Short Story – Anne and Renee

Anne and Renee: The Soulmate Series

 

 

 

Renee slammed the bedroom door and kicked her stilettos toward the closet. She ripped at her black lace garter and stockings, tearing them off in frustration and throwing them into the trash. The little black mini dress got balled up and thrown on the floor. She stomped into the bathroom and started the shower. As steam filled the master bath, she sat down on the toilet seat and let the tears come. The love of her life, her soulmate, and partner simply did not want her, no matter how hard she tried. Stepping in front of the full-length mirror, Renee took off her black push up bra and used it to wipe away the fog that was already clouding her reflection.

Her breasts were still full and firm. Admittedly, they were a little lower than they were the first time Anne had taken her, up against the wall in the bathroom of Catch-22, the previous incarnation of The Kitty Klub. It was ten years ago today, in fact. Halloween. Anne had been pursuing her for weeks, but Renee had held off. She was fresh out of bad relationship, and she was dead set against getting involved in another one. Anne was gorgeous and charming. She was older than Renee by a couple of years, but sometimes she seemed ages wiser. She had a compassionate and kind air about her and a simmering sensuality that seemed to thrum under her skin. Renee guessed that most people didn’t realize the depths of feeling under the quiet exterior. When Renee met Anne, she was alternately intrigued and anxious and she did her best to keep Anne at arm’s length. Renee claimed they were better off as friends, but every time Anne’s hand slid over Renee’s neck as they were hugging hello, the tremors would start in her toes and shudder through her body like lightening.

Finally, Renee agreed to a date. They decided to go as a couple to a mutual friend’s giant Halloween party at the club. Renee wanted them to dress as something sexy, but Anne wanted to be playful and funny. They ended up dressing as ketchup and mustard. Renee wore a red mini dress and red tights, with a big K on the front and Anne wore a bright yellow t-shirt with an M, and jeans. They had pointy hats to match their costumes and they won second place in the contest and everyone laughed and wanted to try on their hats. Anne was charming and funny and Renee found herself laughing more than she could remember laughing in years. When the contest ended, Renee somehow found herself in the club bathroom, backed up against the wall, with her ketchup dress around her waist and Anne’s mouth locked on hers, as Anne reached down and slid her fingers inside of Renee, getting them wet before moving them up to her clit and circling it until Renee came hard, her teeth locked into Anne’s neck to keep from screaming. It was a hell of a first date.

Renee shook herself out of the past. There was no sense dwelling on a part of her life that was obviously over. She let her eyes slide down her naked body. She wasn’t bad looking, even now on the downhill stretch to forty. Her hips were full, she was a little rounded at the belly. But she had looked like this when she and Anne met and Anne had always wanted her then. The mirror was fogging up again, so Renee shook her head and jumped in the shower. She reached down with her fingers as she let the hot water run over her head. If Anne wasn’t going to give her any, at least she could give it to herself. She stroked her clit softly, then harder. It got hard under her fingers and she reached out one hand to brace herself against the wall as she quietly made herself come. She felt released, but sad. Renee had always loved masturbating, but doing so because she couldn’t get Anne to make love with her was a lonely business.

It wasn’t as if their sex life died all at once, either. They made love constantly in the beginning. Anne would sneak up on Renee while she was making dinner and kneel on the ground behind her, running her tongue up the length of Renee’s thighs, searching between her legs. Renee would go weak at the knees and drop, allowing Anne full access. Sometimes Renee would put her head on Anne’s lap in the car, biting and pulling on Anne’s jeans with her teeth, then pressing one hand hard against Anne’s cunt, rubbing it through her jeans, trying to make her come while Anne tried to keep her eyes on the road….

 

Do Anne and Renee get their groove back? Want to read the rest of their story? Check out the erotica series “The Soulmate Series” by Olivia Craft on Amazon.com. Free for Kindle Unlimited Users – only 99 cents for everyone else.

 

 

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We can’t work it out – Relationships end and that’s okay.

Capture

 

So many blogs and articles exist telling people how to make relationships last forever. And that’s a good thing. Kind of. We’re taught from a young age that a relationship ending is a failure and keeping a marriage together for a lifetime is a success. Never mind that grandma wasn’t allowed to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor because grandpa didn’t want a working wife or that your best friend lies lonely in his marriage bed every night because his wife won’t touch him or that your mother consistently turned a blind eye to your father’s affairs because the marriage was more important.

