MN soul mates
I understand so much more now than I did two years ago; not about me, but the other.

Too little, too late.

The pain is still fresh, though, and every piece of the puzzle falling into places rips the scab off and makes it hurt and bleed all over again.

Someone played this song in a professional seminar this afternoon. The seminar already stung hard with that kind of perspective, but this song... this song...

This song was a fresh knife-thrust into the corpse of my many, many mistakes. This song put into painful perspective the other side, something I'd always been too wrapped in my own pain to see, or hear. Music's always been able to reach me when nothing else does; or maybe it just took me two years of gritty, painful, detailed, intense, ongoing heavy-lifting and groundbreaking work to be *able* to hear it.

So many things I could say; none of them that I will. "I understand" doesn't cut it, and "I want to fix it" isn't welcome.

And so it goes. Again.

"You can have the gift of invisibility," she said as she passed her hands over my flesh, "but it comes with a price. Use it wisely, because every time you do, it will become harder and harder to come back from being invisible to being someone others will see, and someday you won't be able to come back at all."

"Ok," I said, shivering impatiently for her to finish the process and get on with it. How cool would it be, I imagined, to be able to come and go at whim as a whisper of air no-one could see? Think of the secrets and the giggles and the fun and the jokes and the information I could glean just from being able to pass among others in the world, them all unknowing?

It was fun, at first. I could pop out of nowhere and surprise or startle my friends and family. Then I would just drift along the streets sometimes behind strangers, eavesdropping on their conversations. I remember the first time I disappeared from my lover. It was after a fight, and I was angry. I didn't want him to find me, didn't want him to push at me, or ask me what was wrong. I didn't want to leave, so I just... vanished. I heard him calling after me in perplexity, then (perhaps sadly) he turned and walked away. That hurt in ways I hadn't imagined, and I wanted to call out after him... but I couldn't. I found myself stuck in that limbo space longer than I expected, and by the time I came back, the moment to go after him had passed.

The next time we fought, I vanished in anger again. Again, he tried to follow after me, but when he couldn't find where I had gone, and I couldn't unstick myself to touch him, the moment passed again and was long gone before I could make myself come back.

One day, in the heat of the worst argument yet, I vanished right in front of his eyes. I could see the exquisite hurt under the startlement and as much as I wanted to take it all back — the argument, the anger, the vanishing — I found myself at the end of the spell, when her words came back to haunt me: "Someday you won't be able to come back at all."

And there I was. Invisible one too many times, and now that we both knew the trick, I was trapped for good here. No way to reach across, to touch, to apologize, to heal. I had used the gift unwisely, spent it on frivolity and angry retreats in avoidance. Squandered, one might even say.

There was no way back from that place. It was cold and dark, and (almost) entirely of my own making. I was never going to be anything other than invisible now, and in time after the grief faded, even the desire for memory faded. I was not just invisible, I was gone.


2013 Throne Speech

2013: The Year I Said Yes to... well, almost everything, actually.
What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time I was in... a devastatingly dark place. How dark, only 2 or 3 people know for sure and even they weren’t brought into the loop until well after the fact.

2012 sucked so hard in so many ways that, in spite some not-insignificant highlights, it’s probably still topping the list for Worst Years Of My Life. The things I learned about myself were breath-taking in their scope and depth, their beauty and their atrociousness. Putting those broken and jumbled pieces back together into something resembling a wholesome and healthy human being was, however, completely beyond me. And during a harrowing, near-fatal few days of thinking and driving around Christmas last year, I reached the bottom of a rabbit hole so dark that even I knew something was wrong, something beyond simply being broken after losing something held so dearly close in my heart, something beyond simple being depressed, something beyond simply knowing it was going to be a long road home from that internal place... something was very, very, very wrong.

The challenge I gave myself at the outset of the year was that 2013 would be The Year I Said ‘YES’ to the Universe. It started with weaning completely off the beta-blockers I’d been taking most of the year to control migraines. Getting off the propranolol that may have been partly to blame for the events in 2012 may have saved my life, though, and that’s just the beginning of the rollercoaster ride that was 2013 as a result. Next was saying yes to an invitation from a Dora-award winning director to audit his production process on a new show, which necessitated living in Toronto 3.5 days a week for five weeks. I asked for, and received, a tremendous amount of support from my Tribe on that adventure, as they provided bedspace for me every weekend during that production.

I also had a small but surprising rapid influx of new clients in the practice, while working three days a week for NCR. In February I came perilously close to putting a production of my own into motion, before circumstances dictated that we could actually NOT put a mainstage-scale production together on less than ten weeks’ notice. March saw the end of my NCR contract after 15 months, an event over which nobody cried since NCR wasn’t renewing ANY of their contractors, and I *really* didn’t want to stay on that project anyway (something with a local team would have been fine, but I hated being the only Waterloo resource for teams based in India that regularly forgot I existed). I didn’t have another contract lined up, and the practice was nowhere near self-sufficient, so I spent the next six weeks doing some hard-core job hunting. There was another growth spurt in the practice, but still not to the point of self-sufficiency. April I filled with live music, useful errands, and hunting personal ghosts, before getting the interview at the end of the month that would change the shape of my world.

