“Open a new window, open a new door…”

Pinterest has gotten me hooked on doors. It started out as a passing thing. I wasn’t even looking at doors. I was ogling art nouveau jewelry and decor and then suddenly, I beheld the staggering beauty of art nouveau doors. I started pinning them to my “Art” board and Pinterest, since it’s very smart and wants you to use it more, started showing me All The Doors. In Spain, Paris, Estonia, Egypt, South Carolina, Brazil, New Mexico, Austria, Morocco, Philly, Berlin, India.

So. Many. Doors. In so many colors. And my “Art” board got far afield from art nouveau. I mean, there are abstract doors pulsing with vibrancy, garden doors with color decaying off them in the most lovely ways, intricate stained glass doors, intricate woodwork, delicate metalwork, ornate stonework, some lush with flowers and vines, some starkly bare and bold in their own right. So many possibilities. What’s behind that one? Or that one? And do I even really want to know because I’m also happy just sitting here and contemplating how damned pretty that door is. Seriously.

Given how many doors I’d accumulated on the “Art” board, I decided it was time to create a dedicated “Door” board. Since I’m a musical theatre geek, I thought I was very clever when I gave the board the proper name of “Open a new door!” (Ten points to whomever knows where that’s from without consulting their good friend Google.)

This got me thinking about the song. It’s very upbeat and encourages individuality and passion. So I thought it would be the perfect song to play the morning I had a job interview.

Because, y’see, I resigned from my previous job recently. That might be its own post(s) in the future, as it’s been a major life shift for me where I have to do a lot of reckoning, a lot of saying goodbye that I didn’t really want to, and a lot of soul searching about who I am, who I want in my life, what I’m willing to do to figure all that out.

Y’know, simple stuff.

All while, at the time of the decision, also navigating a complex work environment that on one hand had afforded me countless opportunities to grow both personally and professionally, discover and be my whole self, meet many members of my tribe, and advance career-wise but on the other hand had evolved into many dysfunctional situations that I found ranged from challenging to morally abhorrent. This became a conundrum too hard to bear and I found my line and could no longer stay with the company.

And now…I don’t know what happens next. People keep asking me what I want to do and I’m just…not sure. I’ve had to update my resume and it’s hard to really process all the things I’ve done. The opportunities, the experience, the growth and change I’ve gone through. Especially hard to put it into bit-sized pieces the mainstream workforce will find not just acceptable but professionally alluring. To say I have anxiety surrounding job searching is an understatement.

But I’m doing it. Updating. Tweaking. Sending out resumes and cover letters. Haven’t gotten much response yet.

Then a friend recently set me up with a referral phone interview…for a sale job.

I never saw myself doing sales. I don’t like pushing people to buy things. I’m not sure I’ll be a good fit for this job. I want to run away to my sister’s in Mississippi for the holidays and not get a job and let my head and heart heal a little and figure life out. But I also have to understand that I’m adult now and have responsibilities. Bills. Medicine. Partners. Friends. A life. Here.

(Ironically, we moved back here for this job last year and now neither me nor my husband work for the company anymore. In fact, I put in my resignation almost exactly a year to the day of when we moved out here for the company. Funny what a year can do.)

On Monday, I had a phone interview that kinda made me excited to see if a job in sales would be good for me. At least for now. Then I got the call for an in person interview. Held it together on the phone with the recruiter, who told me to “dress to impress” and then got off and went into full-on panic.

What THE FUCK was I going to wear?

It’s been years since I had to “dress to impress” by corporate America’s standards. One of the things I loved about this job was that I could wear whatever me showed up that day. I mean, most of the time I worked from home, but even at events, I could be as me as I wanted. Hell, at certain events, at certain times, stages of nudity didn’t matter. Gender norms didn’t matter.

In fact, when my pronouns changed earlier this year the people around me adapted so fluidly and fast, it literally made me cry (happy tears).

