To succeed, you have to do it for yourself…or do you?

“To really succeed, you need to do it for yourself, not for someone else”

I can’t remember the first time I heard this message, but it’s something repeated often, and for many different circumstances. I hear this especially when it comes to mental health or addiction.  When you decide to get sober, it is a choice you have to make for yourself, not one that you can be doing to please others.  If you’re doing it for other people, you’ll inevitably fail.  When you seek treatment for mental health, it has to come from finally acknowledging your problems yourself and loving yourself, not from wanting to please others. If you’re doing it for other people, you’ll fail.  Does this narrative sound familiar?  It should, it’s fucking everywhere.  It’s also utter bullshit.

When I tried to stop drinking, I had deeply internalized this message.  I tried to stop for myself, or I said I did, but I also tried to stop to save my relationship.  My ex-fiance had cheated on me, had been cheating on me for months by the time I found out, and I knew that part of it was because I had been such a shitty partner.  The responsibility for his actions is still on him, but he was looking for love from someone who was compatible and healthy for him, and I was not that.  I gave myself the challenge of going from drinking around 12-20 beers a night, something I had been doing consistently for about three years, to going 100 days sober.  I did it, and our relationship still fell apart.  He cheered me on, but was still cheating on me the whole time while claiming not to be.  I backslid some then, after making it my first hundred days.  I tried to transition into drinking in moderation, and I was not ready for it, and the circumstances were poor since I was getting out of a six year relationship with someone I had been engaged to, that had ended with betrayal.  So doesn’t that prove the point that you have to do it for yourself, and if you do it for someone else you’ll fail?  Fucking nope.  It does show me that doing it to try and save a relationship that was already failing and beyond saving, without even evaluating if that relationship was healthy for me (it wasn’t), was a mistake.

So I kept working at moderation, and at times I took another 30 days or 100 days of sobriety.  Ex-fiance moved out, I started school, life continued.  I told myself over and over that I had to stop drinking for myself, it had to be for me, or I would continue failing.  I came out and began transitioning, I worked hard on getting a degree, I really started to love myself with a depth I haven’t known before.  I still struggled with moderation and sobriety.  I did the work for myself, because I truly wanted to be better, and for some people that is enough, for me in this instance it didn’t work.  I got an okay handle on things though, over the next three years I went from the daily 12-20 beers from before the first time I tried sobriety, to drinking just on weekends, then to drinking once a month, then to drinking every few months.  I still felt weak, like I was fucking up, like I couldn’t do it.  I was doing it just for myself and I was feeling like a failure.

One of those times when I drank, I broke the other rule I had for myself, even when I had been a constant alcoholic.  I had made a no hard liquor rule at the beginning because I saw how much I was beginning to drink, and I knew I’d be dead within a year of accidental alcohol poisoning if I didn’t set myself that limit.  Well, this one time, a few years into moderating, I went to a barbecue with Kelev and had hard liquor, and much too much to drink.  I made a complete ass of myself, I was rude to Kelev, I needed help getting into the car so he could drive me home, I was just a complete shitbird that night.  The immensity of how badly I’d fucked up hit me like a ton of bricks the next day and I realized that while Kelev had been an ever patient and supportive loving force, and extremely understanding because he had a history with alcoholism as well, that it might be a matter of time until he said enough and left.  Even if he didn’t, what I was doing was hurting him, directly on nights like that when I was a rude fucknob, and indirectly as he watched me hurt myself.

When I decided to take a full year of sobriety, I did it for him.  I did it because I didn’t want to fuck up the best relationship I’d ever been in, I did it because I didn’t want to hurt him with my behavior, and I did it most of all because I wanted to make him proud.  And you know what, it worked.  I made it a year sober, and so many times he would glow with pride and tell me how amazing my efforts were, and that was what I needed to keep pushing through.  I got out the other side, and every previous time after I had hit a goal like that, I would go back to drinking after.  Less each time, I had gotten to a point of moderation where usually I only drank every few months, and rarely too much like I did at that barbecue. But there was still always that relief of my sobriety stretch being over, and I celebrated with a drink.  This time I had no desire to.  I had him by my side telling me how he was so proud I’d actually made it, and I felt better then I had in so many years.  I still haven’t drank since then, and I may eventually decide I can handle moderation someday, but I’ve had no interest in that day coming anytime soon. I had decided to throw away the notion that I had to do it for myself.  Instead I had to find -a reason- important enough for me, and do it for that.  I found that, and that is what mattered, having a driving force that could support me through the hardest moments and push me forward.

Yesterday I was talking to my partner D, and she was telling me how her other partner, the Brit, had taken an important step forward for his health.  How he had done so without her prompting, but because he wanted her to be proud of him.  She said how she wished he had done it for himself.  It reminded me of my experiences, and of the trope we buy into that we have to do things for ourselves for them to work, or to be healthy, or to love ourselves.  Sometimes when it comes to physical and mental health, one of the biggest barriers is not loving yourself.  Low self esteem and self regard can really hold people back in seeking help.  Apathy or self destructiveness can feed into the most unhealthy behaviors.  That is where the trope that you have to do something for yourself becomes harmful, it can hold someone back from seeking help because they can’t muster up enough love for themselves alone, or desire to exist, to push forward.

It is okay to get help because of external motivation.  If you are doing something that is good for you, because you want to make someone else proud, or for any other external reason, you are still doing something good for you.  That is important, that is valid, and it still pushes you forward.  In fact, that is still even a form of self love.  When you decide to take care of yourself because you want to make someone else proud, you are still doing so because you enjoy the feeling of them being proud of you.  You are still on some level seeking out a good feeling, and that is loving yourself enough even just a little, to seek something you enjoy.  Even if you only are getting joy from the happiness of someone who loves you, you are letting them love you and take pride in you, and that is an act of loving yourself.  From there you can move on to acknowledging that you deserve that love, as you succeed for them you can build yourself up and build confidence in believing that you may actually be worthy of that support because you are succeeding in what you are doing.  This isn’t just that the ends justify the means, but that in trying to improve for other people, you often create a healthy cycle that feeds your healing.

Of course there are situations like I had with my ex-fiance, where I was trying to improve to save something that was unhealthy for me and not worth saving.  But even then, if I had not started on my journey at that point, I may never have continued pushing until I found a reason that was strong enough to bring me through this, and I might not be where I am today.  So when you decide to make a big change for yourself, when you are facing a struggle and looking for a reason to improve, let go of the toxic trope that the only reason that will work is an internal one.  Let go of the idea that you must do everything for you and you alone, and that is must come from this already existing place of loving yourself.  Loving yourself may help a whole heck of a lot, but it is okay to seek external motivation as well.  What matters is finding reasons that are healthy enough and good enough for you, that are strong enough to pull you through the hard times.  If you foster love for yourself to start and let that drive you, it might be easier at times, or it might not be enough.  If you find the strongest reason you can and run with it though, the self love will likely come in time.  And you can succeed, don’t be afraid to lean on others for support and to seek validation and encouragement.  That is just as good of a reason and you will see that when you reach your goals.

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I didn’t know I’d lived so much until I reflected back

I am absolutely terrible at keeping track of time.  Not short time, like the hours in the day, but long time, like years passing by.  I think about things like when I first got on the path to stop drinking and I’m like hmm, that was a few years ago right?  A few years ago feels pretty short in my brain.  Then fb memories remind me that it was five years (and forty days) ago that I first truly acknowledged I had a problem and then took a hundred days of sobriety, which then led to learning moderation, and eventually the last year+ of complete sobriety.  Five years. When it’s a number instead of a vague concept of a few, it seems a lot longer.  Holy crap, has it really been five years?

