Excerpt from Conference Call

This is the excerpt from my short story in the Bella Books anthology “Conference Call.” All of the proceeds from this anthology go to benefit the Golden Crown Literary Society. If you want the rest of the story, buy the book – available July 20th here.

It was an affair. It was a tawdry affair between two women who should have known better. That’s what we all thought. We watched it happen at the Golden Crown Literary Society conference in DC. There was a palpable energy between them that the most sensitive of us noticed immediately. We sat in the lobby with our coffee, water, and breakfast sandwiches and watched as Maddie walked past the registration desk. Her eyes scanned the room and we held our breath, wanting her gaze to fall on us, to pick us out of the crowd. Maddie moved through the conference with the grace and confidence of someone who felt at home at the con and we all watched her. But Justine sat up like a prairie dog and Maddie’s eyes landed on her. Time froze, or we did, as the electricity between the two of them exploded into a million pieces in front of us.

Justine stood and crossed the room, her eyes locked on Maddie as she walked. They hugged and somehow, we all felt the press of their bodies, felt the way their arms wove around each other, their hips pressed together. From that second on, we were invisible. We sat in on their author readings and we went to their panels, but we were invisible. Oh, Maddie still smiled and laughed with us, and she answered our questions, but her mind was always somewhere else. When Justine walked in the room, a lightning bolt of energy sizzled between them and the rest of us disappeared. Though Maddie would turn back to talk to us, a secret smile remained, and we knew Justine had somehow touched a part of her that no one else ever had.

We stood next to them at the lunch buffet, watching as they carefully didn’t touch. Their bodies craned toward each other until they caught themselves and rearranged the space between them to an appropriate distance. We could feel the pull as they found seats next to each other at a table. They made conversation with people nearby but their arms somehow kept touching or they bumped hands as they ate.

We whispered words like adultery and cheating and homewrecker. It was an affair and we didn’t approve. We heard whispers that Justine was emotionally abused at home and we nodded righteously. Justine was married and we didn’t care how unhappily. She should leave first. There’s no excuse for adultery.

Maddie was partnered and we didn’t know if there were long, lonely nights crying in bed. It didn’t matter. It was an affair. That’s what we all thought. But we watched them laugh together at shared jokes no one else found funny. We felt the emotion underneath the attraction. It was starting to look like something more.

We saw them standing close, heads bent together, having a quiet, intense conversation. Justine blinked out a tear and Maddie brushed it away softly, her fingers lingering on the smooth skin of Justine’s cheek. They didn’t see us, though we passed quite close.  Love of my life, we thought we heard one of them mutter. We overheard them talking several times, and we marveled at the conversations. I’ve never felt so accepted in my life. I can’t remember ever being so heard.
We sat behind them at the movie and watched the way their shoulders touched as they leaned together. We nudged each other knowingly when Maddie put her arm around Justine, secure perhaps, in the invisibility of the darkened room. We ended up at the same table during karaoke and we watched the ways their eyes flicked toward each other whenever someone butchered a particularly sappy love song. We heard the sighs, we saw the longing, and we felt the pain and ecstasy. We started to smile at them during master classes and some of us were whispering the word love.

One day we walked behind them through the garden path of the hotel, and we saw their hands come together. Their fingers entwined and they looked at each other. For a second our hearts stopped. We questioned our own lives. We wondered if it could happen to us. We thought about our own long lonely nights and bitter tears. We remembered the deep love we felt for the friends and partners we’d met at the conference. We touched the hands of our lovers and smiled, wondering if Maddie and Justine felt what we felt. We wondered if they had experienced that jolt, that moment of recognition. We remembered the instant we had looked into each other’s eyes and knew that somehow, after all of the years of feeling out of sorts, we finally felt the last piece of the puzzle slipping naturally into place. We looked at their faces and thought, if only for a minute, that just maybe they were feeling the same thing we felt when we knew we had finally found the one.

It was an affair. That’s what we all thought.

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My Year in Review: The Good AND the Bad.

I did one of the Facebook “year in review” apps… you know the one. They take your most liked pictures or something and paste them all together and call it your year in review. I have to admit, looking at my gathered pictures from the past year, it looked as if I had had a pretty amazing year. And let’s face it. I *did* have a pretty amazing year.

I juggled grad school, writing, sitting on the board of the Golden Crown Literary Society, and teaching online self-love classes with my own self care, taking care of my beloved pets, being present as a friend, and still sometimes remembering to call my mother. I took over co-managing the Writing Academy and have spent a great deal of time and energy working to ensure it all runs smoothly and the students get the most out of it they can.

I started the New Year with a New Year’s Eve dance. I snow shoed. I biked. I went to farmer’s markets. I hiked. I went to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and felt all of the feelings, good and bad. I traveled to New Orleans. I ate a beignet for the first time in my life. I drank only the best coffee. I hugged. I touched. I kissed. I loved.

I came to the rescue of a friend in trouble. I gave my winter hat to a person in the cold. I paid for a senior citizen’s groceries. I donated money I didn’t have to a friend’s breast cancer campaign.

