Category: All About Me


So, as-you-know-bob, I’ve been working on reconnecting with my sexuality for the better part of the past year.
That work is ongoing, and feels like it’s going well. There’s been a LOT of chakra-related energy work going on, which I continue to find very effective. I’ve recently been (re?-)introduced to the link between my second chakra (desires, boundaries, connections, exchanges, etc) and my fifth chakra (voice, truth, communication… and a lot of other Suit Of Air stuff, as it happens).
I’ve also – very recently – started working on another second chakra Thing, which is money.
 
Seriously, folks, this is even harder to talk about than sex stuff, which I at least have experience talking about after running this blog for approaching a decade.
I’m reading a bunch of “psychology of wealth” books and I’m telling you they are a mixed bag and, to one extent or another, they’ve all pushed my buttons, rubbed me the wrong way, or made my skin crawl.
Which is, tbh, as much a desperate disclaimer and/or a plea to readers not to Get Mad At Me for wanting not to be broke all the time anymore, as it is a statement of fact about how I’m reacting to what I’m reading and/or a telling look at what a lot of my “money mindset blocks” are built around.
 
But something that I’m noticing is that a lot of the stuff – the mental/emotional blocks and tendencies towards self-sabotage – that gets talked about, across this small sample of a board I’ve got going on, when it comes to money stuff are things that also turn up in books and blogs and self-help-videos about sexual empowerment AND about relationship/attachment trauma.
And that is something that I find fascinating, surprising-but-also-not-surprising-at-all, and pretty useful and relevant in terms of how I go about doing this work.
 
These connections – the stuff around shame and worthiness/unworthiness, the stuff around learning unhelpful coping mechanisms in childhood, the stuff around trust and fear – remind me of the various things I’ve heard fellow sexworkers say (and read them write) about the kinds of relationships they have with money. Stuff like this piece by Kitty Stryker or articles in $pread Magazine about calculating your rates, or about how “Everyone asks about my relationship with men, nobody asks about my relationship with money”. My own experiences earning a lot of cash in a short number of hours doing various kinds of fetish work, and the GLEE and freedom I felt doing so.
 
I can’t help seeing the connections between, say the way temp work and retail work consistently involve being undervalued (under-paid, but also treated as disposable and intentionally kept on limited and unpredictable hours) and the low self-worth that comes with it[1] versus the feelings of confidence, joy, self-worth, and personal power that come with making $120 for letting someone lick my shoes or spend half an hour as my footstool, or earning my rent by spending a few hours allowing someone the privilege of filming themselves giving me a make-believe gyno exam.
 
My Notice Pleasure Project, as well as very nearly ALL of the therapy and life-coaching I’ve had, is SO MUCH about learning how to have good boundaries, how to voice my desires, how to allow my Self and my desires to take up space (rather than making myself smaller and smaller, more and more invisible in the hopes that a starvation diet will start to feel like enough), how to say No to what doesn’t feed me, or doesn’t feed me enough, so that I can make room for the great, big, enthusiastic YES that comes for that which DOES feed me, fill me, fulfill me.
 
I felt ashamed of my sexual desires when my partners seemed to be avoiding and rejecting me.
I felt ashamed of my emotional and relational needs when the people I was involved with were emotionally unavailable or unwilling/unable to offer me mutuality in our relationships.
 
I don’t feel shame in sexually desiring my partners when my partners share and reflect that desire.
I don’t feel shame around asking for companionship and emotional intimacy when my partners are emotionally available to, and supportive of, me.
 
So it makes sense that I also feel ashamed of wanting better-than-poverty wages, of wanting my work, my time, and my considerable skills to be valued and well-compensated, when my clients and employers are actively trying to underpay and undervalue me. (See also: this whole cartoon from Eat The Rich Comic).
It makes sense that I wouldn’t feel shame about wanting my time, work, and skills to be valued and well-compensated when they’re already being valued and well-compensated.
 