Likewise, I often struggle with putting concrete times and dates on other big events, until I have something to measure them against.  My ex-fiance left the same year I stopped drinking, so now I know when that was.  That’s pretty exhilarating.  I love being able to concretely date the times of things better because it makes me feel more accomplished.  I’ve spent five years without a person who only saw how I could fail.  Five years later I’m sober, have gotten one degree and am working towards another, have a bunch of lovely stable relationships with fantastic communication and none of the toxicity of the ones in that older time period, have held down jobs where I literally saved lives (I mean, doggo and kitten lives, but that’s legit), and decluttered the mess of a house I once shared with him to have a home that on it’s messiest days is still eons cleaner then it ever was in it’s cleanest state before.  I’ve begun pursuing my BIG life dream of having an intentional community, and my life has been basically a whirlwind of forward momentum with a few little bumps in the road.  Oh, and I have a flat chest and facial hair now and get gendered correctly all the time, let’s not forget that.  Being able to recognize where events fit into time really helps me in feeling excited and accomplished about life, because I can see how much progress has been made.  In the day to day moments it may not feel like things are moving fast enough, but reflecting back really shows the huge transformations.

Often I look back and wonder how I’ve packed so much -stuff- into such short amounts of time.  I’ve been an adult for a bit over ten years.  I spent about three or four of those years in a drunken haze.  Yet just in that time I’ve lived with 20+ people in households of various sizes, had 20+ relationships that on average lasted a bit over 3 years, gone to 4 different schools and gotten 2 college degrees and now working on a 3rd, raised my own livestock and fed my family with the meat and eggs from them, traveled to 2 countries outside of my own and 12 states within my country, worked 9 different jobs, and tried to run my own business.  I’ve had an uncountable amount of experiences trying amazing new foods, exploring new kinks and developing deep bonds of trust, making absolutely phenomenal friendships, taking ridiculous risks and feeling ecstatically alive, and generally living life to the fullest.  And I mean, I spent quite a few years drunk on my couch and pretty much out of commission, so when I think of where I packed that all in, I can’t even really include those years.  I don’t often reflect on it all as a whole, I may think of specific moments or dwell on specific relationships, but it takes looking at it all at once to put it into perspective.

Now I know this whole post might seem like some sort of long humble brag.  First of all, there’s nothing fucking wrong with that if it is.  I am all for each person listing their accomplishments that make them feel fantastic, reading the fuck out of that list, and feeling on top of the world because they are a rad fucking person who can do anything.  And I’m happy to do that and feel no shame in celebrating what I’ve done.  But, this is more then that.  I don’t know if I’ve always come across as confident to others, but I’ve always felt I was a confident person.  I’ve realized recently that it was because I’ve gotten very good at telling myself that narrative and ignoring the parts where I felt like I wasn’t enough, or was failing somehow to do this whole life thing.  I hear those parts of my mind, I recognize them, but I didn’t let it disrupt the view I had of myself as a confident individual with great self esteem.  It was a discordant note, viewing myself one way, and feeling things that were quite to the contrary.  And therein lies the problem, I could tell myself I had great self esteem and believe it, but that didn’t actually make me feel any less shitty and like a failure when those were the messages my brain meat focused on for the day.  So instead I’m learning to recognize those, to see that I do struggle at times and I can admit that.  Oof, that vulnerability hurts.  I don’t want to be a person who has to admit that.  It is part of me though, and in recognizing that, I can begin to accept and heal parts of myself that were damaged by years of abuse, by the hands of others, and even more so by myself.  I hurt myself when I spent years being a pretty toxic being to my own body and to everyone around me.  Healing that means recognizing the time that was my reality, and how much time since I’ve begun to move on from that.  It means acknowledging all I’ve done, the amazing life I’ve led, and what I can do when I am a better little human.  Somewhere in there I might have to forgive myself for the person I was through some of the dark years, though I’m not quite there yet.  For now, I look back at time, and I build a real confidence rather then a fabricated one, through seeing the journey and really cementing in my mind how far I’ve come.

Falling in love in a series of moments

Do you fall in love all at once, or in a series of moments?

For me love has always been an unfolding series of emotions but often with a secure path.  I recognize NRE easily, and feel it pretty readily as well.  It’s the feeling of my breath catching and heart fluttering when I’m getting to know someone and they say something sweet.  It’s the tugging sensation when I’m talking to someone and they express their values and goals and I see how they reflect my own, and I want to share more of my life with them.  It’s the excitement of learning their favorite food, or what author has shaped their life, and this information being precious because it comes from them.  New relationships have a particular electric excitement to them that enhances everything, those floods of brain chemicals making me want to think about someone constantly and spend all day talking to them and exploring their mind.  I acknowledge the love and limerence I feel during that time as real and feel honest in the expression of it, while also knowing that it doesn’t always predict the shape of a long term connection or translate into a more deeply seated love.

Following the rushing torrent of NRE feels, my love often takes one of two paths.  The first path is into a comfortable realm of cozy warm feelings of contentment and comfort with a person.  I would liken my love to a warm hearth, stable and providing security, not full of intensity, but full of a consistent glow of enjoyment.  This path often runs towards a slowly deepening loyalty and commitment to a person and exploring vulnerabilities together over time as we grow close.

The second path is almost a continuation of NRE, in that it mirrors those intense rushes of emotion, the overwhelming sensations of being caught off guard and reveling in the energy of it.  Little moments become big electrical boosts in the person centered part of my psyche, thrilling me and driving me to focus intimately on those moments of exhilaration.  This often included elements of the first path as well, but has a definite aspect to it of love gathering intensity and momentum in a series of defining moments.

This weekend one of those stark moments came into clarity.  I was sitting in the backseat of Hoffy’s truck as he was driving and half dozing off, as we were coming back from hanging out with some other folks in the local poly community and stuffing our faces at the buffet.  I was a bit at my limit for socialing, had been wanting to just have some space to relax alone.  Being in the truck with Hoffy driving, Kelev in the front seat, Raichu in the back with me, and music filtering through the background with no need for conversation, was peaceful.  I was thinking of how I was surprised at how comfortable I was, because I don’t normally feel comfortable with someone else driving.  Then I looked at Hoffy and was watching him drive and sing softly along to the music, and it was one of those moments where I was just overwhelmed with how much love I felt for him.  There was just this intense feeling of ‘yes, this person. This is my person, I am happy here, and this is the person I love.’ There is a feeling of certainty in those moments of intensity.  And they are amazing moments in how they have the level of excitement of NRE, but also the sheer comfortable and stable feeling of love after NRE has passed.  I was thinking about how falling in love with him is a series of moments, just ordinary moments that happen as we live life together, but that take on this intense special quality out of the blue.

It is interesting, how my brain in those moments goes ‘this is the person I love.’  It’s true, it is absolutely true in that moment, and as a whole.  It certainly isn’t exclusive though, and that is the beauty of being a polyamorist relationship anarchist to me.  I very rarely feel that sort of intensity of emotion past NRE though, with most people I settle into that comfortable hearth fire love of stability and warmth, and overwhelming moments are not a regular occurrence.  Once in a while though, the path of my love with someone takes the more passionate and extreme route, with strong surges and surprising and startling moments of energy.  I found it amusing and ironic, that the other person in my life that I’ve felt that with was sitting in the front seat beside the person I was having those thoughts about now.  And it mirrored the experience I had when I first recognized I was feeling that intensely about Kelev, also coming when I was sitting in the back seat of his truck eight years ago, watching him drive.  I always wondered why my emotional connection with him was so much more potent at times, and here I was feeling that again.

