Liberatory Love, Liberatory Spaces featuring Carvell Wallace

I am honored to have the author Carvell Wallace as my guest, closing out season one. There is an enriching exploration of the complexity of love: how love can be used as a form of oppression and ownership rather than a way to support aliveness and create liberatory spaces. 

Carvell shared about navigating dissociation in a cis-male body, not feeling he had a right to say “No”, experiencing fear in anticipation of sex, and the lack of training around consent offered to men, and consent as an ongoing collaboration vs. a contract.

Why sex with another man can feel like a relief because there is the freedom of knowing your failure will be forgiven.

The value of exercise in helping you feel your emotional and physical body, as well as the importance of compassionately listening to the pace at which your body is ready to feel. Sobriety, parenting, colonialism, being in an open long-distance relationship during COVID, and more. Charna guides us through an embodied consent visualization.

Show Notes

Welcome back to Laid Open podcast with your host Charna Caselle. Wow. So this is my last episode of season one. We’re going to be taking a month long break and starting up again in April. We already have some awesome conversations recorded that I can’t wait to share with you. But you’ll just have to hang out with your longing and allow the anticipation to build until then, time felt like it evaporated with Carvell Wallace, who is our guest this week. I felt like we barely skimmed the surface of each topic because each one was so rich. I hope you enjoy this episode. As much as I did, recording it Carvel covers race, culture, relationships, parenting, love arts and sports for the New York Times Magazine and other outlets. He is the co author of 29 teens best selling memoir, the sixth man, along with NBA champion Andre Iguodala, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, ESPN, the magazine, Slate glamour and others. His 2019 podcast finding Fred on the spirituality of Fred Rogers was nominated for a Peabody Award, and named Best Podcast of the Year by the Atlantic magazine and his memoir on trauma, love and sex. Another word for love is due out in the fall of 2022. He lives in Oakland, and is the father of two teenagers.

Welcome Carvell.

Thank you for having me.

Yeah, I have to say that I am really wanting after getting to read a couple chapters of your book. I’m like, Uh huh. Let me see the rest of it. Bring it on.

Oh, excited to see the rest of it. Yeah.

When? When in the fall? Do you know, when it’s been really?

It’s unclear because I’m still in revisions. I mean, I have a draft finish. And yeah, actually, currently in revision. So it’s sort of depends on how quickly I get the revisions turned around. It’s, it’s a little bit of a, it’s a process where on the one hand, you’re like, oh, I have to finish this so we can get released in the right schedule. And so I can get installment by cheque. And then on the other hand, you’re like, Oh, I’m writing about all these complicated issues that require all this time and patience. So it’s finding the balance between those two things?

Absolutely. I mean, they’re all these threads that are so rich that I want to I’m excited to get to go into all of them. I’m curious about your relationship to love and write. Is that is that a theme that’s really present for you right now? Or has that been an ongoing theme in your writing over the course of your your life?

Well, I think if you were to look at early work of mine, just as a person, not even as a writer, you would find that that is, you would find it there with certain kinds of reading, but I don’t think that I named it as that until recently. And I’m, I’m even wary of saying that. Like that I write about love. I’m wary of that as a branding thing, anyway, because I think that, you know, I really came across this when I was working on the Fred Rogers podcast, there’s, in which love is used as a concept to cover up struggle for equality, to push away the idea that people have to fight for things and the way love can be used can be like a form of oppression under an in and of itself, right and oppressive context. So like with the Fred Rogers show, here’s a guy who’s like, Oh, I like you just the way you are. He’s like, says all these loving things. Love is the answer. He’s like, every kind of bumper sticker, like every lefty bumper sticker of Berkeley that you could possibly imagine. He’s that come to life. And so I think in that show a lot of what I felt compelled to do as like, the host and writer of that show, and the person who was kind of directing. What we were talking about is like, how do you contextualize that, and relate his work, to actual struggles, like real struggles, to dismantle oppressive systems, not just like, with the way love is sometimes used, which is like, Don’t challenge me. What about love? Don’t make me feel bad. What about love you know that that’s, I want had to like, remove him from that, because I think that I don’t think that’s the way he was talking about it at all. And I think I wanted that show to kind of parse that out for people,

Right? When you’re speaking to a concept of spiritual bypassing, right? Or people talk about it as like, you know, toxic positivity. Exactly. And, you know, kind of erasing the range of, quote unquote bad feelings in order to, you know, but no, no, this is what I love. Speaking of love, love about your writing is I love the complexity. And there are so many moments that I actually, as I was reading all these articles that you wrote, I had to like, cut and paste and clip things. And because I, even though I can reframe the question, part of me felt like I didn’t want to do a dishonor to your your words, because they’re so beautiful. So I may read some excerpts in in asking some of my questions. You know, one of the things that that comes to mind around love and the complexity of it is, is how it relates to freedom, or, or lack of freedom, right. And there’s a piece that you wrote about love and liberation, and you’re exercising, you’re at the gym, and you’re having this experience doing these wraps. And you’re talking about not just the thought of love, but the feeling of love in your body. And, you know, the way that I heard it, the way that I thought about it, then, as a somatic therapist, is how you’re in the intention that you brought into that physical practice, then changed your experience of the physical practice in your experience of your body, not just of love. Right, you’re standing? And then you could take that out of the moment into the world. Yes. I think that’s right. And so I’m curious, did you after having that moment, that realization that that could happen? Did you use that as a reoccurring practice? Did you think to, you know, like, set an intention and then go, Okay, I’m gonna now decide I’m gonna have a different experience internally.

So I think I mean, the short answer is I try. Yeah, the long answer is one thing that I’ve been really in touch with lately about my body, I think that the name of that piece was love lives in the body or something like that. And I was triggered to do that. Because someone, I don’t remember who said this, but someone said, either to me, or I read it, who even knows who can remember when they hear stuff anymore? People aren’t gonna remember where they are this stuff. Someone said to me, the point of exercise is to feel pleasure. And I was like, that’s weird. I never thought of that before. Why have I never thought about like, like I said, in the piece, I knew that like sex was for pleasure, and dancing, and food or whatever. But I always thought of exercises like this kind of unpleasurable thing that you push through in order to get some result. Maybe it’s like endorphins or dealing with depression, or to look hot, naked, or whatever the thing your thing is that you’re in. And so this person said that and it is my habit to try and figure out ways to be present, I do deeply subscribe to the idea that I can change my focus and therefore experience something new. Yeah. And I want to caution against that from I feel always the need to separate it out from, as you said, spiritual bypassing and toxic positivity, this sort of like, very capitalist, very lazy idea that like, Oh, you just need to change your internal state, and then you know, then everything will be great. But so I’m like, not saying that. But I’m saying that I have been aware that there’s something to learn, I can experience possibly something new by changing my focus, a certain meditative presence, whatever. So for some reason that worked that day at the gym, now. I’ve been to the gym. That was like, three weeks ago, I’ve been to the gym, you know, 12 times since then. Whatever it hasn’t. There’s been sessions where I’ve just been like, Oh, this sucks. I hate it. How many more reps caught this shit? Let me check my phone. Oh, Instagram, you know, just like, yeah, the way I always am. And then others. I’m like, no, wait, let me actually experience these feelings. So that’s, that’s why what I mean, when I say I’ve tried, the other thing I’ll say is that my body, I now realize this, it’s 47 years old, holds a lot of trauma. And I know that everyone is like, the body keeps score. And this is everyone’s, that’s like the hot thing over the past five years. Sure. Okay. But like, I think indigenous people never would have known that trauma leaves the body forever. Right. But I think that for me, my relationship to my body is complicated by the pain and the fear and the hurt and the trauma that it holds. And I have learned to navigate the world and survived thus far by doing some avoiding of that and sometimes it’s necessary avoiding so the other thing I want to like caution against is this idea that like, no you must face down every trauma immediately be present, feel everything all the time. It’s like I don’t have time for that this world is already shitty enough. Sometimes I just need to get through a Tuesday. Like if I open up the the internet and like a black person has been killed, and my daughter is worried about this thing, and my son is having this, and I don’t have the space to sit and just be like, Yes, I’m going to feel everything in my body right now. Because I need to function and the red needs to get paid, and so on and so forth. So rather than creating the idea that this is a compulsory practice, I like to think of it as like, this is something that’s available to me, one of the things I could do is experience all this stuff from my body. But the reality is living that way brings things up, I find myself angry, confused, frustrated, it’s not always like every time I get in touch with the feelings of my body, I then feel free floating and sexy, and I can live laugh, love 24/7, sometimes, I come out of a few days of that, and I’m ready to fight people. And I’m really pissed off with everyone. And I don’t want anyone to talk with me or up with me because you know, my my fuses short. And that’s because those feelings are also on my body. I feel like as a person, I just try to be present for all the experiences. And I tried to make sure that was part of my spiritual work. And it’s also part of the way that I make sure I’m not causing harm, because to me, I want to be conscious of what is happening inside me so that I can address it, deal with it, talk about it, rather than just demonstrate it without knowing what the hell I’m doing, which is how I think a lot of us live in how I have lived in the past and sometimes still do.

