[New Year, New You] Week 17 – A Big Ritual

So…it’s been a minute since I’ve written here. On the plus side, much of it was due to the fact that August was full of activity. On the minus side, I was planning to write about two weeks ago, but then was rear-ended on the way home from the last camp of the season. August was surprisingly good. The last two weeks? Not so much.

But. I was able to do a “big” (for me) ritual as per week 17 on Deb’s New Year, New You challenge (which is taking me a year in an of itself, but whatever. My bff keeps telling me to do things in my own time and it looks like that’s what’s happening.)

I was a little trepidatious when I first read this writing prompt challenge. I don’t tend to do “big” rituals, unless it’s for a major holiday AND it’s with a circle of people. In my own solo practice, I keep it fairly simple. I look to music, the earth, the seasons, the moon, the sea, the weather, interactions with people for ways to do rituals. The biggest I get is with full moon rituals, usually, and even those are fairly quiet affairs with me, my portable altar and one or two ritual-specific extra items.

However, as Deb said in this post, “magic is about intent.” Add to that the fact that I was still recovering and healing from injuries and doing prep for a big ritual was not really possible on many levels. So I decided to take it a few steps beyond “spit, an herb, and a candle” and do a small, yet formalized ritual for the full moon that is the equivalent of a “big” ritual for me.

I was able to track down a ritual for the Aries full moon at Forever Conscious which seemed pretty perfect for everything I was dealing with. It was relatively simple, it was soothing, which I needed at that time, and was “going to help us get into a state where we can hear the softer voice of our heart and tune into our passions so we can make the changes we desire,” which I definitely need help with.

It took me a few days after the actual full moon to feel strong enough to even do a ritual, however simple it was, but I finally felt well enough right on the cusp of when the post said would be effective. I gathered my portable altar, the cucumber slices, a chalice of water, and did the ritual. The cucumber slices were remarkably soothing and overall, I felt a sense of calm and peace which I was profoundly grateful for, since I haven’t felt that way since the accident.

Doing this ritual hasn’t made my anxiety go away, but it has helped me accept that I need time to heal, on multiple levels, but especially from the accident. It reminded me that there is relief, there is support, and there is magic afoot. I greatly needed that reminder so I’m incredibly thankful that I’m on this journey of a new me this year. It’s funny how so many of the writing prompts are lining up with my life. That seems to me to be a very good clear indication that I’m on the right path, I hope.

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Dealing with Impossible Tasks

Last week, leading into a huge Labor Day Sales weekend (and I’m currently in sales, so I had some trepidation going into that weekend) I came across this post about a “never-discussed symptom of depression” called The Impossible Task. This started when Twitter user Molly Backes (@mollybackes) posted some tweets talking about the fact that depression commercials never talk about this. From the article:

The Impossible Task, as outlined by Backes, cannot be defined by a specific. It varies from person to person and hour to hour. What to others seems mundane and simple appears insurmountable to many who suffer from depression.

To further explain one of Molly’s tweets:
The Impossible Task could be anything: going to the bank, refilling your prescription, making your bed, checking your email, paying a bill. From the outside, its sudden impossibility makes ZERO sense.

YES. THIS ALL DAY YES.

For me, it’s not just depression but also a symptom of my anxiety disorder. I freeze with certain things. For instance, if my anxiety is really bad, it’s not uncommon for me to get a full blown anxiety attack in the frozen food section of Shoprite, feeling like the biggest weirdo in the world because I’m staring at frozen pizza, crying, feeling like the world has crashed in on me. This can happen in any large store or venue, actually. It’s happened in Walmart, IKEA, other large grocery stores, malls, large Goodwill shops, events, concerts, festivals. Any place that has a lot of people, a lot of choices, and nowhere for me to quickly retreat to feel safe and reset my brain will freak me the fuck out. And it makes little sense to most other people. I was once left in a record store on my birthday by a former partner because I couldn’t stop an anxiety attack.  Them telling me to “stop it” (and getting angry at me when I couldn’t) didn’t work, so they left.

Thankfully I now have people in my life who understand anxiety and depression a little bit better and know that telling someone to stop is not a helpful solution. I’ve learned (and tried to teach those closest to me who want to help) what things might could help when I’m in the throes anxiety and depression. But to people who don’t understand or have never had to deal with it, it makes NO SENSE.

Another Impossible Task I used to have a lot of consistent trouble with was making phone calls. I had what I would almost consider a phobia of phone calls. It didn’t matter how simple the call was, or how much I liked or loved the person on the other end, phone calls used to terrify me. Every once in a while, I could use fewer spoons to make or take a phone call, but generally, it took MANY if not all of my spoons. And many times, I just couldn’t do it. This one has improved a lot in the past few years, and I’m grateful to the person who magically helped with it. And while it’s come back a bit, it’s no where near where it used to be.

