As feels like has become increasingly “the way” (thanks mandalorian) over the past few years, the welcoming of the new calendar comes with a deep sigh of letting the last one go.
2022 was in many ways a very hard year, for me, almost everyone around me, and seemingly, the world at large.
A dear friend, whom became as much over the course of this year sent me this meme a couple of days ago:
As a Sag, it hit me. Yes. This was the year I was really challenged to stop running and be WITH big hards.
I have had people in my life get sick, become injured, require post surgical care, pretty regularly since I was a young child. My paternal grandmother had the first big stroke in a series of strokes that continued over the rest of her life when I was around 9. Hospital visits feel a part of my foundational experiences.
This week, as I have been back visiting that same hospital, and thinking about the ways I have run away and hid, I have been able to notice some of the ways I have learned and grown this year. There were times in my younger life when the weight of grief, the discomfort of being with someone who is in a sort of pain that cannot be ‘fixed’ felt utterly unbearable. I dodged visits I was awaited on and ghosted people who were relying on me. In some ways, I had come to believe that this was a part of who I was. I just couldn’t handle it, and didn’t expect that to change.
In the spring of 22, I attended a free trial session with Kylie of The New School for Inspired Work. I was reeling with what felt like the pressures of parenting in a pandemic and caring for a partner who had been diagnosed with cancer taking me off of the track I had imagined for myself. I had been studying with The Institute for Somatic Sex Education and had imagined that I would be able to continue my studies after completing the level 2 immersive in fall of 21. I had thought I would complete my level 3 distance learning and be ready for the level 4 immersive by the fall. I had thought that I was going to be exploring more in person work after a long couple of years of isolation through COVID. The pressures of the cancer diagnosis, and having an asthmatic kid in public school through an ever ongoing pandemic meant that those things weren’t going to unfold as I had predicted. Kylie presented me a very important re-frame. She suggested, what if these things aren’t “in the way of the work”? What if they ARE the work?
In more detail, basically she asked me to consider if I would be ready to operate the pleasure cruise of my dreams if someone handed me the keys today. If it was all ready to go, are you? No, I said, a part of that being that I do feel like continuing my studies is a part of that, wanting to have not only expanded skills and practices to draw from professionally, but also the value of existing within a community of practice, a professional body that helps hold practitioners accountable, and offers potential clients the assurance that they are accessing support from someone who is a part of something larger than themself. So being able to continue studies and continue towards certification felt important. But she probed further, is that it though, are there other skills, practices, growth areas that you need to unlock to be ready? Why, yes, I think that I need more patience and compassion for folks who are undergoing big transformation in ways that are different than I experience myself.
Maybe this isn’t in the way of the work, maybe this is the work.
Over the course of this year, I have had to get better at regulating my own nervous system. Learning how that impacts my abilities to parent through challenging circumstances and my abilities to be present in conflict or disagreement. I have had to continue to refine tools and systems for managing far more details than my brain can handle unassisted. I have had the chance to practice communicating with a wide variety of health care and social service providers, for my own sake but also as an advocate for my partner and child. I have taken up better practices around staying hydrated and keeping the kitchen mess from reaching an overwhelming state, and developed care relationships that help keep me accountable to these things. I have had to learn to turn down opportunities that were of interest and benefit to me, based on a realistic discernment of my capacity. I have learned to walk away when I get too worked up, but in ways that assure those who I may be walking away from that I am doing so out of care and that I will return. I have practiced ways of grounding and regulating through extreme activation, befriending my breath, the earth, personal ritual and getting over some of the fear of reaching out for help. I have taken up craft hobbies that allow me to have energy moving out of my body, while remaining physically and emotionally present with someone whose body can’t move.
Moving beyond ‘Running from Problems’ means learning to sit with them. This can be deeply uncomfortable. Many years ago, a friend and teacher Anna Soole shared the distinction between being uncomfortable and being unsafe. I have continued to explore this over the years. When we are unsafe, or our bodies feel unsafe, we aren’t really able to learn or grow. Our nervous systems will be in a survival mode that often shuts off our capacity to take in new information or complete complex problem solving. But being uncomfortable is not in itself unsafe. Rather, uncomfortable is WHERE we learn and grow. It’s where feeling challenged can actually expand or clarify our edges. Getting uncomfortable is imperative in change and personal evolution. If we stay where we are comfortable, we will not have the chance to challenge or expand our capacities.
A theme in 2022 has been learning to be uncomfortable; in ways that also tend my nervous system and environment enough that I am not experiencing the discomfort as unsafe. I wouldn’t in any way say that I have mastered this. It is all a work in progress. I am learning more, from myself and the teachers and friends and lovers that are a part of this process with me every day. The humility part of this process, recognizing that there is always, and always will be, more to learn is without question a part of it. It involves breaking the colonial, capitalist ideas of perfectionism, control, and domination; within ourselves as well as in relationships and systems.
The Show & Tell events and how they evolved over this past year also were a big part of my year. Having a monthly set of tasks that I would undertake in order to maintain a consistent setting of engagement with folks who want to join me in learning space was really good for my worrying that I was ‘off-track’ and drowning in all of the big hard that was consuming me. But more than that, was what actually would come up from month to month, folks coming with excitement, curiosity, vulnerability, playfulness, and desire to connect and learn – and the beautiful things that came out of those conversations. I am excited to carry the Show & Tell into this new year, with some of the changes that it grew into over 2022. While it is still a sex-positive, queer centric space, we have moved past the sex toy focus that initiated the event, and moved into something that goes beyond just the pleasure and play parts of being present and embodied, but also includes some of the sitting with the uncomfortable that has been a part of this years theme. In the practice of trying to be gentle with myself, I have slated January’s Show & Tell for the 2nd Friday instead of the first, and I will be doing the promo slide stuff tomorrow when I have an office work body double. For now you can mark on your calendars that we will be meeting in topia on Friday the 13th. And stay tuned for more of the theme specifics over this week.
This year has involved a lot of grief, some of it linked to the changes in plans and shifts in capacities, but also the grief of folks I considered friends and teachers who had completed their mortal cycles. I am grateful for the space I found with Jess in the containers she holds for Mindful Erotic Grief a couple of times a month. I recommend checking out this space if you recognize that you need to give space a little body time and attention.
As my body has stretched and strained through everything this year has thrown at me, I have also been grateful for in person, hands on support from Noah Kloze. He has helped me really understand in my body some of the values of somatic sex education and sexological body work. I recommend looking into accessing this sort of holistic body work as a part of navigating growth and expanding edges. You can find other certified practitioners in your areas here.
Thank you to everyone who made me food, helped me with house things, looked after the kid, offered rides, gave me a good deal, shared what lit you up, and offered appreciation for my raw vulnerability. I have been so incredibly held this year, and that has helped me feel like I can lean into softness when things are tough. Thank you. I hope for all of us that this year is a bit more gentle, or at very least, that the systems of care and interdependence we have been devising to get through feel robust and resilient enough to weather whatever comes.
Happy New Calendar.