Under Pressure

Moving. Load out tomorrow. Halfway across the country.

So many goodbyes. So many hellos. So much positive, forward momentum. I’m leaving under such better circumstances this time. I’m moving with my husband towards bright things. Relationships, friends, family, work, events, opportunities. But it’s also such a major change. I’m scared. The last three times I made this move (twice here, once back) were so…painful. Twice I was leaving painful things behind me and once I didn’t really want to move. Wasn’t ready. I am this time, but there’s still so much to do. There’s the packing and the cleaning, and the loading out and the driving 16 hours, the loading in, the unpacking. Pair that with the fact that presenter notifications for one of our events have to go out by Sunday. We leave Monday morning.

It doesn’t help that my stomach has been in knots all day and I can’t digest anything properly.

Lots of pressure. And I’m running into some surprising walls. Some not-me walls.

Because love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And loves dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure

“Under Pressure” – Queen & David Bowie

Apparently, compersion has gone out the window and I’m reduced to a mess of insecurities,  viscerally ugly jealousy that I detest as I struggle to stop it, and Imposter Syndrome who’s brain is rapidly trying to convince me that I suck at my job, everyone I care about is happier with other partners, I’m going to somehow fuck up moving all our stuff 1000 miles away, and I’m going to wind up alone without any of the bright points of connection and love and play and everything else.

It came on so quickly and hard this afternoon after reading something that I know normally would’ve made me really happy. I wound up dropping to my knees, sobbing in physical pain. It’s the severe side of my anxiety disorder that I try to hide from the world. Thankfully, no one was home. I was able to cry it out and meditate a bit in a kneel.

This IS NOT ME. These emotions ARE NOT MINE. I feel like I’ve been hijacked. The only thing I can think of is that it’s technically envy, amplified the fuck up to 11. I’m stressed out, craving play, sensation, sex, to feel…good. Or to feel physical pain that helps me calm down and feel good. To connect with someone. To feel desired. I know my husband cares about me. But we’re both under pressure. It’s been close to a month since we’ve done…anything. I know other people care about me and have helped this week. But they’re all also over 1000 miles away.

I just want a release. So badly. So fucking badly. I don’t begrudge anyone anything. I just want some for myself. But right now…right now, I have more work to do. More packing. More emails. So much more to do before Monday…

Two great tastes that taste great together…

(Book review #7 – original post @ Cannonball Read 8)powercircuits-ravenkaldera

Warning: This book and review deal with power dynamics being carried out in real life adults that some might not be comfortable with, and may also contain some triggering words that have a very different meaning in the kink scene. Please note that everyone involved has agreed to be so; this book is about consensual power dynamics and conscious relationship style choices, not coercion. As the author states in the synopsis on the back of the book:

“Power Circuits is an alliance between two alternative lifestyles: polyamory, or multiple open and honest romantic relationships; and power dynamics, relationships that choose to be consciously and deliberately unequal in power.”

So I’ve been in the kink scene for just over eighteen years. Of those eighteen years, I’ve been polyamorous or involved in open relationships for about fifteen years. In the course of those fifteen years, I’ve read and written a lot about polyamory. I’ve also read and written (albeit less than poly) about kink stuff. Thing is, up until I found this book a few months ago on an Amazon search, I had never seen the two put together. Sure, some poly books touch on the overlap between the poly community and the kink scene, but never anything in depth that I remember. And yeah, some kink books go into threesome and multiple partners, but the subject of love seems to be mostly avoided. But this book…THIS book puts the two great tastes together in ONE book! And really well, I might add. It’s been a while since I brought a pencil with me as diligently while reading as I did with this book. It’s full of underlined passages, notes in the margin, and I even spent a few weeks using it for a series of writing prompts while exploring more about D/s & M/s relationships this summer.

One of the things I love about this book is how it’s organized. There’re about 100 pages of Part One: “Background and Basics” that I breezed through because the author’s style is so accessible and smooth. This section covers some basic definitions, why he decided to write this book (basically because, as I said above, no one ever had before), some common pitfalls, a rough outline of various intensity levels to power dynamics, a chapter on queer templates called “Polyamory and Power Dynamics in Nonheterosexual Communities”, and, of course, the ever present poly mantra of “communicate, communicate, communicate.” I was especially grateful that during all this explanation of terms, Kaldera had a very open perspective on power dynamics and throughout the book, in fact, is guided by the principle that the people in each relationship should work out what they want and not subscribe blindly to being a Dominant or submissive in a certain way. He write on page 19 that “there is also great variety in the levels of power dynamic between relationships with any given partner…many ongoing polyamorous families end up looking more like constellations than simple geometric forms.” But my favorite part is when he elaborated on it on page 54:

We don’t believe in saying that subs or slaves or masters or mistresses “ought” to have certain rights or limits. These are all negotiated in intensely personal ways between the people involved, and the only way to judge is if everyone involved says that they’re completely happy with the situation. Beyond that, it’s up to them. There is no one “right” way to do this. There’s only the ways that work to make everyone content with their choices, and the ways that make someone in the relationship miserable. That will be different for everyone.

