You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘lessons’ tag.
As I approach 30 I find myself doing a lot of soul-searching and self-analysis. This has led me to face a lot of the shadows in my past. Some of them I created, some of them I used to hide bad memories or mistakes, and some are just a part of life. However, all of them, when left unchecked, have the potential to grow and overtake the light in my spirit. Indeed, at one time or another each of them has, resulting in imbalances that often took a very serious toll on my life and those around me. As I begin to embrace 30 I also begin to address these shadows, clean what I can from the darkness, and accept them as a part of me rather than avoid them as blights. Each one has made me who I am today, and each one continues to me an opportunity to grow as a person.
This Mother’s Day we took Hubby’s mom to the zoo. The day before that I spent with friends and their young daughter. I had my moments of grief and loss, of nostalgia and loneliness, and even of regret that I hadn’t holed myself up all weekend, but by the end of last night I was happy for the experience and the new clarity it gave me as I move forward. With that clarity came messages to three generations of who I am.
To My Mother:
I’m sorry. For all the things a child cannot articulate. For all the opportunities to tell you I loved you, to hug you, to spend a day with you that went empty. For the places in my life where you tried to teach me better only to have me forget or ignore the lessons. For letting myself hold on for so long to losing you instead of the memories of who you were. For not having the chance to have an adult Mother-Daughter relationship with the most important person who has ever loved me; the one who loved me enough to give me a chance at life. I will never take that gift for granted again. Thank you. For continuing to teach me those lessons. I see you more and more inside me every year, and there are days when I can’t fathom how you managed all that you did with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. You sacrificed more for me than I will ever truly understand. You loved even when it hurt, you fought for what you believed in, and you followed the path that felt right for you no matter who tried to tell you otherwise. There have been so many times in my life when I’ve missed you and longed for your advice. Thank you for that model. Forgive me if I’m struggling to do as well as you did.
To My Unborn Child:
I may have never held you in my arms, but you are always in my heart. I’m sorry. For not being able to protect you. For not being able to give you a life. For being scared and unprepared. Thank you. For giving me a reason to keep going through one of the darkest points of my life. For still giving me hope that someday I will be a good Mommy. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you and wonder what my life would be like now with you in it.
I’m sorry. For letting you carry this weight on your own for so long. For abusing and neglecting you. For the resentment and the guilt. For never telling you that you were not to blame, that you did everything you could with what you had, and that you were loved. For leaving you alone in the darkness and depression, hoping you’d eventually just fade away. Thank you. For not giving up. For having the faith I could not. For being strong, beautiful, and even happy at times despite me. For believing in us and knowing someday I would come around. With you on my side I know I can accomplish anything.
There it is, friends. One of the hardest letters I’ve ever had to write. Two phrases that far too often go unsaid to our parents, our children, and ourselves.
Go now, be at peace.
My mom used to love to feed the giraffes at the zoo. She couldn’t see them, but she knew they were there, and she loved the experience. Looking back, my mother had that spirit in all areas of her life.
I can not remember a single challenge or occasion in life my mother didn’t rise to. When she lost her site she learned braille and newborn care in the dark. She got a Guide Dog and eventually a job teaching computers to the blind. I have days when I can barely remember how to tie my shoes, but this woman thrived no matter what was thrown at her. This is what I remember when I feel like I just can’t fight anymore. That my mother did not just survive her life. She lived it.
When faced with significant things like motherhood and love she dedicated all that she had to give, and she never turned down a friend in need. At times it let people take advantage of her kindness, but it never stopped her. If she could help, she did. If she couldn’t help directly, she found a way. I grew up knowing my mother loved me and would give anything for me to have a good life and a happy heart. I never knew anything other than acceptance and support, never doubted she believed in me, and that unconditional love has carried me through many points in my life where I’ve veered from the beaten path to find myself.
What else has my mother’s spirit lived on to each me? That no matter how hard things get it’s always alright to laugh, to play, and to dream. As a kid I watched my mom bowl, play Frisbee, and beat the pants off of everybody at Monopoly. She decorated a giant tree every year for Christmas, dusted around ridiculous decorations at Halloween, and dared to wear pointy little heels to work. She rode roller coasters and went to concerts, Disneyland, and, yes, the zoo. Nothing was ever off-limits or too much trouble. If it sounded like fun, my mom was there before anyone.
