The Porcupine of Truth

The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015.

How could you not pick up a book called The Porcupine of Truth? The title led me to the inside flap — boy meets lesbian — which led me to the first chapter. There I found writing that engaged me just as much as the premise of the book.

A summer of exile from New York became an adventure on a number of levels for Carson Smith. Carson, facile of verbiage — except in the presence of beautiful young women — finally manages to speak to one. It turns out not exactly to be the adventure he was hoping for, but . . .

It all began with Aisha offering Carson a tour of the Billings, Montana zoo where his mother had just dropped him. She was headed to his father’s house to get things organized for their summer visit with the dying man. Neither of them had seen him in the 14 years since they left when Carson was 3.

Turns out that Aisha is not only a lesbian, she is newly homeless – kicked out by her father. She joins Carson in his basement room, and as the two of them are trying to bring some order to the space, they discover a carton of letters from his grandfather who had abandoned his own family when Carson’s father was 17. Most of the letters are unreadable due to water damage, but the one they can read leads them to believe that Carson’s grandfather may still be alive — and that the abandonment story in his father’s head may not be accurate. They grab the one clue available to them as to where he might have gone when he left Billings and they hit the road.

It isn’t long before the trip becomes three parallel journeys: the physical trek; an exploration of messy human relationships, how they form, and what they require those in them to become; and a journey into faith and spiritual meaning. I wasn’t expecting all that and was delighted to discover just how rich this story is.

In many ways, The Porcupine of Truth reflects my own story. It is interesting to me how often books seem to find me when I need them. In this instance, I have been working through the whole concept of privilege, and how it is so ingrained in us that we don’t notice it when it’s our own. Ever since I went to hear the two talks at CSL last month about racism and transphobia, I’ve been roiling around in my mind about my own privilege and how I can make an impact for change around a world that is too small for too many of us to fit into. How do I balance not making myself smaller than I am — which I have done all my life — while recognizing that this world does try (really hard and viciously sometimes) to make a lot of people smaller than they are. How do I not take advantage of privilege I am afforded as a matter of course because I am white, petite, aligned in my gender expression (mostly anyway — a little androgynous, but definitely a female in a female-gendered body)?

Is that even the right question? Maybe it’s less about giving something up than it is ensuring that everyone else be afforded the same “privilege” . . . because they are perfect expressions of God, exactly as they are. I’m still working all that out, and Porcupine has given me more fodder for doing so.

I loved both the main characters in this story, and my heart was touched by the people they met along the way as well as the people they came home to. For all that I make it sound like an earnest book, in truth it is funny as well as heart warming and real. Carson is kind of an ass a good deal of the time. He doesn’t seem to get that it’s not all about him. Even his gesture of giving a gift to Aisha in the form of leading her to a group of gay kids morphs into a petulant fit on his part when she actually wants to hang out with them. Yet Aisha and Carson don’t toss each other out despite their very human reactions. The book is a lovely exploration of the developing of friendship, of the healing of painful family relations, and of the belief in something bigger to help make sense of it all.

Appreciating My Power

Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.
— Eckhart Tolle

I am a powerful creator. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that until my throat started hurting a couple of Fridays ago. I’d been dreading having to work until midnight at our Teen Summer Reading Kickoff Event. Sore throat–ticket out. Except there was no way I was going to actually bail on the event. I was the only one who would be there that night who had the magical power needed to open the media closet. I was going to be there, even if I had to be rolled in on a gurney.

The day after the event, I crashed. I was completely couldn’t-get-out-of-bed tired with a stuffy head and compulsive cough.

I’ve gotten into affirmative mind treatment over the past couple of years and have been really diving in the last couple of months. It’s the Science of Mind approach to prayer. I’ve been praying and praying–alone, with my cats, with friends over the phone. I love praying. I can feel the joy in my body when I pray. I can hear the power in my words.

So if I’m so good at praying, why was I lying there, sick as a dog? For one thing, God gives you what you pray for–and thoughts are prayers to God. I really didn’t want to feel this bad. Time to give up the belief that if I don’t get enough sleep, I don’t just get tired, I get sick. There has got to be a better way to get out of doing things I don’t want to do. It was time to use God’s power for good. If I was that kind of powerful–and I am–I had to get conscious about my thoughts. I started praying for perfect health. I prayed every day. I’d like to say there was a glimmer of improvement each day, but truthfully, I was not feeling discernibly better.

Affirmative prayer is about revealing the truth to ourselves–about God, about ourselves, knowing that we are perfect spiritual beings. Which does not mean that there is no illness; obviously, there is. But it does mean that illness does not have anything to do with the truth of who we are. None of us “deserve” to be sick. When we align our knowing with the truth, we experience it; when we align it with not-the-truth, we experience that.

Probably not many of us would dispute the notion that God is perfect, that illness is not part of God’s experience. It doesn’t make any sense to think that it is. If we are made by God, out of Itself, then it doesn’t make sense to believe that it is inevitable that we are going to get sick.

So here’s the gift of this illness. This crud has me focusing on revealing the truth of who I am–on demonstrating that truth. I was invited (some might say “forced”) to consciously proclaim the truth: that I am a perfect expression of God, that wellness is my natural state of being. Over and over and over. I really liked hearing it. And hearing it repeatedly, I started to get it. I am a perfect expression of God, no matter what.

