Relationship Reboot: How to grow your relationship instead of playing defense

I have been suffering from an overabundance of topics to discuss and not enough time to do it in. But I keep seeing articles and advice that address the idea of “safeguarding a relationship” by offering advice that dehumanizes our partnerships, prop up oppressive systems and essentially keep us stuck in the default mode of maximum effort for minimal fulfillment.

maximum effort - NeatoShop

Deadpool as relationship coach? (this comes as a t-shirt at https://www.neatoshop.com/product/Keep-Calm-and-Make-Maximum-Effort

The inspiration for this piece was the gut reaction I had to this post:8 Rules Guaranteed to Prevent Infidelity  To be clear, this advice doesn’t just appear on Christian Right pages but is found anywhere that people are fed on a diet of fear and suspicion, righteousness and possession.  The jealousy, the resentment and the potential pain of an intimate partner cheating on us are well known to all of us, including those of us non-monogamous folk. However, seeking to control, to safeguard, to protect against any potential, possible, imaginary threat no matter how minor or insincere, is just another way of avoiding responsibility for creating trust, sharing honestly and openly with your partner and honoring boundaries and consent. 

Healthy relationships are founded on a basis of equality

Oppressive beliefs are not a good basis for healthy intimacy

I believe that no matter how someone identifies or what they believe, that there are some basic relationship best practices that can be found when we start from a place of equality. The problem is and always will be that these best practices require us to engage with the best in ourselves, not always easy when lustful impulsiveness or rigid social conditioning urge us to do otherwise. Good relationships require thoughtful personal reflection, sincere vulnerability, and cooperative resilience toward a shared vision of the value of each person in that relationship.

When we fail to manifest these qualities in relationships, we invite our partnerships to be judged on default values. Threats are more likely to occur when your relationship is in default mode. Since needs and beliefs were never discussed, shared or revealed, what motivation does someone have to invest in the other person if all they’re getting is a pre-constructed ideal not built for them? Likewise, controlling your partner’s every communication and action to “safeguard” the relationship is the bigger threat to the relationship, a tactic of most abusers.

A healthy relationship understands that there is a balance between real life and the safety of the relationship. But treating your relationship like it’s a precious and fragile egg is more like a self-fulfilling prophecy – eventually, it will break, no matter how careful you are. Because guess what? People aren’t things meant to be locked up and protected; people need the freedom to grow, learn & develop. Successful intimate partnerships recognize that each person is whole and valuable as they are and the future is a cooperative scheme toward shared success and fulfillment.

Shame, judgment, and fear are toxic to growth and fulfillment. This includes the institutionalized shame of misogyny, the presumption that every woman is a temptress or that no man can control himself. Advice that relies on preserving rather than dismantling oppressive structures is suspect. The status quo only “worked” because people were forced to accept it, or suffer extraordinary consequences by the courts (by limiting the allowable circumstances for divorce), through family structure (by disowning kids who come out as queer) and public policy (limiting the rights of wives, daughters, mothers and sisters so they are dependent on men for basic survival – this was central to Jane Austen’s work)

#RelationshipReboot

For a while I’ve been tagging things with #RelationshipReboot because so much of the advice we’ve been given, not just by the Christian Right, but by magazines, talk shows, movies & books, has been built upon a framework of possession, of a right to “what’s mine” and protecting my right to “my man”. I just don’t believe that. I have never operated very well in a framework of ownership over others. What right do I have to dictate to my loved ones how they should live their lives.  It’s not to say I haven’t been that self-righteous little princess before in my teens, but I outgrew it once I realized how amazing and precious the human experience is. And each person has a right to their own autonomy and consequences, their own choices and successes. I opted instead to listen and honor my partners by making affirmative agreements that speak to the commitment we each have to honor the best in each other.

So, this will be a long post because I want to take some time to reframe these examples of toxic advice. I want to reframe the issue, reboot the core ideas at play and spin alternative advice that recognizes and honors consent and human dignity. To pull the shame and suspicion from the values and goals at play and find a better way to cope. Simple, affirmative commitments that we can make to be better at our relationship agreements.

Default Toxic Advice #1

Stay away from anyone of the preferred sex who you might ever be in any context potentially attracted to or who others might perceive that you’re attracted to even if you’re not. 

Column Advice #1:  I never meet alone with a woman other than my wife.
Column Advice # 5. I give “side hugs.”
Column Advice #6. I don’t engage in ongoing dialogues with women on social media

If someone cannot control themselves in having a conversation with a member of their preferred gender, no matter whether it’s in person, online or otherwise, that should be deeply concerning. Period. Maintaining personal and professional boundaries is a cornerstone of building trust, an essential component of a healthy relationship, no matter the context.  If there is a heightened danger that someone cannot maintain or honor reasonable boundaries, there’s a bigger problem at play here.

Part of the problem with these suggestions is the presumption that all human contact with a member of the preferred sex is always sexualized.  Handshakes aren’t any more or less sexual than a hug is – I’ve had men give lingering handshakes, holding both of my hands in theirs as they stroked my fingers or palm in a way suggesting way more than a simple hello.  A hug can comfort someone in emotional distress and is a signal of friendship. Touch is a basic human need.  These rules declare that the only person allowed to provide touch is the spouse, a pretty heavy job for one person alone, particularly if they are stunted in any way in how to express love and compassion through touch. It sexualizes a basic human need making it inaccessible anywhere else, and shameful to want to share with anyone else. 

Much of this specific advice is rooted in the appearance of impropriety rather than the actual engagement of it. If a spouse is so suspicious of a professional lunch or a personal coffee, the marriage is already in trouble.  There is nothing to safeguard because basic trust hasn’t even been established or was broken by past infidelities. Lunching alone with a member of the preferred gender isn’t the issue – trust and integrity are. There has either been a breach of trust or a failure to provide it in the first place.  If fear of what others might think comes into play, perhaps there is already a reputation for not adhering to commitments that would cause others to jump to that conclusion.

At best this advice is performative, not reparative.

Relationship Reboot Practice 1:

Respect - pin-heartlaceI maintain and respect appropriate boundaries with others 

Relationships are built on trust. There is no better way to create trust than to:

  1. Recognize that we each have a right to set boundaries for ourselves;
  2. Demonstrate through actions and words that you not only recognize but will work to honor yours and others’ boundaries;
  3. Be accountable for the commitments we make to others.

One of the things I’ve loved about my relationship with Warrior is that I know that when he hangs out with others, even if there’s an attraction that he’ll maintain his boundaries and our agreements. Likewise, when he was a practicing therapist he and I both know that there are distinct mechanisms, consequences, and laws in place that protect both him and his clients from inappropriate behavior.

