Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Enduring the Pain and Desolation of Life

(drawing by Kaleema Nur)

"I need to be with people who know the tastes of anger and shame. And can still spit joy."
(source: excerpted from - Andrew Spieldennor. Birth of a Negation in Names We Call Home. By Becky Thompson and Sangeeta Tyagi. London:Routledge, 1996. p.210.)

There are times in my life when I know that I know something and there is no doubt about my truth. Those times are infrequent but when they occur they are like moments of grace, transcending the usual and tapping something so pure that it overwhelms anything to the contrary. When I came across the quote above I felt like the author, Andrew Spieldennor, was inside my very soul describing the journey and state of my soul - the path of my healing. While he names the two emotions of anger and shame it could be any number of emotions which have almost threatened my very existence in some dark time in my life. My healing has come from stealing the joy in the midst of these moments so that I have survived bigger and stronger and full of joy inspite of the memories of the dark nights of my soul.

Question: What practices have allowed you to step away from the pain and dissapointmens, whatever they may have been for you and which alowed you to embrace the joy?

The bible says something about the following, "weeping endureth for the night but joy cometh in the morning." Emotional toxicity can sometimes keep us in lodabar. Lodabar is a desolate place described in the bible where we find ourselves stranded sometimes in our lives. Our mantra during those times might be to remind us that this too shall pass. But meanwhile, what do we have to learn in this desolate place? What anger, shame or other emotions are begging for our attention? If we give our attention to them can we learn the lessons we need to learn and move on? Can we perhaps embrace these experiences not as enemies but friends guiding us to destinations unknown?

Question: What pain - what place of terror and desolation are you fighting and resisting? What would happen if you simply embraced it and befriended it and invited it to come in and tell you its secrets? Can you handle being up close and personal with pain and whatever terror most haunts you?

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Blessing! Rev. Qiyamah

Can We Talk?

(Kaleema Nur on the beach in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Picture taken by James Doberman)

"If a guy can get the goodies on the first date, there's little interest in sticking around to see what else is in the package. The thrill of pursuit and eventual conquest keep many brothers intrigued. The longer you make them wait, the more they'll be reminded that you're worth it. And it will make them want you even more."
Source: Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson - Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania

I have heard Brother Dyson speak several times on a variety of issues. I have read excerpts from a couple of his books. He is a minister, teacher, writer, lecturer and intellectual. I know him to be a solid and reliable source that I trust. If his description of brothers is accurate as stated above, and I believe it is, because I have heard some of these same comments from other men. The assertion that men are motivated by conquest and what they cannot have has countless implications for women.

Women that might identify themselves as marching to a different drummer and setting their own norms about their bodies and their sexuality might need to be prepared for the social hostility they face and will continue to face until social norms change. Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Johnetta B Cole, co-authors of Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women's Equality in African American Communities remind us that "men's expression of their sexuality is celebrated while women's naming of their sexual desires generates shock and moral indictment."

If men are inclined to feel indifferent after indulging in sex either prematurely or the first time with women then women need to understand the rules of engagement. Women that maintain celibacy outside of marriage and are committed to that life style would not be adversely affected. While both types of women are setting their standards independent of brothers the consequences are different for each woman. The difference is that society deems one "virtuous" and the other a "ho, slut, promiscuous." The names are endless. Women who act on their sexual standards tend to be demonized and ostracized. Dyson's comments are a reminder that sexually independent women are penalized by the very men who enjoy sexual intimacy with women. However, because they also value the intrigue of the pursuit and working hard for what it appears they cannot have this is a turn on for many men. Such recognition makes dating and navigating sexual intimacy challenging to single individuals, more precisely women. Women that choose celibacy may not be "goody two shoes" but sensible and practical given the times and are simply exercising their options as sexually liberated women have the right to do. For some readers I realize this is a difficult assumption and if you are one of those individuals then feel free to step off and move on. No hard feelings and we do not have to agree on everything.

Unitarian Universalism, my faith community of choice, does not require celibacy for single women or for single clergy. However, my personal values and beliefs about sexual intimacy have been shaped by a number of assumptions: 1. Ones body is a temple and consequently we should be discriminating about who we share it with 2. it is not easy to establish sexual intimacy without first building a relationship that then leads to sexual intimacy 3. as a survivor of violence it is difficult to establish intimacy and premature sex is merely that and does not necessarily lead to sexual intimacy. So becoming familiar with the individual is important to my comfort level 4. age and maturity have produced a more disciplined approach to sexual intimacy. As I possess more self control in my maturity I do not feel that I have to sleep with every man that looks good and whispers sweet nothings to me 4. the climate of HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases has reduced my willingness to engage in risky behavior and therefore I can accept a lifestyle that does not include casual sex and 5. I am healthier and my self awareness has reduced the need to act out my dysfunction through sexual partners.

Question: How do your values line up with your actions? What would need to happen for you to be sexually active with an individual? What are your bottom lines? What is your relationship with your body temple? How do you bring the sacred and holy into sexual intimacy?
Blessed Be! Rev. Qiyamah