New Years Resolutions are one of those things that I have tended to do for years and years. It's interesting when you write down your resolutions online, because you can go back through the years and see what you've done and what you resolved to do and then never really managed. I can track my resolutions/observations of 10 years on the internet, which is kind of amazing if perhaps a bit obsessive of me. I have definitely noticed that I moved away from specifics, preferring to choose vague goals that could be interpreted in multiple ways, allowing me to choose the path that worked best. Here's some other observations:
Things I've Learned:
I always wanted to write. 2004 I wanted to be published, and it took many years for me to trust myself and my writing enough to actually have it happen. I can now be pleased that multiple pieces of mine are in print, and my blogs (this one and Consent Culture) are assisted by people willing to pay me for my work, so I should stop doubting myself and invest more in my writing. I feel confident enough that writing is now helping me pay my rent, which is a scary step, but one that I think I really need to take. It's also important that I be paid for my writing- the lie of "exposure" is just that... a lie in almost all cases.
Traveling, especially to new places or with new friends, is something that invigorates my mind and makes me happy. I've been lucky enough in 2013 to have been invited to go speak on the East Coast and the UK, and it was great to go to places new to me to lecture/present. That said, I also want to limit how many places I go, particularly when the flights are longer than 3 hours. It was incredibly exhausting to travel so much, and I don't think I want to spend another year doing that!
Taking chances has been an area that used to terrify me. Now, I'm much more comfortable with the Fool, taking that step into the unknown. "Sometimes, we wake up. Sometimes, the fall kills us. And sometimes, when we fall, we fly," is a quote from Sandman that really touched me, and I try to live my life in such a way that doesn't shy away from that which scares me. I've learned to take risks and try new things... at least when it comes to new places, changes in career, that sort of thing. When it comes to people... I'm still frozen, solid.
I am totally invigorated by doing photo shoots and having my hair done. These are both things that improve my self-image and are worth spending time and money on.
It is OK to be an activist fighting with the issues you're an activist for. It's OK to be a body-positive activist who has fat days. It's OK to be an anti-abuse activist struggling to leave an abusive relationship. It's OK to be a sex work activist and still be critical of how patriarchy and capitalism influences it. And it's OK to be publicly vulnerable about those things- in fact, I've found it vital for my survival. "Fake it til you make it" sounds catchy but can make you feel incredibly alienated from asking for help... and it's OK to need help. My Indie GoGo was difficult to create, as I felt ashamed that I couldn't take care of myself, but the response has been amazing and is allowing me to not worry about homelessness in the near future as I ramp up my work... and I'm endlessly grateful.
Things I Struggle With:
I have, on reflection, always struggled intensely with meeting new people, particularly if I might see them again. I'm happy to converse with strangers on the street, but give me people at parties who are friends of friends and I clam up and end up on the smoking patio. I get overwhelmed in social situations easily, and looking through my resolutions, I think I always have but because I'm an extrovert I forced myself to go to parties and interact. It's not surprising that I had a few years where I was pretty promiscuous, or that I enjoyed sex work so much- I think for a while there sex with relative strangers felt safer than talking to people.
Now that I'm not as promiscuous, I still feel isolated and anxious in groups, which I think ends up reading as me not wanting to talk to people or be flirted with, when that's what I *do* want. I'm not entirely sure how to handle that on my own. I have definitely leaned on alcohol and smoking to get me through, and ended up regretting it, so I obviously need another, healthier method!
I also struggle with hedonism, in that I tend to be pragmatic about how I spend my time and money rather than pleasure-accepting. I struggle with sex outside of a work context (Ive always been better with one night stands than sex in a relationship), I struggle to feel comfortable treating myself to nice self-care things like massage or manicures, I struggle with spending money on nice restaurants. I think that's partially from guilt around being poor much of my life (and now), so the idea of spending money on a meal feels extravagant and impractical. I remember I used to spend my few dollars on clothes instead of food, eating from food pantries, because food was just eaten and processed out in private, while clothes glowed with the possibility of upward mobility for years to come.
This is also related to my desire, every single year, to relax more. It's kind of funny that I always thought I had depression when I could never manage to just chill the fuck out!
In 2004 I resolved to be less angry, instead deciding I wanted to use seduction as a tool to get things done. This coincided with my move to San Francisco, where I initially had the scene name of PurrVerse (which is where PurrVersatility comes from, btw). I was definitely into embracing "make love, not war", even though in my experience "seduction" was less about my power and more about my sexual availability and submission to sex-as-compulsary norms for women looking to gain social currency. My lack of anger was mainly rooted in my strong commitment to denial, which made me really depressed.
