You do not need to apologize for your intelligence.
The number of times I have been attacked, shamed, ridiculed, mansplained, dismissed, unfriended, laughed at, yelled at, punished, humiliated, ignored, told to be quiet, told I talk too much, all because I am a woman with a brain, intelligence, and savvy, and am highly capable of critical and creative thought is an enormous amount of times.
Because this trash is normalized. It spreads rapidly, sometimes almost imperceptibly, through our culture, society, community, family.
We are “uncomfortable” with intelligent women being intelligent – exploring and displaying their intelligence unapologetically in their daily lives.
In full view.
So we patronize them.
We minimize them.
Cut them off.
Cut them down.
And so we women have to lean into that discomfort. Press it. Make them feel it. Don’t let up. Wake up. Pay attention to what is really happening when someone makes light of your thoughts, your intelligence, your ideas. When someone makes fun of you or dismisses you for knowing more than they know.
You are scaring them.
You are upsetting the balance of power they need you to believe in in order for it to continue to exist.
Do not shrink yourself to make them feel more comfortable. Expand yourself. Expand your mind. Your reach. Your prowess.
Say what you know. Say what you think. Say what you believe. Tell of what you experience. Speak and breathe your ideas, visions, and thoughts into writing. Into art. Into existence. Into the light.
There are many, many deeply thinking, extensively well read, well researched, well spoken, powerfully moving women of every race, orientation, and background.
Seek them out. Read them. Uplift them. Pay them. Support them. Follow them.
And if you are one of these women – one of us – please don’t ever, ever let up.
This isn’t my usual type of content, but fuck it, it’s my space and I feel deeply compelled to write about some of the things that go on in my daily experience right now as they relate to the current climate of revolution sweeping across my country, and across the world.
I was speaking with a very dear and precious friend a few days ago, about living authentic lives, as in: lives which bring us joy, challenge, and fulfillment as women. And how we feel “crazy” when we follow our calling, our spirits, our soul’s desires. We feel misaligned, out of whack, but we also have never felt so alive, so renewed, so fulfilled, gratified, energized.
And I got to thinking maybe we feel crazy when we are aligned with our spirits because our whole lives we were taught what we “should” align with was the world’s expectations of what we are supposed to do, who we are supposed to be.
This alignment with false promises put us at odds with who we were truly meant to be. Deep down, we knew it, but couldn’t name it. We longed for ourselves but looked outside instead, as all women are taught to do, for validation.
All our lives we were conditioned to believe aligning with the patriarchy, with capitalism, and with commercialism, was the right thing to do, the right way to be. So when we finally begin to align with our soul’s calling instead, we feel disjointed in exactly the way we are meant to on our journey to our Selves.
We are dislodging from our conditioning so that we may get in order with our Truth.
Died of breast cancer. She was 57. Overdose. Dead at 34. Found dead in river. Her remains were discovered. Suicide. She was just 20 years old. Wife of… mother of… daughter of… We will sacrifice your children for the economy. I know it sounds harsh but, honestly, what do you expect? What is life when we have businesses to nurse back to health. Don’t worry so much. We will serve you alcohol until you are blue in the face and run out of money. Casinos now open! where the house wins once in a while and you lose everything repeatedly, the only toss up is whether it happens slowly over time or all in the blink of one night.
This is why I shouldn’t open my phone first thing in the morning, everybody knows that. It was a good weekend spent steadily ignoring everything and everyone else but you don’t want to hear about that. You don’t want to know how I spend my days and nights, you want to know if how I spend them adds up to anything you might want to take with you when you leave here. When you leave me. You want to know if it leads up to anything. Where is this story going? Where is the tension? What is the point?
You and me both, man. Sipping my coffee with sugar and cream and a running tab of the deceased ticking away on the screen. Here is the story behind the story, it is not finished and we avoid reading it let alone writing it. What does it mean to be a woman alive in the world today? Where are we headed if not straight toward the fear of the annihilation of our bodies. Our psyches. Our spirits.
And maybe you will close this tab and forget all about me and this story. Maybe you will decide my ‘content’ is too unnerving, bothersome, ‘pessimistic.’ Rude. Rude of me to say what’s on my mind if it isn’t a little prettier. A little more palatable. Come on, smile, darling. Cheer up. It isn’t so bad. And even if it is, kindly don’t be such a burden; don’t add to the atrocities by, you know, reminding us.