I experienced the joy, repeatedly, of having someone tell me that I had changed their life through my self-love classes and workshops. The ripple effect. They will go on to change other lives. My heart swells at the very thought.

I got straight As in every single class I took this year.

I did squat challenges and wall sits and stair step and plank.

I made the most amazing, colorful, veggie-filled meals and I made the leap from being a vegetarian to being vegan.

I spent a weekend in Traverse City.

I went to Chicago for a party with several hundred amazing women. I won a ticket to fest there and got to go up on stage and say a few words about what fest meant to me.

I danced. Oh, did I dance. I danced and danced. I abandoned all care of what the world may think of me and I danced. I danced because I love the way my body and soul feel when I’m dancing. I danced because it feels good to move my body to music. I danced.

I found some deeper connections and I found some connections aren’t meant to be that deep.

I explored my new community.

I was recently being interviewed about my writing on a lesbian fiction group and the host said, “I tried to find a picture of you that I could post on the page, but it is rare to find a picture of you alone. You’re always hugging someone.” That’s my year in review. I loved.

If you look at my Facebook, you’ll see the statuses and the pictures of a happy life.

But my friends, I want to talk to you about the stuff that doesn’t go on Facebook. Because for the most part, I only put the happy stuff on Facebook. And if you’re out there looking at my page and feeling depressed because your life isn’t a constant string of fun adventures… well, my lovers, neither is mine. And that goes for anyone’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever. People are posting the good stuff because it’s fun to remember the good stuff. Those year in review posts are a great story but they are only part of the story.

Truly most of my stuff was good. Most of it was very, very good. But there were nights when I felt so wrapped in anxiety that my stomach hurt. There were days of feeling as if I had so much to do, I couldn’t do anything. A night when I woke up in a panic because I couldn’t feel anything and I called my friend and then my partner in the middle of the night because every time I tried to go back to sleep I felt as if waves of panic were washing over me. There were times when my house got so messy, I was embarrassed when people came over. I cried. I grieved. I sometimes ate my feelings and felt sick after.  I asked my partner to be there for me for something and she wasn’t and we argued.

I yelled at my dog. I stepped in cat puke. I had a migraine so bad that I thought I was dying and texted two of my closest friends to come check on me to see if I needed to go to the hospital.

One of the things I often hear in the self love classes is that women feel they aren’t measuring up. They feel that they’re somehow doing this whole “life” thing a whole lot worse than everyone else.

First of all, remember this. Comparison is a form of self harm. Don’t compare yourself to your sister, your neighbor, your best friend, that woman from the gym. You are your own unique individual and only you know what you are capable of. What they do doesn’t matter. It only matters what YOU do, what YOU want, what YOU dream. Your self care is important. Your heart is important.

Secondly, it helps to know that we never know what is really going on in a person’s life. We don’t know if that person who just posted the meme about positive thinking is doing so because she’s trying to lift herself out of depression. We don’t know if someone has just lost a partner, a child, a pet, a friend. We don’t know if her boss screamed at her that day at work, and she bled through her favorite pants, and she got a ticket because the meter expired, and she came home and ate macaroni and cheese straight out of the pot. We don’t know it because most likely, she posted a picture of herself on a boat in St. Maartens and you’re looking at it from your home thinking that you wish you were her.

This, then, is the upshot of my year in review. Focus on yourself. Work on what you can do to make your own life closer to what you want it to be. Enjoy your friends’ posts but remember, they have struggles, too. We all do. You aren’t alone.

 

Happy New Year.

 

Dear Lisa Vogel

Dear Lisa Vogel,

I had two items on my bucket list this year for the final Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

  1. I wanted to meet Sara St. Martin Lynne.
  2. I wanted to meet you.

I met Sara. In fact, I ran into her several times. I kissed her, hugged her, drank champagne with her, told her how deeply I admire her work. I recorded my own story with her for her “voices from the land” project. She is even more gracious, beautiful, and insightful in person than she is in print.

Bur I didn’t meet you. I didn’t even see you. I looked, though. I wanted to see you just once. I think I wanted to tell you that I didn’t like who I was before I found fest. I wanted to somehow be able to make you understand that everything good in my life came from my fest experience. I wanted to see you just once so I could blink back tears and show you a picture of the women I love most in the world, my family, all of whom came to me because of fest. Lisa, the women who support me and bolster me and treat me as if I am worthy of respect and devotion are in my life because of you. I am held because of you. I am seen and heard and loved because of you.beth on womanly way

I didn’t see you, though. I looked for you while I was lying on the grass at day stage listening to Crys Matthews. I didn’t see you while I was laughing during Elvira’s performances. I didn’t see you while I tripped happily through the ferns in my bikini, proud and accepting of who I am. I didn’t see you when I wore my see-through black dress in the rain and I wanted to see you at that moment because I thought if I saw you then, I could tell you that I would never have considered wearing something like that before I came to fest. I would have hugged you and told you that four years ago, I not only didn’t love myself and my own body, but I couldn’t believe that anyone else did, either. Lisa, I wore that see-through black dress in the rain and I looked sexy as hell. I wish I would have seen you that day.

