bloodteethandflame

A life in threes

Category: crazypants

It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life.

 I’ve always felt a profound connection with this song – Bittersweet Symphony, by the Verve.

As I’ve been hearing this song a lot in the past month, the resulting thoughts and feelings that this song generates for me have been rolling about my brain for some time.

I hemmed and hawed about posting these thoughts, as I am aware the subject matter can be quite triggering for some.

And yet, in the spirit of my ‘Keeping It 100’ project – I decided that I might as well share those thoughts today, the intent being that if I come clean about this particular part of my personal history, perhaps someone out there might feel a little less…alone.

***So please be advised: In this post, I discuss my mental illness, including some details/references to episodes of  personal self-injury.***

I was once diagnosed with bipolar axis 2, and I thought that I was – for many years.

I even took medication for about 5 years  – which I hated doing – because that’s what I was told would help me get a handle on myself and my negative thought patterns, behaviors, and emotions. 

(It’s one of my personality traits: I’m pretty much a strict follower of prescribed rules regarding certain aspects of my life. )

Though the high level of prescribed medications actually didn’t help – for obvious reasons I’ll touch upon in a minute – I took my meds as prescribed, without fail.

And yet, I still found myself with a distinct inability to feel happy. 

In therapy, I was told to embrace change, to meditate, to talk about my feelings, and to reject negativity.

And this song – Bittersweet Symphony – signified all of these aspects to me:  this song resonated deeply with me because it gave me the words to describe my personal struggle with being bipolar.

Because bipolar was the blanket mood disorder that was ascribed to me.

My being bipolar was the explanation and the reason that I displayed all those ‘negative’ personality traits: moodiness, a penchant for melodrama, emotional instability, anger management issues – even the personal quirks that I talk too fast and too much was ascribed to be further proof that I must be bipolar.  (The speed of my delivery must indicate the speed of my thoughts!)

And oddly enough, as much as I hated it, the diagnosis of bipolar was a relief too.  

Because being bipolar explained everything.

Even if it didn’t.

When I went off medications in late 2001, my psychiatrist at the time insisted that I shouldn’t because he claimed that possibility that I would self-injure again or attempt suicide. 

But my stubbornness er, determination to prove him wrong was a powerful force.

Thus, it is a point of pride for me when I admit that I did not even think of self-injury nor suicide for 12, almost 13 years.

But when my 20 year marriage was on the rocks and I left my husband in the summer of  2014,  to stay with LOL, my self esteem was at an all time low.  

And I admit that I entertained some dark thoughts while I was staying with LOL.

While I am certain that she felt that she was helping me, I realized within that month, that I had simply traded one form of mindfuckery for an even more insidious form of manipulation. 

I felt as if my world was falling apart – and I was simply existing between that rock and hard place, and while I should be ashamed of this, I suppose, thoughts of self-injury came rushing forward like an equally manipulative but familiar friend.   

 (Trigger warning: discussion/reference to self-injury follows)

Now, allow me to point out that the desire to self-injure is not the same as suicidal ideation.

This is a concept that has only recently been recognized by the psychiatric community. 

An act of self-injury is not, and should not be conflated as a suicide attempt, and yet I have been in therapy long enough that I can recall when it was difficult to find a therapist/psychiatrist that subscribed to the idea that self-injury event did not equal a suicide attempt. 

And yes, I have a ‘helpful’ but essentially misguided Massachusetts social worker to thank for a three day stay in a state mental ward in 1998 to show for that.* 

But if you have never self-injured but have always wondered why the fuck self-injury should not equal suicide attempt, allow me to explain my personal take:

When I have self-injured, it has always arisen from my being in an intensely overwhelming emotional state. 

Usually my self-injury arises out of a combination of anxiety coupled with despair, as well as – and this is the most important part – a desperate need in me to have control of something. Anything.  The levels of my anxiety and despair have reached critical mass and I am not just emotionally overwhelmed – I feel like I have lost control of everything. 

Emotionally, my thought-patterns and self-image have swiftly become stuck in an endless dark loop of hopelessness and negativity. 

I have likely hurt someone’s feelings with what I’ve said and done.

It is likely that my words and behavior have concerned (if not terrified) someone I love.

I start thinking in absolutes:

Nothing is good.

Everything is wrong.

It is all my fault.

I cannot fix it. 

In short

I feel I have lost control of my thoughts and emotions in response to the situation.

Then, that emotional situation might be coupled with the physical symptoms of what is most likely a panic/anxiety attack:

My heart, blood and breath rates are going through the roof.  I am bathed in a cold sweat, and all major muscle groups ache and twitch with tension.

My neck is tight, my chest feels constricted.

If I’ve been on a crying and/or screaming jag, it’s likely that I’m become so congested from crying that I am having trouble breathing, my stomach muscles ache from all the clenching/sobbing, and my throat has probably gone raw from screaming/crying.

My head and teeth ache from clenching my jaw, and I cannot seem to regulate my body temperature.

I am shaking. 

I feel nauseous.

If I’ve lashed out physically, I might have gone and broken something. 

I have likely terrified or upset others with my physical response.  

I may feel like I’ve physically lost control of my body and its responses to the situation.

The loss of control – in the combined mental and physical responses –  is terrifying.  I feel disconnected from myself.  I need to get control of something.

I want to get control back.  I want to connect again to my body and mind.

And so then, I might focus on the repetitive actions of scratching/picking at my skin.

In extreme cases, I might move to using other implements – usually something with a point or with a sharp edge – and I might proceed in cutting or scraping until I reach the desired level of pain which brings me relief. 

