playboy

I’ve been uninspired lately. I have ideas, but nothing seems to want to be put down on the page yet. So, when I heard that Hugh Hefner died and then saw all the men fawning and thanking him and then saw all the women either doing the same or not doing the same, it gave me a moment to reflect on what I think about Hugh Hefner, and this morning, because I was awake at 3am, I wrote.

My father has stacks of magazines and newspapers in our living room and out on the screened in porch, on the back of the house.

He reads for many hours a day, loads of newspapers and magazines, never books.

I never ask him why he never reads books, because I don’t care to hear the answer.

He gets newspapers delivered from the places he’s lived in the past, Michigan, Florida and sometimes he gets The Wall Street Journal.

One stack of magazines that sits on an old wooden side table comes up to my chest, fitting, because this stack has Playboy, a few Penthouse and another called High Times.

The Playboy get delivered by mail and the others come from a magazine shop in Columbia, SC. Columbia is more than 30 minutes away from our trailer home on Lake Murray. We drive into Columbia in my dad’s blue Plymouth Satellite. My sister, Judy, calls the car, the blue bashy, because it has a few dents, but you can also see right through the rusted floorboard to the ground, especially in the back, where I sit, so it’s more than just bashed, but it rhymes, and it makes us laugh, so we carry on with it.

The magazine shop is in a part of town that we never go to other than to buy magazines. It is full of magazine racks. Dad goes here to buy magazines of all kinds, but this store is where he buys porn, and he takes my mother and me with him. Dad greets the guy behind the desk, as always, and heads to the back of the store. I stay as far from the porn section as I can, in the financial section. I pretend I’m looking for a magazine to improve my financial future and I suppose in a way, I am. I open the slick gloss covers with business buildings on the front and look at the rows of numbers and clean black type and think to myself “One day, I’ll work in one of those and maybe I’ll even know what these numbers mean.”

Mom runs her hands across other racks in the store, not picking up anything. She reads some of the papers my dad buys, but not as many. I’ve never seen her read any of his playboy or other porn. I don’t ask her whether she does or not, because again, I don’t care to hear the answer. I do wonder what she thinks though.

My dad reads these magazines as if they are The Wall Street Journal. I walk into the room and see the cover of Playboy, him behind it, sitting in his reading chair, turning the pages, unfolding the centerfold and holding it up. My shoulders rise up and I sneak back out before he sees me. My dad is 72 and I am 16!

After an hour or so, dad comes back to the front with a few magazines in hand. He doesn’t offer to buy me anything. He pays the guy behind the desk for 4 or 5 magazines. We then drive to another part of town and go grocery shopping, at two different grocery stores, because my mom won’t buy meat at Food Lion, but they have better produce, so we have to get the produce there. We also have to walk through every aisle in both stores, even if we don’t need anything in some aisles. Mom says “I might need something that I didn’t write down and I will only remember it if I see it.” She also has to talk to everyone in the store, the meat guy, the produce guy, the lady buying fat back, the cashier. Dad stays in the car reading his new magazines.

At home, when my parents have gone out to run errands, or to a doctor’s appointment, I sometimes look through the Playboy magazines. I mean, they are sitting right out in the open, so I might as well see what the big deal is. The women in these magazines look like no one I have ever seen in real life, so it’s kind of fake to me and now, when I think about it, maybe that’s the point? The Penthouse is more graphic, but not my style either, maybe I just don’t like porn? High Times is all about marijuana with a few photos of women here and there and I’m absolutely not sure why he had that magazine. Dad was a rabid anti-smoker after he stopped smoking cigars, he’d curse people out for smoking anywhere at anytime. He’d grumble and mumble when anyone we knew smoked “Goddamn cigarettes, waste of money, stinks.”

One day, at school, I tell my guy friends that my dad has a stack of porn out on the back porch. They ask me to bring them some and a few days later, I do, and they run off to the boys bathroom together, giggling. We never discuss the magazines I gave them again, and I don’t even care that I just gave them some of my dad’s porn stash.

So, when I think about Hugh Hefner, I think about my dad and what a strange world I lived in going with him to buy porn and I think about my Mom and what a strange life she lived with a stack or porn out on the back porch. I think if they were still alive today I might ask them about this and then I think again, I do not care to hear the answers.

 

Because I can’t

I have been working on writing other things and haven’t touched this blog in months.

But I can’t ignore this. This tragedy in Orlando. This mass shooting.

On 9/11, I watched and watched all of the coverage. I couldn’t believe it, but continued to take it in and I was quietly thankful that I no longer lived in a “big” city. I didn’t identify with people working in the World Trade Center, although the media humanized them for us and I felt it deeply. They weren’t necessarily “me”, again secretly thankful that that could never have been me. I was concerned but not completely connected.