When I had to scout a future venue last year and one of the finders who helped make the connection told me to “dress appropriately”, my boss at the time told me he trusted me to look what I considered appropriate as to who I was and what I was doing. Which was good not only to have that trust but also because I still lived in Memphis at the time. I was visiting the East coast and didn’t pack anything most “normal” places would consider “appropriate”. I wound up in what I called “casual, liberal librarian”: my burlesque combat boots, leggings, a good black tank top, and a light brown sweater with a handkerchief pointy hemline, and a long statement necklace. It seemed to go over well enough; we got the venue.

But now. Now I was at home and realizing that it wouldn’t’ve mattered if I was home for that scouting…I didn’t have a damn thing I thought would impress anyone I would be meeting. The person who recommended me suggested a “pantsuit or a blouse and pants that are pretty”. Problem is…I don’t own a fucking pantsuit (which, actually, now that I think about it is kind of ridiculous) and any of the pants I had didn’t fit (and I don’t think they ever fit…they were hand-me-downs hopefuls that might one day fit if I ever got a “respectable” job. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is yet.)

I told my nesting partner that I might have to use the tiny store-specific credit card I had gotten this year to get some interview and working clothes, and he said that was fine. I prepared myself to start wearing clothing that I found repressive and ugly, but was happy that the specific store at least mostly had cute stuff.

You’re an adult. Act like it. I kept telling myself. When I wasn’t fantasizing about running away to Mississippi. Which, especially in today’s socio-political climate was it’s own brand of weird for me, but my sister/blood best friend lives there and it’s been a place of immense healing and rebuilding for me.

Then something happened. I went to bed and slept through the night. (Lately, I’d been having even more trouble with that than usual.) I woke up when my nesting partner was getting ready for work and stayed awake. After he left, I put on the “open a new door” song and played it a few times over. And went into the closet, tried on then threw aside the two pairs of pants that didn’t fit, did everything I could to not let myself wallow in it, and then pulled out a few pieces…that worked. From a basic black knit dress with a huge belt and 3/4 sleeves, I built an outfit. One that I was comfortable in. Slouchy faux suede knee-high boots. A brown sweater like the one I had worn to one the venue scouting mission. A Brighton necklace and bracelet. A Ren Faire bracelet on the other wrist. I was ready. I described the outfit to a friend as “inner librarian/boho witch/country chic”. I laid it all out.

Then something moved behind my curtains.

I shit you not…something moved behind my curtains. It seemed like a bird. But…that was impossible. I mean, we had birds around the windows and knock into them occasionally. From the OUTSIDE.

Which SHOULDN’T RUSTLE THE CURTAINS, my brain screamed, really freaked out.

I seriously put thought into whether I was hallucinating or not. But it kept moving, proving me wrong every time I got to it must be a hallucination or this cannot possibly be happening. To make matters worse, the sun cast shadows on it so at one point, when it put a claw up to the curtain, it looked like a weird, skeleton paw and I though maybe it was a deranged mouse or something. But then it tried flying up again and beat back and forth against the curtains and the windows and I knew it wasn’t a mouse. I mean, mostly knew. Since I was still really freaked out.

Because how could this happen? How could a bird possibly be in my bedroom? How did it get in, when all the windows were closed and where they weren’t, there were screens. Then I remembered that the upper parts of the windows don’t have screens. I went over to inspect the windows on that side of the room and sure enough, the middle one had slipped down and was completely open to the world. A space large enough for a small fucking bird right at the top.

By this time, the bird was getting quite agitated that it couldn’t get out and kept banging into things and was trying to hop out either side of the curtains. I kept blocking it because I had no idea what to do with a bird behind the curtains, let alone one that was free range flying around my bedroom. Containment seemed best. And I thought that if I could get the window down more, it could fly-thump up and out.

Or it could fly out one side of the curtain while I was trying to coax it up. That could work, too.