It’s the pain, you know.  I need to focus on the pain. 

It is my attempt to create a little physical pain as a distraction –  to distract myself from my mental pain. 

The pain is nothing more than a coping strategy – the effort to create a controlled distraction for myself, from myself.

Self-injury is a coping mechanism some people develop to deal with emotional pain.

But self-injury was, in my case, an unhealthy avoidance maneuver/coping mechanism.

But self-injury, in my case, was never a suicide attempt. 

I didn’t want to die; I just wanted to have control of somethingand in the case of self-injury, it was a cause/effect paradigm that was much easier to control. 

When my levels of emotional pain and the anxiety/panic attack sensations were overwhelming (out of control), this was a pain I could handle, something I could control. 

Though honestly I do understand now how my anxious attempts to create sensation-situation I can control could easily lead to damage – anywhere from permanent scarring to accidental death.

(And yes, I do have scars as reminders of several episodes of self-injury.)

So.  There’s the background on the memory of my feelings that  led to most of my self-injury attempts, which includes that last major self-injury attempt in 1998.

~~~

But back to June 2014 – when my husband and I seemed definitively headed for divorce, I left my husband and I was living with Local Other Lokean. 

I was, as you may imagine, feeling an overwhelming level of despair.

(And as I had mentioned before, it was the first time in 12 years that I’d even allowed myself to entertain thoughts of self-injury.  That alone was a sign that I was in way over my head in  dealing with my emotional pain in a healthy way.)

So I checked myself into the closest mental health facility that took my insurance which happened to be in Bartow, FL.

While there, I began therapy, and again, I was put back on bipolar medications, also for the first time in 13 years.

I thought about what my psychiatrist had said to me in 2001, and I had to chuckle: if his understanding of the unmedicated bipolar patient were to be trusted, why did it take me 12 years unmedicated to get to this moment?

The assigned therapist couldn’t answer that question.

As well, she couldn’t answer why the bipolar medications that I had been recently been given (and took as scheduled without fail) for the last 3 months did not seem to have any of the desired effects.

I still couldn’t sleep more than a few hours a night.  I felt just as anxious, just as ‘manic’ as ever, though the meds did affect my memory skills and I did have trouble concentrating most of the time. 

If calmer meant feeling as if I was uncomfortably drunk to the point of nausea, then I wanted no part of this version of calm.

But I am a follower of rules in regards to my mental health, so when the doctor suggested I try another medication, I did.

So I tried another medication.

And another.

And another.

And yet, it was not until relatively recently that any psychiatrist, social worker or therapist thought to question my bipolar diagnosis. 

I would explain what my symptoms were, and they would ask if I ever had a diagnosis.  I’d tell them that I was diagnosed with bipolar axis 2 in 1997, and then,  they would write me a prescription for another bipolar medication.  

And it didn’t seem to matter if the medications didn’t work – I was bipolar, wasn’t I?

I started to wonder.

~~~

Well, finally in April 2016, I started going to another therapist who also had a degree in  psychiatry.

Oddly enough, my bipolar diagnosis was the first thing that he questioned, mostly because I’d begin to question it myself. 

So I laboriously described both my past and present symptoms in great detail over the next two months. 

As well, we talked about my meditation practice, negative self talk,  behavior modifications and mindful choices.  

Also, to ease my mind – and satisfy the insurance company – we sat down with the latest DSM of psychiatric disorders and methodically went through the symptom lists of bipolar axis 1 and 2, schizophrenia, OCD, ADHD, borderline personality disorder, and several anxiety disorders.

Turns out, according to his professional opinion, while I am melodramatic, talk fast, and I definitely have my moments of rage and depression, I don’t fit the diagnostic criteria of bipolar either axis one or two. 

As well, I am not schizophrenic. 

Nor do I have borderline personality disorder.

And I do not have ADHD.

But I do have an anxiety disorder with some rather definite overtones of OCD.

And that, my friends, is all I needed to know.

It’s nice to finally be heard and understood.

As well, it is good to finally be working with a therapist and a correct diagnosis.  It’s good to finally be able to function.

While the path to this point was  not easy – I am grateful that I am making headway on treating my life-long issues with anxiety and depression.

~~~

* By the way: Thank *you*, Claire!   Sending three policeman to meet me at my home directly after our appointment on that miserable January day was an especial treat…and your suggestion/threat to the intake staff that I might require a straitjacket to ‘calm’ me when I arrived at the hospital for intake was a lovely though unnecessary touch.  Thank you ever so much for giving me and my powers of self-control the benefit of the doubt!)

Advertisements

On needs, noise…and silence.

From 8 August 2014:

I am surrounded by so much goddamned noise.

I get distracted by everything.

Sometimes, I just want silence.

I have always lived in a home wherein others have wanted noise around them to feel comfortable.  Whether it’s the constant drone of the television, or talking, or even music, sometimes I feel that I cannot focus on anything for all the effing noise.

(Though I will admit that music is the least annoying of these, as I’ve always felt that there is so much comfort and connection that can be found in music.)

But sometimes, I just need silence…

and so, through some meditative visualization, I built a cabin in the woods, at the base of a mountain, surrounded by trees.

cabin

(thoreau.away)

Whenever I go there in meditation, there aren’t so many distractions to focus upon – and that blessed silence brings me peace.

(And even if Loki is ‘there’ – as He sometimes is – there is very little conversation between us, thankfully.)

This might seem odd to others — as I am usually such a chatterbox — but I guarantee that silence is necessary.