If it’s taken me a couple of weeks to demonstrate that in my physical self . . . well, hey. It took me two to three to manifest the experience. I’m not sweating a couple of weeks to cancel it out. And just between you and me, there’d have been no denying what a spiritual freak I am if I went from sick as a dog to healed, whole, and healthy overnight. God’s got my back on keeping that little secret.

The Gift

You may underestimate the intensity of your longing for continual transformation, but the universe doesn’t. That’s why it provides you with the boundless entertainment of your ever-shifting story. That’s why it is always revising the challenges it sends your way, providing your curious soul with a rich variety of unpredictable teachings.
From Rob Brezsny’s May 5, 2015 Astrology Newsletter

I have been played. By the Divine Trickster no less. I can’t stop laughing to myself as I tip my head. Namaster: The Trickster in me recognizes and honors the Trickster in you.

A couple of weeks ago, this woman I met awhile back stepped out of my peripheral vision and engaged me in conversation. New life sprang up inside me just like the primal bamboo in my back yard–not slowly pushing it’s way up through the resistant soil, but bam, here I am–knee high before you can blink your eye. (Please forgive the rhyme; that was not intentional.)

I was not expecting that. I mean seriously, I’m working on three goals, and I’ve got a waiting list five deep, with love and desire right at the tail end of those. So maybe a year or two and I’m ready.

But these feelings are lovely, and now I’m shuffling the stack to make room in my world to enjoy them. Who wouldn’t?

I know that these feelings are mine, and though they have been triggered by this particular woman, it doesn’t mean that she will have any interest in me, nor does it mean that she will be someone that I will want to share them with. I finally get that, and I love that I do. But why not take a step forward and see what there is to see?

When I have been attracted to someone in the past, my mind has tended to go blank, my tongue to tie itself in knots, and my feet to head me anywhere but in her direction. Nonetheless, I determine that the next time I see this woman, I will ask her if she’d be interested in grabbing a cup of coffee sometime. (I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve got my Virgo need for detail accuracy in check, and I have rehearsed this simple line used without qualm by normal people everywhere, until I can recite it in any blanked out state my brain might throw at me.)

As the next possible opportunity to see her approaches, I’m hearing Chris Michael’s voice from prayer class in my head–“people usually turn to prayer as a last resort”–so I accept the invitation and I claim the courage to speak this one measly line, the faith to know that my life is unfolding perfectly no matter what, and, well, what the hell.

The Universe, recognizing my keen ability to talk myself out of anything at the last moment, starts strumming leftover remnants of songs in my mind to help bolster my resolve: “What would I do if I were brave.” Then a whole brand new song: “You can’t touch the sky from inside yourself. You cannot fly until you break the shell.” Then comes the challenge from Mike Irwin, CSL’s spiritual co-director: “What would you do this year if you were brave?” Whatever on this year. What about today?

So next chance I had, I asked. It wasn’t even hard. The line came out almost smoothly. She accepted–but not for a specific sometime. I didn’t get the feeling that she was particularly interested in doing so.

That’s when it hit me that God in It’s infinite wisdom was playing me just the way It needed to–getting me to open up, to release some of my old stuff and to really get clear on what I want–and that I want for that matter. And the real gift for me in this (besides these dreamy feelings) is that I get to see that I have become a woman equal to the lover, and the lover experience, that I want to have.

Honoring the Inner Feminine

Once upon a time, in a land just a few blocks away, I had the unrequited desire to be a drag queen. The lesbians could make no sense of it. “You can’t be a drag queen. You’re a girl.” I was undeterred. I had had a lifetime of people telling me what I could not do because I was a girl. The desire, however, remained locked within me until one day one of my straight friends showed up at work with the perfect outfit: white leather/ black spandex short-shorts and halter top, with a pair of cat-eye sunglasses to match.

Under the cover of Halloween, I made my drag debut. I was disturbingly hot. Let me assure you, however, that being a drag queen requires a lot more than just looking good. Not everyone has the cojones to pull off dancing, lip synching, and keeping the beat. In heels. One night wobbling around was enough for me.

Or so I thought.

Along came the Hunger Games, and who was I pining to emulate? Not the amazing Katniss Everdeen (though she fascinates me in her inability to make sense of the world she has been thrust into and her inability to be other than who she is). Nope. Effie Trinket.

Effie of the big hair and bigger flower, perfect make-up, and strangely chastely sexy outfits. And those eyelashes? To die for. Except those lashes were $20. And I am cheap. Three Halloweens come and go and I am frozen, unable to go forth and shop, despairing of ever finding the perfect outfit. But those eyelashes . . .

I confide my secret to a woman at work, and before lunch, she has sent me a link – $3.99. Those eyelashes are mine. Just this Saturday, I found the perfect dress and shoes to go with those eyelashes. (You know I had help–thank god for the women in my life with feminine sensibilities and aesthetic taste.)

Effie has pervaded my soul. I want more. Who needs Halloween?

Let the Door Open

“We sort of see you from an aerial view, and it is like you are standing on one side of a closed door, and on the other side are all the things you have been wanting, just leaning up against the door, waiting for you to open it. They have been there from the first moment you asked for them: your lovers, your perfect bodies, your ideal jobs, all the money that you could ever imagine—all the things that you have ever wanted.”

I randomly read the above quote from Manifest Your Desires by Esther and Jerry Hicks to my prayer partner the other morning. As I read, an image of all this stuff leaning up against the door popped in my head. And all I could think was, “Just how the heck am I supposed to get the door open with all that stuff shoved up against it? Huh?”

“What?”

“The door opens toward me?”

“Oh.”