Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category

Once again another week has gone by and as I started putting this together I was just generally annoyed; I have posts started, but not finished. Moreover, I’ve been experiencing a general feeling of disconnectedness but with a thread holding it all together that I just can’t follow. So I was planning to start this post with a colossal whine of “what the fuck is wrong with me?” But then, a strange thing happened….
I do my Project 365 a little differently than most folks who take and post a shot every day. Instead, I take photos all week, store them in a single folder, then on one day go through them and pick out my faves. On most days, I’ll have pictures from various events throughout the day — e.g. morning bike ride, lunch, evening out. I remember all of the events very clearly (Something I didn’t do very well before I started this Project.) and a memory of something beyond the image comes through. Once I have the memory, I select my top seven shots to post up on the Project 365 Flickr group. For here though, I’ll sometimes add an additional photo that helps me tell part of the story.
Now I’m ready to start on this page. First, I add the photos without any text. One by one they go into the gallery all the while the individual stories are taking shape in my mind hopefully to soon go into the post. This time, like when you look at one of those posters of dots that if you stare at it just right becomes a 3-D image, this weeks theme suddenly appeared. I’m not going to label it, but instead just let the stories and the images work together, like their own conversation.
Many of you know that I’m fascinated by why we are the way we are. I’m not sure about you, but over the past few years I’ve realized that I’ve lived most of my life on a default setting, holding values placed there by my family who loved me, the culture I grew up in, the groups I chose to join, and just generally the turns my life took. That’s not to say I hold the same opinions now that I did when I was thirteen, but I can see a deeper imprint now.
FYI – this is going to be at least a two-part series since as I started writing the paragraphs around the pictures it became quite long. So today, I’m going to break it up and maybe in the future I’ll do the same thing — combine a little more writing with the images. We’ll see.
So with that said, Week 7 —
Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010 — Art and artists
Most of our friends are artists of some type — actors, musicians, painters, writers — and it’s something I often take for granted. About a year ago we made friends with a couple (real names — Andrew and Brigan) both visual artists whose works hang in galleries around the country, and as usual, found that we fit with these folks. We get them, they get us, and when we get together there isn’t any of the tension that arises when you’re trying to squash part of yourself that you know the other person will find offensive or take objection too. It’s most obvious when I’m around my extended family, with whom I quit fitting in years ago but still love.
But even with the artists I know that I am a “dual person” with a  public and private face, acceptable and unacceptable beliefs and behaviors to be revealed and withheld depending on the situation. Most of us know that about ourselves.  But I’m also a dual person in a “before and after” sense and this line is constantly shifting with me. If you would have asked the Stasha of last January a question, you would have gotten one sincere and completely truthful answer; if you asked that same question of me today, the answer would be completely different, yet still sincere and truthful.
So Andrew had new show installed at a local gallery and was hosting a talk. It’s a clear departure of his previous work and to me, shows that his life in general is moving forward. The overall theme of this collection is conversations and obstacles. The photo below is a small corner of a much larger work. There are actually two images of the same woman in this picture — one of a woman in a white shirt sitting on a couch, head raised and tilted back, both arms down by her sides, the other image occupies the exact same space and the same lower body, but her head is laying on the back of the couch, and he left arm is draped over the back of the couch as well. In both views the woman’s naked legs are spread revealing simple, white underpants. In either view, she is still exposed to the viewer. 
One person, two realities in the same space, a constant conversation between who I am, who I was, and who I want to be, open to the world.
That’s how I feel almost every moment of every day.

44-365_Andrew's Art_a constant conversation_Sat 02-13-10

That same day Mike and I went to see another group of artists — a play at a local theatre that a friend of our was in. The show was The Fantastix and if you’re not familiar with it, in a nutshell it’s the story of how real life and its struggles enrich the lives of two idealistic and romantic young lovers.     At the theatre that night, I saw an old friend; an actor and an artist I’ve known for twenty years who could tell you more about real life than you probably want to know. He’s a gifted artist who has, in his lifetime, spent time on the ragged edge (sometime slipping over) of homelessness, alcoholism, drug addition, and a host of other addictions. He’s been in love with some wonderful and not-so-wonderful women. He has done things that have made angels both laugh and cry. He has truly flirted with the devil in many, many respects. He is, I think, what the play tried to be. He is also a great example of Andrew’s work as well, an ongoing conversation between who we are, and who we choose to be.

I love you, Jazz.    