Two and a half years ago, the Ask a Feelings-Witch column at GUTS Magazine received a letter from someone asking how to heal the mental disconnect they had between “wealth” (actual cash money) and “abundance” (friendship, skill-sets, sharing).
It was me. I wrote that letter.
I wrote that letter dripping with disgust and self-loathing.
When I read the response, back when it was first published, it took me a couple of tries to even be able to read it all the way through.
Fast-forward to now and, while I now have to remind myself that when someone who is (as of about six months after that article went up) a professional therapist – and as such, even with offering sliding scale rates, is still making more money per hour than I’ve personally been paid anywhere outside of sexwork – says “It is okay to want, wish for, hope for, and like money. I’m not sure I feel like there is an ethical justification for holding onto fistfulls of it[…]”, they are speaking from the position of easily making 2-5 times as much as you have ever made in a given year, and so means something different when they say “fist-fulls” than when you say it. They probably DON’T mean “It’s okay to want money, just not as much as I’m making” OR “You, Ms Syren, do not deserve nice things” …even though that’s often how I hear it.
 
Anyway. I’m going to re-read that answer, now that I’m in a headspace that’s more able to even consider this stuff, see if I can get more use of it, and see if there are any points of commonality with it and this second chakra stuff about boundaries and self-worth that I’m chewing on right now.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] When I switched from part-time retail to “full-time” temp work (full-time multi-month minimum-wage contracts, but with weeks of unemployment between contracts), the part of my contract that said “You have to submit your time sheet by X day or you won’t be paid on the next week’s payday”… I literally thought they meant they just wouldn’t pay me – like at all – for that week’s work.
That was how high my expectation of abuse was by that point[2]. And I literally just sighed, thought “Fine, whatever”, and signed the papers.
I’m happy (and relieved) to report that I haven’t felt that worthless in more than a decade. But, ye gods, what a pit that’s been to climb out of. O.O
 
[2] I was, at that point, in an abusive home relationship too, which was part of it, but still.

Relevant to my Notice Pleasure Project.

Captain Awkward

This piece written by Cass Ball is great.

And you can safely replace “20s” with “any part of adulthood.”

Now’s the part where I physically restrain myself from quoting the entire thing:

“When I’m coming from a place of scarcity, a place where everything feels like it isn’t enough,I often feel that I’m insufficient without more experience, and therefore at risk of lowering my boundaries and putting myself in unsafe situations. Ironically, feeling like I’m “too much,” like my needs are a burden, is also a form of scarcity: it indicates that I don’t think I’m worthy of my needs being met. When I’m approaching sex from a place of abundance, I can value my needs and feel that they’re just right, and I therefore can communicate both pleasure and boundaries with equal confidence and clarity. Coming from a place of abundance means that I can be with another person…

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Dreaming Accountability

we carry each other

This is beautiful.

Sex Geek

killing patient zero

I just wanna tell a little story about a thing that happened during today’s HotDocs screening of the documentary Killing Patient Zero at Hart House. It’s not about the film exactly, except that it kind of is.

(The film is a devastating doc that thoroughly debunks the myth about Gaetan Dugas, supposed original spreader of HIV/AIDS. It’s kind to every source; it carefully investigates history and exonerates a man who in fact helped doctors figure out that “gay cancer” was indeed an STI. SEE IT.)

So it’s a packed house. Heavily gay / queer audience, by my read, not surprisingly. The film is about halfway through. Suddenly a woman’s voice rises in the middle of the theatre. Calling out a man’s name in increasing panic. “Are you okay? Are you okay? OMG, somebody call 911!”

Murmurs in the crowd. Lights go up, film stops. There’s a flurry of activity. Staff…

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Handy! And I’ll be blogging about my own related experiences shortly, so here’s some pre-reading, if you will. 😉

Let's Queer Things Up!

I’ve learned in life that when you observe a pattern about yourself, it might be worth examining (okay, this is an understatement — I can pretty much guarantee you that you’ll come out wiser).

One of my big “aha” moments this year was around a relationship pattern that I hadn’t noticed before. I realized that I’m a people-pleaser.

Being liked by others, especially in my personal life, came at the expense of voicing my true feelings and needs. It was more important to be liked than it was to have relationships that felt honest and nourishing.

And it’s a lonely place to be — it can feel like no one knows your true feelings or self, and that you are secondary in relationships that should feel equal. Unsurprisingly, this can lead to a hell of a lot of resentment.

And thus… a pattern emerged.

