A friend of mine recently introduced me to YeahWrite, a community dedicated to the craft of writing. While exploring their website, I discovered a section called Super Challenge. I was intrigued! Turns out, this group puts on a writing contest every quarter. Winners receive fun prizes, and even better, street cred for winning a writing contest! Entrants have 48 hours to write on a specific prompt that is sent to them by email when the clock chimes 7 PM on a Friday, and must be completed by 7 PM on Sunday. I decided to do it, and to my absolute astonishment, I won my first round! Since Round 1 is now officially over, I am able to post my essay to my blog. I would be honored if you read my mostly-true, essay. Please see below for the prompt and following response. And if you’re curious, I just finished the second and final round of Super Challenge. I’ll be sure to let you know the results when I get them! Wish me luck.

Reader, I have one request. This is a very raw and, again, mostly-true essay, and even though it talks about painful things in my recent past, this writing is about ME and not the other person. Writing this helped ME get through my pain to a more peaceful state of mind. I know you will probably have opinions about what you read, but please remember that we are all human and I’m sharing this with a tiny bit of fear in my heart about judgments. I truly appreciate your discretion and compassion as you read, and I ask that you hold space in your heart for the beauty of the pain that we as humans endure as part of our growth.

Love it or hate it, you’ve probably slept alone at some point in your life. Tell us about it. Persuade us that it’s the best, or the worst, way to sleep. Tell us a mostly-true story about the first time you slept alone after moving in with your partner. See where the prompt takes you!

YeahWrite Super Challenge #23, Round 1 Essay

Sheets can feel deliciously tranquil when they’re fresh and haven’t been mussed up by the complexities of love, resentment, or anger.

I was putting new sheets on the bed by myself for the first time in four years. I should have been thrilled with the smell of crisp Egyptian cotton and the opportunity to spread my limbs starfish-style, but I knew feeling happy again wouldn’t be that easy. Getting the courage to move to the middle of the mattress would mean admitting he wasn’t coming back.

Truthfully, the bed hadn’t been all that comfortable when I’d shared it with Miguel. We were both hot sleepers, and a queen size just didn’t give us the freedom to separate when we needed to, but we couldn’t afford the king we so desperately wanted. I actually didn’t mind it, considering that I thought we were so giddy in lust with each other that we didn’t want to stop touching even for a moment, much less eight hours.

Laundry was one of my chores. I began working from home because of the pandemic, so it just made sense for me to do it while attempting to get a few extra steps in during the work day. Miguel was in sales and had to continue to go into the office every day, and yet still made it a big deal if I didn’t fold his t-shirts the way he liked.

You’re lucky I’m doing your laundry at all, I would mutter to myself as I folded the T-shirts the same way I’d done it for the last 20 years. But tonight, neither one of us were lucky. As per usual, I dumped the clean load on our bed and started rescuing underwear and socks from staticky t-shirts. I pulled a pair of what I thought were strangely feminine boxer briefs away from a ripped-up Metallica tee that he refused to get rid of, and placed both on his side of the bed.

Later, when he returned from his office and settled onto the couch, he pulled me close to him and kissed me. A static Pop! exploded between our lips and we both exclaimed before blaming each other for the shock.

“You’re wearing wool socks!” I huffed.

“Well, you practically shuffled all the way over here!” He volleyed back.

Around 10:30 PM, we hauled ourselves upstairs. He glanced at the clothes on the bed and began putting them away. He picked up the underwear I’d blinked at earlier, and threw them on my side without a word.

In the one second that it took those women’s boyshorts to fly through the air and land on my side of the bed, I’d figured it out. Instantly I knew who they belonged to and when it had happened. And clearly, it had happened in my bed. Our bed.

The bed that I am now sleeping in alone.

Did you know that static electricity happens when positive and negative charges aren’t balanced? When an object has extra electrons, it has a negative charge that causes a spark, and in this case, that spark blew up our life together.

Waves of rage ran furiously through my body the first few nights I slept by myself. I punched the mattress that had been witness to the destruction he had caused. I cried into the pillow he’d bought me for Christmas. I refused to look at his side, much less touch it.

I had to force my body to stretch out, and eventually started to wiggle my way towards the middle. There were many nights that my heart would infiltrate my brain, making me think I was being disloyal to the other side of the bed, and so I would straighten up and go back to my side. One night, though, I woke up around midnight in what felt like a death match with an octopus, desperately needing to pee. I struggled with the blankets, trying to grasp my edge of the bed so I could escape and stumble down the hall to relieve myself. It felt like it took forever.

When I got back into my bedroom, the covers looked as tormented as I felt. Sheets had been heaved aside in my quest to get to the bathroom; blankets had twisted into one another. There was a street lamp just outside my window, and the glow it gave off allowed me just enough visibility to see that I had completely torn up my bed for no reason. I’d wiggled and writhed to get out of the bed on my own side. I hadn’t even given it the thought that I could have just slipped out on his side and made my night a whole lot easier.