Jazz and me_Another artist, an old friend

 Sunday, February 14, 2010 — A tribute to Tom Waits    

Valentine’s Day found Mike and I at a fantastic event. A very successful artist in our area hosts concerts in his home once a month. Basically, he opens his house to whoever shows up, for free, and only asks that the guests bring a bottle of wine to share, don’t make a mess, and stay out of his wife’s kitchen. This evening was a tribute to Tom Waits, a writer/musician who gets the notion that we are all both tough and fragile at the same time. This night about 200 people showed up.    The shot below was taking from the loft looking down on the “stage.” In the upper right is another friend of ours is on lead guitar, wearing a pork pie hat.    The energy of that night was phenomenal! Moreover, it is an example of what I’d been missing for years. Speaking of before and after, a few years ago Mike and I sort of defaulted into a pretty boring routine. We didn’t go out, didn’t seek the experience we wanted to have, didn’t engage with the world the way we wanted to. The bad part of this is that we’d find ourselves on the couch on a Saturday night at 9:30pm, contemplating not only going to bed but where the heck the time was going.        

I started The Dogged Pursuit in part to figure out why I wasn’t happier with my seemingly idyllic life but also to rediscover those things that I’d lost or never fully embraced. Let me tell you something, folks, this is a huge part of it. I love going out; I love music and dance and art and people and experiences and energy and life and I wasn’t fucking living it. Heck, WE weren’t living it.        

It’s actually one of the most interesting things I’m discovering about my Beloved and I, and a huge part of our before and after. I used to think in my head that “he, due to his “introverted nature,” was holding me back from all I wanted to do. Bullshit. I was holding us back. I am the spark of the Mike/Stasha unit. He is the engine. And while my Dogged Pursuit of Happiness is intrinsically tied to him, it works best when I am looking forward, not backwards or sideways, and he is doing the same.          

45-365_A Tribute to Tom Waits_Sunday 02-14-10

  Monday, Feb. 15, 2010 — Legacy

Most of you know by now that I’m a book nut, a word nerd, and lover of learning and language. Knowledge shapes who we are, molds our beliefs, and ultimately makes us who we are. So if you want to know why someone is a certain way or believes a certain thing, you’d be wise to read what they read and when they read it. It is especially important when you consider the people who made you who you are, who set your “default settings” so to speak. In my case, my parents, grand-parents, and the deeply religious and Southern community in which we lived.      

The books below all belonged to my Granny, or  my Mama’s mama. In this photo — and you can barely see it due to my cropping — the books are resting on a hand-pieced and hand stitched quilt that she made from various scraps of worn out clothing, gauging from the patterns and fabrics, sometime in the early 60s or 70s. That quilt is part of her legacy to me. Also in the photo is one of her necklaces (she didn’t have much jewelry) and a pair of earings that think (hope) my Granddaddy gave her. By today’s standards, he wasn’t a great husband but, by the standards put out in these books, she was a pretty good wife. Which is really quite sad.     

I have a whole post I’m working on dedicated to these books but let me give you a quick tour. The green cover in the upper right is titled Fighting the Traffic in Young Girls: or the War on the White Slave Trade.  The opening paragraph reads “By the white slave trade is meant commerce in white woman and girls for wicked purposes. Most of it’s history cannot be written, for two reasons: That these crimes are kept secret as far as possible, and that they are so revolting that their details cannot be published and ought not to be read anywhere outside of the bottomless pit.”

Moving clockwise, the next book is Sweet Smelling Myrrh which is essentially a vile story of emotional, physical, spiritual abuse presented as an example of a woman’s true place and a virtuous life. Granny believed this to her core. Build up your treasures in heaven, accept all suffering, bear all injustice because God’s decided you get nothing but a shitstorm here.        

Growing Up and Liking It was well-intentioned and probably pretty progressive then, but it’s comical now if you know better. Trouble was, I didn’t know better. Shit, I didn’t know this much ’cause I was never even given this messed up book.        

But the most disturbing is the book open in the center. It is titled A History of the People of the United States and is a text book. On its delicate and fragile pages are notes and names of friends scrawled in the margins as well as questions and homework assignments. She studied this book. She was tested on it. She (and the rest of her friends and family) were graded on her understanding and knowledge in this book. It teaches with authority about the War of Seccession, the brutal occupation and dismantling of the South, the social and political disorder created when mentally inferior Negros (who were loved like children and pets) were unfortunately released into a society they couldn’t comprehend or contribute to. The injustices committed by the North and Northerners are detailed and reviled. Some of the headings in this chapter are:  “The Bravery of the Southern Woman,” “Actual Distress of the People,” and “The Faithfulness of the Slave,” the latter of which waxes nostalgic about how the faithful Negro would follow (as if he had a choice) his master in to the field of battle, rejoicing in the Confederate army’s victories and sharing his master’s sorrow at defeat, and if necessary, bear his lifeless body home to his kin. At home the faithful Negros left behind would protect the master’s women, children and other property while ensuring as best he or she could the prosperity of the old homeplace.        

Now I ask you, if this is what you believe, and this is what you teach your children who in turn teach it to their children, and everyone you associate with believes the same thing, and your understanding of God backs up your belief as not only accurate but Devine and Ordained, would you be surprised to find out a mere generation later is still pretty fucked up?        

More on this particular legacy another day.        

