Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 10 Happiest Moments of 2013

This past year has been quite trying for me -- no, not all of the secular year 2013, mostly events followed the Jewish year 5773 -- but I'm tired, again, of focusing on this that make me sad. As such I've decided to highlight the highlights and remember the good things that happened this year...

10. Starting to make art again
I graduated from art school 6.5 years ago, but until July this year I hadn't made any art of any real substance (for a number of reasons), so when I had the desire to PAINT ALL THE THINGS 6-ish months ago, it was a big deal to me. I've been able to get so immersed in my work that I've also had a bit of a career change! Ha! This was all made possible by...

9. Moving back to Seattle
Almost immediately after my dad died, Ten and I put the condo up for sale and it sold in 5 days! So, we hurried up and found a nice place to live in Seattle. Not only has being back in an urban environment boosted my creativity, it's also let me be in much closer physical proximity to a few people I really really want to be closer to, geographically speaking.

8. Two birthday parties with one boyfriend at each
It would have been more epic if both had been at both parties, but I think I'll try to make that happen this year... or maybe it's more fun to have them take shifts, I don't know. Also, Jack brought me yellow roses and purple carnations (my color, his color, respectively), and that really made my day.

7. Taking my granddaughter to see Macklemore
I had a random opportunity to score a couple tickets to see Macklemore, and so I invited the grandpony, but Toolmaker didn't tell her what we were going to do. So she asked. I said "how much do you like/hate surprises?" "Kind of hate them." So I took a picture of the tickets and she freaked out. Later on she told me it had been a good thing she was sitting down, otherwise she would have fallen over. Of course, when we got to Seattle Center I locked my keys in the car and broke my phone screen, BUT I still won Best Grandma Ever so it was ultimately all worth it. Plus, Macklemore*.

6. Gaining a granddaughter cuz my Dame got married
I learned this year just how precious daughters are, and I'm really grateful I have a grandone now; even as I've** lost my Dame.

5. Dame and Toolmaker getting married
So proud. They did it right. Luckily, they also did it twice. I'm really happy I got to be part of both iterations.

4. Being able to unashamedly spend time with my dad
The last few months and weeks of his life were really hard, but I spent as much time with him as I could, and I learned a lot more about him than I think I would have otherwise. I wish I had done more, but I'm glad for the time we did have.

3. Falling in love again
Ten and I had a really hard second half of 2012, but we managed to get thru and fall back in love (see #1). I also began falling in love with Jack this year. I really adore the slow crawl into loving someone in that well-rounded boring-to-outsiders kind of way. I also really like just allowing my feelings to exist in a drama free environment where they're accepted rather than held against me. Even better: being able to have that level of investment with/in another person without having the conflict as to the whole relationship escalator business.

2. That moment when I stopped hating my body and desired the touch of my lovers again
Part of the reason the end of 2012 was horrible was because I got really wrapped up in the eating disorder again. I had to go back into it to heal it, but that meant I starting having issues with physical intimacy (there were other contributing factors to this as well). Early in 2013 I was able to let go of the narrative that my body was bad, that I made bad choices with it, and that no one could ever enjoy touching it and being intimate with it. When that happened, I suddenly had desire again! And the desires I had were entirely my own, and directed to men who really appreciate my form and reciprocated the desire in its entirety.

1. Deciding with Ten that we would conitnue our current level of commitment and celebrate it with legal paperwork, jewelry, and a party
We're not getting married. We've spent a lot of time over the last couple of years deciding what our relationships with each other and other people would look like and decided that marriage really isn't our speed. We've got a different arrangement, one marriage doesn't really fit into because we've both got the solopoly-ish thing going on. But, as the Aziz Ansari bit goes, we decided we just wanna keep hanging out until one of us is dead. The paperwork will be a formality that only takes effect in the event something awful happens to one of us, and the rest is just gonna be a party to celebrate our relationship (which is awesome, so the party will be awesome***), and a ring to let a little tradition show thru.

*Whatever, homeboy done good.
***There's gonna be a taco bar. And DJs. But no cake.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Developing your poly-style

Before we get started on this bit, I want to tell you a little more about my relationship style.

I am a cisgendered*, heteroflexible, polyamorous, kinky** woman. I like to date people who identify as male and polyamorous. I like vanillay and kinky guys, and a person's sexual orientation doesn't really factor in to my dating choices, provided the person I want to date likes to have romantic and sexual relationships with women (otherwise, we'd just be friends). My relationship style aims toward long-term stable, fairly serious relationships, (I fall in love really easily); I also believe it's possible to have someone as a lover or partner, even if you aren't having sex with them and don't have any plans to. This is kind of the opposite of a friends-with-benefits relationship, because instead of only doing the sex together, a platonic lover does everything but the sex with you.

Further, I believe in egalitarianism in my relationships. That is, I don't subscribe to hierarchies***, I don't allow my relationships to affect each other (except to the extent that they effect my well-being), and I pretty much make my own rules. I do live with one of my partners, Ten, and we are fully committed to each other, as one would be to a mental institution; but we each maintain a solopoly-ish sort of style based on years of stubborn independence and one of the primary goals of our relationship being that neither of us becomes simply an adjunct of the other. I am not Mrs. Ten. He is not Mr. Empress. It doesn't work that way. With Jack, we're happy at the "dating" step on the "relationship escalator", and that's good for us. We do things socially with shared friends (I've even made a whole bunch of new friends because of him), in addition to going on dates and doing all the normal things you do when you're dating someone. Pond is another story all together, see the reverse-FWB explanation above.

So, that's the basics of my relationship style. I don't make rules, I don't follow rules, and I do everything I can to understand and establish boundaries in my relationships so that we can all not be dicks to each other. I have to say, it's working really well. But, it only works because I took the time to figure it out in the first place.
One of my biggest peeves are people who just decide one day "I'm polyamorous!" without taking the time to decide what that means. I would say that this jump-without-looking philosophy of venturing out into non-monogamy is how people get hurt and why therapists will tell you "oh that doesn't work because blah blah blah". Of course it's not going to work (or not going to work as well or for very long) if you don't know what you're doing! Here, I drew you a metaphor:
click to enlarge
1)Tree hears about a thing called books and wants to become something that has a lot of books in it
2)Tree decides to remove herself from her previous way of life and go to the lumber mill where
3)She begins the refinement process by being cut down into fine planks of wood
4)A lot of measuring and investigation is done so that the bookcase will be able to fit in the appropriate space, and be compatible with the kinds of books she wants
5)After some discomfort and lots of hard work, our tree-turned-book-case is ready to start dating some books. She still needs some refinement, and not every book she likes will be a good fit, but at least she has a good place to start

Obviously people are not trees or books*' or bookcases, and once a tree becomes a bookcase there's no going back; and there are a number of other problems with this metaphor*''. However, this isn't the transformation from monogamous tree to polyamorous bookcase, but rather the transformation of the skills required to move from one to the other. The old ways have to die before new ones can be developed. You must go through a period of refinement where old habits are stripped away and new ones can be sanded and varnished into place. Once you've developed your bookcase, you can put as many or as few books in it as you want, on whatever subject you want, but you will never not have made that journey, and you will be able to keep the self-knowledge and relationship skills you gained by undergoing the transformation.

This isn't an Ikea bookshelf either*'''. There are no prefab Planks of Communication, no pre-measured and pre-drilled Dimensions of Self-Knowledge, and while you'll still have pieces left over, you'll have enough material to make something else too. But, sometimes projects like these don't work out, and this metaphorical tree isn't meant to be a bookcase. That's okay too. There are a lot of uses for a self-actualized tree which has already begun going through the refinement process.

