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New relationships give us all sorts of opportunities.  A new partner means all these new frontiers to explore, don’t they?  Suddenly we’re interested in couples Wii bowling tournaments and Faberge egg painting, and we make all these plans like they’re blueprints for this new relationship.  Then reality sets in.  Wii bowling happens on a work night, and neither of you can paint a fence let alone a hollowed out egg.  Instantly there are all these unmet expectations.  Now throw in the fact that this is a new person you’re learning, and no matter how many times you’ve dreamily cooed the phrase “it feels like I’ve known you forever” it’s been two months, and you’re still learning to communicate and exist on this planet together.  This is where hopes get let down, miscommunication runs rampant, and because NRE has the happy gauge turned up to High Octane, these small disappointments feel world ending.  Sometimes they feel relationship ending.

This is where real life has to interfere for the relationship to survive, and as comfort levels are established we must be willing to let some of those expectations be set aside for a rainy day, reshaped a little, ot even just released back into the wild.  Maybe you buy a Wii and bowl at home.  Maybe you take a Vino and Van Gogh class one weekend, get smashed, and paint nothing put stick figures and butts.  Maybe you find something else that excites you.  The key is to adapt, because at some point the letdowns get bigger; it’s a fact of life that no relationship, yes even yours, is perfect.  If you can’t handle the reality that your partner hated the recipe you learned because she said she likes lasagna, how are you going to survive when you find out she whistles in her sleep and keeps you awake, when the perfect night out you planned in your head ends up on the couch in pj’s because one of you had an awful day, when tears are in her eyes because you weren’t even aware you’d done something hurtful?  These things will happen, and these little compromises on expectations build the foundation for a relationship that can sustain them.

I’ve said it before.  NRE is a roller-coaster, friends, and sometimes one partner gets off the ride before the other.  What then?  You will never survive this blow if you’ve let every other changed expectation tear at you.  This is where the true strength of a relationship is tested.  This is where you find out what you can do together, and once again you adapt.  This is where love and compassion can mean everything.  This is where reaching out and the little things that define your relationship are imperative, because they’re so easily left behind when the ride is over.

There is no other message here.  Just let that one sink in a bit.

Aloha.

Go now.  Hold on tight.

When I was a kid there was a portrait collage on the wall of my grandparent’s home. My grandfather lost most of his brothers to war, and they spent many meals with us in stories from his childhood. These are the uncles I never got to meet, but men I felt connected to through my grandfather’s words. Who he never mentioned was the brother who survived in body but lost his mind, but I knew the story, and it haunted me for a long time.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I’m on an Honor Flight with a man named Georgie who spends three hours telling me about his life experiences. I’m in awe and humbled that of all the things he could be doing, he’s talking to me.  He tells me about  the loves of his life, of his kids, his jobs vacations and friends he’s lost.  He talks little of war or service until we’re less than an hour out, but when he does his words are powerful.  He speaks to me of honor and compassion.  He speaks to me of the decades he’s spent watching strong men eventually defeat themselves.  In the end he tells me to remember those whose sacrifice has been forgotten, and I think of that forgotten brother on my grandparents’ wall.

In my life I have known so many of those “forgotten brothers”, and I have felt the loss of each and every one of them. Yes, there were friends and family members who never came home, but there were also those who did only to kill themselves shortly afterwards, to never quite find a way to grasp life again, to lose everything to one addiction or another. Then there was love I didn’t know how to handle, a decision I couldn’t make, and my future forever changed by the loss of my own “forgotten brother”.

So, this morning I took a walk through the part of my past I don’t generally see these days. It’s not that I avoid it, but it’s become a part of a life that doesn’t even seem like mine anymore, so I let it quietly lurk in the background of my memories. But today I took a walk, and the images became vivid enough to touch. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in a dark place, or maybe it’s fresh loss. Maybe it’s just life’s way of reminding me where I’ve been in my life and why I keep moving forward, that these moments in time, and yes, these people, are still very much a part of me and each and every one of them is fighting for me.

I don’t tell his story often, and it’s not one I’m prepared to tell today, but today I honor him and all the forgotten brothers and sisters.