46-365_A legacy_Monday 02-15-10

 To be continued……


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For those of you who aren’t aware of it, it hurts to get punched in the face. It’s also not a lot of fun to take a knee to the thigh or a kick to the tits. But take it I do; and no, I’m not an abused wife, masochist or BDSM aficionado (though as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with the latter two if that’s your thing).

You see, I fight as part of my karate training. I’m not very good at it — sparring, that is — but I suit up, shut up, and get my butt in the ring with grown men (and one other woman) and do my best to kick their asses. Every now and then, I land a really good punch and a few times I’ve knocked a few of ’em down. Or maybe they tripped. Who cares, I still got the credit! — and that part I LOVE.

We usually fight in two-minute rounds which doesn’t sound like a long time until you’re a minute and thirty seconds into it, wheezing like an asthmatic, and trying to remember to “block AND punch,” or “block AND kick.” On the edge of the ring is Sensei, shouting out every damn thing you’re doing wrong, “Keep your hands UP!” “Don’t let him back you into a corner!” “Follow up with a kick! A KICK! Jesus, you have feet! Remember!!! Ai, yi, yi!!” (Sensei is Puerto Rican and the former US Army Martial Arts Champion and all around bad-ass.) 

When Sensei is in a particular mood or when we’re testing for the next belt level, we fight the gauntlet. One person takes the center ring then the rest of the classmates and the two black-belt assistants (10 people total) fight that one person, 30 seconds at a time. So that means, one person fights continuously for 5 minutes all the while getting a fresh, non-tired opponent every thirty seconds.

I definitely get bruised and a couple of times I’ve gotten bloody. So far it hasn’t happened to me, but a few of my classmates have thrown up either as a result of a well placed kick or general exhaustion.

Which all begs the question — why? Why on earth would I do this to myself?

It’s a good question, and here are a few thoughts:

I love it because it scares the hell out of me. I KNOW it is going to hurt; and I get in there anyway. I know my opponents are bigger, stronger, and often better than me; and I face off against them anyway. I know it is unlikely that I will ever compete in a tournament or actually be IN a “real” fight; and I work hard to get better anyway.

I love it because it makes me stronger. Not just physically, which it does, but fighting increases my mental toughness. In addition to the fear, when you get hit, the pain starts a cascade effect of chemical reactions in the body. The first thing I have to overcome is choosing “fight” over “flight.” I have to decide to fight back therefore over-riding years of social conditioning that taught me to run away from things that make me uncomfortable or difficult or painful. Looking through my raised gloves, protecting my face, I see the jab come straight in; step and lean back, the fist pops my head back but then I explode forward into the red zone to return a front kick into his ribs.

I love it because it makes me more calculating and less reactionary. When someone is punching and kicking you, the first reaction is to simply lash out, swing back, and try to connect a fist or a foot with some soft tissue, and that’s a good way to lose and lose fast. You have to watch your opponent, see what he’s going to do, predict what is coming your way. You have to learn quickly what he does over and over and what opening he usually presents because we all present an opening sooner or later. He always fakes two steps, lift and fake, lift and fake. After the second fake he brings up a rear leg roundhouse. I turn in and take the kick to the gut as he over steps the angle, leaving his chest wide open for side kick. When it’s there, you have to attack it.

I love it because it calms my mind. A person purposefully hurting you usually causes anger. Again, it’s a chemical and justifiable reaction when someone is trying to hit you but one you CAN control; you don’t have to get mad even though it’s easy to do. The more of their moves that connect the calmer I have to be; in fact, I often try to focus to the point that time slows down so I can see the kick coming, block it with my left forearm, while pulling power from the ground up through my leg, butt, and back, down my arm and returning a vicious right cross.

I love it because we learn from each other even while we’re hurting each other. My partner is my opponent, not my enemy. He too, is a student and though often more adept than me, he is learning as well. He tries but can’t always pull his punches enough not to send my flying backwards on to my ass and sometimes lands a hard punch square to my face mask. I sometimes flail back, landing punches to the face or below the belt. We know the problem is a lack of skill not a lack of intelligence and certainly not a lack of character. Hands up, palms out. We back up, breathe deep, and circle around looking for our next opening.

I love it because it isn’t soft or nurturing. Sensei’s encouragement is aggressive and no holds barred. He has no interest in being supportive and he isn’t going to be nice. “That hurt? Well don’t just stand there and take another! Hit him!” “Good one! Make ‘im feel it. Don’t let  him think he shouldn’t be afraid of you.”  When coaching my opponent, “Don’t worry about the fact she’s a girl, get your foot up there!” “Strike harder, she’s not made of glass and if she is, tough shit! That’s her problem, not yours!”  

At the end of two minutes (or five!) I usually have spit running down my chin because the mouth protector is hard to swallow around; my body is dripping with sweat; I have at least two or three new bruises, usually on my thighs or shoulders, where there is no padding. My partner and I touch gloves, bow, and leave the ring where we then slide down the wall into a semi-sitting/squatting position to remove our head-gear. We catch our breath, drink some water, then stand back up to cheer on the next two combatants.

