The Memory of Heartache

In the last two years, I’ve been part of five (or maybe depending on how you look at it four) more serious romantic relationships and a few not so serious relationships (or maybe let’s call them shorter term romantic relationships). I ended two of the more serious ones and all of the “less serious” ones in the last year. For a polyamorous recently divorced person, from what I’ve seen, that isn’t actually that many. But then you look at the emotional relationships I’ve been part of without sex or at least intercourse. There have been a lot more of those. And all but a few of the above relationships (emotional/romantic/something in between) are still in my life in some way even now.

So when I spoke of corpses of relationships in my recent article, I was actually talking mostly about the pain of “losing” people in general, not the number. I wasn’t very clear about that. In reality, I never really “lose” people anyway. And that’s actually part of the problem with the corpses: they live on in me permanently, take residence and regularly visit (generally when I least want them to).

Let me explain: I’ve gathered over time that I am not the typical person. Not saying this to brag one bit, as there are pros and cons to it (mostly cons). I have what someone I know calls “glue brain.” All the important or even mundane moments I’ve ever had with someone are almost permanently etched in my brain in an extensive catalog. I can at will (and often without my consent) conjure up a moment that happened many many years ago with someone very very distinctly with emotional intensity still intact. I don’t pretend to believe that these are 100% or even close to entirely accurate. But from my own eyes and my brain’s eye, it feels very close to what happened. And even physical sensations from that moment feel like they’re happening right now, not two or ten or fifteen years ago. The problem? I can’t forget. I can’t let go. I haven’t ever actually gone to a neurologist for this, but if I’m correct, it’s something called hyperthymesia or HSAM (Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory), though a more mild version since I can’t remember dates things happened generally or specific details that just don’t matter to me.

In addition to remembering my own memories far longer than the average human, I also seem to have an immense ability to empathize with others’ experiences to the point where I feel like I have seen what they have seen through their eyes. Again, not saying I am accurate in these memories at all, but the feelings that come along with them are very real to me. Those memories layer on top of my own until all of my own fears and insecurities come from a combination of my real life experiences *and* others’ close to me.

This is why I stopped watching or reading the news in high school. To hear about horrendous experiences of others in the news was (what felt like) the near equivalent of having been there myself. And so the trauma of my life (however small, large, or mundane) has expanded beyond my own.

Going back to “losing” people – I mean by this that it is sometimes more painful and also confusing when someone stops wanting to be in my presence in my current life in the ways we were, but my brain still reminds me daily how we “used” to be with each other with all the feeling of it being like we still are (but we aren’t). I still am reminded of D daily by my brain, for instance, and how it used to be with him despite not having communicated with him in over a year. I see the memories differently now – they are tinged with lots of other additional emotions since they actually happened – but I often find myself with someone I love, reminded of a moment with D and go off into my own world, re-experiencing them without my consent, and connecting them to my present. It’s how my stories of my life have been pieced together in my brain into a cohesive narrative of why I am the way I am.

I can almost visually see the timeline of my life with peaks in the moments that were most emotionally intense/traumatic/whatever you want to call it. I only started realizing all of this was not really “normal” (if there is such a thing) when I was talking to a friend a little over a year ago in his kitchen. We were making mac and cheese, it was snowing outside, and we were walking around the kitchen obstacles and his dog wanting to be included in the mess. He said “I haven’t seen my son in about six months. I can’t even remember what he looks like.” I assumed he was joking. I mean, his son is in his 20’s. He’s had two decades to memorize his son’s changing face. He admitted quietly that it was true; he couldn’t conjure an image of him in his brain. This led to me asking a variety of questions – How do you recall things? Is it visual? Describe the process of acquiring new data and storing it. It was the first time I’d ever really asked. I kind of just assumed we all worked in the same ways in this regard (despite or maybe because of having a degree in neuroscience and making everything sound so consistent and black and white amongst us). I found that he envisions memories in a network of facts/sentences, not in images at all. Visual information is extremely difficult for him to recall. I said “Okay, but how about sex? Can’t you remember sexual memories visually?” His eyes got wide and he gulped. It seemed he couldn’t/didn’t. Sexual fantasies were still a series of actions/words in his brain.

