Tag Archive for 'pleasure activism'

the pleasure dome

my loves

i am so excited to announce that i will be writing a column on pleasure, justice, feminism, race and pop culture for Bitch Magazine – it is called The Pleasure Dome and it will be published every other wednesday.

i see this as a collaborative space to explore and learn about using pleasure towards collective power. let me know what you want to explore!

the first column is up here – enjoy!

lessons from solange

just listened to a delectable remix of “Cranes in the Sky”, Solange’s song where she looks in everyone’s whole life and Ripertons thru all our coping mechanisms so pretty style.

the remix is from Kaytranada, via Taylor Renee Aldridge of arts.black and “my faves” fame. putting CITS on repeat (original or remix) while reading this review will make it more accurate for you.

i put CITS on after a long day of life work and i start dancing around, leaving the hard day in piles on the floor.

i think i should write a sci fi short/book about Solange, but not tonight. tonight i am just sitting with her wisdom:

when everyone else is being smooth, jut and jitter and be an angle that must be observed and accounted for.

make it all sacred.

it’s good to roll with the squad nearby, just being themselves.

when everyone is trying to be hard and cool, be soft, sharp and ethereal.

even when simple and forgettable are trending, be complex and irresistable.

when there is too much fear to breathe in, or even take it all seriously, be a balm. a tuning fork in the ground beneath us, making us praise dance. be a healing energy, nourishing not because you ignore our suffering, but because you make room for our wholeness.

be you, and make no concessions or apologies.

(this fractal extraneous review of life lessons applies specifically to “cranes in the sky”, inclusivally to the entire album, and generally to Solange Knowles)

pleasure activism is contagious

yesterday i got to be a part of Arts in a Changing America – ReMap: Detroit. the effort of this work is to address the changing demographics of the US and understand the role art has in shifting narrative and opening justice-based futures.

the day started off with six workshops to immerse people in innovative artistic practices for social justice. i offered a workshop called Writing the Future where i had folks do future memoir entries about art they had been a part of that shifted the course of human history.

in another room folks were writing poetry with tawana, another group was foraging in the wilds of Detroit with shane and mama myrtle, and another group was processing grief with sounds and song with rebecca and ron.

after the workshops we all gathered together for a call and response. the speakers were dream hampton and favianna rodriguez, talking about this moment for Detroit, for Oakland, for artists and activists.

favi showed some of her more recent work, which is focused on challenging the phobias that make us feel shame around our desires and bodies, pussy power, claiming the human right of pleasure. dream spoke about the patterns of mass incarceration and drug sales, advocating for the right of black people to use and sell weed without being criminalized.

i, of course, was the loudest member of the amen chorus in the audience.

to close out the session, both women spoke about the role that masturbation has in their self-care, creative and work processes. i was whooping and hollering with joy!

abby dobson came up and sang while a video of women assaulted and killed by the state played, uplifting the #sayhername campaign to make clear that black women, cis and trans, are being targeted and killed by the state. i must say it was a shocking transition – the work, her voice, were so powerful. i have chosen not to watch most of the footage that comes out, i know we are under attack. to see it with others, with a sacred sound around all of us, was deeply moving.

afterwards a group of us sat, immobilized with grief. slowly, laughter, sweetness, hugs and pleasure helped us to acknowledge that a constant truth of our lives right now is grief, but we are complex, we have so much resilience.

we have the right to each other.

we went out and got “sun all over” our skins, as richard pryor taught us.

later in the evening many conference attendees gathered around dream’s table overlooking the city, and the pleasure principle was the center of our conversation.

i mostly want to talk about pleasure these days. for a long time i have been unknowingly quoting mae west: “an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away,” because pleasure was my health care plan for years before i knew how to talk about it.

at the table we shared survival strategies of pleasure and asked each other questions, to repeat things. we wrote notes, book titles, names. we were learning together, this was sensual scholarship.

we talked about sexual, reproductive, mental and emotional health, favorite toys, increasing the practice of pleasure, decolonizing desire, getting into real practices of consent, asking for what we need, putting action behind our radical sexual theory, how oppressed people cultivating their own pleasure can be an act of resistance, and how ridiculous it is that sex and the pleasures possible in the body are still such taboo topics.

the next book i will be working on is all about pleasure activism and it feels right on time. this day made me feel…titillated to get to work.

being high with amb

i often speak of being a pleasure activist, and i even reference weed, but it’s rare that i actually write to y’all – or anyone else – while i am high.

well, i am high.

