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Internal Disappointment Processing

Self-awareness is a grand thing that cannot be over-emphasized as we interact with the world around us.  However, some people, including myself, who make this a priority, tend to skew the viewpoint a little toward whatever story they want the world to know about them.  Inevitably, with all of us, we end up with blind spots that trip us up and end up impacting others.  That blind spot is usually obvious once we recognize it for what it is: a struggle within to reconcile and identify the source emotion.

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So let’s just attack my blind spot emotion: Disappointment.  Disappointment is a close friend with regret.  However, regret is the disappointment that we apply to our own actions  and disappointment is what we apply to others’ actions.  Disappointment doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s often the result of creating and sustaining expectations that another will act the way that we thought they should or would.  In order to identify a feeling as disappointment you have to:

a) recognize that you had expectations;

b) believe you deserved or had good reason to have those expectations;

c) placed trust in someone else to meet those expectations;

d) relied on that person’s implied, express or assumed promise to fulfill those expectations; and

e) experienced a failure of someone to meet those expectations.

Disappointment can be general (“I’m disappointed I didn’t get any email today”) or specific (“I’m disappointed that my husband forgot our anniversary”).  Disappointment carries a deeper attachment to the result or even the process than ordinary breaches of social protocol.  It is personal and yet sometimes we judge ourselves for reacting to something so seemingly simple.

Disappointment is a blind spot for me because I rarely believe (b), that I deserve or have good reasons to expect anything.  I feel that undeservinginess so deeply that I have adjusted my whole life around that basic concept so I never have to feel disappointment in another human being. And like most things it was influenced by some distinct event at an impressionable time.

ImageTake my birthday for example.  I typically don’t celebrate my birthday and instead have replaced it with a spiritual ritual practiced in solitude.

Yet, I remember making a distinct choice to stop any public celebration of my birthday on my 16th birthday.  This was the birthday where my boyfriend ditched me to have a drugged-out one night stand with a co-worker. I swallowed the disappointment, the heartbreak because I felt so unworthy of the expectation of fidelity or honesty or to be special on my 16th birthday. And I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to be hurt like that again so i prohibited any celebration by family and friends from that time forward.

What is the old saying? If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed. Right?

(SIDE NOTE: I made an exception for my 21st birthday which ended up in that boyfriend dumping me just minutes after I turned 21 and was waiting for him to show up so we could go to the bar for my first legal drink.)

So here I am almost twenty years later. I can say with some certainty that I was completely reasonable to expect my boyfriend to spend my birthday with me as he promised instead of cheating on me. But that realization doesn’t change the new traditions I have created around this day for me.  Disappointment was the fuel to that fire; but denial and avoidance of disappointment has ensured that there are no birthday parties, no presents, no cards, no celebratory drinks or revelry of any kind.   Avoid disappointment,? Check.  Avoid any chance to feel special and included? Fail.

Expectations are a bitch, because it’s entirely out of your control whether people meet them. And people give you excuses that seem reasonable at the time.  But instead of owning up to the fact that I feel hurt or let down, I swallow it down where I plot my next attempt to circumvent any future disappointment

So how to fix it?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Admit to yourself that the icky mix of anger and sadness you feel is disappointment. Write it down and burn it if you’re afraid of letting anyone know you feel this. But say or write the words at least.
  • Practice telling the other person when you feel disappointed for small things.  Like when they text to tell you that they won’t be able to make it to dinner tonight because they’re sick, text back  “aww…I’m disappointed I won’t see you tonight.  Take good care of yourself”
  • Recognize and relate to their own humanity.  Trust me, as a human being you’ve done something, big or small, to disappoint another human being. Remember what caused that person’s disappointment and apply it to your own now.  Was it a miscommunication?  An assumption?  A crooked sense of priorities?  Stress? Excuses or not, these play into all of our interactions.
  • Express your disappointment. It doesn’t have to be a drag out fight.  But instead find an opportunity soon after the event in question to tell the person you were disappointed by something they did or didn’t do and how things can be better in the future.  Make it an honest exchange of information.  Yes, you will hear excuses or rationale, some of which are totally understandable, but just as importantly they will hear it from you directly how you feel and what you’d like them to do differently in the future.
  • Check but don’t eliminate all of your own expectations. There are times that our expectations can be pretty unweildy and can set everyone on edge (think Miranda Priestly from the Devil Wears Prada). If you’re noticing an increase in agitation or stress with the people you rely on, you may want to double check that you’re not asking the impossible and scale it back just a little bit.
  • Arrange regular time to check in about promises, rules, expectations in a relationship. Having a regular check-in with a partner, loved one or even co-worker about what expectations are on the table, what’s working and what’s not can be enormously helpful.  Don’t wait until there is a history of consistent fuck-ups, instead check in early and often (like every 2-3 months) to make sure each party knows what is expected of them.
  • Trust again. Maybe not the same people as before, but trust that your needs and desires are worthy.  It is amazing how less disappointment haunts me and hurts me now that I’ve started trusting that the world isn’t out to get me.  .