Yeah, yeah, I mean, what you’re talking about is having a compassionate approach to, to whether it’s exercise, or just living and going, Oh, this is the moment to feel into something. And this might be the moment to dissociate from something. dissociation is not inherently wrong. And I and I actually encourage clients to do a practice where they they choose, they go, like, am I present right now? Am I more dissociated? Do I want to go further away? Just maybe notice how I do that. But I totally get a choice. So there’s, there’s, you know, different kinds of trauma where someone may be forced to stay present during a some form of abuse, right? And then it’s, then it’s like, well, actually, choice will dissociation is the most compassionate practice that this person can take on, rather than forcing themselves to feel into something before their system is ready to be with it. Yes.

Thank you for saying that. Yes, I really, really deeply relate to that. And I really find that I mean, this is about, like you said, compassion for self. I think a lot about compassion for my younger self. And I know this is a podcast in which sex is talked about a lot. When I look back on my early sexual experiences,

I wanted to add, so this is this is also what I really loved about your work is that I just want to underscore that, that sex, but it’s erotism. But it’s also aliveness. And that’s one of the topics we’ll get into later. But it’s just simply like, how can we be safe enough to be in alive bodies, and feel our own vibrancy and aliveness, and I totally want to go there, but I want you to finish your thought,

No, I’m just gonna say that I recognize now in retrospect, that there was a lot of dissociation happening for me in my early sexual experiences, like a lot. It was like 90% dissociation when I when I really looked back on it. At the time, I didn’t have context for that, right, because I’m like, this sis dude, having sex in their 90s. I only have a few models to choose from for how to explain what I’m feeling. And none of the ones like there was no model that was like, actually, I’m a little freaked out by sex. Of course, I’m into it. Of course, I’m really happy in some some intellectual way that I’m finally doing it or getting laid. But actually, the experience that I’m having is super sketchy. I’m a little freaked out by this person. I don’t really know them. Why are we naked? What’s up with these weird faces we’re making. And now I can’t stop thinking about something that happened in history class, or I’m now my brain just won’t stop thinking about a song lyric from 1987. Then suddenly, we’re done having sex. And I don’t remember what happened. I didn’t have an explanation for what that could possibly mean, right? When I was growing up. And so to look back on it and say, Oh, that was I was dissociating because I had some very real serious traumas around sexuality. My body was like, Yeah, we’re not going to be present for this. If you want to do this Be my guest. We’re going to be over here. Come come back to me when you’re done.

Yeah. Is it okay for me to reference some of the things in your book? So, what was actually kind of funny was when I when I opened the chapter, I thought it was the sports book. I was like, went there. I was like, damn, I want to read I’ve decided I bought this. And anyway, so So one of his idols. Awesome. So one of the I was like, this is the kind of sports book that I could get into Okay, yeah, so one of the first scenes is that you’re invited to prom by this, this hot girl at school. And they’re in the way that she asked, I can’t remember her exact words, but she’s like, Oh, I’ve never had sex with a black man or something like that. And so she’s totally offensive. And there was some part of you that’s like, well, everybody wants to get with her. So I don’t really get to say no, here. So consent was something that’s completely taken off the table for a young man. You know, because you’re supposed to want certain things, you’re conditioned that way. And then it’s just like, they’re the series of scenarios where you’re introduced to consents in new ways. And, and that it’s like, you know, I can just picture your brain kind of being spun around, you’re at a later in prep, more present time you’re you’re at a sex party, where, where consent is being modeled and talked about in your life? Mm hmm. And, you know, I don’t know how long ago that was, but but you’re speaking to something that I think a lot of people live with, especially men where they’re like, Oh, you mean, I actually get an option? And I don’t always have to be the one who says yes, yes. And always wants it. Yeah.

Yeah, my theory is that, I mean, I think what I ended up kind of coming to in the book is that at least some percentage of the way in which men are grown up, grow up not trained to understand consent, the way men are trained to violate people’s boundaries, is directly related to maybe not caused by but it’s somehow directly related to the way in which we don’t understand our own nuances and our own boundaries. So there’s a lack of empathy, there’s a lack of understanding, because we don’t recognize our own complexity, yes, around sex and sexuality. And for me, I part of this is like, because for whatever reason, growing up, I was almost exclusively friends, with women and girls, like, just from the time I was like, probably like, starting around. You ninth grade, right? That’s when I like when I started being like, almost all my friends were the girls. And and so from an early age, I was just hear about love and relationships and sex and partnerships. Through their stories. They’d say, I was with this guy, and this happened and this. And it was, after a while, I just realized how different Lee that was from when I was around men. And like, there was this constant feeling of when I in the book, I use the phrase sexual automatons like we’re trained to be like, we’re always trying to get laid, that’s what we want to do. That’s the whole thing. I’m Marvel, when I look back at my childhood, at the way it was almost like there was an agenda to make me always feel like my whole purpose in life was to accomplish a sex, pure, you know, like, make sex happen. It’s like, Yes, I liked sex. And I wanted to do it. Sure. But I also 90% of what I was trying to do was fulfill something that had been given to me from the time I was like a child, a baby that I was trying to accomplish in land, and to feel complete. There was no room in there for me to be like, Okay, I absolutely am attracted to this person, and am turned on by the idea of maybe getting naked with him and doing your thing. But do I actually want that? Right here right now tonight, with this person in this vibe? Am I feeling it like that was those questions weren’t available to me. But my body would freak out. When SEC stuff happened. And I remember even talking about later in my life, when you know, I would be you know, this is like an adult, we’d be like texting all week, and I’m gonna come over on Friday and do this to you, you’re gonna do this, all the stuff, sending pictures, videos, everyone’s like, you know, and then when the day comes to like, go over there, hop in the shower, and like, get ready to go, I would get this feeling in my body, like I was going to get beat up after school, like, I would get so scared. And I would want to cancel it and like, just call this person to be like, nevermind, let’s just like go to the library. Let’s go for a book. Like, I don’t want to do this. But it’s like, I didn’t know that I could because then I’m like, Well, what if she feels like, I’m rejecting her? What if she feels let down? If she feels hurt? Or like I’m fucking with her in some way? Or what if then I lose the opportunity to ever have intimacy from this person again, because I have to like, tease them. I got them all excited. Then I said no. And now they’re gonna be like, fuck this guy. And then no one will ever sleep with me again. And I’ll be in LA. You know, it’s just like, stuff. Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s just It spirals. Yeah. So

I used to I used to identify as a dyke. And it’s I had a girlfriend that I had set up the state with. This is in my early 20s. And I had set up a scavenger hunt and the last I’m in my house, right? And the last clue was in my boot. Right? It was like, my mind. I’m like, we’re gonna have it six. Yeah. And the boot gets unzipped. And I felt dread. Right, you know, and I do I do have a history of sexual abuse and different forms of sexual trauma just existing in this world. You know, I really think that it can be tricky. When we create these expectations and pressures that we put on ourselves, even if we want it, we always need to have the right to say no, right? Right, give ourselves a way out, because we are dynamic beings and moment to moment, you know, it’s like, you may want something now, but it doesn’t mean you’re gonna want it in 20 minutes, or even in two minutes.

