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Not long after I broke my arm last year I got a text from someone I’d started talking to when I met the Vanishing Act. Between the boredom and the Dilauded, we struck up a pretty good conversation, and eventually agreed to meet. I was still a little hesitant and hurt, so we took it slow, but he was so enthusiastic that I let myself get comfortable.
On our first date he wore a bow tie, not for me, but because he wore one every Friday. He was adorable, he was funny, and he was candid. I felt immediately comfortable, and even after our date ended up just being dinner and a walk around the mall, I enjoyed being with him. He brought me home, waited for Hubby, and the two of them hit it off like old friends. That night I did something I never do. I made a move and kissed him first. It surprised us both, but he talked about it for a week. Our second date was equally as relaxed. We went on a hike, had lunch by a pond, and took a nap in each other’s arms.
Through it all we talked and shared our mutual geekery, but after our third date or so something changed. When he talked he sounded worried that I’d leave. I tried to assure him I would not. All I asked for is the same thing I always ask for, honesty. I promised him the same. Even so, our meetings got farther apart. Then our communication got spotty, so I did what I always do, I tried to talk to him about it.
What I got from the conversation was his refusal to give me any priority in his life. None. I don’t consider myself an extremely needy girl, but once in a while I like to know I rank higher than a TV show. I had known he was a bit self-centered, and I had accepted that, but was I asking too much. Of course I convinced myself that I was. I apologized and asked him to make an effort, sure if I voiced my needs again that he would disappear on me. He even appeared to have taken it to heart. I got one really good date after that where I almost felt like I could tell him I had started to love him. I didn’t. Something inside me said not to. Something inside me knew I was trying to justify behaviour that I wouldn’t have accepted from anyone, that one night didn’t make everything right.
I grappled with this for a month while I was on a trip to Boston. During that trip he called me, we texted, and things seemed to be heading in the right direction. He even said he missed me once, and the part of me that needed to believe it acted like he’d written it in the sky above my head. We made plans to spend a day together when I got home, and I felt like it was going to be the beginning of something new.
When that day came I waited patiently for him to let me know he was on his way, but he never did. When I finally heard from him he told me he’d spent the day with his ex-girlfriend. In the texts that followed I tried to explain to him that I was more upset about not even getting a phone call than about getting blown off. He told me how much he loved her, that an opportunity had come up, and turned my words around to make me look ugly and vindictive after I tried to tell him how I felt about him. He never realized I’d told him I loved him twice, because he turned it around every time to make the conversation about himself.
It was at that moment that I realized that he was right, I would never warrant a place of any priority in his life. I had given him the power to step on me. I had held on to something that looked good on paper to the detriment of my own needs and desires. I had let him make me feel fat every time he called himself a “chubby chaser” to my face. I had let him make me feel stupid every time he reminded me of his IQ. I had let him make me feel inferior by accepting a relationship where he was unwilling to give me a place in his life by allowing him to change plans when something better came up and accepting the excuse that too many other girls had taken him for granted.
The lesson I learned from James was to have some cojones. I know what I want. I know what I need. What I didn’t know is how important it is for me to be able to stand up and either make those things happen or find somewhere where they can. No, it wasn’t his obligation to make me a space in his life if it’s not what felt right, but it also wasn’t mine to stand around and accept that he was the best I would get. After that text conversation where I couldn’t even convince him that the decent thing would have been to call me to let me know he wasn’t coming over, we never spoke again. I left that with no closure, feeling unsure about myself or how I handled new relationships. It would be four months before I’d even let myself think about a date with someone new, even longer before I could accept a compliment without steeling myself inside for the backhanded insult.
I know now that this was a test to see how far I had come from the debilitating lack of self-esteem I had developed as a child. I thought I had accepted my body and my personality as beautiful parts of my self, but I had only gotten really good at tolerating it. This was the step I needed to really let it all go, and once I realized how much I had let this kid inside my head, how I had let him crush my spirit, and how little he deserved that power I was able to begin rebuilding the damage that had begun with the Vanishing Act.
No, I haven’t changed. I’ve just stopped letting anyone else decide who I get to be.
Go now, be yourself. You’re all you’ve got.