What fucks me up most, though, is when the Impossible Task is driving. This has only happened a few times in my life and it’s been brutal. Driving is my freedom. It’s how I cope with stress, depression, and anxiety. My car is the safest place I know and to not be able to get in my car and go…fucks with my head and makes everything else feel impossible.

Last week, right before I found the article I linked above, my best friend had invited me to join them for Vietnamese dinner as their treat. I’d been battling anxiety and depression for days at that point and this was an incredibly welcome invitation…except dinner was 45 minutes away where my best friend lived. And at that moment, I could not get in my car and and make that drive. A drive I’ve done countless times. Because I love to drive. I’ve happily driven four hours to see a partner, three hours to go to events, over an hour to see friends and visit the ocean. But on this day, even though it was to see my best friend for one of my favorite types of food, I could not make that drive. It was Impossible. I contemplated trying to mentally strong arm through it, and that almost threw me into a full blown panic attack, so I sent my regrets and asked for a rain check. Thankfully, my best friend is someone I can tell directly that I couldn’t do the drive. They were wonderful and gracious and supportive.

It’s incredibly frustrating for me, though, because I can usually multitask like a mofo, I’ve worked hard to become good at emotional labor for myself and creating a safe space for others, and pride myself on being competent and reliable and able to do complicated things quickly (well…depending on the things. I’m not an astrophysicist). My last job was all about that. Someone would be asking me a question, while my radio was going off, while I was on my way to do something else. And I would get into a zone, a flow state, working with synchronicity and trusting the Universe to guide me. The things got done. The questions got answered. Granted, I also had an amazing team helping me, but I was also confident and most comfortable (it only took about three years to get there…).

When anxiety or depression hit, though, or when they both hit at the same fucking time, it fucks me up royally. Because if my productivity gets hit, then I start to feel worthless. Like….what the fuck is wrong with me that I can’t make this ONE phone call? That I can’t complete a fucking grocery shopping excursion without weeping on my frozen green beans? Or why the hell can’t I put away that laundry? Why am I feeling a seizing panic when I think of sleeping anywhere but home? Why can’t I can’t just get in my car, crank up the music, and drive it all away?

And if I can’t do these things that I always am able to do, will people still care about me? Like, what good am I if I can’t perform basic human functions? And how will I ever see people I care about if I can’t fucking get to them? Also, how will I eat if I can’t even buy groceries? I tend to be really hard on myself and then I get locked in this loop of yelling at myself “what’s wrong with you; just stop it!” and trying to remind myself that it’s just anxiety, it’s just depression, they both lie, the world isn’t ending and I’m not losing everything and everyone. And yet, all people see is a weird person staring at a frozen food case or who just bolted out of a room.

Molly Backes says that we should try to apply the gentleness and empathy that most of us with depression (and anxiety) generally have towards others to ourselves. Which is waaaaay easier said than done. Especially in the middle of a full blown anxiety attack or depressive episode. But I’m working on it. And I’ve got wonderful people around me to remind me and help me with it.

Here’s to anyone else who also has to tackle the Impossible Tasks. You are not alone.

 

[New Year, New You] Week 16: Little Magics Everywhere

Aaaaand, I’m back to a mostly weekly schedule for this challenge, which is awesome.

This week, we’re working on “little magics everywhere“.

For my life, one of the little magics I’m doing is taking back my power from people I’ve given it to in the past who demonstrate that they are no longer worthy of it. One of the ways that a friend helped me do this is by reminding me that names have power and by changing what I call a thing or a person, I can change the power involved. So I’ve been doing that with some very odd but good results.

I’ve also been manifesting like a mofo and reaching out to other magically-inclined friends to help with that, which has been incredibly successful. Some goals for the upcoming week are to figure out some offerings to my guiding spirits, trying the prosperity shot glass trick, grounding and centering every night, figuring out a regular gratitude practice, and planning for the upcoming full moon and lunar eclipse.

This post might be shorter than most, but it feels like one of the more potent ones. I finally feel like I’m actually making progress. I might be tired, and lacking in some energy or direction, but I also finally, finally feel like I’m moving forward and not just mired in the past. Like some of healing I’ve been putting massive amounts of energy into is actually starting to happen. In not just mental and spiritual ways, but in actual physical ways.

I lost 11 pounds doing the No Sugar Vow. Chronic skin irritations are healing. I’ve mostly broken my dependence on food as a comfort or replacement for love and affection. When talking with a friend this weekend, I had said that life over the course of the last few weeks has at least helped me figure out a better direction for myself and where I would ultimately like to live, at least short term if an opportunity I was recently presented with doesn’t pan out. Just the fact that I was presented with that opportunity shows me that I’m opening up more to the world and possibilities and moving more towards who I really am, want to be, and what I want to work towards.