Exactly. Or you might want something different. And like, I mean, I think there’s this definition of consent that this is This isn’t mine, this comes from like some of the sexual communities that I’m like, having been all about here in the Bay Area, and so forth. But like, we often treat consent, like a contract, like I signed the contract said, Yes, you said, we were gonna do it, I’ll legally you know, you’re required to give it out. And like that, that’s what we’re trained for it to be. But the reality is like that, it really isn’t this ongoing collaboration, it’s two people are in an ongoing, continuous way, collaborating with one another, or two or more people, multiple people are collaborating with one another, over what it would take for this experience to be safe and pleasurable for both of you, right? And so there can never be like, well, two weeks ago, you said you wanted to my blank and put it in your whatever. And now Now, now, we I don’t know what we’re doing on this show in terms of how, especially with being but but you know, and so like now the contract is signed, it’s like, there’s the idea that there’s an ongoing thing, where we get to build what we’re doing together, all of us who are here. And I just think that that’s actually beautiful. And like you said before, the thing I like about it, in addition to it being safer. And in addition to it having the possibility to free us from these incredible traumas that we put on one. And I’ve had, I’ve had it done to me and have done it to other people, just not knowing that what I was doing was like, not what he was supposed to do, right. And so, in addition to being free from that, which I desperately want us all to be, I think it also allows us to experience the possibility of like, a kind of love and like a kind of presence, and sexuality and togetherness, that can be really fucking hot. Like, that’s the point is for it to be alive. Alive. Yeah, for

it to be alive. Yeah. And for it to not be prescribed and for it to be, there’s a yeah, there’s a deadness to like, this is a formula. And you know, first you put the P in the V, then you do dah, dah, dah, you know, when I’m doing for instance, if I’m doing body work with somebody, so I so I’m a I’m a somatic therapist, and I was a somatic coach before became a psychotherapist. And I use martial arts based practices, to help rewire people’s brains through their bodies to develop embodied boundaries, and the ability to be able to feel like what do I want? What don’t I want? Do I want to say yes to this, do I not, or all these as you referred to all these nuances around boundaries, and like you said, if you don’t have, if you don’t even understand what a boundary is, and you don’t have the right to your own boundaries, it’s really hard to, to respect somebody else’s, or to even understand the concept, right? Yes. And, and so somebody may want to do, and I don’t do just to be clear, I don’t do sex, illogical body work, which is like, you know, people may take their clothes off, there may be sexual touch, it’s not that kind of touch. But someone may want to do body work. And guess what, like, it may be that they’re on my massage table, fully clothed, laying on their back, and I may be across the room, not touching them. Because that’s where we start. Right? Like it may be that that it’s like, I’m going to stay right here. And I’m not going to come any closer. How does that feel on your body? How does it feel in your body that I am going to totally respect and hold the boundary that you set, and then we may move closer, right? And, or there may be like, my hand may be on someone’s body and I’m working on their legs or their stomach or something. And then I’m attuning to them, right? I’m paying attention to what their body is communicating with their face and with their breath. All the things that this is the stuff that we don’t learn. This is what should be taught in schools, I believe, right? Like, how do we attune to someone? What are the signals someone’s body gives us when it’s open versus when it’s not. And and so if I if someone’s like, yeah, yeah, work on my diaphragm. And then I see them holding their breath. I’m gonna stop. They may not even know what their boundary is yet, so they can’t give consent. And so that’s the tricky thing, right about these, you know, sex parties or gatherings where it’s like, yeah, we believe in consent, but you have to even know what you’re boundaries before you pay, you can articulate what and some people freeze up and they can’t say no. And so it’s really it’s complicated. And we most people don’t have the tools.

Yeah, I mean, I, I think I think that that’s the that is the complication, in general is I mean, just to nuance this thing that we said before, like, the reason it’s not a contract is because the of the person that you’re talking to might actually have been empowered in any way, shape or form, to know what is or isn’t possible, right. And part of what we do in all interactions, not just sex, but in all relations is allow space for people to find who they are and be what they are. I think that that’s like a principle that I try to take it to all things. Because we’re like, the hard part is that we’re trying to create and maintain liberatory spaces in an environment that is not liberatory. So we’re trying to create and maintain these pockets of liberation. And that means holding space for all of the work, and difficulty and struggle that goes into people occupying those spaces. Right. That means all the confusion all the I said yes. But then I actually realized it’s no all of the uncomfortable when I feel like a little sketched out by everything right now, because I’m finally for the first time I’m having space to think about what it is that I actually can say no to. Yeah, I think that’s the work of the people that I know, myself, and the people that I know who are doing variations of this and all kinds of contexts. And I know that everyone talks about sex, because it’s like installation is one it’s like straight gay sex, but it’s not. That’s just one of the things I also feel like about sex is that, you know, America has this weird, puritanical thing with it, we’re like, both just you never talk about it. And also, it’s the only thing everywhere 100% Everyone needs to be, you know, everything needs to be sex all the time. And like, I’m like, Well, what if sex is a human body thing? No more fascinating or interesting than eating, or work or love, or cuddling or conversation, or eye contact? That it’s a thing that people do with their bodies, that we can normalize it. And so with all these spaces, is when you’re working with someone when you’re getting to know someone, when you’re negotiating a basic relationship move with someone? Are you creating? Or am I creating, helping create a space where we can be liberated in these interactions, we can say what we feel, we can hear what the other person is saying. We can acknowledge one of the practices, I think I said this in the book, but one of the fascinating little technical practices that I’ve heard about that people do a round consent is like, especially at these parties, where if you say to someone, would you be open to doing this thing, and the person says, I don’t want to do this thing that like, one of the cultural markers is to say something like, Thank you for taking care of yourself, which now I’m like, used to but the first time I heard I was like, Dude, what the fuck? Because my whole life, the word no, it was an act of aggression period, whether I was saying it, or someone else was saying it, it was it was an act of aggression. And I felt so bad whenever I tell anyone, Nov for any reason. And because of that, I just would not tell people No, I would have other stuff. I would avoid them. I would you know, sort of things ever just say yes. And then just like, end up hating everything. But the idea that you that saying no, I’m not comfortable with something is actually doing a favor to the other person, creating safety for them, as well as for yourself. That’s the kind of shoe that I meant.

Like, that’s my jam, and Magellan? Well, you know, I do a lot of boundary exercises with people. And there’s such relief, in a clear, no, right? Some sometimes people are, you know, they feel rejected, or they feel heard and that and we can unpack that. But often, it’s like, oh, that actually was really graceful. And that felt good over here. And so when I model that they get to experience it, then they get to do it, we switch roles, then it’s like, oh, that they see there’s another option. But I have done boundary exercises with someone like one where it’s how to say no, but stay connected. And their brain is like you know, like a total brain scramble. Because it’s so counterintuitive. It’s like wait, you’re gonna go away if I say no to you.

Yeah, it’s it’s hard because we live in a culture where people’s nose aren’t respected. And like, right, you know, people people have to fear violence when they say no and So trying to create these liberatory spaces with in the context of these aggressive, violent non laboratory ones, that’s the for me like, okay, that’s what I’ll just be trying to, like, do my little part to contribute to as long as I’m here.