Let me be clear before I start posting these stories that the point of this little Lessons in Love experiment was not to rehash old wounds or dredge up old drama. I had a few reasons, the main one being that we don’t always see how these things change our lives until those wounds have healed and we have seen what something better looks like. Some of these experiences were the same lesson, but sometimes you have to repeat a mistake to realize what it was that was wrong. Another reason for this series was to show that there’s nothing wrong with faith, because there’s always a new lesson out there, but there’s also always a new adventure.
After any one of these relationships, or any others I’ve had, I could have stopped trying. I could have buried myself in work, friends, life, and never let another person into my heart. Why didn’t I? Because I have faith in love. Because I enjoy the act and emotions of loving. Because even if the love isn’t real there’s still something to be gained from the experience. Likewise, I have applied for the same job thrice. Even though I felt like giving up, I tried again and got it on the third try. I start training in two weeks.
As the new growth of Imbolc begins to take root we begin to feel cabin fever and a need to emerge from the hibernation of the dark season. We have taken the time for introspection, and our soul searching and demon dancing is done. We are ready to emerge from the darkness renewed and ready to test the lessons we have learned from our time inside.
This year Brighid has taught me many lessons. She has taught me how to be strong enough to be patient, but how to be strong enough to walk away when the optimism that fueled that patience has run dry. She has taught me when to be calm and when to speak up for what I need. She has taught me when to be a caregiver and when to say no in situations where the burden has simply become too heavy. She has taught me to stand tall and be confident no matter how ugly, stupid, foolish, or hopeless I fee. She has taught me when to sit still and listen to the darkness and when to light a candle and push through it. She has taught me to dream when the world tells me that dreaming is illogical.
At Yule we celebrated the return of the light and the faith that the spring would return. At Imbolc we begin to see signs that our faith has not been wasted. So it is with life and love. The dark is never permanent unless we believe it is so. There is always light on the other side. That has been the point of this experiment. Yes, have had some rough relationships and some serious heartbreak, some that were even my fault, but I have come out of every single one of them with some amazing stories to tell. It is these stories that make me who I am, these stories that make my life wonderful, and these stories that will sustain me in the dark as I await the sun.
Go now, light a candle.
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.
In the past few weeks there have been more suicides in the young LGBT community than I can count on one hand. As a teacher, a mother, a member of the queer community, and a citizen of the country that is doing nothing to protect these young people from harassment, abuse, and humiliation, I find this trend unacceptable on a violently angry level. We’re talking the type of anger that makes my pupils twitch and my hands shake. These kids, like many in our community, were treated in ways that would make anyone feel helpless and hopeless, especially at a point in their lives where they are vividly aware of their differences and want nothing more than to be accepted.
All across the country gay adolescents are told they’re just confused, that they’re broken or sick, and that they should be ashamed of how they feel, think, and love. At best they are ignored by their parents, but often they are punished, chastised, or beaten. They are cast away, kicked out of their homes, and shunned by their families. Their spiritual leaders tell t hem they’re damned, their peers ostracize or bully them, and there is generally little to no support or protection from schools or the community.
But what about those of us who could help them? What about those of us who have been in their shoes and could guide them through one of the most trying and confusing points in their lives? We’re kept away from them in hopes they’ll grow out of it and in fear that we’ll encourage them to be themselves. Instead of being seen as a support system or valuable resource, queer adults are considered a detriment in a youth’s life. Why is this ok? At what point do we stop telling our children they can be anything they want to be when they grow up and giving them the mentors and environment to nurture whatever that might entail? When do we instead start limiting and judging them? More importantly, why is any of this treatment allowed to happen? Why were these young people pushed to a point at such a young age that they felt it would never get better?
In his September 22 article Dan Savage speaks of how the first of the recently publicized suicides touched him. Like many of us he was heartbroken. Like many of us he has been where these kids were and are today. Like many of us he knows that something needs to be done. It’s time the people who can give these young people a little hope stopped being stuck in a closet and spoke out to them.
“Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids?”, he says. “We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.”
So, Dan and his partner made a video. Then they made a channel on YouTube and encouraged members of the community to make and post their own videos to encourage these kids and share our stories to show that it does get better. To find the instructions and post your own video, you can go to youtube.com/itgetsbetterproject . As soon as I figure out how to use the camcorder function on my new smartphone I’ll be posting my own. If I can get over my technophobia and do this, you should all be making videos!