I didn’t see you during my self love workshop when a woman approached me and told me that I had changed her entire life by giving the same workshop the year before. I wouldn’t have taken the credit, though. I would have turned to you and said, “That’s because of you. Her life is changed because you changed my life.” You would have seen the circle as a woman who once believed that the only love she was worthy of was a love that kept her oppressed and abused was now giving a workshop that taught other women to see themselves as worthy of so much more than that. So much more.

I didn’t see you at the Weird Family campsite where we cooked pizzas in the woods, drank a little sangria, laughed, cried, and held each other. I would have introduced you to each of the members of my family and we would have thanked you for changing how we see ourselves and each other.calendar 29

I didn’t see you during load out, when I finally got my period and made trip after trip up the hill in front of RV while bleeding heavily. I thought I was going to pass out as Forrest and I loaded out the dining canopy and the pizza oven and the extra tents and the coolers and the flags and the popcorn maker and the signs and the chairs and the full length mirror. I would have smiled ruefully at you and explained that we wanted to create something magical for our family back there on Easy Street. Even when I pulled the last load, I didn’t regret what we brought. We decided to send out this last festival with a bang and to us, that meant making sure our family had a safe place in the woods, a retreat where they could feel comfortable and fed and warm and loved.

At long last, when it seemed everyone else was gone, Forrest and I went to take one last shower and found the water was turned off. Regretfully, we trudged back to the parking lot, tired, sore, exhausted, sweaty, and sad to find the keys were locked in the truck. It was late. It was getting dark and the mosquitoes were biting and we were hungry. We had to call a locksmith. When Forrest went to the front gate to wait for the truck, I sat on the tailgate in the near dark, wrapped in a blanket, swatting mosquitoes and wishing for a granola bar. In the dark and the quiet, I cried over the ending of fest and tried to imagine what the universe wanted me to learn from this miserable moment. I didn’t see you there in the dark, Lisa. If I had, I would have said this wasn’t the way I wanted to leave. I wanted to leave at the peak of my fest experience, happy, and victorious, riding out in the sunshine with the wind in my hair while sisters called reminders to me to put my shirt on before I left the land.

And then I figured it out. You left victorious. You didn’t let someone destroy you. You didn’t let a beautiful old woman die a painful, tormented death. You chose your own terms. And you weren’t compromised.weird family

That’s when I realized that I *did* see you. I saw you in the ferns and I saw you at night stage. I saw you in the blond curls of the naked girl running safely through the grass. I saw you in my lover’s smile when she turned to me during Ferron’s set and took my hand. I saw you in my chosen daughter’s eyes as she stroked her facial hair and came to the realization that she was beautiful. I saw you in Elvira’s laugh and Ubaka’s drumming and in the smile of the womyn who sold me ice cream at day stage. Lisa, I saw you in the girls running wild through the woods and the womyn slowly opening their eyes. I saw you in the festie firstie who, after our shared shower, told me with wide eyed wonder that she’d never showered in front of anyone before. I saw you in the belly laughs of the audience at day stage. I saw you in the triumphant raised fist of a woman walking a slack line and realizing, for perhaps that first time in her life, that she could truly lift her feet off the ground. I saw you in the tears rolling down our faces. I saw you in my own reflection.

This may have been the final fest, but it isn’t over, not for me, not by a long shot. I see you in the way I feel empowered to find a way to carry on, to keep my family together, to keep empowering womyn to take their own power and remember that they are strong. Lisa, I didn’t meet you, but I did see you. I do see you.

Thank you, Lisa.

Love always,

Beth

Michfest and Me. Grieving a Loss, Celebrating a Life.

In February of 2012, I was broken. I had left a toxic long term relationship in which I had spent ten years tiptoeing around in the hopes of not provoking an angry, alcoholic outburst. I didn’t realized how much I had changed myself to keep the peace until I finally broke free and started trying to figure out who I really was.

I was broken. I was unsafe and I was broken. I came back home to Ohio from the Virgin Islands and I put one foot in front of the other to get through every day. I didn’t miss her, but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who I was, or where to go, or what to do to make a living. I didn’t know where I wanted to live. I didn’t have many friends and the ones that I had were far scattered. Living that long with someone who had a tendency to piss off everyone I knew left me without a circle of friends. I felt wholly alone.

I was unsure in my skin. I hated my body. I didn’t like being naked. I was sure I was a terrible lover. I felt insecure and nervous. I had anxiety. I was afraid.

I had heard of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival many years before and it sounded incredible. I brought it up with my ex a few times and she wouldn’t even consider it. She used to say she hated lesbians. I didn’t hate lesbians and I didn’t hate women, but I think a small part of me must have hated myself because I let her keep me from going. The thought of me going by myself wasn’t even an option.

Being single meant adjusting to a lot of things I hadn’t had to consider in many long years, but it also meant that for the first time, I was free to make my own decisions. And one of the first decisions I made was to go to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

I posted an announcement on Facebook and my BFF of all time immediately responded that she was going to fly to Cleveland and come with me. There was no backing out after that. I went to fest that year. It changed my life.

