Purveyor of Pleasure

Delving into my humanity and the joys and pitfalls of an overanalytical nature.

Tag: the only way through it is through it

Lost

I got lost somewhere along the way. I often think I wasn’t supposed to look like this. I think life wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Somewhere my voice got lost. I forgot to speak up, then I forgot how to. I removed so much of myself that I started only using other people’s words, not my own. Then I forgot what was mine. I was rewarded for it; they like it when you’re obedient.

People used to comment on my appearance like I was either hiding behind it or using it to express myself. Neither assessment ever felt right to me. What I look like was always disliked, so why not wear what I actually enjoy?

I tried so hard for so long to be comfortable with my outsides and my insides. I was not always sure if either of them was me, really.

I spent so much time frozen and alone. I guess that’s what I got for growing up in Alaska (not really that, but it’s a good excuse).

I spent so much time paralyzed by fear and uncertainty. I guess that was what I needed. . . at the time.

On Writing a Thesis Focused on Embodiment and Emotions (thesis excerpt)

This is an excerpt from my Master’s thesis titled “Erotic Embodiment and Integration of Soul, Spirit, and Body: Toward a Sacred Erotic Psychology Healing Praxis,” it is a piece from the Introduction

To say it is difficult to write about embodiment is an understatement. Writing is a tool of the mind and splits us off from bodily experience. Language cannot fully capture the essence of being embodied, of being in a body, or of bodily sensations and emotions, but it can try. For the most part, language brings us out of our bodies and puts us apart from ourselves, especially language in an academic framework where one is compelled to be aware of sentence structure, word choice, proper citation methods, and so on. The question of how I can write an academic work on embodiment is one I have been grappling with since before I began writing it. The language that most closely aligns with the body is imaginal and poetic. With exception of the praxis chapter, my use of poetic imaginal language has been limited. I have not engaged with the imaginal and poetic nearly enough. Here is an attempt.

I really value each of the realms of spirit, soul, and body and the various ways they each manifest in the world, and I know that of these three realms the body is the most denigrated. This culture has a body problem. It has a problem in all three realms, really, but the way we approach the body is so much more backwards and twisted in my experience. We do everything we can to avoid focusing on our bodies, and that includes me. I have spent a lot of my own life hating my body, treating it as separate from my essential self, or ignoring its needs, feelings, and warnings.

My body has stiffened from the chore of sitting in front of a computer, writing (or attempting to write), while fighting against all the internal blocks I have against doing this work, my work. I can feel it in my shoulders and the back of my neck in the tension that creeps its way up and down from my head to my lower back. I get hit with it when I stretch, arching my back to hear the cacophony of crunchy popping sounds as my vertebrae realign themselves, and suddenly the release of tension sends a momentary throbbing spiraling up all the way to my temples. I can feel it in my knees and hips, the way I hold myself as I walk, where on my feet I place emphasis. I can tell when I am resisting the process and when I am not coming to my work with all of my strength by the way that I sit, passively and slouched or tall and engaged. I can feel it in how I am holding my teeth and tongue, the crack of my jaw when I yawn, the bend of my left knee when I take a step (am I fully bending it, or dragging that foot as I move?), or the pop of my right ankle when I get a twinge or stiffness in it that needs to be rotated out. My body tells me things, and I choose to listen to it or not, though the more I do this work the less I can ignore it. I notice the tension, I breathe, I move.

I do not claim to be perfect at my own methods, or to have mastered embracing the theories and praxis described in this thesis. In fact, what is driving me to do the work that I am dedicated to doing in the world, the work that this thesis is but a fraction of, is my own struggles with embodiment, connection, and belonging. I have been experiencing my own process as I have been writing about it, articulating only as far as I have been able to traverse my own self. Thus through this process I have had to feel my way through it just as much as I have had to work my way through it. I have had to nurture my own self, to build up the strength and self-love and self-compassion. To bring awareness to the things that I do, conscious and unconscious, and the patterns that I am enacting and reenacting within myself and with my lovers, friends, and family. I have gone through some major shifts and realizations within myself through this process, and also know that it is not over. This is just the beginning.

