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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.
I took on an extremely ambitious piece of writing this year for NaNoWriMo. After having to stop just short of my goal the first year due to a broken arm Thanksgiving Weekend and finishing with a product coherent enough to be in the editing process now, this year I took on an extremely heavy task. Half fiction, half non-fiction, the piece chronicled the rocky path of a crumbling marriage in a woman’s mind during her final moments. For those of you who don’t know, my marriage has been a little stressed recently as Hubby and I inventory our issues like LEGOs in attempt to put them back together in a way that works for us both, so taking on this project wa extremely personal and a bit harshly timed. I made it to almost 12,000 words before the emotional weight made it impossible to keep going, but I don’t consider this experiment a complete loss.
For one thing, what I have so far is an amazing piece. I have been adding to it here and there when I can, and when I have the time and energy to put the entire puzzle back together, I believe it will be a beautiful mosaic of words and emotions. I believe in this project, or I wouldn’t have taken it on the way I did.
Next, it was amazing therapy in some ways and an amazing awakening in others. It allowed me to get words out that I felt lost trying to express before, which meant I was able to keep a logical calm tone when dealing with Hubby in emotionally charged situations. It allowed me somewhere to put the often irrational feelings and insecurities that are mine to deal with, things that often cloud our ability to fix the shared problems. It allowed me a story board to map out my experience throughout this marriage and showed me where my own behaviour and thinking may have been the problem without a tone of blame or guilt to get in the way of resolution.
Finally, it reminded me of what I have to fight for, everything we have already fought through, and the strength we have when we fight together for something not against each other. Killing a marriage that didn’t exist helped me see the ways to save the one that does.
So, no, I don’t get the fancy winner badge, which is a shame, because I loved the graphics NaNoWriMo used this year. However, I don’t consider this a loss. Sometimes you need to both something to be able to think outside the box a little. Sometimes you need to fall to change your perspective.
Thank you , NaNoWriMo. I’ll see you next year!
Eighteen years ago tomorrow I melted into the couch trying to disappear while I processed the fact that my mother was dead. I didn’t want everyone gathered around me. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to react in front of anyone. I just wanted to soak into the beige cushions and have my moment, but at 12 years old everyone expected something different, something extravagant and wild that required taming and tending. I didn’t. I absorbed the information and took a shower, because it was the only place I could go and not be followed. I spent the next several days trying to gauge what was expected of me. I helped plan a funeral for the first time. I went with my best friend and her mom to buy something nice to wear with no idea what acceptable mourning attire for someone in my position could possibly be. I settled on a navy blue skirt with flowers on it. My goth stage wouldn’t flood my life with black until a year or so later.
Eighteen years ago today, however, was a very different experience. One of life.
You always remember the last time you heard someone’s voice before they leave your world. I remember her laughter and her words. I remember mine. I have since had to uproot my guilt over not going to visit as I had promised and how nonchalantly I threw in that last “love you, bye” as only adolescence can cast. She was coming home the next day. I was excited, but I didn’t feel any particular need to drag it out over the phone. This would change how I handle phone calls, I-love-yous, and anticipation for the rest of my life, because the next day she simply didn’t come home.
Yesterday I took a walk around the cemetery to clear my head. Eighteen years after the last time I hugged her my mom is still the best friend I go to for guidance, as I’ve developed a habit of laying on the grass under the tree she’s buried near and telling her all the things I can’t articulate anywhere else. It’s the only place I can reach the voice inside me that has answers, because the part of her that lives within me is something I wasn’t capable of recognizing as a preteen.
One of the things I inherited from my mother was her capacity to see the good in people. Whatever she called it, that woman embraced the spirit of Aloha in the very air she breathed. No one was ever turned away from her heart, and to those she gave pieces of it too she gave everything. For a long time I tried to run from that part of myself. I tried to cage it up, wall it in, and silence it for good. I hated it. I hated myself for it. I struggled for years with the very thing that makes me who I am, because I had let it shine only to have it ripped out, held in front of me, and tortured before my very eyes. I had watched something beautiful be eviscerated in the name of love, and I couldn’t fathom anything worth experiencing that again. The lesson from my mother’s last day had not yet sunk in.