I don’t really feel passion for people easily.  I feel NRE, I feel comfortable safe feelings of love, I feel extremely potent and intense loyalty and connection and vulnerability.  But passion, that often escapes me except in rare circumstances.  My passions are often directed to my efforts to create and intentional community and dreams of such, towards my activism which is one of the most important aspects of my life, towards art and music, towards my never-ending quest for knowledge and learning.  Those things are where my passions lay, and my relationships with people are more a beautiful cozy place rather then an enormous ardent one.  I’ve found another partnership in my life that has diverged from the usual path they take for me though, that has a more passionate quality to it that is unfolding for me in that series of moments.  Those moments where I really see him, and I am quite overwhelmed and absolutely eager for that fiery intensity.  I’m amused when those moments mirror previous moments in the series that has played out in my other partnership of a similar quality.  But most of all I’m just grateful for them, and for how they show me the many ways we are able to fall in love and appreciate that multitude and the aspect of it that I’m in at the moment.

Learning the space I fit into, balance, and how to ask for it

As a young child I was very much a loner.  I didn’t often fit in, and often didn’t care to.  I was usually content to play on my own, or have a single close friend.  I spent a lot of time in the woods or fields by myself when we lived in the country, or playing with my stuffed animals alone, or creating tracks for my matchbox cars of sand and pine needles on vacations in Lake Tahoe.  I think when I switched schools five times within four years in my pre-teen and early teen years, that was the first time I tried to fit in, because I did feel a little isolated having absolutely no friends.  It wasn’t even that I minded the solitude all too much, but that I saw everyone around me with a multitude of friends around them and I felt I was doing something wrong.  In my middle and later teenage years I came out of my shell again, I was a constantly hyper and outgoing creature, a whirling ball of energy and charisma among the crowd of oddballs and outcasts I found.  Since identity is more firmly formed around that age, I figured myself to be an extrovert.  I neglected to notice how starved I was for attention and affection at times, and how I was also going through the tumultuous and confusing time period of raging hormones for the first time. I’m sure now those things motivated the intensity of my extroversion.  I would flit from one house to another with my amorphous group of older friends, and thrill myself in the time spent on the astroturf, the unofficial hangout of every misfit teen, making new friends of absolute strangers on a whim.

Time passes, and in recent years I’ve been rediscovering myself.  There was a lot of time in between my early years of discovering my identity and now.  There were years of alcohol induced haze, tumultuous years of abuse, years of dysphoria and confusion, years of heartbreak and loss.  On the other side I began my transition, I began pursuing fulfilling career paths, I began forming healthy relationships and nurturing the few I had through those dark years.  I began to reform my identity and I found it hard to be around people at times.  Often it was just more tense, less easy and comfortable than being alone.  Sometimes it was enjoyable, but exhausting, draining until I hit a point where I’d pushed myself too far to social and felt sick and anxious for days after.  I decided I must be an introvert, I learned to stick up for my space and boundaries and aloneness.  I also battle co-dependency and swung myself far in the opposite direction to break my ties to a toxic style of existence.

This new discovery of introversion culminated in my living on my own for a short while after the folks I lived with chose to leave, or I asked them to do so over a period of time because I knew I needed space.  I was desperate for space really.  I craved being left alone, saw through rose colored glasses some idealized dream of wandering off into the wilderness and becoming a hermit on a mountain.  I looked forward to living in a small household of just myself and Kelev, a person with greater independence then I had ever reached by that point at least.  Then the one I hadn’t asked to leave, Kelev, chose to move out as well for a time.  I had my space, it was terrifying and glorious.  I loved that while I kept in touch with the friends and partners and loves that I cared for dearly, that there were uncountable moments in my day where I was floating unattached to any other person.  There was just myself, my thoughts, and whatever tasks I set before me to complete for the day.

Then time passed, not much time, and other folks moved in, folks I was close to and working on founding an intentional community with.  They are comfortable to live with, and Kelev is comfortable to live with during the half of the time he spends here.  But I still value my alone time greatly and need it on a regular basis.  I also became more active in my local poly community and had sudden bursts of social energy, the like of which I hadn’t experienced since my teenage years.  After years of being so introverted that I never wanted to leave the house and interact outside of my little zone, I wanted to go out and meet new people and have new adventures! I remember the word ambivert, a mixture of introversion and extroversion.  Does it fit?

Sometimes I am very high energy for my introverted partners. I want to constantly be on the go, I feel cooped up when in the house too long.  I want late night runs to all night eateries, the pounding of music at the hookah bar or on a dance floor, the thrill of meeting a new group of strangers.  Sometimes I’m too introverted for my partners as a whole, I fear.  I need space, I sometimes struggle with wanting to take a week of silence from social interaction but knowing it would hurt the people I love not to hear from me for that long.  It may likely drive me a bit up the wall too, after a day or two I’d be reaching out to people left and right.  Or maybe I wouldn’t, I want to experience aloneness, and even loneliness, and bask in isolating and silence for a time.  When I am around the people that I love, the people that thrill me, it’s a high.  After a couple days of constant contact I’m exhausted and anxious.  This feeds self doubt.  Am I good enough for the people I am close to if I get exhausted and edgy from just the company of others?  Is there something wrong with me and does it make me incompatible for partnership or living with people or sharing closeness?  No, I don’t think so.

What I do think is that I still have a lot to learn about standing up for my boundaries.  I need space, every single day I need some measure of space.  I need to be better at defining my needs for space.  With one of my partners, when I ask for space, they leave the room and wander off on some adventure, returning in a few hours and messaging me to ask if I still need space or want company.  With another partner, when I say I need space, he retreats off the bed or couch we are sharing, to a space nearby but not quite as adjacent.  With another partner, when I say I need space, he disentangles his body from mine if we are cuddling, and maintains a nearness on the same bed, but with minimal or no direct contact.  With another partner, if I say I need space, he leaves me be and doesn’t talk to me at all, sometimes for a few days, until I initiate contact again.  These are wide variations.  When some are too little for me to satisfy my need for aloneness, and some are too much and make me feel like I have done something wrong and upset someone because of a complete lack of contact, I need to speak up.  I am a balance, inside me is love of excitement and deep vulnerability, emotional closeness and intimacy, and thrilling terrifying social interactions that are new and push my comfort zones.  Inside me is a love for solitude, for the coldness of an empty bed, the silence of an empty room, and a lonely walk with only my own thoughts for company.  I know that both my exuberant need for extroverted moments or my absolute need for introverted time alone may mean I’m not quite suited to everyone else’s needs or preferences.  That is okay, but I won’t know how comfortable I can get and how much my partners will make space for my needs and allow me to grow into them, until I better learn to express them and find my voice.

Puzzling out the need to help at all costs

If you ask me for help with something, I’m likely to go out of my way to provide it.  At times this means putting my own needs aside, even when they are more pressing, or trying to be there for almost complete strangers to the extent that is expected for close friends.  I’ve been examining this in recent years and trying to puzzle out why this is such a driving need for me.

I think one aspect of it is rooted in the fact that I’m not someone who typically asks for help.  I struggle through trying to find every way I can to deal with a problem on my own before I ask for assistance.  Or I don’t, I leave something unsolved rather then admitting I need a helping hand. If I were one of the seven deadly sins, I would be pride. So, when someone comes to me for help, I see them making a sacrifice even in the act of asking.  Maybe they aren’t as obstinate and prideful as I am, maybe for them it isn’t hard to reasonably reach out for a helping hand when they need that.  But I don’t know that, and I liken it to my own experiences and don’t want to let someone down if they struggled intensely to even reach that moment of asking.

