22 November 2011

Positive Anchoring, Honesty & Humor

Sometimes we have to come up with clever solutions to problems. Three of my most cherished and successful coping skills have been Positive Anchoring, honesty and humor. 

One of the situations that is particularly challenging is being nervous in social situations. For an HSP,  it's doubly hard and it happens far more often. We often find ourselves overwhelmed by that date we have with someone we're attracted to. We can spoil an entire evening with the  handwringing and insecure self-talk going on in our heads. We can spill our drinks, say something insipid or insulting, or just panic, make up a lame excuse, and go home early. So it helps to do some confidence-building before you leave the house.

For instance, when I was in a particularly insecure place recently, I knew that I was broadcasting that mindset at every turn, and this was counter-productive while trying to Win Friends and Influence People. 

So I went back to my well-worn technique which I call Positive Anchoring. I got out my trusty dry erase board and jotted down every positive aspect of myself that I felt a potential partner might find a selling-point. Looking at that list everyday whenever I walked by, has helped a great deal, and it forces me to acknowledge the good things about myself. This, in turn, allows me to project a better self-image to those fortunate enough to reside outside my brain. There is no room for modesty in this exercise, and it has served its purpose effectively many times. The trick, though, is believing it. Sometimes the negative voices will speak louder than that list, but I just have to tell them to shut up.

Another situation where I had to find a coping skill against anxiety was when I performed my music solo in front of a crowd for the first time in many years. When I was in my two bands in the 90's, I did not usually suffer from stage
fright, because I had the reassurance of other band members on stage with me. I was not standing there alone under the lights, with all eyes on just little old me. But when I had to perform alone, all my insecurities rose to the surface, and I knew in that moment that I had to either do something quick, or run out of the venue, feeling like a failure.

My knee-jerk response to everything is just brutal honesty. So I said into the mic, "I haven't done this in a long time and I'm really nervous..." That statement got me some supportive applause. So I continued, adding humor: "I remember that public speakers are often told to deal with their nerves by picturing the entire audience naked..." Titters swept through the crowd. Buoyed by the new acceptance I was feeling through humor and honesty, I met the eyes of a pretty girl on the front row and bobbed my eyebrows, adding, "How YOU doin'?" This brought the house down in laughter, and I was then sufficiently
bolstered so I could begin singing and playing the first song.
So Positive Anchoring, Honesty and Humor are key for an HSP (and for anyone else who suffers from periodic insecurity or sensory overload). Failing that, I just take a Xanax.


13 November 2011

Agnosco veteris vestigia flammae--I feel once more the scars of the old flame...

Most things for me, now, are in the context of being an HSP. My Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a brain architecture that will never change. It is part of me as much as DNA or eye color or ethnic origins. 

I know that one of my main weaknesses in this life, is that i don't do well as a single person, and by extension, I don't do well sexless. Those needs get in the way of my common sense in evaluating the character of some women. So I have been so bold as to place ads on adult sites, seeking only casual (safe) sex, hoping that if those needs are met, I won't be so quick to jump into a relationship, just because I want to have some intimacy.

I have had, in the last 10 years, some forced-celibacy, and realized a few things. One was that for a three year period, right before i moved to Colorado, I had sex three times, once per year. (So there were lots of communions with my vibrator). And those annual encounters were each with a FWB (Friend With Benefits). And during Xmas holiday time too--like it was my one special gift each year. pfft.

Debaucherous, though the encounters were, I was still aware that the "love" thing was missing,
and it was really just carnal, and not lovemaking. We would have wild, passionate sex and then land in the living room with beer and pizza and a movie, and laugh it up and have a good time like friends. It was uncomplicated and enjoyable, and helped solve at least part of the problem. I just wasn't in an environment where I could also date women I was interested in romantically, which is why I moved. But--I much prefer lovemaking. It's just so hard to find, because you have to feel LOVE in order to have that. I ACHE for that sensation of connecting to a woman on some rapturous, surreal level, where you feel you want to unzip her and climb inside...

This is not to say I want to lead with my sex organs/sex drive, however, which is part of the point of doing it this way. When and if I meet that woman I fall for (hopefully it will be mutual) I will not be in a state of deprivation, will not be thinking with my brain chemicals or my "little head." I will make a decision based on who she is--the whole person, how she treats me, and my response to her, in a more authentic way.

Now one of my friends stated 

"I disagree with your theory and I would be very disappointed to know my potential wife had been sleeping around...safe or otherwise via means of the internet. Of course, that goes with my theory of a full disclosure w/ lovers and you may not operate that way. I just think you're going down the wrong road. Medicating with women never solves anything and it really just isolates you more. No one is going to die w/o sex. We are also mature women and cannot be led around by our 'balls' when it comes to sex. It's not a healthy approach and could well be exactly why you are at this crossroads. Friendships...start cultivating friendships. Sex and love will work itself out when you stop trying to force it. We aren't animals who function on drive alone....P.S. forced sex deprivation and a decision are different.."

Well, first,  it's not a theory....so maybe I wasn't clear, but I'll get to that part in a second...but-- I only practice safe sex. And if I met someone I was romantically interested in, the sex with the FWB/fuckbuddy would STOP. That's part of the agreement. So really, that's no different than meeting someone after you've had a previous relationship. I won't date anyone if I know they're sleeping with someone else, either. I also date one woman exclusively at a time. And I do provide full disclosure. I have a list of every woman I've ever had sex with, along with details of what we did, and will provide that, along with my regular blood panel, upon request.

