I do, in fact, love the process of welcoming. Others, and also myself. I love being with people, in front of people (teaching and speaking), and also alone. Most especially alone; it is how I recharge. I am rarely lonely, never bored. I grew up an only child, generous and bossy, with a plethora of friends who are still my friends. One calls me Speed Demon because I dilly-dally. I suspect this is why, as a critical sexuality scholar, I resonate with queer time that is non-linear and (for me, deliciously) uncertain.
The one thing I never got as a child yet always wanted was to fly. Not by airplane. I flew solo for the first time at age 9 to New York City, with an oversized placard pinned to my chest that read: Unaccompanied Child. Making me easy to steal, but I wasn’t stolen. Except by Times Square. Its 1970s neon flashing lights captivating me with glints of diversity, unusualness, queer love, and sex.
No. I wanted to fly of my own accord, on my outstretched wingspan, off the roof of my parents’ house in Whitesboro, on a Street named Future that ironically (and fittingly) is a Dead End. Gratefully, I fly now. In work. And in love. My mind, for the most part, unbound by conventional rules of sex and relationship. Like I observed on my first visit to Times Square (not the sanitized, Disney-esque version). The seeds of my career firmly planted.
the art of arriving
As first loves, inanimate objects held and hold a revered place in my psyche: my doll, Pussy(cat); my ventriloquist puppet, Mortimer Snerd, and Pinocchio, my marionette, whose nose I broke and glued back on, keeping me honest. Even today, I delight in the sound of Pinocchio’s wooden feet—tap-tap-tap—on the wooden floor to announce he is coming.
Perhaps this is why I incorporate auditory sensations in my teaching: The whoosh of a wand; ding of a gong; toots of a train whistle. All of which I use as invitation to arrive.
Welcoming well and thoroughly, I have learned, involves the art of arriving. My dolls and puppets taught me this as I gathered them up and wondered what mischief we would create together—not unlike what I do with students and clients today. Still curious where and how we will travel.
The art of arriving is fundamental to intimacy with ourselves and others. As well as the situation and splacetime we find ourselves in. Yet too often we scurry, and/or bulldoze by, without noticing (and savoring) this threshold of intimacy, and its value.
We fail to perceive freshly. Presume we know where we are, or whom we are with. Even if we have been down this Proverbial Road hundreds of times before, it is never the same road. Time is not static. Even if we have known someone for twenty-plus years they are not the same someone we knew five minutes previously. We are not the same someone either. Because everything—including each of us—shifts from moment to moment.
The crux of the work I do in the world—be it teaching, therapy, researching, writing, etc.—centers on the art of arriving.
Again, and again, and again, we arrive—into ourselves and the present moment. Until, and alas, we arrive at our very last breath.
Because all relationships—even the most treasured ones—end.
When we build capacity for discomfort, the tumult becomes our Joy Ride, with myriad twists, turns, and textures. We find ease in disruption; sense in paradox; simplicity in complexity; playfulness in chaos; and humor, even delight, in mishap. Lo and behold, we breathe—the precursor to arriving.
Increasing our capacity for discomfort stretches our wingspan to arrive fell-swoop into Now: Holy and wholly. This is what the Dali Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh taught me in my early days at Naropa Institute (now University, where I teach) as I listened and followed in walking meditation: Presence in each step.
The basis of my work—be it teaching, therapy, researching, writing, etc.—rests on the cultivation of presence, which I describe as heightening awareness while remaining open. Especially when the moment gets edgy.
The most challenging relational situations seem to benefit from our ability to perceive keenly with arms outstretched (figuratively, and sometimes literally) tenderly and respectfully. A gesture of embrace for ourselves, others, and the uncertainty of the moment.