My favorite kind of person to…

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So… it’s been a few days, and maybe you’re picking up on this whole Alphabetical Prompts Series that I’ve been doing.
It’s a series of my own devising, so the “alphabet” part, while handy, is meant more as a jumping off point than a requirement. Not every single thing is going to have a sequentially alphabetical subject line (which should help me avoid awkward titles where I try to shoe-horn an “X” in there, or similar).
As it happens, the main goal of these posts is the “notice pleasure” portion at the bottom of them, and the rest is more of an excuse to make this a regular/semi-scheduled kind of thing.
 
See. I know (this is more Brené Brown) that one way to develop shame-resilience[1] is to practice gratitude around the areas where you feel that shame. So I thought, “Oh, hey. I have a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge vat of shame around sex stuff”. Just massive heaps of “I’m not worthy” and “I’m so bad at this” and “Stop pestering people” and “I’m a bad lover” and all the rest of that crap. And it gets in the damn way when I’m trying to do things.
Things like flirting, or getting fisted, or getting off with a partner, or initiating sex, or whatever. It gets in the way, and I get kind of tangled up in it, and trying to get out again is this whole separate mess from the actual difficulties that I have around things like navigating my over-active trauma responses (for example) and kind of just make everything worse and harder to deal with.
 
Because the trauma stuff happened quite a while ago now. And, yeah, I know that Healing Isn’t Linear and stuff is going to keep on resurfacing whether I like it or not and sometimes it’s going to surprise me or catch me off guard, and other times it’s going to leave me the heck alone, and still other times it’s just going to be, like, “Oh. Hey trauma. You’re coming along on this ride, are you?” and it’s just going to be a thing…
But it would still be nice if it was just navigating the hiccoughs of “Oh, my limbic system is having a moment” rather than it being, like, “Oh. My limbic system is having a moment, and now I have all these FEEEEELINGS about that, and I have to stop everything and PROCESS”.
Which.
I’m allowed to stop everything and process?
But also I would like to not have to.
 
So I thought that maybe I could develop some resilience around pleasure-and-sex-related shame specifically by starting a gratitude practice where I notice pleasure – both broadly physical/emotional and more specifically sexual – in my day-to-day life. Maybe being more explicit about things that feel pleasurable, particularly (but not exclusively) sexually pleasurable, in this really public (but also protected, because it’s in writing and you-all are on the other side of the internet) way will also help me to get comfortable with both recognizing and naming what I enjoy.
 
And I thought: Oh hey, maybe I can also use those posts to write about stuff that relates directly, or less-directly, to my relationship with my own sexuality. Because it’s not like this blog doesn’t need some attention and, hey, maybe if I’m thinking about it – especially if I’m making a point of thinking about it in a pro-active, positive kind of way – maybe that will help things along, too.
 
So. Here I am.
I’m going kind of hard right now, partly because it’s Explore More Week – so I’ve got lots of stuff to chew on – and partly because I’ve got a lot of time at home to devote to it right now. Plus, I’m on Week Twelve of my Empress Project and, you know, I’d like to have something to report. >.>
But, after the impending new moon, this will most-likely switch to being an “every two weeks” kind of longer-term deal.
We shall seen.
Regardless, here’s hoping it helps.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Home-made cookies. Rubbing my wife’s calves (and my hands) with birch & black pepper Muscle Rub ointment – the way it makes my hands warm and how the smell (which is very minty) makes me aware of my deep breaths. Casually nattering about plants and seeds and creative projects with friends I haven’t seen in a while. Hot, greasy pizza with extra cheese and really good bacon. Waking up slowly and being affectionate with a partner. Feeling the promise of spring in (relatively) warm air & humid air and longer hours of daylight.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] It’s not that you stop feeling shame, or even that you stop feeling shame about specific things (although… sometimes?), it’s that you get better at navigating shame and at not getting stuck in it, and you recover more quickly when you do. That’s shame-resilience.