And the biggest show of that trust in my life? After twenty years of solitary suffering, I am actually going to celebrate my birthday!  Bring it on!

Scared to date

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So, it is says anything about the gravity of this topic, this subject line has been sitting here since October of 2011.

Hello. My name is Bella. I’m polyamorous and I’m afraid to date.

Hello Bella

Is there a support group for people like me? I have been polyamorous for almost 9 years now and for the past 4 years I have been afraid to date. I have been avoiding discussing why for a very long time, but like most things if I don’t just delve in and say it publicly, it will never get parsed out and thus never truly change.

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A Manifesto for the Age of Soul-Starved

Tonight, I watched a portion of the State if the Union address. I was inspired, particularly at the end where the President called upon the courageous acts of valor and the tragic ends found by so many children and families. I was so moved that i cried. I cried for those hearts and this country. Where did we go so wrong?

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Afterward was the inevitable mocking of our President by pundits and armchair activists alike. The accusations that Obama is stepping outside his authority (he’s not). but the ones that really got to me were the many, many messages i saw on Facebook that again, push for more guns, more ammo, more ways with which to “protect” ourselves. It’s not just the message that is discouraging, it is the rage with which it is delivered. Read the rest of this entry

Call of the Darkness

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees; but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.

–Friedrich Nietzsche

I have always responded to the call of darkness.  The lure.  The fact that so many others are frightened of it pushes me deeper into the woods, into the caves of humanity to witness and share in the deeper parts of the psyche. But not just to witness, to stand guard, to lend strength, to share and participate and give the wounds salve until they heal.  It’s not the draw of the macabre.  It is the draw of desire and spirit.  Pure and hallowed to delve deeper than the normal person would.

ImageI serve the darker edges of humanity but specifically the wounds we carry.  Wounds…be they physical, psychic or emotional tend to cause us the greatest amount of fear in our lives.  And we guard our deepest, darkest fears more than anything in the world.  Sure, you think about people who seem to wear their woundedness on their sleeve…almost boasting that they’ve suffered through life and are here to prove to humanity their strength.  But what I’ve found is that they don’t put the greatest wounds on display…only the ones that they can wear without harm, without exposing the deeper ones that lay underneath.  Those….those they guard fiercely and fight anyone who tries to disturb them.

The only superpower I really have is I am the person people trust with the greatest of their wounds.  Their sorrows, their intense pain, their embarrassments, their sense of not-good-enough…these fears of divine dis-love that they try to keep secret from the rest of the world.  They tell no one.  Not their spouses.  Not their lovers.  Not their parents.  But they tell me.

They tell me or rather….they show me.  They creep slowly through the recesses of their psyche, the part they are barely aware of normally.  The instinctual and immediate part of themselves that they can’t access unless someone trespasses against that territory.  They invite me in.  Grasping my hand for strength,clutching at the light that I bring with me for fear.  Fear of the monsters laying in wait to overcome them and take control.  Maybe if I’m there the monsters won’t attack.  Won’t hurt them.  Won’t try to take over their world.

And even now as I write this, I’m flooded with the memories of when this has happened.  When I’ve seen all of someone, even the big, bad monster they thought they were holding at bay.  The anger, the greed, the resentment, the frustration, the hurt, the deception…I’ve seen so much of it.  And it is beautiful.  It is beautiful because each person’s big, bad monster is an accumulation of humanity.  It is a creation of our selves…and it is a part of ourselves.  It is the part of ourselves that we’ve discarded, hoping that it will never return.  Hoping that it will never find a way back into the light.

And I am overwhelmed with emotion because these people I have encountered have trusted me with it.  With something so precious, so grotesque and fearsome…something that resembles them far more than they want to know.

Because at the end of that journey, I show them.  I bring a light to the mirror and stand them next to their monster figure and show them…this is you….and I love you both.  I love the monster and who you’ve tried to become in order to hide it.  I love you both.

