You are currently browsing Jennifer Clifford’s articles.
2013 is my sophomore year doing NaNoWriMo, and I am loving the experience. Last year was fun, but I was too nice to my story. My characters had a lot of great sex, but their life didn’t have a lot of anything else happening. I will probably use those scenes for other things, or maybe I’ll scrape the whole thing into something useful, but the end result was not a usable novel, which was fine with me, since my goal for the first year was to finish the word count goal.
This year I was in love with my story before I even started writing it. The concept came to me in September, and it took a lot of effort on my part not to start it early. Less than a week in I was already wondering what my characters were doing when I wasn’t with them. They had really started to develop personalities and lives independent of the novel.
Today we’re halfway through NaNoWriMo, and though I had prewritten blogs ready to post I am borrowing the words in this post from the 6,000 words over target I currently have written to tell you about something amazing that happened this afternoon.
All week I have had a hard time having an emotional response to anything that has been going on in my life. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs that made it hard to fathom adding the responsibilities of NaNoWriMo to the load, but I dedicated myself with the intention of using it to distract myself a little bit. My first week of writing was exactly the opposite. I poured a lot of my emotional overflow into my story. This past Monday it all just stopped. I listened to music. I read. I wrote. I did everything I could to try to illicit any and all kinds of emotions, but I couldn’t.
This is an extremely dangerous phase of depression for me. When I’m hopeless or sad I can at least care enough to try to pull through it, but when there’s nothing to feel I’m prone to making bad decisions. What’s kept me from doing so? My characters are making bad decisions for me.
Today I put one of my characters in the hospital, and while I haven’t been able to dig up a single give-a-shit for real life at the moment, the idea of my protagonist being in peril, whether or not I have previous knowledge or control over his future, had me blubbering like an idiot.
I am anxious to finish this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge and share my final result with the world. I have found a love for these characters that I hope shines through in their stories and interactions.
Current Word Count: 31,659 and counting.
My former coven used to do a Yule ritual that involved keening. It was extremely powerful and emotionally intimate. We are at our most vulnerable and unhidden when we are keening, because once it starts it’s uncontrollable. As soon as one deeply buried emotion makes its way to the surface to be released there is no way of knowing what will follow it. Unresolved, unhelpful, and unhealthy thoughts and feelings tend to travel in flocks, and there is no way to sugar coat or disguise them in front of others when they’re pouring from us in waves. We are raw. We are authentic. We are healing in one of the most violent and explicit ways possible.
So yes, this is much more of a Yule lesson for cleansing and renewal than it is a Samhain lesson, but after years of repeating this ritual at Yule I felt it begin to build as the veils thinned and the dark half of the Wheel of the Year began its final turn. It seems that around this time of year many lives change in very eruptive ways, and by the time the light returns at Yule we either release the residue from this change or find it very hard to feel the sun.
I’ve chosen to write this now because I’ve noticed an unusual density around me. Several people in my life are experiencing this painful change all at once, including myself. Some of us are coming through it embracing new opportunities, and some of us have simply stopped trying to move forward. I fall somewhere in the middle, but deep inside I know I can’t just stop where I am and give up.
Here is a very short meditation for your consideration as it came to me in this time of change:
You’re on a path that you believe is The path. It’s been the only path you’ve followed and believed could lead you to fulfillment. Maybe for months, maybe for years, or maybe for your entire life you have struggled with the obstacles and setbacks that come with any journey. Then one day the path ends with no divergent path and no way to go back. Everything you’ve invested, all the time and energy you’ve spent, and all the sacrifices you’ve made on this path are gone. The only way to go is forward, and in front of you is a cliff into a dark abyss. Your only choices are to sit and stop moving forward or jump and have faith that you will survive the fall. You may fall to a new path, or you may have to seek one out once you’ve landed and put yourself back together.
Your decision in this case is not for me to judge or push one way or another. In some cases you may be perfectly content to climb a tree and make a life here at the end of this path. You may not feel like the risk of facing another cliff is worth seeking a new path. You may also get to the tree, sit there for a while, and decide you have to move forward to feel like the path you were on wasn’t for nothing. I wish I could say the risk was always worth the fall, but that’s for you to decide.
For me the fall isn’t what scares me, it’s the possibility of not finding a new path at all. My choice to move on was made because I have a lot of journey left before me. There is no way of knowing what will come next, but I want to see what could come next. The only way for me to do that is to shed the excess weight and grime left behind by the obstacles of a path that just…ended. I don’t want to sit in a tree with only my emotional baggage for company. I don’t want to spent my entire life resenting the cliff. I want to be rid of the hurt and blame that I have collected on this dead-end path. I want to feel my mortality and know what it feels like to come out of it alive. I want to be able to know that the abyss did not claim me.