Likewise, even though I stay friends with a lot of my exes, my partners know that I have my own personal code about how I’ll choose to engage that person in the future. Meeting with a married man is no more or less dangerous for me than meeting with a single one.  Having coffee with a potential business partner isn’t more or less dangerous to my relationship than going out to drinks with my law school classmates.  By maintaining good boundaries around my various interactions, staying consistent with what my partners can expect from me, I’m able to maintain the trust they’ve placed in me as well as signal to others what our interactions should consist of.

Finally, every day affords us an opportunity to model good consent practices. We have the right to refuse a hug. It’s okay to say “I’m not a hugger” and move on. It’s okay to refuse to go to coffee with a fan if they make you uncomfortable. We all have the right to both say and hear the word “No” without any further explanation. By honoring the boundaries of others, and ourselves, we create space for others to feel safe, to be more authentic and less suspicious of their trust in us.

Toxic Relationship Advice #2: 

If you don’t give your loved one complete and total access to every corner of your life, you are untrustworthy and uncommitted. 

Column Advice #2. My wife gets copied on all of my text messages.
Column Advice #3. I share ALL my passwords.

This advice not only violates some pretty serious personal and professional boundaries, but this advice could also violate some pretty serious legal boundaries if taken too far. It violates the consent of everyone involved – the person on the other end of that text pouring their heart out about their father’s cancer diagnosis, the employer who has liability for HIPAA, the client who uses text to confirm their appointments.  The potential for exploitation, abuse, fraud and identity theft with this advice is very serious and should be avoided at all costs.

What is really at issue is here is transparency, an accountability measure for trust. I think in our hearts, we all want to be honest and transparent, but little white lies can stack up over time and make truly innocent situations, such as calls with the neighbor about her father’s cancer diagnosis, seem suspicious. And as tempting as it is to give your partner 100% access to everything in your life to prove your devotion, this is dangerous for two reasons:

  • No one else consented to your partner having THEIR information
  • There is significant potential for legal liability or at least illegal shenanigans to take place as a result of this

It will backfire because transparency and honesty have to exist together. Requiring a partner to give passwords doesn’t guarantee that they haven’t built yet another profile under a different name.  Nor does giving full access guarantee that something won’t be taken out of context. This strategy will backfire in a big, spectacular way.

Relationship Reboot Practice #2:

ethicsMy priority is to keep my partner relatably informed of the important people, events, and situations in my life.  

Why do I say “relatably” informed?  Because this is about giving your partner the level of transparency and honesty that you need from them. If you want to know if your partner is viewing porn, it’s important then to share information about your own porn habits. If you want to know who from work is “just a friend” then you model this by providing them with the same information. And all of this can be done without invading someone else’s privacy or violating professional confidentiality policies.

I would much rather have my partner tell me, “Our neighbor, Sonia, is having a hard time, her father was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I’m lending her support over text after losing my own father to cancer a few years ago” rather than invading Sonia’s privacy with an unprecedented level of access to Sonia’s words and feelings.

And if you cannot believe your spouse when they tell you “oh it’s just a friend”, the more worthy investigation isn’t into their personal texts and messages but into an examination of why you cannot trust them. Is it something they’ve done or something that has gone unhealed in yourself? Either way, full access to passwords won’t give you what you’re looking for – just more fuel to the panic you already started with.

Toxic Relationship Advice #3: 

Stay away from any material that has any hint of sexual content so as to not be tempted to view anyone else as sexually desirable than the person you are permanently partnered with. 

Column Advice #4. I don’t watch porn or sexually-explicit content.

His next line is “porn is an act of mental infidelity” and he goes on to spout the normal, tired and debunked statistics on porn and porn addiction. These beliefs are rooted in some very flawed misunderstandings and misdirections about sex, attraction, and masturbation. These beliefs are built upon a premise that sexual desire for anything or anyone other than who you’ve chosen as a lifetime partner is shameful and weak, rather than normal and expected.  And the judgments that are delivered because of these beliefs manifest in harmful ways that can damage rather than enhance a person’s ability to sexually bond with another. It incentivizes secrecy.

Yes, there are some whose porn viewership has reached a level of damaging, addictive behavior, where say, they are viewing it at work or instead of going to work. Again, it comes back to really recognizing and understanding boundaries. But if that’s the case, the compulsive pattern is the bigger issue, not the porn itself.

Relationship Reboot Practice #3: 

I am comfortable sharing my intimate experiences, sexual fantasies, sexual values and feelings with my partner.

Instead of cutting it out entirely, use this opportunity to further the intimacy and trust to discuss sex, including porn habits and expectations with your spouse/significant other. Understand what are your own values around this, and be honest with yourself and your partner. Make choices together about works for you both. I know plenty of monogamous relationships that successfully integrate porn viewing into their sexual lives and have no infidelity concerns. Likewise, if your relationship cannot survive an honest conversation about sex, avoiding it will only make the issue grow more unsustainable. Discussing fantasies, experiences, values, wishes, disappointments go a long way toward eliminating the influence of shame in your relationship, making it more authentic, full and healthy.

——————————————-

Our happiest relationships should allow us room to grow, to be authentic, to be recognized and heard. Healthy relationships are robust, resilient, restorative, repairable, and redeeming. If it cannot withstand the storms of say, having lunch with a female work colleague, is it really worth saving? If a small whiff of attraction can dismantle your relationship so easily, will building additional walls really be worth the time either of you will invest in building new buttresses and moats?

At some point, if you’re constantly playing defense and cannot seem to let go of the rules, the suspicions, the fears, the jealousy, you have to look at what it is you’re really protecting here and ask “Is it really worth it?”

15 Ways Twitter helped me grow as a person

 

  1. I joined Twitter just a little over 10 years ago this fall. I can’t remember whether I joined as a fad, as an alternative to LiveJournal, or as a valiant attempt to connect to those I adored. While my time on Twitter hasn’t always been consistent or notable, I have grown to rely on this medium as one of my primary means of engagement, expression, and community. Throughout my life, I’ve utilized technology to connect to people in ways that aren’t always available in real life. I mean, back in my early adolescence I played around on QLink, then AOL – and got a lot of disappointed, angry looks from my dad when I spent more than our paid time. College was more AOL, law school was MySpace and eventually LiveJournal.

    But Twitter is a different animal – it has fluffy content and deep rabbit holes. It has the best (@DanRather) and worst of humanity (He Who Shall Not Be Named). It has gifs & clapbacks, sweet tenderness juxtaposed on the timeline with porn & politics. It takes a strong stomach sometimes, but when you find a community and a group of people worth following, it can be a wonderful experience.