And by “work” I mean I now had a bird careening wildly back and forth across my bedroom and hitting the walls and I’m thinking this damn bird is gonna kill itself in my bedroom on the day I’m having an interview and then I began trying to parse the message in that, because I’m pagan and a bird in the house can have all kinds of meanings which I couldn’t remember but I was pretty sure a dead bird was universally a bad sign.

I tried telling it to calm down. That worked well. And by “well”, I mean it promptly hit the wall near my altar and calmed down. Or died. I didn’t know at the time, I just hoped it wasn’t the latter as I ran over to the curtains and threw them open to give the open window it’s full openness. I then walked back over towards where the bird had landed…

And hadn’t moved during this whole time.

“Bird? You okay?Where’d you go?” I tentatively called out, chanting to myself pleasedon’tbedeadpleasedon’tbedead. Then I spotted it, behind my cauldron. It looked at me, then took off across the room and right out the window.

The words “open a new window, open a new door” played over and over in my head for the rest of the day.

Still freaked out, but also oddly calm, I consulted another witch friend about it, who told me to draw some cards for a clearer reading. I got one card telling me that I will have money and abundance. Then one that told me I’m confused because I don’t have enough info, so I should do research or seek expert advice. Then another that said to help heal the situation, see things from the other side with compassion.

At this point, I don’t know fully what it was talking about…because there was the job/career situation, my former company situation, and also some partner issues I’ve been having. Was it speaking to my interview that day? Or my previous job? Or the partner issues? I had no idea, so I did a four card reading which basically amounted to “simmer down. It’s going to be okay. Trust yourself. Open up to new experiences and they’ll change the way you view the world. Also, take care of yourself, dammit.”

Which…didn’t really clear up which of the aforementioned things it was about…but really, given that clarification, it didn’t matter. It could apply to any or all of them. Either way, it was sound advice. So off to the interview I went, blasting “open a new window, open a new door” nearly all the way there.

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A small but powerful message from the Moon.

Moments of magic aren’t always big powerful rituals, a coven in a darkened room/ wood, all pageantry and pomp.

Sometimes, moment of magic and following the Path include letting the Universe know you’re terrified about leaving the job you’ve had for nearly five years, the people you’ve grown to love, the communities you helped build. That yes, you’ll still be part of those communities and those people you love say they’ll love you back in Life After The Change, but you don’t know what that will look like until it happens. Or doesn’t.

Before this year, I hadn’t practiced in…years. I’m embarrassed to say that I let other people shame me out of my faith at one point, and after that…well, life got in the way. I let life get in the way. But gradually, I’ve been finding my way back to the Path. I’ve also been learning to trust my instincts again more as I catch up to where I am and what I’ve learned when I thought I wasn’t practicing but actually, kinda was. But that’s another story.

Finding my way back today meant throwing fear and insecurity and anxiety out to the Universe on a mundane drive home from the grocery store and suddenly…the clouds cleared, revealing a luscious, one-night-shy-of-full Moon. And as I stared in awe, grateful for the red light that afforded me the opportunity, a feeling of calm washed over me and a voice, maybe your my subconscious, maybe the Universe, maybe the Moon herself, quietly quelled me.

It will be okay. I don’t know how, but it will be okay. You will be okay. 

The next 40 are for me.

As someone who identifies so strongly as a submissive switch with a potential slave heart, it feels weird to write that as a subject line.

Nevertheless, here we are.

I’ve spent a large portion of the first part of my life catering to, taking care of, and looking out for others. Be they parents, friends, partners, Doms, family. Not always, of course. There were times I took a stand and said, “no.” Sometimes it got me a shocked look, other times, it got me disowned. I don’t regret any of it. But now…something is shifting. I don’t want to make nice anymore. I don’t feel a deep desire to serve if the person isn’t worthy or showing up to the relationship. I’m trying to figure out huge things like health, spirituality, gender, sexuality, new job, finances, the future.

There is a lot shifting. I find myself not craving foods anymore. Not craving things when I’m hungry nor having much of the “chocolate will make me feel less empty” cravings.

Been wanting to exercise, to move, to play, to dance. To engage in life. To grow. To explore. To be a better me. To connect to myself.