Which brings me back to the giraffes. My mom never had to see them to know they were there and to experience their beauty. We spend so much of our lives looking for something, and quite often it’s already here waiting to be experienced, waiting to be loved, or waiting to be nurtured. Sometimes I close my eyes and the world becomes a very different place, one with more potential than I can see with my eyes. It’s all so very simple, but it’s something many of us spend our entire lives trying to learn. My mother knew. If you hold the food out, the giraffes will come.
Go now, feed your giraffes.
Congratulations! You made it past the first few dates and have started to develop a relationship with a new partner! I won’t assume my last piece had anything to do with it, but with the timing and all I will accept it as a coincidence and thank fate for proving my points. In any case, now let’s examine your current state for a moment.
I’m going to bet you’re giddy and excited. You’re smiling even through mundane every day tasks, you can’t stop thinking about this new step in your life or the person you’re taking it with, and when you’re together the rest of the world either vanishes or becomes paradise depending on the glasses you’re wearing that day.
This is what we call NRE, or New Relationship Energy, and it’s like sweet Ambrosia after an extended period of failed expectations and frustrating encounters. Enjoy it. This is where the foundation of your new relationship is built, where you begin to discover what it will look like, and when you really start to get to know your new lover. This is a time of firsts. I reiterate, enjoy it. Don’t let the worries about where you’re going, what you’re doing, or what this new person in your life thinks of every little thing you do or say hold you back from being who you are and living in the process, not three steps ahead of it.
Be yourself. If she can’t accept you now for who you are she won’t be able to accept you in the long run, so stop worrying about it and just let yourself be in the moments. Take the opportunity to do something new. Form your identity as a couple, and do not attempt to replicate your other relationships, and do not try to compare them, because this is not any other relationship but this one. Every couple is unique, as are the roadblocks and tender moments each one will have. Embrace these differences. If every partnership you have is identical what’s the point in being poly?
Finding balance. While NRE and building new bonds is important, so are other priorities in you life, like your job and existing partners. It’s easy to lose track and let all your time and energy be absorbed by something new, but the rest of your life still needs attention as well. Make sure to keep up communication with your established partners, as they may be feeling some growing pains. Sharing your new experience while setting aside some quality time for them can strengthen that bond and ease any inner struggles that may be forming, allowing them to feel compersion instead of insecurities about an unknown situation. Use this as an opportunity to do something you haven’t done in a while or even try something new yourselves. Take out that relationship bucket list and cross something off. Reconnect with what brought you together, and even what made you poly.
On the flip side, remember that you are poly, especially if this is your first multiple relationship. Don’t wrestle with questions about your established partner’s motives or feelings. You both agreed to the terms of your poly relationship. If you start to feel uneasy you should talk about it, but don’t let your second guessing pull you away from giving your time and energy to your new love. Believe me, you’ll all miss out on a lot that way, and you will not be able to fully enjoy polyamory until you can master this hesitation.
The last hurdle with NRE is when it starts to end, or rather when it starts to transition to become an established bonded relationship. This is where a lot of people feel a drop. This is where you start to say things like “you never XYZ anymore!”. This is where a lot of relationships end, because when the buzz wears off and a routine starts to form many people feel like they fall into a rut. For some it’s true that the only thing they ever had in common was an addiction to NRE, but to me this is when the real relationship begins. If you can enjoy the NRE for what it was and truly own and embrace the meat of the relationship that has developed you will find that it’s worth it. You don’t have to stop having the adventures and experiences, but now you have them as a couple with an amazing bond and a solid foundation. You have built something that will survive the setbacks and enrich all your lives. Do not mourn the end of the NRE, welcome the beginning of a new journey.
Next Week: My final installment. Family introductions.
I have always preferred the term “responsible sex” over “safe sex”. It implies that we have a choice when it comes to the decisions we make. I have written a lot about responsibility as it deals with emotions and how our actions affect the relationships in our poly circle, but today the topic gets a little more earthy. Let’s talk about sex. We were all in a Sex Ed class at some time or another. We all know the statistics, consequences, and responsibilities that come with sex, and by now we all know how to be healthy, sex positive adults.