    This week I reached 2500 followers. More than 70% of whom only started following me in the past 3 years. During that same period, I’ve experienced a significant growth in my career, my relationships, my confidence, and my mental health. I think there is something to be said for at least so new people drawn into my orbit since I decided to start healing myself. I have learned from them, created a community with them, and now celebrate all the ways in which that medium, and more importantly, the people who use it, have influenced my world in such a positive way.

    Here are the ways Twitter has influenced my life – in no particular order:  Read the rest of this entry

Starry Night & the Vastness Within

I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up: a nurse, a teacher, a judge, a senator, a singer. But the one that stuck with me most, that lit up my imagination the most was the ambition of being an astronaut. I grew up during the age of the space shuttle, Star Trek, and Star Wars. I was mesmerized by 2001: A Space Odyssey and consumed everything I could in those very early years about space travel. I even went to Space Camp. Twice.
This was it for me. My only destiny. I was destined to travel among the stars. My early childhood memories include watching the space shuttle, Columbia, roar into the sky. Innocence and imagination propelled me to research and learn, which caused me to grow and dream bigger. Likewise, my trips to Space Camp got me started with public speaking rather early, other schools and classes wanted to hear about my experience. It also led to designing a space station with my equally geeky friend, Chris, in middle school. My life became a series of events, speeches, presentations, leadership councils, playfully personally arguments that illustrate a higher ideal than the everyday, ordinary obedience. And while I have decided to stay on earth for the duration of my lifetime, I still am inspired and awed by the inspiration of space.
Whenever I’d sit and watch the stars, I saw the endless possibilities for discovery, for growth, for the experience of majestic beauty. I saw the potential for greater technologies to take us past our solar system. I saw the bright, twinkling possibilities for future destinations, greater understanding of our origins and even the capacity for humanity’s redemption in the vast, glittering expanse of space.
But space is also scary. It’s dark and mysterious. The boundlessness of such apparent emptiness often exceeds normal comprehension. And in those rare moments we allow ourselves to explore the vastness of that concept, we begin to see how it’s possible to let go of our smaller selves and connect to the vastness of the cosmos. It’s humbling and remarkable, sparking a flicker of wisdom within, as fleeting as a shooting star.
Tonight I am sitting on the porch of my family’s cabin in the mountains. I have needed this retreat for the past few months. In my efforts to cope with the stress of day to day life I’ve allowed myself to get drawn back into old patterns: reacting instead of responding, self-deprivation instead of self-nurturing, beating myself down instead of lifting myself back up. The gravity of the world weighs down my spirit more often than the beauty of it has lifted my soul; yet, I feel untethered, the ground never truly solid beneath my feet.
Sometimes I feel like I have just floating out there for quite some time. Drifting from one ambition to another – today in a writer, yesterday I was a lawyer, tomorrow I’ll be a goddess. While all of those roles are me, lately there has been very little of me left to inhabit those roles. There’s been very little of me to offer to the people I care most about in this world.  Very little of me to become the sparkling mountain goddess I want to be. So consumed by the fear and anxiety, the doubt and the anger, i have lost touch with the love and the wonder that set me on this path to begin with.
But as I sit here on this porch, a magnificently sparkling painting of stars overhead, I recall the girl who dreamed of being an astronaut – of seeking out a future for humanity. In this quiet of midnight, I finally feel free to reconcile my own destiny.
I have lost touch with the wisdom that I find when I slow down and consider the true vastness of the universe compared to the small and tiny problems of my life. Who cares whether my boss likes me if there isn’t a humanity left to bear witness to the grandiose majesty of our universe? Who cares whether I said the right thing or wore the right outfit or if I weighed 210 or 135 – my weight is not my legacy. Likewise, why should I care about which celebrity is dating who, when I am one tiny person in the vastly diverse array of human beings on this planet, inhabiting one of just a billion different rocks?
Life is so much more than our competitions and jealousies.  Life is so much more rewarding than a lifetime of bitterness. Staring at the stars, we begin to question the uselessness of our structures and oppressions. Staring at the stars we know that life is much more than what we’ve contained ourselves to become.  Break loose of the mold and find your light in the vastness of complexity and beauty within. Cut loose from the ties that have bound you to the ground and allow yourself to find your place in the universe around us.

Scraps of the Raw, Unedited Me

I keep a document on my computer called “scraps”. It’s the little phrases or bits of paragraph that I pull out of whatever I’m writing for this blog or the other writing projects I have going. When I write, I always take one pass to just get all the words on the page. One, big exhale of thought. No matter how circular, intricate or even scattered those thoughts are, I write down literally everything I can, feelings and all. I store so many ideas in my head, recognize so many connections between other concepts and themes that I can only make sense of It all by manifesting it in words – spoken or written.

I have always preferred writing to speaking, precisely because I can edit. Maybe it’s the perfectionism driven by my old Catholicism, or maybe it’s because I have more at stake with my writing if I publish it online, but one post could take me months to write and edit. I’m always paring down, not just because of word count (screw you, internet, I’ll write a 1200 word blog post if I wanna!), but for clarity, saliency, and simple relevance. As I pull out phrases that sound really awesome, bullet points that aren’t as relevant, paragraphs and links that will become the basis of their own posts, I can’t allow myself to let go of the idea, so I copy and paste into my “Scraps” document for safekeeping. This gives me the emotional freedom to edit without feeling like I’m losing an important thread of myself.

No edit button for real life

However, I can’t edit myself in real life or in real time. I can talk. Fuck, I can talk a lot. But most of what I’m doing is verbal processing of all the many connections I find between ideas, observations, and knowledge that are separated and disjointed. As I apply words to thoughts, it all starts to make sense to me. I start seeing the patterns, identifying areas of opportunity, understanding what actions I should take.

And in my most glorious moments, this is my realm, my territory, my kingdom: The intimately meandering conversations that all seem to circle around a profound point or theme, where topics range from science and pop culture to spirituality and personal trauma.  Only by connecting and sharing with others with a genuine exchange of perspectives and experiences can I ever truly make sense of my own experience.  I’m at my best when the conversation is organic, intimate, private.

My biggest stresses come from the inability to edit myself when I’m in a more formal, public and scrutinized environment. I am very purposeful with my words and I want the correct meaning to be conveyed at all times. When someone is hurt or offended or confused by what I say, it’s important to me to take responsibility for that, to learn from that experience, to do better the next time. But with that responsibility comes an inescapable compulsion to heavily edit myself before I say anything ever again.

