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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.

 

The Online Goddess: regaining my confidence online

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I’m one of the newly named Xennial generation (1977 – 1983). I have been interacting with people online since adolescence. I grew up using chatrooms (Q-Link for the Commodore 128 and AOL with PC) with progressively increased private chats happening as the years went on. Back then we couldn’t (easily) send photos or use a cell phone to text, we arranged times to talk, often turning to phone sex after online chatting became more hot and personal.  I was on this cusp generation that pioneered these emerging technologies, often at the mercy of the parents that allowed us access to them.

I’ve been doing this a long time–since 13 or 14 years old when we got our first equivalent of a modem. I had online access very early in my life that by the time everyone else was getting AOL, I was moving on to the next thing. And for as long as I’ve had access, I’ve had access to online flirting.  So many sexual conversations, flirting online and over the phone. The currency of these exchanges relied on imagination. The more vivid descriptions, the more easily the sexual tension could build. I never kept track of how many of these conversations I had participated in over the years. How many men and the handful of women did I do this with? I’ll probably never know. But it was second nature to me. Witty, sexy, sultry banter was my thing.

The Shameful Barrier

I talk often about the accumulation of shame in my life and how inhibiting it can be. How intimidating it makes what was once second nature to me. I had stopped dating in 2009 for a variety of reasons: a new local relationship (Warrior) that took up much of my attention, a break-up with my Dallas poly husband where I felt like a failure at polyamory, residuals of being outed a few years before and a metamour whose insistence on one-way fluid bonding sent a clear judgment – that I’m somehow dirty.  I was just so ashamed that I just cut off all possibilities, no matter how promising they were. No matter how much I wanted to progress with flirting and communication, it had been used against me so often that I always managed to sour the potential before it could ever take root.

Read the rest of this entry

Welcome to the #Summer100 #sexblogger Challenge

#Summer100 Sexblogger challenge -

I may have just jumped off the deep end without thinking. Today marks the first day of the #Summer100 #Sexblogger challenge run by Victoria of Pretty Pink Lotus Bud as a means of connecting sex bloggers, providing insight, support and an increase in traffic. And in the Trump age, where threats to sexual freedom are more eminent than they ever were before, we need to be focused on building community and supporting one another.

I started blogging in December of 2003 on LiveJournal. I remember vividly it was just a month after giving birth to my son and I was fed up with the mixed messages of parenting advice. I had spent most of my pregnancy physically unable to have sex, relying on masturbation to take care of mine and my husband’s needs.  We were still monogamous back then so the frustration I was trying to express wasn’t about multiple relationships, it was about being able to feel sexual at all. I still hadn’t been cleared for postpartum sex, but I was frustrated that none of the books, none of the articles I had read prepared me for how to balance my sexual feelings with the feelings inherent in motherhood.  Most parenting advice assumed that you’d be madly in love with your kid and wouldn’t need any other affection to keep you going.  And in the late night hours of yet another round of breastfeeding, I was fed up that people like me would never get good advice from mainstream moms. Apparently, children are supposed to be all we ever need.

LiveJournal was the place where I could allow that energy to be seen, where I could give voice to my frustrations and where I could interact with others who felt the same. Blogging was personal back then. I am nostalgic for the way relationships formed and how communities interacted in this pre-Facebook era.  I was writing every day, multiple times a day. Maybe it was sharing memes or reacting to the latest drama that my poly husbands found themselves in, but I was writing damn near every day.

I talk a lot about being outed. That slut shaming event hurt my career, hurt my psyche and broke our momentum as a family.  Ten years later and I think we’re all finally recovering. I kick myself for not being more resilient, for allowing that event to take my voice and my writing from me. I kick myself for not being a better example to other sex bloggers out there of how we can recover from the assumptions and the harm inflicted on us by slut-shaming. And in looking through the blog roll of the people participating in this challenge, I’m not surprised to see that it’s still happening.

Fear - Sexblogging

Our fears are conditioned based on our experiences, our families of origin and our societal education. But it doesn’t have to stay this way. We can create a new experience and educate ourselves differently.

Fourteen years I’ve been blogging about sex. Not regularly, not with any singular message. I no longer do scene reports or summarize my adventures because since the outing, I not only haven’t had many sexual adventures, but I have been reluctant to share them with a wider audience.  Once you’ve been shamed publicly, it’s hard to feel safe to share publicly.

But this is my fear talking. I signed up for this challenge to get back to a more regular presence and voice for what I do, for the message I send, for the connections I value.

Part of the challenge is to link back to some of the other blogs on the list, to help promote each other and give each other a boost. And I’m so glad to see 1) so many people of color on the list and 2) so many people who are writing joyously and thoughtfully about their experiences. I’ve been scared to do that for so long that I hope being part of this challenge will help me push past that comfort zone, where I challenge myself to share more of my life with a growing audience and with the people who inspire me.  My intention is to gain more confidence in my writing and to grow it into a ritual of release that benefits you, the reader.

Now, I can’t guarantee I’ll get to 100 posts because I’m in the middle of a major and immediate job transition. Not only do I worry about job prospects but I also am consumed with the business of wrapping up my contract. But the intention has been set, the commitment made and I have you all to help keep me motivated.  I am doing what I can to re-educate the fear right out of me, to give me a new experience of success, of personal rewards that flow from transparency and authenticity.

So, welcome to the #Summer100 challenge, the Bella Rosa way:

vulnerable as fuck and ready as ever.

 

 

An Open Heart Hears the Message

The past five years have been unusually dark for me. Full of family turmoil and career drama. I’ve had plenty of reasons to run and hide, to isolate myself from the world. I stopped dating, I stopped really socializing too. I locked away in my little protective bubble where nothing could touch me. And how fitting that this spring I’m starting to emerge into who I have always wanted to be.

