Self-Made Man?

On some level, I can’t help wondering if the author’s alter-ego Ned passed as more masculine than I do!

I’m clearly recognized as a biological male, with a long beard, tall height even for a male (6’2"), and a relatively obvious "male voice." (Not a deep Barry White voice, mind you, but a tone clearly influenced by testosterone. ) And yet… depending on what mood you catch me in, my communication style and overall behavior can be downright "feminine."

What do I mean by that? Well, let’s see… I like to talk about feelings and relationships; I tend to be soft-spoken and yielding in the average conversation; I’m put off by agressive and/or emotionless communication styles; and I’m very fond of "touchy feely" behavior like openly crying, hugging one another, stepping aside from "productivity" to process emotions, etc. I do have moments where I get loud, rowdy, callous, or "macho"… but even in these moments, it’s largely an act of dark humor, because it’s clear to anyone who knows me that I don’t live up to this stereotype on a daily basis.

Basically, from the perspective of our society’s rigid gender roles, I act like a chick sometimes. And acting this way at any point, much less regularly, is pretty much the death knell of being seen as a "real guy" or "normal guy."

Maybe this is why I can never seem to attract the romantic interest of women… so many women say that they want emotionally available men, and they talk to me at length about how their partners frustrate and disappoint them by not talking about emotions, being insensitive to their needs, not sharing their interest in community-building and/or spiritual activities, etc. But then, when they DO meet a male who has few of these road blocks… they identify him as "friend" rather than "guy/lover," which often leaves him (i.e. me) in an awkward limbo between the two.

"You’re my friend… so I’ll talk with you at length about feelings/relationships… but you are a guy, so sometimes I’ll catch myself and hold back… but you’re a friend, so I can’t even think of you as a guy… but…"

I feel like I’ve actually had a couple of women friends share their emotional and relationship lives with me fully (except when we were with other women in "girls only" mode). But for years now, since my last relationship, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a woman truly view me as a "guy," except maybe occassionally in passing or quietly from afar. And that, I must say, is rather frustrating. I have romantic feelings quite automatically for the women I love… why don’t they have the same for me when they feel that intimate emotional connection form?

When I started reading about this "Self-Made Man" book, it brought up a lot of feelings for me. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to do a similar experiment to what this woman undertook… to become one of these "regular guys" for a while. I’d have to cut my hair, shave my beard, dress less colorfully, and lean heavily on the stoicism and arrogance that I’ve worked so hard to let go of. Maybe I could go to the bars, get drunk, hang out with the guys, check out the women, dance for a while, check out the women some more, and just spend the night trying to get laid like a few thousand other guys in this town.

People who know me probably think I don’t have it in me. If so, then you really don’t know me at all. Really, I think that a lot of people respect me to the point of almost dehumanizing me… they see my tendency to show respect for others, to be sensitive to feelings, etc., and they assume that this is just an innate and automatic quality. "Oh, that’s just Treesong… he’s just a different sort of person."

Well, maybe there’s a degree of truth there. The tendency to value respect and sensitivity, emotions and relationships, etc., is very innate in me. But the tendency to behave that way is a very conscious and often very difficult choice. If I wanted to, I could choose differently. If I wanted to, I could be a "guy" much like all of the others guys out there who do meet most of the stereotypes.

I have a strong libido on most days, and my body is often telling me to just get out there and get laid. And my empathic connection with other people’s inner demons has really helped me to get into contact with my own inner demons. So yeah, I could pull of the "Captain Oblivious, Jerk-of-the-Month, Stereotypical Guy" — at least temporarily. And with my empathic abilities, I’ll bet I could even get a lot further with it than most guys in this town.

But why would I do it? The newness of it would be exciting… and like this author, it would be a very informative experience for me to find out the difference between the life of a mild-mannered androgynous male and the life of an arrogant, callous, unabashed womanizer. But… would it really be worth it?

No… not for me, anyway. My empathic abilities allow me to learn what that life’s like simply by observing and interacting with the people who live it. And frankly, I have no desire to live that way. I do have a strong libido… but that passion is intimately influenced and guided by the contents of my heart. And even though I’ve shown that I have the willpower to block the contents of that heart… I will never do so again. Not to that extent, anyway.

And so… I’m left thinking about it from a distance, and reading about other people’s experiences.