——

I don’t want to ruin someone’s life because I was wrong about something I said

I’ve been public speaking since I was in 4th grade.  That year I went to Space Camp and was asked to present to all the classes at my school about my experience. Eventually, I was also invited to speak at other schools as well. As time went on, as I participated in other experiences, I got very used to getting up in front of a crowd, rattling off something from the top of my head and delivering a succinct and precise message quite successfully.

It was one thing when I was a precocious teenager with ambition and spunk. It’s quite another when I’m an adult professional speaking with authority or as a subject matter expert. That shift, somewhere between college and law school, I started second-guessing myself. Maybe it was my first contracts class where the professor made an example out of the fact I hadn’t done the reading (my schedule changed that morning, jackass). Maybe it was the fact that most of my law professors agreed that I’d make a terrible litigator. I was too transparent in cross-examination to make a good lawyer. It definitely was influenced by the judge who dressed me down in front of the whole court for a typo back when I was a student attorney.

Once I graduated and progressed in my profession, I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I had “authority” now, people would take what I said and might make life-altering decisions from the words I uttered. I don’t want to be wrong. I don’t want someone’s life to be ruined because of the advice that I gave. So paranoid am I am about it, that after every speech, presentation or class, I have a panic attack – not before a speech, but after. That’s the point where I’m wishing I had the ability to edit myself, to re-answer that one question, to double check that statistic, to not sound so full of myself. My anxiety spirals me into a place of such distorted fear and dread, that I need to remove myself from the event for at least 15-30 minutes to restore some equilibrium.

Control helped me survive; letting go helps me heal

Editing gives me a sense of control. Control over how others perceive me, control over how the how much information I share. Control over my environment and experience.  Control is safe. Control is how I’ve been able to survive. When I’m able to write, I can pour my heart out, edit and present the small gem I carved out of the raw, self-indulgent mess.

But healing isn’t complete unless we can let go of the things that no longer serve us.  An authentic life isn’t about controlling how others view you – not self-editing or hiding one’s intentions or persona forever. It is about trusting that you’re enough, that you can handle whatever happens, that you trust enough in the universe to support your attempts at authenticity.

At some point in our journey we have to step into the light and be seen for who we really are. Stripped away of the artifice and masks of constructed stories, letting go of the clutter of thoughts we have about what others want of us and decide for ourselves that it is simply enough for us to exist as ourselves in our present reality. Healing is letting go.

And as such, nothing from this post ended up in the scraps document. Because it is enough to just show up authentically as myself, without hidden agendas or constructed personas. I deserve to fully show up in the world as the raw, unedited me.

No more apologies: letting go of overthinking

Too many of my blog posts have started with an apology. A conditioned conversation starter that presupposes I have failed to meet invisible expectations that I believe people have for me. I over-explain everything – a knee jerk reaction to the weight of the disappointment I have assumed into my shoulders whether earned or not.

But the point of this post – the point of my blog is to reflect the universal truth and beauty of our shared experiences through my own personal revelations and transformations. That includes making a conscious choice to not apologize, not to assume, not to beat myself up for living my own life.

Therefore, I’m not going to apologize for my absence and lack of posts lately. I have been doing a lot. I have been kicking ass at work (getting an increase in staff and responsibility). I have been battling demons (finally confronting the monsters under my bed so to speak). I have been challenging myself to be a better person (recognizing and accepting my faults without going overboard to please everyone). I have been developing new connections (lovely sources of sexual tension). I have been learning new things (making time to read books). I have been discovering my power (standing up for myself and speaking my truth). I have been creating change (in policy and in my various communities).

Breaking the Habit

I don’t feel the need to apologize for any of the things that have been drawing my attention away from blogging. There is only one of me and being present during this time of rapid change and transformation is the most important challenge I have in front of me.

Too often I get buried in a never ending spiral of overthinking. It could start innocently – seeing a cute dog crossing the street. But within moments my brain is spiraling into guilt and shame for not taking my dog to the groomers sooner, this making her cute too. And soon, I’m apologizing in my head (and occasionally out loud) to the audience I’ve let down with my apparent poor choices, adding more tasks to my neverending to-do list.

This propensity to apologize out of anticipated shame and guilt, that it is sometimes physically painful to hold back that reaction. It’s such an automatic reaction that it’s taken a long time to just be aware of it, much less take the steps I need to actually overcome it.

It’s taken years for me to just become aware of it, to notice how often it was derailing me. This spiral pattern of shame, blame and apology is how I kept holding myself back from experiencing success and happiness. I allowed those invisible audiences to judge me and shame me into hiding because of my persistent fear and shame.

And while I do have plans to write this story, to provide the insights I want to share, it’s an incredibly difficult task while I am still living it, processing it and being present with it.

One year’s growth

The past year has been one of the most challenging and fulfilling of my life. The growth I’ve experienced has been life altering. Finally finding a space of deservingness also brought me to an awareness of how intimidated I am by what I think others think and believe about me.

But there comes a point where doing the right thing won’t make everyone happy. And the past year has given me a lot of opportunities to examine my relationship with my own sense of power, to examine how I respond to my own decision-making authority. I’ve been too comfortable in the background, unwilling to fully step into the lead of my own life much less my own profession.

The past year, I’ve had to do something that is very difficult – I’ve had to stand up and be noticed. I’ve had to give structure and hold people accountable. I’ve had to hold myself accountable without losing my power. And my god, it’s been so hard to do that without completely losing myself to the fear and anxiety of it all.

Over the the past week I’ve had to examine some of the deeper pieces of my heart that were still in need of healing. And I recognized that had I not been through all the hard, difficult things that I already have, that I never would have reached this point of catharsis and release – healing wounds that created a thirst for self-esteem, that relied too heavily on the approval of others.

That healing needed space and time. And my healing does not require me to apologize to anyone for not being as available as they want. I have spent the past 6 years fully engaged in the hard work of repairing my heart, restoring my soul and preparing for the difficult job of being The Queen. Every minute, every decision, every difficult step has been worth it.

No more apologies.

Lessons from Men: Sincerity is Sexy

Since I was a teenager I’ve gotten into the habit of not giving much weight to compliments. I don’t absorb them easily, don’t take them seriously and I try to avoid a lot of situations that would result in ever receiving them. As I age, now in my 40’s, I give them even less attention than I did when I was younger. I have fallen into a habit of dismissing them as useless noise in otherwise great conversations.

