Friday link roundup 9/23

The syllabus for the Black Lives Matter class at New York University.

Why the upcoming documentary on boys and toxic masculinity, The Mask You Live In, is so important.

On the idea of renewable marriage contracts.

H & M released an ad that celebrates women in their many colors, shapes, and interests.

Wedding countdown: Remembering our steps toward engagement

When I was young, I was convinced that I was going to get married. It wasn’t a conviction that fueled envisioning a perfect wedding or anything like that – it was mainly a feeling.

I told my mom about this conviction at age 11. She asked a simple but also complex question: why? I remember this conversation as taking place on our trip to Alaska, specifically in Juneau, on our way to our campground near the Mendenhall glacier.

Why? Because. I realized I didn’t really have an answer.  I don’t know if it was at that moment that my conviction started slipping away, or if other factors crept in. When I came out as bisexual at age 17, I didn’t want to get married because gay marriage wasn’t legal at the time. It didn’t seem fair to me. In any case, it was somewhere between a “don’t want to” and a “I’ll never.”

I met my future fiance at age 24 in 2007. Something about this relationship felt different to me, and I found I wanted a more long-term commitment. We had been together for roughly six months when I found myself saying, “I want to marry you,” almost unconsciously during an intimate moment.”I want to marry you, too,” he responded, “But not yet.”

Our “not yets” held us – through moving, his attending graduate school, a multitude of stressful transitions.
When I moved out to live in community, my healing process, questions from other people, and general stress on our relationship threw the constantness of us into more doubt.
We separated in the fall of 2013.

I remember a conversation about relationships and marriage at one Sunday night dinner that fall, where several other women shared their thoughts. “I don’t know,” I said. “I thought I had found the person I wanted to marry.” I was confused about my relationship with him – as I still deeply loved him – and I didn’t know what the future held.

Through my health issues, depression, and crisis, he stood by me. We came back together slowly, tentatively. By the time I left San Diego in June 2014, I knew two things in my life for sure: that I needed to leave for my own healing, and that I wanted to be in a relationship with him. Even if it had to be long-distance for awhile. Even as we were rebuilding trust and learning to communicate in a different way.
And we grew closer, steadier.

There were nights that fall where I would text, “I want to marry you.” He would respond, “I want to marry you, too.”
One day, I asked him, “Wait, are we serious?” He paused and said, “I think I am.” Are you?” “I think so,” I said. “Let’s talk about it next time I visit,” he replied.

So we talked about it on a cool December day as we took a hike in the foothills. We shared what we wanted, what marriage meant for us, whether we were ready for a stronger commitment. Both of our answers were “yes.”  We don’t really have a proposal story, but nonetheless, we have a story of strong mutual agreement and knowing we were ready.

We carried our unofficial engagement with us, not quite a secret, shared with a few loved ones, calling each other “fiance(e), husband, or wife” on occasion at the end of our Skype calls. We chose my engagement ring – first the jewelry store, where we walked in together and found out our the ring sizes. A few months later, around May of 2015, I went into the store and took pictures of a few rings I liked. I shared them with him, and he said, “I like this one a lot.” I looked at it – an aquamarine stone in a square setting in  yellow gold. I had imagined a smaller stone in white gold, but there was something about this one, the way the cool aquamarine stood out against the warm gold, how it looked natural on my finger. It felt right. I went in again and tried it on and got tears in my eyes. Soon, we started making payments on it.

engagement-ring

The ring was ready and resized by Thanksgiving weekend, 2015, when my love came to visit. We went into the store and he slid it on my finger. We took pictures that day and officially announced our engagement. The day before, I had also given him an engagement ring: a simple stainless steel ring, black with a gold design. He wasn’t expecting it, and he smiled as he put it on. It fit perfectly.

We took pictures – selfies, or “usies” – outside under the deep blue late fall New Mexico sky. We glowed. “I marry you,” he said. I grinned. “I marry you,” I replied.