I’ve written before about my first fest, and my second fest, and my third. This year, I will write about my fourth and last. Lisa Vogel, the amazing Amazon who started this life changing space, has announced that fest is ending after the 40th anniversary.

I’ve gone through various stages of grief. The sadness comes in waves as I remember moments from fest or I think about things that I haven’t yet done. I feel sorrow for those who will never attend, for the girls who won’t scamper safely through the woods, unafraid and confident in a way I never was. I’ve shed tears over involuntary thoughts about the future. The community of women have gathered on Facebook and through phone calls and in person and through text to grieve together something that we all share whether we’ve been going for forty years or we’ve only been once. The understanding that there is nothing else like this in the world. The knowledge that Lisa and all of the other women who have worked to build this community year after year have created something that is so much more than a music festival. So much more than a camping trip. So much more than a week in the woods. They (we) created a tribe. We created safety. We created, we continue to create, a community of women who bolster and love each other. We’ve created a space where women can see, for perhaps the first time in their lives, that women are powerful, that women will rise up, that women can create any fucking thing that they want. That’s what fest is… it isn’t a week in the woods. It’s a revelation. It’s a revolution. It’s belief. It’s love.

Fest has brought so much to me. Every lover I’ve had in the past three years has been a fest woman. I have friends who see me and hear me and just get me and love me down to my toes. I met my current partner at fest. I learned about radical honesty from fest women. I first heard the term self-love at fest. I bought my first dildo there. I tanned topless in the sun there. I danced. I sang. I kissed. I laughed. I walked and walked and walked through the woods in the light and the dark and I wasn’t afraid for my safety. Not once. Not ever.

When I got the news, all I wanted was my tribe. I wanted my love and my family all gathered around so we could all hold each other and share memories and laugh and cry together. It felt like a death or an impending death of someone we couldn’t bear to live without. I needed my arms around my loves, so we could grieve and be grateful that whatever amount of time we have had at fest, we had that time.

Laying in bed last night, thinking about my chosen family and fest, and all of the things that it means to me, I realized that I am myself. I’ve *become*. That somewhere between that first fest when I timidly crept into the shy shower after dark and could barely convince myself to even say hi to strangers to my last fest where I gave a workshop on self love, basked in the glow of my tribe, and walked around the land like I OWNED it, I have become myself. I have found my own power. I’ve cast off the years of oppression and I’ve forgiven myself for letting it happen. I’ve not only marveled in the idea that women can create anything, I’ve come to realize that I myself can create anything. I took the lessons that the generations of women at fest have given to me and I’ve used them to build a fortress of self love around my soul. I’m me. I’m Beth Burnett. I am an Amazon. I’m a lover. I’m a mother earth goddess sexy brilliant warrior of love. I *am* Michfest.

Self-Love is the Root of All Happiness.

I am one of the world’s biggest proponents of self-love. No, not masturbation… Though, I am a proponent of that, too. I’m talking about pure, unconditional, oh-my-goddess-I-am-a-miracle-of-creation self love. The kind of love that allows you to wake up smiling every day because you are so happy to be alive with yourself. The kind of love that gives you a full body shield against people who are mean to you. The kind of love that bolsters you so completely that you are your own best friend.

I’ve spent a lot of years working on my own self-love, with an incredible leap forward in the past two. I have done tons of research on the subject. I’ve read books and scoured the internet and talked to shamans and meditation coaches and an acupuncturist and even my old MD. I’ve even taught workshops and online classes on self-love. I’m (joyfully) serious about this subject.

Some of the time, I didn’t even realize I was working on self-love. I have done a lot of working at being less judgmental of myself and others. I have worked very hard to rid myself of jealousy, which is a toxic feeling. I have gone through an incredible journey from regular panic attacks and sometimes crippling anxiety to being a (mostly) in control power woman in charge of her own life from top to bottom. That is to say, I make my own decisions and I own them, right or wrong.

Thinking about it recently made me realize that every single one of the qualities that makes my life joyful and blessed comes from self-love. Being able to absorb the sometimes harsh realities of life is easier because I love myself so much. When a woman told me recently, scathingly, that she wouldn’t date me because she could tell by looking at me that I was unhealthy and had self-esteem issues, I was able to completely brush it off because while I may not be as healthy as I want yet, I am pretty damn healthy. And I have GREAT self-esteem.

So all of the things that lead to joy come from self-love.

I had a date recently that turned out to be pretty spectacular. There was no thought to whether or not I was “in her league” as I might have once thought, years ago. Simply, we’re both single and I find her attractive. I think I got that date with an amazing, gorgeous, and hysterically funny woman because it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t. That’s self-love. It isn’t just that I know that I am a person of value, that she would really enjoy being around, but that I also recognize that if she didn’t want to go out with me, it would NOT CHANGE MY VALUE. Not at all! That ease and relaxation makes flirting so much easier. I can express interest in a woman and if she responds, it is lovely. And if she doesn’t, it’s perfectly okay. It just means that right now, we don’t want the same things. Self-love makes dating low-pressure because I enjoy my own company so much, I don’t need someone to swoop in and make my life a better place. It’s already a fine place as it is.