It’s no understatement to say that I don’t accept compliments very well. Whether it’s my intellect, my beauty or my impact, I’m very reluctant to accept positive feedback about myself no matter who it comes from. But when I receive romantic or sexual compliments, particularly from men, my reluctance turns to suspicion.

Here’s why:

The men who came before you ruined it.

My first job was at an ice arena in the 90’s. For a while I was the only female under the age of 50 who worked there, so most days, I was working with 3-5 men at any given time. When I wasn’t on the ice or behind skate rental doing my homework I was shooting the shit with the guys.

Leaving alone some of the more unsavory and illegal aspects of that job (the sexual harassment & uncompensated hours), every afternoon, when the rink was closed and we were between events, we sat in the box office or my boss’ office and talked about everything. I felt accepted in a way that I didn’t with others. The geeky boys at school rejected me, the jocks ignored me, the smart guys were weirdly protective over me and the beautiful boys didn’t know I existed. Not only were these guys paying attention to me, but they were giving me advice, insider information on how to attract guys.

 

My sexual education mostly had consisted of Catholic judgment tempered by access to a library with loads of books about puberty and sex. But even though I had resources I felt like a freak for my bisexual desires, the frequency of masturbation, the obsession over wanting to show off my body. I was able to contain the freak enough to date, to learn from the boys that I was with, but most of those messages revolved around seeking the approval of men.

Navigating Toxic Masculinity

So during those times at work I fancied myself a spy who had been given a glimpse into a deeper thread of masculinity. I gained access to the spaces where sexually dysfunctional assumptions are embedded in deep currents of shame. I knew even back then that these men were wearing masks to impress each other. Yet they were playing a game designed so that none of them would ever really win.  I knew that a lot of them felt pressure to brag and boast, to put up walls and hide their needs with a well-placed wink at their friends.

I also saw the men underneath. The ones who really wanted a happier relationship, the ones who were working through issues of self-worth and managing stunted independence. I eventually got to see the vulnerability, sometimes more acutely than their wives or girlfriends – because after a while, they forgot that I was a spy and they considered me one of them.

 

And while all of that would be ample reason to not trust their advice about boys, I was working from a skewed sense of self, insecurities run amok. Specifically, I paid attention to their strategies behind compliments. They taught me their code for how they talk about women and how to get what they wanted from women:

  • Tell a smart girl she’s pretty
  • Tell a pretty girl she’s smart
  • Beautiful – when you want her to fall for you.
  • Gorgeous – to keep her attention or get out of trouble.
  • Cute – girl next door that you want to fuck but might have to play the friend zone for a while before you can. 
  • Hot – to get her to act sluttier.
  • Sexy – the more breathless you say it, the more she’ll want to please you.
  • Nice/sweet – clingy woman who you’re trying to gently let down.

All of these strategies and definitions overlapped to a certain extent and varied from person to person.  But the lesson was clear – compliments were manipulations used to reinforce desired results.

From there I always had reason to doubt the sincerity of the compliments I received.  I developed a deliberate response system, using this code to uncover hidden intentions and build strategies of my own. I started seeing through the strategic use of eye contact when told I’m “gorgeous”. I could hear the impatient expectation hidden in their voice when told I’m “hot”. Poems and platitudes dismissed over and over. It’s all bullshit, packaged and sold as smooth seduction and I wasn’t going to get emotionally drawn into the value of the compliment.

I got to the point where I could anticipate each compliment through seeing the corresponding intention. I could easily weave through the different road signs and guideposts, avoiding pitfalls of falling for just any guy who called me beautiful. I modeled the frankness about sex that I wanted for myself. If I wanted to date someone, if I wanted to have sex with them, I just told them. No pretense, no seduction by compliment; I would just call it out. It didn’t always work in my favor – definitely got turned down a lot, but at least it was honest.

Expect and deflect.

 

Sincerity plants seeds of growth

 

Eventually and especially after going through sexual trauma, any compliment became seen as dangerous, a potential manipulation I had to guard against. And while I was only trying to keep myself from getting hurt, I know that this was also hurting those who really just wanted to connect with me by expressing their interest.  I’m honestly ashamed to think of all the really wonderful people who I’ve rejected because of the advice of these men.

I wish I could go back to the girl I was and tell her that the real lesson to take from the guys at the rink was how to discern insincerity from genuine interest. To notice that the way they treated women was more reflective of how they treated themselves. They manipulated because they were constantly wearing a mask that denied them the experience of connection. It was easier to define women and pussy as grotesque and mysterious than it was to admit that the 4 minute fucks they were hustling weren’t impressing anyone.

I would tell her that the people she would most value in her life, who would rock her world sexually and spiritually, would all have one quality in common:

Sincerity

An open heart, an open mind will always be the epitome of sexy for me. 

Whether it’s maturity or confidence, I know myself better than I did back then. I still have insecurities, but I no longer allow them to decide how I feel about myself or what boundaries matter to me. I simply don’t have time to waste on those who offer half-truths and generic innuendos. Nor do I care about the opinions of those who bring nothing but their desperate emptiness, no matter how much they try to hide it behind compliments.

I am most strongly attracted to those who are genuine within themselves. I care most about those who express empathy and even simple curiosity. Those who act consistently to express their own truth in a way that connects, rather than destroys. Sincerity always contributes more energy than it drains. And those who embrace their truth, no matter how ugly or damaged they feel it is, these are the people I want to know. These are the people I want to share myself with. And fuck, sincerity is just so damn sexy.

Manipulation doesn’t have the power to change someone. At best, it temporarily deprives them of the ability to make a conscious choice. Manipulations are the tools of the weak, those who can’t stand on their own with confidence.  Yet, compliments shared from a sincere heart are hard to ignore, kind of impossible to dodge. Once a sincere person shares their truth, it plants a seed of connection that give us new life, new energy, a change for the better.

Sincerity forces us to take off the mask and be seen for our honest selves. It is vulnerable and intimidating for certain, but it is entirely what our world needs more of right now.

Updating my old OKCupid profile

I’ve been using OKCupid since around 2005 maybe? It’s been the most Poly-friendly of dating apps for years. In fact, it’s responsible for bringing Warrior into my life (his ex-wife, my former girlfriend, met me from OKC).

My profile is as…thorough…as a profile can be. It’s got a ton of information in it. Enough for any prospective match to know what they’re getting themselves into. This profile has served me well over the years – I can usually judge matches based on how well they read my profile. But…like most things Janet, it says a LOT.

With all the changes they’ve been making recently, presumably for safety, as well as to keep up with the Tinder trend, I find myself updating a really old profile to fit with emerging times. While I disagree with the whole “real name” bandwagon (especially harmful to victims of abuse/stalking, members of marginalized communities and Poly/kinky members of conservative professions), if my name is going to be associated with this, I want to be more strategic in what I say.