Soon after this conversation, totally unprompted, a few friends (separately) sent me this podcast at NPR because it reminded them of me. They said it was because my memory for names and faces was incredible, but even more that I remembered conversations with them in such detail that they thought maybe I had HSAM like these people described. I listened to it multiple times and each time, I heard so much of me, it was hard to ignore. Me being the science nerd I am, I started researching more and found this article. The part about associating HSAM with obsessive compulsive disorder also felt relevant, considering I went to a therapist in undergrad and I insisted to her that I thought I had OCD because I could not get (unwanted) sexual images and fantasies of a teacher out of my head for the life of me and it was impacting my schoolwork and relationship with D. I recognized my innate capacity (not desire) for rehearsing things in my head so much that it felt some things would never come out. I still remember the sexual images of my teacher I had imagined (12 years later). I still remember a specific image from my biology textbook in freshman year of high school (16 years later) diagramming a nephron in very vivid detail. Why? Because I had the flu when I was about to take a test on this material and while I was feverish, I had been studying these pages. I fell asleep on the book and had a dream that consisted of this specific image going in and out of my vision while feeling like I was going to vomit. That was it. Why do I remember this? You tell me. But it surely sounds obsessive.

D thought I had some sort of photographic memory, as when he tested me on my extensive study guides I typed up for school, my memory for things in order on the page was much much greater than my memory for them out of order. In fact, to remember them, I would actively imagine *where* the answer was on the page to help my recall.

For emotional events, my recall has been even greater. D would get really upset when I would bring up the anger I had about my family and how they treated me with depression in high school. He felt my continued visceral anger that would come up about it sometimes was indicative that I had no capacity to forgive or let go and that some day, he would make a mistake and would never be forgiven for it. He was wrong about whether I can forgive, but correct about the letting go part.

Even just yesterday, A and I were at the climbing gym and Jet “Are You Going to Be My Girl?” came on. I was reminded of this song’s history in my life, attached to my first semi-boyfriend and him cheating on me. The story doesn’t matter, though – it’s the fact that A noticed my change in emotions and asked what was wrong. I relayed the story to him and his response was “I think it’s time to move past that, love.” The semi-boyfriend isn’t part of my life at all. I occasionally see him post on Facebook and we haven’t talked since probably 1999. I don’t even feel anger at *him* anymore. It really didn’t matter and doesn’t matter. I know that logically, but my brain still cares and notices that it is one of so many injustices.

This is where human bias becomes a huge problem. We all have the desire to avoid being hurt, but most of us can let the hurt fade over time and eventually, we may even forget what that hurt looked like, what caused it, what it felt like in the moment. Now, sure, subconsciously, maybe it still effects us, but because we have no extensive story arc or emotions tied to it anymore, it’s harder to convince ourselves acting in X way will cause Y outcome (since we may not actively remember X or even Y).

But if you can list off in your head all the times X caused Y in extraordinary detail while remembering exactly how much Y fucking sucked, it’s hard to convince yourself to even bother trying X again…right? It becomes a very active choice with a high probability of Y happening again.

So let’s take the variables out. X and Y are stuffy and formal and mathematical. Let’s use an example of relationships where X is you giving trust and vulnerability to someone and Y is being deceived by either someone else’s dishonesty with you or dishonesty with themselves (indirectly still being dishonest with you). Most of us can remember an event where this happened to us – even as small as telling a childhood friend a secret and them blabbing it to someone else. But do you remember how that felt like it happened today or yesterday? Likely no, I would assume. And since then, you’ve acquired more knowledge and more experiences and maybe your most recent experience with X was leading to a positive Y and before that were fifty other experiences ranging between positive, neutral, and negative. Each had different amounts of emotional impact on you. But as you’ve aged, those feelings have faded and you’ve either decided to stop trusting anyone (not worth risking X for the likelihood of Y; you’ve been scarred) or continued trusting with acknowledgment of the past only occasionally getting in the way of your behavior in X.

