[CBR10 – Review 2/13] The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

(Cannonball Read book review #2 – original post @ CBR10)

When I first saw this book in Borders, I was intrigued by the cover and when I read about a Mormon gal on her own in the Big Apple, I was even further intrigued. Given that I just name-dropped Borders, that’ll give you an idea of how long ago it was that I picked it up. Pretty sure it was around 2010. But something made me keep it through a move from New Jersey to Mississippi, then back to New Jersey. Then to Memphis. Then BACK to New Jersey a second time. Finally, after seven years, I started reading it in December of 2017 and finished it last week.

One thing I appreciated about the format was that while each chapter was a part of a chronological progression in the author Elna Baker’s life, they were also bite-sized. I could finish one chapter while waiting for an appointment, in the bathroom (it can be really hard to find books that are good for bathroom reading), or before bed.

As for the subject matter of the book, it was an interesting read for me because it was so far outside of my realm of experience. I’m a solo eclectic Pagan and the closest I’ve come to Mormon culture is seeing The Book of Mormon on tour in Memphis, knowing that some of favorite dancers/choreographers are Mormon, and when I was really young and just discovering polyamory, my then boyfriend and new girlfriend came out to our best friend by saying that we were “Mormon”, referencing the churches known stance on having multiple wives. So…not the most well-rounded understanding of the religion.

Baker’s voice drew me into her narrative and I learned a lot reading this book. I didn’t know about the “Magic Underwear” (Temple Garments, or special underwear that male and female Mormons wear as “symbolic and/or literal protection from the evils of the world”), the strong push towards marriage (specifically within the Mormon faith and in a Mormon church) and family being the ultimate goal of life, and I had no idea about the single’s dances (designed to foster the goal of marriage and family). I have had other friend’s who had conflict within their family because they were dating people outside their faith, but none of the actual Mormon faith. I also tend to gravitate towards friends and chosen family who are either in moderate religions, atheist/agnostic, or born-again Pagans like myself who left behind the faith of their youth and, as such, have to deal with varied levels black sheep status in their family. You could say that I’m not exactly a conformist. So this book was very interesting because Elna Baker is very dedicated to being Mormon and upholding her faith as well as she possibly can. And going to school in NYC as she’s coming of age as an adult with her own life definitely challenges that.

Some of the best parts, for me, were realizing that she used to be a plus-sized woman and through the course of the book lost a lot of weight. She talks honestly and hilariously about how she became a bitch and didn’t know until way later that how she lost so much weight successfully might’ve had something to do with prescription speed. Her observations of what the world is like as a plus-sized woman looking for love in all the right places and then what it was like after she lost weight was incredibly interesting. People treated her differently. She experienced female rivalry for a desirable guy in her local Mormon group, or ward.

I admired her spirit when faced with new adventures, from her family moving to different countries when she was younger to getting new jobs and putting herself “out there” (or saying “yes” to things, sometimes in hilariously questionable ways which lead to her inadvertently becoming a “serial convention crasher”.) Or selling high priced baby dolls to snobby, racist people. Or making out with celebrities. Or becoming a stand up comic. Or deciding to have plastic surgery to alter her body after her weight loss.

Elna Baker faced all these new adventures with an interesting mixture of devout and devious, though it was a little odd and hard to believe that someone in their twenties had such a lack of skill and knowledge in something like kissing. She’s frustratingly naive in some ways, but if the reader is frustrated, it’s also because Elna herself is also personally irked by her own lack of experience and knowledge. I had to remind myself that not everyone has sex-positive and educated friends who are sex workers, consent advocates and teachers, sex educators, burlesque performers, swingers, polyamorous people, asexuals. Not everyone worked for and taught at kink conventions like I did. Also, the world and the internet was a different place ten years ago when this book was written. But I admire her strong convictions but her ability to also explore the world and possibly question her faith a time or two, but come back to it even stronger.

The book is also peppered with her charming, hand written lists of what she believes as she goes on this journey, the guys she’s kissed, a fun Venn diagram of how to kiss, and a chart of “Advancements in Cloning vs. Elna’s Sex Life”.

By the end, her adventures have taken her to Zambia in search of the Atheist That Got Away, which was an interesting trip. Overall, the whole book is an interesting trip through one funny, intelligent Mormon woman’s 20’s. I really enjoyed Baker’s account of her life, her experiences, and all those regional Mormon singles dances.