I have used a variation of this profile since 2009. And while I have changed and grown as a person, my profile parameters have stayed the same.

Now, as I approach this task, feeling some internalized pressure to pare down what I say about myself, I have trouble letting go. My profile – my description of myself – is a statement of who I am, or at least who I believed myself to be, which is hard to let go of because it feels like saying goodbye to that woman.

So, to encourage me to start fresh on that profile, I’m preserving the original here so I don’t feel like I’m letting go of that past forever. But rather, I’m documenting the journey toward my new self instead. By putting this here, I allow myself to move on, to craft a new narrative of who I am and what experiences will feed my life in the months & years to come.

Saying goodbye to a wordier, more defensive version of myself, to make room for a better reflection of the power I bring to a connection and the path I want to be on today.

Enjoy the last remnants of the old me.

I was trying to pare down my profile to the essence and sadly I was unsuccessful. I admit, I’m not known my brevity, but I’m great at meaningful conversations, so maybe that makes up for it.

The most important thing to know is that I am happily and solidly polyamorous (couldn’t go back to monogamy if I tried). I have two primary partners (legal husband and Poly husband) and a girlfriend. I have two kids–teenagers–who make my life full and amazing. I give my family, including my chosen family, my all.

I am freedom loving, kinky, spiritual, a lover of laughter, liberal, expressive, way too serious, loving, passionate, vulnerable and confident although not usually all at once.

I love to experience that spark that happens between two people with great chemistry. Passion has been a defining part of my life, and it is a trait that is re-emerging after a long period of quiet reflection. I find passionate people, especially fellow geeks and politicos, especially attractive. Chemistry is found in the small moments, the crackle in the air during intense conversation or the overwhelming electricity of a touch or a smile. I just try to follow the connection and let it organically develop into whatever feels right.

I don’t respond well to pressure or uninformed expectations. I value honesty and openness. I tend to be find my deepest bravery and confidence in revealing my vulnerabilities and insecurities, and I’m trying to embrace the rewards of those risks. I celebrate small victories and learn from the crushing defeats; likewise, I tend to blow off small defeats and minimize large accomplishments.

I value thoughtful action, ethical behavior and compassionate communication. I love encountering the differences in one another that define our journeys. I recognize the inherent beauty and power of spirit. I try to be courageous every day and challenge myself to do what is right. I try to be ethical, approachable and understanding.

I embrace the term queer to describe my orientation. I am attracted to the whole person, inside and out, whether or not they conform to the gender standards or expressions others try to impose on them. But it’s not just gender…I love people who are equally fluid and open with their sexuality and therefore tend to gravitate toward bi (including curious, homo/hetero-flexible) or queer individuals. I consider myself a safe place for someone to explore and find acceptance for their sexual identity. However, I am not an experiment or a trainer for those new to their sexual exploration.

I crave sincerity in my relationships and reward that with my depth and passion. I am most strongly attracted to authenticity in all its manifestations. Most of all I enjoy being wanted for who I really am and am wary of surface level attraction.

I accept people, their interests, and their past experiences. I try to display the kind of openness I value. I am attracted to people who take personal risks in order to overcome their fears and past. I try to give people a safe place to be themselves without judgment or ridicule. But I’m not tolerant of deceit, manipulation or possessiveness.

I am trying to get back into finding and following connections again. After a very difficult few years where my family needed my full attention, I’m ready to start turning my attention to new people, new experiences. I’m ready for a renewal, a love for the life I want and have.

2018 is the year of the Crossroads Goddess: Surrender to your truth

Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash

It is now fully 2018. I’m successfully writing the correct year on timesheets. I’ve had time to think about the new year and set intentions and avoid the bad habits long enough to feel like I gave the resolutions the ol’ college try.  It is well beyond the time that we would expect to see a “Goodbye 2017 and Hello 2018” type of post out of me, which is why I’ve been sitting with the draft of this post for at least three weeks now.

What I had originally intended to post was my own version of this post by writer Courtney E. Martin who had blogged her answers to 7 questions about aligning intentions in 2018. I wanted to post something similar, but as usual, I started to overthink my answers, allowed it to interfere with the message I wanted to send.

I’ve lost half my life to being a People-Pleaser

I’ve been overthinking my entire life. Controlling for every error, every judgment, every consideration imaginable. And I’m devastated when I fuck up. How could I have allowed myself to make such a stupid mistake? I have spent most of my life controlling for what other people will think of me. In finally overcoming my sense of undeservingness I now have to face the facts about why I care so deeply about what other people think.

I have a pattern of anticipating how I can please others that has resulted in a life so well-controlled by anticipated shame and judgment that I am holding back my own truth, my own needs and desires. Some of it is trauma-based, some of it is personal wounds I kept from healing, but almost all of it is a defensive means of restraint so that the minimum number of people will be displeased with me as possible.  It has also been a way for others to control me, to keep me from voicing my needs and holding them accountable for not meeting them.

Nowhere was that control more destructive than with my sexuality. That judgment, that repulsed look in someone’s eye when they hear I am polyamorous. The body image issues that I swallowed with each compromise of a blowjob when someone was too upset by seeing my fat. The compromises, the shame, the guilt in such conflict never trusting in my own voice and intuition.

Who am I when I stop letting others tell me who they want me to be?

Surrender to your own truth, no matter how complex or multi-faceted it is. You don’t owe anyone conformity.

The only choice I had was to strip away everything that I had believed about myself, about my motives, about my injuries, about my own narrative, to take away everything that had been whispered or yelled at me.  To dig out the stinger those words and actions embedded under my skin.I had to strip that all away so I’d have a chance get back to the purity of what sex means to me:  the connection between two (or more) human beings who want to be there in this moment together. In it’s purest form, it is the intimacy of that shared moment that drives me and motivates me, that led me to say yes to so many experiences that can shine forward as fond memories for me.

By stripping away all the dicta, the meaningless words that don’t ultimately matter, I had to surrender to my own truth.

My truth is I have always cared to talk about the experience of sex that aligns with a soul’s purpose. I don’t mean only serious sex or lifelong committed relationships. I mean that one-night stand that awakens your passion, fuels your inspiration and then disappears. I mean that moment when you are accepted in all your fullness by a lover. I mean that 500th time you’ve had sex with your partner and they accidentally find a new way to make you moan for more. I mean that long-distance crush who teaches you the meaning of patience and resilience. I mean the sexual encounters that help us open ourselves to the connections that teach us about ourselves, allow us to glimpse possibilities within. I care about what sex can do to heal the soul with joy.

