I’ve been doing The Conspiracy of Blessings off and on since December 2016, so almost 11 years. It was inspired by Rob Brezsny‘s concept of pronoia – the idea that a benevolent universe is conspiring to shower us with blessings. While I don’t know if that is true any longer (I don’t know what I believe anymore), I know that I am capable of showering others with blessings, that doing so is good for my emotional and spiritual health, and that’s all that matters. I also recognized around that time that creative generosity is my thing. I am wired for giving – time, energy, art, whatever – which isn’t to say I’m any kind of special human, it’s just how I’m made.
The first blessings were beaded holiday ornaments, of which I had made an abundance for gifts that year. I had too many beautiful things to give away to people I knew, so I left them around my hometown to be discovered. Then I started an anonymous blog (that still exists for historical purposes) to track the project. It shifted from love bombing my local environment to sending packages of art blessings to people who needed some love in their lives. Now I do both as I am inspired.
The Transformation Dolls specifically came from many women reaching out because they were in deep transition with illnesses, divorces, career changes, etc. I wanted to contribute some transformational magic to their world. The Grace Hearts were added at some point, just because I love the symbology of hearts I guess.
Despite the times I’ve taken a hiatus, it is the most consistent creative and spiritual practice of my life. As I settle into having to work full-time for at least another 6 months (the next driver training/testing possibility for Eros is in the Fall), I am finding that this is the creative project I can commit to with my limited spoons. Hand sewing can be done in bed while watching tv. I am also interested in returning to exploring gift economy and other forms of anti-capitalist activism. So expect to see more from and about this project in the coming weeks.
I discovered recently that even though I’ve had an eclectic spiritual life, I was ultimately committed to a theology of suffering, born from the idea that I was the reason Jesus died on the cross (because they told us he would have died for just one person). I perceived his suffering as the ultimate act of generosity. Even though I left Christianity in my early 20s, I eventually took the idea to the extreme and called myself a masochist for god shortly before the pregnancy that sparked my dark night of the soul. I am a physical and emotional masochist in the world of kink, which has been good for my self awareness and expression. But I see now that this perception of sacrificing myself to emotional pain in order to evolve for and/or toward something called god was harmful and caused me to make choices that were traumatizing.
This is part of my crisis of faith. If I no longer believe in a theology of suffering and any kind of external divinity, then what do I believe in? I think I’m settling into a theology of self and relational awareness and devoting myself to the god-between-us. This has really been my deep work all along – evolving from a child with an ACES trauma score of 7 and all the implied consequences, to a self aware human who can move in the world with grace. My primary spiritual practices at this time are deepening my understanding of relationship by learning how to stop violating other people’s sovereignty and nurturing interdependent intimacy in relationships, as well as gifting handmade talismans to people through the Conspiracy of Blessings.
Settling into this new idea of a spiritual life brings is good for my soul. I was missing my deep connection to force of Life.
By 8 a.m. on an extra day off I somehow cleaned the kitchen and contemplated what spirituality and spiritual practice might look like for me now that I no longer believe in a God, other than the god-between-us. My energy is coming back and it feels great. I contemplated what a theology of the god-between-us means and how spiritual practice looks through relationship. My marriage is definitely a spiritual practice. I also see my gift economy project as a practice, honoring that I am in relationship with all, even if I do not meet many humans face to face.
As part of my discovery process I turned to the Tarot. I read the Universal Tarot, which is a gorgeous deck that draws upon many of the religious histories of the world in its images and interpretations. What the cards led me to today is a spirituality based in Art and Justice, which honestly was a surprise and yet once discovered makes all the sense in the world. I was expecting something about relationship, community, etc. But Art and Justice are also two forces that move me and infuse my work in all of its forms. I can see how at this moment of my life, when working full time (supporting legal justice) and my health issues significantly limit actively building local friendships and community, that it makes more sense to focus on art and justice and how I can have impact through my creativity in the immediate, whether writing, sculpting, or making magical talismans for others (which does honor the god-between-us). It also gives me something to think about regarding a new concept art project that involves social justice.
This excites me and that’s what has been missing for me for a long while, a taste of the rapture of aliveness.
People talk about how hard it is to love the way our bodies look and how we need to find acceptance, love, or at least neutrality about our appearance. But no one talks about how hard it is to love your body when it betrays you every day with pain.
I loved my body for a long time despite the fat and cellulite and stretch marks. I loved that it gave me 3 amazing babies. I loved that it took me to ecstatic places. I loved touch as a form of showing care for people I adore. I’ve been neutral about my appearance since my early 20’s, but I loved how it felt to be in my body, to experience life through this highly sensitive and erotic vehicle.
Now I am hating my body because of pain. I don’t want to be in it. I hate the lack of control over my symptoms no matter what I do to try to manage them. I hate that my body doesn’t react the same as most others to medicines and supplements so that I am not finding relief where others say they find it. I hate that I’ve cancelled every commitment the last two weeks and can’t maintain relationships beyond family. I hate that pain is making working full-time nearly impossible. I hate that I have to ask for my doctor’s and employer’s permission to take *unpaid* time off despite the fact I am getting the work done in less hours (and they don’t like to have part-time employees). I hate that my health has become the number three expense in our lives after rent and food. I hate that I now have to choose between immediate relief and long-term healing because I can’t afford both.
