Just start.

My best friend sent this to me today after I sent him an email jam-packed with pain that I’ve been having a hard time articulating.

Start now.
Start where you are.
Start with fear.
Start with pain.
Start with doubt.
Start with hands shaking.
Start with voice trembling but start.
Start and don’t stop.
Start where you are, with what you have.
Just . . . start.

-Ijeoma Umebinyuo

When I first read it, paralysis side-swiped me. But I’ve surrendered to it, and marinated in it, and as I was cruising a website, I remembered something about someone I recently met. That they’re a photographer. And the description of how they shoot and how they regard their models was enough to make me at least reach out and inquire about what it would take to do a shoot. Because I made a promise to myself earlier this year to work for: 

Radical personal body acceptance including:

  • more photo shoots
  • more acceptance of the three parts of my body I have the most trouble loving
  • actively hone body self confidence and increase time spent with people who bolster that in me and themselves and others

Also, it made me look up Ijeoma Umebinyuo and holy fuck, she amazing and now I need to read her book.

And even though I updated the list that promise was part of in March, to include a resurgence of interest I had then in sex, that part didn’t change.

I realized, I’m also starting in other ways, recently, too. I’m pursuing some play opportunities with old and new friends, writing ISOs for events again, and I made arrangements to go a new(ish) kink event with a friend next weekend.

It might be time for a 3/4 year check in post for that bucket list, now that I think about it, because I’ve also discovered two things that weren’t on my radar when this year began that I now want to try. Also, I’m behind in reading and want to kick my own ass into gear for that.

Now I just also have to figure out how to take better care of my body. Been trying to take better care of my mind. Got a therapist, who’s awesome. Started writing more, including writing about my pronouns and struggle with gender. I want to write more even more frequently, and I’m trying to write more songs. Went to a song writers meet up a few months ago. Have to go back soon. Also sang in public on the boardwalk. Want to do that again soon. Have been trying to find different ways to communicate with people to get needs met. Trying to make my life better. It just hurts a lot and is really difficult right now. But.

I’m starting.

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I am not a means to an end.

I am NOT a means to an end.

Brain: But…

No, brain. I am not a means to an end.

Heart: Are you sure…

Hey…heart. I am not a means to an end.

Body: Really…?

Really, body. Fuckin’ listen up: I am not a means to an end.

The phrase “you are not a means to an end” came up in therapy recently and I can’t get it out of my head. When my therapist first said it, the room felt very still and I had to remind myself to breathe as the tears formed. Suddenly, I felt the need to both protect myself and be vulnerable.

It keeps popping up at inconvenient times, and suddenly I’m crying on a bench next to a stranger while waiting for my car to be done getting an oil change.

Why is this so hard to believe?

When did I stop thinking I was worthy of attention and affection just…for myself? When did that become so hard to accept, yet something that I crave to the point of near desperation lately?

I know I’m primarily a submissive, but I also know enough, learned enough, was trained well enough to know that submissive does not equal doormat, in the paraphrased words of my best friend. That yes, I love to serve. And while I’m also a switch, my core is pure submissive. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have needs and desires.

A partner once wrote to me that “as much as it is your responsibility to serve me, it is my responsibility to make you feel loved and make sure you have what you need and sometimes what you want.”

When I first read it, I also cried.

There’s been a lot of crying lately.

There’s also this comic by the wonderful Sarah Andersen, making the rounds.

But this one really hit me as I stumbled across it on a friend’s FB feed. Caring for the animal within. 

And I have no problem telling other people, especially submissives, that they have to put their own oxygen mask on first.

As it came up in therapy, though, I’m so used to giving. Making sure the people I care about have what they want and need beyond my own natural warning signs of “Empty! Need refuel!” as a method of survival that it’s just…what I do. And there’s also the times when, I’ve tried repeatedly to communicate what I want and need to various partners and the many times it’s been misunderstood, delayed forever, or just completely ignored. Sometimes, I’ve stopped asking. I’m not proud of that. Sometimes, I keep trying and once finally asked a question that wound up setting off a domino effect of that particular relationship ending.

Earlier this year, I had some wonderful experiences with someone who wanted to…do things for/to me because they wanted to. And because I asked or made it clear that I wanted certain things. It was…difficult to relax into. My brain went into hyperdrive anxiety, wondering if I looked okay/attractive, if I smelled okay, if the noises I was making were okay, getting frustrated with myself for not coming “quick enough”, and I tried to keep all this under control and not go into a full on anxiety attack for experiences that were supposed to be, and largely were, good. Some times, I even succeeded. It was the closest I’ve come lately to enjoying the moment and savoring the hell out of those experiences, but I still…struggled.