About 9 months after 9/11 I started to have panic attacks. Real visceral fear welling up out of me so much so that I would pass out. I was more connected than I thought.

It takes 9 months to birth a baby and many times it takes about 9 months to see how you’re going to process something.

Where will we be in 9 months? I’m hoping that we all don’t just breathe deep and hold this in, but I hope we let our thoughts and feelings out and that we birth a better connection to each other.

Orlando — it could have been me. Young, gay, feeling more free than ever among my own people, who were only my own people, because we were all gay. Some people say “Why do you have go to a BAR to feel free?” Unless you’re gay you wouldn’t understand. We sometimes have to hide our own truth, or risk being bullied, ridiculed, discriminated against.

I went to college in Charleston, SC. That was where I first went to a gay bar. The Arcade was right near campus and my friends and I would walk by being curious, but not curious enough to try and get in, especially during Freshman year. After Freshman year, we were ready, but you could only get in with an ID that said you were 21, my best friend had one, one we made one night with one of the seniors on our volleyball team. I didn’t and she wasn’t going to go without me.  Somehow as luck would have it, I had another friend who worked in public safety and she gave me an ID that looked nothing like me, but it looked enough like me that I was going to try it.  Crystal was my new name. I wasn’t sure how I was going to remember that if someone asked me, but we were going to The Arcade!

The first time we went in, we had to drive up our courage to walk up and open the front door, nervous not only because we were using fake ids, but also that someone might see us going in, or see us inside, what was it going to be like?  That first time was incredible, dancing even though we were not big on dancing at all, or just standing there seeing people like us. A mirror for who we might be when we were actually 21 or 30 or 50, because everyone who was gay used to go the gay bar to hang out. They weren’t weird. They were real people. Why a bar? Because it was the only place we had to go. Because we lived in the deep south or in the midwest or anywhere really. Because when you are young and gay, or maybe even just young, you want to find your people, your tribe, but really what you want to find is your connection to this world.

A few weeks later, we were leaving volleyball practice late in the evening and one of our teammates jokingly said “Hey where are you guys going now The Arcade?  Oh uh, whoops.” It was a common joke among straight college people to say that to one another and our teammate, our friend, looked at us in that moment knowing we might be and probably were gay, and I could see she felt shame, but not as much shame as I felt in that moment. Shame, because everyone knew, and at that time, I couldn’t even say that we didn’t even really like the The Arcade after going there. It was not really our scene and I never really felt all that great going to gay bars, being segregated from the rest of society like I didn’t deserve to be myself outside of those walls. I always thought — why do we need a separate place? Shame — that I was who I was.

In 1992, I moved to Washington, DC and was so excited that Bill Clinton was about to be President. Bill, although he had his faults, was going to make progress for us gay people. And while it might seem like not a lot happened, I know it did.

On April 25th, 1993 there was a gay march on Washington. There were more than 800,000 people like me, walking together yelling. “We’re here, we’re queer. Get used to it.” I felt alive, included, and necessary for the first time in my life. I promised myself to live my life as out as I could forevermore. The key word is could, because it could still be very dangerous to be gay. Dangerous to relationships, work, life in general.

The next year I met someone and started dating her. I called my sister, who I had never told I was gay, although I know she knew, and announced “I am so excited, I met this woman named Michelle and I think I might be in love.” She hung up on me.

I moved to Utah and had a rainbow sticker on my car. People yelled at me while driving down the highway. At work, people inched away from me when I told them I was gay, one friend told me that at work they felt like it was invasion of the lesbians, because I was very open about who I was. I moved away, not only because of that, but partially.

At another job, I was once told that I would never get promoted, first because I was a woman and second because I was gay. He was right. I ended up leaving the company.

I now live in a liberal city, where I am fine with who I am and this city seems to be too, but gay is not the first thing I think of at all. It is another part of who I am.

My life is no longer segregated by what I can be and can’t be in front of anyone.

I also know there are places and spaces where if someone knows I’m gay they may hurl an insult or worse.  Yes, even here in my liberal city, I’ve been disparaged. “Dyke, carpet muncher, faggot.” Who calls a gay woman a faggot?! All these have been yelled at me here in this city and not just once.

This tragedy reminds me that I am gay.  It reminds me that I am New York. I am Paris. I am Orlando. I hope we can all see that. This is not just about being gay. This is about how we are all connected. How we treat each other matters.

I will not hold all of this in.

I will not live in fear.

I will continue to tell my story.

the opposite of survival – part TWO

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 7.22.17 AMSee part 1 – here

The story didn’t end there? Why? Because I was not ready for abundance – YET.

