Revolutionary Intimacy & Role Playing

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The title of this post insinuates something sexy but it’s not really. What this is really about is about learning that changes are painful and that past lives cannot be returned to if we want to grow.

The most important relationships in my life right now share one common theme : space. Not just physical space – like distances that have me moving closer to some and being farther from others, but emotional space- an opening or closing of the heart/spirit in order to heal and evolve from that hurt.

I have been going to a new church every other week or so – it’s not a church of Jesus, Allah, Buddha, the Orishas, Santos, or God but it is not a space absent of those concepts either. I teasingly call it “white people church” because well it is overwhelmingly white, especially compared to my once local predominantly Dominican/Mexican Roman Catholic Church. My relationship with church, any church, has always been complex : raised with Santos/spirits, then Catholic saints and school, practicing Zen Buddhism for a bit, drawing closer to my ancestors/muertos and now Unitarian Universalist aka White People Church. My struggle has been among my cultural need for ritual, my spiritual need for closeness with the universe and all that have been in it/are in it, and my desire to be in community/create community that reflects my morality/radical love/revolutionary desire.

Is that too much to ask for?

It is when you want your values to align perfectly with the world around you. Strict gender roles, sexual control/shaming/abuse, cultural appropriation/conquest are not things that sit well in my gut. But I like the gathering together – the closeness – the rituals- and yes the singing ( I love me some church singing and I do it loudly). I also like the quiet/reflective space- something I don’t get enough of. Don’t get me wrong I am in constant prayer with God/Goddesses/Orishas/Santos y Muertos but it’s comforting – for me – to have a space just for that – one day- again the ritual.

And I need ritual right now. With so many changes that have happened recently and so many yet to come – there is a certain security/safety in the ritual.

Last week in church the Reverend was talking about how deeper intimacy with our loves ones can be revolutionary and how changing your own perception of your role with your loved ones can also be revolutionary. All of this was placed in the context of the police violence that communities of color have endured for so long and the white masses are suddenly shocked by. All of this was placed in the context of unfair comparisons between Zucotti Park and Tahir Square. All of this was placed in the context of expectations and how quickly we fall in line because it is so easy.

It is so easy. It has always been so easy for me to play the role of caretaker – to adults when I was a child, to other children when I was child, to my own children as a teen becoming an adult, to my lovers as a woman. It was always easy for me to be silent about what my struggles. That sacrifice is what was demanded. And whenever any of my truths were revealed, with them came a shaming and feigned surprised :

“Wait why did I not know what you needed?”

This illness of quiet, of not expecting anything comes at a great price and I don’t want to pay it anymore. In my current parejadom, I am challenged to step out of comfortable roles, I am encouraged to speak/seek help/support, I am asked to engage in a level of intimacy I have never really had to before – and all with an inconvenient distance of thousands of miles between us. At the same time, I have returned to my childhood home, mourning my independent space and am witnessing old patterns play out – sacrifice, silence, selfishness, and self-centeredness. Roles I do not not want to play, witness, or have my children internalize. Even though I am physically closer to my biological family – there are huge heart gulfs – empathy voids – that dot the small landscape of daily life.

Silence/self-sacrifice/martyrdom seems to be a genetic trait carried by the women in my family but so are cancers and other illnesses that have had me burying way too many of my titis But I cannot control anything/anyone but myself so I work – however painfully – moving towards creating the family I need and want for me and for my world.

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