December 17th, 2011
Finished The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, after my post last week. Book two of our suggested reading. I knew it was going to be a koolaid book, I just wasn’t sure how much koolaid, or what flavor. (Quick aside: Koolaid – in reference to the suicide cult that drank koolaid because their leader told them it would take them to a better place, currently used to describe a rose-colored glasses, unrealistically optimistic view of the world.) Now, most of the koolaid I’ve been exposed to in the last few years is not bad, on the surface. They have good things to say, good things to think about, and even good things to guide your life by. It just becomes koolaid to me, when they go over the top. When they tell me my life will be Perfect, Ideal, or just plain Wonderful – if Only I’ll just do what they say, because it’s so Easy. The Four Agreements is no different (well, he at least, doesn’t say it will be easy). The agreements are good ideas, he just takes it a little too over the top for me.
The first is “be impeccable with your word.” Which he casts as meaning, to not blame or judge with your words, and I simplified in my own mind as not to be negative. Don’t say mean things to people, don’t say mean things to yourself. Don’t gossip. All around, to focus on having only positive thoughts, words and actions.
The second to “not taken anything personally” is the collary. If you’re not being negative, then don’t take on the negativity of others. But he also goes so far as to say, not to take their compliments personally either. The opinions of others, positive or negative, he says, should not matter to us, we are only who we think we are, and nothing more or less.
The third is “don’t make assumptions.” About anything. Basically, don’t have expectations, and you won’t be disappointed. But also, don’t assume you know why someone did something, or what they are going to do. In this section, he encourages you to ask questions, so that you have fact and not assumptions.
And the fourth is “always do your best.” Also a good idea in life. He takes the time to point out that your best on one day may not be the same as your best the next day or the day before. That your best is always changing, but is always the goal.
Now, none of these ideas is bad on the surface. Nor are any of them new. Though, I do have an immediate problem with social creatures not accepting praise and encouragement from others, but the idea behind it is sound. And if the book had been a pamphlet, clearly and cleanly explaining these four things, I would have been happy and good. It went far beyond that and lost me in its rose-colored world in each and every chapter.
No, I’m not being impeccable with my word now. I think that there are bad things in this world and they should be labeled bad. I think that we should protect one another and keep each other safe. I’m not saying this is a bad book and people shouldn’t read it. I’m just saying that the premises spoke to me, but the rest of it did not. I think that not taking on the unfounded negativity of others is good, but that constructive criticism ought to be listened to. I think assumptions are a part of life and we make the best conclusions we can. Yes, often we ought to ask more questions, and I will try harder to do so, but it’s not always possible. Do my best. Yep, that one I can get behind, and remembering that my best changes day to day is not hard for me. Getting my bosses to understand that, however is another story.
The ideas are good, but the suggestion that my life will be heaven if only I do these things, well, heaven is a lot of things to a lot of people, and in my world, life on earth will never be heaven. I have a great life, great friends, great family. But heaven is a completely different concept to me than what I could ever have here.
(Yes, readers, there will be a kinky post again soon, just dealing with some relationship stuff.)
November 17th, 2011
I don’t know where to start. It’s been a week of crazy ups and downs. Excellent times together, and painful moments, too. Through it all, communication. Keep talking, keep expressing, keep feeling, keep reacting, keep it honest and open. We had great moments of connection. A wonderful flight on Saturday. Cuddle-nap-play time on Monday. And last night was the topper. That’s really what I want to talk about today. Conversations were all finding stabilization. Worry was hanging about. I was feeling a bit wobbly before practice. Okay and “fine” but not great.
Class is almost over, I’ve been fidgeting. Glancing at the clock, wondering if he’s upstairs. Worried about him. She says it’s all good now, toy seems happy, but what about him? He arrives with the tote and sits just outside the door. Looks happy, but class isn’t done. Patience. And clapping. Up for hugs, he’s grinning and wandering about greeting. I’m petting toy when I notice him at the table, looking over the new stun gun. Panic, I run around and jump onto the bed, hiding behind the crowd. Laughter and this is pointed out to him.
Whimpering, I get up and walk to the edge of the bed.
I hop off the bed. He crackles it and I jerk away in fear, breath already quickening.
I kneel in front of him, too terrified to put my hands where they belong, but my knees are spread properly. I hope this is good enough and he doesn’t object. He crackles it some more and I jerk away against the bed, whimpering.
I calm my breathing, steadying on the trundle. He snaps it by my ear and I lose calm, gasping in panic, trying to get a grip.
If you let me do it, then I get to zap her. He points up to a bystander. There’s some discussion and the crowd agrees this is what she said.
Do you want to do this?
He shocks my leg light and and I squeak. Then harder and harder til I squeal. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. It never is.
Ready? He pulls it away for a gap.
Steady my breathing, grab the trundle. Yes Sir.
Shock and scream and jerk. He giggles.
The bystander tries it after I explain the pain isn’t the bad part. Then he asks toy. She’s not ready. He crackles it at me and I whimper and cringe. Toy looks scared. More crackling, more whimpers.
I’ll torment your Miss, til you say yes.
He starts zapping the top and inner thighs. Making me jerk and squeal.
Don’t you want to, toy?
Finally a yes. He gives her a taste. Not too bad. Just scary.
Back to me. Crackle and zap. Squeal and cringe. He grabs my foot, I’m panicking nearly to tears.
Hey, what about the shock collar? They try to put that on someone, but terror is enough, no shocks needed. Stray comment inspires him.
Stick out your tongue.