~~~

It’s odd to think that I wasn’t always this way.

The sound of the television, the radio, the endless chatter and near-constant buzz of activity that surrounded me as a child (being a member of a family of seven) — all of that noise and activity used to be a source of comfort for me.

And today, it suddenly occurred to me as to the reason why I no longer find comfort in being surrounded in a cocoon of background noise.

It’s strange to admit this now, but I think that I was always an empath well before I knew what that word meant.

As my long-term readers may recall, as a child I was accused of being overly sensitive and easily spooked by damned near everything around me.

To give you an example, my childhood home was in a rather rural area, and I can remember feeling startled and uncomfortable – and sometimes even crying – whenever large trucks would pass by on the road, or planes would fly overhead while I played in the yard.  And yet, surprisingly…I could not sleep without some sort of background noise.  Whether it be the buzz of a fan, the hum of cars passing on the road, or later, my baby sister’s music box playing in her crib, I could not sleep in a silent room.

Rhythmic, ambient sounds made me irritable by day, but I was anxious and wakeful by the lack of sound at night?

This definitely struck everyone as being a rather strange dichotomy.

But I know the reason why now.

And yes it is related to this (which in turn, is related to this.)

Sound can mask energetic activity, and as an empath, the strongest levels of energetic activity (including but not limited to spiritual activity) often occurred at night.

But this is not to say that I didn’t experience strange things in the daytime, it just that the strength and frequency of occurrences increased exponentially at night.

So.

That is my epiphany for the day: it is quite possible that when I stopped trying to ignore Them, I didn’t need to mask my perceptions of Their presence.

 

I Am.

It’s been quite an emotional rollercoaster for me today.

  • Relationship issues.
  • Devotional issues.
  • Devotional relationship issues.  (Though in the interest of trying to remain positive hasn’t been all bad…it simply involves some work about which I’ve been hesitant to finish, and the overwhelming sense of being emotionally drained in doing it.)

Upside, I got a good walk in lovely cool weather.  Downside, getting caught in a torrential downpour and now I feel generally achy.

Upside, I did enjoy a lovely text conversation with a dear friend today, and it meant so much to me…you don’t even know 🙂  Downside, none 🙂

 

I think that this is an apt song for today.  Though its set in a minor key, the message strikes me as positive overall — which was so like the day itself:

Month for Loki, Day 21: A Drunken Heathen rants.

So here we are, over halfway through the month of July for Loki, and I still haven’t done the thing that I should have done a long time ago.

Not so much for Him, for  mind you, it’s more for me.  It pertains to something that I have been struggling with and thinking about for the past six months or so.

It is a thing that He’d likely approve of – being a God who values, above all, being true to oneself– but I have hemmed and hawed and struggled with these things for a long time.