So, I’m re-reading Come as You Are by Dr. Emily Nagoski. It’s a fun, chatty read with lots of easy-to-digest brain science in there about your amygdala and attachment theory and so-on. My kind of thing. But also I’m re-reading it because I’m… kind of tired of getting in my own way?
The first time I read this – three and a bit years ago, shortly after it came out, iirc – I was mostly paying attention to the survivor story.
(This is one of those books where there are “case studies” – herein, presented as “When chatting with one of my Nerd Friends” type anecdotes, probably because the book is basically written as though the reader is, likewise, one of said (Nerd?) Friends – illustrating the various ways that the “dual control model” of human sexuality can show up in a given person).
This time around, while that “how to manage your triggers” stuff is still relevant, I’m reading it again with an eye towards a different case study, where the “breaks” are being applied to the character’s sexual appetites in a different way. Not trauma, but day-to-day living stress and performance anxieties.
Not exactly an unusual situation, I know.
 
So. One of the things the author suggests is to look at the stuff that stresses you out, and figure out which bits you actually have some control over.
Like, if you have a crap boss, you can’t control how they treat you or what kind of last-minute tasks they pile on your desk. So that’s not a stressor you have much/any control over. But maybe you can decide that you will 100% NOT be available by email after business hours are over. Maybe. I don’t know your situation.
In my case, one of the things that stresses me out is – unexpectedly(?) not-so-unexpectedly(?) – my messy house.
And I do have some control over that, as long as I don’t get my knickers in a twist about whether or not “I’m doing ALL the cleaning around here”.
 
One of the exercises in the book is to write down some specifics about a bunch of great sexual experiences and then a bunch of specifics about pretty-crappy sexual experiences, and then see if there are any patterns. A lot of my Great Sexual Experiences have taken place outside of my house. In hotel rooms or while otherwise staying somewhere where The Mess is both (a) Not My Problem, and (b) not actually there, to begin with. Visits to distant sweethearts who have used my impending arrival to motivate them to Clean All The Things, or to put up their art work, or to finally finish unpacking. Hotel-stays where my wife and I were able to get away from work stress, and get adequate sleep, but were incidentally also sleeping in a bed with fresh sheets, in a room that got vacuumed regularly and didn’t have enough Life Stuff in it for it to ever get cluttered, because it was so temporary.
 
So, for the moment, one of the things I’m doing is trying to improve the sort of background “ambience” of the house.
I mean, we’ll see how long it lasts since, at the moment, I have two weeks of almost entirely from-home work and, thus, an extra 2 hours per day, since I don’t have to walk or bus anywhere to make us some money. BUT I figure, if I can make things a tiny bit nicer every day, the baseline will slowly (sloooooooooowly) improve until some part of me isn’t constantly thinking “Ick. Everything is disgusting, and I feel gross just being here”.
 
So I swept the main floor yesterday, and I swept upstairs today. Tomorrow I’ll clean the bathroom, or I’ll do a fast mop-up of the kitchen floor or I’ll vacuum the rugs. It feels like Horrible Entropy is 100% threatening, but as long as I keep on top of One Small Thing (like, seriously, 20 minutes of Thing will usually about do it), I think it might (might) be achievable.
 
~*~
 
Notice Pleasure: Early morning kisses. Catching up on the couch. Exchanging selfies. Impromptu dates. Unexpected shivers. Needle scenes. Lingering eye-contact. Knowing that both of my sweethearts miss me back.

So. This isn’t entirely in line with the themes of this blog, but it doesn’t totally fit with Urban Meliad either. I’m putting it here because it’s been a while and because… Because The Season Of Light started over a month ago and I’m having Polyam Feels and chewing on that thing where “queer adulthood” runs on a different time-line and frequently doesn’t necessarily include some of the major markers of “adulthood” (like monogamously pairing off, or having babies) that our cultures (cultures-of-origin?? I don’t even know) pass down to us.
 
As you folks will have probably picked up, if you’ve been reading this for a while (or know me In Real Life), my relationship with my mom is… substantially, noticeably, blessedly better than it was twenty years ago. And even ten years ago. But it’s still got some fraught elements.
Hoy.
I tell you.
Look. At this point, I can kind of laugh about it. It’s been 20 years of figuring out how to navigate this as two adults (Okay… 19 is maybe not an “adult” in anything but the legal sense, but you get the idea) who live in different places, and I can kind of see the humour in my mom being My Mom.
But it’s also kind of hard.
 
It’s weird how things line up. And I know I’m doing this in-around U.S. Thanksgiving. I’m writing in Canada, so the timing is entirely random. But it means there might be at least a few readers who can relate to this pretty hard right at the moment.
 