In May I accepted the Agricorp offer for a start date after mid-month. I started a flirtation that would upset a very delicate karmic balance across my world, saw more live music, and joined the psychologist’s network. I turned 46. I booked the consultation with Ben R for the Labyrinth. June saw the pressure cooker start to heat with another slow surge in clients, and a slow surge in the flirtation that should not have been, but was. I skipped out on Trillies for all the best wrong reasons, then spent almost two weeks trying to poison my liver on an experimental drinking binge that proved I can never be that kind of alcoholic. I might actually have been a little disappointed by that discovery, but only a little. Secrets were uncovered, and life moved on. By July my doctor was actively worrying about my blood iron and my body was starting to break down as the client roster grew again. In July Ben started the Labyrinth in a marathon 4.5 hour sitting, I did the staged reading of the script we did NOT mount as a full production, and I bugged out to discover the joys of doing Pennsic as a three day weekend (actually, really a lot of fun, but I don’t recommend doing it with a massive fresh tatt).

August was the month in which I spent most of my time actively convinced I was dying. I started out feeling generally under the weather, ran away to NYC for a stolen weekend of illicit delights, and came back feeling worse, the kind of worse that never got better but never went away. My blood iron levels really tanked, my doctor threatened me with bone marrow biopsies, and I argued her to a standstill on massive supplements and a waiting game. The end of November seemed impossibly far away, and my client roster was now consistently hitting 6-8 clients *per week*. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, the viral cold sore on my ear flared twice in a month. We didn’t know why I was sick. I was increasingly certain I wasn’t going to survive to the end of the month.

September arrived... and so did the clients. On top of a 38 hour, 5-day work week at the contract in Guelph, I was suddenly maxxing out my evening hours: 3 clients a night, 4 nights a week. I was up every morning at 6, at work in Guelph by 8 or shortly thereafter, leaving just before 4 to beat the traffic home by 4:30ish. Clients from 5-9ish, paperwork till 10 or later, then my own time to do needful things and unwind. If I was in bed before midnight on any given night, it was a minor miracle. That had been my schedule pretty much all summer (and every weekend on the road for *somewhere* or committed to weekend-long projects here). Looking at the calendar, the difference in the client schedule between June/July and August/September is pretty spectacular. And that pacing held on through the fall. September was also a month of endings; some expected, some surprising, all needful. Some of them even stuck; others... not so much.

In September I finally took the plunge I’d been contemplating for years, renouncing my SCA citizenship on this side of the border to swear my fealty to the Crown Below The Lakes. That was a pretty big deal for me. It was... complicated by a lot of factors. I also returned to the fet scene in Toronto and proved I could immerse myself without losing myself, something I hadn’t been so good with proving over the previous immersion. By October I was simply gritting my teeth and hanging on for dear life; the client work was wonderful, contract in Guelph quite enjoyable. The balancing act was still killing me, however, more literally than metaphorically. We’d been doing bi-weekly bloodwork since the spring and while the numbers had stopped dropping on my iron level, they weren’t recovering. “Iron deficiency anemia” was the current theory. Waiting games continued. In November the End Game clock started counting down to the end of the contract. I saw an ENT specialist who rediagnosed my recurring cold sore as shingles (I remain unconvinced). I was finally off the road after six straight months of road trip weekends, and promptly filled the time with overdue reacquainting social events, needful supervision, and useful chores.

The contract ended November 22. I was actually sad to say goodbye, for the first time ever. The following week, I hit all my benchmarks for the intended workload in the private practice, in a complete fluke of timing. So far December has been a wildly-random set of getting settled into simply being home so much, having time, catching up on long-overdue needful things, and trying to establish something resembling a new routine for myself. This is the month of Just Being. This is the month of Just ONE Career. This is the month of relearning how to sleep past 6am, and maybe even how to get more than 3-4 hours’ sleep on any given night. This is the month of not panicking over numbers. This is the first month of feeling not-stressed, not-avoiding, and not-depressed since the breakup in June 2012. It’s taken me forfuckingEVER to get here by the most circuitous and tortured routes possible, but sometimes I just can’t get somewhere any other way but my own way, because I won’t learn what I need to learn any other way. And this has been a year of uncomfortable, amazingly powerful, sometimes terrifying, always exhilarating, always exhausting, learning. Saying YES to the Universe was both the dumbest and most brilliant thing I have ever done, including finally reaching the point where I am letting go of the rings and giving myself over completely to the fall. This is the culmination of a six year plan, a lengthy transition that has cost me my marriage, several friendships, almost all of my lovers, possibly my physical health, and anything resembling security. Yet here I am, saying YES still, and trusting that even if the plan fails, there are always options; that was the whole point, after all: having options.

This is my second Christmas alone. Last year is best just left not-talked-about. This year I am content in my space alone with my cats and the simplest of family visits compressed in to the two main holiday days. There are people who will answer back if I call out, and people whose calls I will answer, and it’s enough to know where I am welcomed. There are alone moments, and lonely moments, but mostly there are quiet moments and still ones. These are the moments I need most desperately right now. Balance is less elusive now; it’s there more often than it’s not. There are just so *many* things hanging over my head from the past 6 months (or more) in abeyance that it’s not entirely the downtime I had envisioned while juggling the work-from-home complexities and an expanded client schedule.

