fight of the flesh

fight of christmas

Gifts at Christmas

A Callan Christmas

the very fight of our life


fight of the flesh

The world of flesh
is a world of fighting.

We cannot be embodied
and not be in conflict.
We cannot be human
and not be engaged in some battle.

Spirit can exist totally centered
but humans must exist off balance
in a web of tensions,
pushed and pulled
pushing and pulling
to get what they need
to do what they must
to create their own life
to create their own world.

a story in Salon
says that those with sickle cell anemia
who don't fight
don't get what they need to survive.
they may fight from love
from a pure and wholesome place
but they must fight for their own lives.

we grow up and learn the unconscious fight
we feel beaten up, like we need peace
we follow spirit to a still place and hear the voice inside
we become conscious
and then we learn to fight again
this time consciously and with spirit.

this facing conflict after we have faced peace
is the hardest thing we can do
because it requires losing the balance
we have worked so hard to attain
but losing balance is the only way to move
to create a path in flesh.

it's right to search for peace and balance.
it's right, too, to be fighting and unbalanced
for we are spirit and flesh
and the fight of the flesh
gives us much to learn about spirit
as well as making a world we can hand to our children.

any balance that doesn't include fighting
is only temporary

the question is
what do you fight for?
for stuff to fill you up or for things to get better
for social motion or for real change
for lofty ideals or for real common ground
for pies in the sky or for human compassion
for escape or for accountability?
for status quo or for growth?

I feel the rage simmering under my skin
a rage at ignorance and unconsidered choices
and I feel off balance,
wondering why I want to fight
my rage comes out with a sharp tongue
full of humor and insight
that people don't want to hear
because they are in their own fights
and I don't honor their goals.

their goals may be feel permission to be a victim
to grab what they feel they deserve
to consider only themselves
to be self centered and without compassion.
they don't want to be forced to see
what they cannot yet deal with
what they think is off the point
so focused are they on the fight that consumes them
the fight against idiots who get in their way
the fight to make a buck at the expense of others
the fight to be able to be sloppy
and never get called on it.

it's those unconscious fights
the fight to stay small
the fight to create drama
the fight to fill up life with crap
that keep us down

the jerry springer show is one window to those fights
we watch the passion flow
feel our blood boil, our laughter pour
and feel smug because we aren't as dumb as them
stupid fighting over things that don't matter

yet what matters to us?
where are we willing to fight?
how do we engage our own rage and passion
to use them for creation
to respect them in the world?

too many "spiritual" people
look for only peace and not momentum
look for only stasis and not movement
look for only escape and not engagement
look for only separation into cloisters and not connection with a world
and not connection with themselves
and not connection with their human flesh

the passions of humans are great
and have done great things
from soaring cathedrals to space exploration
from breathtaking art to awesome cities
from potent exploration to structures of charity & comfort
all of these things took a fight
to make them present in the world
to make them a present to our children and our children's children.

we need to not only honor and cherish balance
but also to honor and cherish fighting
the balance of the spirit
the fight of the flesh
the peace of reflection
the battle of creation

every human fights
in their own special ways
the challenge is what we fight for
connection or separation
isolation or love.

until we both find balance
and then lose it again,
this time deliberately and consciously
its hard to support others in their fight
because our fight gets in the way
even if it is the fight to eliminate fighting.

What kind of conflict do you like?
Where will you jump in and fight the good fight --
body, heart, mind or spirit?

If you say you don't like conflict at all,
then you have stopped growing,
because it is only through engaging differences
to find common ground or to triumph
that we become new and invigorated.