Second, I'm not medicating, per se. I'm recognizing that I don't function well when I feel deprived of affection and sex. I am, among other things, an HSP.  It involves Sensory Processing
Sensitivity, as I mentioned, and this is a neurological architecture I was born with, as are at least 20% of the population--and that's why this isn't a simple issue for me. (Important to say this is NOT a disorder. It's a biological fact, and about the same percentage of other species have it). Few people understand this about me, unless they are a close friend. My brain is wired a bit differently, and if I don't keep myself in an optimum state of arousal--not too much, not too little--then some very unfortunate things begin to happen. (And by arousal, I don't necessarily mean sexually. I mean consciousness or alertness). So I'm acknowledging that part of myself and addressing the issue in the safest, most honest way. 

HSPs have to be careful to create an environment for themselves that allows them to function well. This is what I am doing. But I don't expect non-HSPs to understand this, though I hope they will try. Just as I have had two girlfriends who were Synesthetes, (that's about 1 in 25,000 people) I realize I also have unique brain architecture, too.

The other point to be had here, is that I am unable to fully please myself, sexually. This is not
some psychological block, but also about nerves and brain chemicals. I require the sensory input from another person being present. So being single, means being in a constant state of sexual and tactile and emotional frustration for me. It's not something I can turn off at will. However, it does help for me to be very productive and enthusiastic about some things, and creative, and social. That helps ameliorate the frustration, and since that's been missing for so long, my condition is a little red-lighted at the moment. Hopefully, that will ease when I have more things in place that address my sensory needs.

I am also cultivating friendships, but I find everyone is so busy, they don't have time to socialize or spend time except maybe once every two weeks. So I will need lots of friends if I want to have a regular social life, and especially if I want to distract those pathways away from sex. Or even if I want to meet someone I can have sex or a relationship (or both) with.

Now, add to this mix, the impending holiday season. Colorado can be a picture-postcard of holiday symbolism.... 
...horse-drawn carriages on 16th Street Mall,  
...mountain vistas wearing white caps,
...snow bending the limbs of Aspen, Blue Spruce and Bristlecone Pines; ...the light-adorned pedestrian shopping districts, piping in holiday tunes that become familiar again, like a friend you haven't seen since last year...

But the holidays seem to have a power all their own...it's this unique combination of joy and misery for me--
the joy that goes with beautiful snowfall, the feeling in the air, 
how people start treating each other more nicely, 
meals shared, 
gifts given, 
the new year on the horizon, as a chance to make the future what it couldn't be in the past....

Then like Virgil's Agnosco veteris vestigia flammae--I feel once more the scars of the old flame...{1} there's the abject loneliness the holidays always represent for me...the reminders of all that makes me sad. The sharp prodding that stems from my orphan status, and this is just the right combination of cells in the Petri dish of depression. That's when I have to create my own reminder that Virgil also said, Facilis decensus averni--The descent into hell is easy. We do have some control over the nature of our thoughts, after all. And I would like to believe--nay, MUST believe--that this control is at my own fingertips, and not in the hands of some mysterious force in the universe that insists on vexing me. 

To some degree, thoughts really are things, and that which we resist, persists. These ideations are a curious mental carnival, the solution for which can often descend into psychobabble, but which can also edify and comfort us in times of great sorrow or generalized angst. Still, when you are an HSP, it is one thing to know you ought to choose the behavioral and psychological high road, and quite another to convince your wounded heart and psyche to actually do it. HSPs struggle with the synaptic leap from what they feel to what they WISH to feel. Often, it is a formidable obstacle to get around. And this is not about them being weak-minded or insecure, or negative. It's about that Sensory Processing Sensitivity. Sometimes it's like walking around with no skin. Or with burns on 50% of your body. It's like every thought or word is a physical object and we have to constantly dodge incoming projectiles. What we feel and think and sense goes all the way to the bone. So we are often overwhelmed by this world and the challenges in it. 

But we still have our needs. Our hopes. Our beautiful contributions. The unique and splendid works of art, insightfulness and love we have to offer. And I can only hope that one day, the world at large will know about and understand this, so that there will be fewer of us locked up in the loony bin, or on medication, or unwrapping the razor blades.

{1} The Aeneid.

07 November 2011

Too Much World: A Look at Highly Sensitive People

In an article in Psychology Today,* I again found comfort in the knowledge that there are others like me out there, and my particular brand of weirdness is not "damage" but an inherent brain architecture I am born with. Just like others are born with blue eyes or musical ability.

I speak of those in our species who live with Sensory Processing Sensitivity, which is the scientific term for this trait. More colloquially, it is known as HSP- Highly Sensitive Person, a collection of traits that was identified in pioneering research by Elaine Aron, PhD. 

Regarding the nature of HSP's, Aron tells us:
  • Your trait is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population--too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you.
  • It is innate. In fact, biologists have found it to be in most or all animals, from fruit flies and fish to dogs, cats, horses, and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others'.
  • You are more aware than others of subtleties. This is mainly because your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. So even if you wear glasses, for example, you see more than others by noticing more.
  • You are also more easily overwhelmed. If you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.
  • This trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood. Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called "shy." But shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait.
  • Sensitivity is valued differently in different cultures. In cultures where it is not valued, HSPs tend to have low self-esteem. They are told "don't be so sensitive" so that they feel abnormal.
So each time I find an article about it, I read it with hunger, because it serves to validate me as a worthy human being with special skills that are often misunderstood, but are also responsible for providing the world with some of the greatest, art, music and writing we have ever known. It tends to concentrate itself in creative people, or perhaps more accurately, creative people are more often than not, HSP's.

