BEFORE I get into rolling ahead with the many excellent responses I received to my freewriting therapy yesterday morning about the genders' fear of one another, I have a couple of afterthoughts. The three keywords are: self esteem, abandonment, curiosity.

These are factors that transcend gender and sexual orientation. By the way, I'm not a big believer in the deep, inherent differences between the sexes -- I just live in a world where everyone loves to clock everyone on the head with this apparently meaningful fact. I have always been more in touch with my female aspect than my male aspect -- I have both Venus and Mars in deeply feminine signs. I crave women and the comfort of women, but I have a feeling that it's not in a way that most other men would relate to; who knows.

So first keyword: Self esteem. This word is used more than it's understood. I don't understand it to be a superficial idea, but rather something of a core reality: actual admiration for oneself, faith in oneself, and more than both, a sense of oneself. I have spent most of my life not being so strong in this department. My 4th grade teacher used to say that I had a guilty conscience because I always thought I was the one doing something wrong. I show other signs of psychological abuse, and as I entered adulthood and that critical 20 to 30 stage where psychosis may manifest, my emotional life was pretty much a downward slide. Thank God, Goddess and everyone who has ever read one of my articles that I'm a writer. That was my safety net.

Having no real regard for myself nearly killed most of my relationships, but some other factor preserved their essence and I still carry those women with me today in my heart. It must have been very frustrating to try to love me and only find out that a sensible, kind person was really just made of emotional chaos on most of the inner layers. Some people could see right through that (hi Ginger!) and others could not. They could get past all the layers where I was hating myself and see the part of me that was love.

As I went through therapy and began to reassemble some idea that I, too, have a right to exist, the balance of power began to shift in my relationships. I began to claim some of my own space, my own right to my feelings and needs, and I began to hold my inner territory as inviolable. But there was still a good bit of chaos because I stopped going along with the programmed course of relationships, which is so pervasive that it's invisible. Coincidentally, it stopped doing anything for me -- the program was not nourishing. I was not happy and I needed to create something else for myself.

But something else happened, which is the more clear I became about how I felt about myself and my needs, the more I would encounter partners who were, mysteriously, lacking a sense of self beneath the exterior; who were threatened by what I knew about myself; who were depressed as I had been. And this was an extremely challenging phase.

I am someone who a lot of people might accuse of being superficial. Rather than merging with another person, I need to relate to them as an individual. I need the individuals in a relationship to both be bigger than The Relationship.

Here is the gist of my point: when relationships become a way to shore up missing self esteem, they are disasters waiting to happen. And that is the prevailing model: we are all, in theory, missing something possessed by the other. I realize this seems to be true and this 'two halves make a whole' model can be a very stable form of relationship -- until somebody in the couple starts becoming whole on their own, and then things can get pretty shaky.

Second key word, abandonment. I did not begin to address this until a second therapy experience, in Seattle -- working with a Hakomi therapist and then doing some workshops and trainings in that particular form of process. Despite some lingering concerns about the leadership of the community, Hakomi therapy is a pretty amazing invention.

Anyway, the issue that came out of that process was my terror of abandonment. It's all over my childhood -- long story, but I was initially very sick as a child, and when I got well at around two years old, my mother began to get very sick, dad was not around, when he was there, they were fighting constantly and on and on. My brother's arrival stressed out the situation, and both my parents, far beyond its ability to stay together. He really took the brunt of the damage. My mother's entire generation of cousins got divorced (except for the one male cousin, Mario) in the years after she did, and she was blamed for ruining every woman's marriage.

After my parents divorced, when I was about nine (at the peak of the 70s) both of my parents proceeded to have a stream of partners that seemed to last from a few weeks to a year. So I bonded with literally dozens of people in surrogate parent roles who suddenly disappeared, and I never even got to say goodbye. This was between the ages of around 9 and 16. Both parents gave the impression that partners were dismissable on the spot. Note: what attracted me to the polyamory movement was the idea that relationships need to be designed to be sustainable, and that human bonding is the essence -- not romance. (Aquarius Moon.)

There was a parallel from my early childhood: there were numerous student nurses, nurses, housekeepers and female relatives all playing the role of mother. Mother herself was sometimes there, sometimes not, always in pain, usually checked out.

If you want an idea of the extent of my abandonment issues, notice that I rarely miss so much as day blogging; I rarely miss a horoscope; I strive to run a dependable business at all costs; when you get to Planet Waves, I want you to know somebody is home. I do my very best to reply to every email (when dozens come in at once, it's harder). I want to ensure a sense of community participation. Call it compensatory behavior; call it Chiron turning a wound into power, but I want the lights on around the clock at this URL.

I want to exclude nobody from what anyone has access to. Hence, anyone can ask for a free subscription.

How am I doing with my abandonment issues in personal relationships? A lot better. In the past few years, I have come to enjoy counting on people in the long run more than I ever have. I have come to accept the fact that they are there. I have seen how many times I am there, and what extraordinary circumstances it takes to have me back off. And I do back off, for one reason only: self preservation. Thank you Joe Trusso, the man who taught me to say goodbye.

Last word: curiosity. My interest in women and in people in general, and in life and in art, photography, astrology, politics, sex, drugs and rock and roll is driven by curiosity. I dare say it's a rare commodity in the world, except in kids and artists (and by artist, I mean anyone who brings a sense of curiosity and creation to their work or play). Dogs and cats are constantly curious. They smell everything they can. They want to know, see and feel. We could learn a lot from them. I love the feeling when a dog or cat is curious about me. Hey or even a person!

I have gone from being frustrated with myself to curious about myself, and the relentless passion with which I think, feel, write and express myself -- and travel, and meet people, and experience them -- I owe mostly to my curiosity. (It made me a very dangerous investigative reporter, and started me on the path of astrology. And if anyone is wondering why I care so much about sexuality, you have your answer in one word, but think of it as visceral and sensory rather than intellectual.)

It's sad to see how this precious and amazingly fun, useful resource is systematically extinguished by the world. Curiosity could save us all. It keeps our mind and senses alive. It makes us yearn for the new experience that life is every moment.

The killing of curiosity is intentional. At first it's not rewarded; then it's often punished; then it's made nearly impossible to express safely. If you have kids, protect their curiosity, and if you want to do them the best favor ever, fire up your own and bring it back to life. I think our relationships need curiosity more than anything. But it's very hard when insecurity gets in the way; when what someone feels or thinks or has experienced in the past or wants to experience now drives another person to feel like they're not safe.

One of the earliest and most palpable forms of curiosity is sexual curiosity. Do you remember when you were first discovering yourself, and your desires? That innocent spirit of wanting to know and feel more was curiosity.

I don't know how to make this point any better than I am, but curiosity keeps us growing and alive and it keeps other people interesting to us. Or not, and we find people who are interesting. But most of all, it keeps me interested in myself, in my response to the world, and to others, interested in what I feel and perceive and, in the end, I am driven to write, photograph, find out what people smell and taste like, make love, make out with dogs I don't know, talk to cats through windows, and view the world as a place that I can use to to explore, create, love and push things just a little bit.
With that being said in about 20 minutes(!), I will begin posting reader responses to the Fear of the Other Gender series early tomorrow London time. Thanks for all your letters. I am grateful for every single one of them.

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