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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.
October is well-known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but it is also designated as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. October 15th marks a day of remembrance and support. A few months ago I wrote a post as a letter to my unborn child, and it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to put on paper.
I have felt a calling all my life to be a mother, a teacher, and a nurturer. Decisions I made very early on in my life made a career in such things unfeasible, but I made those decisions confidently as I tried to navigate a situation I was unprepared to face alone, but alone I was. I didn’t feel like I could tell my family, and most of the friends I did tell thought I was making a terrible mistake. Still, no matter how terrified I was of what I was about to face, I gave my future, and my heart to a child that many would have cast away as a reminder of violence and hurt. In fact, it may have been that unborn child that kept me alive long enough to work through the emotional and psychological damage caused by the experience. When I lost that first baby I lost the focus of all my attention and energy . Worse were constant comments like “it was probably for the best” and “you’ll be relieved someday when you have a child out of love”. I didn’t care. It was still a loss.
A few years later I would be faced with the same fear. I was in a loving relationship with the father at the time, but we were barely feeding ourselves, and I knew at the time my health was in terrible shape. At our first appointment there was no detectable heartbeat, and I almost blacked out in the office. Repeated attempts yielded no results, and the final consensus was that I had a blighted ovum, an empty sack that the body treats as if it’s a viable pregnancy. For days before my surgery to have it removed I had nightmares of babies wailing, and in the days that followed I got the same ignorant comments as I’d gotten the first time combined with everyone’s refusal to let me grieve a baby that technically never existed. I still have a tiny pair of booties in a box. It existed in my heart.
All in all I’ve had this experience five times, and when Hubby and I talk about children there’s a little sting in the back of my heart that knows it might only be a dream. Our reasons for not trying yet are numerous and mostly logistical, and when we do try we will have a lot to deal with emotionally and physically. Since the wedding I feel like people are constantly asking if we want children or when we’re going to have them. My answer is always the same, “when and if it’s possible”. I keep it short, because my past is generally ignored, and my future as a mother is a rather sensitive and questionable subject.
I don’t write any of this to drag out old wounds or evoke sympathy. I write it because for many years I felt like I didn’t deserve to go through any kind of grieving process. Every time I felt sad I pushed it down. Every time someone told me “it’ll happen when the time is right” I pushed it down. Every time I felt like it was my fault for one reason or another I pushed it down. Any chance I had to work through my emotions turned in to a chance to push them to a place where I didn’t have to feel them, and society wholeheartedly supported that behaviour. It wasn’t until much later when I eschewed that the notion that my feelings of loss were silly or unfounded that I was able to release that weight and really move forward. So I write this to tell any one, man or woman, who has been in place that it’s alright to grieve. It doesn’t matter whether or not the situation was ideal or the timing was right. You have every right to feel your emotions and work through them in a healthy manner.
“Polyamory probably saved my marriage.”
I have heard this statement made several times, and it always refers to something different. Sometimes it refers to a sense that things had gotten stale and polyamory put a fresh spin on the marriage. Sometimes it’s been sexual desires or orientations. Other times it’s been a deeper need to become closer through shared experiences. For me it’s been about lessons. I mentioned in a previous post that recently Hubby and I had some troubled waters. I strongly believe that we would not have come out of them unscathed as a monogamous couple, at least not as the monogamous couple we were. While the idea is emotionally unfathomable, realistically I don’t think we would have had the right tools to keep our marriage afloat.
Communication: While this one seems like it should encompass everything else, there are a few key lessons in communication that come from experience with polyamory. Most of us know how to identify communication, but many don’t know how to actually communicate. Good communication makes the difference between an electric mixer and a wooden spoon. Where good communication makes things smoother and easier to handle, bad communication often causes nothing but soreness and a mess. My apologies to anyone who likes to mix things by hand. To communicate freely requires that one eschew fear of being honest. Oftentimes when we bring up an uncomfortable topic we try to avoid confrontation and word things to sound more innocuous. Sometimes we even try to predict what the other person’s reaction will be and how to avoid it being negative. The truth is, sometimes we need a negative reaction. Sometimes Hubby needs to know things are not copacetic. We can’t fix a problem he doesn’t know exists. That being said, communicating dictates you be calm, concise, and factual with no emotional mudslinging or attacking. Everyone listens instead of plotting their next move, and everyone gets to talk. As long as this can be done in a mature manner, you’ve done it! You’re communicating!