After that realization, the migration began. Those next few nights, I left the bed on whatever side I wanted, and my midnight pee felt like a victory.

It was a victory I needed.

I have not let myself grieve to the point of being at peace. I am still in trauma state. My head and heart worked together long enough to end the relationship and kick him out, but I still haven’t processed everything that led to the explosion of my relationship. What I do know is that I can’t remain static. I have the whole bed, and the whole world, in front of me.


I won’t leave, if that’s what you were frightened of.

I just want to move with you.

My back has carried several lifetimes of heartache, but I’d take it off your shoulders first, if I could.

I don’t know what it feels like from the bones, but I know pain. I recognize the half-mast eyelids, heavy from words of masters.


You’ve sewn in hair from Brazilian slave drivers’ ancestors; how does that feel?

Does it make you want to dance?

Do you look at each strand and sob from your diaphragm?

Do you feel the pulse of the motherland as you raise your clenched hand?

Would you let me fall in step beside you, chins pushed up from both our chests?

Do you want me to play with your shadows, slip in and out between them, like the sun?

Groove to voodoo beats—or is that wrong?

We could dance.

We could just be.

You can tell me.

I won’t leave.

Over and Over Again

Renowned martial artist Bruce Lee described the opponent he was most wary of: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” In my astrological opinion, you should regard that as one of your keystone principles during the next 12 months. Your power and glory will come from honing one specific skill, not experimenting restlessly with many different skills. And the coming weeks will be an excellent time to set your intention. – Rob Brezsny
It’s a theme that is so common in every thread of life: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
I hear it every week in belly dance class. My instructor and dear friend, Claudia, is unyielding in her insistence that you can take a set of simple moves and make them incredible with a metric ton of practice and a heavy helping of personality.
I can drill with the best of them. I love it. I could shimmy for hours; hone my taksim and maya for days. Add in that personality or emotional factor, however, and I crumble. Showing my vulnerability is one of my biggest fears. To show your vulnerability is terrifying, but essential to being a whole dancer. It’s what gives the dance tarab. Tarab is the climax of a feeling derived from hearing music expressing an intense emotion. I struggle with this, because I love belly dance with a passion; I want to be a complete dancer—tarab and all. I feel these emotions with the music and the movement, but somehow I can’t set them free into the universe, because that would open me up to something incredibly scary. The audience would see the raw, naked parts of me. It’s the gift of imperfection. It’s what makes us relate to other humans. But I always seem to see it as a gag gift. To her credit, Claudia never gives up on me. She just makes me do it again and again. If we dance for an hour and she sees one glimpse of my wall breaking down, she knows it can happen another time, and she encourages me to get back up and expose myself again. I am a dancer. Music and movement are my passion, and no amount of failure will make me stay down, because I yearn to cultivate this gift of mine.
Dating…I cannot count the number of times I’ve been stood up, “ghosted,” or rejected. If you’ve ever tried online dating, you know the frustration that can build so easily. Greater quantity does not necessarily mean better quality. I’ve met some true gems, but the timing wasn’t right or our schedules didn’t match up. Do I sit at home and cry about it? Yes. But then I get back up and try again. I set up yet another date to meet someone new, holding out hope that my person is out there. I am strong, smart, beautiful, and deserve to be loved. I am love.
America has felt over and over the hate that comes from fear. We see people killed for reasons beyond our comprehension. Hate crimes, terrorism, crimes of passion. It is a scary time in our existence. We easily fall down rabbit holes of depression and distress, struggling to get back up.  Should we give up, let ourselves sink back down to the darkness forever? No. We repeat our mantras of love and acceptance. We recognize that there is a purpose for the light and the dark, and search for a balance. We get to know our neighbors. Sometimes I falter at knowing what I can do for my brothers and sisters of the world. But I can start with something small—holding each of us in the light. That is what my Quaker faith taught me to do—understand that there is that of God in every person, no matter what they have done or who they are. I can start there. Wash, rinse, repeat.
If my one, time-tested impeccable “kick” turns out to be sharing my love with you, then I am honored to try, try again, with every blog I post and every action I take, whether that be writing a few words, sharing my passion for dance, or practicing loving kindness, expecting nothing in return.