Last year, it was all I could do not to check out. This year, I’m feeling like I know my space in the world, and I’m doing what I’m meant to be (or have chosen to be) doing. I don’t feel at all confident, and recently admitted to someone in the most vulnerably intimate conversation I have had in very long while that I am aware of being afraid of everything. But in learning to separate now the fear from the anger, I can sit with the fear separately, and let the anger dissipate. I am actively engaged with the process of letting go and experiencing groundlessness. I am content, and at moments even happy. This is so far and away different from 12 months ago that there are no words to encompass it. My life is heading off on a whole *new* adventure, with some new people potentially along for the ride, some friendships to renew or restore, others to re-evaluate and re-prioritize appropriate to their (in)active roles now in my life. There are things to do, people to see, books to read, projects to create, spaces and ideas to develop. The Labyrinth, symbol of the twisting and dog-legged path I cannot see but follow by gut-instinct and luck more often than not, has been the perfect symbol of this process and the perfect closure to the last 18 months’ worth of living and Life. Marker, map, and companion, all in one deeply- and dearly-etched lesson.

At the end of 2013, and all the wilderness adventures this year encompassed, I have discovered and hold these truths to be self-evident:
  • I’m only as alone as I choose to be.

  • There’s no place more terrifying than the inside of my own head.

  • I can be loved. I’m still going to struggle with trusting it, but the external flow didn't stop just because Matthew withdrew his.

  • I am capable of doing amazing, Herculean feats of personal strength when I have to. I maybe need to redefine “have to”, but it’s good to know what those limits look like.

  • There’s almost always a way out of the rabbit hole, even if sometimes it means digging down till you hit bedrock, then tunnelling sideways for a while.

  • Stay open to the Universe. It’s capable of leading you on some merry and marvellous journeys.

  • Getting the hell out of my own way is going to remain a challenge in my life.

  • Understanding the nature of balance and why I give it away so often is going to remain a bigger challenge.

  • Sometimes it’s worth an awful lot to answer a calling.

  • You can’t move on if you’re still clinging to an open door frame. Sometimes you just have to let go and close the door.

Some of the things that happened this year will haunt me for the rest of my life. They changed my fundamental understanding of the kind of person I will choose to be when circumstances permit, and also shed some important light on pieces of the puzzle that is my own inner workings. Self-awareness is both a great blessing, a great curse, and a great responsibility, all rolled into one messy, dripping package of experience. I'm not sure I would change a moment of it, though; coming through the rye, as it were, is what gets us to the far edge of the field. Sometimes you can go around the potential for lived experience; most times, though, the most powerful lessons come from coming *through* the experience, and not letting obstructions (sometimes even the ones that are there for a reason) stop you from learning what there is to learn about yourself.

What you then do with those learnings... well, that's another chapter entirely. 2014 will be the year we take what we've learned and figure out how to Make It All Work, whatever that means.

And so we close the lid on 2013 a little over 24 hours from now. This week, since I'm only officially working this afternoon, will be a good one for reflection on what this year has truly wrought in and for me, and starting to tease out the initial ideas of where to go from here. For today, however, I am content to be very much not-dead and all that entails as an improvement over last year. I am thankful beyond measure for those who were there for me this year in times of joy and times of backsliding darkness. I am at peace in a way I have not been for a very long time (and that I can write that over these holidays in particular is no small personal coup), if not entirely feeling balanced just yet. Some doors have closed, others have opened. It was a very transitional year, but always, relentlessly pushing to where I am right now. I am simplifying my life as a conscious, active process of measuring the values I have and carry with me, finding solutions to those needs I prioritize, and better ways of coping or exploring those places where the opacity in understanding is still something on which I trip. I am in a good place, and I am... happy.

I can think of no better way to end 2013, or open the door to 2014.

Reading between the lines, perhaps

On Friday, driving home from work in Guelph for the last time as my contract wrapped, I was struck by a peculiar thought I had not entertained previously. That thought, as I posted to FB after I got into downtown Kitchener ahead of the survival celebration at Imbibe, was,

"And unexpectedly, the thought from nowhere that slammed home like a steel blade through the gut, was the realisation that as of 4pm today, I am no longer A Writer, first and foremost. I have never *not been* A Writer. This thought, more than anything else in this transition, undoes me."

The response from people protesting a change in state they don't perceive any way but externally was a fascinating thing to watch because almost to a one, they denied and dismissed my perception and perspective. (Well, all except RA who messaged me privately with some very excellent questions of exploration; still challenging in tone, but a vastly different approach that I appreciated very much and have every intention of continue to ponder over the coming weeks of this transition.) But the truth is, while I will continue to write here as the whim takes me, I *have* in truth identified myself as A Writer because as much as I lived to write, I also wrote to live, and being paid to put words on paper/electrons was the validation of state that most professional writers operate by. Anyone can slap words on a shareable medium and announce themselves "writers" but without validation by someone beyond friends and family (who may be familialy-conditioned or predisposed towards saying nice things about our endeavours whether we're any good at them or not), and to a large extent without *paid* validation of a preferably-consistent kind, we're little more than poseurs.

Ask a professional photographer what it's like to have the conversation with someone who just bought their first digital camera and wants to know how quickly they can "go pro"... I have long since lost track of the number of times I've had similar conversations with people wanting to be Writers. I've tried submitting work to professional publications: anthologies and magazines for fiction, mostly, but stopped early on because I'm not disciplined enough to battle the rejections for the hope of not-enough recompense other than seeing my name in print. Technical writing became a reasonable outlet that paid something unheard-of for many writers: not just a living-wage salary but, thanks to the dot-com bubble in the 90s, a salary and benefits package that could at the upper levels of experience approach "absolutely luxurious". It wasn't the most exciting of writing opportunities, but it was a good one, and exercised most of the writing muscles while still leaving at least a little bit of breathing room for the less-disciplined creative spurts and the growing arena (for me, at least) of self-discovery writing.

