Category Archives: Real Life

The more mundane, emotional and parts of me visible in my real life: professional – mother – wife – daughter

Bessemer Girl: You have what it takes to survive

“I just want to go home”

The phrase was on constant repeat in my head in moments of desperation and self-defeat. Starting in my teens, I’d have this phrase pulse like a chant in my brain. A motto for when I was ready to give up all hope, all fight, all resolve. Sometimes I wanted to give up on school, Chicago, Denver, parenting, homeownership, polyamory, romance, the stresses of my first job out of law school, the bar exam. It was the easiest thing to cling to in those searing stressful moments –  the thought of home. Especially when I was far from Colorado. When times got tough the most comforting thought in the world was to crawl up in my bed on the giant house near the Fountain River and withdraw from the harshness of the world.

[CW: mentions of suicide, PTSD, sexual assault, trauma but also resilience, healing, faith and sex]

The home my family built. They moved to Denver to support me, my young kids and my grandparents. I will always want to be back here.

The past five years have been professionally prosperous for me. I have gone from owning my own mediation business to providing direct service to people experiencing homelessness, culminating in a senior management position at a major nonprofit organization. I honestly couldn’t be more grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had. I am so very blessed.

But despite this extraordinary level of success in the past five years I have been increasingly unhappy. The chanting in my head didn’t go away with success, it only got more persistent. The stress breaking me down so it was constant drumming in the back of my mind, the first thing I’d hear in the morning and the last I’d hear at night.

It isn’t easy for me to admit that, especially here. More than anything I want my life to stand for something meaningful, powerful and inspirational – and deep in my heart I really, truly don’t hate my life. But the stresses, the accumulated traumas, the internalized doubt and toxic messaging of my internal world were constantly crashing into each other. I had never been great at prioritizing self-care, so when I was met with crushing amounts of vicarious trauma, fear and insecurity over the past few years, I spiraled even further into self-hatred, infecting my job, my family and my soul with a loathing I didn’t even know was a part of me.

I left my job at the end of October and left the organization last week. And what I’ve learned since then will help me survive the rest of this life.

Impostor Blessings

I’ve been open in the past with the ways I’ve struggled with things like imposter syndrome and people-pleasing. When you’ve had such significant challenges with deservingness, that sort of meteoric rise can produce more anxiety and pressure than it alleviates. Until I found myself deserving of that kind of rise, it was never going to feel right.

I had too much that was working against me. The accumulation of vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue made my soul ache for daily relief that never came. I was new to supervision and my lawyer’s brain was constantly overthinking everything I said and did. I had trouble with processing financial statements quickly enough to give my people answers about expenditures.  (Nevermind that I was now using terms like “expenditures” and “write-ups” far more frequently than my little social-justice, romantic heart ever imagined). I wasn’t taking care of myself either – getting an average of 4 hours of sleep a night, working an average of 65 hours a week, eating only one meal by the end of the day.  I was dehydrated, chronically cranky and progressively unwell.

And so, over the past five years, instead of my brain chanting “I just want to go home”, it began to shift to “I hate my life”. A phrase that rang relentlessly in my head, even with the smallest of mistakes. When my nerves really were at their breaking point, the chant would spill out of my mouth bursting unwelcome into the rest of the world. My employees have heard it, my kids, my supervisors, my husbands. And when I was alone, I would find myself screaming it out loud. Impulsive and destructive. Multiple times an hour, multiple times a day. After a time it was barely controllable and barely contained.

It became so destructive that I was actively contemplating suicide, for the fifth time in my life. July, August and September were a white-knuckle ride. Each day presented new challenges that I was increasingly losing the ability to address or control. These challenges weren’t just about work – they included retriggering events and encounters, strong shifts in my family including sick parents and grandparents and the normal Trump-associated threats to the world. The hits just kept coming and I felt I was letting everyone down no matter how I responded.

And while I won’t go into detail about the reasons or rationale, what is important is that I reached out to the people best situated to offer meaningful help, without imposed expectations or unsolicited advice. I called on my team, both mortal and ethereal, to assist me through this storm. I have worked too hard, overcome too much, and had too much ahead of me to go down without a fight.

And that voice urging me to fight was my Pueblo voice: The Priestess of Pride City.

Go Big Blue

There is something distinctive about being from Pueblo. We are home to more Congressional Medal of Honor winners than anywhere else in the US. Formerly part of Mexico, we’ve celebrated Cinco de Mayo with our sister city, Puebla, the site of that historic victory. We host the Colorado State Fair and welcome all of Colorado’s makers, farmers, ranchers, and revelers culminating with the crowning a Fiesta Day queen. We have the longest running high school football rivalry west of the Mississippi (Videos: Bell Game 2019 Bell Rings Blue ). And recently, our Governor has stood up with pride to defend the honor of our mirasol green chiles, defining the taste of Pueblo.