Pick your battles,
always have some place you embrace conflict

fight of christmas

the gift of christmas
is the gift of conscious fighting
the remembrance
there is something bigger we fight for
loving one another and
peace between men
is something worthy of having a ritual time
to remember

to fight for peace
may seem an oxymoron
but we do fight
when we don't just ignore the conflict between us
but we open into that conflict
with open hearts we engage our differences
and find common ground
in dark days of winter.

the everyday fight
to get what we want
at Christmas, it
turns into a special fight
to get what others want
to let the needs and wants and feelings
of the others we share the dark night with
fill our minds and hearts

the gifts of understanding
we give at christmas
gifts where we consider others
tasked with walking in their shoes enough
to know what they would like to receive
and giving it to them
building bridges though considered gifts
focused on another
crossing those bridges by accepting those gifts
and the other person's heart with them
this is the fight of christmas
to create a space
where peace on earth can reign
though consideration and open engagement of others
though expressions of love,
even for those with whom we are in conflict

the fight of christmas
is to be the host
open and facilitating
warm and welcoming
giving and considerate

the fight of christmas
is to be the guest
grateful and gracious
respectful and honoring
relaxed and open

all at the same time.

(and maybe,
just maybe
the fights of families at christmas
come from those who feel
not that the gift was bad
but that they have never gotten the gift of being understood
or never gotten the gift of feeling safe enough to open and receive gifts
rather having to stay defended an angry
and hurt)

As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations,
compounded by December's bad weather,
it is good to be reminded that
there are people in our lives
who are worth this aggravation,
and people to whom we are worth the same.

Donald E. Westlake


Fight notes

What are we willing to fight for? Who are we willing to fight?

How do we feel after fighting? cocky/smug, embarassed/ashamed? Do we know how to stop fightinng and heal? Does the fight consume us, either because we obsess about fighting, or obsess about being ashamed of fighting?

Do men and women fight differently? Are the differences important? Is there a difference between fight and struggle? Or do they just stop fighting differenly? Do women see fighting as the same as drama, watching soap operas to watch the conflicts, the fights, done with words & looks, rarely with fists & bullets? Men may do battle, but women do drama -- both forms of conflict played out.

In the long run, who are we fighting with? When we conquer the computer or the traffic jam, do we change them, or do we change ourselves? Isn't the inner fight the real challenge we each have to face, not the mountain?

often two battling collaborators create the best work of all....


it's the nostalgia for the fight i am leaving
more than trepidation about the fight ahead
another cry for the 56 chevy
when I was 8
and i couldn't let it go

the level change
girding for battle
things will never
be quite like this

a nice inner fight


the fight model for me?
sing and fight, with an orchestra


the lesson of the bent amaryllis --

bent in the box, three blooms coming out at an angle
two more blooms straight up.

freedom, water, a home
and even those deformed by constraint/closets do marvelous things


Gifts at Christmas


If I can't be a ballsy broad, then what's the point?

It's Winter Solstice. I sit here, candles burning, Gregorian Chants on the stereo and a tall handblown goblet of Drambuie near the keyboard. It's a long night, and I am alone.

On this night, though, I feel invigorated. Goddess has been smiling at me over the past few days as I reentered the fight. Notes from friends popping up, boxes that just went on sale, another year work of unique wrapping (last year was rubberbands), poinsettias that just went on sale for $1, the perfect gifts popping up here and there. A card from Val, joking with Barkat in a girl way, a package from my sister addressed to Callan, phone calls from Kirsten, IM from Tina, tape in the store, food and gifts.

Even a tree. A 7" Frasier Fir stands in the corner, taking up altogether too much room, but when I saw it for $5 at Lowes, I knew she wanted me to have it.

She hangs heavy in the sky tonight, the first full moon at winter solstice for a couple of hundred years. She is powerful and dramatic, shining boldly. When I walk outside, she hangs right overhead, a powerful spotlight shining on me.

It's that boldness that I love.

"It's not the frivolity of women that makes them so intolerable.
It's their ghastly enthusiasm."
Horace Rumpole (John Mortimer)

Saturday I got dressed to go out. I did go out, just around town, but nothing was happening. I came back and played with my appearance -- bright red hair, and lips painted on far beyond the boundaries of my own. Big and bold, almost Bette Davis -- and it felt good.

I moved beyond the boundaries of decorum and good taste, and I loved it. I may have hated how people saw it, what they projected onto me, but odds are I wouldn't like that anyway. Bold -- bold enough to buy the $10 silver lurex and black pants and then cut out the tacky modesty shorts. I have nice underwear, and that's enough.