More and more, I want to create spaces for the things that matter to me: spirit, health, music, love, kink, growth, learning, writing.

This means that I have to organize, make spaces, clean, work towards these things. It can be hard to overcome habits that’ve been years in the making. Time spent serving other people and things and the niches doing so has carved into my life and brain. Time spent ignoring my body’s cues, my heart’s yearning, my spirit’s desire.

At dinner in my favorite restaurant this weekend with a dear friend, they told me about how when they turned 40, they declared that they had done similarly – spent too much time on other people and that the next 40 of their life was for them. It struck me hard. And I knew I felt the same.

Now to make it happen.

Just start.

My best friend sent this to me today after I sent him an email jam-packed with pain that I’ve been having a hard time articulating.

Start now.
Start where you are.
Start with fear.
Start with pain.
Start with doubt.
Start with hands shaking.
Start with voice trembling but start.
Start and don’t stop.
Start where you are, with what you have.
Just . . . start.

-Ijeoma Umebinyuo

When I first read it, paralysis side-swiped me. But I’ve surrendered to it, and marinated in it, and as I was cruising a website, I remembered something about someone I recently met. That they’re a photographer. And the description of how they shoot and how they regard their models was enough to make me at least reach out and inquire about what it would take to do a shoot. Because I made a promise to myself earlier this year to work for: 

Radical personal body acceptance including:

  • more photo shoots
  • more acceptance of the three parts of my body I have the most trouble loving
  • actively hone body self confidence and increase time spent with people who bolster that in me and themselves and others

Also, it made me look up Ijeoma Umebinyuo and holy fuck, she amazing and now I need to read her book.

And even though I updated the list that promise was part of in March, to include a resurgence of interest I had then in sex, that part didn’t change.

I realized, I’m also starting in other ways, recently, too. I’m pursuing some play opportunities with old and new friends, writing ISOs for events again, and I made arrangements to go a new(ish) kink event with a friend next weekend.

It might be time for a 3/4 year check in post for that bucket list, now that I think about it, because I’ve also discovered two things that weren’t on my radar when this year began that I now want to try. Also, I’m behind in reading and want to kick my own ass into gear for that.

Now I just also have to figure out how to take better care of my body. Been trying to take better care of my mind. Got a therapist, who’s awesome. Started writing more, including writing about my pronouns and struggle with gender. I want to write more even more frequently, and I’m trying to write more songs. Went to a song writers meet up a few months ago. Have to go back soon. Also sang in public on the boardwalk. Want to do that again soon. Have been trying to find different ways to communicate with people to get needs met. Trying to make my life better. It just hurts a lot and is really difficult right now. But.

I’m starting.

Yes, Zir! – a pronoun/gender evolution

Almost two years ago, I wrote a post with my thoughts on gender and also how it applied to me. It’s funny how you can write true things…but also write around other truths.

I identify as a woman.

I like being a woman.

Those are things I said last year. They were true…ish. Thing is…I was afraid. Afraid of stepping outside the gender binary. Terrified I wasn’t “queer enough”, regardless of how queer I felt. Scared out of my mind that I would get ridiculed again like I did the first time I found pronouns that felt like they fit me…over 15 years ago.

It’s even funnier how you can support everyone around you being their authentic selves, in everything you do, from your work to your personal relationships to your friendships to people you’ve never met but defend on social media. Proudly rockin’ my “I’ll go with you” button and telling people at the Y in the South that Trans women are…y’know…women. Making sure to be aware of people’s pronouns.

Think I could apply that acceptance and support to myself?

Why the fuck would I do that?

*sigh*

The past two years have shown me all kinds of new things. New people. New ways to be. Life isn’t a binary anything really. Because the gender binary is just a social fucking construct. And challenging that scares people. Hell, it scares me, even as I do it. Another part of what I wrote last year:

The Unknown or New is scary. It’s threatening. I get it. “What else could change?” is the question that bubbles, unspoken below the discomfort with adapting to new information. It scares me, too. I just try not to let it stop me from questioning, exploring, seeking out conversations and information, learning, growing.

