Looking back, a year later today, I can see why it was time to separate from Kali. I don’t feel any better about the manner in which the separation occurred. From this distance, I can say, “Yeah, something wasn’t quite right.” So often, I observe that the problems are not what ultimately leads to the end of a relationship. The deeper reason is that at least one of the participants has decided that the effort to continue addressing issues, to keep reaching for the other, is no longer worth it. From this distance, it feels like she didn’t even try.
A year ago I had just started therapy – thank goodness. When I next spoke to my therapist all I really had to say about it was, “I haven’t cried. I probably won’t. I just feel angry.” I still haven’t. I probably still won’t. The anger is fading. It is and was “disbelief” anger. “Are you kidding me!?” anger. “UNBELIEVABLE.” anger.
If there were one word that would most closely define the way my soul has expressed itself through this human vehicle, “composed” would have to be it. I try so hard to keep my composure. Whether the subverted emotion is anger, desire, sorrow, or frustration, my tendency in the latter half of my life to this point has been to cement my facial features into as blank an expression as possible, to use cool words and logic to get myself to a point in an exchange where I can exit. Get myself to a safe distance where no one can hear me let it all out. Never EVER show how angry or hurt I am. Dismayed, maybe. Discontent, definitely. Never let the root emotion seep out.
Composure is what got me through so much of my association to Kali. Sometimes by the skin of my teeth.
Yet it only takes me so far. If the offense is too great or the pressure to high, composure won’t hold. And that’s when each of you has seen the worst of me. You have, I know.
So maybe composure is the thing that I want to let go of during this turn of the wheel. It may have served to help me smooth out relations with others in the past, especially when I am a neutral party moderating peace negotiations. When it comes to my own safety, my desires and the organization and maintenance of my holistic wellness, I think this lifetime of stoicism has not served my highest good.
Bear with me, if you can, as I practice allowing the fullness of my feelings to emerge. I will be taking brave steps to say what I mean, to express myself in the moment rather than long after the dust has settled. I will pursue the skills required to treat others with respect as I also foster self respect. This will mean opening myself more to hurt, and accepting responsibility for words and actions that may inadvertently hurt others’ feelings. The fact that others’ feelings may be hurt as an unfortunate casualty of either my learning process or bold adherence to my convictions.
That. Right there. Is the worst of it.
Remember: we are all trying to do right by each other. Hurling through space on this wobbly rock, trying to get goddess knows where. Trying (and mostly failing) to make the world a just and loving place. Keep trying to do better. That’s the direction in which I am confidently wandering.
I am sitting alone in a room of my own.
In this basement. In the bottom of this house.
Eating the navel orange you gave me.
Its fragrance permeates.
The pith is under my fingernails.
Juice drips down to my wrist, elsewhere, too.
To my chin.
I’m peeling apart the wedges and
taking each one in two slow bites.
Tonguing the wet flesh and thinking of you.
Yours. Firm rind. The sound of the juice
in my mouth, swallowing.
This is not about the orange.
This is not about the process of scraping
away the rind or about separating
This is about desire.
This is about the halting pace of a long reveal.
Two souls reaching
for each other.
Sneaking side glances,
trying not to show
All in good time.
There is no room for wanting.
Simon is buying a house. It is beyond gorgeous. Huge windows look out onto beautiful walking paths, big trees, several seating areas with fire pits. The elderly owners are leaving some of their furniture, which is all very nice and well cared for. There is a hot tub, plenty of room to spread out, to host guests, or just for leisure time after work.
For so long he wanted to own land, to fill it with little homes full of happy people, to make things grow, to sing over the hills, and pray over the waters. A piece of land that would become a living, breathing example of how effectively human beings can live together in community and conviviance.
I shared deeply in that dream, and I still do.
Well, that dream doesn’t really fit his reality or mine anymore. Simon could not have bought such a nice house on his own. The burden is shared with the one with whom he has been cultivating a shared life since well before my separation from him. The one who captivates him and complements him. One who has the benefit of a strong career, of material resources, and of life experience that makes her a remarkably suitable mate for him. His life is elevated by her influence and companionship.
He could never have bought such a nice house with me. I have almost nothing to contribute, financially. It certainly would never have worked out for the three of us to attempt any sort of close quarters – even with acres between my little house and hers. He would never have had the kind of comfortable, enjoyable and successful life with me that he is having with her. It is such a peculiar experience – to see in such harsh detail all the measurable, visible ways that he has benefitted from choosing to end the relationship with me and choosing to focus his attention where it had already been for so long. To lean his efforts on the thing that was working, that had the potential for greatness. And it has become great.
