Keeping Up With The Joneses

8e5bec20-1613-0134-24c3-0e1b1c96d76bI love Bridget Jones.

If I had to pick three fictional characters I most closely resemble, she’s at the top of my list.

For a chronically single 20-year-old at theatre school in London, Bridget Jones’s Diary spoke to my soul. The awkward, granny-panty wearing, overweight singleton, was the first representation of a grown woman in media I genuinely identified with. Her self reflective journaling is an unabashed lense on her world; the book was a homage to loving — and being loved for — our messy, imperfect selves.

I identified with Bridget’s constant confusion in matters of the heart, and her distaste of “smug married couples,” her desire to prioritize her friends over lovers, and her determination to define herself on her own terms, not by the relationship she was in.

I had bought into the fear of singledom, though, and at 22 married the first man I had a serious relationship with, afraid of ending up in my mid 30s, single, miserable, alone, writing in my journal, wearing granny panties.

Well, today, I’m 34, divorced, writing in my blog, and wearing granny panties. And life is good.

I took myself out for a self date tonight. It’s a little ritual I’ve fallen out of practice with. There’s something delightful about treating myself to the kind of experience I once expected from — no, pined for — from a boyfriend. I was curious: in the decade since the last Bridget Jones movie, I’d been married, miscarried twice, and now lived as a solo and polyamorous woman making her way as an entrepreneur and writer. Bridget’s life would have changed in the intervening years too, and I wondered how her path compared to mine.

I won’t give you any major spoilers, on the off chance you do go see Bridget Jones’ Baby, where our heroine once again finds herself torn on the choice between two men. However, I squealed out loud half way through when she uttered the word “polyamorous.”

One of the fictional characters who inspired my chosen form of relationships, just said the word to describe those relationships — and in a mainstream movie no less! Did I hear that right?

Media is changing. We are at a tipping point, and there’s no going back.

bridget-jones-gallery-06As I watched Bridget progress through pregnancy, uncertain of who the father was, I saw the new paradigm begin to shine through. I saw a portrayal of two men in competition for a woman grow kinship instead of rivalry, and even express compersion in the midst of jealousy. I watched an exploration of the possibility of non-traditional family, and I smiled because Bridget beamed as she watched the two men become the closest of friends.

Alas, the movie only hinted at polyamory, and while I’d like to think it helped set the stage for more unconventional storylines in the rom-coms of tomorrow, for Ms. Jones, polyamory was not to be.

It turns out Bridget went up the relationship Escalator after all, albeit in an unconventional manner, stumbling up and down (which isn’t surprising, considering her penchant for stumbling through important moments).

Meanwhile, here I am, firmly living a life bohemian and unconventional. While Bridget finally got the recognition she wanted through the relationship legitimacy she craved, I’m content to remain Solo: sharing love with my friends and my partners, no intention of childbearing. I’m a little more graceful perhaps than I was at 20, but hopefully I still have that awkward charm, loving the mess and imperfections of my life — and of course, my granny panties. I feel a small victory, being the single woman in my 30s, alone in the cinema, watching my heroine step out of her spinsterhood and onto the Relationship Escalator. I didn’t have to choose between Darcy and the other man, and the other, other man. I date them all!

I can’t help but wonder what’s next for Bridget. I have my fingers secretly crossed, that she’ll wake up one day and, true to her fiercely independent nature, realise she doesn’t need a partner to complete her. Maybe she’ll read a blog about a young divorced woman in Canada, and realise that she can be free and date and have sex with whomever there exists mutual consent, and she could actually have the best of all worlds, and not have to choose between her many male loves any more, whilst also firmly avoiding the trap of becoming part of a smug married couple.

Bridget Jones’ Polyamory? Ha. Maybe. 

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All images are from Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones’s Baby, by Miramax, Studio Canal, Working Pictures, and Universal Studios, based on the character by Helen Fielding. Please go see the movie: http://www.bridgetjonesmovie.com/

Tolerating Trauma

I am tolerating my trauma.

As I sit down to write, anticipating the next session of the Good Girl Recovery Program, and reflecting on how my life has changed since I first took it three years ago, I realise: I am tolerating my trauma.

We look at tolerance in the program. A Tolerance is often a symptom of our Good Girl being in charge. Being ‘good’ often means tolerating things we don’t like, and the feeling that we can’t do anything about them.

I have been tolerating my trauma.

I don’t much like my trauma. It surrounds me, some days like a wall of steel, other days like an amorphous blob of goo. I love the days when I forget it’s there: days filled with forming new, happy, joyful memories, and nights spent feeling safe in my body, and safe in a lover’s arms. The other days though, the days when that barrier appears, and I am straight jacketed back into seclusion and fear — I don’t much like those days.

408562534_60cf923a09_zI tolerate the effect it has on me. I tolerate the terror that bubbles up when I try to express my sexuality with women, a fear that causes me to freeze from the inside out. I tolerate that second-guessing in my head every time someone gives me a compliment about who I am or what I do. I tolerate fear living inside of me — fear that the ones who gaslight me are right.

I am so done with tolerating my trauma.

It starts, unnoticed, like a pebble in your shoe, that discomfort you can’t quite pinpoint, but that irks you all the same. As you walk, it becomes noticeable. The more you walk, the more noticeable it becomes until finally you pull the shoe off and see the bloody hole in your sock where your skin has broken, given in to the repeated annoyance. I couldn’t stop to let the wounds heal. There were things to be done, places to be reached. I put that shoe on and soldiered forward.

I have been tolerating the pain.

The irony of these tolerances is that this all began when I tolerated disrespect of my body. I was silent about my sovereignty when I could have been far more vocal, far more articulate about my boundaries — both physical and emotional. I tolerated them being crossed over and over, by more than one person. I’ve done that my whole life in an effort to ‘be good’ and ‘fit in’. Tolerating disrespect of my body and my voice cost me dearly.

I have been tolerating my mistakes.

At night I sit sometimes next to my journal, but I don’t write. I’m afraid to record these thoughts in any way, scared that if I re-read them, I will chisel them into my psyche. I wonder, what if the un-named whispers are right? What if I stand in my community an imposter, a pretender, someone not deserving of this world? What if I am some ticking timebomb of Danger, the solo polyamorous anarchist slut, the unpredictable, unpartnered, unaccountable, waiting to explode chaos onto the world — or their world, at least?

I have been tolerating a community’s abuse of me, their dismissal of my voice, and of my experience.

I don’t need to tolerate these things any more.

I can do something about my tolerances.

I take steps to heal my trauma.

courage-1197366_960_720In gratitude, I work with therapists, bodyworkers, sexological workers, somatic healers, and more. I float. I begin to feel safer in my body, comfortable again in my own skin. The nightmares no longer wake me at night. I can relax in both solitude and company.

In love, I begin to experience my sexuality in new ways, different ways than before. My partners hold space for my orgasms of tears as much as the orgasms of laughter. They listen to my body. We move together, breathe together, heal together. I am in awe of these men.

In service, I look to explore community. I cannot be blind to the inescapable pedestalling, but I can look to serve, and offer what gifts I have to those who would ask, and invite them in. I stand strong and ask for my right to space in each group that invites me to dance. With shield raised, but sword lowered, I let it be known I wish no fight, only to participate and share. Some, kindly, listen, and let me in. I find myself tolerating the avoidant silences of others.

In community, I build stronger roots. No longer a career nomad, nor shackled to the idea of permanent impermanence of friendships, I seek sisterhood, I seek kinship, I seek family — and I find it. I desire to know these humans, and for them to know me, in our deepest, raw truths. I heal, through my community.

In integrity, I prostrate myself before the roots of my trauma. I seek to honour the teachers they have been, and to find a path of peace, not war. I recognise the tragic expressions of unmet needs we have all made — both myself, and others — and ask what do we need to heal?

As I write these words, I feel relief. The releasing of what has been tolerated opens a door to new joy, and in this generous space of possibility, a life that could be well worth living for.

I choose, not to be Good, but to be Kind.

I had tolerated being good and it made me mad and angry. I choose to change that. Not to act out of obligation and expectation of what I ‘should’ do, but rather, to move from my heart, to act from compassion — both for myself, and for others. Moving out of a space of tolerance is not so much a question of “what’s good for me?” rather it is “what would the kindest choice be?”

And in such kindness, I receive from myself, what I tolerated a lack of from others: a compassionate embrace, gratitude for what is, forgiveness for what I wish was not, and hope for a kinder tomorrow.

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Radical Self Reliance and Community Responsibility

“The greatest damage done by neglect, trauma or emotional loss is not the immediate pain they inflict but the long-term distortions they induce….. All too often these ill-conditioned implicit beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies in our lives. We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past… Mindful awareness can bring into consciousness those hidden, past-based perspectives so that they no longer frame our worldview.’ Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present…Until you reach that point, you are unconscious.’ …In present awareness we are liberated from the past.”

~Gabor Mate

 

I read an article recently on Radical Self Reliance, and how this concept is killing people. In it, the author talks about the concept of Radical Self Reliance as it exists in the modern influence of Burning Man Culture on the world at large. Simply defined on the Burning Man Organisation’s website, it is encouragement for “each individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.”

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walking across Playa, August 2014

In practice, it’s to encourage personal responsibility for one’s own well-being: you bring to the Playa what you will need, you don’t expect anyone else to look after you. It’s a fantastic principle to have, and I have found huge value in the practice of living life in such a way that I take on responsibility for my own well being and experience- it has taught me resilience and emotional fortitude that I don’t know I could have learned elsewhere.

I do, however, see a shadow side to this. Radical Self Reliance can become toxic, I find, when we shift into exclusively looking after ourselves, and forgetting that none of us are physical- or emotional- islands.

We are all in relationship to one another. Until only one human being is left on this planet, there is no escaping this.

Individualism and “Poly Libertarianism”

Individualism- putting the individual first, and ignoring the collective needs of a community- is, I believe, one of the most prominent characteristics of the endemic disconnection emerging in modern society.

No one is responsible for anyone else’s emotions or meeting anyone else’s needs. There is no more co-dependence. There is interdependence, on a voluntary basis. Each member is an autonomous, free individual, who can come or go as she or he pleases. Our love is earned, not expected.”

~Sara Burrows, on Poly Libertarianism

I see many people engaging in what has been labelled “Poly Libertarianism”, where they state their needs and shirk any responsibility for meeting what other people’s needs might be. Heck, I’ve done that and been one of those poly people. Prioritising my relationship with myself has been fundamental in my own journey in Solo Polyamory. For a long time, I needed to shut out the idea that others had needs and requests that I could (and should) respond to because I’d internalised damaging messages about having to please others. I view this behaviour pattern now as an adaptive behaviour I used to cope with my own personal experience of the collective trauma inherent with being a woman raised in a patriarchal society. I’d suppressed my own desires for so long that now, when I was finally free of that suppression, I didn’t want to stop and listen to what anyone else wanted. I had to discover what I wanted.

As much as that path allowed me to get clear on where the stories around obligations and ‘shoulds’ came from, as much as it taught me the power in saying no to meeting someone else’s desire, and asking for my own desires to be met, it didn’t bring me joy in my relationships, because it alone didn’t support connection. It was hugely valuable in the process of finding authenticity in myself, but it didn’t support intimacy.

Intimacy and Compassion

Intimacy doesn’t exist in individualism. Intimacy can only come from connection, and while individualism encourages more self-awareness and connection to one’s own needs, wants, and desires, it is Intimacy  that asks us to recognise the needs, wants, and desires of our partners, families, friends, and indeed, our entire community.

“Being cut off from our own natural self-compassion is one of the greatest impairments we can suffer. Along with our ability to feel our own pain go our best hopes for healing, dignity and love. What seems nonadapative and self-harming in the present was, at some point in our lives, an adaptation to help us endure what we then had to go through. If people are addicted to self-soothing behaviours, it’s only because in their formative years they did not receive the soothing they needed. Such understanding helps delete toxic self-judgment on the past and supports responsibility for the now. Hence the need for compassionate self-inquiry.”

