You are currently browsing Jennifer Clifford’s articles.
It’s not a secret I run from my emotions. I enjoy intimacy, but I am terrified of expressing love. I write poetry about the sadness of survival, but I filter those emotions within myself through the pen. Hell, put me behind the veil of the internet, and I will tell you anything you want to know. Get me face to face and I’m a mess. I make jokes, I tell stories, I use whatever tools i can to build walls around myself, to hide from genuine emotions in person. I’m well aware of my avoidance tactics.
So, in July I start putting some tangible work into this one person show, now titled Good Girl, and I find all these walls have held me back from the one thing I need to access to make it a success. I cannot perform something that reaches inside my audience if I don’t let them see inside me. Queue montage music as I begin to dismantle walls, and in doing so i find more walls. In doing so I find more versions of myself. In doing so I find some ugly artifacts, but I also find power. In doing so I find what I’ve been missing this entire time.
This journey has not just been about the show at the end. It’s been about self discovery, some healing, and the power to change lives….but I can’t manage to change anyone else’s life if I continue to avoid the broken parts of my own.
I’ve talked about Aloha before. THIS is Aloha. This is the universal love, beauty, and peace that links us all. This is what will get me to December and points beyond.
Here’s to the journey, friends. Here’s to Aloha.
Go now. Be emotional.
The last several months have brought a lot of change to Carnival Clifford. Most have been good. All have been necessary. It means I’ve had very little energy and even less cohesion to actually write a blog. I would like to say I’ll be back on a schedule, but honestly I am no less frazzled and stretched thin than I was in April. I can only promise you I haven’t forgotten about Pearls and Pentagrams.
If last year was the year of career, and this year the year of creativity, I feel very much like next year has already begun to have its seeds planted in spirit. Year of coven? Maybe. Year of community? Definitely.
I’ve felt drawn for a while now to find a new group with whom to practice. While my personal work has gotten exponentially powerful and my spirituality has become more rooted and vibrant than it has been in a long time, I feel a need for community, and that’s not something I’ll get anywhere else.
Last week I attended the first group ritual I’ve been to in way too long, and it was fitting that the deity invoked were both Carnival Clifford patrons. We’ve all been so exhausted by even the good changes that family practice has fallen by the wayside, and while I have not forgotten the work I put in with Brighid to get me where I am at this moment, I’d lost a lot of steam when it came to working with her properly to keep up the momentum.
Being in sacred space with my family and feeling the buzz of community did in less than an hour what I thought would be a long term goal. My spirit returned to me. I know there’s a lot of muck yet to trudge through, but I know this is where I’m meant to be, and i am certain there’s a brighter place for me and my family on the other side.
Go now, feel the spirit of community.
Let me tell you a story.
Let’s pretend you have a kid who’s sick. He’s got a variety of things that make his health a daily battle, several of which could be terminal.
You have two choices.
You can treat each battle as something to mourn and never stop pushing forward. It’s for the kid’s survival. What kind of parent or you. You can dwell on the kids who are losing their battles, and never let your kid forget he could die any day.
Or you can celebrate the good days and let the kid enjoy his life despite the battles. You don’t treat them any less seriously, and you don’t stop taking care of his health, but you take a deep breath once in a while and go to the park. You keep the kids who have lost their battles in your heart, and you educate yourself on advancements in care.
This is how I feel we can handle the Supreme Court decision about Marriage Equality. We can celebrate it as what it is. A step in the right direction. Not the last step or the most important step, but a step. We’re allowed to celebrate small victories without forgetting the other issues or those who are still battling. Why? Because the kid is still a human being, that’s why. Just because this decision doesn’t fix all the problems for all the people does not give us the right to invalidate the people the decision does help in any way.
I’ve been told at least half a dozen time today that I’ not allowed to have an opinion on the matter as anything but a bystander. Because I’m already married. Because I’m bi and chose to legally marry a man. Because I’m white. Because I’m cisgendered. Because…because…because. I have never understood this kid of isolation as anything but what we’re fighting against, and I do not understand it now. As a community of humans fighting together we need to also recognize the importance of being a community of humans exalting together. The two are not mutually exclusive, but they are both vitally important to the survival of the spirit and humanity of the community.
No, the journey is not even mostly over. No, the war has not been one. No, celebrating this victory does not erase from our memories the journey behind us or the long road yet before us.
Go now. Be together.
When all else fails, you forget the sell and just start talking. With less than three days to go, I open my heart on Kickstarter and pray for good things!
So here it is, with 3 days to go I am eschewing the blurb to open my heart.
Power of One. What does this mean? It means telling my story, but my story isn’t just mine, it belong to everyone I meet, everyone I touch, everyone I love, because life is not an isolated incident. It knits in every single person we encounter in the world and makes them a part of our stories.
