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.

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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.

Vulnerability: the Self-Vivisection of Music, Submission, and Love

“You know….you clearly don’t know what it takes for me to be bold.”
-from the song “I Found a Boat” by Scarlet Sails

Holy fuck, I sang on the boardwalk Sunday night. In front of people. I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen. I mean, some part of me knew it would eventually happen, but I wasn’t certain it was going to be this past Sunday.

See, I’ve been talking with a friend about performing; they invited me to join them on the boards since they have a busking license. A few months ago, I asked them if they would learn the guitar part of a song for me that I really feel the need to sing and hear every damn day. I’m trying to learn it on guitar, but it’s slow going, so I was hoping they could help me get out there. So we set up time to rehearse for this past Sunday. Spent some time singing the harmonies together on a song they wanted to sing lead on, a few times over, and I played some stuff for them, and we worked on the song I asked them to learn. It was great. It was beyond great. It was something I’d dreamed about for decades…singing and playing with another musician in this way.

And then they asked if I wanted to go out and busk. Like…right then. That day.

The “sure” that flew out of my mouth surprised both of us, apparently. It seems I just….had found a pocket of courage and decided to run with it. I’ve wanted this for so long. To sing in front of people like this.

Now, some of you who know me might be all like, “but you’re a burlesque dancer who sings!” Or, “but you’ve been in choirs and musicals!”

And you’re absolutely right. However, there’s always a kind of character involved. Always someone else. And even when I was myself, like in choirs, I was still…part of the choir. Which isn’t me, right? It’s a group. I can blend in. Even when I’ve done solos…I was a bundle of nervous…but, it’s still with the choir. I know, I know…it’s weird.

There are just so many facades; this way, I don’t have to actually, fully be vulnerable. Because obviously, the world would end. Or at least that’s what my fears and anxieties scream at me. I mean, the actual world we all live in wouldn’t end. Cause, duh. No matter how illogical my fears are, I know that the world does not revolve around me.

But my world, the world where I have people in my life that I care about, things I enjoy doing, (or people whom I enjoy doing and things that I care about…y’know six of one…)…it feels like it would all come crashing down. I battle Imposter Syndrome on a regular basis. I also have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, as well as clinical depression. On top of all that, I’m an introvert.

They’re all managed. Mostly. But management is not a cure. It doesn’t all just magically go away. I’ve worked my ass off for over two decades to learn, to grow, to manage, to adapt, to push myself outside of comfort zones and try to open up.

However, there’s still an underlying, paralyzing fear that all the people I care about would leave if they knew what I really felt. The crippling fear and panic I deal with every day that I try to bury under all the layers of socially acceptable I slather on. The smiles, the banter, the glamour, all like a duck trying to swim so smoothly on the surface, but hiding the frantic feet churning water as fast as possible to stay ahead of everything, seek out every possible threat, protect myself in all the ways I learned when I was a kid.

The thing is…I made a decision a long time ago that I didn’t want to hide from pain. Or fear. Or, basically who I am and the things I am passionate about. I wanted to face it all head on. I’ve learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the persistence to keep going, Do The Thing, even when you’re shaking and terrified. I’ve worked for years, on therapist’s couches, in cars on long drives talking with people I trust, over the course of hours and days in solitude crying and processing, and in so many other ways, to keep opening myself up. Over and over. Some things are easier than other to talk about, act on, be. I am very comfortable being a creative, polyamorous, kinky, pansexual gray ace.

However, I’ve realized there are three basic things that strip that all comfort away from me: submission, music, and love.

Writing, art, dance, and creativity in general are ways I peel off certain layers, but submission, music, and love are the ones that cut to the quick, tap a vein, and various other metaphors that try to explain how I feel like I’m cracking open my chest and leaving all my gooey innards on display in some weird self-vivisection. Making the parts that people don’t see completely vulnerable. The parts I try to hide, because life has taught me when you let people see those things, it hurts. They laugh, they leave, or…they let you know that it doesn’t matter to them. That is probably the one that hurts the most. The indifference. It sounds stupid to admit…but I want to matter. I want to be valued. And at certain times, in certain ways, with a few people…desired.