~ Gabor Mate, In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts

For the first few years of my journey in polyamory, focussing on Solo Polyamory, I nourished and refined a fantastic relationship with myself. It has been a remarkable journey in self-intimacy. And yet, the relationships I had with others didn’t reflect the kind of intimacy I was desiring. I was so keen on my own radical self-reliance, that I forgot a very important piece: community responsibility.

Yes, you are responsible for your Self, I am responsible for my Self- and yet we exist in the same place and time, and therefore we have a relationship with one another. In that relationship, I cannot shake off responsibility for the effects of my words and actions on you, nor can you shake off responsibility for the effects of your words and actions on me. That is to say, while your reactions are your own, that doesn’t mean I can’t participate in the processing of your reaction, or that I should ignore the effects my own actions and words have had on you- no matter what my initial intent was.

I understand the drive for Poly Libertarianism, I really do. It provides an amazing buffer against the shadow emotions that can come up in relationships, experiences of jealousy, which some believe are rooted in feelings of fear, loneliness, loss, sadness, anger, betrayal, envy and humiliation.

I would propose, however, that the Individualism approach doesn’t actually address the core issue. I have found that those root emotions so often mentioned are all manifestations of fear, or more specifically, they are a side effect of living with a scarcity paradigm.

We fear loss, loneliness, betrayal, humiliation when we believe love is a limited resource, and we experience envy, anger, possessiveness as a reaction to that fear, still within the scarcity paradigm. These all relate to the core (false) belief that we can have ownership of someone else’s love, and that we may be entitled to it because there’s a limited supply.

And, scarcity is a story we can choose, and it is one that we are sometimes unconsciously choosing when we set ourselves apart on that metaphorical island where we are only responsible for ourselves, both physically and emotionally.

Our other option is to switch gears and choose to recognise that love is abundant and can come in infinite forms. And, that if we dare to show vulnerability and compassion, an infinite number of connections can form, and intimate community can grow.

“Cultivating intimacy with something means becoming sufficiently close to it to know it very, very well. When we don’t get close enough — like scientists keeping themselves emotionally stranded from their subject of study — we miss essential aspects of it. And if we get too close, to the point of fusing with it — like new lovers letting their boundaries collapse in a romantic swoon — we will no longer be able to keep it in focus.

In intimacy, we are deeply relating to an “other” — which could be a person, object, or state — getting close to it in a manner that transcends mere proximity. When it comes to cultivating intimacy with something, connection with it and separation from it are not opposites, but rather fluidly intertwined dance partners.”

~Robert Augustus Masters, “Cultivating Our Intimacy”

When you’re living in an abundance paradigm, the fear of loss, loneliness, and ownership of love don’t appear in the same way, you’re sharing love with everyone, you’re giving your care-bear-stare of compassion and welcoming to each person, whether lover or friend, in whatever way feels right and consensual, and you never feel depleted, nor do you feel lacking when alone.

The Balancing Act between Individual and Community

e727a05410166fcb542ee1eea918I’ve noticed a trend when relationships hit rocky waters: we can confuse the need for individual sovereignty with selfishness, and relationships that put individual needs of one person over another can grow dysfunctional. Likewise, sometimes individuals shirk responsibility for their participation in another person’s emotional state. When that happens, I think there’s a repression of empathy and compassion, which ends up perpetuating internalised stories around scarcity, othering, duality, and disconnection. And, on the flip-side of that, Individuals who take on responsibility for another person’s emotional state are effectively engaging in a form of self-repression, where their own state is ignored and they become energetically subservient to another’s projections of them.

So what is the solution? Relationships that respect there may be both overlapping and incompatible needs, and approach this quandary with compassion- that’s where I feel healthy Intimacy lies. Recognising that our intent is often different from the results of our actions and interactions allows us to have boundaries whilst engaging with compassion. When things go awry and things aren’t the way we want them to be, we don’t necessarily have to take on responsibility for how someone else feels, but we can recognise our own participation in events that may have created that experience- and, more importantly, if those events have been ones that have hurt, injured, or left trauma with another person, we can engage in the process of healing.

Recognising our own potential for active participation in improving the experience of all our partners, family members, friends, metamors, and community, is a huge leap in nourishing both intimacy and compassion. And, huge leaps are not easy. This one asks us to grapple with the stories of self shame, pride, ego, the desire to Be Right, and to find in ourselves greater stores of compassion, humility, empathy, understanding, and that thing we all say we’re here for: Love.

For 2016, my invitation to you is this: don’t be an island. Radical Self Reliance is great, and- you also don’t have to be alone. Our society is suffering from a disease of disconnection, and I sometimes wonder if the urge to explore polyamory and other forms of non-monogamy stems from a deep rooted desire for greater experiences of connection.

Do you dare to open yourself to the possibility of deeper, and more intimate connection? Are you willing to examine what it is that you, as an individual, need, want, and desire? And also to examine what the people around you need, want, and desire? Radical self-reliance can teach us about ourselves; Radical Community Responsibility is the journey of growing to know one another.

 

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Self Intimacy, Sex-Positivity, Shame, and the Resilient Edge of Resistence

“Boundaries are an essential part of life. They delineate and maintain needed borders and separations, making differentiation possible at every level. Boundaries both contain and preserve the integrity of what they are safeguarding, be that physical, psychological, emotional, social, or spiritual. Without them there is no relationship and therefore no development, no evolution. But despite this clear truth, we often fall into the trap of believing that boundaries hold us back, preventing us from being free…”
~ Robert Augustus Masters, Boundaries Make Freedom Possible

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I heard a great metaphor for boundaries recently, from my friend and mentor Marcia. Boundaries are like skin. Skin protects us from bacteria, contaminants- it keeps the bad things out. It also holds our bodies together and keeps the good things in. It has elasticity and can stretch and squish for short periods of time (this is called the Resilient Edge of Resistance, think of it as a plus/minus margin around your boundaries). Push that edge too far, and we reach our limits- the skin breaks. It is semi permeable, so we can let good things in (like sunlight and moisture) and sweat the bad things out. And without skin around us, things get messy.

Similarly, without boundaries, life gets messy.

In polyamory we are constantly being challenged to redefine our boundaries, to explore some of the difficult stuff in that resilient edge of resistance- sometimes we reach our limits. We also traverse an emotional field where we invite more vulnerability into our lives, because we are allowing more people to connect with that core part of ourselves that the boundaries are there to protect. The more partners we have, the more we are asked to live in that space of vulnerability. Doing so feels radical, revolutionary, and many people experience a sexual and emotional liberation when they begin exploring this.

In a traditional coupled relationship, boundaries are created to protect and preserve the primary relationship. They are there, like a warm blanket, keeping the relationship safe and in a place of comfort, where the individuals in it can relax and grow and flourish. This is true of monogamous and honestly non-monogamous couples.

However, when it comes to flying Solo, it is not quite so straightforward.

Evening clouds above

There is no primary partner, there is no obvious other to create shared boundaries with- though we absolutely can, many people perceive boundaries as limitations, and equate them with primary like relationships. Ultimately, we all have to develop our own clear boundaries around what we want to nurture in our lives, and what we want to keep out- and this is far more apparent when exploring Solo Polyamory. The nature of Solo Poly relationships is so often fluid and changing, that one can sometimes feel there is no safe-house to come home to unless you create one for yourself. But, it can be easy to forget this, and when you are unattatched to a primary partner, there are plenty more opportunities to explore that Resilient Edge of Resistence.

I pushed and stretched and redefined my personal Resilient Edge of Resistence for two years. After a lifetime of frustration with the limitation of my creative expression and sexual shaming, I dove heart first into a dynamic and powerful exploration of living life without restrictions. I began to embrace my sensual expression, I grew to honor my shadow self, I found alchemy in letting my spirit blossom and fly free. I looked to the free spirits around me and followed their examples. I was going to sex parties, being guest listed for kink nights, throwing my own kinky raves with my friends, being invited to participate in the sex-positive community both locally, and internationally. I felt comfortable having sex around strangers, and engaging in BDSM play to the side of the dance floor. It was so incredibly liberating! I had come so far from the shy, ashamed, repressed young woman who flinched at the idea of talking about sex.

shattered glassAnd then, I became intoxicated with the freedom. I became addicted to my shadow self. I pushed myself too far.My resiliency broke. I lost my boundaries. I lost my skin. My guts went spilling all over the place, and toxic, unhealthy influences entered into my life.

Months later I still wake in the middle of the night from nightmares filled with flashbacks of trauma, and my heart remains heavy with heartache, regret, and deep sorrow.

After reaching a breaking point with exploring my resilient edge, I attempted to build a wall around my heart, and my Self, reinforcing my boundaries into an impenetrable fortress. While this made me feel more safe, it also made it impossible to reach out to the ones I loved- because I couldn’t connect to my heart without connecting to the pain too. They felt pushed away.

While all this was happening, I was diving into studies of the nature of intimacy, boundaries, and self-actualisation. I learned about something called Self-Intimacy, the conscious awareness of one’s own emotions, desires and thoughts. Without healthy self-intimacy, we struggle to engage in healthy conflict, and displays of affection can become shallow and disconnected. When we lack healthy self-intimacy, our negative emotions can build up, and without expression or support for resolution, they can drive us to disregard our limits, and live in a state where our resilient edges are being constantly pushed to breaking point.

I had spent so long pushing myself to explore my edges, I had forgotten how to relax, and just be with my self. My inner perfect poly person had grown adept at suppressing my shadow emotions in relationships, and my mind was at conflict with my heart. Even though I had intellectually consented to almost all of my experiences, my heart’s consent had not been present. I had been ignoring the messages from my body, ignoring the crushing pain of approaching my limits- until they had been reached, with heart-breaking consequences.

jumpingLiberating ourselves of the shame around sex and embracing sex positivity shouldn’t have to mean going to orgies or BDSM play parties. It doesn’t have to be a process of pushing our resilient edges of resistance to breaking point- either physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. It might mean those things for some people- and that has certainly been part of my own journey- but I don’t think that it has to include those things. I think sex positivity is hi-fiving ourselves and our friends and partners for good sex, sex positivity is exploring healthy connections and physically empowering chemistry. It’s about not flinching when someone else talks about sex. It’s embracing your own nature as a sexual being. It’s accepting the diversity of experiences people have had, and the complex relationships each person can have to the act of sex- and respecting that most people do not need to live in the adrenalin addiction of having their edges challenged in relationships constantly.

I’m valuing the existential crisis inherent in all of this. In my personal quest for identity, relationship, and meaning, I have too often become trapped in doing mode, a state entangled in mental pathways, removed from the experience of simply being. Rather than following my head into new situations, I’m slowing down and listening to my heart, and my whole body. In finding solitude and quietude again, I’m reconnecting with the courage to just be, and finding freedom in that. The clearer I become on what I’m living for- my deepest desires- the more my natural boundaries become apparent. The margins of my being may not be what I once thought they were- or perhaps, they have changed- and I am giving myself permission to change, and nurture my resiliency.

I don’t need to live life on the edge all the time- and neither do you, if you do not want to. You have permission to be loving to yourself, to honor your physical, spiritual, mental and emotional body and boundaries, to embrace your shadow self, and your light. Life doesn’t have to be lived on the cutting edge, doing all-the-things. Life can also be lived with warmth and nurturing; life can be lived by simply being. You can love your boundaries. You can grow roots, live a life that doesn’t push your resilient edge of resistance to breaking point, and still be radical and sex-positive.

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“We are not here to shed or abandon our boundaries, but to breathe integrity and strength into them, to fully illuminate them, and to make sure that they take a form that serves not only our highest good but also the highest good of all. We are not here to override or devalue our boundaries but to use them as wisely as possible… discovering the freedom in fully engaging our experience. Our boundaries stand as guardians on this path, with an authority that supports our growth and awakening.”
~ Robert Augustus Masters, Boundaries Make Freedom Possible

(with gratitude to Orion and Chelsie for editorial feedback)

In Limbo Lies the Love Languishing

“The ultimate state of love is freedom, absolute freedom, and any relationship that destroys freedom is not worthwhile. Love is a sacred art. To be in love is to be in a holy relationship.”
~ Osho

 

My heart feels heavy as I write this, aching in every direction. The self chatter in my mind talks about being foolish, rash, and irresponsible, and it’s fighting the deeply romantic part of my personality that wants to keep my heart open.

In every relationship, there’s a moment- well sometimes, oftentimes, it’s a recurring moment- where I find myself gazing with love and want to utter the words, “I love you”. But, I don’t. I hold back. I wait.

Why? Because we make such a big deal about the meaning of the words “I love you.”

I want to create a new way of dialoguing about love. Casual love is a thing. In the Greek language there are multiple means of expressing “I love you”- I remember vividly my grandmother tucking me into bed at night with the words, “kourichakimou, cartholamou, yagapoulamou, agapemou”.

Love is such a vast, transcendant, spiritual experience, why limit ourselves in the expression of it?

Dancing_maenad_Python_BM_VaseF253Sometimes I want to just use the Greek words directly. I am in Eros with you. I am in Phillia with you. I am in Ludus with you. I am in Agape with you. I am in Pragma with you. I am in Philautia with you.

Even just taking the time to think about what kind of love I’m experiencing can help me find clairty. It’s so enriching to engage in a way of appreciating the many layers of love that are possible.

I find that for myself, Eros (sexual passion) and Ludus (playful love) often give way to deep experiences of Phillia (friendship) and Pragma (Universal love).

I wonder if part of the reason I am Solo is that the way I love people tends to involve increasing levels of trust and connection until- I have to let go. When I hear of two people confess “unconditional love” for one another I wonder what that really means. To me, unconditional means without ownership, without expectation, and freely. I look at how my relationship with Orion has transformed- and I can honestly say that for both of us, our ability to love one another increased when we stopped dating. We dropped expectations of one another, and grew deeper in our friendship. It’s a really beautiful connection, one cherished greatly.

love-heart-love-feeling-girl-wings-sunset-freedom-sky-horizon

When you love someone in entirety, when you decide that they are someone you want to grow and evolve through knowing, there comes a breakthrough point where the next stage of loving them means letting them go, and remembering to stay true to your own self, your wants and desires, your own evolution. It’s a moment of selfishness that challenges how we are told to treat our relationships. We are told to be self sacrificing in service of a partner, when actually a healthy relationship starts with us having a healthy relationship to our self first.

Curled up with my dear friend Odin recently, talking about love, he said something that really hit home for me.
“Love is not as powerful as trust and acceptance; those are so much more specific in their ingredients. To me, acceptance is everything.”

 

Acceptance. Seeing another and being seen by another; seeing and embracing the shadows and not just the light. I feel like that’s the profound journey that love offers us.

I love in such a way as to feel free and to set those I love free. In other words, I want to experience love that is a celebration, and not an obligation. And sometimes that celebration means that, in freedom, they and I dance on, without attachment. I do not love seeking to own that which I love.

I’m in love with love, with feeling and sharing and expressing love, and I don’t believe that should be restricted to an expectation of behaviors. Love is something infinitely delightful to explore- whether self love, friendship, romantic, erotic, familial, or universal: the more we commit to engaging and being fully present to love (in whatever form it exists) the healthier we become.

Love is the four lettered glue that holds us together- as a community, as a species, as a collective of conscious beings sharing space and time cooperatively, love is the essential molecule. Without it we’d self destruct.

 

P1100900editedAnd so it hurts so much when I find myself second guessing or trying to stop myself from loving out of fear that I’ll risk too much, and be broken hearted again. I fear being taken for granted. I fear being not seen. And that’s why my heart is heavy as I write tonight. Several months ago a beautiful young man told me he was falling in love with me. And I dared to give myself permission to let that experience deepen, and to allow myself to fall in love with him too. As distance appears, as new chapters emerge, and uncertainty hangs over the evolution of our journey together, I’m looking for the courage to not just keep loving, but to be open again. To trust, believe, and share again. To live from a place of fearless authenticity, and trust that those around me are doing the same.

 

In a journey so tangled, the only way through is to dance.

Gratitude and Growth

Just over two years ago, on a drunken stumble through the streets of East Vancouver with an ex, I was confronted with a question I didn’t know how to answer, and the quest for that answer changed the entire trajectory of my life.

EastVan“What do you want, M?” Jareth had asked me, and I stared back at him in silence as I realised that I actually did not know. I’d been functioning on default for over a decade, expressing desires that I thought were what I was supposed to want- family, children, a regular job… normality. His question landed on me with the epiphany that I’d never actually considered to ask myself if I wanted to have a normal life, let alone contemplate what kinds of relationships I wanted to have.

And that saw the beginning of an amazing journey, my adventures in being Singleish, my diving in to an exploration of what I want.

This past weekend at my local Burning Man regional, I spent my time fluttering between my two boyfriends, connecting with dear friends (including former lovers Orion and Elk Feather), and getting my flirt on with some delightful people in the local Burner/Poly/Kink community. I taught my first workshop on Ethical Non Monogamy to a group of forty people. And then on the evening of the Burn, I stood under the full moon, in contemplation of the fire- the burning edifice seeming to represent all that I had moved through in the past two years- and was filled with gratitude for all the synchronicities that have been aligning in my life since I was asked that question. In the midst of that sensation of being “illuminaked”, I heard a familiar voice nearby. I turned my head to look, and there was Jareth, standing right behind me, with his girlfriend.

 

Effigy Burn, BitF 2014, (c) Lukasz Szczepanski

Effigy Burn, BitF 2014, (c) Lukasz Szczepanski

The universe has a delightful sense of timing. I felt it was symbolic of coming full circle, the satisfying conclusion to one chapter and opening of another.

This weekend also saw me reconnecting in profound ways with both of my partners. Alexander and I spent some beautiful time together both one on one, and with his wife as they celebrated their anniversary. I’m profoundly inspired by witnessing their relationship dynamic that, in the midst of all the challenges that family life can bring, continues to find new inspiration and new ground to explore. I think it intimidates me a little, but I’m learning to embrace that trepidation and allow our connection to unfold as feels right. And, after almost seven weeks apart, spending time with Marco was incredibly nourishing and re-affirming. I delight in the joy he shares with everyone around him, and cherish our ability to be completely present with one another, even in fleeting moments shared on a dance floor.

When I started this blog, I made a silent promise to myself that I would continue to be Singleish for at least two years, that my primary relationship would be with myself. I find that I’m moving deeper in to two very beautiful, loving, dynamic relationships right now- but that I have loved this adventure so much that I’m not ready to renounce my solo-hood entirely any time soon. Whilst in the long term I know I’d love to live with a blend of friends and lovers and maintain an active and independent dating life, I’ve come to a place of certainty about the rules I have for dating myself.

-I choose to date people who are inspiring, intelligent, thoughtful, communicative, in touch with their emotional tapestry, who embrace change as a constant.

– I choose to engage with people who operate with full and honest disclosure; honest communication about all other relationships is paramount to me.

– It is important for me to not just know my metamors, but to develop my own independent friendships with them.

– I will not veto a partner’s other relationships, but if I find myself in unresolvable conflict with someone who is dating one of my sweeties, I can walk away from the relationship with that partner and focus my energy in positive relationships.

– There are two main ways in which I engage in intimate and sexual relationships: there are people who I choose to date and explore Relationships with, and friends who I choose to be sexually and intimately playful with, without dating.

– I don’t do random- even in casual situations, I want to get to know someone first to develop trust and communication.

– I will not have intercourse with someone who I do not feel trust and connection with.

– Sexual health is very important to me. I ask that my dating partners get tested regularly and that playful partners, talk about their STI status before engaging in any kind of fluids contact.

– I believe that the first priority for every partner should be themselves, and the things that enrich their life- family, children, work, relationships, are all, in my opinion, things that can take priority at different times.

– I embrace the creativity of customizing commitments within each relationship, rejecting the expectations attached to the societal templates for relationshiping.

– I choose to focus on what is within relationships, rather than on what is lacking; I choose to celebrate what each relationship is from moment to moment.

– My priority remains, as always, staying true to the primary relationship with myself, honoring my own edges as I seek to expand them.

butterflyToday marks the 2nd anniversary of my first blog post. Two years of sharing with raw honesty and vulnerability the experiences and lessons I’ve garnered along the way.

This started out as a blog about polyamory, but I think it’s been more of a journal that has chronicled my process of getting clear with myself about what it is I want. I remain humbled that my words have had an impact on so many, and I look forward to continuing to learn new things about my self, my lovers, my friends, my community, and being part of an unfolding paradigm shift in perspective on relationships.

I have embraced singleishness, without running away from connections when they arise, and I’ve learned to love the practice of nurturing that primary relationship with myself- be it taking myself out on a date, prancing around solo through an arts festival in the forest, or spending time journaling at home. I’m filled with gratitude for all the people who have played a part in this process of growing and becoming, and am excited to see what the future will unfold.

 

Expanding and Exploring

“You have permission to ask for what you want.”

Do you really know how to play?

Do you really know how to play?

These words of relationship advice, from Marcia Baczynski, shifted my perspective about the relationships I was in at the time, leading to an evolution in the way I have found myself approaching relationships today. I had been growing fed up of intimate relationships where it felt like no one ever knew what they were doing. In bed, I too often felt like a beautiful musical instrument, with a novice randomly plucking strings, hoping to coax a melody- or concerto- from this highly complex form. I didn’t want that any more. I wanted that to change.

Last summer at a music festival, I fell in love on the dance floor. The crowds parted and I became mesmerized by a young man spinning a glowing staff. My attention caught, I complimented him on his dancing, saw him again briefly a few days later- but it wasn’t until running into him several months later in the city that we actually had a chance to connect.

The incredibly beautiful, exotic, fire and poi-spinning Marco had me curious. We chatted online and on the phone for a couple of months before going on a date zero- I was a little hesitant to date someone eight years younger than me, but I soon forgot about that and had an amazing time. On our next date, we discovered that we lived ten minutes walk away from one another.

Marco puts extra anarchy into relationship anarchy, in a really good way. It’s almost impossible to keep up with how many women he might have dates with. His work schedule is on call and often unpredictable and so dates are sometimes really spontaneous. One of the things I enjoy the most is that the dynamic he and I share together is one of experimentation and adventure.

Where would the electricity be without willingness to experiment?

Where would the electricity be without willingness to experiment?

Our dates have included a trip to the STI clinic (followed by lunch), midnight booty calls, loud and kinky morning wake up calls, making a stilt-walking elephant together, an epic sexy after party in our hotel room where we mostly observed and directed our friends having an orgy, eating ice cream together in his bedroom hammock, sensually grinding together on the dance floor after almost 24 hours of no sleep, poi spinning lessons in my back yard, and whispering poetry to one another into the wee hours of the morning. We talk about kinky things we want to try out, we share thoughts about shamanism, and we collaborate on creative projects.

From past relationship experiences, I’ve found myself growing cautious of diving too deep into clothes-ripping passion all the time. I’ve had some really beautiful connections burn out because the focus was so much on physical expression- but not so much on exploration, and as a result I would have great sex the first few times, fuelled by the excitement, adrenalyne, novelty and NRE- but it would quickly peter off, resulting in a string of six-week long relationships.

I didn’t want this to be another six week relationship.

I also found myself in a quandry over sponteniety versus consent. Marco and I were exploring the edges of our kinky personas, and both enjoyed doing so with sponteniety. He knew I was very passionate about enthusiastic consent, and expressed once that, in his perspective, the conversation around consent was taking away from the spontaneous aspect that made things so much fun.

Just because you're enjoying something, does it mean your partner is enjoying it too?

Just because you’re enjoying something, does it mean your partner is enjoying it too?

For my part, consent has become an important part of relationships and building trust. I’d experienced holding back a lot in intimate exchanges because I was afraid of having my own boundaries crossed or of crossing someone else’s unintentionally- something that had happened for me in the past. I mean, there’s always that hope that I will find partners who are 100% psychic and can read my mind to see if I’m comfortable or not- but the reality is, we can’t expect someone to know something about our intimate preferences unless we reveal that information to them, and likewise, we need to ask our partners for feedback about whether what we are doing feels good for them or not- instead of just assuming that it probably is.

One night when Marco came over to my place, I decided that I needed to ask for what I wanted. So, I put forward a proposal to him:

“Tonight, I’d like to invite you to explore me. Just do whatever you want. Follow your instincts. And I’ll give you feedback at every step. I want you to learn my body. And if something doesn’t feel good, or doesn’t do anything for me, I’ll communicate. And if it’s amazing- you’ll know, and if I know how to, I’ll guide you on how to enhance the pleasure for me.”

Never before had communication felt so sexy. As we played, I got to show him how my different erogenous zones can be connected, how a slap or a bite in just the right place can make me melt or take me to the edge. I learned things about my own body as he experimented with differing pressures in different places. And after, we talked about all sorts of other things we want to try further down the road.

After that experience, not only was the quality of our physical intimacy enhanced, but our communication around sex grew leaps and bounds too. We’d taken time to learn one another’s language. He, as someone who plays more dominant, had discovered how to read my responses, and I’d learned how to communicate with fewer words and in ways that made the communication part of the play. As a consequence of just that one night, we started to feel more comfortable with greater sponteniety. The trust we share evolved because we took one another to the edges and learned to recognise one another’s “no”.

piano maestro

“Practice Makes Perfect”

There is tremendous power in slowing down from the insane devouring passion and finding our way into a natural flow of communication between bodies. Tuning in, and learning how to read our partners, rather than just assuming we know what’s going to feel good, assuming that all people function exactly the same.  Think of the difference between someone who sits at a piano and randomly tinkers on the keys hoping to make music, versus someone who has studied and become a piano maestro, effortlessly dancing their fingers across the keys and filling the room with the sweetest music.

We may both be Solo, we may be one another’s ‘proximal’ relationship, we may be in love, but we also know this relationship may not last in this same form for all time. Marco reminds me to be present to what’s in front of me, to be present to the moment. We are growing and learning together, and there is no telling what the future may bring. I pinch myself from time to time that someone as unique and talented an individual wants to hang around with me, let alone undress me and devour me with so much passion- and it’s a passion that seems to just grow deeper and deeper.

Exploring the edges of our comfort zones, and expanding beyond them, has never felt so comfortable, nor been so fun. We explore eachother’s bodies, eachother’s minds, eachother’s souls.

And the lesson in this- that asking for what you want is one of the best things you can possibly do within a relationship- has me contemplating all the other things I have often wished for but never outright asked for from my partners. There’s a sliver of risk involved in asking. What if they say “No”, or judge you for it, or break up with you because you asked for something? That’s the fear dialogue running through our minds holding us back.

We don’t have to listen to the voice of fear. We can embrace the risk and choose- dare- to ask the ones we love and trust if they might be interested in something that we are interested in too. And when we do so, we give ourselves- and our partners- the opportunity to experiment, expand and explore new edges of being.

Depth and Desire

Two years ago, on the morning after my birthday, I woke up in a downtown Vancouver apartment, with a life changing epiphany.

I lay naked in bed, gazing at the man slumbering beside me, his fluffy feline companion curled up in between us. The previous night I had celebrated my birthday with friends, and had gone home with him. I felt a huge outpouring of love for this man. We had dated, broken up, reconnected- it was an intense relationship, one of those ones where the chemistry is so crazy strong it’s hard to stay away. I felt conflicted, and didn’t know what to do with these feelings. I reached into my bag and pulled out my journal and my Avalon oracle cards, and started shuffling. Yes- total new age hippie at heart.

The card that I drew that morning was, appropriately, “The Cat”.

cat“The Cat reminds you of independence and to set healthy boundaries. Love with freedom- do not look to own what you desire, for too much attachment can lead to loss. The Cat lends you its power to live freely and to remember that the adventure is just beginning… Live freely, love without unhealthy attachment, and remember that with the Cat as your companion, you may fully immerse yourself in life, for there will be many lives to come.”

 

I read these words, and something began to stir inside me. It was early, far too early to get up, but I felt a sudden impetus to leave. I rolled out of bed, packed up my things, and left the apartment without waking anyone or saying goodbye.

That morning was the beginning of my journey in being Singleish.

I had figured out that I wanted to be polyamarous long before that. I had explored things with a few different couples, had a few marathon days where brunch, lunch and dinner were all date zeros, and was having a casual sexual relationship with one of my male friends. I had been separated from my husband for over six months and had been enjoying my new single life, while all too easily and quickly falling into a default pattern of expectations every time something resembling a Relationship appeared in my life.

I reffered to that default pattern as the Disney Fantasy, and later heard others refer to it as the Relationship Escalator. And that default pattern just wasn’t fulfilling me. Every time it happened, I felt like I had only escaped the box of marriage just to jump into another box.

I started with the idea that being Singleish meant I didn’t have to be answerable to anyone at all. No primary. No one to veto my actions. No one to report back to. No one whose feelings I needed to tiptoe around or negotiate with. After a summer of pursuing several relationships with less integrity and honesty than I probably should have, I decided I need to be accountable to myself, and to avoid getting lost and distracted by the romance and intoxication of NRE, I had to establish a primary relationship with me.

All the time while I was married, and during all the explorations of dating I had done since separating from my husband- I had been seeking love externally. I have battled with depression for years, and in that battle I found that struggles financial, emotional and health-wise make it all too easy to feel down and to seek external validation. I realised that in the midst of all that I had gone through, I had forgotten how to love myself.

Furthermore, in an attempt to emotionally bypass the deeper things going on within my psyche, I was becoming enamored with multiple external distractions, seeking human crutches on to which to lean my wounded heart and spirit. I resolved that I didn’t want to do that any more. I decided that rather than seek a primary partner externally, that I needed to be my own primary partner.

I was also clear that being Singleish, for me, had to mean more than multiple friends-with-benefits.

As a person, I’m a die-hard romantic, and I know that I need relationships with substance. Just because I don’t want to jump on the Relationship Escalator with someone, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to connect heart to heart, or that I will tolerate being treated as a purely sexual object or objective. All too often has that assumption been made, and I’m tired of people thinking that being Singleish equals treating the relationship with me as disposable.

To some, this has seemed like a total contradiction- a woman who desires relationships with substance, yet doesn’t want to commit to the standard “lets get married now” ideal. An individual who values her autonomy and independence so fiercely, yet who desires to share sexual, romantic, and emotional intimacy.

lifebeginsAt the same time, I’m realising that buried behind the joyous “I am Singleish; hear me roar!” battle cry is a huge amount of fear. I have grown to value my independence and free spirit so much, that I am absolutely terrified of sacrificing that or loosing it. I lost it in my marriage, and do not want to loose it again. Yet, I desire intimacy. I desire partnership. I desire to share more of my journey- but without jumping onto the Relationship Escalator, without finding myself entangled in an emotional co-dependency or, even more terrifying, an emotionally manipulative and abusive situation.

It has hurt to open my heart to others, because with heart opening comes trusting and an element of surrendering. It means I can’t be in complete control anymore. But I feel I’m moving past those fears, and into a place in my relationship with myself where perhaps I could take on more.

I desire depth of connection. And I know that deep connections don’t happen over night- they grow over time.
lovekitten

Recently, with the end of a beautiful emotionally connected and sexually charged six month relationship, I’ve been reminded of the energy of that Cat card again, about the importance of asserting healthy boundaries, and of diving in to the adventures life holds.

A huge part of my journey in the past two years- and increasingly in the past few months- has been learning about how to communicate in such a way as to nurture intimacy and closeness. I can’t nurture that when there isn’t deeply honest, vulnerable sharing.

As I ask myself whether it would be possible to have primary like relationships without being on the Relationship Escalator, I realise that a lot of what constitutes my definition of primary has to do with the ability to listen with ferocious honesty, to share with vulnerability, and for everyone involved to be willing to dive into the depths of their own love.

I desire love. Love with depth.

I desire to feel love, to share love, to be drunk with love.

This year for my birthday, I once more celebrated in the company of dear friends, including some people whose company I have come to value immensely. I woke up- in my own bed this time- curled up next to a beautiful man I’ve been seeing for a couple of months now. We had slumbered peacefully in one another’s arms, our naked bodies entwined, and as I stirred in bed he moved his face towards me and kissed me softly.

I used to be afraid of those deeply intimate morning kisses and would run away placing meaning on them that would drive me insane with expectations. But- no longer. I allowed myself to be present to his kisses, and in so doing allowed myself to be present to my own lips kissing him back. And I felt so incredibly content, and happy. Not just with that moment, but with where I find myself at today.

sunbathing

Two years ago, I didn’t know how to love myself.

I had gone so long without love for myself, I was looking to others to love me.

More than that- I wanted them to love the Me who I was afraid of letting out in to the open! Choosing to find a primary relationship with myself has been one of the most significant things I have ever done because it has guided me to a place where I am no longer afraid of being myself.

I’ve embraced that “Cat” energy, and loved without attachment, lived freely, and immersed myself fully in life- and what a journey it has been. I’ve discovered more about myself, and dared to step in to the fullness of being who I have always dreamed- and believed- that I could be. And now that there’s greater depth between me, myself, and I, it only seems natural to desire greater depth, authenticity, and presence, in all the relationships that I form.

“Without feeling the loving holding of the universe, we can have no basic trust. How can you really let go and let yourself be if there isn’t trust that things are fundamentally okay, that whatever happens is appropriate? If we don’t have this trust, we are constantly scared, tense and fighting reality – inner and outer. If we have this trust, we can interact with everything exactly as it is – Let it in, Let it out, Let it go, Let go of letting it go and Let it be.”
~ Gabrielle Roth

 

Shame and Sexuality

What do you know of great love? Have you ever loved a woman until milk leaked from her as though she had just given birth to love itself, and now must feed it or burst? Have you ever tasted a woman until she believed that she could be satisfied only by consuming the tongue that had devoured her? Have you ever loved a woman so completely that the sound of your voice in her ear could cause her body to shudder and explode with such intense pleasure that only weeping could bring her full release?
~ from the movie Don Juan DeMarco, 1994

I’m taking part in a workshop called The Good Girl Recovery Program. It’s run by a woman called Marcia, who came highly recommended to me by some dear friends who are poly and kinky and have made great personal breakthroughs with her support. I’m finding this course amazing. It is challenging me, inspiring me, and getting me to unpack some of the old stuff that I had buried and forgotten about.

snow-white-37-whistle-while-you-work-1-f15

We can’t just sweep all the dirt under the carpet and forget about it.

The central theme to my personal journey- in the last few months, in the last couple of years, and arguably the central theme in my narrative as an adult- has been embracing my sexuality. I was given many messages in my childhood that told me sex was something bad, something to be ashamed of, something to be hidden and not talked about. My mother described it to me in ways that made it sound disgusting, painful, and something that would detract from my evolution as a spiritual and conscious being. And the surroundings I grew up in were resoundingly not sex- positive (I was at a private all girls school for four years, at a catholic school for two years, and spent my adolescence living in a country where kissing someone in public who wasn’t your lawful spouse could have you jailed, and being gay could land you far harsher punishment).

When I was about six or seven years old, my school had a visit from a charity that worked to prevent cruelty to children. They were a well known charity, fierce advocates of children’s rights, and had very well thought out ways of reaching out to kids who may have experienced trauma and abuse in the home. Unfortunately for me, one of their excercises had the side effect of kindling shame around my sexual expression.

It was quite a simple excercise. We had activity sheets given to us that had three sillhouettes of ginger-bread-men like figures. One had a green outline. In that one, we were asked to color in areas where we liked to be touched. The next one was red- that was for where we didn’t like to be touched. And then there was a third, I think it was orange, and that was for where people touch us.

Now, I loved riding my bike. Why? Cos it felt so good in my crotch. It felt better than good- it was amazing! And I also loved jumping on my space hopper. So my crotch was colored in quite intensely for the green figure. And, since it was somewhere I liked to touch myself, I colored it in very strongly on the orange figure.

My parents were called in to the school. I was questioned by the principal separately from my parents. After i explained that it was me who did the touching of my vagina, my parents were sent home with the message that their daughter might be sexually aware too young. My mother- who I later learned had experienced sexual abuse from a family member- was already very protective of me, and became even more protective after that. I wasn’t allowed to touch myself, not even to scratch. The first time a boy asked me out, my mother said I wasn’t allowed to go out with him unless I had a chaperone (that boy dumped me as a result). She watched my first high school boyfriend like a hawk and terrified him. And the first time I was out later than midnight with a boy, when I was sixteen, I came home to my mother sitting on the staircase, brooding and fuming, and received a lecture about staying out late that still, to this day, brings up feelings of terror and fear within me. She was very effective at making me feel ashamed of my body, and of my sexuality.

Shame around sexuality is something institutionalized and ingrained at the very core of current day society. I’m not blind to the fact that I now live in a delightful bubble of sex-positive, open minded, accepting, and pretty rad people. Sadly, the majority of the world is not like this. For the majority of people alive today, there are many mixed messages about sex, that it is sinful and dirty, that it is something to use as a tool for power and control, that it makes it okay to objectify the human form, that it should be hidden and hushed, that it is something we are all supposed to do eventually and then be ashamed of immediately afterwards.

I sometimes wonder if my mother has ever had an orgasm, if the trauma of her own abuse has stood in the way of her ever experiencing sexual pleasure. I know my grandmother, on the other hand, was a very sexually astute woman- and she may have been bisexual. She taught me about what all the parts of my vagina were for when I was a kid (“And this is where special honey comes from, for the boy you marry”) She was prescribed the use of a WAHL personal massager by her physician as part of the treatment for her hysteria when she entered menopause. I have a foggy memory of my mother and grandmother arguing about the presence of this WAHL vibrator on my grandmother’s dressing table.

wahl

I came close to loosing my virginity a few times as a teenager, but held off. I was shy and afraid and had no idea what to do. I masturbated by myself plenty, and enjoyed it a lot, but had no idea how to share that experience with another person. My first attempt at penetrative sex was when I was 20, with my ex boyfriend Tony who I’d dated when I was thirteen and trusted immensely. It was awkward and weird (we both agree, looking back with the hindsight of experience) and I remember thinking “Is this it? Maybe my mother was right.”

And then I ended up marrying the next guy I slept with. He knew how to play with my body and would let me masturbate to orgasm before we had sex, and that was a mind-blowing revelation for me. But, during my relationship with Finn, sex was often an obligation. “We should have more sex, we’re married,” was the line I often heard.  And so sex became a thing I’d do begrudgingly. Even when I didn’t want to. And I slowly began to close up my sexual expression.

The truth was, I was having fantasies I couldn’t fulfill with him. I was watching lesbian porn. I was watching kinky porn. I had desires to be tied up and to do the tying up. I wanted to experience giving another woman an orgasm, and to have sex with other men- and maybe several of them at once. Since adolescence I’d held fantasies of crazy group orgies, of being both the instigator of such events, and also the recipient of attention from multiple people simultaneously.

And Finn just wasn’t in to all that kinky stuff. Kinky for him was buying a “sensual cocoa butter massage bar” which did one thing only: stain our sheets.

The first time I experienced a squirting orgasm, it was using my vibrator externally. It was about six months after I’d been living by myself, and I hadn’t had sex in a long time. I think I’d been going for about an hour, and thought I might never orgasm. I’d edged close to that precipice but each time my body shut down- something mental was going on for me, some sort of shame about sex would kick in and take me back a few notches. But then- then something magical happened.
Maybe it was that the music I was playing shifted, perhaps it was my body reaching a point where my mind couldn’t fight with my body any more. My mind let go, and my body convulsed in a crescendo of joy and deep moans of pleasure for a split second- and then I began to cry and scream and yell, like some old pain within me was being released.  I lay in stillness. The sheets and pillows around me were soaked with sweat, cum, and tears. Was the pain from the years of repressed sexual joy? The hurt I felt inside from my two miscarriages? The restriction of my full sexual expression?

columbia_river_waterfall_gorge_oregon_wallpaper-1024x768

This mental block thing still happens to me when I get near orgasm. It has made it really challenging for me to orgasm with someone else unless I can trust them and open up about the most vulnerable parts of myself- and if I feel shut down, dismissed, or judged for any part of that, I can’t continue. Orion has helped me immensely in moving through the many aspects of the shame I feel around this. We’ve been exploring together ways to use elements of BDSM play to accentuate the experience of being trapped- taking it from a mental limitation into a physical limitation, and seeing how both my body and mind react in different ways. It has been immensely liberating to discover that I can have earth-shaking orgasms with other people on a consistent basis, that there is indeed a method to the madness.

I’m learning to be more articulate about what I want and don’t want. Over the last few weeks I have been developing a new relationship with a man who, for the purposes of the blog, we’ll call Gerard. He has been with women before who have had sexual trauma, and is incredibly aware about communicating proactively about what’s happening in the moment if he has a concern. And he has absolutely listened to all my “no”s. He’s been keen to learn my body, to figure out the little subtleties of what works, and is always keen to make sure I have satisfying orgasms. For a while, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have sex with him- but after a great date zero and a fun date one, we chatted online and talked about kissing. And the next time we hung out, we kissed. Just, kissed. We made out for a few hours. And then we talked about sex, but didn’t have sex. But we talked about it, and so when it came down to peeling off our clothes two dates later, we already knew where we were going, and were not fumbling around in the dark, so to speak.

Between my recent experiences with Orion, and the new experiences with Gerard, I’m feeling far more confident in being able to talk about and express my sexuality. I’m realizing that I’ve been limited by labels of things, and that at my core, sexuality is something I enjoy being creative with when I share it with others, and that I don’t like to go at half-arsed. I can’t do quickies. I want to take my time to explore- and to be explored. I’m broadening my horizons. I’m daring to be out as sex-positive. ElkFeather posted something to facebook recently, about the word “pomosexuality“, a word that seems to describe transcending the ideas of clear cut orientation labels that might limit us (gay, straight, male, female etc) and that’s very appealing to me.  I value the ways that people choose to identify, and at the same time, it’s not the labels that matter to me. It’s what someone has beating in their heart, the longing in their chest and their loins, and desires and the potential for mutual exploration where chemistry exists and inspiration strikes. That’s what matters to me.

My mother turned up in town a few weeks ago. Since I have now made it very clear on several occasions that I don’t want to have her in my life as long as she continues to believe that “gays are mentally ill” and that her attempts to send me “love and blessings” in the form of condescending sex-negative conversations are not welcome, I did my best to keep a low profile while she was around. After I found out she had tried to stalk me at work (unsuccessfully) I strategized where to could go on my day off where I could guarantee I wouldn’t run in to her. As it so happened, there’s an amazing store not far from where I live that specializes in celebrating and empowering women’s sexuality. And, as luck would have it, they had a sale on. I spent a good hour and a half in the store, picking up toys, asking questions, chatting with the sales associates about the pros and cons of different lubes for different uses, and even managed to learn about some things you can do with power drills that don’t involve construction or carpentry work.

I left the store with my proud purchase of a stainless steel butt plug. A milestone in the ongoing evolution of my sexual un-shaming.

The njoy surgical-grade stainless steel plug comes complete with tasteful gift box.

As I release the hold that shame around sexuality has had on me, as I stop letting myself shrink away (so beautifully described in this video going viral), and really embrace this process of blossoming in to the full expression of all who I am, I’m also beginning to embrace my dominant side. Asserting my boundaries in the bedroom, articulating with openness and honesty about intimacy ahead of time, and a genuine desire to help others fulfill their fantasies and release their own sexual shame, is leading me quite naturally to learn more about how to take control- with consent- and create positive experiences for others where I’m in charge.

Orion’s been teaching me a lot with this, and has half-teasingly called me a ‘shamanatrix’, because I keep referring to being a dominatrix as a potential extension of my existing work in the wellness industry. Not that I think I would ever do it professionally- though I can’t absolutely discount the possibility.

I like being sex-positive. I like being kink-positive. I like not letting judgmental attitudes about alternative lifestyles get the better of me. I like that I am now navigating sexuality not by what someone else has told me is okay and not okay for my body, but by what my body tells me feels good, and doesn’t feel good. I’m learning how to ask others about their body, their desires, their fantasies- and to never assume. And I am discovering that we are- all of us- delightfully creative, each of us ‘freaky’ in our own right, and that there is so much diversity- a diversity that is liberating.

There is still a lot that I’m working on. But, I feel like the cap has been lifted. The waters have broken, and this new, assertive, sexually empowered and knowledgeable, goddess-version of me is birthing her way in to the world and learning how to grow and flourish. I don’t know how this would have been possible had I stayed married, or if I had embraced monogamy. I’m committed to expanding the definition of who I am, and every single intimate relationship I’ve enjoyed in the past few years has revealed new aspects of myself to me and invited me to stretch beyond the squishy limits of my comfort zone.

comfort zone

Friendships and Flirtations

“It’s not about finding your soul-mate, M. It’s about getting to know someone a whole lot better, and in a totally different way.”

These words were spoken to me by my first boyfriend, Tony.

Tony has known me since I was fourteen, and we dated for a couple of months, broke up, and through high school would casually hook up from time to time. We still chat to this day, and even though he is an ocean away, in the UK, there’s still chemistry between us. We sometimes talk dirty. I send him the occasional suggestive selfie. I have no idea if or when we will meet in person again, but the flirtation is a lot of fun. And, also, he knows who I used to be, what I’ve been through, and where I’m at now. He regularly gets the “Cole’s Notes” updates on my life, and I get the summaries on his. There are not many people who have known me for more than half a life time with whom I have that same level of easy rapport.

I love friendships. And I really enjoy the friendship I have with Tony. It’s a great example for me of a kind of dynamic I think I’m looking for in both my relationships (small r) and Relationships (big R). The people I have been intimate with and who remain friends to this day are some of the people whom I would count as closest to me in my life, and so building and preserving friendship within an intimate relationship has become important to me.

I think I’m getting it, you know? How to balance that ecstatic dance of New-Relationship-Energy glow with establishing a foundation of friendship to rest upon.

The notion of ‘dating’ is even more a mystery to me than it was a year ago. I don’t even know what it means to be ‘dating’ someone. ‘Seeing’ someone, yup. ‘Dating’ is another matter entirely. If dating is just the act of going on dates, well yes there’s people I date. But then- what constitutes a ‘date’?

I am starting to be of the opinion that ‘Dating’ (capital ‘D’) is another symptom of being on that default relationship escalator and I am so not interested in taking that escalator any more.

What I am enjoying a lot recently is the notion of consciously recognizing the potential of what a connection is and can be between two people, and actively sculpting it in such a way as to maximize that potential. So maybe that’s ‘dating’, with a small letter ‘d’; dating as a means of exploration, not Dating as a trajectory towards a specific set of expectations.

photo (5)

Orion and I are at this really beautiful place at the moment where we have a good idea of the spectrum we can explore in our relationship together. It has taken us a year to get to this place, and it feels really, really good. What started out as two friends having some rope play sessions has transformed into best friends who love sharing their love together. And occasionally have ridiculously kinky play sessions. We’ve gotten to understand more about how to communicate with courageous honesty with one another- and that has brought about the most positive, most wonderful shifts. We know what we can be spontaneous about (make-outs, cuddles, walking hand in hand down the street to the coffee shop), and we know what kinds of things we need to talk about in advance: like setting up a night for a kinky play date, for example, and talking about what we’d want to include in there, or anticipating social events and whether we want to be there ‘together’ or ‘solo’.

How is this different from a “Relationship”?

Honestly, I don’t know. It is one of the healthiest relationships I’ve ever been part of. So maybe the difference is- it’s healthy? Neither one of us are attached to any outcomes, but we are committed to keeping integrity with one another and with ourselves. And to always honoring the dynamic we share between us.

The commitment, is not to the intimacy or even to the accessories or outward appearance of the relationship, but to the friendship itself.

Orion is a long-term friend.

Tony is also a long-term friend, albeit a friendship with a different context and texture because, well, he is a very different person than Orion.

And, the friendship running parallel with the flirtations in these relationships is teaching me how to better approach new relationships with a little more perspective.

I want long-term friendships that have the potential for intimacy, but that never have to feel obligated to express intimacy. And those kinds of friendships can absolutely start with dating- cos after all, that’s a great way to get to know somebody!

I met Louis on OkCupid. We messaged back and forth a few times and decided that we had to meet up. Now, my OkCupid profile currently is all geared towards friendship. And Louis’ messages came across as super open, earnest, and friendship-suitable, with a little light flirtation. This was a good combination, in my opinion, to jump in to meeting up. Our date zero was dinner and then an hour in the rain as he waited with me for my bus home. Our second date was grabbing a bite to eat and driving around outside the city listening to drum and bass music turned up full blast on his car stereo, with some midnight antics on a see-saw in a playground in a fancy neighborhood. It was wonderful, and friendly, and super fun, with conversation that just flowed naturally, and no feeling of obligation or anxiety or stress. And when he dropped me at home that night we hugged goodbye and after I got in through the door and kicked off my shoes I realized- damn, I wanted to kiss him.

And so I told him so. We chatted back and forth online and by text, getting more flirty. And the other night he came over to share some home-made ice cream with me and, well, we kissed. And one kiss… led to many more kisses.

I think you know you’ve got something good happening when you can process out-loud and share things in the midst of the throws of passion. “This is really frickin awesome,” “I need you to know that I don’t orgasm easily,” “What can I do for you?” “Do you like to be touched here?” “Hey, do you know how to hi-five the universe?”

And, it is pretty awesome. Our conversation has been flowing incredibly naturally, and the ‘big important things’- you know, those things that have often felt like elephants in the room to me before- have felt super easy to talk about. That says a lot about him, and who he is, because I don’t easily open up to people so quickly. I know also that there’s no way I would have been able to be this present, open, and honest a few months ago.

I asked Louis to describe to me what kind of relationship he’s looking for:
“Friends with benefits… kinda? You know, something that wouldn’t have the kind of emotional involvement as a Relationship would have.”
“Oh,” I said smiling, “You’re looking for friendtimacy?”
“Yes! Oh my god that’s an excellent word, friendtimacy!”

So, we’re in the throws of an NRE that’s fueled by an insane chemistry, and simultaneously, we’re nourishing a friendship and rapport, sharing drum and bass music with one another and geeking out over favorite TV shows, comedy, and movies. It’s fun. And exciting. And there’s so much still to explore.

Oh, and in case you are wondering how to hi-five the Universe? Just stick your hands up in the air, and bop them up gently and say “Hi-five, Universe!”
There, see? Easy.
I’ve been giving the Universe lots of hi-fives these last few weeks. So much gratitude to find myself in the place where I’m at.

“Hai fivez, Univerze!”

Pandora Percolating

“I’m afraid. And I need to acknowledge this verbally, that although I don’t want to, some part of me is holding back in sharing all my love, all this love that I am so desperate to share. And I don’t want that to be the case, but I’m afraid.”

“What are you afraid of?” asked ElkFeather.

“That I will push people away with how intense I can be.” This was, after all, what seemed to happen with Noel.

“Is there anyone in particular you are afraid of pushing away?” he asked me.

In the safety of his arms, in the comfortable embrace, my legs locked around his waist, I could feel the fear melting as I spoke.

“You,” I answered. “I don’t want to drive you away.” Pause. Breathe. “I don’t want to drive anyone away.”

With my cheek resting against his neck, I could feel ElkFeather breathing, smiling. “You aren’t going to drive me away. I’m here.”

Wow. Melt.

There are these walls up within me against myself, and I’m slowly breaking through them.

My greatest fear is my own power. My own full expression of being. I want to unleash and let go. I want to pour my heart out over and over again, and let go of the pain and sorrow, celebrate the joy and the love. And I am so afraid of how overwhelming that can be. Of how I can become so overwhelmed by myself and consumed with that expressiveness that everything else falls by the wayside. Work, commitments, long term plans, everything. I am Pandora, holding this box, sealed tight for fear that what lies within will move without my control. Wild passion. Unbridled. Unrestrained. Powerful. Transformative.

Pandora and her box: a parable of feminine sexuality.

Pandora and her box: a parable of feminine sexuality.

I hold back with partners because, in the past, I have not held back. I have taken advantage. I choosen to not have sex when intoxicated for the simple reason that I don’t trust myself to recognize the other person’s No- whether spoken or bodily communicated- when I am in an altered state of awareness, and I don’t trust that someone else can say no when they are in that state. I have been the person who knew the person they were with was too drunk to resist or say no. I’ve been the one to cross unspoken boundaries and I hate that I have that capacity.

So I hold back. I hold back and hold back. And I can only let go when someone inserts a key. When someone gives me absolute outright permission “Yes, we are having sex. We are getting intimate.” And then it’s a gentle playful zone until… something magical shifts, and I melt. I’m gone. Everything changes. I open. I’m unleashed.

Maybe I will get to a place again when I feel I can trust myself enough with others that I can fully let down those guards and maybe have sex whilst more than a little tipsy, or at the tail-end of a mushroom trip. Who knows. I mean, I love those altered states of consciousness. I just don’t know that I can go there and go into that vulnerably open arena of sexuality with someone else at the same time.

It is said that our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. It is that we are powerful beyond measure. And here I am seeking to unleash the full expression of my sexuality, and holding back because I fear it could take over.

I love the time I get to spend with ElkFeather. Whilst we chat online often, we see each other in person maybe once every few months. There’s a lot of love shared between us. The time we spend together feels genuine. Nothing forced, no agenda. We play. We laugh. We do mushrooms and tumble around his living room. We read our Free Will Astrology for the week. We draw oracle cards to decipher our lives and laugh when the cards tell us the same things. We eat good food and watch TED talks. We share tea. We share kisses. And more.

He reminds me of an elemental forest creature. When we are together, I feel the gentle embrace of the trees, the softness of the moss, the uplifting fragrance of the earth. I reconnect with myself. I find my grounding. Once I know where that grounding is, I’m no longer afraid to spread my wings. I feel- invincible, wide open, free. The fear seems to melt.

On my last morning at ElkFeather’s, before heading back into the city, I was overcome with a wave of sorrow. I don’t know why. It was just, sadness, pouring out of me. I started crying. It was a joyous kind of sadness. He came over and gently touched my foot. “I love you, M” he said, his eyes glowing, his face beaming deep, compassionate love at me. That was all he needed to say. He reminded me of the experience of love, and the sadness evaporated into smiles and sweetness.

I’m reminded that we are all so vulnerable, we’ve all been hurt and wounded, we’ve all carried scars around our sexuality, and yet-we’ve all got immeasurable strength and wisdom to share. The deepest scars can indeed be healed. Our traumas can become our strengths. Each and every twist in our path leads us to opportunities to grow if we choose to see them that way. And relationships, they can be the greatest teacher of all. The people we undress to- physically and emotionally- get to see every little mark on our being, even the ones we forgot were there, and they can help us heal them, if the trust and capacity for sharing love is there.

What’s Done, Is Done.

“Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what’s done, is done.”

~ William Shakespeare

When I walked into Finn’s place, the cat greeted me immediately with meows of “Where the F*&$ have you been?”

I had come in search of the vacuum bags to go in the vacuum cleaner that had, at one time, been my mother’s. Then, somehow, it became mine. Then I gave it to Finn. Then I got it back. Along the way the spare bags and filters went missing.

It would have been easier to buy new ones, but I was sure I knew where they were at Finn’s place.

Finn wasn’t going to be home for another half hour, but told me to let myself in. We have been separated for almost two years now. His girlfriend has been in the process of moving in with him. It was strange to see all her things intermixed with his. As I searched the house (to no avail) for the vacuum bags, it was weird to come across things like artwork that Finn and I had bought together, sitting alongside things of hers.

This is the first time I have had the feeling of having been ‘replaced’. Seeing things of his that used to sit alongside things of mine, now sitting next to her stuff. It felt eerie.

I’m actually one of people who introduced them to one another, she was part of our extended network of friends when we were just breaking up. Their relationship was one of those things no one could have predicted, but in retrospect their coupling makes perfect sense, and they are good for one another. She does things for him that I never would have done. I have no resentments about their relationship, I just didn’t expect them to live together so soon.

Downstairs I came across a row of Finn’s ties. Almost all of them, I had bought him as gifts. I think there were seven; ironically, one for each year we were married. Damn, I have a knack for finding good ties. And seeing them there, I wanted to rip them down. I wanted to take them back, I wanted to take it all back.

I’ve cleared through so many things from our marriage, and I’m continuing to rid myself of the stuff we jointly acquired. And yet he has hung onto all of it.

And all of it has memory.

I’m finding that it upsets me that he holds onto it. Like he is still holding on to me.

The cat was happy to see me at least. He purred and rolled around and let me pet his belly before jumping over to his treat box and making eyes at me. I gave in. I gave him a double serving of treats, right from my hand.

I miss the cat. I don’t miss the husband.

I think I feel resentful that all these things that were jointly acquired still play such a huge role in his life. It’s my own judgment of course; I see it as a sign of him not moving on totally. I have to remind myself he has always been a bit of a pack rat, and comes from a family that loves the comfort of many things around them. He probably doesn’t share my outlook on ‘things’ and belongings. Actually, I know he doesn’t. He still has t-shirts that his abusive ex-fiance (years before we met) gave him.

We chatted briefly when he came home. I asked him how he felt about his girlfriend moving in. The words sounded positive “It’s great, it’s a natural direction for things” but there wasn’t emotion behind them.

I felt heavy, almost sick, after being at his place.

We still haven’t filed for divorce. There’s a backlog of joint taxes that have to be filed first (he’s looking after that, apparently), and then, then hopefully we will be able to afford a divorce. It occurs to me that this may be expedited now that he has a live-in partner.

It would have made so much more sense to just buy new vacuum bags. A trip to the hardware store seems less emotionally stressful than a trip to the ex’s. I guess it was worth it to see the cat.

The Compersion Conundrum

Compersion: Describing an empathetic state of happiness and joy brought about by knowing or witnessing the happiness and joy of another individual. Often used to describe the positive feelings an individual can experience when a lover is enjoying another relationship. Considered to be the opposite of jealousy.

Polyamory: The practice, state or ability of having more than one intimate, physical, loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. 

How, and when, do you let your other partners know you are interested in someone else? When do you tell them when you are now seeing someone new?

I find I am fairly laisez-faire when it comes to this. I don’t expect anyone to be beholden to me in relationships, just as I wouldn’t expect to be beholden to them. Still, though, I like good healthy communication, and I am always curious to know about my lovers’ other lovers. I have friends who have joked that I seem to be immune to jealousy. I wouldn’t say that I am totally immune. Just that my capacity for compersion in most cases out weighs the jealous part of my brain.

I’m uber compersive. I can feel compersion at the drop of a hat- at the sight of strangers walking arm in arm down the street; as my friend tells me about his first romantic getaway with his girlfriend; when I am having dinner with a new crush and his wife and see them get snuggly together; even reading gooey Facebook statuses will have me in compersion. I will admit, there are times I even feel compersion and jealousy simultaneously- like they are battling in my head for supremacy. There’s a rationale process that usually wins over and compersion triumphs. See, Jealousy just wouldn’t be logical.

And even so, I cannot feel compersion if I do not know something is happening.

The network of cross-connections amongst my sweeties and metamours is complex- and with so many interwoven relationships, it is healthy to remember to treat every person as an individual, and to honor each relationship as the unique and dynamic phenomena it is. I’ve struggled with this a lot in the past. I think I am getting through that finally.

Well, almost. I found myself tested on that this week.

For a while now I’ve happily watched a flirtatious relationship develop between Orion and one of my best friends, Miranda. The friendship Miranda and I share is one of the closest platonic friendships in my life, and I really value that. I’ve rejoiced at her explorations into polyamory, celebrated her NRE, cried with her heartbreaks. We are bonded by many commonalities in our backgrounds and lifestyles. A few months ago we talked about the possibility of someone wanting to date both of us, and decided it would be weird, tricky, messy. We are in each other’s lives on a daily basis. We share a lot of things; sharing lovers seemed like taking things too far. But I started to see the chemistry between Orion and Miranda, and knew that something was likely to happen.

Orion talked to me about his crush on Miranda a couple of months ago, and I said that he should just go for it. I knew she was attracted to him. I love him, and I love Miranda, and I want them to explore and enjoy. I feel totally confident in the uniqueness of what I share with Orion, and I know how much he has taught me through being my lover- there’s no feeling of ‘I might be replaced’, which could come up in a newer relationship. Orion and Miranda? I instantly knew, right in my gut, that this was a good thing, and something that needed to happen.

I was therefore totally unprepared for the fit of anxiety and jealousy that came upon me when I found out, after the fact, that Miranda had spent the night at Orion’s.

Perhaps the weirdest part was that I had dreamt about it… in those sleepy moments of almost-wakefullness, I dreamt I heard Orion’s and Miranda’s voices talking. When I woke up, it hit me right then- she must have been at his place. But why wouldn’t I know? Shouldn’t I have known?

A little gentle prodding, and Miranda let on that this was, indeed, what had happened. I spent the day questioning myself. Should anyone have told me? Was this something I had some god-given right to know? Not really. Miranda’s always been good at keeping me up to date on her latest goings on. Orion has always told me when he’s got a new crush that might develop into more. And with Orion, I have never felt anything but happiness about him developing his other relationships. I have never wanted anyone to be beholden to me about anything in relationships. All I ever ask of my partners is ‘please be present with me, please communicate with me, please honor our connection whatever it may be’.

So why was I so upset?

I played through alternative scenarios in my head- what if I had known? What if, when Miranda had texted me that she wasn’t free that evening, she had mentioned ‘I’m at Orion’s’? How would I have reacted? I think I’d have sent her a thumbs up and a ‘Yay! Have fun!’ I feel like I was kinda denied that instant compersion because, well, I didn’t know it was happening, and you cannot feel compersion for something you don’t know is happening. The Big Sister in me feels sad that I was left out of knowing about something that I was really excited about, even though it had nothing to do with me. It’s not that I feel there’s an obligation to let me know every little detail. I just feel that in a spirit of perpetual openness, why hide something that might be relevant for someone to know? It’s not like I need a play by play detailed account. And going forward, it isn’t something I need to get too involved in. I just wish I’d had that opportunity to feel the compersion first, before the jealousy. I’m still uncertain how I should have found out though.

I’ve talked about this with both of them now. I think things are all good. We’ve all learned something out of this.

pompomThis experience has taught me something very important about myself and how I process things. I like to know what’s happening! Once I have shared my love with someone, that is not something I can take back, and even if I am no longer involved, I love to know that they are experiencing beautiful, happy things in their life. I had a huge grin on my face last night as ElkFeather told me about a girl he has a crush on. She’s someone I know peripherally, and I feel like they would be a really lovely pair. I’m rooting for them. This discovery of my desire for compersion brings me as well to understand the frustration I have felt with some other situations in my life: I think two exes of mine are now seeing each other. But I really have no idea. I just pick up on things, and it is sometimes enfuriating to be in the void of ‘not-knowing’. I get a little resentful of it. I’m not sure that there’s any obligation to tell me, of course. But again, they are two people whom I can see being incredibly compatible together  and I just wish I knew for sure if that was actually the case, so I can cheer them on!

I acknowledge this might make me one of the strangest people on the planet. I’ve just never found the head-in-the-sand approach worked very well for me. Whilst looking up definitions of compersion for this article I came across a book, “Compersion: Using Jealousy As A Path To Unconditional Love“, and I think that this concept- that you can transmute jealousy into a positive experience that brings about a feeling of emotional expansiveness- accurately summarizes one of the things I absolutely adore about polyamory: it challenges me on every ounce of selfishness and past-attachment, and the only way through all of that is by continually working on myself to find that place of natural (not forced) unconditional loving. When jealousy turns into compersion, it is a beautiful thing indeed. And I don’t like the feeling of being denied that opportunity to experience compersion with any loves, whether they are still a central feature of my life, or not.

Polysingleish Interviews Franklin Veaux, Part 1: Being Poly

Franklin Veaux www.xeromag.com

Franklin Veaux http://www.xeromag.com

Franklin Veaux has been blogging about polyamory since the earliest days of blogging. As a result, his self-described ‘sprawling web empire’ covers a lot of ground in exploring the realms of polyamory, relationships, kink, and more. The chances are, if you have ever googled polyamory, you’ve read something by him in the search results.
I recently got to cosy up with Franklin (via Skype) and pick his brain about life, sex, relationship expectations, and how many people it takes to make an orgy.

DISCOVERING POLYAMORY

M: How did you know you were Poly?

FV: I knew that I wasn’t mono from the time I was about five. I didn’t know I was poly because I didn’t have a word for it, but I always had this weird thing: when people would tell stories about the beautiful princess who had to choose the suitor, the five year old me was like, “Wait a minute, everyone knows that princesses live in castles, and everyone knows that castles are big, so surely there’s room for both of them, right? I mean, I don’t get it! What am I not getting here?” So it never really made sense to me, and I’ve never been in a monogamous relationship; I lost my virginity in a threesome; I took two partners to my senior prom when I was in high school. There’s never been a point where being monogamous has really made any sense. What I didn’t have when I first started doing this stuff … the word polyamory hadn’t really gotten into circulation then.

M: So how did you build an understanding of what it was? How did you create a framework for your relationship style amidst the fairytale fantasies?

FV: Lots and lots of trial and error. Mostly error, actually. I had very little conception that it was possible to have a committed relationship with someone who felt the same way that I did about relationships, so I was married for a long time to a person who identified as monogamous, and our relationship was not monogamous, but she was never really okay with the idea that I had other partners, so we kept fumbling around trying to make things up as we went along. We managed to make it work for about eighteen years, and then ultimately it fell apart under the weight of her being unhappy being non-monogamous..

M: And, now you are one of the most prolific writers about polyamory on the Internet. You’ve helped in creating a language for people through which they can communicate their relationship style. Are you aware that you’ve done that?

FV: I’ve had people tell me things like that. That wasn’t what I set out to do. I discovered the language of polyamory and other people who were polyamorous sometime around the mid 90s and I sat down and started writing the website for people who were in the position that I was in, for the version of me that didn’t know this was possible. I thought maybe if I write about my experiences, someone else will find that and they’ll be able how to figure out how to make this stuff work without having to make all the trial and error that I had to do. But I never actually imagined that it would run away from me the way that it has. I never thought there were that many people like me in the world.

OPEN-NETWORK POLYAMORY

M: One of the things I see reposted a lot is the diagram of non-monogamous relationship you created.

FV: There are so many ways that people are non-monogamous!

M: Where in the diagram do you fit?

FV: I do open network polyamory which means that the people in my life that I form connections with if I have space and time and energy for it; I can start relationships, and I don’t expect or want to have any sort of power over how my partners interact with other people or form their own relationships. So what that ends up is usually a sort of loose network of relationships. People ask, “Well, where does it end? “I would say people, don’t’ have an infinite capacity for relationships, and when you look at open networks of relationships you will see there’s a few people who have 5 or 6 partners, and a large number of people who have 1 or 2 or maybe 3 partners, and that seems to be the way things shake out.

M: Your network expands across the world.

FV: It does. I have sweeties in London, Canada, and have had partners in the past who have had relationships that have extended all over the place.

M: What does it mean to you then, to have those long distance relationships? Are they someone who, when you are in town, you can fuck? Is there a heartfelt connection? Is there Love? Are there any of the other traditional trappings of a relationship?

FV: I have experimented with the idea of having a partner who is just a recreational sex partner. Doesn’t tend to work very well for me. Physical intimacy seems to open the doorway to emotional intimacy. The long distance partners that I have are definitely loving, heartfelt relationships, that are constrained by geography. And one of the things that I try to do with many of my partners that are long distance is I try to create with them, because that’s one of my love languages- co-creation. I try to do the things that I can to bring them into my life on an ongoing basis. I do things that remind me of them. I will wear bunny ears, which I got from one of my partners in London. I wear a ring from one of my partners who lives in Florida now. So, I try to keep in touch with them that way, keeping them in my day-to-day life. Obviously it’s not as good or effective as living with somebody is. And there are limits to what you can do.

One of the differences for me between a romantic relationship and someone I ‘just fuck’ is, when you have a partner that is just a sex partner, there isn’t an expectation of continuity. You have sex, and go your separate ways, and if you never get around to talking to that person again, there’s not a sense of loss or expectation you stay in touch. As soon as you start having that expectation of continuity, as soon as you start having that person living with you emotionally all the time, that’s when it becomes a relationship.

Franklin’s infographic map of Non Monogamy. Visit http://www.xeromag.com/sexualinformatics/nonmonogamy2.5.2.gif for the full size image.

SINGLEISH POLYAMORY

M: I like that.  So, going back to the diagram…

FV: I keep meaning to make that into a poster.

M: When I look at the diagram, all the scenarios and examples seem to come from a place of someone being in a primary relationship already.

FV: The map comes from a place of being in relationship of some sort, because it’s a map of relationship types. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s primary relationship. I think a lot of it is about a primary type of relationship because as human beings we tend to form close emotionally intimate relationships and so that’s kind of the default for people to be in when they are in a relationship. But, I think its possible for network polyamory to be a looser style of relationship, and certainly there are lots of poly people I’ve met. And before I started dating I was a single poly person because I knew that I was non monogamous, even before I had a partner.

M: I think I just figured out where in the diagram I would fit! There’s a little overlap between open relationships, polyamorous relationships, and dating around. There’s a purple strip in there. That’s probably where I am, being Singleish.

FV: So, there needs to be an X there with your name attached to it?

M: Sure!

FV: Singleish. I like that. So what’s the difference between single and Singleish and in a relationship?

M: I came to the conclusion that I was single-ish because I didn’t want to be in a “committed” relationship; that model of two people get into a relationship and live happily ever after, it works for some people, but not for me. I tried that. The expectations that came with that were challenging. Mainly, the expectation that the other person is there to complete you and make you whole.

FV: Wow, that’s a tricky one too. The idea that you are not complete in yourself and that it’s your relationships that complete you is something that kind of gives me the heebee geebies!

M: I see a lot of people stuck in that. Anyway, I decided that I needed to be in a primary relationship with myself. And that being in a primary relationship with myself, I could still be having an orgy with the universe.

FV: I like that, having an orgy with the universe. I like that a lot!

M: So that’s where the Singleish approach comes from. I date, and I develop connections, and I want to honor every connection where it is in that moment It’s a lot about living in the moment.

FV: Living in the moment I think is probably the best key to happiness that I have ever discovered. And I discovered it by accident. The word Singleish, that’s kind of interesting. How do you define commitment? I’m curious?

M: I want to build connections that have longevity, that have this honoring, that have this love, whether it is platonic or sexual, but it’s not tied into this expectation of “Oh, we should move in together, we should share bank accounts, lets make a family.”

FV: For me, commitment is an expectation of continuity. You are making that person part of your life, whatever that might look like, going forward. But the word commitment doesn’t necessarily imply anything about what that ongoing relationship looks like, only that you are committed to the idea that it exists, that going forward this person is going to be involved in your life in some way.

MEETING POLY PEOPLE

FV: Everyone asks this question- where do you go to meet poly folks? Well, I go to Polys-R-Us. They stockpile them there. If you go on Wednesday night they have them on sale and you can get two for one!The way you meet poly people is you be open about being poly yourself. I have met poly people at McDonald’s, I’ve met poly people at my client’s sites, conferences: it’s all about that willingness to be open.

M: When I separated from my husband, I learned that very quickly. I started dating a married couple, and just mentioning the fact I had a boyfriend and a girlfriend, it immediately got people’s attention.

