Friday, July 4, 2014

A Year After Divorce: Confronting the Fireflies

Are you there, readers? I’ve missed you. A couple of conversations yesterday made me realize that even though I don’t fit into any scenes or anything anymore, my adventures are probably far from over. I’ve missed telling you stuff, so if you don’t mind that it might sometimes just be pictures of flowers, I’ll start posting every now and again.

Yesterday an old muse texted out of the blue with concerned questions, since it seemed like I’d ended the story on a down note—it didn’t seem that way to me but it WAS a rough spring, a hard transition from poly to post-poly, from unabashed to still-unabashed-but-with-pants-on. I freak out sometimes lately because I’m not sure where I fit into the world, but I do know that things are unequivocally better than they were a year ago.

Last Fourth of July, Sweetie and I went to watch some fireworks over the river. We were lazy and dawdled getting out, still in limbo out of the jumping-out-of-the-car incident, and I was all heartbreaky about Mr. Sweetheart. We pulled over to the side of the road and watched the fireworks, having missed meeting up with friends.

As we pulled away, families were streaming across the street, kids with glow bracelets and those light up toys that are always for sale at these things. I was supposed to meet Angel Face and his new boyfriend afterwards for dancing, but I was crying so hard on the way to being dropped off at the club that I had to ask them for a dancing raincheck. Sweetie and I went for a sad, slow, humid, beautiful walk in the woods instead. (We’re lucky enough to live in a city that magically has woods in the middle of it!) Gloomy as we were, the trees were not—they were completely full of lightning bugs, so bright and blinking that they rivaled Christmas trees. Like the girl in a movie that I sometimes am, even my heartbreaks tend to unspool in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Lightning bugs were always one of our things, so when they started to return this year, I was predictably grief-stricken. (It still comes, though a little less frequently.) The more she and I get along, the harder it is not to get nostalgic and want to go back. The trapped feeling, the name-calling, the feeling that I’m way too close to death, those are all gone, only the good parts are left. I pressed myself to do evening walks on my own, and was relieved to see that the lightning bugs are still there, and I still love them.

Last night I woke up in the night for no particular reason and saw, on my ersatz bedroom clothesline, a firefly. He lit up the front of a drying beach cover-up, flashed emphatically around the room, and was gone. Can’t confront the fireflies much more than that.

So today, I woke up happy. My life may still be in flux and missing some crucial elements, but the crisis part, knock wood, is over. I’ve been placed in a school for next year that seems, at least so far, to have a less mean-girl-oriented staff. I have the summer off and a season pass to the local fancy garden, and it’s sinking in that I can go and sit by the fountains all day long if I want to. My mom is planning me a 40th birthday party at the end of the summer and I’ll be overjoyed to blow out the candles with my niece and nephews, hopefully after a family trip to the comic shop.
And, accomplishment of accomplishments, Sweetie is now a best friend who lives a few blocks down and was persuaded to join me in being old ladies at our city’s Fourth of July concert, which features, among others, my avatar/hero Nikki Minaj. We will make no effort to be near the front. We will sit in chairs and watch people. Tomorrow maybe I’ll join my aunts and cousins at the beach.

I’m not awesome at singlehood. I do panic hard every few weeks or so at the prospect that I may have missed out on having my own family. A few weeks ago, I was staying with my sister and got to see her kids off on their second-to-last day of school, and that really lit up the family pangs inside me. Of course, it may have been less cute if I’d been trying to see myself off to school at the same time, but we’ll see what the future brings. I have no way of knowing.

My point is, dear reader (if you’re there) is that this is nowhere near being a down ending. There’s no ending here at all, just life moving forward in its gorgeous, mysterious, sometimes-aggravating way. There’s no more fighting-through-it to do for a while, and I am, for a few months, nothing but free.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

So Long and Thanks for All The…

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.”

As evidenced by the number of times I’ve turned the blog off and then back on again, this story is very hard to let go of, but my deepest desire right now is to no longer be a project at all, to no longer be worked on but simply cared for, and loved.