It’s time to recognize the truth that some relationships are meant to last a lifetime and some relationships are not. By teaching people that relationships are work, we’re telling them that they need to find a way to keep the relationship together even when it isn’t serving them anymore. I know someone who was in a marriage for over twenty years, despite being controlled, ignored, and abused because she was taught that marriage is forever and if it isn’t, it’s because you’re doing something wrong.

I have spent way too long in nearly all of my relationships, trying to work things out when I didn’t feel cherished or desired or adored. And though I think all relationships have some value in that they help us grow into who we are (or teach us what we definitely don’t want) I think some of my time could have been better spent if I had left when the relationship wasn’t contributing to my well-being instead of spending fruitless time trying to work things out.

Instead of putting out yet another how to work it out article, I’m going to talk about when to cut and run. Remember, you can’t open your life to happiness if you’re spending all of your time trying to mash an unhappy relationship into something that it will never be.

 

When to leave:

 

  1. When you have doubts. Lots of them. I used to argue with myself constantly about whether or not the relationship I was in was right for me. If you are having to cajole yourself into staying in a relationship, it’s time to leave.
  2. You have to process the relationship with your friends. If you are having to talk to your friends regularly to help understand why your relationship is causing you so much grief, it might be time to leave. A good relationship will still have things to work out, but they can be worked out between the partners.
  3.  You don’t feel respected. This is a given. If your partner doesn’t respect your time, boundaries, needs, it is time to go.
  4. You aren’t attracted to your partner or they aren’t attracted to you. Sex is important in a love relationship and if you aren’t attracted to your partner, you are doing them a disservice by not setting them free to find someone who is. (Side note: It’s important to understand that some people are okay with not having a physical relationship and some people stay in long term intimate relationships while having sexual relationships with others and a billion other different aspects of human sexuality but in this particular instance, I am talking about a monogamous relationship in which one partner wants to be sexual and the other doesn’t find them attractive.) That was a mouthful, but it is important to note. It is hard to stay confident and body positive in a love relationship with someone who does not find your body appealing. Conversely, being with someone who craves and desires you is one of the most sexually liberating feelings in the world.
  5.  You don’t feel supported, nurtured, and cherished.
  6.  You don’t feel like supporting, nurturing, and cherishing your partner.
  7.  You lie to your partner. If you find yourself hiding aspects of yourself because your partner will react badly, or because you don’t trust them to love you as you are, it is either time to lay everything on the table, or move on.
  8.  You’re being abused. Don’t settle for abuse. Not once. If someone hits you, kicks you, pinches you in a way that hurts, it is time to leave.
  9. Your partner is mean in fights. All couples have disagreements. But if your partner calls you names when they are angry at you, it’s time to move on.
  10.  You fall in love with someone else. It’s heartbreaking, but sometimes, when you’re in the wrong relationship, you meet the right one. The moment you realize this has happened, unless you are in an open relationship and intend to stay that way, it is time to break up with the other.

Whatever you do, the most important thing to remember is that a break-up doesn’t mean you have failed. We try different things at different times in our lives. We aren’t expected to stay with the same career our entire lives, so why should we be expected to stay with the same relationship. Sometimes it works for us, and sometimes it doesn’t. If you are unhappy in your relationship and you and your partner aren’t both actively working together to change that, maybe it’s time to move on and free up the space for better things to enter your life.

 

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.

You are Worth the Work

All relationships require work, don’t they? There are moments of pure joy and moments of tearful recriminations. The best relationships aren’t great because there is no conflict, but because both parties make a point of being kind to each other, to keeping open communication, setting boundaries, engaging, being passionate about and for each other.

But that takes work and sometimes the work is hard. And sometimes, you have to ask yourself whether the work is worth it.

A relationship with yourself requires the same commitment. Your own self-esteem, self-love, all of that takes work. And it’s a process. Sometimes, I feel I go through months of feeling on top of the world, proud of myself and all of my accomplishments, sure that I am living the dream, looking in the mirror every day and telling myself how awesome I am…. and sometimes, I feel I’m a half a step away from losing my mind, and just getting out of bed and changing clothes feels like a gigantic step forward.

Self-love is a process. It’s not a straight line, it’s a never-ending spiral. You’ll keep  coming back to the same problems, the same issues, the same old recordings you play back in your head. The times you were abused or insulted or made to feel less than. Self-love works to dig out those old recordings, but sometimes, the tools learned through self-work really don’t erase the tapes. They simply give us a way to hit pause when they keep coming back around.

My classes aren’t about fixing you because you aren’t broken. Even if you think you are, I promise that you aren’t. My classes are about giving you the tools you need to move forward into your own self-work… they’re about teaching you that learning to love yourself isn’t a far away dream. It’s real and it’s attainable and it’s worth it. It is so worth it.