It makes for a very relaxed life. I’ve revamped my entire outlook on life. Loving myself doesn’t mean thinking I’m perfect. But it does mean reevaluating what I have long thought of as flaws because of societal convention or other people’s opinions. It doesn’t mean completely ignoring ethical and moral values… it simply means digging deep into my heart to figure out what mine are and trying the best I can to live under that standard. I’m not perfect. I’m still working on myself. Sometimes I get judgy. Sometimes I get hyper angry and swear. I have moments of self-doubt. (Is this story really good enough to send to someone?) I’m just continually working to become exactly who *I* want myself to be.

I’ve been able to cultivate radical honesty into all of my relationships. That comes from valuing myself enough to have trust that if I speak my truth, the people I’ve drawn into my life will respond with love and compassion. And if someone decides they want to be out of my life because I’ve been open and honest with them, isn’t that better than having someone in my life under a false pretense?

Loving myself so deeply allows me to attract other loving people into my life. Living an authentic life means I only draw in those people who love the true, deep down Beth. The ones who really see me and get me and love me all the way down. Loving myself means I can offer them that same kind of love in return.

Loving myself means being less reactive. It means offering my loved ones a safe space where they can tell me anything and know within their hearts that whatever they told me will not lose them my love. It doesn’t mean I never feel hurt or disappointed or slighted… it simply means I am always trying to remind myself that I am very blessed to have these people in my life and I am not surrounded with the kind of people who would hurt me on purpose. Because of that, there is a great deal of communication. None of this, “Hey, Beth, what’s wrong?” and me replying, “Oh nothing.”

Self-love means exposing myself (Stop it!). If someone wants to get to know me, they’ll find out that here, at this point in my journey, I am a funny, passionate, creative, often impatient, non-monogamous, fiercely loyal bad banjo player who cries at pictures of abused animals, finds the idea of being trapped in one place to be suffocating, and who still takes her clothes to Mama to have a button sewn on.  Also, I sometimes listen to the Bee Gees. I’m good and bad and I’m a work in progress and I own that. It’s allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It’s saying, out loud, hey, this is me, and I might not feel one hundred percent comfortable sharing this, but if one other person sees who I am and decides to use it to bolster her own self-love and value, it’s worth it.

Self-love means getting to know yourself pretty deeply. And I’m still learning. I change. I once believed there was one soul mate for me out there. Now I know that I have several soul mates. I once believed that being in a toxic relationship was better than being alone. Now I believe that being single is actually a blessing. I used to be so sure of all of my rigid rules and opinions. Now I can sit down with one of my friends and say, “I have this theory about life” and we can talk it out for hours and I am open to changing my mind after we discuss and dissect it.

In essence, in my opinion, self-love leads to deep and abiding relationships with people who are also loving and accepting of themselves. It’s a self feeding cycle and it feels fantastic. Loving my soul friends with acceptance and compassion allows them even greater acceptance and love of themselves…. and vice versa.

So, if self-love is such an amazing cure-all, why don’t we all practice it on a daily basis? I think, we are not really encouraged to be vocally and ridiculously self-promoting. I’ve been accused of being conceited or arrogant for being so outspoken. Even someone who is really blown away by self-confidence recently told me that something I said sounded really arrogant. I was trying to explain that in my opinion, an arrogant person, a conceited person, thinks they are so great, they are above everyone else. I don’t think I’m above anyone… not at all. I think we all walk our own paths and we make our way through the world the best we can and sometimes, we can get really lucky to get a wake up call that allows us to start digging deep into ourselves and becoming the best selves we can be. I don’t think that’s arrogance. I think that’s just love.

If self-love is so important, how do you get it? First, I highly recommend making a list of 50 things you love about yourself. If you can’t come up with fifty, write as many as you can and refer to it often. Ask your friends for help if you need to do so… tell them it is an assignment. You might be amazed at what they come up with. As you start to absorb those compliments, you’ll discover more awesome things about you. When you have fifty, work on adding more.

Every morning, when you open your eyes, say, “I’m awesome!” (Or amazing. Wonderful. Beautiful. Miraculous. Whatever works for you.) Say it out loud, though. It has two benefits. One, you hear it and believe it. Two, it’s kind of hilarious to wake up and say something like that out loud, so you start laughing. At least I do… every morning. The added bonus for me is that when I start laughing, Brutus gets excited and runs over to try to lick my face, which makes me laugh even more. This will work even if you have a partner/spouse/someone else sleeping in your bed. Just get them to do it, too.

Practice self-care in whatever form that takes for you. My hardest form of self-care is regular exercise. A friend told me to “make it fun.” So, every afternoon, I tag a few of my friends, make a video playlist, and have a dance party. We all post to each other at the end talking about our dances. We all give suggestions on what songs to play tomorrow. We move, we breathe, we have fun. It’s self-care. It’s finding joy in moving my body. Listen to music. Sing. Laugh. Eat as well as you can, but enjoy a nice treat every once in a while. Relish whatever you eat. Sit down and enjoy the sensation of eating. Buy exotic, juicy fruits if you can. Meditate. (I sound like a broken record with that one… it’s important!) Just practice self-care however that looks to you. I know I tout this all of the time, but self-care leads to self-love.