So let’s go back to that week.
My mother’s funeral was the first I had ever planned. The first at which I had ever spoken. The first I had ever attended. The first time I had personally shaken Death’s hand had taken from me the most important person in my life, and the seeds of this lesson were planted. Since then I have been to more funerals than I can count, spoken at many of them, and helped plan seven. Family, friends, children. Old, young, unborn. Sick, sudden, at their own hands. Loss. Loss is something you never get used to and something you can never truly plan for no matter how hard you try. Loss is where the seeds Death planted the day my mother said, “if you’re not coming today, don’t bother, because I’m going home tomorrow” and I chose to stay home instead begin to sprout. Loss is where those sprouts blossom into regret and sadness every time one of those last conversations is replayed in the back of my mind. Loss is where I gained the strength and courage to let the part of me which my mother tried so hard to cultivate within me finally be free, because the only thing that can grow taller than Death’s crops in my soul is love.
There are times when I doubt. There are times when I’m told that opening myself up to love this way makes me weak and vulnerable. There are times when I’m told it’s ignorant and ugly to let my heart be naked this way. Not everyone appreciates it. I’m called crazy, overwhelming, and naive every time I put my heart at risk, but to me this risk is far more acceptable that the one that someone I love never knew it. In this lesson my mother’s voice lives on. In this way her heart continues to love. In this way I am showing her every day how much I loved her and how important she was to me, not just as my mother but as the fire that burns within me.
I’ve written about it before, the reasons I love the way I do. What it all boils down to is that love is something you can’t do halfway or there’s no point in doing it at all. It can hurt. It can burn. It can tear you apart when you least expect it, but so can regret, fear, and doubt. At least my way I also run the risk of being happy and loved in return, and that’s the secret my mom knew.
“What would you say,” a friend posed to me as I sat at his table, “to a friend who had just told you what you just told me?” We had been discussing certain decisions coming up in my life and what I should consider when making them. He was right. If I took the sentiment and nostalgia out of the situation the answer I was looking for was right in front of my face. I just didn’t want to accept it. I tried to take what he had said to heart, and in the following days I gained such a powerful sense of clarity that I felt foolish for not having seen it before. I knew what I had to do, but I also knew that this meant fortifying my relationship with myself.
Then there came this night. A night when all the love and support in the world was gone, and everything was quiet. A night when loneliness took over, and my only option was to learn to stand up in the darkness by myself. You know what? In that moment I learned what it was like to become my own best friend, to really trust myself to be available for me when I needed a little extra strength and love, and to actually do so.
Don’t get me wrong, my outer support circle is fantastic, but they can’t be with me all the time. I cannot allow myself to become dependent. I also cannot allow myself to become self-destructive when left to my own devices. I must learn to thrive and enjoy being alone, and this is a very fresh lesson. I must learn to do this myself or it will overpower me. The darkness, the silence, the solitude. It all comes from within, so it is from within that it must be overcome.
What would I say to a friend? Nothing. She already knows the answers. She already has the seeds of change within her. She just needs a friend. It’s up to me to be that friend.
In years past, Litha has been about pure celebration. Love, revelry, and the raw power of the sun god filling us with waves of blessing. If you’ve ever smiled up at the sun and felt completely whole and happy, you know the feeling I’m describing. This year is a little different for me. There are some big changes coming my way, and I’m finding it extremely difficult to feel the sun in any aspect but burning. That strength and blessing I generally get this time of year is shadowed, and I feel myself weakening. I’ve begun to lose my spirit and the energy to keep pushing forward.
I don’t usually keen for Litha. It’s not generally a happy summer solstice activity, but it felt necessary. I didn’t go into the woods like I normally do. I went to the beach. If you’re not all aware, the beaches of Northern California do not warm. The moment the icy cold hit my toes I wanted to turn back and give up, but if I couldn’t do this how could I begin to claim my life back from the edge of the long night that loomed over me? I trudged forward, tears coming to my eyes as I remember why I was there and what stakes were at hand. I got as far as my knees before the screaming started, not the releasing wail of keening but the angry screams of someone who suddenly realized she couldn’t breathe. Friends, I’ve been drowning in my own life. For years. I’ve allowed myself to fight for enough air to keep sinking, but not much more. So I screamed. I screamed until the water knocked me off balance and straight into the sand of the undertow. I had not intended to go in. My clothes were soaked, my butt was cold, and my mouth was full of salt. I felt scolded by the ocean that has always lead me, and right well I should have been. I’ve let myself be dragged by the undercurrent for so long I’ve forgotten how to swim. I laid back and let the water rush over me. I stopped screaming, and I began to laugh. I laughed until the taste of salt once again assaulted my senses. The ocean wanted me to listen. To be quiet for once in my life…and listen.
I had forgotten that I carry the sun within me. I had forgotten the strength that has carried me through more hardship and darkness than I care to think about. I had forgotten the brightness that has always kept a smile on my face and my spirit alive despite that darkness. I had forgotten what it means to channel it all and become a force of nature. These are things I must hold on to if I am to come out of this alive. Alive. Not survived. Alive. Heart, soul, and spirit intact. This is a crossroads, not a dead end. This is the harvest of the seeds I planted when I asked for progress and the life meant for me, and if I let it all die on the vine I have wasted it all. I’ve fought too hard to be weak now. Wherever this road goes, and it will go through some thick, dark, places, I will carry the sun within, and it will guide me if I let it.
Aloha and a Blessed Litha
Go now, be strong. Be Alive.
There’s a point where you make a decision. There’s a point where the only thing left to do is move forward and act on that decision. There’s a point where you know it’s not quite the time yet, and all you can do is stand there like a horse at a starting gate. This, friends, is where I find myself today. I’ve been through all the doubts and fears. I’ve been through all the options and best courses of action. I’ve deliberated and debated, and the only thing there is to do now is throw it all out there and let life sort it out trusting in the guidance I’ve been given. All I can do, however, is wait.
Patience, as I’ve mentioned before, is not really a virtue I possess, but right this moment I am my own lesson. If I jump the gun I lose before I even have a chance. If I wait too long I lose by the nature of the race. If I trust the strategy of the game I have a chance, but that requires me to be still. Patience is not merely waiting; it’s listening and paying attention to the cues and behaviour of the environment around me. It means being quiet. It means being focused. It means freezing everything else around me and being…patient.
Go now, smirk at the visual pun.
The last several weeks for me have been full of reconnections, reunions, and a lot of dredging places I forgot I had sunk some pretty heavy ships. These day’s I’ve stayed afloat by riding the waves and staying on the surface with the belief that what I really needed to focus on would be blown my way. As someone quite often lead by emotion and intuition, this approach has been a refreshing change from being ruled rather than lead. This is the only way it’s been possible for me to accept the sudden resurfacing of so many abandoned parts of my past. For the most part this had been a positive experience on a very cathartic level, but also because I missed having some of these people in my life. I’ve shared a lot of laughs, shed a few tears, and had some amazing conversations. I’ve also vowed not to try to sort these relationships based on their former blueprints. Easier said than done, right?
Well, enter Mercury Retrograde and its not so gentle reminder to examine information coming in for what it truly says instead of what I think it should say, including self chatter. I talk to myself a lot, both internally and externally, but how often do I really try to analyse any of it? The answer is, most likely, almost never, which is probably counterintuitive for a writer and an energy worker. Right on the heels of this retrograde, like a questionable sidekick, are the days where nothing seems to work right, the tied tongues, and the miscommunication that starts to break the harmony I’ve worked so hard to restore to this household after the changes of the winter. I can’t let this happen, friends. So, it’s time. Time to dive a little deeper.