Two great tastes that taste great together…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voices In My Head: Then and Now

Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose father drank. He drank so much that sometimes, he couldn’t make it home without help. This help came in the form of other adults, like his girlfriend, waking up the little girl in the middle of the night and telling her that she had to go get her father to come home. She was often the only one who could convince him to do it. The little girl dreaded these nights because they at least meant seeing her father in ways she didn’t want. Ways that scared her. Passed out at his desk. Sad. Crying. Yelling. Punching. But the voices told her it would be okay. He would never hurt her. She just had to make him come home. Usually by telling him that he had to say prayers so she could go (back) to sleep.

She heard so many arguments, those nights. Sometimes the voices could get him into a different car, looking small and dejected. Other times, though, he wouldn’t go in a different car. He wanted to drive home because he was worried about leaving his car/truck there. His car/truck was very important. That’s when the voices told her that she should go with him. “To make sure he got home okay.” At nine years old, she didn’t know how to drive. But she always managed to white-knuckle it home from her place beside him, keeping him alert. They always got home. Whether it was from his shop a few blocks away or another state. They only once almost hit a tree coming into the driveway. Only once almost crashed into an underpass pillar.

Those voices didn’t care if she was scared. They didn’t care if she said, “no.” They didn’t care about anything but making their lives easier. She was told there was nothing to be afraid of. That she was overreacting. She learned not to talk about what she wanted because no one would listen. She learned not to cry. She learned to numb her feelings because they didn’t matter. She then learned to eat the feelings, because sugar made her feel something that was like happy, however shortly.

Her father told her that if he wasn’t so stressed, he wouldn’t drink. The little girl spent years trying to be perfect. Getting good grades, not getting into trouble, making sure her father got home okay. Trying to be perfect. Taking care of those who were supposed to take care of her.

Then the little girl grew up and spent years in therapy, gradually learning it wasn’t her fault. For a very long time, though, she got scared around people who drank. She avoided parties where there was alcohol. She didn’t drink alcohol herself until well into her twenties. It took having a boyfriend who understood how scared she was. It took a slow, safe introduction to people drinking to teach her that drinking didn’t have to be traumatic. It took a steady journey of small, successful tries. A few sips of a pretty drink. Next, a whole one. She was nearly thirty before she was able to let go enough and feel safe enough to actually get drunk.

A lingering factor, though, was that she still ate her feelings. Usually with sugary things and especially chocolate. It was a way she could feel better, happier, calmer without losing control. Combined with two hormonal conditions, however, it was also a way that she put and kept on weight. But she was “safe”.

For the most part, she had moved on. She had healed. She wrote a short story about her late night “death rides” and sold it to a magazine for young adults. She felt better. Like maybe she helped other kids who had alcoholic parents. Her therapists told her she had PTSD, but the episodes became fewer and further between. She thought she had processed and dealt with her past.

She hadn’t been triggered in years.

One day, she found herself confronted with the perfect combination of whiskey and belligerence right across the table from her. She felt crazy. This couldn’t be happening. She had to be misunderstanding. This person wouldn’t do this. She trusted this person.

The voices came back.

Telling her it didn’t matter how she felt. The person across the table wanted her to do something and that was all that mattered. They kept saying it. Insisting that she talk about difficult things from the past. Demanding that the other person at the table tell her why those things from the past were fucked up. It didn’t matter how she felt. That she knew they were fucked up and that she had come to terms with them in her own way. The old voices told her that she couldn’t say, “no” or “stop”. She just had to stay calm and push all the panic and anger and fear away. Getting upset never worked. Because it never mattered.

However, this time….this time, other voices were surfacing. Voices from after she was grown up. Voices from people who know how to love in healthier ways. Voices from this past year, especially, which has been full of explosive growth and change.

A voice that told her she was far less powerless than she felt and to hold tightly to that. That she had grown into a powerful, strong woman with a voice that helps people, and has found love and passion in uncommon ways, has built the life she always wanted with an amazing array of people who love and support her, and whom she is privileged to love and support.