Another of the many gifts given to me from the sky was this quote

"The affirmation of one's essential being
in spite of desires and anxieties
creates joy."
Paul Tillich

It's the challenge at Christmas as I am the dutiful son, spending 72 hours and driving from here and back to get my father's paper laid out for publication. I do the impossible, learning new software and creating magic, making it work. I love giving to my parents, I really do, and I know they give to me. What they can't give me, though, is an affirmation of my essential being -- they know only part of it, and choose to ignore the elephant in the living room.

There is the one problem with all these gifts -- the little signs, the high drama, the peace and comfort -- I don't have anyone to share them with. There is no place that I can giggle with glee like a schoolgirl, share secrets and joys, a place where I can be enthusiastic & exuberant -- a place for me to be an intense and glamorous ballsy broad, a goddess incarnate.

I called Penny in Richmond tonight. She was stabbing away at a Win98 install on a machine she is giving her brother for Christmas, headache pounding. She has a new job, a couple of trannies she met when she had her surgery last year down for the weekend, needing being taken care of, a dying father, a mother who has just gone though cataract surgery, and a perpetual headache.

"Where is your enthusiasm?" I asked her. We both knew the answer -- she is afraid that if she is visible, looks like a ballsy broad, people will assume she is just ballsy, assume he is just ballsy. That's not what she wants. She -- and I -- are way past guy-in-a-dress, though so many people find birth sex so essential we fear they will never see that.

"Take belly dancing lessons," I told her. "Go somewhere where there are adventurous, dramatic, ballsy broads with open minds, and let yourself go. Be the diva."

She understands the suggestion, even things it is a good one. But doing it will be hard, maybe harder than she can handle. Yet, if she doesn't find some where to be enthusiastic -- the kind she fears showing at work, the kind she can't show around queers -- she will be crushed by what the loss of balance.

This is the choice, in every moment, what to be crushed with -- social connections or inner spirit. Without a place, a person where we feel safe to be ecstatic and be mirrored, someone to share our joys, our rages and our emotions, though, it gets very, very hard. Trannys don't want joy, and most of the ones born male are still guys, still not moved beyond their own training and security. Straights don't get the joys of someone finding their own womanhood, and showing them that exposes us.

Gifts are great, but with no place to share the joy of what really invigorates us, our ecstasy withers on the vine.

A Callan Christmas

I went to get bread on a crisp & frosty, Christmas Eve morning, from the last coal fired bakery in town. There is always a lineup on Christmas, sometimes a slow one if the ovens are still doing their work to put bread on the feast table. The staff, decked out in Christmas aprons, do their work, knowing that on this day, they contribute to thousands of gatherings and family celebrations in their own special way

In the parking lot, air heavy with the scent of yeast & fire, up over the railroad tracks, up over the power lines, up over the ridge of hills in the distance, was the reflection of a smoky pink sunrise. In the deepening blue sky hung the bright and awesome moon, just starting to wane from her solstice display, unwilling to not make her presence felt at this special time of year.

I stood and stared at the power in the sky, this huge glowing orb marked with dark spots, covered with character, the jagged shapes that reveal history, reveal earned wisdom from millennia of impacts with objects and ideas that changed her.

As I drove away, she floated in my windscreen, over the buildings of town. I told her how much I loved her, but the hard part, the choking part was saying out loud that I knew how much she loved me, how much I knew that she had made me special, warts, scars and all. I walk in her light, as we all do, beneficiaries of her love, the love of a caring mother who has given us life.

On the radio someone was talking about how, if Mary had given birth in a stable, it had been anything but a silent night. Mother and child screaming out with life and the sharing of it, a messy entrance, covered with the fluids of life. Entering between piss and shit, we are given birth, given life, and then we have to do what we must with it. Life is a gift, the gift we give and the gift we receive at Christmas, gifts given with sweat and strain, gifts received with screaming and shock, breaking the surface and entering life, entering the struggle at Christmas.

As the moon beamed down on me this Christmas eve, a spotlight in the sky, a song formed in my mind -- "that lucky star I talked about is you, baby everything's coming up roses" -- the song of a mother telling her daughter to go and take the light.