And if Loki is anything, He is a patient God.  But He knows that this isn’t so much for Him as it is for my sanity.

~~~

Tonight I read a post that a kink community acquaintance of mine wrote back in 2013, and I left a comment to that post.

I commented about how finding the post again seemed like a very happy accident, and how I was glad to read it again.

And then, I clicked on a related post.

I do not know why I thought to click on that particular ‘related’ post.

It wasn’t until I was in the middle of reading that related post, that I realized that I needed to hear the message again – and maybe that part of it was not an accident.

There were many details of the post that I’d read before – and I remembered those details – but there was a lot of information (in the form of musings) in the post that I don’t remember being there before.   But that didn’t strike me as strange as much as it struck me that it is very possible that I didn’t notice certain aspects of its message before now.  We often see what we want to see, and it is quite obvious to me now that I wasn’t ready for the message that was so obviously within that post back then.

alice rabbit

(reads: I could tell you my adventures beginning from this morning, but it’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then – Lewis Carroll)

And so here we are.

I have learned some difficult lessons in the past three years, and I must admit that I was reluctant – stubbornly aggressively reluctant – to even acknowledge how deep that rabbit hole is.

These past six months have been the real lesson, however.

And I am by no means done learning, either.

What did I learn?

I learned by the most difficult means possible that what I thought were good, sane relationships – were not.

I realized that I valued the wrong things, and I valued the wrong people, and I’ll tell you what – while the Universe was not kind, it was persistent.

Someone – no several people – tried to tell me that I had been looking in the wrong direction – but who listens to those people?  Not I.  I am famous for that.

I had to learn to listen to myself in regards to solutions, especially concerning issues of discernment.  Not just that, I had to learn how to do, well – a lot of things.

I had to stop looking so hard for the messages outside of me rather than what was within me.  It’s not as if the Universe wasn’t trying to hit me over the head with a clue by four over and over, but I was reluctant to listen.

Instead I got involved with and foolishly trusted some people that I should not have trusted, because I wanted so badly to be loved, to be seen, to be understood.  Those people that I trusted took advantage of my weakness, and I let them.  I LET THEM.  Why? Because I was weak and I wanted it out of my hands.

I traded one dependence for another in so many fucking ways.

I tied a lot of knots.

Usually I am really proficient at untying knots – well, I created a doozy that I’m still trying to untie.

At first, I thought that knot had to do with my upbringing, and then I thought that it concerned my marriage, and lastly, I thought it involved my love life, but it concerned none of that.  It was me.  I was the knot.  My name is within the knot.  My name was all over that shit.  I’ve got no one to blame but myself.

And I want to say:

No one knows better than I what it is that I need.

I learned that loving myself, trusting myself and trusting my own intuition are the answers and the source of all of my tools.

I learned that it is imperative that I own my own shit.

I learned to speak up for myself, and as much as I was afraid of the fallout, I had to SPEAK UP.  No one else was ever going to do it for me, no matter how much I devoutly wished that someone else would have spoken up for me.

Nope, I sat on my hands and watched the process happen over and over concerning others, and I never thought that it involved me, or what I could have been doing.

I thought those people were my friends, and when I lost some of those friends, I didn’t know what to think.

And I learned that some people in the Heathen community were not my friends.  They manipulated me, and they will manipulate others too.  But I feared that I wouldn’t have a community if I spoke up, or if I walked away from those folks, those citizens of the Omelas …and for that reason, I preserved the status quo in many ways, without even realizing that I was becoming the sort of person that disturbed me.

I even fell for some verbal masturbation in another group dynamic of the highest order and *that* spread across several other communities (including non-Pagan communities).

And I fell for it, because I wanted so badly to believe, to be accepted.

My father used to say, Question every damned thing…but I have no excuse but to say that my blind belief in the infallibility of my own discernment, let alone others’ discernment – led me to believe what I wanted to believe.  And that was my downfall.

I learned that lesson hard, and I am still dealing with the fallout of my mistakes.

There are manipulators out there who will try to convince you that they have your best interests.  They might  tell you that they speak for the community, or that they speak for the Gods (in regards to Pagan communities).  If I learned anything in the past six months, I learned that it is best to let others speak only for themselves, and in the case of Gods, that is best left to one’s own discernment rather than someone else’s.

Watch out for the human agendas.

Pay close attention to the behavior of the members of your community.  How does the community deal with dissenting/unpopular opinions?   Issues in most large groups always have the potential to devolve into human political drama, but when what started small goes unchecked…communities can quickly become polarized, and things can get ugly before you know it.

Sometimes, often, people are fallible and don’t understand as much or as well as they hoped that they could.

I don’t even know how to put it into words, but you must trust yourself.  You must trust yourself first.

Please don’t let anyone else tell you that they are saying something to you for ‘your own good.’

And please, in the regards to possessory work in the Pagan community, question those whose messages begin with

‘[This God] told me that I must tell you…’

Question that message especially hard if that message comes out of the blue, especially if it comes unsolicited.

Look for patterns in your own life.

Do they jibe with what feels right to you?  Trust your instincts.

In the case of Gods, does what you’re being told jibe with the impression that you get from Them on other occasions?  (Because if a horse/spiritworker has an agenda, that agenda will become apparent… eventually.)

And so I must thank that person who warned me a full year and a half in advance about some of those people that I allowed myself to fall in with.  The person didn’t exactly name names, but I ignored the warning because I wasn’t ready to see what was being said, just like always.

But nearly everything that that helpful person had warned me about has come to pass, but I ignored zir words.  I ignored the pattern.

As well, regarding my spiritual relationship,  I had a spiritworker tell me, don’t feel as if you must have the devotional relationship that you think that you should have.  Let Him tell you what He wants.  And He did…oh He DID, but I, being me, being human, wanted what I wanted.  In the end, He still got what He wanted…but I learned some terribly difficult lessons in that interim of three years ago to now.  Am I angry with Him?  No, because all He ever asked of me was that I should trust Him, and I didn’t.  Sometimes I still don’t, because my dad taught me to question damned near everything.

One would think that I would know better, but I didn’t.

So with that in mind, the good mentor welcomes being challenged, being questioned.  You are learning, and the purpose of the mentor is simply to assist you toward your inevitable path.  But it is a path that only you must walk, that only you can walk.  The mentor doesn’t necessarily walk with you, since we all must must walk our own paths.  So don’t be afraid to question your mentors.

And on that note, you don’t have to listen to me, either.  You can discredit this post entirely if you’d like.

Hel, if you choose, you don’t have to listen to your friends, or your mentors, or even listen to Them….no matter how many clue by fours that They –and the Universe – throw at you.

Believe you me, you’ll get the message if you’re supposed to hear it.  Eventually.

And if you don’t get the message, then the message becomes a lesson.

If you don’t learn your lesson, then the lesson becomes an issue. 

And if you don’t recognize the issue, then the issue becomes the problem. 

And if you don’t fix the problem, then the problem becomes a full-blown crisis.

And me being me, I’ll admit that I chose to ignore the messages until I had moved the story all the way to full blown crisis mode.

I’ve gotten the gist of the fact that often the melodramatic is what I notice best at times….and so such things being what they are, that’s always been my work.

Shit wasn’t just about to get real, shit got real, moved in with a squatters rights mentality, and lived rent-free in my head for quite a while there.

So I’d like to point out that you can trust yourself, you can trust Them if that helps you, but you don’t have to trust me.

I’m learning just like you.

~~~

I was angry.  I was sad.  I was afraid.

I may have even been a bit too into my cups there, but I am more than sober now…and I don’t care.

Let them come.

Let the community – kink, Heathen, Pagan, Lokean – let them come and say (and do!) what they will.

Loki’s my God, and if He’s your God too, you know what to do.

Speak your mind.  And stand up for what you say.

And don’t you dare stop speaking the truth …even if it gets you kicked out of the goddamned party.

lokipiechart

Rules.

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can get you in a lot of trouble.
Manners are always important.
Smart is good. Lucky is better.  (Smart and lucky is the best of all.)
Sometimes the long way around is the best way home.
Never let the truth interfere with a good story.
(Neef’s Rules for Changelings from this book)

Funny, that.

Even though I know

Not everything that comes up in my life is a message.