What??? Oh gods.
Stick out your tongue. All the way. All The Way.
Shaking, whimpering, leaning back.
Do you want to do this? Will you let me do this?
If you really want to, Sir, but I’d prefer you didn’t.
He giggles happily and someone suggest the nose and I rock all the way back to the floor at his laughter.
He lets me back up and crackles it a bit more for effect, then presses it against a breast and makes me look down at it. I don’t want to take my eyes off his. But eventually his command is forceful enough and I look down. He presses the button, but nothing. I whimper and he turns on the flashlight, I still cringe. A couple more crackles, a couple more whimpers and he’s done with that for the night.
He wanders off and I catch my breath. Scared to get up, still keeping tabs on him. He starts practicing on the wall. Toy wants beat and she wants practice. Hook them up and head over to get them started. Find some floggers, trade him for the ones he had.
And then I’m tossed up to the wall. Shirt pulled up and off. I slip my bra off to join it. No cross. I don’t have an anchor point. I fold my arms under my breasts and wait, about six inches from the wall. He starts out hard, but not too hard. I’m already high on fear, so I adjust into the floggers quickly. It’s harder to move with the beat like this, but I sway a little. Grunting into the hits, squealing at the harder ones. I fall into breathing before too long, quiet pain space. Until the six-count brings me back out with a squeal. The tips break through my concentration. I hit the wall and then back to my stance. He comes in and out. Hard, softer, tips, thud. It sends me higher.
The deerskin comes out. Huge thud, pounding me solid. So good. I breathe in and out with the hits. Relaxing, comforting. I am breathing with him now. And he starts making huge swings. Harder, but not tipping. I’m rocking with each stroke. Heaven.
Rubber mops now. Starting with thud. Solid, slightly stingy thud. It takes me a bit to get back from the grunts to the breathing. I find myself turning, favoring my left shoulder as it stings more. I try to stay straight, give him a flat target. My hands come up, cradling my chest, anchoring to myself. I’m not going to give in. Tonight, I’m breaking through the barriers of pain, and he is right there with me, not pushing too hard or too fast. I find the rhythm, tapping my foot and breathing with the strikes. Six count knocks me to the floor again, back up quickly. He stays with me. Stingy for a while, screams down to breathing. Pounding, thudding, stinging. It doesn’t matter anymore. Breathing, rocking, turning. Occasional screams just punctuate the scene.
Then his bare hands slam down on tender skin, pounding me to the ground in screams of pain. I try to get up, but he has followed me and I collapse, tears breaking free. The pounding continues and I crawl onto his lap, clinging to his leg through the tears. Eventually, I break through that barrier too, and we readjust, me a ball on the floor, him sitting beside me, pounding away with bare palms. I breathe with the hits, occasionally trying to adjust my body. Elbow not quite comfy, but it’s the best I can do. Head down, no, cement bad. Just maintain. Solid hits stinging my skin. Breathing through solid hits, squeals on sharp smacks. Pounding me down to a puddle of meat.
His hand in my hair, he pulls my face into his lap. My arms around his legs and I sink. The feel of him, the smell of him, the comfort of him. My glasses come off, and I anchor to him. Breathing, I can feel him breathing. Hearts beating. Reality slowly returns. I hear talking above me. Eventually he pulls me up.
How are you?
I smile a spacy smile. Very good.
Is that what you needed?
Yes, Sir. Thank you.
We both need to recover. Sitting next to each other, watching the room. Glowing, the energy and the happy still filling every ounce of me. Even as I finally return to the world and go take a look at hubby’s rig.
An excellent night, amazing play, and it pulled me right into balance. It was full of the love and energy and wonderful connection we share. Nothing else mattered during the flogging. It was us, sharing with each other. And when we came up, our other loved ones were right there, surrounding us. It truly was, exactly what I needed.
November 10th, 2011
This is a good week. With his help, I was able to follow him out of the swirling chaos and realize that’s just what it was. Chaos caused by going in circles and trying to throw everything together at once. Stepping back, realizing that just because there are new things, doesn’t mean they have to disrupt everything. We can still have everything we already had, we can even focus on making what we have better. Nothing is being lost, and there is a lot to gain.
So, when I sat down to blog today, I didn’t know what to write about. He asked what’s on my mind. I said peace, contentment. So, write about that. It is really true. After the last few weeks, just sitting here, happy and content feels wonderful. We’ve had a good week, starting with good discussions, a fun contract night, more open discussions, an amusing knife-play class, and I got to be a demo bottom for a very long flogging lesson, spiced up with a dragon tail and a couple big plastic clamps. I didn’t last very long in those – damn mother nature and over-sensitive nipples – but I did communicate clearly when I needed to stop. It frustrates me when I can’t breathe through pain, but I have even less luck with it while standing. The flogging, however, was very nice. Her first time, and not bad at all. On the third song of sticking with the rhythm and very few poor shots, I got a bit spacey. Fortunately, the tells are second-nature reactions to bad shots, so I don’t have to concentrate all that hard to give them. And then cuddles and home for dinner, explosions and a warm bed I didn’t have to get out of until after the sun was well up.
It just feels so good to have the calm, quiet contentment return. There are still fears, everyone has fears, but we can talk about them, all, together. We can lean on each other, we can accept that fears don’t make truth, and that going forward is the only way to find out, to live life, and to have everything we ever dreamed of. This is an awesome adventure we’ve embarked on, and I am eager to see where it leads next. And if I trip and fall, well, what’s a skinned knee to a masochist? I’ve got plenty of loving hands to help me back up.
