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The original title of this post was “Compersion Myths Discussed”, but it dawned on me how inherently negative that was, and my intention here is to write about positivity.  For this one I asked my community about what lessons they’ve learned about compersion through experience.  The results were diverse and educational.

Compersion: The feeling of joy one has experiencing another’s joy

In my experience, I struggled with compersion for a long time.  I have a lot of abandonment issues, and worse, fears that I won’t be left but merely set aside and humoured once in a while.  I have only had one relationship in my life survive a new partner, and that’s been my marriage.  I held my breath through NRE widow periods when I just ceased to exist.  I was expected to understand and smile and wish partners well when their new love wasn’t poly and couldn’t accept me.  I dealt with gradual ghostings where there was just less and less time for me.

I held a lot of these painful experiences on my shoulders, and they became me responsibility.  Who was I to write and speak about poly if I couldn’t find absolute blissful joy for my partners when they found new love?  I felt broken.  I felt like a fraud.  I felt lost.   I started to hide my anxieties.  Anyone who suffers from anxiety will tell you, hiding it and swallowing it only allows it to fester.  Oh and it festered, until it infected everything.  Then something amazing happened.  I found a partner who heard me.  He listened to my concerns and anxieties, and he didn’t tell me I was bad.  He didn’t tell me I was wrong.  We didn’t fight; we talked it out.

Something amazing happens when I feel safe, loved, and heard.  Compersion.  Something else happens.  Sometimes the anxiety, the insecurities, the real life logistical concerns don’t go away, and I’ve learned that it’s ok.  Compersion doesn’t replace needs.  All these things can coexist, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It doesn’t mean I’m “failing poly”.  It doesn’t make me a horrible partner.  It makes you human.

So, I’ve been mulling over this for a few months, and it’s still something I go back and forth with, but I’ve started to do a few things.

  1.  I look at the situation and figure out if I’m really jealous of the time spent with someone else or that I’m stuck at work and they’re out doing something fun.  Usually it’s the latter.
  2. If I am jealous of the time spent with someone else, why?  Am I having a bad day?  Do I have a need I haven’t realized?  Do I merely miss my partner?  Being so far away from all of my partners means sometimes I just miss them, and I worry about the distance meaning I’m the last for them to find time with me.  I know this isn’t the reality of the relationship, but my brain is a jerk, friends.
  3. How can I resolve this feeling?  Is it adding a cool new item to the list of things to do when I see this person?  Is it voicing a need?  Is it reminding myself that we have tons of amazing memories and liking all the awesome pictures of what they’re doing on Facebook?  Usually it’s a combination of these things for me, because once I’ve sorted this I can appreciate the time they’re having.

This question lead to a few really interesting discussions, and I appreciated everyone who gave their perspective.

Here are a few:

Sometimes compersion isn’t feeling joyful or happy about your partner with someone else, sometimes it’s just acceptance.

Someone else responded here that “joy” is in the definition of the word compersion, and it’s true, but OP said something else that struck a chord.  Sometimes just the contentment of being able to accept something brings its own form of joy with it.  For some people, becoming aware of that step, or being able to find peace in a situation they might not feel comfortable or happy with, is a huge weight to release, and that is definitely a moment to revel in.  I remember the first time I gave Hubby’s girlfriend at the time a Valentine’s Day card thanking her for making him so happy.  It was a huge step and a freeing experience.  Even if she and I didn’t particularly get along.  Even if I didn’t agree with the way she conducted her relationships.  Even if I felt she intentionally sought to cause problems.  None of that mattered.  I was able to  be grateful for his happiness and accept her role in it.

You can grasp the concept AND still need to work to feel it.

Hallelujah! I’m glad someone said this, so I didn’t have to.  I’ve said it before in discussing the trials of newly opened relationships.  You can do all the reading.  You can do all the discussing.  You can learn all the buzzwords, and you’re still going to be caught off guard by emotions.  This is also one of those lessons.  Understanding compersion doesn’t mean you’ll master it on the first go any more than YouTube videos can teach you to swim.  You might be a natural.  You might get lucky and have a good first experience.  You might hit the water, feel it run up your nose, and panic.  And you know what?  Next time is going to be completely different, because no two days in your life are the same, and our experience is often flavoured by outside influences and conditions.  See above:  Am I having a bad day?   My advice.  Keep working.  Talk about it.  It’s worth it.

 

 It is in no way mandatory to feel compersion to be “real” poly. And sometimes, even if the majority of the time you do feel it, you’ll have moments where you don’t, and that’s okay too.