Remind yourself of your value. Remind yourself that you are an amazing person. If you don’t get that job interview or that date, it isn’t because you aren’t valuable. It’s simply because it wasn’t the right fit. And if someone is mean to you, it is all on them, not you. That woman who was scathing to me? That had nothing to do with my character, because I wouldn’t do something like that, even if I wasn’t interested.

And lastly, try to be naked as often as you can. Come to terms with your body if that is something that is difficult for you. Get naked. Or at least, go braless. Run around in a tank top and panties. Be barefoot. Enjoy the feeling of your own skin. Sleep naked. Dance in your underwear. Shake that booty. Touch yourself. (No, again, we’re not going there.) I mean, massage your own feet. Rub your shoulders. Touch your arms or your belly. Scratch your head. It feels good. Grin while you’re doing it and it feels even better. Cherish how it feels to be sweet to yourself. Become comfortable with the way your body looks and moves and feels.

Self-love, self-confidence, being comfortable with you… it’s a process and it can be an on-going process. Sometimes it’s hard. When it isn’t working, fake it. Smile, act with confidence, get yourself out there. Be fabulous. Love who you are, because who you are is pretty damn amazing.

 

Excerpt from The Love Sucks Club

 

A car pulls up next to me and I look in the window. Esmé. Nodding to her, I keep walking. She pulls abreast of me again and sticks her head out the window.

“Where are you going?”

“Not far enough to need a ride.”

“Come on.” She laughs. “Don’t be scared. I don’t bite.”

“I’m not scared,” I mutter. Coming around to the passenger side, I let myself in and slide down in the seat. It’s a decent enough car, but small. What is it with these women driving these tiny cars? “You’re going to have to be careful on these roads,” I say. “The potholes have been known to swallow buffalo whole.”

“I didn’t realize there were buffalo on the island,” she grins.

“There aren’t. They were eaten by the potholes.”

I direct her to The Sands and fall silent, staring out the window. I can feel her glancing at me from time to time, but I pretend not to notice. Finally, she breaks the silence.

“So, do you want to talk about your dreams?”

“Nope.”

“About Fran?”

“Not a chance.”

“The price of tea in China?”

“I know nothing of economics.”

“What made you become a novelist?”

“I sat down and wrote.”

“Wow, you would make a fascinating subject for a talk show.”

“I’m a fascinating woman,” I say, dryly.

She chuckles a bit and stares out the windshield for a couple of minutes. “You know, I loved Fran, too.”

“I don’t know you.” This woman is presuming a lot. “I don’t know anything about you. How do I know you even know Fran?”

“I know she used to laugh in her sleep. I know she had a tattoo of a butterfly on her left breast. I know that she thought orange cats were the best animal in the world.”

“You could have gotten that from my book,” I grumble.

“I know she used to stare at the stars and talk about whether or not her family was ever going to come back for her.”

Pausing, I stare out the window. That part wasn’t in the book, and as far as I know, no one except me knew that Fran thought she was from another planet. I can feel my ears start to buzz and I’m sure an attack is imminent. Blinking hard, I try to talk myself out of it.

“So, Esmé,” I say loudly to combat the buzz. “What made you move to the Caribbean from Chicago?”

“There wasn’t anything left for me there. My lover left me for another woman. We’d been together for seven years. I think she was my rebound from Fran.”

“How long were you and Fran together?” I ask, though I’m not sure I want the answer.

“Ten years.”

I look at her, not sure I can believe that she’s old enough to have had at least seventeen years worth of relationships. “How old are you?”

“Thirty-eight.”

“So you and Fran were pretty young.”

“We were pretty young.”

She pulls up in front of The Sands and stops the car. “Are you going in for lunch?”

“No, I’m just going to get a ride home from Sam.”

“I can take you home.”

“Not in this car, you can’t.”

Standing outside of the front door of the hotel, I watch her drive away. She glances back once and I slowly raise my hand. My ears are still buzzing, so I sit down in the lobby and ask the front desk clerk to page Sam. The tunnel comes down over my sight and I can see Esmé and Fran, young and troubled, clinging to each other, both of them with tears in their eyes. I don’t know whether it’s a vision or my imagination, but I’m drawn to Fran’s young face, her light brown eyes and her pale skin. The shock of red hair, curly and full, was just as beautiful in this vision as it was years later when she came into my life. The vision darkens and for a second, all I can see is Esmé. I’m standing on the edge of a cliff, looking back at her. Her face is deathly white and there is a trickle of blood coming out of her mouth. As I slowly become aware that Sam is holding my shoulders and shaking me gently, the tunnel lifts from my sight. Sam’s face, full of love and concern is inches from mine.

 

 

 

I did this video reading….

I did a video of one of my favorite scenes from my first novel. Davey and her mother, Leah are having a rather public exchange about Leah’s sex life.

 

It was fun to record, though not as fun as reading to a crowd where I can see facial expressions and get feedback. Still, I like the video a lot. This is not pornographic… it’s funny. But some of the subject matter may be a twee unsafe for work listening.

 

Check it out. 