Friday link roundup 9/16

“Sometimes we have to start broken, but in the end you have a choice and if they can find even the smallest thing to hold on to, it will lead them out of the dark, into the light of a life they love, and is worth fighting for.” Kaiha Bertollini champions for sexual assault awareness – and her own healing from PTSD from her own assault  – through her potentially record-breaking hike on the Appalachian Trail.

6 Fascinating Facts about Dreams.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is about to open in Washington, D.C.

Why the discovery of an Earth-like planet – in a neighboring star system! – is such a big deal.

How the Veerni Institute, which was created through the partnership of a Swiss aristocrat and an Indian techie, strives to help and educate women – specifically child brides – from remote villages in India.

Director Ava DuVernay is in the process of casting a diverse cast for her film version of A Wrinkle in Time.

Book review: Love Warrior

“I stop asking for advice and pretending I don’t know what to do. I do know what to do, just never more than one moment at a time. I stop explaining myself, because I learn that making decisions is never about doing the right thing or the wrong thing. It’s about doing the precise thing. The precise thing is always incredibly personal and often makes no sense to anyone else……And when I need to work anything out, I turn to the blank page. There, no one can steal my pain or try to poison my knowing, and there I always have the final word in my own story.” – Glennon Doyle Melton, from her book Love Warrior.

I just finished Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. I almost wish I wasn’t done with it – the words and the story are still lingering with me. I wanted to share my thoughts/review on it.

Glennon’s words flow. She writes in a beautiful, honest way that invited me into her world. I read this book quickly.

And saying that, this isn’t an easy book to read. Nor is it meant to be. It is above everything else, a memoir, the story of how a woman recovered herself, her relationship to her body, her relationship to her spirit. Yes, it is also the story of her marriage, and I see it as being more about self-love, and how self-love can open someone to opening to and loving another.

There are parts that feel heavy and painful, where I found it hard to read without holding my breath. Glennon talks about her struggles with depression, with alcoholism, with bulimia, and the pain of discovering her marriage was not what she thought it was. Glennon describes her book as “brutiful,” and I’d agree with that. It’s beautiful and it’s brutal. And that’s what makes it vivid and real. She is pulling away the curtain and telling her story, her truth, and in a more revealing way that she does even in her honest and intimate blog, Momastery.

In her blog, Glennon sometimes comes across as a teacher, sharing her experiences and then giving inspiration and messages to others. In Love Warrior, she is more of a raw and vulnerable storyteller who has experienced a lot of personal growth. She talks about what she learned, her inspirations, what they meant to her. As a reader, I can pick and choose what to take in, what might help me in my own life, but she does not offer her story as  advice for another, a do this, or don’t do this. It is more of a “this is what I did, and this is what I learned, and this is who I am becoming.” Glennon does so much to help others, through her blog and her work with Together Rising. In this book, she strips down the layers and reveals herself even more. I hope that her speaking out about her experiences will continue to give others courage to do the same.

I saw a few reviews on Amazon that describe Love Warrior as having too much information or being too voyeuristic.  I think that’s a matter of opinion. It is incredibly intimate, and in some ways it is like getting to see what it’s like to live as Glennon and how she perceives her life and its events from the inside out. I could see how that could seem like too much…and I also think that reading about her personal and internal experiences gave me more to relate to.

I find Love Warrior to be brutal, intimate, beautiful, emotional, and revealing. It’s an exquisitely written book about a woman coming into herself. You can find more about Glennon Doyle Melton here and purchase it on Amazon here. I’m going to hear and see Glennon speak next week, so perhaps I’ll write more then.

Wedding countdown: My own kind of bride

I’ve been thinking about what it means for me to be a bride. I’ll start with a few stereotypes and impressions that I’ve read or taken in throughout the years:

  • A bride is like a hostess.
  • A bride is center of attention. The universe of the wedding revolves around her.
  • Everyone congratulates the bride first.
  • Brides who get too focused, demanding, stressed out, particular, overbearing, etc. about their weddings are sometimes called “bridezillas.”
One of floral designers we interviewed addressed all of her comments to me until I told her that my fiance and I were making these decisions together – and that sometimes he had stronger preferences than I did about the flowers. As we make decisions about the details of our wedding, we are collaborating.