Every time I spar, every single time, I get better. And the improvements carry over into life. I face down fears, especially painful ones, head on. I am mentally and physically tougher in all my dealings, whether it’s dealing with the beaurocrats at City Hall or with an obnoxious sales clerk, I stand my ground. In an argument or a debate with the same beaurocrat or clerk, I look for the opening I need and when it is presented, I attack. I no longer easily accept someone else’s limited responses as an appropriate response. I rarely get mad at “opponents” or people who are standing between me and getting results. I am not reduced to anger by someone merely striking out at me verbally. I don’t expect my partners (husband, friends, and general acquaintances) not to hurt me. They are learning too. But I do expect them to get better, and to pull their punches. If they don’t, then they aren’t partners. I don’t listen for gentle encouragement, but instead hear an inner voice shouting out to me from ring-side, “Get in there, Stasha!! Kick some ass!”

I don’t worry too much about taking names though. I’ve learned it slows down the ass-kicking.

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[Jan. 4 2010 — Odd thing just happened. This post disappeared from WordPress so I’m reposting it. Apologies to all of you who already read it and commented. I’ll try to find the comments too.]

And 2009 is….. outa here!! Enter 2010! Not to slag on ‘09 or anything, but damn! But before I get into all of that — an update on Daddy

The good news!! – He appears to be recovering some of the usual thought processes but also his sense of humor. He even jokes about it, “Let’s head over to church and see who else I don’t remember.” Names and past events are a problem but he is certainly able to engage. 

The bad news – The personality shift is very apparent and, if not permanent, will take a while to recover. He will engage in conversation but only if you engage him first. Otherwise, he’ll sit in silence. His curiosity and desire to explore and expand his understanding of people and places is simply gone. He’s “Daddy-lite” so to speak. 

And that’s part of the problem with wrapping up a year on such a crappy note. You look back through a haze of negatives and the only things that seem to stand out are more items that match it. 

Well, to hell with that. 

On New Years eve, as my Beloved and I sat on our back porch, drinking vino and otherwise recovering from the week and year, I decided to focus on only the good things that came out of the year and I must say, it was quite a cool list. And since I’m not much of a “resolutions” kinda gal, I decided that my plan was to identify what really worked for me last year and to do more of it all the while making note of those things that I realize no longer serve a purpose, and cut that shit out wherever possible. 

So with that in mind, a few highlights: 

Oct. 2009 -- Testing for my Green Belt in Karate. Yeah, I passed.

I conquered a demon last year — body image. After four decades of self loathing, I’d had enough and discovered I didn’t have to wait until I was thin happy with my body to start enjoying it. I still don’t think I can accurately describe the positive change this even brought to my (and Mike’s) life. With that in mind, in 2010 I plan to remain vigilant on this. It’s possible this monster isn’t dead but just resting will creep back into my life. I will not let that happen in ‘10. I will visit more nude resorts when I have the time and write about the experiences; I will buy and wear attractive and sexy clothes; I will flirt shamelessly and will welcome the attention that it brings. I’ve earned it.  

SIDEBAR: After the body-image epiphany I actually lost about 20 pounds. Yippeee! I plan to lose another 20 – 30 in 2010. But here’s the thing — in 09 I discovered the only way it works for me. 1) Total caloric intake daily average:  1000 – 1200. 2) Total caloric expenditure per day [exercise and base metabolism]: 2200 – 2400. 3) Gross average weight-loss per week: 1/2 to 1 pound. You read that right, cowkids; it takes having an AVERAGE caloric deficit of roughly 1000 – 1200 calories per day for me to lose almost a pound in a week. Sucks, doesn’t it?  

I also realized that event did more than conquer fat-fear, it proved to me that I can conquer any fear, any self-imposed limitation, without any help from anyone. Mike and I’ve talked at great length about how much it hurt that he can’t or won’t embrace something that finally works for me. He says he’s ambivalent about it. But I don’t want to go explore this new and awesome experience with an ”ambivalent” companion by my side so my option is to continue on alone or to forgo it altogether and once again wait for someone else’s “approval” to live my life fully. In his defense, he says he’s perfectly fine if I go solo but I’m not sure how well that will stick if I start to develop friendships, spend money, and otherwise create a separate life from him. I’m also pretty sure it won’t work for me. He is my Beloved, and to know that he doesn’t want to be with me sucks the joy out of any activity. It’s a fuckin’ rock and hard place and I don’t know how it will resolve in 2010. 

Another highlight was getting published. Now I’m a writer/producer by trade but my work doesn’t show up in print magazines. However, I wrote an article for “N” Magazine (FYI – for some reason the formating on this article is awful. I swear, I didn’t write it that way!) based on my trip to Cypress Cove and was even paid for it! (A whopping $50 but who cares?! I had a byline! Wheeee!!!) In ‘10 I plan to write more and expand beyond my work and blogging life.  