I turned towards the East and the ball of fire that is the sun caught my eyes, coming up on his daily trip. The light was blinding, but I knew I had to face it to get where I needed to go. I threw on the "peril sensitive sunglasses," as Sabrina would say, taking a page from Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's guide, her magic screen that allows her to face the light and be out & bold, and I drove on.

Often over the past five years I have referred to myself as "stuck in the birth canal." What better time than at the celebration of the birth of a savior, the breaking of a dark night with a gift given and a gift received. This felt to me like a moment of birth. the moment of breaking free. I laughed and sang, and although time with my family made me feel pushed back in, I know this is time to come out.

This may just be a Callan Christmas, a Christmas where Callan claims herself, bold and beautiful.

For the record: I opened the gifts from my sister. They were

Have I mentioned that she is brilliant and gorgeous, and that I love her?

Val misses me and wants me to come up for a spa day at Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid where she works. And I have to schedule a meal with Kristen. . .

the very fight of our life.

I just watched my third midnight turn to January 1, 2000, and it's only just past 6AM where I am. The story of this century is the story of communications & travel shrinking the globe, and I witness it though glass windows set in a plastic boxes, one connected to data, the other to sound and pictures.

As it was about to go midnight in Auckland, the MC of the ceremonies asked the assembled crowd, which included me, half a world away, to look around and consider what their gift to the future would be.

It's a good question. It's a very good question. What we give to the future, I suspect, is the very fight of our life.

Every gift that a human gives is the result of their own battles against the challenges they see. Whether it is the courage we feel from other's fight against disability, the insight we gain from other's fights for understanding, the comforts we enjoy from other's fights to create, the survival we have from others fights to feed us, the love we feel from others fights to care for us, everything that lasts, everything that makes a change is the result of struggle and achievement.

We are given the gifts that have been won for us though millennia of human struggle. The struggle may be powered by love or the call for love -- a sense of ego -- but it is the results of that struggle which are our gifts to the future, which are the gifts we get from the past. This may only be a shared illusion, but it is an illusion where we raise our children, where we pass life and the quality of life to our children, to the broader base of our descendants and the society we live in.

This is the question I face this morning, as a new dawn sweeps around the world, one with portentous numbers assigned to it. What is my gift to the future? How can I give the results my struggle to an earth that has given me life, comfort and joy? What is my part to play in this global pageant that I glimpse in the electronic windows I peer though this morning?

The gift, of course, is a gift of myself, authentic & honest, singing the song God taught me. The gift is engaging the struggle, fighting the good fight, living with courage & grace, doing the right thing, the good thing, the bold thing beyond my own comfort in the world and into my own power.

Facing the future is facing my own fear of separation and discomfort, facing my own fears of how my power, my energy, my strength and my own bold struggle open me to risk, humiliation and denunciation.

Facing the future requires me to be strong enough to face the past and transcend it, to accept the fears and taunts of others and stay centered in my own fight, my own struggle to create what is in my heart. Persistence is the key, as it always is -- gifts to the future are always the result not of one great moment, but of the persistence and tenacity that brought the world to that moment, the perseverance and power that cemented the gains of one moment and made them a part of the future.

The dream in a heart is a fragile thing, but it is the dreams made flesh that change a world, that are the gifts to the future. Make no little plans, for the have no power to stir the blood, as Daniel Burnham reminds us. Be bold and make what has never existed be new, against the fights of those who resist change, who fight the fight of conservation (from concern or from reactionism) against you. It is the struggle that makes the result strong, which forces the dreams to gain the muscle which lets them live and grow, giving far into the future.

It is the fights of our lives that creates the gifts we leave, be those gifts the gift of rage, anger and the call for love, or the gifts of love. We go inside to find the peace, but then we must become an instrument of that peace, fighting in the world of flesh to make a mark and leave our gifts to the future.

May the new millennium be a time when you -- and I -- find the strength to give the world and our creator the very fight of our life.


My breath curled in the night as I peered though the tall paned glass windows cut into the colonial fieldstone church. I stood in the a floodlight which illuminated the flat gravestones around me, most dated before 1850.

Inside, it was New Year's Eve, and a small collection of worshippers had gathered. We have not yet reached Epiphany, so lit candles were mounted on tall staffs affixed to the doored pews, a light reminiscent of the century when this church was built.