So, the keening. It took me a long time to be able to let go enough to actually let it all go. In order for it to be keening, rather than your run of the mill wailing and carrying on in front of a bonfire in the cold in the middle of the night, you must be willing and able to let it all go. It was a fall that taught me how, a fall that taught me to stop holding on to old pain for fear of what future pain might entail. My lesson? Don’t fear the fall because of what you might lose on the way down. Embrace it. Sometimes you need the fall to be able to walk away from a path that is obviously no longer leading you anywhere. Sometimes you need the fall to find the path in the abyss. Sometimes you need the fall to keen and release all the things that are holding you back. Go ahead. Fall, scream, cry, face your demons, and let it all go. Then find the path that gives you a new purpose, or even just a new way to get to your original purpose.
Go now, fall or stand still.
So, much like last season I am late to the review game on Showtime’s Polyamory: Married and Dating, but I did want to cover it, so here we go.
As you remember, last season my criticism was pretty much what you’d expect of any review of any reality show, its lack of reality. That was the trend that poured from the poly community, and Showtime must have absorbed it all. The result was a season that dealt with some pretty serious issues if your household is going through them.
In season two we see the newly introduced triad experiencing some friction right out of the gate. We see a lot of lessons from this triad that I’ve written about before. Leigh Ann is feeling left out of the loop because life sometimes just isn’t cooperative with the schedules we’d like to keep. Instead of talking to her husband, Chris, and their girlfriend, Megan, about it she has an affair, which she tries to justify with the poor excuse that she feels she’s being neglected at home. We find out after some time that she has some resentment over how involved Megan is in their marriage and that she has felt this way since the beginning. The two remaining member of the triad are railroaded by this sudden revelation, as it had not been discussed in the entire three years of the relationship.
The lessons here are:
- Communication, communication, and even more communication. Before poly. During poly. Communicate.
- Cheating is always cheating. Own your behaviour, don’t excuse it.
- Never be poly or arrange your relationship just to make a partner happy. Talk about it and compromise, but don’t just let it happen, or it will most likely fall apart on you all later. There is no room in poly for conflict avoidance or placation.
The situation with the triad also brings up a few good points. What do you do if you’re deeply committed to one partner and the other decides it isn’t working? As a triad this is huge. Do you ask to continue with the other person outside of the triad? Do you risk your marriage trying not to lose either one? Do you agree to have the conflicted partner see others as well? Chris grapples with these questions as he tried to save his marriage and be true to Megan and her feelings, and neither of them seem to consider the place it puts him in as she fights for her relationship with him.
From last year’s pod we see a lot of new energy. There are new partners, but there is also new drama. Jen’s relationship with a man who can’t quite accept polyamory puts her in a rather awkward situation where she agrees not to even play with anyone new. I have made this request myself when I felt a need for some foundation building in a new relationship, but in this case it seems like he doesn’t want to try to embrace polyamory. This kind of attitude can be detrimental to a relationship, and unless the monogamous partner is at least willing to be open-minded about the poly partner’s lifestyle. Towards the end of the season Jen is already starting to feel the strain of the restrictions and emotional needs of the relationship. We see the exact opposite with Michael’s insistence that his new girlfriend be involved sexually with his wife. They are both unable to accept that she might not be interested or willing to be, and she makes a good point in asking that their relationship be focused on the two of them for a while not her interactions with his other lovers.
I do have to commend Showtime for how they portrayed Tahl’s experimentation with bisexuality and his budding relationship with Christian. We’re usually so inundated with homoeroticism on a very carnal level that we are barely presented with a real, emotional picture of how these interactions can go, especially when bisexuality is involved. We hardly ever see two masculine hetero-normative bi men represented showing tenderness and playfulness with each other. Kudos, Showtime!
In the end I got exactly what I asked for last season, a portrayal of the side of poly that was not of some Shangr-la existence. No, we got to see some of the human aspects of poly relationships. The catch? This is what opponents of polyamory want to see. These are the things that say “see? this is why this relationship model must fail”, because we most commonly associate things about which we are unsure or blatantly against with negative portrayals. My family grocery shopping is boring. My family constantly having our hands on each other is unrealistic. My family having issues to work through like any other relationship in the world is proof that polyamory is a sham. The moment we come out as poly we are examples. We are lessons. We are representatives, and anything we do, any way we act, and any mistakes we make are takes as typical. Season 2 brings up the most important lesson I have had to learn being poly. Just because the relationship falters or fails doesn’t mean that poly has failed. It just means those particular people needed to grow or move on from each other. If these people were having these issues as single people in the dating world there would not be a show about it.
Go now, live your reality,
I hear the voice of my grandmothers calling me
I hear the voice of my grandmothers calling me
They say wake up wake up, they say wake up wake up
-Voices of the Grandmothers chant
* please note: I didn’t write this, but there are conflicting sources online as to its original writer, and it has been shaped and changed by the many communities who have used it. My apologies for not properly sourcing it. *