To be very clear, these were all my own hang ups. None of it came from the other person. In fact, they were amazing beyond amazing with telling me that all the things were fine, good, appealing, and showing me that they actively wanted to be where they were and doing what they were doing. Which included waking up parts of me I didn’t even think were responsive (or, wait….how the hell did you do that?! That part of me never reacts like that!), introducing me to dropping into sub space briefly with someone who was not a Dominant or Master/Mistress to me (well, that was a cool brief dip into subspace with no melancholy for wishing things could be different with you or anyone else; how the fuck did that happen?), and showing me by example the joy of relishing the moment for what it is.

This wasn’t fueled by NRE, that I know of. We’d kind of ridden a lot of that out by starting to build a friendship. It wasn’t driven by a desire to get me back after a breakup. Nor was it done, to the best of my knowledge and belief about this person, as a means to an end. I wasn’t a means to an end. It was shared experiences. And I don’t think I realized until recently just how fucking hard it was for me.

I hate that.

I hate that it was so hard for me to follow good feelings, hard to be treated like I was desirable, hard to admit that I desired things, and accept those things once talked about and freely given. Sex in general can be difficult for me. I have strong cuckquean and con non-con fetishes that are actually fetishes…like I need to think about one of those two things to get off 95% of the time, both when I masturbate or when I’m with other people. Both of those are built around denial of my own needs and desires and other people using me, taking what they want. For the very (very) few people that I feel comfortable being sexual with, that’s where my mind goes. When I don’t have an established D/s connection with that person, or that person isn’t into either of those things…my brain apparently gets a little messed up. It doesn’t know how to process…”do this because it feels good. You said you wanted it, and this person wants to give it to you, and that’s okay.”

I don’t know if it’s tied to my difficulty practicing self care or if it’s something different, but it feels right now like it’s tied together somehow. Like maybe I eroticized difficult things that’ve happened in my life so that I could reclaim them. But if so, the pendulum has swung so wildly in the other direction and I’ve forgotten how to relax into feeling good.

There are, apparently, a lot of things I’ve forgotten or fallen out of practice with. Like practicing. Magic and music. Like writing. Like intense, regular exercise. Like eating well and drinking water.

Once upon a time, I didn’t drink enough water at an event I was working. I wound up having an episode and being taken to see the EMTs. They ordered me to rest and hydrate. At the end of the weekend, someone else ordered me to my knees, handed me a glass of water, and told me to stay that way for 10 minutes and that maybe that would help me remember the importance of staying hydrated.

For the next few months, I was the best hydrated I’d ever been in my life.

Last month, there was an event that I had to work and I knew it was going to be difficult for many reasons. So I set myself into self-care overdrive mode. I knew that I wouldn’t have my best friend & PA there to help make sure I ate and drank, so I arranged with a few different people to help me with that and made sure to get some fairly healthy snacks to also help. I reached out to my magic-minded friends (and the internets) to relearn how to set up a portable altar, because it’d been years since I’d done that. I made lists, brought extra things to nest my hotel room with, and as soon as I got there, set about putting it all into effect.

I set up a portable altar, nested beyond any nesting I’d ever done before for an event, and also since I knew the person who had once made me kneel with the water would be beyond hella busy, I took it upon myself to kneel every day holding a glass of water for five minutes, setting my intentions for the day, reminding myself that I was worthy of my own service.

No one told me to. That was really fucking difficult to do, but I did it. And I stayed hydrated. I also ate three meals a day during the event. Which never happens. I’m exceptionally lucky if I get two, and that’s with having a PA whose main purpose is to make sure I’m okay at events. So for this one event, I was able to throw much of my energy into self care enough to get through the event and serve the community. But afterward? It’s been really challenging to keep up that self care. To keep believing that I deserve my own service, to put on my own oxygen mask, to ask for the help I need, and the interactions I want. I’ve been building a lot of walls. It’s just…there’s been so much pain. So much confusion. So much fear and difficulty. So much longing.

My body meters are at an all time low in regards to D/s, touch, sex, romance, sensation, making out, dancing, creativity, exercising, and snuggling/cuddling. I’m having problems with my teeth, my stomach, my uterus. My sleep patterns, which are normally already fucked because of childhood issues, have been beyond borked. Life is changing and I just keep thinking, “how do I change with it?” How do I move through all the transitions I feel coming?

