belenen: (Default)

June 2017


Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.

belenen: (garrulous)
LJI fav reads list, week 8
icon: "garrulous (a photo of my lips with the skin greyed out and the lips overlaid with a green and blue fractal pattern)"

list of recs! )

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belenen: (garrulous)
LJI fav reads list, week 7
icon: "garrulous(a photo of my lips with the skin greyed out and the lips overlaid with a green and blue fractal pattern)"

list of recs! )

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belenen: (oneness)
LJI topic 7, "where I'm from": I am from the Internet, from a little city called Livejournal.
icon: "oneness (the characters Keenan and Joan from "Playing By Heart," sitting very close together, both looking off to the side and laughing)"

My country is the internet; my state is the mid-90s to the mid-00s, and my city is Livejournal, though I have lived in other cities for short periods of time, and I visit other cities often.

My experience with the internet began with AOL on Windows 95. I used the internet to download midi files of music I liked, endlessly search for info on my favorite musical artists, and find people to chat eagerly with about music or about God (my two obsessions at the time). I made some pretty intense friendships, one with a white guy in Canada, and one with a black guy somewhere in the Midwest. I didn't seek out guys, I don't think, but there just weren't any girls my age that I could find (and at that point I didn't know that nonbinary people existed). My friendships with those two highly ethical and thoughtful people allowed me to create healthy expectations of male behavior, rather than accepting selfishness and disrespect as 'normal' which would have been the case if I did not have access to the internet.

During the early days of my interaction with the internet, my use was limited to chatting, searching for information, and exploring the Anotherworld MUD. Then at age 20 I took an intro computer course which was utter shit but one of the assignments changed my life: we had to make a simple webpage with the most basic coding. I found this really fun and started teaching myself HTML, building two websites from bare code. I probably spent more than 200 hours on them over the course of the next three years. No one I knew ever cared much about this project, but I loved it so much I didn't need external interest to keep it going. I did get interesting and meaningful responses in the guestbook of my site, particularly about my anti-racist stance. This is where I developed my ethic of content creation and self-education: I shared what I made, and when I wanted to do something I trained myself on how to do it. This was no small feat, because how-to resources were still scanty at the time.

At the same time, Allison (who is now my oldest friendship) introduced me to LiveJournal. I joined first as a way to stay in touch with Allison and it quickly took on an important role in my life. I met new people through add-me communities and through shared-interest communities. This is where I developed my norm for getting to know people: if I thought they were interesting I added them to my friends list and consumed their online content. If the interest was mutual and they added me back, I would respond to their posts and have turn-based conversations. I rarely had any direct interaction at first -- I only commented if they required it before adding them, and most of the time if they required that I just didn't add them.

That is how I would prefer to be able to get to know anyone; indirectly and not in real time but with intensely intimate levels of sharing. It's a strong enough norm for me that I can rarely have a lasting or nourishing connection with someone who doesn't share intimacies indirectly. It's usually too hard for me to sync up in real time, but I need that level of intense sharing to feel nourished and to maintain investment. But I've realized that in most places, getting to know someone indirectly first is considered 'weird' at best and people often refer to it as 'stalking' which I find utterly baffling. I accept that it's taboo and I don't talk about it to out-of-towners, but where I'm from, that's just how you do it! (obviously I don't look at anything that's not set to 'public' because that's creepy)

Also at this intense time of change, I started going to group therapy. Through the group therapy I started learning to be vulnerable with others, and within a few months I dedicated my journal to openness and honesty. It was a difficult project for a long time, because only a few months into my LJ life I started having flashbacks to childhood sexual abuse (sparked by having consensual penetrative sex for the first time). I began going to therapy weekly, and it got worse before it got better.

So for about two years I could not leave my house without someone by my side, and I had no local friends so I rarely went out. The internet saved me: I built real friendships to a depth I never had before. For the first time in my life, people sharing freely with me happened on a daily basis instead of once or twice a year. This was the first time in my life I truly felt like I belonged and like I understood how to interact in a way that would be appreciated. I rapidly dismantled my inner barriers to openness, and what I didn't dismantle was destroyed for me. It became important to me to share my own story in a public way, because I knew I was not the only one dealing with recovery from abuse. That built my immunity to trolling because when people mock you for being an abuse victim, there's not much lower they can go.

In late 2004 I also came across a community celebrating hourglass shapes and when the owner deleted it due to fighting over what counted, I decided to make a better version. I created a body-positive community with the idea of it being for medium people, like I was at the time (size 10) since there were fat positive communities but they had a minimum size requirement. But as people much smaller and larger than me joined, my idea rapidly changed, because the idea of excluding people for being 'too much' or 'not enough' was not okay to me. Within a few months, it was for anyone who self-identified as curvy, regardless of size or gender. This community was like a commune, a gathering of people who I mostly didn't know but who all were working together on the same beautiful project. It was home and work and family all at once; I took it from one person to more than 1,300, and it remained a thriving community for about four years.

That community was where I learned to love myself, and I got to watch lots of others do it too. It also brought me and Hannah together, which was a whole new experience because for the first time I met someone who was better at questioning and being open than I was. Hannah and I would regularly spend 9+ hours talking and sharing: we'd write on LJ and read each others' writing, we'd explore deviantart and share favorite works with each other, and just talk endlessly on gchat.

Deviantart was, for a time, almost as important as LJ to me. It's where I shared my artistic nudes and developed immunity about people expressing disgust toward my body. I also experienced so many people thanking me for sharing and telling me that it helped them to see their own beauty. DeviantArt is the town where I developed myself as a public artist, and I had some celebrity for a short time, but now my style has evolved so much that no one recognizes it as mine when I put up a new piece. It's a place I visit once in a blue moon to look at my old work on the walls, but all the artists I loved there moved away so even the nostalgia is dusty. I can't bring myself to stay long enough to get invested in the art circles there anymore.

Twitter was paramount for about a year in 2011; I kept up daily and interacted often. I was put off by the lack of reciprocity: I was following and interacting with people who never read my tweets and it felt cliquish. I learned a lot from the feminists there, esp the trans and WOC feminists, but it was more like a newspaper than like a social space. In a lot of ways it reminds me of my college experience: no matter how much effort I put in, no one wanted to connect at more than a surface level. Twitter is a city I drive through almost every day but never stop anymore; the roads where people live are confusing and parking is fucking torture, so I just go on through.

I got a facebook initially due to curiosity, kept it because of its value at organizing gathers, and slowly began spending more time there as my local activist network developed. Over the past two years it has become a more real space for me, as people have begun interacting with me more, but it still feels somewhat alien. Facebook feels like the building where I work: I go there often, but always in costume while leaving my more scandalous self at home. Without ever consciously deciding to, I had developed a habit of restricted my sharing on fb because fb culture is so pro-judgement. Once I realized this, I began working to bring more of myself into my facebook life because I don't actually want to make it more difficult to get to know me. Facebook will never be home, but I am making it into a workplace where I can be more of myself.

There were several shakeups here on LJ over the years and I lost friends to vox, wordpress, blogger, dreamwidth, and even facebook, but still I remain here. My LJ friends list is like a neighborhood where every single house is owned by a friend of mine. The idea of moving is absurd and always will be unless most of my friends move away. Even when it was mostly empty for a few years, I stayed in the hopes people would return, and eventually filled up those houses with new friends. Now, I have a small handful of friends who returned but most of my neighborhood is people I have met within the past three years (and I have been on LJ for more than 13 years).

I get so excited when I meet someone who is also from the internet, and even more so when I meet someone from livejournal. I imagine it is how other people feel when they live far from a hometown that they love, and then they meet someone from there. I might not get along with everyone from LJ, but if they have lived here a while, I immediately know we share similar values in a lot of ways. Especially if they love it here as much as I do.

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belenen: (challenging)
LJI fav reads list, week 6
icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

list of recs! )

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belenen: (gamine)
LJI topic 6, "heel turn": my unlucky feet, how I first heard Godde, & how I perceive that moment now
icon: "gamine (a photo of me as a seven-year-old child, freckled with frizzy hair and a solemn expression, leaning against a tree)"

My feet have always been the most unlucky part of me. I pulled a tendon in my foot so badly that I had to wear a cast; part of my heel got deeply scraped on a shell at the beach; the head of a nail made a hole in my heel when I was running down a boardwalk; I cut open the top of my foot falling down wooden stairs; and I almost sliced off my big big toe and second toe on the bottom of a broken bottle. But that last experience was the opposite of what you might think.

I was about 12 and my parents had taken me and my siblings to a park that had a waterfall and then a wide stretch of flat river. My dad made me give my water shoes to my brother because he was more accident prone (clearly they hadn't noticed the trend of my feet being unlucky) and so I was clambering around the rocks, barefoot. At one point I went to step on a mossy rock and I got a very strong internal "no" but having never experienced that before I ignored it and stepped. My foot slid right down into a hole between several rocks and I stumbled and realized that I had been cut. I called out to my parents, who were quite freaked out by the amount of blood gushing from my left foot, but I could only feel the small scrape on my right foot -- I think I was in shock.

As my dad carried me to the car and we drove to the nearest hospital (with the aid of a paper map), I was not thinking about the cuts at all. I was completely preoccupied with marveling that I had heard Godde's voice! I felt embarrassed that I hadn't listened, but I felt that I had been given proof that Godde loved me, not just generally but me in particular.

I have a very different perspective on that moment now, 22 years later. I can see a variety of alternate possibilities: my eyes took in information that I didn't consciously notice, and my subconscious sent a warning; nature spirits in the area knew of the danger and warned me; someone else had slipped there before and their pain had left an imprint that I subconsciously picked up on (this one I consider the most likely). Whatever the case, some being (even if it was just my self) was watching out for me and trying to communicate with me.

It still feels like a magical moment, and looking back I can see that it had a profound effect on my sense of self and the way that I perceived the world. Back then, it caused me to believe that Godde wanted to spare me pain because they loved me uniquely, and that I could listen on a deep level to get information that would keep me safe. As a kid who never felt safe or secure, that was something I really needed. I no longer believe in a singular, all-powerful deity who will magically keep me from harm, but I was able to believe in that throughout the most unsafe, unloved years of my life, and I'm very glad I had that experience.

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belenen: (challenging)
LJI fav reads list, week 5
icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

list of recs! )

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belenen: (polyamorous relationship anarchist)
LJI topic 5, "fear is the heart of love": love and the fear-spark, creating intimate focus energy
icon: "polyamorous relationship anarchist (a rainbow-colored heart with the 'anarchy' capital letter A cutting through it, over a brick texture that suggests the heart is graffiti)"

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me,
"Son, fear is the heart of love."

- Death Cab For Cutie

There's this phenomenon most people experience when they first fall in love with someone; everything is more intense. One's lover seems like the best person ever to live. Just being in their presence is exciting and their touch feels magical. All conversations are filled with meaning and all shared experiences are filled with beauty. One craves the attention and time of one's lover; parting is difficult and reunions are joyous. Monogamous people call it "the honeymoon phase." Polyamorous people call it "new relationship energy" or NRE. Both sets of people assume that these feelings are a natural part of the beginning of a relationship but not a part of a mature relationship, as you can tell from the way they name it.

I call this experience "intimate focus energy" or IFE, and I know that it ends in most relationships not due to inevitable biology as the pop culture story goes, but due to a lack of understanding of what created that in the first place. At the beginning of any relationship there is what I call the fear-spark -- anxieties and fears that cause people to focus very intensely on each other. People worry that the other person won't like them, or that they will make a mistake, or that the other person will leave, and because of these fears they observe each other intently. It is this focus (when mutual), that allows for intensely intimate experiences.