This experience is leaving me with a lot of questions. Chief among them are the following:
1. Does my influence and companionship elevate the lives of my lovers in any way? If not materially, then how?
2. Will I ever find a partner who truly fits me, like the way they fit together, like puzzle pieces?
3. Will I ever finally live in a home I find truly beautiful? Will I ever be able to afford for my home to be sanctuary without sacrificing my values? When will I ever live in a house that isn’t falling apart in some way or another? I am tired of the broken fixtures, sticky doors, and the general inability to use rental homes for their highest good.
4. Will I ever love any man – any other human being – the way I have loved Simon? I don’t see that happening for a long, long time. I do have other relationships, and though they do bring me joy, they are not the life-building kind. The looking forward together kind.
To all of you, who love me, and who desire to see me prosper and live my best life, who know my qualities and have compassion for any failings of my character, I know that the answer to all of these questions is “YES, OF COURSE!!!” Though your confidence is very reassuring and comforting, I hesitate to hope for unrealistic outcomes. My ability to endure the scattered showers of disappointment is, at present, only tenuous.
At the beginning of March, and for the second time, Kali ended our relationship. After one of the most stress-free and enjoyable trips I’d had in a long time. She said she couldn’t do it anymore. She said I triggered her. I couldn’t see the guylines, did not even noticed where I had tripped them, and it felt like I was being asked to intuit their location. She asked for three months without contact, and because I am always, always, always, putting other people first, I agreed. Three months later, all that anger and disappointment that had stayed bottled up all that time were still there, rotting. And then, PULSE happened. How could I stay angry when the world is like that? Later, I got some medical news that I needed to share with her.
Three more months went by. From that vantage point, I thought I was ready to try and be just friends. To remember all the enjoyable conversations and all the ways we connect in non-romantic ways. We exchanged a couple of surface-level e-mails. I tried to tell her how I’ve been doing. Finally, I said,
“Sometime, not right now, but when it feels like a good time, I would like to have an out-processing conversation.”
Because there still has not been any kind of conversation about how the relationship transition occurred. My therapist put into words what I wasn’t able to: it was like being put in a corner until my temper tantrum was over and I could behave appropriately again. I didn’t get to tell her how isolated and discarded I felt. How very little say I had in the disengagement process. She said,
“I can’t give you that, not now, not ever.”
And that is when I learned that being flat-out denied an out-processing conversation is a huge relationship no-no for me, and something that needs to be clearly communicated to future partners. I began to think back on all the things I never got a say in. The structure of the relationship. The who, what, when, where, why and how of every interaction. I gave so much emotional support. I made so many concessions that so neatly and conveniently put me in a disadvantaged position. I set so many precedents that showed it was OK for everything to occur in just precisely the way that works for her. I had made it clear that my opinion, my preferences and my needs didn’t matter to the success of the relationship because I would have just about put up with almost anything for her. Well. It seemed like as good a time as any to start saying NO. So, I said,
“Thank you for telling me that doesn’t work for you. And that doesn’t work for me.”
With that, I have instantly turned myself into the bad guy. If I say anything further, it will all get turned back around on me. I will be the one who made the breakup bad. I will be the one who stirred up trouble by actually, finally, speaking up for myself. I will be the one who mistreated the other, and who insensitively overstepped boundaries. While I am so deeply aggravated, I am also notably grateful for the lessons to be learned from the feelings I am experiencing right now. I am seeing all the ways that I let her steer. All the ways that I let myself get taken for a ride.
I don’t plan to get taken for any more rides.
It is such an incredible offense to me that someone who is supposed to care for me – someone who built a relationship with me – would 1) refuse to take a collaborative approach to ending that relationship; and 2) refuse to hear me out when I am in my power. It is so desperately rare for me to be passionately upset about something. It makes me feel respected when the other people involved can witness and acknowledge the way I feel, and bear some of the responsibility for their own actions. I know that I can’t make anyone do anything, but in future, I hope that I will find ways to quickly identify those individuals who cannot handle me when I am in my power. As a woman, as a femme, it is so vital that I be heard when I choose to speak up. ESPECIALLY, when the other party is a man, or an otherwise masculine-of-center person. Simon listened to me. He fielded every question and listened even when the thing i was upset about didn’t make a lot of sense to him. I want Kali to listen to me. As for me, and my behavior…
No more careful silence. No more blind acceptance. No more patient allowing.
