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.

Creative Commons License
Survival Guide for Burner Dogs by Gyesika Safety is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at gyesikasafety.com.

Guest Blogging

I am pleased as punch to be the guest blogger at approximately 8,000 words, Kit O’Connell’s blog, with an article I wrote recently — Embracing Conflict.

What really tickles me about writing this article, outside of the chance to express my feelings and experiences on a topic many of us shy from, is how meta it is. Kit’s a member of my choice family and I ask you to show me a family that hasn’t had conflict. We’ve had our share and I can say, from being there, that time can be the greatest tool you have when dealing with conflict, resentment and a host of uncomfortable feelings. I’m proud of us for getting through some unfortunate and often dramatic incidents and getting back to a place of mutual support and love.

Kit is the reason I have this blog. He’s hosting the site and he set it up for me. When I came to him and said “I want to start writing publicly, how does that work?”; he almost immediately got me started. I have enjoyed seeing him find his volunteer and artistic niche in the burn community (we do art but most of it is visual in some way. He found the place for his words and did an amazing job as Flipside’s Web Content lead, this year. I look forward to seeing what else he has up his sleeve.) He found an outlet for his voice and passed that along.

Salt Shakers by harlanh, on flickr.com

The gift of conflict is that once you’ve been through it, once you’ve handled it in a positive, constructive manner, is that now you know you *can*. That, for me, is very reassuring in any relationship. I was convinced, for the better part of a year, that I had lost a member of my family and that conviction was worse than the anger and resentment. When I finally calmed down enough to engage, it was scary but now I have the comfort of knowing that we’ve been through the fire and I trust we can go through it again. Conflict as comfort, like a reassuring hug. Reframing it that way has helped me immeasurably in my relationships.

 

Pop Tarts

Recently, my wasband (yes, you can get along with someone you used to be married to, but that’s another post entirely) posted this video to my facebook page:

It’s been a rough couple of weeks recently and I’d been down on myself. The negative messages that we all hear, day in and day out, were beginning to loop in my head. As much as I’ve attempted to avoid succumbing to them, I was beginning to toilet bowl into negativity. That infectious pop song snapped me out of it. The message that we’re all good enough, that we all have enough and therefore, we all deserve to be accepted for who we are, is a hammer encased bubble wrap.

This is a message that has come up in several pop songs lately. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”

and Katy Perry’s “Firework”

The Onion’s AV Club has already covered the differences between Gaga and Perry, better than I could. What they do share is a wide audience and two songs that, to varying artistic development, state that it’s perfectly acceptable to be who you are. That those aspects of ourselves that we’ll self-deride are the very points that make us powerful creatures. That our power comes from stopping the internal cycle of derision and owning our power, even when it hurts. Perhaps especially when it hurts.

The power of a pop song is much like the tension between negative self talk and personal power: they are pervasive, insidious even. When you look beyond the fluff, the message of acceptance, of oneself and others, is hard to ignore. Because these songs are in wide circulation, they are reaching audiences that are more limited in their personal outlooks. Bigots, homophobes, and sexists are part of the milieu that listens to pop music and they might not like it; however when you can not avoid something, it will eventually change you. Just a little bit, perhaps. Perhaps that’s enough.

I am heartened to see this trend. When a air bubble like Katy Perry, who sells an idea of female sexuality to heterosexual males that I find, at best, obnoxious; also sells a message of personal tolerance, I am hopeful that the very people she sells to will gain a measure of insight. When Lady Gaga, who may be the single most notorious and popular artist, at the moment, says that being gay is not a choice, I can hope that someone will hear that and be swayed enough to rethink their position. Pink states that you can be spiraling downwards and still be lovable … well, that was a message I needed to hear today.

 

Angels vs. Demons: Burnier-Than-Thou

Original image by colodio on Flickr. Modified by Gyesika Safety.

I’ve recently begun rereading Elaine Pagels’ wonderful book “The Origin of Satan”, where she postulates that the social origin story to Satan was an attempt to moralize an inherent human tendency towards us vs. them. To take that sense of comfort we feel at belonging to a group, and creating that group identity through defining what we are not (them), and magnifying it to a cosmic level. I see this tension at play in the burn community I participate in and identify with. I see it within myself, as I self-identify as a burner.

There’s a term for this interplay of “us-vs.them” within the burn community: burnier-than-thou. It’s a recognized and accepted concept within the group that this tension exists. There is a sense of moralization, I do more, bring more, work harder, been here longer than you, therefore I am more of a burner than you are. In some sense this is true. Some people have been around longer and thus have done more. The inherent nature of us-vs.-them is humanity speaking the less pleasant truths of our nature.

The benefit of having a “them” is that is solidifies what “us” constitutes. On a basic level it’s “me” vs. “you”; we tend to self identify with what we’re not, giving ourselves a clearer picture of what we are. We can also accomplish this process for ourselves on a micro level of our own self-identity and apply it to the macro group ethos. I tend to view burners as people who contribute something to the community and to burn events. Whether that be art, their time and energy via volunteering, a theme camp, gifting, or contributions that I haven’t thought of yet; for me, being a burner means action. Doing the do that makes up our community and events.