Dedication: It has always been my belief that one contributing factor to our nation’s divorce rate is how easy it is to give up. There have been moments when we may have thrown in the towel had we not been married and committed to those vows. If in the end we agree that we’ve done everything we could to fix our problems I will fully accept that, but until then I will keep trying to make our marriage stronger and healthier. Many people in relationships act as if a difference in opinion or beliefs is an automatic sign that the relationship is doomed. No one is perfect, and nothing that lasts a lifetime is polished in a day. The marriages that last are the one that are constantly maintained by people who don’t avoid or repress their problems. Instead they work through them one at a time to nurture their bond and grow as a couple.
One Step at a Time: Think of a math equation. Looking at all the different functions in the equation all at once can seem daunting, but if you break it down into smaller, easier to handle parts you can focus on one function at a time. Quite often when a relationship experiences an obstacle it seems insurmountable because it’s never made up of just one issue. Usually by the time a marriage is in serious jeopardy the root cause is an amalgamation of smaller issues. Trying to work on them all at once can be overwhelming and will only cause more frustration and friction. Prioritizing and processing one problem at a time and accepting that there will be setbacks can help the healing process to not become such a burden that a couple gives up. Poly teaches us to deal with one thing at a time as it pertains to each situation. Just as no two partners are alike, no two problems are alike. Still, no member of our family is alone when problems do arise. Working on them together makes anything possible if we take it one step at a time.
Letting it Go: Once a problem is discussed and resolved it needs to be let go, not just until the next fight, not just until you’re feeling a little neglected and need some attention, but let go for good. There is nothing as detrimental to a relationship that’s trying to heal like bringing up old baggage that doesn’t serve the issue at hand. Poly teaches us to deal with any possible situation then let it go, because there is no room in healthy non-monogamy for extra baggage.
Perspective: Sometimes the way we see things is not how others see them, and either way may be a skewed version of the truth. Polyamory has taught me not to use phrases like “you did X” but instead say things like “it seemed to me like you did XYZ”. Blame solves nothing, and it makes you look foolish and out of control. Instead, calmly recounting the situation from your perspective can help the other person understand why there was an emotional response, and understanding is the beginning of both of you processing.
Avoiding Scapegoats or Insults: Blaming solves nothing, but playing dirty makes things worse. These issues are between you and your partner, not other partners, kids, or other mitigating factors. Accept that they didn’t cause the problems you’re having, the two of you did, even if your partner’s behaviour was based on these other things. I had this realization not too long ago when A told me it seemed like I was mad at her. Even to her it seemed like I was blaming her when really my real anger was towards how Hubby was treating the situation or acting because of something in their relationship. While it all may have exacerbated our issues, it wasn’t their relationship that was responsible for it, it was his behaviour and my reaction to that behaviour that was.
Emotional Independence: Polyamory has taught not only to be responsible for my emotions but also to handle them as much as I can on my own. There was a time when both of us where extremely needy and co-dependent on each other. Opening our marriage and branching out forced us to be aware of that co-dependency and to become more self-reliant. I now feel that I don’t need to run to Hubby every time I feel emotional. This puts less stress on him and allows him to be more self-reliant as well. It also means he’s available when I really need the support instead of being burnt out or overburdened already. Because of this emotional independence I have been able to trust both of our emotions and have faith that he’s with me because he loves me, not because he needs something from me emotionally. It has also given me the confidence to voice my emotional needs and know when I just can’t process certain things on my own. When working through problems in a marriage this is all integral. I feel less desperate for that emotional support, therefore I can be more articulate about real needs. I feel less burnt out and more willing to be supportive when he has real needs. Without emotional independence neither of us can be honest with ourselves or each other about emotional issues. Without it neither of us can grow as an individual.