One thing that’s changed for me, or at least out loud, in public now, are my pronouns. Over fifteen years ago, I first learned about “ze/zir” and the light of recognition and rightness glowed inside of me…and I quickly squelched it when a former partner promptly mocked the shit out of those words and anyone who would use them. I packed that part of me away.

I don’t have to use the words, right? Fuck, I’ll “manspread”. I’ll pack. I’ll wear jeans and t-shirts and combat boots because they feel good and comfortable and thank (insert diety here) that women, for some stupid fucking reason, are allowed to wear what’s traditionally considered “men’s” clothes but (insert diety here) forbid men try to casually wear “women’s” clothes.

So for years…I didn’t use the words. I wasn’t proud of it. I didn’t tell anyone that I wanted to use them. Even after I met someone else who used them. Even after I met more and more people who go by “they/them”. Even as I met people who go by “she & he”. For some reason, this one was really hard for me. I have no problem taking my clothes off to music in front of strangers, but fuck if I could tell my partners or friends or coworkers I was more “ze” than “she”.

Until TES Fest this July. Until I was on the registration line and presented with a badge that had a blank field for pronouns. Something in me shifted. And I wrote “ze/zir”. A friend took note in the hallway and it sparked a conversation. I told them that it’s taken me years to admit it out loud and they were very supportive. A partner overheard the convo and a month later in an email just started using “ze” to refer to me. When I saw it, I cried. The happy kind of tears. And thanked them. A few days later, I asked someone I hadn’t talked to in a little bit if they had any pronoun updates. They didn’t, but then asked if I did. I took a deep breath and said “yes” and told them. To which they replied with the title of this post – “Yes, Zir!” I laughed, because…it’s kinda fitting. The switch in me was happy, and the nonbinary me was thrilled.

At therapy recently, I began talking about pronouns and my therapist asked me what it meant for me, to me. During our session, she leapt up and drew an “M”on the left side of the dry erase board and an “F” on the right with a line connecting them. She handed me the marker and asked me to mark on the board where I felt I belonged.

I paused. My first thoughts were a mashup of, “but…I don’t belong on a line. It’s not just ‘M’ over here and ‘F’ over there…it’s not linear…” and then an idea struck me. Why stay on the line? Hell, why use letters at all? So I drew a star a about a foot above the line, slightly more towards the “F” but only mildly right of center, connected the star to the “M” and “F” with two swooping lines and then drew another line going from the star straight down and connected it to a sun.

My therapist blinked. Then smiled.

“What does that mean to you?” she asked.

I tried to explain that it wasn’t quite a binary and I didn’t feel like I fell anywhere on the line….I mean, I drew influences from what society says is “normal” for women and from men. But that I also drew from…other sources that aren’t so easily categorized, so I used the sun to symbolize their brightness and validity. She thought that was awesome. I’m grateful to have a great therapist.

It hasn’t been all awesome, though. Someone called my pronouns stupid. That hurt a whole helluva lot and brought up some old wounds. I cried the bad kind of tears when that happened. However, we talked it through and they understand more now and apologized. Thankfully, the few friends I’ve told have been supportive and apologized in advance if they fuck it up and asked me to just make sure I correct them.

Sometimes I don’t catch it when someone refers to me as “she” but I play it back later and kick myself for not catching it. Writing my bio for a kink event recently was strange. It was the first time I’d ever used those pronouns so openly. The sentences looked weird at first, but there was also this feeling of recognition and peace.

I re-evaluated things like whether I still like being called “girl” or “little girl” in a D/s context to which the answer is a resounding “yes” when I’m submissive and/or bottoming. When I’m in Top or Domme space, I can go in different directions, depending on the person. I like “Sir” but hate “Ma’am”, but don’t even get me started on “Daddy” and “Mommy”. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of writing, self discovery, and evolution.