My aim here is not to exhume old shipwrecks and the tragedies that went down with them, but to see what they’ve now become. Actual shipwrecks become their own ecosystems. I’m anxious to see what lives in mine now and what might float to the surface when I find whatever it is that’s calling to me. These are the things that will be important moving forward. Adversely, this kind of diving reminds me that sometimes what looks like a jewel is just a shiny rock, and where there are cute fish there are also sharks. There were reasons these ships sank, and if those problems haven’t been resolved there’s no reason to revisit the vessels to begin with.
This Mercury Retrograde is a bit oddly timed, but not in a particularly bad way. It’s introspection I have needed to really sort how I feel about the events of the last several months. It’s facing a broken part of me and working through the trust issues and emotional avoidance I’ve been struggling with for almost a decade. It’s being able to enjoy the root good of these relationships without all the barnacles that have since grown around them. The beauty of the Titanic wasn’t lost with its demise, which is why it’s been the focus of romance, adventure, and exploration for over 100 years. That beauty still fascinates us to this day, and the stories of survival and strength pulled from her wreckage are inspiring and powerful.
We often give Mercury Retrograde a bad rap. Yes, it can be frustrating. In fact, there can be moments where it’s infuriating. There are storms over even the most calm seas. This can also be a time to do some organizing, some regrouping, and a lot of thinking outside the box. It is in time of our greatest frustration that we sometimes find our greatest inspiration and perspective. So, I let myself be overtaken by the current and sink below the surface, and I find some amazing things. It is when I am submerged that I am reminded why I live and love the way I do and why I will always choose it over the alternative, which is to risk never experiencing the tides at all. When I do come up for air it will be to blue skies and a shining sun, and that, my friends, is the only way to live.
Go now, dive deep.
Mental illness is no joke, nor is it something we can ignore. You can find all manner of statistics on the percentage of children, adolescents, and adults will some form of mental or emotional disorder, but it continues to be almost taboo to discuss in polite company. On any given commute train I can hear all the details of someone’s physical struggles, and it’s a story of strength and challenges overcome, but most stories about mental illness or emotional struggles end in “well, what can you do? She’s crazy!” This social attitude has lead to two things.
First, it has given the world the idea that it’s acceptable to ignore, or even mock, the issues of mental illness. To those who live with it, depression is not just an unwillingness to be happy or overcome life’s obstacles, but a crushing inability to even fathom doing so. We have very few resources for people who struggle with these issues, and the ones that do exist are costly and unstable at best. In the end, many are labelled as “helpless” or “chronic” and left with the options to either heavily medicate to an almost nonfunctional level or to wing it with little to no support. Either way, it generally leads to a very isolated life.
Secondly, it has opened the door for a lifetime of excuses and scapegoating, usually because the first condition exists. Mental illness is not an insurmountable obstacle. It just takes work, time, and a lot of inner fortification. For years I have had people tell me, “you don’t know what it’s like”, which is always true. No, I don’t know what anyone else’s personal struggles are like, but they have no idea what mine are like either, and I refuse to get into a “woe is me” pity war. Everyone has mountains to climb. Those with additional imbalances and emotional scars may have extra obstacles in the path, but nothing makes the climb impossible but death.
The harsh reality of mental and emotional illness is that it doesn’t stop life from coming at you. You don’t get a reprieve from adulthood because of a rough childhood. You don’t get a pass on responsibility because someone else may have dropped the ball on you at some point in your life. There are no mental wheelchairs or emotional hearing aids, but there is no excuse for refusing to try and live life, especially if you’ve made the choice to have children, go to school, or start a career path. It took me years to learn this lesson, and a few more to learn that no one was going to be able to help me when I really needed it if I wasn’t willing to at least try to help myself first.
There is a happy medium here between being labelled a nut job, told it’s all in your head, and deciding there’s no way you can ever be functional. It’s called life, and we all have to live it to our best abilities no matter what tools we’re given. I will always give support to someone having a bad day, but never sympathy for someone using these struggles for anything but an opportunity to grow as a person. I don’t believe coddling helps anyone, nor will I sit by and listen to someone blame bad choices on something that possibly can’t be controlled but can be mitigated. The words “I’ve got this issue, so you should have expected my bad behaviour,” is a cop out and an insult to everyone who has overcome tragedy, loss, or illness in his or her life.