Another aspect is that I do derive a lot of joy and purpose from helping others.  I’ve always felt most comfortable in tight knit community settings, where I feel connected with a group that works together for our mutual benefit and shared closeness.  When I help someone else, I feel I am helping myself, because I truly get a deep satisfaction by seeing others succeed and flourish.  And often those people are the ones I’m close to, and their well being does directly impact mine.

I think the factor I’ve noticed the most though, relates to my experience with mental illness.  I questionably have ADHD, I’ve been given the diagnosis, but that was many years ago and I question if I have the associated traits at this time.  At times though, focus is hard and executive dysfunction makes doing the do quite impossible.  I also have bi-polar disorder, PTSD, and anxiety.  These days I’m starting to add chronic pain to the list, though I haven’t sought out a doctor to determine the cause of the constant back and joint pain I’ve been experiencing increasingly for a year or so.  It all culminates in being very low on spoons most days, and having an inability to do basic things, a fact I beat myself up for.  I am not pleased when I’m anything less than extremely productive, so when my anxiety can’t handle asking an associate where something is at a store, or my chronic pain makes me put off cleaning for another day, I feel like a bit of a fuck up.  I know that’s not the case, I would never think that of someone else, but it’s easier to be hard on yourself I suppose.  But, here is the thing.  When it comes to most of these issues, there is a magic little switch in my mind that flips on when someone else asks for help.  I may be on the verge of a panic attack thinking about asking generic Target Comrade where the decorative soap dispensers are, but if a friend I’m with need to ask for something and is too anxious there’s a little click.  They need me to do a thing, the switch is flipped, and I’m marching right up there to make sure I ask, and do it damn well, and figure out exactly where the singing unicorn photo frame my friend desperately needs is kept.  I can brain hack past most of my mental illness as soon as I’m doing it for other people.

This happens to me with Kelev a lot.  We share many of the same diagnosis, PTSD, bi-polar, anxiety.  Neither of us is a completely functional human, though we both manage to survive alright on our own if need be.  Sometimes though, he just can’t manage the facade of being okay some days.  If I’m in a fucked up headspace and trying hard to direct myself towards thoughts of sushi and glitter but instead keep dwelling on how lovely it would feel to run my car off a bridge, and then suddenly I become aware that he isn’t doing okay, the switch is flipped.  I’m not focused on my suicidal ideation  or existential dread anymore, I’m focused on what I can do to make his day a little brighter and my problems just float away.  And since most of my issues aren’t actually based on any real life problem, but just my brain meat deciding that life is awesome so we’re gunna have a shitty time anyway, often those consuming thoughts has dissipated entirely by the time I come back to them later.  I don’t know where the switch came from or why it is there, but I know that if I feel someone needs me, I am able to do things and handle things that are well beyond my capacity to do on my own, hard as I may try.  So I like that, it makes me feel a bit like a superhero, because I’m performing feats that are just simply beyond my best efforts on a normal day.  And if I can ease someone else’s burden a little bit, I’ll feel the day was worthwhile.

So, I like to help.  I like being asked, I consider it an honor with how hard even that act can be.  I like feeling purposeful and seeing the improvement in the lives of those around me if I can assist them.  And I like that while I may be a slightly broken worn out human specimen, I can shut that off for a little while and wear the cape of Captain Assistance for as long as it takes until everyone else is okay.  One day I’ll figure out if this all is healthy for me, but for now, it feels good and it’s useful, and that’s all I can ask.

 

How to cultivate compersion

Compersion is the joy you experience in seeing another’s joy, often used in polyamory to explain the happy feelings you get from seeing a partner experiencing love with their other partners.  Not every polya person feels compersion, but it seems to be a goal many strive for.  It is completely normal for polyamorous, relationship anarchist, and other non-monogamous folks to struggle with jealousy, and feel hard feelings or even indifference at seeing or hearing about their partner’s happiness with other people.  What sets non-mogogamous relationships apart from monogamous ones, is instead of jealousy being seen as a testament to how much you love someone, it is viewed as a normal emotional response, but one you don’t use as an excuse for poor behavior, and one you work through in a hopefully healthy way.  A lot of non-monogamous folks aim to feel compersion, they strive for a goal of not only working through jealousy or any other hard feelings at their partner being with others, but getting a positive rush of feelings instead.  I have learned to absolutely love compersion over the years, it is an amazing heady rush of joy, and feels gratifying knowing you are feeling this wonderful joy simply for another’s happiness with no reward of your own.  In realizing how amazing it feels, I’ve tried to study it and find ways to further cultivate it within myself, and open up to feeling it more frequently.  In doing so, my jealousy has also decreased and become easier to handle each time, so that is an added bonus.

The first step in cultivating compersion is really cultivating joy from things that don’t benefit or directly effect you.  For me, I started practicing mindfulness first, learning to really live in each moment.  Then I directed that outward, I reached out for the feeling of joy in seeing happiness in others.  I would stop and watch my partners do simple things, inhale spices from a pan as they cooked and smile, lovingly arrange his wrestling figures with clear happiness in cherishing each one, get excited over a movie that was coming out that I couldn’t care less about but which clearly thrilled him, light up with a grin after they took a perfect photograph of sunlight playing on tree branches at the park.  I would look for joy in those moments, and taught my body how to respond with happiness when I just saw the people I loved experiencing their individual moments of joy.

Once I had learned to be in touch with and feel happiness when seeing the people in my life happy, compersion began to come more naturally.  When I would see a partner light up with happiness at something to do with one of their other partners, part of my reaction was to have a bodily response of joy at their joy.  At first though, that response was still small, and often overshadowed by jealousy or insecurity.  Those are powerful feelings, and it is easy to have them consume you and cause strong visceral reactions.  I had been teaching myself for years how to not lash out because of those reactions, but that was learning how to control a behavioral response, not quite eliminating the initial emotion entirely.  To handle working through those emotions I needed to really dive into the threads of them and untangle them so they could be processed and I could leave them behind me.

When I would feel jealous, I started really digging into the reasons behind it.  I asked myself what I was afraid of happening, and then what that made me afraid of, and so on, following it down the rabbit hole.  Often times it was insecurity, that someone would be a better partner then me, either sexually, emotionally, in giving advice, etc.  The scary thing was, often it could be true, I’m not super sexual with a lot of my partners, and I’m a much better person emotionally now, but I’m not the best, and when I first started doing this I was working through a lot of issues and was sometimes still kinda shitty.  So I accepted and acknowledged that.  I took into myself the fact that yes, my partners might have other partners who were better then me, in one way, or many ways.  Where did that lead?  I traced that to a fear that they would then leave more for those people.  Dissecting that it was really two fears.  The first was that they would leave me because the other person was better and that person would ask for exclusivity or they would just prefer to be with that person and not want to make time for me. The second was that in being with someone better, they would leave me because they would recognize I was shitty and not good enough for them.

Okay, so the first I couldn’t really fix, if a partner who really seemed to want to be polya then decided to be exclusive with another partner and cut me out, I couldn’t change that.  If they no longer wanted to make time for me, that was their choice.  So I asked myself what would happen then?  Well, I’ve survived some wretched things, I’ve lost a relationship one of the few people I loved the most deeply and was most attached to.  I’ve dealt with abuse and trauma from relationships.  And I’ve survived a lot of non-relationship related trauma.  If I could survive that, I could survive more loss.  Once I confirmed that in myself and recognized those fears, that jealousy mostly dissipated.  When it would come up, I would just have to remind myself that I could survive whatever happened, and I could make it dissipate again.

