The Introspective Salon
With it being the holidays, I've been thinking a lot about STUFF. I've been thinking a lot about the accumulation of STUFF in general, but Christmas, and spending, and trying to budget has really got me thinking about it almost non-stop.
This occured to me yesterday, when I went to get a few things for the cookies my husband and I are baking for everyone for Christmas this year. We're trying to save money, but also, everyone has everything except for the super expensive things that we can't get them, you know? (Except for my niece, who still believes Christmas is 100% magic, we're getting her something so as not to spoil her 6-year-old truth). But, getting adults stuff they actually could use or even really want, that seems to be the dilemma every Christmas.
Anyway, I was out at Target and I'd gotten all the baking goods I needed so I went to go find a clever way to wrap up the cookies. I browsed the aisle of Christmas wrapping paper for awhile, but soon became super disgruntled at the prices, so I went to the regular wrapping paper aisle and found a way to save myself, oh, probably upwards of $5.
Now, I know that Christams is about generosity, and there comes a point where saving money just becomes a bit of a Scrouge thing to do, but seriously, Christmas wrapping paper is out the butt expensive! In the past, I've purchased plain brown bags and got festive with the tissue paper becasue since I've been an adult and had to buy these things on my own, I've known Christmas wrapping paper is so expensive, but it really got to me this year. It's just STUFF to put STUFF in. It's nothing special.
Christmas has got me ruminating on all this, but I've been thinking a lot more about the financial standards in our world as my husband and I have been looking at getting our own place. Now, we live in Colorado, and it's expensive to live here compared to Wyoming where we came from, but nevertheless I've been blown away by the fact that we can barely afford a starter home! We're not dumb, we know we're not going to get a house with the works, and even so, there's very little out there.
Everyone around us just keeps waiting for us to succumb to the norms, sell our souls to jobs we hate just to get that extra money, but the thing is, by the time we get the extra money, we'll be priced out again. Houses are only going to get more expensive. Even the guy at the bank, with his stable job, admitted that him and his wife keep getting priced out of homes everytime they look!
I'm just getting increasingly frustrated by the mentality that if you just work harder you'll end up the better for it. This "American dream" bullshit. I don't want the American dream becasue I don't want all the STUFF, I just want a small house to call our own, and I know we should be able to do that with what we have. We have money in the bank, we've invested and we didn't blow through all our money in college. I've talked to many people who praise us for our responsibilty. We have worked hard and we are working hard. That's why I'm sick of that whole "work harder" shit, because we'll never catch up anyway.
People who have a lot of STUFF believe that happiness comes from material possessions. They take pleasure in accumulating and they fall for the idea that the more you have, the bigger you have, the grander you have, the happier you'll be. So everyone is always in competition to have the most and the biggest and appear to be the happiest. STUFF becomes more important than relationships and building a life on passion and creativity.
Well, STUFF is a prison and we're not going to condemn ourselves to it. The bank may scoff at us, but at the end of the day we're happier to sacrifice a huge income that can buy us convenience, than to sacrifice our happiness that can sustain us.
This also got me thinking about the Monthly Favorites I post, because those posts ultimately promote STUFF.
Well, there is a balance. There can be pleasure gained from things, but for me I only gain pleasure from things when they're rare and special. I might get temporary pleasure from window shopping, but the things I acutlaly buy and the things I own are not merely a small dent in a pile of STUFF. They are not contributing to a self-made prison of STUFF.
I do feel conflicted with the Favorites, because so many Favorites posts perpetuate consumer culture, but I enjoy writing those posts and I enjoy taking inventory of what I've taken pleasure in throughout the month, and not everything I write about in those posts is even STUFF. Much of it is and will be experiences or knowledge that I've gained, and I think that makes all the difference.
Over on my Tumblr, I've been writing small vignettes chronicling my own experience with vaginismus, and I have a link to an archive of the posts if you've sworn off Tumblr for obvious reasons.
In my vignettes, I take a rather sad approach because I'm still struggling with the condition, and it's hard sometimes to feel positive about the parts of my past which I belive contributed to it. Today, though, I want to talk about some ways to help overcome it, because it is the most treatable vaginal condition, so there's a lot of room for hope. I'm writing this just as much for myself as I'm writing it for anyone else who suffers from vaginismus.
The first step is to find a doctor who believes you, and understands your struggle. Don't settle for a doctor who belittles your experience or makes you feel ashamed in any way. When I finally found a doctor who acknowledged my situation, she used a smaller speculum (which I didn't even know existed!) and she gave me information about vaginal dialators, which help retrain the muscles of the vaginal wall. Basically, they're exposure therapy. I've linked the set that I use, but there are other places to get them..
Getting a compassionate doctor you can trust and investing in vaginal dialators can be pretty overwhelming tasks, especially if you have past trauma with doctors, or a sexual abuse history, so the list below details a few other ideas that can be helpful, as well as fun additions to your recovery.
1. Purchase a vibrator
If your experience with vaginismus is anything like mine, then you were shamed as a young girl for your sexuality, and buying a vibrator might feel naughty, or dirty, or unnecessary. Well, you get to decide if it's unnecessary, but it's absolutely not naughty or dirty. Using a vibrator allows you to be in complete control over any penetration that might occur. Unlike vaginal dialators, vibrators are a pleasuable way to expose yourself to penetration, and since vibrators are more sexual (dialators are just boring and medical), it can really help prime your brain. You'll know what kind of sensations to expect. You'll know if there might be pain and to what scale, and you'll know your limits.
2. Treat yourself to lingerie
At times, vaginismus has made me feel like an inadequate female. It has made me feel as though an essential part of my experience as a woman has been missing. Lingerie can be helpful if this is something you struggle with too. Vaginismus can make sex feel like a chore. The condition can make it hard to feel in the mood, and it can make you feel like your body is lacking, like it isn't enough for your partner. Investing in lingerie can help spark a desire, beyond just the desire to finally have penetrative sex. It can remind you that sex is meant to be fun and enjoyable. Lingerie that makes you feel comfortable and sexy can remind you that you deserve to feel good.
3. Be vulnerable
I was going to title this one, "be open," but then I thought that might be too much of a pun.
What I mean, though, is be open with your emotions. This is something I have to continually work on. I'm not very willing to talk about myself, especially when it comes to something as intimate as my vagina. I've been trying, though, to tell my partner about any setback or success I might have. This way, I have someone to listen when I'm feeling disappointed and let down by my body and someone to celebrate with me when I'm feeling excited about my progress. If you don't have a partner you can trust, find someone else you can talk to about your journey with vaginismus. Maybe it's your mom, a sister, a friend. If you can't think of anyone you feel comfortable talking to, then find a therapist or reach out online. There are forums where you can talk with women who are going through the same situation. If you're finding it scary to put your own story out there, then start by reading other women's stories. It can feel lonely to have vaginismus. There's so much comfort in knowning you're not the only one. I felt, for a long time, like I was alone, but I wasn't, and you're not either.
Vaginismus is a personal pain. If you're suffering from it, no one can tell you what will work for you, but I hope you know that you deserve to find out.