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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.
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.
It was the day I saw the internet meme that read expressed to me that love could always save the day, and anything else was giving up. This friends, is a very pretty thought, but untrue. Yes, there are a lot of people who give up on love too soon. There are relationships that end merely because people don’t want to put the effort in to keep it alive. There are also situations where the love exists but the relationship is unhealthy, and there is only so much compromise one can do. This is where serious change needs to occur.
My biggest hurdle in the past week has been the doubt instilled in me by this very concept. For years I have fought. For years I have worked. For years I have sacrificed and compromised. All for love. All with a smile on my face. All knowing my heart was strong and my love was true. That love hasn’t changed. It hasn’t diminished. It hasn’t quieted. I don’t even feel like it’s less mutual. It’s the only reason I am hurt by the idea that maybe even the strongest love in the world can’t fix everything. And maybe worse, that it shouldn’t.
What if this love is what’s holding me in a place that’s unhealthy for the rest of me? What if this love is detrimental? What if it’s taken the place of the love I should have for myself? These are very real things. This is not an abuse situation, friends, but it is unhealthy. If we can’t find a way to change the foundation of what’s wrong in our life together, no amount of love in the world can change that. I can’t let myself feel like I’m giving up or failing, because that’s what has always made me stick around in the past regardless of my mental or emotional health.
Love can conquer many things. Fear, insecurity, doubt. Love cannot conquer all things, because a relationship needs air to breathe and sun to grow. It needs a good balance of calm and passion. It needs the right environment, and if that environment no longer exists between two people, it doesn’t mean we’ve or love has failed. It merely means our landscape has evolved. It’s time to decide if that landscape can still sustain this relationship.
We are the artists, the healers, and the teachers. We are those who feel, and sometimes we don’t know why until we have learned to acknowledge and process them. We are the empaths, and our journey is unique. It’s not always easy, but it can be highly rewarding and fulfilling.
As an empath I am generally at least aware of my environment on a very intimate level. I can get a feel for people pretty quickly in ways they might not even be in touch with themselves. I can tell when people are hurting, sick, or frustrated, but I can also see their capacity for love and joy when they might not be able to. It makes me a caretaker by nature. I am generally that friend answering her phone at some odd hour of the night because I’ve never turned down a request for help I was available to give.
The flip side of all this is that it makes me a lover, which in and of itself is not a negative thing. I’ve expressed before that being vulnerable doesn’t make me weak. It makes me stronger every time it backfires, but when it doesn’t I am reminded why I live and love as openly as I do. It also makes me stubborn and persistent. I can see past all the verbal armor people use on a daily basis, excuses that we think protect us from our own fears and insecurities. I promise you, they protect you from nothing. If anything you become a victim of yourself, and eventually those things become who you are instead of the things inside that actually define you. These are the things I see as an empath.
This also means I can tell when I’m being lied to or set aside. I can tell when a relationship has become about sentimental nostalgia instead of new refreshed emotion. I don’t like it, and at times I’ve tried to fight it, but I can always feel it. It’s at these times where I have a choice, just as I have a choice whether or not to speak up when I see these things affecting others. Do I speak up? Do I keep trying to fool myself with the same sentimentality? Do I force a change or do I wait for the inevitable?
Being an empath has taught me to throw everything I have to the surface, to give all of myself to those I feel won’t abuse it, and to see doors most people would generally walk past. It’s also taught me to identify other empaths, because they are generally the people I can communicate with on an unspoken level. There’s an amazing bond between two people who can feel everything happening in each other. My world is full of them. We laugh together, we hurt together, and we experience love together, and it’s extremely painful when someone starts to distance.
This. This is what I fear. This is my biggest concern coming true. Distance from someone who once knew me so well. So what do I do? This, friends, is where my soul is.
Go now, get in touch with yourself.
Just this last week my home state of Pennsylvania legalized marriage equality, and now that both of the states I call home have done so, I feel the push to chime in with an experience I’ve had in both cases. As someone who identifies as pansexual, and as someone who happens to already be in a legal, heterosexual, open marriage, I have come under a lot of fire for supporting the cause as anything but an ally. Let’s break that down…
Pansexual: Yes, I have love and attraction to anyone, anyone, who catches that attention, no matter how they identify. Why is it that because a cis male is included in that I am devoid of caring about the opportunity to marry any of the other possible pairings? We must stop the labeling, the arguing about labeling, and the snobbery and isolation that arise from that labeling.