Aloha.

Go now, reflect and remember.

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(I meant to post more for mental health awareness month, I swear, but depression has drained me.  Go figure.)

 

Close your eyes and imagine…

It’s getting dark.  It might be cold, or hot, but you’re so numb it doesn’t matter.  You reach out until your arms are too heavy to move.  You call out in the only language you know, but the only replies you get tell you you’re broken, so you stop.  Now it’s dark.  So dark.  Quiet.  Too quiet.  Your heart beats, breaks, and sinks into your soul, a dense seed taking root deep in your belly then sprouting doubt, insecurity, anxiety.  Tendrils grow and spread through your extremities like poisonous vines, up into your head where desolation blooms.  Thorns dig at you from the inside.  It itches.  Jesus, it itches.  It stings and crawls and takes your focus away from anything and everything but this parasite inside you, the parasite that is you.  It feeds off you, starving and choking you.  You can’t breathe.  You’re aware that you’re dying, but skin and sinew hold you from peace.  The body survives where the spirit screams for stillness.  The urge to cut it all out is overwhelming.  To breathe from your veins.  To rip up the flowers of self-hatred in your mind.

Pretty intense, right?  Intense, yes, but also dangerously misleading.  This is the narrative of self harm we’ve accepted as a tragic truth, and it’s horrifying.  It’s the soliloquy of suicide and the impetus for the carvings we find on the arms and legs of people who feel they have no other ways to cope.  But this is our isolated island away from our children or spouses, our wall against the broken, our proof that everyone we love is fine.  This is the flimsy blinder that we wear to fool ourselves into believing it’ll never happen on our watch.

The truth is much more horrifying.

The reality of self harm is that a majority of it is hidden.  Cuts in places easily covered by clothing.  Undetectable pin pricks.  Hair plucking.  Skin picking.  Friction irritation.  Scratching.  Nail digging.  We stop taking important medication.  Stop eating.  Binge eat.  Start drinking. The reality of self harm is subtle and not always consistent.  It can lurk for years in the background of our daily routines, because self harm, much like the illnesses that often inspire it, is insidious and adaptable.

Sometimes the skin stops being deep enough, bleeding stops quelling the need, and the behaviour takes a turn inward.  The most damaging self harm can’t be seen as scars.  We start self sabotaging.  We start isolating.  We dismantle careers and decimate relationships.  We make damaging decisions.  We build walls, not to protect but to imprison ourselves.  We stop reaching out, and instead we bury ourselves in a litany of self-hatred, blame, regret, and remorse.

So why?  To some it becomes a coping mechanism.  To others a punishment we feel we deserve.  Sometimes it’s a way of hurting ourselves more than the outside world can, taking control of the pain because it’s the last thing we can control.  Whatever causes it, self harm is not the fantasized stigma of bloodshed and self-destruction.  More likely it’s calm, calculated, and controlled.  Not until this is an acceptable fact can we begin to find ways to support, treat, and heal.

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Aloha

Go now, heal not harm.

Anger Quotes Buddhism Thich Nhat Hanh

 

We are taught as a society that anger is bad.  Angry children are punished instead of taught to process, angry men are destructive, and angry women are irrational.  We learn to ignore it, to bottle it up, to fear it, and this leads to a breakdown in communication and emotional presence.  But anger is not the enemy.  Anger, like any other emotion, is defined by how we respond to it and process it.

Even just a year ago I would have turned the first time I got angry as a new partner into fear that if I expressed it at all he’s walk, and past experience has taught me that anger makes me a monster, a selfish bitch.  Crazy.  Both of my parents got very quiet when they were angry, and I have inherited that behaviour.  When I’m frustrated I get snappy, but when I’m genuinely angry I shut down.

Our challenge as adults in relationships is to deal with anger instead of letting it push us apart, right?  How do we do this without the emotional toolbox we should have been given decades ago?  How do I process and communicate my anger without getting passive aggressive, hurtful, or adversely, detached?  How do I help my partner not feel like he needs to be on his defense?  These are not questions I have answers for, and they stir up the fear that I’ll merely succeed in pushing him away from me, but staying angry doesn’t help anyone.