Submission is one of the quickest ways to, appropriately, bring me to my proverbial knees. Some people have made the mistake of thinking that submission is weakness. Which is bullshit. Submission is absolutely not weakness. It’s been said before, by multiple people in many places, but I will say it again: You cannot take power away from the powerless. There is a core of strength and solidity to submission that is anything but weak. There is also tremendous vulnerability in submission.

There have been very few people in my life with whom I resonated in any way as a submissive. For various life reasons, my submission is beyond back-burnered. I’m grateful for all the experiences and the people I have resonated with, as my submission is something I guard very closely and wound up shutting down for a few years because it just hurt too much and I also battled some serious “I’m a terrible submissive so why bother?” demons. I’m especially grateful for the people who helped bring my submissive out of hiding. There was a brilliant combination of some gentle coaxing, some distinct challenges issued, some blunt truth, and a hefty dose of magic involved and all that has given me the courage to be open to the rare times I do get to be submissive and also hold out hope that one day I will have opportunities to be submissive more regularly.

When it comes to love, you’d think I’d be more…skilled and less scared in regards to it, being polyamorous for over 15 years. But no. There’s still true terror. I continually push myself past it, as best I can, but it’s always there. I’m realizing lately that there is part of me that struggles to feel worthy of the people I love. Like…I think they’re wonderful. But why would they want me? Also, it’s fucking hard to admit that I…have desires. That I want things. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what they are, and then once I do….communicating them is terrifying. It’s one part being an adult and being prepared to hear “no” because that’s always a possibility and one should know how to hear that maturely, and one part, “omg, what if they want that, too?!” I mean, it should be awesome if they want the same thing, right? But then my brain goes, do they really want it? Why do they really want it? If they wanted it, why didn’t they say something? It all boils down to a baseline fear of do they really want me? And if signs are pointing to yes…why do they want me? Followed by, but sure and then they’re going to leave. There are some people who’ve come into my life that I constantly have to shout down the jackass parts of my brain about. I might’ve written a little about it here. Constant process, learning to love myself.

And then there’s music.

Dear *insert dieties here*, music. They say that scent is one of the most powerful memory triggers, but for me, the most powerful is music. A certain song can throw me backward 20 years. When I find myself falling in love with someone, I go on a quest for music (and sometimes the music gets delivered right to me, which is AWESOME) to help me understand what this particular type of love means to me. I also look to music to help me process most emotions or to amplify certain emotions. I’m forever grateful to people who’ve introduced me to types of music or certain groups/performers that I hadn’t experienced before. There are certain singers/bands that will always be entwined with specific people because they’re the ones that exposed me to that music. My best friend has said that I experience the world through music and I think it’s true. It’s my first filter. I often think in song lyrics. They’re flying around almost always in my head. Music is infused in all I do.

And when I write my own stuff, and sing it…it’s…it’s like stripping away everything and flashing the world with my soul. It’s immediate. Visceral. I can’t hide behind the covers, a computer screen, nor sprint for the nearest door. I mean, I guess I could run and hide. But if I’m committed staying there and singing…it means I’m actively choosing to stay and be seen. It’s one of the purest forms of sharing. It’s so raw.

Sometimes it feels obscene to be that raw. Like, surely there are propriety laws or at least common social mores to observe. Someone is going to accuse me of, like, corrupting minors or breaking a law, right?

And because the Universe works in mysterious wonderful ways and helps to keep you on the path of opening up when you decide to, I found this poem on a friend’s FB earlier this week when I started writing this post. I now need to look up the works of Nayyirah Waheed.

Aaaaaand speaking of the Universe and its mysterious wonderful ways, also as I was in the process of writing this, I was reintroduced to this quote:

“Most people believe vulnerability to be weakness, but really vulnerability is courage. We must ask ourselves, are we willing to show up and be seen?”
– Brene Brown

Sounds similar to what I had said above about not being able to take power from the powerless and how submission is not weakness, either. It’s all connected. And at least for me, in my heart…music, submission, and love are points of vulnerability. Opportunities for courage. Offering another fucking opportunity for growth.