WHY: Part I

Today I went back and read a post that I wrote some time ago. It was a bittersweet commentary on the trials of my weight loss journey, but also a heartwarming reminder of how far I’ve come. The reason I went back to it today was because of the fitness group I joined on Facebook. We were asked to write about our “why.” Why are we choosing to lose weight right now? What is our motivation to achieve our goals? Originally I shared the following piece only with the fitness group, but I decided I needed to get this to a bigger audience. Following is my “why.”
I’ve struggled with my weight and abandonment issues from my parent’s divorce my whole life, and because of that I find it hard to follow through with the things I really want to accomplish. I either give up and desert the project, or, more often, sabotage myself. This includes goals involving my passion for writing, my fervent need to be beautiful (AKA, skinny), and finding (and marrying) the love of my life.
For the longest time, even though my self-esteem wasn’t the greatest, I didn’t stress a whole lot about being fat because I never expected I could change it. When I did finally lose weight, it started a whole domino effect of anxiety because I had all this new pressure. Where before it never mattered because I had zero expectations, suddenly the world was at my fingertips and I was completely unprepared. It was really easy to blame others for my shortcomings, and for a while I thought, things haven’t changed a bit. Why not just stay how I am? My life is fantastic, even if I’m not living the dream of marrying Dr. Handsome and writing that bestseller. I’ve got great friends, a steady job…I have good dates here and there. I can hack it a little longer, getting by how I am. But that’s not how I want to live my life. I want to set meaningful goals and attain them, NOW (starting with being focused on them better). I want to be able to tell myself every day that I am worthy of a beautiful and healthy relationship. I want to break the chains of inadequacy that I’ve carried from a very young age—and that I’ve continued to carry all on my own, using them as an excuse to be average.
Doing all that takes a concerted effort, and a community. I’m so used to doing things for myself, being single for such a long time, but letting people in, and, God-forbid, letting others see my vulnerabilities, is so important. It’s not something I do lightly. It takes faith in my community, and love for myself.
I know that I have to let go of my past in order to be the future amazing Becky that’s always been inside. Grasping onto my communities’ outstretched hands is a great start. Spending time with people from all corners of my world is a very important part of that. I’ve got my running community, my writing peers, my dance family, my work buddies, fellow gamers and hikers and coffee-lovers, Blazer fans, my blood family. But it’s more than just spending time, and it’s more than just hoping a few of you will read my blog and empathize. Getting vulnerable with yourself and your “people” is not a one-stop deal. Clearly, you readers have seen that for the last two years that I’ve been writing this blog. Of course I hope to inspire others, but letting out my fears and emotions in this medium is a very important part of my process, and I thank you for being my audience and safety net. You, love, are a very big part of my success in this life, because we all need love to thrive.

All you need is love

All you need is love

This is the first piece in a miniseries called WHY. I look forward to sharing parts II and III very soon.

Whole, Complete, and Lacking in Nothing

I found this article written by Dr. Christiane Northrup today on my Facebook scroll. She is always an inspiration to read, but this post in particular struck a very sensitive chord with me. It began with her describing a workshop with Jill Rogers that started like this:

Jill started the workshop with a ritual in which she looked deep into each of our eyes and said, “You are whole, complete, and lacking in nothing.” Tears welled up in my eyes as I felt the truth of this statement from both a soul perspective and as a deep sadness because I still hadn’t found the love (spelled MAN) I was looking for in my life.

I pride myself in being incredibly independent, but there are times when I break down in sadness because I feel I am lacking something in my life. These times may feel like despair at the moment, but actually I think they are a choice made by my body to acknowledge my emotions, which is a very good thing. So often I lose myself in my activities and other people, and while they are truly a blessing for my body and soul, I recognize that there is a part of me that uses them to avoid facing the emotions inside of me that are not so happy-go-lucky.
In the moment that my feelings overwhelm me, I have to remind myself that this is healthy. This is a part of my journey. Life is built on all experiences, not just the good ones. It is a comfort to me that others are on a similar journey, and their words help me work through the sadness by facing it and not running away, as well as by giving me inspiration for new paths. 
I will never stop learning. I will never stop building on this life. I will never be completely satisfied with the whole. This is what makes me human, it’s what pushes me to be great, what pushes me to keep looking for more. I love sharing my journey with my tribe, because connection with you is one of the most important parts of my foundation.
I urge you to read the post in its entirety, whether you are happily in love with a significant other or looking giddily forward to what the universe has in store for you next.

It's the MEND of the World!