That act of disciplined practice of one's craft is, to me, what turns feral talent into A Writer (a Capital-Letter Anything, actually). So when I wrote on Friday that I was losing my identity as A Writer *first and foremost* (the snippet that seemed to be something most respondents ignored or overlooked), what I perceived in my future was the loss of the disciplined practice of my craft. And before you ask, no, I have zero intentions of setting up a disciplined practice on my own any time in the coming months. Been there, tried that (multiple times), have zero inclination to set myself up for failure on that score again. It may be different in 6 months, a year, two years — there may be more inclination to leave space for a disciplined practice somewhere down the road, but for the forseeable future, my focus will be on developing as A Therapist. This is the fork in the path I have chosen. This is where my resources need to be aligned until I feel like the world is stabilizing on its new heading. I'll keep blogging, absolutely. I already know I can't currently maintain multiple blogs simultaneously, but not being A Writer with the bulk of my resources going to the discipline may also change that aspect in future as well.

For me: there will always be words. There will always be a fascination with language, how it flows, how its varying constructs can shift and evolve to provoke and prompt and jar. Language is a force for creating assonance and dissonance in both self and audience. I'll never (probably) lose that fascination with the nature and power of language. But without the disciplined purpose of exploring that fascination — or any of the multitudes of other things that fascinate me, even if the audiences for those explorations must by need be selected on increasingly-filtered parameters — then my self-identification as A Writer still falls to the wayside, by my own definitions of what constitutes being A Writer. Unchanneled and undisciplined, I resort to feral talent (and "talent" is a word thrown in for deliberate measure, in that "beauty in the eye of the beholder" sense) at best.

But at the core, writing is no longer *what I do first and foremost*. It will be, as this blog entry itself proves, something left to be crammed in around the edges of other things I do now, other things I am becoming. Nothing is left out of this transitional phase, including some very ancient and treasured aspects of my self-identity. But as part of the process of letting go and searching for those points of groundlessness that began even before Matthew left, letting go of this part of my Self is just one more place where the Universe has offered an open door to see what else there might be, what else *I* might be. Friday's realization came as a thrust to the gut, absolutely. One doesn't often get to confront solid perceptions of self identity very often, never mind only confronting them in the challenging act of being invited to release them. (Not that I haven't always been aware of self-identifying as A Writer, but as with most of any individual's perceptions of Self as labels, we don't sit with them consciously very often.) But the idea of releasing the disciplined aspect of the identity also means being free now to see what else I might want to do with it in future, how it might fit around shifting priorities and ideas and aspects in ascendancy now that have not been here before.

It's not that there won't be a grieving process; I went into Imbibe on Friday night grieving really quite heavily and was vastly coddled in the grief by not being alone. (Not that the subject came up; I made a point of keeping it to myself, and no-one else who might have seen the post before arrival brought it up either.) Yesterday was not a day for thinking about anything, and today I find the grief is at a low ebb with a much more prevalent sense of peace. Removal of a label, even one as deeply-threaded through my entire life as Writer has been, does not mean death of Self. There was a time when it would have been, like when I finally realized I could not take another pink rejection letter from a publisher because each one corroded my faith in my Self (as defined by that Writerly skill) to the point where if my writing was unacceptable, then *I* must be unacceptable as well. I'm pretty sure I've gotten over that; writing as a technical writer, I learned eventually to stop emotionally-investing my Self in my writing because the iterative review and edit process on technical matters I didn't always understand was enough to drive anyone under the wheels of the bus otherwise.

And so here I am on the cusp of being something that focuses on live, interpersonal communication: listening, reflecting, reframing. An entirely different manner of exploring narratives not my own, in which I expect being A Writer will work wholly in my favour in that sense, but not have the same outward expression as it has had in the past. And today at least, I find I'm okay with letting go of that label. Ceasing to be A Writer does not mean ceasing to write. It does connote a change of state in the form of that writing that in truth may not be apparent to anyone exposed to me largely through FB or LJ (words, words, WORDS). But in here where it counts, the difference is already being felt like old panelling being gingerly pried off older walls.

Things can change. Things even maybe should change from time to time.

Necessary and easy are two entirely different concepts however, especially when measured internally. In the end, as much as I appreciate everyone's rushing to defend the label or the person they may have perceived in distress from the tearing off of said label, sometimes a renovation of the Self is the best thing that happens to a person. Just because I didn't anticipate *this* curveball when I started the path, nor when I challenged myself at the outset of the year to say yes to the Universe and learn to get the hell out of my way, doesn't mean that letting go of the ancient labels isn't ultimately the right and needful thing to do for where I am right now, where I want to be... or where I may be going in spite of those first two things.

I am no longer A Writer, first and foremost.

I will continue to write. Someday, maybe something will come of it... and maybe nothing will. It's good either way, it really is. It's decidedly not who I need or want to be right now, and that is something I am, or will be, okay with — even on the days I will undoubtedly struggle with that change. I have other things to do now. And this is entirely as it needs to be. It would be nice if I could outgrow new jeans as slowly as I've outgrown this label, but... that much at least, was clearly NOT meant to be. And I'm (mostly) okay with that, too.

