Queer Femmes Respond — Don’t Make Up Stories

I’m so happy to have this lovely post from my friend Lisa, with whom I have enjoyed femme tea and chats and who is making due and getting through in her own kind and loving way.

Deep gratitude to Lisa for opening her wise and questioning femme heart to us! It’s so important and healing for us to share our real-life experiences with family and beyond as we do our best with what’s going on and the resources we have or don’t have. Blessings, sweet readers, on you and on your families, and on your true, beautiful, human stories.

Don’t Make Up Stories by Lisa

At the end of April my 87 year old mother-in-law left her apartment to quarantine at our home. Laurie, my spouse, had been trying for weeks to convince her mom it would be safer to stay with us than at her three-tier senior living residence. Mom’s apartment is a large suite in the independent living area of a very upscale residence of a renovated mill building restored “to take full advantage of it’s high ceilings, expansive windows and picturesque waterfall views.” Ok, that’s a quote from their website, but really, the place is stunning, meals are served on china dishes at tables covered in linen; wine is served with dinner, and the food is so incredible that I wonder why the chef doesn’t work at a fancy restaurant.  Care is taken for every detail of the lives of the residence. Mom didn’t want to leave, until … COVID19 finally found its way into the memory care unit, and life changed.  Activities were suspended, residents were confined to their apartments and meals were brought to their doors.  The staff was doing all that they could to keep everyone safe. Mom felt like a prisoner in her own apartment, so she moved in to quarantine with us.

After Mom’s decision to join us everything happened so quickly, we didn’t take time to consider most of the changes in all of our lives. We knew that we would be making adjustments, however, no one discussed any expectations about what it would be like to live together. My big expectation was that Mom would help out around the house, if nothing else at least with meals, or clean up thereafter. Nope, nadda. My requests for help either fell on her hard-of-hearing-the hearing aids are too uncomfortable ears, or Mom just said “No.” I started to make up names for myself such as “The House Elf” or “The only staff member at The Purple House Assisted Living Center.” I became resentful, alone in my head I began to refer to my mother-in-law as “The Princess.” Laurie was between a rock and a hard place. She still goes to her office each day, and she counsels her clients remotely. She does all of the grocery shopping now, and sees herself as the one responsible to keep the two most important women in her life alive (although I’m in good health I am 12 years older, so she’s not taking any chances). She was doing her best to keep things smooth between her mother and me.

Sharing my complaints with friends brought me the kind of support I thought I needed. It didn’t help of course, because they took my side and Mom became the great villain in my story.  Then I talked with my therapist about it and the story changed.  “So,” she said “what kinds of stories are you making up in your head about your mother-in-law?” “Hmm, that she’s used to being waited on, and expects the same from me?” I was so busy thinking about poor me, I hadn’t considered what she might be feeling. Mom is quite willing to share her judgements, but feelings? No.

I began to be a better listener. If she says just the slightest thing about her residence or her old life, I respond with questions to help draw out more detail and her thoughts (but never her feelings). Reading into it I realized how depressed she was about leaving her apartment and her friends. Her vision is failing and she knows where everything is in her home–ours tends to get a bit chaotic. Her apartment is one level. At our house Mom carefully plans when she’ll go to the bathroom because she needs to navigate the flight of stairs to the second floor. Mom has glaucoma and I recently learned that she’s blind in one eye, regardless, she reads–a lot. I order large print books and pick them up at the library for her. She spends most of the day reading, but she likes to play card games, so I stop in the middle of my day, she puts down her book, and we play. At times, later I find that she has put dishes into the dishwasher, or set the dinner table.

Laurie has been relentless in catching up with doctors and making sure that her mother has the proper medical attention.  I’ve recently learned that Mom would consider herself a nuisance if she shared about her aches and pains. What I regarded as the princess waiting to be served, I’ve come to understand was Mom sitting with bodily discomfort that exhausts her.

The negative feelings I carried were a luxury at a time when too many people have lost loved ones to this horrendous disease. We have been fortunate so far to not have lost any family members. I always considered myself to be a kind and caring person, I surprised myself with the unkind feelings that I righteously carried–I am humbled. One of the lessons I’ve learned during this quarantine: Don’t make up stories in your head about what’s going on with Mom, or anyone else for that matter. Be kind–you never know when you will run out of time.

Lisa is a Jewish Unitarian Universalist proud femme. She is a retired director of UU religious exploration and faith development programs for children and youth. Before quarantine she donated her skills, of storytelling and leading children’s crafts, to bring laughter and fun to participants of an adult day program. During quarantine she spends 1 1/2 hours a day on FaceTime reading chapter books to her 7 year old grandson in VT.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story! If you’ve written a femme story or poem or song, oh, please let me post it!