There is an energy building right now. We all feel it, even if it is only a subconscious awareness. Whether or not you believe in the end-of-the-world propaganda or in a worldwide ascension into pure love mindfulness—from the Mayans, aliens, scientists, or your new-age friend with the opened third eye—you must have heard that something is going on with the planet, unless you are living far from society or literally under a rock. We’ve been witness to so much of the bad part; it dominates the news. Anger and confusion abound. Truly terrifying violence and an outpouring of expressions of pain seem to be around every corner. We can’t help but feel it in our bones; fear is walking beside us as the clock ticks down the hours to December 21, 2012, the date of the supposed alignment-apocalypse-transformation.
I am not quaking every time I walk into a public place. I don’t check dark alleys before I walk by them, and though I think of the recent shooting victims, I am not consumed with fear and negativity all the time. That being said, I am thinking about it more than I ever have, and more often than not, it brings me to thoughts of December 21. For months, my friends and I have exclaimed “Mayans did it!” every time something goes wrong or surprises us. It’s become a joke that has no real meaning, only a catch phrase that is funny because the truth is, we don’t know how to explain some of the things that are going on. A few weeks ago this mostly applied to super storms, strange coincidences, or memes on the internet. Now it is very apparent that this applies to violent public massacres and personal tragedies. In the last week alone, I have been made aware of not only the shootings, but also a slew of suicides, and I don’t use the word slew loosely. I have never heard of so many suicides in such a small time. Just yesterday my doctor told me about her daughter’s 14-year-old best friend who committed suicide recently. Those words made me pause. What kind of anguish does one have to go through to want to end her life at fourteen years old? I thank God, the Universe, all of it, that I don’t have those feelings of such hopelessness and despair. Still, how could you not feel your heart drop into your stomach when you hear something like this?
Last week I had dinner with a good friend and my cousin, who is particularly attuned to the state of the universe, and does her research when she learns something intriguing. She strongly believes that there is an ultimate consciousness ascension that is starting to take place and will culminate on Friday. I will be straight with you, friends. When she started talking about this, all I wanted to do was tune out or change the subject. It’s all I hear lately…world upheaval or the ultimate elevation. Can’t we just go back to gossiping about our friends? Then I decided to stop wriggling in my seat and actually listen. What I heard her say was fascinating. I’m going to paraphrase here, and I probably won’t do it justice. I’m not going to say I buy this theory 100%, but it definitely gives me something to think about. Basically, we are coming into an era of much larger awareness. Our minds will open and the cognizance of these vibrations will be more intense than they ever have been. This applies to every person, not just a chosen few. Those who live with peace and love in their hearts will be most open to the enlightenment. Unfortunately, it seems that some people can’t handle what is happening…unfamiliar notions are starting to perforate their minds, and it is terrifying them rather than comforting them. Maybe this is why there is so much violence taking place in such a small time…perhaps we should all take this knowledge and handle ourselves and others with a little more care.

An illustration of reaching our highest potential through love. Inspired by "Power vs. Force" by David Hawkins

An illustration of reaching our highest potential through love. Inspired by “Power vs. Force” by David Hawkins

So I have some affirmations for us, because as much as I want to believe in this ascension, I still have a heavy heart at times, and I need to build up an aura of love so big that I can’t find the edges and I’ll never travel so far that I could possibly escape it. This is the only thing that can save us, friends. Take it from whatever medium you want—a tarot reader, a religious leader, a friend—but the message is the same. We need love to survive. There are few other concrete truths.
No meetings are accidental. “Those who are to meet will meet, because together they have the potential for a holy relationship.”From Marianne Williamson’s Everyday Miracles affirmations.
Stop focusing on what you do not have, and shift your consciousness to an appreciation for all that you are and all that you do have.From Wayne Dyer’s Get Inspired! affirmations.
It is easy to grow and change in the atmosphere of love.From Louise Hay’s Power Thoughts affirmations.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.Rumi
God wills only love, joy, and peace for you in all ways.From Doreen Virtue’s Daily Guidance From Your Angels affirmations.
Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. Mother Theresa
Please, share the love, friends. Practice kindness. Smile, and be whole in heart and body this Friday. Hopefully we’ll see each other with new eyes in the coming days.

Hanging On vs. Moving On

Sometimes the Universe is a subtle beast…I search and search for a sign to answer a prayer, and nothing comes. Last week was not one of those weeks. No, last week, the Universe decided to gut-punch me with messages. I’m having mixed feelings about this tough-love approach, but I can appreciate the art in the delivery. I am also very grateful for it.
As many of you know, I’ve been trying for the last few months. I’ve been going over in my head the reasons I joined:

  • I am looking for a partner.
  • I have trouble meeting the “right type” of men in bars/ at events.
  • Passive Portland Men. Enough said.
  • I am sick of my family harassing me.
  • I am starting to wonder what the deal is. Am I abnormal? (Ye gads! 32 and single?!) (Please be aware that I am invoking a sarcastic tone here.)
  • I’m pretty much Last Woman Standing when it comes to my friends and their marriage status.
  • And, oh yeah, I AM LOOKING FOR LOVE!!