There’s, there’s a quote that I want to read that is in something that I read of yours that relates to this, I think it was in the review of Queen and slim. Well, I mean, it’s, I have a question around it that I wanted us to talk about. But you, you say, this film loves us when we are alive. And that is a love that our country denies us seemingly compulsively. And, you know, raises this question of how to love and allow aliveness when it doesn’t feel safe in your country. And it feels counterintuitive to be visible expressing it.

Yeah. Well, I think the thing with this work is that there aren’t a lot of how tos, you know, really available. I mean, it’s like, it’s more like, whoa, here’s what I’m gonna do. But I’m not saying everyone should do this, because maybe not everyone is ready for this at this point. That does, it’s been a long time since I wrote that that was 2019. And, like, fall 2018. What that makes me think of now. Yeah, is that love someone while they are alive means to love them without it being conditioned on what they mean to you. And what I mean by that is, I wrote about this actually, a few weeks ago, in a piece about going ironically, to the smell Museum, I don’t know if the Museum of smells in Berkeley, I don’t know if you know about this. There’s like a museum of smells. It’s really a house. It’s like this woman who’s just collected all these scents, it’s a fascinating thing. I went there, I had a friend took me there and it was beautiful. And it made me meditate a lot of colonialism. And because that, unfortunately, I have to think about 24/7. And I went in there and I was thinking a lot about the relationship to the earth, the kind of your Eurocentric relationship to the earth, which is one of extraction the way if I love something, I’m going to take it, and I’m going to make it mine, and I’m going to bottle it and then I’m going to do whatever and then I’m going to make a business out of it. And then I’m going to after the business becomes huge, then I’m going to miss the good old days when it was just individual. And I’m going to make a big make a business out of like making it like the old days. And I’m going to tell people that, that there’s this but this constant relationship of extraction to the earth means that it but but and then you say well, I’m doing this because I love it. I love these flowers. I love these essences. I love vetiver I love this. I love this. And so this is how I express my love for it, is by taking it. And and I was thinking about that metaphorically, because what that feels like to me is that we don’t in this culture, we aren’t trained to love something by letting it be yes. If we love something, we feel like we now get to take it. And I’ve talked before, on another podcast I was on Kelly Corrigan wonders. And we talked about this concept of that, to love black people in America, a lot of the things that I find fascinating folk, a lot of America’s relationship to blackness is that, like white America will love us as long as we’re doing what they want us to do, and the way that they’re hoping that we do it. But if we do something differently, then the same people who are like, Oh, I love like people, all of a sudden, they’re like really angry and annoyed because we’re too loud, or we act this way, or we don’t do that. And so this idea that. So that’s, that’s the second level of that. There’s like, you’ve got that, and then you’ve got the thing. And then you’ve you’ve got stuff in interpersonal relationships, like you have with your children or with your partner, where you just met them seven months ago, and you’ve dated, you’ve done the sex and you’ve fallen in love, and now you’re in their life, telling them that they should be more like this. And there’s less of that. They’ve been doing them for the whole time you even liked what they were doing. That’s why you’re here. But now that you’re here, you start to be like, Well, my way of loving you is by expressing some opinion on what you should and shouldn’t be doing and how you should or shouldn’t be. Yes. And to me those that’s a through line of inability to love something in its living state. Yes. Where we are first trained to love something by removing it from its living from its aliveness and making it into a museum piece. Yeah, in the Museum of our music, we now own this piece and we get to look at it have one, but it’s now in our box. It’s frozen and dead inside the frame. And we do that with relationships. We do that with culture. We do that with the earth. That’s what we do.

Absolutely. I’m over here trying to I’ve had a teary day anyways, but I’m like, I’m like, feeling that I’m really really feeling that and what it actually has me think about is so I work with a lot of clients who’ve had narcissistic or borderline parents And I was thinking about America as a narcissistic parent to black people, right? We’re basically what happens there is there’s, you don’t get to have needs, you don’t get to have emotions, you don’t get to get to have a separate experience, that you’re you exists to serve the like, oh to, you know, if it reflects good on me. Like, if you’re pleasing to Me, then that’s okay. And that so you get to exist in a very narrow box, and my heart, I feel just really sad about that. And I see how many people suffer, and how hard it is to unwind the thinking and the internalization. That that creates for people about their own worth.

Yes, well, yeah, there’s that that’s very bad the way that, but I also think it’s really hard for white people to unpack that, I mean, surely in some real way, disentangle this stuff. Because I think those ways of thinking are so deeply intertwined into how people interact with an interpersonal basis that you kind of got to be down for the work. And this is what I mean, by to live trying to do like deep internal liberation stuff means that you’re going to be kind of uncomfortable, like a locked into it, you know, right? Well, then that’s, I mean, you know, in, in doing somatic work, and working with the nervous system, so much is about building people’s capacity to be with their sensation. Right. And with somebody can’t be with their internal sensations and their internal emotions, then that’s when they react, and they often react like a toddler. And, you know, they, I guess, right? It’s just they react badly if they’re not in their highest selves, and, you know, nice way of putting it. gentle way of saying that, yeah, yeah. And there’s and they’re also not conscious that it’s not about the person in front of them.

Yes, I would say that. That is definitely. Yeah, we live in kind of a tantrum nation. I mean, we’re in, like, massive tantrums?

Absolutely. It’s, I mean, in the last four years, even more, so what one of the things that that I want to come back to that was in your book is, so I’m always thinking about what creates more freedom, right. And so you’re talking about these different things in the book that perhaps create more sexual freedom for you and being with a male partner. There’s one really beautiful example, in this scenario, you’d met someone on Grindr, and you’re having what ends up being a one night stand, you’re having an encounter. And you know, there’s so there’s, there’s the freedom of having sex with a man versus a woman. And one of the lines is, I felt he understood failures of men and forgave them. And in that, I hear it, there’s so much in that sentence, you know, that I just imagined the sense of relief around the complexity of power dynamics between a man and a woman. And you know, there was this, I remember something about, you know, I wasn’t afraid I was going to traumatize him or re traumatize him. Right. And not to say that, that men don’t also have trauma. But there is this, there’s just this freeing up of being able to just be and there’s more self acceptance in that moment. And I would love for you to say more about that.

Yeah, I mean, thank you for pointing that out. Because that’s one of those things that when I wrote it, it was like, even at my desk, I was like, oh, oh, I just, that’s really the thing I didn’t, you know, it just kind of came out. And yeah, I do think about that a lot. I think that is what I’ve tried to articulate. When I have tried to articulate what the feeling is about me with men. Sometimes not always depends on right variety of situations. But there, there is something that feels, I think, yeah, I mean, yeah, the failures of men, you know, my primary partner is sis woman. And when we’re together, I am always aware of all of the things that she’s told me about her experiences or relationships with men. And I’m holding that in ways that sometimes make it hard for me to just relax into the sexuality. Right? Not always, but sometimes it’s just there. It’s like, is this Do you want to do this? Am I gonna? Are you good? Are we, there’s this, that dialogue is always happening internally for me. And not that I don’t think that I think that that’s what it means to be intimate with this person. And that’s part of what another definition I have of love. It’s just like, if you aren’t going to do love with the person, then you probably better accept what it means to do love with a person. You can’t just go and be like, I’m gonna do love with you then like, well, this is what I need to be loved. And you’re just like, That’s ridiculous. Please, like, you know, calm down like you’re, it’s like you’re present With that, but I will say that in those sexual encounters particularly like, and I think I think this is one of the this is one of the many, you can look at all the historical reasons this is one of the many reasons why anonymous sex is like, operates the way it does among and among men. Partially it is that it is because there’s, I’ve always felt a certain. It’s like I can, it’s like, I can relax, it’s like, I can breathe fully. I’m like, Oh, you’re, you’re like, you’re not the way my body is shaped isn’t, you know, like, yours does this to like, the way you know what I mean? Like, if I’m not 100% hard, like, you know why that happens and how that’s happening. If I’m not, you know, it’s just like, it’s just, I don’t know how to explain it, there’s just something. So I tried to sum it up, because part of what we do in writing is, you know, you can’t write a thing, you can only represent a thing through writing, it’s like, you can’t paint a flower, but you can like move panes such a way that it gives you the feeling of a flower. So I tried to organize that sentence in such a way as it gave you the reader or whomever the feeling of freedom that is available in those encounters, even if it’s not always there. Yeah,