The second fear source was still there though, what if a partner left because another partner being better just made them realize I wasn’t good enough?  I could have worked through that one the same way, but the insecurity would still have been nagging at me.  So I worked on myself as a person.  I changed anything I was not satisfied with, that made -me- feel not good enough.  I went on a rapid path of self improvement.  So now, if a partner feels I am not good enough for them, I know there is nothing in myself I would want to change because I am good enough for me.  So I can accept that, and again remind myself of my ability to survive without them, and alleviate that fear in the same way.

That path dealt with most of my jealousy, but not quite all.  The rest was born from seeing someone else getting something I wanted.  I still felt jealous at times because a partner would be sharing something of themself with another partner, and I wanted to experience that as well.  That was my last big roadblock that would rise up and drown out my compersion.  That was also probably the hardest one to deal with.  First I would look at what it was I felt I was missing or not getting enough of from them.  Once I identified what I wanted, I asked if it was feasible to get that.  For example, when one of my long distance partners was giving time to another partner, I was jealous because I wanted more time with them.  It was easier for them to give more time to the other partner who lived nearby.  I had to figure out on my own and with them, if there was a way to increase how often we saw each other.  When there was not, I had to let it go.  When that jealousy would crop up, I would remind myself that they would love to give me more of that if they could, but it wasn’t possible, and them not doing so didn’t mean any lessening of their love for me.  Sometimes I realized that my partner just wasn’t aware of or wasn’t focused on my wants, so I could simply ask for them to be met.  If I saw another partner getting a lot of affection and realized I wanted more of that, I could let my partner know I was hoping for cuddles sometime soon and ask if they could provide that.  Often that was enough to solve the issue, and I made sure to center those conversations on my wants, and not as a response to what they shared with someone else, but at an appropriate time where they could focus on what I was asking.

The really hard part came with when they didn’t want to meet those wants.  There have been times where I wanted something like more affection from a partner, saw another of their partners getting that from them, and then asked for more of that, only to be turned down.  I had to learn to accept that.  Mindfulness came back into play here, sitting with my emotions and letting them exist, and then letting them go on their way.  I learned to accept that just because I wanted something from a partner, did not mean they wanted the same with me.  Them wanting that with someone else, did not mean they would want it with me or owe it to me.  Often times it wasn’t because of anything I was doing wrong, it was out of my control, and just something I had to acknowledge, and lower my expectations for.  And again, once that was done, I could redirect myself to compersion.

Now when I see my partners being happy with other partners, it does usually fill me with joy.  I’ve taught my body how to feel happiness in their happiness, and I’ve learned the skills in handling emotions that might come in and disrupt that.  Those other feelings do still interject at times.  I have to process and handle them, especially in new situations, or ones that hit old surprising triggers I’ve forgotten about.  I try and communicate about it and work through it both with my partners and on my own.  And once it has been resolved and I’ve let those feelings go, I can once again focus on that amazing feeling of compersion.  It is a hard but worthwhile process for me, because my life used to only be filled with joy I got from how the world effected me.  Now that I feel joy from the happiness of those I love, I have a hundredfold more happiness in my life and that is an existence worth working towards.

A never-ending lust for learning

“What are you up to?”

“I’ve been doing homework, or pre-reading for class”

“Oh, that sucks”

“No, it’s really exhilarating!”

It’s true though, despite the looks of confusion I get.  I love to learn.  I love the feeling of stretching my mind to add in new concepts and ideas.  To storing knowledge away knowing that there will come a time where one piece of it will provide that perfect ah ha! moment, that click as I solve a puzzle.

While most of the people I surround myself with seem to enjoy learning and growth in some way, the folks I interact with that are part of society as a whole often just shy away from it entirely.  I grew up in a household where my parents read the paper every day, delighting in some new article about a topic they hadn’t heard of before.  I have a lot of privilege in that way.  While most parents struggle to make ends meet and get enough sleep after their two or more jobs, mine were talking me to performances and plays.  I wonder how much of my absolute lust for knowledge comes from them.

Kelev brings up a few new movies he got when we talk on the phone before bed.  He loves watching documentaries, especially about history or famous figures.  His favorites seem to be the ones that show a side you never really expected.  He’s like an eager puppy digging up a favorite bone when he finds some new treasure trove of knowledge about an event or person who we all thought we knew and took for granted.  I love watching how excited he gets, I can practically see his tail wagging and his exuberance is contagious, soon I’m wagging along with him.  I’m happy that a lifetime of shitty retail jobs and mind numbing tv shows, of institutionalized education in a fucked up school system, hasn’t killed his curiosity.

James shares an article with me, something he read that really spoke to him.  It’s intriguing, and some of the concepts require I read over it for a third time to really begin to grasp them.  We discuss it, coming at it from very different perspectives, and I’m grateful that it didn’t just show up on my feed one day.  Reading it has already stretched my mind, but hearing how he views on it pushes me even further.  I’m thankful for that moment of growth, it invigorates my whole day.

I eagerly share it with Hoffy, and am surprised when he reads it right away and discusses it with me.  I am still getting used to having partners who are so interested in what I share with them.  Our minds tend to work in a more similar way.  With James, I was stretching to get another perspective, with Hoffy, there is more of a shared understanding.  It feels like home, and it cements a strong foundation, so when we talk about what we are thinking, we can keep building upward together on our own discoveries.

I continue to pass on threads of the conversation to Kyuu or to Witty.  I discuss it with Kelev as we talk before bed.  I learn more from each person and delight in how my day is just filled with that bright happy light of discovery and innovative thought.  I remember how I felt so numb, with drinking, with depression.  This is the opposite of numb.  This is growth, this is wonder, this is what I think of when I think of education.

It is back to schoolwork the next day and the feeling persists.  What I’m learning in nursing school isn’t often of the same nature as an article shared to me about communication styles or societal power structures. It isn’t the same as a documentary with a whole new take on a historical event that gives you insight into the minds of another culture or country in that snapshot of history.  It has the same glow though.  One day I will be teaching what I’m learning to a patient, or discussing it with a fellow nurse, and someone will say something that expands my perspective on it in another burst of light. I still have a lust for such learning after all this time, it will persist through my whole life.  So yes, I am excited to do my homework, I’m excited for just about everything these days.  The more experience and knowledge I can pack in my brain the better, and while I’m sure I’ll need periods of relaxation and silence again soon, I’m immersing myself happily in the hubbub of learning and growth right now, and I feel at home there.

New year’s resolutions

It’s a brand new year, all shiny and hopeful and just prime for a good fucking up.  So, in the nature of things that are just waiting to be fucked up, I’m going to make some new years resolutions!  I’m actually very fond of the practice, it can be a meditative exercise for me, figuring out what I need to change and focusing on it, examining the motivation, and trying to imagine the progress and reaching the finish line.  This year I snuggled up in bed with Kelev and we decided to each come up with three resolutions, preferably well grounded goals, since our extensive and loftier ones last year lasted until mid February.  Here are my three:

Health

My first resolution is to improve my health.  This is actually a multifaceted one, a series of mini resolutions you could say.  First, I need to work on eating better.  I have some food intolerances I have been ignoring for a while now, which leads to chronic pain, so to start I need to better stay within my limitations in what I eat.  During the spring/summer/autumn I get most of my veges from a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) program through a local farm.  It helps me eat seasonally and support a local business, and I know my produce is raised in a way without a negative environmental impact.  I did not get a large enough CSA share to store and can for winter though, so winter this year is when I get to choose what is “in season” for me from the abundance at the grocery store.  In some ways it’s lovely, I really did miss avocados a lot during the rest of the year, but it doesn’t fit my ethics in the long run.  Plus, when I don’t have an automatic big box of fruits and veges that I have to go through in a week, I tend to hop more on the pasta train, and eat out way too much.  So, limiting the eating out and adjusting my diet to a more healthy balance again.  I also need to reincorporate yoga into my routine, my flexibility has dropped drastically since I got too busy for it, but I want to do it weekly at the minimum and then increase that.  Also trying to consistently get to 10k steps on my step counter.  I’m very good at that some days, but during school I do a lot of sitting and studying, and those days my step count is pretty sad.