Then, this thought creeps into my brain: what if I am truly not ready? Friends, advice columnists, and relatives are always telling me that unless I am fully ready in mind, body, and spirit, God/the Universe/Grace/the faeries/Mary Magdalene will not send me my true love. Agreed! However, I am in the prime of my life mentally and physically, so what’s the hold up?
This week, my subconscious gave me a few jolts that essentially told me to start really paying attention in this search for love.
Episode #1: The Dream
This dream was about the first man I spent any amount of romantic time with after I moved to Portland. It was an extremely passionate and somewhat unhealthy relationship, but it taught me a lot, and I don’t regret it. When I woke up from this dream, I was so shaken by it that I immediately wrote it down so I could reflect later. Following is what I wrote:
I went back to the old apartments where our affair took place. I was with HR’s sister, HJ. HR appeared to me one night. I saw his jacket in an empty apartment. HJ left, and I went up the stairs alone. He was there, waiting for me in the dark. He lay down on top of my body, the way he used to, using his whole weight. We talked about us, about the good times. His jacket crackled against my skin. I could smell him, feel him. He knew the tears that were on my face; he was in them. When he reached to brush them away, he became them. We shared our sacred moment and then it was time to go. It felt like we had laid there for a lifetime, memories casting into the dark like meteors. I knew I had to walk away, but it was truly painful. I somehow floated out of the pitch darkness and down to an equally dark parking lot. HJ found me in a confused crumpled state. She helped me as she could, the only way she could. She knew it was time to go as well. We drove away from there, but not before his wife appeared and saw her husband’s jacket inside my car. She said I had to let it go. She didn’t see his ghost inside it, wanting to stay with me. She didn’t smell his cologne and know our thousands of memories, but she was right, and she took it anyway. I left, feeling empty. But then all I saw was light!
So, it’s time to let go and move on. I haven’t thought about my relationship with HR in years, though I still have occasional contact with both he and his sister. I think my subconscious was trying to give me a big enough message that I would understand…like I said, it’s not about subtlety.
Episode #2:  First Contact
I was browsing on Tuesday, and happened to notice a man in my matches who I’d recently been involved with. Though we’re no longer involved romantically, we see each other at events and occasionally share a pleasant conversation with an easy rapport. I always suspected he wasn’t “the one,” but seeing his profile right in front of me prompted a typical womanly reaction—instant and superfluous jealousy, mixed with a bit of sadness. Show me a woman who hasn’t had a reaction like this from seeing an ex-lust object who has moved on, and I’ll show you a half-pig, half man with butterfly wings!
However. If you’ve been on Match before, you’d know that when you’re a paying member, you can see everyone who has looked at your profile. So I was stuck. I had to say something, or else look like a complete stalker. After about a half hour of typing, deleting, and typing more, I came up with the perfect, witty note to send. It was something along the lines of “The universe has some sense of humor to match us together, eh? Good luck in your search!” The last sentence was to show him that I wasn’t looking to “Match” up with him, that I merely wanted to let him know I wasn’t expecting an answer or a relationship. He did indeed write me back, a sincere note, even. I was shocked, and pleased. I was relieved that he didn’t come back with a sarcastic answer, or worse yet, no answer, but it was another clear signal from the Universe that it was time to look for the right one in greener pastures. (Although I’m sure his pasture is just the right color of green for some other lovely lady.)
Episode #3:  The Blog Post
I am a reader of a friend’s blog entitled Doc Blog, by Dr. Jeff. The author is a psychologist who lives in Portland and I thoroughly enjoy his posts. His posts range from topics about loving our whole self, forgiveness, tips for choosing a psychologist, “paying it forward” to create self-happiness, and other related themes. I hadn’t checked out his blog in a while. It’s on my Google reader, and sometimes I get lazy and don’t open it for several weeks. Last week I was destined to read it. I’m telling you, the Universe knows what’s up and how to give it to me straight. I clicked on a blog post entitled A one-minute method to help move past old hurts.” He has posted several of these one-minute themed posts, and they always seem to come at just the right time.
I’ll try to sum up the blog post eloquentlyif possible. You can also click on any of the links I have attached to this post, which will take you to the full website. (You should—he’s a great writer!) What Dr. Jeff is trying to explain here is that people tend to hang on to old wounds (like being hurt by a romantic partner or clinging to mother issues) and fear (like being afraid to open up to real love) because they are stalling. It’s an excuse not to move forward. Whether it’s because it’s their comfort zone (Pain can be a constant companion, and just because it hurts doesn’t make it any less familiar.) or because they are truly not finished dealing with the issue, Dr. Jeff suggests that we look at our lives, and take that needed step forward. Believe me, I am working on it! This post was an excellent reminder of the good work I am doing and what still needs to be done. It also told me that great things are coming my way, if I let them.
He left me with these words:
Take your minute. Use it to move yourself forward. Then tell yourself you are beautiful, strong, and capable. Because you are.