What a strange world we live in… I’m reminded of Brokeback Mountain, which was a powerful and complex experience for me, both as a bisexual male who is primarily interested in women but does feel attraction to men, and as a person who has had a long and protracted struggle in overcoming emotional rigidity. To watch those characters go through their intensely emotional exploration of love mixed with emotional and political repression is an incredible roller-coaster ride… it brought me to tears in the end, and it made me think about gender roles in our society much more than this Self-Made Man interview and review did.

But whether it’s through Brokeback Mountain or Self-Made Man, I find myself re-examining gender issues again… especially now with Valentine’s Day on the horizon. I really don’t want to let some stupid Hallmark holiday rain on my parade… but somehow, every year (this being Year 27 out of 27 that I’ll be alone on that day), I find myself falling into the trap and revisiting my feelings about romance, gender roles, and the insanity of today’s society in general.

But life is so different for me now… many of the external circumstances are similar, especially since I still have no lover to share the journey with. But my internal landscape is in ongoing upheaval… gone are the days when I wait for external validation before opening my heart to the ones that I love… now, I embrace my feelings of love fully, regardless of external circumstances and how they may make me feel.

I am a lover, even if no one experiences me as such… the love and passion in my heart is beautiful, even if no one shares in it… my heart is open and filled with an ever-increasing depth and volume of love, even if gender roles and other quirks of my life circumstances keep me from experiencing this love in the context of a romantic relationship.

Basically, opening my heart to the full embracing of my love has set me free — free to feel both the joy and the sorrow that I’ve been so afraid to feel for so many years. Let me put it this way, as I put it in a recent email to a woman I love deeply who has chosen not to share her love life with me…

"I realize that my feelings DO have meaning, even when no one else understands or embraces them, and that my feelings DO have a place on this earth, even if it’s only in that small circle of ground under my two feet. And damnit, if the only space truly open to my feelings is my 132.5 pounds of human flesh, then I will flood every cell of that flesh with an ocean of love (and rage! and tears! and joy! and sorrow!) that I know in my heart could fill the entire world…"

So… yeah. I’d be absolutely thrilled and tickled pink if I could share this love in a romantic way with a lover right this very moment… but ultimately, *I* am a lover, and if I have no one else to share this love with, then I will simply make my 130-some pounds of flesh a shrine to that love.

Let my every breath be a testament to love… let every shape and form of love flow through my words, my thoughts, my writings, my actions… from the transcendent bliss of spiritual love to the carnal delight of sensuality and sexuality, let this flesh of mine be a vessel for the passion and the power that is love. Even if I can find this love no where else in this world, I will find it a home in the one place in physical reality that is truly mine — my own body, and the personal space that I lay claim to through that body.

So, on that note, I think I’ll show a little bit of love for this body by going to sleep in an almost-timely manner… 🙂 But it’s been a joy and a learning experience to explore gender issues and the landscape of the heart again, even if it was at times very difficult. Hopefully this post will generate some discussion in the comments section, the online forms, and so on… because I’d really love to hear your thoughts and experiences on the themes pertaining to all of the above. I know that I’m not in this alone… but it’s hard to feel that sometimes, especially because our society shuns the discussion of such things in most circumstances.

So, I look forward to anything that you may have to share… and I am grateful to share this even if you have nothing to offer in return! Whether I stand alone or stand in the presence of six billion fellow seekers, I will stand in my heart and go wherever it takes me…

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Dreams of Superman

The viewpoint character (me, essentially) was a younger Superman, still living in Smallville prior to his official emergence as a superhero. The first scene of the dream took place in what I believe was the high school, or possibly an office building, which I don’t remember too clearly. There was some sort of crime or crisis to solve, as there always is, and it was clear that a young man with super abilities would be required to track down some villain and meet them in a dramatic face-off.

So, off I went to some sort of abandoned building. Soon, I was face-to-face with my nemesis — a strange character who I never did see clearly. Before I could make my first move, they activated some sort of machinery, and a big metal bolt of some sort hit me in the chest. I grabbed the device, but it turned out to be part of a roller coaster. As I held onto it, it pulled me backwards and then down into a forward spiral. To my surprise, I was pulled into the crushing metal gears of the machinery! I think that the machinery broke, and I was spat out the other side, terribly chewed up and shaken but still alive and able to rise to my feet. At this point, I don’t know what’s happened to the villain exactly, but it’s all taken care of. Then, someone asked if I was okay. I told them that yes, I was… I was only moderately injured… it was just that as a superhero, my powers kept me well-protected, and I really just wasn’t used to feeling all beaten up like that. At this point, I think that I went off to rest, and the dream ended.

Fascinating dream, eh? Some of the symbolism is very clear to me.

