Monday, September 28, 2015

Learning to Fly/Fall

A couple months ago, I was at a poly meet where many newbies were present.  A strong theme was regarding how to keep yourself, and your existing relationship, safe as a person exploring polyamory. One experienced soul said that safety was an illusion, and to just let go of the idea of having a "safe" environment. On the surface, that kind of bothered me.  Part of our job as individuals is addressing our own safety, right?

Watching high trapeze artists, one notices the athleticism, the coordination, the sychronicity, the skin tight outfits, the grace, and, perhaps less obviously, the net.  You see, even with a seasoned professional who has been practicing the art of trapeze for many years in coordination with others, the reality is that someone, someday, is going to fall.  There will be a misplaced hand, a slightly under/over powered maneuver, an off day.  The more complexity, the more people involved in the act, the more likely it is to have a missed connection, the more important the net becomes.   No one really wants to be at the show where a smashed skull is part of the entertainment. No one wants to BE that show!

For me, polyamory is managed risk.  I've tried some pretty freakin' challenging things, and sometimes the hands were there to catch me, and other times, I've fallen on my ass.  I want that net!

But what is a net in polyamory?  It's the skills you learn to support yourself, even when things don't go according to plan, because they won't always.  It's building the tenacity to climb the ladder again, grab the bar, and swing yourself into space in rhythm with other people, knowing that some days, some months, some years, are going to be spent falling over and over, as you attempt to learn a complex sequence together.  It's learning to assess who is going to catch you, and who isn't. It's being honest with yourself about who wants to put the work in, and who isn't going to train hard enough to be capable of the more complex stunts. It's knowing when you need to swing out there on your own, and just practice hanging onto the bar, finding your own rhythm.

The net isn't external.  It's internal.   When your internal net is strong, it's easier to try challenging, but highly rewarding things in your relationships!  You can fly, knowing that, even if you fall, you'll catch yourself.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Scar Tissue

A couple years ago, I was going down the back steps to hop into the hot tub when I missed a step completely, and ended up falling heavily, albeit weirdly, on the front of my ankle.  Not to be overly graphic, but the cement patio scraped a section of skin about two inches around completely off, so deeply the tendons were visible at spots.  Not only did it really hurt, I was concerned about infection, and worried about working, because in my day job, I do therapeutic massage with my feet.

So, I cleaned it up the best I could, applied some antibiotic ointment, one of those big fabric bandages, and hoped for the best.  The next couple weeks in particular were a struggle to bend, extend, and push with that area of my body during work.  It took significant force of will to just do the bare minimums, and I didn't do anything at the gym, or walking, if I could help it.

Eventually, the skin began to regrow, knit together, and form a lump of scar tissue on the top of my ankle, and that became the new struggle: to keep the scar flexible as it healed, so that I didn't lose range of motion.  This is where my job became an asset to me.  Since I move my feet in more different directions in an hour than most people do in a day, the scar tissue healed well, bulky, but flexible. It is stronger than the original skin, but also takes up more space.  It used to be angry and red, but now, two years later, its mostly blends in with the paleness that is the norm for my body.

Things changed in my poly life last year.  There was the loss of a significant relationship, a major shift in my connection with my metamours, and substantial change in the way my parenting landscape works.  It felt like my whole emotional life was a gaping wound, showing my internal weaknesses, and vulnerability.  I couldn't get away from all the ways I failed myself, failed others, even if I could logically see that much of what happened was unavoidable. So, I took a big step back from community, from connection, from dating, from risk.  I holed up, and tried to keep those wounds from getting infected.  Wrapped the pain up tightly, and waited to heal.

The biggest challenge was that those hurts didn't heal up nice and neat.  They kept breaking open, and for a long time that confused me.  I was doing self-care.  I had a supportive and loving partner.  Why weren't things getting better faster?  Then it occurred to me:  The scar was getting stiff, because I wasn't using those areas of my heart that had been damaged.  I'd shut things down in a bid to protect myself, but every time I tried to move forward in some fashion, I hadn't built the flexibility to do that without pulling those wounds open.

So, I started to stretch again.  Cautiously, carefully, and consciously.  I went on a few dates, and for several months, I had limited ability to connect with anyone on a deeper level, so I'd usually flame out pretty quickly, and then take another breather before I tried again.

Eventually, I met a fellow, M, who was newer to the area, and part of a live-in quad, doing the type of poly I like to do, with an extended family feel. We connected well, and formed a solid connection. I met M's wife, and other her partner, and his wife and child.  That was all good, yet hard too, because it felt a lot like what I had, and lost, but this time, I didn't back up.  I kept stretching those wounds, and reaching out towards the people, the bonds, and the environments that feed me the most, and things started to feel a little easier.  I was moving in the direction of being a bit more fully ME again.

Over time, the desire to write, to use my voice again, has been growing.  After having things blow apart, I didn't find much value in sharing my thoughts.  It felt hypocritical to think I had anything of value to contribute.  That's started to change, so I've begun writing. Some of that content you're not likely to see anytime soon, as it's still too raw for public consumption. Perhaps someday in the medium term.  For now, some of what you'll read here is easy, and some will be more challenging. Bear with me... This post is a step in that process.

