Sad Sex Robots

Note: This can be a touchy subject. The very last thing I want to do is bring any shame to it. This is not about drawing conclusions or saying what is right and wrong. These are thoughts and questions based off of my personal experience, which is mine to own. Yours can be entirely different and yours to own. My reason for sharing this is because it doesn’t really get talked about and if it does, it’s polarizing. But processing through this is a part of my life and I wish I could do that more with people instead of pretending like we don’t all have some level of relationship or experience with it. So please know that is where I’m coming from. My hope is it results in more questions and conversations over a drink rather than Facebook rants and upset messages. My hope is that it simply causes people to pause for a moment and think. That is all.

 

I spent an hour reading about how sex robots are a thing. AI robots with ‘warming intimate areas’ and the ability to hold a conversation, express desire, and learn about you. Researchers predict that between 2030-2050, sex robots will be normative. There will be sex robot brothels to replace human prostitutes (anyone who finds this intriguing should watch Ex-Machina). I also saw articles that referenced the impending mainstream of virtual reality porn. And another article that mentioned web cam sites that allow users to upload a photo of someone they find attractive (friend, co-worker, celebrity, anyone) so it can use facial-recognition software to pull up similar looking sex-models from their database. This beautiful, humanity-restoring material inspired me to visit some porn sites. It had been almost three years since I’d done that. The same thing that always happened, happened: my ears and cheeks got hot, my heartbeat went funny, and after clicking out I felt sad.

It used to make me sad because I was with someone who couldn’t get enough of these women forever scrolling across the screen, arranged and dominated in window boxes. They were perfect because they were quite literally: unending. Instant, always desiring, never asking, and completely uncomplicated. I was sad because I didn’t know what my response was supposed to be and it confused my perception of what was real and what wasn’t. Is this supposed to be seen as pretend entertainment or an instruction guide? If one is aroused by demeaning, aggressive, exploitative sex, does that mean they want that for their own sexual relationship? If not, what is the value in watching it? If your partner closes their eyes during sex, are they picturing all these other women and does that prevent connection and intimacy? Is this what makes it difficult to stay hard or last long enough and is that the only thing that is going to get people’s attention? If they’re spending hours with them instead of you, does that count as cheating? I used to pray that he’d just ‘actually’ sleep with someone else so that I’d at least be able to make sense of the pain I felt from the constant, quiet competition. It used to make me sad because I had an overwhelming suspicion that I had been having sex with someone for years and yet we had never really touched each other.

But this time I wasn’t seeing it as someone looking to spice up their sex life or trying to understand their significant other. I was seeing it for the first time as someone who has been sexually assaulted. Now it made me sad because I know what it is like when someone picks you out and decides that your body is for consuming. I know what it is like to be arranged, dominated, and rendered completely uncomplicated. I am a part of a system that agrees sex is something that men do to women or watch women do to each other. I understand there is a level of consent in pornography, making it different from sexual assault. But I would argue that both are dehumanizing. There are so many men who would never EVER dream of abusing, harassing, or assaulting a woman. Men who consider themselves feminists. Men who stand up for women, respect, value, and praise women. But I think what they really mean by women is women they know. Because when it comes the women they watch in porn, is that respect null and void? Are they valuing those women for who they are or what they will do? Are those women being stood up for or laid down for? It seems like the only “right” viewers care about is the right to consume someone else’s body as a means to an end without it being abuse or assault. Because we all hope and assume that these people are getting paid well and enjoying their job. But there is also plenty of evidence that the porn industry is rampant with physical abuse, sexual trauma, drugs, and mental health disorders. Documentaries, research, and the personal accounts of ex-porn actors all indicate that there is a lot more to the conversation than is being widely discussed.

Our world compartmentalises porn. It puts porn in this box and says this couldn’t possibly contribute to 1 in 3 women being sexually assaulted, 4.5 million people being trapped in forced sex work, rising rates of impotence and ED, half of marriages ending, and generally being the most addicted, depressed, obese, in-debt adult cohort in all of history. It couldn’t possibly contribute to that because everyone does it. It’s normal. It’s fine. This is just acting. No harm, no foul. But let’s look at these statistics from PornHub’s 2015 annual review. Keep in mind this is just one porn site.