In both of these situations, there is acknowledgement of the past, but there is also a numbness or healing over that has happened. In neither case are the people involved still raw and unhinged from the past – especially from things happening decades ago. But let’s change that fact. Let’s imagine being as raw and unhinged as you were the day your significant other broke up with you or maybe a week later….and have that feeling perpetually continue even decades later. There are no scars, just wounds that continue being opened regularly by memories of the past haunting you.

Could you really choose X still feeling like Y just happened? In other words, would you go out and risk trusting and being vulnerable with someone the day after your boyfriend of five years breaks up with you in the worst of ways? You may go have sex with someone, you may drink your sorrows away, you may choose to be entirely alone, but would you really be seeking love or intimacy? I doubt it. I doubt it because I’ve been around people in this state and what they are can only be described as: sad, hurt, and most of all guarded.

This word: Guarded. A friend described me as this just the other day. It was painful to hear that because there was a time I remember (again, vividly) when I so actively chose to be open with the world and *chose* to trust people. I wanted to. I wanted to believe that my experience with D was just evidence that *D* was the problem. I wanted to put it in a shoebox, put the shoebox in the garage, eventually even bury the shoebox in all its entirety of eleven years. I wanted to start a new day, a new year, a new life – only allowing the contents of the shoebox to prevent me from ever making the same mistake again.

As I lived with my heart on my sleeve, still recalling moment to moment all the wounds of D, I thought I was going to be able to bury the shoebox, burn it…something. Eventually, I thought, I’d have enough positive Y’s from my hopeful X’s to finally let go of someone once and for all (the someone being D…but also being the old me). As you’ve read, though, the wounds remained….and new wounds were created. And so I realized that there was no shoebox at all. And definitely no burying of it.

Admittedly, the shoebox principle above is not my own metaphor. It’s from a new person in my life who at one point wanted to believe that polyamory could be like this idea: every person in your life in their own shoe box, not affecting the other shoe boxes. Yesterday, he wrote me and said the shoebox broke: In large part – because of me.

I seem to have a way of doing this: catalyze breaking other people’s shoeboxes or showing them there aren’t even such things as shoeboxes at all. At one point, I loved it – when breaking the shoebox created positive change in others. Later, I hated it – when breaking the shoebox created negative change. Now, I just accept it as something I do, someone I am to others. I do it just by being myself and therefore I don’t have much choice in the matter.

This time, though, I realize this is a two-way catalyzing event. Writing him and doing as we call “emotional gym work” has shown me that not only are there no shoeboxes, there are no demarcations at all. All the people and all the hurt and all my shit from the past and present are all just parts of a soup (to use a new analogy; yes, you can laugh – especially since this analogy is also taken from a former high school teacher) inside of me. The soup is very regularly processed in a food processor and so you can’t even really distinguish the potatoes from the carrots or the broccoli besides the specks of different colors occasionally seen mixed in. And for me, what is also included in the soup is all everyone else’s shit around me too. Their trauma and my trauma and all the X’s and all the Y’s are all just in it together. When you taste the soup, you feel all the emotions and the overarching one is fear. Because you remember all the X’s and all the Y’s and all the shit in great fucking detail. And it can be paralyzing.

I realize all of this is about perspective, a choice. Despite knowing that, it’s hard to actually choose that when I see and feel all the fucking of people’s hearts going on around me.

And so I lie to myself. And I write things that feel true in the moment and later turn out to be about someone else’s shit or mine that I haven’t let go of because I don’ Years of going in and out of therapy and once in a mental hospital and going to Buddhist teachers and retreats and meditating and no one can teach me how to do it, how to let go and also be able to be here in the present 100%. The only way that works and detaches me from fear of outcome is detaching entirely, putting enough walls up that no one can hurt me – but no one can feel me either, or by grieving what I have entirely even when it isn’t gone. Every moment in someone’s presence whom I love, there is a simultaneous feeling of appreciating them being in front of me, wanting to hold onto them here in the moment, and grieving the eventual loss of them (the loss that feels inevitable).

