Thursday, November 29, 2012

When Did You Know?

For several years I'd been behaving monogamously and these conversations didn't come up very much.  Now that I'm behaving polyamorously again, the conversations are happening.  As I regale my friends with my adventures in dating. I often get asked, "When did you know you were poly?"  The same happens with my dates, actually.

I've settled on a simple answer.  I didn't have these words then, but when I was 17 or 18 I knew I didn't want to get married; I knew I didn't want to be tied down to one man.  In truth, though, the answer isn't so simple.

I had some very specific reasons I didn't want to get married.  I wanted to date, and I wanted to experience sex with more than one person.  That sure sounds like a polyamorous mind.  I also didn't want to marry because the example I had was my mom's marriage to my stepfather.  She cooked his meals (or us kids did) and waited on him, bringing him everything he needed while he stood at the bar or sat on the couch.  He never seemed to do something for her, and he was abusive towards us kids, me especially.  My mom was a good mom, but this man had her blinded.  I was never going to put myself in that position.

Now as an adult, and having witnessed some of the dynamics of dominant/ submissive relationships, and having experienced some submissive tendencies in my own self, I can understand the appeal this relationship had for my mom.  It actually gives her more culpability in the abuse than I used to assign to her in the past. As enticing as those dom/sub dynamics might be, I can also see how there can be a dangerously fuzzy line between abuse and sexual preference.  Just as an example, I witnessed a conversation on facebook in which a friend had been defriended because a dom told the sub to do so.  From my crisis line days, I know limiting contact with friends is a yellow flag indicating possible abuse. To the dom/ sub people, this is something doms might do.

I wanted to avoid the unequal dynamic of marriage, but life intervened.  My college boyfriend became my boyfriend because that's how things happened.  Theoretically an open relationship, people still saw us as boyfriend and girlfriend, and most weren't inclined to come between at my small college. Our default understanding of relationship was also monogamous, and while I had a few other encounters then, the longer we were together, the more this became the expected thing.  When it came closer to a time to part, his graduation, I tried to find ways to end it, poorly, as can be expected I suppose of the early twenties.

Habit, fear, and some bit of love kept us together and we got married, moved to Portland. Theoretically still open, I behaved monogamously, and encouraged him to seek sex with others. He did, a little, but felt guilt-ridden after, even though I had no qualms about it, even found it intriguing. He was the monogamous-minded one.

Those were the years of intensive spiritual practice for me.  I've always been adventurous sexually, but I wasn't as interested in it as often as he was.  I thought it was because my spiritual energy was taking front seat.  I even got that notion from a book by Thich Nhat Hanh.  Now I have to wonder at taking advice from a celibate on sexual matters.  Perhaps it should at least be balanced out by advice from a sex therapist.


It turned out because of that spiritual practice I opened to the possibility of my being bisexual. I was 27 by this time.  For my husband, the possibility of my having a female lover was acceptable. (Anyone surprised by that?)  Cultivating this notion, I opened up to looking at women in a new way.  Who was I attracted to?  That opened the gates, and I didn't just start noticing the women, I started noticing the men.  In hindsight, I now know it wasn't that spiritual energy was my focus, it was that I had shut down a good portion of my sexual energy subconsciously to protect the monogamous relationship.

What a blessing it was when I met my sweetie and we confessed we both wanted to try an open relationship.  We still didn't know much.  We discovered it might be best to behave monogamously for a while, while still in the throes of new love.  Later we, or I, rather, gained confidence when we met others who were making a go of this (new word) polyamory. I learned that while my original 18 year old impulse not to be monogamous was about not being tied down, that in my thirties I could really love more than one person, and it would not harm my love, only expand it.

It seems as though I uncovered a natural predilection.  Once I love, I will always love, even when other loves come along. On the other hand, I have become the person I am through my experiences, and through a steadfast life of reflection and mindfulness. I have found I shape who I am through my choices.  Dan Savage says non-monogamy is not a sexual orientation. Many poly folks say it is.   (Found via the facebook feed of Modern Poly.)