As I was transitioning out of relationship with Kali, my metamours lost contact with me. I felt incredibly isolated. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been examining how that transition happened, evaluating my own response to it, and comparing it to poly relationship transitions in my past. The result of my case study is this:
Metamours are people
Metamours are people with feelings
Metamours have information you need
Metamours are people with unique perspectives
Metamours can help you solve relationship puzzles
Metamours have a special understanding of your relationship
Metamours need you. You need your metamours.
Your metamours need you to put on your grown up underpants and be brave. They need you to know how to communicate your feelings with as much honesty and specificity as possible. They need you to learn active listening and practice that skill at every interaction. Your metamours need you to ask if everything’s OK. They need you to care about how their relationship is going with the pivot partner. They need you to ask about their other relationships. They need your advice. They need you as a sounding board. They need you because there is almost certainly no one who understands what they are going through the way you do. Especially when a lot of our mono friends aren’t exactly going to understand, nor might they have the experience to provide meaningful suggestions.
Fucking take care of each other. Fucking have each other’s backs.
This isn’t about sabotage or espionage. This is about treating each other decently. It is about making yourself vulnerable and opening your heart to compassion. This is about being responsible for YOUR behavior, regardless of how your metamours or your pivot partner are behaving.
Polyamory is not a race or a competition. The relationships that you each have with your pivot partner are unique – otherwise it would be like dating clones. That really isn’t the point of polyamory, is it? The point is to be dating people who are different from each other. Because there is so much beautiful diversity in this world and we poly folk want the chance to experience a more expansive cross section. Relationships are going to be different from each other. No relationships are alike. Each one will have a specialized mix of resources (time, money, energy), date activities, styles of sexual engagement, and parameters. AND your lovers are going to have different skills when it comes to dealing with your psychological or physiological quirks (anxiety, diabetes, PTSD, endo, whatevs). Each relationship gets its own custom blend of those delicious, fizzy brain chemicals.
Accepting this is possibly the most important lesson to learn from polyamory, but it doesn’t have to be the hardest thing to learn – not unless we make it that way.
When was the last time you had a metamour outing? Maybe a voice/video call or a chat? Did you remember their birthdays? Did you apologize for that one time you goofed up? Did you notice something peculiar about the way your pivot partner interacted (or didn’t) with your metamour? Did you say something?
DON’T bend over backward for your metamours. DO go out of your way to let them know you care.
DON’T spill every little detail about your relationships. DO at least share the important bits. ESPECIALLY the important bits.
We all have a limit to how much we can really “be there” for another person. That’s fine. I’m not saying answer every time they call on you. I’m not saying you are their only hope. Yet, even a small act of kindness goes a long way.
Maintain your boundaries while making yourself available to them as much as seems reasonable and practical. But y’know? If you see something, say something. Take part in each other’s lives in a mutually meaningful way. Pay attention to the details. Watch how your pivot partner treats them. Offer a non-judgmental listening ear. Offer advice in a way that doesn’t sound like a direct order. Ask your pivot partner how things are going. Ask your pivot partner if they remembered to tell your metamour [that important thing]. Maybe ask your pivot partner if there is anything you need to be sensitive to when interacting with your metamour (such as: death of family member, other extreme stressors).
Keep in Mind: We all have our issues, I get that. If you are having a rough time and “just can’t right now” with fostering a positive metamour relationship, SAY SO. I’ll even give you a script: “I know we’re overdue for a metamour checkin, and I just wanted to let you know I am dealing with some things in my life right now. I want to be in a better frame of mind for our checkin. Would it be OK if we postpone for [#] weeks so I can really focus on addressing my own issues?” Don’t use that as an excuse and don’t postpone permanently. Set a date and do your best to meet it. Don’t neglect one another.
I’m talking to myself here, too. Especially in regard to a particular situation where I failed to really check on a metamour after they transitioned out of relationship with the pivot partner. Having experienced it, I now understand how important it is. Even if just to say, “Hey, I imagine you might not want to talk to me, but if you think it might help to talk to someone about what has happened, know that I am willing to be that person.”
Your metamours are not your enemies. Nor are they your competitors in a capitalist market. A good metamour wants everyone in the polycule to be safe and well. A better one makes an impact on the wellness of the others, and is open to receiving care, compassion and friendship from their metamours.
It’s really as simple as:
Fucking take care of each other. Fucking have each other’s backs.
My lovers are works of art
No two alike
Crafted of the finest materials
Roots in water
Warmth of light
Not peculiar curiosities
Oddities to be put on display
Objects of my boasting
Each one a thing of wonder
A gift freely offered
I am humbled by their choice
To love me
I am grateful for the challenge
For unspeakable joy
The enduring impact
Of being invited so close
For someone like myself, for whom sex is such a major part of my spiritual practice (at least in theory), I do not have a lot of sex.