So that’s some pretty awesome little magics everywhere, I think!

 

[New Year, New You] Week 12 – Everyday You’re Hustling

So close to the last page of the writing prompts! I mean…it’s the longest page, what with ten prompts on it, but I’m almost there! I can do this! After this prompt, there’s only one more and then it’s the last page! I’m doing it! Look at me go! Thankfully, I’ve got some good momentum towards the hustlin’ I gotta do for this week.

So. What does hustlin’ mean in this context? From the original post:

I keep talking about breaking down your goals into small pieces. This week is about putting your money where your mouth is. I want you to keep a daily journal. In it, talk about what you’ve done that day to accomplish your goal(s). If you didn’t do something towards your goals, examine your reasons why. Were you really that busy or could you have taken a half hour to work towards your goals? What stopped you from making your goals a priority?

If there are days when you don’t do something that moves you closer to your goal, be sure to journal about what stopped you from getting there. This might be a good week to contemplate a phrase that’s often used in matters of the heart: Never make someone a priority when you’re only an option.

Have you made you an option instead of a priority? If so, it’s time to make yourself a priority so you can accomplish the things you want to accomplish.

Daily journal it is! Here is the journal from this past week, including steps for the day and daily tarot card draw:

Day one: (Card of the Day: Ace of Shells) helped a friend move. This challenged me to get over a fear from the last time I drove a big box truck (clipped a hearse…in a funeral processional…in front of a state tropper. I know how to do it up.) Thankfully, no hearses were harmed in the move this time. But I got my strongs on. Made my body active because one of my goals is to move more. Reached out to a friend for help and they were able to. Got a little sassy with them when we were parting ways, but it helped me establish better parameters. Passed along some vessels for a creative project they’re helping me with. Read a short story when I got home. Instead of going to quick fast food, I drove to Shoprite and bought a semi fast but way healthier dinner option (mmmmm, pad thai) and made that for myself. Took a delicious shower. Continuing my one card a day draw to get more familiar with my new tarot deck. 7702 steps.

Day two: (Card of the Day: Five of Shells) caught up on my two weeks behind writing goals and also started working on this week’s. Both posts focused on spirituality, which is a double bonus towards goals. Also, in the middle of the night, I felt compelled to do a 3 card draw about a situation I’m confused about. More confused, but I’m working on it. (Spread: Situation/Action/Outcome – Cards: Awakening, The Star, Love) Thanked friend for amazing tarot deck gift. 2378 steps.

Day three: (Card of the Day: King of Acorns) Opened up to a coworker about spiritual things. Listened to their stories and helped where I could and opened up to their guidance and assistance and knowledge. Still processing that. Might be it’s own post. Gave me perspective, though, on relationships, spirituality, my path, my abilities, some of my health issues. Stood up for myself in an argument. Asked a friend for help reseting my brain. I know that I have a lot of work and manifesting and challenges to go through yet and I’m already depleted and exhausted and just…want something good. Something that shuts my brain off. So I went to a friend I know who has the best track record so far to do that. Talked to a new friend about some poly and kink stuffs.  Also tarot. 1484 steps.

Day four: Day off from work! Slept waaaaaay the fuck in. Couldn’t fall asleep until around 4am and didn’t make it out of bed until around 2pm. Asked to reschedule an early morning meeting I had for a project I’m working on because I hadn’t slept. Turns out the meeting was the next day. D’oh! But yay for doing my best asking for what I need. Did some laundry. Set up dinner plans with best friend. Realized that that I really needed to see my therapist, so I apologized for the short notice but asked her for an appointment for Friday. She did. Awesome. Asked a close friend if they’d be available to talk anytime soon, because I sensed I was going to need support with some life stuff happening. Also wanted to get their feedback as someone whose opinion I trust. We set up a time to talk the next day. Didn’t get a response from friend about reset so I checked in. Turns out there was a tech glitch and my full message didn’t go through. Cleared it up and they agreed and are working on it. Realized when I was going to sleep that I didn’t do a daily card draw. Felt a way about it, but realized that I’ve been doing it very consistently, and my morning routine was very different because of morning phone call. Need to make sure I’m still paying attention to spirituality even when life changes. But also need to go with flow and not beat myself up abut not doing something. Don’t want to get locked into it becoming a crutch and superstition.  Worked a little bit on an event class me and a partner are developing. 1446 steps.

Day five: (Card of the Day: The Wheel) Day two off from work! Managed to get up earlier on time for early morning phone call, which went well. Had therapy. Also went well. Had phone convo with close friend about some major changes that I felt coming in my life and how some very life changing discussions were likely to be happening soon. Had lunch with another close friend to catch up and also talk about said major changes I felt coming. Had an incredibly hard, fucking painful convo re: some relationship things. 1941 steps.