Come join me on Monday, August 8th at 8 PM EST for a six week course on self-love. We’ll address abolishing negative self-talk, overcoming fear and self-doubt, setting healthy boundaries, and so much more.

 

Email me at bethburnett70@yahoo.com for more information.

 

Shame

It isn’t your fault, you know. I know somewhere deep inside, you still believe that it is. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about. You have shame about something – there is something you are afraid to tell people because you worry if they knew the whole truth, they would think you’re disgusting or pathetic or unworthy. They might stop loving you.

Shame. Shame is that dark place that we hide, where it festers and grows and causes that pit of anxiety in our guts or in that place right behind the breastbone that gets tight and makes it hard to take a deep breath.

Your shame is your own, I’m not saying it isn’t. But friend, let me tell you, it isn’t unique. Whatever you are hiding, I promise that one of us is hiding the same thing.

Sometimes, despite years of self-work and activism and self-love, a small, still voice inside of me says that if I had behaved differently, I wouldn’t have been raped. And again.  Is that the scariest contradiction? I no longer have shame around being raped, but I have shame around the fact that somewhere deep inside, I can’t let go of the possibility that it was, on some level, my fault. That’s shame.

Sometimes, when people ask me about money, I lie and tell them that everything is all right. Really, I am drowning, and when I try to figure out what to do about it, I get such anxiety that I have to stop and ask myself if I’m having a heart attack or just a lot of anxiety. That’s shame.

Sometimes, I eat way more than I wanted to, and after, I feel sick, not physically, but emotionally, as if there’s something seriously wrong with me that I am still fighting with my demons surrounding food.

Sometimes I have panic attacks so bad that I can’t breathe and in the depths of those attacks, I start to wonder if anyone really loves me, *really* loves me, just the way I am. Sometimes those panic attacks are so horrific, I think I’m actually dying. And I think there’s something wrong with me that I can’t control them, so I’m afraid to talk about them because I think everyone else will think there’s something wrong with me, too.

Sometimes, I remember those voices of all of the people who have called me fatty, lardo, pig, disgusting, sick, whoa-my-god-she’s-coming-toward-me, and know that somewhere deep down inside, I still carry them. Shame means I’m afraid to talk about it because I think that if I tell someone about it, they’ll start to see it, too.

Your shame may not be the same as mine. Maybe you carry shame about alcohol use, or things you did when you were addicted to drugs that hurt other people. Maybe your shame is about how you wet your pants in the second grade and everyone laughed and sometimes, you still hear the laughter, and while most of the time, you remember that it’s just one thing, long ago, in the deepest, darkest parts of your soul, you shrivel up remembering. Maybe your shame is getting so overwhelmed by all that you have to do that you do nothing but sit at the computer and play solitaire and then go to bed crying because that means so much more to do tomorrow.

Your shame may be about being abused, about wondering if there was something you could have done, if you had locked the door, if you had behaved yourself. Your shame may be around your body or your intelligence or your very existence. You may have shame about your education or your upbringing or about your failed relationships.

Maybe your shame is simply that everyone thinks you are such a together person and your dirty little secret is that you have self-love meltdowns just like everyone else.

Your shame is your own and it’s not my place to tell you what to do with it, except that I am going to tell you that until you talk about your shame with someone, it’s going to hide and it’s going to bubble up in your darkest hours, and it’s going to grow bigger until you think you can’t possibly bear it anymore.

Friends, let me tell you this. You are not alone. And it isn’t your fault. It isn’t your fault because we have all of this pressure on us from birth to death and sometimes the weight of that is too much to carry. It’s not your fault because you’ve been called names or told you weren’t enough and it’s hard to hear all of that all of your life and not let it absorb into the core of your being. It’s not your fault because your parents told you that no one would ever love you unless you (fill in the blank) and it’s probably not even their fault, because someone told them the same thing. It’s not your fault because even if you were drinking, you still didn’t deserve to be raped. It’s not your fault because even if you were yelling and out on control, you didn’t deserve to be punched. It’s not your fault.

It’s not your fault.

Your shame is your own. But I am giving you mine, right here, open and laid out before you. It may not be your shame, but it is still yours. You are not alone.

 

 

 

Whose Day Did You Ruin?

 

beth in leggings

 

My partner bought this dress/top for me right before we went on a cruise and I wore it on our special date night with a pair of black leggings and some white slip on sandals. It was perfect for a cruise and we both got a kick out of the dress, the way it fit, the way the bottom swings when I twirl, the colors in it, and the way she instinctively knew how perfect it would be for me.