Read the rest of this entry

To Give it All in the Name of Love

This post hit me in the gut right when I was at my lowest, mired in Imposter Syndrome and knee-deep in panic. This was a small light that emerged in the darkness, illuminating one of the deepest, hardest truths of my life.

Sacrifice as proof of worth?

I am not as familiar with the Giving Tree – I managed to encounter Shel Silverstein, without much time spent on this book. However, this criticism of this story rang a clear, resonant note of truth within. Sacrifice of talents…using them to meet the needs of others is a major reason for my anxiety and internalized pain.

This why I have a complicated relationship with the Catholicism of my youth. I still believe in the divine – I don’t call it god or any specific name, but I feel connected to something bigger than myself, far more infinite and loving than anyone can imagine. I’ve felt this presence since I was a kid, a guiding presence that was on my side, lovingly cheering me on even in my mistakes.

But Catholicism invaded at a very young age with messages telling me to fear God. The introduction of shame was packaged with meaning and redemption. The judgment meant I was answerable for every small transgression – such as merely thinking about sex. Any violation had to be confessed and absolved in order to still qualify for heaven someday. Humility or humiliation?

That isn’t to say that I didn’t genuinely love some aspects of Catholicism. I am drawn to a sense of ritual to anchor my spirituality. The Mass exemplifies the elegance in which all the senses keep your body present in the moment: incense, music, movement and body connection, the wine and bread, the visual presentation of the mass and its setting. There is something divine in the visceral celebration of our humanity like that.

But the spiritually connective ecstasy I experience in the rituals of faith are soured in seeing the shallowness of the people who claim community with me. The hatred they sow, the majestic righteousness they promote, the private deceitfulness they practiced were abhorrent. And because I was a “true believer” (in middle and high school), I had an obligation to be better than the average Sunday catholic.

That pressure was doubly true for a “visionary”, someone seemingly “chosen” to fulfill a mission. Someday I’ll share more about it, but at the young age of 12, I had been called to be the “hands of Mary”. My world changed. Faith was no longer an aspiration, but a leadership skill. Little old ladies asked for my blessing. Priests were at the ready to advise (I chose my confessors wisely).

My role always has been to provide healing, light and love in the world, to be the tangible and conceptual hands of the divine and loving feminine. The challenge of this role: this path would be paved with sacrifice, selflessness, imbalance and fairness, infinite patience, and the constant fear that I am not giving enough.

Someone else needed my gifts more than me.

“Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed” . A moment in the mass that is so sincerely that I tear up anytime we get to that part (and I hate how they’ve changed it).

My parents taught me kindness and hard work, but Catholicism amplified those qualities so that anything less than perfect performance was swiftly declared a sin. A true examination of conscience reveals all the minutiae of errors in word and deed and imposed shame for the sin of having faults and bad days. Any kindness I refused my fellow human being was a black mark on my soul, a disappointment to god. Anything less than perfect patience was selfishness. Asking to be loved back or simply accepted was greedy. I was so good at turning the mirror on myself, at holding myself accountable, that I confessed the tiny little lies I tell myself to cover for my flawed self.

I was a literal expert at tearing myself down. Why pretend I am better than I really am? Why bring attention to myself by promoting my achievements? Why take the credit when others’ contributions were more significant? I viewed my pride, my selfishness and greed with such disdain. These were what was going to land me in hell, I knew it. I reasoned that if I put myself through hell now, I might not be judged as harshly later.

In high school, when I found out I was in the running for salutatorian, I deliberately blew off a couple of classes to ensure that I wouldn’t take that particular spotlight. I figured other people deserved it more and that I wasn’t harming them by taking myself out of the running. I didn’t want or need the spotlight and such attention feels inappropriately arrogant. To this day I can’t even take a compliment because fuck…how selfish would that be?

Self-Destruction isn’t Love

So…here I am at 41 years old constantly struggling with imposter syndrome, trying to lead a major arm of a local nonprofit and still trying to make a difference with the individuals I encounter. And this locus of worth, the laden expectations of the purpose I chose for myself is what is holding me back. I have so convinced myself that by possessing certain gifts and talents, that by choosing a larger purpose for my life, that I must deny any benefits that allow me to live in celebration or accomplishment.

