Category Archives: Relationships

Online Intimacy Discussion

To all of you who read this blog religiously, I want to invite you to an online discussion about intimacy, communication, and consent.

I’ve noticed that seeking intimacy is one of the largest sources of shame in humans and I’d like to help change that – even in a small way. I think the main way we can change is by discussing it together openly, honestly, and without judgment.

Please join me for this talk at 7PM MT on June 6, 2017 here ($5-15 suggested donation):

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/communication-consent-and-intimacy-talk-tickets-34995263776

Hope to see you there!

❤ N

Grounding

I mention the word “grounding” in my last post in regards to how I felt D grounded me, but I’ve found that word means to others something different than it does or did mean to me.

To me in the past at least, grounding referenced stability or something that produced extremely consistent results. I was told by so many people in my life that I was the imagination/the dreamer in D and my relationship and he was the “grounding.” People meant positive things by that. They seemed to think that if I did not have him there, I would just get so lost in imagining that I would float right off into space – into my fantasies – and never come back. I even remember having a conversation with my former teacher / continued friend about this – that he and I were dreamers and our spouses were the people who kept us level-headed and not running off and doing “crazy” things.

I realize now that D did ground me – in this illusion that there is such a thing as security. I was like a bird, ready to fly away to awesome places, and he was the string weighed down with the rock around my torso. As soon as he wasn’t there, I did float away, never to come back down to earth. And I’ve found a lot of amazing people up here in space or whatever you want to call it. I also found that having another dreamer/floater by my side is not so scary and unknown like people made it out to be – it’s actually hella fucking amazing and I would no longer have it any other way.

As a side note: Crazy things like living out of a van, being polyamorous, building a community house, and getting paid for cuddling become not so crazy over time; in fact, they feel a little normal. This doesn’t mean my therapist thinks I’m at all sane, mind you. (The other day, I told her that I got paid for cuddling and 15 minutes later, she apologized and said she was still processing this new information about me and had not paid attention to anything I’d said since.)


Now, there are other definitions of grounding too, of course. My therapist brought up another one the other day. She said when I am triggered with strong emotions and begin shutting down, that I need a way to ground me in the present. She put some smooth rocks in my hands and told me to talk about the differences I notice in them. I said a few and then continued playing with them in my hand for the remainder of the session. She said they were immediate reminders to come back to my body, to the present instead of getting lost in past memories.

I was reminded of a former partner’s way of bringing me back from dwelling in trauma during a sexual activity. He said “Where are you right now? Not where are you in your mind…Where is ‘here?'” As my therapist pointed out, he was forcing me to keep one “foot” in the present while the other was mired in the past. She said if I keep at least one part of my brain in the here and now, other tools are accessible to me to move out of the past or learn from it but if both “feet” are in the past, the tools to get back into the present and here and now are impossible to retrieve.

Learning about this felt like hope. She pointed out that all of my more recent tools I’ve been using to “ground” me are nothing I can do in the very moment things are happening and are usually ways of escaping the present even if they do bring me more into my body (aka hot baths, pain, hiking, yoga, meditating). How can I ever hope to confront the strong emotions I encounter if I’m too busy running away from them?


I am a little too sensitive about all of these suggestions being tools given to people with PTSD. I guess there is something about my situation that feels less serious than can be categorized with a PTSD label. It makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me of this therapist I had in high school who was convinced I had some childhood sexual abuse that I couldn’t remember. She thought I should do EMDR, but couldn’t recommend it without “real trauma” to work with. (Horrible therapist.)

And so, I guess I’ve struggled with feeling that all of this “grounding” stuff is all really entirely hogwash. Or at least isn’t applicable to me.

This was further reinforced by having tea with a friend who is “Buddhist-leaning,” as she says. When I talked about this idea of “grounding,” she said: “The ground you speak of in metaphors is not real! We’re all floating in constant limbo in the present and until we see that, we won’t be happy.” I said “But how about being grounded in the present? Do you think that could be a thing?” She paused and said “Well…I don’t know. Maybe. But the present is really all we have anyway. You either recognize it or you don’t.”

I wonder about wandering the world with rocks in my pockets (the tiny ones we as females get in our clothes), attempting to remind myself that the present is all we have *and* it’s also all an illusion – much like the shoeboxes or maybe even the rocks themselves. Some moments, it seems like a bunch of ridiculous therapist hogwash and other days, I go searching for the rocks I’ll keep at my fingertips as reminders. Maybe I’ll even add in a rubber band on my wrist for good measure.