On the one hand: My mom is super game to include one of my metamours – and probably more than one, if her open door policy during my high school years is anything to go by – in her Xmas and Thanksgiving and similar celebratory-meal plans. She’s done up stockings for C to open multiple years in a row now.
Which, I realize, is fucking rare.
There aren’t a lot of polyamourous people whose parents are down to hang out with their kid-in-law’s other partners, so that’s pretty great.
On the other hand: Her reaction to me having more than one partner at a time was – last time this happened – to blink at me, murmur “I guess I thought you’d get tired of this”, and proceed to refer to my partner as “your friend” until the relationship… transitioned into whatever the hell it is now. Some kind of weird, slightly fraught-in-its-own-right family ties.
So we’ll see how she handles the news that I have two partners again, this time ’round.
 
I feel like a Bad Daughter.
 
I love that I make family laterally rather than in, or in addition to, inter-generational silos. But when my personal “family responsibilities” rub up against the expectations of my family of origin, I have a hard time.
I feel uncomfortable with the possibility that someone will want to know why I’m okay with dropping air fare to see my girlfriend but not okay with doing the same thing to fly out and see my sister at Christmas. (Never mind that I’m not Christian and, technically, neither is she. Never mind that leaving my wife behind to see my sister and her kids feels weird and gross in a way that leaving her behind while I see a different partner doesn’t at all).
 
I love that I’m a polytheist animist who celebrates Midwinter and builds a spider’s web of community connections with the end goal of having the venn diagram of my social groups be one big, inter-supportive circle that isn’t reliant on me to keep those connections going. But it still feels weird and uncomfortable and sad in a way I wish it didn’t, when my mom asks me what my plans for the 25th of December are and then, when I tell her my calendar is wide open that day, informs me that, actually, she’ll be in a different province, visiting the grandchildren. That all of my relatives with reliable paycheques would rather congregate in Calgary than turn up in Ottawa, where both the matriarch and the queer, low-income relatives, happen to live.
 
Sometimes I want to take a family photo.
To gather my girlfriend and my wife, and my metamours (difficult, at this point, since half of them live in one National Capital, and the rest live in DC and Baltimore), my Inheritor/Leather-Sister and my Sister-from-another-Mister who witnessed my marriage, my meta-metamours and my dom/me/s-in-law. The exes-who-are-still-family. And more: The femme poets who taught me, and their beloveds and their kids. The Yoots, who are in their 20s and even 30s now, who are raising up the cohorts coming up after them. The leather bikers who survived the plague, who are old enough to remember when being themselves wasn’t just unprotected but illegal. All my leather kin. All my queer fam. And take a fucking Sears Portrait Studio photo that we send out to all my relatives to say: THIS. This is my family. This is who danced at my wedding, right beside you. This is who I love, right alongside you.
 
I don’t want to have to ask “Is it alright if we include [metamour] in these plans?” Even knowing the answer will be “Of course!”
I want the reaction to “My vegetarian partner’s going to be visiting in late April” to be “Bring her to Easter brunch! I’m already making strata without the ham because the grand-kids’ll be here!”
 
I know that there are a LOT of queers out there who loathe Gay Marriage, and would rather burn the institution down that further infect our weird, non-traditional-family-building community with couple-privilege.
I know that there are a LOT of queers out there, too, who have little-to-nothing but shitty, invalidating-at-best memories of their families-of-origin and would rather create things newly out of whole cloth than try to create words like “unctie” so that our siblings’ kids have a word for us that fits both our genders and our fam-of-O’s kinship diagrams or structural language.
 
I have to admit… I’m not exactly on board. I want my queer fam to have words for themselves. I want them to be introduced to their nibblings as “This is Unctie So-and-so” from birth, so that it never feels strange or clunky in their mouths, so that my people can be their whole selves around their families-of-origin. I want to be able to say “wife” when I introduce my long-standing D/s partner and sweetheart. It’s just, I’d also like it if her other long-standing partners could include her as covered by their secondary-health-insurance benefits. It’s just, I’d also like it if I could say “wife” or “spouse” about more than one person at a time, should I be blessed with more than one life-partner who’s stayed with me for years, decades, my life-time, and to have those words not illicit awkward exchanges of eye-contact, or a refusal to engage, from my family-of-origin.
Most of the year, this is no big deal.
But it comes up hard when the nights get long and people start talking faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamily.