So much has changed since I started the project in 2012, yet in some ways, I’ve labyrinthed back to a similar place. Although when I was divorcing last summer I thought I wanted to marry a fellow sex-adventurer someday, it turns out that all I want in a spouse is a healthier (and, okay, more penis-y) version of what I had with Sweetie: someone to hike with, watch long swaths of TV with, cook meals for and take care of, someone to read in bed with on Sundays.

Although it had its share of frustrations and hurts, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty and specialness of my relationship with Sweetie. She and I are evolving into a real (if still a guilty pleasure) friendship, and it’s good to know there’s still someone in the world who knows me better than anyone, to whom I can say absolutely anything without fear of judgment. I hope in the long run we are able to remain friends. My mom would certainly prefer that Sweetie eventually rejoin family gatherings, so we’ll see.

Finishing this story, I feel like I am waking from a vivid, sometimes scary, and very productive dream, but I have the deep joy of actually having lived it. No one can ever accuse me of having an un-thorough midlife crisis, and as I set myself back on solid waking almost-40 ground, I feel sad to let the dream world go.

I’ve seen and felt things that most people only imagine, and I am so, so grateful to everyone who helped usher me to this new, strong place. I regret the projections that I sometimes made you wear, the pain that the interaction of my past with our present caused you, the mismatches I kept creating so I could live the same drama again and again. It wasn’t entirely ethical to let real folks play a part in a dream, however productive it was, but whatever real connections we created, lasting or fleeting, will stay part of me for the rest of my life, treasured forever.

Though it is a relief to let go of any real membership in the world of kink and poly, it’s also a very sad thing. I admire those who have the flexibility, imagination, and suspension of disbelief to walk safely in those worlds, and I’m deeply disappointed that I am not one of them.

There are parts of the journey that will stick with me, loves and epiphanies that will not lose their meaning. The new roles, skills, and even body parts (!) that I discovered will continue to bring great playfulness and joy both on my own and (I hope!) within eventual relationships.

More than sex, this journey was about claiming a place in the world, ceding no further emotional real estate to the archetypal Pretty Sister, accepting and surrendering to the thought that has been chiming through me for months:

I want my own stuff.

I don’t want to borrow or share a person, visit his hands when I’ve reached the front of the queue. I don’t want to compartmentalize any more than life already demands. I want (again) someone who wants me and loves me the best, someone who sees every aspect of me and shows every aspect of himself. I want genuine intimacy to happen through my life again someday, and it’s bittersweet to acknowledge that I don’t want to stopgap myself with anything less than real love.

It’s vulnerable not to know where I’ll land, but I suspect it will look something like sitting in a pretty garden with someone, in affectionate silence, reading a book.

I love you, readers, characters, and friends, and I’ll miss you very much. I hope you can forgive me for the ways I let you down when I was trying to fit, and that our real connections will stay true and happy in our hearts. I wish each person who has ever starred in these paragraphs every fulfillment, every thrill, and most especially, deep and lasting love.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The End of My Adventures? A Sparkly Festival of…Grief.

I was excited yesterday morning to pack up and get ready for the Sparkly Festival of Awesomeness, but I was also grumpy and space-issuey—even the shower curtain brushing up against my legs seemed invasive. I was thinking it might be better to stay home and rest and write, maybe even grade papers. I wanted some time to myself.

But I also knew it was time to start reaching out, and I was curious about whether I’d even be interested in a naked-outside adventure now that the Big Therapy Project had been completed. When I arrived, I immediately felt disincluded—the man at the gate couldn’t find my name on the list, and neither could the lady at registration, at first. Still, I was glad to be there and excited to see my friends.

I found Mr. and Ms. Sweetheart right away. Their tent was in the same place it was in last year, where I’d had all the fun with Mr. Sweetheart and Mr. Shiny Eyes. This time, all the front tent flaps were open and it had the feel of a veranda, a porch full of inflatable beds.

