[CBR10 – 4/13] Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness

(Cannonball Read book review #4 – original post @ CBR10)

I never thought I’d be reading a sales book, let alone be on my second one this year and have three more in the queue waiting to be read. But then again, life is under no obligation to give us what we expect. It all started with a career change from being and Artistic/Programming Director for a small Event company on the East coast to selling mattresses. That was not the career move I had planned on, but it’s what presented itself and I needed money. My new job gave us a book to read that I did, in fact, read but also loathed about 90% of. Still debating reviewing that book. I shared my issues with that book with my best friend, who immediately found the sales books they respected, hunted down used copies, and had them sent to me. I started reading the Little Red Book of Selling and immediately relaxed. The last book had me agitated about sales, but Gitomer is much more accessible and down-to-Earth. It’s a little dated (copyright 2004) and the reference to a VCR was charming.

The book is laid out into three overall sections. The first section is seven micro-chapters about “Understanding Red Sales…”, then the meat of “The 12.5 Red Principles of Sales Greatness”, and finally six more micro-chapters of “More RED SALES Thinking” to wrap up.

I really liked the way the book was broken up into bite-sized pieces and how humor and cartoons were mixed in to help drive lessons home.

My favorite chapters were:

  • Chapter 1 – Kick your own ass: the principle here is simple. Get your own ass in gear. “You have a responsibility to yourself to achieve.” And he’s pretty brutally honest that “the only way this is going to happen is with self-inspiration, self-determination, and hard work that starts before everyone else gets up and after everyone else has gone to sleep. Kick your own ass is not a statement. It’s an axiom.”  He lays out some negative thinking that leads to slumps, and then follows up with prescriptions to cure said slumps. That all boils down to specific ways to work to turn things around that include studying the basics, talking to customers, hanging around successful people, visiting your mentor, and other active things you can do to invest your time and energy into improving.
  • Chapter 3 – Personal Branding is Sales: It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You: I admire Gitomer’s humor. Like the first paragraph of this section is “Personal Branding is not complicated, unless you take a course in it. Then it’s scary as hell.” That made me literally laugh out loud. He goes on to explain what personal branding it and specific ways to do it. One of his biggest suggestions throughout the book is to write and give speeches at local organizations to establish yourself as an expert. In fact, in one of the last micro-chapters, he says that if “you only choose ONE THING that I tell you: Believe that writing will take you from where you are to any place you want to go.” This spoke to me, since I love writing and have a blog already.
  • Chapter 4 – It’s All About Value, It’s All About Relationship, It’s NOT All About Price: In this chapter, he teaches you how to give value and be valuable, including, as above-mentioned, writing in journals, newspapers, e-zines, and newsletters, and giving speeches.
  • Chapter 5 – It’s Not Work, It’s NETwork: All about networking, which was awesome for me since I suck at networking. I always think I’m bothering people. The friend who got me this book keeps trying to tell me to network and reach out to my contacts and I constantly feel like I don’t want to bother them. But Gitomer gave reasons why it’s not a bother and how so many people do it. He also explains part of why I haven’t felt comfortable with it. He defines networking as “life skills and social skills combined with sales skills.” Before this current job, I had no formal sales training, nor experience in direct sales. I’ve had retail jobs, but they were things like barista and cashier. I have life and social skills but am still working to build my sales skills. However, Gitomer gives simple, concrete ways to network that make sense to me and feel much less like I’m being a bother.
  • Chapter 8 – If You Can Make Them Laugh, You Can Make Them Buy: So this chapter opens with a comic of two sales guys talking to one another. One has swirly eyes, indicating he’s high as hell. The caption is the other guy saying to him, “Getting a customer to laugh is a good thing. However, firing up a bong in his office might not be the best way…” Another LOL moment for me from this book. I appreciate the hell out of that. Gitomer himself shows that he’s learned to good-naturedly laugh at himself and gives you suggestions and tips for how to incorporate sales techniques in your sales skills. One of the best, and something my job keeps telling me, is not to tell jokes, but to tell stories. I’m working on those. He does mention to be careful of ethnicity and gender, as in his recommendation is don’t go there. He also says to keep it clean, don’t drag it out, and take small humor risks, not big ones. Safe things to use to mine for humor: children (what they did or said), traffic (what you did or saw), repeating a sit-com or television line (with acknowledgement to the source – points to him for that!), self-stuff (hair, clothes, make-up, shoes), self-abilities (golf, tennis, running, exercise), self-improvement (frustrations climbing the ladder or studying). He also has a section on how to become a student of humor with 15.5 suggestions about that.
  • Chapter 9 – Use Creativity To Differentiate & Dominate: I really liked this chapter because I’m used to being the black sheep and doing things outside of the box, so it was nice to have some validation and encouragement in that regard. Like almost all of his other chapters, learning creativity simply comes down to dedicating yourself to learning about it if you don’t feel you’re good at it and studying it more if you do feel you are good at it.  One of the things he recommends is not having a “pathetic” and boring voice mail greeting. He gives ideas on how to change your voice mail greeting to something more creative. I personally like the suggestion of having your kid record something for you. I’m very grateful for this part of this chapter specifically because I have a fairly unique voice mail message that I have chosen to keep through my latest round of looking for and finding a job. It’s a quote from a 90’s movie I really liked; it’s always gotten the best reactions and I’ve never heard anyone else use it, so it’s fun and makes people think. (Hint: if you liked the movie Reality Bites, you might know what my voice mail greeting is.)