I’ve learned that compersion can’t be forced. And if you don’t feel it right away, you shouldn’t be hard on yourself. It’s hard for your head to understand that feeling sometime, and you just have to allow yourself to adjust.

The point here, is to not be hard on yourself if you don’t feel it.  This isn’t a free pass to be a jerk to your partner, but it is an opportunity to open up discussion.  Believe me when i say avoiding it all together is not a good idea in most cases.  Talk. Talk. Talk.  Do some internal searching. Talk some more.  If the opportunity is there, maybe spend some time with the other person involved.  I’ve found that learning the real person behind the outlandish abstract of infinite horrible worst case scenarios is a big help.

I admit, when they are on the verge of a new relationship, I still tend to get a little jealous, but once that feeling passes the compersion is definitely there. I think it’s adorable how excited they get talking to a new person and seeing them happy.

This is a really important thing to remember.  Compersion doesn’t have to be instantaneous to count.  Read it again.  Compersion does NOT have to be instantaneous to count.  Sometimes it takes some processing.  Sometimes it takes some discussion.  Sometimes it just takes a little exposure.  For the love of ice cream, don’t give up.  Did you see that second part?  It’s amazing!

You find it in the damnedest places and about the oddest things.

This is one of the most amusing things about compersion to me.  I can spend a month agonizing over how soon it’s going to be before I’m toast, then something clicks, something absolutely random.  For me it’s always been hearing that the other person mentioned me in passing.  An example of one of my random A-ha! moments of compersion was hitting Six Flags with Hubby and his new girl, which was also my birthday and the first time I’d ever met her, and watching her attempt to ride all the roller coasters with him.  I cannot, and will not, ride them, and seeing him find someone who would suck up her own fears and make it a personal challenge to ride ALL OF THEM was heartwarming.  Did I still have some anxieties after that?  Of course I did, because compersion is fluid.  Still, that was the moment I could see it, feel it, and enjoy it.

Feeling positive things for your partner comes back and improves all of your interactions.

Plain and simple, it does.  It reminds me every time why I chose poly.  It reminds me that I, too, can be open about new experiences and connections, and of how much love and support my partners give me when I’m on the other side of compersion.  It’s a helpful two-way street for me.  I find compersion by remembering that when I make a new connection none of the other fades, and that I am still madly in love with each of the partners in my life.  If I can do it, why should I be afraid that someone who has been good for and to me can not?  The joy this feeling gives me is one of the most fulfilling things a heart can experience, being grateful and surrounded by love, knowing that each of my partners still chooses me and that I am a part of a big beautiful web.  It leads to almost a reignited NRE feeling, and I’ve long since stopped having partners that make me an NRE widow, because that’s not healthy poly.  If I need time and assurance, I ask for it.  If they’re not willing to give it to me?  I decide if that’s behaviour I can accept.

I don’t feel jealousy often at all. I get envious of time spent sometimes, but most often, I experience compersion for anyone who is feeling loved and happy. I love love. I want to hear stories of love, good and bad, and I enjoy the energy people give off when they’re in love.
I am also a major introvert and I enjoy my ME time. Although I’ve been single for about 5 months, I am hardly ever without things to do. I’ve learned to love my time alone. So, when I do have a partner, and if they’re off with someone else, I will most likely find something to fill my time.

Hubby hates spicy food, and his partner, who lives with us, has some unfortunate food allergies.  Them being out means I can cook what I want.  With so many people in our small house, quiet alone time is rare.  This is how I first found at least a hint of compersion.  I found a hobby I would only do when Hubby was out with his girlfriend a the time.  In time, I came to look forward to their date nights.  It’s a little different now that my job and our living situation has changed, but there are ways to find a silver lining even when I might want to be out with them or feel lonely.

I am not really a jealous person, it’s just not something I often feel. I also don’t tend to feel possessive of my loves.
So with my partners, compersion is often finding joy that they are happy, loved, and fulfilled no matter what they are doing or with whom.
And I also admit that I enjoy the 20% when they are out and I get me time to do whatever as well.

It’s true.  There are people who don’t feel jealousy.  Good on them, really.  I realize this doesn’t mean they are without needs or anxieties.  Emotions and reactions manifest differently in different people.  I have a few partners who don’t experience jealousy, and for a while, again, I took it to mean there was something wrong with how I feel in a relationship.