Do you remember that poster of the sex pyramid? No not that pyramid, the other one. The one that shows how many people you actually have sex with when you factor in every partner your partner is with. Yeah, that one. As with any other actions in a polyamory, the decisions we make affect each and every member of our family. I take that responsibility very seriously and do not even consider sex with anyone who tries to weasel his way around safe sexual practices. I have heard every line in the book. I consider this blatant disrespect and an attempt to put my entire family in danger, since giving in puts not only me, but my partners and their partners and so on, all at risk.
My family trusts me to make responsible decisions, and I trust them to do the same. This level of trust is crucial in a poly situation. I’m sorry, but no sex is worth breaking that trust. Yes, especially sex with you Mr Random Internet Hookup. I’m sure you’re just as trustworthy as any other person on the internet, which means I brought my own condoms, so there’s no risk that they’re old, weathered, or tampered with. As a side note, always make sure your barriers are in good condition. This doesn’t just mean checking the expiration date. This means checking the packaging. Have they been sitting in a wallet for a year getting beat up? Have they been repeatedly exposed to extreme heat and cold? Could they have been punctured? Be smart, friends. Condoms are not so expensive that you should risk using one that’s past its prime.
The next step in responsible sex is testing. Unless you’ve been abstinent for the last six months, even if you’ve been protected every time, regular testing is still necessary. Our family gets tested at least one every six months just to make sure nothing has slipped through the cracks. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and this is something I’ve had to explain to clinic staff in the past. We don’t get tested because we feel dirty or because we’ve done something wrong. We do it to be healthy and informed. An informed family is a responsible family.
At this time I am blessed to have medical professionals in my life who don’t bat an eyelash when I talk about my lifestyle and are always happy to give me the information I need to keep us all healthy, but not after a long road of judgmental and unhelpful ones on the way. I have had OBGYNs tell me I should use condoms with my husband because I can never be sure he’s telling the truth about his actions. I assure you, I would not be married to him if I could not. There is also outdated information still being passed out by medical professionals about HIV and bisexual men, gay men, and apparently men in general that is no longer useful or apropos, and they have used it to warn me about the dangers of my choices in partners.
I do have partners with whom I am fluid bound. It’s a big step in a relationship for me, and one I don’t take lightly. It takes a huge amount of trust and commitment to accept what happens if accidents do happen. That old Sex Ed cliché “Nothing is 100% but abstinence” has truth to it, and this lifestyle incorporates a certain level of accepted risk. Making the decision to be poly, fluid bound, kinky, or anything else means acknowledging that risk and agreeing to deal with any fall out as a family if it happens. In most cases it doesn’t, but it has to be something you keep in the back of your mind, because the power to decrease or increase the likelihood of unplanned events is yours.
The world is made up of some amazing people, and that diversity makes this world a fantastic place to live. When I started dating I wasn’t sure I’d find anyone I could live with for the rest of my life no matter how amazing he or she might be. I liked my space, I liked my privacy, and I liked my way of doing things. Fortunately, finding our tribe means finding people who challenge us to give up that comfort zone, people who mean enough to us to sacrifice a little control and leverage. That is exactly what I have found as our family has grown and changed.
When I first met Hubby we joked about how much alike we were. We even had some of the same obscure belongings. Being that much alike, however, is both a blessing and a curse. When we agree on something it can be great, but having such similar personalities doesn’t mean we always agree. Our disagreements can be outrageous, and our compromises can take hours of discussion and negotiation.
Opening our marriage to other partners meant a fractal increase in relationships and personalities. Hubby introducing A to the family didn’t just add their relationship to the mix. It changed the way we handle things and introduced the additional relationship that she and I share. That relationship with a spouse’s partner or a partner’s spouse is just as delicate and important as the romantic partnership, both as a family unit and as individuals. Their relationship is either stressed or eased based on how well A and I get along and solve problems.
Hubby once told me that he and A never had fights, just disagreements and discussions. I admit I’m a little more emotion and passion driven where A tries to apply reason and logic to a problem. It’s the same reason Hubby and I sometimes hit an impasse. He tries to pull a “why” for everything, and sometimes the answer to an important question is “just because it feels right”. If there’s anyone as similar to Hubby as I am, it’s A. Knowing their respective personalities, I could see why in two years they had not had a single big “blow up” argument, but I knew eventually the things they were avoiding during their discussions to keep the peace would come to the surface. Eventually it did, and they did. The result was a bit of a healthy overhaul for their relationship and some ripples to teach us all how to find a happy medium when these issues arise instead of letting them get out of hand.
Even these slight differences in personality can be a challenge. Daily interaction can lead to miscommunication or conflict, especially if one of us is just having a rough day. We all process emotions and information differently, and an important lesson for a poly family is knowing each individual’s needs and limitations during that processing. Do I need listening instead of fixing? Does Hubby need to chew on a problem before he talks to me about it? These are all things that can cause unnecessary conflict if not addressed. For example, sometimes I need to step way from an argument to organize my thoughts and calm my emotions. Oftentimes Hubby takes this as a sign of avoidance or giving up and refuses to let up for a moment, further escalating my emotional state. A and I have half- joked about “time out” corners to give us a dedicated spot, fulfilling both a need to step back and a need to know the issue will be revisited for a resolution.
As trying as this all can be I still consider our diversity to be a boon to our family. After all, the point of poly is to have multiple loves. How boring would it be if we were carbon copies? Each of us brings a unique perspective, skill set, and wealth of experience to the table. I spell check Hubby’s emails, while he checks my math. The result is an amazing family who always manage to keep life interesting, working together and constantly growing and changing, and that’s what life is all about.
Two years ago I wrote a post in my blog about Time Management. It centered mostly around the time constraints of a new relationship, so today I’d like to talk about time management in a family situation.
Time can be one of the hardest aspects to master in any marriage. Between work and personal interests it never seems like there is enough of it to get everything done and spent quality time with all the people we love. This can be a sensitive topic in a poly relationship and the one I find leads to the most emotional discussions we have. At times it seems like juggling knives would be less tense, and often less risky, but it’s not something that can be avoided.
Our family full of independent people with jobs and extracurricular passions that take up a lot of our free time. Add in commutes, differences in shifts, and household chores, and this leaves very little to work with when it comes to spending time together. We have a pretty colourful Google Calendar, which I will mention again and again as a poly family’s best friend, but finding space between the motley array of prior commitments can be frustrating. Making that time healthy rather than stressed and rushed can be even more so.
My piece of that pie comes with the fact that Hubby and I have household responsibilities that generally fill up the two days a week I’m home from work. This may change when I’m home every day or when we all live in the same house, but at this time that’s the reality. It’s also the only time we have to see friends and family, so even that together time is rarely the one on one bonding time that keeps an intimate relationship healthy. We can go months at a time without a day spent alone together doing something relaxing or fun together, and this causes a lot of stress on our marriage when it starts to seem like all we do is visit friends and do chores. From my perspective, Hubby’s nights with A are still considered “planned”, so he won’t plan a night with a friend or another hobby during the time he’s with her, and I admit I get a little flustered knowing my time gets filled with those things because we live together. While I may have more time on the whole, very little of it is quality time even spent in the same room, while they get to go to dinner, movies, and wine tastings. Hubby is trying to make sure we balance that better, and we try to have a “planned” date once in a while, but sometimes nothing can be done.
On A’s side she worries about our responsibilities completely filling Hubby’s schedule and pushing out her time. Hubby likes to sleep, so unless there’s a planned activity he will lounge and sleep or play games on his computer. This often frustrates her, because she wants to be doing something, even if it’s just cuddling or making breakfast. Because I’m often only home on weekends, that’s when we’re usually busy, so she doesn’t get a lot of time with him that doesn’t involve a work schedule in some way. This can be stressful having to factor in bedtimes and work responsibilities, and if he gets held up at work she misses out on what waking free time she has.
Now let’s add a new development, just because things weren’t stretched thin as it was. Hubby just started a job that will sometimes have him out of town a few nights a week, which means the only time he has consistently available is the weekend. This means our schedule changes somehow. It also means that all the personal activities he had reserved for weeknights also now can only happen on weekends.
We have discussed options that will make everyone happy. I have no problem with spending a weekend or half a weekend alone. My concern is that all Hubby’s personal time, all our time with his friends, and all our time spent as a family will come out of the now abridged time he and I have together, especially over the summer when events and outings pick up frequency. Last year we had a few incidents with time management and things that were really important to me getting pushed aside or family time that left me feeling like a third wheel. Some of that is internal, but some has been identified as something we all really need to work on to be a happy, healthy family.