The event of a wedding seems very bride-focused, even though it’s a ceremony united and celebrating two people. I wonder if that pattern is turned on its head in weddings between two women or two men, if the bride-focused part may be part of a heteronormative and potentially patriarchal practice, going back to when women had dowries and were basically moving to new households and families. There’s also the beauty part, and society may expect a woman to be concerned about the details of creating beautiful event, as well as emphasizing her own beauty through her dress, hair, and makeup.

I’m not sure what it means to me to be a bride, other than I am the female spouse-to-be. I’m keeping some traditions and throwing out others.

I’m not wearing a white dress, or even off-white or champagne. Still, I sometimes look at the white dresses and there’s some small part of me that wants part of that. I don’t want to diminish any bride who desires to wear white – it’s a personal decision. I love the vivid dark blue of my dress, with its gold embroidered accents.

I’m not wearing a veil; my face and hair will be uncovered. I’m wearing my hair in an updo,  with flowers: baby’s breath, white roses, and delphinium (a purple/blue). I had a wedding hair trial with my stylist last week. There, I watched as she combed, curled and pinned my hair, braiding pieces and creating a vision that began with a Pinterest post.

I don’t have a bridal party – it would add extra details and potentially extra overwhelm. That being said, I do have a good friend playing a role in the wedding and my mom and mother-in-law-to-be have been amazing in helping me pull things together, and we are delegating various tasks to friends and family members.

Sitting at my beautiful bridal shower last Monday, surrounded by people who love me, I felt blessed. I also felt overwhelmed. Afterward, I spent some quality time with my weighted blanket. It was a very low-key shower and it still felt like a lot. I have a hard time having that much attention on me at once.

I seem to be fine being the center of attention when I have a specific role in certain settings. I’m fine facilitating a class, teaching Nia, giving a public speech. But it’s like I can diffuse the attention in those situations and maintain my energy and the energy of the space around me. But when it’s that focused on me, as it was at the bridal shower and I’m sure will be at most of the wedding, I felt very on the spot. It’s somewhat like being called on in class or a group situation, except for an extended amount of time. Am I supposed to perform, play a part, sit there and smile?

Any pressure aside, in the end, I need to do what feels natural to me. I’ll create space and breaks to relax and renew. I’ll do my best to be present. I’ll take in the love around me. I’ll create boundaries and space when I need to. I’ll be my own kind of bride at my wedding.

A retained reflex: working with fear

As part of my ongoing occupational therapy, I’ve been doing exercises on primitive (or neonatal) reflexes. I mentioned them briefly here. I was addressing the Moro, or startle reflex, and now I’m doing exercises related to the Fear Paralysis reflex…which is supposed to be integrated before birth but….didn’t with me. The Fear Paralysis reflex precedes the Moro reflex, and is defined by withdrawing and freezing in response to stress and stimulation.

I’ve been looking at the symptoms of a retained fear paralysis reflex and I identify with most of them. I took the list of symptoms from two pages: this one and this one.