Not everything in my life in my life has a hidden meaning.

And most importantly of all…

I know that if there is a message or a meaning

the message and the meaning aren’t

always

specifically

meant for me.

But then again, certain things show up in my reading and I have to wonder

Just what is the Universe up to?

 

*sigh*

I wish that there was a way to keep someone’s ex-girlfriend from moving to Florida at the end of this month.

She contacted me claiming that

she wanted to apologize for all the drama that she caused in my life and in the life of my kids

but couldn’t I just let bygones be bygones

because she could really use a friend

and she really could use some help

because she’d like to move to Florida to make a fresh start

 

but she can’t do it without someone helping her

So….please?

 

And I almost relented – because she wheedled and cajoled and gods know I can relate to how loud your brain weasels get when you can’t get the meds that you need

and I thought that I might

just maybe

want to show a little compassion*

for someone who is obviously struggling

just in case

she really was trying to make an effort to be sane

(and gods don’t I know about that too)

BUT….

Then I came to my senses

And I suddenly felt the overwhelming need to say:

Nope.  

I can’t.  

It’s too much.

 

(And Loki as my witness, It. Was. Too. Much.  SRSLY.)

 

(So much for Tonglen, eh?)

 

Anyway.

 

So.

Now.

If only someone else would come to their senses and realize that what she is asking for in terms of ‘help’

 

seems

 

obsessive

 

 

disturbing

 

 

and altogether

 

an unhealthy amount

of

Too Much.

 

Boundaries?

 

Oh look…there they are!   Am I the only one that sees them?  Am I the only one that has them?

 

(I hope that he realizes what he is doing before it is too late.)

 

But mostly…

 