The Bias

Header Image: “The 95 Twee-ses” by Annalee.So you’ve been called out. You are baffled. Shocked. Why would someone shame you in public like that? It isn’t fair! If they’d talked to you privately, this wouldn’t have happened! How dare they?

Among people who’ve been criticized in public, this is a common refrain. Maybe they acknowledge that they caused harm or maybe they don’t, but the real issue they’re focused on is that they’ve been treated unfairly. The internet dropped on their head without any warning.

They want to know why no one took them aside to explain what they’ve done wrong and to give them a chance to fix it. Don’t they deserve the benefit of the doubt?

Many of the people I’ve seen doing this are being disingenuous and deserve every ounce of scorn they get for pretending they didn’t know better. But I’d like to address the…

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One of the reasons I originally wanted polyamoury was that I wanted the chance to get better at Doing Relationships faster. I thought – and was probably super mistaken – that if I were involved in multiple relationships at once, I would get to practice Having Relationships with lots of people, and therefore work out some/most of the “bugs” more quickly. I think I was approaching romantic partnerships sort of as if they were like writing novels. To hear my writer friends tell it, when it comes to novel-writing, you don’t learn how to write A book (and then you know how to write books forever more), you learn how to write THIS book, and you have to learn it all over again with the next one, and the one after that.
And, yeah, you learn how to Do a given relationship and it will not be the same way you do a different given relationship. I kind of love the metaphor of romances (or sex) being improv music, in that you’re co-creating something that does have some rules and expectations built in for functionality, but beyond that is up to everyone involved to create something together.
But also I feel like a bit of a jerk for having thought of relationships with actual people as “practice” for later relationships down the line in any way.
 
None the less. That’s not how things actually worked out, and I’ve spent almost all of the last nearly-ten years being in relationships with one person at a time.
Consequently, most of what I’ve learned “about polyamoury” isn’t actually about maintaining more than one romance at a time. Most of it is about me and how I do relationships, what I need in and from relationships. A lot of it is boundaries stuff.
 

Screenshot from Labyrinth. Wide-eyed protagonist Sarah realizing (and stating) that the Goblin King has no power over her.

Screenshot from Labyrinth.
Wide-eyed protagonist Sarah realizing (and stating) that the Goblin King has no power over her.


 
For example. I (very recently, maybe even embarrassingly recently) realized that… that it’s not on me to “make do” with whatever relationship another person is inclined to give me. I’m not talking about “using my words” here. I’m talking about leaving if someone isn’t offering me the kind of relationship I want to have.
TBH, this discovery kind of blows.
I mean, I’m not saying that it’s good to think that it’s on me to modify my wants and needs so that I can be theoretically (uh… >.>) happy having a low-entwinement, low-time-commitment relationship with someone when what I actually want is something significantly more emotionally intimate and time-intensive or, for that matter, happy having a high emotional-intensity, heavily entwined relationship with someone who can’t offer me mutual care or whose personal coping mechanisms press my buttons in all the wrong ways.
I’m just saying that recognizing that I have the power to walk away from romances – or potential romances – that aren’t giving me what I want… It kind of leaves me feeling complicit in my own loneliness.
Which is bizarre, and probably has a lot to do with a scarcity-based understanding of the world.
It’s like, on some level, I’m thinking “Gosh. If only I’d settled for being taken advantage of, or having constant anxiety spikes and deep unhappiness, at least I’d be Really Polyamourous (TM) because I’d have more than one partner at a time…”
What on earth, right?
Right.
But it’s still a thing that I’m grappling with.
Anyway. Other things I’ve learned:
 
I have a pretty small dance card. This isn’t particularly surprising. Ten years ago, I wasn’t particularly expecting to have more than two heavily-entwined partners and maybe a friend or three who I did occasional scenes with was wasn’t emotionally entangled with more than I would be in a non-sexual relationship. So the bit where juggling two romances at a time feels… just about right? I mean, sure, it might be because I’ve never had more than two relationships at a time, and those relationships generally take a lot of energy because I tend to go deep or go home. But two seems… nice. More than that might be too hard to handle. (Granted, I only have one right now, so… we’ll see what the future holds, I guess?)
 