I am volunteering for hospice in part because of all of this. I am not dying and yet I live like any moment, I could or might choose to die. At times, it is freeing. At times, it is paralyzing. But if I was actually dying, would letting go be easier? As much as I want to be a companion to the dying for them, I also sort of hope they might teach me how to live.

Change: Is it real?

The last few days, I’ve been on one of my many regular road trips. This time, I decided to go to Mesa Verde National Park. It’s the last national park in CO I hadn’t been to yet. This one, though, is a bit different than the usual. Its main focus is education about the structures left by the cave-dwelling people of 600-1200 AD. I’m usually not interested in stories about history or museums, but once I got there, I was fascinated – not by the differences, but by the similarities to the modern human.

The first detail that hit me was their sandals. They made their own sandals out of yucca and human hair and they looked not too unlike Chaco’s (apparently Chaco’s were inspired by the Chaco pueblos). And then – their ideas. They made bread that looks a lot like our version of pie (but with partially chewed materials inside them). They figured out how to make reservoirs and even retaining walls! Their spears and bow and arrows and pottery and even their clothing woven from hair look almost exactly like our current versions of these items. They made extensive villages made of adobe built into caves – sometimes four stories high! Clearly their day to day life was very different than our current rat race (I daresay likely more relaxed and community-oriented/less lonely). And yet, when all is said and done, they were humans very similar to us with similar thought processes and shared activities and goals for survival. The ranger even told me that technically, we could as current-day humans viably live in these structures right now.

And this got me to thinking: I feel like a different person in even the last 2-3 years of my life. But how much have I really changed in reality? A few months ago, I would have said my thought processes and goals for my life changed dramatically. Except that about a month ago, all three of my partners were in a hot tub with me reading from a scrapbook of my writing from senior year back to childhood that I put together in senior year. Everyone commented how I haven’t changed much at all – especially in my beliefs and thought processes.

So what gives? Have I changed in foundational ways or not? Have we as a human race changed dramatically or not? Who are we under all the superficialities? Can we actually change – even and especially when we want to?

I went to a tantra class recently (the only one ever actually) where they separated us into groups and had each of us ask the others: “Who are you?” We each used one word or a small phrase to describe us and then kept going around the circle. Nouns were most typical: “Wife”, “Mother,” “Sister,” “Daughter,” “Friend,” “Dancer.” “Teacher.” It seemed to be consensus that our shallow descriptions of ourselves was satisfactory. And then the next question came: “Who are you really?” A sigh spread around the circle and we looked at each other with a newfound question unspoken: “Can I really trust you with this?” Suddenly, new and bold and vulnerable answers began spewing from us, feeding off each other. “Afraid.” “Lonely.” “A sexual person.” “A sensual person.”

The person who said “Afraid” happened to be my partner at the time. I suddenly saw him in a new light – not because of this word, but because he would share it openly with random strangers, but never with me. I knew he was afraid. In fact, I knew or felt that he was terrified. I tried in every manner that I could to be a safe space for him to be his true self, unedited. No matter how hard I tried, though, it seemed he hid more and more behind a wall of his own making. I think, perhaps, that my desire to be a safe space for him was in part because I’d noticed a pattern – that every one of my friends expressed often how safe it felt to come to me with feelings and thoughts and yet my partners at a certain point would often seem hesitant to share or completely unwilling. And to some extent vice versa.

What is that? This ability to be open, non-judgmental, compassionate people with everyone except the people who matter most to us? As soon as someone means something to us, it’s like we have to make sure there is a space within us that is ours and ours alone. We feel suffocated. At one point, we wanted to share all of us with them and then…eventually…we slowly but surely close doors to our heart one by one.

I insisted when I left D that I would not do this again – because I felt how much it hurt when D did that to me and how much it hurt me and him when I eventually locked myself away from him as well. Really, there was no coming back from it. And so, it was frustrating to feel myself doing it again, even what felt like against my will.

This all, I believe, goes back to the question “Who are you really?” Because *why* we do this to ourselves is, I believe, because of where we’ve come from, who we have been, who we want to change to be, and all the messiness between. All of us have had some sort of trauma – often from relationships (family, friends, romantic, or otherwise). Can you remember back to your first serious relationship? Or at least the one you wholeheartedly felt like you *loved* the person you were with? Was there trepidation or hiding of your self, your heart, your love? For me and for many people I’ve seen examples of, I think the answer is generally no. Why would we hide when we’ve (generally besides our parents perhaps) seen no huge reasons previously to distrust sharing ourselves with someone? It is only over time when we see example upon example of reason to stop sharing ourselves because of the result: being hurt.

It is easy to *say*: I see the pattern and I realize it will not necessarily *always* be the outcome and I wish to be the kind of person who wears my heart on my sleeve and lets potentially hurtful situations roll off of me.

It is not easy to *be* the kind of person who wears my heart on my sleeve and lets potentially hurtful situations roll off of me.

Who am I really? Someone who was opened up at one point like a flower – to her feelings, to love, to adventure. She ran wild with the freedom and her fear kept getting smaller and smaller until it was a small speck in the distance. She consumed the world like a hungry dog who hasn’t eaten in years. And as she consumed, she began to be given bits of poison, bit by bit becoming afraid again, consumed again by worry and doubt that every new morsel might be laced with another dose. Even as she finds more beauty and love in the world, she fears what may come, what feels inevitable: its thorns, its poison, its death. And so she builds walls – to see the beauty from a safe distance. But it is lonely behind these walls.  Numbing,

Who am I really? A person who sometimes feels “big” and often feels “small.” A woman who often sees a lot of different escape routes, but has a hard time seeing the way to stay. She knows how to run, she knows how to hide, and she knows how to fight. She doesn’t know what peace looks like or how to keep it. She knows how to lose, but not how to win. Even when she wins, she focuses on keeping the win safe. She is terrified. She wants to save others because she doesn’t know how to save herself.

Who are you really? I ask this of you because under all the masks you’re wearing, there is at least one that is true and there may be parts of it you don’t want to keep. And you may wonder if you can change them. The stories you tell yourself are just that – stories. My story above is one I wish to discard aspects of. Namely: fear. Again. The most courageous person looks fear in the face and walks right on by it. I want to be that again without destroying everything in my path to get there. I changed once…or thought I did. Would it be that hard to do it again? Maybe I never really changed the way I thought I did.

One of the things humans can do that separates us from many animals is meta-cognition (thinking about thinking). Not all. Rats and monkeys and many other animals can do this too. Meta-cognition supposedly makes us capable of making complex informed decisions and specifically to change our behavioral patterns. What I find interesting for myself, though, is that I often have a disconnect. I can *logically* see incorrect thinking on my part and work to find a new solution. And yet, emotionally, I am incapable of integrating the information I “know” in my head until my heart is damn well ready to hear it. There is no forcing it. There is no convincing it with logic, with words, with anything. Eventually – sometimes months or years down the line – my heart gets what my brain “got” a long time ago.

Being polyamorous has been a long road of this frustration. I can fully understand and agree with the concept of “compersion” for instance (being happy for your partner being happy with someone else), but actually feeling that? Geeze, I’ve only really honestly felt it a couple times. I can fully understand and agree with the idea that I want my partners to be free and happy and autonomous – whether or not it is with me. And yet, my heart will often tell me when they are happy with someone else that they are abandoning me and it makes me hurt so deeply that it feels like it will make me die to be happy for their happiness. I am better at sitting with it, breathing, knowing deep down that I will be okay no matter what. But I wonder every time whether it will ever change – whether my heart will truly know what my brain does. Will my heart ever feel it is not under attack? Will it ever stop watching for danger in the innumerable ways it does?

We live in a world that trains us in the way it wants us to be in the world – including how it wishes us to feel, think, and behave. So it’s a huge simplification to say “Just because we have the ability for meta-cognition, that is enough to change at will.” It’s like telling someone addicted to nicotine that all they need to do is stop picking up the cigarette. It’s not that simple. I’m sure most anyone who smokes would tell you they know it’s not a good idea for them to smoke – for their health, etc. That doesn’t mean it’s as simple as saying it should be so and thus it is.

It seems to actually honestly change something deep inside of us requires a lot of work. And that work often requires tricking and rewiring the brain/un-training it subconsciously or just…time and practice confronting the issues over and over again.

How do you go about changing something you want to be different inside of you? What techniques help you in facing those issues? Do you think you really inherently change you to do that?

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



On Being Rich

I’ve been considering the word “rich” lately. Many of us Americans look at Trump and say “He’s rich…richer than I can even imagine.” We may look at the Kardashians, celebrities, sports heroes and say they are rich; they have the resources to buy anything they want at any time and still, they are safe and secure financially.

But have you considered that who we often call “rich” are often the poorest among us and the poorest by these financial standards are often the “rich”est? I am visiting a good friend of mine’s family farm and am finding myself reminded of another good friend of mine who lived in what he called the “hillbilly mountains.” He said by American standards, his family was “effing poor” and yet he never realized that until he left the small town he grew up in. He lived immediately adjacent to his cousins. They had freedom and safety and spent most days roaming around the mountains alone or together without fear. They learned about confidence, problem-solving skills, conflict resolution, companionship and friendship. They learned how to hunt for their own food, make their own food. They had family, community, love, acceptance, and means of surviving. They didn’t need anything else. They were “rich” in his eyes – until society told him differently.

Similarly, by society’s definitions, I am the “poorest” I’ve ever been when you look at the influx of money into my bank account on a monthly basis. And yet…I feel supremely rich, monumentally rich, infinitely wealthy in the things that matter. People around me invest in me, love me, accept me and I do the same with them. For once, I am seeing the family in front of me that I always wanted. I make money doing things I love and support and help people even though I don’t get a consistent paycheck. I have the freedom of time to have experiences, to invest energy where I want to invest it, to love fully and wholly without a tax for stability. I don’t struggle with the constant urge to fill every free moment with *something*….because I don’t struggle for free time. I am not in the rat race. I am not giving into or supporting “the man” or slaving my days away for the dollar.

I feel…good. I feel free. I feel like instead of determining how I will be spending the zeros adding up in my bank account, I am determining how I will spend the minutes of my life and the energy of my heart. Every day, I go to sleep thinking “If today was my last day of life, I know I lived it well and exactly how I wanted it to be.” If I want to make something happen, I make it happen. If I don’t, I don’t make excuses – I must not want it that bad after all.

I read this post about a year and a half ago. Though I’d spent much of my life feeling like I was racing against a clock to do all the things I wanted to do, when I actually saw how few moments I actually have in a visual way, I slowed down and re-evaluated. Yes, I wanted to do “all the things.” But…what were all the things really adding up to if these things were mutually exclusive with spending time with people I loved? I stopped traveling as much. All the places began to feel kind of the same and I realized what I really wanted more of in the moments of my life…were just….more moments – with abundant love right in front of me. I wanted more time with myself, more time with “my people,” more time doing things I loved doing with people I loved doing them with.

Exploration is awesome. But so is appreciation. So is being present, being aware of and grateful for the gifts in front of us. Being “rich” has nothing to do with money in the bank and everything to do with what remains in our hearts at the end of the day.

At the end of the day, I know I will be okay. Deep down, I am solid. In my heart, I know that if I passed away right now, I am confident I’ve been authentic to myself, to my needs, to my desires as much as I could be and that the people I love know they are loved. I wouldn’t have to write a letter to them before I was gone; they would know.

I would know that I spent my life truly living – not watching TV, not playing video games, not distracting myself from the vicissitudes of reality. I saw, I lived, I hurt, I suffered, I pushed, I bawled, I squealed with joy, I screamed in pain, I fell over and over and over and got up again every fucking time.

And at the end of the day, I would take this knowledge and this feeling and this reality above any million or trillion dollars out there. I would take it over all the diamonds, all the luxuries, all the fame and fortune.

Through my eyes, I am the richest fucking human being on this planet.

I will not let the poorest among us convince me otherwise.


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?”


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…