I got naked and fell easily in with them on their bed. I was warm from the gorgeous day and from the adrenaline and had lots of lovely snuggles and sexytimes in front of everyone, but Mr. Sweetheart got impatient with me for wanting to stop and put on sunscreen—he deemed it shady enough. After snuggles they were going to a workshop and he was getting annoyed with me for making them late, and I wasn’t okay with that. I wanted to go enjoy the woods anyway.

I felt post-coital tired and cranky as I set off on my own. I started out naked but kept adding more clothes as I went. My spray-on sunscreen wouldn’t work and everything all of a sudden felt sore. I added a skirt and then a bra, but still sure did like the sun on my skin. I found and walked the labyrinth where I’d had such a meaningful experience last year, then went to explore the pond. It was teeming with tadpoles, a fuck you to anything that would interfere with the flourishing of life. I found this vindicating, since the pond where I used to watch tadpoles as a child has fallen prey to frackers. It felt like the frogs were still winning.

I saw a tiny turtle and got very, very sad that Sweetie wasn’t there to see it with me.

I tried to have some self-adventures in the woods, that had long been a fantasy of mine, but my body felt raw and disconnected, guarded against touch, even my own. I started to realize that no matter how pretty the scenery, no matter how much everyone else was having fun, I didn’t belong here, maybe never would.

On the way back from the pond, who should I see but that harbinger of go-home-already, Steampunk Girl. She was, as always, perfectly at home, being chatted up by a guy who looked exactly like a young Weird Al Yankovic. She was directly in my path and I thought I should go talk to her, say my sorries and get in over with, but everything inside me finished shutting down and I found a way to get past them without being seen.

I found some nice grass to lie down in, looked up at the perfect cartoon clouds and thought about the Steampunks, who were probably here together and fitting in perfectly the way they always do, like I never would. I don’t know why I still feel so much pain about them, but there is. I’m still broken about them no matter how much progress I’ve made otherwise.

I started to sob and a couple of strangers came over to talk to me, but I couldn’t articulate it to strangers, I needed a real friend.

I spotted the Recurring Character and his wife sitting in lawn chairs and watching a nice couple fuck in the next tent over. I asked if I could just sit by them, but they got closed and guarded and he said “We’re having an alone moment right now.”

I think that was the moment that I clocked out of polyamory, or whatever community this was. The way they used boundaries as an excuse to ignore the real need of a hurting human being, this has been the essence of heartbreak after heartbreak for these past few years. It certainly wasn’t friendship. Like a child, I sobbed away across the field, in front of everyone, maybe even in front of Steampunks.

I eventually found the Sweethearts leaving their workshop, hugged them and told them what happened with Steampunk Girl. I lay down on the bed for a few minutes and when I closed my eyes, they were gone again. There was nothing and no one here for me, not even myself since I felt so disconnected.

I tried to get a cup of coffee in hopes that that would make me feel better, but even THAT felt exclusive—you had to be a member of the Coffee Club. Never has the universe been so unsubtle at telling me to get the heck out of someplace.

I headed home sad and wondering what hobbies would replace unicorning and nudity, if I’d ever find a place to belong. (Where does one go to meet monogamous available people, anyway?) I stopped at Gold Star Wing Girl’s house on the way home, and talking to her confirmed what I already sort of knew: My adventures of the past few years helped me to separate from Sweetie and successfully tackle the Big Therapy Project, and now that that’s done, they just don’t have the same meaning. Being a naked peripheral character feels bad because it’s already in the past and going backwards always hurts.

I hung onto the Sweethearts the longest probably because they’re the nicest, but it’s time to cop to the thing I said out loud to Sweetie in the ocean last summer—I didn’t say I wanted an FWB or a play partner or a couple. I said I wanted a husband. And because, unlikely as he is for giving such an insight, Steampunk Guy was the one who helped me realize it, maybe they’ll always be there to show me when I’m off track.