It is almost too much for them to bear.  To feel that something so ugly within themselves can be loved and cherished.  “Aren’t you afraid?” they inevitably ask me.  How can I possibly be afraid?  I can’t pretend to love someone without loving the fullness of who they are.  And by embracing the beast I can now finally love the full person.  Does the beast lash out?  Yes.  But only because it has been relegated to the darkness for so long it can no longer recognize how it feels to have light surround it and hold it safe.

But more than anything, I embrace the fullness of someone.  Their light and dark…and I show that it is possible to melt the divide between light and dark within our own lives.  That by embracing your own darkness and treating it with kindness and love that we heal the fears that placed it in the darkness to begin with…and that itself is love.  True, abiding love for our own self.

This kind of healing isn’t a wound to be worn on the shoulder as evidence of your own bravery, to prove that you’ve suffered…it is one that glows from within and is embodied in your full presence and countenance.  It is not a braggart’s courage,but a wounded soul who is now radiant with the joy of life.  Nothing more needs to be said.  No words are needed.

In an instant  I can tell the difference between those who have walked through their darkness and embraced what they have found….and those who are still hiding it, protecting it and projecting the lesser wounds as their evidence of their “confidence”.  I can tell…and the more one brags about their wounds, their victimization, their suffering, the more those words are just really big, giant “Keep OUT!” signs to loved ones and others that they will do everything in their power to keep their secret monsters safe and in the dark. They don’t trust themselves, they don’t trust their partners and they surely will never trust a professional to lead them to true healing.  I don’t bother with them.  They will continue to live a false life soaked in duality, an alchemy that falls flat and leaves them sour and needy.

No…I praise those who have done “the heavy lifting” and I await them at their next crossroads…when a new dark corner threatens to swallow them whole. I stand alone and wait for them to see me and invite me in when either everyone else has abandoned them or are too shallow to see the transformation, the little death, that must occur for them to heal and move forward.

And I am rewarded…like in the quote above…with roses and riches.  Such beauty and such abundance of soul.  I alone have been entrusted with their stories for I saw their darkness and did not run away or avoid it…I stood by them and loved them to the very end.

So….much….beautyImage

A peacemaker speaks

The shooting in Connecticut has been on my mind all weekend.  I’ve been somewhat silent as I watch friends on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere rally behind a cause that essentially says “more violence = less violence”.  This whole concept is just abhorrent to me.

It feels low.  It feels base.  It feels like moving backwards.

The suggestion that arming teachers and administration would somehow have prevented this tragedy tells me that people I used to respect and like would rather see more violence, more fear, more aggression than try to establish peace and compassion.  The fact that these suggestions are often accompanied by “evidence” that seems suspect or at least slanted doesn’t help their cause with me.  I will not say that the other side doesn’t have skewed statistics either, but at least they are not advocating for more violence so that definitely wins out for me.

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Reid Mihalko: Make a Joyful Noise

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For someone, like me who has long been a sex-positive advocate (although not really an educator), I was super geeked to attend one of Reid Mihalko‘s talks in Denver. I had seen his keynote address at Beyond the Bedroom back in October, but unfortunately was unable to make his other classes that Weekend. So this was a real treat for me.

It was only about 2 years ago that I really discovered my own personal trick to my orgasms. See, while I’ve been experiencing great orgasms by myself since I was 11, I was very reluctant to share those with others. I was happy to be on the receiving end of someone’s orgasm, but I wasn’t going to share mine.

Part of the reluctance came from the fact that I had worked with several older men in my adolescence, and for better or for worse, I learned quite a bit from them. And each day for almost 4 years I heard them complaining about how selfish the female orgasm was. How they had to “waste” their time trying to get a woman to cum. They hated giving a woman oral and often complained about the taste or smell. It left a clear impression on 15 year old me, so that by the time I finally gave my virginity to a high school senior a year later, I treated the whole experience as an experiment in -being the opposite of all these selfish women I had heard about.

Now, with the caveat in mind that I have known very few men to ever complain about a blow-job in general, I do consider myself rather adept at that particular skill. That has been my sure-fire claim to fame for almost all of my sexual life. Hell, I was coached by my first boyfriend, who is now gay. I listened to my male co-workers describe what they liked and what they didn’t. I am a quick learner and proud of the way I take time to learn a man’s body well enough to tease and please quite well.

By it wasn’t until I met Warrior that I found a cock that I couldn’t use those same tricks on. Hence, why I think classes like Reid’s are quite necessary. It doesn’t matter how much you think you know about sex, because there is always something new you can learn and a new way to approach each person’s individual likes and dislikes. And at the very least a new way to frame how you decide to look at your own abilities.

