Saturday, August 13, 2016

Discovering More About Myself Around Relationships


I've been thinking a lot lately about relationships. All of them, really, but mostly the romantic kind. I've been single since somewhere around August of 2014 and I've been so by choice after taking a good hard look at my pattern of serial monogamy so far in my adult life. Well, really since coming out as gay. My straight life didn't work because I wasn't straight. Go figure. But since coming out as gay and since my first girlfriend, I've been in a pattern of serial monogamy. One relationship after another with little time in between to recover or learn any sort of big lessons about myself. So this period of being single has been an incredible growth period for me all around.

I've learned so much about myself and who I am now as a person. I feel more solid and confident in myself than I ever have before. I've forgiven myself for the mistakes I've made in the past and feel like I've learned some really hard lessons from those mistakes. I am much more aware of myself, my thoughts and actions and so much more focused on being real and open with myself and those around me. Real, vulnerable and authentic.

I've also come to accept and embrace the introverted, autonomous part of myself and have finally come to realize that I'm not broken. I'm also at times an extrovert and have embraced that aspect of myself. Really, I'd like to discard the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” altogether because they are so very binary and black and white. I prefer the term a good friend of mine used just a few days ago during one of our conversations around this subject: ambivert. I am an ambivert. Depending on the day or the situation I move along the spectrum of introvert and extrovert. I'm very rarely all the way on one end or the other. Sometimes I recharge around people. Sometimes I recharge in solitude. Ambivert. I love it. I'm claiming it.

A lot of my life has been spent as an observer. I've always been curious about people in the world and how they relate to others. I've watched countless friends and family members move in and out of romantic relationships, as well as myself, of course. For me, each one brought its own lessons, its own gifts. I've learned along the way that I loved too intensely, I wasn't butch enough, I was the love of someone's life but something else was more important, I got lost in my partners (and their lives) and I wasn't real or honest enough with myself or my partners. All very true and valid lessons that I will always carry with me. Plus, the one common denominator in all of those relationships was me. Not that they all failed only because of me (some did yes, but not all) but I was the common denominator through all of them.

I've finally come to realize that, for me, monogamy feels like a whole lot of pressure. It feels heavy and it also feels completely unrealistic to me. We couple up with these expectations of marriage and a house and kids and the white picket fence or something else that society has built for us and pressure ourselves to constantly run after those goals, if you want to call them that. Not everyone wants those things, of course. But, we also seem to want to fit each other into these roles where we pretend like we're not attracted to anyone else on the planet but our partner. Or, we feel that we can't have a close, intimate bond with anyone but our partner because we're part of a couple. Or, we profess our undying love one moment and the next we've fallen out of love. I've seen it happen over and over and over and over again. Not only with the people I know and love but with me. Why have I tried so hard to make something that seems so unrealistic to me work? (I say “we” in a lot of this paragraph. That “we” meaning the people who this sort of stuff doesn't work for. It isn't a generalization about all humans.)

I am a human being who is constantly growing and changing. I was in that space where I wanted to find “the one” that I could marry and grow old with. Someone to be my everything and who wanted me to be their everything. But, now I find myself in this space where that feels completely illogical, unrealistic, unauthentic and, frankly, terrifying.

I've spent time these past couple of years either trying to figure out how I wanted a relationship to look or how to just completely stay out of them. When I thought about how I wanted it to look, what I wanted didn't seem like a possibility within a typical monogamous relationship. I don't want to be someone's everything. I want to be their something and I want to be special to them but not their everything. That absolutely terrifies me and feels like a ton of weight that I just am not interested in carrying. Also, I want to keep a sense of autonomy within a relationship. As in having our own bedrooms if we live together or I would also be perfectly happy not living together. I still want my tiny home, piece of property and dogs. Whether in a relationship or not they are what make me happy and they are important to me.

Even just in explaining those basic things one can see that I don't want a traditional monogamous relationship.

Up until just a few months ago I believed that I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of polyamorous relationships. They clashed with my idea of what love was. How could you 1) love more than one person at a time (in the sense that I knew love, aka “I give you my whole heart”) and 2) share those people with other people without feeling like they were taking something away from their relationship with you? But, as I've explored and read and chatted with friends who are experiencing or have experienced polyamory, I've learned that there are different ways of being poly. I also know that there isn't a set amount of love that we can share and feel. When done with respect, understanding, compassion, honesty and openness polyamory can be an amazingly loving experience where love grows.

I've also learned that there are others like me in the world who want to keep their autonomy within their relationships and don't want to be one person's everything and guess what? They have successful relationships. They're also very real about relationships being a temporary thing. Something we come together to experience, to make a connection, to learn and grow with and sometimes they end and it's not a bad or terrible thing. It just is. They recognize their own humanness and embrace and accept it. Some more fully than others, but still. They go into a relationship without the goal of coupling up, shacking up and struggling to live “happily every after”.