You….you are a part of my story just for clicking the link. You are making connections possible. You are giving me an unfiltered voice with which to show the world who I am in hopes that others will be inspired to do the same.
Why poetry? It’s raw. I can show 100% of myself without worrying about how it’s going to be interpreted, and that is something unique to poetry. Lectures, memoirs, blogs…we expect something from those, but poetry is a window into ourselves without those expectations. Poetry is forgiven. Poetry is absorbed.
Why the Power of One? When Monica approached me about this project it felt like somewhere I was meant to be, no matter how much work, sacrifice, or money it took, not just from me but from my family and friends who support me. There was no question about it, I was doing it. I’m now faced with the reality that this is a serious undertaking, and not one I can push through alone. I am powerful, but I’m not invincible. Together, WE are invincible.
Aloha, and Mahalo
This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time, but I haven’t been able to dedicate the time I felt it deserves. I have written in the past about what happens in a relationship when a partner experiences a breakup. I have also written about the unique relationship between metamours and the bond they share independent of any romantic relationships in a family. Today I’m going to share some thoughts about the loss of metamours and what it can do to existing partners.
Back in July Hubby and A had a falling out. I didn’t write about it at the time, because we were having our own issues and we weren’t sure if things were permanently broken. As it turns out, things between us were not, but things between the two of them were, in fact, done.
Hubby was crushed. After three years of building a relationship, his spirit was broken by it dissolution. Despite our issues I did the best I could to support him and help him through the healing process, but the sense of loss on my side was never addressed, and it bothered me for a long time. No matter what kind of history A and I ay have had, three years of being a family would inevitably leave a mark. Losing that, especially with the stability of my marriage in question, was a kick in the gut, but my focus was on Hubby and his well-being.
In the past, metamours had only been with us for a short time before they left our family. While the blow was still hard for Hubby, I hadn’t yet bonded with most of them, so my sense of loss wasn’t nearly as heartfelt. I could be empathetic yet detached from the situation, because I wasn’t really a part of it yet. This was the first time we should have grieved together, but we were not in a place to do so, and I felt like it would hurt Hubby worse to bring my emotions to his attention.
When one person experiences a breakup, it affects everyone. It is our opportunity to strengthen our families by grieving and healing together and acknowledging each member’s reaction and process. This doesn’t mean you have to sit in a circle and cry together, unless that’s your thing, but it does mean an awareness of one another without comparisons or judgment. Where compersion calls us to share in our partners’ joy, this experience calls us to also share in their loss. As human beings connected by love and interaction, this experience afford us the right to feel our own loss at the departure of one of our own.
As the partner involved in the breakup, it’s important to remember this. As a metamour to a breakup, it’s important to keep in mind that someone we love is going through something hard, but it is also our responsibility to tell them if the event is causing us pain as well. There is nothing won in creating more conflict, but there is also nothing won in burying our own emotions. As always, nothing approached with clear, calm communication is ever bad, so talk it out. Be there for one another.
Go now, heal together.
It is the moment I hear the words “I can’t handle drama” or “I need something uncomplicated” that I cringe, because I’ve never been considered particularly high maintenance to anyone except for the people who start conversations this way. You see, the term “you throw up red flags” is it’s own monumental crimson banner. Sometimes it even has floodlights and a little commemorative plaque. In any case, this goes one or both of two ways.
In the first case I note the need and do my best to keep things laid very free-flowing, but there comes a point where my needs fall by the wayside, because any request on my part is seen as some kind of irrational demand on this person’s life. I am immediately labelled “High Maintenance”.
In the second case I begin to walk on eggshells, afraid that anything I say or do may be misconstrued as histrionics, until I am so frustrated and exhausted by the who experience that I begin to reach out for anything I can get. This generally makes any previously mentioned “red flags” a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The added complication recently has been the additional condition of “What does Jenn need or want?” wherein not answering makes me a doormat and answering makes me complicated, both actions making me equally unacceptably high maintenance. Friends, the answer to that question had two very simple conditions to it, and they’re the same as they have ever been.
This all seems like a perfectly good waste of what started as, and has the potential to be, an amazing relationship behind all the overthinking, but I have no other recourse but to step back and see what direction he takes. I can’t keep worrying about it, nor can I keep throwing energy at something that neither meets my needs nor seems to be doing anything for him. Do I hope it can be worked out? Of course I do. Have I given up? Nope. But can I force something with someone unwilling to be inconvenienced? Negative. To try is a fool’s errand, and too often in love I end up a very frustrated fool.
Oh, and Mr Too-Complicated? He’s got a story for me every day about how negative and overly emotional people are making his life difficult, but I had too much going on to be date worthy.
It has been my experience that people who use this condition are either ill-equipped to deal with emotions, unwilling to accept a situation that might require a little effort, or are prone to exaggeration. Maybe I need to start taking their “red flags” as stop signs.