Part Two: Essays from The Ones in Charge and that was where my pencil really had a field day. There was so much information in there! And different perspectives and relationship constructs…it made me so happy. One of the Masters talks about how he focuses on a “personal angle of self-improvement and overcoming internal conflict” and holds these guiding themes as his ideal:

…make the girl the best that she can be, along the lines of self-actualization described by psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. To that end, preserving elements of the girl’s ego is not only important, but core to what I wish to accomplish.

AND

My artistic urges revolve around the collaborative fusion of audience and artist, so the final creation is a gestalt of my will and the will of my slave or submissive, each one different.

That Master sums up his section by urging readers to “set out to find what is right and then build your own terms around it. Never let the words dictate the realities.” That’s what I strive for.

Another author in this section talks similarly about he views polyamory/non-monogamy:

My concept of non-monogamy is based on the firm conviction that we can’t control love, and so we’re much better off learning how to navigate our lack of control than investing in futile measures to clamp down. In other words: there is no such thing as forever, because you can’t possibly know today how you will feel in twenty years. There is no such thing as “the one” because we are all evolving and changing at every moment, and we all have infinite potential to meet others with whom we could share a few steps or many leagues on our journey.

Part Three: Essays from the Ones Who Surrender also saw a lot of my pencil, especially since it had a whole chapter based on being a cuckquean, which is not something that’s often written about – especially from a kink perspective. There are six different essays in this section (two more than the “Ones in Charge” section, which I find interesting in a good way) and besides the cuckquean one, my favorite was the one that talked about (and was titled) Being in a Leather Family. For a long time, I’ve been peripherally tied to the leather community through friends and work, but have never really explored it myself. This one essay made me want to dive in headfirst once I move back to the East coast this fall and to my home kink scene.

My favorite parts were the ones that said “the role of Master and slave was more important than sex in its own way” and that “there are many, many kinds of love.” Because YES. This! But the best part, I think, and the part that really made me want to learn more about the leather community was this:

It’s part of the queerness that created the leather family – the part that says, “They’ll never accept me out there, because they don’t understand me, so I will create my own family designed around affirming my sexuality and my lifestyle.” That’s queerness, even when it’s a leather family full of straight people. That, not sex, is what binds us together.

The last section is called Families Speak and touches on parenting within this dynamic and contains an interview with a poly/power dynamic family and the Kaldera. This section contains probably my favorite anecdote. The family is talking about one of their contracts, because in these types of relationships, sometimes there are contracts that spell out what type of power is involved and what is expected of all parties. These can get very wordy, very over-the-top, and, in my opinion, a little dramatic. Sometimes. But this family has an ageplay dynamic that led them to do one of their contracts with much more levity and I think it’s perfect:

Our contract very much reflects who we are as people, because part of our dynamic and part of our personalities is that both of us are “littles”. So if you read our contract, that would shine through loud and clear. The title of the contract is “Da Rulz” and it says things like, “The dominant, he can haz the power.”

This pretty much encapsulates what I love about this book so much. It helps and encourages people to find what works for them, to be honest with their partners about what they want, and to always communicate, communicate, communicate. The author spends about a third of the book giving his experiences and input, but then opens the rest of it to people who are doing it and how. Also, none of the people shy away from talking about how many mistakes they made getting to where they are now and saying that these relationship styles are not for everyone. It’s not a proselytizing book in the slightest, but it is worth it’s weight in gold for people who are navigating these waters because it is part of who they are.

Hey, jealousy – part duex

Hello and welcome back. I still hate jealousy.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’ve just come across an article/interview and new poly resource called Poly Pocket on Autostraddle described as “new series showcasing polyamorous and ethically non-monogamous relationships.” The article is called Making Relationships Up As We Go and contains this quote that just about sums up the root of my jealousy:

“The scary part of being poly is trusting that you’re worthy of love and worth sticking around for not because you’re the only person around but because you have inherent value just by being you.”

Boom.