What Worked Before: Marriages sometimes fall into a comfort, and resentment can build when the NRE starts to fade. When issues arise this is the first thing that gets flung between partners. “We never do XYZ anymore!” My first question is always, “why not?”. I have found that polyamory has kept us fresh and inspired. We have found new ways to keep our lives exciting, and we hold on to the memories and traditions that still serve us. The truth is that what worked before may not work now. This can include little things like mutual hobbies and weekly rituals to big things like relationship style and family dynamic. You may not do those things anymore because those people are no longer who you are as individuals. That couple may not be the couple you are now. That marriage has grown and evolved just as the two of you have done. Nostalgia can be a great reminder of where we come from, but it can also be a great road block to moving forward. We hold on to thing that once felt good forgetting that as we change we can and should find new things that make us feel good, too. Whether it’s changing how you date others or changing how you eat dinner together, don’t be afraid to re-evaluate. Polyamory has taught me to constantly re-evaluate our needs, my needs, and the needs of our family as a whole. If there is not growth and movement a stagnant marriage cannot thrive.
I’ll say it one more time… “Polyamory saved my marriage,” and possibly my life, or at least the quality of my life. I’ve used these tools with friends, coworkers, children, and clients. I feel enriched and empowered, and confident that I can tackle anything. Having my husband and our family on board helps, too, of course.
So, there’s this guy…
Doesn’t every good story start with “so, there’s this guy”?
In any case, there’s this guy, and we meet at a bar. I ditch the excruciatingly dull date I’m on, and I bring home a guy from a bar, which is something that, at the precipice of 30 years old, I have never done before. Another item on some kind of unwritten Bucket List I didn’t know existed.
This guy has a very black and white perspective on life and how the world turns. He not so much questions my beliefs but preaches his opinion on them like a sermon to save me from a life of ridiculous spirituality and ill-advised relationship decisions. On the former I stand firm, and there is no doubt in my mind that my faith is unshakable. He seems frustrated that I won’t try to prove my beliefs, but it is not my responsibility to convince him of their validity or sciency data. On the latter, however, I waver and bend a little. I am unsure. I unearth old doubts and question my faith in myself and the choices I have made over the last decade. When it comes to believing in myself I am weak. Things that were once true seem less so. Things that made my love and my marriage healthy and good for me begin to seem detrimental and lacking. Hubby and I no longer seem like the strong, loving partnership we once were.
This guy dangles in front of me all the things I’ve wanted in life, but as with most things worth having, it all comes with a price that until recently I have not been willing to even consider. More questions. Would I be willing to give up one big piece of who I am now to have a shot at goals I’ve been vying for my entire life? In the last few years I have resigned myself to a limited path. I have chalked up a lot of my dreams and aspirations to bad decisions or believing those things just weren’t meant for me. Hubby supports me where he can, but more and more reality sets in, and when our goals are in direct conflict mine fall away. He is always more driven, always a better opportunist, and almost always has more backing and resources. This is just how it’s always been.
I see myself now at a crossroads where it is integral that I have no doubt in the direction in which I choose to continue my journey. This is something I’m unprepared for, and it’s a self-portrait I cannot begin to paint. Can I adapt my current path or must I make a complete break and risk being lost? This is a question I am unprepared to answer, but how long can I wait for life to make it for me before all the doors close around me?
The big question here is not whether or not I leave but whether or not we can fix the rift that’s grown between us. It has not gone unnoticed, but I don’t think either of us has been aware of how big it’s gotten. If we can we will be the solid couple we once were. If not, it will swallow one or both of us, and we are each too beautiful and unique to be unhappy. This guy is not my future, but he has prompted me to think about what I want my future to look like and how I can make that happen. My hope is that a clear idea of just how deep and wide this rift in my marriage is can help us begin to fill it in with healing and love.
And here we are now. We have faced the end of our story and refused to accept it. Instead we have once more rewritten our future together. We still stumble occasionally, but we now have a better understanding of and commitment to this marriage and the promises we’ve made to each other. The Death card dealt here was not for a finite ending but for a razing and rebuilding, and we are building something strong and wonderful together.
These past few months have been an extremely eye-opening experience for me, and the past week has turned all of that into yet another set of lessons to be learned. Now that the dust is starting to settle, and I am beginning to see my way out of it all, I can take a little time to reflect and decide where my next steps take me and how I proceed.
A few months ago I met someone who really challenged how I’ve let myself open up emotionally to new partners. I’ve generally been a pretty closed off person. While I’ve let myself love to a point I have not made myself completely emotionally available. I have not taken down the defenses that have been in place for many many years, and that has worked fine for me. I’ve always considered Hubby a fluke. He was the first to find a way in that didn’t mean total devastation and the first to stay even when things got rough. Because of this he has been the only one to have access to all of me.