I am not a means to an end.

I am NOT a means to an end.

Brain: But…

No, brain. I am not a means to an end.

Heart: Are you sure…

Hey…heart. I am not a means to an end.

Body: Really…?

Really, body. Fuckin’ listen up: I am not a means to an end.

The phrase “you are not a means to an end” came up in therapy recently and I can’t get it out of my head. When my therapist first said it, the room felt very still and I had to remind myself to breathe as the tears formed. Suddenly, I felt the need to both protect myself and be vulnerable.

It keeps popping up at inconvenient times, and suddenly I’m crying on a bench next to a stranger while waiting for my car to be done getting an oil change.

Why is this so hard to believe?

When did I stop thinking I was worthy of attention and affection just…for myself? When did that become so hard to accept, yet something that I crave to the point of near desperation lately?

I know I’m primarily a submissive, but I also know enough, learned enough, was trained well enough to know that submissive does not equal doormat, in the paraphrased words of my best friend. That yes, I love to serve. And while I’m also a switch, my core is pure submissive. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have needs and desires.

A partner once wrote to me that “as much as it is your responsibility to serve me, it is my responsibility to make you feel loved and make sure you have what you need and sometimes what you want.”

When I first read it, I also cried.

There’s been a lot of crying lately.

There’s also this comic by the wonderful Sarah Andersen, making the rounds.

But this one really hit me as I stumbled across it on a friend’s FB feed. Caring for the animal within. 

And I have no problem telling other people, especially submissives, that they have to put their own oxygen mask on first.

As it came up in therapy, though, I’m so used to giving. Making sure the people I care about have what they want and need beyond my own natural warning signs of “Empty! Need refuel!” as a method of survival that it’s just…what I do. And there’s also the times when, I’ve tried repeatedly to communicate what I want and need to various partners and the many times it’s been misunderstood, delayed forever, or just completely ignored. Sometimes, I’ve stopped asking. I’m not proud of that. Sometimes, I keep trying and once finally asked a question that wound up setting off a domino effect of that particular relationship ending.

Earlier this year, I had some wonderful experiences with someone who wanted to…do things for/to me because they wanted to. And because I asked or made it clear that I wanted certain things. It was…difficult to relax into. My brain went into hyperdrive anxiety, wondering if I looked okay/attractive, if I smelled okay, if the noises I was making were okay, getting frustrated with myself for not coming “quick enough”, and I tried to keep all this under control and not go into a full on anxiety attack for experiences that were supposed to be, and largely were, good. Some times, I even succeeded. It was the closest I’ve come lately to enjoying the moment and savoring the hell out of those experiences, but I still…struggled.

To be very clear, these were all my own hang ups. None of it came from the other person. In fact, they were amazing beyond amazing with telling me that all the things were fine, good, appealing, and showing me that they actively wanted to be where they were and doing what they were doing. Which included waking up parts of me I didn’t even think were responsive (or, wait….how the hell did you do that?! That part of me never reacts like that!), introducing me to dropping into sub space briefly with someone who was not a Dominant or Master/Mistress to me (well, that was a cool brief dip into subspace with no melancholy for wishing things could be different with you or anyone else; how the fuck did that happen?), and showing me by example the joy of relishing the moment for what it is.

This wasn’t fueled by NRE, that I know of. We’d kind of ridden a lot of that out by starting to build a friendship. It wasn’t driven by a desire to get me back after a breakup. Nor was it done, to the best of my knowledge and belief about this person, as a means to an end. I wasn’t a means to an end. It was shared experiences. And I don’t think I realized until recently just how fucking hard it was for me.

I hate that.