With my necklace clasped around my neck – shouting, but delicately shouting, because I was not yet ready to be shouting anything so life affirming: “I call for your abundance like an armor of ships.”  ~ Leonore Wilson

I wore it everyday. So proud. I also wore it next to my other Jeanine Payer necklace: “She looked at her own Soul with a Telescope. What seemed all irregular, she saw and showed to be beautiful Constellations: and she added to the Consciousness hidden worlds within worlds.” ~ Samuel Coleridge

I wanted abundance, there is no doubt about that, but I was still looking inward. WHY? Because I needed to make some changes to be able to BE in abundance, but I didn’t make many changes when it came to abundance. I went back to doing what I was doing. And THREE times that necklace broke. And I could say it was just shoddy workmanship, but I have other Janine Payer pieces and none have ever broken, only abundance.

Life’s metaphor for me. Abundance – kept breaking. As beautiful and horrible as it was there I was breaking abundance. I didn’t get it.

The first time the necklace broke, I was miserable. What is the meaning behind this? I thought to myself and I discovered, I was not living in abundance, I was afraid of what bad thing might happen, I was worried about worry and still trying to protect myself from being hurt, killed, or fail – old habits die hard.

I was surviving. So, I continued to look inward. Things don’t change until they change, so all I could do is keep looking. I got the necklace fixed and it broke again.

I left it broken for almost a year.

Each time it broke, I had it repaired by Jeanine Payer’s studio in San Francisco. I’d send it back to them. They’d repair it and send it back to me.

This time, I put it back on and it broke almost immediately, within minutes. This was too delicate of a subject for me. Man, what is the lesson here? What do I need to know about myself that will allow me to believe in abundance and not fear it. To live it?!  I was in a miserable job, I was not living the life I really wanted to live, I needed to change, but I was stuck.

I sent it back again and after a few weeks, it came back to me and I wore it carefully. This time, I also removed the other necklace – the looking inward necklace. I stopped wearing them together.

It’s not that I stopped looking inward, but I stopped dwelling on the looking inward. Something shifted, it always does, but it took time, took patience took me doing the work to get there, shifting my thoughts from surviving to abundance. Not standing still but GOING and DOING looking to change. Not at a frantic crazy pace, but at the pace I could do it.

Sometimes your friends push you to be a better you, like my friend pushing me to get that necklace and sometimes, most times – you have to do the work yourself to actually live what you’re pushed to do. When you’re ready. You’re ready. Don’t stop trying.

Boom. Again. A message from the universe. The necklace has not broken since.

What if it’s all true

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 8.43.04 AMWhat if it’s all true?

What if every bad thing someone has ever said about you is true? Or has some truth to it.

What if you let it in? Consider it? There is truth in all of it. Might not be my truth, or yours, but there is some truth there. The choice to believe it or dismiss it, that’s what’s up to you. I most times want to go on the defense when I hear something negative about myself, but what if I let if sink in? What harm could that do? Am I obsessive? Am I micro-manager? Can I go with the flow or do I always need a plan? Am I contrary just to be contrary?

On the flip side, what if all the good things anyone has ever said about you is also true. Am I ambitious, tenacious, smart?

That’s the balance of life. We are both – and – only we know the real truth about who we are, but everyone else sees it every day. You can hide the good or the bad, but people see it and so do you. And maybe it’s not “BAD” of “GOOD” at all. Maybe it just is. Maybe our strengths can also be weaknesses.

What if I let the comments in?

Freedom. Freedom from trying to be someone, freedom to be yourself. The good, the bad, the best. We’re all of it.

Revolution_revelation_love_2014

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 6.25.05 AMIn 2012, I started the year by writing about REVOLUTION. Last year I started by writing about REvolution and REVELATION.

2012 = Revolution – everything in life got turned on end, things changed quickly, my therapist of 8 years moved away. I lost my job. I got a new job. I decided to figure out how to work for myself. I started all over again.

2013 = Revelation – everything in life revealed itself.  I evolved. How I was going to work for myself revealed itself. I started my own business. I worked my ass off for ME. I believed it could work. Not everything was perfect. My dog died. I couldn’t write as much. I had some complications. It wasn’t the easiest thing ever, but I changed because of what I saw around me. Life revealed itself because I was willing to stay with it. 2013 was revealing how to thrive.

Why do I tell you this?  Because dreams do come true. I am proving it everyday. Dig deep, you can be happy, believe it, BELIEVE it. You can’t sit there doing nothing to have it happen, you have to keep working at it, but it can happen. If you imagine it.

Just before the new year 2014 – I had a dream – I was texting with my friend Kate – which is ridiculous that texting is now in my dreams. Note to self – less texting in 2014?! We were texting about the new year ahead and I said: Revelation and Revolution got me to 2014, I’m happy that I changed my life with the flow of those.

Kate responded:

this year
is love.