Today I hate my body because I feel betrayed. I try everything I am advised to try and only find minimal relief. My body refuses to cooperate. I am beginning to feel like we are at war, except my battle plans involve inviting my body to feel good. Or at least neutral. Forget ecstatic, I would give almost anything just to feel neutral again.
I started singing in a giant church around 6 or 7 and I was often awarded solos. The annual Christmas event took place at the San Diego Convention Center and I was fearless in front of thousands of people. I sang in church and school choirs for years. As a high schooler I sang Whitney Houston by request of my friends, who liked hearing me sing while we travelled to speech and debate competitions. My sophomore year of high school I tried out for Grease by belting out The Greatest Love of All and was given the part of Rizzo. I was the only vocalist in the play who could be heard at the back of the theater without a mic. I owned my loud and powerful voice.
I felt comfortable taking up space as a teen.
While I was socially introverted and quiet, I had no issue being vocal in class or being openly creative. I was smart and I knew it. I was ambitious and trusted what I was capable of. I did math-olympics and the county spelling bee and won medals and ribbons. I was in the classes for “gifted” kids and I was part of the class leadership team. I also competed in speech tournaments.
By sophomore year I took up space visually. I was one of the only punk-goth kids in our rural school and even by that context my style was eclectic. I may have been quietly lurking the halls, but everyone knew who I was because of my wild outfits. I wore biker boots and my step dad’s camo pants one day and long skirts with scarves tied in layers around my waist the next. I scoured the stores in San Diego for unique pieces I could take back to our rural coastal town that carried last year’s fashions in its stores.
It all changed when I got pregnant at 16 by a mixed race older bad boy on his way to the first Desert Storm because the military was the only chance he had to make a life after years in and out of foster care due of a dad who beat the shit out of him. Later I learned through court papers that he is disabled and diagnosed with schizophrenia and PTSD. I never saw him again.
During the course of my pregnancy: my high school tried to force me out because they believed I was a bad influence on other students by merely existing; I lost most of my friends because our worlds changed so drastically; the father told me he believed I got pregnant on purpose to trap him though he was the one that claimed the condom was too tight; and the German foreign exchange student I loved the year prior came back to town and shamed me for having sex with someone else (even though he had told me we should do so while we were apart). When I had my son at the beginning of senior year I left behind honors classes and school dances for the alternative school the outcasts attended because on-site childcare was available. Fortunately it turned out to be a fabulous year with a teacher who honored my intelligence and curiosity.
When I returned to singing in the church choir after my son was born I discovered I couldn’t sing a solo in front of others anymore. I was so scared that my voice came out all wrong. This was the first time I lost my voice because of my identity as a marginalized mother (teen, single, and on welfare). It would be a few years before I found my voice again by doing poetry readings in college and singing Karaoke with friends.
Fast forward almost 20 years during which I claimed my space as a writer, artist, professional, and community leader.
Four years ago I lost my voice again because I chose adoption for my third child. I was ashamed for getting pregnant when I should have known to use protection every single time. I am ashamed for not wanting to raise him, and for not making the same choice that I did for my other children. I put my babies above all else knowing despite my youth and naivety that they needed a healthy relationship with me more than anything else. But I also believed I would have freedom the second half of my life. I clung to that dream of freedom with ferocity. If I raised this child I wouldn’t have known adulthood without full time parenting until I was 60. I chose myself and my freedom over my son. Deep down I believe this was incredibly selfish and even question using the term freedom because it sounds like children are chains when really they are commitments. I chose to commit to myself.
Not only am I struggling with shame, I also felt significantly more birth mother grief than I imagined I would since I was able to have an intimate relationship with my son as an Amma. No one tells you how intense the grief is, or that it manifests in your body for months, as if your body is reaching for a baby that isn’t there. That giant grief was coupled with the grief of simultaneously transitioning to an empty nester. My daughter moved out the year after my second son was born. There is a great emptiness in me now that I am not on a mission to be a good mother.
Birth mothers, also known as first mothers, are taboo. I can tell when it makes people uncomfortable that I talk about it. Everyone knows how to celebrate the adoptive parents that finally have the child they dreamed of. But I’ve learned no one knows how to be with the first family that lost a child.
And – I am not a young single woman who can say my child will grow up in better circumstances. I’m a 43 year old woman who now knows how to mother well, in a happy marriage and with more income than I’ve ever had before. In a culture with tiger moms and soccer moms and desperate women trying to become moms, I know many consider me a terrible mother for giving up custody of my child, let alone to a lesbian and a trans man.
And – we failed in our experiment with radically open adoption that was based on trust rather than legal documents. We failed at becoming the intentional community we imagined, sharing our son and a home. And so I feel more shame than ever, because my grief kept me from being present to others. I didn’t just center myself in choosing adoption, I centered myself within my grief experience and shut everyone else out. While I tried to give voice to my experience, I didn’t share the truth of the darkness I was wrapped in for four years. Now I see the light of day, every day, and I am ashamed of my own aftermath.
And – there are other pieces to this puzzle involving speaking my truth and being fired or bullied or rejected for it. To say it’s easier to hide away in my quiet little life is an understatement. So I struggle with using my voice. I am being offered opportunities to be paid for my writing and I am being validated by people the times that I do write publicly. And yet I choose silence far more often than I do being visible. It’s like I’ve hit a wall and I don’t know yet how to get over, under, around, or through it.