I hate that it was so hard for me to follow good feelings, hard to be treated like I was desirable, hard to admit that I desired things, and accept those things once talked about and freely given. Sex in general can be difficult for me. I have strong cuckquean and con non-con fetishes that are actually fetishes…like I need to think about one of those two things to get off 95% of the time, both when I masturbate or when I’m with other people. Both of those are built around denial of my own needs and desires and other people using me, taking what they want. For the very (very) few people that I feel comfortable being sexual with, that’s where my mind goes. When I don’t have an established D/s connection with that person, or that person isn’t into either of those things…my brain apparently gets a little messed up. It doesn’t know how to process…”do this because it feels good. You said you wanted it, and this person wants to give it to you, and that’s okay.”

I don’t know if it’s tied to my difficulty practicing self care or if it’s something different, but it feels right now like it’s tied together somehow. Like maybe I eroticized difficult things that’ve happened in my life so that I could reclaim them. But if so, the pendulum has swung so wildly in the other direction and I’ve forgotten how to relax into feeling good.

There are, apparently, a lot of things I’ve forgotten or fallen out of practice with. Like practicing. Magic and music. Like writing. Like intense, regular exercise. Like eating well and drinking water.

Once upon a time, I didn’t drink enough water at an event I was working. I wound up having an episode and being taken to see the EMTs. They ordered me to rest and hydrate. At the end of the weekend, someone else ordered me to my knees, handed me a glass of water, and told me to stay that way for 10 minutes and that maybe that would help me remember the importance of staying hydrated.

For the next few months, I was the best hydrated I’d ever been in my life.

Last month, there was an event that I had to work and I knew it was going to be difficult for many reasons. So I set myself into self-care overdrive mode. I knew that I wouldn’t have my best friend & PA there to help make sure I ate and drank, so I arranged with a few different people to help me with that and made sure to get some fairly healthy snacks to also help. I reached out to my magic-minded friends (and the internets) to relearn how to set up a portable altar, because it’d been years since I’d done that. I made lists, brought extra things to nest my hotel room with, and as soon as I got there, set about putting it all into effect.

I set up a portable altar, nested beyond any nesting I’d ever done before for an event, and also since I knew the person who had once made me kneel with the water would be beyond hella busy, I took it upon myself to kneel every day holding a glass of water for five minutes, setting my intentions for the day, reminding myself that I was worthy of my own service.

No one told me to. That was really fucking difficult to do, but I did it. And I stayed hydrated. I also ate three meals a day during the event. Which never happens. I’m exceptionally lucky if I get two, and that’s with having a PA whose main purpose is to make sure I’m okay at events. So for this one event, I was able to throw much of my energy into self care enough to get through the event and serve the community. But afterward? It’s been really challenging to keep up that self care. To keep believing that I deserve my own service, to put on my own oxygen mask, to ask for the help I need, and the interactions I want. I’ve been building a lot of walls. It’s just…there’s been so much pain. So much confusion. So much fear and difficulty. So much longing.

My body meters are at an all time low in regards to D/s, touch, sex, romance, sensation, making out, dancing, creativity, exercising, and snuggling/cuddling. I’m having problems with my teeth, my stomach, my uterus. My sleep patterns, which are normally already fucked because of childhood issues, have been beyond borked. Life is changing and I just keep thinking, “how do I change with it?” How do I move through all the transitions I feel coming?

I don’t know how to fight for myself and claim my own power let alone move into the next phase of my life. I barely know how to not treat myself as a means to an end of just getting through each day, so how do I even begin to stand up for myself and tell others that I am not a means to an end, if I don’t believe it myself?

The best starting place, I guess, is to keep reminding myself.

No, really, self.

I AM NOT A MEANS TO AN END.

One of these days, I’ll hopefully even believe it.

Breathing through change

There’s a website I used to go to every single day. In Chrome, when you frequent certain sites, it will keep eight of them on your home screen when you open the web browser. This particular website used to battle out the first position with my work email inbox and Facebook. Sometimes, a little commentator voice would go off in my head, keeping track of the ranking. “Well, it looks like Facebook has pulled ahead of Work and The Other Website. Perhaps you should be doing more work, or visiting The Other Website more! Nope! Facebook has stayed in the lead for two days now! Way to waste time!”

