Gymnastics

April 27, 2015 § 1 Comment

High-context was my mother tongue—
my mother teaching me contortionism
how to fold yourself up small

Self, mediated to the tastes and needs of
the home and the church and the town,
monitoring, evaluating
editing everything before it left my lips
before the impulse moved my body
(“we don’t do that”
(“we don’t act like that”
(“you’re embarrassing me”
(warning phrases that You’re Doing It Wrong
(Punishment Will Follow When We Get Home
(Shape Up Now)

and more truly, underneath it all,
become Acceptable,
shape into what Mother wants,
twist all out of true
to mold around Her needs
the entire household bending
to the gravity well of Mom,
egg-shells of Her moods beneath our feet
treading light and careful, watching
Her every cue and unstated desire
learning to read minds just
to keep the peace
and be a little bit
safe.

I started unlearning it the moment I left home
stretching my wings outside the cage of adolescence
breathing deep for the first time in my life
and then, with a jolt, folding back in
wide-eyed, frightful,
waiting for an oppressive stare
the heaviness of Disapproval
that didn’t come.

I sought a therapist’s couch
afraid of becoming Her—
and learning, as I did,
how to see myself
how to feel again
speak my truth with only a moderate amount of fear.

I cut Her bindings when I cut my hair
learned to spread myself out large
let a shiny black bird teach me its harsh voice
and raucous ways, learned
to care for my own survival
a need to breathe and move and be
no matter what was Proper.

And when a lover tried to box me back in again
make me Hers and make me tame
For love, I tried – more than I’d tried in youth
contorting myself to Her desires
carving away pieces of myself to fit Her life
to keep the peace
and be a little bit
safe

but I’d grown too large into my own shape
my edges were sharper than before
my mouth couldn’t shape Her world
my eyes betrayed my fear and buried fury
and after months of striving
I tore away

and now

I can’t seem to bend into another’s liking
I can’t quite soften my grackle voice
I’ve forgotten how to speak the liquid Southern dialect
of my youth, grown spare as I am
to desert plains and mountain stone.
I try sometimes,
and the trying scrapes the raw places
that She left, rope across the half-healed wounds,
still-knitting muscles tearing like fire
with the twisting of my mind–

I am not as sharply direct as the dragons I admire,
nor as shifting-subtle as the people of my birthplace,
and I do not know yet know the full voice
of my own heart’s tongue.

Non-Binary Mysteries 2: Solar and Lunar Symbolism

March 7, 2015 § 3 Comments

(This is my submission for Prompt #2 of the Non-Binary Mysteries. See the masterpost here.)

The sun rises, dawning color and warmth into the world, nurturing and burning, illuminating and changing. It visits any given area for longer and shorter times throughout the year, rising through the sky, falling through the season. Hours and seasons are set by its movements, heating and cooling, growing and harvesting.

The sun sets.

Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, a researcher found that people who fit solidly into the gender roles proscribed by society were far more likely to assign gender to words and objects than people who didn’t fit so cleanly into societal gender norms. Read up on Gender Schema Theory by Sandra Bem and the fascinating research and ideas within it. It’s a bit dated and incomplete, and yet it has usefulness within its limitations, like any model.

During a cognitive task study, people who were strongly gendered and gender-normative (“sex-typed” in Bem’s theory, meaning they process and integrate traits and information in line with their assigned gender, conforming to the cultural definition of what it means to be “male” or “female”) tended to remember more traits assigned with their gender role, and processed “sex-type congruent” information more efficiently… perpetually reinforcing their concept of gender normativity, a continual process of confirmation bias. When given a list of words to cluster either by semantic meaning or by gender, they were also more likely to cluster words by gender. They are “gender-schematic”.

In contrast, “cross-sex-typed” individuals (in Bem’s theory, people who processed and integrated information and traits in line with the opposite gender role from their assigned gender) had the lowest percentage of words clustered by gender, followed by “androgynous” individuals (people who process and integrate traits and information from both genders). They are “gender-aschematic”.

Strong gender-schemata provides a filter through which people process incoming stimuli… making it easier ability to assimilate information that matches the stereotypes, which further solidifies the existence of gender stereotypes. It is one model through which to approach reality, and a highly dominant one in a number of societies, enforced and reinforced throughout the culture. It is incredibly prevalent, too, in much of Neo-Paganism: Lord/Lady, God/Goddess, Male/Female, elements and correspondences all sorted into Masculine and Feminine. Sun God and Moon Goddess, in so much of mainstream Paganism.

The moon rises, lining the world in silver and shadow, the cool colors of night. The face of the moon waxes and wanes, cast in growing shadow, brightened in growing light. Months are measured by its cycles. Its pull sets the rhythms of the oceans, the tides and waves, and perhaps it even influences the rhythms of mind and heart.

What, then, for those of us who are gender-aschematic?