I am CRAP at casual flings. I seriously wish I wasn’t. I wish I could – and am trying to figure out how to do the Boundaries to – do casual hookups and low-attachment sexual encounters. I wish I could be playful about sex without getting my heart caught up in it. Right now, sex is kind of fraught for a whole heap of reasons, and needing to “make sure” that I’m hooking up with someone who will do right by me – or otherwise constantly be doing the dance of retracing my own boundaries with myself– just adds to that stress. I’m not saying that there’s a line-up or anything, but I would like sex to be fun. I’d like to be able, in the hypothetical situation where this kind of proposition even happens, to say Yes to the friend-of-a-friend who I met at a party or a community dance, to have a short 5-10 minute negotiation rather than having to spend a week of each others’ time hashing out the specific details of where hands and mouths can and can’t go, before we even end up in the same room again.
 
I am way better at spotting other people Meta-Narratives and Self-Defeating Stories than I am at spotting my own: As is obvious to anyone who talks to me for, like, five minutes at a stretch, I have a maybe-not-so-great tendency to hand out unsolicited advice. (I’m trying to keep a better lid on that, FYI). Humans love narratives. These big, multi-layered, complex patterns made up of other, simpler patterns. We use them to tell us how the world works and how we fit into it. And, as individuals, a lot of us – particularly when we’re trauma babes and abuse survivors – have narratives we rely on to explain Why Someone Does That in a way that lets us treat “That” as normal, forgivable, understandable behaviour, rather than abuse. It’s so much easier to catch on to other people’s Stories. The things that come up over and over again. I had a girlfriend, once, whose Story was that “everyone leaves me in the end”. In all the times I decided to actively counter that narrative by Not Leaving, I never once asked myself whether my decision to be perpetually available to her, to upset her self-defeating narrative, happened to have anything to do with maybe reinforcing one of my own.
I finally (good grief, after a decade plus…) figured out that my OWN self-defeating narrative is one that says:
“If I center my own wants and needs instead of those of [other person], I will be letting [other person] down, and they will LEAVE ME to die, frozen and alone in the snow”.
It wasn’t polyamoury that helped me realize this. Not by a long shot. (And it probably had more to do with various personal growth projects and getting some life-coaching than with striving for anything in the realm of relationship anarchy). But being able to see my own narrative playing out on multiple fronts, and (eventually) being able to ask myself “Hey, Ms Syren, what story of YOURS is having the play-button hit because [other person] is playing out one of their own?”, has definitely been part of why I was able to recognize it as, ha… “fast” as I have.
 
I don’t have to “drive off a cliff” but can (and must) meet people where they’re at. What I said about getting some life-coaching? Some on-going therapy? Up until about a year ago, I had (and still have – though I’m trying to get a handle on it for Many Reasons) a bad tendency to respond to “Hey, would you like to go on a date?” with “Sure, I’d love that” and then follow it up by “modeling” the kind of relationship I wanted to have with said person by… being reliably (and, um, endlessly) available, getting in touch regularly, pitching plans for us to spend time together on a frequent (but hopefully appropriate) schedule, opening up emotionally and being brave when it comes to talking about what I want/like/need, etc… even though said individual may not have asked for, or expressed interest in, any of those things. I wrote about this more extensively here, but basically this Thing that I was (and still am) doing can both (a) open me up to being very easily, and very badly, taken advantage of, but also (b) can put my date in an uncomfortable position of basically fending off my overwhelming attentions.
I need to try and meet people where they’re at. Sometimes this means waiting to see how often
 
So. Here I am. Ten years in, and still very-much getting the hang of things.
I’m trying to teach myself to be open to the possibility that The Unexpected might not be a total disaster. Trying to teach myself that it’s not on me (not my responsibility, but also not my right) to manage – or micro-manage – other people’s relationships. Trying to figure myself out enough that I can say what I want, and what I need, without freaking the fuck out that “I will keep my own boundaries in mind” doesn’t feel like a dangerous deal-breaker, and without falling apart when someone else says “that’s not something I’m up for” either.
 
The road goes ever on (as the saying goes).
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.