Then a voice that told her she could get out of this situation. She had people she could call. Hell, if nothing else, a small voice said Uber would be happy to pick her up. But with a single text to a dear friend, she had a ride home. She did not have to get in the car with anyone she did not want to. Someone was coming to get her and when they did, they let her talk in her own time and didn’t tell her she was wrong or overreacting.

With a single phone call, a calming voice gave her a lifeline to hold onto, didn’t demand to know what was going on when she said she didn’t want to go into it and just needed to hear their voice while she waited for the ride so she didn’t break down completely.

Another voice said that it was concerned about her desire to drive over an hour to get good chocolate to stave off the PTSD episodes over the next few days, but that voice said they understood, given the severity of the situation.

Which kicked off the next voice, of a close friend who said she’d read research that said that when you’re craving chocolate, usually you’re dehydrated so drink water.

Which spurred the next voice, one from an impromptu, unexpected correction scene where I was ordered to kneel for ten minutes holding a glass of water because “maybe this will help [me] remember the importance of hydration.”

The last voice that came in was a dear friend I’ve known for nearly twenty years, who told me over tea that the best advice she ever got (in reference to a painful part of her life) was to simply feel what she was feeling. Simple. Not easy. Don’t bottle it, repress it, or try to cover it up. Let it ride.

Which is how I found myself deciding not to go the chocolate shoppe, and instead, got two bottles of water at a nearby pharmacy and drove back home, where I proceeded to cry and let myself feel the terror and sadness and madness and helplessness and raging questions of “why doesn’t anyone care?!” and “why don’t I matter?!”

And somewhere in there I realized that I do matter. All of those voices that have haunted me were gradually being drowned out by the new ones. The stronger ones. They all belonged to people who care. People who have told me that…I matter to them. Reconciling this, thinking about the juxtaposition of the voices that led to this post, made me see something that I don’t want to forget.

I matter to me and I care about me and I made the choice to get myself out of that situation in the best way I could. I did so with the help of some amazing people, all of whom I’m sometimes still stunned and very grateful are in my life.

The past is over and I won’t live there anymore. And even though it’s left scars that come screaming back to life for brief bursts in the form of the vicious bitch goddess called PTSD, the voices in my head now and the people in my life now are helping me to fucking shout the past down while walking forward to a better life.

Is polyamory worth it?

It’s been a long standing joke in my family (both blood and chosen) that my life is anything but simple. I’m kind of the black sheep, tending to gravitate towards experiences, interests, and people that are complex. I’m the one who taught my very vanilla sister about the separate subjects of furries (which was great, because she was able to be a safe person to talk to when she found out one of her co-workers was a furry), polyamory, and kink (and how no, the latter is not always about sex and for me it very seldomly is about sex at all, and no, my kink does not involve being a lamppost. True conversations.) I’m the one who broadened my dad’s world when I handed him an invitation to my poly wedding (two coming outs in one awkward card, as he didn’t know I was poly or pansexual!) I have this blog where I write publicly about being kinky, being poly, taking my clothes off in front of strangers, body image, sex, random cum stains in the shape of Pacman that amuse me and how that related to a happy compersion poly moment, and openly admit to being a cuckquean.

Sometimes…okay a lot of times, and especially over the past few months, being the black sheep and not able to just do or feel uncomplicated things hurts. When you don’t fall under the umbrella of social expectation, you kind of have to navigate your own way around instead of relying on what society in general tells you. While this touches on all parts of my life, from my job(s), to my kink drive, to the way I dress, and so much more, it’s never so apparent to me as when I consider love.

Recently, I may or may not’ve wound up driving and crying with my sister because while she’s vanilla as hell, she loves me and listens unconditionally. And the last two months or so have been…hard. Through a combination of life and work stressors, issues with metamours, and feeling unable to find support and connection with the certain people I either usually do or was hoping to, I’ve been a bit upset and floundering. Ever since May, it feels like I’ve leveled up in life, but with that comes an entirely new world that I’m unfamiliar with. There’s some advanced/complicated poly stuff going on, in addition to navigating a cross country move for work, in addition to my submissive and Domme sides resurfacing again in major ways and it’s all been really, really hard to deal with sometimes.

And during this drive with my sister that may or may not’ve happened, she asked me a very pointed question:

“Are you sure polyamory is worth all this pain?”