Speaking of blogging, the Dogged Pursuit is a major highlight of ‘09. The feedback I get is fantastic (who doesn’t like to be told they’re wonderful?) but more than that is its effect — on my and on others. For me, I’m clearer. Writing here helps me focus, plan, and place a critical eye on the bullshit that espouse every day. I think I am a better writer. I know I am a better person. But that’s small potatoes compared to the effect it’s had on others. For those of you who’ve found something useful on these pages and have let me know, thank you. I’m so very glad you found something of use here beyond just “Hey, did j’a see what Stasha said this time! Da-um!!”  If something I wrote here resonates with you, I’m glad I was able to give it a voice. I’m also glad when it helps us both see that we are not alone. I’m going to continue with the long form format and am going to revise my target number of posts down to just one a week. I’d originally planned to do 3, but that’s too much for your humble  servant. (Curse your productivity, Joan!) 

Speaking of productivity, I realized that while I did a lot of things last year, I could’ve done a lot more. I spent a lot of well-worth-it hours reading blogs, reading books, learning and generally exploring new concepts and ideas that for reasons explained in other posts, I’d missed most of my life. But in ‘10 I think it’s time for a little more action. I’m not a TV watcher per se (except for a couple of favorite Tivo’d shows) and there’s no reason I can’t get a few more things done.Reading and learning is swell ’n all, but doing is sooooo much better! So, in addition to more writing, organize my damn photos! They’ve been in plastic bins for years. Also, now that all of my grandparents are gone, I’m going to do the same with the mountains of old photos we’ve found around the houses. If I can accomplish this in a year it’ll be a freakin’ miracle but my work in museums has taught me much about the importance of archiving your history. Wish me luck on this one. 

Moving on, I also had some fantastic individual days last year and several stand out — too many to detail here — but they did have a couple of things in common. 

April 2009_ A refuge in Wyoming. What a day.

First, they were all spent getting to know people. One day in particular I spent on a wildlife refuge in Wyoming with an uber-awesome park ranger. She took me on a 5-hour tour and it felt like we were the only two people on the freakin’ planet. In that time we chatted about life, nature, work, art, etc. and it was time well spent. By far one of the best days not only of the year, but of the past several. More of this please. I also expanded our local circle of friends. We had more dinner parties and I invited people we wanted to know better; we attended regular parties (one group in particular — Nutsy, anyone?), we met more friends and neighbors for drinks at our local watering hole. I’m also making a wide range of interesting discoveries in the blogosphere –fascinating and wonderful people. Some are old friends I never really knew until I started reading their blogs, others are folks that have reconnected with me and we send private emails back and forth now, still others are new and growing friendships with people who are at the same time radically different but remarkably similar to me. More, more, more please!! 

Jan. 2009 Hancock Shaker Village Massachusettes. Beatiful! But cold!!

The second thing about most of the aforementioned ”great days” was they included my camera. Now I’ve never been great at taking pictures; not because the shots don’t turn out, but because I forget to take them. But I’ve gotten some fantastic images this past year and want to take more. My beloved was going to get me a new camera for my birthday but we can’t find exactly what I want to I’m going to continue with my old 4 mega pixel Kodak and iPod but I’ve decided to follow Hubman and Emmy’s example and participate in Project 365 this year. I may do a post a week here with the week’s shots all at once rather than once per day. I’ll still try to upload daily on the Flicker site, but we’ll see how that goes. 

The second to last most wonderful thing about 2009 was the intensely increased communication between my Beloved and me. Though a complicated series of events, we became closer, discovered what real honest marital communication feels like (both good and bad) and consequently have become much closer and more committed than ever before. That’s not to say that all is hunky-dory fairy-tale story perfect around here. In what marriage is it ever? But I certainly want this part of who we are to continue growing. On the more challenging side, it is intensely difficult and frightening to share your inner self with someone, even someone you love and trust. The potential for hurt magnifies right along with the potential for understanding. It’s worth it, but it still hurts. It also means laying bare your innermost desires, dreams, hopes, and fears before someone to ridicule or be repulsed by. It also means offering them an oportunity to help you make them come true. And for you to do the same for them. What an awesome responsibility. What a frightening sense of vulnerability. 

And finally, full circle, to Daddy’s stroke and Granddaddy’s death. The latter was a longtime coming, and his passing was life-changing but also a relief. The former was a bolt out of the fucking blue and I’m still reeling. But both are a continuing reminder that our lives are short and unpredictable. That memories and the people and events that make them matter and are very, very fragile. That relationships are everything. The experiences make up the sum of your life. That now matters more than then; and that you (me, you, us) matter more than them — those who would limit us, those who mock our dreams, those who embrace ignorance, those who peddle fear. 

July 2009 Mt Airy, NC - On the road of life, how can you beat this?

So in 2010, I am not resolved to do any more than to simply do more of what seems to work. I will work harder, play more, be more aware in my travels, more eager to embrace all the good that comes my way. I will deal with challenges in the only way I know how, one day at a time — and be more attentive to the beauty and grace that appears to follow me around. I will love my friends more and will continue to hold my Beloved close to my heart as we journey on together. 