I, of course, am Superman… even though viewpoints are strange in many of my dreams, it was pretty obvious that this was a viewpoint character who was essentially just me.

The "villain" is presumably the sum of my hidden/repressed emotions, which is why I couldn’t see their face clearly.

The "roller coaster" is the defense mechanism I have against these repressed feelings.

A long search leads me to these repressed feelings, and suddenly I feel a metal block hit my chest. The dream portrays this block as something that is "cast" at me by the repressed emotions… which is interesting, given the fact that as an adolescent, my angst lead me to "cast" what I would later think of as a spell to block my emotions.

So, this block leads me in a backwards, then downard and forward spiral, a literal "roller coaster ride" that matches the metaphor of "emotional roller-coaster" that I’ve been using to describe my emotional life lately. It’s wonderful to be back in touch with my emotions again… but wow, what intensity! I thought that these emotions were intense when I was actively blocking against them… now they are REALLY intense.

Finally, "the machinery" of my defense mechanisms grinds me between its gears and leaves me feeling terribly sore and shaken. To me, this is symbolic of my ongoing adrenal difficulties, and the way that they can make me feel "beaten up" at the end (and even beginning!) of the day.

But the good news is the end of the dream. After passing through the moment of crisis that "chewed me up," the machinery of my defense mechanisms is broken. I let go of the machinery, and everything is okay. I feel pretty shaken by the fact that something has gotten past my super powers and made me feel vulnerable by hurting me… but in the end, I realize that I’m okay. I survived the encounter, and the crisis is over.

To me, this reflects something that I’m already starting to suspect — namely, that the worst of my adrenal crisis may be over. There is still so much healing to do… but I think that I’ve made it past the peak (or the valley, as the case may be).

I suppose it wasn’t a fully satisfactory dream because I don’t clearly remember the "villain" — the repressed emotions that unleashed the machinery on me. But even without seeing their face in this particular dream, I know them well… and I’m bound to meet them again in future dreams, and in the many moments in my life where deep feelings arise.

So, there’s a bit of fascinating self-dream-analysis… if you’re a fan of Superman AND dream analysis, then you must have REALLY liked this entry… 🙂 If not, then hopefully you enjoyed sharing my journey through the oddities of dreamland… and in my next Song of the Trees, I suspect that I’ll have all sorts of big news to share in relation to the change in seasons and my slow but steady journey to recovery.

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Cooked Karma

First of all, I must admit that eating cooked foods has helped me to gain weight. When I started this experiment, I was at 130 pounds. At my peak on this diet, I reached 138 pounds. Now, I seem to have stabilized at about 136.

Some raw foodists and cooked vegans will argue that this weight gain is due to cooked foods and/or animal products clogging my intestinal tract. This clogging is indeed what goes on in the intestines of most people who eat cooked foods, especially animal products, grains, and some other heavily processed foods. But in my case, almost five years of raw veganism seems to have left me with a healthy capacity for elimination. I can feel that most if not all of this gain has been a combination of fat and muscle in my hips and thighs.

I’ve been very happy to see this weight gain because it was concern over weight loss that lead me to conduct the drastic experiment of returning to cooked foods. It’s good to be closer to my target weight, and good to feel less of a risk of my body digesting itself!

But is cooked foods really the way to go?

After several weeks on this diet, I’ve come to the conclusion that cooked foods is not a path to better health — not in my case, and probably not in anyone’s case.

What probably caused the weight gain was a simple increase in the amount of calories I’ve been consuming and assimilating. Cooked foods concentrate a large amount of calories into a small amount of product. When flooded with so many calories, the body burns what it can and stores the rest — especially the peculiar processed oils and other unrecognizeable components of cooked foods — in fat tissue for later use.

So, when faced with an increase in calories and a flood of processed fats and sugars, my body finally remembered that it can store fat and decided to store some of this fat in my body for later use.

Is this something that I could have done on raw foods? Frankly, I don’t know. But right now, my answer would be "probably yes."

What I probably would have had to do, though, was drink herbal teas and probiotics to help build my appetite and improve my digestion. As I transition back to raw foods, I’ll be doing more of this, along with doing what I can to rest more and relax more. The new protein powder I got from Nature’s First Law via the Neighborhood Co-op may be helping as well since it provides my body with some of the proteins necessary to build good muscle tissue.

So, this positive effect of returning to cooked foods may or may not have been achievable by other means. Now, what about the negative effects?

