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I took on an extremely ambitious piece of writing this year for NaNoWriMo. After having to stop just short of my goal the first year due to a broken arm Thanksgiving Weekend and finishing with a product coherent enough to be in the editing process now, this year I took on an extremely heavy task. Half fiction, half non-fiction, the piece chronicled the rocky path of a crumbling marriage in a woman’s mind during her final moments. For those of you who don’t know, my marriage has been a little stressed recently as Hubby and I inventory our issues like LEGOs in attempt to put them back together in a way that works for us both, so taking on this project wa extremely personal and a bit harshly timed. I made it to almost 12,000 words before the emotional weight made it impossible to keep going, but I don’t consider this experiment a complete loss.
For one thing, what I have so far is an amazing piece. I have been adding to it here and there when I can, and when I have the time and energy to put the entire puzzle back together, I believe it will be a beautiful mosaic of words and emotions. I believe in this project, or I wouldn’t have taken it on the way I did.
Next, it was amazing therapy in some ways and an amazing awakening in others. It allowed me to get words out that I felt lost trying to express before, which meant I was able to keep a logical calm tone when dealing with Hubby in emotionally charged situations. It allowed me somewhere to put the often irrational feelings and insecurities that are mine to deal with, things that often cloud our ability to fix the shared problems. It allowed me a story board to map out my experience throughout this marriage and showed me where my own behaviour and thinking may have been the problem without a tone of blame or guilt to get in the way of resolution.
Finally, it reminded me of what I have to fight for, everything we have already fought through, and the strength we have when we fight together for something not against each other. Killing a marriage that didn’t exist helped me see the ways to save the one that does.
So, no, I don’t get the fancy winner badge, which is a shame, because I loved the graphics NaNoWriMo used this year. However, I don’t consider this a loss. Sometimes you need to both something to be able to think outside the box a little. Sometimes you need to fall to change your perspective.
Thank you , NaNoWriMo. I’ll see you next year!
It was the day I saw the internet meme that read expressed to me that love could always save the day, and anything else was giving up. This friends, is a very pretty thought, but untrue. Yes, there are a lot of people who give up on love too soon. There are relationships that end merely because people don’t want to put the effort in to keep it alive. There are also situations where the love exists but the relationship is unhealthy, and there is only so much compromise one can do. This is where serious change needs to occur.
My biggest hurdle in the past week has been the doubt instilled in me by this very concept. For years I have fought. For years I have worked. For years I have sacrificed and compromised. All for love. All with a smile on my face. All knowing my heart was strong and my love was true. That love hasn’t changed. It hasn’t diminished. It hasn’t quieted. I don’t even feel like it’s less mutual. It’s the only reason I am hurt by the idea that maybe even the strongest love in the world can’t fix everything. And maybe worse, that it shouldn’t.
What if this love is what’s holding me in a place that’s unhealthy for the rest of me? What if this love is detrimental? What if it’s taken the place of the love I should have for myself? These are very real things. This is not an abuse situation, friends, but it is unhealthy. If we can’t find a way to change the foundation of what’s wrong in our life together, no amount of love in the world can change that. I can’t let myself feel like I’m giving up or failing, because that’s what has always made me stick around in the past regardless of my mental or emotional health.
Love can conquer many things. Fear, insecurity, doubt. Love cannot conquer all things, because a relationship needs air to breathe and sun to grow. It needs a good balance of calm and passion. It needs the right environment, and if that environment no longer exists between two people, it doesn’t mean we’ve or love has failed. It merely means our landscape has evolved. It’s time to decide if that landscape can still sustain this relationship.
We are the artists, the healers, and the teachers. We are those who feel, and sometimes we don’t know why until we have learned to acknowledge and process them. We are the empaths, and our journey is unique. It’s not always easy, but it can be highly rewarding and fulfilling.
As an empath I am generally at least aware of my environment on a very intimate level. I can get a feel for people pretty quickly in ways they might not even be in touch with themselves. I can tell when people are hurting, sick, or frustrated, but I can also see their capacity for love and joy when they might not be able to. It makes me a caretaker by nature. I am generally that friend answering her phone at some odd hour of the night because I’ve never turned down a request for help I was available to give.
The flip side of all this is that it makes me a lover, which in and of itself is not a negative thing. I’ve expressed before that being vulnerable doesn’t make me weak. It makes me stronger every time it backfires, but when it doesn’t I am reminded why I live and love as openly as I do. It also makes me stubborn and persistent. I can see past all the verbal armor people use on a daily basis, excuses that we think protect us from our own fears and insecurities. I promise you, they protect you from nothing. If anything you become a victim of yourself, and eventually those things become who you are instead of the things inside that actually define you. These are the things I see as an empath.
This also means I can tell when I’m being lied to or set aside. I can tell when a relationship has become about sentimental nostalgia instead of new refreshed emotion. I don’t like it, and at times I’ve tried to fight it, but I can always feel it. It’s at these times where I have a choice, just as I have a choice whether or not to speak up when I see these things affecting others. Do I speak up? Do I keep trying to fool myself with the same sentimentality? Do I force a change or do I wait for the inevitable?
Being an empath has taught me to throw everything I have to the surface, to give all of myself to those I feel won’t abuse it, and to see doors most people would generally walk past. It’s also taught me to identify other empaths, because they are generally the people I can communicate with on an unspoken level. There’s an amazing bond between two people who can feel everything happening in each other. My world is full of them. We laugh together, we hurt together, and we experience love together, and it’s extremely painful when someone starts to distance.
This. This is what I fear. This is my biggest concern coming true. Distance from someone who once knew me so well. So what do I do? This, friends, is where my soul is.
Go now, get in touch with yourself.
Way back when I did my Poly-tics series I wrote about The Deep End. Well, it all came back to haunt me recently when I became involved with someone who had just opened a long-time monogamous marriage. The result was a lot of exactly what I cautioned in the second installation of the series. Had I known at the time how deep this deep end really was I might not have ventured into it, but there I was, surrounded by dark waters of insecurity, doubt, mistrust, and miscommunication. I did what I could to be helpful. I offered the same advice I would offer friends or people seeking counsel. I tried to help both parties through what I know can be an extremely tumultuous storm. In the end I was left adrift in a Deep End that was not my own with an overload of red flags and I-told-you-sos.
It was during this time that I began to hear the term Testing the Waters in reference to poly. What struck me immediately was the fact that once you’ve involved another human being and a relationship begins to form you can no longer be “testing” anything. It’s unfair to both members of the new relationship, and it’s a detrimental attitude to the entire situation. Polyamory requires complete commitment and dedication. If you can’t give that to yourself, your partner, and any new partners you bring into your life, you’re better off sunbathing on the shoreline until you can really brave the deep end.
Take it from me.
As I’ve stated before, Hubby and I have very few rules for our polyamory. It wasn’t always this way, however, and I have to constantly remind myself of this fact every time I encounter a couple who is just opening up. The more I read other poly blogs about rules and how much they hold us back, the more I think sometimes we all forget that we were once new at this, too, and that the fears and hesitation that spawned those rules were very real.
There’s a flip side to this coin. At what point do rules become restrictions, and at what level do restrictions start to become detrimental?
When Hubby and I opened up we had a “no kissing during sex” rule, which was not only extremely hard to follow but extremely silly. Here we were welcoming new people into our hearts and our family, and we weren’t allowed to kiss them sometimes because of what we perceived the attitude and environment of the actions involved to be. My first couple of experiences were awkward. On top of the stress that already surrounds a new encounter, there were these stupid little stage notes I had to follow, and it made everyone tense and a little withdrawn because we all felt like we were being graded. I remember very clearly the night I eschewed that particular rule right in front of Hubby in the most free feeling french kiss I’d ever given anyone. This died the “no kissing during sex” rule and thus began the beginning of a serious re-evaluation of what essentially boiled down to micromanaging of something that should be very organic.
What changed our mind on these rules? Trust. We realized at that moment that there are things we couldn’t, and shouldn’t be, controlling about relationships that needed to form their own shapes. I could mask my insecurity with a litany of things Hubby wasn’t allowed to do with someone new, or I could trust him to be a decent human being and act accordingly. After some growing pains and restructuring it was the best decision we have ever made for our marriage and our respective relationships. It not only fosters trust but respect for the trust given to us by our partners.
A new relationship is like a seedling . If you nurture it and give it the fresh air it needs, it will grow to it’s full potential. With the right maintenance and some appreciation, under the right conditions, it will be enjoyed for a long time. Rules tend to put that seedling in a pot, which isn’t always a bad thing. There are some integral broad rules, if you choose to call them that. Honesty. Respect. Safety. Communication. However, the more rules you add to the mix the smaller the pot gets, and the relationship can eventually be restricted in its growth or completely choked. The whens, the wheres, the words, the whats…none of it is important if you can hold to the tenants of the broad set.
So, I refer back to the beginning. Patience and understanding versus a relationship’s need to form and grow organically. Can the two reach a level of homeostasis that is healthy for everyone involved? I think they can, though I sometimes question the spirit behind the rules. A little help can quickly become a crutch. A seedling can very quickly become a bonsai tree, even when it could be a great Sequoia.
The last two weeks have been an interesting and rather cathartic game of chutes and ladders through my past. I wasn’t able to address all of them, and there were a few I left out due to private details of people I still consider friends. I know a few of you were looking for your stories, and I assure you that omission from this little experiment was not an indication that you have ever meant any less or more to me than anyone else. Also, for those who like to chase monsters, this was not meant to be a smear campaign. It was meant to give an idea of how one heart has grown and learned from each and every person who still resides within it. You see, I don’t believe that once a person has been loved I ever truly un-love them. I may move on, and it may not be healthy for me to have certain people in my life, but that doesn’t mean what we had wasn’t real. If it was love, it still is. If it wasn’t love, it was still a valuable experience in my growth as a person.
The biggest lesson to come from all of this was that every moment is valuable, and nothing is as bad as it has seemed. I don’t believe that every cloud has a silver lining, because that glorifies the rain cloud. I believe that every battle has some blood. I believe that every blue sky has some rain. I believe that every word worth writing has a little pain behind it, because that’s life. What I do not believe is that a single cloud should ruin the sky. A dear friend, who has been with me through most of these stories, told me recently that most people are morally bankrupt. “Not most,” I responded. “Just the ones most of us remember.” It’s true. I could choose to remember and label any or all of these stories as tragedy, but I don’t. They have simply been opportunity for growth and a chance to shine, even on the darkest nights.
I’m choosing to end this series with the one who has been both the beginning and the end of all my stories, my husband. Again, this is not a new story to many of you, but humour me anyway.
When I met him I had just started a new job. I was seeing a few people, and while I cared for each of them I wasn’t interested in a committed, monogamous relationship. It was on a trip to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire with one of those men that I met the man who would become my husband. He is the cornerstone of our family, our tribe, our Ohana.
He was working for a booth that sold dragon puppets that sat on your shoulder, and he lured me into a conversation using raffle tickets as bait. He was cute, and I was still unaccustomed to being flirted with, so I followed, my confused date following behind us. After convincing me to wave a flag in the parade and using that time to both question me about myself and critique my flag waving, the raffle began, and he was gone. I bought myself a cute little dragon puppet and tried not to look disappointed as we headed for the car. Before we left the gates I stopped off to use the Privvy where I tried desperately to push him from my mind as just another “could have been”, but something just wouldn’t let me leave it that way.
I told my date to wait where he was and took off running towards the puppet booth where I made up some story about losing my debit card. It wasn’t until a year ago that I told him I had gone back just for him. We struck up a conversation. I was nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I failed to notice when my bodice stopped functioning. I was essentially topless. “I’m sorry,” he said, eventually unable to focus on the work he was doing, “but it’s really hard to be a gentleman with you like…like that.” After that I couldn’t not take his number. Unfortunately, I took the wrong one, and it took me a week to figure out the problem. On our first date he bought me a pair of blue horns and a bottle of mead, which I had to open with a screw and a hammer because I didn’t have a corkscrew. Within weeks he was spending every night with me, within months we were handfasted. It was eerie how much we had in common, down to some of the same stuff, and how often we had most likely crossed paths in years previous.
When we decided to be poly we knew we were embarking on something big. We both knew it was the right decision, and we both breathed a sigh of relief at finally being able to express ideas we’d each held for years, but we knew there would be growing pains. We knew there would be mistakes on both sides, and we knew it would be the biggest test our relationship had faced to date. We were right. We fought. We exposed fears, insecurities, and emotional roadblocks of every kind, but we kept pushing forward. We fought some more. It strained friendships, relationships, and for a long time we were that couple that brought tension to every social gathering like a side-dish. It cost us more than we could have imagined, and it was almost the end of us. Almost.
Ultimately we came out of the fire more closely bonded than ever. The people who were truly our tribe rallied around us, and our families were able to see us stand tall as a team. Whenever we have issues now it is those moments that we remember, that first victory that inspires us to keep trying, because those were the fires of truth that made us one. No handfasting or legal document could have done that. These new issues are never actually new. They are simply echoes of the first, and they are generally fixed with the same tools. I have learned a lot of lessons from my relationship with Hubby, and I continue to learn from him.
I have learned how to communicate. I have learned better ways to control my emotional responses. It doesn’t always work, but he has learned to try to see why I respond as severely as I do sometimes. I have learned that I am stronger than I ever think I am. Through sickness, money troubles, losing our apartment, and loss, we have thrived as a couple. In times of trial, we have proven to be each other’s strongest ally. Even when we have been against each other, the love we have has inspired us to fight for the life we have built together. I have learned what it means to be humble, what it means to compromise, and what it means to forgive. I have eschewed the I-would-nevers and the expectations of love and marriage that I held onto for so many years. I have learned to accept that I don’t always have the answers and that sometimes we’re just floundering together in the sea of life, and that’s ok. I have learned what it means to lean on each other and how to carry myself knowing it doesn’t mean I’ve been abandoned. I have learned when to let someone I love fail or hurt, because his experience and lessons are not mine to feel. I have learned the definition of unconditional love. I have learned what it means to have someone’s support no matter what. I know that on any path my journey takes I will carry the love and faith of my husband, even if he doesn’t understand or agree with it. I have learned compersion and true happiness for another human being. I have learned to accept that I am a lovable, capable, beautiful human being who deserves to be accepted and cherished by someone who loves her as much as she loves him. I have learned to trust in love, magick, and hope above all other things, and when even those things fail, to trust in myself. I have learned what it means to build a life with someone instead of just living a life with someone.
I have learned what it means to be Ohana.
To my Hubby. Aloha nui loa.
Ralph and I met in a volatile time in both of our lives. It was around Thanksgiving 2002, and my grandparents were visiting. We ignited instantly, and for a week straight I walked him to work, stopping at Dunkin Donuts on my way home. At night we’d discuss writing and theatre, we’d have dinner at the diner where we’d spend hours at a table just talking and goofing off, or we’d explore each other like pioneers blazing new trails.
Then I got the flu. Ralph took care of me and inevitably got sick himself. As a diabetic with no health insurance, I couldn’t afford to catch the same bug I’d given him, so I asked him to go home. He fought me, and I put my foot down a little hard. I came across as ungrateful, but I hadn’t asked him to take care of me. I was perfectly able to take care of myself. From that one incident we began to disintegrate as quickly as we had bonded. Endearments became infuriating. Idiosyncracies we had overlooked became unacceptable. We erupted, parting ways like the grand finale of a fireworks show.
We didn’t speak for a long time, but we did. As soon as we pushed past the ash and debris of the fire of our first relationship we were able to rekindle what had brought us together in the first place. Our lives had changed. Our attitudes had changed. Our passion had not. While we would meet up and catch up when the occasion arose, it would take us almost 11 years to have both the understanding and the opportunity to completely reconnect, and even now we sometimes carefully navigate our way through some emotionally charged waters. The difference now is that we have a better map and the skills to read it and discuss our course before we go barreling over a waterfall.
In the time since we gave it another go, we’ve had a lot of firsts. We’ve taken trips and gone to the movies. We’ve gone to parties, and we’ve put up a Christmas tree. It still amazes me that we never did any of these things before, because we’ve known each other almost my entire life here in Philadelphia. We’re working towards a life together, and he’s become a strong part of our household. We’re learning to communicate our expectations and needs instead of assuming we’re entitled to them. If anyone had told me a decade ago that this would be the person who came back full force into my life, I wouldn’t have believed it.
My lessons from Ralph have been patience and perseverance. It took us a long time to cross paths with the conditions just right to cultivate a relationship, but we never really lost each other. We never stopped trying, and we never stopped learning about each other. We are not the same people we were when we met. In fact, before I would agree to commit to this relationship I asked Ralph for some time to really get to know each other. For someone I’d known for over a decade there was a lot I didn’t know about this man. I couldn’t date who he hadbeen. I had to fall in love with who he was. It hasn’t been easy, but we have managed to take something beautiful but shaky, see its potential, and pull from it something strong and even more beautiful. We’ve still got some work to do, and we’ve still got some old programming to fix, but we’re doing it together this time, and that’s what makes all the difference.
At thirty years old I thought I was merely repeating mistakes until I learned the real lessons behind them, but the last person I really opened up to taught me a few brand new lessons. We had, and still have as friends, an amazing rapport and, for at least a little while, and incredibly sensual energy between us. When it changed I felt it almost immediately, but I tried not to let it detract from the experience I was having. He warned me that he didn’t share my feelings, and I assured him I could accept that until I couldn’t. Once I reached a point where it was no longer enriching my life, we talked about it, and I shifted my perspective and focus to something a little less involved and a little more platonic.
So, the lessons…
There was one about accepting myself instead of striving for validation from others. After telling me that his goal was to show me that I was better than I thought I was, it took him one look to bring me lower than I had imagined possible in a long time. The lesson, to stop letting my self-confidence be dictated by anyone, even if it’s someone I trust not to hurt me. My self-worth has to be set by me.
There was one about how I approach new people. When the Vanishing Act told me I was too intense, I took it to heart. With this new situation I chose to keep a lot of my feelings inside, speaking about them only once I’d deliberated them and formed a usually coherent, generally concise email. I did the best I could, in fact, to strip away any emotion from my communication and approach the entire thing like a science project. In the end all I had was a very logical understanding of why my feelings didn’t matter. You see, lovers can’t stop themselves from loving. We can only postulate why the risk is worth taking, why it’s a lost cause, or how to interact with the other person in order to maintain at least a friendship. Unfortunately for the lovers and the risk takers, we do not decide the outcome of a fresh start. Relationships are dictated by the one who doesn’t have an emotional attachment, not the one who does. It’s up to us in that case to decide how long we’re willing to accept a one-sided scenario and what we want to salvage from it once the experiment has been abandoned by the other participant.
There was one about being honest with myself. While I didn’t stop being me in this case, I did do a lot of internal chastising for being too forward, too silly, too caring. I scolded myself for things I know I can’t control. In the end it was my fault for falling in love with something so high risk. The lesson here is, yes, be rational, but also be true to who you are as a lover. I know how I am when I give everything over to someone who wants it, and in this case I feel like we would have been amazing. Still, if I’m too intense for you, I’m probably not for you at all. I wish I had had the nerve to say that to The Vanishing Act when I had the chance. It would have saved us a lot of energy. Still, just below the surface this relationship was just what I needed for a time, but once that time was gone I had to admit to myself that it was no longer fulfilling, that I was done compromising.
The best lesson I learned from this is how to be a friend with no expectations. Through the course of this I let it all go. I enjoyed what came my way and never altered my course based on what I wasn’t getting in return. The end result was that I got exactly what I needed, and I get to keep it. Nothing was lost to resentment or bitterness. Nothing was forfeited for heartache. While I have may have a brief moment here and there of disappointment, if that’s the worst thing to come out of a situation it’s been highly worth what’s come out of it.
That, my friends, is a win in my book.
I wrote about this briefly back in June, but here’s the whole, beautiful story without all the emotional upheaval and self-doubt it caused at the time.
I met Josh by accident, something that has happened less than a handful of times in my life. I’m not really a “bump into a guy at a bar and make small talk” kind of girl, but there you have it.