In going through this process of embracing my emotions and letting them flow, of excavating my own shadow and my own past, of working to understand the patterns laid inside of me back in the time of childhood and pre-verbal processing that still run me, of attempting to experience exquisite embodiment of the Self that is called Tai in this incarnation, I have had to confront most if not all of the parts of myself that keep me back. My self-sabotage. As with everyone, all of my issues are interlocking, threads in the tapestry of my life that interact and intersect, not just discrete problems that can be approached completely independently of each other. I have had to face head-on my own fear, grief, shame, anger, some nasty patterns of internalized oppression and repression. I have had to confront my fear of taking up my own space and what it looks like to put something so large as a personal sacred erotic manifesto into the world. This work details the entirety (so far) of my life’s purpose and my understanding of spirituality, sexuality, psychology, and their interactions with each other, and I am really taking up my own space by declaring my own mastery of it. I have also had to process and move through the grief I experienced surrounding the very sudden death of my father, and the emotional and psychological patterns instilled in me generationally and personally through him. I have recognized the shame I have held on to around being my true authentic self in a society that reviles people like me in multiple intersections of my identity. I have had moments of intense jealousy and shame around my relationship with my primary partner, and due to our interlocking patterns around intimacy and attraction we have, on occasion, fallen down the rabbit hole of destructive behavior.

Shame has been a large factor in my excavation process, and shame is necessary to face when doing this work. Emotions are necessary to face when doing this work of the body. To this end the work of Brene Brown and Karla McLaren have been indispensable to me. I have realized the amount of emotion processing that goes on in the face of change, and know that is a vital aspect of becoming. All emotions are particularly powerful, necessary, and important. They each have a reason for coming up when they do and a particular purpose or gift to share with us, if we are open to them. This entire thesis process has been an emotional one, and has impacted my body as such.

Struggle

I’m feeling small and sore from beating myself up today. I’m thinking a lot about what it is like to practice gratitude and self-compassion, and trying to practice it. I’m wondering what I will be like on the day I find myself much closer to the non-perfectionist end of the perfectionism spectrum and am able to marvel at the change that has occurred.

I’ve been trapped in life-paralysis for so long, waiting (not consciously) for some external force to knock me back into reality, but I’m realizing the messages I’ve been getting: the only way through it is through it; do the fucking work.

All of my life my self-worth has been connected to my accomplishments. I was told “what matters is that you do your best,” but then what was considered “my best” was also dictated to me. I was praised for excelling and giving disapproving and disappointed looks when I didn’t meet the acceptable standards. This wasn’t so bad, as I often excelled, but I also became terrified of not producing perfect work.

I have been struggling. The last year and a half has brought many things to light as I’ve worked to excavate my own self, my own darkness. I haven’t known how to ask for help. I still don’t know, as I don’t know what will help, but admitting it is a step. I have been struggling with so many things that I haven’t known what to do or where to start.

As I’ve been struggling, though I’ve also been working and I’ve been healing. I’ve been doing and changing and growing. I feel stronger and closer to that person that I want to be than I ever have felt before. I’m simultaneously nearing the end of one path and beginning another.

But, still, most days I’m struggling. I can find the strength in it and I can give it a positive spin, but I’m still hurting. I’m still feeling small and sore and there is still a part of me that is whispering “you’re wrong to feel this way” and “you’re not good enough” and “you don’t belong here.” There’s still part of me that is paralyzed and living in a state of constant fear of being found out. That part that thinks that some day everyone will realize I’m not really as interesting, intelligent, awesome, skilled, attractive, insert-positive-opinion-here, etc. as they think I am, that I’m really just unworthy of their time, energy, and love.

I know the things I would tell a client or friend who admitted this to me: everyone experiences this to some extent, some less than others, but you are not alone. I would tell them that part of themselves as their best interest at heart, it thinks that it is helping, that it is somehow keeping them safe against the threat of shame and judgment, that it really just wants them to be happy (even though its tactics are not useful). I would encourage them to feel love and compassion toward that part, to thank it, to engage with it, to work to integrate it. I would encourage them to hold themselves accountable, but also cultivate self-compassion and imperfection. I would encourage them to sit with their feelings and find where they’re rooted in the body. And so on.

These are all things I’ve told myself and am working on, but there are some days when that paralyzing part is the loudest voice inside of me. There are many days when I just break down and witness myself being paralyzed. Today was one of those days. I’m reminding myself that it’s okay to be imperfect. Telling myself to lean into the discomfort and embrace vulnerability. To fake it until I become it. To do the fucking work. To Breathe.