That is, until this summer. Suddenly there was this presence in my life, and I didn’t know how to react. I resisted at first, but by the time I realized how much he had managed to bring down my defenses they were gone. The feeling was both terrifying and liberating, but I didn’t really know how to process what I was feeling or integrate it into how I was operating at the time.
My need for past tense writing started about a week ago when the presence that had so suddenly appeared in my life just as suddenly vanished. Texts, phone calls, emails all went unanswered, and I had a choice to either assume something terrible had happened or assume he’d written me off for some reason.
It is no secret to anyone, and definitely was no secret to him, that I have some pretty strong abandonment issues. Years ago someone I cared very strongly for was sent to Afghanistan. Unfortunately he was ashamed of me, and his family didn’t know I existed. If anything had happened to him no one would have called me. I spent a few months reading lists of dead soldiers before really facing the fact at I had to give it up and move on or I’d drive myself crazy. Incidentally he came home alive, he just never called me when he did. It wasn’t the first time someone had up and vanished on me, and it wouldn’t be the last, but it seemed to happen that every time I really invested myself in someone he either disappeared or caused some other kind of serious upheaval of my life. When Hubby and I decided to be poly it gave me an outlet for my capacity to love but let me stay safeguarded.
I never imagined this is how this particular relationship would end, no matter how young it was. We’d had these talks, he knew I could accept that this just wasn’t for him. I’m pretty sure he knew I’d rather go through anything than a vanishing act, not just because of my issues with abandonment but also because until I accept that that’s what has happened I worry. There’s even an interim where I can’t even think “there better be a good explanation for this” because I care too much to think of something that serious happening to him. The caveat with that is that if nothing happened and I really have just been left hanging, why should I care? I do. Usually to a fault. It is this lack of certainty and the abruptness of it that leaves me more confused and hurt than angry. My mother in law tells me all the time that I don’t get angry enough, but what good does that do anyone? None.
In any case, I am left with a couple of options now. I can either revert to old patterns, and this was all for nothing, or I can garner some lessons and a chance to grow from it. Hubby has challenged me to move on without putting my walls back up, and I have promised to try. I am now learning to use the resources and support I have, the tools the last several years have added to my kit, and the people around me to develop more healthy coping mechanisms than I had when I was monogamous or single.
My first instinct is to shut down emotionally and throw myself into as many meaningless sexual relationships as present themselves. My next instinct is to stop taking care of myself and shack up with depression for a while. This is no longer an option in my life. My family counts on me, Hubby still needs me to be emotionally available, and I owe it to myself to stay focused and stable. My goals, my focus, and my drive will not suffer because I feel like burying myself. I will not let myself believe I am broken or unlovable. I will not let this completely disintegrate all the confidence and self-worth I have managed to build, which was pretty non-existent until a few years ago. This may mean I actually have to face, fight, and overcome the mountain that is my fear of abandonment, and I have to do this without putting any extra dependence on my support system. Whew! This is a lot of unexpected personal work, but I feel like it’s been a long time coming and will really help me move forward in many areas of my life.
Relationship wise this has really taught me how polyamory can feel. Up until that bit at the end I was unbelievably happy. Something about it had that piece I’d been missing. I just need to identify what it was and learn to see it in future partners. It also showed me how I want to be treated by new people in my life and how good it can feel to have a relationship that doesn’t start with sex. You wouldn’t think that at the age of 29 this would be an unknown anomaly to me, but it was. I have never had a serious relationship that didn’t start with sex an develop into connection. Having it grow this way instead was a huge awakening for me, and something I’d like to reproduce. Maybe a part of me has felt that without that element I couldn’t hold someone’s attention enough for him to stick around. I’m ignoring he voice inside me that says I still haven’t, but seriously, I have settled a lot in the past because of the false pretense that anything comfortable was better than nothing. I think this experience will make me less likely to settle now that I know I am capable of opening myself up so much.
The biggest lesson to come out of this will be how to heal under the surface while getting on with the rest of my life. This is something I have never mastered, but something I’m prepared to take on if it means a more healthy me coming out of this. I had my core rocked pretty hard. Yes, I am still a bit shaken and shattered. I still expect to have my moments, but I’m learning to have them, let them out when I can, and move forward. Next time I will be better equipped and better able to handle this kind of situation. The alternative is to stop falling in love, and I don’t intend to ever try to harness that animal. It’s just who I am to love, and once someone gets that from me it’s complete. That won’t change.