2am housekeeping

A long-overdue cleaning-out the FList of dead or inactive accounts, people I've stopped following (in some cases I've completely forgotten who the account owner even is) or who stopped following me, people with whom I either have zero interaction in general (here or otherwise), or with whom interaction is 100% elsewhere.

But in the long run...


I'm a big fan of technology bringing down the price of material goods when spot-manufacturing becomes a more accessible option, but the unexplored issue I've yet to see anyone talking about it this:

What are these units using as the production material? Most commonly, it's a type of plastic or polymner, yes?

Given how much of our landfill space is currently glutted by plastic, and pervasive, revolting photos show extensive damage done to the seas and sea-life by plastics drifting in massive patches, what happens to the rising tide of these custom-printed items when the plastics start to break down? When we have the technology to replicate on demand, what are we doing to think ahead to the disposal management process of this stuff inevitably and invariably breaking down?

I love the advances, but the process overall seems abysmally short-sighted in many critical ways. I like convenience, but not at the cost of plasticizing my planet or its lifeforms out of existence because we just didn't think this one through.

But they're awfully damned cute!

Testing out the LJ "Share" feature, which I have somehow never noticed before.

A propos of nothing, I have to admit I'm really tempted to have this done as a tatt, even if it flies in full contravention of the Fairy Raid calf wrap I'm still seriously considering having done at some indeterminate future point...

Originally posted by ursulav at Hell With It

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

different love
Normally I agree with a lot of what Andrea Zanin and Franklin Veaux (tacit) have to say about alternative lifestyles and how to make them work, but last winter I became aware of a growing trend among the "popular" poly writers to adopt what was coming across to me, at least, as a kind of dismissiveness or denigrative attitude toward those people in the poly community who apparently aren't doin' it right: the people who do need hierarchy or who do need security based in rules and predictable expectations because trust (for whatever reason) isn't solid enough or communications practices aren't robust enough, to more fluidly and gracefully adapt-on-the-fly to the inevitable relational issues that pop up no matter what kind of relationships we have.

At the time, I was also writing a semi-scholarly article for the BDSM world, by therapists for therapists dealing with consensual power-exchange relationship clients. Something that was in conceptual development during the writing of that book chapter that smacked me full in the face when I read Andrea's article, "The Problem with Polynormativity" back in late January, was an abrupt and unhappy realization that there is a seemingly-completely-unconscious position of privilege being developed by certain polyfolk that is leaving them apparently completely incapable of relating to the people who don't do things the way The Populists seem to keep espousing things should be done.

[In the spirit of full disclosure, for the readers who come to this article by way of channels disconnected from me personally, I'm a Marriage & Family Therapist. I'm also a professional writer. I've been kinky and poly all my life, though certain relationships have pursued monogamous paths because partners were not polyamorous. I didn't have a name for what I was doing for a long time, and in the days before the Internet, we kind of made things up as we went along. So in part because I'm not one of these young'uns trying to redefine everything by *their* standards, in part because I grew up in a maverick frontier age and I'm a little resentful of others judging me when they don't know me, and in part because I've got some serious insights into attachment theory and the non-tradition-relationship structure by experience and by training... I have some extremely strong opinions on this unsettling movement toward a "Poly Right" and a "Poly Wrong" schism...

...So of course, in creating a rebuttal, I'm probably bringing a shovel to the trench in preparation of widening that chasm, but in truth, I've pretty much had enough.]

Reddit picked up the Zanin blogpost and in the usual course of commentary, one poster, ejp1082, said something that hit home for the crux of my own issues with the Populists:
"Sure, it'd be nice if we could get more information and understanding out there that married couples with hierarchies isn't the be all and end all of poly. But the author borders on the offensive by attacking practitioners of this kind of poly as not practicing "real" poly, rather than faulting the mainstream for not finding other kinds of poly acceptable or as accessible. Especially when you quote "Your kink isn't my kink" and then proceed to ignore the meaning of that phrase."

In writing the BDSM article for Raven, I was working on applying some basics of attachment theory as a lens through which to approach power-exchange relationships. John Bowlby's original attachment theory posited four different types of attachments, studied first in young children then extrapolated out to en entire body of study with adults and children in the past few decades. Studies later added a fifth attachment style:

Subject: Uses core relationship(s) as a secure base for exploration. Protests a partner's departure but seeks proximity and is comforted on return, returning to exploration. May be comforted by others but shows clear preference for the [primary partner].
Partner: Responds appropriately, promptly and consistently to needs. Has successfully formed a secure attachment bond to the subject.

Subject: Clingy, unable to cope with absences of the partner. Seeks constant reassurances.
Partner: Excessively protective of the subject, and unable to allow risk-taking, and steps towards independence.

Subject: Few effective sharing skills. Little or no distress on departure, little or no visible response to return, ignoring or turning away with no effort to maintain contact if partner initiates contact or connection. Treats others similarly to the partner. The subject feels that there is no attachment; may be "rebellious" and has a lower self-image and self-esteem.
Partner: Little or no response to distressed subject. Discourages crying and encourages independence.

Subject: Unable to use partner relationship(s) as a secure base, seeking proximity before separation occurs. Distressed on separation with ambivalence, anger, reluctance to warm to partner and return to connection on the partner's return. Preoccupied with partner's availability, seeking contact but resisting angrily when it is achieved. Not easily calmed by others. In this relationship, the subject always feels anxious because the partner's availability is never consistent (or *perceived* to be inconsistent).
Partner: Inconsistent between appropriate and neglectful responses. Generally will only respond after increased attachment behavior from the subject.