Happy New Year! 


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[NOTE – this post is a little longer than usual but only becuase I was given so much to think about by some very cool people.]

I’ve been having a bit of an identity crisis lately. (No, I’m not.) Yes, I am.

I don't know what this photo has to do with this post, but I took while working in WY. Bare bones and cloudy sky. It just seems to fit.

It’s not easy, you see. I try — and try very hard — to be “authentic Stasha” all day, everyday, but since creating my blog I’ve been running into problems. When I first started writing I included my first and last name as well as links to my work blog because (I didn’t have anything to say) I really didn’t think anyone would read it. I was wrong.

Next thing I knew people were not only reading it but commenting on it so I became (swelled with pride) a bit more confident and started telling people about it, including friends and a family member. I included a little “Family Warning Label” in one section and believed that would prevent any hard feelings or family misunderstandings. (Ah, not quite but also, not too bad. Not yet.)

Soon, emboldened by my newfound (carelessness) confidence I was writing about my trips to nudist resorts, my tattoo, my issues with fatness, family, sex, Brazilian waxing, money. But I also wrote about a particularly painful incident satisfied that not using the person’s name (and the fact that I hadn’t discussed the incident with more than three fucking people) would allow me to write about what I’d learned but also protect me and them from further hurt. Again, I was (stupid) wrong. Shortly thereafter I received a six-page, single-spaced letter detailing my shortcomings, listing the many ways how I’d hurt the person, and to sum up was really (quite a fuckin’ bitch) very thoughtless.

In the meantime, in addition to people reading my blog, I’d started to follow a number of blogs of people I find fascinating — you’ll find some of them listed on the right side of the screen — not all of them, ahem, safe for work.  I loved the perspectives, the mind-stretching, the challenge (Oh for Christ sake, just say it!), the titillation of their words. I wanted to engage back, to comment and question, but I didn’t dare because “what if.” What if someone reading MY blog clicks through to this blog and thinks I, like Goose, am a polyamorist? What if they click through to this one and assume I’m like Figleaf, a sex blogger? God knows what they’d think about this one(So what if they do? Fuck ’em, I say!) I can’t just say to hell with people. I can’t.  People know me. (Do they?)

Actually, I know plenty of people who would probably think poorly of me if they knew what I read (let alone what you do!) on a regular basis. (They most likely don’t like your perceived politics either. Idjits.) They’d make assumptions, take positions, and generally engage in speculative condemnation based on whispers of misinformation and unverified interpretations. I wonder though, if these same people would elevate their perception of me based on some of my other regular reads. You really can’t go wrong with Joan, Louis, or Kelly. Nothing controversial, not really, and still very thought-provoking. I mean, how outrageous could it really be? These people blog under their own names. Just like me. (Exactly. Just because they don’t write about the intimate details of their sex lives doesn’t mean they don’t have them.)

I find myself starting to split in two — an outer voice or “okay-for-public-consumption-Stasha “and (“keep-your-fuckin’-mouth-shut-Stasha”) and an inner voice which is exactly what I didn’t want to do when I started writing. You see, I don’t really know these “public” people any more than I know the anonymous ones. I know what they’ve each chosen to reveal and nothing more. All else, is purely speculation on my part.

My anonymous blogger friends (Really? You think you can call them friends? A bit presumptuous, don’t you think?) — OK, so I’m a fan! Shut it! — like Goose, Sadie, Figleaf, and Hubman among others reveal intimate moments of their inner and outer lives with a body of work that in some cases spans years and are created and presented through their “inner voice.” I’ve seen pictures of them half-neckid, read smokin’ hot excerpts from real life sex-capades along side of heart wrenching emotional revelations that in some cases make me ache with their pain and loss. By choosing to remain anonymous they have the freedom to reveal their souls, if they so desire. But I cannot touch or see them so it is hard for them to be real. Without the mundane context of daily life, it’s hard sometimes to see them as more than fictional characters in their own stories. As one wrote when I asked about their decision to blog anonymously she said “… anonymity was freeing but lonely, [] the impact of outing was powerful but more inhibiting.”  She went on to add “How free can I be if you can see me? How real is it if you don’t? How safe are we regardless?”  To say I’m developing a love for this fierce woman who is both phantom and spirit would be an understatement (and fuck you if you have to take a prurient view of that just because she lives her life differently from you.) Hey! Back the hell up, inner voice! You don’t know what the heck people think! (Okaayyy. I’ll be quiet.)

Sorry. I’m back.

But the issue of safety is crucial. In fact, the need for folks to conceal their identities is directly related to being able to work and finances, social acceptance, being considered “good parents” (Dr. Phil, you’re an idiot), and in general to live an unmolested life. Another behind-the-curtain blogger wrote that some days he’d rather not be anonymous and that there are things “I’d like to talk about or comment on, but doing so would give away too much, so I refrain. That being said, as friendships develop with people I meet through my blog, I do let my guard down and have shared my real name, occupation, and even face pictures with those I trust.” (Emphasis added by your truly.)