I think I say it is both-and.  I may push some buttons, but I'm going to say it, even the usual notions sexual orientation may be both something we're born with and a choice.  For some people, it is clearly something they're born to.  I myself, if I had never left Wisconsin, might still be totally straight.  My experiences in Santa Fe and in Portland allowed me to turn on the switch so now I am consciously bisexual. I now am consciously polyamorous. Even while behaving monogamously these past few years, I still identified as polyamorous, and I know I could never revert.  I have too many loves in my heart, whether active or inactive, that if I were to revert, would be killed.  I am still more straight than gay, but I know if I cultivated more female lovers, I would find more women attractive and I would slide over on the spectrum closer to gay.  Thoughts and behaviors change the mind.

I have friends who, while single, have been very friendly to the notion of polyamory, even considered themselves polyamorous.  Then they meet someone, fall in love, and choose the monogamous route.  They shrug, and are happy to love the one they're with.  Dan Savage is right, this is something we can choose.  Franklin Veaux is also right, that some of us could never be content with a monogamous life, could never be who we feel we are meant to be.  Internally I shake my head at these friends.  New love settles, and then, if you are normally inclined to be not-monogamous, you might find yourself unhappy and not knowing why.  On the other hand, you might be wise enough in the ways of self to steer yourself always toward happiness with this one, or perhaps you really are more of a monogamous bent.

So when did I know?  When I had the words and the notion that it was possible, which was really only about a dozen or fifteen years ago.  But also when I had the predilection, which was perhaps as soon as I became sexually aware.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Psyche and Eros Part 1: Extended Journey

Fifteen years ago, I was side-swiped by love. Looking back to see whether I'd written about this before, I found my little series from five years ago: This Space of Love.  I was a bit surprised at myself...I wrote that?!  There's some pretty good stuff there. Not long after finding myself on this weepy roller-coaster of unrequited love at the age of thirty, I came across a book while shelving as a page at the library. This ranks right up there with the top five cases of serendipity in my life.  Incidentally, that weepy unrequited love sent me into a depression, and it was some casual sex that pulled me out of it, thus my current strategy of seeking closer encounters now.

She: Understanding Feminine PsychologyThat book, She: Understanding Feminine Psychology, has been a presence in my life ever since.  At that time, it sure helped to learn that there was no avoiding the heartbreak, even if I had ended up with that person. There must be a period of individuation, where I find myself and I busy myself with tasks of the hands that occupy my mind a little, but aren't too complex.  I spent a lot of time that year folding origami.  In the time following, I recognized that I wouldn't have fallen in love if I hadn't been ready for that.  The author informed me not everyone experiences this transformative love, that a grandmother could still be 'virginal' in her psychological love framework.

Consequent to my experiences, I have said many times it is my hypothesis that love isn't about soul mates, but about people coming together at the right time, sometimes the wrong people, but one or both is ripe for falling in love. And then when one does, there's a good likelihood one will go through the mythical archetype of Eros and Psyche.  I'm glad to see Robert A Johnson's books on He and She are both available on Kindle. I'd like to read the one, and revisit the other, but not yet.

First, I'd like to explore the myth to find my own understanding, and find the telling of the myth in my own life. There's a pair of poems brewing, too.  Then, maybe I'll get to those very short books, and do some more exploration. Philip Pullman said in the introduction of his new book:

The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep to one version or one translation alone is to put a robin redbreast in a cage.  ...You are at perfect liberty to invent other're not only at liberty to do so: you have a positive duty to make the story your own. A fairy tale is not a text.
The same, I'm sure, applies to myths.  I found several versions of these gods' story, linking to one in my last post.  I like this person's version, as it has the most details that I remember from my first encounter. Here are parts one, two, three, and four. She also has some great analysis, but again, I want to find my own way first. (Let me tell you, the new Send to Kindle toolbar button is my new best friend for extended web reading.)

Found here
At the age of thirty, once I was on that mythic journey of Eros and Psyche, my psyche wasn't going to be finished until I found that love. I think. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't found a beloved.  Happily, I found it in my third love, my life-long sweetie I live with today. Funny thing, Important Conclusions happen in threes in those archetypal fairy tales as well. He was the Eros that did not run away.