And man, this year has been one of grieving, change, and growth. I sometimes can’t keep up with all the emotions/experiences and being an empath on top of it makes it even more challenging. I’ve also been traveling a lot lately, and it’s difficult to be traveling with people I care about and not always be sure what to do with all the conflicting things that I’m trying to process. The past and the present and the future all swirling together. There have been many tears and only a few answers so far, and I get so frustrated with myself when I can’t control the damn tears.

Vulnerability means that I can’t always close myself back up the way I used to. It means sitting with the grief and uncertainty and insecurity and figuring out how to proceed. Sometimes it fucking sucks. Sometimes, though, it means other things. Like creating music with someone you respect, trust, and care about and just…being seen. When it’s that, it’s fucking awesome.

Sunday was fucking awesome.

To be kneeling again…only kneeling again…

The subject of kneeling has been a difficult thing for me. For as long as I’ve been in the scene, which is getting close to twenty years now, I’ve wanted to learn kneeling positions but for various reasons, such as the timing or interests of partners not lining up except once, it’s not been a Thing. For that one time it did, it was like a light shone from inside of me. A light I had almost forgotten existed. I also began to find that meditating on my knees was a thing that brought me great peace and clarity. When I first started, I also began to find that I could kneel for longer as I practiced.

However, bodies are funny things. Sometimes, they can’t do the things they used to be able to do. I don’t know if I fucked it up or if it’s a product of getting older, or both, but somewhere along the lines a few months ago, my right knee began telling me that kneeling wasn’t such a good idea anymore. I tried many things. Adjusting positions. For the Gorean positions I was practicing, the ones involving being on both my hands and knees were better, but still had some issues, especially for more than five or ten minutes. I tried adjusting the positions, but that still only helped for short term. Eventually, it became something I couldn’t sustain.

This sadness this has caused hurt so badly that took my breath away. I’ve literally found it hard to center myself via breathing and meditating because my body wants so badly to be on my knees. Wants…so many things that that means.

And yet…we can’t always have what we want.

But.

A few weekends ago at TES Fest, I was in a scene. At various parts, down on my knees. It was like the sun had finally come out. (The impact and endorphins helped a lot, too) I tried so hard not to get overwhelmed with the fear of how fleeting it was. Tried not to hold on to it too tightly and just embrace where I was in the moment, because there were other things going on, too. But I was so grateful. After the scene was over, I tried not to get lost in the fact that it was over. That I wasn’t sure when I wound be on my knees again. Not sure how possible it was going to be for many reasons. Since life has been relatively busy, I managed to put it aside for awhile.

Then my best friend took me to Santa Fe this past weekend for my 40th birthday. On our last day there, we were treated to a 90 minute session at 10,000 Waves, a spa that is known for it’s soaking tubs, both private and public. Our treat was a private suite with two teacup soaking tubs.

Do you know what’s incredibly possible and a helluva lot less painful in a warm, 2′ deep teacup soaking tub?

Kneeling.

Do you know what I did for the majority of the time I was in that tub, as soon as I realized this?

Knelt.

At first, I cried. I tried not to make it all sobbing, because y’know, there with my best friend and we’re supposed to be having a relaxing experience. But once I got some of the tears quietly out, I threw all the gratitude I had out into the universe and felt everything in me relax. I meditated, I asked the universe for guidance with a lot of the difficulties I’m currently having with D/s, relationships, life. I opened myself up and felt the pain of not knowing how often I’d be able to kneel but also being so grateful that I could do it at all.

Once that all flowed through me, as I concentrated on just breathing and letting whatever I felt happen, I got…giddy. And started to draft a filk of “Human Again” from Beauty and the Beast. I don’t know if I’m the first, but seriously, after a while, all I could think was “To be kneeling again, only kneeling again, when my body once more feels at ease. I’ll be where I belong, dear god, it’s been so long since I’ve felt so much like me…”

There’s more, but it’s not quite finished. Gotta work on that.

Right now, though, I’m just so glad I got that out, that I had these two experiences to show me that things can change, and they might end, but there are still possibilities I never expected. The core is still there in me, regardless of if I’m on my knees are not. Now I just have to figure out how to tap into it more.