I am fortunate in that my tradition leans gender-aschematic, itself. Kemetic philosophy is non-dualistic and polyvalent, the One and the Many, both/and. Many seemingly contradictory things can be true all at once. There are deities with the title of “The Great He-She”. There are deities that are explicitly hermaphroditic, deities that are very male, deities that are very female, and deities that are downright sexless. There are deities that are more concept than person. There are deities that merge into one another, split into pieces, and those pieces join with pieces from other deities to make new ones, fission and fusion and fluidity.

The sun is a goddess and the sun is a god and the sun is a scarab. The moon is a child and the moon is a god and the moon is only rarely a goddess, but the gods of the moon are not strongly masculine. The sun and moon are not so much gendered as they are personified in many different ways.

The sun takes the form of scarab, cow and bull, lioness, falcon, cat and leopard, cobra, vulture, and heron. The sun is nurturer, warrior, queen, king, healer, lover, creator, avenger, guardian, mother, father, and son. The moon takes the form of ibis, baboon, and falcon. The moon is healer, defender, scribe, protector, creator, child, traveller, embracer, time-keeper, mathematician, magician, judge, mediator, arbitrator, counselor, and scientist. Both sun and moon are incredibly multi-dimensional, and go so far beyond gender.

Wepwawet is my Parent deity, and I associate Him with shadows and night – though not the moon itself. So often for me, He is gentle soothing darkness, and also an edge of mischief and unknown mystery. He is the moonlit crossroads where your shadow stretches black and long before you at the point of choice and possibility. He is a magician and something of a gambler, a warrior and a scout, the standard-bearer and guide. Yet He has never seemed strongly gendered to me, this wolf-wanderer of the ways between.

Bast-Mut is my Beloved deity, and She is most definitely the sun. She is Bast on Her throne, Bast Who is Mut, the Devouring Lady, the hunting-cat goddess crowned with uraei. She is an Eye of Ra, a title given to a number of martial or protective solar deities. Fierce yet motherly, regal yet warm, and I see Her in the kind of sun-warmth that invites basking, the sun that warms me slowly and gently down to my bones. For me, She is the revitalizing warmth of the sun, and I feel Her most strongly in the dark of winter when the sun shines forth and brings me back to life. She is joy and care, protective nurturing.

The sun has many different faces to me. There is the harsh beating sun-in-summer, Ra as King and Sun, the Apis-bull, Sekhmet’s wrath. There is the warming sun-in-summer too, Mut and Heru and Wadjet. There is the cool distant sun-in-winter, hawk and scarab, watching, becoming. There is the warm revitalizing sun-in-spring, Hethert returning from Her travels, Bast crowned in glory. There is the fading sun-in-autumn, Hethert-Nut as the Wandering Eye in Her departure.

Sometimes the moon sings to my blood, intoxicating and invigorating. Sometimes the moon is a rabbit and sometimes the moon is an ibis as Djehuty or a falcon as Khonsu. Sometimes the moon is a mystery, magic, and the hunt. Sometimes the moon is madness, its fullness corresponding with a spate of crisis in the mental health centers I’ve worked in. Always, the moon is genderless. Never have I experienced it as feminine, and never have I identified with the menstrual cycles that so much of modern mainstream Paganism associates with lunar cycles. I love the moon and thrill to the sight of it, sparking dreams and visions in my mind.

The sun is a different thing entirely. I connect so strongly to the sun, and I am keenly aware of its seasonal increase and decrease. The seasonal rites of equinox and solstice resonate with my heart and biochemistry, not for their celebration of the cycles of agriculture but rather for the marking of the sun’s departure and return. My mood brightens with sun’s presence and suffers significantly in its absence, seasonal affective disorder weighting my body and mind. The hawk in me is a solar creature, thriving in the daytime, hunting in the sun’s light. The phoenix I identify with at the core of my soul is solar above all else.

The moon sets.

The sun rises.

All Healers are Wounded

May 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

Wounded healer –
an archetype, they call it,
a phenomenon,
but they’re wrong.

It’s superfluous,
a word said twice, because
you see –

All healers are wounded.

Oh, they might not begin that way –
starry-eyed, full of cheer,
out to save the world,
cure its ills, a savior –

but a savior is a sacrifice
and they don’t know it
until they’re on the altar.

Most start out wounded,
and are wounded time and again.

This is what we do:
treat injuries,
see death,
witness the aftermath of all that
human beings are capable of,
the abuses we inflict on one another:
on each other’s bodies,
and hearts, and minds –
the fracture patterns we leave
on another’s soul.

Witnessing is the healer’s role.
Seeing without turning away,
hearing without fleeing,
holding the story and the pain
and seeing a fellow soul underneath.
We bear witness to pain when no one else will,
or can,
or even knows how.

In witnessing, we learn, in a soul-deep way:
there are terrible events in the world,
terrible deeds, terrible acts,
terrible capability in the human psyche.

You can’t see these things and stay whole.

Witnessing wounds.

All healers are wounded.

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