Aloha

Go now, use your anger

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Mother’s Day snuck its way in subtly this year, and a bit earlier than usual. For a myriad of reasons it’s historically been a very hit or miss day for me emotionally. It’s unavoidable, but I try not to let it destroy ym ability to function, the result being anywhere from hermitting under the covers all day while my husband flips through funny movies to breaking down in the middle of a wedding reception. But that was before Good Girl, which dealt with both my guilt and grief over my mo’s death almost 20 years ago and the constantly evolving acceptance and mourning of pregnancy loss and knowing it’s unlikely I’ll be a mom. This year, as I’ve stated many ties since December, is different.
My posts about healing have taught me not to expect the same responses to even long recurring events in my life. Enter, Mother’s Day. I didn’t really know how it would hit me, so I had no idea how to begin to process emotions as they ebbed. I felt it coming, but it wasn’t the normal overbearing weight I’m used to, so I waited patiently for my body to tell me what it needed.
Last night I found myself in Spokane, WA, where I laughed and got a little tipsy with new friends. We talked about different issues in our lives, and I was able to begin to sort out different currents of emotion running through me. This wasnt a river of sadness, it was a mixture of different feelings ranging from sadness to gratefulness. I felt ok about things. A little lonely and down, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

This morning I woke up early feeling isolated from myself, and reaching out I found that most of my support system was busy, unavailable, or having their own issues. I really was alone. It hurt, and for a moment I let myself slide into darkness, but I forced myself up and went outside.

If you’ve never been to Spokane, go. It’s beautiful. I found myself walking by a series of waterfalls through a park, and I began to sing and old river chant to myself. As I stood on a bridge overlooking the falls it hit e all at once. The flood. Right there in a public park I bawled like a baby behind my sunglasses. Then it was over, and I realized that this year the grief is not the focus of my being. It’s there in the background, and every once in a while it strikes, takes my breath away, and recedes because it wants to be acknowledged. Not overpowered, not surrendered to, but acknowledged. It wants symbiosis.

A river, my river. It has its ebbs and flows, but it’s very controlled in its rage, and that’s what makes it powerful. This grief doesn’t have to make me weak. It doesn’t have to make me stop. It just has to happen. That doesn’t mean it won’t flood sometimes, but for the most part being a part of my river allows it to run on my terms.

So back to the healing. What’s been bothering me without my knowing it is this feeling that to heal is to abandon. My mom. My babies. My future. My past. Here in the present, it felt like moving forward was leaving them all behind.This river reminds me that it isn’t true. Nothing is ever abandoned, it just becomes a part of the flow.

I had my moment, then I put my phone on airplane mode to avoid any incoming negativity and took control of my day. I found a comic book store for Free Comic Book Day, Auntie’s Books and Uncle’s Games, and a pop up punk rock concert in a parking lot. I avoided the Trump rally despite having to deal with two men hitting on me holding support signs. I walked through parks and trails. I took a million and one pictures of waterfalls. I rode a gondola over the big falls by myself and didn’t have a panic attack as it dangled me precariously over the water. Why? Because was able to recognize the beauty and power in that river matching my own.

I can’t say Mother’s Day this year won’t be sad. I can’t say the tears and keening isn’t over. I don’t think it ever is. What’s also there is the rock solid support of my healing and the growth I continue to navigate, and that’s what makes it different. I’ve jumped in my river, made my peace with it, and am beginning to understand its power and beauty.

Aloha.

Go now, find your river.

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Yesterday was Beltane, and I didn’t have sex once. In fact, I turned it down for physical reasons. Later that day an acquaintance posted how hard Beltane was for those who are single or otherwise unable to have sex, and I realized just how many people miss the point. Yes, the lore of Beltane centers around sex, but like any lore, there are layers and layers of meaning, and no one meaning is correct. I’ve always had issues with events that center around kink and sex in relation to Beltane, because I feel like so much is lost in the need to free the libertine, especially in a group setting.
Let’s step back a moment, and I’ll tell you a story.