IMG_2532 [photo of shirt made for me as a birthday present, quoting marty from house of lies]

i quite enjoy myself when i’m high, and i have been contemplating these last few minutes as to whether i should blog an explicitly high post.

post an explicitly high blog.

write this.

in a serial way.

but the journey of a million high posts begins with one. this one.

being high is one of the primary ways i process this world. i work hard, and then i smoke weed to slow down enough to understand the scale and impact of my life, what is urgent and what really isn’t. i dive into less accessible layers of my own thinking and feeling and see what i have been carrying around. my body relaxes and lately i notice that i am often holding tight, contracted, when i am not aware of it.

this makes sense when i notice it. i am on defense, as a [inserts my whole self here], my body is in danger. my spirit is in danger. my brilliance is in danger.

my brilliance is a given, it’s a DNA level common trait, a brilliance of survival. you have it. yours is under a different danger probably, a different unique combination of dangers.

and yet there is so much pleasure to be had. pleasure of resistance against the wrongs we generate. pleasure of release into what is. the pleasure of the fight and the mystery. and then the erotic.

(the song should i stay or should i go came on and i thought – that should be what consent workshops are made of)

the erotic: of, relating to, or tending to arouse sexual desire or excitement. synonyms: sexy, sexually arousing, sexually stimulating, titillating, suggestive;

being high i become available to the world of my skin, my fantasies, my feeling self.

i know this will be suspect but i do need to pause here because i am watching stranger things and it’s getting really good!

*

oh well one more thing is that the erotic feels deeply related to this subtle and constant contraction. it is a way of pulling in me, making me smaller so i can be safer in the world. but there is no safer. there is only smaller.

but small can be so good. when i orgasm, the dance between contracting and bursting open is where the pleasure happens. the pleasure emerges from a very small place to be everywhere.

when i think of how change happens, it is mostly like an orgasm. out of a lack, or an intense pressure, a problem begins, a need arises, and it draws in all the attention until, all in one place, there is pleasure of togetherness and connectedness and it changes everything.

this show (stranger things) is pretty amazing so far, i feel fully drawn in.

although part of me wants to listen to frank ocean endless on repeat some more. i watched the video once but i tricked my phone into letting the music loop all last night. the music is lovely.

well i am done writing. should i press send now or wait until i am not longer high. which is more honest?

[i chose to wait]

*

ok i came back to say i think i created a term, but it feels so obvious that someone needed to have said this before. we all do it. the word is: highlaxing. people do many things when they get high, but not all of them are highlaxing. this requires snacks, good entertainment, a clear schedule. nice things emerge like face and hair masks, magazine or book reading. dancing in the rain. writing children’s books.

i just wrote four poems and a children’s book based on an incident involving my niece and a frog (the frog did not survive, but may always be remembered).

*

STRANGER THINGS IS AMAZING

*

frank ocean (endless) man this is intriguing and meditative and the music is atmospheric. i am for it, i like how you…how he is experimenting and working up to his release in a variety of ways and claiming his renaissance nature.

AND i want an album where i can play the ‘at your best you are love’ song (which i think of as an aaliyah cover, all facts to the contrary) on repeat.

*

FRANK OCEAN BLOND/BLONDE IS AMAZING
IVY! white ferrari, solo, godspeed – i
wait no i can’t even. i can’t say more now.

——

what do you think of this experiment? enjoyable? repeat? not so much?
<3

national network of abortion funds 2016 keynote

tonight i had the honor of giving the keynote speech for the national network of abortion funds 2016 summit. i spoke after they gave each other awards and there were lots of tears and just so much recognition and celebration of their incredible and radical work. here are my notes from my talk, what i planned to say and what i think i added in. <3

I would like to open with centering words from octavia estelle butler, the black science fiction writer and, I would argue, prophet-philosopher.

first, let’s take a moment to center, come into this moment:
let yourself be heavy with gravity
and light with stardust
and look around your table, connect with the people around you
and connect to this moment

now, octavia says:
all that you touch you change
all that you change changes you
the only lasting truth is change
god is change

i always evoke her into these spaces because she taught me to be visionary.