It’s lonely not belonging, but I can only refocus on ways to keep belonging with myself and hope the rest works out somehow.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April Mischief Managed and May Goals

Mostly I'm job search girl for at least the next few weeks, so send me all the luck you've got, dears!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Backtrack, A Cliff, and a Buffy Sing-along

After the last post, all full of accomplishment and yoga-y goodwill, I was inspired to send a sorry-I-was-a-jerk note to Scrabble Boy—I’d been thinking of him because our dalliance was an April thing and because our friendship ended, as so many of mine have, with me getting superpissed. Since the divorce, I’ve been working my way through the list of people at whom I’ve misdirected anger.

He accepted my friend request right away, as if he’d been waiting for it, and was equally apologetic and forgiving. We planned to do a call after I got back from Easter. (Hey everybody! I drove up to my sister’s and back without having a breakdown for the first time post-Sweetie! Credit to my cute little red car, I think. And time.) A funny thing happened when I hit the road though—all kinds of daydreams started to unspool about him—holding hands under the flowering trees, throwing him into my pretty princess bed and finally having my way with him, running away to join his life in Ann Arbor. (Cue Get Up Kids song…)

Though I loved the idea of reuniting with my poet self through him and seeing the last three years’ adventures through his eyes, the adventures seemed to pale in comparison with him. He was, at least in those daydreams, still the best one for me, the guy I’d choose out of all of them if I were given a chance. I hadn’t so much gotten over him as put a bookmark in that day we spent together, and as soon as we were on good terms, love started bursting out like so many tree-petals.

Easter was SUCH a good trip. I played Mario Party with the kids and earned almost no mini-stars. I took my niece and nephews to their local comic shop and bought my niece some manga and my nephew a sonic screwdriver. After we finished lovingly perusing the old-school Star Wars figures, we all went out for cocoa. It’s finally sinking in that I can still have my family, even post-Sweetie.

When I got home, I knew I couldn’t really bear to be updated about Scrabble Boy’s life. I’ve come too far to pretend that I want to be just friends with someone I love. (Annoying) gold star for being honest with him about that, and in the process I learned that he’d found someone shortly after his divorce and was happy with her. I sent him a perfect, distant, congratulatory response and that was that, but I was completely devastated by the news. I don’t know why it hurt so badly, but it did. I sometimes feel like everyone just pairs (or whatevers) up so easily and it’s still just a mystery to me.

The more I dismantle the defensiveness and fear that came from The Bad Thing, the more I realize some of that stuff was what’s holding me up, so it’s hard to hold myself together without it. I will probably find more of these pockets of feeling that got stuck because I was ill-equipped to face them at the time—my heart might be a TARDIS ride for a little while.

With that loss added to all the others and my defenses down, I felt like Wyle E. Coyote when he realizes he’s walked off a cliff. The bottom dropped out from under everything and for a few days, I was completely lost. I felt the loss not just of Scrabble Boy, but of my school, of Sweetie, of everyone I’ve lost in the past couple years’ adventures. I was so hyperventilatingly sad that I wondered if I did need a Girl Interrupted interruption, or shock treatment like Rory Gilmore got when she was on Mad Men. I thought I would never find love the way SB did because I would be tangled in this web of grief forever.

The feeling only lasted a couple of days—with yoga, sitcom episodes, and lots of writing, the devastation passed and I was able to get back on track. The main thing I learned from the Scrabble Boy thing is that hermit time is over, that reaching out has got to become the norm again. I’ve enjoyed these months of focusing on taking care of myself, but the loneliness is deep and wide and it’s time to rejoin the world.

So I did. Last night I joined some friends-of-friends for a Buffy sing-along and ice cream birthday party. (Can you believe that was a thing?!) I felt nervous because I’ve almost completely forgotten how to be social, but singing “Walk Through the Fire” with a bunch of cute near-strangers was as transcendent an experience as I’m ever gonna have, and I have been actually set on fire.

So I will. Walk through the fire, I mean. Though it seems impossible sometimes, I’ll keep moving forward until I work someplace safe and love someone(s) kind, until vulnerability and lightness and heart can thrive. Next weekend, everybody, is the Sparkly Festival of Awesomeness, not a moment too soon.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Momentous Therapy Milestone and Other Updates

It’s fitting that I’m writing this right before Easter because part of my psyche is starting a brand new life. For twenty-some years my high-school trauma has been a huge, stultifying influence, and I’ve finally begun to transform and heal away from it.