Now that I’ve returned to cooked foods, I find it hard to believe that I ever lived this way. The foods taste wonderful, and on some level, it does feel good to take in all of those dense proteins, fats, and carbs. But cooked foods — especially animal products — have also left me groggy, moody, tired, depressed, achey, and generally unhappy.

People talk about the warming effects of cooked foods. I must admit that I’ve felt these effects quite strongly. When I eat cooked foods, I feel a warmth in my body for hours afterwards, to the point where my physical body temperature rises and cold weather has less of an effect on me. But only upon returning to cooked foods after 5 years away from them did the exact nature of this warming effect become clear to me.

Basically, cooked foods inflame the body. Between the unhealthy heat and the toxic chemical composition of the food, the body responds as if under attack. As the body’s defenses swing into full gear, a feverish heat results. In small doses, as part of an entire lifestyle of cooked foods, this effect may not be very noticeable. But when eating a large amount of cooked food, or when eating cooked foods after years away from it, this reaction becomes clear. I can remember feeling this way five years ago whenever I would eat cooked foods. But only now, with a different experience as a basis for comparison, does it become clear to me that this "heating" action of cooked foods is in fact a form of inflammation.

The first few times that I experienced this inflammation, I actually enjoyed it. I am a very Vata (airy, dry, cold) person, physically speaking, and it was good to feel my body filled with internal warmth. Feverish warmth seemed better than my moments of experiencing no inner warmth at all. But after several weeks of eating this way, this fascination turned into frustration. I can feel these cooked foods cooking my body! When I eat them, this familiar "warmth" fills my body, and I find myself craving cool green juices just to counteract the inflammation.

I also noticed "cooked karma" entering into my life. This may sound like a funny way of putting it at first… and in fact, when a co-worker first asked me about my "karma," I assumed that he was making some sort of simple joke that had gone over my head. But he was quite serious — and it was almost as though he’d read my mind, because the same topic had been on my mind ever since returning to cooked foods.

How does eating cooked food, especially cooked animal products, affect our spiritual lives?

Cooked carnivore karma is definitely different than raw vegan karma. Eating raw vegan foods has helped me to connect with the Green Man and his fresh, wild, passionate, earthy energies. He is relaxed, yet active… mellow, yet passionate… mindful, yet boisterous. He has a wild confidence and emotional clarity that results from his wholly untamed nature. It would never even occur to him to repress or restrain his passions because he IS passion! And in the expression of his heart’s wild passion, he is truly free.

Eating cooked carnivore food, on the other hand, triggered a moment of karmic chaos. Instead of the slow, steady, inner fire of the Green Man fueling me from within, I felt the quick, turbulent, outer fire of the Cooked Man yanking me forward in several directions at once. Tensions that had been building beneath the surface with a friend of mine boiled over into a burning chaotic mess that I still don’t quite understand and haven’t fully resolved. My financial situation melted down, and several odd occurences unfolded before my eyes in a way that affected me more personally than I would have expected. Ultimately, the increased stress of all of these problems put together lead to another adrenal crisis and two or three days of painful retreat to my sanctuary in my home.

To my knowledge, none of these chaotic occurences were directly related to cooked foods. But eating cooked foods introduced an element of rapid transformation into my life, and eating animal products introduced far more immediate and self-evident karmic consequences than I would have ever imagined possible. It’s not as though I got struck by lightning or anything… but within moments of eating cooked animal products again, I did notice a dramatic shift, both good and bad, in the energies of my life.

The down side of this shift was that negative energies bubbled to the surface and left me stewing in a brew of stress and chaos. The up side of this was that I was then able to clear away some of these negatives energies. I also felt myself reharmonizing with the consciousness of this cooked society of ours. That’s a very challenging thing to do — but if I’m going to live here and create change here, then I need at least some degree of harmony with the consciousness that surrounds me. Otherwise, I will be a complete alien, and I won’t get very far in my goal to work with other people for the creation of positive change!

So, I am very happy that I’ve conducted this cooked foods experiment. It put on a few pounds to stave off some immediate short-term health concerns I was worried about, and it helped me to reconnect with the cooked consciousness that surrounds me. Re-experiencing this consciousness has been a lesson in humility, compassion, surrender (in the positive sense), and open-mindedness. I now have a deeper understanding of why our ancestors chose cooked foods, and why our contemporaries continue to choose it today.

But in the end, my return to This Cooked Planet has only served as a reminder of why I chose raw foods in the first place.

The Green Man is calling me to be wild… to be free… to be raw… and in a land that is definitely not ruled by the Green Man, Brighid has helped me to find my way to health and learning with her mother’s milk and her fires of illumination and transformation. Together, they will help me to find the truths of both of these perspectives, and thus bring healing to myself and the planet.

