A good Dom is hard to find.

12/12/16
I wrote this several months ago, but I’ve publicized it now in the process of analyzing and thinking about what I need and want in my current relationship. After letting it sit a while I’ve determined that it’s worth reading, even if I’m the only one who reads it.

I’m not sure how to write this without coming across as preachy and impossible to please. And I’m not a fan of telling anyone how they “should” do anything. Really, I’m not. At the same time, there are ways to do things that are healthy and ways that are not. There are ways that are positive and ways that are not. There are ways that are abusive and ways that are not. And there are ways that are thoughtful, aware, subtle, and truly loving and which are the difference between someone who thoughtlessly dominates and one who responsibly and carefully wields power given in trust.

I am not impossible to please, but i am difficult to please because i have high standards. Those standards come from experience, from past relationships, from learning the hard way. From learning about myself through having experiences i thought i wanted, and finding out that those experiences cannot be had in any kind of healthy way. I’m looking back through the other side of dysfunctional and twisted relationships, to understand why each one happened, why each lasted long enough to have a strong impact, and determining the lessons that each taught me.

From my first substantial D/s relationship I learned not to let immediate wants and needs overtake me. It seems so basic, but fresh out of a vanilla marriage all I wanted was someone to tell me what to do, to overpower me, and to make me feel, finally, like I didn’t have to be in charge. My judgment was out the window, and I cringe looking back on choices I made that were short-sighted and foolish, self-damaging, and ultimately just plain embarrassing. I let the attention-starved and seriously co-dependent side of myself call all the shots, and in so doing completely missed that the person I was with was ultimately immature, noncommittal, and selfish. These things would be so glaringly obvious to me now, but all I saw then was escape.

From my second, and very long-lasting and complicated D/s relationship I learned the most. I learned what emotional abuse looks like, and what it means to be left unsupported as a sub. It started gently, very slowly, and what seemed very thoughtfully. Being two extreme and intense people, the ideas and fantasies were always edgy, and sometimes the actions. It worked its way to a M/s relationship with no safe words, no excuses, no limits, and ultimate failure. These things are there for a reason – safe words, limits, and negotiation. Unfortunately, when i quit my job and became a full-time slave I was left without structure, goals, and attention. I learned what it looks and feels like to be the recipient of lack of follow-through. Of constant disappointment. Follow-through is critical. It is everything. It is integrity and it is what allows trust. I was also terrorized by the relationship I was in, without any expectations made clear, no structure, no rules, no boundaries, and at the same time intense sexual demands that escalated into and beyond the limits of safety and sanity. My fear and instinct to protect myself was deemed disobedience, and my floundering without any kind of structure was deemed laziness. I didn’t know what to do. I was supposed to do what I was told, but was told nothing. I was left without connection when the only thing I had left was my connection to this person who I’d promised to obey without question.

Both of these relationships were begun at times in my life when I was rootless, jobless, and completely emotionally vulnerable and lost. In both I was offered help and guidance, a journey of becoming and what I was told would include brutal but necessary growing pains. I was up for it both times because I was desperate and truly lost. What I didn’t realize was that the responsibility for my growth was MINE. What I also didn’t realize was that I was not the person they wanted on the inside. I was the person they wanted on the outside, and they each made it a project to change the inside so that I would be the whole person they wanted. When it didn’t work, they grew frustrated and contemptuous. I will never accept that again. I am no one’s project.

My most recent D/s relationship began differently. I had my feet much more firmly planted, I was working steadily, I had my own place to live independently of anyone else, and the person I was submitting to had his own independent life, including other partners. We had a pretty rigid schedule of renegotiations and check-ins. I was held accountable and given structure. I was able to rely on him in times of sub-drop, and was given direction when requested. Still, with all of that, I was again a project. I was again determined to be less-than, lacking, and the job at hand was to make me an adult because through all of these past relationships, including my vanilla marriage, I’d never grown up. This was legitimate and true, and I agreed to the process, and I did grow up. I went through some hard stuff with him and he supported me and showed me a lot of what a good Dom should be. There was a lot of accountability, and a lot of trust, and I worked very hard, and my hard work was appreciated and celebrated. I was supported in my painful metamorphosis. I did things from which I would have previously flinched in terror. I learned how much I am capable of. I accepted that I have power and that it’s ok to have it. But ultimately I was not what he wanted, either. I was tasked with becoming something else, something better. It was something I myself knew had value and in fact it is where I have finally come to, but to be told I was not worthy until I reached it was damaging. The relationship ended before I got there. It ended in flames. I thought I did not understand why, and without confirmation I can only postulate.My guess is that I outgrew him. There was a huge incident that spurred the break. One in which I was given a punishment far outstripping what seemed to me a small misstep. It forced me to question, and I looked back with discernment into his eyes, and I saw someone who had lost power over me. I didn’t recognize this then. I was harshly rejected, disowned, and lost not just him, but a huge support system built around him. However, the devastation had its benefits in the long run. It pushed me forward.

I became exactly what he wanted, but for myself. The person he wanted was an equal, a person with power, a strong and independent woman who would submit – out of nothing but desire and affection – to him and let go of all of that power by choice. To trust and obey and be used, humiliated, degraded, to do it by choice and for both to know that this is the ultimate form of submission. That the more power you have, the more you have to give up. The more valuable every act of obedience becomes. You can say, as many like to, that “the sub has the ultimate power in any power exchange relationship,” but this is a simplistic way of looking at it. A more empowering way of looking at it is that every free person in this world has power. It is foolish and naive to deny that a submissive has power or that it can be taken away from her. But she has no more power than her Dom. Neither is truly in control of the other. It is an exchange.

From now on, it will always be an exchange. I will never be a project again. I don’t need training. If there’s one thing I am and have always strived to be, it is a good girl. I never needed inspiration for that. It is a core part of who I am. Anyone who has any intimate D/s knowledge of me knows that I obey, and this is where my joy comes from. I don’t need a life coach. I don’t need a therapist (I already have one). I don’t need someone to mold me into anything. What I wish I’d noticed in myself through all of this, all those years of torment (much of which came at the hands of mental illness and my own low-self esteem independent of others), was that I had been surviving the whole time. I’d been fighting the whole time. I’d never stopped working toward my own growth, understanding, self-awareness and improvement. I never settled for my own weakness. I need someone who sees me as i really am – a flawed work-in-progress and a powerful and capable woman who has chosen them to be the one she kneels for. And to value that greatly, flaws included.

And here is the preachy part:

There is a responsibility you have to a person when you accept their submission. They’ve given you power and deep trust, and by relieving them of it you now owe them your best intent, your integrity, your trustworthiness and your trust, and the promise that you will create a place of safety for them within the dynamic you share. You are responsible for following through on the structure you create, the things you say, and the rules you set. You are responsible for making your expectations clear, and for holding your partner accountable to consent given. For checking in on that consent frequently. For insisting they tend to their own responsibility to always communicate desires, feelings, thoughts, fears, worries, and concerns, and for creating a secure space from which to do it. Because you are responsible for making sure YOU can trust THEM. It goes both ways, and a Dom can no more effectively maintain control without trust than a sub can submit without it.

The great thing about this is that if you do it right, all the things you want can happen. The most intense and edgy things that were demanded of me produced fear and trauma in me under the wrong hand, but I can’t envision a single thing I would be unwilling to at least keep an open mind about given a relationship with a strong and stable foothold in trust and openness. Intense and edgy are inherent in me, but those kinds of things need the most support and trust.

I did not start out strong, capable, or independent. This much is very true. I’ve changed so much, I am a different person even though some days it doesn’t feel like it.

-I believed I was a baby, but I am capable of withstanding a beating, a rough day, or a heartbreak.
-I was led to believe I was not submissive, but I am most content when submitting deeply to someone I trust and love.
-I believed I was not a masochist… well, I am. Yay 🙂
-I believed the only way to become strong is to be broken, but the way I’ve ultimately become strong is by fighting attempts to break me.
-I survived a goddamn heart attack, for fuck’s sake.
-I believed I was not good enough. I am more than good enough.

And this is all to say that I know. I know what is healthy and what is not. I know whether you are for real or if you aren’t quite there yet. And I know there are a lot of people out there whose domination is really abuse, whether they are aware of it or not. I have high standards, and demand some advanced self-awareness and understanding of power dynamics. I have created some very large shoes to fill, but I am worth it.

anniversary

This morning I woke up and took my “old man drugs.” I do this every morning now, and I don’t think twice about it. I take a blood thinner, a beta blocker, baby aspirin, and a cholesterol medication. Every day. One year ago today I nearly died of a heart attack. I should have died, according to every nurse and doctor I’ve spoken to. I was lucky – freakishly lucky – that the total cardiac arrest I had was mitigated by an incredibly loving and quick-thinking friend and two strangers who elected to stop what they were doing and breathe and pump my blood for me while ambulances were called. I want to thank them again, today, and maybe I’ll even text them to say so, because I am only here because of them.

It’s been a year since I started what amounts to a new life, though at the time it wasn’t as dramatic as all that. There was no cinematic change in appearance or personality upon regaining consciousness (although I am convinced there’s a slight droop to one side of my face even though  no one else sees it). I had no near-death revelatory experience. I did not leave my body. I have no gruesome scar that one can see. It happened in conjunction with having just recently made the huge change of saying goodbye to a tumultuous long term relationship that had been the focus of my life for several years. Moving to a new home on my own. Stress had mounted, with the ending of my relationship and stress in my job, where I was dedicated to improving what was an increasingly dysfunctional workplace, but denied the opportunity. Stress is a nice way to describe the pressure I was under at the time, and had been under for several years. It’s no wonder I collapsed, literally, under its weight.

The past year has been…. interesting. Hard, emotionally grueling, challenging, full of growing pains, and full of growing up. Full of gains, and full of loss. I did things I’d been waiting to do and never had. I legally changed my name. I got a tattoo. I broke through personal blocks I thought were permanent. I learned to feel joy, albeit cautiously. I also turned 40, which I suppose is apropos for a year of radical evolution.

When I first learned I “should” have died, that this was almost a miracle, that I’d barely slipped past the jaws of death, I was mad. I was so angry. I felt I should most certainly have died. I’d been through years of suicidal thoughts and unbidden imagery. After all those years of hoping to die, hoping to be smashed into on the highway, or to be hit by a bus, or to just have the selfishness to end it… why? Why me? Of all the thousands of people who die of cardiac arrests every year, or wind up vegetables, why me? Why did I have to continue to do the hard work of living? Why was I the one who didn’t deserve peace? And why couldn’t I rejoice that I DID win that lottery? That phase lasted a few weeks, but did end. I did get past it and understand that this was a precious second chance.

With the help of a then-friend, someone I trusted more deeply so far in my life than anyone, I went through some hard encounters with myself, many of which I’ve blogged about in the past year, so go ahead and read back if you’re interested. That relationship was precious to me, and it seemed a friendship I was destined to keep in some form or other for a good, long amount of time, but it’s now dissolved for reasons I am still unsure of. For all its complications, I owe him so much for putting me on the road I needed to be on, one I am still walking, and the one that has led me to the biggest and most drastic evolutions I’ve been through so far. Learning humility and thus gaining integrity. This person had more integrity than anyone I’ve ever known, and yet I saw it falter as he struggled through the difficulties that led to our estrangement as well as difficulties unrelated to me. I learned then what integrity really is. It’s not absolute, and it’s not etched in stone. Ironically, this inspired me more than ever to hold firm to my own fledgling integrity at every cost.

Other people came into my life during the same time. I had a team of devoted friends who were loving and supportive as I worked through a lot of hard things. The long and short, though, in the end, is that this network is dissolved along with that other relationship. It didn’t happen in one fell swoop, and it’s not that one necessitated the others, but I feel I placed trust where it wasn’t deserved, and the letdown led to breakdown and dissolution of more relationships. Being let down is a theme for me, and one I’ve examined, and can take responsibility for insofar as where my own expectations lie. In the past I’ve been at fault for expecting more than was promised, and then feeling disappointed when it was not delivered. But in this case, I think my expectations were in line with the words that were agreed upon. I was told directly that someone was committing to me, and found later that what I’d put my energy into was not being fed by the other, and that I’d been manipulated into a situation I was unsure (and in my gut knew was not right) of. I don’t really know what happened in a great many ways. There were a few months there of tangled, confusing, contradictory and seemingly manipulative communication. Lots of triangulation. Lots of twisting of reality. I doubt I will ever know what to make of it. I write about it here today because it ties so deeply into the personal growth I committed myself to after my heart attack, and this whole debacle made me feel I’d failed utterly to grow. To be mired in drama felt like the opposite of growth.

So I cut those strings. And that felt big and it felt like the adult, healthy thing to do. The end of codependence. And it was. It made me feel I had regained my progress towards a healthy, sane, adult and drama-free life, but it was such a loss. A huge loss. One of the biggest I’ve felt in a long time. Bigger even, somehow, than losing my long term relationship. That made sense, and it wound down slowly. That hole was dug slowly and prepared carefully. This was just a chasm that opened up without warning. The writing was on the wall, I’ll grant you, but I somehow thought these relationships were more solid than they were.

Professionally, I also found great ups and downs. Immediately after the heart attack I threw myself into a job I expected would be empowering, and a workplace and co-workers who seemed supportive. This wasn’t the case and it demoralized me greatly until that job ended, my misery compounded by the fact that I didn’t even choose when to leave – they chose for me. On the flip side my current job is the opposite. It is full of people with integrity, empathy, compassion and true team spirit. No one complains, no one is lazy, no one blames anyone else for their mistakes, and everyone jumps in to help wherever they can. We are all very happy there, and it is a singularly unique work environment I am thankful for every day. Another lottery won.

In my personal life I am now more or less alone. I live alone. I sleep alone. I have no pets because I am often away from home and have no one to share that responsibility with. I have not been this alone since I was in my twenties. Even then I had a cat. This is rather profound for me, as it’s not holding nearly the sense of desperation it once would have. It would have felt like a pressure-cooker, like something that could not hold before I broke down or entered into some unhealthy relationship to relieve the anxiety of my aloneness. Don’t get me wrong, I do have friends and they are wonderful, and I am grateful for them and I make space and hold space for them to the best of my ability. But at the end of the day they are in their lives and I am in mine. I am doing fine here. I am not loving it, I don’t cherish my solitude like some people, and I don’t jealously guard my independence, but I’ve learned to appreciate solitude and to value independence.

To do some accounting, I have gained for myself: true integrity, independence, emotional fortitude, and gratitude. I’d like to think these things are partly what made me hirable at my new job.

I have lost: a great deal of friendship, and with it a sense of belonging to a family of sorts. I’ve lost trust along with it. This is breaking my heart greatly today as I think of the path the last year has taken. I have not cried over this loss for months. For the past few months I have focused on my work, my friends, my rope activities, my social life, and my own health. I’ve been exercising, climbing, and working hard to be strong in my body along with my mind. Today, though, I have been crying for all this loss. I have been missing all the close ties I had, and I have been ruminating over how it all got so complicated that there was no fixing it. I will never know, and need to be ok with that, and need to move forward. I will because I have no choice.

And now… I stand better for all that has happened. A better person, a better friend, a better potential partner, a better co-worker, a better human being. At my darkest, I sometimes feel that the reason I continue to survive – continued despite diabetes, continued despite suicidal thoughts, continued despite this heart attack – is to spare the feelings of the people around me who would have to feel sad were I to die. But I am going to try to feel like the reason I continue to live is to spread the things I’ve learned in the past year to the world by making the most of each encounter I have, by being kind, compassionate, thoughtful, humble; by listening, holding space for people, and reminding myself, above all, to never let go of integrity. Having integrity, I’ve learned most of all, is a practice. It’s not something you just “have” and thus always exhibit. We all let it go sometimes, let it lapse in favor of doing what is easy or what we want above what we feel is right. Each moment is a moment to choose: do we follow the easy and/or desirable path or do we follow the path that leads us to self-respect, self-love, and growth?

*image from: https://www.goredforwomen.org/about-heart-disease/symptoms_of_heart_disease_in_women/symptoms-of-a-heart-attack/

exorcism

I have not written anything worth posting in a while. I have not written anything in a while, period. It would seem that with the exorcism of drama from my life – by cutting myself off from the people who were participating in and encouraging it, and accompanying circumstances – I have also exorcised the anxiety and feeling of being in crisis it engendered, thus reducing my blogging output. This astounds me a bit, as I was truly of the belief that the drama I was experiencing was self-inflicted. It delights and validates me that this is not so; that it needed fuel to burn so brightly. I have previously lived in perpetual crisis, existential in nature for the most part, and never thought there would be a time when I’d let that go. Sure, there are things I am up in my head about, things that feel unsettled or disappointing, unresolved and heartbreaking. I am handling these things internally and most of all not turning them into something bigger than they are or to make a fuss over. I’ve learned that my drama ( or lack thereof) does not define me.

Through this cleansing of my social digestive system I have lost some people who mattered very dearly to me. This is the hardest part to reconcile. But there is no denying that I spent the bulk of my time among those people feeling heightened worry, fear and pressure, not to mention a constant need to prove myself. I spent it managing conflict, within myself and between myself and others. I spent it watching others manage conflict and make things more complicated than they could ever need to be.

I could write a very long treatise on the several months of confusing, hurtful, and disappointing series of events that led me to drastically remove myself from the situations I was in. I think previous writings will shed enough light on that, though, and that is so not the point. I do admit it is hard to completely let go of.

What is most striking to me at this point in my life is that it is the FISRT TIME I am living with awareness of what is important (not my own drama), how to be happy, or at any rate how not to be miserable. It all starts with looking around, connecting to the world, taking in the larger view, and not allowing myself to tunnel down into the solipsistic vacuum of my own crisis. There is no crisis, only things that happen and how I respond. Some guidelines I am making up on the fly, but which I have been following without organizing them into such:

1. Don’t get involved in situations that are not clearly defined and understood by all parties. Don’t just know what you want – and for heaven’s sake be honest about what that is, make sure anyone else involved knows what they want and is also honest with themselves about it. FOR REAL. Honesty and transparency get thrown around a lot as ideals, especially when addressing polyamory, but brutal honesty is the only way to make interpersonal relationships flourish. I, for the record, don’t consider myself poly at this point, but don’t have hard and fast rules about who I get involved with. Only rules that help me avoid drama, immediately or down the line.

2. Don’t get pulled into mass emotion, but rather seek perspective. I’ve been spurred on by the many tragic events that have happened this month. The shooting in Orlando is something everyone I am close to is wrecked by. They are all feeling intensely about it, and I understand why. I am not feeling this way… and a part of me wants to, wishes I could “catch” this feeling of loss and sadness. Another part of me realizes that I can still feel about it. I can feel MY feelings and they are not ones of feeling grief and loss, but rather something else I can’t define. Perhaps my mind’s way of protecting me from said grief, but it has allowed me a more analytical response. At the risk of sounding callous, I see it as growing pains. Tragic ones that need not happen, but sociologically unsurprising. Our sociological world is being dismantled, and this is a good thing. Pushing for inclusivity and equity are having a huge impact. Don’t forget, for whatever it might be worth to you, that this is so, because it is enormous. But there is always going to be backlash and resistance. How many civil rights leaders and activists were murdered in the course of their cause? How many young, innocent men and women fighting for equal rights for blacks in the sixties died for it? This is fading history, but it was a lot. And just as senseless and horrifying. There is a risk to being part of a movement, and it is a risk well worth taking, but it IS a risk nonetheless. And before you tell me that the people in that nightclub were not there as a political protest, they were, like a lot of the young, unprepared members of counterculture in the sixties, a part of that movement just by showing up and celebrating who they were. This is the saddest part of all, that we cannot celebrate who we are without being involuntary conscripted into a dangerous conflict. Wars are not fair, and this brings me back to my own feelings about this happening. It was sickening, sociopathic, and fed by hate. It makes me angry that millions of people are involuntarily now in the spotlight standing for something they may not have signed up for. It also gives me hope that the escalation of resistance to this movement means it is breaking through. I often get “accused” of finding the smallest of silver linings in bad situations, and this is no different. We HAVE to find the silver linings in this, in all tragedy, and let those propel us forward. This is how we grow. So, I suppose in the end, my boundary for drama in this case is to take a larger look, to not get mired down in how it affects ME, in my own tragedy. I have the perspective to realize that I suffer no personal tragedy here. What I do suffer is the collective tragedy alongside my fellow warriors. But I look for the silver linings, the threads of hope and progress. Because I’d rather respectfully feel my sad feelings, let them go, and look for what we can learn.

3. Don’t think you are the only one who deals with stress, anxiety, depression, sadness, loneliness, emptiness, fear, insecurity or sometimes has a hard time getting by day to day. And don’t assume others’ struggles are related to you at all. This is life, and life is hard for everyone. We all fight to stay upright through life. It comes in varying degrees of hard for different people, but no one is immune to existential pain. When I remember that, I look at everyone around me and imagine a door in them, behind which lies their own inner world of complex grief. This engages my empathy and makes it easy to love people. Empathy and compassion only grow through practice and awareness. I’m not a saint, I have many moments of getting sucked into myself, but less as I approach with an attitude of allowing others to be others and not co-opting them into my own experience.

4. Love without boundaries. It’s a verb, and loving others, even just an undefined, global, silent feeling that is genuine, means so much, and it causes a ripple effect all around you.

A year after having a heart attack (almost), nearly dying, facing mortality in the same year I faced the age of 40, I am a different person. I spent that year fighting and growing and facing demons. I worked fucking hard. I spent it feeling a desperate desire to be part of something that helped me heal, but was not ultimately healthy. I spent it slowly repairing damage to my psyche, and gaining understanding of that which I have yet to repair, if it is at all repairable. i spent it outgrowing a support system in which trauma gets a spotlight. I grew past the spotlight and while there’s much left to address, I learned that I can be more effective by just living, and not giving my trauma so much goddamn power. I spent it learning to be alone, and not to fear solitude. I spent it conditioning my body along with my mind, developing true progress in a way I never have before, and building some badass muscles in the process.

I spent it becoming an adult.

I wrote six months ago that I was “declared an adult” by someone else, but now I declare myself an adult. A flawed one who is still very much a work in progress…. none of these things I’ve done in the past year are finished. But I can manage them, and beyond being a far cry from a year ago, it is a VERY far cry from 3 years ago, June 1, 2013, when I first moved to Portland, traumatized by my recent past and unable to function, work, eat, sleep, or hold a steady mood for more than half an hour. That girl was broken into a million pieces, and was lucky to find the right people to support her. I’m lucky now that those same people – many of them, anyway – have stuck around to continue their support, and I love you all who’ve seen me through the darkest.

letting go

*edit: I realize this thing meanders all over the fucking place. Deal with it, that’s kind of how my brain works. 


So far 2016 has been a brutal one for me interpersonally.

Brutal. As. Fuck.

i am letting go….

of people who don’t wish the best for me.

of people who don’t have time for me.

of people who don’t actively reach out to me.

of people who don’t keep their word.

of people who withhold their feelings about me from me.

of places where i am not valued.

of believing that i am unlikeable.*

of believing that i am not valuable.*

of believing that i am a burden.

of believing that i am broken.

of worrying what people fucking think of me.*

This is weight i don’t need. Pain i don’t need, hope and disappointment i don’t need. This is weight that is preventing me from standing up all the way. This is not my weight to carry unless I choose to. i am far from perfect, and i am not without work ahead of me that will continue until I die, but I am:

worth others’ time

worth honesty

worth keeping commitments for

worth best wishes for happiness

worth the effort

worth trusting

worth genuine love and compassion*

worth being considered.*

worth what i am paid, and a lot more.

worth investing in.

I invest deeply in my relationships. I do what I say I will. I value your time, and I appreciate and am grateful for it. I believe what people tell me, and I believe they will do what they say. I strive to rise to the occasion for the people I invest in. I strive to grow every day, to learn every day, to be humble every day, and to kick some ass every day. I make it a point to praise myself when I do kickass things, and I will tell you about it so you can too. Because I want to do the same for you if you are my friend or partner.

I’ve spent my life seeing angles, manipulations, taking advantage of the angles and also becoming a master manipulator. I’m not innocent, and I know how to play people. I easily see when others are playing games. It is exhausting seeing angles, the complexity of human interaction, of analyzing the moves people make and seeing all the ways it can play out, all the ways it does play out, and there is a weight to this ability, this power of observation and analysis. There is so much insincerity and so much deceit, whether intended or unintended. In the end I find it painful to watch, especially to/from people I care about.

So when it comes to me… I’ve let that go. I want no part of game-playing or strategy when it comes to my relationships. I’ve recently been through a spate of it, and it has me even further wanting to strip away all pretense, all barriers, all bullshit, and be raw and real and basic. I want you to be that way too.

Right now I am going to be perfectly honest and frank and say that I am disproportionately heartbroken over something that never existed. Its potential did…. and it seemed like that potential was enormous. Still, that’s all it was and I really should get the fuck over it. And I say this because the reason it is so hard to get over is because it was not resolved. The lack of resolution is difficult and I am guessing at angles, agendas, all kinds of ideas, reasons, motivations to fill in the answer-less space. It makes it complicated in my head, and dramatic, and it feels so important and intense when what should be intense is what I can actually do and feel and touch and see and the people I can do and feel and touch with.

Especially because there are some friends in my life right now who are exactly what I need. Honest, open, without guile, and without any kind of agenda that includes manipulation, deceit or selfish insecurity-driven behavior. It’s easy and fun to engage with the people I have been spending time with. I feel safe, and I feel cared about. I hope they do too. I know that I am investing in these people, and I feel, and I think, they are investing in me. Investment takes time, and it takes effort, and it takes genuine love, of a kind. You have to love someone to spend the time to invest in them, even if that love is not the big fireworks romantic love.

For now I am ok with that. As long as it’s real. I’ll take all the real connections I can get, no matter what form they take. Just be honest, solid, grounded, kind, and invest in me. Because I am investing in you. What follows from there will never feel bad or wrong, and won’t ever be a mistake.

I am letting go of what doesn’t serve me. And that leaves a lot of room for love.

*I’m still working on it.

Love Out

i am trying, with all my heart, to embody the above.

i’ve been in a bit of a whirlwind of ups and downs lately, including a lot of self-doubt and wondering why things feel so different. With all the changes i’ve been through in the past few months, i suppose “different” shouldn’t be so foreign or alarming, but finally beginning to settle back into a routine is highlighting how many changes there have been, and now i’m not sure what the routine is.

“Love out” is something I’ve been putting intention into. Trying to put intention into. i’m not always succeeding, but being that i am currently open and free to go in any direction that calls, along with feeling a regaining of control over my living situation, i’ve been putting out tons and tons of energy into meeting new people, being open to things of all sorts, and saying “yes” more. i’m putting energy into making every interaction one where i think to myself “i love you.” i’ve almost been hungry for interactions that allow me to fulfill my desire to care for people, or in most cases just get to know them, listen, be present, and let them know they matter.

i’m lucky my new job has given me a lot of outlet for this. (i am a vet tech.) My efforts there are appreciated and acknowledged, and that’s so rewarding. My coworkers are all kind, special, and genuine people. In working with our patients, all i need is to see a dog perk up after receiving a chiropractic adjustment, or help a client feel better about their pet’s condition. Yesterday i taught a very sweet and grateful man how to give his cat subcutaneous fluids so he can do it at home. It took an hour. My intention was to demonstrate, but he really wanted to do it himself, despite being overwhelmed with worry about hurting her. We talked for a while while he screwed up his courage and i assured him that he could do it and that she would be ok. He did great. His gratitude for my patience and his pride in having succeeded made my day. In that case my “love out” was enjoyable, and brought love in, for he was so warm and so thankful. Those moments make up for the ones covered in poop, dealing with less-warm clients, and handling fearful animals whose emotional states tear my heart out.

In some cases, my “love out” openness has been chipping away at my self esteem a little, as i offer myself up for rejection each time i reach out. And rejection happens. It is a learning experience, and a humbling one. i’m learning where to take risks, where to have patience, and where to let go. i deactivated my OKcupid profile last night because i’m feeling worn out by the lack of response i’ve received to the messages i’ve sent, which are always personal, thoughtful, and open. It’s ok, i’m definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. But i’m removing that avenue from my life for now, as i’ve noticed it is a huge energy suck, and a huge source of irrational disappointment. In other words, i’m taking it personally that strangers aren’t responding to me. Strangers. WTF? Why do i care about what strangers think of me?

This is part of having the love to put out – letting go of situations that don’t refill my tank. i realize this is starting to sound negative – “What about the love?” you are asking. It’s still there… for all the people i have always felt love for, even the ones with whom things got so fucked up that it seems there is no way back to harmony. Even the ones who’ve seen it necessary to block me from their lives. There was a months-long cascading avalanche of fallen trust that has cycled through several people all connected to each other. It has felt a little like i stepped into quicksand and, in trying to fight my way out, only succeeded in exhausting myself into sinking deeper. i believe i’ve been very misunderstood. My anxiety and anger, my hurt, and especially my strong desire to set it straight have been a source of intense pain. For them my “love out” is to accept that that’s where they’re at and not put energy into feeling like i need to restore my pride. Everyone has reasons for their behavior, me included. i’ve been questioning whether or not i am a bad person because of this drama, but i believe i acted with the best of intention, so there’s no need to let it drain me anymore. The “love in” for me here is coming form myself, and recognizing that feeling rejection and pain is my choice, and i’m going to choose to let it go.

The way i am attempting to operate is to make no assumptions if at all possible, even if it feels foolish to do so. For example, i’m feeling ghosted right now, but passive patience is my motto on this, and if patience turns out to fade into nothing, so be it. i am leaving all the windows and doors open. i have nothing to lose by doing this – even though in some moments i feel disrespected – because who can know what is behind the absence of contact. So many things happen in our lives that pull us away, and part of my “love out” is also to accept that where i rank on someone else’s priority list is most likely affected by all the other things on the list more than it is about me. I leave it to people to actively communicate if they are displeased with me or to communicate that they have time for me once i’ve asked for it. Otherwise i am doing my very best – in some cases it is WORK – to not think of them as inconsiderate assholes.

All this is not to try to come off like an angel or someone who has reached a serene level of acceptance. i don’t think i’m better than anyone. i won’t claim that i’m all rainbows and joy. There’s no way i’ve gotten there. Just sit down and listen to my angst, self-doubt, worry, anxiety and self-absorbed panic. Listen to me obsess over perceived rejection. Ask those who have had to listen to it of late. It’s there, and it’s loud. But you can also sit down with me, offer to be as open as i am, and have an intensely rewarding and connected experience, because this thing has two sides, and that’s the light side, and it’s the side that i choose.

Negative Capability

i just re-read the post i wrote two weeks ago. It’s amazing what can happen in two weeks. What solidifies, what relaxes, and what seems important all shift. i suppose this is what blogs are for. They are living documents, and if everything stayed the same there’d be no point. The change IS the point, at least for a personal journal like this one.

Changes…

i’m no longer trapped between residences. i’ve chosen my home, and it is the one i knew was right all along. i’m not sure i’ve ever had a more intense experience in what it’s like to have a gut feeling and not follow it. To spend months, all along feeling something is wrong, and to ignore it only to finally have to look at it and acknowledge that no matter how badly you want something to be a certain way, it can only be the way it is. The relief i felt at truly knowing that and following through on it is enormous. The experimental living situation i left didn’t work on any level, and i can see where the responsibilities for that lie on both sides. Fault is not important, but claiming my own responsibility accurately is. i recognize my own fault in listening to voices that went against my own, succumbing to pressure and ultimatums, and trying so ridiculously hard to fall in line with what i knew wasn’t right for me. i didn’t know these things consciously, but i knew them because i felt them hurting me.

i’m feeling strangely empowered by all this drama and strife. Partly, i suppose, because i survived it, but also because it taught me how to listen to myself. It taught me what to be wary of. It taught me a vocabulary of behaviors and warning signs – both my own and others – that mean something is not right, and i should walk away. And because i can now so clearly understand those things, i can stop wondering what to do. i know what to do. i know what is right for me. Most importantly, i know that when i don’t know, that i don’t HAVE to know. All i have to do is keep calm, pay attention to myself, and the answer will appear as the situation unfolds.

i used to feel intense pressure to make decisions as though life or death hung in the balance. All the things, big and small. It paralyzed me – often literally. i am sure i will still find myself standing in the grocery store anxiously debating with myself whether to buy this or that vinegar. But this is no way to make a decision. And sometimes there is no need for a decision. When i became involved in intense D/s relationships every decision was life or death. And make no mistake that regardless of my s role, i had a lot of decisions to make. It was consenting to extreme dynamics and activities, and it was all or nothing most of the time. That’s exciting, and when it feels like there is no decision because something is so right, that is beautiful. But when it has been a battle between yes and no, which is often, i never knew myself enough to avoid the fight. i had to let the war rage in my head until i panicked my way into a decision, which was almost never the right one.

Fuck that. Not to be aggressive, but just fuck that. This was the last time. i won’t fight that war anymore, or become a victim of my own paralysis.

i never thought i would be able to say this, but i think i am learning to embrace Negative Capability instead of conflict. To quote Keats, who termed this concept, Negative Capability is:

“…when man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason…[Being] content with half knowledge” where one trusts in the heart’s perceptions.” 

“By not imposing one self upon the doubts and uncertainties which make up a conflict, Keats would rather we were open to the Imagination. The word ‘doubt’ is from the Latin, ‘dubitare’ and comes from ‘two’ as in two minds. In most conflicts, two people (i.e. two minds) oppose each other. Yet instead of fighting the other, Keats finds the situation to be one that is open for creativity.

In this sense, Negative Capability is a sublime expression of supreme empathy.

As scary as it is (and it is fucking scary), when compared with the definition of “conflict,” it seems like insanity to exist in:

“An emotional state characterized by indecision, restlessness, uncertainty and tension resulting from incompatible inner needs or drives of comparable intensity.”

That has been my state for 40 years.

i am now in a situation that perfectly illustrates this state… a developing relationship with a person i am coming to adore, but who is not available to me in the way i really need in the long term. Normally i would feel internal pressure to decide right now whether or not i should be seeing this person. Every day i spent feeling in limbo would  be like a turn of the key in the wind-up doll that lives inside my head. Normally, i’d be looking ahead to the devastation waiting for me, feeling i should avoid it by being “smart” and walking away, yet being unable to. And this would leave me still undecided but feeling the clock ticking, feeling ineffectual and powerless.

Somehow, maybe because of how good i feel around this person, i have decided not to decide. i’ve embraced uncertainty, and will enjoy the moments i spend with them in the moment.  Maybe patience and willingness to accept what is will open up doors as time unfolds. Maybe things truly are untenable and i will be sad. But right now i feel happy, i smile, i feel silly and turned on. There’s so much goddamn smiling – real, uncontrollable smiling, and it’s so pretty. There’s really nothing more beautiful than someone looking very deeply into your eyes and smiling with their whole face, openly showing you how much they enjoy being with you. Why ruin that with worries and fears of loss? Especially when here you are, with this person, who is clearly not feeling worried or fearful, but thoroughly engaging in YOU, in this moment. i owe the same in return – to both of us. My silly smile that i can’t control, and all my happiness and positive attention. Having that at all – even once a week or less, even if it’s an hour or so spent having a drink and nothing else – is truly delightful compared to not having it.

And now i think back a few paragraphs, and ask my gut what feels like the right thing. For once, my gut says i’ve already figured it out. Yes, there is potential to be hurt – absolutely. But it also says “don’t write this off – it could be important.” It’s a true risk, but the possible reward outweighs it enough that i’m willing to play the odds in a way i never would before.

i have no catchy title

Today is one of those days i am not feeling like the rad badass i am. i make an effort to outwardly project that i am ok and taking in stride the things that challenge me, even when everything is turning upside down. It’s not that i am not ok… i know i am ok. It’s taken a while to understand that, but i am. The world is not crumbling around me, regardless of how it feels, regardless of how many pieces of my life are up in the air, regardless of the paranoia i occasionally indulge in that everyone in my life hates me, or the little mood swings that come with being me. So, i am ok.

Accompanying “boy-i’m-in-a-mood” soundtrack
(courtesy of iTunes shuffle and my very liberal “skip” policy):

The Smiths – “Ask”
Bjork – “Come to Me”
The Sundays – “She”
Lou Reed – “Andy’s Chest”
U2 – “The Unforgettable Fire”
The Replacements – “Torture”
Belle & Sebastian – “Lazy Line Painter Jane”
The Cure – “The Snakepit”
Momus – “The Cabinet of Kuniyoshi Kaneko”
Pulp – “Pencil Skirt”
Ben Kweller – “Believer”
The White Stripes – “Cold, Cold Night”
Helium – “Trixie’s Star”
Fleetwood Mac – “Think About It”
Death Cab For Cutie – “Your New Twin Sized Bed”
Beck – “Ramshackle”
Cat Power – “Nude As The News”
Bjork – “Human Behavior”
Nina Nastasia – “Ocean”