I am fully aware that this will not be an overnight healing process. It will take a lot of time and work to be able to put myself in this position again, and I cannot just shutdown and turn all my focus inward. I have to accept that he will not be the one to give me my closure. There will be no explanations, and I have to accept that and actually be ok with it. In a way I’ve already changed how I deal with feeling hurt. I haven’t burned any bridges, and I have let him know that he can fix this if he wants to. Other than that there’s not much I can do except move forward and take the lessons I have learned with me.
One little word with all the power in the world. The word love has the power to grant gifts of flight and healing. It can help us cope with loss and distance and overcome addiction and fear.
One syllable that acts like a Pandora’s box. It enfolds passion, compassion, and value. It becomes synonymous with desire, need, and cherish. It encompasses so much, yet leaves just as much unable to describe or speak.
Love also holds great capacity for hurt. It can enslave and obsess. It can be used to cut down or to allow ourselves to be cut down. For love people make themselves vulnerable and blind. For love we withstand abuse and isolation. Love gives us the ability to look past anything and accept anything from those to whom we give it. Love can be a drug and a poison, and one that makes us do and say awful things to one another because we find it justified.
Can love alone sustain a marriage? Can love help one see past loneliness and feelings of inadequacy? Can love exist where there is not a common goal?
These are questions I find myself asking. Am I a failure? Is my love enough? Am I loving properly and to my fullest potential or have I confused it with something else? After five years of persevering and surviving with love in my holster, is it still strong enough? If so, why is it that we are so easily able to hurt one another? How is it that the man who knows me the best, inside and out, could hold it against me?
I keep trying because I love him. I do whatever I can, become whatever I can, and hope I don’t lose everything good I have managed to become in the process. Because of his love I am a better person and a better woman, at least that’s how I felt.
I’ve talked a lot about changing. People change. Sometimes we change together, and sometimes we move very far apart. In moving apart, especially with the aspects of polyamory that allow me to make other connections and bonds, can we still exist as a family? How do we redefine ourselves? Is it possible to do so without losing who we are as a couple?
I refuse to give up so easily, but he has told me to prepare to face the fact that this may no longer be good for either of us, that what I need is not him, that my life could be happier without him. I’ve heard this a few times in the past few years, and it has always hurt to hear, even if some parts of it resonate with my own thoughts at times.
Am I being stubborn? Am I giving up? Can he still love me with the changes we’ve both made?
Friends, I have no idea. I’m terrified of the possibilities. In the last seven months my entire family structure has disintegrated, but I never thought it would rupture like this. We’ve had our moments, but we’ve always seen them through. Can we again? He’s never left before. Tonight I sit alone…for love.
“Please be a traveler,not a tourist.
Try new things,
meet new people,
and look beyond
what’s right in front of you.
Those are the keys to understanding
this amazing world we live in.”
I’m officially home from a month working and living in New York City with a flash card full of pictures, a head full of memories, and a severe plague from living in a hotel full of piped air for a month.
When I got there I was a little nervous. I used to do new things all the time. I used to be really adept at navigating new cities and never shied from experiencing something new on my own. Since meeting Hubby, however, the solo missions have slowed to a trickle, but if I was going to see anything but LaGuardia Airport I needed to reclaim that adventurous spirit.
My first day was a little rough. I almost boarded a bus in the wrong direction, and I got off at the wrong stop. I ended up in a Duane Reade in Jackson Heights. I hadn’t yet had the chance to get a MetroCard, and I had spent all my coins on the bus that had just left me on the curb on the verge of tears. Under the guise of grabbing a bottle of water, I let out a sob, pulled myself together, and chastised myself for being ridiculous. This was not my first time in NYC, let alone on a bus, and I had not just spent my last $2.25 ever. I was not trapped. I was not lost. I was not in trouble. I was letting myself panic.
I remember my first trip to NYC. I fell directly into the Big City Panic, forgetting I had navigated cities before. NYC is really no different. It may be a little bigger, but because of that it may actually be a little better prepared for the chaos. It is well mapped, well canvassed with mass transit that runs 24-hours a day, and crowded enough that you can always find someone to ask if you really have to. I have never been “lost” for more than five minutes in NYC, which is nothing compared to the amount of time I have spent completely turned around in Philadelphia, where I’ve lived for over ten years. It’s really not as complicated as it seems. It’s big, yes. It’s complex, definitely, but neither of those things has to equal complicated.