 

Some additional comments from my people:

  • For me it’s a sign that you truly love someone… That you want them to be happy. Compersion is never about yourself. At least in my opinion.
  • That falling in love with the love someone has for someone else is both bizarre and absolutely wonderful. That you can get butterflies, for them.
  • It is good in the beginning hard then and ends up very good
  • Feeling compersion is great and comes easily to me, but I also experience sorrow when someone’s relationship is going through trouble. I try to fix things so they can be happy again, and so can I. And sometimes that just doesn’t happen.
  •  I’ve experienced it, makes me happy when I see him happy. Even if it isn’t me that is making him happy, why wouldn’t I be joyful for him?
  • I’ve never been jealous or possessive and i like to see people in my circle happy..it genuinely feels good to see . Always been that way.
  •  I get super excited when they are happy and talking about a new person…I find it just adorable! I don’t get jealous…the most I will get is envious of they are doing something that sounds fun that I would like to do but I am always happy when they are happy
  • I get all giggling and school girl like, and am like “tell me more, tell me more.”  I wanna know all the things. As my eyes are big and smile awaiting to hear so much more.
    Sometimes, though, if I feel a bit insecure in a relationship, I may not have as much compersion. That is when I rely on my partner to assure me of my place and value.

 

I think the most important line in this entire post is “at least in my opinion”.  There is no right or wrong way to feel, find, or work on compersion.  I , and a group of my friends, can only give you the words of experience.  Compersion, in my opinion, is one of the biggest hurdles in poly, and no one or nothing can make it happen.  Keep working.  Keep loving.  Keep moving forward.

 

Go now, find your joy.

Aloha

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The idea of kitchen table poly has always appealed to me.  I was an only child, and having a chosen family structure is an imperative part of my life. That being said, the key word here is”chosen”, which implies a choice, and by placing an “ideal”on something we strip away its choice.  Here’s the rub.

In many cases it’s a fairly simple equation. My partner and I have a loving relationship.  They and their other partners have loving relationships.  I love people who make my people happy.  Come to my table!  Sometimes, however, people don’t get along.  I can’t force anyone to like me.  I can’t force anyone to want to get to know me.  I can’t force anyone to want anything to do with me.  In that same vein, I can’t force my partners to get along.  Ideal vs free will reality, and with free will reality comes a choice.

Do I cling to the Rockwellian portrait of poly I’d love to see or so I adjust expectations and keep my heart, and the seats at my table, open? 

Enter The Community Table.

It’s possible to maintain the spirit and ideals behind Kitchen Table Poly and adapt to free will reality, you just have to tweak perspective a little.  As a kid, my parents were divorced, and those households treated dinner very differently.  At my Dad’s house dinner was 1700 every night, Hell or high water, and it was expected that everyone would be there every single night.  To this day, if you call that house at dinner time someone better be dying. My mom, however, ran things a little more fluidly, depending on schedules and when people were hungry.  If she cooked and you weren’t hungry, you could sit and chat.  If you were busy with homework or something else was happening, as long as you respectfully let her know what was going on there was no harm done.  My friends knew there was a seat for them at our table, on our couch, in our home, whenever they needed it, day or night.  Two tables. Two very different ways of approaching the same experience.

I’ve recently started to see the images in my mind of the ideal situation change to incorporate my mom’s adaptable Community Table approach to my life in general, not just my poly.  If you’re a part of my Ohana there is a seat for you at my table, regardless of whether or not you ever use it or want it.  The people of my people are also my people, and in times of need nothing else matters.  My mom didn’t necessarily approve of all of my friends.  I know for a fact there were a few she couldn’t stand, but if they were hungry they were welcome.  She might not choose to eat dinner with us, but it didn’t mean I had to send them away.  The Community Table gave all of us an open invitation, a place at the table, and a choice, and this is what poly, what family, is about for me.

The Community Table leaves the lines of communication open and supports the opportunity to build relationships without pressure or finality.  It authenticates freedom of choice by allowing every day to be a new choice, and it gives us all the room to grown and adapt as the table changes shape and size.  The Community Table becomes the access point for my life and my Ohana, where no one is pressured or sent away, and that’s my “ideal” situation.

Aloha.

Go now.  Find your seat.

2015-02-23-EatingTogether

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Lughnasadh always brings an interesting energy with it.  While Lugh won a lot of trials in his life through sheer skill, some of that skill was humour and wit, and there is never a shortage of humour or wit in the messages that come through this time of year.  But what else?  In honouring Lugh we remember the funerary games he organized for his foster mother, Tailtiu. We play games of skill and celebrate our respective talents.  We dance, sing, enjoy the life energy of summer thriving around us.  Now let’s incorporate the celebration of Lamas, the first harvest.  Traditionally the first grains would be used to make bread to bless the occasion as the community came together to enjoy the bounty of harvest.  Sometimes bread was baked in the shape of the Green Man in honour of the sacrifice he gives so that we may thrive.  In all of this there is a theme of both celebration of the light and recognition of the dark as we begin to notice the days shortening, reminding us to be thankful for the harvest that will sustain us in the coming winter.

