This is going to be long, and mostly exists for me to bookmark something important for myself, but perhaps there are kernels in here for others as well. I’m exhausted, but if I don’t write this now, I’m afraid I will lose this feeling and with it, the opportunity to capture pieces of this into words.
Extended drives have always been good for my brain. If you spend any time with me one-on-one, you learn very quickly that there are usually 15 different thoughts simultaneously sharing space in my mind at any given time. I have always worked best when my attention is split in many directions at once. Slow movement on multiple fronts has always worked to create a stronger net for me to build from than rapid movement in one direction at a time. Everything is connected.
I had an interesting (and in some ways, complicated) weekend. I found myself navigating a variety of spaces and had the internal sense of deliberate calibration: some spaces required more performance, others called for more presence. As I moved through my weekend, I had the feeling of collecting puzzle pieces, and mulling over how they fit together within themselves, and into a larger framework of something I am working on within myself. If I were doing any of this true justice, this would be three different writings, but I don’t think like that and these feel intricately interwoven anyway, so one long deluge it is.
I’m Really Not A Masochist…
I say this over and over, and it’s true. I’m not. I joke that I have moments of masochism, but that’s only partially a joke. The reality is, I am nothing 100% of the time. I exhibit characteristics of different identities in discrete moments, and compile them together over time for a continuous image that I encapsulate in the concept “switch.”
I remember realizing that “masochism” goes beyond the notion of physical pain. The concept of psychological and emotional pain is something I connect to much more strongly (and continuously) than physical pain. That being said, sometimes I have my moments of masochism, moments where what I want is to hold and experience pain in my body is a physical way.
I’ve gotten better at identifying those moments and what causes them. Related to the ninety thousand things going on in my brain at any given moment, sometimes those thoughts move so quickly that it feels like they are lifting up and out of my body, and pulling the part of me that is me out with them. It’s a form of disassociating, I suppose, but it feels like spiraling up into some ethereal space and I can’t figure out how to get back. Pain helps the thoughts shut up. Pain makes the whirlwind movement calm and slow. It makes me aware of every breath, including the ones that came too quickly when I wasn’t paying attention. It makes me aware of my skin, how my body fits together, the way I shift and move and fight and hold, and the only thing that I can hear is my heartbeat.
I’ve figured out, for lack of a better term, the function of pain in my life, and when I tend to want it more. What I haven’t figured out is how to bridge the space between knowledge and understanding of a need or desire, and effectively communicating that. I bottom so infrequently that I struggle to know where to go that is a safe space for me to ask someone to hurt me. I tend to top significantly more than I bottom, and I haven’t figured out where to go (or to whom) that will be ok with my asking them to hurt me.
I suppose the underlying aspect I’m struggling with is shame. Yes, shame for wanting something, because that’s a complicated and somewhat nuanced thing in and of itself, but more of it is around perceptions and concepts of strength. That’s vague, I know, but I’m not sure I know how to explain how vulnerable it feels for me to ask someone to hurt me. Perhaps because I am asking someone to help me reconnect with my body, and I’m not sure what someone else would get out of that, and if they did, is that then the only way they could see me? I am not someone who needs to hurt all the time, or even most of the time. But moments like this build and build, and the echoes of past moments are etched across my skin in tattoos and scars.
I’m skirting and shifting a bit. I think there is something that I need to do, words I need to work past my lips that are so easy to speak in hypotheticals and so mind-bogglingly difficult in moments of possibility.
This is one of the most terrifying things I can imagine.
…Although I Might Be A Shapeshifter.
I have heard the term shapeshifter used in a variety of ways, and while some of them have been things that I could understand, the term itself has never really resonated as a subset of my identity.
Driving down the highway from a weekend away, I thought about the variety of different spaces I held over the course of 48 hours, both within my own presentation and skin as well as in the environments and physical spaces. And I felt calm. I won’t say peaceful, exactly, but I felt immeasurably calm in thinking about the rapid shifts and transitions.