Grounded or not, I’d prefer to spend my time with the dreamers in the here and now – no strings (or rocks) attached.

Stuck and Unstuck

I had a paid cuddling session the other day that kind of turned my world upside down a little. He was an older gentlemen, who wrote me because he had a paid cuddle person he saw semi-regularly but she was far away from his home and I was closer. He asked for a session in a private place without being at his place or outside in a public space and decided to get a hotel room instead.

I already had a clue from my past experience that him not having a space to offer and wanting privacy likely indicated desire for intimacy he wasn’t getting from a romantic partner. I kept it in the back of my mind as something to ask about.

We met outside the hotel. Unfortunately, the room was supposed to be ready but wasn’t yet. We ended up waiting almost an hour for it, but this gave us time to talk and get to know each other first. He immediately offered the reason he was meeting with me. It was not an uncommon story – his wife would not/could not give him intimacy he desired (simple stuff – sex too, but mostly just…love, platonic affection). In this specific situation, it seemed to be due to a semi-medical/psychological reason. But really, in the end, it doesn’t matter. He hasn’t been getting what he needs for seven years (SEVEN YEARS!) and on top of that has been abused verbally and possibly physically by the only person he is “allowed” to get intimacy, love, and care from in this world.

It brought up this deep well of compassion and sadness in me for him – and for myself a year or two or three or ten ago. I felt so strongly in him the feeling of being “stuck.” In his mind, he has no good options – 1) He leaves his wife and loses everything he’s ever worked for but receives freedom (in some ways) and would likely be viewed in a horrible light by others soon after.  2) He stays and continues receiving abuse and little of what he wants or needs, but is “stable” (whatever that means). 3) He stays and continues receiving abuse and gets what he needs elsewhere and has to deal with his own guilt, shame, etc (on top of everyone else’s who knows).

I came away from this session hurting for him, seeing the only way of integrity, truth, and freedom was option 1 and that he has to see it himself, and HUGE frustration. It pissed the fuck out of me that people hurt each other like that and make the situation unbearable to someone they supposedly love. Like, really, you LOVE this man and make it impossible for him to want to stay with you. Additionally, why is he staying? He hasn’t received what he needs for seven effing years! Loyalty to someone only goes so far, especially if you’re being abused in the process of doing “the right thing.”

Of course, this is all just coming from a deep well of my own shit, as usual. I’ve found that whenever I have a strong reaction to something, it means I should poke more, dig deeper, and ask more questions. So I did.

What I came up with was that I was really still angry at myself – for staying with D, for feeling so stuck then when in reality the solution was so simple! Leaving him took me a year…in reality, eleven of them. About a month ago, I came across a draft of an email I never sent to D about wanting to break up. I wrote it not even a year into dating him. I knew then and always that it didn’t feel 100% right. But I stayed. Because I felt stuck. I felt like no one would ever love me better than D. I felt I was unlovable. I felt like I deserved less. I felt like I would always be a person who doubted, that no relationship would ever be perfect. I was scared of where I would go and who I would be without him to “ground” me. I was afraid of being alone. I made all the excuses all the time…but I always knew deep down that there was something wrong. Even weeks into dating him, tons of red flags had come up and I just ignored them, convincing myself it was my paranoia. And the more enmeshed I became with him and his life, the harder it seemed to me to get the hell out. I remember fantasizing about him dying…way way before I even considered leaving him. It seemed like the only easy solution to my predicament.

Codependency and relationships are always a two-way street. Yes, I was manipulated. Yes, I was abused. But we *both* had problems and I needed him “taking care” of me as much as he needed me needing him. No matter what anyone says about me in this situation, my accurate retort is: He was never keeping me there; I was. Sure, I didn’t recognize it as abuse until much later, but I definitely *did* feel like there was something wrong and I didn’t trust my gut; I actively ignored it. And of all the anger I have about the situation, this is the anger that I have the hardest time letting go of.

I know, I know. I can’t go back in time and all that, blah blah blah. And I do love my life and see that all that shit made me who I am now, brought me to this very moment. And to regret the past if you like the present is not helpful or even logical. I know! My brain knows. My heart still says “Why didn’t you listen to me? You could have saved yourself all this grief and hurt.”

And so when I come across people who feel stuck, it is easy for me (as an outsider) to say “The choice is clear. Just go do it.” Once I left D, a swarm of people came to me almost falling on their knees happy that I finally made the decision they knew I would all along (or hoped I would at least). I couldn’t make that decision till I was ready, till I could see it (enough of it to make me go). And I know this is true of everyone’s journey; it is theirs, I can’t choose it for them.