*Google is your friend.
**Sorry mom.
***Not to be confused with prioritizing based on desire, time, and level of connectedness, hierarchy establishes that there is a "primary" partner whose needs always come first and who sometimes gets to have a say in their partner's other relationships. I think this is bullshit. I'm not passing judgment or saying "yer doin it rong" if this is how you poly, I'm just saying that we aren't compatible.
*'I, however, am really comfortable comparing my partners to books. I think my books might also qualify as partners...
*''I hear you treehuggers, don't write me letters.
*'''I hear you Ikeahuggers, don't write me letters.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Polyamory and the meaning of life

I've had a rough year. I mean, by the standards of the butchest, toughest, strongest people I know, I've had a rough year. A lot of other people for whom I care a great deal have also been having a tough time the past year or two, and I'm pretty sure that the ones who are making it are doing it by the sheer force of will of the people who love them.

Because while I've had a tough time this last year, I've become closer with some very important people (partners, friends, and family), who have each been a reason I've continued to be able to face the days. Without them, I would be lost, broken, and probably homeless, if not dead. Of the other people I know who have been rolling 1s in life lately, those with the best support system are the ones doing their best work - I'm talking the stuff that's going to allow them to hit it big or reach other gigantic life goals.

You always hear about how adversity builds character, and it probably does but not for the reasons we're lead to believe. You don't become great by pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, you become great by asking for and receiving help. Those of us born without metaphorical boots (or feet!) can achieve greatness, but we can't do it on our own, and besides that what good is greatness if you don't have anyone to share it with.

The purpose of life, so far as I can tell, is relationships. There is that no one who is self-made and there is no such thing as being independent and self-sufficient. Ours is an incredibly social species, and our deepest desires are to connect with others and feel loved and accepted by our tribes. Of course, modern American life is devoid of most tribalism, unless you're part of a faith community or other club; and a lot of people are stuck looking for meaning in places that don't provide it. Polyamory provides this in some ways, turning the nuclear family into a tribe of interconnected, interdependent people who have more than friendship riding on their willingness to help pick up the slack when someone gets sick*.

When children are involved, a poly household or community, like a faith community, will jump in to make sure a child's needs are being met. While those who hold to the Bootstraps lifestyle might do this by hiring someone or sending said child to daycare or a friend's house, there is something precious in the role of the non-biological parent. My own limited experience with child-rearing, and the observations I've made of kids who grow up in poly families, is that when there's always a caring, trusted adult around (whose interest in the child is not financial, tutorial, or disciplinary but affection and love) kids are better socialized and better adjusted. And they grow up to be better humans than the rest of us**.

Part of growing up and becoming an adult is learning how to lean on others when in need and learning how to provide for others when they are in need. We're not here solely to get for ourselves and then steal away into solitude. Even those in the monastic lifestyle (monks and nuns in religious orders, and other ascetic people) develop their interdependence with others in their order or immediate vicinity. That is the entire reason our species evolved to take over the entire planet: we work together to make each other great. A leader may become ill and reclusive, but her tribe will make sure she is taken care of. Were she to refuse, she would do her tribe-mates a great insult. We do this in American culture by taking in our parents when they become ill or elderly, but it's seen as a burden, and an ever-divisive culture of capitalism jumped at the opportunity to let you pay to have someone else take care of your aged or indigent parents. When you think about it too long, that becomes rather cruel.

Meanwhile, the driving forces of our culture seek to divide us further by saying that it's somehow immoral or harmful to help those who cannot help themselves. Those people will figure it out and get a job, they say. "If you don't work, you don't eat," they say. The rest of us chant "work will make me free"*** and feel shamed when we have to ask for help making ends meet, or putting food on the table, or getting to the doctor. A culture which habitually denigrates the most vulnerable among us is one that opposes our very nature! It pits us at the bottom against each other, and when we fight, nobody benefits but the people gambling on who is going to win.

So, maybe I'm not a capitalist anymore. Maybe all this time I have spent asking my loves to help me has humbled me to the point where I no longer wish to do it all on my own. I don't want to be helpless (no one does), but you see even when I am financially dependent on one partner, occasionally physically dependent on another, and emotionally dependent on each of my loves (each in their own way), I'm not helpless. Each of us has a skill, a talent, an ability, that when we pool these resources and work together we achieve more than we ever could on our own. Maybe none of us is going to be the next internet millionaire, but by helping each other build our lives we create intimacy, emotional stability, and yes, even happiness. I am happier having a poly family than I ever could have been in a nuclear family, even in the face of everything I've been through in the last year.

Every year when I go to the doctor to get my birth control prescription there are two seemingly random questions: do you feel safe in your relationship(s)? and do you have a network of trusted individuals who are able to provide emotional support? These questions aren't asked of me because I'm poly. They aren't asked because I have a history of self-harming behaviours. These questions are asked of every person who goes to that doctor's office because it's a public health issue. We're a social species. We actually literally need each other to survive. Whether that's in a family or close circle of friends, or even a polycule, you must have those people you can ask help from; you must have those people with whom you build intimacy and trust by doing things together that those in the Bootstrap lifestyle think a person "should" be able to do on their own.

But, as the unattributed "African proverb" goes, if you want to go fast: go alone; if you want to go far: go together. Why insist on doing something by yourself when you can have help? Why insist on independence when interdependence is more efficient and helps you be happier and healthier? Why force others to do it themselves and "build character" when you can be rewarded by helping?

It's true, some people are happier alone, and everyone needs time to themselves. And yes, it is true that some people are awful and don't want to do their fair share to keep a community going*'. But if you are lonely and miserable and find yourself unable to connect with anyone, do you think it's really because you're better off stubbornly insisting that you do everything yourself? Or are you just building walls because, as Groucho said, you don't want to be a part of any club that would have you as a member?

Me? I'll take my weakness. I'll take my illness. I'll take the lessons I've learned from being sick and having to ask for help and build a community all the way to the bank. I'll watch my budding rockstar friend whose network has only expanded since she's been clambering for stability. I'll watch and cheer and support as hard as I can as her music composition and artistic concepts become so much more incredible and in touch with the soul of human experience. I'll watch my partners grow as leaders, learn how to delegate and how to ask for help even while they're making sure that the needs of their tribespersons are met. I'll watch my favorite teenagers become capable, well-adjusted adults who know how and when to ask for help, and that they are valuable enough to receive help and be worthy of love and belonging.

And, sadly, I'll watch those who continue to think that they can do everything on their own sink, and I'll be very sad that I can't help them.

*I speak from experience here. Pond and Jack have helped to take care of me while I've been sick and grieving this year, and the amount of care I have needed has been beyond what one person could provide under the best of circumstances.
**I am thinking specifically of three teenage girls who are each insane and insufferably teenage girls, but who will probably be better humans than most of the people I know because of the structure of their upbringing and the sheer number of adults who have a vested interest in them being well-care-for since their birth. Also worth considering are the few adults I know who grew up in polyamorous homes, whose maturity, self-knowledge, and bravery in the face of insane life-puzzles rivals the wisest monk.
***Because we in the West learned the wrong lessons from Auschwitz.
*'I really strongly recommend not having these people involved in your Burning Man project.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Poly Pro-Tip: It's not gonna go the way you think

Co-author of the upcoming (and funded Kickstarter!) book More than Two, Eve Rickert recently published an article online that I can't find anymore* wherein she details a few mis-steps that poly-n00bs tend to make. One of the things that she talked about is that your first few forays into non-monogamy aren't going to go how you think. Some things are going to crop up that you didn't know were issues, other things that you thought would be issues aren't going to bother you at all; most importantly, your heart is going to expand Grinch-style, and I think people being unprepared for that reality is at the root of the "Terrible Poly Story" that every veteran of non-monogamy has heard as an objection to their relationship-style.