 

 

Taking a Leap

inner peaceI logged on to write a blog today and was notified that it is my two year anniversary with Word Press. This has been a roller coaster of a two years for me. In February of 2012, I moved back to the states from the Virgin Islands and ended an almost ten year long relationship that had become quite toxic toward the end. I published my first novel. I started a journey toward becoming the best me I could be and, concurrently, loving myself exactly as I am. I published two more novels. I had two short term, but quite healing and lovely in many ways, love relationships. I went to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival twice. (See my blog on that if you are interested in learning about this amazing festival for women.) This one.

I wrote a blog about Christians and gays that pretty much went viral and was read in church by at least three preachers of varying sorts. (Edited for language, I believe. I’m pretty sure I used the word “asshole” too many times for most parishioners to be comfortable.) I lived off of my royalties. I lived in a camper in the woods. I lived in a lake house. I lived in a farm town in Iowa. I moved wherever and whenever I wanted. I traveled to Memphis and Phoenix and Palm Springs and Dallas. I went to literary conferences. I met a few soul mate friends. I set up learning about this Beth person without artifice. I made a pact to live an authentic life. I danced, I flirted, I made love, I fought, I got angry. I tried to take every chance I had at learning more about myself, why I react the way I do, and how to react differently if necessary. I put a “Namaste” sticker on the back of my car and then laughed at the irony of flipping someone off through the sunroof because they were tailing me on the freeway. I became a vegetarian. I stopped being a vegetarian. I became a vegetarian again. I went on a spiritual retreat. I grew confident.. I laughed at myself. I laughed at life. I laughed with joy. I laughed until tears ran down my face and I couldn’t breathe. I learned to love me.Truly love me.

The end result of this is that I am now the kind of person who believes that if something is calling to my soul, I should make every effort to do it.

The other day, a friend of mine suggested making a grocery list of things that call to my soul and see how that panned out as far as making a living. Well, really, what I want to do is write, talk to readers, meet other authors, do book readings, and go to literary conferences. Oh, and I want to just spread joy and love and happiness to everyone I can. I mean, why *can’t*  make a living spreading joy and happiness and love to people? To that end, I am leaving my day job and focusing on marketing my books, writing more, teaching classes on writing, and giving workshops that help women come to the same self-love that I now possess. I want them to learn to value themselves.

It’s authentic. It’s what calls to my soul. It brings me joy. I may not be able to make a living at it yet, but I don’t care. I don’t belong in  a cubicle wearing business casual, punching someone else’s time clock. I belong out in the world, spreading love and happiness. That’s why my books are happy… and it’s why I’m happy. Now, I am going to work at bringing that happiness and peace to others.

It’s a leap, but then, I like to live on the edge. I’d rather fail at something a million times than to not have tried it because I was afraid.

In the meantime, you can help by buying my awesome new book, “The Love Sucks Club” which isn’t really about love sucking after all.

Sometimes Things Suck – And That’s Okay.

love sucks club coverIn honor of my new release, “The Love Sucks Club,” I’m writing today about things that suck. As any of my friends and blog readers can tell you, I am a proponent of living in joy and making life something to be loved. That said, sometimes things just suck. Sometimes, you’re in a sucky relationship or your job sucks or your financial situation sucks. That morning you slept late, stepped full on into cat puke, got a flat tire, and then got to work late only to get yelled at by your boss? That sucked. When you discovered your ex was cheating on you? That sucked? When your kid hit puberty and started yelling about how much she hates you and everything you stand for? Yeah, that really sucked.

For me, right now, my job sucks. I mean, it just sucks. I’m not even going to list the myriad ways in which it sucks. Just take my word for it. It sucks.

Sometimes things just suck. And sometimes, that’s okay. When things suck, we can wallow in the suckiness for only so long before we start to realize that we are going to have to make a change. I’ve been guilty of staying in a relationship for too long because I was afraid of the change. In hindsight, though, it was the best thing I ever did for myself. Leaving that relationship prompted me to sprout my own wings and challenge myself to live my own life.

I once smoked. I smoked for 22 years and at the end of it, I was smoking almost two packs a day. I couldn’t breathe. Really. I woke up every single night, several times a night with my hand pressed against my chest, trying desperately to take in some air. It sucked. It sucked so bad that one day I decided that not breathing was worse than the pain and difficulty of quitting and I stopped.

So my job sucks. And that’s okay. I’ve been kind of drifting along complacently, writing, and playing on Facebook, and half-heartedly marketing my books. I’m not very good at marketing, is what I kept telling myself. (That takes us right back into negative self-talk and self doubt, which are other demons to conquer, but that’s another story.) So I drifted and I lived an amazing life of travelling and hanging out with my friends and moving around and doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. And then, the royalties started to dwindle and it came time for me to get a “job.” Which leads me to where I am now… in a job that sucks.