But more important than just learning technique is the breaking down of the shame and guilt we experience about sex. For a while after meeting Warrior I felt I was losing my touch and thus unenjoyable as a partner because i couldn’t make him cum from a blowjob. It took months before I realized that he needs a lot of sensuous build-up, because while his body is “online” and ready, his mind is in twelve different directions. And now I hold the honor of being the person (male or female) who has given him the most orgasms from oral ever. Why? because his orgasm isn’t about me. I could use the best technique in the world and it still might not happen. I could be the hottest woman on earth and it might not happen. But I can create an environment and experience where if it is going to happen it can and we will both be happy simply because we are together.

So, what does this have to do with my own realization two years ago or the class last night? We pick up some fucked up ideas about sex. I mean, here I was growing up to grown men moaning about how tedious the female orgasm is. I already had a lot off self-judgment around selfishness in general and wasn’t about to become the type of lover who was selfish and wouldn’t give the same level attention being given to me. In fact, I was the type of person who was determined to give and pamper, but never fully receive.

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Far from Straight

Here is what I posted today in response to a post called “Anything Other Than Straight” by a great blogger I absolutely love to read: Single Dad Laughing.

Dear Dan,

I absolutely loved this post and have considered writing one of my own for quite some time.  I’m probably going to end up sharing way too much here, but you know, I believe in authenticity.  I believe in honoring one’s own truth.  I believe in honoring each other’s journeys so I share a little of mine.

I remember the first inkling I had that I was attracted to women was when I was in 6th grade…in Catholic school.  I was heavily Catholic.  Believed in and practiced the Church’s teachings to the fullest extent possible. Believed with my whole soul.  And back in the early 90’s, bisexuality wasn’t really a thing yet.  Not like it is now.  I chastized myself heavily for even looking at other girls, for thinking anything sexual about them at all. Read the rest of this entry

A wide-open world

I’ve been struggling to write this post for a few weeks now.  Ever since I learned that I passed the bar exam in my state, I have been struggling with how to write about it. How to reconcile it to what I’ve believed about myself for so long and more than anything deciding what to do with myself now.

This picture jumped out at me as I was trying to find a way to describe how I felt about taking the bar exam again.  Taking the exam, while not the most important thing in the world, is a monumental and scary rite of passage.  I was being asked to cross a chasm separating two immense mountains.  The first is the mountain of my experience as a student.  I had faced failure, faced success and conquered it all.  The other mountain was the mountain of my profession.  Several have crossed this path before.  It shouldn’t be that hard…but the fall is so great if you’re unsuccessful that it’s daunting to even consider reaching that mountain.  And that path, a tiny bridge between two worlds so similar but so very different looks as if the moment you step upon it, you’ll plummet to your doom.

The first time I took the bar exam I was full of confusion, hatred for the path and resentment.  I fell and I fell hard.  I didn’t pass the first time.  I have used tons of excuses over the years to explain why I fell (“I was pregnant at the time”, “I was buying a house”), but the honest reason is I wasn’t sure I wanted to be on that mountain.  After I fell, after I gave birth, I climbed back up to that precipice to try once more.  But again, I lacked commitment and purpose (yes, even I lacked purpose).  I allowed myself to become distracted and in truth I did a lot to sabotage myself because the same month I was supposed to take the exam is the same month my husband and I became polyamorous.  Looking back on it, I can see why I fell, why I failed the bar that year.  But nevertheless I was in that chasm dividing these two mountains.

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Afraid of Abundance

ImageA while back I had started a blog called “Love Priestess”.  It was a name I came up with shortly after I was outed because I felt my particular message, my calling in the world was better served from the perspective of a Priestess of Love.  Back then my partners and I were actively engaged in what we called a Love Movement.  Even though all of us have gone our separate ways, I believe with my whole heart that we each are pursuing that movement in our own particular ways.  Yet, my way has always been a bit unclear to me.  Love Priestess fit at the time, but I haven’t been grasping the full potential of what it can be and more importantly who I can be.

I am blessed in so many ways.  In particular I have a knack for romantic and intimate interpersonal relationships.  They have always come easy to me.  I’ve never been in a position where I’m “looking for love” or “waiting for the One”.  I have blessed that those opportunities have always shown up on my doorstep rather magnificently.  And each experience, each lover, each blessed being in my experience has been beneficial to my life.  Even the ones who have hurt me.  Each person I’ve encountered, each person I’ve shared myself with, including these partners who created this Love Movement together, has had an impact on my life.  And if anything my life has been characterized by the relative ease I’ve had in embracing transformational shifts in relationship dynamics.  A really fancy way of saying I flowed so easily with relationships that I always counted it as my most abundant blessing.