Day six: (Card[s] of the Day: Awakening & Love jumped the deck. Actual pull was Five of Acorns) Crazy busy day at work. Took some time off from work to have lunch with best friend who was awesome and came to visit me at work to help keep me sane. Also good because they got something through to me that I’ve been having a hard time with. I need to ground and center every night. And it should involve yoga. Messaged back a new connection I met at Beltane to talk about future stuff. Stood up for myself and said when I wasn’t comfortable with something with someone at work. Sang. Didn’t accomplish much else in terms of creative or health goals (well, making sure I ate on a holiday weekend was good towards my health.) But had no energy to do anything else after I got home after 14 hours of work. 2075 steps.

Day seven: (Card of the Day: The Tower) Another crazy busy day at work. Stayed in touch with most of my Amazon Network for support. Got to know a new (to me) coworker and that was fun. My best friend recommended I try to keep positives in my heart and let them carry me. Had a good success with that. Left work early (yay for splits!) Had dinner with nesting partner and then decided to go see Solo. 1437 steps.

All in all, it’s a good-ish week in terms of goals, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

Here’s the shortlist of goals I’m working towards (from Week 2 of the writing challenge):

  • Creativity – music, writing, drawing
  • Spirituality – practicing more, meditating again, yoga
  • Kink – honoring all sides of the slash, seeking out play, educating myself more about the scene, honing my classes
  • Health – mental, physical, emotional
  • Authentic Relationships – better communication, being my most authentic self, fixing my own fuck ups and holding others accountable for theirs, seeking better connections and not settling
  • Cleaning – organizing, downsizing, not living like a trash panda

And here’s a breakdown of how I did adhering to those goals this week:

Creativity: Wrote two posts and started working on two others. Sang almost every day, even if it was only just in my car. Did sing one day for coworker.

Spirituality: I’m doing well with spirituality, I think. Want to do better with actual rituals and manifesting. And read more about tarot. Learn both my decks better. But I’m doing my morning draws, learning various spreads. Talking with people about it to learn more.

Kink: Worked a little on class I’m developing with a partner. Reached out for reset. Worked on new groundwork for new connection. Talked a bit with dear friend about scene possibilities.

Health: I think I did stellar for my mental health this week. Therapy, looking for a reset, talking with Amazon Network, taking some time away from work for mental and physical health breaks for important things like connecting to friends and eating foods. Honoring my emotional and mental limitations. Trying to get enough sleep. Need to walk more. Need to eat better. Going to be working on a meal plan soon with a dear friend. Took my meds every day. Stayed pretty hydrated.

Authentic Relationships: Staying connected to Amazon Network, having really fucking difficult conversations and honoring the weirdness of relationship changes but also that love doesn’t have to look one way. Being fairly blunt and not letting my brain get into the same traps with certain people as it has in the past year.

Cleaning: This is the one I fail the most hardcore on. I’m in such a cleaning rut. I don’t remember which day it was, but I did clean one bathroom counter. Took care of the dishes a few times. Did some laundry. But otherwise, I really need to downsize more and quicker. Sell and give away stuff. Go through paperwork and clean out my car.

So now, I think I’m going to come up with some short term goals within the framework of these bigger, long term goals to help me keep working towards them. Can’t wait to work on that and next week’s writing prompt!

[New Year, New You] – Week 9: Lessons

This week’s writing prompt is one of reflection. Has it really been 9 weeks since I started this? It feels like longer. Well…technically, it has been longer. I started on December 28th. That means it’s been 14.5 weeks. Which makes sense, since I lost about a month to the explosion and resulting dumpster fire from my old job. But we have to keep on keepin’ on, right?

So I picked back up and now I’m mostly on the weekly schedule, give or take a day or two. But still….it feels longer than even that 14.5 weeks. There’s just been so much that’s happened. Said dumpster fire, a break up, heavy conversations and considerations about how I need to move forward with Relationships, starting a new job, starting to write more frequently (six out of seven days this week!), asking for lots of help, working through a  fuckton of fear, changing perceptions about many people I thought I knew, ceasing kink for a while to reassess my foundation and communication, picking it back up slowly, all those resulting conversations, reclaiming my Pagan roots and practicing more, financial and health concerns, a national conversation about SESTA/FOSTA, Stormy Daniels, and the latest chucklefuckery of 45. It’s been a fucking LOT.

What have I learned? That I have to keep going in the direction of the next best step. That incremental change is more than good, it’s necessary. That even though I may want certain things right now or be afraid that I’ll never get them/there, I have to slow down and, as we’re told at work, trust the process.