Of course, there are plenty of people in the world for whom monogamy works and lasts. I'm not saying that isn't true. What I am saying is that it's not true for me. Have I “given up” on the fairy tale? No. I just have a much more authentic to me realistic tale.

What's most exciting to me about this realization is that I went from feeling like I was completely shut down and walled off from love and romance to feeling completely open to the possibility of it happening again in my life. Of course, whether or not a relationship does happen again for me remains to be seen, but it feels so good to be open to it. My heart is open, I am confident in myself and who I am, and I am open to more growth and learning. It feels incredibly freeing and really fucking fantastic.

Also, if it doesn't happen, I'll still be happy with me. I have an amazing family and a couple of close friends who fill my life with so much love.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

(Repost) This Path That I'm On

I originally wrote and posted this on May 18, 2015 over on the other blog I started last year. (Original post can be read here.) It was good for me to re-read this morning so I wanted to share it here.

“There’s so much more to life than finding someone who will want you, or being sad over someone who doesn’t. There’s a lot of wonderful time to be spent discovering yourself without hoping someone will fall in love with you along the way, and it doesn’t need to be painful or empty. You need to fill yourself up with love. Not anyone else. Become a whole being on your own. Go on adventures, fall asleep in the woods with friends, wander around the city at night, sit in a coffee shop on your own, write on bathroom stalls, leave notes in library books, dress up for yourself, give to others, smile a lot. Do all things with love, but don’t romanticize life like you can’t survive without it. Live for yourself and be happy on your own. It isn’t any less beautiful, I promise.”
Emery Allen
 
I found this quote today while reading through some things online. It perfectly sums up the way I’ve been living my life for the past year or so. Prior to that I lived most of my life romanticizing it like I couldn’t survive without it; waiting for that one person to fill me up with love and acceptance. I spent so much time being sad over people who didn’t love me and waiting for someone else to complete me, to tell me I was enough. It was as if my life was incomplete and on hold until that person showed up.

Somewhere along the line over the past year, I turned and faced myself in the clearest of mirrors one could ever find; the relationships in my life, both with those who are in my life currently or had been in my life but are no longer. That’s when everything started to change for me. That’s when I finally came around to that ever important lesson that I am the one I was waiting for all this time. I am the only one who can complete me and the only one who can tell me I am enough.

After embracing this lesson fully, I felt like I finally started to live in this life and “walk the talk”, so to speak by being present in each moment with myself, the world around me and with the people around me; by being completely open and honest with my friends and family; by enjoying each day by taking moments to just breath and be – no phone, no iPad, no computer, no camera, no journal – just me, my breath and my surroundings. I finally began to get to know and accept myself. I’ve discovered that I am already compete and I am enough. My heart and my intentions are good. Every day I live to better myself and to love and support my family and friends.

While researching a bit online about just who Emery Allen is, I came across this next quote of hers.

“Not everything is supposed to become something beautiful and long-lasting. Sometimes people come into your life to show you what is right and what is wrong, to show you who you can be, to teach you to love yourself, to make you feel better for a little while, or to just be someone to walk with at night and spill your life to. Not everyone is going to stay forever, and we still have to keep on going and thank them for what they’ve given us.”
Emery Allen

“….and we still have to keep on going and thank them for what they’ve given us.” I couldn’t agree with her more. There was a time in my life where I wanted everything to become something beautiful and long-lasting. But the reality of it is, life just doesn’t work that way and that’s a good thing. When I think back on all of the lessons I have been gifted by those who are and those who have been in my life, my heart fills with such gratitude. In all honestly, I think about every single one of them every day and with each thought I send them love and gratitude. I also wish them love and happiness in their continued journey in this life.

In Buddhist terms I practice the art of Tonglen in those moments. As Pema Chodron instructs:

“So in the in-breath you breathe in with the wish to take away the suffering, and breathe out with the wish to send comfort and happiness to the same people, animals, nations, or whatever it is you decide.”

These lessons and this practice has done wonders for my thought patterns, my well being and the way I relate to the world and the people in it. There truly are no words to fully express my gratitude to those who have lead me down this path. My life is forever changed by all of you.

Sending you love, comfort and happiness.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Working Out. Again.

One of the things about living in a small town without a car (read about why I am car free here) is that it limits the things to do in the evenings after work. Since moving here last April and my car acting up shortly after that, I noticed that I started gaining some weight and just all around not feeling all that good about myself. Moving three thousand miles away from everyone and everything you've known for the past 13 years is a challenge, to say the least. There's a lot of adjustments to make, a lot of loneliness to sit through and a lot of homesickness to experience. So, I didn't do much physically other than walk to and from work and I didn't eat very well.