wow. so here we are in texas, this massive great state that gave us beyoncé.

now, i was also born in texas, not to imply that all first-born singing virgos from texas are at the same level, or that you should expect a beyoncé level performance from my speech tonight. i only aim for perfection.

but seriously – i heard that there are only 6 abortion clinics left in this state. as we sit here knowing how hard we are working to make moves forward, as we make our Best effort to create changes within and beyond the system, as we raise the money to create our own systems of care, we are still only meeting about 1/3 of the need.

and we are traversing an election season that for some of us is ‘so historic’, for some of us is ‘so depressing and/or terrifying’, for some of us is ‘totally irrelevant in terms of tangible impacts in our communities’, and for some of us all of the above.

this fight of ours is both a local fight, and a supreme court fight. it is a fight that can sometimes feel rigid – as if all the territory has been mapped out already. as if every victory is fragile, and every position must be defensive.

and yet we must win, right? we must not only end hyde, but go beyond, beyond smashing our opponent (which can absolutely satisfying, i know). we need to evolve the conversation beyond the realm of opposition – we must create such a change around abortion that no one can deny it.

everyone in this room is part of an effort to create change. and yet sometimes we forget how change actually works. we think of change as an external impact – we will do something, and the other person will change. and we will stay the same, and we will be happy.

we do this at a personal level – how many of us have fallen in love with someone’s potential? with our story of how we were going to liberate another person’s best self?

or educate a family member?

we do this at a collective or organizational level. how many of us have gone to work at institutions that were deeply unsustainable, or patriarchal, or had severe conflict aversion or other really big clear red flags that we imagined we could transform on the strength of our own (naive) brilliance?

(i won’t ask if anyone here is still in that situation. we are all feeling the love – and i know it’s complicated.)

and of course we do this at a political level. we can see so clearly how the other, our opposition, needs to change. and we set forth to change them. we rage against them on facebook and twitter, go head to head in policy wars, or give them the evil eye at holidays. (cuz you know all this political opposition is in the family, right?)

and of course they are doing the same thing.

our lovers are imagining that we will begin to put the toilet paper roll on correctly, and stop interrupting them with important details when they tell a story to our mutual friends.

our organizations hope that with time we will get so passionate about the mission that we will overlook the regressive structural issues and work the extra unpaid hours to close the gap between the needs of our communities and never-quite-enough resources we can generate to meet those needs.

and politically, our opponents hope, and probably pray, that one day we will cave. that we will say fine. you all should make the decisions about what we can do with our bodies. you win – what were we thinking?

now, within this battle of wills, no one actually wins.

we all get amazing at fortifying our positions, at polarizing the entire world in a binary system that has no room for complexity, for changing positions, for life experience. we create hierarchies of ourselves and others.

octavia teaches us that we use our intelligence to construct hierarchy, over and over. and then we revel in it. i am guilty of this. i feel superior in every way to any man who seeks to legislate my body.

i can’t help it!

it is so easy to see the change that is needed in others, or needed in large scale systems. it is so much harder to create those changes within ourselves, to live up to our values, to live into the unknown, the theoretical – what we FEEL is right, even what we have proven is right at a small scale.

it is particularly frightening to see socialization rooted inside ourselves, and to pull it up. and yet that is what we have to keep doing, and what we need to inspire the rest of this country to do.

most of you are in this room because you have done this work to unlearn the shame and stigma so many of us still get taught to associate with abortion, and to step to the front line to make sure that anyone who needs an abortion can get one.

your work here, all of you, has been so crucial in this respect – you are putting your time, life and resources on the line to help us change how we access abortion care from the local to the national level. you are supporting low-income women, women of color, young women.

i commend you all. i am grateful beyond words. (part of why i wrote this down was because of how emotional i was just preparing for this)

i am grateful as a full spectrum doula.
i am grateful as a survivor of ectopic pregnancy.
i am grateful as an auntie to babies who will have more choices because of your work.
i am grateful as an ever evolving pan-queer-sexual human (who knows what the future holds?)

i thank you.

so now i want to explore what the next edge of growth is for us. what will be healing to everyone we touch?

all that you touch you change. but it also changes you. change is a multidirectional activity.