A Brave New Girl

The new wave of is in-person events, an idea that should have been introduced ages ago. I know, I know, it’s ONLINE dating, but the thing is, online dating can be incredibly awkward! Don’t get me wrong—I believe in the power of online dating. Case in point:  I found my last boyfriend on Match. I can name 4 couples off the top of my head that are now engaged or married to their Matches…but let’s be honest:  Men are very visual creatures. If you happen to post a picture at a bad angle or you’re having lousy hair the weekend you went to Vegas and snapped all those pictures that you put on your profile, you can’t talk your way out of his opinion of you with biting wit and funny jokes. It’s click, moving on to the next lady. Ouch.
Enter an event where you are sure to be surrounded by eligible bachelors, but you’re not forced to talk to every single one of them, like in speed dating. Last night I was bold enough to attend one of these first “Stir” events. I had no idea what to expect, and I was terrified of the unknown, so I did what any normal single woman would do:  I brought along my trusty wing women.
The three of us walked into the Radio Room in NE Portland and spotted the hostess standing behind a sign that read “Networking Event Check-in.” (Seriously!? Let’s just call it what it is, folks. We are all here because we are single and looking!) So, we checked in. Then she leaned over and told us that the event was open to the entire bar, however it was also open to the public!?!? WHAT??? Not only were we entering an event that marked us as lonely, pitiful singletons, but we were also facing certain social death-by-mortification by bravely approaching a handsome fellow to talk to him, only to find out he had a fiancée, or worse, was gay!!
So, following the single women’s code, we stayed tightly in our gaggle, and actually added more women to it, ending up with six beautiful (pitiful, lonely) ladies at one table, looking at each other and snickering. Very soon, my wing women locked eyes with me and we decided that we would never meet a man this way. We got up and headed to the bar…and ran into yet another girlfriend! This was not going the way we expected. There was no event host; there were no games, and no ice breakers. Basically this was a regular happy hour at a bar in Anytown, USA. How exactly were we supposed to find love in this setup? Weren’t we obviously on to help us find dates because we felt uncomfortable hitting on people at the bar? I found myself questioning my decision to click YES on that RSVP.
In addition to my nerves about the event in general, I had been sweating bullets for another reason. At the Radio Room that evening, there were short women, tall women, exotic ones, plain Janes, and there was me. I’m the cute, petite, curly-haired girl with the big personality and a hundred hobbies. I can ask a man to salsa, I can belly dance in front of a live audience, and I am a smart, talented writer. Do I feel that way when it comes to dating? No way. The moment I walked in, I was panicked. I have this bad habit of comparing myself to women all the time. It is intensely exhausting, but I find myself doing it every day. I can’t believe how much energy I could have been refunded, had there been that option, on time wasted thinking about other women that I don’t even know! As I looked around, I realized there was no way I was going to be able to stand out in the crowd. Hell, most of the crowd couldn’t see me, even with the 3-inch wedges I was standing in (I’m 5’1″). I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. The men looked more terrified than the women, so I had to quickly confront my fears and be the guru of my own destiny.
In a moment of rare courage, I took the reins and grabbed one of my girlfriends. I said, “We are going to that table right there. We are going to sit down and ask those guys why they haven’t talked to any girls yet!” We crossed our fingers, hoping that they were part of the event and weren’t already on a date with each other! (Hey, this is Portland…my Gaydar has failed many times over the years here.)
We sat down, I spewed out my ice-breaker (hopefully with a winning smile on my face)…and the next hour and 20 minutes flew by like wildfire! The man I talked to was tall, a ginger (strawberry blonde), strong enough to pick me up without hurting himself, and he was a fantastic conversationalist. I was so surprised when my other wing woman came over and told me it was 9:00! We thanked the men for their hospitality, and started gathering our purses and coats. My friend looked thrilled when Paul asked for her number. Unfortunately my guy was solely a wing man and said he wasn’t looking for anything serious at the moment because he was focused on school. I was disappointed, but thanked him for his honesty and wished him luck with his Master’s Degree.
It’s true, I was saddened that my bold move hadn’t gotten me any bounty, but in the car on the way home, I heard how excited my girlfriend was about meeting Paul, and the feeling wasn’t so sour anymore. Plus, I had a great conversation with a man who was easy on the eyes, had some laughs, and a yummy cocktail. My night wasn’t a loss at all!
Perhaps this is the Universe’s way of telling me to keep the faith. There are good men out there, and I just need to hold out for the right one. This way, I know that when I meet a good one, I’ll have a bevy of stories to keep him entertained for at least one coffee date!

Number 1

Girlfriend, you’re number ONE!