I've seen a lot of people go from "this is a great idea!" to "this was a terrible experience!", or "we're trying this to save our marriage" to "non-monogamy broke my marriage" because sometimes when you just run thru a dungeon without looking you get eaten by a purple worm**. A lot of these people who run into this will say that they read all of the books, they thought and talked and wrote and everythinged*** on the subject of non-monogamy and polyamory in specific, but things still exploded in their faces.

That's because things aren't going to go how you think when you first start into polyamory. Some people are lucky. Some people are more insightful that the rest of us and know all the pitfalls they're about to avoid, but most of us aren't that wise. Unfortunately, it's not possible to predict the future, and even if you could predict it, affecting it is another skill entirely, no matter what the teevee says. But, because there are no foreseeable problems on the horizon, we get cocky about the way situations are going to unfold as we open up an existing monogamous relationship into being polyamorous. This is the downfall of even the healthiest couples (and yes, I know, I'm being annoyingly couple-centric in this topic so far, I'm sorry*') runs into roadblocks that can become insurmountable.

Singlish people who start out down the non-monogamy road encounter problems too. You say, "I'm no longer interested in monogamy", then you meet someone, and you tell them. But you end up being effectively monogamous with that person for several years, because of reasons. Or you meet person after person who says "yeah, I'm into that" at first, then turns out to not even sort of be into non-monogamy, they just think you're hot and want to touch your boobs. I could probably go on, but it's really not necessary.

My entire point here is that relationships are unpredictable, because people aren't rational. When you declare yourself rational, you start to overlook things. Small things. That thing that your partner said that really bothered you, but you're ignoring because you'd rather think of your New Shiny. A twinge of jealousy. A goodnight text. Subtle passive-aggressive behavior. Tiny insults. LIfe's situations are new, and you're rational, and having an emotional respose to a forgotten text, or a perceived slight isn't rational. Let it go, you say, it's not important. Most of this is good.

But, pretty soon it's really important and you're suffering and you don't know what to do because the rational thing isn't working anymore. You're having an emotional reation to something you said was unimportant, weeping on the floor for no reason. Or not. Some people shut down here. Ultimately, the only way to prepare yourself for the roadblocks in this uncharted territory is to admit that beginning polyamory is uncharted for you, and to pay very close attention to your emotional reactions to things.

Also, don't blame your new partners for problems in your existing relationships. That's called being a dick, and if you keep doing that, NO ONE WILL FUCK YOU EVER AGAIN. If you're using non-monogamy to try to fix the problems in your monogamous relationship, that relationship is going to end and it's going to suck really hard for everyone you date and everyone your partner dates*''. Fucking fix that shit before you even THINK of developing new emotional entanglements.

After that, maybe give it a year. What a year? Yeah. A year. The transition from monogamy to non-monogamy is one of the biggest changes you can make in a relationship, and pulling new people in too soon is a bad idea. Don't take my word for it, ask your poly friends about their Poly Horror Stories. And if you don't have any poly friends yet, it's probably not time to start dating yet. Just an idea.

Something else that isn't going to go how you expect, is that not everyone you meet is going to have the same poly-style as you - especially if you don't have a style yet. Trying to conform your style to theirs can work, but usually it's just going to explode. But, if you have a history of relating to people in an intense way, the person who is much more casual with their sexual attention is probably going to break your heart*''', even if they don't mean to. True story.

Know yourself. Don't get cocky. Listen to your emotions, and please make sure you're going to extra measures to make sure your existing partner is heard. Also, if your existing relationship isn't good, don't think that adding more people is going to make it better. It won't.

*Full disclosure, I didn't look that hard.
*Continuing the theme for this entry's footnotes: yes, I watched the D&D episode of Community then mainlined season 6 of The Guild tonight. You knew I was a nerd when you started reading my blog.
***I'm sorry, it's a verb now. Not actually sorry.
*'Actually sorry. Keep reading.
*''After being dumped several times because "things aren't going well in my marriage and I need to focus on that" I've stopped dating people who are new to polyamory because they think it's the solution to their marital problems. It's not. Counseling is. 
*'''Another person who gets set into the "not now" category, is the one who doesn't have their own poly figured out. I know, it's not fair, but I'm not the gal you cut your poly teeth on. This isn't a 100-level class.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Polyamory objection #81: it's not fair

The argument goes like this:

"I just don't think having more than one partner is fair to them. The love will never be equal, the relationships will never be equal."

I'll start by sparing you the Life's Not Fucking Fair, Grow The Fuck Up Speech*, and really cut to the quick on this argument. The person making this argument is starting from the false assumption that different relationships with different people are supposed to be the same. That the love you have for your mother is interchangable with the love you have for your father, both are parents, therefore it's only fair that the love be exactly the same.

Horseshit. Let's talk about something that really isn't fair (by which I mean just): expecting someone who's been seeing you for less than a year to prioritize you above (or even at the same level as) someone they've been seeing for 2 or 3 or 8 years. That's just not reasonable, regardless of whether it's just or fair or not. Not only is it unfair to expect to be equal to a new partner's other partners, it's not just or right or reasonable for a new partner to be made equal or the same as an established partner.

Oh, also: different people and different relationships are different. There's no comparing Ten to Jack! Pond to Eleven! Anyone to Nine! No comparisson because they are each individual persons with whom I have individual relationships, (and most of the poly folk I know run their shows this way), and when a person makes the mistake of comparing one relationship to another that's where drama starts.

Now, as a Timelord, with two hearts (you can count them), I love a little more, and more easily, than a lot of people I know. If I was to operate on this model where love between partners must always be equal I could never experience happiness in a relationship. I would not be able to count my friends because I wouldn't have any. The expectation that two different people could love or be loved in the same way or even the same amount is foolishness regardless of the context of the relationship. And if you do take into account the context of each relationship, that expectation becomes outright idiotic.

Of course, I've also said before that love is love is love, regardless of the context of the relationship. So, it doesn't really matter if you think it's fair or not.
*Guess what: life's not fucking fair. Grow the fuck up.

Friday, October 11, 2013

"I Don't Want To Write About Sad Stuff For A While"; or Here's a post about polyamory

Today is National Coming Out Day (apparently). Most of the people reading this already know that I'm poly, so that's not news - unless it is, in which case, hey, guess what! But in the spirit of NCOD, I thought I'd write a little bit about what that means to me and save you the trouble of feeling weird about asking for more information. I find most people are curious about polyamory, but they don't want to pry; except for the occasional gross person whose first question is whether I have sex with all of my partners at once*.

First, I am a polyamorous person involved in several polyamorous relationships. I consider polyamory to be a part of my identity just like being a Jewish, cisgendered woman, who is heterosexual**. In the past I have had monogamous relationships, and Ten and I even had several years where we were effectively monogamous even after deciding that poly was right for each and both of us. There's a bit of a debate about whether polyamorous qualifies as an orientation, but no amount of old men harrumphing on the subject is going to change my mind. I consider myself a polyamorous person because I don't stop desiring multiple relationships because I have one or none on-going. Just like I don't stop being attracted to men when there aren't any available ones around; nor do I become asexual from sleeping alone too frequently***.

Here's what my relationship organization looks like:
There's me in the middle. I am my most important relationship. I spend all of my time with me, I make life decisions with myself, and I'm pretty much a super big deal to myself. That's why the yellow bubble is the biggest and in the middle.

*The next biggest bubble is Ten. He and I live together and share a lot of things, including nearly 7 years of our lives. He is very important to me, and I wouldn't trade him for a neon-pink Winnebago. We make life decisions together, and our relationship is sexual, romantic, and platonic. We also have a dog together (who doesn't have a bubble on this chart). 