Yeah. Well, beautifully done. It was conveyed. That the the other thing you refer to a young, like the first man that you ever loved, and who’s your best friend, and, and and you say, I will probably never love in that way again, because I will never be that young again. I’m too old, I’ve been black for too long to love a white person that freely. Yeah. And And again, what was one of those sentences that has so much in it, because it speaks to the freedom inherent in youth without like, the jaded, jaded ness of life experience, but then also, around racism. And again, it’s like this, the stacks, how these experiences pile up, and create, you know, like, create literally a hardening of the tissue at times. That’s what that’s what trauma is. Right? And, yeah, and that, that concrete, that creates a certain restriction to feel ourselves or to not feel pain is what you know, how tremble is in the body. So again, any anything else that you want? From that?

Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting, because there I mean, I was just trying to, without a lot of more moral judgment, lay out a quality that I experienced as an adolescent, or that I realized was in play, when I looked back at my adolescence, was certainly I knew about racism. And certainly, I knew that the world was fucked up, and that police were bad. And you know, in that liberal white people were super sketchy. And, you know, I knew the basic stuff just from living. But there was some kind of, there was some kind of innocence available to me, that allowed me to just be like, sure, but we’re just two kids riding around the valley and a Hyundai singing Jesus Christ Superstar. Like, for some reason, we got really into that musical, you know, and like, it just like the sheer joy of like having that experience. And so we can do whatever we want. Because none of it matters or not, no one has left home yet, for even though our home lives, both were terrible in their own specific ways. There was this, you know, freedom there, that I’ll never, I can’t have again, really, I don’t know if I even want to, or should. I just was noting, I tried to without too much like, you know, judgment that that was available then. Right. And that was part of what that loves. That was part of the fuel for that love. And it might not be available this way. Now, maybe something else is a fuel for love. Now, maybe love is fueled by much different, more complex things. Now, but when you’re a teenager, and I’ve written about this in other contexts, too, that may or may not find their way into the book, when you’re a teenager. Love can be freaking for very simple. It’s just like, I’m happy to be alive and out at night with you. And you make me laugh. Right. And we’re allowed to touch each other like, This is amazing. I think I’m in LA,

right? Yes, well, and you know, and there’s, there’s, there’s another piece that you, you know, you’re talking about, and I’m imagining this is your present time, love who you love apart. And so when you have children, and you have distance, and you have all of these external structural challenges, and then you have the news, and then you have life, and then you have all the things right. I mean, there’s endless lists of things that come into the bedroom that are you have historical trauma, like that, you know, sitting in the corner, and it’s its own encapsulating and entity that impacts the sex that you’re having right or that we’re just just not even the sex but just the connection between two people there. There are a lot of things Not to say that, that being a teenager, I mean, there’s there can be a lot of trauma and complexity at that age. But yes, there’s so many more things.

Yeah, there, there is a lot of I mean, there were a lot of trauma for both of us at that age. I mean, that was we were trauma bonded, in a sense, I mean, our relationship was based on that. And yet, there’s a, there’s an malleability. You’re young, that you can have this fucking dramatic thing happen at home. And then an hour later, you’re in a tug of war parking lot. And it’s just like, you couldn’t be happier. Everyone just giggling and laughing and making X rated jokes and throwing burritos at each other. And it’s just like, you can just have that, you know, you there’s a malleability. And it’s like you’re, you’re, you know, you spring back in a way that you don’t when you’re older, because by the time you’re older, it’s just like, one thing after another after another after another. And so, the way of love is, to me feels like a little bit slower. It’s a little bit like more than navigating in a much more conscious way. All the shapes are pain and suffering and resentment and trauma. That’s the work of love, but it’s not better or worse, it’s just has a different quality to it for me,

right? When you when you’re like, we spring back, all I could think of is like our skin, you know, like I’m, I’m 46 Baskin, pull it out? Is it going to spring back? You know, it’s like, our bones are more calcified. Like all the things really does. We aren’t necessarily for sure,

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, partially, it’s because like, maybe we’re not more malleable. Maybe that’s part of it. Part of it is that to be in the Taco Bell parking lot at 11pm. In North Hollywood is as exciting as having your parents throw a cigarette at you at home was traumatizing. They’re equally exciting. So like, you leave the house. And your dad says this, and I’m talking about not my home someone else. Yeah, my parents are the boss. And and so you’re, you’re like dying in this way. And in fact, this and then. So like, you get into your car and you drive away, and you hook up with your friend and you guys go to talk about and the excitement of being there is ways evenly in your mind. Right? Life is so new and fun, that maybe that’s part of how you make it back.

Yeah, we have these, you know, like Nurten heightened emotional experiences, lay down tracks in our brain, right, they create neural pathways. And so whether it’s positive or negative, and I absolutely 100% Remember, you know, driving in my friend’s station wagon packed with probably like eight kids. My boxing it like, you know, yeah, anyways, it’s the joy of those moments also functions to offer that freedom from, you know, the things that were intolerable at home, right. Yeah. Yeah. So I’m curious, are you still friends with this guy? Are you still connected?

We’re not super connected. I think we have a reunion coming up. And I mean, we like follow each other on social media. But we had a little bit of a falling out. It was years ago. But I think it’s well, I think, I don’t know, it’d be interesting to like, reconnect with him, which I’m sure I will do. At some point. I think, you know, life has had a tweet with both of us. You know, that’s it. So, as it does, as it does, you know, we’re both 47. So a lot of shit has gone down to both of our lives since, you know, we were 16 or 17. And so I think they’re probably I don’t know, I mean, I do think that I do think that if we saw each other those fundamental feelings never go away. As long Yeah.

Yeah. Yeah. Right. Yeah, as much as our skin may not snap back. You know, there’s like that expansive internal work, that we that we have the capacity to feel at at any age. And so, the your, your, your current luncheon in New York, the piece that you wrote about that? That’s is that A is that a person person in your life? Is a present person in my life? Yeah. And so I’m curious, you know, when I think about consent, and and the, what may have felt like, even more challenging thing to do pre COVID Like, in certain ways, there’s more complexity navigating an open relationship. Definitely during COVID At the same time, consent Conversations, I’m really curious how your understanding and your relationship to consent conversations has perhaps shifted as a result of COVID times.

Well, you mean in terms of risk managing the risk of COVID itself?

No, I mean, you know, it’s funny, it’s like it’s it’s, it’s a two tiered question because of the way there’s the joke of like, everyone, you know, some people may have done I’m awkward having safe sex conversations. But that’s what COVID is like, sex conversation, it’s like a cry out and you’re having it with, you’re having it with your repairman. You’re having it with your parents, you’re having it, you know what I mean? And so my, my little prayer is that it instills this, this muscle, this practice around actually being mindful of each other and realizing we all have needs. And so I’m just curious how you have navigated that with your partner.