First I'd like to capture the story in a few plot lines.  Then I may examine those plot lines more deeply, but I may be impatient and get to work on the pair of poems.  I may have mentioned in the past I am only occasionally a poet.  I don't really try to make poems happen, but sometimes poems insist they happen and I become a poet.  This is a case where I foresee a lot of groundwork happening before I can even write the poems, and may well be the most complex poems I will have written.

The Story of Eros and Psyche

  1. Psyche is so beautiful that people compare her to Aphrodite and neglect the temples of the Goddess of Love.  The Goddess of Love is pissed.
  2. Aphrodite seeks vengeance, and solicits the help of her son, Eros.
  3. Meanwhile, Psyche's parents seek the advice of the oracle of Apollo (God of Music, Light, and Reason) and learn Psyche is destined to marry no mortal.
  4. Psyche is sent to a mountain as a bride to her unknown, scary bridegroom
  5. Eros is taken by her beauty, and (oops, how'd that happen?) pricks himself with his own arrow.  He has a God of Wind carry her to his palace.
  6. Psyche finds incredible riches in her new palatial home, and voices that inform her that they will meet her every need.
  7. Her new husband visits her only at night, a very pleasurable recurring event. 
  8. But during the day she becomes lonely and bored. She pleas with her husband to have her sisters brought to visit. She has become pregnant and wants to share her joy. Eros warns her that no good would come from such a visit.
  9. Her sisters are somewhat jealous of Psyche's wealth. They raise concerns about the unseen husband, that he could be a monster, and the neighbors say he is a monstrous serpent. (ha!) Psyche protests he is good and kind, but  she also has doubts. The sisters convince her to take a lamp and a knife to her marriage bed, and if he is a monster, she should cut off his head.
  10. Psyche lifts her lamp, and sees the divine. 
  11. Psyche pricks herself on one of his arrows, and falls in love with Love.
  12. Lamp oil burns Eros, and he sees betrayal and mistrust. He leaves her. She is disconsolate.
  13. Psyche wanders in search of her husband. She comes upon a magnificent temple and hopes to find her love. It is a temple to Demeter (Goddess of Fertility, Grain, and Agriculture). Psyche sorts and arranges the food offerings. Demeter cannot help her, but advises Psyche make amends with Aphrodite.
  14. Aphrodite sends Psyche on four impossible tasks, and with each task, Psyche weeps, and receives help: ants help with sorting grain; the reeds advise her on gathering golden fleece; the eagle of Zeus fetches her water from the river of life; and a voice from the tower she climbs to throw herself off advises her on the trip to the underworld to fetch a drop of Persephone's beauty. Another version has Eros secretly helping these along. 
  15. Returning from the underworld, Psyche realizes she looks bedraggled and fatigued with pregnancy. She opens the box for a bit of that beauty and a mist envelopes her, putting her to sleep.
  16. Eros finally comes along, and gathers up the mist and returns it to the box, and revives Psyche.
  17. Eros takes her to Olympus and Zeus makes her immortal as a wedding gift. Aphrodite is fine with that, as Psyche will no longer be on earth seducing mortals away from her.
Next I want to revisit the neuro-chemicals of love, and see how that fits with the story.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Adventures in Dating

The good news is that my campaign to lift myself out of depression is working.  That bad news is that it is keeping me too busy to find time to write, though I have been percolating with ideas, and that wasn't happening when I was depressed. I've also been too busy to read so much. As a bonus, I've found that I want to be more active...and here I was beating myself up for not being active enough, with that inactivity affecting my health.  It proves once again my hypothesis if everything is working the way it should, we will do what is right for our bodies.  I was depressed, and didn't feel like getting out and moving.  In fact, it could hurt more, aches and pains, getting older. Not so depressed, there is lightness in my step, and I feel invigorated rather than fatigued.  So the lesson once again is, rather than place the blame on laziness, look for the reasons underlying the symptom.
Mondrian's Composition in Brown and Gray
Mondrian's Composition in Brown and Gray
Just the knowledge that I've been depressed helped me lift myself out, some.  Thanks to my Buddhist training, I have the skill to catch a thought at its inception (sometimes) and when I could catch that thought, I could also make a choice.  I would say to myself, "Oh, there's that depressed impulse again. I don't need to fall into it."  And I would look up, rather than hunker down in. Let me say that I don't think people who are ill can just decide not to be sick, and people with depression can just decide not to be depressed.  In my case, I am not naturally prone to depression, and I don't think I was severely depressed, though it must have been going on for a long time. With this awareness, I could steer myself toward my more natural positive state of mind.