Two years ago I started running. My first focus was consistency. Making it happen on a regular basis was a struggle, but last year I began to focus on theat first mile. How was it improving as i went? How was I feeling after each new time landmark? Was I keeping that time and endurance consistent? Last week I hit a pretty big deviation in my mile. It wanted more. Not just faster, but it wanted more….something. Today I threw it all off course. Instead of the straight timed distance run, and int he spirit of the season, I chose a multilevel course on the elliptical that mimics a run through a state park. Despite the extra complexity, it shaved a noticeable chunk of time off my first mile, and an internal check begged me to keep going. By the time i was done with the second mile I was ready for more. Unfortunately I had more to accomplish today, but the energy raised by that second mile was powerful.
So, back to Beltane. Yesterday I recognized the energy of the season manifesting differently. There were primal urges, yes, but there was so much more beneath it. You see, Beltane isn’t about what fuels us, it’s about the spark that ignites us to push to heights we didn’t know we were capable of. It takes us out of a comfort zone and tell us to quit limiting ourselves to what we think we’re ready for. It reminds us we are beings of powerful energy and awe inspiring abilities. That we can make change and manifest our lives in ways even we can’t imagine yet. Yes, many people find that inspiration and raw power in sex, because it’s one of the most primal ways we have of letting go and letting our real power surge inside us. Sex makes us, for an instant, a different being all together. It allows us to step outside of our physical existence and experience the world around us, the universe, and yes, other humans, in ways the body cannot.
So no, this Beltane I didn’t have sex once…..but the spark of Beltane was very much alive inside me.

Aloha.

Go now, feel the spark.

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A partner recently told me “you need to be confident to be with me”.  My first reaction was to wonder why he was with me in the first place.  My next was a dissection of exactly what “confidence” means.   As little girls we are conditioned to believe that confidence is expressed in catty competitions with other little girls.  As confident women we are called conceited, bitchy, and shrewish.    As a woman who has had to suck it up and be all of these things at one point in my life, I hate the word “confident”.  I haven’t survived the worst parts of my life because I was confident.  I don’t keep pushing forward, growing, learning because I’m confident.  Strong, sometimes.  Stubborn, undoubtedly.  But confident?  Where does it come into any of this?

I first had to ask myself this:  What is confidence, and where does it become hubris?  Am I confident for wearing a two-piece bathing suit with an extra forty pounds on me?  Was I confident when I quit a stable job to chase a career in hopes it was the best move for my family?  Was I confident when I stepped out on a stage and shared some of the most vulnerable moments in my life?  Or was it stupid?  When we talk about risk and the unknown, what’s the difference?

The answer was simply: The difference is knowing it might fail, accepting that, and not givingup so easily.

You see, confidence does not mean I’m not also scared shitless, that I don’t sometimes feel like I’m a mess just faking it well enough to get through the day, that I don’t have moments where I am an intricately and inexorably flawed human.  Confidence is not the absence of weakness or doubt, but the willingness to meet it head on and give it a decent fight.  It means knowing that sometimes I’m not going to be good enough, and that’s okay.  It’s knowing I’m going to fail and trusting myself to heal from it and learn something from the experience.  It’s continuing to give all of myself in good faith that I’m contributing something to the world, to my family, to just one person.  It’s getting up and telling my story over and over again no matter how rote it may feel because it might help someone find their own strength.

So, back to the matter at hand.  Am I confident?  I honestly have no idea.

I don’t strive for confidence.  That’s a superficial battle.  What I strive for is courage, compassion, and a little adventure on this journey.  The rest will come.

 

Aloha.

Go now, cultivate.

 

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This past weekend was a hard lesson for me in healing.   I let anxiety win, and it was……quite the spectacle.  What happened behind the scenes was even worse.  I convinced myself I was a fraud.  I convinced myself I was worthless.  I convinced myself there never had been hope for me.  I looked back at the work I’ve done over the past two years and felt like I’d been lying to myself.  Then I removed myself from the situation and remembered what it felt like standing on that stage by myself without anyone there to help me.  The power I felt in telling a part of my story.  The shift I felt inside me when I stopped fearing the unforeseeable and took hold of what’s mine.  My life.  That was not a lie.  That could not have been false.