Overall, I really liked this book. The micro-chapters in the beginning and at the end of the book helped ease you into the book and into furthering your sales education, respectively, which I appreciated. One of the last micro-chapters has a self-rating list of the 12.5 Principles of Life-long Learning to help keep you improving, including reading books, attending live seminars, joining Toastmasters, spending 30 minutes a day learning something new, and practicing what you’ve learned as soon as you’ve learned it. After finishing this book, I’m excited to move on to the other Gitomer book my best friend got me: Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Sales Answers. 

Advertisements

[New Year, New You] Week 6 – Maps

This “week’s” writing prompt was to visit someplace sacred to me. I put “week’s” in quotation because I’m going reaaallllly slowly with this “New Year, New You” Challenge. Deb pretty much rocked out this whole 23 week challenge by or before now when she first did it and I’m still on, like, week six and I started a week before 2018. Plus, I actually visited said sacred space over two weeks ago and am only now writing about it.

But. Slogging though I may be, I am still doing it. Let’s call it “going at my own pace.”

Also, this year has been legit full of dumpster fires, massive life upheaval, and re-evaluating….oh, I don’t know…everything. I also just broke up with a partner I’d been with for a few years. So no big.

Anyway. Sacred spaces. Cosmograms (Gonna build my own soon). Guidance and omens. Read all about on her original post or handy-dandily c/p’ed below:

This week’s prompt is for you to go some place that is sacred to you and to use the experience to guide you in your work for 2012 2018.  Look for signs and omens everywhere, write down your dream from the night before and if your drunken whore of a Muse (. . .or, you know, your own personal spirits) give you direct input as to where to go and/or how to spend your time there, do what they tell you to do (. . .within reason, don’t get stupid on me now, Charmers) and see where it takes you.

The point of this prompt is more about being open to an experience and relaxing your mind and seeing what kind of revelations you come to.  We don’t all have access to standing stones, it’s about going to a place that’s important to you in your own personal cosmogram – it could be a town, a bar, a church, someone’s house, a restaurant, whatever.  You know your own map.  And it doesn’t matter if your dreams are filled with your boss telling you to buy tomatoes and vodka on the expense account and demanding you mask it so that Accounting doesn’t bother zir (. . .not from personal dream experience or anything) or if all you hear on the radio is Sexy and I Know It ninety billion times on repeat and that the only wild life you see is someone’s Labrador and Red Mini Coopers suddenly seem important, write it all down.  Don’t try to interpret it until you’re writing your blog entry.  Let it marinade by your bedside until you write your blog entry.

Go find adventure.

I didn’t have any dreams of note that night, but I definitely sought adventure and found it in one of my favoritest of scared places: the ocean. My guiding song was from the TV show Nashville – “The Only Way To Get There” sung by Jake Etheridge (playing the character Sean McPherson). Applicable lyrics:

Step out of the shadows
These feelings I will follow
Western wind is on my side
No more wasting time
‘Cause I caught as fever
I’m heading towards the water
Listen to the words inside
No more wasting time

Do you wanna meet me where the sunlight shines, whoa, whoa
You know there will never be a better time, whoa, whoa
The only way to get there is to go

Don’t wait till tomorrow
To throw away your sorrow
You’ll never need to look behind
No more wasted time
If you can read the writing come out from your hiding
Get back to finding what’s true
Let you love be scattered and rise it to the rafters
You will come back better than you knew

Other omens – sign on a church I passed: “Women of courage and action, follow your passion!”

20180224_143855[1]Did NOT expect to pass that on church sign. But it hit me like a hot pink brick truck. There was also the “Play Nicely” art gallery across the street where I had a delicious bulgogi burrito (because Mogo Fusion in Asbury Park is fucking amazing). I took pictures of a bull sculpture on the street that was near a scary old-fashioned clown. It felt like a metaphor of one of my relationships. The clown was behind glass. Unattainable. Untouchable. The bull, however, was outside on the street, free to soak in the rain and the sunshine firsthand. It also has a chain around only one foot. It hit me pretty hard…the metaphor of it all.

I saw a neighborhood alley transformed into an outdoor installation of plastic items all re-purposed in fascinating, bright ways. Then I went and found a gazebo on the boardwalk and took some videos of myself for my February post-a-music-video-a-month challenge. The one that won was me covering “All Fired Up” by Pat Benetar. It still makes me giggle a little to do a folksy ukulele cover of a grrrrrrl rock song from the 80’s and I love it so. I also recorded my a capella rendition of “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. I’ve been singing that a lot at work since one of my area managers found out I can sing and that “Crazy” was at the top of my solo wheelhouse. Given the break up I just had and the devolution in that Relationship, the lyrics would cut me every. single. time.

Crazy, I’m crazy for feeling so lonely
I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so blue
I knew you’d love me as long as you wanted
And then someday you’d leave me for somebody new
Worry, why do I let myself worry?
Wondering what in the world did I do?
Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying
And I’m crazy for loving you

Interestingly enough, the wind kicked up right in the middle of it and literally took my breath away a few times. I tried hard to control my pitch but it felt like th universe telling me gently that it was going to take those words away for me. I wouldn’t have to sing them for much longer. Two and a half weeks later, that relationship transitioned back to friendship. Still hurts like a mofo, though.

Anyway, the wind kicked up quite strongly at that point and I had to book it to a friend’s concert. That’s right, Moosejaw Muldoon was playing as part of an art opening that was happening in a BUG MUSEUM.

OMG. Insectopolis is fucking EPIC. And surreal. There were two movies playing simultaneously, layered over each other, for whatever reason. One was always a bug related movie and the other was a more mainstream movie. I don’t know what the first more mainstream movie was, but the second one was Edward Scissorhands. I got some fantastic shots of my friend’s band with this bizarre movie melange being projected behind them, complete with Johnny Depp all Scissor-fied.