That right there. I’ve only recently, like this year, have come to feel more secure in my worthiness. And when new people come on the scene for my partners, I have a mad rush of “Fuck; it’s an elimination round and I won’t survive because I’m not valuable enough.”

Which is a fucked up way of looking at things. I know, I know.

But the feeling is embedded deeper in me that I realize from my monogamous upbringing that monogamy and exclusivity are what protect you. Your worth comes from nabbing a man and then catering to him and that makes you worthy. That makes it justifiable to stake your claim on him. And he on you.

And even though I’ve spent more than a decade dismantling these ideas they still pop up. Less frequently, to be sure, but still. Enough that I have to make sure my Box of Non-Monogamy tricks is fully stocked with things like:

  • Affirmations. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggoneit, people like me. Thank you Stuart Smalley.
  • Ownership is for kink relationships. Otherwise, no one owns anyone else.
  • We each come with our own inherent value. It’s what makes open relationships so beautiful. I don’t have to sit through a movie I have no interest in or play video games that make me sick. My husband has partners that will do that with him and enjoy it. That doesn’t negate the value of us sharing Gilmore Girls, Inkmaster, and Drag Race or our love of geeky board and card games. And even when I have things in common with metamours, that doesn’t mean they do that fandom “better”. It means that partner now has at least two partners who like the same things they do.
  • Relationships end. This is the hard one to come to terms with sometimes. Longevity is not my primary measure of relationship success anymore. In fact, I’m trying to phase it out as a metric. Yes, it’s commendable to weather storms together, but sometimes…people need to part. Sometimes a relationship stops being good for us and we should move on. Embracing this is difficult. It means I don’t want to claim anyone or be claimed (again, unless we’re talking kink relationships. In that instance, being called “mine” by the right person is one of the hottest things ever.)

So these are the things I have to remember as I face the green-eyed monster. If anyone reading this has any other suggestions of things that work for them in their Box of Non-Monogamy tricks, please do leave a comment!

 

Hey, jealousy

So let’s get one thing straight…I’m not.

Ha-ha.

For serious, though, I hate jealousy.

(I know, Queen of the Smooth Transitions, right?)

For as much as I tell people it’s okay to feel it, that it’s normal in non-monogamy (and in monogamy) and it doesn’t mean you care any more or less about someone, that it doesn’t mean you want partners to stop what they’re doing, and it doesn’t mean that you’re broken or bad or wrong…

Can I apply it to myself?

Fuck, no! That would be logical! Who’s got time for that?

I still fucking loathe feeling jealous. I’ve talked to so many people about jealousy over the 15 years I’ve been in ethical non-monogamous relationships. So many. And read so much. And understand that when I’m jealous, it’s likely because I just am craving something or feel a deficit of something I see other people getting. It doesn’t mean that they have to stop or even should stop doing what they’re doing with others. It just means I want some, too. And most times, I can identify this and say something like, “hey, you’re doing X with so and so. Can we schedule some time to do X, too, cause I really like X as well.”

Easy peasy.

Lately? Not so much.

I’m getting frustrated, scared, angry, anxious, and withdrawn when I get jealous lately.

I hate it.

I hate the initial cause of the feeling and after I’ve identified that I’m feeling jealous, I’ll try just about anything to make it go away.

  • Pretend it doesn’t exist and smile through it? Check.
  • Yell at myself for stupid, pointless, unfounded feels? Check.
  • Try to turn it into emotional masochism and just power through? Check.
  • Stop talking and clam up? Check.
  • Cry? Check.
  • Tell myself that I’m going to lose all the awesome people I have in my life because I’m not good enough and the new people that my partners have are better and now that they have them they won’t want me anymore because they’re hotter/sexier/more submissive or something than me? Check, check, checkity check.

Now…it’s not bad to let things out by doing things like crying. And trying to use it as emotional masochism isn’t inherently bad…it just would probably be better if I told whichever particular partner is involved that that was what I was doing and how I felt.

The rest are not really defensible. I know this. Which is why I get frustrated with myself. I also know enough to not get lost in that last one of not being good enough or someone else being better.

Because again, for serious…

  1. love and kink are not goddamned competitions with winners and losers.
  2. I’ve been amazingly blessed with metamours.