I’ve written a lot about healing and the way my life has changed since my experience with Good Girl.  What I have not written about is the backsliding.  What I haven’t written about is the doubt and the fear that the healing was some delusional fantasy that anything has changed.  What I haven’t written about are the mistakes we make, because after decades of making the same ones over and over again, these are new, terrifying mistakes.  It’s so easy to wonder if the change was worth it, because the demons we’re accustomed too are much easier to quell than new ones that might try to manifest in our lives.  The answer is yes, it’s worth it.  All of it, and the mistakes don’t unravel a single bit of it.

We’re told healing is hard.  We’re told it’s a process.  We’re told it’s painful.  We’re never told how much maintenance it requires and how much of an adjustment it is to our daily lives.  We have this idea that healing makes everything better, filling our lives with sunshine and rainbows and cute little kittens.  What we don’t realize is that healing is NOT a panacea.  It doesn’t make anything go away, it just gives us the resources to deal with it and to navigate new challenges that arise in a healthy manner.  It doesn’t change learned behaviours.  It doesn’t erase anxiety, depression, PTSD, or physical illness.  It merely gives us better moves with which to fight and an understanding of how to fix what we break.  Healing is not curing.  Healing is taking something we once let run our lives into the ground and use it instead to fuel us to keep thriving.

The reality is that while healing is an internal process it requires external maintenance in ways we never experience when the stakes are low.  My lesson wasn’t just painful for me; I hurt someone I love.  It’s up to me to face that, do what I can to repair it, and do the internal work to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  In the past it either wouldn’t have been healthy enough to matter or I would have just logged it with the other good things I let myself ruin.  In the past few months it’s become more apparent where the healing could not help me because the problems I have are biological, so I’ve had to bite the bullet and admit there are things I can’t fix without medical help…then actually seek it.  These things are no longer buried under me.  They’re out in the open, they’re manageable, and they’re in the way of the life I want to live. Lastly, I have recognized things in my life that I was once passionate about but no longer serve that quick fix need in my life.  There’s been a twinge of nostalgic panic as I begin to let those things go to focus on what’s really important in my life, but I’m decluttering and setting new goals.

You see, healing is a battle cry that screams “you no longer have power over me”.  You won’t win the battle just because you’ve healed, but it will give you a fighting chance.

 

My husband has a new girlfriend.  She’s young, she’s cute, she’s skinny, she’s bendy, and she has a pretty high pain threshold.  She has the long hair he always tells me he wishes I could grow, and they click like kin.  I’m happy he’s happy, but as I’ve mentioned before, poly will draw every insecurity, every self-doubt, every self conceived blight you have ever had, and I am not known for my high self-esteem.  This is not the reason we have issues, honest.  Really that’s because she lied to me, and I hold grudges, which is something else I’m working on.  It’s something I’m constantly working on, but occasionally old habits rear their bitter heads.

Feelings of physical inadequacy can tear down any relationship if you let them, but this has the potential to be detrimental to a poly relationship.  It would be easy for me to think this girl is Hubby’s trophy girl, but it’d be all my own internal baggage.  He has not stopped looking at me or telling me he thinks I’m beautiful.  Our intimacy has not waned or changed in any way. 

 I have no reason to let these fears creep back up inside me, but I admit I sometimes when new partners enter the equation.  When Hubby met his first girlfriend, Emmy, I had just started to be sick with what would later be diagnosed as fibromyalgia.  I was sick, I was weak, and it hurt just to be touched.  For a very long time sex was out of the question.  Emmy, on the other hand, was just starting to explore herself and was loving the new experiences Hubby was able to offer.  Hubby never told me he was disappointed, but it was palpable every time he tried to touch me and my body just couldn’t take the pain.  I felt like a failure as a wife and lover, and while I was happy he was taking this new step in our poly life I also felt a tinge of inadequacy.  It was a very trying time in our marriage, and there were times I listened to the voice that told me he could only stand to stay with his invalid of a wife because he could still get his rocks off somewhere else.  It was an extremely negative thought process that only lead to more negativity.  I grew bitter, resentful, and depressed, and eventually I took it out on him.