 New Femme Friday feature starting spring 2020: Queer Femmes Respond. Are you reading more poetry? Are you navigating various technologies in order to see your folx and not be so isolated? Are you still going out to work? Are you able to get out for walks? Who’s home with you? We queer femmes are meeting these unsettling times with queer femme panache, and I want to hear about it! Along the lines of the Corona Letters over at the Sewanee Review, please send in what you’re doing, how you’re staying centered and sane! Write me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com with questions or ideas or a full-on post (with bio, if possible)!

 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.”) As I recover from treatment for breast cancer, however, I’m just going to post whenever I can manage.

 

 

Queer Femmes Respond – Constance Clare-Newman

Today, a letter from the west coast from queer femme extraordinaire, Constance! Having had the pleasure of her company in femme teas, erotica readings and butch/femme gatherings, I am thrilled to welcome her back to The Total Femme!

Deep gratitude to Constance for her sweet and generous sharing of hope and joy!

Dear queer femmes,

We are now well into our second month of shelter-in-place. Some of the ways my husbutch and I have been navigating this time come from our regular resilience practices, upped to the 10th degree!

We both have a meditation practice, which helps us ground into the present and see the big picture. Of course, we don’t know what will unfold in the big picture, but what we do know is that generations of people everywhere in the world have adapted to new and strange circumstances. We will too.

We meditate together sometimes, and just sitting for 10-15 minutes will change the feeling/tone between us to softer and sweeter and more generous. We speak our gratitude to each other.

We both exercise. I take (and teach) online dance and movement classes, and my husbutch works out with her trainer on Zoom. We have a barbell with round thingys in our living room! If we don’t exercise, we make sure to go for a walk outside around our block, (with our masks!) and wave to neighbors doing the same.

We’re both in 12 step programs, so we both attend zoom or phone meetings separately, and together. Going to online meetings in our beloved Provincetown is one of the lucky, happy things about this time.

Maybe it’s weird to talk about what is delightful and sweet about this time, when people are suffering and dying from this pandemic. But (big picture) this is always so. Children in cages and refugee camps is horrifying. How to “hold it” without going to despair? For me, it is always—see it, feel it, take action (however small) and then turn back to pleasure. Over and over again—I see the dreadful situation, I let myself feel the despair, rage or grief. I do a small thing, whether it’s a phone call to a congress person, a $5 donation, or a social media share, I take an action. Of course it’s “not enough” but how to be healthy, so as to be of service in the world? It won’t come from collapsing into despair. Turning toward pleasure is the antidote.

Sensory pleasures like looking up at the tree coming into bloom, hearing the doves in the tree, feeling the warm breeze on my skin, smelling the rose (blooming now in the desert) tasting the delicious dates from our farmer’s market, feeling into the ease of my breathing. And since we are in quarantine together, yes, the pleasures of touch, kisses and sex.

The practice of being with the difficulties and re-orienting to presence and pleasure has been working for me. Many times a day, I see, feel, act, then rest, in pleasure!

See, feel, act, rest in pleasure.

Maybe you will share some of the ways you are moving through this disrupted time in the comments below!

May you feel pleasure today.

Constance Clare-Newman is an embodiment educator with over thirty years of experience in various movement disciplines. Currently Constance is teaching online centering and resilience practices as a path to sanity in these times of disruption.

Married for 18 years, Constance and her partner, Felice attend queer playgrounds, dungeon parties and BDSM conferences. Together they offer workshop for couples, including, Hot, Deep and Connected: The Art of Sex in Partnership.

Check out Constance’s timely new class,“Survival Skills for Sheltering in Place: Presence, Pleasure and Play”

https://www.constanceclare.com/workshops/

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story! If you’ve written a femme story or poem or song, oh, please let me post it!

 New Femme Friday feature starting spring 2020: Queer Femmes Respond. Are you reading more poetry? Are you navigating various technologies in order to see your folx and not be so isolated? Are you still going out to work? Are you able to get out for walks? Who’s home with you? We queer femmes are meeting these unsettling times with queer femme panache, and I want to hear about it! Along the lines of the Corona Letters over at the Sewanee Review, please send in what you’re doing, how you’re staying centered and sane! Write me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com with questions or ideas or a full-on post (with bio, if possible)!

 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.”) As I undergo treatment for breast cancer, however, I’m just going to post whenever I can manage.

 

Meditations for Queer Femmes – Wisdom Holders

I’m not sure where I came across this story, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. A great teacher has grown very old and is preparing to die. Her most devoted follower attends her in her last days, trying not to give in to the devastating sorrow she is navigating as she watches her guru fade. As the old woman lies very close to death, she beckons for her student to come closer and whispers, “You know how I was always eating peppermint candy to soothe my delicate stomach, even though sweets are strictly forbidden?” The younger woman nods; even now, she has a few of the medicinal lozenges in her pocket. The teacher lets out a weak but heartfelt cackle. “Well,” she whispers. “My stomach is like iron. I just ate those peppermints because I like them!”