  • 87,849,731,608 videos viewed (that’s 12 videos viewed per person on earth)
  • 4,392,486,580 hours of porn watched (that’s 2.5x longer than homo sapiens have been on earth)
  • Americans account for 41% of overall traffic
  • The most common search terms were “teen” and “stepmom”

You can’t have statistics like this for anything and not have it creating an enormous impact, even if its subconciously. Even if it hasn’t been like this long enough to have conducted comprehensive, in-depth research. That is a lot of people watching a lot of material that propels the message that the female body is an object and that sexiness is a woman’s currency. It propels it at a pace and in forms we have little control over. Technology moves faster than we do. Today the average age of exposure to pornography is 8. And we aren’t just dealing with Playboys stashed under mattresses anymore. I’ve worked with 14 year old guys who showed me Snapchat videos of them receiving head. I’ve worked with girls who feel it is completely normal to send nude pictures of themselves to guys at school because they expect it. The line between liberation/empowerment and objectification is very blurry depending on who you’re asking. There are generations yet to enter adulthood that have learned most of what they know about sexuality and human interaction from the internet and social media, which is fascinating. And kind of terrifying. I just wonder if and how this is affecting our ability to be in relationship, to have empathy, to build intimacy, and to humanize?

A lot of what I’ve experienced has made my state of being feel out of control. It violated a part of who I am and I continually find myself trying to restore that. I don’t want to be angry and cynical. I don’t want to be incapable of trust. I don’t want to feel ashamed of what happened. So I’m trying to grasp how normal, nice guys end up in a mindset where they feel that sexually assaulting someone is okay. I’m trying to understand why we find it so easy to be disgusted by the degredation and objectification of women when we look up at our wives, sisters, friends, daughters, and mothers but when we look down at our laptops or phones we don’t think twice about participating in a system that helps sustain it?

I have this scenario that plays out in my head where I look at the guy who raped me and I say, “Hi! My name is Taylor and my favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip. In high school I was voted ‘Most Likely to Make Your Day’ by my classmates. I have a bunion on my right foot that I’m all self conscious about because it makes me feel like an 80 year old. I come up with terrible analogies. I can remember every movie line and I’ll make you the best mojito of your life. Look, I’m like a really sweet, angel, butterfly type person and if you would just stop to know me you’d never do this so please, please, please don’t do this.”

I want to believe something like this would work. Unfortunately, I know deep down that pleading for people to understand the gravity of what they’re doing has never been a winning strategy. But now all I can think about are the women that just flew across my screen in ‘Freckled Latina Deepthroat’ and ’19 year-old getting gang banged’. I hope that whoever is watching realizes just how very, very real these women are. And I hope that instead of getting off this time, they’ll just wonder what her favorite ice cream flavor is.

Love,

Taylor

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Apologies

I’ve been volunteering at DMCW for 9 months now and when you’re a staff volunteer, you see the same people come through every week. First, you get to know names and faces. Then you learn things like how Stanley takes his coffee and how when Kim asks if you have noodles she means ramen noodles and nothing else. You learn that Jimmy prefers donations of black socks to white ones and that if anyone is mouthing off, Annie will most certainly have your back.

The longer I’m here, the more I learn not just about preferences and personalities, but about what happens on the other side of the street when our doors have closed for the day. I am only privy to seeing the tip of many icebergs, but it’s enough to keep me from living in comfortable ignorance of what lurks beneath the water where I float.

I can fill a plate, clean and bandage cuts, drive someone to detox, or offer my undivided attention and a hug. But all the love and good deeds in the world don’t change the fact that at the end of the day I’m the one sleeping inside when it’s below zero outside. I’m the one who can raid the fridge at night if my stomach is growling. I’m the one who can work. I’m the one with a car to take me to work. I’m the one who goes home to people who aren’t abusive or tweaking. What do I do with the privelege I carry as I attempt to live in solidarity with these nieghbors of mine?

 

There have been several times I’ve asked one of our guests a question, completely unprepared for where the conversation would go. Totally unaware that I just signed up to have my ears violated. I’ve had some real good sob sessions in my car lately as I drive and decompress from all the information I take in. I hate, hate, hate, HATE that most of the time all I can do is say, “I’m so sorry.”

I’m so sorry that your husband beat you until your eyes swelled shut and you could feel your mouth fill with blood.

I’m so sorry that you’ve been shot 9 times and can show me the scars scattered across your abdomen.

I’m so sorry that you’re finding it impossible to stay sober and it’s ruining everything.