And in this, the concept of shapeshifter as an identity of self, rather than as a subset, connected in a tangible way. It’s not that there is a part of me that shifts into something else; it is truly that I am (continuously) most authentic when I am (discretely) shifting between spaces.
To explain: I think in terms of discrete and continuous, isolated moments and the bridges between the moments that form a curve over time. The more spaces I can hold, the more I can allow different facets and aspects of myself to come out, the more authentic I feel over time because I am a compilation of these personas and presentations.
I am beginning to recognize a sense of internal calibration, a spectrum stretched between authenticity and performance. That isn’t to say that performance is not authentic; however, for me, the more I turn “on,” the more skewed toward performance I tend to be, the more aware I am of my space and how much I am occupying, the less capable I am of expressing autonomous desire.
I keep thinking back over different spaces I held, and flashing to this moment Saturday evening, sitting in the bathtub of a friend’s empty house I had only been to once before, smoking a cigarette and drinking hours-old coffee while a bathbomb fizzled into a melty, glittery cauldron of wonderfulness, reading Stone Butch Blues for the upbillionth time. It was an intentional time of self-care, but an incidental moment of absolute self. If I could have photographed that moment, I would have, but I don’t know that it would do it justice.
And then I slide through the moments as they shift from that to performance, like makeup armor and the residual back pain from binding and moments where I smiled when I didn’t want to and moments where I bit back words because I needed to, and they are no less real, but as the internal sense of calibration shifts toward performance, the less I am able to take up space in the ways I want. I am less able to want.
I think these things can be uncoupled to where performance does not necessarily impact my ability to hold autonomous space. But I can’t untangle what I haven’t been able to see.
The more I shift, the closer the continuous dial shifts toward authentic, regardless of how the discrete dials behave. Continuity is not the average of the discrete; they measure things in different ways and place value on different aspects. I let so many different parts of myself have room to breathe this weekend and, in that, there is authenticity, even if each of those parts of myself, by themselves, are only one very small part of the story.
Active Voice, Passive Movement
I was having a conversation with a friend when I realized their conversation style leads them to speak predominantly in passive voice. It’s an unusual conversation style because it focuses on the object of the action, rather than what (or who) is doing the action (or the action itself).
It also lends itself well to a certain level of ambiguity. It’s most commonly used in conversations within conversations, and requires some amount of reading subtext without misconstruing what is truly being said. It’s far too easy to overanalyze the most innocuous statements, searching for implications that may or may not be there.
Anyway, I tend to speak in active voice, but realized that I exist in passive movement. I rely heavily on language while in many ways passively moving through life, centering myself in words and others in actions. It’s a tricky, nuanced thing that I’m still parsing out and not entirely sure how to explain, but it has to do with action/reaction. Accepting what is offered rather than asking for what is needed or desired. Knowing where others stand so that I can figure out how and where to position myself.
It’s a nuance of space, of holding and taking and building space. Of allowing action to support language. It’s the difference between allowing things to happen and actively working to create what I want. It’s not bad, exactly, but it’s something to be aware of. I have the unfortunate habit of assuming my own transparency, but the most intuitive person still isn’t a mindreader. And in moments where I am self-conscious of my language and passive in my action, it’s no surprise that there is a dissonance there that I can’t reconcile.
I never stop moving, but I don’t always move with intention, and feel, very strongly, the disconnect within myself in those moments. It’s something to look at and be aware of. My actions invite ambiguity. I leave myself open to interpretation, which leaves something to be desired in means of communication. When I am dependent on other’s movements to dictate my own, it’s no small wonder that I rarely end up where I meant to go.
The concept of centering myself in action feels selfish in ways that it doesn’t with language, but we are a bit more removed from the immediacy of language than we are in moments that call for movement.
Moral of the story- perhaps of all these stories: taking up space. That recurring theme of this year comes back around with yet a new perspective that might make its way through my thick, stubborn skull.