The consequence is I have trouble believing in myself or in my own value in these roles. I chase after everyone’s goal-posts, trying to please everyone’s expectations of me at once. Constantly struggling with never feeling “good enough” or “smart enough” or “pretty enough” because I judge my best efforts as never enough – I could always do more, be more, share more. Thus, I am easily manipulated by others’ disappointment in me, including lovers, co-workers and random strangers. I succumb to the friends who say I’m not there for them enough. I break myself making it up to the partners who resent that I’ve chosen work instead of them.

I have impossible choices, all driven and decided by the lack of value I find in my own reward and happiness. I fall on my sword at every opportunity – because I should be held accountable for not being all things to all people. How fucking dare I not be infinitely grateful to serve in all the divine perfection I am allowed? How dare I not be grateful for the gifts god gave me? Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – for the greater glory of god.

The toll this has taken on my mental health cannot be understated or dismissed. “Just stop thinking like that” they tell me, as if turning off years of programming and self-flagellating reinforcement is simple because now I’m suddenly “worthy”. Nah, it doesn’t work like that.

That’s not to say I haven’t done heavy lifting on this subject, but when you’re “smart”, you are likewise talented at overthinking everything. And combined with the Catholic examination of conscience, it’s easy to feel like I’m not going to ever be good enough.

But more than anything, these noble messages that equate sacrifice with pure love during childhood imply that our gifts, our talents, or unique value aren’t our own. Our gifts are meant for the consumption of others. Our gifts are meant to be shared with humanity, even if it means we subsist on anxiety and eggshells the rest of our lives.

“You’re meant for something more” is what we tell our smart kids, our spiritual kids, our mature kids. And those kids become adults who sacrifice themselves at the altar of humanity’s betterment. We learn fast, are adaptable and aware. Our skills of observation, of reading the signs of adults around us serve as a shortcut to help us excel and thus generate more to share with humanity. The better we get, the more we have to give in return.

I am trying to find balance with this right now, which is why I had to take a sick day. But that one day of self-care cost me sleep the next night because my conscience wouldn’t allow me to let anyone down. Sacrifice myself so others aren’t ever challenged to be inconvenienced or uncomfortable.

I almost quit this time last week – for no other reason than the fact that I don’t find myself worthy of this level of responsibility. I have always felt my “accomplishments” were just a payment toward the debt that I owe to the divine for the weighty charge I have been given. I will forever be paying back a debt I never incurred. Whereas those who have taken of my time and energy will never be asked to replenish what was given. (Consider the analogous application to the environment).

I chose a life of spiritual servitude, that any other day of the week I choose gladly – but last week it just unraveled me because …I’m exhausted. Too many have asked for more when I clearly have nothing left to give. And it hurts when they fault me for not having enough for them when I don’t have enough to keep myself going. But no matter whether it’s work, friendships, family or more they don’t see or care what it is costing me.

I sincerely believe I am capable of giving my all in the name of love, but my biggest challenge is to demonstrate that love for myself, to allow myself the worth of replenishment. If I am worthy enough of scorn, I’m likewise worthy enough for their forgiveness. And with the gifts I have offered the connection will always feel incomplete until I’m willing to receive.

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.

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.

The secret domain of the Mountain Goddess

I have always been a Colorado Girl at heart. I grew up in a moderate sized town that all the time feels much smaller than its borders might seem. Everyone back home is connected. Strangers are looked on with pitiful suspicion and yet the residents constantly complain about the rich culture they have.

I will always be from here. I will always have crisp, cool mountain streams flowing deep in my veins. I’m perhaps as Mountain Mex as you get. And this weekend I spent the night at our cabin about an hour or so outside of Denver. I’m drafting this as I sit on the porch, Husband making dinner, meditation music in the background, kid is giggling to himself as he reads a comic book. I can hear the distant grumble of a motorcycle but know it won’t ever come past this place. I feel the freshness of the mountain air and I spent 10 minutes just watching clouds and their ever evolving shapes.

I am finally, fully at peace.

Connecting with the earth, grounding myself by climbing up some small boulders and meditating while facing Longs Peak. I was so utterly and fiercely at peace in that moment. Rest finally has started to set in. The kind of rest that only another Colorado Goddess would understand.

Obeying Nature

What I have been avoiding the past few months is the wisdom of rest, of obeying the cycles of the earth. I’ve always disobeyed sleep–“sleepiness is weakness of character”–and I barely eat regularly. I don’t like routine, I rebel against a set routine. But I can and do honor cycles.

My period started on Thursday. And so did the emotional fallout of what was triggered in me by the eclipse. I broke down into sobs on the way home that night. Overwhelmed and envious of those who can so easily engage in the carnal desires that used to be my realm of expertise. I always tend to resent and resist the ebb and flow of my own body, of my own spirit, of my own needs until finally nature wins out.