But to the angry girl inside of me asking why I didn’t listen to her so much earlier, all I can do is cry, hug her, and genuinely say: “I’m deeply sorry. I hear you now.”

Before I Loved Anyone 

Sometimes I forgetThat before I loved anyone,

I loved you :
The wind through my hair.

The birds and their melody.

The babbling brook

Falling over the hills of rock

Sculpted by time.

The view of your oceans,

Your mountains, deserts,

Sunrises and sunsets.
Before I knew what religion was,

I already worshipped

Your peace,

Your sanctuary,

Your light by day and by night.

I came to you to find myself.

I thought I was alone sometimes,

But no – you were there too.
Before I knew what a relationship entailed,

You challenged me to grow

And validated my feelings,

Holding me in despair and hurt.

You inspired me to be bigger,

To leave the “small” feelings behind.
Before my spirit was broken,

You were there waiting

For when it would be.

No expectations, no need, no desires.

You waited and opened your arms,

Not surprised in my coming or going,

Not judging or critiquing. 
Before you,

I am free to be naked and vulnerable,

A blank tablet 

and one that has a million pages already.

Before you, 

I do not win or lose. 

I am alone and I am not.

I am filled and I am empty.
Before anyone loved me,

I loved you. 

Even before I loved myself. 

You were there until I did

And forever after too.
“Shall I apologize for forgetting?” I ask you.

And your reply : 

“No matter. I ask for nothing.

You are the only one it behooves

To remember.”

What No One Tells You About Polyamory

Note: This is not a primer on polyamory. If you do not know the term, please read up on it here.

What I’m here to talk about is how polyamory has broken me and will likely break you too. I am here to tell you what no one shares about polyamory. You can watch the TV shows focusing on all the sex or watch the people in the news with multiple partners and babies and poly communities. What you don’t see is all the heartache, all the tears, all the therapy and gut-wrenching loss.

You see, polyamory can be freedom, autonomy, lots of sex, lots of love, lots of amazing amazing times. But it often takes a whole fucking lot of carcasses of relationships to get there. Just like people who are monogamous “kiss a lot of fish in the sea” to find the “right” one, polyamorous people go through all the same things…except multiplied. And all the great times are balanced out with all the HEAVY WORK and constant changes and adaptations it takes to deal with multiple relationships co-existing together at one time in one life.

What no one tells you about polyamory is that constant change can be tiring, that constant loss can be painful, that fear and insecurities about future changes can be paralyzing. What no one tells you is that no matter how many partners you have, you may still have many nights you are sleeping alone in your bed or having dry spells of sex or feeling utterly fucking alone. What no one tells you about polyamory is that people can’t fill the gaping wounds in our hearts and if you ever expect it or hope for it to, there is immense sadness in knowing that in the end: You are the only one who will always be there for you.

This is, of course, true in monogamy as well. But most of us grow up with this belief that if we find “our person” and we get married, we’re set. We can last for a long time in our life (maybe forever) believing that it’s true – believing that person will always be there for us and we are “safe.” As soon as that spell breaks, that belief can never come back. As soon as the wheels come off – even once – it’s over. We’re done.

In Japan, there is a concept called kintsugi, where they repair broken pottery with golden lacquer and it thus becomes more valuable than its original state of intactness. I believe this is how we are as humans – more valuable after being broken and having put ourselves back together again more intentionally. And yet there is still such a huge part of us that wants to feel secure in a future…and when that illusion is broken, there is no getting it back.

Tonight, I am stuck here.

When I first left my marriage, I appreciated the disenchantment and even the “broken” state. I had this “fuck you” attitude with the world. I didn’t care about anyone but myself. I did what I wanted and I could care less what anyone thought about it. I intentionally wore my heart on my sleeve and soaked up every bit of life and love I could. I was free. I knew it would cause me pain at some point and I accepted that too. I thought I did at least.

But over time, the fear of inevitable loss has caught up with me. I’ve had enough relationships now within two years that ended in such immense hurt that it feels as though it permanently scarred my heart. My heart has been torn down and built up so much that it feels like scar tissue is blocking the light from getting in.

And yet.

What no one shares about polyamory is that you will experience such amazing times that nothing else can quite compare. Your heart will never again be contained inside the box society tells you needs to be accepted/fit within. Even if you “go back” and choose to have “only” one partner, that partner will not be able to fit you into the mold of who you “should” be and vice versa.