In the window before me, beyond a welcoming pillar candle in its hurricane glass, base decked with evergreens, I saw the Anglican liturgy being played out. 2000 years of Christianity had come to this moment, one of many such moments being played out around the world. The call and response of alleluia, the ritual words all brought a tear to my eye.

This was the faith of my childhood, or at least the ritual of my childhood -- faith was not big in a home run by an engineer and a broken-hearted narcissist. The red and gilt vestments, the stance of the clergy and altar servers, even the organ music that filtered though the walls -- praise God from whom all mercies flow -- were threaded though my life.

Why did I stand outside, shivering in the cold clear night? It was because while I was dressed in my millennial finery -- black velvet, silver mesh, sparkling jewelry, and elaborate makeup, my face a work of art -- I chose not to enter.

My gloved hand touched the rough stones and I knew I could walk right though them -- after all, the door just around the corner was ajar. But I chose not to join the crowd.

Earlier tonight I spoke to Penny. I had to call her -- she missed our 5PM computer chat, a pep talk for both of us to talk about claiming our own power on this designated night of change. When she picked up the phone she was wearing an old shirt & jeans, making fudge and planning to settle in with a movie.

My injunction to her was the same as I gave her the past two weeks. If she doesn't claim her playful, feminine, dramatic energy, the flow that invigorates her, she will be crushed by the weight of a droning, grinding dreary life. A year after her genital reconstruction surgery, she is working to play normal, not draw attention, not let her spirit flow.

"Wouldn't you have loved to come downstairs at Christmas in a fabulous cocktail dress, immaculately coifed and made up like a 40's movie star, and announced 'OK -- unwrap me!"

"That would have been great," she smiled, "but I couldn't do that with family and all. They have enough problem with me, I have to be nice."

"Maybe you couldn't on Christmas, but if you can't do drama on New Year's Eve, when can you do drama? Let's face it, you never dreamed about being bland -- you wanted to be a ballsy broad, like Endora on Bewitched!"

I told Karen, a born-female friend about my chats. "My God! It sounds like you are talking to yourself!"

"I always listen closely to myself," I replied. "I often say what I need to hear."

This expression of my heart, of being a woman-identified person born male, is vital to my own life energy. Penny resisted dressing up for herself, because she thought it was "silly," but if she doesn't respect her own calling, her own power, grace and energy, who will? Everybody can tell her how to fit in, but nobody can help her soar on wings of spirit other than her.

I didn't walk though that wall because I feared what happens when I let my sprit show, let my spirit soar. It may be God from whom all mercies flow, but they flow though humans who have their own challenges and prejudices.

I know, though that what I tell Penny is true: unless we trust, honor, reveal and rejoice in the spirit inside of us, no matter how much that sprit may be too ecstatic and joyous for people around us, we die slowly everyday, drained of the life force blown into us by our creator.

I must both trust that sprit and walk though that wall, go in and be there, exposed and powerful. That's not easy, though. As I drove home, I saw the fearful look on Justice, the young lady who sold me a quart of milk to mix with my Drambuie, a woman afraid of what was hidden under this exterior I created to expose who I am. I felt the fear.

A woman is more authentic
the more she looks like
what she has dreamed for herself.
Algrado (Antonia San Juan) in Pedro Almodóvar's "All About My Mother"

If this is my world, then I am the host in it, right? It's my responsibility to make things work, put others at ease. That's a challenging task, which is why most people would rather believe it's someone else's world and just bitch about how lousy the party is rather than working to fix it.

Can I bring Justice into my world, bring my world into that Anglican church? Can I connect the worlds, or do I stand outside looking in, feeling both touched and distant?

On Letterman, Isabella Rosellini noted that it was a Roman tradtion to toss unwanted things out the windows at midnight of the new year.

She said that this tradition has been banned now, due to tourists who didn't know to get out of the streets and who were hit by flying furniture and other household debris, but the idea is still cherished by the inhabitants of Rome.

What would you throw out the window this New Years?

Happy New Year 2000.

A link for the people from St. Georges Callan & Religion