This morning I’m thinking of harm reduction, and how it’s self care. Right now, I have an agreement with myself: I can eat whatever I want, as long as it’s not wheat. That means, yes, I can buy the chocolate or the bag of popcorn that I’m going to eat all of, in exchange for not buying the piece of cake with the slab of frosting that will make me feel like a shaking sugar-wheat mess. I have not made this arrangement about sugar, just wheat, and just for right now. Just for right now. Just for today. Each day I can decide if I want to continue. My body is happier when it doesn’t have as much wheat to process — of course, it’s also happier when it’s not processing all sorts of sugar and not packed in and overfull, as can happen when I decide to feast on popcorn. But harm reduction is about choosing the lesser evil and going with that for awhile, to make it easier to live without the worse evil. And it is making it easier for me to transition away from wheat for a bit — and for that, I’m grateful.
Mostly, I think about harm reduction in the context of drugs and alcohol: let me smoke instead of taking a drink, right? But it’s a constant self-care practice and possibility, especially on the hard days. Let me watch just 3 hours of tv instead of 10. Let me be late for work because I did some stretching rather than beating myself up all day and living with this tension headache (that’s not really harm reduction practice, but it is reducing a harm). For some people, it’s let me give this blow job without a condom if I’m not going to fuck without one. Or, let me fantasize or write about this person it would be very bad for me to have sex with (maybe for emotional reasons, or because there would be other consequences) rather than having sex with them in real life. Sometimes a self-care practice is about incorporating the ‘bad’ decisions, in layers and ribbons, rather than deciding to be all of a sudden completely virtuous and perfect (then failing at that, then beating myself up). We all know that there is no perfect: There’s my imperfect humanness, right there with me every morning as soon as I open my eyes. Sometimes it’s eating the chocolate instead of drinking the four glasses of wine. And then later, maybe the body and mind are more accustomed to moving through the difficult process without the four glasses of wine, because they had a chance to practice. And for some people, the four glasses of wine are going to be the lesser evil compared to something else. For a long time, because I wanted to re-learn to touch myself and be ok with it, I would “let myself” fantasize about things that I felt sort of awful about after masturbating, rather than fantasize about the things that I felt really awful about afterwards — and then, later, my harm reduction was about moving away from things that I felt sort of awful about fantasizing about. Harm reduction is relative and always in flux, I think. It’s about being easy with yourself. Sometimes you can choose a kind of abstinence (I’m not going to do this thing at all, again, ever) and sometimes you can choose a harm reduction strategy.
Remember that the Body Empathy workshop that I’m co-facilitating with the amazing Alex Cafarelli is coming up in just a few weeks on November 13! This is a day-long writing and gentle body movement workshop for queer/SGL/genderqueer/trans survivors of sexual trauma. Spaces are starting to fill up, and we’d love to have you there if you’re thinking about it…and if you have questions, feel free to write me a note and we’ll chat!
Also! Tomorrow is the monthly Erotic Reading Circle at the Center for Sex and Culture — we didn’t meet last month because both Carol and I were away, so I’m really looking forward to reconnecting with everyone! We’ll be at the Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission Street in San Francisco (between 11th and So Van Ness) at 7:30 on Wednesday night — every fourth Wednesday of the month.
What about a prompt? You might write about the ways that you “imperfect” decisions get you through the night… or make a list of your imperfections, and write about how gorgeous each of them is. Remember this quote from Rabbi Daniel Hillel: ‘I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.’
I’m grateful for you today, for the ways that you’re human and stunning, for the ways that you stumble and keep dancing, for how you model for others every time you do.