I could tell she wasn’t just asking about my current situation. She knows what I went through in my triad marriage and when it ended, in addition to my other poly relationships. To her, a woman who’s been married to the same man for 20 years, what I was going through seemed so foreign and complex. A simple choice could fix it. I paused, tears streaming down my face, nose running, heart aching, and gave the question its due even while my core was screaming its answer.

But before I get to my answer, though, let me reference a post Ferrett recently wrote that made me tear up. He talked about driving three hours to hold his girlfriend’s hand before she went into surgery. And how when the medical staff asked who she had waiting for her, she replied honestly that it was her husband…AND her boyfriend. Which flummoxed the staff to the point where, instead of continually repeating herself, she just wound up summarizing with “‘Look, I lead an alternative lifestyle, all right?'”

This hit him hard, as evidenced by the entirety of the post. It, in turn, had a pretty big impact on me. Because he goes on to talk about all the times we don’t talk about these alternative choices, especially, if you’re poly or kinky or both, who we love.

These paragraphs, specifically, were what brought me to tears:

Yet my girlfriend did not give a fuck. She was exhausted, and tired, and when she was stripped raw the last thing she wanted to give up was to acknowledge the love that was sitting out there in that lobby for her and fuck, I’m crying now.

But it’s a moment. It’s a moment where her don’t-give-a-fuck punched a hole through to another world where I saw what it might be like not to have really good reasons not to just be buried under a tide of assumptions, and in that moment our love felt realer than it ever had before, this thing where yeah, we don’t live together and we’re never going to get married and we’ll never have once-a-week dates and all the traditional pathways designated as “serious about each other” somehow didn’t fucking matter.

We don’t call each other, but I’ll drive out to hold her hand when she needs me.

We only get to see each other once every couple of months, but she’ll fucking face down a bunch of surgeons in the place of her to tell them, Give that man respect for what he is.

Between that post and the post he wrote called “Yes, of course” about his wife’s reaction to him driving three hours out to be with his girlfriend when she went into surgery, I just…felt a recognition. I know what my answer is. I’ve always known. And recently, despite or maybe even because of the pain I’ve been going through, I feel I finally found where I want to be with relationships.

Yes, it’s fucking worth it.

It’s taken me nearly 15 years to get to a place of polyamory that’s basically relationship anarchy/fluid (not to imply that it’s more evolved, it’s just that it’s where I evolved to) and yes, it’s fucking worth it. I want and actively chose this support network of complex ties and feelings and yes, love, in its many shapes and forms. I don’t always have to know how to define a particular relationship, but I sure as hell know when I love someone and all the tears are worth being able to say it and hear it back.

The feeling of making a new connection and exploring it and finding and developing another piece of myself with another person is totally worth the half a box of tissues I went through that night.

When I get on a plane, there are about five or six people that know when I take off and when I land and those people also are told that I love them. I’m not “in a relationship” with all of them, and I don’t even know how the hell to define all of them, but I know they are important to me and I to them and if I’m staring down mortality, I want that to be known. I want love to be the thing I focus on, not fear. And it’s actually been part of what helps me get over some residual anxiety when it comes to flying. That’s totally worth frustrating interactions with a metamour.

The poly and kinky support network I’ve built over the years that spans nearly ten different states and a fuckton of people, the books and articles I’ve read, the conversations I’ve had sorting through my own shit or helping someone else sort through theirs is totally worth the pain of break ups, of sifting through complex emotions, or being stood up.

I mean, it’s not the structure itself that causes the hurt. When I got divorced from my poly triad, I was asked why I would continue to be polyamorous after all that pain and I replied that polyamory wasn’t to blame for my relationship ending any more or less than monogamy is the reason for monogamous divorces. It’s not the relationship style, it’s the people involved. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s universal. No relationship style that I know of is immune to…humanity and its wondrous variety.

And on the flip side are moments like my husband texting me today that he thinks the person at the deli where he ate lunch is totally my type. Or the compersion of seeing someone I care about twitterpated with NRE over a connection with someone new. Or when my husband came home today and I told him that I had spent some of my day negotiating to do a needle scene at GKENE and he made up a little song to the tune of “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5. However for him, since he doesn’t like needle play, it went more like this (complete with chair dance choreography and him spinning me in my desk chair):

You and I must make a pact, when he’s putting needles in your back
When that’s happening, I won’t be there…

That freedom to explore who I am, who I love, and what I want at my own pace, at my own comfort level, with the people I choose to, and the beautifully complex tapestry of people and experiences that ensue, including impromptu chair dances, are totally fucking worth it.