But usually, when the fear-spark fades, people stop paying close attention. They stop noticing all the small things that make the other person a glorious creature; they stop being careful to be kind all the time; they stop watching for small signs of distress that they could soothe. And the IFE evaporates. Since they don't realize that it is their actions that have caused this, they can do nothing about it. Since they think it is natural for it to disappear, they let it stay gone.

People crave intimate focus energy and will do wild things to get it. They will induce fear in their lover in order for a fear-spark to create IFE again; they'll cheat, or try to make the other person jealous, or withdraw emotionally, or threaten to leave, or shove their anxieties on to the other person, or belittle, or invalidate, or make dangerous personal choices. I think most of the time they don't realize they're doing this -- they just have learned on some level that these behaviors can create the potential for IFE again through the fear-spark. Personally, I think the fear-spark is the worst possible way to build intimacy, especially when people are creating it through harmful behaviors.

I prefer to skip the fear-spark altogether. I know that I am more likely to get continued attention if I allow the other person to wonder about my intentions and desires, but that attention is not pure because it is motivated in part by fear. So I let people know my intentions, my desires, and my level of investment as soon as possible so that they don't have unknowns causing fear in those areas. I also do my best to avoid causing unnecessary fear in the other person. Sometimes this causes me to lose people, because they don't know how to maintain intimacy without the fear-spark, or they don't have enough desire in them to make up for the loss of the fear-spark. But it also means that the connections I do have can start out with a more mature and complete love, and that I can build positive IFE habits with them from the beginning.

There is no fear in love. On the contrary,
love that has achieved its goal gets rid of fear,
because fear has to do with punishment;
the person who keeps fearing
has not been brought to maturity in regard to love.

- 1 John 4:18

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belenen: (challenging)
LJI fav reads list, week 4
icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

list of recs! )

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belenen: (Ma'at)
LJI topic 4: successful prediction requires elimination of unlikely possibilities, which I can't do.
icon: "Ma'at (a photo of one side of a brass balance scale, with a feather inside the bowl. The background is sky blue. On the bottom of the image, below the photo, is the word "Ma'at")"

Some people can predict the future, at least a little bit, because they're good at recognizing the factors that come together for a result, and they can dismiss the unlikely ones and be confident in the most likely outcome. I'm not, mainly because I don't experience a sense of weighted likelihood. I can plan to be somewhere and be pretty sure I'll get there, but my car might break down or I might have some kind of emergency -- I can't know that that won't happen. (And of course there's being neuroatypical and having mental issues like depression and anxiety. I can't predict when I'm going to be suddenly wiped out and unable to function socially -- I just try to leave enough slack that when that happens it doesn't fuck up too much of my life.) I can sometimes give you 99.99% certainty but I'll never be 100% sure of anything -- yeah I mean literally anything. I'm not 100% sure that I exist.

So I almost never say "I will do this thing" I just say "I'm planning to do this thing" or "I'll do my best to do this thing." If there is something that could happen at any time outside of my control, I can't count that out just because it's unlikely. Other people get frustrated with my block about ruling out the unlikely, but my brain just doesn't work that way. I have to consider all possibilities, even the ones I know to be hugely unlikely. This makes it difficult for me to ever think about the future or plan more than a month out, especially since there has been no real stability in my life for years -- anything could happen.

I have been practicing acceptance of impermanence/cycling in my relationships for about a decade now. The person I've now been with for more than four years is someone I started dating thinking that it would end within the month. I had this expectation for the first two years of our relationship, because they warned me when we started that they hadn't done much long-term romance and they couldn't imagine it working for them. I think now that we're likely to continue for a while yet, and we have committed to friendship indefinitely but I can't predict how long we will be romantic and I wouldn't try.

Honestly I don't wanna know the future at all when it comes to the development of my connections. I want to decide each day on that, and not have any external false sense of security but rather the real security of knowing that no one is with me because they feel obligated or not up to the work of disentangling or nostalgic about the past, but only because they want to be with me right now. I would like to know how long it will be before I fall in love again but no one can tell me that.

Part of me would really like to have such a secure life that I can be like "Next year I'm going to ____." But every year for me has looked so different from what I would have guessed that I can't even imagine that.

For 2016, I never would have guessed that I would have this job, or that it would be handed to me like it was. I never would have guessed that I'd fall in love with someone who was spirit-kin with me and even less would I have guessed that that person would completely detach and break my heart. I never would have guessed that a spontaneous offer to someone in need would bring me one of my most cherished friendships, or that proximity would be the catalyst to end a friendship with someone who claimed distance as the primary reason for their lack of effort. I wouldn't have guessed that my relationship with Topaz would metamorphose into something even better than it had ever been before.

I'm never gonna be able to 'skate to where the puck is going to be' but that's okay; I'm good at going where the puck might be, and adjusting constantly with each moment. What I lack in prediction I make up for through adaptation.

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belenen: (overwhelmed)
when being yourself is dangerous: microaggressions as brushback pitches
icon: "overwhelmed (the character Keenan from "Playing By Heart," with hands over their face covering their eyes and head tilted back)"

A brushback pitch works because the batter's subconscious screams "it's gonna hit you!" The body reacts to a close call almost the same as to actual damage, dumping adrenaline and intensifying senses, increasing heart rate and respiration. It doesn't matter that your conscious mind is telling you "they want to scare you, not actually harm you."

This is what microaggressions are like, except that they're usually accidents. Someone thinks it's funny that a man wore a dress -- they're not attacking, but they find gender-non-conforming behavior to be so alien that it is funny and you know from long experience that if someone can't relate, they can be cruel. So a giggle becomes a near blow. Or someone uses a slur to describe an upsetting situation -- they're not attacking, but they're showing a lack of understanding that also allows for cruelty. So a bit of slang becomes a near blow. It doesn't have to be physical to cause intense physical reactions which use up your physical and mental reserve energy.

I used to be such a bold and brave person, back when being myself didn't cause constant flinching. Back before I knew how many people get fired and beaten and raped and murdered for varying from the accepted norm, not to mention being ostracized and excluded by default. Before I knew the consequences and before I knew myself to be at risk, I was free. I was just a little bit different and people thought it was quirky and interesting, not threatening and overwhelming. It's easy and safe to be yourself when who you are does not disrupt people's belief systems.

Now my system is so exhausted from the constant jolts of adrenaline I endure in day-to-day interactions with people that being myself becomes almost impossible. My body doesn't even wait for people to say stuff anymore. It just dumps adrenaline as soon as I'm doing something that exposes me to people, no matter how small and innocuous. When it's about to be my turn to talk in front of people, my body is acting like I'm about to jump out of a plane. I'm not afraid in my conscious mind but my subconscious doesn't care. I'm not shy, reserved, or introverted, but I have become anxious and on the outside that looks the same. I have become literally unable to be myself thanks to an endless series of brushback pitches.

But after many years of having no financial safety, I finally have a job where I can take care of myself. I can afford to offend biofamily. And after many years of feeling unnourished and unvalued, I have people in my life who really do love me as I am and value what I offer. I can afford to lose friends. I still get thrown brushback pitches constantly, but I'm wearing some body armor now, and I don't flinch quite so hard. I plan to make armor for others, as well as dismantling the system that creates these pitchers who give us nothing but brushback pitches.

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belenen: (challenging)
LJI fav reads list, week 2
Didn't think I was gonna make it in time to vote but here we go...

list of recs! )

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belenen: (challenging)
LJI topic 2, that one friend: when is it over? my 5 criteria for continued friendship investment
icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

I've always been the thrifty type: can't throw it out if there might still be some good in it! I'm like this with people to an often-detrimental extreme. I have a very hard time giving up and mostly can't manage to do it unless the other person already has. I was thinking about this tendency recently and asked myself "if I had no memory of this person before this year, would I put effort into connecting with them?" and realized that for one friend in particular the answer is "hell no." Then I tried to remember the last time there was a long stretch of them being a nourishing friend for me and realized that it had been years. I'm pretty sure they started thinking of me as "someone they used to be friends with" a long time ago -- while I was still trying to be their friend.

I might have more good people in my life if I hadn't spent so much time and energy trying to resurrect this friendship. I need a better cut-off point where I don't let literal years go by of me waiting for them to start being my friend in earnest. But what should the limit be? I know people go through hard times and I don't want to end a friendship because someone went through a period of low energy. I also don't want to continue one where the other person doesn't actually bother. I need criteria for me continuing to invest, and I need to actually and honestly evaluate where I am spending my energy. So tonight I am creating criteria:
1) nourishment: interacting with them is net-positive at least half of the time. (net-positive means I leave an interaction more nourished than drained).
2) shared effort: they put forth at least 1/3rd of the total effort for us to connect (I'm willing to adjust to meet them).
3) fair expectations: they don't expect me to do more than half of the emotional labor or more than half of the logistics labor.
4) building together: we have shared goals, and I can see actual evidence of this in their behavior and in where they devote their resources.
5) evidence of care: they take action to show that they care about my feelings and (without prompting) express a desire to help meet my needs.
If none of these criteria are true for more than three months, I should discuss this with the person and if nothing can be done to improve the situation, I should take a break from the person.

If I had used these criteria to evaluate my relationship with this one friend, I would have recognized that the relationship showed
1) lack of nourishment: it almost always was way more draining than nourishing.
2) lack of effort: they did less than 1/3rd of the total effort to connect us, probably less than 1/4th.
3) unfair expectations: they expected me to do way more than half and expected me to accommodate all their needs while they didn't do anything for mine.
4) minuscule building together: I saw very little evidence that they cared about what mattered to me.
5) no evidence of care: they never checked in about how their actions affected me, reacted defensively every time I tried to discuss it, and showed absolute disinterest in helping to meet my needs.

In contrast, my three closest people at the moment share these qualities:
1) nourishment: time together is net-positive way more than half of the time.
2) shared effort: they do way more than a third of connecting us (one of them actually does more than me on a fairly regular basis!).
3) fair expectations: they don't expect me to do more than half, and they offer to take half of the burden (or even more sometimes!) if they can.
4) building together: they show they care about community, justice, self-education, etc by hosting gathers with me, participating in protests, learning new things, etc.
5) evidence of care: they check in about how their actions affect me, and they offer to help me in whatever ways they can. They try to accommodate my communication needs and express appreciation when I move outside of my comfort zone for them.

I have to learn to accept when someone is not interested in investing in me, and I have to learn to stop pouring effort into them. I only have so much and I can't build good connections if I spend all my energy on people who do not want to create a positive feedback loop with me (wanting it to magically exist without them working for it doesn't count as 'wanting to create').

This one friend I'm talking about is someone who is in my top-five most-loved human beings of my entire 33+ years. I really wanted to be able to be connected with them. But I cannot. I will accept this and allow them to recede into my past, as I have receded into theirs.

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belenen: (intrigued)
LJ Idol signups still open! / LJI fav reads list, week 1: I need the struggle to feel alive
icon: "intrigued (a photo of a snow leopard with ears flattened, peering intently over a log)"

Signups for LJ Idol close at Wednesday, Nov 23rd at 8pm EST, the same time the first topic is due. I would looooove to have more of my flist participate, so if you're considering it, you still have a good 16 hours to sign up and post your first entry!

favorite posts from topic 1 )

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belenen: (feminist)
LJI topic 1, I need the struggle to feel alive: no, I feel alive despite the struggle. I seek safety
icon: "feminist (the trans-feminist fist symbol colored in a rainbow gradient, with the words "intersectional or bullshit" on top)"

I cannot relate to feeling like you need to add more danger or stress to your life in order to feel fully alive; I think you have to be damned cozy in your privilege to feel that way.* Certainly a lot of people are that cozy, which is why shit like volcano surfing exists. Some people actually get adrenaline jolts so rarely that they find them fun!? I can't imagine.

