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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there’s music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday was fucking awesome.

For Valentine’s Day, I’mma love myself.

Recently, I’ve been terrified I was failing everything in life. I’ve felt behind, buried beneath, and bassackwards.

Turns out, I have been failing spectacularly.

I’ve been failing myself.

I have been my own worst enemy, afraid of my body. I had a resurgence of sexiness last year, but it dwindled by the end of the year and vanished completely in the last two months or so. I’ve become afraid it would drive those I love away, as it felt like it had in the past. It doesn’t help that two partners in my life have told me that they were no longer sexually attracted to my body because of it’s size. The first time it happened was devastating. The combination of derision in that partners’ eyes, along with the words that shot from their mouth was something I’ve spent years battling. The second time it happened made my heart sink but I also was able to hold my head up and have a discussion about it. There were tears. A lot of tears. I went for a drive. Had a conversation with a dear friend who reminded me to love myself, first and foremost.

Then I also remembered a scene recently where I was petrified to take off my clothing. I was not ordered to. In fact, Sir told me to get down to the lowest form of undress that I felt comfortable with. But with another wonderful person’s help, I got to the point where I thought, “was I really going to protect myself by keeping my pants and bra on? And if my body was going to drive him away, wouldn’t I want to know that now? And why would I want to be with someone like that anyway?” Something stronger than my fear told me I could trust the situation, Sir, and the scene.

So, I stripped to my panties and got to my knees where I belonged.

The scene was amazing and brought me places I haven’t been in years. During aftercare, though, my brain kicked in again and I got scared. Sir made me talk through the shit my brain was telling me and the conversation we had went something like this:

Me: I’m not good enough.
Sir: Wrong.
Me: I’m not pretty enough.
Sir: Wrong.
Me: I’m not submissive enough.
Sir: Very wrong.
Me: I’m too fucked up for you.
Sir: *laughter* Nope.
Me: I’m too old.
Sir: Nope.

By the end of that conversation, I felt more centered and safe again. Later, though, it kept banging around in my head. Apparently, it didn’t fully resonate until I was able to internalize and believe the answers myself. It’s a daily fight to believe it. But I’m prepared to fight. I posted a pic about three weeks ago from a scene back in November at GKE: Classic. It’s taken me over two months to post it because of body image issues.

Also, I started writing this post three weeks ago when I posted that pic and it’s taken three revisions to finally not be afraid posting it.

For some reason, it’s easy for me to see that my friends and partners and metamours are gorgeous and glorious, regardless (or maybe because) of their color, size, gender presentation, hairness, religion or lack thereof, mental health issues, neural diversity, etc. I think variety is good, healthy, necessary. One of my favorite quotes is still from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves:

“Allah loves wondrous variety.”

If this is the case, why is it so fucking hard to apply this to myself? Especially since I’m poly and have multiple partners? One would think that that would be enough to correct my brain, like, “hey, you’ve got multiple partners of different types. Why you no think you pretty?”

Because it goes beyond beauty. Because it’s also sexiness. And sex. I mean, society in general still has a fucking hard time being okay with the fact that not just young, thin, straight, white cis people fuck. Old people do. Fat people do. People of all ethnicities and genders and all kinds of people do (except some ace spectrum people…I see you, too…technically am still one of you to a certain extent.).

And I’ve had a really, really hard time admitting that/when I want attention. That elusive feeling of being desired. When it starts coming up, I hide. Retreat. Say I don’t need anything. The few times makeout sessions happened recently in the last few months have been stupid fucking difficult for me because I don’t think that the other person really wanted it to happen, even with what seemed like enthusiastic consent. It kind of impedes things, especially that being desired thing, if I don’t believe or trust that the person on the other end actually desires me when they are actively showing me that they do.

See, as a submissive, I’ve always loved to please those I care for, both in nonsexual and sexual service (for those with whom I have that type of relationship). It means I tend to initiate things in established relationships. Or used to. And back when I identified as a lesbian a million years ago, I thought I was a stone butch. I’m currently pansexual, and realizing that it wasn’t so much that I solely preferred to please my partner and not have it reciprocated so much as, at some point, I got scared to accept attention, especially in the sexual sphere. I have a hard time believing and trusting anyone could be attracted to me. I tend to need to be hit with a clue by four before I’ll even consider that someone could be sexually interested in me.

That one partners’ eyes come back to me and I’m thrown back, suddenly thinking, feeling this new person is going to wind up looking at me the same way, if they weren’t already. That my body is too big, my breasts are too weirdly small, and my double chin was eventually, if not right now, going to make them sneer at me. And even when I get past all this self-berating talk and difficulty from the past, I may or may not spend awhile asking if it’s real. And even then I may or may not spend a little longer thinking, “sure, okay. You like me now. But when is the other shoe gonna drop? When is the love in your eyes going to turn to disgust?” Might as well beat them to the punch, right? Tear myself down before anyone else can?