In regard to Why it’s hard to be a highly sensitive (HSP) introvert then, I felt I could have actually written this article--meaning, the author echoes so many of the particular idiosyncratic things about myself that are so hard to explain to others. Some of my reactions are not quite as extreme, but this has only been true in the last ten years, since finding a balance in certain areas; but overall, she describes ME in this article. Like:
"As a highly sensitive person who needs to minimize auditory stimuli, I don't do well when another person likes having TV or loud music on all the time as background noise. I'm extremely sensitive to other people's moods; when someone is angry, judgmental or irritated, those emotions come through my skin and into my cells, making me even more uncomfortable. Worst of all, if I don't have my own space to retreat to and recharge, I'll eventually have a meltdown."
I recall one incident at my best friend's house where I was trying so hard to hear the TV over the other stimuli in the room. My friend was talking on the phone, her ancient, diapered, toothless poodle was walking back and forth in front of me making a smack smack smack nose along with a sound that was like hoo-hoo followed by some grunt one would normally only hear an old man with dementia. Perhaps ironically, I kept turning the TV up louder because I couldn't understand what was being said in the program I was watching. I even drew a cartoon of this event, and gave it to my friend, which to this day, she laughs about.

The reason for this is, as an HSP, I have a hard time filtering out stimuli. I hear all the sounds at once. For me, this tends to blend into one droning dirge that becomes some version of auditory torture.  Add to that the other senses of sight, smell, tactility, and include being empathic and sensing the emotions of others, and it's a cocktail for that meltdown she mentions. Dr. Biali continues,
"As an introvert, being around other people drains me (as opposed to extraverts, who gain energy being around other people). That doesn't mean I don't like being with others, in fact I love it - but I can only do it for so long before I have to go into my cave and refuel."
I am this way as well, but it does depend primarily on who those people are. If they are people I know well, who aren't energy-vampires, then I absolutely ADORE being with them. But even so, I do need recovery time after a highly social event. It's a precarious and delicate balance and I have had to learn to read myself well, and know when it's time for me to make my exit, curl up on the sofa in front of the fireplace with a book or magazine, or watch TV. I don't necessarily have to have silence to recharge. I just have to have control over the content and do something that relaxes me. Often, the best thing for me is to watch a program I enjoy, or journal or paint a picture, or get out the clay and sculpt something. 

Biali also nails it with her comments about phones....

"I don't like being on the phone. The only exception is talking to my husband while we're apart, or someone else who I'm so similar to that there's an effortless endless flow of conversation. I dislike awkward silences or pressure to come up with fascinating conversation topics, even with people I know well...What they don't realize is that I really don't call almost anyone "just to chat", unless I have a specific reason that I need to to talk to them - it's not personal, and I keep asking Armando to explain that to them! Email and Facebook are completely different, I love to communicate that way..." 
I can talk for hours with my best friend, but she knows me so well and our conversations are effortless and they flow and they are full of interesting and entertaining things. I do, however always have to have a headset or Bluetooth, because I can't bear the sensation of being trapped by the phone. It took a while for me to realize that part of my problem with being on the phone was because it was usually plugged into a wall, and I didn't have my hands free, either, and couldn't move around. Now, with cell phones, and headsets and blue tooth, I can clean house, or go refill coffee or whatever, while talking, so I don't feel trapped. I also prefer emails and Facebook and texts most of the time, because I have complete control over that, and it's not a demand, like a ringing phone can be. Though my first choice will always be a one-on-one interaction with someone whose company I enjoy.

Curiously, I am also weird about knocks on the door, or the doorbell. I actually have a stress-response to that, to include a pounding heart and a little trouble breathing, because it's a sudden, unexpected sound. And it also represents a demand; someone trying to get in, and I don't know who at that moment...and I have tragic fantasies about it being a robber or a rapist. This is why (since i live alone) I always answer the door with my gun behind my back, if I don't know the person knocking or ringing. 
"As an HSP, I also pick up all kinds of subtleties in people's voices or comments that make me uncomfortable if they have personal (negative) significance. This intuitive sensitivity works really well when I work as a personal coach over the phone, as I'm able to pick up what's behind a client's words and use it to unblock them or help them move forward, but in personal conversations it can be too much information."
I have the same experience, here, as well. I prefer one-on-one communication, because I have a better chance of picking up on body language and visual cues, so that it's easier to discern meaning accurately. And even then, if I sense any negativity directed at me, personally, it can feel very much like a wound. That old childhood chant, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me" just simply isn't true for me as an HSP. Words do just as much harm to me as a physical assault.
In an article by Dr. Aron, she quotes Pearl S. Buck, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, on the creative mind. I believe that Buck was, herself, an HSP, which is easily seen by her understanding of how we think and feel:

"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them... a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create -- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off...They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating."
That is the very quintessence of what it's like to be an HSP. There will, of course, be variants within any group, because humans are highly individual and influenced by their surroundings and experiences and various other biological and genetic precursors and tendencies, but overall, I feel it is a trait that can be identified quite readily. 

I believe also, that many, of not most, of the greatest, most influential creative minds throughout history, have been HSP's. It would explain the propensity toward depression, isolation, oddness but also their ability to zero in on the subtleties of our existence, and create artful representations of what they see and feel below the surface of things. Those creative people for whom we have personal detail are often the ones who could be identified retrospectively as HSP's. Before I knew about this particular trait, I wrote an article which I posted on this blog, that touches on many of these correlations, called Intelligence, Creativity & Depressive Realism.