  • Insecure, low self-esteem
    • Yes. I have definitely done a lot of work with this.
  • Depression/isolation/withdrawal
    • Yes.
  • Constant feelings of overwhelm
    • Yes, I do get overwhelmed easily.
  • Extreme shyness, fear in groups
    • I’ve always felt more at ease interacting one-on-one or in small groups. I’m more likely to freeze/shut down in larger groups.
  • Excessive fear of embarrassment
    • Yes.
  • Sleep & eating disorders
    • Sleep, yes. I’ve struggled with insomnia, especially when I was younger. Eating disorders, not so much.
  • Feeling stuck
    • Yes. I used to think this was primarily based on a belief I had, but perhaps it began with a feeling
  • Withdrawal from touch
    • I’m tactile defensive, so yes. I’ve definitely improved in this area, but if I’m overstimulated, my tolerance of touch is the first thing to go.
  • Extreme fear of failure, perfectionism
    • Oh yes, definitely. I’ve done a lot of work on this, too, and consider myself to be a “recovering perfectionist.” My healing/personal growth work has been helpful, and learning to teach Nia has been especially helpful in accepting imperfection and being softer with myself when I make mistakes.
  • Phobias
    • This is a very broad category. Which ones? What I can say is that I have a strong tendency towards being fearful, anxious, and hyper-vigilant.
  • Low tolerance to stress
    • Yes.
  • Constant state of anxiety
    • Part of me says that it’s been “consistent” but not constant. In any case, I would definitely say that anxiety has generally been a major factor for most of my life.
  • Tends to “freeze” when there is a threat, instead of fight or flee
    • Yes. And this also could happen in situations that weren’t exactly dangerous, like being called on in class (even if I often did know the answer).
  • Sensory processing issues
    • This goes without saying.
  • Hypersensitivity to light and sound
    • Definitely to sound, although that’s improved somewhat since beginning my iLS listening program. I’m not a fan of flashing lights, and my sensitivity to light skyrockets when I have a migraine.
  • Does not adapt to change well
    • Transitions are challenging for me. I can adapt, but it’s a slower process than I would have liked to admit in the past.
  • Overly clingy
    • My mom says that I was very attached to her, especially in my toddler years, to the point of clingyness.
  • Extreme fatigue
    • Yes. “I’m tired” has been one of my most common comments throughout my life. I tire easily, and I’ve also struggled several times with adrenal fatigue and precursors to chronic fatigue syndrome.
  • Deer in the headlights response
    • See “freezing.” Wide eyes, go silent, shut down.
  • Selective mutism (not speaking in situations where talking is expected, especially if speaking is already an established ability)
    • Not sure on this one. I had thought it was a conscious choice to not to talk to certain (or most) people in middle school and other times in my life, but what if it wasn’t entirely a choice?
  • Holding breath when upset or angry
    • Wait, breathing is expected in those situations?
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) traits
  • Defiant or controlling behavior
    • On these last two, generally, no. I definitely have done things to control my environment and reduce stimulation, but I don’t think I exhibit OCD traits. Defiant behavior depends on the environment, but generally I made an effort to behave well and blend in.

When I started doing the integration exercises for the Moro reflex, I definitely experienced some tense moments. As I begin the exercises for the fear paralysis reflex, I’m definitely experiencing occasional moments of high anxiety. Integrating these reflexes requires activating my strong startle or fear responses and sometimes it feels akin to poking at a wound so I can heal it. Luckily, it also involves some soothing exercises as well. As usual, I don’t know what changes to expect as I do these exercises. My hope is that I’ll be able to return to – or reach – a state of calm more easily.

Wedding countdown: etymology

So, today I begin with a countdown: 30 days until I get married. I may not blog daily, but I hope to include reflections of my process here. I’ll be exploring what marriage means to me, what it might mean for me to be a wife and spouse, etc.  I’ll also be doing daily rituals. We’re in the process of creating a handfasting wedding ceremony, and I want to hold some sacredness in the days before as well.

For awhile now, my love and I have occasionally been calling each other “husband” and “wife.” In some ways, it’s like trying the titles on, and in other ways, we’re using the terms affectionately to express how we feel about each other.

Being a lover of words, I’m beginning with etymology: What are the dictionary definitions of these terms, and where did they come from?

Wife
origin: Germanic to Old English, meaning “woman”

Wife meaning female spouse began in Old English

Husband
Old Norse, comes from the words “hus” – “house”and”bondi” – occupier and titler of the soil. Together, husbondi meant “master of the house.”

This led to the Old English term husband, which meant male head of household; in late 13th century it replaced the word wer meaning a married man.

Other wedding/marriage related terms:

wed: from old English weddian, meaning to pledge, to give oneself in marriage

wedding: ceremony of marriage, pledging, uniting. Interesting fact: the usual Old English term for wedding was bridelope or bridal run, referring to taking the bride to her new household.

I’ll share more on my personal reflections on what marriage, weddings, and being a bride and a wife mean to me soon.