My daily life is a struggle. I struggle to maintain my identity through being constantly assigned gender and having my sexuality and relationships erased any time I am around people (other than my closest). I struggle to make enough money to feed myself and pay my bills. I struggle to maintain relationships because literally all of my people are drained constantly by oppression & other hardships. I struggle to understand what people are saying, both because of my auditory processing issues and because I am extremely literal. I struggle to feel understood and valued when the best parts of me seem to go undesired and unnoticed. I struggle to be social because it takes so much out of me and so often gives little back.

I am privileged in significant ways (being white, physically non-disabled, cis-passing, & college-educated) and yet still, I struggle every day. I don't want to struggle; the more I am struggling, the less I can give. I want my struggles to decrease so that I can give more. I want to be able to help others and not need to spend all of my resources on my own mere survival. I know that I will have to work to maintain empathy with others if/when my own struggles decrease, but I am not concerned because I am more dedicated to doing that than I am to life itself.

What makes me feel alive is not when I am wrestling with some issue. I feel most alive when I can put aside my struggles for a little while and rest in my little bubble with just my safe people who I know are going to do their best to not use slurs, infringe on consent, or enforce damaging norms. Oppressed and marginalized people don't get to feel fully alive very often. I want change this, so I create safer spaces when I organize events and I work to improve those spaces that I don't control.


*there are other reasons to seek out danger or the simulation of it, I know: depression for instance can be so numbing that a shock of any feeling is a relief.

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belenen: (bluestocking)
LJI fav reads list, week 0
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

LJI week 0, Intro:

newbie favorites:

veteran favorites: *** * * * *

Some awesome writing already! this is going to be a fantastic season.

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belenen: (hopeful)
LJI topic 0, intro: my function is explaining, my motivation is compassion, my hope is understanding
icon: "hopeful (close-up photo of me wearing cat-eye makeup, jewels on my cheek, and a violet glitter goatee. I'm gazing off to the side with a hopeful smile.)"

I do a lot of explaining myself as a queer, demisexual, agender, trans, relationship anarchist, vegetarian, eclectic pagan Quaker with ADD-PI (attention deficit disorder - primarily inattentive) and CAPD (central auditory processing disorder). My communication methods can be alarmingly rude on accident (illustrated by my lack of understanding of why others appreciate empty words like "hi") but my goal is almost always to create the best understanding for the most people. If I have one main function, it is to explain: explain people to each other, explain systems to people, explain myself to those I care about, explain how things work to my own self, explain to others how to practice skills I've learned.

My primary motivation is compassion, and for me that is very complex. In a simple, wholesome world compassion is just being kind to the people around you. In a world of structural injustice, compassion takes much more work. It takes learning about systems and about anyone who is different from you, because otherwise you will hurt people no matter how wonderful your intentions are. So I spend a lot of time trying to learn about people who are different from me and trying to help others also learn, so that I can reduce the amount of suffering I cause and hopefully ripple out to reduce suffering in general.

I want to connect with living beings in a mutually nourishing way. I've learned that if a person wants to reduce suffering enough to do work for it, we will probably nourish each other and be great friends. My hope in life and in writing is to create more understanding that will allow for more nourishing connections.

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belenen: (bodylove -- me)
my aesthetic for my body: how I dress & self-decorate
icon: "bodylove -- me (me sitting at the foot of a tree wearing a plunge-neck mottled blue shirt and black skirt, arms relaxed with hands together in my lap. I have violet hair and am wearing a large amethyst ring)"

prompt from [ profile] lusimeles: do you have an 'aesthetic'? if so, how would you describe it?

Yes, I have an aesthetic for my body and one for my space. Due to length I will split this into two posts.

My aesthetic for my body is comfortable, colorful, and cool (temperature-wise). I like my clothes to be solid colors, abstract mottled patterns like tie dye, or geometric patterns, but will occasionally allow a floral pattern. Dots and stripes are NEVER acceptable, unless they are so small or indistinct that they blend together from a few feet away. Tiered skirts are permitted to have multiple patterns, but otherwise I will wear one patterned item and the rest as solid colors.

tops: shirts and overshirts )

skirts and dresses )

Aesthetically, I prefer my hair to be long in a wide strip down the center, shaved extremely short on the sides. I prefer the long bit to be a few inches below my chin in the front and gradually shorten into a point in the back before being shaved at the neck. I prefer it to be bleached and dyed with Special Effects Wildflower (a vivid violet dye). Second best is my natural color, cut to be short in back and long in front. That's pretty much what I have right now while I look for a job.

accessories: scarves & jewelry )

makeup )

shoes & socks )

underwear & bras )

winterizing )

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belenen: (presents)
gifting: what makes a gift more meaningful for me
icon: "presents (a photo of a colorful pile of presents: my gifts for others for winter Solstice 2013)"

prompt from [ profile] kehlen_crow: If someone wanted to give you a gift, what would make the object, or action, more special and meaningful?

Unlike most people, a gift is more special to me if it is given in honor of a day that matters to me: winter solstice, spring equinox, my birthday, my spiritual birthday, or if we are close enough to have one, our friendiversary. So that is one way to make it more meaningful. Another is to tell me ahead of time (but not more than a month ahead of time) that you are getting me a gift, and give me a very general idea of the genre of the present, because I like to anticipate (but if you tell me exactly what it is then it just feels like an annoying wait, not anticipation). That's not to say random gifting isn't special, but it doesn't have the additional aspect of "I know this day is important to you" or "I value our connection enough to celebrate it with gifts."

The things I want a gift to express are: I know you, I value your contributions and support your efforts, our connection is important to me, I want you to be happy, I want you to be taken-care-of.

I know you )

I value your contributions and support your efforts )

Our connection is important to me )

I want you to be happy )

I want you to be taken-care-of )

A gift has the opposite effect when it shows a lack of knowing me. Examples are giving me perfume, lotion, or bath products (because I don't like or use those); giving me boring makeup or lip balm with artificial ingredients (I only like extreme colors and I am very particular about lip balm); giving me shoes or clothes (unless I chose them they are almost guaranteed to be stuff I won't wear); giving me pens or stationary (I am very particular! though there have been exceptions -- Elizabeth I genuinely liked your gifts!); giving me scented or ornamental candles (I like very few scents available in candles, almost never burn anything other than tealights, and I loathe when practical objects are made impractical); or giving me jewelry (I prefer to make my own jewelry and almost always dislike any other jewelry, though there have been exceptions when the artist knew me and made it in a style I'd like, or when the piece had deep personal meaning somehow). It also has the opposite effect if someone gives me something that violates my core values (one-time-use objects like glowsticks or k-cups, conspicuous consumption stuff like an expensive 'big name' purse, objectifying or exoticizing art, media that affirms oppression, etc), though that is more on a spectrum because what seems problematic to me may not seem so to others. For instance, I would feel somewhat pleased and known if someone gave me a copy of Tina Fey's "Bossypants" (more so if it was a used copy!) -- there is a lot of problematic stuff in Fey's feminism but if I only ever consumed perfect media I'd consume none at all.

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belenen: (dammit)
what prevents me from making enough money to feel financially secure
icon: dammit (a gif of Zach Braff saying 'dammit' with an emphatic head motion)"

prompt from [ profile] kehlen_crow: What stands in the way of you making enough money to feel relatively secure?

Someone recognizing my skills and hiring me for them. If all people cared about was skills I'd have a job already, but they care more about credentials. I'm hoping and praying for this one particular job that would use my skills, allow me to do good, AND help me go back to school for my master's, which I'd like to do in a few years. I would do better than most people who have more school than me - I am 100% certain that I would do better than most people with masters' and 95% certain that I would do better than 95% of people who would apply. No one could be better than me at passion and drive, very few would know anywhere near as much as I do, and very few would have more relevant life experience to inform the work.

I just wish that getting a job wasn't such a political dance that rewards owners of really expensive paper and punishes people who achieved excellence without having it spoon-fed to them. Ugh. Doesn't help that I'm read as a woman! The wage gap increases with each level of education. To make as much as a man with a bachelor's, I have to have a masters. And it gets worse from there.

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belenen: (pensive)
acknowledging difficult truths: expected & actual feels / lack the resources for endless caretaking
icon: "pensive (photo of me with a dark purple glitter goatee, looking down pensively with sunny woods in the background)"

prompt from [ profile] kehlen_crow: Remember a time when you acknowledged a difficult truth about yourself, whichever it was. What was the difference between what acknowledging it really made you feel and what you'd thought it would make you feel?

Mostly I acknowledge difficult truths as soon as I notice them, I think, because I don't know that I have ever thought something like "I would feel X if this was true about me" and then later realized it was true about me and felt X or something else. I've had lots of those experiences about situations, but not about my selfhood. So, I may have thought "if I lose this person my life will be nothing but dreary doom" and then realized that wasn't true, but that's not really a truth about me but about the situation.

Although, it was a hard truth to acknowledge that I don't have infinite resources and I have to take care of myself first. I think I thought that would feel like being a bad person and I thought I'd be eaten up with guilt, and there was some of that but only externally. Mostly I felt relief at coming to know for sure that I actually did not have the ability to keep pouring out endlessly, because if I don't have the ability I am free from the responsibility. So I think that counts.

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belenen: (ADD-PI)
what helps me most to relieve stress
icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

prompt from [ profile] vanita: What is your most effective way of releasing stress? Is it also the one you use the most? If it isn't, why not?

My most effective way to de-stress is to tidy my room, watch 2-3 hours of netflix, and then do something creative, like crafting or LJ. I do this fairly often but unfortunately when I am out of ADD meds it can be nearly impossible to switch gears out of watching a show, and it doesn't help my stress if I spend all day watching stuff -- UNLESS I'm depressed, then it can be helpful because my brain will only put down bad thoughts if I hand it something else that takes full focus and doesn't allow for multitasking.

But generally, my problem with watching netflix is that I find it difficult to stop. I have had more success lately by hitting pause mid-episode, going to do something else for a minute, then coming back and closing the window. Since so many shows put lots of curiosity-teasers at the very end of each episode, I cannot stop watching at the end of episodes. But if I pause it and leave the computer, my brain has a chance to gradually shift gears rather than me trying to do it by force.

Reading can help in the same way as watching shows but it has to be a very continously engaging book; I have to be deeply invested in the characters and/or plot, which doesn't happen often because I find most characters unrelatable (so many Gary-Lous, god) and most plotlines have boring shit like battle or political scheming or bad-relationship false-drama scenes. With TV, I only have to be interested in an actor's facial expressions to stay engaged (though I am a lot more engaged with a relatable character). With reading I already stop mid-page as my general habit and there is no structural intentional addiction (usually), so it is easier to stop when I want.

Watching shows is probably my most common method of relieving stress, but it is less effective when not combined w cleaning and crafting. However, cleaning and crafting both take a certain level of mental energy that I may not have, so I can't always do it.

Also, shows are better than movies because they usually have a layered and gradual plot, so I don't need to watch the whole thing, and they tend to be better as far as representation goes, and if I get bored with a show after one episode I haven't wasted 2-3 hours.

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belenen: (distance)
qualities from each of my friends I'd use to build my ideal friend / what I lack in friendships
icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

prompt from [ profile] webgirluk: Imagine a new friend who was to become in your life and the person had one quality from each person in your core circle of friendships all rolled into one new person? What one quality would you choose from each person?

Topaz' self-awareness & cuddle skills/style
[ profile] shioneh's skills at asking meaningful questions
[ profile] hardigrin's ability to give me new perspectives
[ profile] secret_keep's unedited openness
Allison's passionate, analytical love of art
Sydney's sincere connection with nature
[ profile] kmiotutsie's outgoing yet take-no-shit attitude
[ profile] sandracaprice's determined thoroughness
[ profile] morwen_uial's perception of magic in everything
[ profile] call_me_katya's critical, deliberate thinking
Cass' thoughtful generosity
[ profile] volamonster's method of valuing people
[ profile] chillychilly22's matter-of-fact assertiveness
[ profile] tikva's habit of humorous phrasing

Prompt from [ profile] webgirluk: Even though you seem to have a lot of rich friendships, is there one quality none can really bring you that makes you feel at times sad or something missing in connection needs, or can this be explained in a different way?

Not really any quality missing, but I am missing something in the sense that most of my friends have one situation or another that makes them mostly unavailable. Most of my friends have depression and/or anxiety and/or chronic pain and/or ADD, and/or they live far away, and/or they're busy with work and big life events like moving (4 people) or getting married (2 people, not to each other). I miiiight have one local friend whose life is not in a giant upheaval, but until a month ago it was, and it may be still. I don't lack in wonderful people in my life but I do lack the ability to actually have the company of wonderful people (with two exceptions, thankfully). I'd really love to be able to just make plans with friends and have them happen, but that hasn't been true in my life for years.

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belenen: (bloodcurdling)
hypothetical button-pressing murders
icon: "bloodcurdling (photo of me w wide-eyed snarling wild expression wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

prompt from [ profile] webgirluk: Imagine you are placed in a room with two buttons and you have to press one. If you press button A, it will automatically end your life. However, if you press button B, you will end the lives of two people elsewhere in the world who are strangers to you and your closest. You won't ever read about the event in the news or what happened and your choice won't make the media, either. What button would you press? And if you do press button B, how many people would it be before you would press button A?

If I couldn't know who it would be, I'd have to press button A; I don't think my life is more valuable than someone else's generally. If I could control who it would be, I'd press button B, because my life sure as shit is more valuable than people like Brock's dad (who is 99.9% as guilty of that rape as the son is, having trained his child to be a rapist) and that fucking judge who excused him. And all the white cops who kill black people because they can get away with it, etc. If I could choose who would die, there'd be a lot of people dead before I chose to put myself in the lineup. I would only kill people who I was certain were harming the world by being alive.

I would die before killing a merely mediocre sexist asshole who was not abusive, just because at that point it's a matter of scale rather than good/evil. I may be more good than some people but that doesn't give me more right to live; however I do see myself as having more right (and responsibility) to live than someone who is evil (knowingly and actively causing harm to others). This is hypocritical, as I do not believe in intentionally causing harm to any living being; I'm okay with that. My moral orientation is chaotic neutral.

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belenen: (imperious)
what makes social interactions easier or harder for me in one-on-one and group settings
icon: "imperious (photo of me w imperious expression wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

prompt from [ profile] secret_keep: what can make a social interaction easier for you? Harder for you? (ideally, answer for both 1 on 1 and group interaction.)

One on one:
What makes this easier for me is if the person has areas in common with me in values and passions so that we have enough to talk about, and if they are good at asking interesting questions and/or taking at least 45% of the responsibility for coming up with topics and branches. What makes it harder is when we have clashing values that make me not even want to be near the person, or when they have few things they are passionate about, or when they have little experience with the passions we have in common, or if they do not try to give back in equal portion. I like conversations to go like this:

A: *asks interesting question*
B: *answers thoroughly, sharing whatever is relevant beyond the scope of the direct question. Asks related interesting question*
A: *answers thoroughly, sharing whatever is relevant beyond the scope of the direct question. Makes broad statement.*
B: *asks a specific question that helps define broad statement*

These patterns repeated and blended up make for a relaxing, nourishing conversation. Asking thoughtfully (and not too many questions that I have answered a million times like "where did you grow up"), sharing openly (which means including more than requested, answering the spirit of the question), and taking initiative are all qualities I need to not feel like it is mostly a drain. I am an outgoing person, but I have social anxiety, so while I might enjoy initiating/guiding conversation somewhat, that all takes work and I can't relax if the other person is just not going to talk when I don't guide the conversation. Sitting in silence with someone is not fun for me unless we're very very intimate.

In large groups:
What makes this easier for me is if I know everyone or if I have an outgoing ambassador friend who will introduce me to people or be the one to butt in to conversations and then include me. It's also easier if there is a meaningful shared activity like crafting or a discussion topic or playing get-to-know-you games. And it is easier if I go WITH someone, so that the transition from in my house to out is not in question. I don't do transitions in/out of my house well, so it takes a lot of spoons just to do that part. If someone picks me up, that makes social interaction SO MUCH EASIER, like a WORLD easier, but people don't do that. It eases the transition on both ends, and it removes any sense of deadline stress since it's not my responsibility any more. It also makes me feel free to drink (if I am driving myself I won't drink even a little unless I'm spending the night); drinking makes it easier to interact with people because I stop judging my words in five different ways before letting them out of my mouth. I also find it easier when I am wearing an outfit that feels comfortable and 'me' and wearing expressive makeup, because I feel like that helps to attract the right sort and scare off the others.

What makes it harder is when I don't know anyone, don't have an ambassador, don't have a meaningful activity or focus, have to drive myself alone, am stressed about money, am stressed about my car breaking, or have a deadline (that sets off mild panic as an ADD coping mechanism). Having to drive someone else makes it both easier and harder. It's more stressful, but it stresses me to GO rather than to stay. It's also much harder if it is an event I have to spend money on, even if I have the money, because I feel bad about spending money regardless of why. That might change when I have a job that pays me a living wage (which I have never had).

In small groups:
What makes these easier is the same as in large groups, but there is one thing that make it harder in small groups that doesn't matter in large ones. If the group is 7 people or fewer and there is anyone who seems ill-at-ease or like they're feeling excluded, I feel responsible for connecting with them and helping them to be connected, and I can't relax unless/until they seem to feel better. I'd love to NOT do this but so far I haven't been able to resist the impulse to try to help. The smaller the group, the more intensely I feel the need to do this. Which is one of the reasons why I want to cancel crafty parties if fewer than four people are attending and none of those people are outgoing ambassador types -- I am relaxed in larger groups in a way I cannot relax in small groups.

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belenen: (voltaic)
prompt me if you please: only ones that would be hard for you to answer!
icon: "voltaic (me, face at a sharp angle staring out of one eye with a slight smile and streaks of rainbow light on my face)"

I'm really proud of myself for having only missed 6 out of the 29 days last month. Even though it wasn't consecutive, I am counting it as a 22-day streak because it happened all in one month (one down, one to go). I also finally, laughably, finished the February question-a-day meme from last year. It's not my fault, they were hard questions! which I adored, btw, no complaints here.

I'm going to open the floor for more prompts, with the understanding that I will likely not finish them within a month. I will take 28! Ask as many as you like -- I shall take max 3 per person to begin and then if it is not filled I will use any extras you give. ONLY ask questions that if you were to ask them of yourself, you would have to think for a while before knowing the answer. You can use questions I have asked you before, if you want, and if I have already answered them I'll give you the link *smiles*

1. What was the most hurtful thing you have ever said behind someone's back?
2. What was the most sobering thing your parents have said to you?
4. which fictional character do you feel the most affinity with?
5. How would you spend your last day if you were to die tomorrow?
6. If your life turned into a movie, who will you choose to play as "you"?
7. If you become the President of the USA, what will be the first thing you would change?
8. Describe the one thing about yourself that makes you most proud.
9. What is the first step for you when resolving a conflict with someone?
10. What is your ideal first step when someone is trying to resolve a conflict with you?
11. what can make a social interaction easier for you? Harder for you? (ideally, answer for both 1on1 and group interaction.)
12. Imagine a new friend who was to become in your life and the person had one quality from each person in your core circle of friendships all rolled into one new person? What one quality would you choose from each person?
13. Even though you seem to have a lot of rich friendships, is there one quality none can really bring you that makes you feel at times sad or something missing in connection needs, or can this be explained in a different way?

3. do you have an 'aesthetic'? if so, how would you describe it?
14. Imagine you are placed in a room with two buttons and you have to press one. If you press button A, it will automatically end your life. However, if you press button B, you will end the lives of two people elsewhere in the world who are strangers to you and your closest. You won't ever read about the event in the news or what happened and your choice won't make the media, either. What button would you press? And if you do press button B, how many people would it be before you would press button A?
15. What is your most effective way of releasing stress? Is it also the one you use the most? If it isn't, why not?
16. Remember a time when you acknowledged a difficult truth about yourself, whichever it was. What was the difference between what acknowledging it really made you feel and what you'd thought it would make you feel?
17. What stands in the way of you making enough money to feel relatively secure?
18. If someone wanted to give you a gift, what would make the object, or action, more special and meaningful?
19. radical inclusion
20. gifting
21. decommodification
22. communal effort
23. civic responsibility
24. radical self-expression
25. radical self-reliance
26. participation
27. immediacy
28. leave no trace

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belenen: (Renenutet)
spirituality: growth hopes / effects on my daily life / identity / benefits & opposite / challenges
icon: "Renenutet (a relief carving of Renenutet, represented as a winged cobra, overlaid with a fractal coloring)"

how do you hope to grow as a spiritual being? what direction(s) do you wish to go for the future? (from here)

I hope to become more intuitive, more skilled at energy work and divination, more able to sense people's spirits and intentions, more able to clear my own issues and moderate my energy flow. My morality is separate from my spirituality (I would still have my morals if I wasn't spiritual), but I of course hope to grow as a moral being and usually the lessons I learn there teach me something about spirituality, and/or unlock new spiritual skills. Direction? I think I want to aim for more spiritual interaction -- less one-way or solo stuff and more back-and-forth and group stuff.

how does (and has) your spirituality shape(d) your day-to-day existence?

It shapes my day-to-day existence in that it gives me a reason to live. That bit of positive surprise and hope that happens when I link up with another being accidentally and that feeling of euphoria and meaning that I get when I link up with another being on purpose are the things that make me able to handle all the struggle and effort.

Even though I'd consider it immoral to abandon my responsibility to make the world better, if I didn't feel like there was a possibility of connecting with other beings in a way that is emotionally meaningful to me, I'd likely kill myself. And by beings I don't mean humans; I mean all beings. However, if I could only connect with non-humans, I probably would abandon my responsibility to make the world better and go live away from humans. I don't think this is the moral choice, but it is likely the one I would make in that case.

how does it intersect with your own concepts of identity? how much or little has this fluctuated over the course of your life?

It doesn't interact very much with my concept of identity now. I consider identity to be the way that you define yourself to help others understand you. Even though my spirituality is essential to me living, understanding my spirituality is not necessary to understand the vast majority of me.

People use different words and intellectual concepts for this thing that fuels my life; I don't need them to identify as spiritual to feel the kind of connection with them that fuels me. I feel positive that I could have felt very connected with Carl Sagan, because of the value they placed on recognizing interconnectedness and the wonder they expressed so freely. I don't care what words one uses has as long as one can do the thing where I feel connected.

how do you benefit from your beliefs? on the other hand, are you disadvantaged in any way by them?