The list of notable and historical HSP's is impressive, and it does tend to draw the highly sensitive people out of the ranks of oddity, and into the light of human contribution. People like:
Steven Spielberg, Dalai Lama, Harry S. Truman, Martin Luther King, Leonardo Da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Georgia O'Keefe, John Coltrane,  Beethoven, Mozart, Morrissey, Tori Amos, Bjork, Jewel, Alanis Morissette, Leonard Cohen,  Kurt Cobain, Michael Stipe, Chris Isaak, Neil Finn, John Lennon, Sir Thomas Moore, E.E. Cummings, Hermann Hesse, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Allen Ginsburg, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Edgar Allen Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Woody Allen, Judy Garland, Jim Carey, Mira Sorvino, Adrien Brody, Melanie Griffith, Kim Basinger, Anthony Hopkins, Drew Barrymore, Glenn Close, Mr. Rogers, Andy Kaufman, Jon Favreau, Greta Garbo, Joaquin Phoenix, Elijah Wood, Kevin Kline, David Hyde Pierce, Anton Chekhov, James Baldwin, Kahlil Gibran, DH Lawrence, Henry David Thoreau, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Tennessee Williams, Janis Joplin, Billie Holliday, Moby, Natalie Merchant, Bob Dylan, Franz Kafka, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Sarah McLaughlin, Celine Dion, Enya, Neil Young, Janis Ian, Picasso, Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt....

With only a partial list like that, it's easy to see the contributions that HSP's have made in this world. And thus, more difficult to dismiss them as different, introverted, eccentric, crazy, or in the pejorative sense, too sensitive. Being an unwitting HSP is most likely the cause of many tragic stories in the creative community, and I believe that many of those creatives who escape through drugs and alcohol and extreme behavior, or who attempt or commit suicide are probably HSP's, simply because they can be so easily overwhelmed, and without healthy coping skills to live in this world, it becomes too much for them.

I have a foot in many creative things. I am an author (I write in 14 genres, but love writing books, and have authored 24 of them to date), an artist (painting, sculpting, pottery, mixed media, photography ), singer-songwriter (over 200 songwriting credits and formerly co-founder and member of two bands). If being HSP means expressing myself creatively, I am definitely a prime example. But long ago, I realized that  this world would kill me, if I didn't figure out how to exist here within the parameters of who I am. In my younger years, I tested almost exclusively right-brain dominate. So I developed my left-brain over many years, and even elevated my IQ. (For a long time it was believed that you are born with a certain IQ and it couldn't be changed, but now, with all the research into the neuroplasticity of the brain, we know that intelligence can indeed be increased. I took myself from a 120 IQ to 149). I learned about philosophy and logic and disjunctive reasoning, so that today, I test whole-brain. And I think it's what saved me. This did not suffocate my creativity, however. In fact, it served to inform and expand this area. But it comes with its own sets of issues. For instance, I can feel one way emotionally, but also feel another way intellectually.  While this can often be a battle of wills inside my mind, and make me feel I have two personalities, overall, it serves to temper me; it offers me some balance that keeps me from falling into the sensitivity void.  It didn't make me any less of an HSP. It just allowed me to survive. It's still a challenge to be who I am. As I have said before, Am I too much for the world, or is the world too much for me?

 *If you think you might be an HSP, take the self-test to find out.
[1] Why it’s hard to be a highly sensitive (HSP) introvert. Highly sensitive (HSP) introverts - misperceived by a noisy extraverted world. Published on August 23, 2010 by Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. in Prescriptions for Life


03 November 2011

Hanging the Moon and Lesbian Monikers

I placed another personal ad on Craigslist. Hopefully this won't turn into a freak-fest like it did last time. And if it does, well, more material for my writing. LOL.

The Ad I used before was way more humorous, but I was afraid it might be overwhelming and make ME look a little crazy. Who knows? Here's the one I used before:

Only seek LOCAL friends & dates. Please & thank you. LDR's are usually doomed from the start. It's like being pecked to death by chickens. So not big on them unless you can afford to travel to date me once a week. Especially if you can pick me up in a private jet. I'm afraid to fly, so I won't ride in it, but it would still be stellar if you had one. We could park it on the tarmac & have some blackberry Merlot.
ME: I have all my teeth. I sleep on memory foam, because it helps me recall my dreams. I own a flatscreen TV & massage table. I like cheese. That's all you need to know. Let's get married.
Seriously, I'm an Author, Editor, Singer-Songwriter, Artist, Webmaster, Witty Intellectual; am stable, nurturing, a voracious learner, creative, intelligent, educated, witty, honest, selectively intense, sometimes geeky, always passionate. (Oh, & I'm also a bi-lingual illiterate: I can't read or write in 2 different languages). I don't play games unless they come in a box with instructions. I am always productive. You will never see me in a dress, unless I am unconscious, & someone is playing a prank. (those people are evil & must be destroyed). But I'm not Butch. Lipstick Lesbian.
I'm a  positive realist (i.e., I think anything can happen, but it usually doesn't). I'm a freethinker and humanist, and love cats, fireplaces, snow, Dinner Parties, Game Nights & Hen Parties. Love coffee (drinking it, smelling it, & fondling the beans) & conversation (from the sublime to the ridiculous), bookstores, flea markets (As long as the fleas are humanely treated, free-range & not in cages), movies, TV, reading, live music, stand up comedy, long walks- (I know I'm supposed to add "on the beach" but this is Colorado).  
I believe successful relationships are predicated on the 5 C's: Compatibility, Communication, Commonality, Chemistry & Commitment.
Tired of dates I want to smother with a pillow. I SEEK: a LESBIAN (I don't engage in sex with Bi or Straight women, though this doesn't preclude us being friends), who is SANE, with emotional & intellectual intelligence; educated, secure, not afraid of fun, laughter or deep conversations; who can make me laugh out loud, think, & has firm grip on reality & integrity; not afraid to explore her own issues, & be proactive in her personal evolution. I respect women who have their own life, interests & means of $ support, just like me. I am aroused by women who look like women, are confident, capable, witty & intelligent. If you have those qualities, drop everything & contact me right this second.
CRUCIAL CAVEATS: (unpleasant but apparently necessary to say). I have no tolerance for addicts, heavy drinkers, illegal drug users, anyone who needs anger-management class, or the ethically challenged. Really. If you fall in any of these categories, climb back into your little red wagon (or fancy jet) & pass me by.
If, however, you recognize yourself in WHAT I SEEK, & my details titillate or intrigue you, or you'd like to shower me with affection & appreciation, please contact me. ;^} Preferably from the cockpit of your private jet.
At first, I thought it might just make women laugh, while still being revealing and not intimidating, but now I think maybe it's a little over the top. It's so hard to tell how you're being perceived by others, sometimes.

So instead i placed a toned-down version...

LOCALS ONLY PLEASE. I'm intelligent, witty, genuine, creative, ethical person who is always productive, selectively intense, sometimes geeky, always passionate. I don't play games unless they come in a box with instructions. You will never see me in a dress, unless I am unconscious, & someone is playing a prank. (those people are evil & must be destroyed). I'm not Butch. Lipstick Lesbian.

Originally from the South, I moved to Colorado because I've always loved it here, & now make it my permanent home. Since I had to leave my friends behind when I moved, I seek a local circle of friends, & ultimately hope to find a loving life-partner who also requires meaningful conversation and enjoyable experiences. Stability, pleasure and happiness are my goals.

As retired military, I can now spend my time doing the things I enjoy most like writing (this is my greatest passion and identity marker), reading, sculpture, pottery, continuing self-education, watching TV and movies, spending quality time with friends, trying new restaurants, dinner and cocktail parties, gatherings at home with a small group of friends, and exploring this beautiful state. I'm open to suggestion, and will try almost anything unless it's dangerous, illegal or unethical.

I must have a partner who will appreciate me for all the things I am, and all I have to give. I have a great deal to bring to a relationship, as I am honest, self-actualized, nurturing, communicative, humorous, sensitive, loving, affectionate and supportive, but I'm selective about who I will give that to, and at this point in my life, I won't settle for less. If you are my partner, I want to come first in your life, as you will come first with me.

Says me: [Quotes from yours truly, copyrighted]:
"Real connection (and if it's LOVE, then real love)--goes beyond those not-so-perfect and superficial and idiosyncratic things that simply make us individuals. The trust & longevity of a relationship between two individuals is established through time & learning each other, & discovering a harmony at the core of their connection. And it becomes powerful because of where it resides--at the center of who we are; the very essence of our being."

"It's one thing to say you think someone 'hung the moon' but that generally means they are blind & deluded, and then the relationship fails because they say you changed, when really, they never saw you at all. The real test is if someone sees all your flaws or blemishes or individual differences, and they still think you hung the moon."

As far as romantic relationships go, I have been attracted to many different types. For me, it's the whole package, and not one single thing you are. But in general, I am drawn to women who are mostly femme, attractive, genuine, witty, intelligent, and who enjoy giving and receiving affection and intimacy. Touch is very important to me. (I have a massage table).

Not interested in heavy drinkers, drug users, those with an STD. You must be emotionally available, self-actualized, stable & interested in meaningful (and sometimes lengthy) conversations. Otherwise, I'm not the one for you. A good partner for me will have few if any sexual boundaries, will recognize my value, be nurturing, and show her attraction and affection. I seek someone who wants to get to know me fully and isn't intimidated by intelligence or passion or sensitivity. I do have a "work-day" of my own and need that time to do what I do, but when it's time to clock out, I need a woman who wants to spend as much time as possible with me in her own off-hours.

If this resonates with you, contact me, and let's skip the prolonged emailing and texting, and meet in person soon. I will only respond to those who provide RECENT, CLEAR PHOTOS. (Have had my share of those with something to hide, or those who use 20 year old pictures of themselves). That aside, I look forward to hearing from you!

We'll see. Maybe I should put up both ads and see what results they each get. This is so much like scientific research, I swear.

And there's always some adjustment to be made, such as the moniker "lipstick lesbian."  On the surface, that term seems self-explanatory, but what it really means is a lesbian who is femme--like who wears jewelry, makeup and dresses and heels and is attracted to other women who are like her. And then there's "ChapStick lesbian" which is a lesbian who doesn't wear makeup, but embraces her feminine identity in other ways; she will not wear fake fingernails or get a manicure, nor pay to have her hair done, nor wear dangly earrings or flashy jewelry, and many ChapStick lesbians don't even worry too much about shaving everything.

