Sluts, Shaming, Strength, and Survival: In which I piss off everyone I know

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It’s been quite some time since I’ve written and, once again, I am astonished at how quickly things can change.  Sometimes it’s perspectives that change, sometimes it’s the amount of one’s courage that changes, sometimes it’s life circumstances.  It makes no difference, it can all happen and it can all happen in an instant.

One of my favorite books is If Buddha Got Stuck.   Admittedly, I haven’t read it for a number of years, but I remember how much it impacted me the first few times I read it.  More than anything, the book taught me how to recognize when I was stuck and, friends, I am here to tell you that I had been stuck since the day the cops came to tell me that Brian died.  Stuck waist deep in muck with no branch or rope to pull me out, no friendly hand to guide me, and no clear eyes to see any of those things had they been there.

About a month before he died, I purchased tickets for us to go to Chicago and attend MoonRunners Festival that took place April 27.  After he died, I didn’t quite know what to do with those tickets, but the awesome guys over at MoonRunners heard of my story (they actually ran my first Brian piece) and encouraged me to come anyway.  I rounded up a couple of girlfriends and we trekked our way from different areas of the US and met up in Chicago for the festival and, how do I go about saying this?  It was probably in the top 3 weekends of my entire life.  I had fun, I met people, I felt alive again.  And, yes, I took some chances that worked out rather favorably for me, but not everyone understood those chances or my need to take them or my elation in the results.

No one knows anyone but themselves.  Sadly, there are a lot of folks who don’t even know that.  Even more sadly, there are many folks who think they know you and what is best for you enough to place judgement or criticism on what you do, regardless of how comfortable you are with your own ideas and actions.  Call it projection, call it self defense, call it whatever you want.  It all boils down to distrust and disrespect and putting your nose where it doesn’t belong.

Earlier today, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a post by a fairly well known yoga teacher that mentioned something about someone’s arms being long enough to do a certain asana or transition.  This is not anything new.  There are some people who just have skeletal formations that will prevent them forever from doing certain things.  That is not what triggered me.  What triggered me was the tag line this teacher used to promote her YouTube video: “Click here to see if you fit!”  This pissed me off to no end.  Yes, I realize that it seems hypocritical that I am judging another person by their words.  I get that. That is why I am not naming names or linking to blogs nor am I even saying that this teacher is wrong for having used those words.  I’m just talking about what it triggered for me.  There is NOTHING in the world anyone can do to grow their arm bones an extra 3 inches.  Nothing.  Telling a person with shorter arms that they don’t “fit” is, frankly, body shaming.  It’s the same bullshit I hear all the time about how yogis should be thin and bendy and muscular and strong.  Yes, it’s true, many of us are all of those things, but let me state right here and now: there are just as many yogis out there who are NOT thin and bendy and muscular and all that spandex-hyped bullshit, and those yogis are just as qualified and authentic as those of us who can roll through splits and do pushups all day.

Why do we have to fucking judge other people so harshly? SO WHAT if your arms are too short to allow you to do a jump through?  So what if your breasts are too big to do a fully vertical Salamba Sarvangasana?  SO WHAT?  You do what you have to, nay, what you WANT to do as long as you’re okay with it and you’re not hurting yourself.

Which brings me to sluts.  (How’d you like that segue?)  

While I was ranting a bit on FB about Body Shaming, I decided to throw in the fact that I am feverishly disgusted with Slut Shaming, too. Someone asked, “What is Slut Shaming?”  I could write pages about it, but this little YouTube clip sums it up quite nicely.

RIGHT?!?

One of my dearest friends is a tiny bit older than me.  She is a beautiful single woman who has raised her two children to adulthood and likes to go out and have a good time.  She pays her bills, takes care of her family, holds down several jobs, is clean and clear and wonderful in every possible way and she has no intention of getting into a relationship.  At all.  She has a good time being herself and going after who and what she wants.  She’s a blast and I adore her!   She also loved Brian with all of her heart.  She knew how amazing he was and how deeply we loved each other and how pure our love was.  She also told me, before I went to Chicago, “Boo, you go out there and get you as much of what you want as you want to get.” Interestingly enough, my therapist told me the same thing, although he used words like Living, Experience, Boundaries, Exploration, Celebration, etc.  Even more interestingly, my parents told me the same thing.

What did or did not happen in Chicago is my business (that didn’t happen,) but I will tell you this: it was a very awakening experience.  I went out and introduced myself to people I had never met.  I felt no fear nor any shame nor any desire to be anything I am not. I simply felt free to be me for the first time since Brian died. I had a blast! I met artists and promoters and purveyors and just generally awesome people.  I had conversations with people of whom I still don’t know their name.  We talked.  We laughed.  We shared stories.  We had drinks.  We took pictures.

575488_10152811689315192_77860416_n

943054_10152834386360192_157386304_nI have no idea who these guys are, but they were fun and up for a photo op.