I talk a lot about the transformations that I have felt over the past few years, but the one that is still faltering is my ability to allow a relationship to flourish into what it should be sexually and emotionally. I have been out if he habit for so long that I start to overthink things, worry about not falling into the same traps I have before. I choose to wait it out, make them wait until my trust is finally ready. I never fully allow myself the ability to just give in to the tides of the moment. Not only must I always be the responsible adult, I also must never make a mistake.

Resistance of my nature

Over the past several years I have convinced myself that I am undesirable or that if I am desired it’s because I’m skilled at adapting myself to what others need me to be. And when I find those who do desire me physically, I construct walls because I believe that if they experience physical attraction to me, they may have trouble with the spiritual connections I desire.

Thus, I’ve grown very tentative in my romantic potentials, always staying only distantly engaged because I don’t trust myself and I don’t trust their desire. It’s not just men, I apply this hesitation to women as well. I have wonderful and beautiful people in my life, but I have always questioned my worthiness of that love and attention. I shut it down, deflect it, only minimally engage with it because I don’t want to do something wrong to be found unworthy.

But when I’m here, in the mountains, I’m clear. I’m grounded. I’m confident. I’m secure. Time moves more slowly. My spirit feels aligned but as flexible as a new aspen tree. And I recognize myself again.

In this moment, with this freedom of sky and nature, I can feel my body begin to succumb to the subtle joys of stillness. I can feel myself begin to unwind, my mind less concerned with details and more concerned with falling into a rhythm within. I accept this gift for what it is. A moment of replenishment, a moment of resilience, a moment of radiance. No resistance necessary. It is about me choosing my own experiences and using the energy i gain from the mountains to manifest my core desires once again.

Permission to be free

I have done a lot of work in my professional life, work that due to the emotionally heavy nature of what I do, has taken a toll on me personally. No wonder I haven’t been willing to give myself over to sex with new people. Because my body knows what it needs and it isn’t the awkward passions of a night out, or the insubstantial promises of pleasure.

Pleasure, my true face of pleasure, is a vulnerable experience and I do not give that to just anyone. They must also be worthy of me.

Knowing that I can and do direct my experiences helps me find perspective in my sexual reluctance lately. I know exactly what I want and it isn’t some unknown who can’t be bothered to be present enough to see me for who I am. It isn’t the Twitter follower who ignores the rants I write or the bad days I’ve had and thinks I should spend my time flirting with them.

No, what I need is a lover. An honest to goodness soul nurturing lover, willing to give of himself or herself to fully feed me, and to be fed spiritually by me as well. I want someone I don’t have to fumble with and who is fully present in a erotically healing space together with me.

I just won’t settle. I won’t settle for bad casual sex. I won’t settle for rushed, entitled sex. I won’t be pressured into whiny, insecure sex. I choose the sex and the situations that are right for me.

And sometimes what is right for me is time by myself to think and feel. This weekend is right for me.

Today (Saturday) I have meditated, read a couple of chapters in a book about the many faces of the god and goddess, played a game with my family and felt my spirit nurtured with the passion for my home state. No Trump propaganda nonsense. No screaming Twitter tirades. No worry about the state of my house.No internet. No tv. Just music, books, crocheting and my writing. My family — Husband and the Kid — and my connection to the mountain.

Freedom.

Indulging

Self-care often involves indulgence and giving yourself over to the need to be good to yourself.

Medjugorje, Bosnia – June 25, 1990 is when I first felt called to a life of service.

Indulgence is such a difficult concept for me and yet one that is so utterly familiar and available. I am very guarded about indulging myself – my fantasies, my pleasures, my dreams, my deepest depravities. The worst is deciding when to give into my impulses. Giving myself over to the fleeting desires of the moment. The heat of the moment. The flash of inspiration.

Always so afraid of the consequences that I would clamp down all opportunities to live in the moment. Shit needed to be planned and taken apart mentally and verbally before I would ever indulge. Worse were the times that I would shut myself down before I could ever indulge the rewards of a job well done — No, there was always more to do, more to accomplish before I was worthy. Read the rest of this entry

SharpSweetBella Cheat Sheet

This is what was originally meant to be in the Essential Bella Rosa page and probably will still make it there. But I thought I would add a cheat sheet to names, places, and concepts that I talk about frequently here:

Who’s BellaRosa?

I actually went through and updated some of my booking info which tells more about me as a professional educator, but you can probably get a good sense of who I am from the blog posts themselves.