We owe it to ourselves and others who are fighting along side us to do everything we can to get through this life together. Everyone has the opportunity to make excuses. Those who choose not to are the ones who will get the support they need when the time comes.
Way back when I did my Poly-tics series I wrote about The Deep End. Well, it all came back to haunt me recently when I became involved with someone who had just opened a long-time monogamous marriage. The result was a lot of exactly what I cautioned in the second installation of the series. Had I known at the time how deep this deep end really was I might not have ventured into it, but there I was, surrounded by dark waters of insecurity, doubt, mistrust, and miscommunication. I did what I could to be helpful. I offered the same advice I would offer friends or people seeking counsel. I tried to help both parties through what I know can be an extremely tumultuous storm. In the end I was left adrift in a Deep End that was not my own with an overload of red flags and I-told-you-sos.
It was during this time that I began to hear the term Testing the Waters in reference to poly. What struck me immediately was the fact that once you’ve involved another human being and a relationship begins to form you can no longer be “testing” anything. It’s unfair to both members of the new relationship, and it’s a detrimental attitude to the entire situation. Polyamory requires complete commitment and dedication. If you can’t give that to yourself, your partner, and any new partners you bring into your life, you’re better off sunbathing on the shoreline until you can really brave the deep end.
Take it from me.
As I’ve stated before, Hubby and I have very few rules for our polyamory. It wasn’t always this way, however, and I have to constantly remind myself of this fact every time I encounter a couple who is just opening up. The more I read other poly blogs about rules and how much they hold us back, the more I think sometimes we all forget that we were once new at this, too, and that the fears and hesitation that spawned those rules were very real.
There’s a flip side to this coin. At what point do rules become restrictions, and at what level do restrictions start to become detrimental?
When Hubby and I opened up we had a “no kissing during sex” rule, which was not only extremely hard to follow but extremely silly. Here we were welcoming new people into our hearts and our family, and we weren’t allowed to kiss them sometimes because of what we perceived the attitude and environment of the actions involved to be. My first couple of experiences were awkward. On top of the stress that already surrounds a new encounter, there were these stupid little stage notes I had to follow, and it made everyone tense and a little withdrawn because we all felt like we were being graded. I remember very clearly the night I eschewed that particular rule right in front of Hubby in the most free feeling french kiss I’d ever given anyone. This died the “no kissing during sex” rule and thus began the beginning of a serious re-evaluation of what essentially boiled down to micromanaging of something that should be very organic.
What changed our mind on these rules? Trust. We realized at that moment that there are things we couldn’t, and shouldn’t be, controlling about relationships that needed to form their own shapes. I could mask my insecurity with a litany of things Hubby wasn’t allowed to do with someone new, or I could trust him to be a decent human being and act accordingly. After some growing pains and restructuring it was the best decision we have ever made for our marriage and our respective relationships. It not only fosters trust but respect for the trust given to us by our partners.
A new relationship is like a seedling . If you nurture it and give it the fresh air it needs, it will grow to it’s full potential. With the right maintenance and some appreciation, under the right conditions, it will be enjoyed for a long time. Rules tend to put that seedling in a pot, which isn’t always a bad thing. There are some integral broad rules, if you choose to call them that. Honesty. Respect. Safety. Communication. However, the more rules you add to the mix the smaller the pot gets, and the relationship can eventually be restricted in its growth or completely choked. The whens, the wheres, the words, the whats…none of it is important if you can hold to the tenants of the broad set.
So, I refer back to the beginning. Patience and understanding versus a relationship’s need to form and grow organically. Can the two reach a level of homeostasis that is healthy for everyone involved? I think they can, though I sometimes question the spirit behind the rules. A little help can quickly become a crutch. A seedling can very quickly become a bonsai tree, even when it could be a great Sequoia.