Well, I don't wear heels or dresses, but I wear makeup and lipstick and jewelry, sometimes flashy or dangly, and most of the time made of gold and diamonds, and most of the time, i wear fake fingernails, because mine are more like finger-films that I break off, and the fake French-tipped ones look nice, but I only wear them short, because I use my hands a lot and "claws" get in the way of sculpting, typing, playing guitar, and...well...they can be dangerous during digital sex. 

And I shave. If I had my way, except for my eyebrows and the hair on my head, I'd be slick like a dolphin, permanently. I am also attracted primarily to women who are the same, though I have been attracted to those a little more or less femme, if they have a certain combination of everything else, and tweak me in just the right way. So maybe I'm a ChappedLip Lesbian. Or a StickChap Lesbian. sigh. The problem is, I have features of both, but not all, and am, again, camping in the gray areas of life. Extremes have become things I avoid in nearly everything; the truth being in the middle most of the time, after all. The fact that the truth is often in the middle IS one of my truths.

In my book ISO, I talk about this rather confusion identity quagmire, and also coined a new term, that might be useful here. Femepicine.  Here's the excerpt from the book:

Butch, Femme, Androgynous or Femepicene?

 All that aside, at the risk of being politically incorrect, I must say I find it disturbing that so many lesbians feel it necessary to mimic men. A lesbian, by definition, doesn't want to be with a man and is a woman who loves women, in the romantic sense. In a very real way, then, masculinity in gay women is a contradiction. It is patently unnecessary to become manly in order to be with another woman. The need to be "manly" then, can sometimes be about gender-confusion, and not about being lesbian. This stance may be offensive to some, but indeed, I could say that I am offended by how easily some lesbians dismiss the beauty and power in themselves by diluting it with masculinity.
     Why would a group of people so vehement about avoiding the control and oppression of the other gender, be so anxious to mimic them to such a large degree? When a gay woman chooses to dress in masculine styles, such as what I call the "lesbian costume" of button-down shirts, khaki Dockers, and Doc Marten boots, she is reducing herself to a cliché of what gay women are: women, mimicking men. It is insulting to me, as a gay woman, that many other gay women don't think their appearance is important, and don't embrace their gender as it would seem they naturally would, as women who love women.
     This is not to suggest gay women should wear ball gowns or spike heels and mini-skirts. It just means, embrace the femaleness. Why do you think the L-Word is so popular, aside from the fact that it portrays lesbian lives in general? It's because gay women are titillated by the beauty of these women. Attend any L-Word Watch Party and that much will be clear. Then, they run their fingers through their hair, tuck their button-down into their Dockers, slap on that ball cap and go home. Lesbians: if you are so tantalized by feminine, beautiful women, why do spend so little energy presenting yourself that way?
     So often I hear lesbians complaining about being stereotyped by the world at large. My suggestion is that if you don't wish to be a stereotype, don't dress and act like one.
     In the novels I write, I portray women as feminine or at least as lipstick lesbians, but rarely as dykes or otherwise manly females (which is, intrinsically, an oxymoron). The only time I do portray lesbians as butch or manly is when I'm. . .sort of. . .making fun of them. Stereotyping. I know. It's not nice. But as I've already pointed out, Political Correctness is not my strong suit, nor something I aspire to. I think it does more harm than good, when telling the truth is always much better.
     In doing this, however, I have been accused of catering to straight men or merely "selling out" somehow, and yet, I find this assessment myopic, contradictory and just plain silly. I love women, because they are women. I love the feminine form. I am attracted to the quintessential qualities that make women FEMALE. If I wanted to be with a man, I would be straight. So this whole outrage based on my supposed treason against Sapphic love, strikes me as absurd.
Why do you suppose that most straight women who experiment with lesbianism, pursue gay women who are manly? It's a comfort zone, that's why. They are not straying too terribly far from being with a man.
     The most attractive women, to me, are the ones who are androgynous. I use that term loosely, and colloquially, because the actual definition is way more severe and limiting than the context in which I utilize it here. Androgyny, by its original definition, means ambiguous in gender. Genderless, almost. Like the "Pat" character on the old Saturday Night Live. You can't tell if the person is male or female. The way I mean it, is more like a woman who blends, in a harmonious fashion, the traits of both male and female, to create a balanced person. This means the woman looks like a woman, but can hammer a nail, ride a motorcycle, or be assertive, all without losing her essential womanliness.
     To whine about how you're being mashed into a mold created by straight society, and not being allowed to express your natural self, seems a cop-out--a way to avoid embracing the gender to which you are born. It's also an excuse to be lazy. If you don't present yourself in the most positive way, i.e., by wearing decent clothes, a little makeup, and taking care of your body, then you are merely justifying the fact that you don't care about your appearance. And why shouldn't you care? Do you think that men define what is commonly considered "attractive"? Sorry, but that's biology, and it extends to both genders. We are wired to be attracted to certain things; not the least of which is accentuating the best parts of ourselves.
     A great fictional character who exemplifies this balanced womanhood would be Xena, the Warrior Princess from television. She was strong, capable, assertive, loving, loyal, always looked fabulous and feminine. Even when she was kicking ass or cutting someone's throat. . .
     I desperately want another term to describe strong, feminine lesbians.
     HOMOgenized Female. . .hmmm.
     Fembian. MMM.
     It occurred to me that epicene meant having the characteristics of both genders, blended. So how about Femepicene? (fem-ep-uh-seen).
     So women who are Femepicene are those most likely to get my attention. I can't speak for every other gay woman.
     The point is, for me, it's often difficult to even be lesbian, never mind the odds of finding a suitable mate. It is somewhat like the odds of my getting a million dollar publishing contract: it's not inconceivable, but it's not something I can rationally place on the alter of my existence.
So I am femepicene. And I am attracted, for the most part, to other femepicene women. But until the moniker catches on, no one will know what the hell I'm talking about.