But something changed about 3 or 4 years ago that kept me from fully embracing the abundance that was being offered even in this relatively easy part of my personal life.  I used to attribute it to any number of factors and triggers from being hurt by a messy break-up or “growing up” or gaining weight or whatever seemed to excuse my feelings of sadness and disconnectedness. I was no longer welcoming of that abundance of joy, pleasure and shared oneness.   And even though I’ve blamed everything and everyone (especially myself for that), I couldn’t really get down to what was at the root of it all.

As some of you know I’m in the process of studying for the bar exam in my state.  I have my law degree and I want my license.  Yesterday, while on the phone with my husband I realized what I want to do to once I have my license and how I want to craft my life and my career.  It’s actually not that far off from Love Movement as we might think.  I have always wanted to change the world, but I finally have a way of making it happen…and forging a new path for law, policy, relationships, conflict, and acceptance of self.  I haven’t fully fleshed out the idea yet, but I know in my heart that it’s what I’m meant to do.

But to do it, I’m going to have to consent to be in the spotlight.

That terrifies me.  I have this image in my head that in order to accomplish what I want to accomplish, what every cell in my body is demanding of me, I am going to have to allow the spotlight to shine on me.  Each time the spotlight has swung in my direction over the years I’ve run away, escaped and hidden in the shadows.  The shadows, the darkness is a safe place for me.  I shine brighter in the shadows.  But eventually if I want to create the transformation I want…and if I want to be able to do it my way, I am going to have to finally consent to remaining in the spotlight.

And the spotlight is where my abundance lives.  It is where the abundance that I once enjoyed in multiple relationships went to reside.  It’s been drawing me there.  The richness and fullness of my emotional, physical and mental life is waiting for me.  I only have to overcome my fear enough to enter that circle.  I have to be brave enough to let the light cascade down my body, exposing my soul and my life, my love and my vulnerability…because ultimately those are my strengths and that is how I can lead, can transform, can create.  While I will always be comfortable working with the shadows, I cannot and must not dwell there.

Instead, my work, indeed the world I want to live in requires me to step fully into the light and to be seen and heard, to learn from others and lend my aid to those still lurking in the background, held back by their fear, guilt and shame.

This is my Love Movement.

Same-sex and Same Rights

Earlier today I got an annoying message on Facebook from a HS acquaintance who wanted to correct me for the stance I have taken on gay rights and specifically same-sex marriage.  I posted my response to my feed there but I decided that I wanted to take it a bit further and just keep saying it loud:

Obviously we need a reminder. Let’s be clear, I am a supporter of same-sex marriage. I am an advocate for equal rights for all people. And so I don’t react well when someone wants to “take me to task” for my beliefs.

For all the people trying to make this a religious argument–that marriage is a “religious act” that government should have no part of, then I highly suggest you make your actions match your words and reject any and all government benefits you receive for being married. I challenge you to file your 2012 taxes as “single”, to divide your property according to contract law and purchase your own insurance instead of benefiting from your spouse and to be subjected to a custody evaluation to ensure that you are fit parents for your children. Go out today and make a will that doesn’t rely on presumptions of law. Hire an attorney to draw up any powers of attorney you might need in the event of an unforeseen disaster. Oh and be sure that if you are asked to testify against your spouse in a court of law that you don’t invoke spousal privilege or marital immunity. Go on. If marriage is only a religious rite/right then this should be no problem…rejecting all the ways in which your marriage is entangled with government and getting government out of the way.

You can’t have it both ways.

If you’re unwilling to to give up your benefits for the status of your relationship then you better be willing to extend those same benefits to everyone else who has made just as sacred a commitment to their spouse as you have. They are prevented, by law, from obtaining a marriage license in order to have the same legal recognition as you. Why? Because of the gender of the person they have felt compelled to pledge their life to. A simple matter of gender and that somehow is enough to restrict their ability to enjoy the same benefits and certainties as you. Sorry, but marriage is not a private matter, not when so many governmental treats flow from that change in status.

The God I believe in loves unconditionally and blesses each of us unconditionally. You lose nothing in this deal except the peace of mind that the peculiar combination of your boy parts and girl parts make you special in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of God. Just like colleges, businesses and clubs were forced to open their doors to women or to men and women of color, you wrap your institutional identity so tightly around this concept of “specialness” that you feel you might lose your identity if others are allowed into the club.

Stop acting so persecuted and petulant. Recognize the privilege you have and extend that with grace and compassion to others.

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