I trusted the three people I  mentioned previously, the ones to whom I revealed my friendship ending post. One of them was my Beloved, who I’m certain maintained the confidence, and the other two were close friends of mine as well as the person I wrote about. I don’t know who told the woman about my post (Shit, she couldv’e stumbled on it quite innocently. Hah!) but I doubt (No, you choose not to believe) the information was not revealed maliciously but revealed it was; and the damage is irreparable.

So there’s the rub. Words can wound and things said cannot be unsaid. (And people — friends, family —  haven’t hurt you, on purpose or because of their own bullshit? Isn’t that exactly what your writing about? Isn’t that the freakin’ point of learning lessons and how you propose to grow?!) In some cases, as with the more risqué material, the risk to financial security is enough to warrant an iron curtain approach. But relationships are more precious, more fragile, so the discretion is not just advised, it’s required. In some cases, you just don’t want to drag someone into your lone version of a shared history. Figleaf, an erudite and prolific critical thinker, makes a wonderful case for not bringing former lovers into his musings while my friend Joan — a powerful, funny, and insightful writer — looks a little closer to home. She wrote “I don’t think I regret using my own name, although I admit I have made the internal commitment NOT to address certain subjects that would upset family members who will undoubtedly read it.  I have been absolutely truthful with everything I have written thus far, because I’ve just avoided the stuff that I would LIKE to write, but I know will be hurtful.”   

I don’t want to hurt anybody (not on purpose, anyway) but I don’t want to avoid writing about what I want to write about.  But that’s just a bit selfish and shortsighted isn’t it? It isn’t just that my brother reads my words on occasion, apparently his co-workers do as well. And while it may not be too much to ask him to cut me some slack — after all, he did throw me out of a treehouse once — but to require people who don’t know our shared, fucked up, and in so many ways eternally bonded past to get that image out of their heads is just unrealistic. (Oh, and for fairness sake, I once bit him so badly I took a chunk out of his arm. Ah, sibling rivalry!)

However, Joan has something in common with a woman with whom she has almost nothing in common — Britni. Oh. My. God. That Britni’s shameless. Not only does Britni write about her life in BDSM she uses her own name and posts face pictures, nude pictures and, great googley-moogley, explicit SEX pictures of herself on her site. She’s admittedly “open, honest, blunt, sexual, and inappropriate” but her reasons for being “out” are… (fuckin’ fierce) elegant in their simplicity. After having an anonymous blog discovered and revealed and then a former, spiteful and determined  boyfriend (asshole) “eventually found it, printed out a bunch of shit, and attempted to ruin my life with it. At that point, I decided that if people wanted to find the blog that badly, they would. And so, I said fuck it. And I decided to just be me. The content didn’t change, the only difference was that I showed my face.” But Britni, when asked if her family read her blog replied, in her deliciously succinct fashion “Haha! Hell no!! They know I’m sexually open but wouldn’t get the BDSM stuff.” Protection from hurt and rejection, as well as of the heart and feelings of our love ones, runs deep in us all.  

Whether you’re on the jagged edge of “polite society” or its poster child, whether your family history is dark and painful or enviously open and supportive, it would take a special kind of person (bitch) to actively or thoughtlessly bring them pain. The question is, around what do you circle the wagons? For some, immediate family is the limit. For others, engendering ill-will in people you don’t like, who apparently don’t like you (and certainly behave as if they don’t), who aren’t even factors in your life, and whose “love” is so tenuous is requires complete suppression of your true self and the default abdication of your own happiness is simply too much to bear.

Another excellent point was added by Kelly.  Like Joan she blogs under her own name and works hard not to invade the privacy of friends and loved ones as she navigates the life of being a modern-day Bachelor Girl. She adds “I don’t usually write about dates unless they’re horrid, and I know I would never want to see them again or even be friends with them, which is rare. But I can’t imagine that if I had a steady boyfriend, I wouldn’t write about him with some regularity. It’ll be interesting to see how the future Mr. Bachelor Girl feels about becoming blog fodder.” Yeah. Nobody asks to be blog fodder and there’s definitely a clear line between honest conveyance of people and events and just being downright fuckin’ rude.

So lately I’ve been giving some thought to starting another, anonymous, blog (Yes! I gotta be me!!) but I don’t have the time (Nooo!!! You idiot!!) and quite frankly, the interest. You see, I found the person who spoke most directly to me, who seemed to reach into my chest, grab my heart, rip it forward and show it to me, was a man I haven’t seen in 25 years. Louis and I were children together with nothing in common other than geography and the band. He, too, blogs under his own name (and not regularly enough! Get on it, soldier!) and he added this to the conversation. I included the whole thing; all emphasis added by me.

  • “While I understand the urge (and need sometimes) to blog anonymously, I get a certain amount of self-satisfaction and therapeutic satisfaction out of blogging under my own name. Also, I am opposed to the notion of feeling “cowardly” by blogging anonymously. [(Did I mention Louis is a Marine?)] I always want to feel that I’m unafraid of the controversies that may arise from posting articles under my own name. My thought is that people will think what they want about you anyway; so why not tackle the taboo issues that affect our everyday living? Sex, violence, racism, etc., are REAL. So, why not allow a REAL person to express their feelings about it. You are a GREAT writer — a helluva lot better than I. You have a talent — a gift, no less! [(Blush)] Your subjects and your style are as unique as your fingerprints and it would be a crime (Did I also mention Louis is a lawyer?) for you not to associate your writings with your personality and your identity. I hope this has helped and encouraged you — but mostly, I hope that you are prompted to expand into areas where your sense of discretion has arisen in the past. DO YOUR THING!! Venture out of the “safe” issues and dive headlong into the cynical, controversial and down-right gritty if necessary. Whatever! As long as you stay uniquely . . . “Stasha.”

I have spent way, way too much time worrying about what people think, a lifetime in fact. Like so many of us, I have hidden my thoughts, hopes, dreams, desires, fears, failures, and triumphs from those who I would like to get to know (and who I would like to get to know me) and then sat around pickle-pussed and pouty-faced because “no one understands me.” I have lived my life to avoid pain (to myself and others) rather than embracing opportunity and adventure and respecting the rights (and obligations) of other to do the same. I have courted the high opinion of morons, and eschewed the company of those who were different, not of me, but different from what other people thought I should be. 

So Stasha will remain “the Dogged Pursuit” though I might create a little nom-de-guerre for my more private comments (That’s right. I ain’t goin’ nowhere.) which might invade the privacy or have the potential to cause undue pain to those I love. I’ll let my anonymous friends know what it is so you’ll recognize me when I show up in your comment fields.

Finally, thank you to everyone who answered my little query — Goose, Hubman, Britni, Kelly, Joan, and Louis. Thank you all for sharing your thoughts, and most importantly, your stories and your hearts with me. We are, indeed, all in a dogged pursuit.

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So I’m walking out the back door heading out for my standard, daily bike ride when I notice I’m doing my “jock walk,” — my thighs roll out from the hip joint slightly, making my stride a little wider; my weight seems to rest more forward in my hips and there is a swagger, but not a typically feminine “swish”; my back and shoulders are lifted and squared, but not tense; my chin is a bit dropped. When I stop moving, I’ll usually stand with my weight on my left leg and my right placed a bit in front, pigeon-toed, arms akimbo. I catch myself doing this a lot when I’m working out or at Karate.

It’s a very manly stance and apparently I am — or rather, can be — a very manly girl. (more…)

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Soooooo, the big “tattoo reveal” to the in-laws finally happened… with predictable results. Judgement, criticism, and condemnation masquerading as concern. I hadn’t told them about it because I knew what the reaction would be, mostly because my mother-in-law had already expressed her opinion on the subject in the past. But no matter really. I didn’t want to needlessly traumatize them and their approval or disapproval isn’t really a huge issue for me. Someone else on the other hand….

Let me back up: I have a tattoo. A large one. On my thigh. I got said tat when I was forty-one years old. I got it for several reasons including but not limited to: I wanted to, I’ve always thought they were cool, I wanted a permanent reminder of a big shift in my thinking, I wanted to burn my ships. The “burning ship” metaphor refers to an early explorer who, determined to journey into the Americas, upon landing in the “Indies” burned his ships so that turning back would not be an option.

My tattoo is a daily, permanent reminder that I do not want to go back to the way I was before. Which begs a couple of questions such as “what was I like before?” and “before what?” (more…)

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“What? You two are just gonna pussy out?” the guy asks, revving his Harley and backing out of his parking spot in front of the bar we’ve been huddling in for the last hour or so.

Mike and I, and the rest of our party, are soaked to the skin. Not just soaked; flooded, drenched, waterlogged, saturated, practically submerged, squishing in our shoes.

“Looks that way,” I reply. “Mike just getting over a cold and I don’t want to push it riding wet like this. When you’re self-employed, there’s no such thing as calling in sick.”

Actually, that’s the “pussy” part of this exchange. Yes, Mike’s been sick, but the real reason we’re bailing is because the guy questioning Mike’s — and I guess my — manhood is a moron. However, I don’t want to get into a honesty battle here, we just want to leave, and a benign half-truth appears to be the most efficient face-saving way to get that done.

The rest of the group nods with understanding and suits up to continue the day’s trek. I throw a leg over the back of our Yamaha, grip Mike with my thighs and he and I light out for home. As we pull past the moron he revs his engine again, shakes his head, and curls his lip in a sneer of superiority.

As we pull onto the road Mike says over his shoulder “What a dick.” I couldn’t agree more. (more…)

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