one of my biggest areas of question to offer tonight is – how do we expand our network of change? i mean, not just who we will change, but who we will let change us, in order to reach far enough to change everything.

to even consider letting others change us, we have to have a solid sense of self. a movement sense of self. we can create change around abortion, we are growing reproductive justice. we are creating a new world here. that you all have raised the money you have raised in spite of the cyber and ideological attacks, the vitriol and socialization of this country is a tangible measurement of that change.

but as we succeed, our opposition changes.
as we get bigger, they get frightened of losing power, and become more dangerous.
as they become more dangerous, their strategies and policies become more outrageous.
and then we become more fearful.
and we can get very narrow, trying to just protect ourselves, to hold the line for the tiny sliver of dignity and liberation and basic rights we cannot live without. our vision, tucked tightly in a safe place.

but often what we think we are protecting is already gone. vision is the collateral damage of a reactionary movement. the ‘vision’ begins sounding like “not this! repeal that! stop that! can we just get a little of this? a tiny bit of justice?” (i speak from experience)

remember the personal relationship scenario? you ever find yourself in a fight like – “wait how did we get here? i don’t even care about the toilet paper – i started this conversation because i want our home to feel like a retreat center of love and equity! you got stuck on bathroom habits, and what the heck? are we breaking up right now?”

it can be funny – even if its not funny at the moment we can usually laugh in retrospect, depending on how the breakup goes.

but this happens in our political work all the time. its less funny there.

this has absolutely happened with our work for reproductive justice, we keep finding ourselves in external and internal debates over differences that distract us from our vision – which is that every person has agency over her, his or their own body. it isn’t about one choice – its about a multitude of choices all rooted in love and equity.

humans tend to change in a cycle.

people say history repeats itself, and in some ways it does. but each time, the group of humans is different, the world is different, and even if it looks the same from the outside, within each cycle are evolutions, micro shifts that create different outcomes.

this slow but determined cycle of change is why so many of our movements are evolving beyond silo’d issue struggles and embracing intersectional identities.

it is how this movement is coming to understand that any discussion about abortion is a discussion about race, about poverty, about borders, about prisons, about control, about collective liberation.

that took so much work. your work and so many others. it is imperative to celebrate that work.

in order to realize our vision for a world in which we have safety and agency for all humans in all bodies, we have to understand this iterative cycle of change, and aim not just for surface shifts that advance or regress from administration to administration.

we have to get very intentional about how we “transform ourselves in order to transform the world”. those are the words of grace lee boggs, my late mentor. we have to create an ideological majority and stability around abortion access and reproductive justice, one that can normalize inside an ever changing world.

i know we can do this.

grace also said “we must assume our power, not our powerlessness”.

octavia called this shaping change. understanding that change is inevitable and constant, but if we are awake we are not simply victims of change, or reacting to change. we can be a force that shapes change.

we can shape change around abortions and reproductive justice.

it is time to get visionary about abortion.

(visionary. what do i mean? not idealistic. not never never land. (vision is kind of my fetish – one of my fetishes))

last year a book that i co-edited with walidah imarisha came out, it’s called Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. we asked organizers to write science fiction, because we realized that our work as social justice visionaries and organizers is to bring about a world we have never seen. a world without poverty, without patriarchy. a world where every human has the right to make their own difficult choices for their health and lives, towards abundance, towards liberation.

we haven’t experienced this world yet – we are cocreating it. so organizing is reaching forward and pulling the future into our present. all organizing is science fiction. (we are all badass super heroes!)

and what we found in our organizers was that many went above and beyond our call. we don’t lack vision, we lack permission.

we called it sci fi to reach the place people are familiar with, but it is more precisely called visionary fiction. walidah created that term to speak of art we create with intention.

art is never neutral – it either upholds or upends the status quo. so Octavia’s Brood gathered stories of the future that show change as a process, as a bottom up, collective process, centering marginalized communities. neither utopian nor dystopian, because as we know those actually tend to go hand in hand. the 1% depends on the 99%. first class has to be in front of coach. even heaven requires hell.

we invited stories that took us beyond binaries, that took us to the edge of what these organizers could see.

because gloria anzaldua taught us: “nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.”

this is our work. we must dream the impossible, dream it together, out loud, until it becomes practice and pathway. we must collaborate on our ideas, subverting the capitalist practice of competing like gladiators to have the best idea. we must build collective vision, deep intentions that allow radical adaptations in the unknown future.