Subject: Exhibits extreme behaviours on the partner's return such as freezing or rocking. Lack of coherent attachment strategy shown by contradictory, disoriented behaviours and body language (or potentially profound discontinuities between body language and verbal statements) such as approaching but with the back turned.
Partner: Frightened or frightening behaviour, intrusiveness, withdrawal, negativity, role confusion, incongruent communication errors and maltreatment. Potentially linked with forms of abusive interactions towards the subject.

[adapted from wikipedia.]

As a therapist dealing with relationships in crisis (mononormative and non-mononormative), I have the opportunity to watch a LOT Of power struggles manifesting in all kinds of relational structures by way of these attachment strategies. In reading people like Andrea and Franklin over the years, something became apparent when the proverbial shit hit the metaphorical fan last winter:

They're all writing from what appears to be an authorial position of secure attachments. Therefore, all their relational expectations seem firmly rooted in the idea that the right way to "Be Poly" is to *Be Secure" in one's attachments. And what hit me in the wake of reading Andrea's post while writing for Raven is that this assumption or expectation that of *course* we're all secure in our attachments and if we're not we're doing it all wrong, is the foundation of what I have come to refer to as "poly privilege".

Those who have that secure attachment base are now in a privileged position from which to judge those of us (and yes, I am very firmly in this category for a variety of reasons not intrinsically relevant to this post) who do NOT come from secure attachment backgrounds. And when I read articles like the one making the rounds this week, "How to Not Ruin Polyamory for Everybody in 6 Easy Steps", I just about lose my shit because the implication of "6 EASY STEPS" positively REEKS and OOZES that privileged position.

I work — EVERY PSYCHOTHERAPIST EVERYWHERE, IN THE HISTORY OF EVERYTHING WORKS — with people who, for a mind-boggling array of reasons, are not secure in their attachments. Perhaps having not grown up with secure attachments, we never had models from which to learn how to form them. Perhaps we had them at one point, but circumstances horribly, traumatically, even systematically destroyed those secure attachments. In my practice, because I work with the poly and kink communities, I see all these variations of insecurities play out ALL THE TIME. Only now that The Populists are making noises from their lofty privileged positions in the sanctity of their secure attachments, there is a seething, rising tide within the poly community that the folks who identify as polyamorous but who are NOT working from that privileged secure base, must therefore somehow be lesser, or doing it wrong, or failing.

In three years, I haven't had a single poly client in my office who did NOT give voice to a sense of guilt for failing to be what "all the common literature says I SHOULD" be.

I've been that client. I've been on my therapist's couch — hell, I've sat across from my partner on our own couch — feeling like a failure because I couldn't seem to get the hang of what everyone else was telling me I should be doing or feeling to "get it right". I beat myself up in my relationships the same way I watch my clients metaphorically flagellate themselves as failures... simply because THEY LACK THE PRIVILEGE THE POPULISTS ARE NOW TAKING FOR GRANTED.

And that toxic shit, my dear readers, is eating away at the community from the inside.

Polyamory ISN'T easy. MONOGAMY isn't easy. The bottom line is, for the vast majority of people I see and know and work with, RELATIONSHIPS, PERIOD, aren't easy. Populist bullshit like how to make anything work in "Six Easy Steps" is at its core, dangerously dismissive of an entire lived-experience that tells so many of us that there is no such thing for us as "secure attachment", and yet we are being barked at every day by those in a privileged position that because we don't have the privilege, we're doing something wrong. The most insulting component of the "Six Easy Steps" article, for example, is step number 6, endearingly and invitingly entitled: "Chill The Fuck Out".

Yeah... *YOU* try being suave and chill and downtempo when your whole world feels like its skittering on the edge of catastrophe every time you get into an emotionally-invested relationship because all of your anxieties, or your disorganized, distorted thinking patterns, are being kicked into high gear; because your lived-experience teaches you that anything you love, can break or be taken away from you and there won't be a fucking thing you can do about it, when the closer you get to having the intimacy you crave, the more terrified you become of losing it....


"Chill the fuck out."

Go right ahead. Because clearly if you can't manage that much, you're a failure (and the subtle but pervasive implication increasingly permeating the Populist articles , "...and maybe you shouldn't be poly").

The "Six Steps" author writes,
"Poly bragging and poly drama seem to just be … bigger coming from some people. When poly people feel whatever pressure they feel to trumpet about how great polyamory is, they also feel the need to be really angry at themselves when relationships don’t work out. Sometimes I wonder if the root of this behavior originates with feeling the need to be a poly ‘rep’ and to do everything right all of the time."

This isn't a behaviour restricted to polyfolk (well, okay; monogamists don't generally brag about how great monogamy is). But I'm pretty sure, from a lot of observation and my own lived experience, that it has sweet fuck all to do with being a rep of anything, and every damned thing to do with their own internalized attachment style and attachment issues. The "bragging"? Is par for the course in heavily-triggered anxious people: a drowning individual will cling, even self-destructively, to *anything* that looks like it might give them some hope and keep them afloat a little while longer, and if that means bolstering their opaque insecurities by saluting the Poly Flag, then maybe we need to look a little deeper at what's going on in their lived experience, rather than dismissing them because they can't Chill The Fuck Out like the Populists tell them they should.