Right now it’s all very up in the air with me out of work, and I will be returning right about the time our Google Calendar lights up again. I won’t say I’m not a little worried, but we’re all adults, and I’m sure we can work out a solution. It might take a few rounds of discussion and trial-and-error, but I feel like we’re headed in a positive direction.
Someone told me once that polyamory is not for a hopeless romantic like myself. While I don’t completely agree, I do see where the sentiment comes from. When things are falling into place polyamory is a great environment for a romantic like myself, but this is real life, and where there are glitches in any relationship there are exponential glitches in a poly situation.
The images and definitions you get when you look up “Polyamory” on Google look like a lot of fun, but none of them quite grasp what it takes to keep the wheels turning. A Corvette is beautiful, but if the engine stops all you’ve got is a pretty piece of yard art. Here’s a look under the hood.
Being a tribe, not a room full of chiefs. We are a family of strong-willed, smart, leaders, but working as a team means each of us giving up a little control to support the whole. There may be areas where I’m a little more experienced or have better solutions, but working together means not trying to dominate every aspect of our lives together. It also means listening and forming ideas together, using the collective brain to fix problems and make plans, and not being too proud to step back and let someone else take the wheel.
Being a Time Lord. If none of us had jobs or lives outside of this family time would never be an issue, Fortunately, we are all more well-rounded than that. This means there’s a lot to keep track of. Not only do my plans have to consider my busy schedule, but Hubby’s and A’s as well, which ripples into their extended circles and those schedules. Sometimes it feels like all of our time together is spent figuring out when we all have time to have more time together. The answer? Every poly family needs a blue police box. Or Google Calendar.
Being comfortable alone and in a group. By the very nature of poly we are a large family. This means a lot time spent as a group, which can be daunting for a hermit. On the flip side, there will be times when everyone else is busy. This alone time can be healthy. It’s integral to me that I not let my whole self be absorbed by the collective. I need to own my identity, which means learning to appreciate and utilize my rare alone time as much as I appreciate and utilize my intimate one-on-one and family time.
Being a communicator and a listener. When I get nervous, frustrated, tired, anxious, or uncomfortable I talk. When I feel overwhelmed, out-of-place, stupid, wounded, or slighted I get quiet. This talking and not-talking, however, does not equate to communicating well or listening, and that’s something I have to remind myself constantly. In groups, or when we feel like we’re losing something, we tend to speak however we think people will hear us. Oftentimes we are more concerned about having a chance to make our points heard that we merely sit and wait to talk instead of actually listening to the person talking. This doesn’t get anyone anywhere. It just creates more chaos and heightened emotions.
Being an adult who can act like a kid. Let’s face it, we take ourselves to seriously. We are all professionals, parents, activists, anachronists, writers, and intellectuals. It’s all very serious business, but we can easily lose track of the fact that we started doing a lot of these things because we enjoy them, and this leads us to take life and ourselves too seriously. With all that rigidity something is bound to snap. Sometimes it’s just as important to let loose and be ridiculous. Alone, together, as couples, it’s all an important part of the bonding experience and, in my opinion, one of the secrets of life.
Being able to get off your own rollercoaster to help someone ride his/hers. There’s a meme going around that says “Everyone is going through something,” and it’s true. Whether good, bad, or just plain important, everyone has something happening. In a poly family you tend to have a lot of this happening at once. I may be starting a great new relationship, but Hubby might be having a rough time with one ending. It is important that we each not get so wrapped up in our own feelings that we disregard the other’s. I can be supportive of him without ignoring or trivializing my NRE (new relationship energy), and he can be happy for me while still processing his grief. It just takes both of us being able to emotionally multitask.
Being open and optimistic. We live in a society that teaches us to learn from our mistakes, which can be great, but sometimes taken out of context. In poly we trend to forget that real relationship snags happen. Just because we’re both poly doesn’t mean we’re compatible. Just because the last guy with those stats was a jerk doesn’t mean this one will be, unless the stat says “jerk”. Poly requires an open, fresh heart every time we enter a new relationship no matter what happened “last time”. This can be one of the hardest lessons in love, the ability to let go and move on without forming a whole new litany of issues. When I found Hubby I was overjoyed to never have to go through the dating process again, and dating as a poly woman can be discouraging and frustrating. I encounter people who just want sex, people who think they don’t have to treat me like a real girlfriend because I’m married, and people who use me as a fill-in until what they’re looking for comes along because they think I shouldn’t require any commitment beyond now. Add all this to the normal dating mishaps, and it’s a wonder anyone falls into place, but it’s a beautiful thing when it happens, and it will only happen if we stay open to the possibility.