My life as a bisexual teen (and at the time there was only gay or bisexual in my world…no pansexuals, homoflexibles, heteroflexibles or otherwise) was fairly quiet. I kept it that way purposefully. It had its rough moments, but for the most part I’ve forgotten the trappings. Yes, I was in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that’s not always as free-thinking and forward as it sounds. I went to an all girls catholic school, and had several strikes against me already. I had friends who knew I was pagan, but it wasn’t until I was extremely close that I admitted to my sexuality.
I knew at a very early age I loved everyone equally, but never expressed any of it. I was told it was a phase, that I just didn’t know how to express my feelings towards friends, and that I’d get over it someday. My mother passed before I could try to talk to her about it, and the rest of my family was all about not making waves. My confusion and fear caused me to withdraw completely. I didn’t go on dates. I didn’t socialize much. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was almost eighteen, and that one defining moment started a revolution inside me. I could no longer be quiet.
I can’t imagine my life being any different. It took moving to Philadelphia, a place most consider a lot more conservative that Berkeley, CA, to find “my people”. I am never ashamed to talk about my husband and my girlfriend. I am never ashamed to be poly, pagan, or pansexual. I wish nothing more for these young people than to know how good life can be when you find where you belong. We owe them that optimism as people who have laid the path.
Today begins LGBT History Month, and what better way to start than with each of our own personal histories. Those who came before us gave us a wonderful foundation, and we have built the beginnings of a wonderful world, but these kids are the ones who will be in charge of finishing the job. We need to invest in them the pride and freedom we know is possible. Our goal isn’t just for them to survive, but to live. Like a good bra, we must not just support but uplift.
This is my promise to the queer youth of America…You can always come to me. You can share with me. You can talk to me. You can be safe with me. You have all my love, support, and optimism. You have my arms for hugging and my shoulder for crying. I will help in whatever ways I can, and I will never abandon you. I will never stop trying to show you that it does get better if you can promise me that you’ll never give up being you.
Three years ago I walked away from the rest of my life. I was at the PA Renaissance Faire in far less clothing than I generally dare. He caught my eye and approached me while the guy I was with was in the privvy (that’s the bathroom for those of you who do not frequent Renaissance Faires) and lured me in with promises of free raffle tickets if I grabbed a flag for the parade. I blushed as he mocked my flag waving abilities, but we chatted the entire parade route, much to the confusion of my companion. After that he was back to work and I was lost inside myself. Who was he? Had he really been flirting or was I delirious from wearing a corset all day? Surely, the lack of oxygen was starting to wear me down. Would I ever see him again? Not likely, I decided.
Walking towards the gate I went into panic mode. What if I didn’t ever see him again? What if I was missing out on something? Did I miss what could have been a wonderful exchange by being shy? Should I have said something different? It was too late, but I couldn’t help but kick myself for something I was sure I should have done. I stopped for one last privvy break before the long drive home and took a deep breath. Something had to happen. I knew it.
Somehow I convinced my companion I had lost my debit card back at the booth my mystery man worked, and as I ran down the hill to the last place I had seen him I tried to think of something to say. This was entirely unfamiliar territory for me. I wasn’t the girl who went back. I wasn’t the girl who gave my number unsolicited or talked to people I didn’t know. I had missed a lot of opportunities in the past, and had admonished myself for weeks for being spineless. Maybe it was the corset, but I had a surge of terrified courage I had never felt before. I was going to talk to this guy, and if I exploded from embarrassment when he rejected me then so be it.
After the longest jog in a corset and gypsy bell skirt in history I made it to the other end of the shire, and there he was. After a brief exchange concerning the debit card that was still safely tucked in my belt pouch I noticed him looking at me strangely. Then he stopped looking at me altogether. Not a good sign, my friends. He apologized and told me it was hard for him to be a gentleman in the state I was in. As it turns out, not only was I tired of being in a corset, but it was tired of being on me. My jog had dislodged my chest just enough for me to fall out of the top, and I was for all intents and purposes topless.
After that how can you not give a nice young lad your number? He asked, and I took his number down. It wasn’t until days later I realized the area code was wrong. I don’t know where 619 is, but there is someone there wondering who I am and why I left them three messages about the PA Renaissance Faire. Eventually we did meet, though. Our first meeting we talked so long I missed my bus to work. The next night he showed up with a bottle of mead and a pair of blue devil horns.
Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder what my life would be like had I walked through the Exit gate and never gone back that day. I can’t imagine him not being my husband. I can’t imagine us not having this life. I can’t believe I almost let it all go because I was too self conscious to talk to him. What if he had just been another “what if”?
This lesson has followed me since that day. I’ve used it whenever my fears of failing or looking foolish try to stop me from trying. I’ve used it building this poly family. I’ve used it at work. What would our lives be like if we got over ourselves enough to just live them?
As I said before, three years ago I walked away from the rest of my life. Thank gods I walked back.
I love you, hunny! It’s you and me. Always. Happy Anniversary.
The Atlantic Ocean and I have always had disagreements. I always figured she knew I grew up on the West Coast and knew my loyalty to the Pacific. Before this past weekend I had been to the beach twice. Both times I spent maybe five minutes in the water before I was somehow injured or almost drowned, so when Hubby suggested we take a trip to Gunnison Beach, a clothing optional beach in New Jersey, I was a little hesitant.
More the geographical feud between oceans, my main issue with the beaches in New Jersey is that they don’t allow flotation devices. I get nervous in giant bodies of water that could easily suck me in and swallow me without even trying, especially when I have nothing to cling to if I can’t swim anymore. If I’m in over my waist, I generally want something that can hold me on top of the water.
When we arrived at Sandy Hook National Park at 10am, it was already over 90 degrees. The sand scorched our feet, and the ice in the coolers was melting quickly. I had no recourse but to spend a good amount of time in the water if I was going to avoid heat exhaustion. I was also going to be doing it among throngs of naked people.
Now, my friends, your dear Autumn does not have the highest self-esteem. A trip to a clothing optional beach was as much about getting over myself as it was about getting over my hesitation with the ocean. So, I did what any self-respecting wife, mother, and woman would do; I got naked.
Normally when I get into the water at the beach I ease myself in to a comfort zone about thigh high. Something about being completely naked and only in the water up to my thighs made me terribly uncomfortable, and the other people in our beach party had gone ahead and left me on the wrong side of the breakers. I also still have an injured knee, which made the force of the undertow at that level almost unbearable. My choices were to slow roast on the sand or move to deeper waters. I decided to make my peace with the Atlantic.
We had a few rough moments. I resisted rhythm the water and the ocean smacked me int he side of the head with a few early breaks, but once that was all over the Atlantic and I had a new respect for each other. By the end of the day we were best friends, and I was sad to leave. I have always had a fondness for the ocean despite my trepidations. Like I mentioned in my last post, I have always connected and communicated with Water the most. The difference between the two coastal oceans is amazing. Their energies are unique, and a different approach and interaction is required.
This is not a post about the ocean’s energies. That will come later. This is a post about me overcoming fears and personal demons. This is about me being naked and not once worrying about who was looking or how ugly they thought I looked. This is about me being so deep in the ocean I couldn’t touch bottom and not only not panicking, but feeling free. This is about me growing yet again, and loving every minute of the growing pains.
At the end of the day Hubby asked me for a lesson, something he rarely does. I know it took a lot for him to get over the fact that I’m his wife and his peer and let me be his teacher for a moment, but it was just as much for me as it was for him. There I was literally in my element doing what I have always been meant to do. Teach, nurture, heal. I can’t do any of that with fear or hesitation in my heart or my faith. I can’t do any of that if I can’t believe in myself. That day I learned what it meant to be whole.
What does it mean for you, my friends?
Go now, find your freedom.
There are certain things that will make or break a polyamorous experience. I admit that in the early days of our relationship Hubby and I had innumerable arguments about boundaries, and every time we fought he would ask me why I felt the way I did. My response was always a stubborn and shut down “I just do!”. It was immature and a bit shortsighted of me not to want to dig deeper and admit that there may be reasons for my emotions. My fears? I might not like the real reasons for my emotions. They might redefine character flaws. They might point them out to Hubby. He was trying to understand, and I needed him to not only understand but to care. This is generally where logic brained Hubby meets emotionally charged romantic brained Autumn and communication flies out the window as if on fire. The lesson here is that even if you have both decided to give polyamory a shot there are some conditions you should be willing to accept and some requirements you need to meet as a couple to ensure not only a positive experience but one that does not end in a messy breakup and a custody battle over a shitzu.