And weight loss.  Big sigh.  Weight loss for me is often a side effect, not a primary goal.  I have struggled with an eating disorder since my teens, which was at its worse around the time I developed adult onset bi-polar.  So I’m very very careful with weight loss, not to mention it often isn’t a focus when I’ve learned to really enjoy the fat on my body.  I embrace body positivity whole heartedly, and I love when I see myself taking up space and having curves and rolls to my body.  When I was getting the most complements and praise from my parents and friends, was during the times where I would eat one day out of an entire week for months as a time, and subsist in between on cigarettes and sips of vodka. That was when I was applauded for looking “healthy”, I really had to decide on my own what healthy was for me, and body fat is a proud part of it.  It means I’m not self-destructing, I matter to myself, I have a will to live.  That all said, I know weight loss will be a side effect of the changes I’m making, and I plan to embrace that if it is happening in a healthy way, and also later transition to gaining muscle so that I can still take up space in a way that makes me feel real.

Finance

This year the founding group of the intentional community I’m a part of is beginning to meet regularly and move forward with our plans.  As such, I really need to learn to budget tightly, and help Kelev do the same, so we can start planning for our future there and map out what we are about to do financially.  I want to cut down on eating out for my health as well, and hope that in doing so, I can also save a little money.  I try to be a prudent person who does not buy what I don’t need, but the stress and lack of spoons from school has led to me leaning more on pre-made food because it was a choice many times between having the energy to study or having the energy to grocery shop and cook, and I chose my grades first.  That is reasonable, but I want instead to find solutions where I can still maintain my study habits, but also have time to cook and eat healthier and cheaper meals.  I also will be looking again at my budget, as I do every year, and figuring out what I can trim back.  And, when I do my yearly spring cleaning and de-cluttering this year, I will see what I can part with and sell, as the beginning of my savings for my community venture.

Learning

I had an amazing first semester with nursing clinicals, and a difficult and stressful second semester.  I did not take enough time to relax during break and then went in to the semester already stressed and scrambling to keep up.  That feeling pervaded through the entire fall, and while I did the best I feel I was able, it was a struggle, and I would like to feel more competent and on top of things this time around.  I also am appreciating the amount of personal growth that has been coming of writing this, and place to continue it daily and learn as much as I can about myself in the coming year.

 

So, I am looking forward to a year in which I can let these three guiding resolutions or areas of focus light my way.  If it is anything like last year, I may have a lot of change thrown at me and have to adapt to all that as well.  Maybe this year will bring more relaxation and time to recoup and plan.  I hope so, because I am setting the building blocks to forge ahead to a bright future and many ambitious plans, and I’m ready to do this right.

A year in review

I have to say, 2018 was one of the most tumultuous years I have ever faced.  It was jam packed full of big intense changes, and well, human beings are not known for dealing well with change.  I survived though, and it was one of the most transformational years I’ve experienced in my lifetime.  In fact, I would say on a whole, despite some exceptionally hard moments, it was a very happy year with an abundance of personal growth.  So here is my year in review.

January

I started the year off attempting to do Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project.  I had a whole list of aspirations for each month, and wrote a couple sentences about my day in a journal each night, and every day at the end of the day Kelev and I would check off which out our happiness project objectives we had done well with that day.  It was definitely beneficial, I grew a little from that the first few months, but it really wasn’t a format of doing things that I could keep up with.  Also in January, I took the TEAS and scored in the 99th percentile, securing myself a spot in nursing clinicals. The other important event in January was going with Kelev for his social security hearing in front of a judge.  After three years of fighting for disability benefits this time around, and close to six years or more including previous attempts, he finally was able to get in front of a judge and present his case.  We finished January knowing that we had done all we could, and now we just had to wait and hope for a good result in a few months.

February

On one of the last days of January, I got a message on a site I’ve been on for thirteen or so years, and actually met quite a few of the most important people in my life through.  I was intrigued and responded back, and in the beginning of February began texting back and forth with Hoffy.  Over the next month we fell in love.  I was cautious going into the relationship, because I had previously decided not to get involved with folks new to polyamory, or people who were not out (about polya, sexuality, etc) because I was not willing to be someone’s secret.  He was so intensely open and honest, with a desire to learn and a completely refreshingly curious outlook without judgement.  I make most decisions based on my rational mind, and I knew the intensity of my emotional connection played a part in me making an exception to rules for myself, but I also knew such intensity was something I so rarely felt in my life and I wanted to explore that as deeply as I was able.  Also towards the end of the month, Kelev and I visited a friend and were taught about a couple new kinks that we had not explored before.  One of them, fireplay, had been a limit of mine for year, not because of disinterest, but out of fear.  I decided this was a year to face my fears, and not only did I learn a little about how to engage in a fireplay scene, but I also took the bottom role and let it be done to me, something I would never have allowed in the past.  It was exhilarating, both facing my fears and having such a surprisingly relaxing experience of sensations.

March

March was a pretty exciting month.  I met Hoffy and our relationship intensified after the weekend we spent together.  I was one of the most wonderful weekends of my life and I was a bit blown away but how much comfort I felt in person with him, as someone who has struggled for a long time with being comfortable sharing space with people.  I also attended my first play party this month.  I went with Kelev first to a rope demo, which was a whole lot of fun, and then to a play party following it.  While I’d experienced several impromptu kink events in the past, this was the first organized one I had attended and it was a whole lot of fun.  I was in awe of some of the scenes I witnessed, one I saw really stuck in my mind because you could absolutely feel the profound connection between the two people involved fill the whole space.  To be honest, how beautifully intense their bond was, and the vulnerability and trust in that scene coupled by an electric energy, almost brought me to tears.  I also tried porcupine quills for the first time, my second experience in bottoming for a scene in many many years, and I was surprised to find that I very much enjoyed it.  It was also my first time getting to that floaty headspace that pain play can produce, and it intrigued me and opened up my mind to the idea of bottoming for more scenes in the future.  I revised my personal definition of myself from strictly a Dom and top, to a Dom with no desire for submission, but a willingness to bottom for scenes to explore all the experiences I am comfortable with in life.  March has a feeling of new beginnings and an exhilarating desire to test myself and experience all I could in life with a curious and open mind.

