Doors: Opened vs. Closed

In light of the recent dissolution of a relationship I still value but cannot continue to engage in; I’ve been thinking a lot about openness lately. How people react to past dysfunctional relationship dynamics and how they perpetuate them.

Door Comparison by Daveybot on

I’m noticing a pattern to the experience of previous relationship pain. It seems to me that people, after a dysfunctional or to go further, abusive relationship, tend to react in one of two ways. (I’m sure, given the very ambiguous nature of existence, that it’s not that black and white but for this exercise, it’s going to be.)

First reaction: to become more open. To want openness and honesty. To crave that. It’s the reaction of saying too much, telling too much, not wanting to be the person who hides things. At it’s extreme, of radical honesty, at all costs.

Second reaction: to become less open. To withdraw. To want to keep things private. It’s the reaction of hiding, unconsciously closing off, not wanting to disclose. At it’s extreme, of lying, at all costs.

I’m seeing this pattern play out in several relationships, right now. The “Opener” vs. “Closer” interaction. I’m seeing that people with wildly opposite coping mechanisms for past pain are often attracted to the opposite, thus perpetuating a cycle of mistrust, on everyone’s part. I am an Opener. I abhor secrets, even as I can see the value in them. I am a queen of  TMI. I have to be consciously mindful of not only my own privacy but of others.

It’s normal to have a pejorative response to the other’s reaction to their experiences. That Openers view Closers as inherently untrustworthy. Closers, I imagine, view Openers as not respecting privacy. It can be so difficult to appreciate another person’s coping mechanism and by not understanding that both reactions are valid, continuing the pattern of resentment and distrust.


What is the answer? How do we break out of these patterns — to stronger, healthier relationships? To finding a balance between being open and being closed? How do we keep our personal doors unlocked and yet still protect what is inside? I believe there are several ways to address this dichotomous interaction. The initial step is to let go of the idea that someone who reacts or copes differently from us is somehow negative. Then there is self-awareness (Am I an Opener or a Closer?) and convey that information to the person with whom we are attempting to relate. Hopefully they will have cognition of how they operate. From there it’s a matter of compassionately negotiating boundaries. What is acceptable disclosure? What is uncomfortable? How does each person involved define deceit? How open is the shared door and how open is each individual door? If these topics have been broached and agreements made, then much of the work is already done.

What I am learning from my current experience is that compassion is often the simplest solution to the big issues that arise between people. I forgive, not for someone else, but as a gift I give myself, so that I might grow from painful situations.

Bringing Sexy Back

“Feeling sexy” has always been a very ephemeral concept, for me. For a good long while I had no idea what that meant or what it felt like. I’d hear people talk about how a certain pair of underpants helped them *feel* sexy. Or an outfit, or a certain outing or activity. This has always perplexed me. You either are sexy or you aren’t, right?

Feeling is an active emotional state, so how can you feel sexy? You can look sexy, you can be sexy, you can bring the sexy but “feel” sexy? What does that feel like? What are the components that elicit that feeling? How do you get there?

Then I had a *ding* moment, I was hopping out of my van, the Doodle Beast (a decommissioned Air Force vehicle that I’d converted into an art car and safe place), at a gas station, cognizant of the looks of other people as I swung down from the door frame.  I felt sexy getting out of the Beast. When I drive the van, I feel sexy. Looking to that experience, I recognized three components at play with the van, as I identify strongly with the vehicle, that elicited the ultimate feeling “sexy”: power, happiness and uniqueness. This feeling is, by definition, an emotional response, the specific manifestations of these components are incredibly personal, but I think some version of the three are present when someone feels sexy:

The Doodle Beast: Powerful, Happy, Unique

  1. An expression of personal power: Using the example of driving the Beast, I’m channeling the raw diesel power of a large box van. (I didn’t say my catalyst to feeling sexy was going to be particularly subtle or deep.) His power is my power and I’m in control of that power. That’s a heady feeling. When people feel a healthy sense of sexy, there is that personal empowerment at play.
  2. An expression of personal happiness: I can’t help but smile when I drive the van. He’s big, he’s goofy, he’s fun. The sense of enjoyment I get from that experience lights me up from the inside. That internal light is sexy. It’s a level of happy that is specific and unique.
  3. An expression of personal uniqueness: There’s nothing quite like the Beast and everyone has something that makes then unique. Part of the personal uniqueness is being comfortable with those parts of ourselves that are different and special. The sense of comfort with ourselves is integral to feeling sexy and tapping into that consciousness of specialness manifests our internal sparkle. We shine when we own our uniqueness.
I’ve heard that confidence is what is sexy to others, and I believe there is some truth to that statement; however, more to the point, when we feel sexy, I think the greatest component is a sense of empowerment. I recently replaced the brakes on my van (with a good friend walking me through the process) and I felt an enormous sense of self-reliance which translated to feeling very sexy indeed. Covered in grease, in my work clothes, I felt sexier than at any other time in my life. Would anyone else have found me sexy, in that moment? It didn’t matter; I fully grokked what it meant to feel sexy, after I had replaced the brakes and the van worked. I had taken control of my own experience.

With this metric in place, I’ve looked to other times when these three components come together and came up with a few other instances: my glasses help me feel sexy, red lipstick, paper journaling with the fountain pen my best friend gave me when we were … 12?. These are all times when that feeling rises up. Making vulgar jokes? Does not help me feel sexy (but I do truly enjoy a bad “yo mama” or pun.)  Learning something new? Feels very sexy.

What helps you feel sexy?

Survival Guide for Burner Dogs

Every year, at smaller burn events in the Central Texas area, where dogs are permitted to attend, there is a discussion (often heated) about whether dogs should be allowed given the risks and liabilities associated with their participation. Every year I argue that our four footed friends should be allowed and that their guardians need to be held accountable for their pet’s involvement. From the big burn in Nevada, to regionals, there is a Survival Guide, a how to for attending events, for humans. The Survival Guides help educate the participants, they create a common ground so that everyone can have a safe and fun experience at a burn. My experience with my dog, who has now attended 8 smaller burn events, is that the same holds true for pets. The guardian needs to be radically self-reliant for both themself and their dog and prepare for their care. The most important bit of experience I can convey is prepare by Knowing Your Dog and know and follow event guidelines (not just for yourself but also your dog).

Chewie, a.k.a. Safety Third: A happy burner dog at Decomp 2007

There’s an old saw about having a dog is not unlike having a perputual toddler. The comparison is especially apt with a dog at a burn event. When I bring Chewie to an event, his well-being is my primary concern. I am responsible for not only my good time, but his and everyone he interacts with, as well. I take the position of “if I wouldn’t allow a toddler to do something, I’m not going to create a situation where my dog can do that.” This includes keeping Chewie supervised, not forgetting to feed/water/meet basic needs, not being so intoxicated that I cannot care for my pet, and  MOOPing his bodliy wastes.

One aspect of camping with Chewie is that dogs (and many humans) do best when the scenery changes but the basic routine stays the same. I follow the same out at an event as we have at home. He gets fed at the same time, with the same food and water (and medication), same bowls, and is required to sit before the bowl touches the ground (our policy at home). We wake up and we take walks around the event at the same time as we would back home. This does mean having to be less carefree than I would be without him; however, he is much more relaxed and comfortable knowing that his life basics have not changed.