I’m so sorry that 3 of your 4 sons died when they were just kids.

I’m so sorry that your fingers are frost bitten.

I’m so sorry that you were forced into prostitution and that you feel trapped and violated.

It feels like there are apologies constantly pumping through my bloodstream. All I know is that I cannot burn out, get cyncical, and angry. I cannot disengage. In this place where I live, contemplation and action are connected. Connecting to Love allows the community to stay engaged working for some semblance of peace and justice when the presence of pain is so thick and tangible. I believe this house is holy ground and these neighbors are immensely loved in the only way we know how: to show up, to see and listen, to stand together, and to know how they take their coffee.

God, I hope it’s felt and that it’s enough.

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Love,

Taylor

P.S. I know this is kind of heavy, but I promise most of the time there’s a lot of joy and good vibes all around. 

 

 

Real

This is a thank you letter to the people who refuse to hold back their emotions in public. They might make some people uncomfortable, but I am not one of those people. I freaking love them for it because they aren’t trying to hide, cover, or not feel. Its refreshing when people give in and react to the moment, even if someone or everyone might see.

Dear woman quietly bawling on the tube in London,

I hear you sniffling and letting out those tiny, gaspy sobs. I keep glancing up from my book to see a constant stream of tears coming down your face. Oh shit. You just read a text on your phone and it made you cry harder. I’ve been there before, sister. Did you just get dumped? Did someone die? Did you get in a fight with your best friend? I wish I knew why you were so sad. When I get off at my stop, I’ll drop a travel pack of kleenax on the empty seat next to you as a token of my appreciation for the honest visual display of your current emotional state…and because crying that hard gives you a runny nose and it’s the worst when you’re leaking from every orifice on your face. Thank you for reminding me it’s okay when you can’t hold back tears. Just let those rivers flow.

 

Dear couple fighting in aisle 13 at Home Depot,

I’ve always been told that home improvement projects are the true test of a relationship. That seems to be a very real thing in this moment for the two of you. You apparently have very different opinions about which project is more important to finish first, but there has to be a compromise, right? Also, I feel like this argument isn’t actually about a project timeline. It sounds to me like this lady thinks you’re over estimating your DIY skills and wants you to just hire someone so you can focus on your relationship rather than drywall for awhile, dude. But she should probably just come out and say that to you. Oops. We just made eye contact and you guys got a lot quieter. But you don’t need to. Honestly. Don’t mind me. I’m just over here mentally cheering you on while I eavesdrop and make what appears to be a very difficult decision about paint primer. Thank you for showing me that I should probably never try to renovate a house with my significant other.

 

Dear girl telling off guy in the park,

There are people all around you: eating their sandwiches, power walking with their coworkers, biking to class, playing frisbee, reading on benches, etc. And then there you are just yelling at this guy. You look really strong. I imagine you feel strong. It sounds like you’ve wanted to say this for a long time. Maybe it’s been building in you. Way to go for telling him how it is and walking away. You didn’t turn around, but he watched you until you reached the street. Thank you for being loud and fierce. I felt empowered just observing you and I don’t even know you.

Dear couple breaking up at Smokey Row,

Here are your lattes. Oh. Oh no. This is awkward. You guys are totally breaking up right now, aren’t you? Wow. Did one of you plan to do this here? Because you’d think that initiating a break up in a cafe would come across as a terrible idea. Are you breaking up on a date? This is ridiculous. I feel so bad for whoever is getting dumped right now. I mean, you’d at least expect a to-go order so that this conversation can happen in the car…But alas. Here you are. Both staring intensely at your cups. I’m going to bring you a couple of free cookies and just set them on the table. It feels like the right thing to do since you brought me into this now. Thank you for being reallll real.

Love,

Taylor

 

7 Things Sunday

A couple of years ago on Superbowl Sunday, four words came out of my mouth that changed everything.

I moved back to Des Moines this weekend and in the process of packing up my belongings I found all my old journals. Which might need to be burned after they’ve lost their entertainment value. Do people really keep these forever? Anyway. As I saw everything laid out chronologically, things started clicking. Obviously everyone experiences that hindsight is 20/20. But oh man. I was cringing at the girl in those pages. I simultanesously know her intimately and not at all.