This past April I decided I should get another physical. Thankfully, I am generally healthy. I have the normal aches and pains for a 46 year old who's played a lot of sports in her life. The knee I injured playing women's full tackle football still makes a grinding noise when I bend it but I'm told it's in fairly decent shape. (I still don't fully trust that diagnoses, but I'm going with it for now.)

Surprisingly, I hadn't put on as many pounds as I thought, according to the doctor's scale. But, I really wasn't feeling very good in my body and my mind. At the time of the physical I had been debating with myself about spending the money to join the local YMCA and that debate rang louder in my ear that day as I walked past the YMCA to get to my physician's office.

On my way back from the appointment I decided to stop and check out the facilities. I really wanted to see the pool. The idea of swimming again felt really good every time I thought about it. Just seeing the pool again pretty much ended the debate that had been going on in my head. Enough was enough. It was time to spend the money on myself. My health and well being deserved it. I haven't regretted it. I feel a million times better today than I did all those months ago.

I started off swimming three times a week. Nothing major. Just 600 yards for the first couple weeks then worked my way up to 800. Mostly free style (or crawl stroke as they like to call it sometimes) mixed in with breast stroke and back stroke on occasion. It felt amazing to be back in the water. Not all that amazing to be back in a swim suit that was a wee bit tight in some areas, but I powered through knowing I was on the right track.

After returning from my two week West coast vacation this past June, I decided to put the swimming aside for a bit and hit the gym. It had been a while since I'd been in that space. Over the course of the last 7 weeks or so, I've vastly improved my strength and cardio. My visits have been pretty constant. About every other day. Sometimes I'll skip two days but it's usually because I'm taking myself on an adventure somewhere and on those days I end up walking quite a bit anyway.

The only thing I've changed about my eating is I've tried to eliminate as many processed foods as possible. Being a pescatarian, I do still eat tofu and tempeh but for the most part I'm all about the fruits and veggies. I only on occasion eat fish or seafood.

This week I decided to add pea protein drinks to the mix to get a bit more protein onboard. Specially on gym days. I chose pea protein because it's easily digestible. Mistakenly, I bought a jar of the unflavored kind, but it's ok as far as taste goes. I tend to chug those drinks anyway because of the grittiness of them.  So, we'll see how it goes.

My goal with all of this is to just continue to feel better. I have an idea of what I'd like my body to eventually look like, but I also want to keep things very simple. I don't want to diet. Dieting just feels yucky and it's not a long term solution. I want a long term solution. Something that helps with my physical well being as well as my mental well being. So far, this path is working pretty well. I'm happy. I feel healthy. I feel strong. I feel more connected with my body and that, in itself, is pretty amazing.

I haven't been able to fit into these jeans since before the end of last year. Last week I put them on and not only do they fit, I have room! Feels pretty good.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hey There! It's Been A While!

Wow. It's so crazy for me to click over to this blog and still see so many hits on it even after not writing for over a year. Whomever you are out there who continues to read this blog and check out my photo project, thank you.

Of course, I guess it could just be bots, but shit. It's still nice to see all of those hits on my stats page. Maybe I really did put something out there into the ether that matters.

Cool.

Anyway, so, no promises but I'm thinking about coming back to this space and adding more to it. I like the other blog I created but it feels like it only really serves one purpose and that's to record some of my experiences over here on the East Coast. This blog feels more....I don't know....authentic, life like, real. That's the stuff I'm trying to come back to in my writing. I've been so far removed from it for so long now and feel like I'm, maybe not quite there yet, but, moving in that direction. Which feels good.

I'm still on the East Coast, until May 2017, then I'll move back to Portland. I'm homesick, missing my family and friends and need to make more trips down to help my parents out in Southern California. So, that's the plan.

Still single and learning more and more about myself every day. It's been an incredible two years filled with so much internal growth. I look forward to more. I'm also learning that my idea of relationships (the romantic kind) is changing and hope to write more about that soon. 

I dropped out of Facebook land a couple months ago by deleting my account. Most of my social media accounts were also deleted aside from my Instagram and Flickr. Oh, and I have Google+ by way of GMail but don't use it all that often. The reason for dropping out of the social media world was more of a mental health thing than anything else. I needed my world to quiet down.

The "hoopla" over the project died down after about a year. I still, on occasion, am asked to be quoted in online articles about the butch/femme dynamic, which is nice. The book is still available over on Amazon, which is also nice. I'm grateful I was able to do the project. It took so much out of me, though, that I haven't really picked up my camera since. Today I'm taking it in to Boston to play so I'm finally coming back around to it.