November 3rd, 2011
I don’t know what to post about this week. One of my best friends suggested monkeys. I’m not all that into animals, and monkeys tend to be into scat play, as well. So, I’m just gonna ramble a bit. Whirligig, whirligig, spin spin spin. OpenOffice tells me that’s how it’s spelled. Wants and needs, where’s the line? Emotion is to reactions as logic is to solutions.
Needs. There are physical needs: food, water, clothing, shelter, air. There are emotional needs: love, self-worth, respect, and happiness. Then things get a little muddy. Or perhaps they already were, as meeting those emotional needs can mean a lot of different things. And I tend to get a little muddier around happiness, though I put it on the list. Happiness is nonnegotiable, in the long term, but is unrealistic to expect every moment of every day. Things go wrong, arguments happen, mistakes get made, people get hurt, tragedies occur. But when all these needs are being met, including happiness, it’s hard to feel like life is all that rough.
Then there are the six basic human needs that they talk about in the kool-aid circles, let’s see if I can remember them: Certainty, Variety, Significance, Connection, Growth, and Contribution. I only forgot significance. And, according to Mr. Robbins, everyone puts very different value on these six things. Personally, certainty is the top of my list, followed by connection(love). The rest jockey for position regularly, with significance generally(but not always) coming in last in the broad scheme of things. They say opposites attract, so you know, with certainty at the top of my list, I’m attracted to people for whom variety tops the list. I couldn’t say for certain it is the Very top for all of them, but it certainly seems to rate high.
The ones I rate lower, I tend to feel cross over the line from need to want for me. But it’s that line that gets a bit fuzzy for me. I want to learn new things and grow, but do I need to? They say if you stop learning, you’re dead, but active growth often gets put on the back burner for me. I want to contribute to the world through my writing, but I don’t need to. I appreciate every private message saying how people enjoy my blog or got something out of it, and every comment that gets posted, but if it was really a need, wouldn’t I put more work into it? Significance is trickier. As long as I am important to the people who love me, do I really need to be important to anyone else? Given what I enjoy doing, and what my family do for a living, I’d say staying off the national or world stage is probably best for everyone. Variety. It’s true that I enjoy new things, that I like a lot of different kinks, that I’ve often had two or three partners. So, I certainly enjoy variety, to an extent. But I’m not someone who goes to a big event with a dance card, or is looking for many partners. I don’t want a stable, I just want all my needs and most of my wants met.
So, what about certainty and connection. Well, connection basically means love, and I’ve already listed that at the top. An absolute need. Certainty is what drives me crazy. Look no further for emotional break down than for me to not know what is going on or what to expect. Now, I don’t mind a bit of spontaneity, I enjoy unplanned scenes. But if I don’t know where I’m sleeping on a night, I get a little antsy. If I don’t know how bills are getting paid, I freak out. If a new shiny appears and I don’t know her intentions, or his, I get all wibbly-wobbly. (OpenOffice doesn’t know how to spell that one.) If I’m told something might happen, maybe, but I don’t know what, I get all nervous and jumpy. I like plans. I like lists. I like schedules. And yes, sometimes it’s really hot to be grabbed and dragged off at a moment’s notice for some unplanned, but much needed stress relief.
So what about that line? Needs – Wants. If I have all the physical needs, and emotional needs, and certainty met – is everything else just cream on the top? How do I judge happiness being met? Play makes me happy, not playing doesn’t necessarily make me unhappy. But not playing for a long time can. Or not playing when I really, really want to can. But then, I control my reactions (usually), so if all else is good, not playing shouldn’t make me unhappy. There’s always tomorrow, tends to be my rational to achieve that. Private time with him and hubby makes me happy. Not having that private time on a particular day is disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. Spending time is always happy, but that doesn’t make not spending time a necessary sad. I think I’ve lost my point in here somewhere. I’m trying to sort out whether play, time and private time fall under needs or wants. Given their relationship to happiness. Which isn’t only direct, they also affect the health of the relationship, which is a source of happiness. They are all ways in which affection and love are expressed, but a lack of one does not equate to a lack of love. Most often it is a lack of time, or opportunity. So, they are not necessarily needs in and of themselves, but are wants which fulfill both the needs of connection/love and happiness.
Then we get down into specifics. Specific types of play, or time, or private time. Specific types of affection and attention. Those are certainly wants. None of them is specifically a need. They are, again, ways to get needs filled, and we often say “I needed that,” but I’d say they are strictly on the want side of the equation. We are referring to the emotional need that got filled by the action when we say we needed it. So, it seems, by my rambling, that for me, the more general a thing, the more of a need it is, and the more specific, the more it lands in want territory.
Toy commented to me she’d been advised to feel her emotions before solving problems. I agreed with this statement. Often, I react emotionally to things, and on the surface, I think the problem is one thing, but as I’m reacting and talking about how I’m feeling, I dig deeper and find the real problem. If I try to solve the problem at first reaction, often I end up trying to solve the wrong problem, or even one that doesn’t really exist. So, I’m learning to ride through the emotions, often getting him to help me dig into them, so I can find out what’s really bothering me and deal with it. A brown leaf, when cut off, doesn’t fix a poisoned root.