Oh, if only one of my first therapists could see me now. Richard was the first person I came out to. And I was fucking terrified. I couldn’t look him in the eyes. I was being raised by an activist mother who taught me that I could be whatever I wanted, and I knew she’d love me no matter what my sexuality. But I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about being, at the time, a lesbian. And forget trying to tell my dad. That was not something I’d have courage to do until about twenty years later when I handed him an invitation to my poly wedding – to one man (whom I was already legally married to) and one woman. I figured two closets for the price of one invitation, right?

But when I was sixteen, I had some serious arrested development and bone-level terror. Of myself, the world, the future. Richard was one of the kindest, open people I’d ever met and I felt comfortable with him. Still, I was scared. I think it took about two sessions for me to say the words aloud. And I couldn’t look at him when I did it, because I was so afraid of what I’d see in his eyes. Disgust. Derision.

But there was none of that. There was only warmth and a slight gleam in his eyes. Through more sessions, I think he said he had an idea of what I was trying to get out but wanted me to get there on my own. He was very big on “the process”. Everything was “a process”. It used to make me so mad. When he was about to say that something was “a process” I would glare at him and tell him he better not be about to tell me it’s that fucking p-word. He would chuckle. But now over twenty years later, I’m learning how right he was. You can’t read a book all in one second. Or listen to a song in a second. Things aren’t instantaneous. They take time to plant, cultivate, water, grow, flower. It’s a motherfucking process.

That’s probably the thing I’ve learned all too well over the past few months. That fucking process. And an important part of the process is starting.

One of my favorite books is “The Laws of Spirit: A Tale of Transformation” by Dan Millman. It’s a short book that packs a punch about a guy who goes for a hike in the woods and winds up meeting a mountain sage. She takes him on a journey that’s marked by a few different chapters/laws that have major life lessons as titles. The Law of Action opens with the mountain sage telling the narrator to pick a direction when they come to a spot in the woods where the path diverges in three directions. The narrator points at one path. The sage repeats herself and tells him to pick a path. He points again, saying he chose that path. Getting more irritated, the sage tells him yet again to pick a damn path already fer fuck’s sake. Finally, he gets it and starts walking that path.

This has stuck with me for nearly two decades. Action is a requirement to get things that I want. I have to deal with, talk about, fucking process, and ultimately do. Walk in the direction of my dreams. Y’know, once I figure out what the hell they are for this part of my life.

Song of the week: “Believer” by Imagine Dragons

Singing from heartache from the pain
Taking my message from the veins
Speaking my lesson from the brain
Seeing the beauty through the
Pain
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer
(Pain, pain)
You break me down, you build me up, believer, believer
(Pain)
Oh let the bullets fly, oh let them rain
My life, my love, my drive, it came from
(Pain)
You made me a, you made me a believer, believer

 

 

[New Year, New You] Week 8 – Asking for Help

I’m getting better at asking for help. Which is awesome, because this week’s writing prompt is about asking for help and I’ve already done it a few times in the past few weeks.

Here are the ways I’ve asked in the past few weeks:

  • asked a friend for help with writing check-ins so I can motivate my ass with some accountability
  • asked a friend for some help with spellwork
  • saw my therapist again and asked for help with figuring out what I’m looking for in terms of healthier relationships
  • asked nesting partner to take care of dinner twice this week and do a small round of grocery shopping
  • asked a friend for help with figuring out and talking about things I’m looking for in D/s and sex

I’ve also offered help to friends if they needed anything that I had bandwidth/spoons for, so it totally goes both ways. But I’m also learning not to just give and give until I have nothing left. It feels pretty damn good to be able to open up to accepting help from people I trust and also having them follow through.

There are a few other things coming up I know I’ll have to ask for help with, so I’m gearing up for that, as well. Overall, this might be a short post, but I’m glad for it’s being a writing prompt for this week. It’s important to be receptive to asking and accepting help on your path, especially if you’re on a path of discovery, adventure, change, and growth.

Song of the week: “Trouble Me” by 10,000 Maniacs

Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and you worries.
Trouble me on the days when you feel spent.
Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden when my back is sturdy and strong?
Trouble me.
****
Spare me? Don’t spare me anything troubling.
Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and you worries.
Speak to me and let our words build a shelter from the storm.
Lastly, let me know what I can mend.
There’s more, honestly, than my sweet friend, you can see.
Trust is what I’m offering if you trouble me.

 

Advanced Cartography: Rewriting Maps & Navigating Cars, Love, and Polyamory/RA

When I was sixteen, I had to take a test at a local community college. My mom and I were dirt fucking poor – on welfare, food stamps, housing assistance. Her old car was hanging on by a thread…no heat and this was in a bitter fucking winter, one of the windows wouldn’t stay up so we had to pull it up every once in a while, radio was broken.