(now, i say this next part as someone with deep southern evangelical anti-abortion family members)

a lot of the people who are counted in our opposition have been negatively impacted by the execution of their own espoused values – unable to get the abortions they needed; born to people who did not want to, or were not ready to, parent but felt they had no choice; people shamed for their pregnancies; then shamed for their abortions.

our imagination needs to include these women, our story needs to be big enough to invite them in.

i have been talking about imagination a lot lately. who gets the right to imagine? who gets to realize their imaginations in the real world? we are, in fact, in an imagination battle. i borrow this line of thinking from claudine rankine and terry marshall – right now we are living inside the imagination of other people. people who think women and black people and people from other countries and people with different abilities or desires are dangerous and inferior. can be shot down in the street. mike brown, renisha mcbride and so many others lost their lives to that imagination. we can be regulated around the choice to bring life into this world, we can be controlled through the violence people take based on their waking dreams.

those imaginings have created the conditions of oppression that bring us into this room. the results of this delirium are that women, especially women of color and poor women, are not to be trusted with our bodies. it’s not sane, but it has been institutionalized. and as we grow our resources and our ranks, it is imperative that we burst out of the box that the conservative imagination designates for us. this means moving out of a defensive stance.

i am creating work at a particular intersection. octavia is there, grace is there, and gloria. and a few other ancestors who bear naming.

toni cade bambara charged us with “making the revolution irresistible”. i think of this often when i find myself turning to fear or shame as a motivating force for my people (i never mean to do this but it comes out under pressure, fear and shame are contagious).

how do i make a future of justice an irresistible option? how do we paint in the loudest colors a picture of a world in which families are intentional, joyful, resourced with love and longing. that’s what’s on the other side of abortion access.

audre lorde is also at this intersection – she taught us of pleasure – that it is the experience of the erotic, of being fully sensationally alive in real time, that makes suffering unbearable. she said, when i am “in touch with the erotic, i become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.”

so i have been reflecting on how the fear of an unwanted pregnancy seriously impacts pleasure and power. in part because of the process of abortion. but, i think, in much larger part because of the narratives around abortion, the trauma of stigmatization, and the lack of emotional support for those who make this choice.

in terms our opposition might understand, they “deny themselves heaven” in this regard, because i suspect a next level of sexual freedom and erotic evolution is also on the other side of abortion access and human-centered reproductive justice.

the final piece i want to add here brings us back to where i started. one of the ways we change ourselves is to change our stories, yes – and my invitation is to bring creativity, joy, love, longing and pleasure into the next stories told about abortion.

but the other way we change ourselves is to put down our armor, or at least move the shield to the side so we can see who we are fighting with. this is ESPECIALLY important for our internal differences. how much of our time and energy do we spend trying to change each other, instead of working to align with each other?

this is a lesson from nature, which i have been studying in a deep way for my next book, which is on emergent strategies, focusing on the way complex systems and patterns emerge out of relatively simple interactions.

in nature the big creatures, those who are the same species but battle each other for territory – the lions, tigers, bears (oh my) – they are on the extinction lists. the creatures which work together with clear distinctions and roles and a shared sense of survival, those are the ones that are proliferating. ants, birds, roaches. octopi and squid. slime mold. these organisms move at the speed of relationship.

the black lives matter movement has been articulating this practice as moving at the speed of trust – that’s as fast as we can go. and our impact can be as big and powerful as our trust is.

our internal movement armor comes in the form of political positions and think pieces and call-outs. we must practice putting down our armor with each other, spend more time getting into a room together and not just drinking (which i enjoy but am abstaining from sugar so…) but working on our alignment. if we are already clear on where the differences are, how do we turn our collective attention to those places where we align and grow that?

what we pay attention to grows. so let’s practice with an affirmation pledge. turn to the person next to you and really take in this divine specimen of warrior. now repeat after me:

i am not you
oh but I need you
thank you for your work
let’s get this. let’s get free
.

thank you so much for paying attention to me these last twenty minutes.

thank you so much for paying attention to our rights and our bodies as your life’s work.

thank you yamani, tiffany and everyone at the national network of abortion funds for having me.