I saw something on one page that caught my eye. In the summer of 2013 I wrote an excerpt from a book I had been reading and it said, “Sometimes God delivers us from the furnace, sometimes he delivers us through the furnace.” Below that I wrote, “God, sometimes I wonder if you’re going to deliver me from divorce, or if you’re going to deliver me through divorce.” 9 months later, to the day, it was Superbowl Sunday. I didn’t even know what I was writing.

I don’t know if everything happens for a reason. I didn’t want to say those words or for this to happen. But if it hadn’t, I would probably still be writing sad, cringe-worthy journal entires. Here’s 7 things I would tell the girl in those pages:

One. You will be spending more time by yourself. This means you will spend countless moments racking your brain about what happened and why. You will write yourself a list of the reasons why the choice you made was the right one, and for awhile you’ll read it to yourself every day. Otherwise your heart will grow too soft and mushy. You should take the opportunity to explore what kind of person you are right now and what kind of person you want to be. There will be a long string of nights where you’ll roll over in bed, limbs reaching for your person, and the chill of empty sheets will consistently startle you. Eventually you will relish your days and nights alone, especially if you’re productive with them. Also, you’ll get a twin mattress.

Two. You will begin to push the limits of what you thought you were capable of. Day by day, you will conquer new challenges. Especially of the emotional and mental variety. Oh, you’ll also fail miserably at some of those challenges. Like, epically fail. But hey, sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. There is nothing more revealing than divorce. You will see exactly what you’re made of. But you’re still in the formative years of self-discovery. Make the most of them. Try to impress yourself.

Three. You will sit through some laughably terrible dates. You will be in awe at how self-absorbed some can be. You will do a fair amount of robotic head nodding. But you’ll also go on some great dates that remind you of what was missing in your marriage and if nothing else, give you a confidence booster. Mostly though, you’ll figure out that a lot of dudes are very confused about what they want. Which sucks, because you’re not so much. Having been both married and divorced at such a young age, you know exactly what you don’t want. Any desire to settle for good enough or to spend time investing in something that comes with a handful of doubts is pretty much squashed by fear of history repeating itself.

Four. Possibly the most important thing you, specifically, will learn from this is the art of choosing yourself. It sounds inherently selfish which is why it makes you squeamish. However, the decision to say no to what wasn’t serving you in any healthy way or choosing you in return, was the first of many decisions that involved sticking up for yourself. You will get better at unapologetically saying what you really think. You will recognize that what you need will change and fluctuate (different days will call for different boundaries) and that’s ok. You will start to raise your voice a little bit. You will trust yourself more and more. You will learn to never try to convince someone of why they should choose you because…well because everyone is on their own path, free will to exercise, etc…but also because if they don’t choose you, you’ll choose yourself. And you’re pretty really cool.

Five. Don’t give up on the notion that God is in the business of mind-blowing. In scriptures you read stories where there are these seemingly isolated, terrible events that happen and then later on you see there was purpose in them the entire time. It gets revealed that those events were used to restore people back to their God so they could experience this crazy, redemptive love and freedom. This gets reflected in your own life. When everything is going terribly, a little bit later you step back and see all that was being weaved together to teach you and bring you to the places and people that restore your hope and freedom. But you absolutely cannot see that from where you are now.

Six. Remember that true love is action and not passive acceptance. Being truly loving requires that you define and take a stand for what you believe to be important, regardless of the conflict it may cause. It doesn’t always make sense or come easily. It’s work, it’s messy, and you don’t need to justify it. Fear of what other people think or of upsetting anyone will prevent you from taking the steps that will ultimately bring you peace and fulfilment.

Seven. You will look back at this girl who is so insecure and unable to trust her intuition. This girl full of ambivalence, taking care of everything else but herself. Eventually you will feel like you’re contemplating an entirely different person, but this is only made possible with strength, initiative, self-awareness, and support of those who will listen to your broken record- none of which may have revealed itself if you hadn’t said those four words you hate so much.

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I’m sorry you didn’t get rescued from having a “worst day ever anniversary”. But I’m really thankful that you had the courage to get through the worst day ever and to discover that the worst is never really the worst. I’m proud of you for leaning in and walking through the furnace with all your questions, complaints, and doubts.

Love,
Taylor

Appetites

I started to read the book It Starts With Food. This was written by the people who brought on the Whole30 craze that you hear about everyone and their dog doing. Part of the book discusses how sugary, salty, delicious, shitty food electrifies our taste buds in ways that real, nutritious food can’t. This messes with our brains in a major way. It isn’t our fault that we can’t stop eating that stuff. We still have willpower, responsibility, and choice but they are built to make us crave them. They are designed to mess with our psychological processes and make it feel impossible to give up.