I don't think I necessarily benefit or am disadvantaged by my beliefs. My beliefs morph as needed to suit my growth. I do not have spiritual beliefs that I build my selfhood on, which I think is the way to benefit or be disadvantaged by beliefs. I think most people use beliefs as the foundation for their house of self, but for me they're more like a collection of tents, any of which can be taken down without me having to rebuild everything else -- and it is extremely unlikely that all of them would get smashed at once.

challenges, otherkin )

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belenen: (Renenutet)
my most powerful spiritual experiences & how some have shifted in meaning
icon: "Renenutet (a relief carving of Renenutet, represented as a winged cobra, overlaid with a fractal coloring)"

what are your most powerful spiritual experiences? if you've transitioned to a different religion/spiritual philosophy, did you recontextualize the experience in any way? did the power or depth of an experience diminish at all due to a transition? if so, why? (from here)

My most powerful spiritual experiences: when I felt a strong warning, "no," as I was walking through a river and was about to step in a spot, but I dismissed it as not real and stepped anyway and nearly sliced my toe off on broken glass and had to go to the hospital and get like 28 stitches (age 9); when trees have spoken to me (it happened twice where it was strong enough that I felt no doubt); when interacting with los Niños Santos; when I realized that an afterlife didn't make sense to me anymore and stopped believing in it; when I had a dream-that-felt-more-real-than-waking about having sex underground with Geb; when I felt someone energetically draining me through my lover and did energy work deliberately for the first time out of desperation; when I help someone find a name that is true for them; when I have had sex in ways that involve more spiritual/energetic interactions than physical ones; when singing and dancing in church, particularly once when I felt Jesus' presence so intensely that I didn't doubt it; one time when a prophet gave me a message from Godde saying "I believe in you" which both felt very validating and turned my perception of deity on its ear; once when I felt the presence of Aphrodite while interacting with a lover who I perceived as a priestess/incarnation of them; when I felt perfect unity of consciousness with a lover to the point where I wasn't sure which limb was mine, and we spoke the same words at the same time; when I have sensed the emotions of my spirit-kin over great distance of mind and body; when I felt/saw the heartbeat of the forest; when I have dreams about people who are important to me that I meet, later; when I felt in great despair and then found a green-blue piece of sea glass (I had never found any before despite careful searching); I'm sure there are others.

Some of my experiences have been recontextualized. I used to attribute everything spiritual to a singular god, but now I don't attribute things to deity unless I feel a specific presence. For instance, finding the sea glass I would have taken as comfort from god, whereas now I take it as me desperately seeking a sign of hope and drawing it to me and me to it with the force of my longing. This doesn't make it less meaningful to me, it makes it more meaningful. Rather than relying on something external, I rely on myself. I don't need attention from a particular being to be able to have magic.

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belenen: (tree goddess)
my experience with spiritual community in my past / my ideal spiritual community
icon: "tree goddess (me sitting against the trunk of a Magnolia, with eyes closed, leaning back, arms above my head and twisted so that I have my palms on the tree trunk.)"

what are your experiences with spiritual communities? (from here)

I had one I really loved from age 13 to age 22, liberty church; everyone was friendly, the sermons were useful in a practical way (as in, not just saying "don't lie 'cause god said so" but "lying creates these harms, and here are some ways to be more honest"), racism was acknowledged and actively resisted through a multiracial leadership, emphasis on the fact that Jesus wasn't white, and the encouragement of interracial friendship (though now looking back it was really a surface-level resistance, with no real discussion of privilege), the worship felt real and genuine while the songs were more about connection than groveling, and for many years the pastor began sermons with "this is just my interpretation: you must check with God, your own spirit, and the Bible to be sure it is true." But the pastor quit doing that and attacked me and told me I didn't belong when I pointed out that Jesus said love is more important than anything, including getting more people to join your church. Since then I have had little moments of spiritual community, but nothing that really included me in any lasting way.

what would your ideal spiritual community "look" like, given your beliefs now?

It is a group of people with varying beliefs and pantheons, but shared values of justice and reverence as well as strong love of the forest. We meet once a week for an hour via videochat, to meditate and maybe chant or sing or dance or do ritual movement. We meet in person once a month and take turns presenting and teaching each other things we had learned (if there were long-distance members they would videochat in just for the learning portion). At our meetings we also share food, gift each other energy, and perhaps perform ritual or create/work on sacred objects. At least twice a year we offer whatever spiritual services we can perform (energy work, divination, etc) to our local community. We have some kind of dedicated message thread on fb or email and if we have an intuitive urge or a spiritual need or the like, we share it with the group. We make specific goals for growth and tell each other and hold each other accountable (when desired) to making efforts towards these goals.

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belenen: (honesty)
what mental issue is most difficult for me to talk about right now / how I morally contradict myself
icon: "honesty (me, outdoors, gazing straight at the camera with a solemn expression)"

What mental problem is the most difficult for you to speak about/work on right now? Why? (from here)

I'm not quite sure what is meant by mental problem but I will interpret it as emotional/psychological issue. Most difficult is probably feeling anxiety and stress. Talking about it does no good, so I really don't want to. I have already thought it all out and unless I am willing to take more medication, I don't see a relief for my anxiety or stress until I get a job with a living wage. I'm on the fence about medication because I don't want to add another drug and I am not ready to stop the bupropion. But I am planning on getting lemon balm supplement, which is supposed to help with general stress and anxiety (we'll see).

Have you ever morally contradicted yourself?

I think this refers to breaking my own moral code? and yes, absolutely. I break it every time I get starbux, because I consider them an evil company that I shouldn't be giving money to (bad labor practices, worse financial practices, and they put REAL coffeehouses out of business). But I do it anyway because I don't have a way to properly steam milk and so I don't feel like I can do the same ritual for myself, and starbuxes are everywhere. I try to always use my own mug, but when I forget it I often get a coffee anyway and create unnecessary waste including plastic waste which is the worst kind. I try to remember reusable bags but when I forget them I often get plastic bags. This breaks my core values of justice AND reverence.

Also, my value of reverence applies to all life, but I take antibiotics if I get sick and don't seem able to get better without them; I consider this a kind of genocide but I do it anyway. I also clean the toilet/sink/etc, which is the same thing. And I am not good at being open without invitation in face-to-face interactions, unless the other person gives me certain signals (not sure what those are exactly, but very few people do them).

A recent example of me breaking my moral code is that my mom gave me birthday money and I bought a set of mudra cards made by white people. This breaks my value of justice, because I am supporting the industry which is so filled with white people taking up space that there is literally less than 10% available literature on mudras made by people who actually inherited that wisdom. I think it is closer to 2%. I decided to get the cards anyway because I desperately want to learn them (I've been searching for some literature that was both affordable and ethical for about a year) and at least these cards aren't photos of white hands (they're drawings in the colors of the chakra that the mudra goes with). It's not a good enough reason -- I just did it because I wanted it more than I wanted justice. My reaction to this violation of my value is increased determination to find a way to give back. If any of you have ideas, please let me know.

There are a number of ways in which I do not live up to my own values, or don't live up to them consistently. I don't berate myself for it because that's useless and counterproductive; I just try to figure out a way to balance it or do better. Sometimes I do things that are wrong (usually regarding purchases) and I probably could stop myself... I just don't. I'm not really sure why. I suppose that's my selfishness coming out.

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belenen: (progressing)
defense mechanisms of old: not showing gratitude, blocking emotion, not inviting myself, disclosing
icon: "progressing (a deeply, vividly green forest of thick vines and trees, with a tunnel running through where unused train tracks lay)"

Have any defense mechanisms you have created that seemed good at the time you created them turned inside out with time? (from here)

Most of my defense mechanisms date from childhood and were created subconsciously -- I suppose they must have been needed at the time but they aren't good for me anymore. Some of them are unethical (such as the thing I used to do where I would crush people with my vocabulary if they were trying to put me down) but most just really aren't needed among actually decent people.

For instance, I have a very hard time saying thank you because if I ever thanked my parents or expressed excitement at something, they would then take it away and use it to make me do things. An example: my parent says "let's go to pizza for dinner" and I say "yay! I love pizza!" and my parent would then say "well okay then, do this, this, and this and we will go, otherwise not" (and if they ended up not feeling like it, it wouldn't matter that I had already done the things they demanded). But if I did not respond happily, then it had a good chance of just happening without me having to earn it. So I learned that if I actually wanted the thing, I couldn't express any happiness or gratitude until after it could no longer be taken back. And usually by that time I wasn't feeling grateful anymore because I'd been holding my breath waiting to see if it would actually come true, so it felt like I earned it with the work of anxiety. I still have to push myself quite hard to be able to say thank you at the promise of something rather than after it has happened, but I have gotten better about reducing my anxiety and being able to actually say thank you after.

Another which is a bit more subtle is the difficulty I have in feeling like I belong and am wanted. Not only did my biofamily make me feel unwanted and like I didn't belong, my parent M told me over and over that no one else would ever love me as much. Since I never felt loved, that was the equivalent of telling me that I would never be loved. For a long time I coped with that by blocking out all feelings. I think I have overcome this one for the most part, but strong feelings of any kind usually bring up the fear that I'm not really loved, even if I can logically contradict it now. I just let them come and push through them, relying on logic.

In a way I don't fully understand, M's hangups about intruding in spaces they were not wanted rubbed off on me. So I coped by trying to never be in spaces where I wasn't 100% sure I was wanted -- which is not a helpful coping mechanism because you can never really be that sure and there are a lot of places where you won't get a specific invite. A lot of times you have to be an ambassador on your own behalf if you want to connect with people. That coping mechanism just made me more and more lonely. It still requires a massive effort to get myself to go to social gathers where there are any attendees that dislike me, or any where there isn't a person there who actively wants me there. It's still hard even if there are no dislikers and people who actively want me! I think Kylei was my biggest help breaking this one, but I have gotten out of the habit. I'm pushing myself to connect directly with people and to go to uncertain social gathers.

There's also the habit I have of disclosing everything that might be objectionable about me up front, "Hi nice to meet you by the way you probably won't like me because [reasons 1-25]." I probably scare off people who might be down with everything if I introduced it gradually, but at least this way I don't end up devoting years of my life to someone who thinks that the things that make me who I am are not valuable or even okay. Like I did with my ex-spouse (not by choice but because I hadn't learned myself before we got married). I think that this is sort of a 50/50 coping mechanism, which does the same amount of good and harm. I've started trying to be a LITTLE more gradual about it. do you notice they have and how do you work to put them right again/stop using them?

I notice only when someone else points it out, usually, or when I uncharacteristically don't use them for some reason and then realize how much better things are without it. I work on putting them right by trying to do the opposite often enough that the habit disintegrates: say thank you at the first sign of a thing I would be grateful for, allow all feelings, join gathers where I think I might be unwanted and talk to people without them giving welcome first, hold back after disclosing several things that people might need to process, etc.