This has been an important, necessary experience for me… but now, my goal is to transition back to raw foods and find a way to heal my adrenal glands and gain the weight I need on a raw foods diet.

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Adrenal Update

My lower back was home to incredible pain this weekend, causing me to miss two days of work. The sharp pain, increased fatigue, and almost complete appetite loss — all potential indicators of outright adrenal failure — caused me to lose eight of the ten pounds that I had just gained.

What was the source of this pain? Well, some people have tried to attribute it to heavy lifting, which is what everyone wants to blame back pain on. Others have said that it may have been because I worked a long day Thursday and then tried to work another long day on Friday.

But the truth of the matter is that it was stress. Stress, stress, stress — of the emotional variety, that is. The shift on Thursday was actually shorter than many I’ve worked on this, my busiest day of the work week. And when the pain set in on Friday, it wasn’t triggered by lifting. I woke up with it when I went to work, and lifting didn’t seem to aggravate it. It was only when I started feeling stress that it really kicked in, before I had even started lifting again.

So, what’s the source of this stress? Since it involves other people, I don’t want to talk about it publicly. If you know me personally, then feel free to ask me about it in person. But if you don’t, it’s enough to say that I was not maintaining healthy emotional boundaries and chose to internalize the stress of people in my life who I care about deeply.

This external stress, combined with my own diminished-but-persistent general stress about life, was enough to trigger another "incident" of sharp back pain that I attribute to profound adrenal exhaustion.

The good news is that I’m learning to self-treat this condition.

When I woke up Friday morning, I wasn’t fully mindful or respectful of the fact that my significant lower back pain was an indication of excessive stress. So, I worked through the pain rather than resting and relaxing. Later. when the pain sharpened in response to further stress, I recognized immediately what was happening and simply stopped working because I was physically unable to continue.

The last time this happened, I was out of work for several days of almost continuous and severe back pain. This time, I noticed improvement as early as Friday night — and after a poor decision to attempt working on Saturday, I noticed improvement again as early as Sunday morning. And as a result, instead of losing 10 pounds like last time, I only lost 8 pounds. (Those seemingly small two pounds mean the world to me at this point!)

So, I am learning how to respond to these incidents as they arise. But the ultimate goal here is to NOT HAVE these incidents! The ultimate goal is to heal my adrenal glands so that even the occassional several-week span of emotional stress won’t cause my adrenals to shut down.

In pursuit of that goal, I have three tactics:

* Continue eating cooked foods until my weight surpasses 145 pounds;
* Actually follow my doctor’s advice to take certain supplements and eliminate as much stress as I can from my life;
* Start drinking licorice tea, which my latest research has uncovered as an herbal remedy to adrenal exhaustion. [By research, I mean book learnin’. I obviously don’t have my own holistic medical lab in my basement… 🙂 Although that could be cool… ]

Continuing to eat cooked foods will be the simplest part of this program. Even though these foods seem to make me feel groggy and eager to "detox," they do seem to put on the weight — and in all honesty, some of them taste really good! Raw chocolate is still the greatest tasting food I know, and raw foods are still the most healing and energizing foods out there. But I’m not going to deny that cooked foods taste delicious! That’s why so many people eat them, in spite of all of the negative health qualities they contain.

Resuming the supplements was simple. I already started that this morning and will continue with it from here on out. The hard part is going to be actually letting go of the stress in my life. Luckily, however, I have very good training in "psychic defense" and the regulation of my own consciousness.

The big lesson that I re-learned this weekend is that I must be ever mindful of that psychic defense training, even when I’m in the presence of loved ones. In fact, I must be ESPECIALLY mindful of this training in the presence of loved ones, because they are the people who I "lower my defenses" to the most. Since we care about each other, it’s only natural to spend most of our time in a very open state of emotional sharing. But when stress ariseson either or both sides, it’s my responsibility to "raise my shields" and offer a healing response rather than an emotional reaction.

I could dedicate an entire entry to the nature and importance of psychic self-defense! Maybe another day… in the meantime, I’m going to finish this entry, rest a bit longer, and head over to the Co-op for some licorice and a two-hour shift. With any luck, I’ll still feel good later in the afternoon, enough so to make it over to the second episode of the Southern Illinois Community annual visioning meeting. Either way, I’ll post any further news about my adrenals, my health, and life in general right here in Song of the Trees. Until then, I hope that you enjoy a restful and relaxing weekend…

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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