually leads to blaming others.  It’s about taking ownership of my life which involves respecting my own power, not misusing it.

Having self-compassion is the foundation for practicing this essential adult life skill.  Practicing self-compassion is nurtured through being in relationship with others, even if it’s just one person to start with, who values this practice and supports mine.  This notion of being healthy and strong translating into me not needing others to support me has been exhausting itself.  This belief that I shall dismiss my own desires and needs for another to affirm and validate me is incredibly American.  By American, I mean it’s new and trendy (our long history of human culture doesn’t reflect this), it’s manufactured by a masked fear of vulnerability, hyper-independence, and glamorized isolation.

There is a word of caution to take from this fear of vulnerability though.  That word is balance.  You don’t need ALL of your support to come from others, and you don’t need NONE of your support to come from others — you need SOME of your support to come from others.  Interdependence.  Not independence or codependence.  It’s about balance, allowing for fluidity and flexibility in the middle while staying away from rigid extremes of the all-or-none whiplash.

I am waking up.  I am no longer taking the bait of blaming others for the exchange of false security.  There’s nothing secure about relinquishing my personal power and hitting the replay button on all of my painful experiences, only to play out in a slightly different scenario later on.  The cost is too much to not own up and grow up.  I really can afford taking responsibility for my life and owning it, while not taking the results so personally.  I can’t control results and outcomes.  Life ownership has limitations too because I’m part of an ecological environment, a larger than me reality.  I can only influence outcomes the best I can by taking responsibility for my choices, and then letting life unfold, the best I can.

“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.”  – Epictetus.

 

 

My Story: The Foreword…

my-storyI don’t know where this will lead, but I can hear the voice of Lady Gaga saying – just dance. just write.

I. Must. Write.

Write about what I know, which is my unfolding story as I go.  Of which I don’t know the ending or sometimes where I am in the midst of that story.  I don’t have the time or luxury to wait and edit it a thousand times before I click the “Publish” button, and as the hyper-self-critic and digressing kind of blogger that I can be, it irks me.  Yet there’s also this wildly defiant and ambitiously wise voice inside of me saying, “Go for it, Kristen — who gives a shit”.  That voice has been getting louder and louder.  Oh the paradox.

That is my life in one word: Paradox

So, I don’t know where this will land.  It feels very much like I’m writing my story to fearlessly make sense out of it for myself.  A key ingredient in that process is sharing it with who knows who.  I see myself writing as I go, while attaching my writing to a balloon, and releasing it into the sky, or a glass bottle and placing it in the river and — letting go.

A-ha.  That’s it.  Right there.  THAT must be why I need to just write without much forethought or agenda other than to just get it out – to let it go.  Huh.  Imagine that.  In order to let it go, I need to — let it go.  Huh.  Profound.

But that means I am letting go of control.  And in looking around at my life I see that control is how I’ve seemed to try and remedy my fears of what I cannot control.  I’ve had the propensity to try harder to control what I cannot control.  It’s hard being so human sometimes.  Especially when I am admittedly, a bit of a free-spirited tight-ass, so this is really reeeeeeally hard to NOT do.

I’m trying to tease out for you and me, why I do such seemingly crazy things, like write about my life in an open book format.  So vulnerable, yet so powerful for the giver and receiver of such vulnerability.  Well, this is somehow healing and empowering to me, though it is also scary hence the vulnerability factor.  What I write could be taken out of context and misused.  Something I fear yet cannot control.  I need to write anyway.  I’m not crazy, I’m just a little impaired with clarity right now.

Here I go…brace yourself.  I am.

Currently, I’m primarily a stay-at-home mother.  At this moment of writing I’m home with my 3rd baby-girl after sending my 6 yr old and 11 yr old off to school.

Deep breaths.

Life unfolds.  I never thought I’d be in this place of being a mother to 3 children.  Holy shit, I just said 3 children.  Yes, I have 3 children – all daughters.  I’ve found myself saying this in my head many times – “holy shit, I have 3 children!”  It’s not like that accidentally happened without my permission.  I know this.  It’s just that my conscious awareness is awakening and gradually catching up to the safety of grace by me granting it permission to do so after being in a long time-out of covert shame.

I’m grateful for each of my babies, they are gifts wrapped in many layers of emotions I need to unwrap within my heart.  I’m grateful for what life has been teaching me, but that gratitude is something that’s sometimes very hard-fought for.

Breathing still…

I am a woman who is divorced, and living with my current partner I’m engaged to.  We have one baby together.  My 2 oldest daughters were born in my first marriage of 10 years.  I am having a hard time identifying with some of the labels that are thrust on me, and that I thrust on myself.  I assign the struggle between shame and grace to rigid religiosity that declares my soul was born deformed by sin, and God is waiting for me to let him fix me so I won’t need to fear life and him so much.  That was a loaded sentence.  I’ve lived that sentence for years and it wore me down – thank god, it wore me down.

Labels are exceedingly confining and disguising.  Sometimes the disguise is welcomed and sometimes, it’s just an unwanted side effect of simplification.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll throw out some labels I find myself associating with, some very loosely and some more intimately with.  There’s a varying degree of ambivalence I have with these labels, which are associated with different parts of what make up me, but nonetheless here they are – for simplicity’s sake.

  • female
  • korean-adoptee
  • divorcee
  • mother
  • daughter
  • feminist
  • sinner
  • saint
  • ex-wife
  • fiance
  • twin
  • aunt
  • employee
  • minority
  • generation y
  • Human

I edited the first letter of all those labels and de-capitalized them, with the exception of Human.  They are mere labels that I can identify with, but they are not my ultimate identity — other than being Human.

The story of my humanity looks different from everyone else’s.  But at the end of the day, I am human, and my story is incredibly evident of that – being human.  It is through this thread of a shared humanity and making sense out of it, that I am coming from.  All else is mostly just background noise.

Chapter One coming next…

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