Real Women

Part I—The Definition
I’ve seen a lot of commentary about what makes a woman a real woman. We view the Dove commercials and the female empowerment websites and we are lifted up by our sisters; the blogosphere is saturated with posts about strong, independent women which tell us how we can cultivate ourselves to the highest level of womanhood. But let’s break it down. When it comes down to the simplest meaning, do breasts and a vagina make someone a real woman? Do real women have curves? How about the ability to bear children? What about transsexuals?
Is the way a woman behaves listed in your definition? Should we be a lady on the street and a freak in the sheets? Follow The Rules or throw the rules out the window? Is a woman who can financially support herself more of a woman than one who depends on a man’s salary to survive? I ask all these questions because they come up time after time, and the answers are ever-changing in a fascinating way.
My own view has changed over the years. I was raised mostly by my mother, who was the frugality queen of the universe. I bitched and moaned about the lack of cool clothes and having giant plastic-framed glasses instead of contacts (“They cost less, and they look fine!”). Until I grew up and realized that my mom raised twins on a poverty-level salary with very little help from my father, I was bitter and annoyed. I thought Why can’t she step it up and be like everyone else’s moms? Those women have jobs and buy their daughters Guess Jeans. Why can’t I have Guess Jeans? I thought she would be happier if she would get a “normal” job so that we could have the things that we wanted and she wouldn’t have to worry day-to-day if she was going to work or not. (Note: My mother was a substitute teacher for most of my childhood. At times she had full-time work, but most of the schools wouldn’t hire her because they had to pay her much more than fresh-out-of-college teachers. She chose to stay in teaching because that was what she loved, and so she could take us traveling in the summers to see our extended family and F(f)riends {A.K.A. Quakers}, which was a very important part of my upbringing, and an education in itself.) She chose to stay true to her values, even when the going got really tough.
What do I think the definition of a real woman is now? Sisters, look in the mirror. It’s you. It’s the business owner. It’s the single mother. It’s even the heroin junkie who stole my mail last week. She might not be in my top 10 right now, but she is still a woman who deserves love like everyone else. I can’t comprehend how anyone on this earth is less of a woman than someone else. I may not be a size 6 or have my dream job (yet). I make mistakes every single day. What comes to my mind, though, if I think of someone who isn’t a real woman, is Barbie. Yes, the doll. If you are a living, breathing female, whether or not you have exactly the right parts or not, if you think and feel as a woman, then you are one. I would hope that you would be a woman with the highest amount of pride imaginable, but we all have those days when we’re not feeling so great. Take them as life lessons and manifest your next amazing experience.
Part II, a love note—“Love, Dove, Glove”—Mr. Big, SATC
With Valentine’s Day coming up, it occurs to me that something many women occasionally do, whether they realize it or not, is consider themselves as missing something if they don’t have a partner in their lives. I read so much girl-power literature about how we as women shouldn’t think about our lives without a partner as a negative thing. We are fabulous just as we are! I wholeheartedly agree. I myself am fucking fabulous,* as everyone should know by now. But…it is in our DNA, specifically as women, to feel the urge to procreate and to have a life partner. So why should we feel ashamed for wanting it? I agree that it shouldn’t take over our lives and emotions 100% of the time, but what is so wrong with desiring something that we were literally made to have? It’s not a weakness to assess this aspect of our lives, it’s just human nature. It is a part of my essence as a woman.
*I just needed a little extra oomph!
Women, however you express yourself and live your life, do it with the knowledge that you are a unique and beautiful feminine spirit. Take ownership of all your womanly emotions and instincts, and don’t feel degraded by them. Be the best person you can be.
With my own personal unique and beautiful feminine energy, I leave you with my absolute favorite poem about being a woman.
Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Maya Angelou

You've been asking for it!