Afterward, my friend and I wound up having a snack, talking, and chilling in a cuddle lump. It was a really great day/night that I’m hella grateful for. It helped me unwind from my job, leave the ever-raging-dumpster-fire of my old job behind, as well, and just go where I felt a soothing bliss. To tasty food that was a beautiful blend of flavors, to unexpected and expected art installations, the bull and the clown, the music, the ever-expansiveness of the ocean, and great friends…all reminding me that there is an ebb and flow. It may be rough right now, and the wind may be whipping, but it’s taking things I no longer need away. I’m on the journey. I need to keep going where there is art and music and words, to the people and places that touch the light in my soul. To trust in the tides, and of course, follow my passion.

AFOG (Another Fucking Opportunity for Growth): Various Types of Breakups and Valid Reasons/Feelings

There’s rarely a Poly.Land post that doesn’t resonate with me, at least on some level. Sometimes I want to be Page Turner in another life. But Tuesday’s post about What People Get Wrong When They Talk About Partner Selection hit me directly in the feels.

Maybe it’s because I just went through a breakup. Like two days ago. Maybe it’s that the concept of “this just isn’t working for me” is one I’ve struggled with for the nearly two decades I’ve been polyamorous as a valid breakup reason, both for Relationships-with-a-capital-R and also their lowercase counterparts. Maybe it’s because “this doesn’t work for me” or “I’m not comfortable with this” has, quite literally, cost me relationships and jobs.

As I mentioned in my comment on that aforementioned post (the one that was originally posted to Fetlife and cross-posted to the link above), I agreed with Page in that about cultural scripts oversimplify breakups. Further, I said:

And also, they don’t encourage breaking up in amicable ways. There has to be a bad person, or a bad enough situation. “This just isn’t working for me anymore” isn’t considered valid, generally. We’re taught that you should fight for relationships, stay in them and work it out, especially in monogamous ones, especially when you’re on the relationship escalator. I’ve been unlearning a lot of that over the last few years. Kimchi Cuddles has helped a bunch. Tikva Wolf, the artist, has had some amazing strips about how sometimes relationships can last 5 minutes and be life changing. That instead of forever being a goal, shifting to “for as long as it’s good and healthy for all involved”.

This isn’t something I grew up learning. You were supposed to persevere. Fight for love. Tolerate abusive family members because they’re family. Stay on the relationship escalator until you get to the top (white picket fence with 2.5 children, a minivan, a McMansion you can’t afford…y’know…”happy”). Discovering polyamory revolutionized most of that for me, but there are still some holdovers and lacking skill sets.

For instance, I have no real breakup skills. Completely missed putting points into that skill set. Dumped a shit-ton into “giving to the point of exhaustion and complete depletion”. Burned a bunch on “I’m gonna ignore all the warning signs that I should get out”. And don’t let’s forget the buckets of points that went into empathy and “feeling all the damn things all the damn time”. I’ve stayed in relationships waaaaaaayyyy after it’s clearlys not working (at least for me), and usually to the point where it seems to not be working for anyone involved. And yet, sometimes, I/we’ve stayed longer. Since I think in song lyrics a lot of the time, “Louder Than Words” from the musical tick….Tick….BOOM! springs to mind:

Why do we stay with lovers
Who we know, down deep
Just aren’t right?
Why would we rather
Put ourselves through hell
Than sleep alone at night?

Seriously, why? One reason is the cultural scripts Page talked about. Another could be that it simply sucks to lose someone you love, even if it isn’t working. I mean, I could feel the breakup I just went through coming from a mile away (hell, if we’re honest, about two hundred miles away, but who’s counting, right?), and yet it didn’t stop my heart from breaking, me from crying, nor me from reaching for a a glass (or, um, a bottle) of St. Germain to dull the edges a little that first night. It didn’t help that work was a complete shitshow that day, as well, and the breakup happened at work. Cause that added a swell level of suck to the day.

But for some reason, beyond how much it sucks to lose someone, we’re still not supposed to leave unless there’s a “good enough Reason-with-a-capital-R”. And it has to pass muster for those around you. “It wasn’t working” is too vague for people. Not valid enough.

Related side story: a few years ago, a family member died. This person was a pedophile. Another family member called me and demanded to know when I would be there to help start making arrangements with them. That day, I decided not to go. (I was also slated to be flying out in a day or so to another family member’s wedding.) And it wasn’t that I chose one family member over another. It was that I could not make myself celebrate the life of a person who was going to be heralded as a hero. This person tore my family apart. Hurt people I love very dearly. Made me feel uncomfortable on multiple occasions but we weren’t supposed to talk about that. This situation/person was one of the biggest secrets in my family for years. Keeping up appearances was more important than actually dealing with shit.

So I took a deep breath and told my family member that I wouldn’t be coming for the funeral. They asked why. I said I didn’t feel comfortable with it. Their response?

“That’s not a real reason. I want a grown up, real reason.”

I had nothing left after that. At the time, I didn’t know how else to say it and was gutted; how I felt simply didn’t matter. So I kept repeating myself, and they did, too. We wound up in a stupid, crazy loop along the lines of Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. My reason was simply not valid. My discomfort was not valid. At the very least, it was not allowed to trump their pain in their time of need.

I was effectively disowned at that point. That person said they never wanted to speak to me again and two and a half years later, still have not (save for a bizarre FB photo that came at about 1am right after I had just finished a semi-interrogation scene at a kink convention. But that’s a story for another time).