With one exception, I’ve liked all of my metamours or potential metamours. And even that one exception is not someone who is terrible…I just…don’t understand their brain patterns. They seem so different and every interaction with them leaves me going, “wtf just happened?” It’s difficult but not illegal or disrespectful or abusive. Those are hard limits. This metamour touches on none of those and the one time they did (with something I thought was disrespectful and unsafe), we talked and rectified it, so really…it’s not that bad. In the grand scheme of things, I either really, really like my metamours – enough to, at one point or another, think maybe I could date and/or play with them (and some I have) or, at the very least, am really glad to make new friends with them. Some metamours who’ve been friends of mine have lasted for years, even after the romantic/kink/sexual relationship that connected us through someone else ended.

So why the fuck do I get so fucking jealous when someone new comes on the scene?! Or of other partners at all, new or not? Why do I keep going back to this annoying-as-fuck, kneejerk reaction of “hnnnggggg, they better! I lose! Sad! Go hide now!” I mean…what the ever-loving fuck?

It likely has increased proportional to stress and fucking hell knows I’m stressed a lot right now. Between moving, work pressure, saying goodbye to everyone here, and then moving back to the East coast where my husband and I had a lot of initial problems early in our marriage and where the Cost of Living is a fuckton more expensive…I’m scared. I’m fucking petrified that we’re going to move out there and the support network I thought I had, the beautiful and magically intricate one of partners, metamours, friends, and co-workers will disappear.

That me and my complicated sexuality, my hunger for more kink and pain, my deep ache for a more consistently intense D/s & M/s connection will drive the people I care about away. And the damn tapes start playing in my head of “if I feel like I’m not getting enough now, and then there are other people, how will I ever get my needs met? I’m just a breath away from being rotated out.”  And I fucking hate that my brain goes there. Because I KNOW that if a partner isn’t feeling the connection with me anymore, I do NOT want to hold them in a relationship they don’t want to be in. So why freak out about it? Why not just enjoy what I have when I have it and maybe that will last for years but maybe it won’t. I go around talking about how I don’t believe that relationship success is measured by longevity and then inside, I’m all like “I hope this lasts forever!”

*sigh*

Where did compersion go? Why do I feel so fucking vulnerable and lonely and lost? I looked at pictures of various types of play I’ve just discovered and started crying. I read a metamour’s account of a scene they had recently, talking about how after it was over, the pain was gone and it felt…wrong that it was gone and I know exactly how that feels and crave my bruises that reminded me of wonderful things with every hug for a whole weekend. I talk to a fantastic person that I’ve wanted to be actual friends with outside of work for a while and we’re getting there and suddenly I’m hyperventilating that they’re hotter, sexier, and going to take everything I’d been hoping for for months away.

My husband tells me it’s okay to feel jealous. To just let myself feel it and let it be and it’ll go away. To not get angry at myself. But right now, I hate it. Loathe. Detest. Do not want.

Urgh.

Reminders

“We have no idea what other lands lie beyond the great waters. We must take our chances on the waves and scatter like seeds before the wind. We will take the memory of the good times…and for those darkest of times, we will take what we can of the light.”

-From “Sing” the movie musical, 1989

Sometimes, I need help remembering balance. So I tell myself:

When you’re lost, linger in the shining moments of careening down a 10 story spiral slide.

When you’re numb, savor the gift of bruises that kept on giving.

When you’re thirsty, drink in the sweet sensation of sharp items piercing your skin.

When you’re overwhelmed in bad ways, call up the precise moments of being overwhelmed in delicious ways.

When you’re cold, wrap the memory of fire around you.

When you’re lonely, remember how compersion, touch, desire felt.

When you’re sad, think about the endless laughter of a new connection.

When you’re jealous, know that you are now in places and with people you only wished for days/months/years ago. There’s more to come and you’ll find your own levels. Let others seek their own. Respect autonomy, your own and theirs.

When goodbyes get to be too hard, embrace the grief with a graceful head up and heart open and know that there are also hellos happening, too.

When you’re daunted by change, remind yourself of all the positive things and people and opportunities that change has brought into your life in the past few years and that those things didn’t always come via the easy path.

When things start looking bleak and full of boxes, bathe in the brilliant spray of rose petals.

Remember that it all can and has worked. There have been so many bright spots over the past few weeks, so many new experiences, so much good. Hold onto that until more goodness comes around.

And find joy where ever you can. It’s there. It’s just hiding a little right now. Coax out the everyday joy from its hiding places. Let yourself sift through the past while staying grounded in the present. It’s okay to be lost, numb, thirsty, overwhelmed, cold, lonely, sad, jealous, daunted, and bleak…sometimes.

Change can be difficult. But it brings new growth. New opportunities.

Remember.

And love. And live.

There’s more happy, more experiences, more connection to be had.

Promise.