I love this story for what it teaches: we are all human. No matter our status as great teachers, or great anyone, no matter our positions of power and knowledge in any discipline, there is a not a one of us who doesn’t have a few or more very human foibles. If the student in the story was at all tempted to deify her teacher once she was dead, she won’t be able to do it now, because the teacher left her with this priceless gift: I was just a person, and so are you.

I think most of us have a tendency to imagine that the people we look up to, from whom we gain inspiration, are somehow more elevated than we are. That their daily lives and private moments are free from odd habits; that their wisdom provides them with a shield from the little crotchets and weaknesses we all experience. And then when we find out that, say, our beloved religious figure relaxes by watching porn or that she lied about her credentials or background, we lose all respect for her. Even if her teachings had liberated us from despair – maybe especially if her teachings had liberated us from despair.

This demand for our leaders and teachers to be perfect just doesn’t do us any good. I wish our demand instead was for them to be perfectly human. To me, that would be the more nuanced, layered and powerful example. What if our most respected teachers said things like, “Look, I have a wicked temper I can’t always control, I fucked up a lot when I was younger and did things I still regret and I know a few things that I’d like to share that might be helpful to others.” or “I binge watch ridiculous reality shows while making myself sick on salt water taffy, and I am the Executive Director of a cutting-edge non-profit where I do incredibly complex, healing, beautiful thinking about climate change and it’s really making a difference.”

I’ve written before about how queers in general and queer femmes in particular often feel the pull to present to the world as if we have it all together. As if we are model femmes with much wisdom to offer to both other queers and to straight people, while secretly worrying that we are flawed and fakes because we actually don’t have it all together. And we’re afraid that if “they” saw our distinctly human side, that all would be lost. My dear femme sisters, I know this is a complicated subject, and we queer femmes must do whatever keeps us safe in this turbulent world, and if that means holding up a shield of Don’t Fuck With Me, whatever that looks like for you, I am behind you one hundred percent.

And I also implore you: when you look in the mirror, when you’re home alone, when you look in your heart and you see HUMAN HUMAN HUMAN flashing in rainbow colored neon, be of good cheer! Our most revered wisdom holders light up that very same sign, and you, queer femmes, you are wisdom holders. You hold queer femme wisdom in every molecule of your queer femme self, and I revere you and am so grateful to you. The world benefits from your passage here.

Human. Queer. Femme.

Unending wisdom.

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.”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on April 16, 2018 at 5:27 PM  Comments (2)  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes — Liminal

At the Asian grocery store recently, I spotted and immediately bought a bag of the lovely autumnal rice I learned about when I lived in Japan as a young woman. I can’t remember how to say the name of this particular rice in Japanese, but I remember that it’s a transitional food, that you eat it when the weather is beginning to cool: it’s not white rice, for the hot months, nor brown rice, for winter, but somewhere inbetween.

The small domestic triumph of identifying and bringing home the delicious half-and-half rice to feed my butch and myself made me think about how my queer femme experience powers my understanding of the world around me and that I see things others don’t, interpret situations very differently from straight people and even differently from other queers.

The resurgence of this old, half-forgotten rice knowledge, made me remember that, as queer femmes, we have the ability, stemming from our queer lives, our woundedness, our ferocious insistence on love, to step across thresholds others don’t even notice. To catch sight something beautiful from the corner of our eye and turn our full attention there. We needn’t follow the straight path nor conform to arid interpretations of propriety and common sense.

Queer femmes commandeer the controls and the train jumps the tracks to an otherwhere, where every body is a good body, where everybody gets to be exactly who they are and where the “who” is endless and endlessly fascinating, entertaining, and smack dab in the middle of the natural systems of which humans are but one small part.

Queer femmes notice what others don’t and when we are listened to, when we are called for so that we may share our queer femme wisdom – a wisdom like no other – then oppressions are challenged, begin to wither, and everyone’s hearts are lifted.

Rather than wishing to be given a place at the table, let us queer femmes aspire to leading the diners over the threshold and into the woods. Rather than ignoring or dismissing our wild and glittering whimsies, let us recognize them for the core wisdoms that they are.

We queer femmes who live in the inbetween are experts in flattening the box. Today, remember the authority of our powerful experience here where the status quo becomes filmy and queerer possibilities become visible.

Today, remember the strength we queer femmes garner from being outsiders, dwellers of liminal spaces.

Today, dear femmes, celebrate being that queer.

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.

 

 

 

Published in: on October 23, 2017 at 3:43 PM  Comments (2)  
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