My mind made an easy, awful conclusion: they chose the memory of a pedophile over a relationship with me, someone alive and hurting, as well. I felt disposable. Passed over for a pedophile. I didn’t matter. It threw me back to my childhood when there were many other instances where it didn’t matter how I felt:

  • when I was thrown into cars with drunk people driving to “get them home safely”
  • being taken down to bars and businesses at 2am to try and convince a family member to come home
  • getting phone calls from family members who said they wanted to see me and couldn’t explain why they weren’t able to nor why they suddenly disappeared
  • people I cared about ghosting me without any phone calls or reasons

When the adults were talking, whatever they said went. Even when it’s wrong. Even when it hurts. Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about. It’s not that big a deal. Stop being so dramatic.

I feel a great kinship with Amanda Fucking Palmer’s songs, but this one from “Ampersand” is ingrained in my heart:

I have wasted years of my life
Agonizing about the fires
It started when I thought that to be strong you must be flame retardant
And now to dress the wounds calls into question
How authentic they are
There is always someone criticizing me
“She just likes playing hospital”

It’s no wonder I have a hard time simply saying, “no, actually. This isn’t working for me. This needs to end now.” Hell, I even have a difficult time saying, “this is fucked up. I won’t/can’t do this anymore.”

And the hardest yet: “I deserve to be treated better than this.”

It took me way too long to leave one job where I was saying to myself on almost a daily basis “this is all so fucked up and broken. I’m not able to change/fix/improve anything anymore. I need to stop. This isn’t working for me.” Similarly, the relationship/aforementioned breakup seemed to not be working for either of us for a while, but it took a bit to actually call it. (Fittingly, just about a week after I started writing a song entitled “Call It.”)

This sucks. I want to learn more about how to level up my breakup skills. That sounds terrible, but in reality, I think it’s a great skill to have. If anyone’s got any suggestions, please feel free to drop them in the comments.

I like what Kimchi Cuddles has said about it, and this strip has helped my mentality about letting R/relationships progress or transition as they need to:

KimchiCuddles-672

I will say that I’m grateful that when my now former partner said they didn’t have many spoons for Relationships that require attention right now because of stuff in their own life, I didn’t just say “DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME. I DON’T NEED ANY ATTENTION. THAT’LL KEEP US TOGETHER, RIGHT? BECAUSE STAYING TOGETHER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, RIGHT?!?”

No. I honored what they were saying and agreed that transitioning to friends was for the best for me, too. Because I do need some attention. And me saying I didn’t just to hang onto the Relationship wasn’t going to help either of us. I’ve had enough bitterness in my life to last for eons, so I ain’t got the time nor energy for holding tight to things that aren’t working anymore. I have needs.

One of them is a higher level of attention than I was getting. Another is to figure out my damn life. Still others include healing from leaving an incredibly stressful and toxic job, re-evaluating the last twenty years of my life, figuring out how to make amends, and getting my health in order. I had already decided at the end of January that I was going through a personal evolution and as such, ain’t got time to be dating.

Also, I also have barely any energy left to sustain fairly decent romantic relationships. The past year drained and damaged me more than I realized. I’m still assessing it all and trying to figure out how to heal. Only thing I know right now is that I need to focus on creativity, my health, blood and chosen family, mourning/grief, and moving on. It’s actually part of my treatment plan in therapy now to evaluate current Relationships-with-a-capital-R and ending the ones that are no longer working for me. AND for the foreseeable future not seeking out new Relationships to fill the void that will leave. To instead focus on creativity and cultivating a strong support network of relationships. Because how I feel and what I need is fucking valid and it’s about time I believed that as much as I believe that what other people feel/need is valid.

So, here’s to Another Fucking Opportunity for Growth.

[CBR10 – Review 3/13] What We Left Behind

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

(Cannonball Read book review #3 – original post @ CBR10)

Sometimes, a random internet search leads you to some awesome places. One night two weeks ago, I was in the library. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to read, so I did a search for Southern Lesbian fiction. There were no new Rita Mae Brown books (that weren’t fox or cat related) and most of titles the query returned, the library didn’t have. (I know, shocking that a fairly conservation, Northern NJ, small-town library wasn’t overflowing with Southern Lesbian lit, right?) However, they did have one title: “What We Left Behind” by Robin Talley. I recognized the author’s name from another title that came up on the list that I had added to my reading list last year: “Lies We Tell Ourselves”. Unfortunately, the library didn’t have that one. I picked up “What We Left Behind” and read the dust jacket description:

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They’ve been together forever. They never fight. They’re deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college – Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU – they’re sure they’ll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, theirs is bound to stay rock-solid.

The reality of being apart, though, is very different than they expected. Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, meets a group of transgender upper classmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, but Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

Wait, I’m sorry. On a Southern Lesbian fiction search, I wound up with a YA novel with a genderqueer character? JACKPOT! I identify as nonbinary and prefer ze/zir pronouns and this has been a journey for me. It’s hard to find characters in mainstream fiction that have any of the thoughts I have so finding this felt like an amazing present. I immediately checked it out, went home, and started reading.

Talley had me hooked right from the first chapter, where she starts with how Toni and Gretchen met, from Toni’s perspective. The books’ “chapters” (it doesn’t have traditional, numerical chapters) are mostly divided into Toni’s first person POV and Gretchen’s first person POV. Though the story primarily takes place in present day throughout Toni and Gretchen’s freshman year in their respective colleges, it also takes a few dips back in time to important foundation points in their relationship in high school. The first chapter flips back and forth between Toni and Gretchen’s POV of their first meeting.

Toni fell for Gretchen at the Homecoming dance just after winning a major victory at their private, all girls school. Toni identifies as genderqueer at this point in the book, and was threatening to sue the school to be able to wear pants as part of the uniform instead of the mandated skirts. The school has allowed Toni to do this so we meet Toni showing up at Homecoming in “spiffy new grey-and-black-striped pants, a bright blue shirt, shiny black shoes, black-and-white-striped suspenders, and a black top hat.” Gretchen, we learn, is barefoot with blue toenails at the dance, which for a DC private school, was unheard of. Toni swooned. I swooned, too, thinking about Gretchen laughing on the dance floor, barefoot and carefree.

From there, it’s adorable and first love-y. The second chapter, though, is where shit starts to get real. Toni talks about how she and Gretchen are about to leave for college, and how close they’ll be, both being in Boston and all. I had to reread the dust jacket…no, it definitely said Gretchen was going to NYU….ooooooohhh. Gretchen lied to Toni. She originally got into BU and was waitlisted for NYU, but then NYU notified her that they would accept her off the waitlist. And she did it, mailed in the acceptance and the deposit, all without telling Toni. Until the night before they left. Ruh-roh!

Cue the Trouble In Paradise music!

So, that’s not a fun way to go off to college, but they manage to work it out. Kinda. Toni swallows the feels, and they embark on their separate collegiate journeys. Gretchen meets and befriends Carroll, a gay freshman from rural NJ who is looking to lose his V card. Her roommate is a goth chick named Samantha from the South. They don’t really hit it off right away because Gretchen bonds quickly with Carroll and spends all her time with him.

Toni, on the other hand, joins the UBA (Harvard’s Undergradutate BGLTQIA Association) and meets a group of people mostly on the trans spectrum like Toni, but a few years older and further along in their journey. It’s the first time that Toni has found people to talk to about all the questions running through Toni’s mind.

I’m trying to honor Toni’s pronoun choices by not referring to Toni as a she. Throughout the book, though, as Toni questions their identity, Toni’s pronouns change. One thing I really liked about this process was that the author was fairly smooth about bringing me into Toni’s head while this was happening. At various points, Toni tried not to use any gendered language to refer to people, then tries to use gender nuetral terms like “they/them” and “ze/hir”. Gretchen also has adapted to do this to honor Toni and usually winds up calling Toni “Toni” or “T” instead of using gendered language. But thing is, she is afraid to ask questions about what it all means and how it’s all affecting Toni. Mostly, when Toni has talked about these things, Gretchen has just smiled and nodded and was supportive, which is AWESOME for a partner to be, but she also isn’t really sure how to make sense of it all and doesn’t really talk about it much. Can anyone else sense the impending doom on this freshman ldr?

So between Gretchen lying about which school she was going to, and the lack of communication, and striving to never fight and be the “perfect” couple, their relationship derails over the course of the first semester. They had originally promised to see each other every weekend, but that gets pushed back and back as they each adapt to college and their new schedules and friends. Each chapter starts with where we are in the timeline, including the notation of how long they’ve been apart.

Both teens spend a lot of time mooning over each other and also questioning labels. Some reviews I read about this book in the last few days are pretty harsh about how selfish Toni is during this process, but…thing is…I get it. I’m 40 years old and have only in the last few years begun to ask some of these questions that I realized I’d pushed down when I was in my teens. As I’ve said to a friend recently, I don’t think I’m actually transgendered, but I don’t fully indentify as female, either. I don’t really like the gender binary thing. And there’s a lot to think about an unpack in there, once you start looking around at how gendered everything is. I mean, I even found “manly” candles and wet wipes. Because really, those needed some gendered tagging. Anyway, I won’t rant here about gender spectrum; there’s more to my journey, but if you’re curious, check out my blog.

Basically, Toni’s constant questioning and trying to make sense of things was very familiar. Identity isn’t always an easy thing to figure out, especially once you realize it can actually change over time. It was all actually pretty refreshing coming from some of the other trans YA books I’ve read where the characters just know and the meat of the story is every else’s reactions to them and what it’s like to transition. Toni, on the other hand, isn’t sure of anything. This seems to have made them annoying and selfish in some reviewers eyes, but to me, it was nice to find someone really spell out a lot of the questions that can come with this type of personal journey of identity.

From there, there are many differences. I am not a freshman in a big university. I’m not having experiences like drunken hookup sex that ruins a friendship for the first time (thankfully I’ve never had that happen) or contending with the pressure of writing papers and lining up internships while trying to maintain an ldr. And I’ve learned enough about relationships to know that you actually have to TALK about the things that are bothering you, or the questions you have. Gretchen is so afraid of sounding stupid to ask some of the questions she has of Toni and Toni thinks that Gretchen can’t possibly understand or really want to talk it out, so they wind up spending months mostly avoiding the topic with each other.

Toni does manage to get some stuff out, and winds up coming out to her very image-obsessed mother on a whim. That was an interesting scene. It felt pretty forced and rushed, though. I would’ve rathered a longer book to get into some of the fallout and character growth towards the end, but it all wrapped pretty quickly. We go from being with Gretch and Toni throughout their first semester and the last chapter is them having been apart for 8 months and talking to each other for the first time. It feels like they might get back together, but the book ends before that can happen, so if you’re someone who really wants to have that clear happy ending, this might not be for you.

All that being said, it is a cute romance, and it’s entirely refreshing to have gender be a discussion and not just an assumed binary. Oh, and one of the secondary characters also decides to get into an open relationship, so my polyamorous heart was happy with that. Plus, there’s a goodly bit of diversity amongst the secondary characters who are trans, lesbian, gay, bi, Korean, and black. Some support groups for people who care about trans people were mentioned, which is also awesome. I wish there was a little more in the story about being actively genderfluid and not having to pick one or the other but besides that, I thought it was a really sweet and realistic coming of age love story and I’m really glad YA fiction now has this representation. Also, I can’t wait to read more by Robin Talley.

[New Year, New You] Week 5 – Some Enchanted Evening

So. The last few weeks have been difficult. Which is putting it mildly. I learned things about people that I never knew and it not only rocked my world, but it has brought down a company, and affected many, many other people in the process. Lines have been drawn, so many people came forward with stories of their own, and somewhere in it, I found the courage to write my own story and share it with a community that is dear to my heart.

Since then, I’ve been in the process of re-examining my life over the past decade or so, as a result. I put a full stop on all kink I was involved in, from established relationship dynamics all the way to potential new play partners. It fucked with my head that someone I thought I knew and whom had helped build my foundation in kink had manipulated and groomed and abused so many people, including people who were underage. So I talked to everyone I was in a relationship or playing with, even casually, and those I was negotiating with and stopped all kink.

Statuses were changed on Fet. Routines were changed. Plans were cancelled. It felt hella awkward at times, and painful. It also showed me how much kink in simply part of my life in intrinsic ways that I hadn’t realized before. I put a fuckton of casual kink (especially pain play) into sensual and sexual experiences with others. There are some other discoveries and epiphanies I’ve been working on during this process and I’m grateful that the people in my life currently all took it gracefully and supportively. I’ve needed some time to reflect, to question, to rebuild. I’m likely going to need more time, but I can feel myself slowly come out of it with some newer realizations. For instance, I actually had begun to rebuild slowly a few years ago. As I learned more about informed and ongoing consent, I knew better so I could do better. There’s never going to be a point where I’m done learning and that’s actually an oddly comforting feeling. I always want to strive to be better and do better.

All of this, and watching the explosions unfold, and the rebuilding that I see others doing and I’ve done, and the healing, and the struggle to make sense of it all, and to get answers…has all taken a lot of time and energy. I don’t just mean my own; so many people have been affected by this and each of us has our own story. For my part, here especially, it’s a means of explaining to myself and anyone else reading this why I haven’t kept up with the New Year, New You prompts.

That all being said, I am back, bitches!

It’s incredibly fitting that I came back to it on the week after Deb had said we should do something nice for ourselves (I did and wound up writing it before everything exploded and scheduling it to appear smack dab in the middle of all the shit. I had forgotten abou tit until I started receiving notifications that a few people liked the post. The internet can be a strange place, sometimes.)

But now it’s all “back to work, bus slave.”

So! Back to work. When last we left off, I had yet to detail how I was going to make my goals come to fruition.

UUUUGGHHHHHHH.

Okay, here we go.

Here’s what I wrote on week two as my goals for this year and following I’ll add what I’m going to be doing to help myself work towards each goal in specific detail. (The kink category is coming off the table for the moment.)

  • Creativity
    • music: practicing uke 5x per week for at least 20 minutes, making at least one video a month of uke playing/singing and posting it somewhere on the interwebs, crafting new burlesque routines
    • writing: this prompt will take care of once a week for twenty-three weeks. I’m also signing up for Cannonball Read
    • drawing: I’m planning on announcing a project I have for myself on FB soon that will help with all the creativity and the authentic connections.
      Spirituality
  • Spirituality
    • these writing prompts are helping me practice more
    • reading Deb’s book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want (which will also help the creativity, as I’ll be writing a review of it for Cannonball Read)
    • seeking out tarot and continuing with my Angel divination deck
    • intentionally visiting nature more
    • trying to find another yoga instructor/class
    • meditate again (this one’s hard because it’s tied to kink for me in that I meditate best on my knees. But I have some difficulty with kneeling currently, from a combination of knee pain I should try to overcome and some recent grief associated with some relationship issues)
  • Kink (for now, not a priority)
    • seeking out play that will put me on both sides of the slash
    • seeking out people I can bounce with
    • actually writing up and posting my class descriptions
    • applying for at least one event
    • reaching out to people in the scene to learn more
    • reading more
    • taking more photos
  • Health
    • mental/emotional – therapy, letting go of the past, allowing myself to feel my emotions as they happen, all the others help with this one, too
    • physical – more activity. Current job will help with this. Once I am out of training, walk around floor for at least 20 minutes a day. Eating better. Taking gluten, sugar, and dairy mostly out of my diet. Drinking more waterAuthentic relationships
      • seeking out the people who are authentic in my life
      • moving away from those who aren’t
      • making sure I am clear to the universe that these two things are my intention
      • making myself vulnerable
      • work on holding space for myself and for others in pain
      • personal responsibility
      • gratitude. Endless gratitude and expressing it to the authentic, glorious people in my life
  • Cleaning
    • organizing costumes
    • organizing closet
    • donating items
    • selling things
    • coming up with a schedule for regular household cleaning

So my best ideas as that some changes need to made. I will therefore dedicate time in the following manner:

  • an hour after work for practicing uke, cleaning something (closet, costumes, laundry, purging things to give away/sell/dontate), and to read and unwind. 20 minutes for each category, which hits on uke practicing, mental health, and cleaning
  • getting up a half hour early to have time to meditate
  • walking around the stores I’m in for at least 20 minutes each day
  • writing – keeping up with the writing prompts again and continuing with the Cannonball Read challenge. Also figure out time where I can write things outside the New Year, New You challenge.
  • keep striving to be honest and open in my communications and allow space for others to be, too
  • also continue to examine things and make apologies and amends as I’m able to
  • work on video on one of my days off. February video will be up by 2/28.
  • announce creative project I had that will also help me connect with people. I will announce that by 3/15.
  • continue to work on finding time to rehearse with band. (Oh, because holy shit, on things that happened in the past few weeks is I started a band with two other awesome people. More on that later after we get a few more rehearsals under our belt.)
  • planning one full ritual for myself each month

It’s not hyper detailed, but it’s better than I had going into this writing and I will start implementing it tonight. Here’s to getting back to work.

Also, in terms of songs, it’s “Doing the Unstuck” by The Cure. All day, every day right now:

“But it’s much too late” you say
“For doing this now
We should have done it then”
Well it just goes to show
How wrong you can be
And how you really should know
That it’s never too late
To get up and go…

Time to get up and go, damnit.

[New Year, New You] Week 4 – Relax, Don’t Do It

Ironically, I’m a week behind…on the post that’s supposed to be about pampering yourself. *headdesk*

The plus side is that I did it. I actually did it a few times last week. I just didn’t have the time or energy to write about it. This past weekend drained the ever loving hell out of me and I wound up hermitting after work on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights and not touching my computer. Or my uke. Or anything remotely productive. I skipped out on a party I really wanted to go to, and crawled into bed by or before 11pm every weekend night this past weekend. Dear *insert dieties here*, I felt old.

Then I reread Deb’s original post for this week’s writing prompt, and she said to do something nice for yourself. 

To which I realized by calling out of party that I wasn’t mentally or physically prepared for, by going to bed early, by hermitting and being gentle with myself when I was drained, I was doing nice things for myself.

Now, I also did totally do a few more pampery-type things this past week: slept late on my two days off during the week. Bought a shoprite mocha cake and made it last a week, and ate a piece while watching two episodes of The Crown.

All that being said, I’ve realized after yesterday, that that was my true pampering day. I went to therapy, then decided to walk into town on what was a beautiful day to me. Overcast and very slightly chilly, but not face-freezingly cold like it’s been. It felt good to walk around and I wound up in one of my favorite bookstores ever and just…let myself be. Wander. Browse various sections, read a few pages, take pics of books that I wanted to remember and possibly read later. Sit. Breathe in the dusty smell of new and used books, old, creaky wooden floors. I posted this pic on Fetlife because it tickled me so:

20180122_134120

I love the hand-written signs, but also that the horror section was right up against the Erotic Fiction. Best bookstore ever.

It was a lovely afternoon. I let myself wander without looking at the time. I had band practice in the evening, but I could feel that I wasn’t getting too close to that time, so I just…let myself be in the moment and enjoy it. I didn’t feel pressured to buy anything. I couldn’t afford it…but I also wasn’t sad that I couldn’t afford anything. Being there was enough. It felt really fucking good.

Once I was done because I felt done, not because I had to be somewhere, I left and got one of my favoritest foods for dinner (delicious, delicious Chinese food) and then proceeded onward to wait for band practice to start. All in all, it was a lovely day that I’m glad I gave myself. It restored my brain balance and reset my mood from feeling bad for missing things and feeling kinda old to rejuvenated and fully present in myself.

The song that was recommended for this post was bitter:suite’s “Dirty Laundry”. I’ve been making a habit of listening to the recommended song, and I liked this one. But I’m also finding what song currently resonates for me for where I am and the theme/task of the weekly writing prompt. This week, it turned out to be “Driving Alone” by Sarah Bettens:

I’ll go / Wherever I need to go / I’ll know / When I start to lose control

It’s fitting for a lot of things in my life, right now. There’re many changes and decisions I have to make and I’m doing my best to walk my own path and be true to myself. And now I have to put on my adult panties, catch up totally with the prompts and write out how I plan to achieve my goals, do more cleaning and more work, and face next week’s writing prompt, which I have a feeling will be a doozy, as it opens with “Back to work, bus slave”…

Pack your bags; we’re going on a journey of sensual/sexual evolution!

In the beginner, I was a LESBIAN. I knew in my early teens but it took me a few more years to say anything to anyone. When I came out to my mom around 17 or so, her back-handed supportive response was “let me know when you figure out you’re bi.” Which pissed me off to nearly no end (I’m mostly over it. Mostly.) when somewhere along the way, right around the time I met my now ex-husband, I realized bisexual fit better. Grrrrrrrr.

From there, in my twenties, it got more complicated as I came to understand that gender wasn’t a binary, and even further, that I was attracted to people and their gender didn’t have much to do with it. I pushed my own gender exploration aside due to shame and fear, focusing instead on my poly, kink, and sexual evolution. Pansexual mostly fit for that, though I was never too comfortable with the “sexual” part. Then, in my mid/late thirties, I learned about demisexuality and the asexual spectrum. As I learned about that, the umbrella of gray asexuality was the closest I’ve come to a term that fit me. So I’ve settled on queer, gray ace. Because it’s fluid and not a fixed point. And “gray ace” is easier than than trying to explain a sexuality contains all this:

  • I have no interest in sex unless there’s some form of D/s, power exchange, energy exchange, or kink involved. It can be light power dynamics, it can be emotional sadism or masochism, it can be full on CNC (my fav), it can be tantra or some other type of energetic exchange, but there has to be some form of connection involved that isn’t just physical. Vanilla sex has absolutely no appeal to me.
  • Sex, in general, is not necessary nor is it preferred most of the time for me in kink. I do get turned on sometimes via kink, but most times, I don’t. It’s also highly specific to the activity and the partner(s). It’s been over 10 years since a rose flogging, in an of itself, has resulted in anything sexual for me or happening with the person I’m doing it on at the time.
  • Which leads to sensual kink. For me, kink is generally sensual as all hell. But it doesn’t usually “turn me on”.
  • It’s taken a longass time to discover that I can (and really like to) make out and do pick up play outside of a Relationship, but beyond making out, most times, I’m not interested in sexual things happening.
  • When I say “sexual things” I mean anything that directly stimulate the genitals or results in an orgasm. Vaginal sex, anal sex, oral sex, manual sex, sex with toys. All sex, to me. I know a few people who don’t think anything beyond PIV or PIA is sex, but that’s not the way I roll.
  • It’s also taken me a similarly longass time to begin to accept that I can actually have casual sex with people I’m not in a Relationship with. When I was identifying as a demisexual, I thought it was impossible. I now know it’s not just possible, it’s happened and I liked it. It’s not been frequent, by any stretch, but it has happened. It just depends on the situation, the person, the interests, the connection, the circumstances, and how we feel about it.), However, I need to have at least a basis of friendship.
  • Still don’t think I can do a one night stand with someone I don’t know. However, for the times I’ve been able to have sex when not in a Relationship, there has been some element of D/s or energy or power exchange involved, even just a little. Or it eventually went there. I once was in a situation where there was some energy stuff happening and making out with someone who is very big on active and ongoing consent/check-ins (and knows how to make them really sexy, too, which is skillz I wholeheartedly aspire to, let me tell ya) and at one check-in, I said that I was feeling all “yes”…but then it felt immediately not fully true. It wasn’t that I wasn’t feeling “yes”…I was (so. much. yes.)….so I explained that I also felt very much “I want to say ‘no’….to mean ‘yes'”. Which was more complicated and not something we had talked about, so we didn’t go there that time. We may or may not ever go there, and that’s okay. But I feel that CNC feeling a lot. 97% of my fantasies revolve around some form of CNC and/or cuckqueanery.
  • I just almost never feel like I solely want to fuck…or have sex and orgasm with another person as a…goal. I most often crave cuddling, making out, sensual touching, power and energy exchange, pain, exploring bodies and having mine explored…like, seriously, the inside of the elbows and hollow of the back and the inner thigh and the ankle….they’re so under-explored. I like touching, licking, nibbling, biting, caressing. There’s just so much to explore and I sometimes find myself getting lost or sad when I’ve gotten comfortable making out and it turns into NEW GOAL IS SEX. ORGASM.
  • For me, sex isn’t it’s own…impetus. Or goal, really. I do not have a primary sex drive.  I barely have a secondary sex drive. I totally have a primary kink drive. I almost never have any interest in coming unless someone wants me to. That being said, I very much like being of sexual service to people I connect to in that way.
  • I need filthy, dirty, vicious words whispered threateningly in my ear, a hand on my throat, teeth on my earlobe, tongue flickering inside my wrist…I need there to be pauses, silence, someone just out of sight, not knowing what they’re doing, a blindfold so I can’t see, force, direction. Please, make me serve you…it can be done with a calm directive or a brutal order; I don’t care. What do YOU want to take, goddamnit? Tell me. Claim it.

Sorry, where was I? My brain went a for a little gutter field trip, there…

Anyway, some of the most memorable times for me in regards to actual sexual arousal are things like having my palm stroked in such a way that I almost came…and had to stop because it was against my set of rules at the time. Seriously. Just MY PALM being stroked. Or finally being able to relax into myself and have an orgasm after struggling for so long to come…by being told it wasn’t for me. It was for the person I was with a the time. Or “preparing” a partner (fluffer, aisle one) to fuck another partner and being denied sex myself. Or a hug that morphed into a hand on my throat which led to me against a wall in a very intense kiss. Or a really long breath play scene that could’ve, to the untrained or unkinky eye, been call oral sex but technically had very little to do with sex, didn’t result in an orgasm for either of us, and had everything to do with power. Power claimed and taken, power surrendered willingly.

This ongoing evolution has been confusing as hell for me sometimes. The good thing is I finally feel like I’m finally wholly comfortable with the labels I’ve chosen without them feeling restrictive. They can help explain things and I have room to interpret, move fluidly go with how I feel in each interaction. I can articulate what I do and don’t want to people. Friends who might be play partners, friends who are already play partners, new people I meet who might be friends and/or play partners. Any of the above who might be a mentor.

Case in point: one of my partners asked me why I wasn’t pursuing someone I had recently met. The case was made that this person was my type, interested in similar things, and, as far as what little my partner knew about them, available. Problem was, I had no interest. I got no kinky vibe, no power exchange vibe, didn’t think they were poly. Turns out, after a general convo about online dating, I was right.

I’ve also come to realize that I don’t really have much interest in dating, so I literally just disabled my OKC account today. I’m not looking for any new poly partners, as I try to navigate life and a lot of changes and more to come. The only new things I’m open to right now are friends, mentors, and play partners, so I updated my Fet profile, too. I’ve been able to tell people that I’m a gray ace. It’s been scary, because I’m afraid they’ll walk, but if they do, I have to remember that it’s not a condemnation of me; it’s that our needs/desires don’t match up. And that’s just life.

So this is where I’m at in January of 2018…continually seeking, evolving, learning, and growing. Thank you for reading and any comments or questions you have. It’s likely that if you’re reading this, you’ve had some part in helping me figure this out, be it posts you’ve shared, convos or experiences we’ve had together, being supportive of me, or just by being part of a community that welcomes this type of growth and sharing. I’m grateful for that.