28 October 2011

Indie Overload

Being an independent author and publisher has its perks, like creative control and higher royalties, but it also has its headaches. For instance, I have to do the job of about 12 people most of the time. I have to be a writer, editor, graphic artist, publisher, indexer, typographer, secretary, publicist, agent, personal assistant, accountant, shipping manager... and anything else that might arise.

Managing all of the inherent details of such an endeavor is a monster-job, but I have found it difficult to explain to others why a computer crash is such a stressful tragedy for me.  My writing directory alone has 31,752 files in 1,993 folders. And this isn't counting cloud storage and other archives of older files. 

In order to manage all these writing files, I have to use a spreadsheet to keep track of all the details, and this can be overwhelming to say the least. 

For instance, one sheet in my books document is for keeping track of everything concerning each of my 24 books. The left column looks like this:

Csp ISBN10
Csp ISBN13
Cover font
Print Price
Print Royalty
My cost
My shipping cost

Discount price
Discount Profit
eBook file
eBook PDF Price
eBook PDF Royalty

DTP int file
DTP cvr file
DTP Royalty

SW int file
SW cvr file
SW book price
SW Royalty

GB int file
GB cvr file
GB book price
GB Royalty

PP eBook price
PP ebk pg link
Ebook code/bk pg
PP BTN code

To the right of this column is that data on each book, spreading out over 24 columns (one for each book).

Then another sheet for royalty data for each month in the year. This sheet has to include the list price, royalty rate (i.e., 35% or 70%), units sold, with different amounts for different countries, since I sell in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, the UK, France, Germany, Canada...plus differentiation for sales at Amazon, website sales (both digital and print), sales at Smashwords, Google Books, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, etc., and a calculation for that month's data concerning sales of each, plus subtotals, totals, and keeping in mind that a month's royalties reflects sales from two months prior to the actual pay out. I also have to separate the grid to post electronic sales and print sales.

I also have to keep a tax spreadsheet detailing income and expenses, and most people understand how much fun itemizing is for all these details over the course of a year.

Additionally, I have to create the shopping card codes for each books' webpage, so that any purchase made on my site takes the buyer to the proper purchase page and then links them out to either a download or a thank you and info page telling them the order was received and will be drop-shipped. 

And on each book's webpage, I have to allow for both digital and print sales, and each format of eBook (mobi/prc, PDF, ePUB, Lit, html), and handle drop shipping and followup. 

I also have to be a webmaster, designing and continually tweaking pages and codes, while also maintaining my other websites and blogs and forums and Facebook pages and Twitter...and of course I have to manage all my website files on my host provider. Never mind all the pages I have to update whenever there are changes to any book's cover, interior, information, price or any other detail. That alone can take days.

No wonder I'm having trouble actually WRITING, now. I don't have time.


25 October 2011

Book Review: Valencia

One of the reasons I began writing lesbian fiction 25 years ago, was because I could not, at that time, find a kindred spirit in them. I could not relate to those characters, and their lives. The women in the pages of the lesbian fiction I read back then did not represent me, nor anyone I knew, or wanted to know. This offended me greatly.
As for the book, Valencia, itself, the author does have some writing talent and I did notice a periodic turn of a phrase or insightful comment, but overall, these positives were overshadowed by everything else. Her talent was wasted on this work. The diction was misogynistic, offensive and derogatory, the portrayal of lesbians pejorative, the examples of love twisted, damaged and pathetic. The characters, while apparently of legal age, had the emotional maturity of 13 year olds. They were dirty drug-users and alcoholics, whose behavior was demoralizing, demeaning, insensitive and offensive, from any ethical point of view.

The main character had choices, as we all do, but chose to be lazy, irresponsible, and immature; since she could not keep a job, she ended up in illegal activities in order to make money--the worst of which was selling her body. Her prostitution was doubly offensive, since she was having sex with men, even going against her own orientation; and furthering the misogynistic elements of this society. The sex in this story is portrayed as dirty, dangerous, and meaningless--like, sex that included the use of a knife, sex with those the character didn't care about, sex as a punishment, sex as violation. None of the intimate activity in this book celebrated the bond of love. It trivialized the value of sharing love and nurturance and expression of affection. For example,

"shame was like a dirty tampon pulled from my body and flung in the bucket when i was with Iris." (p. 246)

"The fucking happened so fast that by the time i realized i didn't want it, it was over. Fate fucked me quick and rough with her grubby hands, impatiently pushing fingers into me, and I understood that she didn't want it either... She pulled her hand out of me and curled herself around my back tightly, as if there were something between us. IT seemed like a brave and vulnerable thing to do, like when she cried above my tarot cards. I lay there with her foreign arm clutching me, knowing that she thought she'd earned this rest and closeness with the brief, perfunctory fuck. I had a tangled icky feeling like a confusing, hungover morning. When i woke up, I found blood sticky on my thighs, seeping out from where her hand had torn me." (p. 195)

In order for a book to qualify as "good literature" it has to have some kind of redeeming value. It should inspire us, make us understand things like pain and loss and joy and strength and goodness. Good literature does this by allowing characters to experience challenges, and work through them so that they come out better people on the other side. It should result in the growth of a character. As human beings, we all should aspire to be the best versions of ourselves, even if we have to walk through hell barefoot to get there. When a story is tragic, I want it to touch me, make me feel compassion. I didn't feel that with Valencia. I didn't care about her or anyone else in the book at all.