But on a more personal level, I am:

  • almost 40
  • half Mexican/half Scottish -Irish? (who knows)  – I pass for white, but identify more with my Mexican family
  • bisexual+ (I am attracted to a wide variety of genders and gender expressions)
  • Lawyer – although working in a more social work setting
  • Spiritual seeker – and quite serious about it
  • Geek: Browncoat, Whovian, Trekkie, SPNFamily, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., So Say We All (not in that order)
  • Switchy edge player: Little Princess / Goddess
  • Raised Catholic – many rituals still matter deeply to me, but the doctrine no longer fits me
  • Homegrown in Colorado, daughter of Pride City 
  • Sagittarian

As for the name, Bella Rosa, it is a name that was given to me by one of my first poly husbands. I keep it to honor my roots even if the relationship has reached its end.

SharpSweetBella is an older name – Husband once wrote a poem for me where he called me his Jocasta, sharp and sweet. So when I resurrected from the ashes of being outed and I was searching for a new identity, I loved that image of sharp & sweet, apt descriptors who I am as a woman. So I added Bella to it and the rest is what you see here.

Who’s Who

My two leather brothers on the far ends of the photo. Warrior is 2nd on the left. The other two men are my extended leather family


There’s honestly a lot of people in my life who really matter to me, but few of them that I’ll mention publicly because they have become important enough to be part of my life story. Here is a smattering of some of the current ones I might mention by name:

  • Husband: You can find the Origin Story here  – Married for 15 years, together for 18 years. Comic book writer (title forthcoming), father of my two teenage sons. Funniest impromptu lyricist I know.
  • Warrior: My spiritual spouse. We don’t live together, but have always felt destined in our love for each other. Deep and passionate, we are like a tidal wave of fire when together.
  • Blush: Local female partner who has primary relationships with two men and a kid of her own. We share a love of Kushiel’s Legacy, witchy spiritual things and lounging naked in the hot springs together in the fall.
  • Navy Boy: Old lover from college that I fell in love with despite our No-Strings-Attached agreement. He went off to the Navy and couldn’t avoid me for long and is now pursuing his dreams of finishing his degree so he can travel the world helping people.
  • The Priest: One of my oldest and most loyal of LiveJournal friends (turned long distance lover). He and I share a Catholic background that we’ve integrated into our entire dynamic that ranges from taboo lust to sharing Disney World geekery. But the most prominent dynamic we have is as Goddess and Priest. He guards my spiritual temple and helps me keep my boundaries as I grow in my own power. 
  • Leather Family: I could probably put a lot of the Denver Queer Leather community in this category, but when I mention it here I usually mean my two (now three) primary gay leather brothers, the team behind Exile Fetish Ball (which I helped with for a time).  We’ve been through some shit together and through it all they have taken care of me, put their necks on the line for me and given me an abundance of support. And we have our arguments and have had a few major conflicts that have required us to hold each other accountable. But love is love and these men are my brothers no matter what. 
  • Pretty Boy: A local subby guy I’ve played with a few times who is moving away just as I am starting to get comfortable with my role as a Dominant. 
  • Trooper: a new potential partner from home. In all fairness, I was friends with his wife first. But through that connection I got to know him and find all the areas of commonality we share. A new exploration. I have no idea where it will go, but feeling surges of NRE again for the first time. 
  • Druid: Not a real person, but more of an archetypal figure from my life, from my earliest and oldest soul memories. It’s an image that has been a guide for me over the past several years. I hope someday to find a person that fits this influential type of energy in my life. 

Most of the time I am not specific about who I’m talking about because I exist to offer the lesson from my exploits, not the gory and potentially invasive details. Unless I have consent from someone to discuss our intimacies here, I will only vaguely allude to or loosely describe a situation, especially the newer it is. And sadly, while I can be a flirt, I don’t often have availability or energy for active dating, so I don’t have many salacious stories to share. 


Living at the Crossroads 

A lot of who I am and what I discuss in this blog is a personal perspective of living at the crossroads of so many identities, communities and experiences. When I can be, I try to be clear about who I am, but more often than not, I’m floating midway between a ton of different identities, fluid and free. And following me, reading me and understanding me relies on a certain acceptance of the empty spanse between the exhale and inhale.  The thrill of exploration that pushes past the fears of stepping past our comfort zone, where nothing is just black or white but is arrayed in a technicolor range of possibility. 

I am not comfortable with doling out blind advice  only because each dynamic is unique and powerful and I will not presume to know more about your life and experience than you. 

All I can do is share where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, what I’ve noticed in myself and the lessons I’ve drawn from those experiences. I don’t expect everyone to resonate with that, and that’s perfectly fine.  

Thank you for reading. I’m so very grateful!
For those who want to read about the adventures of a HotWife check out Juliet’s Busy Weekend at:  

Check out Isabelle’s post about Sex Blogging Liberation 

Origin Stories: How we became Polyamorous (Part 2)

So, I made the last Origin Story post more about how, positionally, we were primed and prepped to open our relationship, but this is the nitty-gritty mechanics of how it came about.