It goes on to say how these foods are easy to eat a lot of, quickly, and not get full because they have such minute nutritional value that they don’t signal to our body that we’re getting fed or that we’re satisfied. This gets coupled with dopamine receptors in the brain which motivate our food-seeking/wanting and energises our feeding. We don’t even have to be hungry. Just the thought of that Krispy Kreme gives us a rush of anticipation before we even get close to taking a bite. It becomes about satisfying the craving, not the need. And thus, eating unhealthy food becomes a habitual response to triggers like stress, reward, and emotion.

“Supernormal stimulus” is the scientific term for something so exaggerated that we prefer it to reality- even when we know its fake. A supernormal food stimulus arouses our taste receptors more intensely than anything found in nature. Candy is far sweeter than fruit. Onion rings are fare fattier and saltier than onions. Modified foods like Oreos and Doritos outcompete any taste found in nature, which is, of course, exactly why we prefer them. These supernormal stimuli are like the Las Vegas Strip of foods. Exotic! Extreme! Dazzling! But entirely contrived. Not real. Totally overwhelming. And if you take a good hard look at their ingredients- you’ll see that they’re actually cheap, dirty, and kind of gross. 

I’m reading this to help me understand why I crave sweets as I attempt to give them up. I know that sugar bingeing is something I do when I don’t want to deal with something else going on. But as I’m reading it, I can’t help but feel like you could replace the word “food” with “porn”, “drugs”, or whatever indulgence you prefer and it would still read the same.

But those aren’t really the problem. They are side effects.

At some point we just turn to these things for pleasure when we’re stressed or lonely or angry or feel like we deserve it. And if you let it go for so long, our brains rewire. The trigger-response bridges are built. They’re set. And if/when it becomes a problem, it’s extremely difficult to burn those bridges. But it’s not impossible. I used to think maybe it was. But it’s not. I refuse to believe that. For anyone.

I’m starting to think the key is to not stop at drugs, porn, food, or whatever your vice is. A lot of people try to just manage the behaviour, but that isn’t sustainable because the behaviour isn’t at the root.

The shame/pain/anxiety/anger/etc. that causes us to turn to the ‘supernormal stimulus’ to numb it out is at the root. But identifying what those are requires digging into the past to see if/how the same indulgences, coverings, and coping mechanisms exist within your own circle of people. It involves confronting how that affected you and then taking ownership and awareness of your own shit (rather than just blaming it on mom or grandpa or whatever). Followed by connecting, processing, and healing. All of which takes work, patience, and time. I know that sounds like a bunch of therapeutic bull but I really, truly, madly, deeply (heyyyyy Savage Garden reference) think it’s valid.

Those of you who really know me, know that porn has been a weirdly significant part of my life. And in working through everything, I’ve recognised that I made it a bigger deal than it was. Than it is. I was really young and naive. What did I know? And I didn’t ever think that watching porn was relationship damaging- addiction to porn was relationship damaging. Addiction to anything can be relationship damaging.

Is pornography itself inherently bad? I don’t know. I can only speak from my own experience and I’m not here to argue about that…but I do know that like food that’s deliciously terrible for you, it can make people feel really freaking awesome and then in excess…cheap, dirty, and kind of gross. I know that it can become preferred to reality, but offers minute mental or emotional value, so you continue to want more, even past the point of completion. It’s selfish. And honestly, that’s really the core part that bothered and scared me. That’s all. I just wanted the person I was sharing life with to be willing and able to give up what was fake and choose into what was real. For the love of all that is holy, I just wanted the dysfunctions that came with it to stop so that we even could engage in what was real. I just wanted it to be like, “You know, watching this is like a solo missioning an entire cake in one go. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s not particularly healthy for me. So, meh. Hard pass.” Because that would take away it’s power. But I think our enemy wants to use the fruit to distract us from the root. He wants to keep us trying and failing at managing habits and behaviors so we don’t identify the real issue and confront it. That is essentially the very first story in Genesis and we’re still living it out thousands of years later.

As I dig and uncover what is behind my own appetites I’m trying to be slow and mindful of not just what I’m reaching towards but why. It’s all about balance and moderation, but I’m training myself to remember that the 2 minute gratification I get from scarfing five cookies is rarely worth it. Especially on the regs. And do I really want to eat, or am I just eating because I feel discontent or insecure about something else going on in my life? I’m a work in progress. Always.

Well. That got kind of real, which always makes me a little bit nervous. But I’m committed to my belief that vulnerability isn’t comfortable- it’s necessary. We have to stop numbing ourselves. We are factually the most addicted, obese, in debt, drugged up adult cohort in US history. At some point, everyone is going to be recovering (or hiding) from something. We’re sure not going to make it on our own like this. We need authenticity and we need each other. This is the human experience. It’s messy and it’s beautiful. IJUSTLOVEYOUALLSOMUCH and I want you to help and join me in getting and staying honest. And living abundant, full lives with lots of confetti-worthy moments (I’ve been thinking lately about how I seriously need to keep a pack of party poppers with me and just pull them out at opportune times).

So, as my friend Andrew and I like to ask each other,

“How’s your soul doing?”

Love,

Taylor

P.S. I genuinely care to know the answer to that question. From anyone.

 

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Equal to my love of confetti: Casey’s sprinkle doughnuts.

Just give me a candy heart.

Her armor is thin.

She knows how this ends: the delicate ones bend.

Oh God, thicken her skin when its arrows they send.

She’s boarding up the door.

She knows how this ends: trusting and expecting unearths the worst.

Oh God, hold the lock and key when no other is of worth.

She’s digging in the dirt.

She knows how this ends: with filthy, empty hands.

Oh God, reap before she sows in what will not grow.

It’s a struggle you know.

To hope in what you cannot see,

Through armor, though thin.

From behind a door boarded in.

Covered in dirt caked like sin.

Oh Love, if you agree,

Let no doubt intervene.

You know who holds the key.

And may you spend your days under each other’s white flags,

Holding dirty hands.

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Love,

Taylor

Longing pt. 1

I long to share and break bread.

For rectangular tables with rows of strangers-turned-friends.

To hear the sound of forks scraping on plates and inebriated laughter hovering in the air.

For the day’s worries to dim like the light and for hearts to fill alongside bellies.

I long to love and be led.

For legs intertwined in sheets, a place where sacred and stupid meet.

For steady hands that pull and careful feet that pursue.

To grow, to root, to sink, but to always keep our wings.

I long to be with, not for.

To stand in the right place, not take the right stand.

For the call that elicits response to touch and see.

To share cries, stories, prayers, meals, beds, families.

I long for simplicity, nothing more.

For rhythm and ritual that satisfies and sustains.

For garden sprinklers to run through and a swing on the porch.

For a tiny dwelling that collects memories and not things.

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Love,

Taylor

Getting it

Do you ever say you’re going to do something and then notice that the universe seems to be holding you accountable to what you said you were going to do? All of the sudden you find yourself in those fight or flight situations.

There were three different times this week where I had to hear feedback from people about my weaknesses and every single time it more or less involved the use of my voice.

Say it. Don’t hold back. Figure it out. Say what you want. Be bold. Be brave. Be assertive. Fight for it. Don’t be so eager to please. Yeah, well thanks everyone for sharing your feedback, but all of that ^ is not in my nature. It makes me uncomfortable.It’s just not me. Sorry.

Oh. Damnit. You said you were going to be be fierce this year, remember? Right. Ok, maybe I should figure this out. Maybe there’s something here.

There is. Of course there is. While being outspoken and stubborn is not in my wheelhouse (I seriously doubt it ever will be), it isn’t because I don’t have opinions or want to share them. I know that I can improve on this without having to alter who I am as a person. I’m working on tailoring (or taylor-ing. baahaaha.) this to fit who I am. Being assertive requires a certain degree of confidence that I struggle to reach. And while I would say that I fit the stereotype of the girl who doesn’t know what she wants, I could argue that it’s less about uncertainty and more about having to actually think about it…and then get over the fear of being daring enough to say it. Because when you’re bold and brave with your words and it backfires, zipping the lip feels way more comfortable. I have a chronic fear of not being enough, you know? That sounds cliche and boo-hooey. I feel stupid even writing it. But it’s true. When it came to my most important relationship, I never felt like I could be or do enough. As if I was entered into a competition in which I was set up for failure from the start. When I used my voice, it didn’t make the difference I was hoping for. Maybe I was asking for too much, over reacting, or wanting something unrealistic. Maybe if my body were this, that, or the other thing, it would have worked. The liiiieeesss. The lies we tell ourselves. I don’t think I struggle with self image or confidence any more than the average woman, but from a distance looking back…I realise how much both of those things have taken a beating in the past few years and the fact that other people notice I’m holding back is a sign that something needs to change.