This is what I offer.

Goddess of the Crossroads: No one can do it for you

Surrender yourself to your highest truth in this moment. Just breathe and let go. Allow yourself to experience this moment and allow it be beautiful.

I have never felt comfortable giving people advice, telling them what they should do or what they shouldn’t do. There are always so many considerations, most of which are highly personal and relative to how you view the world. I can reflect what I see, but I can’t  make the decision for you.

My talent, my work (even with advocacy) is to understand the invisible patterns and connections between and within people. Those dynamics motivate and inform the choices available to someone at any given time. What I care about is being a guide at the crossroads – not instructing you on what choice/path to take – but advising on how to:

  1. Know yourself well enough to know your priorities & boundaries;
  2. Evaluate the choices in light of those priorities;
  3. Predict the path ahead so you’re prepared for what you face after the choice including the collateral consequences to others; and
  4. Identify opportunities for alignment with the person you most want to become.

But all of this is about stripping away what everyone else tells you about how you should feel or what you should do. Ultimately this is your life to create and craft as your own.  No one, not me, not anyone can tell you what choices to make. We can only share our experiences, our knowledge and our support. The rest is about surrendering to the power of your own truth, to forge forward on your own and for your own reasons.

I’ve been scared about whether there’s a place for me as a sex educator or blogger. Is there a place for the more spiritual side of sex without it being labeled as Tantra or New Age? Is there a place where we can recognize that even dirty, kinky sex is sacred and that even sex labeled as sacred can be abusive? How do we better attune ourselves to both surrender and control, to both trust and responsibility? Who can play with the dualities but a woman who has stood at the crossroads more times than I can count?  Who knows better about the sacrifices we need to make to please others than the woman who chooses not to sacrifice a vital part of herself in order to fit in?

I can no longer ignore the next step of my journey is surrendering to my own truth and living that truth as honestly as I can. To be the woman I aspire to be, I need to be comfortable in my own skin, making choices that align with that higher purpose. I have lived with the inner conflict and turmoil of distrusting myself, of suppressing my needs and desires to make others happy. I have watched as that stole the joy from my sexuality, made me so self-conscious that I removed myself from any new adventures.  I have felt the pain of obeying others at the sacrifice of myself. And here I stand, stripped of the artificial expectations of others, surrendering my shields and allowing myself to experience and share life as fully in the moment as I can this year.

Only by surrendering to our deepest truths, to the power of this moment, will we able to step toward the future we deserve.

 

My 40th Birthday & Honoring the Lessons of the Tower Card

I’m always flirting with the danger of being a little too stuck in the past. I revisit old lovers, I regularly journey wistfully in nostalgic reverie, I seek out connections to the past at any opportunity. I want to live in present and often do, but I like to revisit where I’ve been. It’s useful to gain some perspective, to reframe the thoughts I have about who I was. Ultimately, it gives me some insight and inspiration into where I want to go.

A few days ago I turned 40 years old. (Yay!) I was lucky enough to spend a full 48 hours on things that nourished my soul. A chakra massage, tarot readings from two different people, joyful celebration, quiet contemplation, a party, a blessing, a clearing, a purging of my darkness. See, the overwhelming message that came through to me (even with The Last Jedi) was how I needed to let go of the remnants of the past so that I can finally move forward to a place of deservingness and peace. I need to stop examining the past to piece together my shattered worthiness and instead needed to accept my own light, accept my new role and create a future of bright, shining energy.

This is my own personal Tower. This is the structure that has been holding up my life, created from memory, from experience, from learning, and above all from distortions about these.  This structure of service without reward, of absorbing the darkness in others so that they might find their light has been such a primary source of identity for me. I’ve been resisting tearing that down, but it’s become so apparent to me that this is the last piece of “suffering” I must do in order to fully feel like I can move forward into the structure I’m building for myself.

The time has come for me to step into Who I Really Am.

The Origins of the Tower

Tower

 

Growth is accepting that not every structure in our life is meant to remain. We must either tear down the old, worn down Tower of self or a wrecking ball will come through and force us to rebuild.

Some of you have seen me talk about “tearing down my tower”. The Tower, a reference to tarot,  is what I use to refer to those sacred institutions, behaviors, beliefs, reactions, etc that we use to process the outside world. Whether it be religion, sexuality, expectations in friendships, family values, politics, we each construct a Tower for ourselves, the structure for our home, our life, our relationships, our spirituality, our outlook on life.

 

The walls of our Towers are adorned with paintings of our grand achievements,  statues of the important people in our lives, wall-to-wall libraries containing the knowledge we’ve accumulated along the way. Each is unique to our own self.

Our first Tower was built by our parents, caregivers, and others in authority when we were children. They were shaped for us so that we should be taught how to treat others, what to believe spiritually, what we find beautiful or loving, what priority learning should have in our lives.  It provides us with shelter and protection.

At some point down the line, we realize that we need somewhere else to live – emotionally or spiritually. We’ve outgrown this Tower – which makes sense because it was built to house a child and, as everyone says, we are growing up so fast. But we resist leaving it. It’s served us so well in the past and it feels so dangerous to be away from it. We try to force ourselves to occupy the structure of a life built by our families of origin but soon, it won’t be able to contain us any longer.

Read the rest of this entry

Opinions, Attachment and Release

 

All-our-dreams-can-come__quotes-by-Walt-Disney-64I started this post over 5 hours ago.

At first, it was like a Throwback Thursday post, taking a look at one of my old LiveJournal posts, updating it, commenting on the context of it and drawing forth a lesson learned. But the only problem with looking back is that sometimes, often times the reality hits you.

And for that post, it was the reality of displaying my lack of awareness of now-obvious red flags I saw in a capped “Master” in our community.  But then I noticed not only some subtle victim blaming language but the potential to stir up old traumas that the local kink community is still healing from.  I noticed some curious flaws about my own self-aggrandizement that exposes me in a way that is far more vulnerable than I would like. I imagined all the people who would either bury me in mockery or expose a subtle victim-blamey thing I wrote as evidence that I’m a fraud not to be believed.

That reality was too much to stomach, so I moved on.

I started another post. Same concept but this time it was on my very first blog post ever. This time about motherhood. Safe, nice topic, right? Nope. The post made me look like a resentful mother. A selfish woman bitter with being saddled with a kid. I started writing defensively (or writing like an attorney, if you rather). I was trying to justify why I would write such horrible things about my experience of motherhood. I imagined all the mommy blogs that would be in an uproar and would question my fitness as a mother.