Last week was a rough one. Though I was already planning to transfer to a safer, more respectful school, the way my principal decided to officially notify me of her decision to force-transfer me was this:

Two years of giving it absolutely everything that I had, of tears and sacrifice and love and Sunday workdays, and all she thought I deserved was a form letter with seven words. I felt that familiar being-nothing feeling for a night, but as always the kids and the actual work took me through to solid ground again.

I can’t imagine why my soon-to-be-ex boss thinks I deserve so much contempt, but I decided that the way to say FUCK YOU to her without derailing my goals is to do as many kind and loving things for myself as I possibly can. So on Friday night, I went to a Yoga Nidra/Kirtan event at the yoga studio I was enjoying last summer. The Yoga Nidra part was an all-savasana guided meditation geared toward body awareness. It was an entire hour long. The lovely yoga teacher said a lot of things, but my favorite part was when she was focusing us on our chakras. When she said “heart chakra, green” I felt it and saw it and I’ve felt it and seen it on and off all week.

I spent Saturday in a fancy garden, further unwinding from the school week. As I walked among the topiaries and fields of tiny blue flowers, as clear directive came up inside me: “Let things change.”

Therapy was on Sunday, right after church. Each week, I’ve been telling her the Bad Thing story and each time my anxiety levels have lessened, like magic. This week, she had me focus on just the part where the rapist is inside me, the part that’s always been the most difficult to articulate.

I started off with the usual anger and fear but as I talked, something changed. I want from harsh, stubborn emotions to pillowy sadness. Behind my closed eyes, everything inside me went a lovely, soft spring green. I cried relievingly and gently for the fact that I hadn’t been kept safe, for the deeper abandonment that led to me being at that party instead of in a safe, loving home, for the fact that both he and I had to go through something so inhumane, so disconnected from our divine selves. I tried to address him but as I did, he just…evanesced, floated up off me as foggy green light and was gone.

I opened my eyes and blew out the candle, full of kind sadness and relief. I got there. After twenty years of holding on, all of the kindness and support and adventure and work had finally allowed me to let it go. The badness and horror I always thought was an essential part of me was moved to something outside me, something else.

The Bad Story was all about integrating with my inner teenage self, and I went on talking after story time, I landed on the next character who needs attention and care: little me. For the next part of therapy, I’ll find ways to connect with and heal the child in me, who is still stuck in fear and abuse. I get to care for her and get her all situated, and now I know I can do it.

To that end, on the way to my family’s today, I’ll stop and take a walk at my rural childhood home. I’ll look at the flowers and birds and hear the quiet. I’ll go to the small town where we did church and groceries and go to the drugstore where my brother and sister and I used to get our allotted 25 cents worth of penny candy every week after church, and I’ll get Little Me whatever she wants, probably something sparkly.

The best update of all is: last night I had a little gig! The Cute Church couple had me read some poems at their adorable music night, and Cute Church Guy backed me up on stand-up bass. Friends came and listened, and I even sold a couple of books.

I started with a poem that has a singing epigraph:

“There is more love somewhere.
There is more love somewhere.
I’m gonna keep on
‘til I find it.
There is more love somewhere.”

Hearing my whole voice telling me the truth, in a gorgeous historic room with my adorable friends, I started to believe it. I am not the nasty things that happened to me. I’m love all the way through, and the more I can admit that, the happier I’ll be. This feels like the end of a story and I’m so, so grateful for everything that got me here, especially, dear reader, you.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Yay, Still Spankable!

It's fantastic to know I'm (sometimes) past the part where I'm scared of sex and ready to both whale on somebody and get whaled on. I'm not supersure in the long term about the FWB-ness of my relationship with Mr. Sweetface (I'm kinda in a place where I want to graduate to romance. And, um, my own stuff.) but I am grateful for the kind, tingly way he ushered me back into the world of sexytimes last night.