“I’m not on fire, not burned out…just somewhere different now.”

“Somewhere Different Now” by Girlyman

So many relationship issues on my mind lately. Romantic, kink, friendships, blood family, work, my own with myself…it’s a little overwhelming.

The intertwining threads are a little maddening sometimes. How this person is connected to this person is connected to this person. How some threads become unraveled so easily and others stay strong, and which ones are which can be surprises, while some aren’t. And how just because you knew some threads would unravel, doesn’t mean it doesn’t make you sad when you suddenly lose a favorite metaphorical scarf or sweater. A friendship or relationship or something that kept you warm, made you feel good at one point in your life. A person you’ve loved for what feels like forever, or someone you thought you had so much potential, chemistry, connection with and they’re just….gone. And maybe you’ll find your way back. Maybe it can be knitted back together. Or maybe they’ve run their course in your life. There’s no real way to know for certain right now.

I don’t deal well with uncertainty. Must be why I recently picked up the book I couldn’t get through two years ago called, *ahem*, The Art of Uncertainty. Topical, that.

It feels like so much around me is tenuous lately. Not sure where I stand in some situations and relationships, yet solidly planted with others, but watching swirling winds and circumstances trying to uproot me, or so it feels like. Occasionally swatting away ghost whispers in my ear from the past. Also fighting a tremendous feeling of powerlessness as I watch people I care about get blown round by the fierce winds of change. Doing the best I can with that all. Some days are easier than others. I keep reminding myself that I’m not the only one feeling some of these things: loss, loneliness, anger, confusion, exhaustion, desire, fire, fear, momentum, frustrating blows, massive change.

I’m right in the middle of a bunch of things happening and in some cases, I’m afforded the luxury of maintaining neutrality. But lately, not so much in others.

With myself, I’m uncovering parts of me that haven’t seen the light of day in more than five years. I thought my submissive and Dominant sides were hibernating…that’s noting compared to what I’ve rediscovered recently. Thankfully, I have some helpful guiding forces and people but it’s likely going to be a largely solo journey for a while. Which is fine. Plenty of work for me to do, which will keep me focused instead of…clingy and bothersome.

That whole discovery is also leading to some less cryptic things I have to face about myself. Like the unhealthy ways I’ve dealt with anxiety in the past that are now changing. Like the way I’ve allowed myself to become too sedentary in between events. I’m very grateful my job lets me telecommute, but I have to get my ass up from the computer regularly and exercise more than just the classes I teach.

Speaking of telecommuting, my husband and I recently decided we’re going to be moving back to the east coast. The flying back and forth is getting a little ridiculous in it’s frequency. No clear timeline yet, but we’re looking at the end of this year or the beginning of the next at the latest. A lot of factors have to go into that, though.

Had a weird experience today while shopping. A cognitive dissonance and body dysphoria I get when I’m in full butch mode. Which was today. And even though I knew that was the case, for some reason, I decided to go dress shopping and everything felt crazy wrong, even though parts of me are saying that on another day, I’d really like that dress. But all I want now are my Docs and a pair of hiking capris.

My brain and body is a strange place to be lately.

I’m not really sure the point of all this…just a rambling attempt to get out some of the things in my head and heart and life right now.

The Book MY Younger Self Could’ve Used in My First Poly Relationship

(Book review #4 – original post @ Cannonball Read 8…I’m a little behind in my blogging because of work and life, but here’s another review!)

Well, hell. This was a deceptive little book. It looks pretty slim and comes in at a scant 140 pages, which, I mean…after reading the unabridged Les Miserablès is downright tiny. And this is also a companion to a different book, The Husband Swap, but the same author which recounts her experience in polyamory and in a quad where she eventually wound up swapping husbands with another woman, but not before lots of heartache and personal growth. Which, for anyone familiar with polyamory, is…pretty much how it all goes down. There’s always at least one relationship that…transforms you. That breaks you open from the inside and changes everything you thought you knew about love, family, friendship, mental and emotional health, your own limits, and so much more.