Hello out there, how are you doing? I am thinking of you, wondering with you what will today bring? What is today? What day is this day. And what I felt like sharing today is so far away from what I usually share. It is a sort of behind the scenes of my creativity, my process, my writing, my craft, my art. I have been wanting to reach out in so many multiple directions lately but I keep cutting myself off because, well I don’t even know why exactly, I guess I had it in my head that a writer or a creator should have a certain bend, like be a certain kind of writer, only write certain things about certain topics in certain ways. But then that feels boring to me, I think that’s the thing, I do get bored. I have liked to evolve over time, delving into new things when the old things feel limiting, new ways of expression.
But anyway I was reflecting on the topic of women and desire. I think because the days stretch out right now like blank pages you can fill with anything you want. But what do I want? Like you can do anything, but what do you want to do. Not what you have to or should do but what is it that I want to do? Want to study? Want to create? Want to try?
I did this weird thing where in my journal I took a whole full page and just wrote the words “I want” over and over and over until the word ‘want‘ seemed like it didn’t even mean anything, you know how that happens? If you keep saying or writing a single word over and over somehow your brain goes numb to it. So ‘want’, I had to remind myself how to spell it but I kept writing it until I filled the entire page. I didn’t write what I want, because I don’t know what I want. I really don’t. As long as I can remember I have been full of longing, a need, a feeling like something in me is begging me to get it something, do something to fulfill it. Soothe it. Hear it, listen to it, turn toward it. Look at it. But I do not know what it wants me to do, I don’t know what it wants.
I wonder if this is because I am a woman who grew up as a little girl hungry to express, to create, to pour forth. I was taught subtly and directly, right, not so subtly, too be small, quiet, still, grateful for whatever I got. I was taught not to be hungry. Not to ever want, and certainly not to ever want more. I was taught that my desires, my true human desires, were ‘bad.’ I was taught that to want was greedy. If you want nothing, you are easier to be around. Not wanting is nice. Not wanting is sweet, kind, loving. Not wanting is good. Wanting is bad. And so now, and for as long as I can remember, when someone, some motivational, inspirational someone whoever it may have been, when they said to me Dream or Desire or Imagine… I would have a very hard if not impossible time doing so. I would shut down, go blank, go numb. I have been unable to Dream because I don’t allow myself to want. I have often been unable to name, seek, or explore my Desire because what I want is considered by some to be bad and bad is not allowed. If you want to be loved, you have to be good. I have been unable to Imagine because imagination means conjuring up what you want inside your mind.
But now in this alone time, this extended alone time, I have decided I want to want what I want, and I want to know what it is that I want. So I wrote in my journal ‘I want’ a thousand consecutive times just to feel the words in myself. Just to get them out onto the page, make them real in the real tangible world. To break through to myself and my want, my desire, my hunger, my need, my ache, my essence. I do not have the answer yet to this inner restlessness, this inner question “Allison, what do you want? What do you want your life to be? What do you want to do with yourself? What is your most burning desire?”
But I am hoping that by preparing the way, by repeatedly making it okay to say I want, over and over, my desires will break through and show themselves to me. And because I will be ready, I will touch them, feel them, hear them, listen to them, turn toward them. Accept and welcome and cherish and act on them. Make them real.
There are those with more and those with less and then there are those who have so much they can’t think what to even do with it so they build gilded mansions on hills complete with twenty seven marble bathrooms, a handful of movie theaters, vineyards, wine cellars, swimming pools, and all the rest. Meanwhile my cycle has synced itself with the full moon, which makes me feel like a magical witchy woman and only slightly lessens the excruciating pain of mind numbing cramps scorching through every fiber of my being. Women’s bodies are wondrous and ferocious, capable and soft, oscillating ever between sweet affection and terrible rage. I had a girlfriend back in college who, after her boyfriend broke up with her, got drunk and gave his best friend a blow job in the back seat of his car because she hated them both but it felt dirty and mean in perfect measure at the time. Girls grow up trying to understand the way they fit into the world and most often we do it through a strange and distorted lens, we learn early on to see ourselves from the outside looking in. No, scratch that, not looking but inspecting. It’s deliberate, calculated, critical, obsessive. Examining with a microscope, checking our pores in magnifying glass, standing in closets lined with octagonal mirrors so we can assess every side, every measurement, every angle. The body as addiction/instrument. The body as pain/pleasure. The body as weapon. Sex as power, sex as subjugation. Sex as art, sex as punishment. And in those rare, intimate, miraculous moments, sex as a love so bright it would burn daylight into being just by opening a fevered soul and breathing into its cruel desire. I remember how you were the death of me and death was all I wanted. Kill me with hands, kill me with mouths, kill me with words so obscene you could only whisper them slow like honey, and only to me. I remember, clear as the harvest moon on a cloudless night, the sound of your voice low and heavy as you pressed into me, as if I were the last thing, the first thing, the only thing that could ever take you to the brink and hold you there, until your mind went blank with ecstasy and you fell in tortured explosions into the stars above, panting and grateful, hazy with false promises of never leaving. You with your kind tenderness and confusion, so defiant yet so sincere. As we lay helpless in whatever the glow is which glistens in the aftermath of some perverted kind of sensual destruction, you thread your fingers through mine and together we hold my body until she sleeps. Body as prison, body as bedroom. A body of milky midnight skies, of shadowy lakes beneath an unbroken circle of darkening moons.