BUT I refuse to look for verbal or emotional affirmation from someone else. I’m going to take the high road. It’s going to come from knowing myself and He who makes me brave and gives me my worth. My growing and stretching capabilities will be on par with freaking Gumby. My body confidence level will be that of a Dove ad campaign. My mind to mouth connection will be as audacious as Mr. West. Work it harder, make it better, do it faster, makes us stronger. Take this, hataaaas. I’m done with hoping that someday I’ll be enough: successful enough, enough of a reason, desirable enough, fierce enough. Ew. Gross. What a stupid word. I’m just going to do away with it. Enough. It is time for some internal re-wiring. Rather than succumbing to an ounce of solo-mission blues, my first order of V-day business was to wear something that made me feel like a fox and dance around around my room to Motown. And it I was fierce awesome/beautiful/confident/happy/all those good things. IMG_6997 Love, Taylor

October 17

When Love beckons to you, follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you, believe in him,

Though his voice may shatter your dreams as north wind lays waste the garden.

For even as Love crowns you so shall he crucify you.

Even as he is for your growth, so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

He assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast. All these things shall Love to unto you that you may know the secrets of your own heart.

Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses nothing, nor would it be possessed. For Love is sufficient unto Love.

When you Love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.” And think not you can direct the course of Love, for Love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

-(parts of) ‘Love’ by Kahlil Gibran

I saw Clayton yesterday. Today would have been our 5-year wedding anniversary. And although my stomach was in complete debate mode over the thought of being in his presence again, I’m glad it happened. Really, really glad. It ending up being one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. There was laughing, crying, hugging, happiness, sadness, regretting, forgiving, and gushing over the new. It never once felt painful or awkward. It was honestly like something out of a movie. Like a bittersweetly heartwarming ending to a romantic comedy. It was how a Bon Iver song makes you feel when you listen to it. And as I walked away from him, my heart was pounding and a smile was beaming from my face. I was in awe of how healing it was…to see each other and to know that we are both okay. That we are both incredibly proud of the other. That we are both rooting for each other with all the adoration in the world.

If it were not for the hard and steep, the wounds, the shattered dreams, the crucifying and root shaking…I would not be who I am today. Today my heart aches over the loss, but it is simultaneously overjoyed because of what I gained through that Love. It grew us, pruned us, and refined us. Where I once wanted to curse that Love for the ways it hurt, from a place of wholeness I can now say that it formed me and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. I am unendingly grateful for the Love that directs my course and for the years that course was with Clayton.

Love,

Taylor IMG_3780

I think this ^ sums it up. Keep going. Everything is going to be alright 🙂

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I was ten. I was running through the sprinkler in my underwear. Blades of grass stuck to my skin. My body was long and lean, void of any curvature. It was whole and mine. It allowed me to do backbends and cartwheels. That is all I noticed about my body.

I was twelve. I was sitting at the kitchen table in my pajamas. My dad looked at me sympathetically and told me that I had reached an age where boys would start to see me differently. He spoke of the differences between boys and girls and hormones. “Boys are visual. Girls are emotional.” So, child, you must be careful. The world will make sure you learn not desire for the other, but the desire to be desired.

I was fourteen. I took off my jacket at lunchtime, scandalously revealing my strapless shoulders.[1] The Vice Principal swore at me. I was sent to the office a for a second outfit violation that year. Blindsided and face burning with humiliation, I hid in the bathroom stall and changed into clothes my mom had to bring me. My parents read me something out of Dr. Phil’s ‘How to Talk to Your Teen’ book. I was learning that people had opinions about my body. Now there were rules regarding my skin.