By my next trip anywhere I had figured out the websites, the apps, the maps, and my own directional calibration to the way the city is laid out. I bused and trained through Astoria, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and by the time Hubby drove in to visit I knew not only how to get where he wanted to go by car but where to find free parking. That’s right, free parking in Manhattan, friends.
And there you have it, the lesson of the day. Oh please, you saw it coming. How often do we do this, friends? In love, in life, in anything? Since this is a blog about poly, pagan householding I’ll funnel it there, but this can apply to any new venture in life. How many times have I heard, “I’d love to do this, but I don’t even know where to start”? I know I’ve done it. Hell, I know I did it with polyamory, with most of our big hobbies, even with my writing.
They keys are not to panic and to break it down into pieces that make sense. We didn’t start this open marriage with a dozen serious partners. We started with one, and believe me, that one brought out enough issues and points in our marriage that needed work. That one lead to enough discussions and changes in how we did things and interacted with each other and those around us, how we dealt with conflict and negativity. That one seemed like our Big City Panic enough to make us run for the hills, but we didn’t. We learned the maps. We stuck together, used our heads and our hearts, and we found that it did make sense if we looked at it calmly.
We have tried to take this approach to the big changes that life has thrown at us: my illness, moving, changes in our family. Sometimes we realize somewhere along the line that we’ve fallen into the Panic. Ok, so sometimes he realizes it for me. It’s then that we have to reel ourselves in and remind ourselves that it’s really not that complicated.
As Hubby likes to remind me:
“Step 1: Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
“Step 2: It’s all small stuff.”
Go now, uncomplicate.
SO, friends, it’s been a while. Tonight is not about a lesson, personal gnosis, or experience. There’s no big moral to find in the end. Tonight is just about staying connected. After all, I’m not a textbook. I’m not a doctor. I’m not some kind of oddly specialized robot. I’m a real person trying to share my life experiences, and with that real person life comes real person life issues that get in front of the things I’d like to be doing.
For weeks I didn’t write because I felt I had nothing special to say, so I didn’t say anything. I was stressed beyond the point of writing anything coherent. I found myself as close to single as I can get as a married poly woman, all my relationships aside from that with Hubby fading away, and the stress of our living situation finally starting to crack me. I felt distant from my faith and powerless in my life. Normal life goals, the American Dream, seemed lost and unattainable.
So what did I do? I got a tattoo. Now, before you close the browser and assume I got some sissy hip tattoo that I decided on at the last minute, think again. That’s what Hubby did as I was sitting in a chair being inked by one of my best friends, but never mind that. The design I now have permanently inked on my left shoulder was one I thought about for a long time, and one that ended up being extremely significant and personal. Here it is, friends.
Freedom. All the struggles and setbacks aside, this is what keeps me going ever day. I have a husband who loves me and allows me to love unconditionally and without boundaries. I can love however and whomever I wish to let into my heart, and that’s an extremely powerful thing. The lovebirds are a symbol of our choice to be life mates, no matter who or what enters our lives. Live, Laugh, Love. We’ve all seen this somewhere. My first time seeing them together like this was the week of my mother’s funeral. She had ordered me a tea set for my birthday, and it had those words painted on the teapot. Any time I feel a need to reconnect with her spirit inside me it comes through in those words, as they emanated from her like a beacon. She taught me how to live, laugh, and love no matter what I was experiencing in life, and that has given me the freedom to be myself, be strong, and be faithful to my spirit and my family through adversity and hardship. We won’t focus on the fact that the font used on a tattoo bearing a recognized symbol of polyamory is called “Wedding Nightmare”.
So there it is. I can choose to give up and live in the attic of a smoke-filled house forever. I can forget ever having a place of our own or being financially stable enough to start a family. I can live my life afraid to love because it might end and I might be sad. I can lie down and admit defeat, or I can choose to be free, and in choosing to be free I can be empowered to change it. I can choose to live, laugh, and love and never let my faith or spirit go sour.
That’s what I choose, friends. I’ve now got a permanent mark on my body to prove it.
Go now; live, laugh, love.