The other main action has been my adventures in dating.  I can't count the ways I am grateful for my relationship with my sweetie, nor can words say how deeply I love him.  I believe our freedom makes this deep love possible.  We are a lot of things to each other, but we don't have to provide everything the other wants or likes, nor do we expect it from each other. I have no reason to be resentful or disappointed, and I'm not.  He loves me even though I'm a pack rat and leave messy habitats wherever I go!  When has a couple been evenly matched on how often they want to have sex? When have they been interested in the same exact things? What we do expect is honesty and consideration; these are the signs our relationship is healthy. On my adventures in dating, I have the freedom to seek what I need with the comfort of knowing my existing love will not be torn apart.

Just as an aside, I learned a few things about this particular scene.  One thing, online dating is the thing for us fat women.  All I have to do is wait, and those who are looking for someone exactly like me come and find me.  I don't have to approach only to be rejected.  They find me!  Another thing, there are a lot of way younger guys who are looking for older, large women.  What's up with that?  I was talking to another quite bosomy woman who is thirty-three. (I, if you haven't been keeping up, am forty-five.)  We were comparing our experiences with online dating. She said she seems to attract older, creepy guys. I said I too have had interest from some older guys, but have been surprised by how many younger men are interested in me, and not just geek boys (who are sexy) but fit, athletic guys.  Just that alone patches up a whole bunch of tears in self-esteem that might still exist from years of being considered too fat to be sexy.  When I said she should go to the site I'm using, she said, "Oh, I'm too young."  They might be twenty, but these particular guys are looking for me, not her.  Baffling, but hey! I'm not looking for that much younger, but I'll give them a chance.

Another thing learned, sexting is the thing they're into.  Instead of talking on the phone and getting excited, or chatting online, they're looking for sexy texting.  Oh, that is hard on my thumbs.  And then sometimes it turns out that's all they are looking for, and when it comes time to actually meet me in person, they turn into flakes. Hmmm.   Finally, I've learned it's a little suspicious if they don't post a photo as part of their profile...could be a sign of cheating.  This is the thing that's difficult to navigate.  I don't want to poach, so the ones who are honest are left to continue suffering, but the liars get to cheat all they want until their actions start to reveal their secrets.  I feel for the honest ones, I do...they aren't getting what they need, and they don't see a way to find it in their existing relationship. They still love, but don't know how to fix what's broken. I think the sexting without follow-through may be related to this, that these guys are seeking stimulation without it seeming to be cheating.

If you're reading, you who don't want to be cheating dogs, you need to be brave and talk to her. Tell her what you've always wanted and haven't been able to find with her, but that you love her. And that you want her to have a way to find what she's always wanted too.  We always change, all of us, and our needs change, while our love remains.  Yes, the monogamist way is often to break it off, to allow the love to wither, and to seek the next monogamous partner that newly meets our needs. Or to cheat. Sometimes, and this has to be very hard, steer the changes together so that the two still mesh.  Sometimes this is possible, many loves, to seek new loves, or simply to date, while consciously nurturing this love you've dedicated so much of your life to.  How could you tear it apart? You could be surprised. If you are careful, and considerate, and take it slowly, you could find what you're looking for and keep what you have.

Psyche looks upon the divine Eros
I've found those endorphins I needed. I found that boosts to the ego sure help lift depression as well.  I've had some awkward encounters, some nice encounters, some really hot encounters, and one very profound encounter. At the time I told him I felt we touched a bit of heaven.  Later I told him I felt the act we shared opened a gateway and returned a piece of me to me, and it was a sacred moment.  All these encounters helped with endorphins, but this one, I think, brought the healing I needed.  Then, of course, I struggled with attaching to that and falling a little bit in could I not?  Classic Eros and Psyche. (That's another writing project.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I can't believe I'm doing this, writing about elections on election day.  I've avoided just about all election coverage I could.  No, I didn't watch any of the debates.  Why would I want to see someone I would like to do better, and another that just about makes me sick to watch, when I knew I was voting for not-that-guy?  (Though I was particularly proud of my book groupies who wanted to come to the October book group and also wanted to watch one of those debates, and someone shared that it would be on hulu, so they all came to the book group and learned how to find it on hulu.)