About 6 years later I began to change my mind about anger, adding the tag to my blog. With the founding of Consent Culture, it became cemented into my consciousness as necessary to shift things, though I'm constantly adapting how I use my anger in my activism (Mattie Brice just wrote a piece about this that I'm going to be rolling around in my head for a while). However, as I began to accept my anger and stopped having sex with people I didn't want to in order to feel powerful as a sexual being, I stopped being flirted with and began being told how intimidating I was. I am still working through all of this, because on some level I do want to be approachable, but not at the expense of gaslighting myself.
I also had several years of wanting to be more spiritual. I really, really wanted to feel spirituality in my life, but it just never really clicked for me. I slept through drum circles, never felt called by any particular deities, and felt that praying just made me feel more hopeless, like even Deity didn't give a shit about my struggles. So I stopped trying. I've found that what I seemed to want, and what I still want, is the sense of community and family that so often gathers around spirituality, a sense that individualism and isolation isn't the answer, an ability to trust in something beyond oneself. But for me, at least, spirituality isn't what gets me there. I still think I need to work on trusting, but rather than trusting "the Universe" or the law of attraction or God, I need to trust other people.
The London years were years I did not do resolutions. I'm not entirely sure why they didn't interest me, as there's plenty of blogging and struggles going on during those times, but I didn't write about my goals. I think partially it's because I was majorly caught up in relationships that sucked me in and took up all my brainspace- there wasn't a lot of room for contemplation or navel-gazing when I was trying to fix other people. Partially it was because those years were incredibly unstable, and I never knew exactly where I'd be living, what support I've have, or what job I'd be doing, so making goals felt like a recipe for feeling disappointed in myself.
I did, however, write reviews of each year instead of having any particular goals in mind, retrospectives rather than plans. And on reading those, I can see how important London was for my growth and my security in myself. In London I grew more confident in my body, started to trust in my ability to throw major, game-changing events, began to believe that people wanted to hear my voice as I took media requests, taught workshops and wrote for an audience beyond my blog. I stopped being vaguely political and became incredibly so, especially around racism, transmisogyny, sex critical feminism, sex work activism, male sexualisation and the female gaze. I began to understand what intersectionality and privilege meant, and how it affected the sexual spaces I had been frequenting my entire adult life. Slowly I began to not only turn that gaze on my past, but the present, and how these things influenced my current experience. I had a public breakdown after hiding my suicidal feelings in private successfully for years.
While I initially credited that shift of awareness as part of what made me a more conscious person, if a more anxious one... reading through my history I realize I was *always* emotionally struggling. Before, I focused that energy on relationships almost exclusively. Now, I can step back somewhat and see a greater framework for my struggles. I don't know if that's better, entirely- I've always been a sensitive soul who cried as a child because the world was a terrible place- but maybe I need to refocus my friendships around people who similarly critique these things, and who also manage to enjoy life. Who can help me embrace both my politics and pleasure. I don't have to settle in my friendships and who I expend my energy on any more than I have to settle in my relationships.
I posted on Facebook, "Ok, for real- 2014 is the year that I cut out of my life people who say things like "the PC police", "post-racism", "real women", "you're too sensitive", "depression is a choice", etc. I may end up with a lot fewer friends, but the ones I keep will be people I don't have to apologize for." I'm sticking to it. It was reassuring to see 125 people agreed with my status, too!
I think a lot of my depression has been because I've wanted so desperately to be accepted, not just as a person but as a friend and as a lover, as someone who gets invited out to things, by those I met through sex parties. I think now, at 30, it's about time I stopped chasing unrequited love, instead fostering the friends I have who DO make me feel included and loved. It's perhaps time I start leaving the spaces that make me feel undesirable, self-conscious, not cool enough. I've often felt that many San Francisco friendships are like yelling into a void, based on the sense that hugging each other at parties is a good enough stroke of each other's egos to allow us to ask each other for favours but never get any deeper than that. I have considered a lot of people friends that I never spend time with outside of events. This is the year I stop treating parties as a way to see many of my "friends" at once. I am far more invigorated by small gatherings and really getting to know people. I need to prioritize that rather than "making an appearance" at things that don't value me in my entirety- my body, my politics, my heart. It had its place. It's time I grow up.
I've written about community, and how I feel that what makes a community are people who share some standards of behaviour, who mutually care for each other, who share accountability and responsibility to each other. I think 2014 is, for me, the year that I figure out who my community truly is, who raises me up and encourages me to be better, who I can reach out to for support when I'm feeling anxious, suicidal and scared. That's what will actually keep me alive, not how many "friends" I have on Facebook or how many people follow me on Twitter, but that there are people I feel a duty of care to who feel the same for me. I've been hibernating for too long- it's time to break out of this chrysalis, stop surviving and start living.
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