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belenen: (bluestocking)
spiritual literature and relics, over my lifetime
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

Literature and relics: what sources (like spiritual tomes) did you consult or study for increased knowledge and guidance in each phase, if any? (from here)

When I was a teen, especially between the ages of 15 and 18, I read the Bible (New International Version, New Living Translation, The Message, New King James Version). Well, I read it throughout my childhood, but during my teens I read it cover to cover twice, and read the whole thing again in my early 20s. I used it as an emotional shield when I was in public school: days when I read it before school, I wasn't disturbed by the massive invasive energies of all the others, but days that I didn't I came home feeling like I had no skin and wanting to scream at every little thing. I'm not sure why it worked but it did. I also used it as a divination tool: I would ask Godde a question and then randomly open the bible and read to find the answer. Later I read a lot of books on near-death-experiences, because I wanted to have proof of spiritual things. After I was scorned by my pastor for calling them out on contradicting Jesus, I stopped reading books about spirituality (I collected them from used book stores but never actually read them). Once I had an experience of sensing a tree communicating with me, I started looking for books about plant communication because I wanted to feel like what I had experienced was real. I found a few books that seemed to have similar experiences to mine, but most of the stuff out there is just bullshit. Recently I read through the Chapters of Coming-Forth by Day (the ancient Egyptian book of the dead) which I found very inspiring, mostly because there were a lot of self-affirmations in it and reading them aloud made me feel powerful and connected to ancients. I hadn't really thought of doing that kind of self-affirming before. In Christianity the tradition is to describe yourself as a helpless worthless peon who god takes care of anyway out of great generosity and other illustrious characteristics. In Coming-Forth, a supplicant describes some deities as full of astonishing characteristics, asks for their help, then describes themself as powerful and amazing and tells other deities that they better not fuck with them. Much more in line with what feels true to me. A powerful, secure being has zero interest in other beings groveling. Only a whiny, insecure, selfish creature would feel at all uplifted by the self-deprecating of other beings.

what, if any, physical objects have held spiritual significance for you over your journey? if you transitioned to another belief system, did you keep those objects despite the change? did you re-purpose them? get rid of them? give them away? how did individual objects become charged with meaning? was it instantaneous, or did it happen gradually, over time?

Objects with significance are the Bibles I have owned (they are tucked in my memory box), objects I found at meaningful moments (on my altar), and various symbolic objects representing some part of my being or beliefs (also on my altar). I keep them all, unless I feel like they would do more good to someone else - then I will give them to that person. Meaning usually is instant, but there are some objects that grow in meaning, with repeated use as a tool (such as a stone for holding in meditation or a deck of cards for divination).

In general I value things not just for their current associations but for their history. So I still have my love letters from my ex-spouse (even though they are super embarrassing) because they are a part of my history. I don't throw things out when they are associated with something painful - if something has a large amount of my emotional investment (whether positive or negative), I value it highly. There's pieces of me in there! I might put it in the bottom of the closet for a while, but I won't voluntarily part with it if it still has meaning to me.

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belenen: (inspired)
the purposes I want my LJ to serve and the efforts I take to make that happen
icon: "inspired (a painting of my face (in my early 20s) with reflected blues and purples on it, done in miniature by my friend Kate)"

What steps do you take to make your LJ into a place you want it to be, which of them work, and do any of them happen to trap you in the image of yourself you have already created here and impede you expressing everything of yourself here? (from here)

What I want my LJ to be:
1) a memory repository
2) a way for me to explore and learn myself and to note patterns in my life
3) a connection with others and a way for others to know me deeply
4) an inspiration for the pursuit of justice
5) a work of art
6) an outlet for strong emotion
7) a way to share skills I have learned
8) a resource for others who experience similar oppressions and marginalizations (queer, trans, nonbinary, femme or afab, ADD & neuroatypical people, fat, demisexual, poor, polyamorous/relationship anarchists, activists, etc).

Steps I take:
1) a memory repository:
I try to write down descriptions of events that are meaningful for my life. I title and tag so that I can have memory tags both for searching for things in my journal, and for tagging things in my brain for bringing up more easily. I re-read and explain and summarize.

2) a way for me to explore and learn myself and to note patterns in my life:
I write about things that I am just considering for the first time, things I have learned, things I am unlearning. I write about my spirituality, my goals, my desires and emotions. I use my journal to gain an overview in order to note patterns in my dreams, my moods, my experiences. I hadn't realized how continuously overwhelmed I was until I considered how often I used my 'overwhelmed' icon, for instance. I often realize things about myself as I am writing also -- trying to put things into broadly-understandable words makes me understand the things myself at a deeper level.

3) a connection with others and a way for others to know me deeply:
I add people and read their entries and comment (sometimes -- not as much as I would ideally) in order to develop friendships and connections where we mutually nourish the shared space that is LJ. I keep my journal mostly public so that anyone who has a desire to know me may do so, at their own pace. I try to keep it accessible (with photo descriptions etc) so that I am not blocking out anyone.

4) an inspiration for the pursuit of justice:
I write about justice issues as I learn them, and attempt to model growthful responses to my mistakes. I confront people about their harmful behavior (especially regarding slurs) when I feel I am able to.

5) a work of art:
I deeply customized my layout using css and html, and crafted my profile carefully over time. My journal is more expressive of my personhood than anything I wear; maybe than anything else. I also (sometimes; not often lately) share my photography, fractals, and mixed media here.

6) an outlet for strong emotion and for messiness and unedited expression:
I attempt to share my feelings thoroughly and without censoring myself. I attempt to be complete and leave myself open to mistakes and criticism.

7) a way to share skills I have learned:
When I realize I have learned a skill that is not commonly held, I try to break it down into the individual parts and explain it clearly and thoroughly so that anyone else who wants to learn the skill can use the guidelines I write in order to do so.

8) a resource for others who experience similar oppressions and marginalizations:
I share my experiences and emotions so that people who have similar ones can feel less alone. I write about how to treat me and people like me so that allies can learn how to be inclusive and respectful of our differences, so that other people don't have to do the work of explaining. I want this both to be a thing people can link to and to be an additional force for increasing awareness generally.

I think all of these steps work to some extent or another. Do any of them trap me in the image of myself I have already created and impede me expressing everything of myself here? Probably. 4 and 6 clash sometimes because to be ethical I need to be careful about my language -- English is filled with the detritus of centuries of oppression and you simply cannot speak it unthinkingly without causing damage. 4 and 3 clash sometimes because I feel that if I were to point out every instance of issues no one would want to be my friend, and I feel like I have to build some kind of connection before pointing it out would do any good, but it is hard to build connection when someone is using slurs, for instance.

This was a hard question to answer, but I really appreciate having explored it because being aware of my intentions makes me much better at being thorough in growing toward them! Thanks [ profile] kehlen_crow!

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belenen: (garrulous)
more questions: spiritual/religious rituals/holidays
icon: "garrulous(a photo of my lips with the skin greyed out and the lips overlaid with a green and blue fractal pattern)"

(from here)
do you currently have any spiritual practices? are you developing any in particular at the moment? have you abandoned any recently?
Yes. Art, self-reflection, meditation, energy work, spell-writing, etc... I'm sort of developing a few: trying to get back into meditating at least weekly, and sending energy to Hannah daily. I haven't abandoned any recently.

what rituals in each phase did you connect with the most?
The ritual that was the most useful for me as a teen was reading the bible for 15 minutes every morning right when I woke up. It worked as a sort of psychic shield that blocked out the overwhelming, chaotic, negative energy of other teens around me.

the least?
Mostly I didn't participate in rituals that didn't mean anything to me. The only one I did was communion, and I think I mostly did that out of defiance (because people put rules on it and I felt God wouldn't). I never felt like there was any magic to the wafers and grape juice. Had we all torn off a piece of bread that was passed around, I would have felt that was magical (and still would, as microbe sharing is a sacred act to me).

have holidays ever held any spiritual meaning for you?
I never cared about any except Christmas, which meant lights, presents, and people making more effort to be kind to each other. I thought about Jesus all year long as a kid, so it wasn't a religious holiday to me. I did like that people treated me with more respect around christmas because they started feeling guilty about how devout I was and they weren't.

has that changed at all as you've grown?
yes. I learned what winter Solstice was and the lights, presents, and kindness transferred right over to a holiday that was far more suited to what I actually wanted to celebrate (the return of the sun). I will attend christmas celebrations with Topaz' family but it is Solstice that is my holiday, my sacred time.

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belenen: (dancy)
skills I have always wanted but never learned / how I see luck & am I lucky?
icon: "dancy (a photo of me in profile, dancing with a purple/blue/red striped sheer fabric. The light is stark and highlights the curves of my belly and breasts.)"

What is a skill you've always wished to have, but don't? What had stopped you from pursuing it, or what stopped you from achieving it? (from here)

I always wanted to be able to do structured dance. First it was ballet, then modern dance, then bellydance that I wanted to learn. I took bellydance classes for a little while, but when my teacher (who gave me a discount) stopped teaching I couldn't find anyone who taught near enough and cheap enough. Eventually I stopped looking for a new teacher. I think I was also hindered by lack of someone to do it with - part of my success when I did take classes was that I had a friend taking them with me.

I've also always wanted to paint, blow glass, sculpt, and draw well. In these things also I have not learned due to lack of money, teacher, and classmate. I have self-taught some other skills, but with painting and sculpting, the cheap materials are so much harder to work with, and with glass there is a HUGE financial barrier, and with drawing... I think with drawing I just got discouraged and never found a thing that I needed to draw enough to work at it. I wanted to learn to make fractals from the first time I saw them, but it took me years to even try, and I began with a tutorial. After that I felt like I understood enough to start experimenting.

How would you define luck and would you consider yourself lucky relative to the society you live in?

I define luck as being on the good side of random chance. Most things have a lot of forces pushing them, but when those forces get balanced, it is random chance that decides which way they go. To be lucky is to have those chances fall in your favor. I think you can make this happen. In cases where only the tiniest bit of a push makes the choice, that tiny push can be something like your desire, your prayer, etc. I didn't believe in luck as a thing of itself until I saw a string of such ludicrously bad luck that I felt there must be such a thing, and I took some actions to try and break it and it seemed to help.

A lot of times people use 'lucky' instead of 'privileged' as in "I was lucky to be born white" but that is not luck, because being born white is not a factor of random chance - you had very little chance of having dark skin if both parents were white. Privilege is not luck because it is not random and it is not value-neutral (but privilege and luck can go hand-in-hand).

I consider myself fairly lucky in some respects; I have amazing thrifting luck, and I have had good luck finding amazing friends, and I have good luck with my car. I cultivate this luck by pushing into it with my will so that any time forces are balanced I push them over to my favor.

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belenen: (writing)
how media have affected me - benefits and damages
icon: "writing (a relief carving of Seshat, overlaid with my fractal "Colorflight")"

While embracing criticism and critical analysis, as well as optimism, describe how media has impacted your life. What benefits have you and do you take from media, and how does media hurt you? Focusing specifically on few different categories (treat each category as if I asked the question about it individually): a. journalism/written news (including your favorite news sources and something like Fox News written stories) b. TV/radio entertainment (music, shows, commentary on "news" channels); c. Art, social and mass communication media (films, music, email, LJ, Facebook). (from here)

Benefits and damages from journalism:
True journalism is vital to me because without knowing the truth about situations, we can't react in a meaningful way. Print news is damaging when it is owned by corporate conglomerates which cut out any fact-sharing that might harm profits. But print news is possibly the most trustworthy when it is small and locally-owned. As far as the direct impact on me, it affects how I understand events, which affects my behavior with regard to social justice. i would say this has had slightly more positive than negative impact on me.

Benefits and damages from tv/radio:
TV/radio have had almost nothing but negative effects on me. The ads are evil and ubiquitous, and most of what would be available on cable is toxic to watch. I don't really listen to the radio or watch tv. I watch netflix, in a very choosy fashion. Even that I consider to mostly have a neutral effect. Overall I would say that tv/radio is far more negative than positive.

Benefits and damages from art/socialmedia:
Art has had a profound and positive effect on me. I don't really know how to even explain it. It feels like such a part of life - when I absorb a piece of art it becomes part of the very fabric of my inner world and I am not the same person as before. This is especially true with feminist sci-fi/fantasy, with self-portraiture by self-aware honest people, with surrealism & symbolism, and with songs that especially resonate with me through sound or storytelling.