(after this was an incredible karaoke night that was, as yamani sang in her first ever karaoke performance, ‘more than words’)

blue moon in sagittarius

i am not glowing for love
i am being loved, love and lover
at all times

i don’t mimic the sun
don’t fold into me anyone else’s heat
my scar tissue is my own

while you sleep i get older
hurry
i have to fill in all my bones and flesh with delight

orbit is not belonging
i feel currents move from and around me
i belong to all this motion

the in and the out breath
the wave suckling the shore
and pulling away, mouth full

behind the shadows i am calm
reflecting a wild fire,
wreaking a havoc that becomes system and salt

something is so lovely now
i have to tell you about it:
infinite me, inside me

the fecund and shimmering landscape of the magical world
ripe ripe fruit, above and below
everywhere

so i need for nothing
but aliveness – aliveness
to be a bearer of all this light

a pleasure activist at the dentist

dear hot dentist
your fingers in my mou-

dear hot dentist
we are so different
i learn from experience
you? years and money poured into school
so you could tilt me back in this chair
and plunge your fingers in –

dear hot dentist
it’s not all these feelings though
it’s just
it’s the vibrator in my mouth
making me giggle
uncontrollably –

dear hot dentist
even your assistant is hot?
you turn my jaw between you
telling me open
open –

dear hot dentist
you are seeing the worst of me
i swear
but i have learned so much
about small spaces
and your persistent fingers
and –

dear hot dentist
i blush and squirm
my swag a spittle on my chin
my tongue awkwardly avoiding your
everywhere fingers
numb

numb
but happy

softer on the bones

no one told me
the skin of my lovers
would be softer with time
age loosening flesh from bone
and I would seek this
instead of firm fruit
the movement in my hands
of memories and pleasures
the hours after midnight
before dawn
when everything is whispered
even our screams

that i would cultivate a
fetish for scars
for the precise laughter
i
call forth

and i would be so excited
for every lover who came before me
shaping this moment
when you know your demands

and thank the whole mystery
for everyone who accepted my carnal invitation
articulating my concessions
and my deep lines
in the ancient sand
not that, this this yes god this

no one told me
how would become more important
even than first impressions
and I wouldn’t want any of the things
i was told made a life

and i would love the new, even now
the new level, the new exposure
the new word and voice
the new rhythm

the new me that emerges
each time i realize
oh – i am aging

and everything
everything
is more delicious
with time

this is all the miracle (adapting towards pleasure)

it is easy to think everything is a miracle during a moment of external joy – falling in love, welcoming new life into the world, celebrating a major accomplishment, seeing a wonder of the world, being part of a successful march or action…those moments when rightness flows through my body and i feel connected to the great way/force/energy that makes us all one. 

what is harder is to bring my miraculous perspective to grief, to injustice, to delayed travel, to broken technology, to conflict, to changes of plans, to mercury retrograde – things that can be filed under ‘bad day’ or ‘bad life’.

mindful adaptation, however, makes it possible to experience the miraculous more often, if not constantly. 

here’s a little story about this:

i offered an emergent strategy training hosted by the group intelligent mischief in boston. it was full of opportunities to practice adaptation and other emergent strategies, none of which were expected.

first, i was late. 

generally i am becoming a late person as i age. i don’t want to sound shady, but basically i have been adapting because i was tired of being the only person on time. 

kidding! mostly kidding…

i just haven’t fully accepted that i need more time, and slower time, to live my life. i have been trying to adjust around this slower self, so this morning i’d scheduled myself to arrive an hour early. 