Just a thought.
Go now….with the flow.
In a recent post I mentioned briefly the adjustments I’ve been making in my relationships to conquer the distance inherently put between me and my partners by my job. I’ve always held a strong position against long distance relationships. I rely heavily upon touch and face to face interaction to ground me in a relationship and give me a sense of stability and connection, and I havent never seen that possible in a situation where I don’t see a partner more than once a month, but with the commute I make for my job I’m finding more and more that even my marriage has similarities to a long distance relationship.
At first I fought it. Adjusting to the commute and unusual schedule was hard enough without taking into account what might be happening at home. In turn, Hubby sought solace in his tangible life and partners he could reach out to and began to suppress fears that I was on the slow road to leaving him, and our life together far behind. The next step in the downward spiral was a deep depression caused by feelings that I was gradually being erased from my own family. I considered leaving. Unable to voice this feeling properly, I only validated Hubby’s suspicions, and the unraveling began, leaving us both feeling alienated and alone.
The solutions seemed bleak. We either had to accept that this was our life now or end it, and neither of us was willing to accept either option. Hubby’s approach was to demand things. My time. Phone calls. All my plans and commitments at home would have to be cancelled to spend time with him. I felt exhausted, smothered, and stretched too thin, and I lashed out, suddenly understanding why trained tigers might eventually eat their owners. I felt helpless.
Then something happened. I started texting him every day. I didn’t have the hour or five a day he would have liked to have phone calls, and there was nothing I could do about the frequency with which I had to end such conversations abruptly because of my schedule, but he started to realize just now much I think of him when I’m not around.
A transformation began. He became easier to talk to. We exhumed inside jokes that had lost their sheen in the midst of our fighting and developed new ones. Suddenly I felt like there wouldn’t be an exhausting battle every time we spoke, so I started putting him on speaker phone while I readied myself for work. In short, I got my best friend back.
Other relationships were not so lucky. After months of not knowing how to fix it, Ralph and I decided we could only survive in each other’s lives as friends. Other tentative relationships came to similar fates, while the ones that were able to find a way to reconnect in new way thrived. This. This is where I began to see where the strength was in myself and in my partners.
Since this experience, each new relationship has been a valuable learning experience in communication and bonding. Things that are important to me have had to be compromised while new needs have emerged in order to gain the stability I need to be a happy, sane, openly loving wife, partner, and even friend in some cases. It hasn’t been easy, and at times I feel like these new endeavours are an emotional game of chutes and ladders, but it’s forced me to take second look and only spend that energy on someone I feel deserves that kind of time and energy.
I’m still not sure what my stance is on long distance relationships. The impulse is to have more partners to cover the lonely times, but even people I don’t see regularly take the same amount of resources, and I know all too well the effects of polysaturation. Instead, I’m learning to find what works with each partner, and to give myself some of that energy as well. We’ll explore that concept a little bit more later.
Go now, reconnect.
Last week I had a rather unique opportunity. Being on call from work, and hoping to go home after my trip, I had packed a new corset and cute little skirt in anticipation of seeing Hubby but with few other plans of the pieces doing anything but weigh down my bag. Imagine my surprise, however, when Scheduling sends me to none other than the Big Easy itself the Saturday before Mardi Gras.
My original plan was rather conservative. We’d land at 2200, and I’d go to bed early in order to catch a parade or two the following morning before I had to report for the day’s flights. Easy enough, right? Well, Serendipity thought otherwise.
Enter a second flight crew, who had already been in Party Mode from the night before and looking for more, and a rather restless First Officer who took it upon himself to be our overseer for the night. Not wanting to be the party pooper of the group, and feeling a bit of a reluctance to miss the experience, I acquiesced, and plans were born.
My first indication of how the night would progress should have come when no one questioned why I’d have a steel boned corset emblazoned with skulls and crossbones with me at work, but it was too late to back out, so I rolled with it.
The adventure started before we even got out of the van. A few of my compatriots had already started drinking, and there was a brief altercation with the driver over his need to stop for gas and inability to drop us off within three blocks of Bourbon Street, which I was apparently the only one who remembered being told earlier in the day. As we poured from his van, the driver less than politely bid us good night and good luck getting a cab back to the hotel that night.
Shaking off the curse, we went about our night, stopping first at a bar with an excellent cover band playing an amazing variety of music and mixed drinks the size of my face, but not before my corset won me the official title of Crew Boob Flasher and a constantly growing collection of plastic beads. Once at the bar we promptly forgot about anything but dancing, drinking, and anything regarding personal space as we moved like a drunken, sexed up amoeba through a crowd that had already been drunk for hours. Quite sadistically, the bar also put the women’s bathroom upstairs, while men didn’t even have to leave the dance floor to find their own door, I’m assuming because they would never use it if it took them too much effort to get to it. Be that as it may, I was reluctant to scale bead coated stairs in the dark just to maneuver my tights out from under my corset, so I pushed the idea of it from my mind, and we were off once more, slightly more lubricated to deal with the spectacle before us.