Social media is also such an integral part of my life that I cannot really explain how much it means. Most of the meaningful parts of my life have happened via social media - I'd say 80%. I can trust social media to give me facts I wouldn't get elsewhere. It's not as in-depth as print media but I wouldn't even be able to look for print media without social media pointing toward a thing I needed more info on.

Art & social media have had vastly more positive than negative impact on me.

Benefits and damages from books
This wasn't part of the original question but I wanted to add a quick bit about books. They've had the strongest impact of all on me. At least 8 (probably more like 13) books have been responsible for major turning points in my life - most of them non-fiction, but the fiction of Joan Slonczewski, Stephen Leigh, and a few others have had life-altering effects as well. I am grateful to have had access to the internet, which lead me to most of my life-altering reads, and of course to college, which lead me to the others. I can think of a few books I read that were significantly damaging, but they are a very small minority. Books have had a profoundly positive impact on my life, and almost no negative impact by comparison.

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belenen: (strong)
what sparks my body dysphoria and how i manage
icon: "strong (a photo of me in warm light with my hair down around my face, staring intensely into the camera in a defiant mood)"

Talk about dysphoria (social, bodily, etc) in relation to your own gender identity. Do you experience it? If so, how, and what means do you take to fight it? What kind of affects does it have on your mental life? What would you say to others who have dysphoria too? (from here)

I experience it when I hear or think about my own voice, when someone tries to make me feel loved and included but genders me to do it (thus having the opposite effect), and when I think about or am reminded of how not-real other people consider my identity. I fight bodily dysphoria mostly by not thinking about it, because there is nothing I can do to get a deeper voice or whatever else right now. When it is someone trying to be nice, I either try to replace the comment in my head with something that might feel nice, or I talk to them about how bad it feels when people gender me.

The effect it has on me mentally is to take energy. I spend so much energy shutting out thoughts that would otherwise cause me pain and damage. I think this results in mental fog, and is partly to blame for my brain issues. It makes my ADD worse. But it can't be helped because the alternative is much worse.

For others with dysphoria, I would say:
1) do your best to minimize contact with people who invalidate your identity, regardless of how innocently they may do it.

2) tell the people you trust how things feel, and tell them you need them to self-educate so that you can share with them without having to give a 101 lecture first.

3) when you can fall apart, do. Plan for this sometimes.

4) when you can't fall apart, distract. If a thought comes into your head, focus immediately on something else that engages your mind. Any topic you could ramble about for a relatively long time will do. Perhaps make a list and carry it with you. Or have a game you play on your phone.

5) if you don't have people in your life with similar experience, do your best to find them. It is almost impossible to feel supported when no one can empathize because they cannot or will not take your perspective. Find people who get it.

6) in general, take care of other needs. It is when I am missing other things that my dysphoria is the worst. Check in with yourself to learn what you need, and then do your best to get those needs met. If you can, eat enough veggies, drink enough water, get enough sleep (occasional naps help). Figure out specific needs within your relationships and communicate those -- for instance "I need at least 2 hugs a day and I need someone to ask me questions about my life each day: can you help me with these needs?" Be willing to get your needs met by multiple people because no one can or should be your whole needs store.

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belenen: (hypnotiq)
questions: eavesdropping on ppl talking about me / gift I've wanted but not gotten
icon: "hypnotiq (my fractal "Windwheel" -- an abstract swirl of yellow red and orange with a little green)"

If you could listen to an hour's audio footage of people talking about you behind your back. Would you listen to it or not listen to it? Why or why not? (from here)

My instinctive response is yes. If they were strangers I would want to find out what people's first impressions of me were like, and if they were people who knew me well, I would want to know their unedited opinion of me. I would be afraid that I would find out something unflattering about myself but I would want to know if that was the case so i could change it. BUT if they were someone who valued privacy and I knew that about them, I would not listen without their permission.

What is a gift you've always wished to receive but haven't yet? This can be as literal or figurative as fits.

Nearly everything I wanted since childhood I have either gotten or stopped wanting, with the possible exception of a live-in polyamorous household. I remember as a kid being confused that other kids only had one crush while I usually had 3 (the romance myth was one element of the kyriarchy that didn't get reinforced in my life). I daydreamed about having a giant house where the top two floors were mine and then everyone I loved lived on the other floors (lovers and friends and family). Yes even as a little kid I wanted my own damn space. So yeah, I would consider such a household a gift which I have wanted but not received.

And if I take it more literally, I always wanted a non-synthetic opal ring with lots of fire (white or red transparent, overall not much blue) or a glass pendant with opal pieces floating in oil inside it. My ex-spouse promised me a mexican fire opal ring as a symbol of our relationship, but never followed through.

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belenen: (Ma'at)
Answer for question 4585: describe yourself in one word
icon: "Ma'at (a photo of one side of a brass balance scale, with a feather inside the bowl. The background is sky blue. On the bottom of the image, below the photo, is the word "Ma'at")"
[Error: unknown template qotd]Questioning.

My strongest personality trait is curiosity, but it extends past wanting to know new things in that I also want to unlearn wrong things, and I want to share learning as broadly as possible. It might not be the word people would choose, but the ones who know me best would probably choose a synonym.

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belenen: (connate)
what i have learned from Topaz, from being w Topaz, and from the last 3 years in general
icon: "connate (the characters Keenan and Joan from "Playing By Heart," facing each other with their faces so close that their noses almost touch, both with eyes almost closed, wearing slight smiles)"

(from Topaz) What, if anything, do you think you've learned FROM me; And, what, if anything, do you feel you've learned from being with me; And, what, if any, big things have you learned since we got together?

Ummm... I have learned a huge lot and my memory is full of holes, so I'm not even gonna try to make this comprehensive.

From you?
I have learned what media really means. I learned that even hostile anti-theists can have understandings of the world that fit with my spiritual beliefs. I learned that nail polish can be butch. I learned that chameleoning can be a powerful tool against oppression and that it doesn't always touch your soul. I learned that Carl Sagan is wonderful, and that wonder is a core value of mine. I learned about and came to love Michael Jackson, M.I.A., Lowkey, Melissa Ferrick, Sonia Leigh, and Ani Difranco. I learned that I dearly love giving presents to people who love getting them and have a variety of interests. I learned that sometimes, doing dishes can be worth it. I learned that I can enjoy cauliflower. I learned that I like many kinds of sex that I hadn't been interested in before. I learned that sometimes climbing a mountain is not the worst thing. I learned what a migraine is, and why it is so not the same as a really bad headache.

From being with you?
I've learned to be more patient with communication, and that 'I can't tell you yet' is not necessarily code for 'I'm going to put this off until you forget.' I learned that I can't deal with much indirect communication, and I learned how to respond to it in a useful way. I learned that I really love sweetness. I learned that I can ask for what I want without fear of pressuring someone into giving it. I learned that I really value (maybe need) independence in a lover, mixed with willingness to express needs and desires. I learned that I can brush someone's hair for literal hours, and that I miss having hair long enough to brush.

Overall big things?
I learned I don't believe in an afterlife or in spanking (both from logical conversations with you). I learned a ridiculously huge amount about racism, cissexism, ableism, and oppression in general. I learned that I have talent in stats. I learned that my ADD is bad enough that I can't really function without meds. I learned that my fractals are beautiful to more people than just me. I learned that I suck at picking people and need to get input from my insightful friends. I learned that LJ is still alive and that I can be 'in' it like I did years ago. I learned that I can motivate myself to do things with colorful stickers. I learned that my mental health is negatively affected when I don't eat breakfast and lunch. I learned that I can forge on ahead with something completely new, even when my future rests on that thing. I learned that parts of my biofamily are kinda great and that my bioparent M is the most selfish person I've known. I learned that I need group focus time as well as one-on-one. I've learned that I need for my lover(s) to combine specific compliments with touch for me to feel desirable or aesthetically pleasing. I learned that nourishing connections are increasingly difficult for me to find. I learned that similarity of inner self or similarity of overall goals doesn't make a connection nourishing: that I need connections with people who are on a growth spiral and not too far away from me. I learned that my privilege as a colonizer race means that it would be inappropriate for me to profit from doing spiritual healings or divination (since I only have access to these things due to historical and modern spiritual theft). I learned that I can build spiritual practice that is more growth-inducing, challenging, and meaningful for me than any externally-created practice I have come across.

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belenen: (analytical)
trust: what builds it and what burns it, for me
icon: "analytical (a close-up photo of my eye in bright sunlight, showing the green and grey and roots-looking patterns)"

How do you define trust in your relationships? Do you believe it is a black and white issue or a grey area one in that you can trust people in different ways?

Trust comes in various levels, for me. I start everyone at about 60%: assuming that they respect me, they want to avoid hurting me, and they're not going to lie to me.

Things that add to that trust are:
- not hurting me often (which requires them to be careful with their language and actively practice removing slurs and stereotypes from their thinking),
- being remorseful and productive instead of defensive when I have told them that they hurt me,
- telling me as soon as they can when I do something that upsets them so that I can adjust my behavior,
- being willing and able to share their feelings and experiences with me (self-aware and open),
- taking action to care for our relationship,
- sharing freely with me without me needing to prompt them,
- showing curiosity and thoughtfully engaging with things I share,
- practicing good self-care, especially in such a way that they can have more quality time with me,
- openly (especially publicly) admitting when they made a mistake or realized a change they need to make.

There are probably more actions that build trust for me, but that list alone would bring someone up to 90% at least.

Things that lower my trust in someone:
- deceiving me,
- hiding things from me that they know I would want to know,
- not telling me when I bother or upset them,
- showing that they don't respect me or others,
- showing that hurting me doesn't matter to them,
- using slurs,
- mocking people for anything that is related to their status as an oppressed person (seriously anything),
- making fun of anything that is part of who someone is (like their laugh, their name, their style, their body shape, etc),
- trying to push someone into doing something (ANYTHING) they don't want to,
- affirming stereotypes,
- trying to 'win' in an argument or agreement,
- showing a lack of self-awareness,
- showing that they value me more than themselves,
- disliking all conflict,
- avoiding giving direct answers when I ask direct questions.

Any one of those things would drop my trust at least 10%. Not all of these are things I think are bad, but they are all things that show I cannot be very close to that person.

Things that have little to no effect on my trust, usually:
- keeping plans we made (all I care about is desire and effort, not success)
- being on time
- being available when I am in need
- remembering anniversaries/birthdays
- responding in a timely manner
- backing me up in a conflict
- showing me that I am more important than others
- staying consistently in my life

I notice many people expressing desire or need for these things but frankly, that stuff is mostly stuff that only neurotypical people can do, or stuff that creates a hierarchical relationship. I have had maybe two relationships with neurotypical people and they were ages ago. I don't really forsee myself being in any of those in the future and if I did, I hope I would not become reliant on those things as markers of trust. They have not at all correlated with people who remained nourishing, non-damaging connections for a long time.

So overall, yes I trust people in different ways. I trust Topaz probably about 98%, Kylei, Heather, and Hannah about 92%, and other people vary from 0% to about 88%.

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belenen: (spiritual)
after learning more about microbes, I no longer believe in an afterlife
icon: "spiritual (a photo of a snow leopard with (edited) violet eyes staring straight into the camera)"

[ profile] darkestgarden asked me: have you ever felt that you were just plain wrong somehow about prior [spiritual] beliefs?

