Cindy Milstein's Blog

This Life That Should Be Eros


I don’t think I’ll ever quite get this thing called “life,” or what passes for it in this social structure built on hierarchy and domination. I don’t think I’ll ever understand, fully, why it seems easier to buy into a “life” that parodies the worst of, say, patriarchy and heteronormativity. Nor am I good at it, since by “life” is meant following deadening conventions, settling for misery, blaming others, engaging in cruel power dynamics, treating others as objects, acting mean-spirited as a mask for running from one’s own fears.

“Life” as the not-human that passes for fitting in, because, maybe, it seems too scary to be human, to be vulnerable.

Yet again, on a day like any other day, but with the weight of societal expectation placed on us by New Years, I’m drawn to the misfits, the brokenness, their pain, my pain too — those with the best of open, giving hearts who are, repeatedly, punished for that fact within this “life.” Those who then see all the fault, damage, and nonworthiness as being in themselves: not attractive enough, too passionate or strong, said the wrong thing perhaps, didn’t do enough, did too much…. Those who proactively practice the spectrum of necessary love we all need to practice as well as mutually receive in this world to actually thrive, to make life, and yet who are tossed aside precisely because of that. Vulnerability as fissure, so others can avoid their own vulnerability.

I want us to find life, as far outside and in contra to this damage. I want not to lose my faith that that’s possible.

Then I sit with yet another woman whose big heart has been grievously, callously, played with, like mouse in cat’s clutches. I take in their pain, my pain, in patterns that aren’t personal; they are broken broken-record sorrow, of hurts that stretch through lifetime. And though I am not a gender essentialist — indeed, genderfuckingqueer any binaries — it seems to nearly always be women (broadly defined), or at least too often, who care too much and are cared for too little.

I am grateful yet again, on a day when we are supposed to reflect on past and future resolves, that I have not abandoned life for “life,” no matter how much pain that means I’ll bear — through other (women’s) stories and my own so similar narratives. I’m grateful that I have so many hurting, remarkable, courageous truth-seeing women (broadly speaking) in my life, made more so a life this past year in particular because of them.

I only wish they didn’t have to hurt so much, these many women.

I wish they, like me, didn’t have to calculate self against eros, solitude against indignity.

Meaning I resolve more than ever to turn “life” into life, if “only” that we — those (mis)treated as women — may again be humans who know the depth and width of loves of all kinds, finding equal matches to our desires, equal partners to our unadulterated care.

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(Photo by Cindy Milstein, with self by water, San Francisco, just before 2015.)

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