We tried to make a game of it, though. When it was really cold, like the day I took the test, we would pile blankets across us and pretend like we were going on a sleigh ride. The car died on the road leading into the community college. I got out and pushed it until we got to a hill further in and we coasted into a parking space. Took my test. I passed (somehow with the second highest score in the state) but honestly don’t know how because I was trying not panic, thinking about how we were going to get home with the car, y’know, not working and all. My mom kept trying to reassure me as I went in that she would take care of it. And she did. She called my dad. My dad owned a body shop and helped us fix the car. This might seem like NBD, except they’d been divorced at this point for about ten years and neither were the other’s favorite person. But. We were out of options and my dad did it to help me.

I’ve never had a new car. I’ve never even bought my own used car. The cars I’ve had all were given to me, and I realize how fortunate I am in that. The downside is that they are usually high in mileage, or wrecks that my dad fixed up and gave to me. Most lasted for at least a year or two, with their myriad quirks. One decided it didn’t want to go in reverse anymore. That was a fun challenge, to try to always park in such a way that we didn’t have to back out of anywhere. One had a “police door”, as we called it. (The back door had child locks that apparently decided they wanted to stay on all the time so the door had to be opened from the outside.) Another became possessed and started repeatedly activating the power door locks…while I was driving.

I was also incredibly fortunate to have amazing almost in-laws who then became my in-laws and who gave me their gently loved cars with high mileage. I still have one of those cars. She’s lasted longer with me than that marriage did, ironically.

My cars and I bond. I love them dearly. I remember the one that had the pair of dice by the dashboard light because one of my exes had a penchant for Meat Loaf and an adorable sense of humor. I remember the one that I fell in love with because it was deep green and had curvy lines like a zaftig woman’s body. I love(d) all these cars because they were freedom to me. They got me places I could barely dream about when I was little. Out of bad situations I couldn’t get myself out of when I wasn’t old enough to have a car. They are the place where I feel most comfortable, in some ways…I can have intense discussions, sing, choreograph burlesque routines (from the waist up and in my head, of course), see new places, get to sacred spaces, meet up with people who are important to me, help the people I care about by bringing them places or things. Even to this day, when I think about being without a car, I have to fight multiple panic attacks.

Like I said, though, they all had/have their quirks. Sometimes those quirks are repairs I can’t afford to make but don’t technically have to. For example, a cosmetic dent from a hit and run I didn’t even know happened until I got out of work. Since there’s no one to hold accountable and I didn’t have money for health insurance at the time, let alone cosmetic car repairs, there was no way I could get a new bumper. Also, it wasn’t a safety hazard, so it was low on my and my dad’s priority fix list.

One of the most nerve-wracking things about these cars, though, is taking them through inspection. Because often, with older, high mileage cars, the check engine light was on. Or going off and on. I’ve recently been told by a friend that this is usually just a faulty gas cap and if you make sure it’s secure and tightly sealed, all will be well after a day or two. This wasn’t knowledge I had, though, over the past two decades of driving. Which meant that most of the time, I figured it was something I didn’t have money to fix, so I had to pray that the car held out until another one came along or until my dad was able to have a friend fix it. There were short term fixes we learned for various problems. Or sometimes we would get lucky and the light would go off and we’d race to the inspection station and try to get it through before the light came back on and we flunked before they checked anything.

“Quick, get it in before it starts throwing codes!” was the rallying cry.

Sometimes we got lucky and passed. Usually, when we did, the check engine light came back on a few days later. But it was okay. (“Okay”). The old sticker had already been scraped away and a shiny new sticker put in its place, marking the car as valid. It was the stamp of approval so we didn’t have to worry constantly about the cops pulling us over, regardless of what the light said.

Old, out of date maps

Lately, I’m finding an odd parallel between how I was taught to procure cars and what I learned love was supposed to look like. A high percentage of people I’ve been attracted to share some of these traits from formative relationships in my childhood:

  • work-a-holic
  • obsessive personality
  • presently or previously addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other types of highs
  • charming & charismatic (for my magical friends, glamour for daaaaaayyyyyssss)
  • unpredictable
  • being showered with affection then starved for attention and when/if I can manage to ask for some I’m too greedy or demanding. Or selfish
  • being hurt and told it’s my fault. Or that it didn’t happen. Or having it be ignored
  • being in constant vigilance so often I don’t even realize it’s become a normal state as I deal with one fucked up situation after another because shit just keeps happening
  • low emotional intelligence and communication
  • long periods of unavailability
  • anger issues
  • not seeing or interacting with who I am, just what they see me as and what I can do for them
  • abandonment

Shit, when it’s spelled out like that, it’s not all that attractive. But…they manifest in such intriguing ways. Dancing eyes. Saying all the right things. That work-a-holic thing is “just dedication”. Obsessiveness can be so sweet at first when it’s directed at you. So if you look at these Relationships in a certain way, in the right light, on a good day, after an amazing scene, they look fine. The statuses on social media seem accurate. They’ll pass inspection. To the outside world, the relationship is up and running, doing well. Only the people inside it know the anxiety of the seeing the metaphorical check engine light on, or knowing that the symbolic heat doesn’t work, or that you really wish a particular damn window would stay up, especially when it’s fucking snowing outside. It can get really fucking cold and sad when this happens.