My own experience with this kind of relationship was very similar to Louisa’s except I didn’t have someone to swap to. This may seem strange but it’s true. Her lessons and mistakes ran very parallel to my own and I’ve found myself looking back in a different way. With a little more understanding and a lot more peace. It’s helping me forgive myself for decisions I made that I sometimes wish I hadn’t.

I’m fond of the way she set up this book. Each chapter opens with as short excerpt from The Husband Swap, followed by two pages of the lessons she wants to teach her “younger self”. Right after that is the distilled version of the lesson, all pithy and quotable. The last four pages of the book are all the lessons listed in order, making referencing even easier.

One of my favorites was this one, which has taken me years to get to:

4. Be careful that the rules you make around your relationship aren’t an effort to push the emotional risk onto other people. You do not have the right to control others’ actions, only your own. You can and must express your own needs. But it’s up to you to seek partners who choose to do the things that help you feel loved, rather than making rules that they must do so.

It’s so much easier to make rules for other people. Or at least it used to. It was a way for them to “prove” their love. To “protect” my primacy. To give me a false sense of security. Now I’m much better at being comfortable with my partners figuring out how they want their other relationships to look and progress, and likewise have found people who feel the same. This was virtually impossible to imagine five years ago when I was still in my previous marriage. But then again, I wasn’t always good with change or imaging a future without the relationships I was in. I could’ve used lesson 17 back then, too:

17. Everything changes, and change is easier when you embrace it. You will get through it, and you might even fly like you never have before.

I’m working on embracing change. And that flying part. There are times when I catch wind and soar and it’s incredibly exhilarating.

However, I do have a confession to make. I’ve never read The Husband Swap. For some reason, this book called to me more than that one did and I feel like, while a companion guide, it stands alone quite well. The story was distilled into bite-size, easy to digest chunks and the lessons were swift and concise. Very grateful to have this book in my poly library.

Poly & Kink: The Music Issue

Ever since I was little, I’ve used music to help me make sense of my life.

I’ve written a bunch of songs over the years in an attempt to extract and analyze the worlds swirling inside me, and have many half-written songs that just don’t quite get there. It doesn’t help that I never fully developed the musical end of the song-writing process. Hopefully, that’s something that I can work on in the future. But in the meantime, it means I seek out music to sort out emotions, aid in rituals when I used to be more of a practicing pagan, find courage or solace, celebrate, swoon with when I’m falling in love, cry to when I’m breaking up, yank out anger that gets lodged deep inside, and any other emotion that I want assistance with going through or understanding.

This gets challenging when it comes to polyamory and kink. So much of popular music that’s easy to access and has to do with having feelings for someone is so laser focused on monogamy and anything darker tends to verge into abuse. I’m sick and tired of hearing about “one and only”, “only you”, “no one else”, etc. in pop music. The messages of forever and exclusivity are things I simply don’t feel.

I want music that mirrors the joy of discovery when there’s a new interest on the horizon, the floaty sensation of feelings being reciprocated, the non-exclusive way I feel about my husband, the way I feel when a relationship deepens, the emotions surrounding a poly family and living outside the lines when it comes to love and relationships, the joy of right now, hell, even that anxious feeling of “is this really happening?” (And I recently found one that hits THAT nail on the head that I can’t get out of my head lately. But more on that later.)

When it comes to kink, I want to find songs that speak to those darker, primal desires. I want driving beats or spooky and ambiant sounds that can mimic a musical soundscape that feels almost like subspace.

Since I’ve been doing both for a little over 15 years, I’ve been compiling songs over the years that work for me. Back then, it was harder to stumble upon songs because we didn’t have Spotify and all the everything that’s been uploaded to YouTube.