So, I know some of you who followed this blog in the past are from my past and may not want to continue to follow it, so here's the heads up. I love you and wish you all only the biggest of joy, love and happiness. Also, I miss you.

So, hey, I've gotten back into eating healthy and working out at the gym again at least 3 days a week, most weeks more. My Instagram has a few gym photos, although, I haven't quite gotten to the point where I can join in on #flexfriday, but I'm working on it. I do feel much better and a wee bit smaller around the waist so that's nice. My knees are much happier, too.


Hope you've all been well and happy. We'll see where this goes.

Happy Saturday!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sitting Through Loneliness

During this time in my life I am single and have been for a bit now. In the past, for me, being single meant being unlovable or undesirable, even something to fix. I would see myself getting older and alone and that would feel terrible to me. It felt important to couple up so I wouldn't be alone, so I'd fit in with the rest of the world and to prove to myself that I am loveable and desirable. For some reason I wasn't able to see that for myself and needed someone to show me.

I'm happy to say that my perspective on this has changed. Being single isn't something that needs to be fixed. It's another way of being in the world and although it isn't what everyone is comfortable with, it's a legitimate way of living in the world. It doesn't prove that someone is unlovable, undesirable or incapable of being in a relationship. It simply proves that people can be comfortable with themselves outside of romantic relationships.

One of the challenges I'm finding while in this space of singledom is loneliness. Yes, I am surrounded by family and a few close friends (when our schedules permit) who I make deep and meaningful connections with but I still have moments of loneliness.

During those periods of loneliness I used to do everything I could think of to make the loneliness go away. Old thought patterns around it would lead me to begin searching for someone to date or putting myself out there as someone who would very much like to date. I felt as if it was something that I needed to fix or cure by coupling up. But, that's really never worked for me if I'm really honest about it. It may work for a brief period of time but it doesn't last. The loneliness comes back.

So I started thinking about what it was that I really needed to do with these, or in these, periods of loneliness. Buddhist teachings tell me to sit through it. Don't pick up the phone, don't send out an email or a chat message or do anything to distract from those feelings. Just sit through them. Allow yourself to feel them. 

To say it's difficult to sit through them would be an extreme understatement. But I'm finding that by allowing myself to sit through the feelings I am better able to understand them and find their core. It's even sometimes productive in a creative sense because some of the world's greatest pieces of art have come from these dark spaces. Not that I've created any great piece of art, but the potential is there.

Of course, as someone who tends to read and research the things that are challenging, I did some online research on the subject of sitting through the loneliness. A couple of articles really stood out for me around this. One is over on Lion's Roar by Pema Chodron titled Six Kinds of Loneliness. I highly recommend reading it if this is something you've been thinking about yourself. The paragraph that really stood out for me is this one:
As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it.
Yes. We deserve something better than resolution. An open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.

Another article that I found fascinating is over on 2machines. The article is titled What Facebook is Doing to Your Brain Is Kind of Shocking. Honestly, I don't think it's all that shocking anymore, but there are a lot of valid points in the article. I also recommend watching the videos (not the smaller marketing videos - the other ones) embedded in the article. There are some interesting TED Talks and one video titled The Innovation of Loneliness.

What the author describes in the beginning of the article is something that I could have related with in the past. They are exactly the things that I would have done to make the loneliness go away. But, in the end I would have come to her conclusion, as well:
I have plenty of friends on Facebook and Twitter and close relationships with family and loved ones, but the barrage of chats, likes and tweets don’t do much to assuage that piercing, sharp sadness of loneliness. In fact, it makes me feel just a bit more forlorn. 
I'm really glad I've come away from this way of thinking about loneliness. I still have more practice to do, for sure. As painful as it is to sit through it, I think that in the end, I am grateful for it. 

How do you handle those moments of loneliness?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day Perspective

Throughout the day I thought a lot about my past romantic relationships and the path I've taken to be sitting where I am at the moment. Single and comfortable with it. "Have I really become more realistic about love or have I given up entirely?" was the question that continuously showed itself today.

As I sat here this evening contemplating a blog post around all of it I read about the passing of a dog that I met once. The tears began to flow and after sobbing over the loss of a wonderful dog and someone's greatest companion, suddenly the thoughts and contemplation seemed unimportant. Definitely not a priority.

Death and loss seems to put the past and the present into perspective. The past is something to learn from, for sure, but what's really important is right now, the present. The people in my life right now, my close friends and family - blood, adoptive and chosen - and the love that we share are what's important. I wish to spend the rest of my days loving them, helping them and watching them grow, live and find happiness.


"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama