“Open a new window, open a new door…”

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

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

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

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

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

Y’know, simple stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What THE FUCK was I going to wear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then something moved behind my curtains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And hadn’t moved during this whole time.

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

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

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

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

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

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A small but powerful message from the Moon.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

And yet: A poly/kink meditation

Driving home from a partner’s house recently, I relished the ability my brain has to work through things while I’m traveling. At the time, one of the things I was dealing with was remnants of jealousy and insecurity regarding a metamour. My brain kept eating me alive and I did everything I could think of to deal with it up until that point: smile through it, put it aside, pack it up, ignore it, poke it gently with a stick, kick it in the neck. Y’know, the usual.

But when I get in a car or on a train and there’s a long trip or, at the very least, 30 minutes or more on a highway, I go into parsing mode. Meeting things head on, feeling my way through them, exploring ways to actually deal with them rather than constantly pushing myself into survival mode.

And a nifty thing happened while I was letting my brain ramble and unwind. It went something like this:

Anxious, scared brain: This metamour is younger and into things you’re not.

Suddenly, another voice joins in, soft but solid, of a new friend with whom I had been marveling recently about all the good/interesting things that were happening in our lives that we never expected to. The phrase they used was “and yet.” Two simple words to ground you and bring you back to the fact that those good things were happening.

So my anxious, scared brain goes: This metamour is younger and into things you’re not.

Soft, solid voice answers: And yet, your partner still wants you, too.

Anxious, scared brain goes into tizzy and tries to hurl something scarier at this new voice: Yeah, well, that metamour is closer geographically than I am.

Soft, solid voice replies again: And yet, your partner still wants you.

Anxious, scared voice is freaking the fuck out, thinking it’s about to be put out of a job and goes for broke: This metamour is thinner, and more attractive, sees your partner more and your partner wants said metamour more than you.

Soft, solid voice bitch-slaps back with a simple: And yet. It doesn’t matter, ultimately, about “more” or “less”. Bottom line. No getting around it. It may’ve taken some time but there is a part of you that knows this to be true now. Your partner finds you attractive and still wants you.

Anxious, scared brain will not be defeated and decides to go for completely batshit low blow and shouts: YOUR PARTNER IS GOING TO LEAVE YOU FOR METAMOUR. YEAH! “AND YET” THAT, MOTHERFUCKER.

Soft, solid voice smiles and says completely calmly: And yet. My partner has not left me yet. Our relationship isn’t based on a relationship escalator, and while I would love for it to go on for a long time, the success of it is not measured in longevity. It’s measured in, to quote Rent, love. You know poly means that your partner can care about, play with, date, have sex with, love, be with, whatever-the-fuck-you-wanna-call-it with other people and it does not mean you’re getting left behind. They are NOT mutually exclusive. They coexist. You coexist. You wrote a fucking piece about it here and everything! Your partners care about you for you and their other partners for who they are and the wondrous variety of it all is what makes it so goddamned beautiful and awesome now shut the fuck up and let’s sing some showtunes!!!

Wow. That soft, solid voice apparently grabbed a megaphone and some spirit somewhere along the highway because, daaaaammmmn. Anxious, scared brain walked away in a huff, promising to come back with better ammunition. I turned on Hamilton and sang along to “That Would Be Enough”.

***

About a half an hour later, anxious, scared brain gets back online and wants to go again.

ASB: You know that new person you like? There’s no way they could like you, too.

SSV: And yet. Have you talked to them about it? Have you asked how they felt? Do you know that for certain?

ASB: No…but…screams and stomps off I WILL FIND SOMETHING!

SSV: And yet. I will likely refute it.

***

I sing more Hamilton. Put on some Fleetwood Mac because I’m suddenly feeling more mellow and relaxed. Replay some of the happier moments from my time with my partner. Just about then, that jackass ASB struts up.

ASB: You’re a terrible submissive. You can’t be a director and a /s and a switch. They don’t go together. What’s wrong with you?

(Wow. What a smug asshole my brain can be sometimes. What the fuck? C’mon, SSV, don’t fail me now…)

SSV: And yet. I am all those things. At different times. With different people and situations.

ASB: You’re not submissive enough for your Sir. You’re not good enough. You’re too old and out of practice.

SSV: And yet. Sir says he is pleased by me more often than not and when he’s not, corrects and/or punishes me to his liking accordingly. It is not my job to second guess what he says he is pleased by. It is my job to trust his word and actions.

ASB: People won’t respect you for being a switch, especially in public.

SSV: And yet. I played in public on the right side of the slash in a place where I was in charge of a portion of the event recently and have so far seen no diminishing respect from colleagues, friends, partners, or anyone else. If anything, I’ve gotten many compliments on how happy I was that day as I went (what felt like) fairly seamlessly from the right side of the slash to the left as appropriate to the scenes I was having.

ASB, muttering under its breath: Fuck you and the “and yet” you rode in on…

SSV: And yet…that sounds like fun.

ASB explodes in a POOF

***

So. For the rest of the car ride, I just kept throwing “and yet” at all the insecurities that popped up and lo and behold, it’s been slamming them down right and left. I’ve even done some kneeling meditations on it and it’s held up strong. I don’t expect it to combat everything…

And yet I’m glad for what it’s doing right now.

Comparisons: The Poly Pitfall of Doom

You know one of the quickest ways to tank your self esteem as a poly person? Start comparing yourself to any of your metamours or things your partner(s) are doing with other partners.

And yet, I’ve fallen into that trap waaaaaay more times than I care to count. Today alone.

Just kidding. That was yesterday. Today it’s only happened a little.

It sucks. Because reason tells me that I know better than this. All I’ve read and written and experienced tells me, for the most part, better than this.

And yet, there are times when I can’t see past it. Past the fear, the panic, the “are they better than me?” Sexier? Kinkier? More flexible? And if they are, the root of it….am I going to be left behind?

This is probably the pit my brain tosses myself into headlong most frequently. Therapists and I have theorized about an abandonment complex based on things from my past when I was younger and people who were supposed to care about me dropped off the face of the earth when I was younger. In the span of about four years, my mother disappeared, my sister went off to college, my aunt and uncle, whom I used to see every other weekend along with my cousins who were like my little brothers, stopped seeing me and calling me, my grandfather stopped contacting me. Hell, even the guitar teacher I had just…stopped. This was from was from when I was eight until I was twelve. And yeah, I spent many years obsessing, wondering, afraid. What did I do wrong? What could I have done better? What could I have done to have made them stay?

The answer(s)? Nothing. Nothing. And nothing.

I know this now, after many years have passed and conversations have happened.

But on the other hand, people have told me I’m “too much”. I think too much, feel too much, laugh too loudly, get into hobbies too deeply, am too dramatic. So I’ve retreated sometimes. I’ve been worried about what I say, what I do, if it’s too much. If I’m too much.

Conversely, my brain also tells me I’m not enough. I’m not enough to for people to want…anything from. Not sexy enough, or attractive enough, or kinky enough, or interesting enough, or competent enough, or intelligent enough, or witty enough. I fight feeling like I’m failing at everything….my job, relationships, writing, life. It’s hard to see the things I’ve done right while the things I’ve done wrong scream at me.

Add metamours into this mix and sometimes, my brain sometimes goes haywire.

Here’s the thing. I actively chose and continue to choose to be in open relationships. After over 15 years, I know this is how I’m wired. It just makes sense to me to love more than one person. And that love can come in many different shapes and forms. I err more towards relationship anarchy style of poly these day, in that I do not want to tell my partners what they can or can’t do with other people and I don’t ever want anyone to tell me what I can and can’t do with other people. And most times, I love hearing fun stories of scenes that other partners have done, or fun experiences. I can usually do compersion like a mofo.

And yet. That pesky “and yet” slams me upside the heart and I’m gone.

I’ll think of a metamour, especially a new one (because new ones are waaaay harder to process than existing ones, most times), and go….fuuuuuuuucccckkkkk. They’re hot. Which, for some reason, suddenly means I’m not. They’re into things I’m not. Which suddenly, for some reason, means that I’m less valuable or interesting. They see said partner more than I do. Which suddenly diminishes the time I spend with that partner. All of the things I am and do and are interested in suddenly, in my stupid, stupid brain, are warring to be both not good enough and too much. Because that’s a thing that my brain can magically maintain.

Because it’s easier to beat myself up than to just understand that a new person does not automatically mean I lose.

Because a partner having NRE or wanting to see someone he hasn’t seen in months makes it feel like our communication is less/different and I feel like I’m kind of all alone. Add to the mix when life is crazy hella hectic and I’m at a touch and sex and play deficiency and suddenly everyone becomes competition. Suddenly, I’m afraid of losing everything.

Two of the best ways I’ve found to combat this are to talk and to focus solely on my relationship with my partner, not their relationship with anyone else. That latter one came from this gem of an article I read about a month ago called “Change your Cookbook: A monogamuggle’s guide to cookin’ with polyfolk”. (side note: I love that some of the best poly advice I’ve ever gotten comes from a monogamuggle. Also, I love the term “monogamuggle”.)

When it comes to talking, I’m finding that talking to partners is one thing. And that can be incredibly helpful. I mean, if you’re focusing on your relationship with your partner and you feel like they’ve been pulling back or things have changed, checking in with them is a good idea. But the best people I’ve found to talk to? The metamours themselves.

This used to scare the ever-lovin’ fuck out of me. Talk to the people that must be better than me? That might be taking my partner away? But…that seems impossible and painful. Like the bad kind of masochism. And that’s coming from an emotional masochist.

Funny thing, though? Metamours are fucking awesome. And when you start talking to the them, sometimes, you wind up having conversations with them and you find that you’re way more alike than you are different. You learn that they have similar hobbies, interests, and are really cool people. You also sometimes discover that they have similar insecurities or struggles and then you are gobsmacked but feel way less alone. They’re not trying to take everything away from you. They’re agenda is exactly the same as yours…to love, to have fun, and to enjoy time with the person you both care about. Because that makes sense, right? Isn’t that what this is all about?

And there’s time and space for all of these things to happen. And sometimes, you wind up wanting to hang out with them…like, without your partner! And sometimes you even are able to and suddenly you’ve made new friends and holy shit kitchen table poly can work.

This may or may not’ve happened to me a few times. And yet…each time it surprises me. But in that good way. Like, right. I don’t have to torture myself with horrible thoughts of being left and sad. The reality is way different than my fears and anxiety keep trying to tell me sometimes.

So those are two ways I’ve found to help quell the brain beasts. Does anyone else have any other advice on how to deal with this damn pitfall? I’d love to hear it, if so.

Under Pressure

Moving. Load out tomorrow. Halfway across the country.

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

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

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

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

“Under Pressure” – Queen & David Bowie

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

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

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

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