So no, I don't know what inspiring things Obama has been saying, things that I now would not entirely trust. I hold a little hope that if he does win, that is if the election isn't stolen from him, that he could bring about some more of the changes he promised last time, such as withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and bring about more substantial change to the changes he has made, such a more universal health care. (now I better finish before it is all decided before our polls close here in Oregon)

What I really came here to say is that I've been enjoying reading John Adams by David McCullough for our November book group during this election season.  While people I know have been grousing about our lack of true democracy in our nation on Facebook, I've been reading about the birth of our nation.

At home, [Adams] filled pages of his journal with observations on government and freedom, “notes for an oration at Braintree,” as he labeled them, though the oration appears never to have been delivered. Government is nothing more than the combined force of society, or the united power of the multitude, for the peace, order, safety, good and happiness of the people. . . . There is no king or queen bee distinguished from all others, by size or figure or beauty and variety of colors, in the human hive. No man has yet produced any revelation from heaven in his favor, any divine communication to govern his fellow men. Nature throws us all into the world equal and alike. . . . The preservation of liberty depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the people. As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved. . . . Ambition is one of the more ungovernable passions of the human heart. The love of power is insatiable and uncontrollable. . . . There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.   Part I, Chapter One, Section II, p. 55
 One of those friends asked why someone would want to become president, as they clearly age 20 years while in office, and yet, they turn around and do it again.  Talk ensued of attraction to power, of narcissism, etc.  Our manner of elections encourage this at almost all levels.  If a person enters the political arena from ideals, and a pretty good moral compass, it is difficult to retain authenticity and honor.  Good people often don't wish to taint their own moral ground by getting involved in politics. They effect change close to home, in non-governmental ways.

I got involved in the peace efforts thinking I acted not politically, but from the heart.  I felt a visceral response to someone calling it political action, but I had to realize, that is what taking it to the streets is.  It is political to vote. It is political to withhold a vote.  It is political to speak up about how the system stinks.  It is political to organize a permitted rally and march.  As soon as I have an intent to change someone's mind about how this society works together, it is political, no matter that it comes from the deepest faith in love from my heart.  In this we are all thrust "into the world equal and alike."

As I read McCullough's book, I am admiring John Adams because he did not get into politics for personal power. It is clear he got involved due to love of his homeland.  He did things he did not want to do, such as act as a Minister in Europe, first in France, then to the Dutch, then in Britain.  He was seven years away from his beloved wife, who finally joined him after her first dreaded Atlantic voyage. He did this to his own financial detriment, and often wasn't even thanked by the congress. His political action was from his heart.

I would like to have some choice. I would like to feel I live in a true democracy. We need to find a more effective way for our nation to reflect the "united power of the multitude." We need:
  1. Election day to be a national holiday. (duh)
  2. We need to consider individual voters innocent of fraud until proven all those laws that prevent individuals from voting need to be rescinded, such as having to prove themselves with ID.
  3. We need to have equal access.  Thus there has to be enough places and equipment so people don't have to wait to vote, or have to prove they have the right to vote, or have to lose a job to take the time to vote.  People need to be able to register the same day they wish to vote.
  4. We need to prevent election tampering, and that means getting corporations with agendas out of the business.  It is currently much easier for one person to affect wide ranges of votes with a single machine, than it is for one voter to do something fraudulent.
  5. We need to have a choice, and by that I mean we need to be able to vote for more than two nominally polarized candidates. We need preferential or ranked choice voting, or instant run-off voting.  Or something as democratic.  So I could vote for my true choice, as well as vote for not-that-guy. I could vote for the woman who is not paid for by the corporations.
Have I forgotten something?  Please add to my list.