And if the check engine light isn’t on, there are times when it feels like these relationships are on the verge of throwing “relationship codes” – different sex drives, lack of communication, goals and ideals not lining up, wildly different kink drives, no pick up…play, fixes we can’t afford to make because they live far away and gas is expensive and we all live elaborate lives. So many codes that can spell disaster for trying to pass the test. For trying to convince yourself that you’ve got a little more time. That maybe it will all work itself out and the light will stay out.

And then I read this post by Page Turner.

This paragraph really hit home:

Yes, I drank and actually enjoyed terrible coffee for years without knowing it could be any different. And now I drink coffee that’s rather snobby compared to what I grew up on. But the same thing happened with love. I was just happy to have anybody in my life. I didn’t know what it was like to be really appreciated. To be cherished.

I would love to have a car I don’t have to worry about, but I don’t really know any different. I’ve never had that experience of new, fresh, and smooth. Waiting, saving, and picking exactly what I want. It’s always been what’s available. Buying a new or even used car has so far been entirely outside of my realm of experience.

Likewise, I don’t have a lot of experience with consistently being loved in a way that feels right to me once the NRE has worn off. My current dream is to eventually, when I’m looking again, find more capital-R-Relationships that could maybe turn me into a love snob. For most of my life, and especially the past few years, I have been stunned that anyone wanted to be in a relationship with me at all (capital or not). I’ve gotten into a Relationship or two because people were available and interested, and I was definitely interested, too. But I didn’t think too much about what it all meant and how it all fit…and if it fit at all. If they had the same values. If what we were looking for lined up. And if they loved me the way I wanted and valued me. Because it’s been a hard path to realize that just because someone wants you, doesn’t mean they value you. Or just because someone loves you doesn’t mean that they love you in a way that you want to be loved. Love itself doesn’t make relationships last. Likewise, it’s a hard road to open yourself up to people who might could love and/or care about you in ways you’re realizing you want, because those ways don’t look like ways you’re used to.

Figuring out how to navigate love is confusing as fuck to me

Especially because being without a relationship in polyamory used to make me panic nearly as much as being without a car. How would I get physical touch? Would I ever play or make out again? Would anyone love me again if I’m not already in a Relationship? Like they say it’s easier to get a job when you have a job, it’s easier to find people when you already have them, right? It’s taken me a really long time to realize that much of these thoughts are severely co-dependent. A good friend gave me a copy of “Co-Dependent No More” and even though I’m bristling at some of it, I know that’s because it’s all too familiar and applicable to me and my life. The more I want to throw it across the room, the more I know there are lessons that I need to learn.

There’s a quote in the chapter I just started that says “I’m fiercely independent…as long as I’m in a relationship.” That gut-punched me. I’m terrified to be alone…and yet I’m also craving to live alone for the first time in my life. I’ve run out of bandwidth and spoons for capital-R-Relationships. I finally know that adding a new Relationship isn’t going to fix anything (ask me how many times I had to do it to figure that out… *headdesk*)

As I skew more and more towards relationship anarchy, though, I’m trying to learn how to be in relationships (friendships, chosen and blood family, etc) that are what I create with the other person, not about what society tells me any of it should look like. That I get to ask for what I want instead of trying to fit things into a certain box or taking what’s in front of me, like the cars I was given, because they’re what’s available.

And yes, I do know that relationships aren’t actually cars

Cars are not people. In fact, in the words of a dear friend to me recently, “You are not a car. You are a person.” They were referring to someone I was interested in, who had a propensity for “chasing cars”.

I get it. (Still totally needed to hear it, then, though.)

But.

There’s a similar feeling towards them both given how I learned to view them in my life. And I realize this might not be universal, but it’s what I’ve got. First, I learned a very specific way that getting a car looked. Similarly, I learned early on what love looked like. All the “driving” in between is a combination of amazing, exhilarating, utilitarian, pedestrian, and thrilling. And then, when the paralyzing fear that the relationship’s or car’s life end is coming, I don’t know how to do it. I don’t know how to pull the plug. Like I said in a recent post, I don’t have a lot of skills built up in breaking up. When I don’t know where my next “car” is coming from and I have no money (or energy) to find another, saying “this is not working. It’s time to stop” feels so…wrong. I never fully learned how to embrace my own autonomy and strength to say, “nope. This ain’t working. I’d rather be alone than deal with this. I will figure it out from here but this sure as hell ain’t gonna continue.” I just…wait for it to just die. Or for something bad enough to happen.

