Grow Girl

Desire and Discernment

A pink camper adorned with rainbows and butterflies drove past. There were other words on it, probably peace or joy or something, but the one that caught my eye was at the top, by the sleeping nook. Discernment.

The problem: how can I maintain gentleness in the face of the desire? Especially when desire keeps telling me how gentle it can be and tangles me in word yarn? How can I keep an open heart with the narcissistic and the pissed off–even just the confused–without becoming a confused, aggressive, and defensive douche myself? How can I avoid the tit for tat when my tits would just like to go for it? The noble assistance of Wikipedia, was, this morning, as ever, at the ready.

The first part was okay:

“Discernment is the activity of determining the value and quality of a certain subject or event, particularly the activity of going past the mere perception of something and making detailed judgments about that thing. As a virtue, a discerning individual is considered to possess wisdom, and be of good judgement; especially so with regard to subject matter often overlooked by others.”

Wisdom? That would be nice. Good judgement? Ditto. Virtue? I try. Going past mere perceptions? My talent and my peril. Subject matter often overlooked by others? Sort of my specialty, especially in the desire department.

Gratuitous Image of Tom Selleck Because Something About Him Really Captures the Essence of Desire and Discernment For Me.

Which is when the bad news came:

“The mark of dispassion is true discrimination; for one who has attained the state of dispassion does all things with discrimination and according to measure and rule. Without dispassion, however, you cannot achieve the beauty of discrimination”

Dispassion? After that word, I was all ready to hear something like, “and for God’s sake you don’t want that–ever passionate, ever bold!” –so deeply ingrained is “Passionate” as one of my personal signifiers. So then I’m like, well fuck discernment then. Overrated, like temperance. If wisdom is disembodied, you can keep it. If I have to be lashed to the wheel of fortune and its concomitant suffering, then I’m going to take the body’s warm/hot consoling joys as well.

Maybe that slash is the problem. Warm/Hot. Intimacy/Desire. Defended/Graceful. Those are some pretty unstable dichotomies. I have typically chosen passion over reason every time, taken the cues of the body, that handy ship of learning. But what’s a ship without a captain? The captain is not a captain without a ship and the ship is just metal but for the sailing. It takes some humility for the captain to know the power isn’t all hers, no matter how much desirous diesel she’s put in the tank. The purpose and the power of sailing are only realized through the skillful relationship between captain and ship. Discernment is what keeps the cargo ship captain from flying the jet. Or the jet from yearning for the coxswain. Coxswain is a fun word to use and means boat servant, so I only sort of digress…

That Kali Isn't Very Dispassionate.

Discernment is easily squatted on by all the negative connotations of discrimination, but only if I don’t trust my instincts. Only if I choose defended over graceful. The shitty bits of discrimination come from judging without holding steady in my own humility and gentleness. Just making assumptions all over the place is not discernment, but rather the worst discrimination has to offer. That word could really use a little re-grounding and redemption. Pull it out of the stereotypical language ghetto, so to speak.

Luckily, Wikipedia is pretty straightforward in its final summation:

“Discernment is the ability to make wise decisions in difficult situations.”

That seems pretty do-able. There’s no room for wisdom, or its pretty cousin grace in the uglier forms of discrimination. Maybe that’s it all there is to it, idea-wise. Maybe discernment is desire tempered by grace. I’ll try that and get back to you.

Desire Tempered by Grace?


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Epiphanies Spring Eternal


There are some things I think I know, but when I test them with another, especially another naked person, I falter. The perils and joys of solitude, which my winter was full of, are in learning what I need to know. Then I have to welcome my test buddies when they come to call. Bringing aspiration into knowledge, body deep, is hard until it’s easy; until you finally have enough of the desperate friction and eager fiction.

I’ve had enough. I’m sitting in an empty cup again. Okay not entirely empty, I’m thinking there are some very nice flowers in it. California Poppies and Cynoglossum officinale. Or something like that.

I finally have sincere gratitude and some much needed forgiveness for the naked test buddy who drafted me into Heart Boot Camp. His indifferent handling of delicate valves taught me to be steady, to grieve as deep and hard and lonely as can be, and trust that it will pass. The heartbreak hangovers grew shorter every time. I persisted with him, out of a stupefying mix of nostalgia, love, loneliness, and straight-up get-those-fucking-clothes-off-and-sit-down-in the-big-boy-chair desire. He could rely on my yes, and so he did.

It was a stupid thing I was doing, even the internet said so. Sex with the ex is a bad idea, particularly one you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with. I had to learn to let go again and again. He timed my recoveries well and by the time he’d call again I opened my heart (and assorted other body parts) to him just as readily as the last time. Friends thought this was the very definition of insanity and were tired of hearing about it. I was tired of talking about it, but being with him in this untethered territory was fun and playful in a way that it wasn’t when we were together, especially that last year.

When it was done, and he went back to workaholic absence, I tried to find a way to keep the sense of play amid the flood of memory and story that I could not write. I had at my disposal several versions of what once was, and, I considered all too often: could be again. I wanted to know. I wanted to know now. I wanted the plot back. The memoirist in me was stifling the puny human. Teetering between love and hate, rage and gratitude; I couldn’t just let fragile fire be.

Borage Flower


About five different narratives clashed in my body as I tried to write an essay about it. Chaos was giving order the Philly Phinger. I just had to sit in it. Drown in it some days. In crazy-ex fashion, I even reached out to one of his breakup-time lovers, to try and suss out which memory path would bring me closer to the truth: the one where he was a controlling asshole, or the one where he was an gentle teddy bear safe and hot and home. I thought someone else’s story could stabilize mine, as if that would sandbag the balloon.

Well, it sort of did. That’s what stories are for. They do that. We do that for each other in the telling. As it often goes with unstable dichotomies, he is both. A fuzzy stormtrooper. Just his nature. That must be hard. We are, none of us but the sociopaths, trying to hurt each other. Paths cross and don’t, and though I can’t believe what a dirty hippie I’m becoming, to trust in the necessity of that, to persist in allowing comfort in uncertainty, is the order of the day.

A sudden poppy. California Poppy.

I don’t know anything, except that when I am still, I am safe. I discovered that this morning, just like that. A sudden poppy. This is not to say I won’t veer, oh god, not at all, veering will hopefully just deepen my understanding. Desire is disruptive. Desire is life-giving. It is spring now, after all. But still, this morning has the ease and light of an actual epiphany. I think I might really finally know this beyond my tricky brain, deep in my sturdy bones, all the way to a steady heart: Everything is going to be okay.


Big props to naked test buddies.


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