So, I abandoned that post too.

I then start another post. This time one about the spiritual aspect of my calling. But then I started hearing the critique in the back of my head, the whispers of “attention whore” and I just devolved into a pit of anxiety and fear, having finished nothing tonight.

The Root Cause.

downloadThe past hour has been a silent scream of “release me from my writer’s block”. Feeling an invisible pressure to produce some content, I’ve been almost overrun with ideas, but no confidence in my potential execution of those ideas. They’re all bottlenecked in the space where courage combines with words to express ideas. And because this site is far more personal narrative than “sex education”, I likewise, get worried I”m not providing the right content that people actually want to read.

There are a lot of bloggers out there who do this thing better than I do.

Wait, what?

See, this is the actual problem. At the root of this all this anxiety is this double dose of insecurity offered as fact:

a) a lot of other bloggers out there

who

b) do this thing better than I do.

Immediately I’m hit with waves of emotion: shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger, envy, powerlessness, and holy shit, so much fear. They just cascade through my body in these well-worn grooves, cutting a path through my spirit, fracturing the sparkling confidence I want to have.

That self-shaming thought offered up as damning evidence of my evident and likely failure is my primary nemesis.  We’ve battled this out over the years. This voice tells me everyone is going to hate me, that I’m never good enough, that I’m not yet deserving. This nemesis knows exactly what to say to get me to back down, to back away from my dreams.

And it almost worked this time.

We are All Attention Whores.

Let’s leave the pejorative alone for a moment. Can we just admit that it feels good to get attention? As children, we sought the smile or laughter of our parents. As adolescents, we seek the approval and companionship of friends. As adults, we seek recognition from bosses and co-workers and respond to the acceptance and connection of lovers.  Attention isn’t a dirty word. It’s a healthy and necessary part of trust and companionship. We have different ways of expressing it and giving it, and there are certainly distorted ways to pursue and siphon it, but the attention we most crave is acceptance and respect, both of which are about being heard, knowing that someone is paying attention to what you think, feel and need.

Attention has also been used as a form of social capital. But now we digitally measure, value, and commodify it in the form of likes, clicks, and trackbacks. Attention is no longer a matter of mere perception. It is now a measurable fact. And let’s face it, the more likes something has, the more likely we are to share it, trust it and value it.

But attention is distorted when paired with judgment, cruelty, and ignorance. And each day, the old, overripe opinions of others are thrown at us with an unbearable velocity. This constant hailstorm of poor opinions, whether in our own lives or our political reality, has created an environment where opinions matter more than facts. We live in a world where individual perception matters more than collective reason and where personal choices and narratives are subject to a vote and a barrage of unsolicited advice and petulant “well, actuallys”.

we-need-to-love-and-respect-all-main-including-hanzo-18621287There’s nothing inherently wrong with having opinions or even sharing those opinions, but now we’re sharing with the immediate accessibility that is difficult for the normal human to bear. It isn’t just one critic or one tacky review, it’s a cascade of cruelty denouncing your love of the new Ghostbusters movie or boycotting a celebrity or a coffee company because of their stance on gun control.  It’s the woman who calls me a fat slut because I spoke out against Trump or the guy who told my kid over voice chat that he should kill himself because he sucks at playing Hanzo in Overwatch (doesn’t everyone suck playing as Hanzo?).

The numbers tell us how many people agreed with that particular opinion. It’s an immediate vote counter, a barometer of just how many people think you suck, how much attention you’ve gained or lost, making any negative outcome seem righteous and deserving. Get enough downloads, get enough likes, get enough engagements and you’ll be crowned the winner of humanity.

The fears I have, the voices of self-doubt are amplified every time I see someone I admire get torn down for who they are, for the beautiful perspective they add to the world, for the very things that make them just as valuable as the rest of us. Those feelings are amplified when I see the walls crawling with every judgmental, shaming and cruel comment we can imagine. It makes it feel like anything we say or do will be scrutinized to death, regurgitated with each subsequent failure or mistake that we made and ultimately we’ll be rejected and deprived of the acceptance that our emotional lives need to stay afloat.

Ultimately, it’s not my job to please you.

Opinions

In the past year or so I’ve been embracing the idea that I’m not responsible for pleasing everyone all the time.  I’m not responsible for making sure everyone likes me, nor would that ever be realistic. There are just some people who won’t resonate with what I have to say. There are others who will think I’m a bigger deal than I really am.

I am responsible for being honest and ethical in my choices and dealings with others. However, I am not responsible for making sure everyone else is happy about everything that I’m doing.

In my meditations over the past year or so a huge message just keeps coming through: My dreams will come true when I finally start to live my own life, instead of the one I know others expect of me. And while my mom would tell you that I’m just going to do everything the Janet-way, you can bet that it is still heavily influenced by what I’ve learned of what is acceptable to others and what is not. I live in a constant dance of mitigating harms, juggling too many responsibilities and ultimately feeling guilty whenever I need time to myself to find my inner peace again.

And that conflict of accumulated guilt comes through in my writing. It comes through when I’m pre-emptively defensive over my choices. It comes through when I’m writing to make sure no one gets pissed off at me. It comes through when I hold off on a post because I’m afraid it isn’t perfect enough yet.

It will never, ever be perfect; nor should it be. 

The harsh truth is that when it comes to how I live my life, how I express myself in my writing, what I choose to do or who I share my life with is none of anyone’s business unless I have a legal or emotional commitment/duty to them. Each person has a choice whether to consume what I post or to move on. They have a choice whether to interact or stay quiet. They have a choice in what words to use with me, what energy they want to direct toward me. And I need to stop second-guessing their motives and accept that what I’m shown is what they intend to show me.

Likewise, I have a choice of what I will allow in my life. The life I want, the life I already have is so rich and full of goodness, that I don’t have space to store and maintain the faulty opinions of others. Many people who go out of their way to interrupt my life with their opinions aren’t interested in connecting, they’re more interested in being right, in being heard, in being recognized for how right they are.  I will never find approval or acceptance with them–our motivations simply don’t align–so their opinion isn’t something I need to carry with me.

I am gradually detaching myself from the responsibility of caring for the opinions of others.  Allowing myself that distance has given me more space for compassionate observation. I’ve been finding immense freedom as I give less of my energy to the anticipated criticisms,  harsh judgments, and crushing gravity of others’ ideas about my life, my body, and my choices.

I am giving myself permission to live my life by my terms, to experience my brightest joys, and to follow the dreams of my highest self.

 

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