The other half of that, is if I ride through the emotions, feel them all and let them rise and fall. After it is done, then I can be logical and find solutions. Nothing drives me more crazy than when I’m reacting and being emotional, and he throws logic at me. I’m often not ready to be logical, yet. Though, sometimes, it’s enough to snap me past the emotions to the point of logic. Other times, I just need to cry, let it out, get all the emotional baggage out from behind my eyes and between my shoulders, or I’m just going to be useless and run in circles. Emotions are good for finding problems, logic is good for solving them.
October 29th, 2011
It has been a week. And once again, Thursday was too busy for me to get a post written. Two jobs is good for the checkbook, not so good for my writing pursuits. Life is full of changes. Growing, expanding, renegotiating, learning, adding, subtracting, multiplying. Relationships are the same.
He and toy are “officially dating” now. A new young woman has entered all our lives. Schedule changes are heading our way. So things are in a little bit of flux as we try to see where it is all lands. This has led to a lot of conversations. A lot of communication. And a lot of thinking and processing. Also, a lot of reacting, but hey, that’s where it all starts. Reactions let us know what’s important, and then we figure out what to do about it.
I seem to have, for the moment, gotten over my usual reaction of replacement fears to change, and have settled into a more tetchy fear of losing time and attention. More tetchy, because those things are limited. There is only so much time in a week, and so much attention to give. I started talking about it like a pie. Fearing my slice was going to get smaller, that someone else was going to get a slice, or a bigger slice, or already had, or whatever. The trouble is, that’s life, things are always changing and adjusting. I need to focus, not on, how do I get a bigger piece, or keep my exact piece, or any of that, but how to enjoy my slice to the fullest. To do that, I have to stop worrying about other people’s slices. I only have control over how I spend my own.
To that end, I tripped over an even older mental block. Asking for what I want. In order to facilitate him making decisions about those slices, he has to know what I want and need, so he can give me whatever he is able to. And in order for me to be happy, I have to take care of my own wants and needs. This means several things. First, I have to know what I want and need. Second, I have to tell him what I want and need. Third, I have to be patient about getting those met. I have several stumbling blocks in this series. Knowing what I need seems to have gotten easier, though I sometimes have trouble with the want/need line, falling on the side of, well, I don’t really Need that, I can Survive without it. I’m still working on that.
The blocks really come with telling him. A couple problems here. I grew up in a household where wants were generally not considered important. At birthdays or Christmas, you could ask for things, but other than that, only if offered. And at those times two times a year, we made wish lists and didn’t demand particular things. To say, you must get me this one thing or I will be miserable, was just not done. We made a list and we’d usually get a few things off that list, but not everything, and often things that weren’t on the list. You got what they wanted to give you. So, how does this translate now? Well, if I have everything I need, I feel selfish asking for things I want. At birthdays and Christmas, I tend to posts lists to my blog, but I don’t really ask for things directly. If I’m asked what I want (to do), I tend to come off shy or coy because I’m not used to being that direct.
The next block comes in with the third step. I’m a fairly patient person, but sometimes to a fault. I won’t ask for things if I feel like the answer will be not right now. For a couple reasons. One, it feels like a no to me, and I don’t like hearing no, so I just won’t ask. Two, because I figure I might as well wait until the answer is likely to be yes. But, as he reminds me, if he doesn’t know what I want, I am taking away his chance to decide if there’s time/opportunity for it, nor can he plan for it in the future if there isn’t time in that moment. So I have to ask, and then be patient about receiving.
To make the most of our slice of poly pie, we have to be fully informed of each other’s wants and needs. I have to grow and overcome some roadblocks, and let myself hear not now, without it meaning no. Sharing wants should be fun, describing things I like or want should be entertaining and arousing. Fantasies and daydreams come to life is what makes our lives amazing. Why would I deny either of us that?
August 11th, 2011
One more time. Here is the final selection of my thoughts on The Ethical Slut, part two. Soon, I’ll get to Part Three. And maybe even a post about the 2nd edition of this wonderful book. This post is on conflict and communication.
“Good communication is based on identifying our feelings, communicating them to our partners, and getting validation from our partners that they hear and understand what we are saying.” (177) I wanted to start with this quote. It holds a lot of important things. First, identifying our feelings, being able to truthfully communicate with ourselves. This can be hard, we know How we feel, but not always why we feel that way, it can take some digging to figure this out, and sometimes we cannot see it by ourselves. Second, communicating to our partners how we are feeling. He cannot read your mind, now matter how often if seems that way. You have to tell him what’s going on inside. Then, the response, that the hear you, and then that they understand you. These are two different things, and both take a bit of work, on both parts. To hear someone else, above your own inner voice, and then to really understand what they are saying, not just what you think they are saying. All this goes into good communication.
“It is always tempting to respond to major relationship conflict by assigning blame. … Relationships tend to end due to their own internal stresses. … If you start looking at conflicts, problems and so on, as problems of the relationship, instead of trying to decide whose fault they are, you have taken an important step in solving them.” (165) A relationship takes two (or more) people. Conflict also takes two (or more people). Throwing around blame does not help achieve resolution to conflict, and can, in fact, prolong and heighten it. Yes, often, someone has done something “wrong” that caused the conflict, but there is usually more to it than that, a bigger picture, a bigger problem, that needs solving, rather than the minute details of that specific action.
“It is critical that everyone involved accept responsibility for knowing their own feelings and communicating them.” (192) “The I-message is a pure statement of feeling and there is no accusation in it.” (178) This first quote goes back to Tuesday’s post. Owning your own feelings, your partner did not make you feel a certain way, and is not responsible for your feelings. You are. And you should certainly communicate your feelings, but try to use I-messages. I feel this, instead of you made me feel this.