Yes. I used to believe in an afterlife, because I believed human bodies contained one soul and that soul left the body at death and went to another existence. Then I began to think about the fact that I am made up of literal billions of creatures, and I see all creatures as having a soul, so there is more than one soul in my body. I don't remember the conversation, but sometime after considering that, Topaz and I were talking about an afterlife and I realized my previous beliefs no longer made sense with my understanding of myself. Since I have only ever lived together with these billions of souls, what makes me think I would be the same creature if I was no longer influenced by them in incomprehensible ways? The logical thought is that I would not. So, poof, an afterlife as I had imagined it doesn't exist. I am frankly very disappointed to realize this, as my perception of afterlife involved getting to create from the raw stuff of the universe. But I can't believe in it just because it sounds nice, it has to make sense to me.

However, I do believe all memories are stored in a shared consciousness, and so in some ways I would still exist, just not as a singular consciousness in a recognizable configuration. I think that sometimes a pattern of thinking matches previous patterns so closely that one can recall them easily (past lives). And sometimes a pattern is imprinted on a place or person so strongly that people coming near it are faced with that memory (ghosts). And I believe that when people die their memories are 'uploaded' and in near-death or technically-resurrected experiences, a person's consciousness is observing their memories be uploaded. I think that the reason that they often experience a transformation is because they can feel the interconnectedness of all things in that moment. I think they see their deity many times because that is a pattern of many memories that is really important to them. I think that it is possible to access this feeling without dying, but I have not done it.

I believe these things because they make intuitive sense to me and they explain a lot. If it somehow ceases to make sense to me, I will stop believing it.

(where I first talked about this)

ETA: also I consider thought to be a kind of energy which can affect other things, and I consider deities to be thought-beings, sort of like clouds -- they're not really an individual THING so much as they are a collection of things that seem like a single solid thing. However I don't think that the only deities that exist are ones which are acknowledged as such. For instance I consider the largest deity for the US to be Capitalism; people fight and kill and die for this deity, suffer their whole lives in holy servitude to the idea that if they sell their labor long enough and hard enough they will be rewarded with an afterlife called wealthy retirement.

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belenen: (Ma'at)
Q & A about my beliefs regarding deities
icon: "Ma'at (a photo of one side of a brass balance scale, with a feather inside the bowl. The background is sky blue. On the bottom of the image, below the photo, is the word "Ma'at")"

if a god (or gods, or goddesses, or some other kind of divine entities) has ever factored into your spirituality, what drew you to them?
Many have. First was Jesus, and that was very early, at age 4. What drew me was probably partly my parents fascination (my dad would sit and memorize bible verses often, my mom sang a lot) and partly that Jesus was the way I interpreted my mystical experiences. I saw a glow in a person once, and another time I had a vision about my mom that scared me and I prayed with my dad and found out later that my mom had been in a wreck at the same time (and was not hurt, which we attributed to the prayer). Later I was drawn to the ancient Egyptian pantheon, especially Nuit, Geb, Hapi, and Renenutet. I loved the whole pantheon because of the central tenet of Ma'at, embodiment of truth and order, and because there was no subordination of women or intersex people. Other than these, I have been drawn to a few deities because I felt their presence, and afterward learned about them.

how did you perceive them at the times you felt most connected with them? as beings that exist, or more as mythical constructs? something else?
My concept of existence is based on my senses, mediated by my mind. So they do exist, but perhaps only in my reality. I do not know - or care - if deities exist in the grand-blended-everyone's-overlap reality.

did you ever feel that you genuinely had a two-way means of communication with those entities (say, for example, through prayer or meditation), or were they silent?
Not in a truly verbal sense, no. I have had feelings, both physical and emotional, which I perceived as communication from deities. More commonly than that, I will notice something that seems to me to be a sign from a deity. I don't often talk to them, though, so it makes sense to me that I have not gotten to a higher level of communication (I do feel that is possible).

have you ever felt that a god has intervened in your life directly, for better or for worse?
I mean... Yes? But not in any dramatic way. Small things, usually reassurance when I feel hopeless. Like the time I was heartbroken about breaking up with Hannah and Nick and I found a piece of colored sea glass, which I had never found before. I felt that was an intervention from a deity. I didn't know or care which one, I was just grateful for a little hope.

if you did feel like you had a two-way communication with a god, or felt that they intervened in your life, but later your beliefs changed, how did you perception change of those experiences? did you feel mistaken about the nature of those experiences?
My beliefs have certainly changed. When I was monotheist and solely Christian, I perceived everything as the work of that god, and I believed they intervened in the world in ways that broke the laws of the natural world. I once prayed without stopping for over an hour for someone who was very sick with pneumonia and bronchitis while also having asthma (the doctor said something like 'you should be dead'), and I felt my prayers and god were the reason that person lived. I didn't consider any other factors as relevant. Now, I still believe that such an action would have power, but not miraculous power that is better than medicine. Just a small push, which might be vital if someone is near the edge. I feel I was mistaken, but that it wasn't an important mistake because the choice would have been the same either way.

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belenen: (artistic)
Soothing social time?!? / the evolution of my relationship to art
icon: "artistic (a photo of a hand holding a glass heart, all of it colored in purple)"

This Saturday Topaz and I had a tiny bonfire with Heather, Brian, Cass, Kelsey, and Elliott. It was really relaxing and nourishing. I often feel worried in social situations if I think someone is uncomfortable or unhappy, but I didn't take responsibility for anyone's happiness this time, and I didn't try to facilitate connections. I think I was able to do this partially because Topaz seemed mostly at ease, and quite enjoyed some parts. (Heather and I grinned gleefully at each other while overhearing Topaz and Brian talk about being bros) I got to cuddle with Cass and Heather at different times. I think there was just a lot of similarity in communication styles and that made it really easy. I want more of this in my life. I want to feel an ease and a balance like that with a local group.


I've decided to try to finish the prompts given to me ages ago. This one was from Topaz.

Has your interest and preference for art changed over the years? What sort of art styles and genres were you interested in as a child, teen, in your 20s, vs now?
Yes, by a lot! When I was a child and teen, I liked realistic paintings of the ocean and dragons. Christian Reece Lassen and Michael Whelan were my favorite artists.  Lassen painted hyperreal epics with orcas, dolphins, and many kinds of fish, with waves that looked like glass.  More than anything else I loved the light and the water and the way they were magic together (I wouldn't have minded if the animals weren't there). When Whelan created a website where I could actually see all their art, I realized that more than the dragons, I loved their symbolic art. There is this one painting of a child sitting next to a tiny square of grass in an otherwise totally concrete space, with light coming through a slim crack in the wall. Another is a woman wearing only a hooded sand-colored cloak, holding their arm out straight with a red ribbon hanging from their hand, at the end of which which is a translucent red heart. The most powerful one for me is the one of a figure in flowing white from neck to ankle, running and dancing along a thin yet dense ridge of deep green brush that waves back and forth. I'm just now realizing that this stuff is very white. My only irritation at the time was that everyone was thin, but I felt that the women weren't sexualized, which I liked.

Then I discovered body positivity and with it, a yearning to see art of bodies that looked like mine. Anders Zorn and Tamara de Lempicka were my favorites; Zorn I loved for the nudes in nature, and the soft curve of bellies with deep navels, and Lempicka I loved for the luxuriant abandon of their subjects, who sprawled as though a self-conscious feeling had never touched them. I also really liked a lot of artists that I now understand to have reified white supremacy through the production of beauty norms. Sad and gross. And I liked a lot of terribly appropriative 'native' art.

I also discovered portrait photography and became enchanted with many artists on deviantart who shared their beings through their faces and bodies, often nude. Clothing is most often a distraction, I feel, and I don't like it in art. I see it as the same as having brand names or fast food in the art. Sure, sometimes that is part of the meaning, but in general it just takes the person from immediacy and places them into a time and culture. I don't think it should be included unless it is relevant to the meaning of the piece.

Deviantart also showed me that art didn't have to be photorealistic or even proportional to be meaningful. Pupasoul (real name unknown) painted many symbolic pieces with figures clearly intended to represent humans, but without faces or hands or feet, and never in any skin tone. I loved them, and finally stopped being snobbish about realism.

Through deviantart i also discovered fractals, though i did not think that I could ever make them. My favorite was sideoutman, mostly because they created asymmetrical fractals which spoke to me far more than others. This was the first time I had ever felt drawn to abstract art, which I previously thought very little of.  When I began making my own fractal art, it became very important to me. I love my own fractals and I love the fractals of others.

Has your interest range become more specific or has it widened, or both? Why?
I would say that both are true - I love many more styles now, but I specifically dislike art which uncritically reproduces white supremacy and unfortunately, that's most of the stuff that exists that includes white people as subjects. I used to love photorealistic art and disdain everything else. Now, I prefer abstract, surreal, and symbolic art, though I still enjoy photorealistic if it has an actually interesting subject, and I do love photography, especially self-portraits and nature.

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belenen: (bluestocking)
free public education is necessary but the current system is mediocre bordering on abusive
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book laying open on a table in front of an open window, with light streaming in and a yellow spiral fractal overlay)"

from [ profile] bunnika: What are your feelings on education at large? Its necessity (or lack thereof), benefits, downsides, cost. Feel free to include all levels of education that you have opinions on from preschool through grad school.

I think free public education is absolutely necessary, and the way the US does it is super shitty. I think at least 50% of what kids are taught is USELESS and the other 50% is barely a beginning. Also the way schools are funded is horrifically classist and awful. There's a zillionty problems with it. I'm just gonna talk about what I think should be done instead.

I think writing is a necessary class every year, and maybe 3 grades of arithmetic. In addition, critical analysis (where people learn to absorb media in critical ways) should alternate with self-development (where people learn to be self-aware and express themselves) every year. Every year there should be a 'basic skills' class which teaches things like laundry, gardening, nutrition, stretching, etc. Other than that, kids should have to take one class in each of many practical specialties before high school, and then in high school they should choose their own classes. It should be possible to go to 9th grade and learn neuroscience, baking, construction, gymnastics, and horticulture (in 101 classes of course). The idea that every kid should learn the same basics for THIRTEEN FUCKING YEARS is part of the reason we have so few actual thinkers and so many people who get stuck in their ruts. If it was all mixed up and by choice, kids would absorb new information from their friends constantly and naturally, and it would be actual consensual learning instead of meaningless obedience and memorization. Kids would learn that the world is full of really cool information and they'd develop an interest in learning and in self-educating. Also, other than tests on reading and basic math (not quite sure how those should be handled), everything should be graded by portfolio. You should be judged by how productive you have been and how much you have improved, never by how well you meet an external standard.

College should not need to have any 'core classes' because everyone should already have been exposed to enough paths to feel sure of which one(s) they want to invest further study in. And college should not be restrictive! if a person can do the work in a class they should be able to take it even if it has nothing to do with their main courses of study. For grading, a teacher should collect work and give feedback along the way and then at the end of the course give pass or fail (you learned the basic concepts or you didn't).

Grad school? I think if college was done right, this would just be a part of regular college. There should be further classes in any specialty that would benefit from a deeper understanding, but they shouldn't give you a new title/rank. You should take them only if you actually just want to know more. Classes should be things that get listed on resumes, not degrees.

I think most of the education system as it stands is mediocre bordering on abusive of both teachers and students (which is why so many good teachers burn out, and so many creative people drop out). I hate it. But I love and admire everyone who gets in it to try to make it better for the students. A teacher with enough passion can make up for a lot of the failures of the system but that is NOT the system functioning as it is designed. Those teachers have to break the system to save their students. The system is built to create drones, not educated lively productive people.

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