Polyamory will take the wheels off and make you rebuild them by asking for help. You will learn to depend on yourself and yet create your world around a village – one who loves you more than you ever imagined was possible. Within this village, you will experience compassion and care worthy of a vista view and hurt so deep you will believe you cannot survive it. Within this village, you will be held, cherished, beat, confronted, torn down, built up. You will experience tough love, deep connection. You will face your past, your present, and your future – sometimes all in one evening, sometimes in one moment. You will lose everything and gain everything. The world will change colors before you.

What no one tells you is that polyamory breaks you *open.* Everything you do after you have experienced this will be a conscious choice, an effort, an intention. You will be in charge of you – for the first time in your entire life. And it will be fucking terrifying…and then it will be amazing…and then it will be terrifying again. You will grow a thick skin and yet, you will know how to take your beating heart out of your chest and offer it to someone else with the best of intentions and tell them to “hurt you please.”

We are best at hurting each other. We learn how to take it. We learn how to build walls. Our parents teach us how to be suspicious, how to run from strangers, how to protect ourselves in all the ways. No one teaches us how to show others our weaknesses and sit still and quiet as they poke their fingers in those places. And just breathe. No one shows us how to take care of someone else’s heart as they display it in front of us. We see it as weakness, we see it as fragility, not as what it truly is: Strength, bravery, truth in its purest form.

No one teaches us how to love and how to be loved. We are too busy fighting, creating, avoiding, and preventing the possibility of pain to let it go and just let someone else love us and let ourselves love back. We will love imperfectly and we will be loved imperfectly. It is inevitable.

What no one tells you about polyamory is that it will break you open and it will break everything around you. And your heart will hurt. And you will love and you will lose love. And you will make walls and break them down and make them again. You will love like your life depends on it. You will learn to love yourself.

And despite (and because of) all of that, you will walk out of the burning forest of your life

regretting

nothing.

Epiphanies

Have you ever experienced a moment where everything feels like it makes sense?

It happens only very rarely for me, but sometimes it feels like all the dots of my life connect in such a way that all my problems vanish….because maybe they were really never there to begin with. All the problems were in me, because of me, and suddenly I see a way out of all of them. Of course, they’re usually short-lived…because the solution is often short-term and only pauses the problem reel until new ones arise.

This time…I may have found one that is more permanent. Sunday night, to be exact as I was driving back from a mountain house enjoyed with a number of people who were mostly not quite friends, but became friends by the end of our trip together.

I was talking to myself, as I often do when I’m driving alone. I started that habit on my long solo roadtrips. I would be on long stretches of road without reception to call anyone and to stay awake and engaged, I would just…talk. Aloud. Occasionally, I would ask myself questions and someone else would respond….someone who felt like my subconscious. I played along with it a few times, which resulted in some interesting revelations and conversations that I hadn’t already recognized or perceived.

This time, I was trying to understand my recent insecurities and fears about a relationship in my life and why I let all these things get to me when I know in the end I WILL BE OKAY. I know this deep down. So why, why do I focus on any possibility that a relationship will end instead of enjoying when it’s currently working and alive? These are some things I was forcing myself to confront and dealing with the reality that I *still* have been afraid of being “all in” when I have something amazing to lose…which just increases the likelihood of losing it.

Whoever I was talking to in my head told me to let myself be loved and love fully without letting the fear of its ending getting in the way. It reminded me of the quote about living life to the fullest and in its present form: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming — WOW– What a Ride!” I smiled thinking of that quote; I love the image.

Then She (subconscious me) said: “But how about if that is how your heart is supposed to feel at the end of your life too?”

Whoa. What? PAUSE.

Subconscious Me: “How about if your (emotional) heart at the end of your life is supposed to be scarred and bloody from being used so much to love so many people, it’s about to explode? How about if the scars are reminders on your heart like the marks on you from other physical events?”

Conscious Me: “What physical events are you referring to?”

Subconscious Me: “Well…like purposeful physical events…like purposeful scars you request of people to make on you.”

Conscious Me: *breathes deeply*

Subconscious Me: “What happens then? Why do you enjoy scars and wearing them proudly?”

Conscious Me: “Because they are reminders of a momentous, intense experience. Because I was strong enough to take it. Because I was totally alive.”

Subconscious Me: “Uh huh…and what happened in those experiences?”

[Side note: My subconscious can be kind of condescending sometimes.]

Conscious Me: “I went to a different place emotionally. When there was enough physical pain compounding, eventually, I could breathe into it and something changed. The physical pain was suddenly something I could “tune into” or not. My body no longer mattered; it was inconsequential. The pain no longer mattered. And there was only calm.”

