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Living with Ghosts
(and other reflections)

Reclaiming My Voice: A Return to My Roots


Photo by Markus Winkler

Ani DiFranco c. 1989
Ani DiFranco c. 1989

“So I’ll walk the plank, yeah I’ll jump with a smile.

If I’m gonna go down, I’m gonna do it with style.”


In my living room listening to Ani DiFranco beside to the wood stove.
In my living room listening to Ani DiFranco beside to the wood stove.
And when she sings, her pain, longing, and rage cut right through the heart, making her relatable.

As I was cleaning out my wood stove this morning, I decided to revisit one of my favorite singer songwriters, Ani DiFranco. A friend of mine introduced me to her music in 1994, and I instantly fell in love with her image, her badass guitar playing, and her lyrics.

From 1994 to 1999, I listened to Ani regularly. Her raw and angry music reached out to me, especially since I was in the midst of questioning my sexuality, experimenting and understanding my sexual orientation. The songs themselves reveal stories of her sexual encounters with both men and women. And when she sings, her pain, longing, and rage cut right through the heart, making her relatable.



A Decade of Sexual Exploration


He performed his silent role of guardianship, keeping me safe, protected, letting me explore my bliss without over doing it.

The 1990s was a decade-long shameless, sexual exploration. I was curious, unafraid, liberated, and a bit of a hedonist. I learned how to stand my ground, advocate for myself, and pursue the occasional pleasure-seeking favor without an ounce of guilt.


In the near distance, and without my knowing, Hans stood by, keeping a close eye on my playful entanglements. He performed his silent role of guardianship, keeping me safe, protected, letting me explore my bliss without over doing it. Although I was unaware of Hans's presence back then, the lovers that entered my world carried some aspect of his persona and/or physical features.



D.


D. is an Aries, like Hans (and like me). Aries is an astrological magnet for me that never disappoints (unless we're both prone to arguments and then it's volatile and short-lived). D. and I were lovers in high school. He was the first guy I had sex with at 19. Late bloomer as I was, once I experienced sex, I was hooked on its magickal properties. We were together throughout high school and beyond for a total of four + years.



Mina


Mina was a Tom boyish version of Hans with pale blonde hair, bed-roomy blue-eyes, and insatiable sexual energy. She was the first person to ever give me an orgasm. Mina used to call herself "the determined German," referencing her ancestry, her dogged determination, and efficiency. She inspired me to self-motivate and to return to college. Her astrological sun sign is Pisces. Hans's rising sign in Pisces.



Gabriel


Gabriel, an Aries, was my guardian angel while I was studying abroad in China. We were never officially lovers, but he wrote me the most deliciously sensuous and confessional letters. I adored him and am heartbroken that distance made us lose touch.



Ryan


Ryan, also an Aries, was also never my lover, but he was my Scandinavian savior--a Norse mythological being whose genius was unsurpassed (kind of like Hans). My first year at graduate school, I was in a very dark place---far away from S. and Vermont, entrenched in West Philly with the 11 O'Clock News helicopters hovering above my street nearly every night, waiting to catch crime in action.


Ryan kept me laughing, he encouraged my direction in art, he understood my pain better than anyone else, having battled his own demons. We lost touch over time, but I kept tabs on him. When I uncovered in 2007 that he had gotten a Fulbright to Sweden, he inspired me to pursue a Fulbright in Germany. After watching The BRD Trilogy, I wanted to learn all about women's roles in postwar Germany, their romantic involvements with GIs, their widowed status. I wanted to conduct interviews which would culminate in a series of portraits. I read several academic books about this topic (see reading list below), and started learning German (13 years later, I'm still at the basic level).



S.


S. is an Aries. We also share the same birthday. S. was my soulmate and earth-mate and we endured romantically for 16 years. He is my greatest love in this life. It is still too difficult to write about him.



Dilate by Ani DiFranco

Life use to be lifelike.