“We need to schedule discussions at a time when we can give them our full attention.” (175)
“Take TIME OUT to ventilate anger. Select ONE issue to work on. Make an APPOINTMENT to talk.” (177) On the way out the door to work, or to a date is not the time to discuss a problem. Nothing will get solved if one person is in a hurry or if both have other things on their minds. It is also important to cool down before trying to solve a problem. Yes, emotions run high, yes anger happens. But yelling and escalating emotions are likely only to make the situation worse. Picking a topic and a time to discuss it is helpful in several ways. It gives you time to ride out your emotions, to think about the problem, and to know that there is a space where it will be discussed and (hopefully) resolved.
“Once you’ve defined your problem and your goal, it’s time to start figuring out a good agreement.” (200) This is an important step. Really figuring out what the problem is, not just on the surface, but looking for rocks and holes beneath as well. Think about what you want to accomplish. What is your goal in this discussion/argument/negotiation? Having that in mind first, will make the discussion go a lot smoother.
“In order for a fight to be successful, both people have to win.” (175) “Agreements… mutually agreed upon, conscious decisions, designed to be flexible enough to accommodate individuality, growth and change.” (190) “Be clear, be specific and above all negotiate in good faith.” (193) “The purpose of an agreement is to find a way in which everybody can win.” (195) Once you know what you (both) want, it’s time to talk. Time to find a way for all involved parties to come to agreement, where everyone can be satisfied. It’s no good ‘winning’ the argument if the person you love is left miserable or hurting. Specificity, clarity and flexibility are all good things. Make sure everyone fully understands the agreement, that no part is unclear or vague so as to lead to another conflict. Don’t look for semantic loopholes, patch them. But also try not to create an agreement so rigid that it chafes. It should be something that benefits everyone involved and gets everyone’s needs met, and as many wants as possible. Relationships are not a competition, the only way to win is for everyone to win.
August 3rd, 2011
I was going to do the posts close together, but things keep getting busy. So, here’s the second post on The Ethical Slut, part II. This one focuses on Jealousy and Fear.
“No one can own another person.” (117) An important thing to remember, whether or not you are poly. You do not own your partner. (We aren’t talking about Master/slave ownership agreements here, that’s another discussion.) You are not responsible for their actions, and your every moment is not about each other. It would be a rather boring life for most of us to spend every waking moment with only one other person. There are jobs, and friends, and family and hobbies and a myriad of other things that are part of life. You share your life, poly or not, with many people, things and activities.
“Jealousy may be an expression of insecurity, of fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, feeling left out, feeling not good enough, or feeling inadequate.” (134) “[Jealousy] is a part of you, a way that you express fear and hurt.” (137) Jealousy is a normal human emotion. Everyone has jealousy at some point in their lives over something. It’s natural. And it can tell you when something is important to you. If it wasn’t important, you wouldn’t react to it.
“We imagine we know his thoughts, when in fact we are thinking about our fears.” (121) Our imaginations are great creators of fear. Sometimes, our imagination just leads us to silence or inaction. I can’t be that, he’ll say this. I can’t do that, she’ll think this. I can’t ask that, he’ll say no. How do we know? We don’t, we’re just projecting our fears onto our partner.
“You actually don’t know what your partner is doing. The images you see in your mind are the perfect reflection of your own fears.” (149) Our imagination gives us false impressions of what our partner is doing with others, or while out of our sight. We are afraid of what they are doing, afraid we’ll be hurt by it. “It helps to ask, “What am I afraid might happen?”” (131) We might imagine that the other person is better at it than we are. That they’ll enjoy it more with that other person. That we will pale in comparison. We might be afraid that he won’t want us anymore, or won’t want to do a certain thing with us anymore. We can really let our imaginations run away with us. That’s why communication is so important, before and after. So that we can stay in touch with the reality of a situation.
“What are the specific images that disturb me the most?” (148) It is important to figure out what triggers your fears, insecurities and jealousy the most. To identify major issues, so they can be named(often this, is enough to take the power away), discussed and perhaps disarmed. Or, if not disarmed, perhaps agreements can be made around them, to the benefit of all involved. No one wants to make their partners unhappy.
“Jealous might actually be envy.” (134) “When I’m not taking care of getting what I want, it’s easy to get jealous and think that someone else is getting what I am not.” (137) Are there things that you want that others appear to be getting? Are you asking for those things? Can you work out a way to have the experience you are missing so that you aren’t envious of the other person? It is important to take care of yourself, and your wants and needs. Don’t give jealousy any more footholds than it already has.
“Sometimes jealousy has at its root feelings of grief or loss.” (134) This goes back to economics of starvation, for me. Feeling like I’m losing something if someone else gets the same. Jealousy over fear of loss. I have to remind myself that someone else getting something does not take away from what I already have. And, it can even strengthen it.
“If you try to pretend that you are not jealous when you are, others will perceive you as dishonest, or worse yet, they may believe you, and see no need to support and protect you.” (138) “Denying your jealousy can lead you to act out harsh feelings in ways you will regret later.” (138) Expressing jealousy can be painful, but denying it can be damaging. It isn’t easy to admit you are feeling negatively about your partner, but letting negativity fester only makes things worse. If you can admit to it, you can then talk about it, and get through it. Together. A shared burden is easier to carry.
“The way to unlearn jealousy is to be willing to experience it.” (139) “You can feel jealousy without acting on it.” (140) Like any other emotion, jealousy does not have to take over. You can feel it and see it and deal with it, without letting it control you. This can take practice though, and time. And you have to want to. You are in control of you, even when you feel out of control. Ask for help when you need it, and jealousy is nothing to be afraid of.