What’s Going On

Because I apparently can’t be bothered to write a proper blog post, even though I work on dozens of drafts in my spare moments (though those aren’t many at this time in the quarter, which is almost over), I’m going to list a few of the exciting things that have developed in my life since I’ve last written.

Work Stuff:

  • My Sexological Bodywork Training Program is almost over. The end of module three of that will be this Thursday, and I am planning on being finished with all the work for it that day. Thus soon I will be a Certified Sexological Bodyworker. There will be a post more directly about Sexological Bodywork before Thursday, also.
  • I’ve begun seeing clients, primarily as part of the aforementioned module three. Currently I have three clients I’m seeing weekly, though that will shift a bit for the next couple of weeks for the end of the quarter rush-to-write period I always end up in. I’ve put up Embracing Pleasure, my professional site, but it is still under construction. I plan on seeing clients in a part-time way until I’m out of school.

School Stuff:

  • I’ve changed the name of what I’m studying since I first wrote about it. I’m now calling my degree Sacred Erotic Somatic Psychology. Technically it will simply be a Masters in Psychology, but my final project will reflect what I have been studying. I have a Paint-made venn-diagram of my degree program here (one of my degree committee members loves venn diagrams):
    psych-spirit-sex-venndiagram2
  • The current (Spring) quarter will be over June 21st, and then I’ll have a few weeks off before summer quarter starts. I’ll be taking only one class this summer at Antioch: an independent study focused on the work of Dan Siegel and Brene Brown. This is part of why I love my school. Still ironing out the details for it, even though the independent study contracts were due already (oops).
  • Also this Summer I will be attending the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture and Society at the University of Amsterdam! I have plane tickets already and will be heading over there on July 11th and returning to Seattle on August 12th. I’m so amazingly excited about this! It will be a fantastic experience, it feeds right into my degree (the credits should1 just transfer over), I get a neat certificate at the end of it, and I get to study in Amsterdam for four weeks! So much awesome.

Blogging Stuff:

  • I changed my online names from ScarletLotus to TaiKulystin2 in social media places (such as Twitter and Fetlife). Kind of working on a rebranding thing, I guess. It isn’t my “real” name, but it’s the name on my business cards and the name most people in the world know me by. Even at school I go by “Tai,” but not Tai Quyn Kulystin. Kulystin is the last name Onyx and I chose for ourselves quite a while ago, though we are not married and are not planning on getting married, but we go by the same last pseudonym online. This isn’t really that new of news, but I haven’t talked about it on here.
  • There’s a newish layout on this blog that I haven’t mentioned in a post. There is also a new layout on my sex toy review blog, which is now called Shameless Pleasure (used to be Wanton Lotus Reviews). I haven’t posted on there in ages, but I do have a number of toys to review. That will happen eventually.
  • There’s a new banner/navigation ribbon thing up at the top of my pages that link to each other. If you’re looking at the site, rather than reading through email or a reader, there should be a red ribbon up at the very top of the page linking to my professional site, my sex toy review site, pleasurists, and this site. I unashamedly stole the idea from Erika Moen‘s sites.

Other Stuff:

  • There have been some changes and shifts in my relationship with Onyx again (as per usual at this juncture). I’m still seeing three other people, some more frequently than others. He’s started seeing someone regularly. Life is going on as it goes. There will eventually be a blog post about all this. Probably multiple.
  • My birthday is coming up at the end of the month3. Two of my closest friends who both live in Oregon are going to be coming up here for it, which I’m quite excited about. I’m planning on a bit of a birthday bash out and about around Seattle, which will include dinner, table top games, and then dancing at the local private goth club. This may be the most excited about a birthday that I’ve been in years.

The finer details of all of these things will be shared as they happen… probably. I’ve got so much to write about and so little time! Hopefully you enjoyed this little update of my life.

  1. crossing fingers as I will have to have them evaluated once they’re awarded to me, but there probably will not be any problem with it. []
  2. though I’ve been contemplating using TaiQuyn or TaiQuynKulystin instead for the sake of continuity as I can’t have TaiKulystin on Facebook… Hmm []
  3. I would not say no to some items from my amazon wishlist if you are so inclined []

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