I’m sure the isolation served a purpose, allowed me a chance to rest, regroup and plot my way forward. But so much hurt, so much shame, so much trauma and I was more stuck than empowered. Contrast that to where I am now, more social, more vocal, more grounded in who I am. I believe strongly that this is where I need to be right now, in a space of manifestation and creation, fulfillment and passion. It’s time for me to start making some of my own dreams come true and actualizing the purpose I have for my life.

It’s even more important for me to be in this space…

Right here and right now 

I can’t even say how long it’s been since I used the word “passion” to describe myself. I’ve been in survival mode for so long that passion had hardened into a strong shell of resentment over the years I had to put aside what I wanted and desired to avoid judgment and shame. And that passion barely had any embers left until the beginning of 2016.

It was a shitty year….we know this now. And when I had started writing this back in October, I had no idea how bad it would get. I had no idea that so many of us survivors of sexual assault would get activated and retraumatized all at once. I couldn’t see that coming. But to have that same person now in the White House is even more terrifying. And more threatening. Read the rest of this entry

The Inevitable Exclusion of Deceit

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For the past few weeks I’ve been having conversations with people about polyamory and its potential to offer a fix or at least an alternative to common relationship issues. I believe in polyamory in part because it encourages each individual to honor their own authentic self, to directly address issues as they arise in the relationship and to participate in collaborative problem solving. Monogamy has this potential as well, but with its status as a the default relationship structure it creates a host of automated issues that tend to disintegrate the autonomy available to each partner in the relationship. By choosing polyamory people exercise that autonomy in a very real and tangible way.

But often the discussion devolves when I get this question: “so no one cheats/lies when you’re poly?”

Poly doesn’t prevent lying. Or cheating. Or betrayal. Or deceit.

Poly brings these behaviors to light much more swiftly and often more dramatically than we might see otherwise. It’s hardly assuring to someone new to poly. But because of the priority placed on the inherent values of honesty, trust, transparency and direct communication, the tolerance for deceitful behaviors is simply far lower than its monogamous counterparts.

I know, you don’t believe me. Because somewhere in the back of your head, you have this vision of a distraught wife finding out that her husband is cheating. She tears through the house in sobs, tossing him and his belongings out the door. Yes, that’s the common reaction. Because there was an expectation of sexual confinement, of fidelity and this, the dishonesty is understandable and even excuseable in today’s culture. Never mind that the cheating could not have happened without the deceitful undercurrent to the choices and actions. We’ve grown to accept, as a culture, that human beings will stray, will lie, will cheat. And while there is a sense of betrayal, there is also a sense of reluctant acceptance for the sneaking around and the lies. All while we cling to this sense of sexual and romantic confinement (or is it entitlement?) within the bounds of the relationship.

When you’re poly, the reaction isn’t much different, but the reasons are. When you are poly, you are more likely to have made a mutual agreement to be honest with one another, to not hide your attractions to other people, to remove the barriers to loving more than one person. So when a poly person is lied to, cheated on, the anger isn’t with the fidelity, it is with the deceptive practice itself…where it should have been all along. Cheating hurts more because it didn’t have to happen, because there was an underlying value for honesty. Lying is more insidious because there was no reason to cover up the truths of an attraction. The crime isn’t in the act of having sex with someone else, it’s in breaking trust with your partner(s) by choosing to lie or withhold the truth (omissions are still lies).

The reaction, yes, can be just as extreme as our monogamous example, but there is less acceptance that “oh well, this is just how everyone lives.” In a poly household, there might be a family meeting to confront the deceitful partner. Maybe there is a public shaming in other poly or kinky circles. Maybe there is just a stern, “fuck off” as someone is shoved out the door without a second chance. Regardless of how partners react, tolerance for the underlying dishonesty is rarely given in my experience.

Today I was reminded of a loved one’s deceit, a series of lies and cover-ups that have haunted me since before we broke up. I gave him more chances than my fellow polyamorists might. I recognized the conditioning that a staunchly monogamous past had left on him and that was my excuse to continuing to give him a chance. But the more I stayed, the more I saw the troubling behavior and the more it seemed to spiral out of control. The stories that later were contradicted by others. The convenient excuses that over time became harder to swallow. And when confronted he would gaslight me, shift blame and ultimately escape accountability for the choices that he made.

After almost 10 years of polyamory, I don’t regret staying with him and giving him chances. I learned a lot about my own value for honesty and a hard lesson about my own sense of self-worth. By accepting and tolerating someone else’s dishonesty, I was creating a large space to hide my own truth. A space that became a large closet of broken skeletons. A space where I convinced myself it wasn’t proper for me to be out as poly, kinky or queer. And as worried as I might be about how others might react to my truth, as a poly woman I have committed myself to living a life of authenticity, transparency and above all honesty. At some point, I needed to stop excusing my own dishonesty and I needed to trust myself to weather whatever storm might follow my disclosures.

And because my personal integrity matters more to me than enabling others’ escapist dramas bred into them by a societal expectation of secrets, I have been slowly emerging into the light again. And, for example, by being honest with my partners over the past few weeks about my fears, my wishes and my struggles, I’ve been able to get the support I need and the help I deserve. By allowing others to hide the truth, I was really allowing myself to hide my own. And now hiding has become…unbearable.

So, no polyamory doesn’t prevent cheating or lying. It will happen. But by aligning yourself with the core values of honesty and integrity, instead of surface satisfaction of singular sexual attachment, when you encounter such deception, it is much easier to recognize it, call it out and address it than it might have been otherwise. And simply put, when you choose honesty for yourself, deception will inevitably start becoming intolerable and dissatisfying, making it easier to exclude it from your life the more practice you get.

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