*Captain Jack: We don't live together, and it's unlikely we ever will. At this stage in our relationship we don't make life decisions together. I don't know what it would take for that to happen, and I'm really not that worried about it, because there's no reason to rush to that point. Our relationship is romantic, sexual, and platonic.

*Pond: Pond is my platonic wife. My hetero-lifemate. We don't live together, probably never will, and we don't make life decisions together. She does play a significant role in my life (at least as significant as Jack, tho not as big a role as Ten), and our relationship is platonic and hopefully as enduring as Jay and Silent Bob. She is also the only woman I've ever considered to be a partner.

*Nine: I go back quite a long ways with Nine. He was my first poly partner, and I still see him on occasion (tho not as frequently as I would like). Our relationship is platonic and sexual.

*Eleven: lives far far away. I don't get to spend much time with him at all because of the distance, and I don't really know how we would fit into each others' lives if we did get to see each other. But, he has a special place in my chart.

Some of my relationship bubbles touch, but none of them really overlap because I relate to each person on a one-to-one level. And, in addition to my dog not being on this chart, my metamours aren't either. I have many, I like them all, and here's why: my partners have awesome taste (I mean, c'mon, look at me), and only date awesome people, therefore all of my partners other partners are awesome unless shown to be otherwise. I've been at this for a while now, and my Metamour Awesomeness Theory has yet to be proven wrong.

I can't cover every detail of my poly life in one post. Not effectively anyway. So, here's a little more of an overview of some key points to how this whole thing works:

*I am at least emotionally independent from all of my partners. I don't practice couple-centric polyamory because I don't like it.
*I don't have rules. As far as I'm concerned, the only real "rule" is that everyone follow Wheaton's Law: Don't Be A Dick.
*My expectation in my relationships is that each person be allowed to ask and each person be allowed to respond to a request with a yes, no, or let me think about it. This is the perpetual consent dance. Constant communication and honoring of boundaries is a gigantic part of this.
*I dream of one day being rich and having a rich person house so that my core partners and their partners can all live with me all commune style. I don't think that will ever be a reality, but it's fun to dream.
*Love is infinite. Time, not so much. Not even when you're a Timelord.
*Hierarchy (titles like "primary", "secondary", etc) bugs the shit out of me. I don't mind if people I'm not involved with run things that way, but I'm not a "secondary" type partner. I'm an all-in kind of girl, and after a certain point, my emotional investment in any given partner is going to be about equal to my other partners.
*Jealousy is a thing, (tho pretty minor for me), but just because you feel something doesn't mean it gets to rule you.
*My partners are people to me first, and I don't consider them items on a psycho-sexual buffet (altho I've been told the idea sounds appealing). I choose my partners based on who they are, not whether they fill a niche.

I also want to talk to other poly folks and give them a platform for sharing how they make things work. There's a lot of variety in the world or polyamory, not just the stuff you see on the teevee where a thin, white, conventionally attractive, married couple decides to start seeing another thin, white, conventionally attractive woman - altho this does happen, and I'm not the judgmental "YER DOIN IT RONG!" type (so if you're a thin, white, conventionally attractive triad, please don't write me to complain).

*Not that it's any of your fucking business, but no, I don't. 
***Yeah, I heard that sigh of relief. Perverts.

Personal Definitions of Terms (anything else you can google):
platonic - I can hang out and be social with this person
romantic - I can be cuddly and squishy with this person
sexual - don't make me spell it out, my mom is reading this

Monday, September 23, 2013

Food anxiety

This is what I had for breakfast:

gluten free crackers, strawberry-banana milk, and watermelon. Not pictured, a handful of pills designed to make this collection of calories not hurt. Nevermind actual nourishment...

It's been a while since I've written about my digestive and other food issues because so much has been going on. And it wasn't that I magically got all better. In fact, when my dad died, I kind of gave up trying to continue my recovery. It meant more stress in an already stressful situation, and I wasn't really that interested in trying to have a better outlook on my body and the fuel it uses while grieving my father.

I stopped taking my supplements (which, was a really bad idea), because they all got packed up and moved around during the move. I tried to keep my anti-gluten pills nearby at all times, but that's only so effective. I also tried to keep D3 and B-complex on hand so that I would have enough energy to get thru my life. I was trying to try again, but then Dame died, and -- well, if you know me, you know what happened.

So, my health has deteriorated. I no longer so much have a complex about eating, (altho I am still fighting against ideas about myself that are not helpful), but I've developed a much stronger sense of food anxiety because I keep getting sick. Whether it's just THE WORST INDIGESTION EVAR or an abdominal migraine, or general anxiety and depression keeping me from eating, I've become much pickier than I've ever been*, AND barely able to digest anything**.

As before, lack of calories destroys my body's ability to regulate all of the things (especially blood sugar), causing anxiety and paranoia, AND depression; making me an anti-social wreck which is really bad for me since I'm pretty extroverted. This means I stop trusting people who usually bring me comfort, and that makes me more anxious and paranoid and so on top of the massive amounts of grief I'm experiencing, I'm also unable to find solace because the only person I can really handle being around most of the time is my dog***.

I stay up late watching movies and tv shows I've already seen, try to work on my art but emotional strangulation and creativity don't really go very well together. And then there's mornings. Now that I've given my body this expectation that when it asks for food, I'll feed myself: I get hungry in the mornings. But that hunger hurts. It hurts like a wound. Not only is my stomach aching for food, but my intestines are aching from the previous day's adventure in attempted sustenance, and other parts of me are hurting because of the lack of nutrients. Getting out of bed is a battle for me. Not just because I'm depressed and grieving, but because moving around means using energy and that energy needs to be sustained by something and in the morning, I don't know what that something could be.

It's always been like this. The pain reinforced my EATING IS BAD complex, because eventually if I ignored the pain enough, it would go away and I would feel fine. How fucking insane is that? I mean, do you even understand how nuts it is to have yourself convinced that not eating will make your hunger pains go away? Do you get how messed up it is that the pain of not eating, and all of the negative side effects that has, is worse than the pain from putting food in you? Or just how scary it is to be afraid to eat? I don't think most people get that, and not really having anyone to talk about that with is kind of a problem.

But, I can't go on ignoring it. The pain doesn't stop at my stomach now. Other digestive organs have begun to be affected by the inflammation that goes on in the rest of my body*', and so this insane swelling goes on that, while it doesn't really cause any bloating or anything, is so painful it keeps me awake at night. As if the rest of what's going on in my body wasn't enough of a party.

This weekend, tho, I hit my limit on ignoring what's been happening. I went to a party, but instead I got sick and had to go home without really having any fun beyond the first few hours in the afternoon*''. I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep after crying almost the entire drive home, and when I was able to really process what was going on, Ten and I made a plan:

Step 1: I'm going back to being a vegetarian for a while. Last year's experiment in veganism was horrifying in its lack of cheese, but I did start to get better while eating mostly vegetables. So, I'll give it another chance, but there's got to be some dairy in there so that I don't go mad. No eggs tho. Fuck eggs. Those things are assholes.

Step 2: No more booze. At least, not more than one drink in a sitting. And for right now, none. Alcohol causes inflammation in the body (along with a number of other substances I enjoy, but at least losing this one won't drive me mad).

Step 3: Take supplements again. Every day. Including a protein supplement that is easily digestible and meant to help repair the insides of your insides. Other stars include the supplement my doctor gave me for my stupid gal bladder, digestive enzymes, probiotics, coconut oil, glucosamine, L-glutamine, Cal-Mag, and the D3 and B-complex mentioned earlier.

Step 4: I'm going to the doctor tomorrow (you may have already read the footnote), to talk about what's been going on with my intestines, hands, and anxiety. I don't know how much he's going to be able to help me right now (since you know, no health insurance), but it's worth talking about and seeing if there's anything else I can do aside from what's outlined here.

Step 5: OBAMACARE! I'm going to qualify for a subsidy. I'm going to figure out how to make sure that I get the best health insurance I possibly can for my subsidy buck and then I'm going to get all the healthcare. ALL of it. Okay, I might try to skip the colonoscopy, those sound horrifying.

I have a bit of a plan, but I don't know how well it's going to work. I made a pretty good dinner for myself tonight, after not really eating at all today. I do have some things made that I'll be able to eat tomorrow, but I'm still concerned what's going to happen on the inside of my insides between now and then. It's not a pleasant thing to think about when your insides are healthy, let alone when they feel like they're melting.

Too much information?
*No, really.
**Vegetables are the worst.
***Who is awesome, but really doesn't fulfill my need for human contact.
*'Inflammation that may be attacking my joints, specifically my hands and neck, as well. Before you say anything, I'm going to the doctor tomorrow.
*''I also had a bit of an emotional meltdown, and there wasn't really anyone available to comfort me after that.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Being happy in the dark

This week my rabbi asked how I was doing, "you don't seem like you're okay," she said. "It's okay not to be."

I had to think about it for a few hours before I was able to really tell her what was going on. The truth of the matter is that I am not okay. Life has dealt hit after hit this past year, and being okay in the face of all that would make me some kind of unfeeling monster. I will eventually be okay, but I am not now and I'm not ashamed of that at all. My heart and soul are raw and blistered from a kind of hell that not everyone gets to visit*, and I've barely begun to heal.

Yet, I am happy. Not content. Not ecstatic and overcome with joy. Not experiencing constant bliss. But I am happy. I look around and see the wonderful people who are in my life because of the work that I have done to better myself; I hold those whose hearts are close to my own; and thru desperate sadness and pain from the sheer unfairness of life I can find this weird happiness that comes from knowing I am not alone in this darkness.

Very few people understand what I'm going thru, or what I've been thru already. Even those who grasp its magnitude are viewing my struggles thru their own, so it's not always easy to connect. But those people hold their pain and grief out as one holds out one's arms for a hug, and we connect in the darkness, smiling because we have each other.

Some of my loved ones are not in the darkness, but understand how it overwhelms and envelops you. They reach out their light, illuminate me for a while, and while that doesn't make anything the way it ought to be, the patience and kindness helps me.

But most of the people around me have no idea. Many have been in dark places, but this is not a darkness caused by the lights going out in your soul because your brain forgot to pay the electric bill. I'm not depressed. The sun went out. I won't be able to regulate serotonin to turn the lights back on**, the light will return when it returns and I don't know when that will be. Grief is not like depression. Grief is not like any other sadness you've ever felt and there is nothing you can do but accept its presence and realize that the entire purpose of Grief is to help you.

And so while I am not okay, while nothing is okay (and in some ways never will be again), I am not harmed. I enjoy the embraces of my friends, the gentle caresses of my lovers, the feel of my dog's fur; I take in all of the experiences not as someone whose senses have been dulled by a chemical imbalance, but as someone falling in the shadow of an eclipse. It is beautiful, this pain that I am feeling. Beautiful and terrifying, but I am safe, loved, and happy.

I talk about my feelings a lot right now. I post about them because I'm not fighting them. I'm just letting them wash over me because I know that these emotions, these "stages of grief" are there to heal me. If the hell of the past year has burned me, my grief is cooling water infused with the nutrients needed to heal those wounds. There will be scars and adhesions, and I may be very uneven for a while longer than some think necessary but this process will take as long as it takes and I've decided not to allow it to scab and definitely not to pick at it if it does.

You may not understand the sadness in my eyes. I hope you never have to. But the smile on my face remains genuine, and the love of my companions and protectors is felt, held, and honored.

*And to my Evangelical Christian friends, I really don't think Jesus could have saved me from it. If you had been thru what I've been thru in the last year, you'd know that the threat of "Hell" doesn't scare me. And please don't try to argue the point. You actually don't know what you're talking about.
**Do please note that my explaining how grief and depression are different does not mean that one or the other is more valid. If you are experiencing depression, please please please talk to someone about it. You are valuable, and maybe your brain needs a little help so you can remember that.

Teddy Roosevelt, Inanna's descent thru the Underworld, Hearts on Sleeves, and my horoscope: a love letter

I have been struggling with something recently, and while it falls along the same lines as my previous battles because it involves allowing myself to be vulnerable in a whole new way, it's different at the same time.

In my OkStupid profile I promise to be the type of person who wears her hearts on her sleeves. Most of the time that's pretty easy, unless I'm showing a part of me that has been damaged before and isn't quite healed yet. I'm the fall-in-love type, and usually have a pretty hard time keeping that information to myself (which, as you might have guessed is part of why I'm writing this). I don't hold back. I base my relationships on openness and vulnerability because I know in the deepest part of me that love isn't the kind of activity that is outcome-based.

"It is not the critic who counts; nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly...."
-Teddy Roosevelt, "The Man in the Arena" April 23rd, 1910

When I read this quote at the beginning of Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly, I was reminded of my place and what it means to be Empress. The archetypal Inanna, Queen of Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld earned her title by falling, failing, being betrayed, and ultimately left to die until the head god realized "oh shit, no Empress means no life!" and convinced the other gods to figure out a way to get her off the hook in the Underworld. I didn't know that I would suffer so strongly early in my life when I chose the name Empress. It didn't register until I re-read the chapter about Inanna earlier today, after thinking over and over about how to overcome this bit of fear I've been up against for more than a few weeks.

Even while wandering and wailing, the Empress doesn't crumble. Her majesty is stripped, and in the darkness she loses everything but her vulnerability. And while coming out into the light again, she realizes that everything she is, everything she has is not based on the scepters she used to rule; the symbols of her feminine power, or her family strength; nothing based on ego or bodily integrity. The only thing that saves her life is her vulnerability, so she learns to base her relationships on that and gains so much more.

Yes, there is danger in this approach, but when the right relationships come along in all their forms (familial, romantic, platonic, dog), what results is the kind of power you don't get through symbols and artificial strength. The Empress moves past her fears, says "I love you" first, and acknowledges that reciprocity may come later, if at all. And if it doesn't, the act of loving still stands and she is greater for it.

So when my horoscope this week asked, "Is the love that's blooming a transient pleasure or a powerful upgrade that's worth working on with all your ingenuity?" Then answer came thusly:  if this isn't all aiming for an upgrade, you've spent an awful lot of time, energy, and money chasing rabbits.

This doesn't just apply to my personal life (although, that's the direction most of the reflection on this question has taken), but to my career, my activism, and my family. If I expect to be fully Empress, I cannot, must not, set out directionless. If I expect to lead, I must know whether I'm climbing a hill or a mountain; setting toward a river or a creek, with neither being better than the other, but the important part being clarity of purpose and transparency of sleeve.

It takes two hearts to be a Timelord because sometimes one of them breaks. And while this may be my nerdtastic metaphor* for living fully in my purpose, the truth of it lies in this: I wear my hearts on my sleeve. I don't bow to fear or intimidation because I was made to dare greatly and to confess love when I feel it. And even if a heart breaks, the love still lives on because the broken pieces get reabsorbed and the heart becomes stronger.

Being vulnerable with you taught me that I am more durable than I thought I was. This last year has been a terrible descent, and I won't credit you with rescuing me, because I know better. Having stood in the arena this whole time, seeing you still there as parts of me were torn away by circumstances - some that I began, some I had nothing to do with - I know that I don't need to earn your love or approval, or to show you that mine is real. Of course you know. How could you miss it?

When someone primes us for an upgrade, we do the same for them. Love multiplies love, and we come to it through vulnerability.

*I do have a funky heartbeat tho

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

20 Affirmations for a More Fulfilling Life

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook today. It is well-meaning and right on point, but like so many other articles of the same theme it tells you what not to do instead of advising a solution. Yes, running from your problems, for example, is destructive, but what do you do to stop that?

By flipping the language around on these bits of advice and turning them into an affirmation you can claim as your own, then looking at or saying those affirmations every day you will begin to shed these habits. So go read the article to get an idea of what's going on here (I'll wait), then come back and read the affirmations that go along with it.

  1.  I face my problems, do what I can, and let the rest go.
  2.  I am always truthful with myself and others.
  3.  I allow myself to live in the present moment.
  4.  I allow myself to have my feelings, including happiness.
  5.  I am able to be independent and responsibly interdependent.
  6.  I always do my best, regardless of whether I may fail or succeed.
  7.  I learn from my mistakes.
  8.  I allow myself to be intimate with others.
  9.  I live from a place of compassion for myself and others.
  10.  I am allowed to be myself. My loved ones are allowed to be who they are.
  11.  I acknowledge my genuine reasons and motives for my actions.
  12.  I let go of things that I cannot control.
  13.  I err on the side of optimism.
  14.  Today, I am grateful for the following 5 things: [list 5 things]
  15.  I use my time wisely.
  16.  I allow myself time to rest and breathe.
  17.  I am proud of myself, and impressive all on my own.
  18.  There is only one me, and I am [chosen pronoun].
  19.  I am allowed to enjoy life.
  20.  Right this second I am enough. I love me. I'm allowed to love me.

See how much more practical that is than trying to shame yourself into changing? Feel free to use these or make up your own. Just remember that the formula for an affirmation is a positive action or belief that you either can grow into (it's like hypnosis like that) or already believe. If you say an affirmation and the voice in the back of your mind is screaming LIAR!!! try something a little closer to how you feel. For example, if "I love myself" feels inherently false to you*, try "I am allowed to love myself". If it still feels like a lie at that point, you can try stepping back to "I am allowed to like myself", but find a way to stick with it.

Affirmations skip over words like "don't" or "am not" in the direct action. Also, consider skipping words like "should/shouldn't" and "need". These words subtly shame you and we want to avoid that. Instead, consider replacing these words with "must", "want", "desire", and "require". More specific language feels weird at first, but when you stop shaming yourself you can have an easier time building yourself up to the point where you can say all of the above affirmations without that little voice calling you a liar.

*No shame in that. A lot of people feel that way but are still great.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Wherein I demonstrate that I have truly learned nothing

For the longest time, as long as I can remember, September was the beginning of a new year; sometimes a new era. As an adult, I recognize why this is (apart from a new school year, which was always important and exciting to me), and I see myself changing more from Tishrei to Tishrei than from January to January. Secular New Years don't mean as much, perhaps because their celebration is so... secular.

So, as we're coming to the end of another year in the Jewish calendar, I feel like I ought to have something compelling to tell you about the last year. A year where I:
  • battled my own demons
  • struggled with my health
  • watched my father wither from pancreatic cancer
  • prayed very hard that his suffering would end
  • told him that I loved him and would see him soon (that was the last thing I said to him)
  • stood in my living room not knowing what to do when news came that he had died 
  • dealt (at least partially) with the aftermath from that
  • sold a home and moved to a new one
  • enjoyed developing a new relationship (I can't leave that out, as said relationship has become very important)
  • enjoyed continuing to cultivate existing relationships (which I also can't forget as they have kept me afloat as much as anything else has)
  • made new friends
  • lost my beloved daughter very suddenly and very nearly become lost myself

Those who have been reading my blog since this time last year have followed this journey and often complimented my words. Because of that, I want to be able to say something profound; that I learned something from all of this suffering. But if I did, I don't know what.

Whether it was telling my dad that it was okay to be scared that he was about to die, or holding my granddaughter tight so that maybe she could feel some of her step-mom's love coming thru me. Whether revealing my secrets and deepest pains to Captain Jack, or leaning on Ten and weeping; or seeing Nine for the first time in years because we missed each other. Whether I was making art, dancing, cooking, fucking, or getting more tattoos, I don't know what the lesson is.

Unless there is no lesson. Unless there's no reason or purpose except just to have had those moments and they exist for their own sake not for some greater purpose. The moment. Now. But if that is it, how do you deal with it?

I promised the new people that I've met in the past year that I wouldn't hide who I really am because I was scared. I held myself in the moment, telling my dad it was all okay; holding Pony; being held; telling those I love that I do love them. Being afraid isn't enough of an excuse to ignore the exhale that may be your last, and maybe that's the lesson. Not being "good enough" isn't an excuse to bury yourself in shame. Someone seeing your giving nature and taking advantage of it isn't enough to take you away from the people you haven't met yet.

This past year I gave up on being aloof, and instead fell in love. 
I gave up on starving my body, and was able to feed my soul.
I gave up on trying to control the outcome and was simply present in each crisis, continuing to breathe even as someone I loved was progressing toward not even being able to do that.
I gave up on money, on struggle, on trying to fit in and be cool.
I fought for love, for art, for freedom, for those vulnerable moments where you see yourself thru someone else's eyes and realize you're not really that bad.

Nothing about me is the same as it was a year ago. I'm barely the same person, and I'm not even trying to hold onto who I was before. I'm not struggling for catharsis or meaning anymore. I don't need other people to understand how I feel, or approve of who I am or what I've become. I'm simply going to put on my diadem, take my throne, and perform my duties as Empress.

And if I have learned anything in the last year, it's that I don't fucking care if you don't like it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

What right have I...

We were out with some people from our social group, and conversation became proper where I could say that my daughter had died.

"Daughter," Ten said, with finger quotes.

"Don't do that," I scolded him, not revealing the wound he had just stuck into me with this gesture that was attempting to make the words I had said less devastating.


"You were a very good friend to her," someone I don't know told me at the final viewing of her body.

"A bit more than a friend," I said, rage at being dismissed not even coming close to the grief.


The first thing I did when I walked into the hospital room was lay my head on her hearts. I stood and pet her hair for a few minutes, then pulled myself away to hug Toolmaker. We exchanged "I love you"s, and he thanked me for always being there for her. "I want you to know that she really thought of you as her mama."

I know she did. Because I was.

In the grocery store much later that night, I leaned my head on Ten's chest and began to cry. "It's not fair. My baby is dead."


I keep butting up against this feeling like I don't have the right to be as grieved as I am by Dame's death. I didn't birth or raise her in this life. I'm not able to have children, and for most of my adult life I didn't really want any either. But then Dame happened, and it was the best thing, because not only did I have a daughter who gave me the most precious gift of letting me be her mama, but I had all this other family who took (and takes) that just as seriously.

It was never a question for me. There was nothing she could have done that would ever have made me love her less, and not only did she return that love, but she understood, fully, how precious a gift that is. No, I didn't do any of the hard work. No, I was never tested by bad behavior, lies, bad grades, fights, or having my dreams for her dashed by a decision to take a different path. None of that stuff happened between us. That's true. I would say that I was never given the opportunity to hurt her (as parents frequently are), but I knew what made her hurt. I knew that not from the perspective of a friend or sister, I knew what hurt her from the perspective of a mother - and there's a part of me that doesn't even know what that means!

My period was the same week that she died. As my lining shed, I felt this epic loss. The part of me that has the biological function of gestating new life became hollow and empty in a way it never has before. I mourned my ability to physically birth a child. I felt like I had failed as a woman because my daughter had died. Even though she's not my blood. But blood has never mattered to me, and it still doesn't.

Those closest to either Dame or me get it. Those close to both of us really understand, and I don't know why I give a shit about the opinions of anyone else. A lot of people are grieving though, and I want to honor their pain too, because I love everyone she loved. I see a little redemption for myself in the mama category when I look at my grandchildren. I know Toolmaker won't let me abdicate grandmaness for his daughter; and I hope Dame's son's father and step-mom will want me to be in his life as well. This, however, is small comfort. Just as it is for the grandkidlets. Just as it is for Toolmaker; for Dame's other loves; for the other people to whom she was family.

And I can't help myself from qualifying my grief. I can't stop myself from thinking of those who loved her as much, but in a different context. But I guess I have been doing this for the people who loved my dad too. Then I think.... these two completely different lives that very nearly intersected, but for death, maybe they get a chance to hang out, if only because I often think of them at the same time. I don't know.

It's not necessary for me to know. Nor is it necessary for me to justify the level of my grief. I just wish I could remember that and stop justifying it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Eulogy of Rainne Dempsey, Feb 17, 1977 - Aug 4, 2013

Rainne's husband, Jason, asked me to give her eulogy. Here is the transcript of what I said at her memorial on August 17, 2013 If you knew and loved her, you have my permission to share this post high and low all over the internet. If you knew her and didn't love her, I'm really sorry about that.

Several months ago, when Star Trek: Into Darkness came out, we went to see it as a family, (because MOAR CUMBERBATCH). Beforehand, Rainne, Epona, and I went to my favorite Mexican restaurant for tacos. Because I was something of a regular at the time, I introduced Rainne as my daughter (and Epona as my granddaughter) to the waitress. Marcella was blown away and looked at Rainne for confirmation - she grinned and giggled, you know the way. Then Marcella, knowing a teenager couldn't bluff, asked Epona "is this true? She's your grandma?" Epona nodded silently, grasping a chip in her hands like a squirrel. We talked a bit; it was quite nice. I was proud to be a mama at that moment, and looking back on it I understand the joy had by those who come by motherhood in the usual way.

The other thing about this memory, is that it reminds me how seriously Rainne took the ties of family. Yes, calling someone who appears to be older than her "Mama" probably seemed weird to a lot of people, but we're Timelords, see, and if you're a nerd it totally makes sense. I don't know why defining our relationship that way worked for us, but it really, truly did and I am so lost now without my daughter. She gave me something no one else ever had or could, and I think a lot of people experienced her ability to love that uniquely.

When I was asked to speak to you about Rainne - my polyamorous, pansexual, pagan Rainne - I put a note up on Facebook asking my friends what they had learned from her life. It appears that the consensus is that she taught us to love with all of our might, to be proud to love so much (and show it!), and that even when someone hurts you, you can still love them without accepting that hurt or being bound by it. (There was also a couple of notes in there about being organized and using lists and g-cal like a mad woman. Had Rainne lived long enough to go senile, she would have hoarded calendars like a crazy cat lady hoards cats - and by that time in this weird alternate future, I don't see any reason why the calendars wouldn't have started to eat her body when she died there.)

Rainne lived so well and loved so hard that she broke life. It's true. This epic gathering today (but much more so the EPIC WEDDING OF EPICNESS in April) is proof of that. Each person here was touched by her life in some way and internalizing the lessons from her life is what we must all do for ourselves to remember her. It's okay to be sad - or angry, or still in shock - whatever you are feeling it is valid and feeling that way, to its fullest extent and expression is going to go a long way toward making you whole again. And no matter how well you knew Rainne, you know in your hearts that she wants you to be whole.

She never whined. Not because there was nothing to complain about (physical pain, emotional pain, inconvenient circumstances); she didn't whine because there was no time to waste feeling sorry for herself and ignoring the richness of the life she had built from the ground up. Instead, if something was bothering her, she would say so - a characteristic I've been told she passed to Kai, who is not shy about expressing his emotions, rightly so. Sometimes past hurts would be triggered by circumstances, and I remember being counsel more than a few times, and it wouldn't take too mch to remind her how awesome she was and that the pain of the moment was less important than how much richer moving through that pain with a whole heart would make her.

She was the first person to be excited and "squee" with you about something good; and always made time to comfort you if you were hurt or lost. She was fiercely loyal, and never made pronouncements or judgments on you because she knew how great of a wedge could be set between two people when one judged the other.

I watched her go through heartbreak and devastation. I saw her FEEL the hardest things and come out the other side strong, graceful, and full of love. But more importantly, I watched her love. And love. And love until she became the essence of love as she is now.

I want you to know and take with you the fact that her life was as close to perfect as she could get - and you helped her do that. Because you rule, and she never hesitated to say so.

Jason - I know she sometimes ran you ragged doing ALL OF THE THINGS in a single weekend and THEN coming over to help paint my house (while knitting the entire time); but I think we're all glad she filled your life together as full as she did. I don't even know the depth to which she loves you, but everyone who saw you together will carry that example of DOING IT RIGHT in our hearts. You will continue to inspire us in the years to come as her memory inspires you to keep having an awesome life; and I will always count you as family, and love you as a son.

Veronica and Chris - I didn't get as much opportunity to see you with her, but she did talk about you and I know you each enriched her life and I am so grateful for the love you gave to her and received from her. Thank you.

Epona - I understand just how much joy you gave her. Having a daughter is a magical thing for a woman (even when you acquire her through circumstances other than the birthing kind). She did everything she could for you, just as if you were her blood-kin, and I know you recognize how important you were to her. For my part, I am keeping you as my granddaughter, and when I die (in a very very long time), I'll leave you a haunted house with the contingency being that you have to spend an entire night there with the ghosts - and explain to your friends the weird relationship you have to me.

To the rest of the Dempsey Clan - you all gave her so much. You embraced her with open arms the way family should - as you have done with me. And as Andie told me, Rainne considered you family and so I consider you family. (This goes for "adopted" little sister Stephanie as well.)

For Dee and the rest of her blood kin - I hope today, and the time you were able to spend with her in the last few months reveals to you how amazing a woman and daughter Rainne was. I hope this weird collection of people are endeared to you because we carry her memory in our hearts as strongly as you do. And I hope we all learn something from each other through sharing our memories.

To Kai - words cannot express how deeply your Mama loved you, and I know no one here will be able to take her place in your heart, so no one is going to try to do that. But if you look around at all these people here today, all these people who loved your mama, you will see people who will join togehter and do everything we can to make our collected love as strong a hers was for you. How you feel about losing her is valid and will continue to be as you grow up. I know your daddy and mommy-Misa will remind you of this, and let us hold you close in our hearts - as much as I know both of them would rather just keep you safe inside a bubble so nothing bad ever happens to you again.

I want to wrap this up (before I completely lose my shit*) by reminding everyone again that your feelings are valid. Grieve in what ways you know how, but remember to take a break once in a while; don't try to rush through and get it over with. Make sure that you love life, yourself, and others with your whole heart, even the parts of your heart that ache; when you're with someone, show them you love them, and when you leave their side make sure they know. Love is a stand-alone thing, you do it because you must (or your hearts will burst!), not because you're necessarily going to have it reciprocated right away or at all. When you love wholeheartedly the world becomes brighter. YOU will smile all the time. YOU will grace everyone you meet with love. YOU can be like Rainne by loving life with every fiber of your being and we can all be her legacy by living as she did.

Thank you.


*Shit totally lost when Epona spoke. Luckily we got to cuddle and cry and collect ourselves.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Timelords

I met the Dame a few years ago - it feels like ages now - through a mutual friend. We became close quickly, and I gave her my whole heart when she needed love while going through a string of family dramas. During one of those incidents, one which would have debilitated a lesser person, some terrible awful no good things were said about her by someone I will not name because it's not fair; in such a way that she felt orphaned. "This is bullshit," I told her, "I'm adopting you."

It started out as a silly joke on Facebook (silly because she was 8 years older than me), but it grew into a strong, unbreakable relationship. So strong that I helped give her away at her wedding (in addition to being her witness when they did the legal bit), and she called me Mama. Her kids call me Mama. I became Mama, she was my beloved daughter and even though it made NO SENSE, everyone close to her accepted that. Then at some point someone gasped "OH MY GOD MAMA SETZER IS A TIMELORD!" and that's how that whole Timelord thing happened. It got sillier as time went on, but in doing so we were solidified as mother and daughter.

Today, my hearts are both broken. Crushed by the horrible facts of mortality. She didn't make it back to a TARDIS in time to regenerate.

By 4 o'clock this afternoon, her hospital room was filled with her family. People she loved and loved and loved, never really knowing the degree to which we loved her back. Several of us remained in the room well past the point where it was clear that she was not in that body any more (it had even begun to smell), but we couldn't leave. We couldn't believe it. How could someone who gave the world so much, who devoted every waking moment to loving others and doing the right thing; how could that person be taken from us? If it becomes real, what are any of us going to do?

Her husband said it well: she was the embodiment of the fact that love multiplies. There wasn't a person there with us today for whom she wouldn't have given her life, and maybe she did. No, she LIVED so that all of us could be loved that hard. She lived so that we would all be together. I have grandchildren because she lived, because we were weird enough to be family. I'm never letting go of that, no matter what. And that goes for the rest of her weird-enough-to-be-family crew, too. I won't ever let go of you, because you tie me to my daughter, and I'm never going to have another daughter so we all just have to deal with each other.

She was the most loving, the most valuable, the most optimistic; strongest, most resilient and open. Nobody did ALL THE THINGS like she did. She was a win for humanity. I love her so much. Many people loved her as much or more, and even though her body is no longer occupied, and that same laugh will not echo again, NO ONE can take that away from us. Maybe we feel broken now, but as long as we keep loving this amazing woman, we remain whole.

All that being said, mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Timelords.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Lies I was told as a kid: Sex Lies

Everything I learned about life as a kid was wrong. I mean, aside from objective facts, all the theories about how life is "supposed to" be were wrong. Some of them were outright lies, but most things were just misunderstandings handed down by people who had been taught the wrong thing when they were kids.

The thing that comes to mind most is sex. As a woman I was supposed to protect myself from sex, my sexuality, and especially the sexuality of men. Sex was gross, or immoral, or meant only for the confines of an intimate relationship (preferably one that was legally binding). Men were sex monsters*, to be feared, and they didn't care where the sex was coming from, who it was with, or if that person was enjoying themselves as long as they were getting their rocks off. Now, when I was being taught this lesson, most of the adult men in my life acted like this was true and I had no interest or ability to find out otherwise until later in life when I actually started having sexual relationships with adult men. 

The other thing, was that I was on birth control "just to control my periods", cuz I was a "good girl" and "didn't do that stuff". Which, for the record is mostly true. I did not have PIV sex until I was 18. I wanted to be an adult making my own decisions about what I did with my body before I started having "real sex", because I thought that was the best course of action. I can't say if I was right or wrong on that because I don't have a measure for comparisson. I once told a friend that she would never regret not having sex with someone. I don't know if that's actually true, but I do know that if you're kind of hedging on whether you want to or not, you probably don't really want to.

I think that's the main lie we tell young women about sex: your feelings about the performance of sexual acts should be mixed. But the thing is, when you want it, there are no mixed feelings, and there's no real way to create that conflict if it doesn't exist in your mind. Sometimes in a long-term relationship, there's a sense of duty attached to sex**; and sometimes it's okay to have sex with your partner simply because they want it. Of course, we're taught that this is how things are "supposed to be", not that this is something that happens sometimes, but that it's better if your feelings are clear on the subject of doing the sex together. [A side note here: it's really hard not to sound moralistic on this subject. I don't want to shame anyone on this subject because life is hard enough without some broad on the internet telling you you're doing your sexual relationships wrong.

I have a number of young women in my life, and there are things that I want them to know about sex, how to treat themselves regarding it, how to expect to be treated by their partners, etc; and it's really difficult to have that conversation with anyone because it's fucking awkward. A lot of the time, young women and girls have been taught all about saying no to sex, and preserving their purity, and all that blah, but we don't talk about saying yes to sex. We don't talk about masturbation and how it's totally okay to touch yourself "down there" and not call your vulva "down there". By and large, we don't talk about how it's totally okay for women to enjoy sex; to the extent that there's still a debate about orgasms for women. And nobody in any sex-ed class ever ever said that pleasure was an important part of sex. And it fucking is.

If I was to tell my granddaughter or my sister (or any person for that matter) what I think is most important to a fulfilling sexual experience, it would be three fold:

1) WANT it: don't go along with it just cuz your partner wants it (obvious), but don't hide the fact that you want it either. Sex is an important part of the adult human experience, and if you hide your desire from yourself or from your partner you're gonna have a bad time. Don't let anyone shame you for having sex cuz you want it, or for not having sex cuz you don't. It's your body. You are an adult capable of making decisions on what to do with it. Own that shit.

2) Talk about it: It's almost a cliche in my world, but communication is the most important aspect of a relationship (no matter the duration or context). And I'm not just talking about the safer sex conversation (condoms, lube, STI testing, boundaries), that stuff is great, but it's also so clinical that it takes the fun out of something really awesome. Once you experience step one of this equation (wanting it), tell your partner. I promise you that, provided the feeling is mutual, it will be a serious turn on.

3) Enjoy it: Scientifically speaking, because humans retain the ability (and desire) to have sex long after the ability (and desire) to make more humans goes away, sex is not a process that is solely for procreation. It's fun. Or at least, under ideal circumstances it's highly pleasurable and results in better sleep, better skin, lower stress, and a deeper*** connection with your fellow human. Orgasms are awesome, but you don't have to have one every time in order for ever sexual encounter to be fun. Lots of people never orgasm in their lives, lots more still don't orgasm every time they have sex*', but most of those people still enjoy having sex. Like a lot of things in life, the destination is not nearly as important as the journey.

That's my advice: want it, talk about it, enjoy it. If something isn't clicking, communicate. If you're not having fun, say something. It's hard to talk about these things because they make us vulnerable, but vulnerability is the beginning of intimacy and that makes life way cooler than cynical stoicism. Intimacy (which in this context is not a euphemism for sex), whether it's with a new partner, a previous partner, a long or short term partner, or someone you're with just for the night; is pretty fulfilling. And while it isn't something you must have in order to have an enjoyable sexual experience, it does make things more fun.

I think it's time we stopped lying to our young people about sex. Really, stop lying to them in general, cuz they're gonna figure it out and be kinda pissed when they realized we thought we had'em fooled. But the sex thing is really important, because sexuality is an important part of becoming a functional adult. I think a healthy grasp on your sexual agency is more important to adulthood than paying your bills on time.

Anyway, here are a couple of books (currently living on the bookshelf behind me, even) on this subject that opened my eyes:
And the sex scenes in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (cuz those are really fucking hot, and say what you will about the rest of it, Dagny Taggart is a sexually assertive woman and Rand deserves some credit for that particular aspect of that particular character).
*This idea bothers me a lot. See this piece for a beginning of a reason why this is a problem.
**Which I think is at least partially responsible for monogamous women losing interest in sex with their husbands.
*'For the record, my definition of sex is any activities that make orgasms more likely/possible.