Yeah, I mean, I remember early in the pandemic, or that early mid be partway like halfway through the first years, a friend of mine, found this document or maybe someone that I met online, like on a dating site had it on their profile, I don’t remember. But it was like this document that was basically a COVID risk. It was like a risk tolerance rubric. And the idea that different people have different risk tolerances. For COVID. And a friend of mine, I shared this with them, and they were blown away, they were like, Oh, my God, this is just like safe sex. Because, you know, they told me the story about they met up with a friend. And then they were like, they assumed we’re going to be outside, we’re going to be masked. And then the friend like, showed up and wanted to go inside and wasn’t wearing a mask, had just hung out with some people yesterday. And so my friend was like, Wait, yo, like, this is way beyond my, my COVID tolerance. I am not with this. This is not the business I’m and so it was like this conversation about how we tell you COVID risk. So to me, like that’s metaphor of like, this is similar to the to the STI testing conversations that we have before sex and around intimacy first popped up, because the metaphor was so clear, I think my partner and I inherently have similar relationship to risk tolerance around COVID. And so it we haven’t had difficult conversations around that when the pandemic began, they started to think someone that was where they were at that is because the situation was so different, at the beginning of pandemic, between where my partner is where I was, like, the trauma that they were experiencing was just different than what we were experiencing, it just was. And I think for them, it was really hard to not be intimately connected with someone who was also navigating what New York City felt like in this first, amongst a pandemic, where it was like sirens, 24/7, it was like, refrigerated trucks outside of hospitals, like it was different. And we didn’t see it, it didn’t look that way. Here, it’s similar to when, you know, back in September, when we had the that crazy, you know, that orange day and then the fires. And it’s the way that I think about the the climate trauma that we collected the experience in the Bay Area on that day, I had to be with someone who, who was like, there that day. Yeah, who was like, What the fuck was that. And, you know, amount of like Instagram posts are explaining or writing about it online could explain to people who were in New York, what it felt like here, to see that sky look like that. And so, I think it was a similar thing for my partner. And so I think at that point, my feeling was, do what you need to do. Like, you know, like, and, for us, the first time that we saw each other after pandemic, it was, I don’t know, I don’t know what it was, but it was, you know, like, was the pandemic began, March, April, May, June, it was somewhere in the early summer, mid summer. And, you know, it was like, we can’t not see each other this is, this is a lot. So I’m just gonna take the risk. And I like, just was I consulted with friends of mine, who were flight attendants, a friend of mine who works in an ER, everyone told me how they manage their risk. And it was like, really intense, like, I suited up and just like multiple clouds, and, you know, like, I got there. I was like, okay, no one touch anyone until we shower and wash everything and the decontaminate, you know, and it was, probably, it was definitely overkill, because the airport was empty. There were like, eight people on the plane. I mean, but, you know, and then we got tested and got tested again, you know, it was like, Yeah, we manage all that stuff together. But I think also, it’s like, I think would have been much harder to manage that if we were living in the same place. Because partners I know who have open who had open relationships or have them and live live together. That’s a whole complicated because now you’re gonna go out and be with someone and then you’re gonna come sleep in the bed with me that night. We didn’t have to worry about that. It’s like if you’re going to be with someone, you were with them two weeks ago, and then I’m gonna see ya weeks. And so, you know, that’s kind of Yeah, that’s a really interesting point. How, actually, this is one of the one cases where, you know, a long distance relationship actually felt like more secure and safe in a certain way, and created a little more ease. Yeah, that’s this other this other piece that you’ve mentioned about. Sometimes the need that we have to have somebody, you know, that will not sometimes often, to have someone really get our experience, not just imagine but but have shared an experience. You know, this morning, I woke up from a dream, one of my best friends died in January. And she was in my dream last night. And so as being with the grief of that, and so, you know, I ended up, I left a message for another friend of mine who also lost one of her best friends. And because I just knew that I that she would get it. Right. And so whether it’s climate change, whether it’s, you know, I was thinking of 911, and that that same kind of experience, right, or I’m even thinking about the importance of, you know, the sex party that you talked about and how it was for, for people of color. And that somebody initially the pilot, one of the planners was like, Well, you know, you can bring your white partners, and then there was a whole dialogue around that, and how that that created a lack of safety and was like, whoa, wait a second, that’s not creating a space where everyone has a certain kind of shared experience. While we have all of our differences, we have this in common. Right. And so this Yeah, this base need of like to create safety, that that shared experience and how important that is.

Yeah, and I think that I think that, you know, this question of like, affinity is like the word that comes to my talk about affinity groups. I think that like, this is one of the reasons why the traditional model of a relationship that exists where two people glom onto each other and make themselves into like, it’s you and me, and no one else. Yeah, it’s kind of unsustainable, because the likelihood that you’re going to find someone who was able to comprehend all of your experiences is very low, that we need to experience affinity, we can’t experience it only with our partner, because, you know, unless we’re dating a clone of ourselves, we’re going to have to find we’re going to have to seek intimacy with other people who understand aspects of our experience that our partner can’t. And, and part of the, to me, thing about loving someone in a way where you don’t pluck them out of the earth and keep them from living, is you don’t prevent them from doing that. You don’t say to them, like, because I don’t like because I don’t relate to this thing? Or because I don’t have this thing or because this thing is can’t belong to me. I don’t want it to belong to you. Like, that’s, that is a way of stifling them and keeping in cutting off their oxygen supply. Yeah. And you know, so yeah,

It do you identify as Do you have a poly relationship, a polyamorous relationship, or non monogamous relationship? Like, what’s the thing that resonates for you?

I don’t know what the words are, like, both of us are just kind of like skeeved out by? I don’t know. Yeah, sure. It’s not monogamy. It’s probably me, like, I don’t know. I think part of what we what we talked about this this morning, we actually are working on another project. We had a meeting about that this morning, where I think we’ll talk about these issues more publicly. But part of the thing is like, it’s has to do, like, what, to me, what queerness is always been about is like, imagining a space for yourself where one doesn’t exist. So that’s part of the fatigue and labor of it is that, you know, and some of us do it, because we don’t have any choice. Like when I was growing up, everyone was like, Oh, you’re gonna be a black man here, do this. And I was like, Well, okay, but also, what about this other stuff I want to do? People were like, Yeah, I don’t know how to do that. But you got to figure that out on your own. And so then I got to, you know, figure things out. And then but that was with every space is like, Oh, you’re going to be an artist do this. I’m like, But what about this other thing? And it’s like, well, we don’t know how to do that. So then I’m constantly creating space for myself. And I think that’s one thing that most queer, queer theorists and people that I’m in community with, we have in common is that we’re creating stuff for ourselves that doesn’t exist. And I think that’s the same with relationships, the way we envision a relationship is that it gets to be an ongoing collaboration between two people about what just like consent about what the interaction between us needs to be in order for it to be safe and pleasurable Vogels and that may mean that we borrow from some existing models you know, someone may say well and and in relationship anarchy, we do this and this we do that whatever. Or someone may say well it polyamory This is how we structure our primary and secondary, and we may borrow some of that, but we’re borrowing it because that’s what we feel like would work for us or what we hope will work for us not because that’s just what you do. I love it. And I heard a definition of relationship anarchy the other day, that was different, but I always thought of it as I thought it was like, what I always thought it was just like every When I don’t know what I thought, but it was this and someone defined it as anarchy means every community makes its own setup. Without control from the state, the state doesn’t decide what’s right. For every community of community decides what’s right for itself. That’s the same in a relationship in relationship with the community. And if you want to carry the metaphor, the hetero duel, me and you and you know, like that, everything from that, that’s the state saying, Well, this is how you do a partnership, you get married, and then you have a baby. And then and so we in this community, we don’t want the state defining how we do it, we would like to find we build what we need to build in order for us to continue to practice love with each other.