April

April was the beginning of the great departure, as I’ve come to think of it.  Since I had left for college at seventeen, I had lived with an increasing number of partners, friends, metamours, and loves.  At the most, I think we at one time had nine or ten folks living or staying for a spell in my previous home, and after buying this home, there were usually four to six of us living here.  I finally hit a point of high stress over the end of last year and through the beginning of this one, where I had decided I needed space and to live with less people.  I also felt for once that I had the place to ask for that.  One of my housemates was talking about moving across the country to be with one of their partners, their partner who lived with us had expressed a desire to have her own place at some point, her other partner who had taken up residence in the basement had not intended to be a permanent fixture here as far as I knew, and our other housemate had moved across the country to move in with us a year prior but with the eventual intent of getting their own place.  That left myself and Kelev, and he has been one of the few people in life I’ve had such a deep comfort with and desire to cohabitate with, that I knew my need for space still allowed for living with him.  Since everyone else was open to the idea of moving elsewhere, I felt for the first time that I was allowed to ask for space, and I had begun doing so months before.  In April my queer platonic partner, James, was the first to move out, getting a place with one of my other partners, Witty, who had been looking to move up to our town.  They relocated to a nice home a few blocks away from mine, which was a perfect mix of being close enough to visit often and offer assistance to each other at a moments notice, but relieving me of some of the stress of a decade of living in crowded homes.  I also got to see Hoffy for another visit in April, which was another intense emotional rush, and really cemented my attachment and desire for that relationship as a long term commitment in my life.

May

In May I went to my first potluck with the local polyamory community I had connected with.  It was a wonderful experience, I have talked before about how fantastic it was to begin getting close to some of the leaders of that group, and how much it inspired personal growth in my to see them grow as people.  May was really the beginning of all that, and I found a group of people who have become like family to me in many ways.  I also began my nursing clinicals in May, and it was the start of what is a much more challenging and invigorating program then I could have imagined.  I started of with an abundance of determination and I strong desire to do better then I ever had before with formal schooling, in this new venture. May was also when Kelev finally heard back about social security and was granted disability benefits.  It was a fantastic victory after fighting the system for years to acknowledge his illnesses, and I was so ecstatic for him.

June

June was a busy month, school was in full swing and I was scrambling to keep up with a new program that was more challenging than I had ever imagined, but which I was very thoroughly enjoying.  I was also preparing for the continuation of the great departure, Kyuu was getting ready to move across the country in the beginning of July, and Floof and Bear had begun discussions on getting a place together and started looking at apartments.  I also got to see Hoffy again, his visits had become bright rays of light in my year, always full of an abundance of love and a feeling of safety, coupled with a very exhilarating excitement at the intensity of out connection.  I was by that point struggling quite a lot with knowing that our relationship was a secret though.  It was what I had been afraid of when cautiously getting involved, and he had talked about coming out to family and friends after the first time he visited, but I was still waiting for that to occur.  It was a delicate tightrope I felt I was walking, trying to be honest and open about my emotions, but also not trying to apply any external pressure on a big life decision that I felt he had to make on his own time.   I often felt I was hiding the depth of anguish it caused me to spare his feelings, but I knew that during the few frank conversations we had about it I was blunt, and I felt to continue to address it more often just because it was a constant weight on me, would have crossed into pressuring him on a choice I felt was not mine to make.  After this visit we discussed it yet again and I could see how much he was struggling as well, but that he was strengthening his resolve to approach it soon.  Finally at the end of June he told his parents about his sexuality, and our relationship.  I know for him it was probably a life changing moment.  For me it was a huge sigh of relief.  I wanted to respect how big that moment was for him, coming out is never easy and he had hidden that part of himself for a long time, and experience I couldn’t relate to because I had always been explosively blunt about newly discovered parts of myself regardless of what sort of reaction I feared, so I did not know quite what it felt like to speak that sort of truth after a long period of hiding.  I know for myself, hearing about that moment filled me with not just relief that I was no longer a secret and the deception was over, but also overwhelming pride for a partner who had come to mean so much to me in such a short time.  Seeing someone cultivate courage and face their fears, growing so much since I had first met them, it was inspiring and heartwarming in ways I still fail to describe aptly.  June was already such an overwhelming month of highs and lows, and I was gearing up at the end of it to help Kyuu move out, and Floof and Bear soon to follow.  Then Kelev dropped the bombshell on me that he would be leaving as well.  The whole story there is one for another time, but in short is was a profound shock and one that fucked my up real good for a short bit, but once I recognized that it was not a changing of our connection but simply of our structure of life, I handled it a little better.  The knowledge that it was something he needed to do for both his mental health and the good of his family, helped immensely.  I had always taken the role of trying to care for him in any way I could, so doing what was best for his mental health was a decision I fully supported.  His family as well had made me feel welcomed in a way I don’t even feel my own extended family always has, and their best interests were also of great importance to me.

July

The month of great change.  July is when the big changes actually happened, Kyuu and Kelev both moved out in the first week, and Floof and Bear were gone by the middle of the month.  I was alone in my home, living by myself for the first time in my entire life. I was concerned, I spent many hours alone in my parent’s home as a teen and it had led to suicidal ideation,  depression, self destructive habits, and worse.  I was also concerned I would love it too much, become so comfortable in my aloneness that I wouldn’t want to go back to living with others.  Neither really happened.  I found a lot of joy in my time to myself, it was refreshing and invigorating, the breath of fresh air I really needed.  I did a lot of introspection and worked on myself during that time, and I felt more -me- then I had been in many years.  I empowered and reclaimed myself, and I also found more joy in my relationships with others now that I could truly be alone.  I was also lonely at times, it was a feeling I savored sitting with calmly and accepting. I was looking forward to when I would transition to living with others again, while also treating my time to myself as a glorious vacation and a time to grow into my own skin once more.

August

Whee vacation time!  In August I went to Hawaii with my parents, the first trip with them that I had managed in a number of years.  It was a magical life changing trip, I fell in love with the climate and the people there, and oh goodness the food.  I miss the food, I miss it desperately deep in my soul.  I’m a food oriented creature and I love putting raw fish in my face, and Hawaii delivered that in spades.  I also decided it was a chance to challenge all my fears.  I’m afraid of heights, of mechanical failures and depending on human made objects (cars, roller coasters, ski lifts, airplanes, etc), of being underground and being buried alive, of swimming in deep water without assistance, and of ants.  I went zip-lining,  walked across wood and rope bridges high up in massive trees, explored underground lava tunnels, went snorkeling with dolphins with no life jacket, and made friends with a wide variety of insect life including a good many tiny ant friends.  I honestly wasn’t really afraid, I had decided to challenge my fears and somehow that decision to face them helped to nullify them.  Things like being on a wind rocked wood and rope bridge a hundred feet in the air which would have triggered an intense panic attack before, but I had resolved to be a different person there, a person who forged ahead bravely and somewhat recklessly into any adventure I could get my greedy hands on.  I took a bit of that person home with me.  When I got back, I left again a couple days later on a second vacation, this time a trip to Ithaca with James. It was the first vacation of my life that I have planned and budgeted for entirely on my own, with no assistance from my parents.  We explored Ithaca, hoping it might be a landing ground for out intentional community, staying in an ecovillage there and visiting another.  We also met up with Hoffy, all three of us touring the ecovillage of Ithaca together and hiking through state parks.  It was a lovely experience, though we decided that it might not be the place we would eventually settle in.  Coming back from vacation, I started my next semester of school, though I was tired from a break that was more adventure then relaxation.

September

September was exciting.  I was adjusting to living on my own, and finding that my relationship with Kelev was all the stronger for the change. We went to our first concert together, Alice Cooper, and it was a thrilling experience!  I enjoyed the York fair, the food truck festival, and struggled to keep up with school during a semester of high stress and low motivation.