When a story is inspiring, it should lift us up, encourage us, make us feel like part of something worth having; make us feel good about the community of which we are a part. This book did nothing to accomplish that, either. What it did accomplish was to make me feel contaminated, disappointed in gay sensibility, and it also made me feel shame that the mainstream might see this work and judge us all by the characters in its pages. One of the reasons gay people are rejected by the mainstream, is because there is this idea that we are somehow lacking in character and teetering on the precipice of ethical squalor. That we are the underbelly of society. This book perpetuates that idea, and so does not serve us. It pretends to tell a meaningful story, while slapping us in the face with the worst parts of ourselves. Thus, I cannot fathom why Valencia won any awards. Is this really what we want to hold up to the world as a representation of who we are?


09 October 2011

Mid-Life Crisis, Much?

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. ~Dylan Thomas

If aging is hard for the average person, imagine how hard it is for someone who has no current social circle, no family, no children, who works at home, is an HSP, an atheist, and a single lesbian. 

The greatest of these challenges is, for me, being without a partner. I am not suited to singlehood. I hate everything about it. I need someone to cook dinner for when she comes home each day; I need someone to nurture, talk to, explore with, bond with, hold hands with, cuddle with, to sexually please and be pleased by.  I need to go to sleep next to that woman each night and wake up with her every morning. I need the security and comfort a life partner provides. As I get older, that's even more important, and its absence even more stark.

One could say that being single at this age is just as difficult no matter what your orientation. But I would beg to differ. When you're dealing with finding a mate amid a small percentage of the population, on top of all the usual fears of getting older and facing your own mortality and all that entails, along with being a minority in so many ways, the challenge is a formidable one.

Those of us without a big circle of friends, or a family, are even more likely to be depressed and frightened all the time. Friends in the same age group or only a few years older start losing their grandparents, and parents, and they themselves begin developing health issues, having surgeries and other scares, and you begin to see that trajectory, that you are in that same boat and wonder what it is that might cripple you, devastate you, take you down. You realize you are closer to your death than to your birth and your life isn't exactly as you'd planned it to be. Is it enough? Did I succeed in building a life worth living?

About two years ago, I began to notice things about my body...skin changes, mostly. I would look in the mirror and see that my baby-face now had some wrinkles forming below my eyes, and my cheeks seemed to be sort of dripping slowly toward my jawline. I looked down at my hands and thought These are not my hands. These are my mother's hands. And what's that? An age-spot? I have a fucking age spot now? It did not compute. It made me feel ugly and old and despondent.

When I hear of someone entering their 50's and saying these are the best years to come, or 50 is the new 40, I feel they are speaking a foreign language. I am facing the big 5-0 and it has nothing to do with Hawaii. In only 5 months, I will be dragged kicking and screaming into that awful room, my fingers clawing at the door jamb to stop the suction. I can't wrap my head around turning 50. It makes no sense to me, it simply can't be accurate. I don't feel like I'm about to enter that decade of life. I have an overwhelming desire to lie to everyone about my age, because I feel the number is misleading. I'm not that old. I'm not. Each day now is to me a stark reminder of the hideous inevitability of all things dreadful. It's a train I'm riding in at high speed and I can't see the scenery anymore because it's moving by too fast; a train locked onto tracks arrow-straight and unforgiving, stopping only to board more dark passengers--fear, loneliness, pain, illness. sadness, and death.

Just recently I watched as a friend of a friend was suddenly stricken by an aneurism and did not wake from her coma in the three weeks before she died. She was only  6 years older than me. Now, I could say her health status and lifestyle predisposed her to it, but then again, how do you ever really know that there is some weak blood vessel wall somewhere in your body, and its cause? You can do everything in your power to eat right, exercise and take the right supplements, and meditate and avoid stress, as I do, but ultimately, you still don't know if it will matter. Maybe there's just a fate with your name on it. Never mind the accidental or simply unfortunate methods of your demise. You could get hit by a bus or a bullet. Or a building could fall on your head.

The scary part is, health or accidental events like those I mentioned will always happen suddenly and there is little we can do to provide ourselves an early warning system. It's like a vicious mugger waiting around some impending corner and no matter what route we take that mugger will know where we are and will be there, primed to take something precious from our pockets, our minds, our hearts or our bodies. Or I'm reminded of those scenes in movies and shows like The Tudors where innocent people are dragged toward the gallows to be hanged or beheaded and there is no escape, no last minute pardon from the King--and notably, no merciful God who saves his devout follower from an unjust death. There is nothing they can do about it other than choose the level of dignity with which they face their demise. And where does one find that dignity? That quiet acceptance? I am not one to ever go gentle into that good night. Someone has already tried to kill me and I didn't die. Because to me that darkness is repugnant. It represents the tragedy and cruelty of limited time. There will never be enough time in my single lifespan to do and see and feel and explore and create and savor all that I wish to. 

One of the greatest tragedies in life is the swiftness and certainty of death, and moreover, when you finally reach a level of wisdom and understanding that would allow you to do your best work, offer your best advise, experience your greatest love, your most harmonious and satisfying relationships--just when you finally evolve to that level of maturity--your clock ticks down to nothing and you don't get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. 
It really pisses me off. 

Bring me the magic elixir of life-extension, and I will drink it.