But generally, The Other Website would win. And seeing it there everyday was a reminder. A glorious cluster of colorful pixels that reminded me of something good that touched my core. That I had wanted for so long. That safe space was created, and it was a click away, cutting through hundreds of miles.

However. Due to life, this website had been slipping in the ranking for the past few months as I less and less frequently went to it. One day last week…for the first time ever, I opened the browser and it just…wasn’t there. I burst into tears like a proper adult who’s heart had cracked.

My phone has forgotten some words I used on a regular basis, too. When I first realized that, there were more tears. There’s been a lot of crying lately. Also a lot of change. And more to come, likely. Well, definitely. Life is always changing. Always evolving. Even now, the situations above with the website and my phone…those are also still evolving.

But additionally, there’s been a fuckton of other shifting over the past few months, too. I can’t keep track of it all, sometimes.

It just…hurts. And it’s not just the website or the words or any one change…but moreso what they represent. Communication is good, though. Because it means that I can express some of this and there might be hope for things. I’ve had to process a lot to find my way to the words so I can communicate to those around me.

Back when I was a water fitness instructor, one of the things they drilled into us was to remind our students to breathe. People who are learning something new, or concentrating, or exercising will often hold their breath and that’s…less than optimal for a workout. Also, fainting on land is one thing. It gets way more complicated real quick if they go down in the water. So at least three or four times during my classes, I would remind people to breathe. Thankfully, no one went under on my watch.

Which is funny, because half the time I was reminding them to breathe, I was also reminding myself.

It’s even more hysterical when you factor in the fact that I’m a trained singer and while I’ve been breathing into my diaphragm for nearly 30 years, I still have issues with breath control. With lots of preparation, I can sustain long notes or a good vibrato, but it takes a lot of concentration. You’d think after so many years singing, it would be easier.

Earlier this year, I was loaned Urban Tantra, a book I’ve been wanting to read for a while now. I’m about four chapters in and frozen…it’s the chapter on breathing. Different kinds of tantric breath. My brain just…shuts down. I don’t know why.

Earlier this year, I turned 40. A kind numerology expert gave me a reading as a present and one of the key elements she saw was that I had to focus on breathing and movement.

It’s like this is a theme for me or something.

Clearly, when there are so many changes swirling around me, I should be breathing more. Deeper. Deliberately. I know it. Reminders are all around me. On my playlist, Pearl Jam, Scarlet Sails, and Hedwig tell me. I’ve got friends who remind me. And still, it’s so fucking hard. My body just keeps wanting to curl into a protective ball, not breathe too much, or say too much, and hope that the hurt, the confusion, the feeling of constantly walking in a field of landmines will just go away.

Of course, it doesn’t work that way in real life. There’s too much shit to do.

So I’ve spent nearly two decades, and especially the last five years, trying to unlearn and undo these impulses. I’ve forced myself to interact more, though a diagnosed anxiety disorder also makes this challenging. But when it comes to certain things, like music, or sex, or D/s, or writing…I still sometimes hold my breath, retreat, and just hope that the changes I feel won’t be as bad as they seem. That not yet another thing or person or dynamic that I love will be taken away from me, or leave, or fade.

Recently, my best friend took me to Santa Fe for my 40th birthday. It was an incredible experience but I found myself overwhelmed a lot, which has been happening a whole bunch lately. Visiting new places, the architecture, the art, the altitude, the aromas, the energy, the music, the people, the travel, the changes to routine, all co-mingling with the life shit that was already in my brain before I went.

But. For the first time in a long time, I was able to get through most of the overwhelming by breathing in Santa Fe. Deep, deliberate breaths – in through the nose, out through the mouth. My therapist said it might’ve been a little easier with the drier air. She said the humidity in this area can sometimes make it more difficult to breathe with intention. Not impossible, just challenging. So the best I can do is be aware of it. Try extra hard to breathe better, more frequently, more fully. It doesn’t make the changes directly easier…but it sure as hell is helping me open up to them and embrace the unknown a little.