The further decline and eventual improvement of my health forced a huge change in attitude and perspective.  I decided that if my marriage was going to survive I needed to stop looking at it as a need for him to find something more desirable.  Instead I learned to celebrate my strengths and experience and know that I am just as desirable to him as I always have been.  He may have someone young and sexy to have fun with, but he still comes home to me with the same heated fervor.   While there is the new shiny factor that comes with all NRE we have a passionate bond that only time and knowing each other’s ins and outs can bring.  I still see the want and need in his eyes, and he lets me know all the time that he thinks I’m beautiful.

In my head I accepted his love and admiration long ago, but I try to keep this perspective in mind whenever the voices of doubt and insecurity, and sometimes a little envy, creep into my heart.  All that comes from negativity is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If I act on the venomous emotions and thoughts I become ugly and undesirable, somebody no one wants to be around.  This is when I lose him.  This is when he seeks others not because of his own love and freedom but to be away from me.  It’s not my physical baggage that pushes him away, it’s the mental and emotional.  Luckily that’s something I can fix.

I feel thankful every day that I have someone who joins me in ogling men and women when we’re out, who is overjoyed when he feels he’s snagged a looker and never minds sharing, and who is proud of me when I manage a fine catch myself.  Hubby lets me know constantly that I am his dream woman.  Even on my worst days he reminds me that I’m beautiful, capable, sexy, and smart.  I still catch his eyes watching me, and he is just as playful and romantic as the day we met.  Through ups and downs, problems with other partners, and bad experiences, he has never let me feel ugly or worthless.

So, yes, my husband has a new girlfriend.  She’s young, she’s cute, she’s skinny, she’s bendy, and she has a pretty high pain threshold.  She has the long hair he always tells me he wishes I could grow, and they click like kin.  I am happy he’s happy, and I am learning to forgive and let go of past indiscretions.  I also hear she’s quite fond of me and my body, and I am determined not to let my tainted self-esteem close that door to me.   After all, she’s young, she’s cute, she’s skinny, she’s bendy, and she has a pretty high pain tolerance.

compersion

So, in 2012 I wrote this, and wasn’t I cute.  Go ahead.  Read it.  It’s still valuable information, but it merely skimmed the juvenile surface of a much more mature problem.  Also, note my almost defiant optimism that what we now know as The Vanishing Act would not, in fact, be a disaster.  Ok, so Hubby may have been right on that one, but now this is the evidence he needs every time he thinks a new relationship is a bad idea.  I’m surprised there’s not a commemorative plaque on the wall to mark the day in history.

This started out as a post about the balance between having compassion for the growing pains my existing partners experience when a new partner is added without letting it completely destroy my NRE.  Then it morphed, as I began to have more and more conversations about compersion, not only with my partners but with friends.  Here’s the Quick Guide to Compersion.  Or at least what I understand of it.

 

Compersion is unconditional.  It can’t only exist when you’re being doted on just as much as the new partner.  It can’t only exist if my NRE is exactly like it was with you.  It can’t only exist if you’re in some other way occupied.  It compersion isn’t there even when you’re having a hard time processing the new relationship you’re lying to everyone, including yourself.

 

Compersion doesn’t mean not questioning.  If you have concerns you still have to voice them rationally.  If you have disagreements you still have to work through them.  You’re allowed to ask for compromise or whatever you need to process, but compersion requires you to handle it like two adults who love each other.  Isn’t this what it’s all about?  Aren’t you together because you love each other?

 

Compersion doesn’t invalidate growing pains.  You can still have your process, you just can’t use it to be a shyte to everyone else.  You’re more likely, in fact, to get the extra attention and compassion you need if you’re not.  Compersion means understanding and putting the happiness of your partner in the forefront, but it does not mean sacrificing  your own well-being.  It’s your responsibility to address it before it becomes a big scary issue, a fight, or resentment, not your partner’s.

 

What this all boils down to is love, respect, compassion, and balance.  In a relationship, shouldn’t those things exist already?

 

 

Aloha.

Go now.  Demand your balance.

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