One of the most basic issues that comes up for humans (and also for dogs) is becoming overheated and dehydrated. This is a topic that has been covered in every Survival Guide I have read and this guide is no exception: a pet can get overheated and dehydrated and behave erratically and out of character because of that. Become familiar with the signs of dog dehydration and how to combat it before it occurs. Ensure that there is plenty of fresh water (brought from the source they get at home:”funny”, new tasting water may be rejected by some finicky dogs) available at all times. If I suspect that Chewie is being lax about drinking water, I’ll make some Dog Gatorade. This is half a teaspoon of powered beef bouillon mixed with a quart of water. Then I put out fresh water, which after the saltiness of the bouillon, he is more than happy to drink. Some folks will use Pedialyte to help restore the electrolyte balance. Remember that these are preventative measures – a dehydrated dog needs to be seen by a vet.

Even with keeping the day to day routine the same and keeping the dog hydrated, events can be overstimulating for both humans and pets alike. It is not uncommon for either species to freak out when they are overstimulated. The difference is that a dog cannot tell you that they are upset and overwhelmed. Know your dog. Know the signs, indivdual for each animals, that he or she is stressed out, scared, upset or overwhelmed. When Chewie begins to exhibit signs of distress, he goes back to Chewie Camp and hangs out in his pen.

Chewie Camp 1.0. It's gotten more involved over the years.

The photo to the left shows a very basic incarnation of Chewie Camp, his own theme camp. It now has a small pup tent (pun intended), a ten-panel plastic pen with lights, shade provided through tarps, and pillows. Your dog’s oasis need not be quite as complicated but it is imperative to have a space that smells familiar and comfortable (the dog bed and pillows are the ones he uses at home) that the dog can retreat to, when the blinkie lights and people are too much. Get creative with your dog’s camp – a big dog will have different needs and challenges than a smaller dog. I do recommend a familiar dog bed, a way to be contained (either through a leash, pen, or kennel), a big container of water, and some shade but let your imagination go wild!

To leash or not to leash, that is the perpetual question of smaller events with dogs. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that every smaller event has a leashed dog policy but the extent to which it is enforced has varied from event to event. My policy with Chewie is when we go awandering, he’s leashed (and often teathered to my utility belt, so I don’t lose the leash) and in camp he can wander about within the area or his pen. This is for both his safety and the safety of others. Chewie’s not aggressive, however, unleashed dogs pack up and a pack of dogs is a whole different animal than a dog that is leashed and mindful that their guardian in control. Additionally, I suspect that he takes a measure of comfort knowing that I am right there, supervising him. Dogs want to know who’s alpha and you are their alpha — a leash is the tangible reminder of that status. That being said, I know dogs who are far better at recall commands than Chewie and who stay close to their guardians, even without a leash. I’ve said it already and it bears repeating — Know Your Dog.

Lastly, and most importantly, bringing a dog is a responsibility, and yet, it can be one of the richest burn experiences possible. Have FUN with bringing your dog. Prepare by knowing your dog, taking care of their needs, following the event guidlines and then go nuts with creative and fun ways of interacting with furry beasts. Blinkie collars, fun and interactive dog camps, costumes! There is a a wealth of creative and interesting ways to incorporate your dog into the event in a manner that is beneficial to everyone.

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Survival Guide for Burner Dogs by Gyesika Safety is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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Fleshing It Out: Why I like words




A sad sight for word nerds and graphic artists. Photo by smswigart on Flickr.


Frameworks. I like ’em. I have a special, passionate fondness for a well constructed *linguistic* framework. (Co-opted the term from Carnap but will be using it in a more general fashion to denote the way we, as a species, interact via language.)

Defined terms, clearly stated concepts, articulated arguments are important to me because life is so grey, so full of colors. The very little black and white that I am willing to accept (the linguistic clarity) frames that color, those shades of grey. The words we use are important — they have power, the power we give them to support our experiences. Even when I’m not hung up on specific terminology, the destinctions we make in words are incredibly relevant to constructive experiences and interactions.

I enjoy the definition/ defining process as an exercise that creates the skeleton hang all the mushy organs, hard working muscle and permeable skin of our actualized encounters with the world. If the skeleton is broken, weak or ill-constructed, the body is less effective. Hell, it may not work at all. I like creative chaos but I love to work within a well made framework more.