Redefining faithfulness

819e5934ff5a4f62739e34e17e85f0a8There were too many moments to count where my ability to stay “faithful” by society’s definition was tested not just in my marriage but in pretty much every relationship I ever had. And there were too many moments where I didn’t abide by those standards and others where I felt resentful and caged.

I remember, a week before our wedding, during law school finals, I confessed to Husband that I had done more than just kiss Navy Boy on a recent trip out to visit him. I didn’t want to start our marriage with a lie and I felt a strong urge to share the truth with him.  “I know. I just wish you had told me about it at the time,” was Husband’s response.

He knew about the people I habitually flirted with and understood.  He knew about my desire to revisit with old flames and understood. He knew about how I desperately wanted to explore my bisexuality (another Origin Story to add to the growing list) and understood. He’s always known me so well and always understood.

By the end of law school, a year after our wedding, I was pregnant with our son. We were buying a house and I was studying for the bar exam. Midway through the pregnancy, because of the physical impact on my old injuries, I could no longer have sex. There was no position where I didn’t feel pain or numbness. Those were a lot of lonely days and nights for us, especially since neither of us had thought about this side effect.

Once I had given birth, I was anxious to be able to get back to being able to have sex. It had been at least 6 months and I was ready.

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail here because I still hold shame about this part of my story: I cheated.  It was March 2004 and because of the way the pregnancy affected my body, I wanted to feel desirable and beautiful still.  Husband would probably say that he just couldn’t keep up with me, but that isn’t true. My sex drive wasn’t the issue, nor was his. The issue was a need for approval – from someone other than the person who just watched me birth his child. I needed to find myself sexy through someone else’s eyes.

When Needs Backfire

That need hit me like a ton of bricks. I had gained a significant amount of weight during the pregnancy. The doctors assured me that I had so much fluid and he had been such a big kid (9 lbs 1 oz at a month premature) that I would likely go back down to my normal size in no time. But I didn’t. I never did.

I went back to the flirting I had done before. But instead of staying safe and monogamous, I was actually entertaining meeting these men.  I needed to feel desirable again, a vital slice of anyone’s self-worth that in carrying all this extra weight I didn’t know myself anymore.

In my younger days, I may not have been the prettiest girl on the block, but I could more than make up for that with charm and wit and intellectual intrigue. I relied on my adaptability to be valuable and thus desirable to others. I had insecurities about my body, like most women, but I never felt it was unfuckable or undesirable in some fashion. SCN_MomBod_1920x1080_002

They don’t tell you about how you’ll feel about your body after motherhood. You spend most of your life being told that you need to be attractive to find yourself a spouse. And once you have kids, you devote yourself to them but stay attractive and available enough so that your husband doesn’t stray.  That’s the national romantic “happily ever after” narrative, right? But no one tells you how you will feel as a woman, as a sexual woman, once you’ve pushed a live being into the world. Or that there will be a thousand conflicting messages and judgments about your value. Or that the very act of being sexual is somehow dirty and wrong, but if you don’t bounce back to your pre-baby shape you’re somehow a failure of femininity.

Cheating wasn’t planned or deliberate. I sort of slid into it, driven by this need to prove myself. The men I eventually met up with, one was a yuppie banker type cheating on his wife, the other was a bulky personal trainer type who worked security at night. Both were not just disappointing, but downright insulting. Banker dude asked to see under my skirt and told me I was “good enough for a blowjob” but nothing more. Personal trainer dude got up to go to the bathroom during lunch and left me with the check. When I confronted him in the parking lot, he told me I must have sent him an old picture because I wasn’t at all hot or worth his time.  Although neither situation involved intercourse, I had definitely broken the agreement that Husband and I had set with each other.

I was devastated and on the verge of suicide because these encounters had been so shaming and I had been deceiving Husband and not telling him the truth.

And I had no one to talk to.

Facing my truth

1621584_originalAt the time, I had just started writing on LiveJournal and was becoming more and more active in the communities there. I carried a lot of shame and guilt over what I had done and I was passively reading others’ journals to gain some insight.

Our anniversary that year followed my first Mother’s Day after giving birth. Both days were marred by these feelings, the burden of the half-truths I had been hiding from Husband. We fought more, picked at each other more and had more difficulty seeing eye to eye.

I remember standing in our makeshift office in the basement, him asking me to tell him why I was crying all the time, what he could do to help.  Eventually, I broke down and told him what had happened with both of those men–how each rejected me because of my body and how I was on the verge of killing myself over it.

