Monday, April 20, 2015

Progress/Grief/Progress: A Year After the Big Therapy Project

One Saturday last April it seemed as though a fissure in my psyche released, healed, and closed, and with it, the door to all I’d experienced in my three years of adventure. It was a triumph and loss all at once. As I page and edit through the beginning pages of the blog to start wrangling it into a book, I miss the person I was at the beginning of the story, aglow with adrenaline, defiance, and denial. As I face the story for what it really is, the end of a marriage, a labyrinth path to things generally being healthier but less exciting, I have to grieve for what it wasn’t, for what I may never have—a story of belonging.

After I walked away from that festival last spring in what an uncharitable commenter called a tantrum but what felt like both defeat and acceptance, I really did walk into a happier life, in almost all ways. It felt the way I imagine being newly sober might feel—missing the thrills but welcoming the lack of roller coasterness, the feeling of belonging to myself, to my own life.

I spent almost every weekend last summer at my aunt’s beach house, bonding with family, swimming with my cousins. I felt entitled to be with my own family in a way I never had before. I went to my sister’s for a no-reason visit, walked along with river with my niece and nephews. I sat in the yard at my mom’s dream country house and watched hummingbirds for hours.

I didn’t make it as a teacher, didn’t get to be the change I wished to see. Despite everything I’ve learned here, I never figured out how to not be blamed for every single thing—in the fall, a student pushed me into a door, and somehow I ended up being made to apologize to him. Another child tried to push a locker onto me, and I was told to “stop putting myself in harm’s way.” Eventually, I started having real panic attacks. On my second to last day, I went to the emergency room because my heart hurt. A doctor told me I could stop panicking, if I stopped going there, so I did.

I say this to say, so many times in the last few years I’ve jumped in with both feet, fallen in love with every single person and thing around me, then unequivocally rejected the whole thing, the social equivalent of a bad donor heart. I guess that’s kind of what I’ve been.

As I begin turning the blog into a book, the big emotional risk, the scary part, is not the scary stories that await me—I feel safe from all of those fears and panics, perspective and strength did come as I’d hoped, right on schedule. What’s hard to confront is the love, held in there like so many bookmarks. Though at time I saw those adventures as a transformative dream, it wasn’t, it was real love, even in the most baroquely fake situations. And with real love, real loss. I held every single character in my heart, just like I loved the teachers and students and entire causes I walked away from this winter.

In some ways, these two post-teaching months have been the happiest, but I’m restless not really knowing what I am, having these vast reserves of unexpressed something waiting  in case true love or vocation miraculously come along. Though I’m by and large optimistic about what’s ahead, I get overwhelmed sometimes about the whole population of lost loves behind me, the series of identities I’ve slipped into and out of so quickly—the loss and loss and loss.

Today my beloved therapist, whom I’ve seen sporadically since we finished the project, had to cancel our appointment. She’s been doing that lately, switching my times around and so on, and today, I was done. She wasn’t one of my people anymore, somehow. I let her go and I felt something in my brain heave and swirl, maybe it was the real end of the story, maybe this is being free.

I’m new to the world again. I’m taking everything slow. I don’t know what I’m here for, except to write and eat brunch and pet the cats and take pictures of flowers. My type-A side wants a mission, my creative side wants to be a kite, seeing where things take me next. I honestly don’t know.

Monday, April 13, 2015

You Can Help Support the Kitten Calendar Book!

What's more vulnerable than a fire massage? Launching a crowd-funding campaign!

Some of you may remember The Kitten Calendar getting accepted as a book a couple of years ago, but that fell through like things do sometimes, and then teaching ate my life for a while.

I'm at a stage now where I want to reconnect with my creative dreams in a big way, so I want to give converting the blog into a book a good, solid try. My hope is to spend this summer working on the book full time and finding the right publisher.

If this story has meant something to you and you think it deserves a wider audience, I hope you'll consider contributing. If you can't afford dollars, you can still be an amazing help by sharing the link on your FetLife page and other social media.

Whether or not you contribute to this effort, I want my readers to know I still love you and that experiencing this story with you changed my life in the most incredible way. You'll always have my love and gratitude.

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.