Sometimes, what's happening isn't about "Ruining Poly For Everyone" (Jeezuz wept, people... really??). Sometimes, what's happening isn't about other people at all. It's about struggling to find a way to get our needs met in ways that ratchet up hidden anxieties with every step drawing us closer to what we think we need or want. In short, it's not about you, it's about me. And as a therapist working with this experience in other people almost daily, I can guarantee most people don't know that this culturally-pervasive issue is what's causing them to get in their own way; their own misery is about sitting in the fire of their own ancient anxieties, not about causing "inconvenient drahmah" to the Poly Populists who, from their privileged position of security, are finding themselves inconvenienced by other people's lived experiences.

Well, I'm sorry you're inconvenienced. I'm sorry you feel that other people's different mental states and coping skills don't equate tidily with the dismissive edict to Chill The Fuck Out. I'm sorry so many of us don't have the privilege of having grown up in, and grown into, the privilege of secure attachment models. I'm sorry that our best abilities to meet our own needs are something you feel compelled to write about dismissively from On High.

We're not privileged, like you are.

But we're not fucking broken either, so stop fucking dismissing us like we're pariahs on your dating radar. If this shit was *easy* EVERYBODY WOULD BE DOING IT, and as a therapist, I'd be out of a job. But because it's easy for a small but popular clique, the rest of us are being left to feel like failures who are missing something.

We are. We're missing the privilege of security.

But don't buy into the Populist mythologies. There ARE other ways of being poly, and if your attachment style needs hierarchy and rules and structure to help manage the attachment issues, then there ARE ways to make that work effectively. You're not wrong, or defective, or a failure, because you don't have the privileges others do. You're you, and your job is to be the best *YOU* you can be.

And in much the same way sometimes the best thing people can do is to stop reading beauty magazines that tell them they're ugly because they're not a size 2, maybe it's time the majority of the poly community stop reading the Populists if all we're internalizing is a massive cultural sense of failure because we don't meet those privileged conditions.

Don't get me wrong; I adore Andrea and Franklin and have had some great and challenging conversations directly with both of them.

But privilege makes us all blind, and sometimes, in that blindness, the messages they craft are just going to fly wide of a huge swath of their audience. Our job is to not buy into that message when it's clearly not right for us. Their privilege is not ours. Therefore, the messages written from that lofty but blind perch, are not for us.

Maybe someday they'll figure out how NOT to send the message that everyone not doing what they are (because so many of us simply *can't*), are somehow failing at "being poly". But until that day comes, maybe it's time to develop some new voices, ones who recognize and acknowledge that it's not the easy road for many of us, and that not finding things easy is not a sign of failure, or an indication that we should stop being poly. Comparing yourself to those in the privileged position isn't going to help the intrinsic anxieties of already-insecure attachments. Beating yourself up because you can't make it work like the Populists do, isn't helping anyone. Find your own path. Find effective ways of meeting your own needs. Do your own homework.

Don't buy into the bullshit that anything can be done in "Six Easy Steps". Relationships aren't that simple for a lot of us. Most *people* aren't that simple.

You're not wrong, you're not broken. You may be doing things ineffectively, but there are ways to work to fix the inefficiencies if you're so inclined to do so.

Don't sell yourself short because you lack the privilege of the Poly Populists.

Just be you.

And stop reading anyone who leaves you feeling like that's not good enough. (Even me.)

Letters Left Unsent and Things Left Unsaid


  1. Just because you no longer see the tidal surges still pulling me off centre, doesn't mean they're not there. I've just gotten much better at hiding them from YOU, because I got tired of YOU always assuming your role is to fix me. I stopped enjoying feeling like one of your Special Projects years ago. I may want to be rescued something fierce some days... just not by you.

  2. I'm glad you warned me to expect this. I'm glad you shaped those expectations early on, that the period of regular frequent contact we had in the early weeks was anomalous. Even with that perspective to work around, the last month has been hard between your project-focused distraction then your two weeks' vacation and now heading into your extended work trip. I'm glad I knew well in advance that there really wasn't going to be any space for me in your life, because that keeps me from being disappointed that you're not available. It doesn't spare me at all from the fact that I'm deep in the weeds somewhere I knew damned well I was heading, could have stopped myself from drifting into at pretty much any time, and am, in my own weird little way, wallowing in quite happily even now. At its root, this feeling has less to do with you and more to do with simply feeling really fucking *alive* for the first time in a year.

  3. There is absolutely nothing valiant or honouorable about any of this, and while I'm battling my own shame and self-loathing on a constant basis, missing you is like an increasing fire in my heart.

  4. Pleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyespleasesayyes.

  5. I wish I could get out of my own way long enough to talk to you. Never mind how desperately I want your perspective on a couple of important-right-now things, I think we could be really good friends if I wasn't so terrified of profoundly disappointing you that I throw up roadblocks faster than I can find ways to reach even a finger around them.

  6. I know you're not pleased about the growing distance. I spent four months last year actively balanced on the cutting edge of suicide. I'm sorry I allowed my inner stuff to take priority over your minor dramas and toxic backwashing, and that by the time I got my shit — well, not really together but in less dire straits at least — you had decided that if I wasn't available to be your mirror, you weren't willing to be my friend (or what passes for friend in your lexicon).