Here’s the part where I can reframe my perspective and find gratitude for the suckiness. You see, being in a cubicle in a job I hate is so far removed from who I am that I can’t stay there any longer than is absolutely necessary. And here’s where it gets kind of fun. Hating my job has led me to being way more active in self-promotion and working toward my dreams. I’ve recently written an eight week class on Creative Journaling for Inner Peace and Self-love that I intend to teach at the local Unitarian Church. I have made contact with several local news sources, one of which actually responded with a request for book copies for reviews, and an interview for a story. Through that contact, I met a screenwriter who wants to read my first novel and talk about the movie options. And for the first time, I ordered books myself from my publisher with the intention of getting them out there to be read and reviewed. I ordered a video promo of “The Love Sucks Club” that I will put on YouTube. And I am making a video recording of me reading a funny scene from “Man Enough.” Some of this stuff may lead somewhere and some of it may not, but the important thing is that I am getting out there and working for myself.

Would I have done all of this if I wasn’t wanting so desperately to get out of my job? I doubt it. I had plenty of opportunity before, and I didn’t. So, sometimes suckiness really is awesomeness in disguise.

My friend Yvonne is fond of telling me that I should do just one thing every single day that is a step toward my goals. One thing. Her thought is that as long as you do that one thing, no matter what it is, you have made positive progress toward living your dreams. She’s right. One little step every single day still means I am moving forward. And moving forward means moving out of suckiness and into awesomeness, which quite frankly, is where I belong.

To commemorate the birth of my newest novel and the embracing of suckiness in all of our lives, I am giving away a copy of “The Love Sucks Club” to one random person who leaves a comment on this blog.

 

EDITED: The winner of the book giveaway was Lisa Hurt. Thank you everyone who stopped by to play. And Lisa, let’s chat so I can get your information to send you a book.

Womyn’s Space and Michfest: Promoting what I love, not bashing what I hate.

There has been some struggle and controversy over the long standing tradition of one of my favorite places on earth to remain a woman born woman space. People are now trying to take away this space, to say that womyn who were born womyn do not have the right to gather together. I don’t understand this debate. We are not haters. We are not bigots. We are simply womyn. Womyn who have struggled many years with abuse, womyn who fight patriarchal privileged on a daily basis, womyn who are called sir in public, womyn who are subjected to wolf whistles and catcalls on the street, womyn who want to be in a place of safety and love, and womyn who just want to have a great time with other womyn – and we gather once a year for a week long womyn’s music festival in Michigan. It’s called, appropriately, The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

This festival has been suffering some damaging blows from people who are so het up about the intention to keep this womyn’s space for womyn that they sling insults and hate campaigns at the musicians who are chosen to play at fest. As a result, some musicians have dropped out. I don’t fault them for this. I think they didn’t understand the torment they would suffer when deciding to play.

Sadly, all of this warring is putting my safe space, my beloved fest in danger. I don’t want to lose my safe space. But I am not a fighter and I am not a hater. I am about love. Long ago, I had a dream in which a friend’s deceased mother appeared to me and told me to “paint love on my forehead.” I’ve spent the time since then doing just that. I put love out to the universe and the universe has given me love in return. I am not cheap with my love. I spread it around and try to bring joy and happiness to everyone who comes into my world.

So, in trying to protect my safe space, I’m between a rock and a hard place. I don’t want to jump into the war, and yet, I think it is beyond important to make a stand to protect something that is nothing but good.

I decided that the only way I could fight was to follow my own preaching and to promote what I love instead of bashing what I hate. Instead of arguing with the people who want to tear down this place of love and healing, I am going to describe why I love it in hopes that I can convince other womyn to go and experience it for themselves.

Fest is a place where womyn can walk down a wooded path after dark alone without fear of being attacked. Fest is a place where a woman can wear whatever she wants and not have to worry about being raped, nor suffering the aftermath of hearing, “Well, look at what she was wearing.” Fest is a place where womyn who have spent their entire lives hearing that they aren’t pretty enough or thin enough or subservient enough start to realize that all of those “enoughs” are a fat lie designed to keep them insecure and in fear of how they measure up. Fest is a place where a woman can do yoga in the sunshine, meditate in a field, take a group journaling workshop, wash dishes in a baby pool, throw a tomahawk into a target, watch a movie under the stars, walk hand in hand with other womyn without being looked at strangely, laugh, cry, dance, make love, smile, meet new friends, drink copious amounts of alcohol, not drink any alcohol at all, sit quietly under a tree without being disturbed, sit around a campfire singing songs, learn how to shoot a bow and arrow, and fall asleep to the far off beating of the drums.

And there’s also music.

And hot showers. And healthy meals lovingly served three times a day. And gorgeous smiling womyn everywhere. And love.

Fest is for any woman who has ever been afraid. Fest is for womyn who haven’t yet realized that there is a place that for one week, they can be completely themselves, no matter what that entails. Coming to fest is akin to sinking into the world’s most comfortable armchair, only the arms belong to your sisters and they are there to help you heal from a world that doesn’t want you to have a place of your own.

Fest is about love.

Fest is about love and healing.

Womyn need this place because womyn spend their lives loving and healing others and fest is the place where they can come to be loved, to be healed.

And I love fest. I therefore ask all of the womyn born womyn in my life to consider making it a priority to come to fest just once to experience the love and safety and healing for yourself. You can save fest while saving yourself.

It will change your life. It changed mine.