However, not everyone agrees with me on this (as it should be). For some, being a burner is attending an event and experiencing it. For others, being a burner is attending the myriad of activities that happen through out the year, including online interactions. I can get into an us-vs.-them attitude, where I dismiss these other versions justifying one’s inclusion in a group that I cherish but that this mindset, though natural, overlooks is that we are all on our own personal journeys. Some of us will stay and contribute more, others will fade away. However your journey plays out, the experience of a Burn has the capacity to change you, if you let it.

Perhaps that’s the real lesson to be learned about judging how other’s view themselves. We can feel justified by our self-identity (personal or group) and intolerant of those who are not part of our group. We can become exclusive, instead of inclusive. When we allow a group, an event, life to mold us into new, more open people, we have experienced and contributed to that group, that event, life. I think this appeal to out better, one could say angelic, nature.

I think that my criteria for what constitutes a burner has shifted to “Were you open enough, even just a crack, to let the experiences of the group, up to and including whatever event you attended, change you?”

“Not From Around These Parts”

Texas Bluebonnets by Gyesika Safety

Driving home from a friend’s beautiful wedding this past weekend, I got to ruminating on home and community and physical space.

I have felt displaced for much of my life. The feeling of attachment to a space (and the associated persona that comes with that) has always eluded me. I was born in Montreal but left when I was quite young, so I’m not really a Canadian. I was raised in California and spent 8 years living in Southern California but I was not born there, or in the States, and my parents were both raised outside of the US. I have never really felt like a Californian. I traveled extensively in my youth (Europe, Asia, Africa, North America) and have found comfort and solace in itchy feet because I don’t have that sense of returning home, once I’ve been gone. For many years, as an insecure adolescent, I obsessed over whether anyone would notice if I left.

Then I moved to Texas. A place with such deeply rooted identity with a physical space that being a native Texan is a source of personal identity for many people here. A place where the people identify with the history, the land, the ethic, the identity of the state. It seems that I had shot myself in the foot on finding that sense of home because I will never be a Texan.
I did not count on the immense power of Community and community. (“community” being more micro, the group of people who you are close to. “Community” being the larger social group that one’s community might be part of) Community that instills identity; community that gives freely of their time, resources and love. Community that has shaped my personal history and given me my story. One component of the wedding ceremony, that touched me, was when the bride and groom asked that the community take a vow to love and support them and their relationship. They recognized that community is what sustains us and they shared that realization with us. What an amazing gift.

There’s a bumper-sticker: “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could!” That is not me. I was profoundly prejudiced against Texas: it’s ego, it’s people, it’s culture, before I moved. In the six years I’ve lived here, it’s gotten under my skin, I’ve breathed it’s air (and pollen, *achew*), it’s dirt has covered me and I’ve had it’s waters caress me. I’ve let the ego, the people and the culture in and that process has changed me. Some of the changes are obvious: I am no longer militantly anti-firearm, for instance. Others are more subtle. When I first moved here, I was dedicated to keeping my Californian clip of a speech pattern. As I have slowed down in this place, so has my speech (though I do not have drawl). I have always valued manners, I now value how manners can be used as a weapon. I’ve learned to become comfortable in my skin and I believe part of that stems from letting this place in and allowing Texas to become part of me.

I will never be a Texan. I will never be from around these parts. But at dusk, almost every day, I look to the Texas sky and my heart quivers and begins to sing a slow ballad of joy and peace. When I feel uprooted, I plant my feet in this soil and find my ground. My family is here. The family I found, all by myself. My children, my partner, hell, even my dog, are Texans. My community (and Community) is here and even as I am conscious that I am an interloper, an immigrant, an expat from wanderlust; I realize that this physical space, these people, the Community I found here; that is my home.

Big Girl Blog

Putting on the big girl panties. Photo by funkomavintage on Flickr.

This year marks the 10th year I have been using Livejournal and it has served its purpose over the years. I value it as a format; it’s been a way to connect with new people, learn random internet memes and is a fertile ground for processing. I will still use that forum for personal thoughts and reactions.

There has been another aspect to my writing lately, one that I have missed since leaving school: essays. I don’t particularly enjoy free associating and I have strong opinions, thoughts and one liners that have no place to conveniently land. As an introvert, it is not uncommon for me to “write” my thoughts into an essay format before ever touching paper or keyboard. Those prose thoughts need to get out and I have used livejournal for that purpose, in addition to the venting, 13 year old locked journal quality it has. It’s time to separate those writings into different formats.

So I’m putting on my big girl panties and putting some of those mental essays in a public forum, a non-locked down blog. It’s vulnerable and empowering at the same time. One part of me wants to keep my thoughts off of the internet another part realizes that the only way to truly manage one’s online identity is to be proactive about what is associated with oneself. I refuse to be scared of people’s reactions to my thoughts and opinions. Besides, I feel like I’ve now joined everyone in 2007.