Meditations for Queer Femmes – Sanctuary of Empathy

After an Al-Anon meeting recently, I found myself rather forcefully welcoming a newcomer. On the one hand, I remember being a newcomer and I wanted her to feel seen and heard. On the other hand, I was a hot mess myself that day, and really didn’t have anything at all to give. I watched, not able to stop myself, as I went into my caretaker role, going overboard on giving her information, not grounded in my body, my energy jitzy and floating. The problem isn’t that I’m not a good caretaker, because I am; the problem was not knowing that right then, I had nothing to give and it would have been a better welcome for her if I’d just smiled and gone on my way. The truth was, I needed caretaking myself, which is why I was at a meeting.

I’ve always prided myself on being a good friend. As an only child, I became skilled at being friends with all kinds of people, even with kids who didn’t like each other but who were friends with me. I saw myself as a good listener, a problem solver, a wise advice giver. If I couldn’t have siblings, at least I could attract people to me who might fill that void.

As a grown-up queer femme, I retain many of those same ideas about myself and work hard to make queer community – this blog included. My heart’s desire is to be able to be here for every queer who is hurting, who needs company, who feels alone. But I can go so far down the line of being understanding and sympathetic that I forget to pay attention to myself and my own needs. I get off on being the one everyone can depend on…until I tank, which inevitably happens, and then I’m left without much resource, since I’ve trained my friends and colleagues to believe that I’m all good and don’t need a hand.

We all need a hand.

In her brilliant book, The Body Is Not An Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love, Sonya Renee Taylor says, “It is through our own transformed relationship with our bodies that we become champions for other bodies on our planet.” I must continue to transform my relationship with my body, my heart, my desires, my energy – all of it. If I am not right with myself – starting with my precious and beautiful body – I am not going to be able to do much for you, at least not something that includes the dimension of justice, which is what all loving relationships must possess in order to thrive and bring more love into the world. I can never offer you the sanctuary of empathy, no matter how much I long to do so, if I have not built it up around myself.

For about two years, every day, I read Swami Paramananda’s Book of Daily Thoughts and Prayers. It was a great exercise in my spiritual search for teachers and wisdom, and I learned so much. Although in the end I realized that the Swami’s path is not for me, I retain gratitude for his work and I absolutely love some of his prayers, many of which were of huge comfort to me during some very dark nights.

Sweet femme sisters, take care of yourselves. Seek wisdom with an open heart, seek support with humility. I know you love your families, your butches, your sweethearts, your babies and your friends and colleagues. But don’t run yourselves down until you have nothing left. Don’t forget that they love you, as well, if you will let them. Make room for them to show you that love. Ask for that love. Ask for support. Allow yourself to rest. Be good and loving to yourselves.

That is how our sacred femme work begins.

Oh Thou Effulgent Spirit,

Shed Thy radiance on my heart and mind

Fill my being with Thy divine light

That it may shine in all my thoughts and actions

And bring brightness in other lives

Surround me with Thy protecting love and Thy abiding peace

–Swami Paramananda, the reading for March 20 in Book of Daily Thoughts and

            Prayers, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, 1977

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”)



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