Yeah, I love that. You know, I, I work with a lot of people who have quote, unquote, unconventional relationship. It’s like, they’re creating their own thing, you know, and just going outside of, it’s like, okay, people want to put people in boxes, people want to, like, they want things to be very cut and dry and very clear. And it’s the same thing with religion, right? It’s like very binary, it’s like, it’s either this or it’s or either this, versus the, you know, some people who are in a spiritual path where it’s like they’re taking from these different religions or practices and creating their own thing that feels aligned with how their soul wants to evolve. And, you know, of course, if you have like two different souls that are wanting to evolve and grow, it makes sense to go like, Oh, well, what? And you’re trying to be present and mindful to what feels good. It’s like, well, what, what feels good to us now? And now? And you know. So it sounds like you’re that years ago, I discovered that what, you know what we talked about self love, that term gets thrown around a lot. And what it is, for me, it was like, having compassion for myself was a byproduct to being responsive to what felt good. And each moment, right, it’s like, Oh, this feels good. Now, this feels good. Oh, wait, oh, no, I like this. And being giving myself permission and accepting versus making myself wrong for the things that that I wanted or felt good. It could be so much shame, especially around around sexuality, that I ended up in a place of like, having a lot of compassion for myself, which I didn’t, you know, plan for what was it like, packing my bag and going on the trail? And it’s marked it up? Yeah.

Yeah, yeah. No, I yeah, that’s like, I think that’s it, I think that it is, I think it’s really hard to have compassion for yourself. When it’s both hard and necessary to have compassion for yourself. In a world in which you experience a lot of hate and a lot of violence directed at you, we do internalize that we internalize. It’s just like, when you’re a little kid and your parents, you know, people who have parent parental abandonment, when you’re a baby, you think somewhere in your body, you think that it’s because of you that they left? That’s because of you. And just it’s just like that. I think that when you experience systemic, cultural, oppressive harm, there’s some part of your body that internalizes the idea that this is because of you, even if you know it’s not. And, you know, it’s like that, and that that’s why this practice of self compassion becomes political and radical, because it’s a way of undoing the internalized aspects of our oppression.

Right. And, you know, along those lines, so anytime there’s there’s abuse of power, whether it’s with a child, whether it’s with a race, whether it’s with, you know, between a man and a woman, etc. There’s the stories right there stories that that the person who’s being oppressed make up about themselves. This is basically just repeating what you said. And so I’m curious for you is Have there been any particular practices that you’ve engaged in, that have made a big difference in stopping the story and shifting the tape, interrupting it, so that you can start to believe a more liberating story about yourself?

That’s such an interesting question. For me, mostly, what I write what I struggle with, and I think I’m actually coming up against this in the book is that in the second half of the book, I’m struggling, I’ve sorted like at the first half I like I’m like, here’s my trauma, like Welcome to the trauma so here’s you do like the kind of like trauma tale beautifully told narrative that we’re always used to getting from these books, these memoirs, and but then I’m like, we can’t stop there. So then in the second half, I write about these present things, these things that have happened and are happening now. And the thing I always struggle to explain is, well, what changed? What did you Due to make it so that you were this person that all this stuff happened to? And I don’t know if I can pinpoint it, I’m really trying. Yeah, there’s a lot of things that it was a lot of stuff that happened. One of the main ones is I didn’t want to hurt people that was really important for me. Like, I didn’t want to hurt people, and I was hurting people. And fortunately, if there’s anything fortunate about it, people that were hurting with the kind of people who would tell me, you’re hurting me, this thing you do hurts. And so because a lot of people don’t receive that feedback, they because a person doesn’t even trust that they’re going to hear it. So they just keep it moving. Yeah, but my experience was that I could see people said to me, this is when you do this, it sucks. And I like didn’t want to do that. And so I had some vague sense that probably the way in which I treated myself was related to the ways in which I inadvertently hurt other people, even when I was trying to not hurt them. And so I think that was like, how I picked up sort of the thread of like, I need to deal with my own shit, probably because it seems to be causing people. And then I had kids that really did a fucking lot. Because then you have these little people here and there react, they don’t give a shit about what happened to you when you were eight, you know, and, and so like, they just do not care. The most liberating thing about children is they don’t give them talk about you, they do not care what your story is, they don’t care what the narrative is. No interest, just deal with me right now.

Be accountable, be present, accountable, to be paid. That is what I’m here to tell you, especially for the little you know, for those first, you know, however many years and it is amazing when they get to be teenagers, and they start being like that. What was it like when you were a kid, and then you start telling them? And this Wow, that’s fascinating was this, do you have any pictures? That’s the reason that process is so powerful is because it is the first time they begin to recognize that you came from somewhere, you didn’t just come out of the womb fully formed with a beard as their dad did. And so I don’t know until I think it having to do with my kids was a big part of how I started looking at my own shirt, you know, going to therapy, obviously, it’s like everyone’s like go to therapy, go to therapy, get it go to there. I also for me, that’s just part of my path, which is that I can use drugs and alcohol a lot when I was in my early 20s. And to deal with all these emotions. And then at a certain point I stopped I was really depressive after a while all the drugs I used were depressives, not stimulants, because I have this kind of hyper active ADHD brain that was always going and so the only relief I could get from it was to be under the influence. And that really worked for me until it didn’t. And then when it stopped working for me, I reached a point where I was like, Okay, what if I never what if I stopped doing that, and I tried a bunch of different stuff, oh, quit for a week, and I’ll do this, and I’ll never do it on Mondays, you know, all that shit. And then eventually, I was like, Alright, enough. And I would say that for me, my life changed a lot, once I stopped, whatever, you know, like, stopped using drugs and drinking because it, it meant that I had to deal with stuff. That was that I was using drugs and alcohol to do that meant I had to find another way to deal with it. Right? I had to sit and feelings, you know, feelings would come up. And I would say like, I feel really hurt or confused or angry that this person did this thing. And like, I would like to go get fucked up. But I can’t really do that. And I can’t really like yell at them either. And I can’t really like what can I do? Like, I don’t eat some chili cheese fries. Like what do what options do I have at this point? You know, and it’s like, at a certain point, I started realizing that I could let Feelings come and go. And that and that helps me understand them. They helped me be more patient with them. It helps me it helps me see see them. And it helped me see other people’s feelings as well as my own. And it also helped me be afraid. less resistance. Yeah, I think when someone is doing something that we think is going to give us a feeling sometimes we’re like, Oh no, that’s gonna give me a bad feeling. I just shut it down right now. And so you’ll say a shitty thing or kind of like take a Sideswipe at them in some way or pick up their insecurities. Just because you’re trying to stop this future feeling that you think you can’t survive? Well, part of the drinking and alcohol for me was like every feeling I had, I could change it immediately. I had a shitty day I can get drunk. I am feeling super in love and happy. That’s also too much for me. I can get drunk. So like, what I found was just like too much feelings. Yeah. And so once I once I stopped so that was this thing where it’s like, you feel like you have control over all your feelings. But that’s not the way life works. And part of for me getting sober meant was that I had to approach life in this new way where I actually get to watch feelings rise and fall. I don’t actually get to intervene and micromanage them, not my own and not other people’s. And what I learned through that process is oh, I will feel terrible for a week. And then a month later, I will feel fine. So I don’t have to be afraid of feeling bad. So I don’t have to panic when the bad things happen. I can just deal with it on its face value and keep it going, you know?

Right. Right. Right, that there was some perspective and going like this feeling as it is, while it feels like shit is not going to last forever. Yes, yeah. Well, congratulations on, on doing that. I know that’s not an easy process, whether it’s becoming sober and present with your feelings, because you’re, you know, not using drugs and alcohol or whether it’s just like turning towards any kind of trauma. It’s not an easy process. They can be totally terrorizing but but as big as your capacity is to be with that grief, and that fear and that rage. It’s also that big to be with pleasure, and when, you know, with peace, and, and joy and all those things. So you have you grew your capacity. Yeah.

Yeah. All right. I gave Yeah, I came to accept the largeness of my capacity.

Mm hm. Yeah. Yeah, I

would say another thing to just finally on this topic is that because a lot of the people that I love in my life were, had lived in for their whole lives, taking care of my emotions and my feelings of mice of my internalized patriarchy, taking care of that was necessary in order to love people that I love. Yeah, it was necessary in order for me to show up in love. It was just, it was just necessary. I couldn’t do it without her.