I have always wanted to see New Orleans. I still do, but I have to admit the wave of people that carried us involuntarily from one nonconsentual location to the next, stopping us only for the sporadic picture or request for the questionable fair trade of plastic trinkets for tits, was definitely an experience.We sang and danced in the middle of the street as our ever vigilant FO kept an eye on his flock, less out of altruism and more out of sheer amusement I assume, until at last we found a quiet block and a very quiet corner bar with real fire and softer music.
As it turns out, we were in a gay bar. Not your flashy more wild type of Tinder trap, but the quite more sophisticated kind where people actually go to talk to one another. Being the only one with any ties to the queer community, I was chosen as our ambassador and sent ahead of the group to the bar where I became a bit of local drunk gaggle legend as I fended off a very drunk old gentleman who asked to see, then tried to touch, the girls, who had given up on being stuffed back into their confines much more than they had to be.
The quiet peace of the bar was contagious, and though we walked a few more blocks we all knew we were starting to wear out. This is where the real adventure began, as the curse of the taxi driver from what seemed like days prior began to manifest, and even the hotel stopped answering their phones.
Seeing the panic beginning to spread across the faces of my new friends, I calmly suggested we find food and make a game plan. Having been stranded in strange cities at less self-sufficient times in my life, I was confident we’d think of something better than sleeping in a gutter covered in beads and ejected body fluids of all kinds. I wasn’t giving up quite yet, we just needed to sit and regroup. We hadn’t lost anyone yet, and I refused to start.
We ate and took turns on hold with numerous taxi companies before realizing we were just going to have to suck it up and go on a hunt on foot. Making our way back to the road we’d been dumped on earlier in the night, we quickly realized that it hadn’t been an empty threat the wretched man had thrown at us; it had been a fact. It would take hours to get a ride home.
Having the same realization to the situation I was, and presumably not wanting to deal with five hysterical drunk women, the FO shouted to me to keep everyone in one place and bolted across the street and disappeared for the moment before hailing to us to follow to where he stood by the open door of a silver Toyota Celica with a friendly face behind the wheel who introduced himself as Samin, or Sam for short, who our FO had flagged down and bribed to drive us home.
With the tall man riding shotgun, the four other girls climbed in the back, leaving me as the one who would take up too much space on the seat to lie across the laps of the other girls, careful to keep my head down and my wiggling to a minimum. After being led astray by his GPS, Sam happily delivered us more or less in tact to the front door of our hotel, where he politely bid us all goodnight and went back on his way.
This job has given me so many opportunities, but I tend to take the quiet adventures over the raucous ones these days. Nights like y introduction to Mardi Gras remind me of nights Hubby and I used to have all the time, and in the end I only wished he were there with me. Once more, life has reminded me I’m not stagnant yet. I just have to let the good times roll as they come to me…and keep an extra $50 in my pocket to bribe myself a ride back to a comfortable bed, as my days of voluntarily sleeping in parking lots and sidewalks has definitely passed.
Not dead yet, friends. In fact….I’m feeling quite alive.
A year and a day ago I threw away my comfort zone and left the security of a position I knew I could keep for a five-week challenge to see if I was fit to be a flight attendant. I was both exhilarated and terrified, and believe me when I tell you most of the messages I received in the week preceding my departure from my department on the ground were not encouraging. A lot of people doubted I would make it, and I almost didn’t go, but it had been something I’d been pushing toward for over 6 years. I needed to know.
For over a month I navigated the cutthroat environment with my head down and my eyes forward, stepping out and finding non-industry people near our hotel when I needed to breathe. I studied, I started working out, and I learned through immersion to be completely alone. Sure, I had a few friends, but they were taking their own journeys respectively.
On graduation day, it was still just me. Sure, Hubby was waiting for me when i got home with a big hug and a celebratory dinner, but at the moment I was given my first set of wings the only person there with me was the one responsible for getting me through it. Me. Quite egregiously, I had assumed that day that the hardest part of my journey was over, but it was just the first step.
For the last year I have learned a lot about life and about myself. I have learned to be independent and how to speak up for my needs. There is not a single relationship in my life that has not been touched and reshaped by the experience, but the ones that have survived the transformation have been fortified by a newfound purpose and confidence that I have thing to offer and a right to not settle somewhere I’m unhappy. I have learned to adapt and be transient. I have learned to be fluid but firm. I have learned to be present even when I am flying across the country.
A year ago I was reminded that my life is not stagnant or restricted. It is not over, and while I have lost certain opportunities I have gained others. I still have life and love to give., and it’s worth more than I ever could have imagined.
Go now, be invaluable!