The drive to create something broadly useful within the community has reasserted itself, so I restarted the Poly Discussion Group, began a Face Book group to support that, and also moderate another poly forum. This time though, I've asked for more help, more input from the people around me to build additional structure, to contribute in ways that don't leave me feeling like this is all my ball to push uphill alone. The first meeting after taking a year off was last weekend, and it was wonderful!  Even better has been the follow through afterwards.  I'm excited and optimistic about the possibilities!

Last week M was out of town, and I got to spend some extra time with my metamour.  That stretched something in me a bit.  To have someone deliberately choose to spend their time and energy with me, even in the absence of our shared partner, because I am comforting and enjoyable to be with.  I've also gotten to spend extra time in other contexts with the other people in their household over the past couple weeks, and have deeply appreciated the extension of energy and acceptance.  Feeling like I have something to offer, to others, and to myself, is my happy place.

Choosing not to do something that feeds me because I am afraid it will be taken away is a horrid reason to stop reaching.  Yes, take time to close gaping wounds, and remain aware that the scars formed will take stretching, and management on an ongoing basis.  That's what baggage is, and whether it impedes the path forward, or gets unpacked, is up to each of us. Right now, life isn't all sunshine and puppies, but it is something I can work with,  finding the depth of resolve that drives me, and creating anew, even with these scars.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why Won't I Date Someone Who Is Cheating?


Although I'd much rather be enjoying the pleasant canoodling I was anticipating, than writing this blog post, some stories must be told, and some things must be said! 

This week, I was going to have a second date with a new prospective partner. We had a mutual kink that we both wanted to explore.  The first meeting went well, but there was just something that seemed off...something I couldn't quite put my finger on...So I kept asking questions, and finally got very direct: "Is there anyone else that might be upset by our interacting?" He said that this kink was one his partner (hadn't been mentioned) wasn't interested in exploring with him, and so he was looking elsewhere without their knowledge.  Please understand that he loves her, they have a good relationship, but he really wants this particular thing in his life.  Just give him a chance.

Sigh.  If I had a dollar for every time I've heard variations on that story...

Too often I've heard the "ethically" non-monogamous justify their involvement as an integral part of a cheating dynamic as it not being any of their business what someone else does/does not do within their other relationships.  They say personal autonomy trumps any responsibility they have to say "No" to involving themselves with someone who is cheating on their partner with the poly person.  They say that the situation is complicated, and it would be too hard for the other person to make changes to create an honest environment.  They say that we shouldn't judge anyone else's actions by our own standards.

Calling bullshit on all that mess.

At the minimum, it is MY standard to assure (as much as I can) that a third party isn't having their ability to consent taken away from them via lack of information, where I would be complicit in that deceit.  It's irrelevant that I personally am not breaking agreements to pursue that connection.  Being a partner of someone who is cheating on their other person isn't who I want to be.  Having a partner who is cheating isn't a partner I want to have.  The potential damage to my world isn't worth that risk.

Most people think it's going to be the end of the world if they rip off the band aid and tell their partner they want additional connections.  They are probably right in assessing it will be disruptive.  Personally, I've done that work, and I want to only date other people that are willing to work that hard too.  No cheaters.  No excuses.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Repeat with me: I am not a special snowflake!

'Tis a common conceit to think of ourselves as unique individuals, and of course we are, in ways that are very similar to other people...��. So why is it that, upon examination of a thorny issue in our personal lives, the tendency is to disregard our own wisdom, and embark on a course that is less than likely to end in a successful outcome? 

Let's say your buddy, Pat, asks your advice on when the best time to come out to a potential new partner is?  Well, of course you know this one!  Sooner is better, and certainly before feelings and physical intimacy have developed.  Then you meet Davon in the bookstore, end up having coffee and talking for hours, have some spontaneous kisses, and somehow it never comes up that you have other partners and choose to have poly relationships...

You listen to someone at a discussion group talking about their attraction (this is feeling like a relationship, with intense feelings) to their coworker, who is in a monogamous relationship.  Their current poly partner isn't so very pleased about this, and it's causing friction there.  Pretty sure they're just jealous...and wonder how they could possibly be ignoring so many red flags, missing the pieces they say their ethical framework is based upon?  Then you find yourself in a similar space, mouthing all the same justifications and rationalizations for why this isn't a complete disaster waiting to happen.  Why?  

Because it's YOU!  Let's face it, you're pretty special, so special, in fact, that the common sense advice you would give any other human being in the same position doesn't really apply.  You're smarter, better, deserve more out of life, and certainly you can mold the world, and the people around you, into a more pleasing outcome than anyone else in the same circumstances would!

Can you hear yourself!?!  Just stop.  Take a moment, if you are in a sticky situation, to consider the path you might advise someone else to take, hypothetically speaking, and try doing that instead of what you have been doing!  Perhaps you could even listen to the friends and partners giving you the reasonable sounding advice, and actually change your course.  Do something reasonable that isn't based on the underlying belief that You Are Uniquely Different in a way that exempts you from utilizing common sense.  Do you want to build a snowman?  (Ducks and covers)