Love and the adventure of defining it

Subtitled: Love… I do not think that word means what you think it means.

To start, thank you, ex-girlfriend.  My gratitude is multi-faceted.

One, thank you for being ex.

Two, thank you for keeping it short. I didn’t have the energy, the foresight, or the courage to say “I’m done” on my own.

Three, thank you for teaching me that it is okay to say that I love someone and not mean it how I always thought I should mean it.

Growing up, and for many years as an adult, love was supposed to be the epitome of perfection in a relationship. It was supposed to be a symbol of cherishing someone fully and completely. It was supposed to mean that you would do anything for them, at any time, without expectation of something in return. Love was supposed to mean that the relationship was solid, and lasting, and definite.

And I said it to you, knowing the emotion I was feeling was none of those things. But I said it anyway. I said it to try to make it easier for us to connect. I said it to help build a foundation on what was very rocky soil. I said it because I wanted you to feel comfortable and safe.

I was not wrong for saying it. You were not wrong for responding in kind.

That is not to say that we were not wrong together, because goodness knows, we were. We did not cherish each other. We both had unspoken expectations that led to a destabilization of our framework.

But you taught me that love can mean plenty more than, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”  Hell, it might not even mean, “I want to spend the rest of the month with you.”

Love can mean that in the moment, you are ready to express appreciation. I appreciated you, and what you added to my life in those moments. You added the joy of dancing, revitalized the spark in my love of editing, you introduced me to a new way of looking at the world.

Love can mean that in the moment, you are wanting to express gratitude. I was grateful that you made me think, that you caused me to wonder about various choices people made. You made me grateful for the choices I had had the strength and courage to make in the past.

Love can mean that in the moment, you are infatuated and want to allow yourself to be consumed by that lust. I was completely head over heels for the woman who was mysterious and thoughtful, and I wanted nothing more than to be able to prove my own worth to you.

Perhaps the most important lesson for me, though, was the piece I have now written over and over… “in the moment.”

Love can be temporary. Thank you for teaching me that. I loved you, and I am not ashamed of having loved. I no longer love you outside of my capacity to love all of humankind, and that means I really need to go back to the drafting document to redefine “love” when used in reference to a specific person.

I love that I am given that opportunity.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

So, my new goal is to transform me into the right beholder.  I need to accept who I am and learn to love myself for being me.

In this vein, I am going to piggyback on an idea I got from a dear woman, who is learning a lot about herself and finding ways to grow stronger every day.  She will be starting a project to take a picture of herself every day for a year… not necessarily a full body shot, not necessarily a face picture, not necessarily anything that anyone else could identify as her… a wrist, an elbow, a knee…  Learning to appreciate our whole selves.

We both want to learn to take better care of ourselves, too. While I am not one who will do well with stepping on a scale on a regular basis, I want my jeans to fit better (preferably the ones in the back of my closet), and I want more energy.  This will mean that I need to supply my body with food that is best suited to longer bouts of energy (rather than the oh-so-tasty-and sugary food that I tend to gravitate toward), supply it more frequently, and train my body to keep up with the rest of my life better by getting more exercise.

Personal goals are a challenge for me.  I generally need an outside influence to feel that my dedication to a project is worthwhile.  A mentor, a community, a friend… so I’ll also be looking into a project known as BreakFree, which has a Dayton chapter starting soon.

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Weakness – A Rant

While I do not think that the person behind the message intended to get me as rampant as he did, I was really bothered with the idea that polyamory is a wise choice for relationships, because, well, humans are weak, and we tend to fall in love with multiple people anyway.

(That is not an exact quote, but it is how my mind interpreted the meanings of his words.)

To love without limit is part of my nature, and I would argue the same is true for any parent out there, and for polyamorous individuals, and for cheaters, and for social workers, and for serial monogamists, and for nurses, and for daycare providers, and, and, and… the examples of limitless love in this world goes on and on.

To say that nature is weak is like saying the ocean should be blamed for being salty instead of freshwater.

Weakness tends to lead to making the easy choice, and in that regard, polyamorists are some of the strongest people I know.

If anything, choosing to live in a monogamous structure once you have determined that you are polyamorous in nature is the weak/easy choice, to abide by society’s standards rather than accepting who you are and what you want out of life. It’s the easy choice to live in serial monogamy (one partner at a time, for various lengths, only until you find someone who is a “better fit” for you).

It is a difficult choice to choose ethical non-monogamy, where you need to be cognizant of how your actions and truth may effect your own quality of life by loosing friends, family, and perhaps loves, too.  It means you have to learn to communicate your own needs, to understand the needs of others.  It means you need to learn to schedule your time and attention so that no one falls off the radar.  It means more talk than sex.  Having sex is easy.  Having relationships is hard.

No, polyamory is not for the weak.  Neither is monogamy when you look at what it actually means… one partner for the entirety of your life.  Hell, even serial monogamy has some drawbacks, like paying spousal support, for example.

Humans are not weak.  Humans are human.  The key to success is to find the path of least resistance.  For me, my heart has a hell of a lot struggles with the idea of limiting my romantic heart to one person. To me, monogamy, even serial monogamy, is too constricting.  It’s tough to walk when you feel bound by rules you had no part in writing… so I am choosing the path less traveled, though I’ve met some fine people along the way, hacking their own path through the chaos of non-monogamy.  I can’t wait to meet others.

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Review of “Spiritual Polyamory”

Spiritual Polyamory by Mystic Life

There are plenty of reasons to appreciate this book, to read it with an open mind and to think about the ways in which you live your life. There are plenty of moments which caused me to stop and focus on the words, to ensure I understood what the author was saying.  With that said, in my opinion, there would have been far easier ways to say some of the parts of the message.  There are also ways that the messages could have been shared without completely disregarding monogamy as the right choice for some people.

Yes, I was able to take some of this book and re-examine the way I live my own life. I need to spend more of my focus on the present moment and stop concentrating on what was or what will be.   I need to ensure that I am whole before bringing anyone else into the folds of my life, as no one should be burdened with a responsibility that I can’t take on myself.   I need to remember that polyamory is a structure that makes sense to me and my heart, and that I have the right and responsibility to make such a decision for myself.

But there were pieces of this book that felt like little more than slams to other ways of choosing to live a life.  To me, I don’t necessarily believe that no-strings polyamory is the only relationship structure that makes sense. I don’t look at people living in monogamy as loving “ineffectively.”  (“Ineffective love strategies are required until they are fully understood by the individual gaining these lessons.”)

This book felt very much like it was pieced together with tweets and blog posts, and while I can find value in that kind of writing, I would have also appreciated ways toward gaining some of the wisdom that would come naturally to all of the enlightened polyamorists in this world.  What questions do I need to ask myself when jealousy hits hard in order to find peace with the relationships I am in?  How can I move beyond society’s definition of a perfect relationship rather than just being careful of what media I expose myself to?

All in all, this was a welcome book to read, though it would NOT be a book I give to a person exploring what it might mean to be polyamorous, who was not already confident of their decision to align with polyamory as their relationship structure.

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Review of “The Polyamorists Next Door”

The Polyamorists Next Door by Elisabeth Sheff

What I believe to be the first book of its kind, The Polyamorists Next Door looks at a growing relationship style, the benefits and risks associated with it, and what it means to a world at large.

Sheff starts with an explanation of what polyamory is at the very basic level, giving a snap shot of many of the forms it might take, explaining the communities that are created because of it, and what understanding and accepting this relationship could mean in terms of a more peaceful society at large. No where does she make the claim that everyone should be polyamorous (in fact, she is quite clear that it is NOT the choice for everyone – herself included), nor that it is a relationship structure without trouble. What she does do is explain it in plain terms, focusing on many of the people she has studied over the years to give vivid examples of starts, middles and endings of polyamorous relationships.

Taking it step further, which I was ecstatic to see, Sheff discusses the effects of parental polyamorous relationships on children. What does it mean to a young child to see Mom have two husbands, to see a family comprised of Mom, Dad, Othermother and Otherfather, to see some other mix of multiple adults in a family? What does it mean in terms of their mental and social growth? The short answer: benefits can be great; risks exist; plan accordingly.

In the end, Sheff concludes that relationship structures change over time, and in order to survive the changing course of relationships, taking the successes and skills that can be learned from polyamorists is a beneficial way to go. Learning to focus on” honesty, compassion, freedom, self-responsibility, forming an ethical framework to guide interactions and decision making. These foundational ideas provide stability for the children and adults. Unconventional and frequently shifting, reliant on ethics rather than conventional or religious morality, poly families provide members with significant stability while they flex to adapt to changing life circumstances. This flexibility and willingness to explore alternatives makes some poly families uniquely resilient.”

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Book Reviews

I read.  Not as much as I think I should these days, but I do read a fair amount… and I’m working to keep better tabs on what I read to fulfill my needs for escapism and education.

I’ll be posting here about books that I think fit in with polyamory or open relationships, relationship building, new definitions of love, spirituality, and self-esteem.

Right now, I’m working on The Polyamorists Next Door, and I have a large stack of books that I want to get to that I won at a recent poly convention.  Let me know if there is something you think I should read, and I’ll add it to my list!

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Polyamory and Swinging and Defining “Open”

I was asked on okcupid recently about the difference between swinging and polyamory.

The gentleman who asked the question identifies on the profile as single, and looking for a long-term relationship, but who would not be interested in dating someone who is already with another partner.  I wonder where his question came from, so I started to look into his profile a bit more.

I tend to look a the “Unacceptable answers” questions when someone shows interest in what I have to say… and our percentile matches were in the seventies, which is generally pretty high for me.  I figured it was worth a couple of minutes of my time.

He is certainly not open to open relationships, based on his answers, but I responded, and I was surprised to get another response almost immediately.  If nothing else, I’m helping to explain polyamory to the world at large, one person at a time.

My Response to What’s the Difference between Polyamory and Swinging?

Polyamory and swinging are both forms of ethical non-monogamy, but many would argue that swinging is about only a physical connection (sex outside of a marriage or relationship bond) and polyamory is about multiple emotional attachments. 

In today’s world, from my experience at least, many swingers are realizing they want more than just sex, or are realizing they already have an emotional connection to their swinging partners and are accepting polyamory as more of their true relationship structure. 

My Response to his follow up of “How does the term open apply? I view open relationship as you do what you want you’re partner has no say.”

The term “open” has different meanings for everyone, in every kind of relationship. The key is to define “open” in whatever your relationship structure is at the time, and stay cognizant that the definition will most assuredly change over time.

For example, I am in an “open” relationship with my partner, but neither of us is seeing anyone else right now. What the word means to me is that I will feel no shame, guilt, or anxiousness when I want to discuss going out on a date with someone else, and I will do my best to not feel paranoia or anxiousness when he does the same.

Our version of “open” is designed to protect ourselves and each other from pain in any sense of the word.

If I feel restricted, I’ll feel pain from not being true to my nature of loving abundantly. So, while there isn’t a “veto” option in our relationship – and that option exists in many polyamorous relationships – I respect him and work to ensure I am not the source of pain for him, either.

We both need to feel secure in our relationship, and so I have a promise to him and to myself, that I will always listen with a logical mind to his questions and concerns, and when I know that I am not of sound logical mind, that I will do my best to take a step back from the situation to examine my head, my heart, and my emotions closely.

In terms of protecting ourselves, we also have agreements about things like STI testing before certain boundaries are crossed, that there will never be secret meetings between people, and that we promise to focus on one another in ways that will strengthen our relationship if additional people are added to our hearts’ strings.

So, yes, “Open” means that I can see whomever I want, but it does not mean that I will disrespect my partner in any way through that decision, or that if I do, I face consequences I don’t want to face.

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Resolutions for Mind, Body, & Spirit

I looked through my facebook Year in Review this morning for 2013, and the basic version of my resolutions stands out: “Accept and be grateful for the past which has helped to define me. Breathe and be grateful for my current status. Plan and be grateful that I am in control of which direction my future takes.”

I had one very big end in 2013, in which I said goodbye to over 10 years of my life.  FYI, divorce sucks, but sometimes it is necessary.

Without it in my past, I would not be the woman I am today without that marriage behind me.  I would not be the mother of two. I may not have a successful career in accounting.  I may not have completely embraced polyamory.

Some days might suck because of the divorce, but when I can remember to stop and breathe, I am reminded that I will see my sons in a couple of days.  When I stop and breathe, I am reminded that my chest is not as heavy as it once was, in what had become a loveless relationship.  When I stop to breathe, I am reminded that I find it much easier to be true to myself, which is an important lesson to be able to teach my beautiful boys.

While I know exactly when my next tomorrow with the boys might be, I also know that in 2014 I won’t get Thanksgiving or Christmas, and that kind of sucks.  But, at the same time, I have 10 months to figure out how to make my non-holiday season perfect for me and my family.

Within these goals of accepting, breathing and planning, I need to take better care of myself, and I am hopeful that the start of 2014 will be the brand new beginning that I have needed.  Cliche, I know.  I accept that.  It isn’t all that specific, but I can plan that.

I will allow myself to be a priority in terms of my needs for meditation and exercise.  I will meditate every day for at least five minutes, and I will exercise in some fashion (taking walks with my loves count as exercise and quality time… win-win) for at least 3 hours each week.

I will continue with the changes in my life that have been beneficial, such as attendance at a Unitarian Universalist church, and volunteering my time within.  I plan to give time and energy to an organization known as Stuff of Stars that was started in 2013.  In conjunction with the need to promote positive self-image for every individual, I want to develop some seminar outlines for the mix of my interests with healthy polyamory practices.  How does spirituality impact an emotional relationship with multiple partners?  How can a positive self-image be promoted within a relationship where you might be battling your own emotions about how your partner’s other significant other may have better hair, a better hourglass figure, or a fantastic smile with perfect teeth.

Here’s to making 2014 my best year yet. I have no doubt it will be.

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Mission Statements – The How

From Questions to AnswerHow will I monitor both my health and the health of my relationships? How will I deal with the need to limit my love?  How will I handle the eventual dilemma between the forces of my heart and my calendar?

I have never been one to be good at defining my own limits.  When I am in the throes of New Relationship Energy (NRE), head over heals for a new lover, I tend to throw caution to the wind go where ever the tide takes me, a frantic flight pattern of a stray balloon at the county fair.  (Like how I mix all kinds of metaphors here?  It’s symbolic of how my brain works when I am in NRE.)

I will rely on my other partners to keep me steady through this emotional whirlwind, and count on them to express their own needs and desires, so that I can work to keep my promises to them to have healthy and lasting relationships.  Is that fair?  Probably not.

So, how can I work to be better about this on my own, without expecting someone else to do the job of self-care for me?

I’m going to propose daily meditation and thrice-weekly workouts.  This rule will go into effect for the start of 2014.  This will allow me to take better care of myself, and when I take better care of myself, I tend to take better care of people I love, too.

I have generally done a form of “no thought” meditation in the past.  Perhaps if a relationship’s energy is taking too much of my will-power control, I will focus on that, instead.  Giving the energy a strict focus may allow myself to put it on the backburner for the rest of the day.

I may also bring tarot and oracle readings into the mix.  I’m not necessarily one to believe that the cards dictate the future, but I do know that when I read the cards, focusing on an issue in my life, clarity does seem to strike.

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The Responsibility to Say, “I would prefer not to.”

I was recently a part of a dialog between numerous people, the catalyst of which was a woman who expressed her discomfort at a recent convention, in which she received unwanted attention.  She felt uncomfortable given the situation, and she wanted to start a conversation about her experiences, to determine the experiences of others, and to discuss ways the producers would navigate this tricky water at future events.

I was a first responder to her post on social media, and I stressed that she had to take some of the responsibility on herself for making her discomfort known in the situation.  It is the responsibility of the producers of an event to ensure I have access to safety.  It is my responsibility to speak up for myself when my comfort is being infringed upon, though.

A very crude example  follows: I go to a party at my friend’s home.  I have a good enough relationship with the friend (to the point that we will be exchanging gifts at this event) that I can expect her home will not be filled with, say, asbestos.  What can I say, I don’t want to get cancer.  However, when I get there, I see that there are people smoking on her front porch.  She asks me to come out and light up.  Here, I have a choice.  I can go outside and stand in the cold, uncomfortable and pissed off, but remain silent.  Or, I can say, “I would prefer not to,” taking a line from Bartleby.

The onus is on me in this instance.  The onus is always on me when I am of my right mind and sound body to determine where my comfort levels can reach.

If I am out dancing, and choosing to not drink (and I should point out that the alcohol was all outside the boundaries of convention space – I do not believe the original poster could make a claim that she was intoxicated when she became uncomfortable, and it was the responsibility of the producers of the event to step in for her safety), and I grind on a male, the responsibility is mine to say, “I would prefer not to,” when he asks if I want to go home and have sex.

If I am at a library, and a man sitting a table’s length from me is staring intently at me, the onus is on me to say, “I would prefer not to be stared at.”

If you are at a non-monogamy focused convention, and you are being flirted with mercilessly, and you really want it to stop, say, “I would prefer not to continue this conversation.”

For anyone to claim that they are not responsible for speaking their discomfort about any situation, well, that is ludicrous in my opinion.  If you aren’t comfortable speaking to the person who is making you uncomfortable, it is still your responsibility to find a way to get comfortable.  Find a friend to head to the bathroom with.  Find a bartender who can cut the jerk off.  Find a police officer and go talk to him until the jerk leaves if you don’t want to bring attention to the one who is making you uncomfortable.  Find a producer of an event and ask for their help in navigating through the unwanted attention your beauty is attracting.

“Why is it my responsibility to keep myself from being objectified?”  My answer is, it isn’t your responsibility to keep from being objectified, as that is IMPOSSIBLE.  There will always be jerks in the world who think that a man is nothing more than the size of his penis or his ability to open a jar of pickles.  There will always be jerks in the world who think that a woman is nothing more than tits and ass.  There will always be jerks in the world who think that punks dress the way they do because they want to be a moving piece of art and it is right to stare.  There will always be jerks who will objectify you.  There is nothing you can do about that.

It is your responsibility to keep from *feeling* objectified.  You are the owner of your emotions, and when there is a catalyst that is triggering an emotion, and when you have a need to know you are seen as more than a piece of meat, then you are responsible for saying so.   You are responsible to speak your mind, to be the change you want to see in this world.  You are responsible to say, “I would prefer not to.”

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