I wish that there was a way to keep someone’s ex-girlfriend from moving to Florida at the end of this month.

~~~

*

 

 

 

630c6802f3eaf4bb8e6d5c29db8c3fb5

dalailama

painprinciple

 

From my paper journal 2-10-13

(from my paper journal 2-10-13. Raw contents below)

It is 3:30 AM, and I’ve got things on my mind.

The other night, I had the opportunity to ask someone any question that I wanted…for free…but I could not think of anything to ask that was ‘safe’ for me to know. I want answers, sure…but when faced with such a lovely opportunity, I felt that if I asked something that had been really weighing on me, I felt that one, possibly two things would happen:

a) I would get an answer, and be disturbed by it. Could I handle the answer? Such as the comment, Oh do you really want to know? ‘cause once I give you an answer, that means that you’ll have to deal with the issue at hand, which is the issue you are asking about, isn’t it?
.
b) No matter how I feel about the answer, I do feel that my asking would definitely mean that I have to deal with it. In some ways, I feel that the asking would require opening the door to dealing with things that I might not want to deal with right now. Sometimes I think I have enough on my plate.

But still the conversation was a good one.

And it gave me other food for thought, and caused a musing which I am working out here:

At one point in the conversation, my divine friend muttered, Oh well, but you are married.
As if I thought his interest in me was not legitimate.

(Wait now, there’s a traditional monogamous response. But if it was not – and monogamy shouldn’t come from me because my husband and I consider ourselves poly — I realized another angle that he could’ve been getting at.)

I realized that – while it might have been a tad bit disrespectful – I could have shot back, Well, so are you. You are married to someone, too — and several dozen others, I might add –so what is your point? You want to talk about monogamy?
I’m not monogamous. I’m polyamorous.
(Ah, l’esprit d’escalier…where were you?)

(But that is where I wonder if the human filter comes into play, too, but I’m going to put that discussion aside for right now.)

Either way,I suppose that it would have been disrespectful calling my friend out like so, but there may be a kernel of something else embedded in his statement, because further on, I recall there being some difficulty. “He’s talking about things that I don’t understand…”

And I for one was curious about these things that weren’t understood, and I wonder if they have anything to do with the thoughts that kept me awake tonight.

Much as the world doesn’t need more categorization, I do think that it is human nature to try to categorize anyway. It helps our understanding, this need to break down situations into smaller, easier pieces.

There is talk of hierarchies and how they are bad, and some polyamorous people might even insist that all of their relationships are equally weighted in polyamory. Some of these poly folks dislike using terms such as ‘primary’ partner and ‘secondary’ partner, because that implies that the ‘primary’ is the most important relationship, and furthering that logic, doesn’t that mean that a secondary is…’second best’?

In theory, no…but in practice, maybe, yes. Does anybody ever want to feel ‘second best’?**

Our egos say ‘no, of course not.’ But polyamory done in reality does cause one participating in a polyamorous relationship to confront, or at least unpack, one’s views on that very situation. I would hazard to guess that most people participating in polyamorous relationships today were raised by parents living in a monogamous relationship, and so, just like polytheistic pagans who come from monotheistic religious backgrounds, people living in polyamorous relationships are also dealing with the first step of unpacking what having multiple partners is going to mean to them, and to the people in the relationships with them. And that can be hard work, trying to create a working relationship dynamic that involves several people, rather than just you and one other person. One must examine one’s personal values and priorities in relationships. One must hone one’s communication skills. Lots of thought and action needs to be done in order for any good relationship to work, let alone, a polyamorous relationship to work.

This is where I might get a little personal when I point out that I believe that the polyamorous relationships that have a greater potential to go awry are the ones that begin with a couple who are *primarily involved* in a term-committed dynamic with each other (whether it’s a long term committed relationship, a BDSM structured dynamic, or a marriage), and a third party (or parties) become involved.

There doesn’t even have to be love involved; the key is the commitment, or perhaps even the intensity of the existing relationship. Some poly people call this ‘opening up’ a relationship, and if one started from a committed primary relationship, it definitely is.

Why do I say that there is so much more to go awry? Well because in any structured committed relationship in a couple – egalitarian or not – the dynamic involves people placing significance on another, or at least, resolving to pay some significant attention to one another. Whether they formally promised to or not, there is the assumption that each is seeing the other as important, special, what-have-you. We are in a relationship. We matter to each other. We are a team; we are a two person dynamic.

But here comes a third person. Now that third person may be single, or may be in another relationship themselves (with or without varying levels of commitment), but in that third person wanting to have a relationship with one (or even both) of you, that third person is going to have an impact on the existing relationship of the couple(s) involved. This is why there is a saying in polyamorous circles that the three important rules of polyamory are:
1. Communication
2. Communication
3. Communication.

And I would also say this about a lot more than polyamorous relationships – any relationship with human beings can always stand to involve better, if not more, communication.

And I will tell you that the first thing that essentially comes up is attention. And this is where the math agony comes in. The primarily committed relationship might have had a factor of two. Even if it wasn’t a perfect 50-50, it was there.

You are my partner, and I am your partner. Whether or not you talked about it, your relationship required you to involve that one other person in your math calculations every day. That person (your partner) may have only gotten 30% of your time and attention for the day, because your partner might be competing for attention against the 70% of your other daily time and attention commitments (job, kids, daily commute, household chores, etc), but there was an unspoken resolution that you were going to spend some portion of your day at least being aware of each other’s existence, even if it’s only in thoughts, rather than physical presence.

But here’s this third person, who wants to have a relationship with you. How much time/attention/commitment does s/he get? That third person and the relationship that s/he represents, is going to require a piece in your personal equation, as it would be with any other commitment in your life. To be fair, is it a factor of 3 now? Maybe, maybe not. How important is s/he to you?

If I was going to be mathematically PC about it, I’d say that the third probably deserves at least a third of your ‘relationship equation,’ right?

But, speaking as a person who has made these mistakes, people aren’t always able to fit neatly into mathematical equations. Sometimes, one partner – and the relationship –requires more attention/time/commitment than others.

In my personal experience – especially in the relationship that ended as of late – you can believe that you have a nice three-way egalitarian relationship, and you might even have that, to some degree. The goal is that all of your partners feel loved, cherished, and important in your life (and in each other’s lives, as the case may be.) That is some smooth sailing polyamory. You’ve accomplished a delightful almost magical synergy when everything falls together, and you’re all in sync, even if you are not involved with each other. (Even though, supposedly, we were involved with each other.)

That’s where communication comes in. You can’t have synergy if there is a lack of communication anywhere in the system. That creates a gap between what you believe you have and what you actually have in terms of the relationship, and that can be a problem. I will be honest, that commitment to honest communication is a very important part.

But when two becomes three is the hardest part.

Even if the situation wherein ‘the initial primary partner has an issue with all the attention/significance lavished on another partner’ is a more common thorny issue in polyamory, there are other issues that can – and sometimes do – crop up often.

In my experience, the above situation is cake compared to this one:

This is when one partner has to convince one of the two in your triad that the existence of the main relationships –or other significant relationships – shouldn’t create a crisis of belief.
“You have a primary/significant/term relationship that existed before I came along. That means that I am not as significant as the pre-existing one.” ( Or as it is more commonly put, “Oh well, but you’re married. I don’t want to be anybody’s secondary…”)

Though, I believe that these two scenarios actually spring from the same issue at the heart of it: relationship imbalance.

Is this monogamy talking? Or at least, a line of thinking framed in a monogamous paradigm.

That, my friends, gives me all sorts of feelings today.
Are relationships in polyamory actually equal?

In theory, yes. In practice, perhaps, no
.
Even if you don’t use the words ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ and what have you, the hierarchy can still be there in some slight way. Most would assume that a husband/wife, by its socially sanctioned definition, is more significant than a boyfriend/girlfriend.

But it depends on how you define those terms. And as it is with any socially significant word (a signifier, I suppose) husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, there’s an emotionally charged social shorthand that can be extremely difficult to get around.

For example, if you had asked me several years ago, did I want to have equal relationships with more than one person, I would have told you yes.

So why did I get married?

For many reasons, but not because I thought that my husband was going to be the single, most important person in my life, possibly for all time….which is how a lot of folks (polyamorous included!) see the emotional meaning of husband/wife.

I see being a wife differently. I definitely see it as a term of commitment – I made a significant commitment, and I wear a ring as a tangible sign of that commitment – but its meaning, to me, is not nearly as singularly narrow a definition as what most people might think.

Do I feel naked without that ring? Yes, but I think that it is more likely because I have been wearing it for 20 years, so it has made its mark on my finger.

And yes, I believe in marks.
And I believe in the weight of them.
~~~
So, how does my polyamory relate to the Gods?
I am attempting to sort that out.
~~~
“Oh well, but you’re married.”

Maybe the angle my lovely friend wishes me to consider is this: He doesn’t want to be my third; he doesn’t want to be my secondary, either. He wants himself and any and all work that he requires to be of primary importance.

Marriages are commitments. Marriages tangle wyrd. Marriages require negotiation. Marriages carry social and emotional weight.

I was arguing in my head right then, and I think on this more and more as the day goes on.

Well so are you. You’re married as well. I can think of at least three marriages of yours that I could read about in most university libraries.
And then, dozens more that I’ve heard of…and even if they aren’t all written down for me to read, I’ve no doubt that you’ve left your mark on ALL of them.

So, I’m polyamorous. It’s not like my marriage gets in the way like you might think.
~~~
Or does it?

Does he know how much this connects? I realize that I have a little bit of leftover rage that I’m feeling…that not necessarily at him, but definitely at those words.
Rage towards recent ex who tried to shut me down with those very words.

(Isn’t that what she was screaming? ** Oh, well, but you’re married! You. Wouldn’t. Understand.)

I could never understand, in her opinion.
Because I drank the KoolAid.
Because I wore the ring.
Because I made a commitment. ( Marriage was, oddly, a commitment that she could never make, she insisted, as she called me from the restroom of a VFW in Atlanta. She was attnding the October wedding of an ex-girlfriend of hers. I hate weddings, she said.)

I never knew what she meant, but that was her excuse. That was her block. She saw it as such a separation. The fact that I was married to someone had so much meaning, even though I was married to a man, and she often claimed that she loved him too.

I did not know what she meant when she screamed those very same words at me that night, or why she wanted to punch me while saying them…
But I opened my mouth and I let my own self go to a very dark, surreal place, and let’s just say that, we had our own Heathir-senna right then and there.

All the words just poured out.

And I left.
~~~
“Oh well, but you’re married.”

I wrote that all out just now –about J and that night that we broke up — and I don’t know if I want to laugh or flail.

The words that I said to her that night felt like the truth, even though they hurt us all very badly.

I have never made anyone that I love cry as hard as I did that night, but there was something also very necessary about them.

I remember what I said.

I hope that I don’t soon forget.

(But now the question remains – for my sock puppets to debate endlessly I guess –)
If there isn’t any such thing as a coincidence:

Why would he choose those very words to say to me on a Friday night, over a month later?
~~~
I read with interest Del’s latest entry about sacrifice and spiritwork.

And highlighted for me, again, is the message that the Gods will remove what gets in the way of the work.

~~~
And so I ponder Del’s entry, my sock puppets and I.

I cannot sleep and I cannot stop for my pondering of All These Things.

I am pondering about Loki, polyamory, spirit work, the meaning of ‘opening up’, and the nature of these coincidences that may or may not be… coincidences.

And I know — because hopefully, I am learning — to hold my tongue on asking any direct questions until I figure out as the whether or not I can handle the answers.

But as the questions come up, I write them on the whiteboard, because it is something worth thinking about.
~~~

(http://youtu.be/V8rtJRlLdI8)
If I get it all down on paper, it’s no longer inside of me,
Threatening the life it belongs to
And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to

~~~~

But despite everything, there is love.

On Clutch-jumpers and Crazypants: A Very Long Post.

Recently, I’ve noticed repeated references to this person and her shenanigans through several of the blogs that I follow on WordPress, and as much as I’d attempted to avoid it, I’m beginning to wonder if this is one of those Universal slaps upside to my head.

When I look at over the trajectory of my life, I cannot deny the propensity of folks like her crossing my path, especially lately.

Maybe it’s because I was raised by two parents who had once considered themselves ‘hippies’ with a streak of ‘bleeding heart liberal’ thrown in, who raised their children to care about the environment and to have a good degree of social conscience.  (The irony appears when I point out that my parents are also secretly closeted misanthropes, but I digress…)

There is the spooky-woo factor when I consider how I’d been told by several people since childhood that I seem to be somewhat of an empath…which could go a long way toward explaining why I often find it so difficult to resist being affected by the turbulent feelings of those around me.

Several years ago, I was gratified to discover in the pile of TheFerrett’s LiveJournal writings that there is a word for those folks that so easily incite, and sometimes, unconsciously manipulate the compassion of others – these people are referred to as clutchjumpers.

Once upon a time, I was an unfortunate magnet for clutchjumpers…if not, inadvertantly, a clutchjumper myself, before I learned the benefits of practicing a bit of discernment, and caution.

~~~

And so, the months have gone by, and I find mention of her again, again and again— and suddenly, it seems that several loosely related communities have had enough of her ‘grift’ as well as her story — and the length and breadth of that story goes a lot further back than I had previously thought.   What a tangled web…

Upon reading her story, I realize that I am re-reading her story, because I recall seeing a signal boost a bit over a year ago concerning a young trans Pagan couple who needed food and clothing desperately as severe winter weather was approaching Boston, and they were about to find themselves on the streets.    And seeing as how I didn’t have any warm winter clothing to send (I live in Florida y’all – I haven’t had to wear any ‘winter clothes’ with any regularity in years), I thought about sending her some cash.

About $25-50, possibly more.

And then I looked further into her blog, and I saw page after page of signal boosts and commentary, and I sat back and thought about it.  It was Wednesday.  My payday was Friday.  I told my husband about the couple, and resolved to send them some cash on Friday, when my direct deposit became available.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about them.  I even lit a candle for them, hoping good things for them.

I checked back the next day, relieved to see that they had gotten some help, and she was writing of being so close to getting out of the hole of financial instability.  Aw, sister, I’ve been there, I thought.  Good luck to you.**

Her story actually, in some ways, made me pause, because there was something about it that struck me familiar, and thus, I was hooked.

(Slight derailment…er, background follows:)

When my family and I hit our rough patch in 2004, we had to move closer to my husband’s family, and we ended up moving in with my husband’s older sister and her family, until we could get on our feet.  My husband was unemployed, and couldn’t seem to find work in his field (tech/communications) and neither could he find anything above minimum wage, and neither could I.

We both worked at our local Publix.

And then, with the help and reference of a friend in the tech industry, my husband got a job opportunity that really could bring us up and out of our financial hole that 3 years’ of unemployment/minimal wage employment had brought us to; the only problem?  The job was in Massachusetts.

So, while my kids and I stayed in Florida — we had just relocated to Florida from Massachusetts a little more than a year before, so it’s not as if we could’ve afforded moving back –  my husband went up to Massachusetts to live and work. (He did fly home for one weekend every other month or so.)

So, I stayed working at Publix.

And into the picture comes P, my husband’s sister, who offered to watch my two-year- old while I was at work.  It was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement for the both of us.  I wouldn’t have to pay the high cost of child care fees and P — an unemployed widow with 3 teenagers on Social Security whose husband passed away the year before — could supplement some of her meager SSI.

But what ended up happening was something positively Sisyphusian: most of my paycheck seemed to go exclusively into repairing P’s ancient passenger van, just so I could get to work in the mornings — along with buying P groceries (she was always ‘short’ because she really didn’t know how to budget money, along with claiming her ‘handicap’ of dyslexia as an excuse to remain willfully ignorant of learning how to budget money, or anything else), so both of us were left with the boulder of poverty at the end of each pay period for well over a year.

(And it wasn’t just me who tried to financially help her.  A lot of people did…because it seemed so simple: if P could just get through this week, just get through this month; if P could somehow just get a hold of a little money — $30 dollars for gas, or just that $100 that she needed to settle up that late phone bill, or the $500 for her mortgage *just this once* — she’d be all set.  P was always saying that.  If only, if only…

But it was never that simple: P would  somehow end up behind on yet another ‘something else’ next week, next month… and it seemed apparent rather quickly to lots of folks that P was always in need of help.)

It never seemed to end.

 

Then, I stumbled on the Ferrett’s essay on clutch-jumpers…and I saw the situation as it was, an episode of mutual clutch-jumping from which I wanted desperately to break free.

And yet, I’m glad to report, that as painful as it was for her, when push came to shove, and when P burned out all her options, lo and behold, she actually went out, got a job.

Nowadays, she shares a home with her mother (and my MIL) at Mom’s request, and you know what?

P handles her job and her household pretty darn well, considering that a few short years ago, P felt that her life couldn’t go on after her husband passed away.

Between that loss, and her seemingly culturally sanctioned ‘learned helplessness’ (P felt it was the job of society to support her because of her ‘inability to learn a trade due to severe dyslexia’ as well as believing that it was her husband’s duty to take care of everything, financial and otherwise, and thus, P was never really pushed to learn how to take care of herself in many ways, that is, until he was gone.)

Yeah, P does still get a little clutch-jumpy at times — sometimes she doesn’t see the forest for the trees — but her life is loads more financially stable and wouldathunkit, much more drama-free.

~~~

And now, my family, and myself:   Several years ago, I realized that I am — we, as a family, are — finally in a comfortable financial place, wherein we could actually help others a little bit…

I honestly try to help, because I know what it’s like to be on the other side of things.

But…in the interest of being brutally honest with myself about this (re: Loki, here, especially), I want to admit that when I look back at some of my choices that I’ve made in the past –those years that my family and I spent on the other side of things — I can honestly say that I had been known to show some clutch-jumping, if not downright crazypants behaviors.

Yes, there were times, in leaner, tighter years, where I’d prayed for extra money in my budget, gotten it, and then turned around, only to focus on cheap, easy, temporary fixes for my hunger or other ‘needs’ by buying pizza and cheap furniture with some of that extra.  Yes, I’d even sometimes let some bills slide further as a result, because I felt so desperate to have temporary happiness (mmm pizza! hey, movies — with popcorn and candy!) rather than to be responsible and pay my bills with every last bit of that money that had been budgeted.

So yeah, I wouldn’t always use all of the money for responsible stuff — just some of it.

But I imagine that some would call that clutch-jumping or crazypants behavior because buying pizza and going to the movies with ANY of the money might seem like I wasn’t entirely willing/focused on digging myself out of my financial hole, right?

Right?

Well…maybe.

~~~

And so I find myself not totally pure on the rush to judgment front.

I admit, it’s difficult not to judge her.  I mean, why can’t she get her act together?  Look at all the people helping her…

*sigh*

Well, it makes me think, you know…and I have to be careful.

It makes me think of all the folks along the way — when we were in the financial rough patches — who helped us here and there.

Family and friends who’ve let us live in their homes until we got on our feet, to keep my family, and me, from being homeless.

People who lent us cash here and there.  (We couldn’t have moved our stuff to Florida without the financial help of one particular generous friend, for example…)

People who gave us rides to work and school and back home when we didn’t have access to our own transportation.

And so forth.

It is entirely possible that I may have been no different in several ways.

I haven’t always known how to help myself get out of a hole.

So,  concerning my interactions with clutch-jumpers and crazypants people:  While I still seek to be cautious and discerning, I still find myself seeking a balanced, thoughtful way of looking at the situation.

And so, I stumbled upon this post, which I came across just the other day.

In this post, I think that the writer, Abigail Norman, conveys her message with incredible compassion and grace concerning ‘crazypants people’ — without judgment, without rancor.

And lots of balance.

I heartily recommend that you check it out.

**And then, I got distracted by another signal boost of another form, and it was strange and almost inexplicable.

Well, let’s just say…I ended up sending Jalkr  my very small donation…mostly, because of…well…horses.  And one very large pig.