I’ve decided to post an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo 2011 novel! I’m not going to give any backstory or details. I want you to read it, and if you like it, please tell me so. If you’ve got suggestions for content or development, I’d like to hear those too. I’ve been working hard all month on this, and I’m very proud of what I have so far. There is a lot yet to do, but I think the groundwork is there. So, without further ado, please enjoy an excerpt from [working title] “From Rich Soil:”
[Vanessa, third person]
She knew she had to get back to work. As Vanessa reluctantly lifted her body out of the chair and moved to put on her coat and hat, her mind wandered to a day in the previous summer, when she had asked Nasreen about the spider tattoo peeking out from between her shoulder blades. There were no colors in the art, only shades of black and gray. The two front legs straddled her neck, its eyes bulging. Vanessa said she didn’t look the type to have such a picture on her body. She was too…nice. Nasreen told her it wasn’t about being hard or looking scary. The spider was the African god Anansi.
“What did Anansi do?” She asked.
This time Nasreen spoke more than a few words: “The legend goes that Anansi was the keeper of all the stories. They first belonged to the sky god Nyame. Everyone on earth was very sad because there were no stories. Anansi wanted to obtain and be the keeper of the stories so that he could spin all the great stories about life on earth. The sky god did not give them up easily because he wanted them all to himself. He challenged Anansi to a set of tasks, telling him that if he could complete all the tasks, that he would then be the keeper. Anansi was very smart and clever, and used all of his best tricks to complete the tasks. When he finished, Nyame was true to his word, and gave the stories and the ownership to Anansi. That is why people say ‘I’ll spin a tale for you,’ it’s because Anansi was always spinning the stories in his web.” She had learned that story in the Peace Corps in Ghana. Every time she told the story her cadence got smoother. Many people had asked her, and she patiently told the story each time.
Nasreen felt a kinship with the spider after hearing its tale many times while she was in Africa, so when she got back to the states, she wanted to commemorate it somehow. This way Anansi would always be with her, to inspire and encourage her.
*         *         *         *
I left for the Peace Corps almost immediately after college. Like most college graduates at this time, there were few jobs available, and not many opportunities were as adventurous as going to a foreign country to work and live with the natives. The idea appealed to me very much. My father had given his blessing almost immediately. He encouraged me to get as full a view of the world as I possibly could. This was because Firuz had travelled to many countries in his youth. He hadn’t gone to fancy, tourist-filled places, but rather the places where people showed their true colors. He found that this was preferable to going to a place where the hosts tried to make it as much like home as possible. It was only a few weeks after my graduation ceremony, but I was ready to go.
Africa was, quite literally, a different world. I had been to Tehran once when I was a child, but other than that had not travelled internationally. The very first step off the plane in Ghana made me want to run back inside and demand the pilot take me home. The heat was like none other I had ever experienced. It was deafening, like a sound I couldn’t shut my ears to. During the entire four years I was in Ghana, my long black hair pretty much stayed up on the top of my head or in a wrap. I couldn’t stand the sticky feeling of it touching my neck, droplets of water sitting on the ends, waiting until just the right moment to drop down the front of my shirt. My host family was amazing. They did the best they could to keep me comfortable, but there was only so much they could do without air conditioning or a full time cabana boy.
I would have preferred the cabana boy who fanned me all day long, but I made do with Francis. He was a Christian minister who worked directly with the Peace Corps volunteers. He struck me as the type of man who had rotating girlfriends each time a new crop of people came to the village, but he was kind, made me laugh, and never made me feel used, so I left that thought to the wind and just enjoyed myself while I was there. He went so far as to take an HIV test, showing me the results. I trusted him without the test, but I have to be honest and say that it gave me a better night’s sleep to see it in official type. We weren’t allowed the luxury of lounging around, making love whenever we felt like it; most of the time it was whenever we could get his roommates out of the house. I refused to do it in my host parent’s house, feeling it would somehow betray them. They were so very sweet to me and I wanted to be perfect around them.
I was not perfect outside the house. In addition to sinning with a native, I, without a doubt, was terrible at my job for at least the first six months I was there. I talked too much, didn’t listen enough, and got caught up in the drama of sweating and hard labor. It was a hard blow to my ego when my supervisor had to sit me down and talk to me about it. He was a handsome man of about 50 years old. Greg had been supervising Peace Corps volunteers for 10 years. His face was wrinkling from the sun, but his body was hard as a rock from lifting, pushing, and moving constantly almost every day of the year.
“How are you liking it here, Nasreen?” He asked me. My blood instantly ran cold. Those were the words of someone who had a bomb to drop.
I tried to swallow but my throat was dry. “Well, I’m learning a lot, that’s for sure! I never would have touched most of these tools in the states, and I think I’m doing okay at using them…” I trailed off, not knowing what exactly he wanted. I felt like I was being baited into saying something that would give me away as a liar. I got the feeling he was about to send me out to the fields to pick four-leaf clovers twelve hours a day for the rest of my life.
“You are,” he said amiably. “But I’m not sure you’re allowing yourself the full experience here. Do you ever feel like you’re a high-heel shoe in the middle of a bunch of work boots?”
I protested, “I didn’t bring any heels! I think my footwear is perfectly acceptable.”
“Maybe I should have put it another way,” he said. “You’re going through the motions, you’re contributing, but I don’t think you’re in the moment.” He paused. “I’m not here to tell you how to live your experience here in Ghana, but I would consider it a failure if you left this place merely knowing how to shingle a building. There’s so much more to it than that.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, perplexed. I could feel the sweat starting to make its way down between my breasts. As if the normal heat wasn’t bad enough, my body heat produced by the nervousness I was feeling gave me the impression I was in a sauna.
“Have you gone to any of the village festivals yet? Have you made any friends outside of the PC volunteers?” He countered. “Do you feel you will leave a part of your heart here when you leave?”
His last question left me a little breathless. “I’ve only been here six—“ I stopped. I hung my head and took a deep breath, and then lifted it to look Greg straight in the eye. “You’re right. I’m not letting Ghana inside. I get it. I really appreciate you looking out for me. I don’t want to miss anything here and I have been in my head so much that I haven’t seen the beauty of it here.” As I said the words, I knew he was right. I tended to be that person who was so caught up in the details that I couldn’t see the big picture.
From that day on I saw everything. I started going to village story-telling nights. I heard all of Anansi’s stories. I met beautiful people, young and old. I learned that their life force was so strong you could almost cut it with a knife. You know that stereotypical picture of a shriveled African man sharing his single bowl of rice with a child who couldn’t fight for a bowl themselves—the one you see in a National Geographic? I met many like him. It all became a reality while I was there. I felt myself changing long before Greg checked back in with me another six months down the road. My soul quieted down, as did my mouth. Before saying a word I would take it all in and meditate just a moment before my reaction left my mouth. Sometimes my body would give it away before I could stop it. I wasn’t all that good at hiding things at first. Slowly I grew up, knowing when to speak and knowing when it was smarter to be still.