I was sixteen. I was wearing a high-collard turquoise t-shirt and a long skirt. I was teaching vacation Bible school for children in the villages of Panama. We were singing Abre mis ojos oh Cristo and throwing a giant colorful tent up in the air. Tiny ones squealed with delight and ran under. I felt a tap on my shoulder and the leader asked me to talk to her for a minute. We walked to the church entrance, where she told me that since my chest was big and my shirt was too tight, boys were staring at me. She lent me a big t-shirt to put on, lest the outline of my body cause those brothers of mine to sin.[2] You don’t want to do that, do you? I walked back to the giant colorful tent, now resembling what I was wearing. I looked over at the boys leaning out the church windows. My heart beat faster. Lying on the church’s cement floor that night, from my sleeping bag I watched my cursed chest rise and fall. I was drenched in a humid sweat, soaked with shame. On this day, a tiny bit of my innocence was sacrificed. The impact of your naturally developing curves is a dangerous thing, apparently. Hide.

I was eighteen. I was wearing jeans and a hoodie. It is important to note that my face and hands were the only parts of me exposed because I was on a service trip in Morocco[3], a place that forced me to constantly be aware of my femaleness. It was a place where I was chased out of a market. Where I sat in an Internet café writing e-mails while the man at the computer next to me watched porn. Where a man on the street asked if he could bring me home to his mother and fuck me. Where I listened to people have sex against the door to my hostel room. Where I was constantly “complimented” in the streets and strangers were not afraid to touch you. One day, I was sitting on a park bench reading my Bible. Two men walked up and sat on either side of me. They began speaking to me in Arabic. I did not look up or respond. I just stared at Isaiah’s verses, resting on my knees. Then I heard in broken English whispers that felt wet and hot in my ears, “Why you no talk to us? We be nice.” They played nice with their hands, which found their way to my neck, gliding down my breasts, and landing in my crotch. My legs, despite their Jell-O consistency, found the strength to stand. I apologized to the men for not wanting to talk to them as I walked away. When I came back home, the prayer ladies told me that maybe I was supposed to go back to Morocco because it was obvious the devil didn’t want me there.

I was nineteen. I was wearing a white dress. It had little cap sleeves with sequins. The air was crisp. My stomach was in knots. I was his. We made lots of promises. We lit a candle and put rings on our fingers. We danced. It was sweet and sparkling and blissful. He carried me away and unlaced the white dress. I laced up my lingerie. Nothing went the way I thought it would. Rejection. Lies. Confusion. I had a lot of exposure to a world of fantasy and I grappled to understand how they became more desirable than reality.[4] You’re supposed to be both. But you’re not supposed to be both. The messages say things like: Be a virgin when you get married, but also know exactly what you’re doing in bed and be really good at it. Be outraged by the objectification of the female body, but also see your own as the sexual object it is. Just be you, but also look and act like these women. He’ll love you for it. You are valued for your purity, but desired for your promiscuity.

I was twenty-one. I was in the bathtub wearing a layer of bubbles. I knew something was wrong and I was trying to wash it off. He came in and sat on the bathroom floor. I asked him how he was doing. He admitted to this one thing that made my nose crinkle. This was different than the other things. Every cell in my body felt wide-awake and dead at the same time. This feeling wasn’t going to wash off. Something had to change. I can try to be or look as beautiful and perfect as possible, but I am it is not enough. I can leave for one, three, or five months, but I am it is not enough. I can read all the books, do all the research, plan all the things, say all the prayers and attend all the counseling sessions, but I am it is not enough. I can want, wish and love with all of my being but I am it is not enough. Something had to change.[5] It was me. The feeling never washed off.

I am twenty-four. It is pouring rain. The humid summer kind of rain. I’m wearing a striped dress, cotton clinching to my grass-covered skin. I’m dancing. My body, which has felt burdened and hallow for months, finds in this moment a sweet release. There is pure, unadulterated joy beaming from my twirling limbs and bouncing wet waves. My body is soft and strong, no longer void of curvature. It is whole and mine. It is more than enough. It still allows me to do backbends and cartwheels, among a million other amazing things. That is all I notice about my body.

 

[1] There is nothing scandalous about my shoulders.

[2] Boys are not helpless victims when it comes to their eyes. The evidence of my breast size does not cause them to sin.

[3] I was fully clothed when I was assaulted. Sexual assault happens because the perpetrator wants it to happen, not because any woman “asks for it” with her appearance.

[4] Love it or hate it; porn is a lie. It is a performance. It is not an instruction manual. Never before in our world have we had such immediate access and extreme exposure to this kind of media and at such young ages. Science is starting to show the negative effects it is having on our brains, relationships, and society.

[5] There is nothing I can do to create or initiate change in someone else.

 

Love,

Taylor