(i am going to try to tell this story without ‘bad at math’ feelings) 

i know that the commute from my parents’ house to downtown boston is usually 45 minutes, even with traffic. i left home about 15 minutes behind schedule because i was catching up with my mama, and when i plugged in the address it said 1 hr 15 min commute. my gut made the ‘ruh-roh’ scooby doo sound (my nibbling mairead loves scooby doo so this sound is running fresh grooves in my brain), but my mind overrode that with lots of rational options for the added time, including but not limited to traffic and the grandiose nature of boston and how everything in life is a mystery. 

as i flew through the tunnels under downtown and my directions said i had 30 minutes left, my intuition got louder – something is wrong. 

but i couldn’t figure out how to change the situation while moving at that speed without endangering everyone. also, i didn’t have time to be wrong.

so i kept going.

i finally pulled up to what i really wanted to be the downtown seiu building. instead it was a residential white clapboard house with laundry blowing on the line out front in a near-rural enclave south of the city. 

my mind immediately conceded to my gut (as opposed to making an argument to go knock on the door) which i appreciated. i figured out that my error was an understandable one – there are two ’26 west streets’ in boston in different neighborhoods. only one is downtown. now i was 30 minutes from the training which was scheduled to start in 15 minutes. 

this is where i adapted towards pleasure. 

well, first i yelled. one good strong wordless yell that filled up the car and released the tension that had been building between my mind and my gut. this is something i have been working on, to engage my anger. actually releasing it when it’s live in me.

then i emailed and called the organizers, to say where i was and to adjust the start time. they didn’t sound stressed at all, which helped.

then i had the thought that often shifts my mood – this is all the miracle. 

these 30 minutes of being late to a meeting in boston traffic is being lived by my miraculous irreplaceable body in a dynamic and outstanding system of life moving towards life. 

what i mean is, i think it’s my choice…if i spend these 30 minutes berating myself for not triple checking the directions or in some other way not being myself (because most of my stress takes the shape of self attack – ‘why don’t you have a better memory?’ ‘why don’t you prepare your travel better?’ ‘why aren’t you more like [insert superior human of the moment]?’ ‘why don’t you listen to your gut more?’) i will just show up feeling funky, lesser than, and like my life has been wasted.

i don’t want to waste any of this precious stuff, especially not in a context where i am asserting that my life matters.

so i put on alabama shakes.

the last song on their new album sound and color is something perfect called ‘over my head‘ (go watch the video) – it is about that kind of love so good ‘i feel it through all my past lives’. brittany howard sings like she is putting her heart on her lover’s table as a post-patriarchal dowry. 

i have been listening to the whole album on repeat, but that song in particular has all this space for me to add my own vocal flourishes to it. so i put it on repeat and i sang it all the way back to boston. 

i sang it while playing my video for it in my head. in my video, the song is a slave ship love ode where, in excruciating slow motion full of thick glances and the movement of sun in water, we watch an enslaved woman leap off the side of a slave ship after her love, who thrashes in the ocean waiting to die with her. once they hold each other they surrender and sink together away from the murderous light into the beautiful blackness of freedom. 

i also sang it while imagining performing it on the voice someday, which i suppose is a regular activity for everyone who can kind of sing.

suffice it to say, i arrived at the actual seiu building for my training feeling gloriously alive, flushed in the cheeks, laughing, clicking together the mind heels of the body in my head that can achieve enough height to click heels together. i walked in the room and…everyone else was late! 

the rest of the day was a shapeshifting adaptation fest. 

emergent strategy is something i am still discovering, but a lot of it for me feels like tuning into the natural operating systems of this universe and being humbled, as opposed to trying to barrel through and against all the change, trying to best nature. i am learning to see human behavior, even my own mistakes, as part of a larger natural order. leaning towards rihanna’s tattoo wisdom: ‘never a failure, always a lesson’. 

also, i am wondering where i have agency, where i am moving and where i am being moved. i keep making decisions and declarations about my life, and then that larger force deftly, elegantly adjusts me on my path.

i keep coming back to response and reaction as the place where i have the most agency, where, as octavia puts it, i can ‘shape god’. i am moving towards the horizon of the end of my life, i am generating as much liberation as i can on that journey. 

i choose what to embody, what to long for, even as the horizon shifts before me. the adaptation is up to me. the laughter between grieving friends, the justice of advancing a righteous anger, the first moments of surrender into new love, the opportunity inside of apparent failure…how often, how quickly, can i become aware of the miraculous nature of the moment i am in, and adapt towards the pleasure available in that awareness?  

this is also what i mean by pleasure activism: in addition to turning up the sensual and erotic experiences of life, i choose to experience pleasure in the onslaught of reality, finding the people and places with whom pleasure comes easily and giving them all my attention, extracting and/or growing pleasure as a radical act, a radical claim of what the miracle of my existence convinces me i am due.