Married: Ok, so it’s true. I’m already legally married, and I don’t plan on that changing in my life. Does that mean I couldn’t have wanted to marry someone who didn’t legally apply? I love cookies and cream ice cream, but does that mean I wouldn’t like the opportunity to choose Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, which I also happen to love? Why does the fact that my ultimate legal choice was an acceptable one negate this as a victory for my heart?
Poly: This is something I’ve struggled with within the LGBTQ community for years. In the opinion of some people, aligning with the poly community means a step back for all the work the LGBTQ community has done to convince the world that they can be just as committed to each other as heterosexual relationships can. While I understand this very conservative opinion, I have to ask why heterosexual marriages don’t have to prove the same? Why aren’t accepted social norms put to the same litmus tests as alternative lifestyles? Oh right, because it’s more acceptable to cheat on a heterosexual spouse than to be honest and open. I also realize that poly families have a long way to go in that regard, and that our struggle for acceptance over prejudice and mockery is in a very young stage.
The truth is, it shouldn’t matter if this step forward benefits me in any way or not. It shouldn’t even matter that I know people personally who it benefits. The only thing that should matter is that this is the right thing for people. Period. This entire post has been an excuse to say this: Congratulations, people! This is how life should be, and we need to stop worrying about who does and doesn’t have the right to celebrate life.
Go now. Celebrate equality and love!
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.
I briefly mentioned being fluid bound in my Responsible Sex post, but I wanted to talk about it more in-depth and talk about what it means to me. In monogamous relationships a couple reached a point where they stop using condoms because they’ve decided they’re in a monogamous relationship and that there is no risk of one of them bringing something contractible into the equation. The risk of pregnancy is still there, as no birth control is 100% accurate, and a couple either accepts this risk or doesn’t. In any case, it’s a turning point of sorts. It’s each member of that couple saying “I trust this other person not to put me at risk by being dishonest”.
In a poly situation the sentiment behind fluid bonding is very similar, at least to me. I have been fluid bound with very few partners besides my husband. It’s one of the most intimate parts of a sexual relationship, and one I never just trudge into without serious thought and discussion. It requires trust on all sides of the die.
Let’s talk about that trust. When I am fluid bound with someone I have to trust him (I’ll stick to him for this scenario) indelibly. I had a nurse at a clinic once tell me I should use condoms with Hubby because of our lifestyle because “how do you know you can trust him?“. My immediate answer was, “because he wouldn’t be my husband if I couldn’t”.
Being fluid bound means putting the health and safety of my entire family in the hands of my partner. That’s some pretty serious power. In turn he’s telling me that he trusts me and the rest of my family. Any partners fluid bound with me put their health and safety in Hubby’s hands and those of any partners with whom he is bound. Because of this web of trust it’s a conversation that happens within my partnership, then my marriage, then our family, so that everyone is heard and everyone feels comfortable. Then we all get tested and proceed from there.
Fluid bound also means trusting my partner to stand by me through anything. I know plenty of women who can tell you what form of birth control they were on when their children were conceived. It happens, and before I will even put that percentage of a risk in someone’s life I make sure he knows where I stand on the matter. This family is strong and resilient, but anyone unable or unwilling to accept the minute chance of being that deeply a part of it has to accept that it’s a risk I just won’t take.
Remember friends, condoms are cheaper than bad decisions. Don’t be pressured. Don’t be rushed. Being fluid bound with someone is beautiful. The proximity you feel with your partner is unmatched. See this profound experience for what it is, save it for those who really deserve it and cherish it, and use it to bring you closer as a couple. If you view it as something sacred you will protect it. If you view it as something valuable it will take your sexual experiences to new places. Sometimes we use poly to dilute these natural stages of a relationship and their unique blessings. Becoming fluid bound has always been one of those blessings for me. Take your time, and embrace each one in its time and speed. Believe me, it’s worth it.