Again, he forgave me–far more than I had deserved from him. And once again, he told me that all I needed to do was talk to him about what I was feeling and what I needed. That he didn’t object to me getting attention from others if that’s what I needed, but that those interactions would have an impact on me, and thus in our household and that he needed to be included in that, no matter how embarrassing it might feel.

Calling it by name

The more I was on LiveJournal (May 2004), the more I was exposed to others who were in or considering open relationships. It wasn’t a new concept per se, but at the time if you looked it up, all you’d find are swingers groups. Husband isn’t very flirtatious or outgoing, so swinging would never be something we could be comfortable doing together. I kept seeing allusions to the term “polyamory” but had trouble finding out more about it.

One of my newest followers at the time, a guy in Seattle, introduced me more fully to the idea through his blog.  He and his wife were polyamorous and had been foIr at least a few years.  Through our conversations, I started becoming more familiar with the term and heard some of the tales of people who actually lived this way.

It’s amazing how much your world opens up when you say find an identity that fits.  This not just fit, but was focused on the love that I felt for so many people. While many people have floated in and out of my life, they have all mattered to me, contributed positively to my life and left me a better person. Polyamory seemed to welcome this–not just the sex, it was never just about the sex for me–it was about the connection.

Swing & a miss

Our very first foray was with a man on the east coast I had been talking to through LiveJournal. I had been given permission to play with him and would stay in contact with Husband about how it went. It wasn’t just the play that drew me in, it was the fact that this guy saw me like really saw who I am. I needed that. And I was falling for that now that the reins were cut loose and I could connect and lov and be who I truly am.

So, before a Sarah McLaughlin concert, between dinner and walking into the Pepsi Center, I had a conversation with Husband about this new guy on the east coast. I was falling for him. Talking to him multiple times a day and wanted to take things to an actual relationship. I told Husband about polyamory, about open marriages, about the fact that I felt we were solid and supportive of each other and we could make this work.

Jumping into the rocky end of the poly pool

Things never worked out with the guy on the east coast. The moment I confessed my feelings to him, when I bought a ticket to go out to DC to meet him a month later, he cooled off. (He also requested a full body photo of me and never responded to that, compounding how I already felt about my body).  It was a shitty choice of a first try. I not only was rejected but felt I had been played and neglected once I wanted to take things into a less pixelated realm.

After that, Husband started instituting some rules and expectations. I don’t even remember those early rules anymore.  At one point it was the “only girls” rule. While common for many who are just starting poly, it was a rule only because men were hurting my feelings so terribly by their rejection of my body (hence the body shame I still carry today). Husband thought that the women would be at least nicer and give me a chance to understand my bisexuality that I still hadn’t embraced.  I wasn’t ready yet to fully embrace that part of my sexuality–so that rule went to the wayside.

Lots of rules came and went during those first few tenuous months as polyamorous. I went to DC to visit that guy–where he didn’t respond to my messages until the final day I was there.  Guilted by our mutual followers he at least met up with me for a drink.  But it was clear I had crossed a line by making our online interactions real and I was let down and dejected. Was this what polyamory was all about?

That was until I found Laz.  In November of 2004, the day after the election, a smart, witty Texan found his way to my LiveJournal. He quickly moved into the role of a trusted friend and flirty confidante.  And while he wasn’t the ideal partner (he was married with kids at the time), he was my first poly love and eventually, 6 months later, became my first poly husband.

Others would follow, but Laz will always hold a special place in my life for the role he played, for the support he gave and for the full realization that polyamory was right for us. I might not have ever stuck with polyamory had he not shown up in my life when he did.

To be continued…

At some point in the future, I’ll address Husband’s feeling about poly, how he manages his jealousy and all of the other little how-tos that people usually want to hear. But the how of it was more simple than people want to hear: He fully accepts me for who I am including the gift I have for connecting with multiple people and he gives me support and encouragement to be the best me that I can possibly be.  And that…that’s why he is Husband.

 

Origin Story: How we became polyamorous (Part 1)

Everyone comes at polyamory from their own background and series of choices. For some, it’s their “cure” to cheating. For others, it’s a slow slide away from swinging and into more romantic partnerships with others. Others start it out as an experiment with fantasies until suddenly you can’t imagine what your life would look like without sharing it openly with others. And whether I’m talking about my personal origin — how I, personally, knew I was poly–or how my Husband and I came to open up our marriage, these are the fundamentals of what led us to where we are now.

While ultimately the decision was made on a Wednesday in July 2004, right before a Sarah McLaughlan concert, there were a series of events and conditions that led us to that decision. Here’s a look back at the major components that led to our polyamory story.