 

When my friend Yvonne asked me to go to a showing of The Sound of Music tonight, I was definitely up for it. We both adore The Sound of Music and she found a group that was showing it on a big screen, complete with audience sing along and some people in costumes. It was a fun, unique event and I wanted to look cute so I picked this adorable dress. I paired it with the same black leggings from the cruise , only this time, I added a pair of funky Sketcher heels. Even put on some lip gloss and added a little shrug. I felt sassy and cute and ready to have a fun evening.

After I was dressed, but before it was time to leave, I logged on to Facebook on my phone leggings memeand I saw this meme posted by a friend. She had gotten quite a few likes on it, and several comments, including one woman who said there should be weight limits on certain kinds of clothing. Then I made the mistake of clicking on the original post and reading some of those comments. And I realized that no matter how I surround myself with super supportive friends and loved ones, no matter how much time I spend with my tribe of women who love me and think I am the sexy, beautiful goddess that I am, there are still hundreds or thousands of people out there looking at me and judging me negatively because of the size of my body. Despite all of my years of self work, and my ultra-confidence, and my happiness with my adorable outfit, I suddenly felt like nothing more than a fat woman in leggings. I was so hurt, I got a knot in my stomach and I seriously considered not even leaving the house. Because I am a self-love teacher, I want to say that I went out anyway and had an amazing time. I did. But friends, I put on a pair of jeans instead and it changed the whole feel of the outfit. And when I changed, a small part of me knew that I was hiding and acting out of fear and shame. I let someone else’s bad opinion of me form my own bad opinion of myself.

I shook it off. I had a great time with my friend and I enjoyed the sing along and I laughed and danced and watched a movie I love. Tomorrow, or the next day, or the next time I go out, I will wear my sassy outfit and I’ll feel good in it again. But for tonight, just for tonight, my heart was broken by the fact that no matter how much love I put out into the world, there are still people who think that they have a right to define how I dress. And worse, I let them. As I said, I shook it off. I shook it off because I have done so much self work and I am proud of myself and I do believe in my value and beauty and awesomeness. But there are people out there who don’t. And somewhere, someone is seeing a meme like that or other mean-spirited memes and they *aren’t* shaking it off. Someone’s day has been ruined by something like that. Someone is crying because of the weight of all of the judgment of people who haven’t yet learned that the only person they have a right to judge is themselves.

This is why I teach self love classes…. because there are people out there who judge you for one reason or another. There are people out there who, purposely or not, will ruin your day or your week or your life. And there will ALWAYS be people judging you. No matter how evolved you are and no matter how you surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, there are still always going to be haters. Self love is about learning that *you* are the one who gets to define how you feel, that *you* get to choose to love yourself, that you get to decided how to dress your body, or whether or not to wear that bikini. You get to dance or not. You get to have the pure pleasure of knowing that your body, your beautiful body has carried you this far in life, and will hopefully carry you a little further. No one else has the right to tell you what is right for your body. No one.

 

 

 

 

 

Shame

Shame doesn’t work. Don’t move your body because you hate it and want to punish it. Move your body because you love it and want to take care of it. When exercise and nutrition feels like a punishment, you’re constantly telling yourself that you’re not good enough the way you are. Start from the understanding that you are amazing just the way you are and you deserve to take care of your body in ways that feel good. That means moving in ways that feel healthy to you, eating in ways that feel healthy to you, and even, occasionally, eating a small piece of delightfully sinful dark chocolate or something else exquisite.

To learn how to move beyond shame and into a place of self love, join my online women’s empowerment classes. Email me at bethburnett70@yahoo.com for more information.

 

 

New Self Love Classes

The next set of classes that still have openings start on February First. Class times are Mondays at 7 PM EST, Mondays at 9 PM EST, Tuesdays at 8 PM EST,  and Saturdays at 10 AM EST. (Additional class will be added on Tuesdays at 9:30 PM if needed.) Classes are limited to ten per class. Each class consists of six weekly live classes, with homework and in class exercises. Classes address abolishing negative self talk, overcoming fear and self doubt, setting healthy boundaries, how to live your dreams, and actual steps to loving and cherishing yourself. Lifetime access to the Facebook Self Love group for all past participants is included. This class offers women a chance to come into their own power and start living their lives in joy. Classes cost seventy dollars for a six week class, however, anyone who signs up and pays before January 10th will receive a ten dollar discount.

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