So what does this have to do with sluts and shaming and strength and survival?  Well, I’m not sure I can connect all the dots for you, but I will tell you this: I would cut off both my legs and one arm to spend every day kissing my husband for the rest of my life, but he is never ever coming home.  I will never kiss him again.  Ever.  He is dead and I am still here.  I will also tell you that I have always been a highly affectionate person: I kiss and hug ALL my friends, each and every time I see them.  I’ve been that way since I was a teenager.  I am physically affectionate, but that doesn’t mean that I’m looking to date (I’m not,) or for a relationship (I’m not,) or that I have moved on from Brian (I never ever will.)  That said, I still struggle every day with the “what would so and so think” of how I am moving FORWARD (NOT moving on.)  I worry and I stress tremendously that our friends and our family members will think that I’m dishonoring Brian, when in actuality, I’d rather die than dishonor him.  Might I kiss someone?  Yes, why not?  I always have! Brian loved that about me.  And, let’s just throw this out there since we’re being honest, he loved it when I kissed my girlfriends (girl friends, folks.  Don’t read anything into this.)  We were always on the same page – we were each other’s everything and neither of us ever did anything other than give a friend a friendly peck in 14 years.  Ever. But I know that if I were the one who died and he were the one sitting here alone, I’d want him to not feel so isolated.  I’d want him to have fun, I’d want him to feel alive, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wants that for me right now.

Enter shame.

There will never be another soul that will take my husband’s place.  I have no desire to have a relationship with anyone, nor am I in any place to have “relations” with anyone (although, believe me, I’ve turned down many offers.  Guys are strange.) Yet, I get a feeling from many people that I shouldn’t be living.  That I should be staying at home and not having fun and not meeting people and god forbid, not kissing anyone.  No one has said those exact words to me, but I am feeling it. Maybe that’s ME projecting, but that says even more about how pervasive this whole “shaming” business is!

I’m realizing that no one has a right to say what is right or wrong for anyone else.  I have been guilty of doing that for so much of my life, I see now.  There is a difference between stepping up and saying, “You’re drinking / drugging / partying too much,” and saying, “You’re living too much.”  I have to decide how I feel comfortable living and so do you.  No more shaming!

It takes incredible strength to stand up for who you are.  It takes immeasurable strength to be able to do that in the face of adversity, be it on the mat, back stage, or in a coffee house.  Let us all be kind with one another and realize we’re all on a journey.  Some of us have a rockier, darker road to travel than others.  Sometimes boulders come crashing down on our path in the dark, but we’re all just trying to find our way home.  Let us be open.  Let us be honest.  Let us stop shaming.  Let us be strong.  Together.

Edited to add:

MOONRUNNERS II is set!!!  You ain’t seen nothing yet!  Check it out! http://www.blackcountryrock.org/moonrunners/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=381:moonrunners-fest-tickets-on-sale-friday&catid=8:news&Itemid=22

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11 responses »

  1. HUGE post. Just wonderful.

    On the non-conformist yoga teacher account, I am one of those. I feel just fine being a non-super thin yogi most of the time but any time I’m trying to introduce myself for new work, I feel awkward. Will I be judged? Will they take one look at me and think I can’t possibly be a yoga teacher because I don’t have the “right” body? It shits me that this is an ongoing thing.

    As for being in mourning and having fun and all the rest? You gotta do whatever it takes, whatever you need.

    Shaming sucks because it has ongoing effects, much longer than any withering stare or off-hand comment. It’d be awesome if we could erase this particular behaviour from the human race, huh?

    • Thank you, Amanda. I think shaming is one of the most harmful things we can do to others and to ourselves because, as you said, the results are so much harder to heal. Thank you for your continued love and support!

  2. Love this piece! I have felt this way about judging others and “slut shaming” for years . . . I could never articulate it as well as you do though. I admire you tremendously for trying to live and move forward again. It seems you should (And I don’t use the word “should” very often) do WHATEVER YOU NEED to do to feel in any way, shape, or form whole again even if it’s just for a moment. What would be of concern to me is, “is my friend doing what’s best for her”. All we can do is ask and if you say, “yes, I am” then trust you and support you. Booyah! I hope you wore your leopard pants (and I hope I am remember correctly!).

  3. Excellent post there, mama.
    And yes, men are strange – they’re thinking “Well, I know what would make ME feel better….” 😉

    Keep rockin.

  4. Oh Sarah, this…THIS was such a joy to read. Have always loved your tell it like it is way and your courage to be who you are. I feel warm in my heart and thrilled to the bone that you enjoyed yourself according to what makes YOU feel good. And I resonate strongly with your view to the judgment aspect of our culture…the way we react and keep ourselves closed in due to these unspoken “rules” for situations without anyone saying a word, illustrates another layer of subconscious programming we must rise above. What a light you are…even in this difficult season of your life. thank you!

  5. As I read about your human process, I feel privileged to be a witness to this small degree. Your genuine EFFORT to Live in an honorable, meaningful manner comes through and inspires me, and the various friends who’ve recommended your writings. We are all touched and taught by your existence, interpretations, and honesty, so thanks, sweet Lady, and Cheers to you and yours, and the Love that connects All.

  6. You rock! SO glad to hear that your trip to Chicago was great!

    When I’m in karna pidasana, I feel like I’m trying to smother myself with my boobs. I can’t do a handstand. I can barely do crow/crane. I still have to remind myself that I’m okay just the way I am… That I don’t have to look like those fancy Yoga Journal photos to consider myself a real yogi/yoga teacher. 🙂 Thank you for this piece.

  7. Pingback: Sarah Kohl of Mama Kohl: TGBTS Featured Teacher | Teacher Goes Back to School

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