A soft thin rain mists along the neighborhood as I stare into the dull white sky from the upstairs window of my writing room. A touch of October wind on my bare shoulders, I’m snuggled in thick blankets while curled up on the couch with my laptop, skimming over the events of the day as I breathe deeply and decompress. The gray fade of afternoon, the steady sound of the falling rain, low lights and a few glowing candles tucked among my houseplants. Never could I ever understand why people don’t adore this weather. I’d take it every day of the week and twice on Sunday along with the chill in the air, a chunky sweater, leather boots, and cinnamon in my coffee. Drifting off into the fog which is now settling upon the high tree tops, my mind stumbles upon the hazy decades-old memory of sitting outside at a late night bonfire, watching the flickering light lick at the spicy night air. Tight jeans, cigarettes and cheap beer, and a boy I wanted who wanted me, too. He was tall and rugged and shy but for his height which towered over all of us. I would have given him everything but he had a girlfriend he was very loyal to which I did think was sweet but also a waste of a perfectly beautiful hungry youth. When you are young you don’t know anything except what you want and when you find something you want you think only about how to get it. Nothing else matters, everything is a crushing pursuit, everything is a chase, a challenge, a dare. You don’t ever think about what could be on the other side, what happens after you actually get everything you want. That boy is a man now, lost most of his thick wavy chestnut hair, packed on a sizable gut, and had three or four kids. He’s some kind of security guard someplace out in the sticks. I wonder if the girl he loved so hard then still loves him, I wonder if he still loves her and has been faithful all this time. I wonder what the loyalty awards you after all the regular years spent not chasing, not turned on or moved by anything you long for that’s just out of reach. V-neck sweaters bought with coupons and Christmas parties at the homes of other people who are also parents and also resigned to the madness of the middle of their ebbing lives. Is there more than that? Does there have to be? I’m the last to know. My only child is all grown up, twenty-one and gorgeous in all the ways you’d want for a child you raised into a man. My home is tranquil and full of books. I have filled my life with writing and thoughts and research and reading. And I’m here in my upstairs room listening to the birds calling for each other through the sifting autumn rain feeling like I have already lived a thousand lives. None more sweet than this, cherishing the sound of the clicking of the keyboard as I type quietly alone in a room of my own.
Watching the moon late in the evening and listening for the precise moment when the seasons click from summer to fall, I light a cigarette and let the long deep drag burn my tender lungs. A terrible habit. It could be any day of any year that passes by in the blink of an eye, but as it happens I am in the middle of my 41st year on this planet. I’ve got almost everything and hardly anything to show for it, depending on who you ask. That’s the thing about creating your own life, it cuts across the membrane of the lives other people seem to think you ought to be birthing or killing off according to rules you may or may not agree apply to you, yourself, as an individual collection of fears and hopes, desires and obsessions.
For all the words left unsaid on this side of the veil, it’s only once you cross over to the other side that they will suddenly try to reflect upon the story of you, the one they’ll cobble together – the story of a life they only ever glimpsed a small well-manicured fraction of. To the outside world you are mostly a collection of titles affixed to you to have you figured and therefore quieted…palatable. Daughter. Woman. Assistant. Wife. Writer. Addict. Mother. Mother means you are a nurturing, selfless, giving woman but what about the time when you thought motherhood was the thing that was going to kill you and you cursed it alone in the dark as your baby screamed and so did you and you both went hours without touching each other? What about the time your own mother slapped you across the mouth in the bathroom for saying something flip? What about that motherhood is sometimes trauma of a twisted and secret kind that makes you feel ashamed and afraid and tired and like you don’t deserve it?
As the flashes of my former life flicker across my mind and the darkness falls into a vacant backdrop to the sound of crickets singing in the heat, I turn my body to curl into a patio chair on my back lawn. The moon is high and piercing, swung up there all alone, a rock in orbit around the same old bits for all eternity. How beautiful we think she is, observing her majesty from down below while sunk to the bottom of a bottle of white wine grown warm. Underneath that static glow, where the shadows deepen to pock her ancient lunar body, what does she actually feel?