Right. And I think what you’re saying is so important, because whether it’s your white person, or whether you’re a man or a straight person, you may not even realize your limited capacity. Like you may not realize that you actually could love better and more and more deeply, until you do this work until you feel these things and then you’re suddenly like, Oh, look at that. Yeah. It’s been so beautiful to get to talk with you. And I hope it’s not the last time. Yeah. And I don’t think it will be Yeah, yeah. I want to read the piece about the smell Museum.

Oh, yeah. I’ll send it to you. I would love

If you would share how people can reach you know more about you any social media links, anything that you want to share with us?

Sure. My other website Carvel walrus.com car, ve LL. W. A LM ice. That’s also my Twitter handle Cara Wallace. So my instagram handle is Carmel underscore Wallace that you could just search me on medium I have a current contract that I do with them where I write four pieces a month. Usually I do it at the end of the month in a big jumble because I procrastinate and so I’ll do that this week. No, but yeah, between that and the website and that you’ll find on my work or most of my work is between one of those places.

I want to thank Carvel again for exploring the nuances of what love can be. When people who love you exploit or abuse you. Whether it’s a whole country of parents or lover or humans overly consuming the Earth’s resources, your relationship to love becomes much more complicated than straightforward, good feelings. Loving also means supporting and respecting what someone needs to feel empowered, vibrant and safe. Which leads us to consent. What would the world be like if starting in elementary school everyone learned embodied consent practices and understood they always have the option to say no at any point. Understanding this intellectually and your body knowing how to execute it are two very different things. gender and sexual conditioning play a huge part in why sis men may not see saying no as an option has Carville story illustrates. Men are supposed to always be ready and hungry for sex. I remember in high school kids saying men can’t be raped by a woman. They wouldn’t get hard if they didn’t want the sex. Well, yes, our genitals may have boundaries for us by going soft or getting an infection. But when we have conflicting feelings about having sex, a body can simultaneously feel scared or want to say no and still get physiologically aroused, and ejaculate during sexual abuse result. When that occurs, it can cause confusion, self blame and shame. It’s important to remember the role power plays in Boundary Crossings. As a kid or a teenager even a few years difference can create a power dynamic. Of course, sis girls are often conditioned to not disappoint and to please, this pressure can lead to overriding their own boundaries, and neglecting their needs in sexual situations. Girls who do this then often become adults who still freeze up and don’t give voice to what feels good. You can’t give consent if you Don’t know what your boundaries are. In my experience, everyone needs embodied boundary training. A lack of boundaries or ability to attune to others is a universal affliction that we can all get better at. We all have blind spots. So this week’s exercise is going to be focused on embodied consent and paying attention to the information that your body is giving you. While if we were in person together, I’d have you stand up and do a martial arts based practice with me. studies do show that simply by visualizing something, muscle teams fire and new neural pathways in the brain are formed. With practice, these neural pathways that didn’t previously exist, get reinforced and support you acting in new ways you couldn’t access in the past. Instead of defaulting to freezing With practice, you can develop the option to say no push away or walk away. So go ahead, and if you feel safe doing so you can close your eyes. You can also grab a pen and paper to take notes as you go or to journal with afterwards. So when you’re ready, first, we’re gonna get grounded in our bodies. Everyone has a different starting baseline. What does it feel like when you feel more settled and solid in yourself. Maybe your legs are heavier, and your head feels clearer, where your chest feels less tight, and buzzy. Put your attention on your lower belly. Breathe here. Relax your pelvic floor. Feel your feet on the back of your body. A full belly pressing against your ribs as you breathe in activates the parasympathetic nervous system and calms the body. We’re going to keep coming back to this grounding practice in between our visualizations. The more you practice coming back to this place, you will find it with ease over time. Imagine you’re walking down the street and a stranger walking past you asks you for your phone number one person freezes up and doesn’t know what to say you may feel fuzzy, you can’t think clearly stop breathing. Your torso and legs feel tighter. Someone else feels nothing and keeps walking. Or if you’re attracted to the stranger. Maybe you’re intrigued and something warms up inside you and your body begins to open.

Pay attention to your sensations, thoughts, emotions and memories. Have you felt this way before? What were you feeling emotionally? Scared? Excited? Blank. Maybe you default to being tough and feeling nothing? What thoughts arise? I have to be nice. I don’t want to hurt their feelings. How familiar are these? Are your body signals something you pay attention to? Or ignore and override? And where did you learn how to do this? Who in your life modeled that? Now imagine that same stranger grabs your arm are the thoughts, emotions, sensations and reactions the same or intensified moment to moment your state and your needs change. If we aren’t paying attention. It is hard to respond to ourselves and perhaps change course. Maybe we’re okay giving your number but someone grabbing you sets off alarms. Right? Do they have Who do they think they are? And feel the impulse to push away or to run away or to freeze? Pay attention to your breathing? Has it changed? Imagine you have a big brother or sister or any ally who’s an adult who’s there to protect you, who’s standing there with you really see them, feel them next to you. Rather than dismissing or minimizing what you’re feeling or telling yourself you should feel otherwise. This ally says you have a right to feel that I’m here with you. If you’re uncomfortable, that is enough of a reason to say no. Don’t touch me. What is it like to have that adult there with you? What happens in your body when this ally speaks up for you? People don’t always have bad intentions. But your need for safety is your need for space and you do not need to apologize for it. It can change once you feel safer or you may get activated with someone you previously felt safe with. You get to change your mind. We have brilliant bodies that are always communicating with us. If we listen, we often can anticipate or avoid situations that become dangerous. Again, come back to putting your attention on your body in the present moment. We’re going to ground again to your lower belly. Breathe here. Soften your jaw. Feel space between your lips and T relax your pelvic floor. Feel your feet. Breathe through your feet through the bones and your leg See out your feet, and feel the back of your body. If you need to orient by looking around the room and notice the textures or colors you are drawn to do that. If you feel disoriented at all, remind yourself what date and what time it is, say this out loud, if you need to pause to that. Otherwise, let’s practice again. For some people practicing with a stranger is harder, while for others, it’s people from our past or present that feel more charged. So now recall a situation where you wish you could have said no, could be a situation in the present that you are anticipating. And you know that you want to say no. If you’re already feeling agitated when you just think about doing this, don’t pick the hardest scenario. If 10 is the scariest or hardest, then pick a situation that would rank at a three. Who comes to mind? Where are you? How old? Are you? Use all of your senses to conjure the scene? How is this different or repeat of what happened when you imagined a stranger? What are you thinking and feeling emotionally and physically? Once you’ve taken an inventory of your state, and you’re registering how much info your body gives you, again, come back to grounding and orienting to the present moment.

This is a practice that you can do repeatedly. If we were in the same room, I do a physical grab or practice and move towards my clients. And then we ground we do it again. And then we ground and it’s really important to keep coming back to that more neutral safer state. You’re teaching your system, how to calm itself and regulate when you’re outside of a funny exercise like this. And you’ll be surprised at how much more access you have to find it in a stressful situation. I love exploring the complexity of who we are how we feel and relate to ourselves and one another as well as help people create more internal ease, which allows us to be inside the discomfort of hard conversations and issues. 

This has been Laid Open Podcast with your host Charna Caselle. During this month’s long pause, you will have a chance to listen to past episodes. If this show feels beneficial. we’d love if you’d please rate and review it and share it with your friends so others can find us. If you have additional questions around sex and trauma, you can submit them at charnacaselle.com. If you found this exercise helpful or want to see it written out, it will be reposted in my blog along with a number of other exercises from previous episodes. Follow me at Laid Open Podcast on Instagram and Facebook and read more about my work at passionatelife.org. Until next time, much love

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© 2022 By Charna Cassell, LMFT. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. MFC 51238.

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