“You and your partners need to practice talking about jealousy.” (151) I’m not sure how to practice, but talking about jealousy is the best way I know to get through it. Getting your feelings out, having them acknowledged and supported, if not agreed with, and then having help getting through them, is a great feeling. But that’s the next blog post, Emotions and Validation.
June 25th, 2011
It’s been a long week, and I’m not ready to post about it, may never. Not the specifics anyway. But I want to write today, about some of the solutions. I hesitated about that word, solutions. We haven’t fully solved anything, but he asked what I wanted to do, to make sure we did not end up here again, and two of those things are what I want to talk about. They aren’t really solutions, but they are processes that will help us.
They are processes he has been teaching me since I met him. I have learned more about verbal communication in the last three years, than in the previous twenty-five. (I’ll grant that learning to talk was pretty huge in those first three years of life.)
I lived my young life in the shadows, being fairly passive, letting circumstances, events and people pull me along. I could take a stand and step forward in a pinch, but it wasn’t until college that I really started learning to stand up for myself. After, when I moved out west, I dropped back into the shadows. When we got back home, I started to step out again. I was out in front meeting people and being social and making choices again. We became poly and joined the kink community and I started finding my voice and my spine. He’s been helping me develop and grow both since I met him, as well.
But there is so much more to successful poly than that. I harp on communication all the time. And yet again, I fell down. I haven’t done my write up on Part Two of The Ethical Slut, yet, but it’s all about agreements, and communication and jealousy. Not necessarily in that order. It’s about specificity, and being completely clear and getting what you need.
The two things I want to talk about today are active communication and active thinking. Two concepts that are not unfamiliar to me, but that I need to take a deeper look at.
Active communication is not just about listening and responding. It is about making sure you understand what is being said. It includes telling the other person what you are hearing them say, in your own words, to make sure you are getting the message they are trying to deliver. We use different language sometimes and it can make clear communication difficult. Sometimes it may take rephrasing several times to make sure you are both on the same page, or even in the same book. Try to be patient.
It is also about making sure you know what the conversation is about. By this I mean, we sometimes come at things sideways, or with humor to diffuse a possibly difficult subject, but it’s important to know what the conversation is really about. To not get sidetracked on a tangent and miss the point completely. If you have a question, make sure it gets answered, and everyone knows the question and the answer. If you are the one sidetracking the conversation, check yourself, ask yourself, and your partner if necessary, if you actually answered the question or concern, and if you really understood the question in the first place.
Active thinking. This has several layers for me. On the surface, it is constantly considering your actions and their consequences. In poly, it means including the consequences with your partners (and maybe even their partners) in your considerations. It also means being self-aware of any uncertainty or confusion in these considerations. Which then turns back around to active communication to get those uncertainties or confusions cleared up.
If I do not know, with fairly absolute certainty, how something is going to affect my partners, if we haven’t discussed it, or it is a new situation, then I should step back and really consider what I’m up to. If it could have any negative consequences whatsoever for my partners and loved ones that they have not agreed to, I need to step away. Then, I need to talk to them, discuss the action and come to an agreement about it. There are often negative consequences that people will agree to, – feeling uncomfortable, being jealous – but the whole point is to make everyone as comfortable and safe and happy as possible. I have to be actively thinking about all of this, all the time, so I recognize when an agreement hasn’t been made, or is needed.
Learning to be active by doing doesn’t always mean going out and doing what you want. Often it means being active in your conversations and being active in your thinking. Being aware of yourself and your needs and finding out about your partners and their needs. Communicating and making agreements and then being active and conscious about keeping them.
June 10th, 2011
My academic pursuit this month, otherwise known as “I’m tired of packing project,” (unfortunately, yesterday, when I got tired, of packing I fell asleep instead of posting) is The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, which I posted about the first time I read it. This week, I read Part 1: Within Ourselves, and took down quotes I found pertinent or important to me. So, I thought I’d make this week’s post a discussion of those quotes. I divided them into five categories: Sex, Poly, Social Programming, Communication and Internal Struggles.
Let’s start with Social Programming. This group is about overcoming our social programming so we can live the life we want to live and be true to oneself. “Our programming is changeable.” “You are already whole.” “ Great sluts are made, not born.” “People… free of shame, would trust their own sense of right and wrong.” (pp. 6, 34, 59, 71) So, what do all these quotes mean to me?
I grew up in a religiously based household, taught ‘how things ought to be’ from a young age. One husband, one wife, kids, and pets. Sex inside marriage only. And no kinky stuff. So, the first quote, of programming being changeable. I don’t have to live with the programming my parents gave me. It worked for them, but it does not have to be mine as well. If it doesn’t work for me, then I can change it to fit myself. The third quote goes along with that. It takes work to overcome social programming, to make myself into what I want to be. I cannot just assume I have all the skills and understanding to live the way I want to live. I have to learn and grow and create my life.
The second quote. Being whole. Society likes to push marriage and kids onto us. You aren’t a grown up, until you’re married. You aren’t fulfilling your purpose until you have kids. And on and on. Not everyone wants to be married, not everyone wants to have kids. There is nothing wrong with either of these things. You are a whole person, in and of yourself, without the need for a relationship or offspring to validate your existence.