  7. You are becoming one of the bravest people I know, and that you've allowed me to take away the biggest crutch you have, teaches me volumes about what a breath-taking "leap of faith" can look like.

  8. I don't understand you, and I don't know why I trust you implicitly, but sometimes when my gut says, "You need to do this thing", I will actually shut up and listen. Thank you for not letting me either regret it, or shy away from it.

  9. Irrational or understandable or none of the above, on the innermost child's level I still hate you for abandoning me. I know why and I have exonerated you, but it's going to be a long time before I stop being so angry about it. And ashamed because I feel I deserved it.

  10. I sometimes wonder why I shied away from you. Yes, the age difference was a consideration, but in truth, you mostly fit the mold of men I have selected in life (on reflection, that's as much a damning statement as an encouragement; you've got all the hallmarks of "emotional unavailability" that *also* defines the men to whom I invariably gravitate). All of which is to say, I spend more time than I care to admit wondering about "What Might Have Been".

  11. We don't speak the same languages at all, but I honestly feel that in your own mysterious and inexplicable way, you love me truly, madly, deeply. It's not ever going to change any of the things that happened between us, but I believe that you care passionately, even if we've done everything but salt the earth between us. Civilizations have been destroyed for lesser loves. It gives me a certain amount of comfort to consider that notion... from a distance.

  12. I learned not to ask for what I want at an early age, because with two alcoholic parents, the odds of not getting what I wanted at all, or getting it in a format that was confusing/alarming/embarrassing/not really what I wanted made it safer to not ask. In time it became easier to convince myself that the things I wasn't asking for (because I was desperately afraid of the unpredictability of what would happen if I *did* ask) were things I didn't want or need. Of course, they *were* still things I desperately wanted/needed/craved, and it took me forever to realize that the more I needed or craved something, the *more* afraid I became of asking for it. The more you pushed me to need you, the more you kept hitting me over the head with my failure to meet your own needs, the deeper enmeshed in that terror I became; because if you could ask for those things from me that I wanted, how broken must I be that I could not ask for them for myself with you?? They weer all I ever wanted, all I ever craved, I just never knew *how* to ask, never mind how to trust that asking might ever possibly equate with getting what I was asking *for*. And it was too late before I understood how all of the failings on my side were intrinsically because of how MUCH I wanted to ask for, but never felt I deserved to ask for, and how much fear and shame roadblocked me into a place where all I could do was let that ancient wound go septic and toxic while I got unpredictably frustrated and angry. I still don't feel I deserve to ask for what I want, and every rejection feeds into the narrative that I really don't deserve to have the things that I want, because other people feel that I don't deserve those things either. That narrative is not your problem (certainly not anymore), but I'm aware of its erosive presence, and I am setting myself on a path to understand it and find a balancing point where there are other, positive validations to smooth that out. I really wish you were still around to be a part of that, but we can't go back and you chose not to go forward. I'm not sure there's space for more than one set of footprints on this path these days anyway... yeah, we'll go with that.

  13. You should have slept with me when you had the chance. I'm not saying it would have changed the decision you eventually made, but at least you would have made a more *informed* choice, and *maybe* saved yourself the world of pain you're in now.

  14. Your inability to manage your own demons and get your own shit in order is slowly destroying the love and lives of people around you. I don't know how to sit with you in the dark place where you are. Get help.

  15. I am very sorry I used you. I tried to be as honest and direct about what I was doing and why as I could be, and I still knew you were going to fall where I would not. But trying to wait me out was the wrong approach to take, even if it was genuinely intended. I could maybe have slammed that door a lot more softly than I did, and I'm very sorry for that, too.

  16. Of *course* it fucking hurt, you ignorant fucking moron.

  17. I know you said we are probably better off as friends and confidantes now than anything more complicated but... there's that.

  18. I honestly don't know what would happen if you and I ever took down that carefully-crafted safety barrier between us. But I'm pretty sure that if you ever put your hands on me, I will fall like a star in the first breath and the only negotiation will be, if I can articulate even that much, only "Yes, please". (File this one under, "Appetite for Destruction", please.)

  19. That we've never yet met in person doesn't change the fact that your insights over the years have been some of the brightest stars in my own journey. Thank you for taking the time to read and write what you have, as much the ones that have left me sobbing and eviscerated as the ones which make me dance naked in joy in the privacy of my living room.

  20. The only reason I might ever want to believe in the concept of Heaven, is so that I can justify believing in a concept of Hell as a place where you will spend the rest of eternity, rotting in agony.

  21. I don't remember your name, but I will remember you for introducing me to That Thing, and teaching me very patiently how relax and enjoy it.

  22. Here, read this phone book. No, no don't worry about taking your pants off. Just stand there and fucking read to me. This *IS* foreplay.

  23. You called my bluff when I needed it most, and opened the door to a path I could not have predicted had I tried. I really don't know that there is any way to convey that gratitude, other than to do my best to emulate that grace and compassion wherever I can. (Aside from maybe #20, above.)

  24. You have been my rock, my friend, my go-to, my cheerleader, my fallguy and I don't know how many other crazy and not-so-crazy roles for me over the years. I know we keep saying we're too much alike for any of that other stuff to have worked out over the long term, but I'm very glad we've done what we've done, and honestly wouldn't mind there being more of that.

  25. I'm still convinced that, had you asked me, I would have said yes.


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May 2014


Much Ado about Everything



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