The most important asset to any relationship, no matter what shape it takes, is communication, especially when emotions may be running high or people might not really grasp such abstracts as love and sexuality. Each partner needs to state clearly, with no metaphors or ambiguities, not only what desires and intentions exist for the relationship but also any concerns and roadblocks may there may be. There has to be an understanding that nothing is barred from the discussion as long as it stays a discussion and not blossom into an argument. Only then can everyone feel like all the issues at hand have been addressed. Ground rules need to be set, again in no uncertain terms, before anyone else is added to the equation to ensure there are no hurtful surprises, assumptions, or offences. Things like “who are we looking for?”, “what will we do with them and what is off-limits?”, and “when in our schedules and our life together are we going to fit this new person?” need to be discussed. Basically there needs to be a plan for “how will we do this?” that leaves room for compromise, growth, and change. Believe me, there will be change. When Hubby and I started out we sought out same-sex partners only. If there was any opposite sex contact it was generally assumed they were at least bi-sexual if not interested only in the same-sex portion of our marriage. When Hubby fell in love with a straight woman things changed. In the long run they changed for the better, but it was a bumpy transition full of growth and compromise. I admit, it also included hesitantly putting my faith in the belief that things would work out for the better and not leave me lost and alone.
Another important piece of the puzzle is security. Trust is one of the hardest things for a couple to admit they may not have. We can all say we love our significant others, but do we trust them indiscriminately? Do you check your boyfriend’s text messages? Do you read your wife’s instant message or email history? Do you stalk you lover’s Facebook for incrimination wall posts? How do you react when your partner fails to answer the phone when you call? Dig deep on this one or it will kill you. Before anyone else can enter a relationship it needs to be secure with itself. We need to trust not only our partners, but ourselves and our marriages to withstand any blows it may take as a result of change. This includes self-esteem and self-worth issues and honestly knowing the limits of each partner’s will power. It can be easy to fall prey to “I wonder if he just wants someone prettier, sexier, smarter?” or “am I just letting her get away with cheating on me?”. This is a mind trap, and once you let it take over there is little anyone can do to save the relationship.
Once you can be sure of security the last step is honesty. What motives do you have for wanting this? Are you sexually unsatisfied? Are you avoiding commitment? Do you think it will make your husband love you more if you bring another woman into your marriage? Are you afraid your girlfriend will leave you if you do not agree to her having a girlfriend? I promise you these are all extremely poor reasons to live a polyamorous lifestyle. If you can say, however, that you still look at your wife with wonder and love, that your feelings and desires for her have not changed and will nto change with the addition of another partner, and that you would choose this marriage above any other you have reached a level of union that will withstand any test this lifestyle may pose.
I was asked recently what my advice would be for a couple who are just beginning and who may not know if polyamory is for them. I would never say not to test it out, but I would say to take small steps. Do not immediately involve people with whom you already share strong emotions and expectations. This poses a grave risk of hurting everybody involved and possibly destroying friendships. Remember, other people have emotions too. This goes beyond just you, and even beyond just you and your partner. Hubby and I began at a club as swingers. Start there. One of a few things will probably happen. One, you will both decide you are just not comfortable enough to go this route. It may bring up some issues you and your partner need to address. Two, you will find playing without any additional commitment completely satisfying. There is nothing wrong with this. Three, and this is where Hubby and I began to identify as polyamorous as opposed to just swingers, you will still feel a void. I liken it to the moment one realizes that a string of one night stands can never replicate or replace the intensity of a passionate, loving relationship. This is when there is generally a desire for more than momentary pleasure. This is where you start inviting these people to share your life not just your fun. This is when you know that polyamory is right for you, and as long as all the other strengths and failsafes exist you will most likely have a positive experience.
These values are not by any means exclusive to polyamory, so my task to you today, dear readers, is to look at your relationships and see if they have what it takes to withstand challenge and hardship. If not, try to identify why. If so, are you sure? Do not wait for s crisis to test your bonds. Fortify them in advance and you can do anything with love.
Go now. Love.