FV: It tells people your approach to relationship. It tells people you are non monogamous, that you are bisexual, and if you want to meet someone that has those attributes, then be open about having those attributes yourself

M: There are guys who message me on OkCupid who say, “Oh we have so much in common! You’re poly, I’m poly, lets fuck!”

FV: Well yes of course that means you must be compatible!
I got a message from someone on OkCupid once who was 0% match, 0% friend, 53% enemy. How is this possible?  The only way this could be possible is if this person had answered only five questions. So I look at this person’s profile and no, they’ve answered 2000 questions in common with me, and they’re at 0% match, 0% friend.

M: What did they say in the message?

FV: It was like “Oh hi, your profile looks very interesting!” Does it now?

M: I imagine it would! I’ve seen some interesting discussions about OkCupid. Like, should you only answer the questions that pertain to poly in order to find other poly people?

FV: If you want to find poly people you’re not compatible with, then sure!

M: That was my response too!

DEFINING RELATIONSHIP

FV: How do you define relationship?

M: I look at relationship as big R and small r. I have hundreds of small r relationships. Anyone I consider to be a friend, that’s a relationship and it requires just as much mental energy and honoring as a romantic relationship would. The big R relationships, that’s where it’s hard for me to define. There’s a threshold that gets crossed, and a feeling of love that’s not just the chemical hormonal NRE feeling, it’s the ‘Wow, I really like what you bring out in me, I really love what you bring to my life, I can see ways that we can continue to dance together. ‘

 There’s just something in the emotional connection in my heart that I feel which makes me want to be in Relationship with somebody. Right now there are three people in my life that I feel that I am in a ‘Relationship’ with, but not where there’s an expectation or ‘box’ on it. I consider them all to be dear friends, two of whom were good friends prior to the intimate connection, one who I shared an intimate connection with and that opened the door to becoming really good friends.

FV: So are all big R relationships romantic relationships?

M: In their own way, yes. Maybe not in the “let me buy you roses” way. There’s a sensuality that I think is romantic. For me it has a lot to do with the creative spark.  If I can be creative and throw creative ideas back and forth with someone, that to me is exciting!

FV: I definitely understand that because that co-creating thing is my love language also.

NEW-RELATIONSHIP ENERGY

M: Going back to terminology. NRE.

FV: Oh yes, what other people call being ‘in love’, as opposed to loving somebody. I cringe every time I hear somebody say, “Well, I love him, but I wasn’t in love with him”.

M: How do you define NRE? How do you define Love?

FV: My college background was in neurobiology.  I tend to be a mechanist about these things. I define NRE in terms of brain chemistry. NRE is what you’re experiencing when you’re in that part of the relationship when you’re brain is flooded with serotonin and oxytocin and all of these other things and you’re giddy and you see the object of your affection and you know, you get the trembles and the heart flutters, and the palm shaking- this is a biological experience. This is a biological thing. It’s a biological adaptation for social mating whatever whatever. So we feel that way, we fall in love, we feel that giddiness, and we’re like woo this is true love, I will never feel like this again. And you know, it fades over time, because the chemistry changes, and then you meet someone new and you’re like “ooh this is true love, because I will never feel like this again”.

M: Do you think it’s addictive?

FV: Addictive is a tricky word. I think there are people who are drawn to it. And people who feel compelled to seek it out. I am skeptical that anything behavioral can actually be addictive in the true sense of being addictive. I cringe when people talk about sex addiction for example, because it’s really abusing the word addictive. But Yeah I think there are people who can feel compelled to seek that feeling out over and over again.

M: Are they addicted to the surge of hormones?

FV:  Possibly.  Or they’re seeking out the feelings, emotions. They’re seeking out that trembly excitement of oh my god this is so awesome.  It feels good, and there are people who seek out things that feel good. I think that’s probably quite common. The trick is of course realizing it for what it is, and that its not “Oh this is something I have never felt before and this proves I need to sell my house and move in with this person”.

PERMISSION TO SAY NO

M: I would agree. I have struggled with that. With friends who want to take things further and I’m not feeling it. Having to tell them, I’m not there right now, and I’m not sure if I will ever be there. In the past I have made excuses and done the indirect no, but they want to hear yes, so they hear it as a ‘yes eventually’, if they wait long enough I might change my mind. Then they get upset when I start developing other connections that are a definite “Yup, I’m in!”

FV: So, I think when someone asks a question and it doesn’t matter if it’s ‘Do you like pickles on your hamburgers?’ or, ‘Do you want to fuck?’ it has to be okay for the answer to be no. And part of the reason we are indirect about saying no is that it is clear when it is NOT ok for the answer to be no. It’s clear when there’s an expectation that what you want to hear is ‘yes’. And if you are asking a question and its not okay for the answer to be no, then you’re not actually asking the question, you’re making a demand. And that actually goes to expectation management, which is, “It is ok for me to want something from somebody; it is not okay for me to expect something from somebody if that person hasn’t signed on to it”. So, what I try to do for myself, if I am asking somebody a question, whether it’s “Do you want to go out to dinner?” or  “Do you want to date,?” or, “Do you want to have sex?“ I try to do it with no expectation of what the answer has to be and I try to make it clear that its okay for the answer to be no.
So part of the answer to the question is: people who ask need to make it ok to hear a no. And then, people who are asked need to be okay with saying no.

M: So if I get asked a question, and they’ve asked it in such a way that I don’t feel safe saying no….

FV: That puts you in a really bad spot.

M: I need to be assertive in my communication and say, ‘Is it going to be okay if I say no?’

FV: That seems like a workaround, and it feels clumsy, but… since we are so strongly conditioned not to say no, I think that’s a reasonable thing to do. But of course if you really don’t feel safe in saying no, then that suggests there’s another problem there.

M: I’m always worried I’m going to hurt someone’s feelings or offend them, that they will shut down the friendship.

FV: And a lot of people do. If somebody does, if they cant hear a no and shut down a friendship with you because they’re not getting sex, not getting what they are asking for, that’s actually on them and not on you.

M: Yeah, I’ve been figuring that out recently.

FV: Really, what does it say, I’m not going to be your friend unless you give me this, whatever this is, what kind of friendship is that? And unfortunately we do live in a society that lives in this idea that men and women can’t actually be friends. That there’s always this agenda. There’s always sex on the table somewhere, there’s always this goal of the man pursuing sex and the women being the gatekeepers of sex, and that’s a little fucked up.
When you have a society or set of values or cultural assumptions that say you cant be friends with somebody that you are sexually attracted to without sex being on the table, that’s kind of skuzzy.

HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES IT TAKE TO HAVE AN ORGY?

FV: When we first moved to Portland, we were living in this apartment before we got the house sorted, and there was this pizza place next to the complex and my partner and I would go there and have pizza. There was this woman working there, I can’t even remember her name now. Carolyn maybe? We would see her over and over. My partner and I would always have conversations like, “How do you define an orgy? How many people does it take? Cos you know three people is a threesome, four people is a foursome. What if there are six people and they are three couples and no people crossing- is that an orgy? And so the server who worked there would start getting involved in those conversations, which was awesome! And one time we were having the orgy conversation and she came over and said, “Actually, if its just a bunch of couples, and they aren’t having sex with each other, then I wouldn’t really consider that an orgy.” And this is some random person at a pizza place! God bless Portland, right? So at one point I was in there and I told her,  “You know, I think I have a crush on you’, and she replied, “Really? Thank you.” And that was it. Because there was no expectation attached to it, I wasn’t telling her, “I have a crush on you” with the expectation that she has to say, “Well we should date”. So to hear that without expectation attached to it and just be able to say well, that’s kind of cool, and that was the end of it: that’s the kind of society that I would like to work for.

M:I fully support that.
Speaking of orgies. How many people does it take to make up an orgy?

FV: I think five. Three is a threesome; four people is a foursome. As soon as you get to five, it’s an orgy.

M: I have a theory about prime numbers. I’ve not been able to test it out fully yet. I think sex is better with prime numbers.

FV: Sex is better with prime numbers? Because there’s always going to be one group that has at least three people in it? Because you cant evenly divide it?

M: Yes.

FV: So actually that would mean that its not just prime numbers, its any number of the form (2N+1). Nine is not a prime number, but I think nine would be a very satisfying orgy.

M: That’s true, nine probably would work.

FV: Yes! The best orgies are ones that can be decomposed into (2N+1.) I like that!

Click here to read Part 2 of my interview with Franklin Veaux, where we examine the darker sides of Poly, its connection with the BDSM world, and the responsibility of community leaders… stay tuned, and follow Polysingleish on Facebook to stay up-to-date on new articles!

Kickin’ it Kinky

At one point on my OkCupid profile I described myself as something like vanilla ice cream with white chocolate and raspberry swirls, aspiring to be drizzled in butterscotch and meringue pieces.

I’ve got a fun and creative side that has only started to be explored sexually in the last year. There’s all different shades of kinky, its true, and a question that keeps coming up for me is- am I kinky?

I read some blogs that are UBER kinky. I read kinky porn sexy stories. Heck, I’ve been known to enjoy some BDSM porn every now again (especially if its all girls). Almost all of it though seems a little impersonal, and whilst I can get excited as an observer, I find it challenging to get into on a real-life level because so much of who I am is about connecting with lovers on a very personal and profound level.

Rope- I love it. There’s something fun about getting stuck, and its very liberating to experience a freedom within that. Blindfolds, a change in sensory awareness are also fun. And I love to dress up, whether its with the intention of having sex, or not. Chains and collars and whips and paddles and all that jazz? That I’m not so sure about. I mean, it might do something for me. I can’t say I’ve tried everything out yet (and I’ll try anything twice before I decide if its for me or not). The whole handcuffs thing and sexy oil massages…  the only time I really really tried the handcuffs and massaging thing was with my ex husband, and, if you’re one of my twenty adoring hardcore fans, you’ll have read about our unsuccessful ventures into bondage in a previous post. That stuff just doesn’t get me going. And, whilst I’ve often enjoyed being talked dirty to, its a stretch for me to think of anything dirty to say back to my partner- mainly because my brain seems to loose its language capacity when I’m really enjoying myself!

Really, I think I’m more of a tantric kinkster. If, that is, that’s a thing. If its not, I’m making it a thing, as of now.

I went searching at a local new age bookstore for books on Sacred Tantra. All the books I found were either too ‘hippy dippy’- with photos of hemp wearing new age rainbows-and-light folks dancing and leaping through their chakras pre and post orgasm (dude, I can do that already, I don’t need a book)- or they were all science and no spirit- with diagrams and photos of positions and of how the breathing patterns should move and for how long you breathe into each centre, like a scientific manual. Actually they weren’t too dissimilar to the Kama Sutra. If you ever pick up the original text of the Kama Sutra, I dare you to read a bit out loud with your best David Attenborough voice- its really just a scientific commentary on human mating practices, rather than the actual nature of intimacy and energetic connecting that happens during lovemaking. I did find a couple of interesting books that attempted to put a neuvo-spiritual spin on the tantric spiritual and sex practices, with some simple excercises to try out (like eye gazing with your partner during intercourse) and yet lacked the spiritual backbone, and so they skipped over what, to me, is the real gold in the treasure trove that I feel sure is there.

I want a tantra that is sacred and sexual, that’s grounded and enlightening, that teaches you about your body and soul, as well as reveals your partner’s body and soul. Teasing and intimate, present and fun.The kind of pure living-in-the-moment and breathing-creativity that grants you the experience of orgasming with the whole universe. Delicious and decadent. Liberating lovemaking.

I asked Orion about this conundrum of mine. He’s far more experienced in this stuff than I am- hence why he’s my personal rope tutor.

“There’s only two things you need to be kinky,” he said, “Presence, and Imagination.”

Really?

I think I can do that.

Perhaps one of my strengths as a lover is in being creative, and in applying myself to relationships much the same way I do to my creative endeavours- constantly seeking out my edges and daring to traverse them in whatever way works the best for me. Courageously catapulting myself into uncharted territory of tantalizing tantric tenderness.

So here I am, forging my own style of tantric kink.

That might need to be a blog all of its own….