I don’t know how to fight for myself and claim my own power let alone move into the next phase of my life. I barely know how to not treat myself as a means to an end of just getting through each day, so how do I even begin to stand up for myself and tell others that I am not a means to an end, if I don’t believe it myself?

The best starting place, I guess, is to keep reminding myself.

No, really, self.

I AM NOT A MEANS TO AN END.

One of these days, I’ll hopefully even believe it.

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.

I’m gonna make a change…or twenty-something

Welcome to a New Year, where millions of people claim to become a new person, complete with new workout gear, new organizational stuff, new eating habits, and a brand new outlook on life.

Until somewhere around February or March.

I don’t mean to be pessimistic because further down, I’m gonna roll out some of my own resolutions for this year. But I’ve been through many years and many people I care about and many I don’t even know talking about how on January 1st, “everything’s gonna change.” And if that works out for you, mazel tov. More power to you. No, really. I want those people to have even more power so they can continue to do awesome things.

For me, I’m finding that January 1st is a fairly arbitrary day that only gains power to inspire change because we all buy into it. There’s nothing magical about the day. It’s a man-made construct of a new year. Others have different constructs. There’s a Chinese New Year, a Jewish New Year, and I’m sure there are more for different cultures and religions and groups of people. And while the specific date isn’t important to me, the New Year has led to some fairly in depth reflection.

My body tends to follow a calendar of Paganism, even though I’m not practicing currently. Winter tends to be the time of introspection. A time to take stock and plan for the coming year. What worked last year? What didn’t? What has been eating at me to change, what progress was made? It’s a time when cold, barren land protects the seeds within it that will, in a few months, spring forth with the season.

It’s happening at work with budgetary discussions and the dying of one event to make room for the life of another. It’s happening in my house, with taking down the Christmas tree, putting away the decorations and presents and being thankful for the previous year and going on a slow cleaning binge. We’ve got a new vacuum and everything!

And it’s happening deep inside of me.

There are things I know I need to do. Hell, my last post was a damn long rant about one of them: getting back into burlesque.

But there are others.

I’ve kept them close to my chest for a while, but I’m ready to let them out into the world. Potentially to create some sort of accountability, encouragement, and just…to make it real. Of course things can be real living inside my head. But change is motion, movement. If a thought is just in my head it doesn’t mean much until I put it out there – as a conversation, part of my writing, in song, working out, hugging, yelling, etc.

So here is my attempt to actualize.

It’s time to get my health under control. My blood pressure has soared with the stress of this past year and my doctor is concerned. I’m concerned. I’m working on it, but I need to do more than take my medicine as directed. Things like:

  • meditation
  • push myself and my students more in classes
  • eating better – which will likely be it’s own post
  • dancing, moving more, and stretching every damn day
  • Finding healthier ways to deal with my anxiety and depression, even if it means meds again
  • reach out to friends and loved ones for emotional support instead of bottling

I want to be more creative this year. As such, I’m going to:

  • Play my ukulele more – I’ve already begun to learn a new song!
  • Sing more
  • Write more fiction
  • Finish at least the first draft edit of my book
  • burlesque and dancing
  • force myself to learn to use the awesome gift my husband gave me last year, with the awesome gift he gave me this year.
  • Read 27 books in a year and write at least a small review about each. I did Cannonball Read in 2013 and actually made it to 52 books and reviews in a year (!) That was incredibly stressful (but still awesome) so I’m going for a half Cannonball which is technically 26 but I’m going +1 because I don’t like even numbers.
  • Post a blog once a week. Which, technically,the Cannonball Read takes care of half of that, if I want it to.

My body craves D/s and sex and attention and receiving ASMR. Therefore, I plan to:

  • Reach out to more people locally and regionally
  • Ask for what I’m interested in
  • Rejoin the local kink scene
  • Be clearer about what I want out of date nights
  • Seek out casual play at events
  • Try to afford regular massages. “Regular” might mean every few months, but still
  • If not always massages, pedicures. Never knew how much I loved pedicures until my sister introduced me to the wonders. So good. And toes so pretty!
  • Find friends who want to read to me for ASMRing. One dear friend did this at GKE last year while another gave me a massage. That was close to bliss, aside from the pain that was being worked out of my lower back.