There was one time when I found out a partner cheated on me; I literally packed all my shit and was states away before they got home from work. I had made it clear it was a hard limit and I’d leave if it happened. Hard limit was crossed. I was gone. That equation was so simple.

But what do you do when the equation isn’t simple? When there isn’t a bad person? When you love someone but you don’t want to continue in the way you have been? When you want to try to preserve some parts of what you love about and with that other person and you’re afraid that if you bring up changes you’d like to try, you’ll break everything and lose that person? I know, I know. I can’t control how the other person will react or feel. And that’s where communication comes in. And believe me, I’ve been having some really hard fucking conversations lately. Conversations that felt like it would be easier and less painful to just rip my fucking heart out and throw it out the window. Conversations that made my whole body tense up, even though it might be a good change. Conversations that were a long time coming and hurt like hell but also felt like an immense relief to finally have and come to an agreement.

I’ve broken up with a few people when we both were at the point of “you know, this just isn’t working right now. Let’s go back to being friends. I think that’s better for the foreseeable future.” Sometimes that worked out and sometimes it didn’t.

But one of the things I struggle with is saying all of this:

This isn’t working for me. I deserve and want more. I want to feel valued. Cherished. Desired. Like I’m someone you want to spend time with and make an effort to. I love you, but sometimes love isn’t enough.

Especially since it makes me feel like I’m a failure. If I were better somehow, I could make it work. Just add more duct tape! Adjust your expectations and desires until the little bits you’re getting seem so filling! Hell, if Alanis can feast on scraps, so can you!

Except…after a while, humans can grow accustomed to so many things. Shitty things and  awesome things…we’re remarkably adaptable. But if we keep adjusting our expectations beyond what we actually, really want, we wind up starving, dehydrated, and driving around in a broken down relationship and not wanting to give it up because you feel like you’ll never get another one again.

Seems like a good time for a song cue…

it is enough to have some love
small enough to slip inside the cracks
the pieces don’t fit together so good
with all the breaking and all the gluing back

and i am still not getting what i want
i want to touch the back of your right arm
i wish you could remind me who i was
because every day I’m a little further off

but you are, my love, the astronaut
flying in the face of science
i will gladly stay an afterthought
just bring back some nice reminders

“Astronaut: A Short History of Nearly Nothing” by Amanda Fucking Palmer

And cue the internet supplying me with advice yet again, in the form of this article making a great case for a good reframing…that of reframing what a “failed” relationship is. It’s a little monogamy-centric for me, but much still applies. This part especially:

“…stripping away the success/failure dichotomy and replacing it with an experiential narrative. You lived, you loved, you learned. Now, what did you learn? This perspective has transformed how I date, have sex, and manage my relationships. I encourage you to do the same.

Rather than focusing on doing everything right, it’s better and more rewarding to view each new person in your life as an opportunity to learn, grow, and connect.”

Letting the right ones in

Basically, I’m learning. And unlearning…at the same time. Trying to unravel decades of behavior and messages in a few months. Having hard convos and doing my best to be honest and to listen to the people I trust. I’m incredibly fortunate to have some amazing people in my life to have awesome conversations with about sexuality, sex, art, gender, kink, politics, and life, who encourage my creativity and who open up to my encouragement, who want to play with and make out and have sex with me, who cuddle me and let me cuddle them, who challenge me and demonstrate healthier ways to love on a regular basis. And who show me all the many ways to love and care about someone. That love and/or caring doesn’t have to be reserved for capital-R-Relationships. That it doesn’t have to look like the fucked up ways I learned it looked like growing up.

It’s funny; last year, my friend Deb crafted a limited edition essential oil blend for Valentine’s Day called “Let the Right One In”, based on the Morrissey song of the same name. I did what I almost never do…I bought it scent unsmelled. I just felt…compelled to. When it arrived, I adored it in the bottle and even more on me. I’ve worn it sporadically though out the last year. It’s always interesting to see who likes the scent on me and who doesn’t. Generally, I’ve found the people who like it are the “right” ones that I’ve been cultivating more fulfilling relationships with and the ones who don’t like it on me…well, those relationships aren’t doing so well right now or have already ended. The poly/RA person in me wishes that it wasn’t a singular subject in the song, but such is life. I sing it and pluralize “one” like below:

Let the right one[s] in
Let the old dreams die
Let the wrong ones go
They cannot
They cannot
They cannot do what you want them to do
Oh…

In closing, I find this Kimchi Cuddles comic that just came up in my “On this day” FB feed yesterday to also be remarkably appropriate:

KimchiCuddles-TikvaWolf-572