In my practice I’ve used it as a time to cleanse and bless my hearth and home, fortifying our household for the year to come with the rich energies of summer.  This year I took a deeper look at that practice.  Yes, I will probably still cleanse our home and reinforce our crystal grids, but the more meditation I’ve done the more thought I’ve given to the “hearth” in my life.  While my tangible household is a brick and mortar place, my home is transient, my family scattered between the coasts, farther once I incorporate metamours.  So what of this tribe?  What of our hearth?  How can we be cleansed and fortified for the year to come?

The beautiful thing about our Ohana is that everyone, no matter how far away or how little involved, brings something to the tribe.  We each have our strengths, skills and talents that enrich the energy of the whole.  There is not a single one of us who doesn’t work hard and strive to really experience life in their own way, and this energy finds its way to the core of what makes us strong as a unit.  Those skills and strengths become our grains, and with some nurturing and encouraging, those talents flourish.  Through their harvest we begin to manifest our best selves, and we become the bread men of Lamas, ingested to feel the blessings of the very earth that grounds and holds us.  So, the hearth?  The hearth is community, fired with our dedication to each other.  It’s love, support, and solidarity, but it’s also sacrifice.  We each give at one point or another so that the others may thrive.  When each of my partners’ family becomes my family, and we weave a web of compassion and love, we become a strong tribe.  Through that web we feel each other’s joy and pain.  Through that web none of us can starve no matter how cold the winter might get, and because we’ve got Lugh on our side we do it with the flare of laughter and maybe some smartassery.  Ok, a lot of smartassery.

Aloha, and Blessed Lughnasadh

Go now, celebrate your talents!

love_candles

 

There’s a picture we have of healing as this serene moment of white light and wholeness of body and soul.  It’s completely benign, and the one being healed walks away and life is great.  It’s beautiful.  It’s painless.  It’s….it’s bullshit.

 

Let me take a step back.

 

In February I attended a healing ritual.  We moved and danced and raised energy to communicate with the spirits we’d called into the circle, and it was the strongest energy I’ve ever felt from a healing ritual.  At each altar I was keenly aware of the changes in my movement and what parts of the healing I’d achieved over the last year.  Messages flooded through me.  Then I got to the center, and my insides shifted.  I began to laugh.

When I started rehearsing parts of Good Girl my nervous coping mechanisms not only intensified exponentially, but they laughed in my face.  Quite literally.  When I’m nervous or anxious I smile.  I laugh, I make jokes.  I entertain.  One of the hardest parts of this process for me was learning to stop entertaining when I’m unhappy with a situation.

So here I am, in the middle of a healing ritual, with people around me having their intensely poignant experience, and I’m laughing.  I’m belly laughing.  I’m cackling,  I’m laughing so hard I’m crying.  It’s the first genuine laugh that’s passed through my lips without some other prompting in decades, and this is the moment I feel healed.  This is the moment I feel the entire community around me giving and taking and healing each other.

Then the spirits talk through one of the priestesses running the ritual.  She laughs, and suddenly I am no longer laughing.  I’m at once eager and terrified of what’s about to come out of her mouth, because it’s exactly what I’ve felt written on my soul since December.

Healing, complete healing, is something you have to be ready for.  It’s not some idyllic scene with rainbows and crystals.  Healing hurts, and it’s relative to how deep the wound runs within you that needs to be healed.  It tears at you, ripping away the parts of you that are broken, and you feel every cell of it leave you.  But that’s not all.  Healing isn’t a finite event.  It’s a catalyst for the rest of your life, changing every single part of it, and once you’ve become your whole and unhindered self?  This is the hardest part of healing to deal with.  Once you are whole and unhindered you have no more excuses.  You must live up to your potential.  You must do what needs to be done to keep moving forward.  You must pull yourself together and be a force in this world.

You have no more excuses, and that’s terrifying.

But this is why we heal as community.  This is why we tell our stories.  This is why we are a web of life and light, because otherwise we would not survive what it is to heal.  Otherwise we would be glowing orbs of heavenly light and we would walk back into our lives just as broken as we were before.

 

Aloha.

 

Go now, heal each other.

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.

 

Blessed Be.

 

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.

 

Aloha.

Go now.  Be together.

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