I had been set up on a blind date, a concept with which I had absolutely no experience. When I left the hotel the sky was clear, but as it would be for most of my time in Boston, by the time I stepped off the train it was pouring. I had an umbrella, but it did little good in the monsoon that swept me twenty minutes in the wrong direction before I realized I was lost. The GPS on my phone had trouble finding this little dive bar my date had chosen, but I found it just as soon as I was hopelessly soaked to the bone. It was a beer tavern. I don’t drink beer. My date wasn’t there yet, so I lugged my waterlogged purse to the bar and asked the bartender for a moment to compose myself before I ordered as he handed me a menu.
The tall frame perched on the bar stool to my right leaned over and smiled. “Is it still raining?” he asked as I dripped all over the floor. As lame as the line was, I was desperate not to be sitting alone in a bar “waiting for somebody”. We talked for a moment as I looked over the menu, stalling as I prayed something would jump out at me that wasn’t beer. It didn’t.
“So,” I tried to act cool. “What would you order here if you were someone who didn’t like beer?”
He laughed before he realized I was serious. “I’d go to a different bar,” he responded, trying not to laugh some more.
Not long after my hard cider arrived, so did my date. By that time Josh and I were immersed in a full swing conversation. I could already feel from across the room that my date, whose name I don’t ever remember, and I had nothing in common. He introduced himself, gave my new friend an ugly look, and tried to make small talk. It was painful, like “checking the time on my phone every 2 minutes” painful, and he kept trying to get me to leave as I desperately tried to think of a reason to end the misery. About the time the conversation with my date fell into the death sentence of “so, what kind of music do you listen to?” I felt a hand grabbing my phone from my lap, inputting a phone number, and surreptitiously putting it back. Huzzah!
“I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!” I texted as I huddled like a frazzled cat in the ladies room.
“If you can get away from your date, I’ll take you to dinner,” was the response, and that was all I needed. I had been up since 3 that morning, and I was determined to enjoy it.
I tried to be polite. I really did, but about the time my date said “well, if you’re tired you could just come sleep at my hotel,” I was done. I told him no and sought shelter in a Walgreen’s while Josh retrieved his car and drove around to pick me up.
An adventure had begun, and I felt it in my veins, and old excitement I hadn’t set free in a long time. The only place to eat was a diner, and we stayed there laughing until they kicked us out. Walking back to the car in the rain he put his coat over my shoulders and kissed me. It was all that gave me the fuel to kick of my heels and run as we realized the time limit on our parking spot had expired and there were tow trucks lined up along the street. An Oscar worthy crying scene from yours truly was the only thing that got the car back off the truck.
The GPS got us lost, and what should have been a 15 minute ride back to my hotel took almost an hour. Every stoplight was torture. Each u-turn was maddening. By that time the tension had begun to build. I needed this man like I had not needed a stranger in a long time. I didn’t need him to love me, I just needed him to want me. We finally made it, and we spent a few short hours together before he had to leave for work. I didn’t expect to hear from him again, but I did. The next day he took me out for dinner. The day after that he brought me dinner.
Each time we were together we had amazing conversations, but the more time we spent the more he tried to change my mind about how I live my life. He didn’t agree with polyamory. At the time I had doubts myself. He was also a skeptic, and we had several debates about my spirituality where he challenged me to prove my beliefs were true. It made him almost angry when I refused to play along.
What Josh taught me was a lesson about my core values. Hubby and I chose to be poly over six years ago, but it’s a choice I continue to make, and one I still believe is right for me. Having that choice challenged caused a complete re-evaluate of my life and why I had started to doubt myself. I came out of it a stronger, more confident wife, lover, and person. Having my faith questioned was even more eye-opening. After being ejected from a coven that had once been my family, I was still practicing, but not with the same spirit and dedication I once had. When Josh questioned my beliefs I was unshakable. I had never been so sure of myself before, and I felt no obligation to prove to him that my beliefs were true, because what and how I practice is mine. I’m not here to recruit or challenge. Believe, or don’t, whatever you want. What Josh taught me was to check in with myself once in a while to see if anything has changed, and if it has to figure out why. In doing that I was able to turn around my marriage, my attitude on life, and the confidence that I’m not doing such an awful job at it all.