My tradition’s yearly installment of a ritual honouring Cernnunos always hits me somewhere deeper than I walk in expecting, but this year his message may as well have come with a gift tag with my name on it. It was one I wish I’d been able to hear a week sooner, but one I may have needed a little pain with to really absorb and appreciate.
He spoke of hard times, both ones we’ve endured in the past year and those yet to come. He spoke of the fight we must be willing to put up to keep our spirits alive. He spoke of enjoying life despite hard times, using the light and energy from those memories to recharge us when life seems bleak. Sometimes it’s not the moment of the belly laugh we need as we’re short of breath with tears streaming from our eyes. Sometimes it’s the memory of that laugh, with whom it was shared, or how it felt not to care who heard or saw us or what they thought about it that inspires us in the moments when we most want to scream, cry, and give up on life. It’s these moments that make that laugh a beautiful gift. Our ability to remember and relive is magickal and transformative, but only if we use it.
My four-year old stepson is in crisis mode every time he leaves our house. In his mind the world is ending. He’s leaving us, and that thought takes over his young mind. It’s a heartbreaking routine, but every week we remind him of all the fin we shared that day and assure him he’ll be back to do it all again before he knows it.
Oh, how we adults have convinced ourselves we have grown past this type of behaviour. Frankly, we haven’t. In fact, we have made it all even more complicated with “complexes”, excuses, addictions, and people who enable and feed our negative outlook. The four-year old moves on with life. The :mature adults” dwell, hold grudges, and give up on those “fun” moments. We forget how to live and begin to merely survive, or worse, give in to self-defeat and stop worrying about survival altogether. I won’t let the four-year old handle my “good china”, but I will take a lesson from him on what’s really valuable.
This leads me to wonder why adults tend to use our ability to remember only to dwell in the negative past. Why do we readily dig up abuses and even the most petty arguments we had as children but not remember the hug or kind word we received just yesterday? Furthermore, why do we forget how far this fight to keep the spirit alive has brought each one of us?
Yesterday I stopped myself short of complaining about lugging my overnight bag to and from work everyday. Merely two years ago I would not have picked the bag up, let alone carried it for 20 minutes. I realized then how much I fall prey to this mentality. Had I forgotten the long road I’ve taken to get here? Had I forgotten that I could not walk to the bathroom let alone the thirty blocks I walked today to run errands? Had I forgotten the days I spent bracing myself against counters so my customers would not notice I was unable to stand on my own? Had I forgotten that up until recently I had been one sick day away from derailing my career path? I am not functional, working overtime, planning a wedding, and thriving. I found the fuel to learn, research, and execute a plan, all while stuck in a constant fog of confusion and exhaustion.
In the worst days of my illness I had never given up, but a little stress was going to break me? Why? How? The memories flood back to me even now. On my darkest days, when I was tired and weak, I was reminded by everyone around me that the sun was still shining, I was still loved, and there was still joy to be found in life. Every time Hubby tried, with tears of helpless frustration in his eyes, to make me smile and laugh, every time a friend took me to the mall or sent me a silly text message, or every time I had a rare good day and was able to forget the pain gave me fuel to keep going, keep fighting, and keep growing. I never lost faith, and I never let the spirit die.
That fact, above all else, is what hit me when I heard Cernnunos speak to me. I had forgotten the long arduous road behind me. I had forgotten the scars, the landmarks,a nd the victories that were no small feat to overcome. I had forgotten every moment I had been a warrior, and I had dismissed the belly laugh, the sunny day, and the touch of a lover for insignificant everyday hassles and annoyances. I was throwing a tantrum over a broken crayon. I certainly would never accept this behaviour from the four-year old. Why on earth was I accepting it from myself? It certainly wasn’t helping my in any way? Help, not hinder, Autumn!
The message Cernnunos gave was not a bubble wrapped, candy coated assurance that everything will be copacetic as long as we think happy thoughts and keep a firm hand on the pixie dust. It was to remind us of the reality that bad things will happen, probably to you and me, and we will be miserable and strained if we refuse to find some reminder that those bad things do not rule our lives, nor can we relinquish our responsibility to the earth because we’re tired of the bad days. The message was, you might as well find some enjoyment in it and let that enjoyment get you through the rough spots.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many more of these recharging moments you begin to recognize once you start to acknowledge and appreciate them. They’ve always been there. You’ve just been too wrapped up in a tantrum to notice.
Go now, whistle while you work.