The final quote, came from Wilhelm Reich’s speeches to young Communists in Germany in 1936. He was speaking against free expression and sexuality, because this would prevent an authoritarian government. I think it is a good point, though. Without social programming telling us that what we feel is wrong and dirty, we would be free to trust our own judgment, our own selves, about what was good and right for us, and what was wrong. That would certainly reduce our unnecessary guilt and self-recriminations.
So, on that note, let’s move on to Internal Struggles, a lot of which come from Social Programming. “Each person owns her own feelings. No one ‘makes’ me feel jealous, or insecure – the person who makes me feel that way is me.” “Knowing, loving and respecting yourself is an absolute prerequisite to knowing, loving and respecting someone else.” “You must speak truth, first to yourself, then to those around you.” “Shame, and beliefs we were taught that our bodies, desires and sex are dirty and wrong, make it very hard to develop a healthy self-esteem.” “Do remember: your sexiness is about how you feel, not how you look.” (pp. 65, 67, 67, 93, 94)
To live this life, I have had to look inside me, to consider myself and my truth a lot more than I ever did before. I have to take responsibility for myself, my feelings, and my actions, something that in today’s society it seems to be more popular to blame others for. Yes, things people say or do upset me, but it is me choosing to react that way. Me choosing to let it bother me. Me choosing whether to talk to them about it, or brood silently. My choice to let negativity fester or toss it out into the light to die. To be in control of my emotions and my reactions, I have to know myself, love myself and respect myself enough to look for the truth in myself. I have to figure out what’s really going on inside me, so I can share it with those that matter.
A wonderful side effect of this lifestyle I have chosen, has been a much better body image and self-esteem. I grew up hiding my body, wearing baggy shirts and jeans year round. Boys hardly every looked at me before college, and I never gave them a reason to. One day in high school, my mother must have been having a bad day, because she told me I was fat. I took this to mean she thought I was ugly and unattractive. Just one stray comment and I held onto it for years. I didn’t believe that I weighed too much, but unattractive, absolutely.
Then I started dating, but I was still hiding in my clothes. Boys were interested in me, some told me I was attractive. But I didn’t believe them. I started having sex and doing kinky things. Boys didn’t run screaming from my body. That seemed like a good thing. My dad once told me I should get sexy underwear so I’d feel better about myself. That was strange. Dated some more, here and there and around the world. Still hiding. Got married, continued to hide, though I got cuter clothes from hubby and his mom. Other men were still attracted to me. That was strange to me. Why would they look at me? Talk to me sure, I’m bright and fun, but look at me?
We swung a bit and then became poly. We joined a few groups, and started going to events. I got more and more compliments, and people appreciating my body, my energy, my sexiness. I was encouraged to wear cuter (and shorter) outfits. I gained confidence in not just my body, but myself. The community is full of so many people of different body types, and people are attracted to them all. People are attracted to skin, to body parts, to men, to women, to everything and everyone. I learned that you don’t have to be perfect, or a certain size, shape, or height. You just have to comfortable and happy in your own skin. If you feel sexy(and sometimes even when you don’t), you are sexy.
Next, let’s explore Poly. “We tend to like our lives complicated, with lots of stuff going on to keep us interested and engaged.” “Is there some virtue in being difficult?” “The human capacity for sex and love and intimacy is far greater than most people think.” “What rewards can you foresee that will compensate you for doing the hard work of learning to be secure in a world of shifting relationships?” “I don’t have to fulfill every single thing my partner needs or wants.” “Faithfulness is about honoring your commitments and respecting your friends and lovers.” “You don’t have to force anyone into a mold that doesn’t fit: all you have to do is enjoy how you do fit together, and let go of the rest.” (pp. 7, 29, 36, 59, 59, 63, 73)
I’ll start at the top. Complicated lives. I’ve always kept busy. Band, theater, gaming, volunteering, writing, working, studying. My love life was often complicated, even before I came out as poly. I spent time with multiple guys, or with guys who had girlfriends elsewhere, or with different guys in different countries. I flirted online a lot, with men, women and couples. The first time hubby proposed to me, he was already engaged to someone else. I love order and organizing, but my life has always been fairly complicated. It’s not that I’m easy, I have standards, but I agree with Dossie and Catherine, why be intentionally difficult?
Our capacity for love and intimacy is huge. We love family, friends, lovers, pets, people we see on TV, even characters in books or shows. All in different ways, perhaps, but that’s a lot of love, and we always have more for new people coming into our lives. Why should romantic love be different? If everyone is honest and respectful, then, to me, everyone is being faithful. I always did like the song from Kiss Me, Kate with the chorus “Always true to you baby, in my fashion. I’m always true to you baby, in my way.”
Then we get to the rewards for all this learning and growing into the people we want to be. And the remaining two quotes answer that one. In poly, thanks to poly, I don’t have to try and be everything, and do everything, and fit into a mold of the “perfect partner.” I can be me, and they can be themselves, and we find out what needs we can fulfill for each other, and enjoy those things together.