Subconscious Me: “Uh huh. So you transformed the pain from physical pain into a cathartic experience? You needed the pain and suffering to get you to peace? Why can’t it be the same for emotional pain?”

Pause.


Let me backtrack a bit here.

A couple months ago, I met a man from a dating site. Ok, more backtracking. I am on dating sites not for romance, but for meeting people who are amazing who I wouldn’t have met otherwise. As a female, I admittedly don’t do any work. People find me. I make a profile and people write me and I decide whether they would be worth putting energy into. The message I got from this man was “We need to meet.” When I saw that show up in my inbox, my first thought was “Well, that’s pretentious.” Then, I read his profile and I wrote to him, “Yes, we do.” He was a Buddhist and traveled all over the world, spending thousands of hours understanding Buddhism and meditation and now teaches meditation in addition to other things.

We met and since then, though I’ve only seen him twice, we continue emailing each other. We’ve talked a lot about emotional pain (and other pain). And most recently, he had written me this: “For starters, could emotional pain be as much of a turn-on for your heart and spirit as physical pain can be for your body? Could you learn to experience it that way? And, if so, then how much of a pity would it be to “expel” or even “let go” of that pain?!  It would be like tossing out an endless trove of treasure.”

When I read it (multiple times), it just didn’t make sense.

Not until this conversation with myself.


All of this connected what he was saying. To summarize, it meant that I’ve been able to use physical pain to get me to a different place of catharsis, as a vehicle to calm and “choosing” to feel the pain or not, as a reminder of how strong I am. And thus…emotional pain can be a vehicle to the same. Pain (emotional or otherwise) can just be a channel in our brains that we choose to tune into…or not. And instead of seeing pain as a problem, something to be fixed, we can actually *use* it to become better selves. We can say “Bring it! This pain is bringing me to a higher dimension; I’m taking it and using it to transform me!”

I realized all these years, I’ve been letting pain and scars sit in me, continuously opening them to “understand” or “process,” but maybe all I needed to do was let them be, let them add up, and let them transform me until the pain wasn’t pain any longer….until I could choose to not tune in.

If I can see every experience of emotional pain as another lash I’ve taken and take pleasure in it, let it turn me on like I might with physical lashes, then I will be free. Because then all emotional pain is a “desired” means to an improved end.

I’m not yet at the point of screaming “HURT ME, WORLD!” at the top of my lungs…and yet, the inevitable emotional pain seems like it has a different hue to it when I think of it. Because I can take a whole lot of physical pain. 😉

Reading About Yourself in Third Person

I am not going into details here, but I have been reading about myself on someone else’s blog. I know it’s about me because the details are very clear and I know this person personally and she is very angry with me. I understand her anger because I’ve been through this anger before in a somewhat similar situation. I understand why she’s angry, though someday she might see that she’s really more angry and sad with herself and someone else involved in the situation much more than it’s about me.

She doesn’t know I’m reading her blog.

She also doesn’t know I occasionally comment on her blog anonymously.

She also doesn’t know she’s been responding to my comments with loving, generous feedback…she’s responding with love unwittingly to the one she is so angry at.

What’s so interesting to me is that she writes about wanting to be in a room with me for 5 minutes to tell me all the things she’s already written about me to the world. The things I’ve already read, as have many others.

Some day, I imagine, she will actually see me again in person…because those kinds of things tend to happen in a world so small, especially when you live in the same town. Will she actually say those things? Will I actually respond to them the way I think I might? I imagine what might really happen is that she begins spewing angry words and I might nod and say “I understand. I feel you.” And she would be confused. And then maybe we would cry.

What she doesn’t see is that I feel a lot for her and all I want to do is hug her until it stops hurting so much, until I feel the anger and pain and hate seeping out of her little by little. All I want to do is show her that I’m a human being too and that I’ve been hurting too and that I want things to be okay with us and I actually want her in my life – welcomed and loved. I actually want to open my heart and my arms to her and see her there amongst my friends. Her actions have made that impossible…

I want her to see that her life has actually just begun, that she can start a new one that is just as grand or more grand than the first trek she was on. I want her to see that that is not at all dependent upon whether I was ever in her life and none of it hinges on me…except her anger. I want her to know she’s loved by who she perceives as her enemy. I want her to know we’re the same in many ways, that I have nothing of hers and all I offer her is me.

Part of me wants to offer myself in sacrifice – no weapons in hand or mind. The only defense I have is love and compassion. Sometimes it’s enough. Tonight, I wonder…