We are individuals who choose to share our lives together

I’ve known Husband-Writer since 1996 when we went on a musical tour of Europe together. He was a musician and writer with a generous soul and a sharp wit. We got to know each other very well on that tour and he quickly endeared himself to me by being in my life. Our love is based on the friendship we developed at the time, the rapport that was built on a shared sense of humor and a passionate love of expression.

Read the rest of this entry

My Sex Educator CV

I’ve spent a lot of energy resisting the idea that I’m a sex educator in part because I always felt like I don’t fit the image I’ve grown accustomed to: beautiful, flirty, fun, with an elusive effervescence and trendy style. The person who oozes sex with their every word and who can immediately name the different qualities of lube in a dizzying display of scientific sexiness. I don’t own a pussy puppet and am not sure what I would do with it if I did. I don’t teach “how to” be sexy; I help you remember “why” you already are sexy. I can’t tell you how to make your girlfriend have a mind-blowing orgasm; I can tell you how to talk to each other about it with graceful vulnerability.

I’ve been poly for a long time — 13 years. And I’ve been kinky way longer than that. I’ve been public speaking since 4th grade when I went to Space Camp. I’ve taught numerous classes including to law enforcement and other attorneys about poly & BDSM and how to identify nuanced consent and differentiate it from abuse. Yet somehow I don’t feel like I’m qualified to call myself a sex educator.

I haven’t written books or published articles or received awards. I haven’t changed lives with my message or gotten hundreds of thousands of followers. I’m not popular. I’m not credentialed (other than as an attorney and no, I won’t give you legal advice). I’m not a researcher. I don’t hold a bevy of statistics in my head. And yeah, I’ve done presentations and given talks, but most of that has been local and not national.

There’s also a lot of Imposter Syndrome talking here.

Over the next thirty days, I will be giving four different talks about sexuality or sexually related topics. Tocday, I am a guest lecturer at a local community college for a human sexuality class — essentially debunking myths about BDSM and polyamory. Then, in two weeks I will be presenting at Rocky Mountain Poly Living (“Extending Empathy” and “Poly Political Agenda”). Then the week after that I’m leading a discussion at StarFest about Intergalactic Influences on Love and Sexuality (Sci-fi and Fantasy’s influences on our own sexual development and experiences with love).

It’s a busy, whirlwind of activity and the likelihood of my anxiety making a nasty return is very, very high. And while self-care is certainly necessary, I always do better when I can talk it out. Both husbands are asleep — so allow me to use this space right here to remind myself — 

My Sex educator super power is just being me. Photo by Anthony Graham of Broken Glass Photography (Colo Springs, CO)

I am a sex educator and I am qualified because:

I know my own experience. I know how to call out shitty experiences. I know what it feels like when you don’t call out a shitty experience and swallow disappointment and discouragement.

I know what it feels like to gather up the courage to ask someone out and to be rejected (oh fuck, I know that one well).

I have met and loved (and lost) soul mates.

I have encountered submission as a spiritual transformation and inched my way closer to deeper dominance. And love the romanticism of vanilla sex as well.

I have been publicly shamed and outed. I’ve been unemployed as a result of how I identify and the perverse assumptions that people make as a result.

I’ve grieved for the loss of my sensuality and triumphed over its return. Over and over again.

I have been sexually assaulted in both the vanilla and sex positive worlds and have healed by sharing my stories and connecting with others who need to hear they’re not crazy or alone.

I have seduced and loved many impossible people–people who felt they were unlovable, people with outward importance who needed an inward experience, people far more beautiful, popular or genuine than me.

I have slept with more men than women, but can tell you what it’s like to fall in love with both.

I have walk-of-shamed my way down lonely Chicago streets and given my sex as comfort to the broken-hearted.

I’ve been a wife and a mother and had difficulty with balancing the expectations of both roles.

I have been a sexual healer, a divine mistress, a wanton whore and a demure princess in one night.

I have walked this earth as an intelligent, passionate and spiritual woman. I am femme and geek and Chicana and fucking brilliant when I choose to be. I am curvy and vulnerable and maternal but I’m not your Mommy. I am the laughter of seduction and the mediator of souls.

How can I possibly be an imposter?

By sharing lessons through my own vulnerability and experience, my learning and mistakes, I serve as a companion on the journey.  By weaving stories of empathetic experience, I aim to illustrate the patterns of our own truth and experience. This is both who I am and who I want to be. That is the most real and authentic me I can offer–my own lessons and experience and knowledge and outlook.

That is the most real and authentic me I can offer–my own lessons and experience and knowledge and outlook.

And for some, that is exactly what they need.

 

 

 

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