Being a romantic realist. I love surprises. I love coordinating surprises. I love sweet moments and little things to make those I love smile knowing they are loved. I love surrounding myself with people who find creative little ways to do the same for me. This is where polyamory is perfect for my inner romantic. It’s also the part of me that gets disappointed and a little pouty when we have to accept that sometimes things happen. Intimate moments are interrupted. Time is hectic. This year Hubby and A went on a trip the weekend before our first wedding anniversary. I agreed to it. They needed the time. We never got to do anything special for our anniversary. Life took over, and we just never had time. The romantic in me screamed and stomped, but the realist in me had to accept it knowing it wasn’t the last anniversary we’ll ever spend together.
Being able to wear the big kid britches. I have needs. Everyone does. Physical need. Emotional needs. Sexual needs. They all need to be addressed and tended to, but sometimes having a need means prioritizing. It also means learning to tend to some of these needs ourselves. When we form a family, especially a large family, we get used to being taken care of, but we have to remember that we’re all adults who took care of ourselves at one time or another. None of us lost that ability when we found each other. It’s nice to be taken care of when I need it, but if someone else’s need is greater I have to be willing to asses whether or not what I have is a need or a desire. If it’s a desire, it can wait. If it’s a need, can I find a way to satisfy it on my own? Once that’s done I need to be able to not take it personally that I had to do it myself. This can be the hardest part of all this adult behaviour, not forming resentment.
Being able to hold your tongue. I hate to say it, but there’s no rule saying I will or must like everyone Hubby dates. They don’t all have to like me either, as long as they’re respectful of our family. This can be the hardest part of poly. I don’t have to like who Hubby’s with to support him and be happy for him, nor does it mean am happy or relieved if that situation fails. That’s not to say I might not be relieved, but my primary care is for his happiness and well-being. Unless he asks or there is a major conflict regarding respect or honesty, my responsibility to him is to keep my mouth shut. It’s not my relationship; it’s his. It may make group activities trying, but I am obligated to at least try before we discuss any overbearing issues.
Polyamory is a lot of fun, a lot of love, and a lot of adventures, but it’s also a lot of work and not for anyone who can’t handle constant change, re-evaluation, and adaptation. We’re all learning as we go, and we all make mistakes. It’s how we handle those mistakes, change our course, and move on as a solid unit that decides if we sink or sail. Sometimes we improvise. Sometimes it all comes together as planned. In either case we do it with strong hearts and genuine faith in each other. We are warriors. We are wheels turning and hearts singing. We are a tribe, and nothing is stronger than the tribe.
Imagine a Steampunk-esque miracle contraption with gears and chains, cogs and levers, and even a little smokestack if you’d like. When everything is running smoothly the machine can do anything. It can fly! It can swim! It can grant wishes!
I like to think of a poly family like one of these Amazing Machines, within which we are all individual pieces. We each have a function and a speed at which we work well. When things are as they should be we are an unstoppable force, but if a piece needs maintenance of something gets caught in the gears the whole machine is impaired. As a family, as opposed to a group of individuals, we have created a system of woven interdependence wherein the health of the individual maintains the health of the whole.
We all have bad days, and we try not to take our frustration out on those we love, but even if I don’t throw a shoe at Hubby he can usually tell when I’m in poor mood. Most of the time he tries to fix it. If for some reason he can’t he tries to be supportive. Whether or not this puts him in his own poor mood it still weighs on him. Seeing someone we love hurt, sick, or unhappy is never an easy thing for anyone. When I’m stressed, he’s stressed. When he’s stressed, the same process is repeated between Hubby and A.
This ripple effect comes into play most profoundly when one or more of our relationships is having a rough patch. When Hubby and I argue it puts him on edge and off kilter in the rest of his life, including his time with A. When they have issues it causes the same uneasiness between us. Depending on the severity of the problem, it also tends to affect the relationship that A and I have built.