October

At the very beginning of October, or maybe the last couple days of September, I got two new housemates.  My longtime queer platonic love and friend Raichu and their partner A. moved in, ending my three month experience of living alone.  I was grateful to be around people again, I know three months does not sound like a long time for living by yourself, but it was enough for me to get a feel for the experience so I could say I had done it once in my life, and then to move forward.  Their coming certainly heralded moving forward.  I had been talking with them over the years about forming an intentional community, and we had begun more serious conversations about it starting in the spring, along with James, Kelev, Hoffy, and a friend of theirs.  They took the leap and moved back from the west coast, so we could begin planning out our dreams and then manifesting them into reality, so our community could begin construction over the next few years and we could come home to it within the next five, or so we hoped. I’m sure if I didn’t also mention that the new Halloween movie came out, Kelev would be distraught, since that was likely his biggest event of the year.  We went to see that and it did not disappoint.

November

November was the month of Thanksgivings.  Our polycule had our celebration early and it was a wonderful gathering.  Almost our whole group came, Kyuu visited, coming from across the country and staying for a week.  James and Floof and Witty and Kelev were all there, and my partner Shara also came up from Philly which was wonderful.  My parents were in attendance as usual and were incredibly helpful with making the food and being as fantastically accepting of our eclectic little polycule as always. We missed Hoffy, who couldn’t manage to get off work to come down for the weekend, and Kwik, who is up in Canada and had not yet made it down to visit.  And James brought his new partner, a gorgeous badass goth, Nikki, who has now become a dear part of our family as well.  After first thanksgiving, I had second Thanksgiving with Kelev’s family.  It was amazing being able to host them and cook for them, and it reminded me again of how much they have always accepted me and welcomed me, which I appreciate beyond words.  Then Kelev and I celebrated eight years together, going down to Baltimore where he chose a trip to the aquarium for our day of celebration, and I chose the Hard Rock Cafe for our dinner following that.  I also had my first clinical experience with patients, which was terrifying up until the moment it began, and then morphed quickly into a fulfilling but somewhat anti-climactic experience after all the fear and hype.

December

December began with my birthday, and I managed to not have a crisis as I realized I was now only one year away from thirty.  I wondered how, looking back as my life, I had lived so much in a mere twenty nine years, and at the same time how I still felt like a bumbling teenager most days and was close to hitting my thirties.  December has been a chaotic month.  I untitled one of my dynamics after a period of personal growth that led to me realizing the pressure of a title was often instrumental to me pushing people away when I couldn’t handle the expectations I put on myself in certain types of partnerships.  I also had confirmed the ending of a few other dynamics prior in the year, though they were ones that had really just morphed from romantic or sexual shaped to more platonic friend shaped, and it was just a discussion and confirmation of that.  I also began a new kink dynamic with Kelev and one of the amazing folks I had grown close to in the local polya community I found towards the start of the year.  That took a lot of thoughtful communication and soul searching, because I am hesitant about new titles and dynamics as a whole, though I do understand the increased importance of titles in kink related dynamics for the structure it helps to provide when that level of trust and structure is needed.  I also shy away from triad shaped dynamics because of problems with couples privilege and so on, so there was a lot of unpacking to do before that took shape.  During that, I was able to be incredibly vulnerable with D., the other person I got involved with, and had a bit of a breakdown/breakthrough with her, and with help from Raichu, that led to a much greater understanding of myself and how I approach relationships and experience attraction.  That is something to address more in depth at another time, but it helped grow an intense closeness that was already developing between us, and I’m grateful for it.  I also completed my year of sobriety that I had decided on last December 1st, and while I have continued to refrain from drinking, I was fulfilled knowing I had proved to myself I could accomplish that, after the years of increasingly productive moderation that followed my decent into alcoholism and beginning of recovery.  I also chose as my challenge for this year to write daily, and thus far have been successful in that, another path that has led to increasing introspection and personal growth.

 

There is so much more I can say about this past year, this really just scratches the surface.  There are many events large and small that I left out for last of time and stamina to write about them all, or because I cannot even remember the wealth of experiences this year held.  It was the most impactful year of my life thus far I believe, or certainly high up there in the ranking.  I go into this next year full of joy, appreciation, and hope, eager to see what new changes and experiences are waiting.

Building community is coming home

Sometimes I’m thinking so hard about something that my brain feels a bit too big to fit in my head.  If I’m going to have a headache though, I suppose that is the sort I’d like to have, because at least it nets good results in the long run.  I’ve been thinking about community for a long time.  As a kid I went to a socialist Jewish camp modeled after Israeli Kibutzim, which are intentional communities focused on farming and living with the land, and mutual support among members.  They involve an integrated group living style and camp was much like that.

At camp we got up every morning and all met to check in at the flag pole before breakfast, any important announcements were shared and then we ate together as a group.  Following breakfast we had work groups, each choosing what group we wanted to be in at the beginning of the camp session.  Not surprisingly, I always gravitated to the group responsible for the garden and taking care of the animals.  Through all my childhood, if being near animals or in the dirt was an option, I jumped on it.  Throughout the rest of the day we had meals as a whole community, and some activities were structured that was as well, where others were split up by age group, skill level, or interests.  Song was an ever-present reality of life, one thing I miss the most about being there was living a life where song and dance were a constant part of daily existence.  The landscape as well absolutely haunts my dreams and my soul sometimes cries out for it.  The summer skies were perfection, no matter the clouds or the endless blue, or the deep violets at night with an endless amount of clearly visible stars.  They had a quality to them that was so intense, they felt so close, that it made every other sky I had seen before seem fake.  The camp was nestled by a serpentine, so we hiked through meadows where the mineral composition of the soil caused the grass to grow in beautiful shades of blue and purple intermixed with green and teal.  It felt like another world, and it felt like home.

The sense of community there was so palpable, it was everything you’ve dreamed of when you think of coming home.  It was the last place I remember being entirely comfortable with touch, where I could just curl up in a pile of warm bodies and not cringe or tense up.  There was always a feeling of safety, everyone had the best intentions of others at heart, or it certainly seemed so.  It wasn’t that we were too young for malice and selfishness, but as a community even of young folk, we actively discussed ways we could create a more kind and generous world, fight bigotry, and tear down the walls that divided us.  I’ve never met so many driven passionate people in one place, so many artists with a vision straining to burst out of them, so many healers with a desire to absorb all the ills of the heart and mind and make everyone around them feel whole.  When I ever wonder if with my rational logic driven mind, focused on figures and arguable facts, if I could possibly believe with my whole being in magic, I only have to think back to that place to say yes.

I didn’t know that my last year there would be my last, I always intended to return as a counselor and stay for many years onward, but that didn’t happen.  I did spend every summer there from around when I was ten to when I was fifteen, and I knew after the first one that I would create something that felt that way, when I grew up.  I talked for years incessantly and with passion about my dream for a community, not a summer camp, but a place where as an adult I could live my life constantly in that feeling of comfort and home and magic summer skies.   I have lived most of my adult life in communal living environments, usually with my polycule, partners and metamours.  There has been sometimes a glimpse of community, it is a shadow that flits around our home, but there were barriers in truly creating that in full.  After incessant talk of community for the past almost twenty years though, I have found others with a shared dream and we’ve begun the discussion process towards truly building that.  In discovering the term, intentional community, and then beginning to explore ecovillages, co-housing, communal living, and other IC models, we opened the door to the knowledge we needed to move forward.  I’ve done a lot with my life thus far, I have two college degrees and working on a third, I’ve run a craft business briefly, raised my own meat, had many partnerships and loves, descended into and back out of alcoholism, dealt with and societal and emotional impact of being trans and queer in today’s society, and shoved a fuck ton of adventures under my belt in the process.  Nothing I have done resonates with me as much as this though, I’ve known since childhood that this was my driving passion.  So, as I work on so much other personal growth and have begun several other new life journeys, I also look to move forward with this.  I know with the other amazing people I’ve found who share this dream that it will succeed, and I look forward to coming home.