What? That’s served me ever so well.

*sigh*

Yeah, I don’t believe me either.

What I’m realizing is that I’ve spent so much time drawing my sense of value, worth, and sexiness based on what other people thought of me. In the relationship with the partner who chose an incredibly hurtful way to tell me they weren’t attracted to me anymore and why, sex had been falling off gradually and I felt like I had to beg (not in the good way) for any attention or interaction. That takes a toll. I think I kind of gave up. Decided I wasn’t worth it.

It took reading a post on Fet to make me understand how desperately I’d wanted someone(s) to be demonstratively, publicly proud of me so I could use it to try to constantly fight the feeling that anyone with me must be secretly ashamed of me and eventually going to leave me for someone younger and thinner and better.  That I’ve craved public displays of affection and dominance because my own self esteem says if it’s not happening, they don’t want it to happen because there’s something wrong with me. That I have a hard time talking about sex because I’m certain if it’s not happening or hasn’t happened in a long time, my body must be what’s wrong. And if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s clearly because they don’t want me. Not any number of other reasons, including, as I’ve recently been hit over the head with, hey…other people have fears and insecurities, too, and they may not want to push me or be sure that I’m attracted to them. These are not easy things to admit. But it’s not fair to try to use someone else to be a buffer or balm to things I have to deal with in myself.

So! I’ve recently tossed all those negative fucks out the window. I’mma love myself first.  I’m not going to draw my self worth from what someone else thinks of me. Or, I’m gonna endeavor not to. It is still a journey. My plan is to seek out people who want to explore and have fun with me and we’ll figure out what that means and what we do as we go along by talking directly to each other. It’ll be different with each person because we’re all unique people. I’m going to stop being my own worst goddamned enemy and running scared before I even get close to someone so they can’t hurt me first. I will hold my head up and rediscover my own fucking fuckableness.

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all. No matter who you’re with or not with or what kind of relationship style you’re in, may you find a center of love in yourself for yourself. As for me, life is kind enough to line up with these epiphanies I’ve been having and I’m spending Valentine’s Day night having dinner with a dear friend and picking up a vanity she’s giving me. If that’s not a message, I don’t know what is.

Relationship Evolution; or, I did not always poly like this.

Recently, I’ve been having a LOT of conversation about poly structure. With friends, with partners, with metamours. The title of this post was actually going to be a quote from one of those conversations, when talking about the oft-taboo subject of (dun, dun DUUUNNNNN) Veto Power. Currently, I have the philosophy and have expressed to my partners that there are only two situations where I feel Veto Power is appropriate and acceptable.

1. When the metamour is clearly abusive. This can be tricky because I’m not dating nor am I friends with any educationally certified people who can make this call. (If I am, I’m forgetting. Please remind me.) So it becomes a “this feels really fucked up and I don’t like it can we please talk about this” situation.

2. When the metamour is doing illegal things. Like, is clearly a criminal and influencing or involving your partner in those things. I’m not talking the kink line and WIIWD, but things like robbery. Or, hey. You’re dating the unabomber…stop that. (<- what the title of this post almost was.)

Otherwise…I don’t want to tell my partners what they can and can’t do with their bodies and hearts and I sure as fuck don’t want them telling me what I can and can’t do with mine. I make it clear that I like communication. Is there someone new on the horizon? Great! Lemme know. But then…that gets tricky.

What is “on the horizon”? I’ve run into this with a partner or two. What’s on my horizon is different from what’s on partner A’s horizon. As soon as I start feeling crushy feelings, like I want to actually flirt with someone, kiss someone, or play with them, that’s on my horizon. For partner A, that’s just Tuesday. So we talk about it. But I trust my partners to make choices for themselves and for us to find ways to feel special to each other and loved without having to assign a whole buncha labels or rules to it.

This is still very weird and new to me. I didn’t always poly this way.

Similarly, I never thought I’d get to this place, but I am firmly ensconced in anarchical, non-hierarchical poly. What that means to me is that I don’t see lines between partners in terms of importance anymore. I just…love.

Yes, I have a husband. And yes, some people see that as a “primary” relationship. I tend to call it a nesting relationship, which still, in the poly community carries its own level of feeling of primariness. But I realized the other day that if I were not married now, I likely would never get married again. I mean, I can’t say for certain. But it’s not something that means the same things it meant to me when I got remarried. It doesn’t mean I want a divorce. But it means that I am feel far more autonomous than I ever expected to.

I get to choose what I do with my body and my heart. He gets to choose the same. I may not always like his or other partners’ choices in people. In fact, there was one metamour that hurt my brain. They weren’t abusive, or criminal, but they had such a different way of looking at the world that my head actually cocked to the side in confusion almost every time they came up in conversation because their actions or words made little to no sense to me. But this was NOT a situation where I thought Veto Power was appropriate.

This is especially weird and new to me. I definitely did not always poly this way.

My previous long term poly triad was built on a relationship with one person that lasted 12.5ish years (the first 2 of which were monogamous) and another that lasted the latter 10 of those 12.5ish. We practiced hierarchy and rules and labels galore. I thought this would make me safe. I thought this was how it was supposed to be. I thought this was how you poly. And when I talked with other friends, partners, and people and found there were other ways, those ways scared the shit out of me. “How can you possibly know you’re important and loved if you don’t have a ring? Or the ranking of primary? Or secondary? How do you know where you fit?”

Well. It took years, and having the primary (and in other relationships secondary) status, and the rings, and the promises of forever, and the rules, and having them all change over time to make me realize that none of it is a security blanket. None of it guarantees that you won’t grow apart. Or closer together. Or that you might find someone you want to spend a LOT of time with but, fucking hell, could never live with. Or that you want to live with but not see a whole helluva lot. Or gives the best cuddles ever but maybe you’re not that sexually compatible. Or any number of things that I couldn’t even foresee right now but that have happened. I’m also still trying to figure out how and when to use certain labels like “partner”. For me, it’s always been a dividing line between people I’m sexual with or playing with or feel romantically towards. Or some combination of all three. But reading Kimchi Cuddles a lot lately, and talking to other people who have different perspectives, maybe “partner” is more individualized than that. Still trying to figure that out.

But given all this questioning and examination, it became pretty damn clear that I had to work to find different types of security. Other ways to feel special and loved. And I had to trust my partners when they told me that they loved me and I was special to them.

(That last part take a LOT of work. I still battle not feeling good enough, or feeling disposable, or like there’s some cosmic joke and this isn’t real, or they couldn’t possibly be as into me as I am into them, or any number of THIS ENDS IN THE BAD KIND OF FIRE feelings.)

But sometimes…

Sometimes, when I finally run out of fucks to give and face all of those fears head on, I find a place of solace. Where I can go…okay. You’re pretty awesome and I care about. You say I’m pretty awesome and you care about me. I’m going to believe you. Because right now, right here, this feels good and I want to feel this good feeling and don’t wanna second guess it and torture myself with what ifs. Because what if any of them happen? Then I’ll deal. It’ll suck, but I’ll deal. But right now isn’t what if. Right now is what IS. And I prefer what is, even when it hurts or is complicated or messy. Even when it means talking incessantly about something until everyone understands. Especially then. I’ve learned so much about people and understanding in the last few days, let alone the last few years.

Somehow, I got to a place where I don’t think people complete me. But I love how we compliment each other. I don’t look for people to fill in my missing pieces. I look for adventure. And energy that goes well with mine. Sometimes, like the musical Rent says, baggage that goes well with mine because, let’s face it, that’s totally a thing. I want people in my life that help me grow and explore and discover life and I aim to be that kind of person, too.

This is how I’ve evolved in poly. I don’t have the one twue way. I know it won’t work for everyone, and that’s fine. Hell, poly doesn’t work for everyone. You do you. I’mma do me. And maybe, if our venn diagrams have the right overlap, we can do each other in some way, sometime. Or just be friends. That’s cool, too. There’s just so many different ways to relate to people and I find it endlessly fascinating. And I’m sure there will be more evolution. Not sure what that’s gonna look like, but I’m curious to find out.

On guideposts, intentions, and manifesting the life I want.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to find peace with exactly who and what I am. To take pride in my thoughts, my appearance, my talents, my flaws and to stop this incessant worrying that I can’t be loved as I am.
-Anais Nin

Working on my List of Intentions for 2017. This quote is going to be a guidepost for me. It doesn’t, to me, mean there isn’t room for growth and change. But it reminds me to focus my energy on positive things, like growth and change, instead of “this incessant worrying that I can’t be loved as I am”, where ever I am on that journey.

I also want to try to worry less about fitting everything and everyone into specific boxes.

Specific list coming later, but currently the List of Intentions looks a lot like cultivating more love, kink, joy, growth, spirituality, creativity, understanding, learning, reaching out to help others, purging that which no longer serves me, figuring out what does serve me, how to better serve others, exploring my ever-evolving sexuality, deepening my switchiness while honoring and exercising my submissive core, and following the positive energy.

If you’d like to join me for any part of this in 2017, message me. Let’s see what we can discover together.

And yet: A poly/kink meditation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

SSV: And yet. I will likely refute it.

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SSV: And yet…that sounds like fun.

ASB explodes in a POOF

***

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

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

Comparisons: The Poly Pitfall of Doom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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