Back in the day, I made a mix CD series called “The Mormon Mix” (parts 1, 2, AND 3). Some of those songs have made it into current rotation again. Here are some that have worked and are currently go-to’s for me for poly:

  • The Polyamory Song – David Rovics (Classic and straight to the point)
  • Elaborate Lives (Reprise) – Aida OBCR (This is one is EXCEPTIONAL for difficult times, though it does have a note of hierarchical thinking to it.)
  • We Got Us – The Muppets
  • Independent Love Song – Scarlet
  • Into Me – Chantal Kreviazuk (this is the one that’s currently on loop in my head right now that matches the anxiety I’m trying to fight and the joy I feel. About how I’m afraid stuff that’s happening isn’t real, or that someone I care about will…leave. There’s a line that’s perfect for where I am right at this moment which is “I’m finally starting to believe that you and me and this thing, it’s really happening.” I love how it states flat out that it’s been a process of getting there, that it’s undefined, but it’s finally happening, whatever it is. Fills me with such happiness.)
  • Manta Rays – Ludo (I love the newness of this. Non-exclusive, new love feels all over this)
  • A Whole New World – Aladdin (Ah, Disney.)
  • How Your Love Makes Me Feel – Diamond Rio (this is pure joy of love in country song)
  • Epoch – HUMANWINE (It’s not really a song about poly, per se, but there’s this line “Sometimes, families change. You have to make your own. Sometimes families change; create your own” that’s always resonated with me with having a polycule of people who may or may not be dating, but is a family of people with the same values. Who encourages open love and exploration. It’s definitely a change from the family I grew up with.)
  • Just Enough – Charlotte Sometimes (a light, yearning song that strikes me as waiting for something to start, but it’s full of hope, but still…right before anything happens. And sometimes, the wait is just enough. I mean, sometimes you want things to happen NOW goddammit, but you have to wait until they can. I don’t know nothing about that. Nope.)
  • Sleeps with Butterflies – Tori Amos (OMG, this is perfect for me and my husband. It’s been with me a long time and it was hard to transition it from others to him, but it has always reminded me that we sometimes both need space to figure things out, but that we’re always here for each other. And that he can “fly” with others, but I believe I’m worth coming home to. I don’t want to hold onto the tail of his kite.) The chorus especially has gotten me through many troubled times:

You say the word
You know I will find you
Or if you need some time
I don’t mind
I don’t hold on
To the tail of your kite
I’m not like the girls that you’ve known
But I believe I’m worth coming home to
Kiss away night
This girl only sleeps with butterflies
With butterflies
So go on and fly then boy

  • Triad – Jefferson Airplane
  • Tonight and the Rest of My Life – Nina Gordon (just…that floaty feeling that you want to last forever)
  • Against the Night – Jason Webley (not totally a poly song, but it’s good in that it’s not exclusive and it’s a song about being there for someone when they’re having a difficult time. It’s one of those things that I think speaks to people especially who have anxiety or depression or other mental issues and are afraid there won’t be anyone there to help. This song is the response to that for the people who care.)
  • Some People Say – Allo Darling
  • Not Broken Yet – Juliet Simms (This song is the musical version of the pain and strife my husband and I have gone through, and the complications, but knowing that we have each other.)
  • Under Pressure – David Bowie & Queen (Seriously, the lines “‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word / And love dares you to care for / The people on the edge of the night / And love dares you to change our way of / Caring about ourselves” are like a poly/radical love rallying cry to me.)
  • Someone New – Hozier
  • Community Property – Steel Panther (When you need a laugh)
  • Bonnie & Clyde – Vermillion Lies

A little bit of poly and kink (to me):

  • Mouth – Merril Bainbridge
  • I Get Off – Halestorm (It could be read as creepy, but not when it’s consensual. And it’s so accurate it’d be scary if it didn’t turn me on so much.)
  • Hey Pretty – Poe (Poe is just so good. And the lines “I’ve got a mind full of wicked designs; I’ve got a non-stop hole in my head imagination” I’m like….YESSSSS.

And for kink:

  • Amazed – Poe
  • Bad Things – Jace Everett
  • Dangerous Game – Jekyll & Hyde (I was floored when I finally saw the musical…this is not a…good song in the musical. But for me, it always spoke to the intense interplay between a Dom and sub.)
  • Arsonist’s Lullaby – Hozier
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Pat Bentar (playful sub is playful)
  • Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac (Always gets me into Domme headspeace – funny how channeling a Welsh witch will do that…)
  • Be Prepared – The Lion King (Disney prolly would never understand how I interpret THAT song…)
  • Seven Devils – Florence + the Machine
  • Stripped – Shiny Toy Guns
  • Cruel to be Kind – Letters to Cleo
  • Girl Crush – Little Big Town (TOTAL cuckquean song – emotional masochism, anyone? So good when done right.)

So…what songs have resonated with you for poly and/or kink?