One of the best solutions here is maintenance. Obviously the more we tend to the machine the better it works, but maintenance means more than that. It means being aware of the health of the machine and catching small issues before they become large ones that could break one or all of the parts. It means keeping the gears oiled. With our family that means checking in on each other and creating better bonds that are less likely to break under minor pressure. It means communicating even when emotions run high to avoid one of us snapping. It means understanding when a family member is venting, not taking it personally, and trying not to turn our own venting into an attack. It even means not being afraid to slow the machine down for a moment, let an overworked gear cool, and ask for some assistance if there’s a large enough problem.
I have a lot of faith in our Amazing Machine. She’s done a lot of unbelievable things in the past couple years, and there’s a lot of spark and life left in her still. We’re still learning how to maintain her, as much like any self-made contraption she didn’t come with a troubleshooting manual. Sometimes that means surprises. Sometimes that means moving things around a little. What it always means is that we are finding our rhythm together as the nuts and bolts settle and everything falls into place.
We are an Amazing Machine!
Go now, build something!
Six weeks ago I broke my right arm. I am not left-handed. I am not ambidextrous. For the first couple weeks I spilled on myself a lot, and most of that had nothing to do with pain killers. I am simply dysfunctional with my left hand.
As my arm began to heal and the pain fog subsided, I became more and more stir crazy. Not being able to use my hands to even write or type was killing me. Even a simple text message took a day and a half to articulate. I was losing my mind.
This week, with six more or so to go before I’m considered healed and released back into the working wild, I not only took a shower on my own for the first time since Thanksgiving but managed to get the brace on and off by myself with my left hand.
Necessity is an excellent motivator. When there are no other options but to figure out a way the strong among us will do so or go down trying. With Hubby working a new job out of town several days a week, it was that or smell like rotting cabbage. I won’t say it was particularly comfortable, but it felt better than sitting around whining about needing a shower.
Honestly I had no idea until this how much I just didn’t use my left hand to its full potential. I do a lot of things two-handed, but never with as much precision as I’m learning now. It’s amazing how much easier things seem now able to use both hands.
Little Man is showing signs of being ambidextrous, and his teachers want his mother to make him choose a side, citing the fate of his handwriting hanging in the balance. It took me 29 years to learn to properly use my left hand, and this kid has it perfected. I would rather see him have a little trouble making pretty letters than stunt his potential as a craftsman, musician, or surgeon. I refuse to make a 6-year old choose what hand he holds his crayons in.
Let the ambidextrous revolution begin!
Go now, use two hands!
I found myself speaking with an old friend very early this morning whom I haven’t seen on a regular basis since I was 21. At the time, in my mind, I was a struggling college dropout. I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, I was working a frantic entry level job at the mall and trying to sell my art on the side, and I constantly wondered where my next meal was coming from. Basically, it was a less adult version of what I’m doing now. I was wildly taken aback when this friend told me that he still talks about me and who I was then, but in his version I’m a girl with a passion doing what I love and making it happen. His words to me?
Experience is what it is, and its powerful. Don’t let anyone put it down. You’ve done the hard work before. Now this stuff is just how you present most of it
I begin to wonder now if that’s the key. With the matured focus and extra information and resources I have now, is that the missing piece, and I’ve had it all along? It seems so simple, yet I’ve overlooked it because somewhere since then I lost sight of the dream to focus on the “methods” and “plans”. Sure there’s merit to all that, but none of it means anything if the passion for that work doesn’t show when I give myself to the world.
Somewhere towards the end of that line of conversation he gave me this:
Don’t throw yourself into what needs to be. Throw yourself into what can be
Suddenly it all made sense. I finished my NaNoWriMo project because it was something I was capable of doing every single day. If I approach these other goals with that same concept and add in the passion I once had for life and creativity I could be unstoppable.
I remember why I kept myself around this friend so much at a time in my life when I was depressed, suicidal, mostly friendless, and ready to give up my dreams for a bucket of bad decisions. Not only was he always there to make me smile and feel like I had some fight left in me, but he reminded me why I fought to begin with. That power makes me who I am. The good, the bad, the frustrating, it’s all a part of who I am, and it makes me one hell of a fighter.