I’m in. I woke and thought what does that mean? I thought about it and thought about it.

It means, go with love, just love it all the way it is. If I’ve learned anything these last few years it’s that patience with yourself and love for the way things are is where it’s at. Right now is all we really have anyway – so you can stop trying so hard to be good enough, stop trying to be perfect, stop pushing, imagine how you’d like things to be and start letting things fall into place they way they should be, the way they are – right now – for right now.

2014 is for Love – it’s for loving things exactly as they are, the messiness of life, the brilliance of life, to love not knowing, to love knowing, to love the past, the present, the future, to watch in wonder of how things flow, if you let them.  Just love. GO! for 2014.

What’s your word for 2014?

Authenticity

IMG_0474I began to write about authenticity and how we sometimes live split lives because of our political values or our inability to be genuine with people because our beliefs don’t match theirs. Or we can’t be honest with ourselves and admit who we really are and live a split life out of fear.

This all began because of something I read on Facebook.

I like Facebook in general because it helps me keep up with people, but many times I see people use Facebook to – as my Mother used to say “air their dirty laundry” and in general say things to other people they would never say to their face. Which is a strange techno-behavior that we’ve all been seeing trend upward since Al Gore invented the internet.

And that was where I started to think about authenticity.  What came next though was what happens some days – I got a status update from David Whyte – which always brings a sense of future and freshness to my Facebook experience. Instead of people complaining about people on food stamps, I get a taste of future and freshness.

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds,
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before,
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.

It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing,
speaking out loud in the clear air.

It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.

From River Flow: New and Selected Poems. ©David Whyte

So I read this and thought to myself – that’s it – again authenticity. But it changed my view on writing about someone else and I returned to writing from my own experience.

For me, right now, I’m happier than I’ve ever been in life, that’s a scary thought. What if I’m never this happy again?! So, I feel myself clinging to these moments as if they could end tomorrow and what I know from being unhappy for a very long time, I did the same thing. During the unhappy moments – while I longed for better times, I clung to the bitterness, and the hurt, and the past, because it was what I knew. And I knew when it changed – things would be different and change is a terrible and awesome thing, but we don’t like it, because we don’t know what’s on the other side of where we are.

So what’s the point ?

I’ve seen happiness is a state of mind, it’s not money, it’s not politics, it’s not anything other than being open – as David Whyte says – it’s speaking out loud in the clear air – the secret conversations of your own heart.  That’s pretty deep.

When you can finally admit to yourself and to everyone around you what your own secret longing is, no matter how foolish it might sound, that’s when you can be authentic, true, real, genuine.

The beginning.

8377624411_bc015d132c_b“You are revealing a lot about yourself on your blog Amy.”
“Yeah, I know that.”
“How do you do that? How are you okay with it?”
“Well, how do you do what you do everyday?”
“Hmmm, well, I couldn’t, wouldn’t.”
And then “Aren’t you afraid that a future employer might read this and not hire you?”
“No, I wouldn’t want to work for someone who wouldn’t hire me based on what I write.”

And so it is. I do what I do. You do what you do. That’s what we do.

And then the small shameful part of myself wells up and says, you know what? She’s right. Why are you doing this? And I don’t have an answer other than it’s what I do, at least for now.

Believe me, I judge people all the time for things I THINK are inappropriate and when I get over judging them – I remind myself – well, that’s what they need to do right now, that’s where they need to be.

I also believe we need more vulnerability in the world, more honesty, more authenticity. Maybe this is my way of starting that process for myself.

Sometimes when I say my dog Wonder died, people say “Was she old?” That’s the brush off, people don’t want to be vulnerable. It’s too hard. It’s too much to understand the aching. “She had a good long life” is another one. Yes, she did, but when anyone dies, just because they lived and lived well and lived a good long time, doesn’t make their absence any less. It’s easy to say she lived a good long life, but to look into my eyes and say you must be heartbroken. To be vulnerable, to understand that we’re all having these times together – that’s what I hope for – to see each other. To hear each other – not with our own ears but someone else’s.

Vulnerability isn’t a bad thing, it’s not about holding onto the past, it’s not about pushing the past down to get to the future, it’s understanding that our experiences drive who we are and how we choose to deal with them and share them changes not only ourselves, but each other.

Joseph Campbell says:

Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment – not discouragement – you will find the strength is there. Any disaster that you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. 

Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true…The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.

The strength always comes. The money always comes – or it doesn’t. And that’s exactly right as well. While my backstory might be sad to some, I just see it as my life and I lean in and say yes, that is my life, maybe I reveal too much, or maybe I reveal too little. Some days I want to feel terrible about it all. I understand living is necessary and so are all the great failures and wrongs and rights that happen in it. It’s not the end. It’s always the beginning.