Punishment/Corrections: Why I Feel They’re Useful

The other day, I had a brief chat with a lovely friend also in the scene (henceforth in this post they shall be known as LFAITS) and this happened:

LFAITS: Does it make me a brat if I did something wrong, feel awful about it, but am “looking forward” to the punishment? Like not the pain, just that I am being held accountable? Is that weird?

ME: Slightly. But I think that sometimes it’s understandable to look forward to punishment, as long as you’re not regularly acting out to get punished. Not weird at all. Being held accountable is incredibly…useful. It helps you understand and feel safe and secure in your place in the relationship. It helps build trust, that there will be follow through and your partner(s) words and orders and actions mean something. It enforces care because they are taking time to make it happen and hold you accountable. It’s incredibly fucking important, actually, I think.

LFAITS: Our D/s is super casual…so I look forward to the serious times.

ME: Oh wow. I think I might write on this. Do you mind me anonymously quoting you?

ME: Oh, I hear that, too.

LFAITS: I don’t mind at all

Got me thinking about punishment and corrections and how I also technically “enjoy” them. I don’t derive pleasure from them, but it makes me feel loved and cared for when there are consequences to reinforce that I made a bad decision, acted poorly, or simply willfully disobeyed. (The latter doesn’t happen often at all, but it has been known to happen once or twice.)

Basically, though, the punishment should somehow suite the person, infraction, and reason. Like, I can take lots of impact on my back, but I’m a total ass wuss. I don’t like spankings as part of D/s general play, unless there’s sexual stimulation or penetration involved. However, I know there are some people who love spankings just…as a spanking. Nope. Not me, thank you. But that makes it a very effective tool as a punishment for me, should there be a fitting reason to spank me. Other punishments or corrections I’ve been given are writing assignments, kneeling for a period of time, and sometimes kneeling while holding something, having things I enjoy taken away. I’m curious about emotional punishments, but with everything going on in my life right now, it’s likely better to wait to delve into anything like that. I think I was the best hydrated that I’ve ever been for months after I was made to kneel holding a glass of water because I had not properly hydrated during an event last year.

As far as being bratty, I personally don’t find it bratty to look forward to the serious times, especially when there’s a mostly casual dynamic. In the past, I’ve been collared in a 24/7 relationship and have also been in/am in more casual dynamics that were uncollared. And there have been/are some dynamics that were/are undefinable. But what it boils down to, for me, at least, is knowing that the person on the other end of the lead (tangible lead or not) is there. That we’re both actively involved. It makes me feel safer in the relationship and builds trust.

I remember one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned in regards to this came when I was nannying a few years ago. There was, obviously, no D/s involved between me and the kids. But I observed that the two girls I was nannying would act out around their parents all the time. The parents would then lament that they couldn’t control their kids and regularly ask why I was able to get them to listen to me. What was my secret? They wanted to know. How did I do it?

Simple. I held the kid’s accountable. If I said that we wouldn’t go to the library for story time if they didn’t clean up their toys first, then we didn’t go to the library for story time if they didn’t clean up their toys. If I said that they were going to wind up in time out if they threw a tantrum about getting All The Things at the store when we were going for just milk, bread, and whateverthehellelseIsaidIneededtoget, then they got a time out. Their parents, however, gave in. Or brought them to the library anyway. There was no follow through. And when they did get punished, it happened really abruptly, in angry ways that just made the whole situation feel out of control. The kids didn’t learn anything but to try maybe not push quite so far, but that they could totally get away with way more with their parents than with me. I also said “no” and meant it. I didn’t say it angrily, nor in an upset way. It was matter of fact. Sometimes, I was apologetic, but it was still firm. They learned they couldn’t and shouldn’t push it…with me at least.

I feel like this lesson translates well into life and a D/s dynamic, specifically. Be clear about what you want and your expectations. If something happens that goes against them in a D/s way, then I think punishment/correction is warranted and I, too, have been known to “look forward” to being held accountable in that regard. It gets a little more complicated as adults, though, especially when I don’t think it’s realistic to think that there can be a clear, known punishment for every possible infraction. Sometimes Dom(me)s/Tops have to get creative. But just knowing that there will be a punishment/correction is incredibly important, as far as I’m concerned. I’m curious what others think and have experienced.