This leads right into Communication, the most important thing, for me, in poly. “Consent – an active collaboration for the benefit, well-being and pleasure of all persons concerned.” “They may be shy in the seductive stages, and bolder once welcome has been secured. Women tend to want explicit permission, and for each specific act.” “Talk clearly and listen effectively.” “Being able to ask for and receive reassurance and support is extremely important.” “It’s vital to be able to give reassurance and support.” “Lots of hugging, touching, verbal affection, sincere flattery.” “You need to know how and when to say no.” “The historical censorship of discussion about sex has left us with another disability: the act of talking about sex… has become difficult and embarrassing.” “What you can’t talk about, you can hardly think about.” “Most of us have been struck dumb by the scariest communication task of all – asking for what we want.” “If you are not free to say ‘no,’ you can’t really say ‘yes.’” “You have a right to your limits and it is totally okay to say no to [anything] you don’t like or are not comfortable with.” (pp. 21-2, 49, 61, 61, 62, 62, 63, 95, 95, 101, 103, 106)
Several different subcategories here. Staring with general communication – being able to speak clearly as well as listen. I have learned, over the last few years, that what one person says and the other person hears, are not always the same thing. I have learned the importance of restating what I think the other person is trying to communicate, so he can agree, or try another way of explaining.
Being able to communicate needs and wants (as well as knowing the difference), and being able to hear the same from my partners has been vital to our relationships. I still have trouble taking about sex out loud, and am sometimes embarrassed to write about it. But we work together, and talk together, and we open with each other and I am more and more able to talk about it. It’s still not perfect, nothing ever is. But I am learning and growing, and overcoming the embarrassment and shame of my social programming.
Being able to ask for and receive reassurance and support, in any number of ways, can be hard. Why should I have doubts and need reassurance after all this time? Well, because I’m human, and imperfect and the little devil on my shoulder, or the little voice in my head gets too loud sometimes, and I need help shouting him down. And it has been very important to me, that my partners have been there to give me that. Even if all I need is a hug, or the words I love you, to calm me down, and even more so, when I’ve wanted a flogging or tight rope bondage.
Then there is consent. I like their definition: “an active collaboration for the benefit, well-being and pleasure of all persons concerned.” We want to have fun, be safe and healthy and work together for these things. Consent is for everyone, tops, bottoms, masters, slaves, doms, subs, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends. It is not just one person consenting to the other, it is both(or more) people consenting to each other. And being able to say no, is just as important as being able to say yes. You have to be able to say no, or yes doesn’t mean anything. There’s consensual non-consent, and there are no-limit slaves, but in the end, if you cannot ultimately turn and walk away, then you are not really consenting to be there.
On to happier topics – Sex. “Sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.” “We have never met anyone who has low self-esteem at the moment of orgasm.” “The existence of her clitoris was proof positive that God loved her.” “Sex is whatever the people engaging in it think it is… if you… feel sexual… that’s sex, for you.” “Sex is a healthy force in our lives.” “We like to think that all sensual stimulation is sexual, from a shared emotion to a shared orgasm.” “When sex becomes goal-oriented, we may focus on what gets us to orgasm to the exclusion of enjoying all the nifty sensations that come before (and, for that matter, after).” “Sexually successful people masturbate.” (pp. 4, 19, 27, 39. 40, 92, 96, 98)
We live in a culture of double standards. Sex sells – well, everything. But we are taught to avoid it, that it’s dangerous, that it’s only for marriage, that touching ourselves is disgusting. We are taught to be embarrassed by sexuality. But sex is wonderful, and it’s not just about intercourse, or orgasms. Being a kinky person, there are so many different ways that I find sensual and sexual pleasure. Being poly, hubby and I have a very strict definition of what sex is, in regards to our rules about who we can “have” it with. But that is about intercourse and sexual//reproductive health. We give and receive sensual and sexual stimulation with a lot of different people, in a lot of different ways, including our own selves. Intercourse is great, orgasms are great, but they are not the end all and be all of our sexual lives. We like things complicated, remember? I really enjoy the sex-positive nature of this book and the confidence it reminds me to have about myself and my desires in a culture that tells me I am wrong and disgusting in so many ways. I love my life, and I am happy with who I am.
March 17th, 2011
What’s really there is that I have an awesome boyfriend who loves me, who trusts me, and who wants to continue our journey together, in life and in kink.
What’s really there is several new paths we are taking, one including an awesome woman who has decided to be our toy.
What’s really there is stressful work and health situations that are not who we are, but simply things we are doing and dealing with.
What’s really there is drama in our worlds and families that we need to deal with and solve together, supporting each other.
What’s really there is amazing opportunities for love and companionship and play and fun together, that I never would have thought possible five years ago.
These sentences are currently written on my thighs. I wrote them in a chat yesterday, and we decided I ought to write them on myself for a little while. “Until the message sinks in,” you might say. I need practice focusing on the positive. I need to not let the negative build up and build up, because “it’s just a little thing,” until it becomes a whirlwind of fear, doubt and crazy. I’m a writer, a good thing, but also bad. I write stories in my head, make assumptions, fill in the blanks. I live inside my head a little too much. I need to remember there are other people out there, often right beside me, who have the real answers, the actual truth of the matter, and sometimes, a far better grip on reality than the tangled mess I sometimes get myself into. Speculative fiction is awesome to write and sell and share, but reality is strange enough without me getting creative on it.
So, lesson of the week: Communicate!
How many times have I written about communication? And yet…
Things are far easier to deal with and discount and conquer when they are small. And nothing is too small to mention. A grain of sand creates a pearl, but a fleck of metal can blind you and a single spark can burn down a forest. He is good at noticing when something is wrong or off, but I am not always so good at realizing he is right. So, communication. Don’t dismiss it when he questions, really look and try to shake loose the thought that is keeping me off balance by hiding in the corner. Life is always crazy and busy and stressful, but letting things bottle and build up is only going to make things worse. Explosions are far more damaging than a firecracker. Just don’t hang on too tight, toss it up in the air and see what it looks like in the light.
I am loved. I am wanted. I am needed. I am worthy.