An old friend who hadn’t seen me in awhile once asked,
“So, are you banging dudes now?”
“Oh, so you’re back to banging chicks?”
“I thought you were banging all the time.”
Wouldn’t that be nice! In fact, I’ve lived a predominantly sexless life. Really?
Y’all have heard my story a thousand times. I first fooled around with a good friend in 2007 at the age of 22. After a year of exploration – mostly fantasy, some in the flesh – I met my first girlfriend. I found myself single again a couple of years later, and then began to investigate the company of men when I was 26. Kinda fun, actually! For awhile, I had a very low-key sweetheart who understood my free-range nature and my preference for folks with “innies.” Then I met Kali, who was the first woman I had slept with since my first girlfriend. It wasn’t meant to be, at least not at that time. I moved to Carolina and spent another year without a consistent partner. Well, there was a singular romp before my “new in town” shine wore off and then an ill-fated tryst with someone who could not share me.
Then, along came Simon. I knew from the very start that Simon would be one of my great loves. The kind of person you tell stories about until your hair turns grey. The kind of person, the kind of connection you imagine you’ll be seeking for the rest of your life. In that first moment, my synapses flashed like fireworks and for a split second, my unconscious mind took over. The sweet, fizzy rush of oxytocin flooded my nervous system and I knew no more.
Six months later I reconnected with Kali, yet in a capacity that did not allow for consistent visitations. Less than a year after that, I was individuating from Simon. A familiar feeling returned – a feeling of fumbling in the dark for my glasses. I found myself examining through blurred vision all the pieces of what I thought I had, wondering how on earth they had ever fit together. The edges were sharp, some pieces were completely warped, melted and discolored. Those were the pieces that most exquisitely refracted the light I was emitting. The hot, garish illumination of a reborn star – full of fire with no moon in which to see her reflection.
Well, perhaps not no moon. But Kali’s orbit can be so. very. wide.
With me out of the way, Simon seems to thrive. With me out of the way, the love he shares with another now seems to flourish, where my influence only seemed to cause strife. That may be the most heartbreaking part. All they needed for their relationship to be successful was for me to bow out (crumble). Of course it’s far more complicated than that. Far, far more complicated. I know that. Tell that to the pit of my cardiac organ.
I have never, ever had so much trouble leaving other lovers to walk their own path. As trite as it sounds, Simon touched parts of my beingness that I had no idea were even there. I’ll be seeking that feeling for the rest of my days. Does it go away? When you lose one of your great loves? Maybe you never bounce back from a love like that. Maybe you’re not supposed to. Maybe that’s the point. I am permanently altered. He will always hold shards of me.
Then, Kali, whose life is intertwined with mine by gossamer strands which at times barely fall within the visual spectrum, now asks for a period of review and evaluation in which sexual engagement is lain aside. Why? Because I want orgasms. Because I want more. I want it all. I want every good thing there is to have in company with another human. To Kali, that desire is imbued with pressure and expectation. What my soft animal underside hears is, “This is too much. What you want is too much.” Of course, asking for orgasms is not “too much” – and neither is asking not to feel the pressure and expectation of certain outcomes. That’s what makes it complicated. No one is right or wrong, here. I believe this is temporary. I believe this is just the place each of us now inhabits. Given adequate time, and the necessary emotional resources, we will each adapt to be better suited to physical intimacy with one another. That day is ever nearer.
For now, though, I am fundamentally lonely. The muck of rejection and sticky, relentless feelings is ankle deep (thank goodness, only ankle deep). Where I want to be dancing all the way to kingdom come, I take awkward steps that are rather like marching.
I am still moving. I am not sinking. I am my life jacket. I am my boots.
I am planting seeds that will drink up the water, reach for the sky, and make the ground beneath my feat sturdy and strong by their roots.
Sex or no sex, with or without a partner, missing pieces and all. I keep trying to practice the religion of love. And that’s all it ever is, for me, for us all, is practice.
A letter to a friend about the thing I created at my home burn.
With some luck, bust mostly a lot of really hard work and very late nights over the course of about three months, I created an absolutely gorgeous space. The shelter tent was covered with lengths of gold damask that stretched from the ground on one side all the way over the top and to the ground on the other side. Within the tent, I covered the ceiling with gold and rose sheers. The inner walls were made of gold and red damask, with coordinating panels hanging crosswise to provide a bit of privacy for each meditation alcove. At the back of the tent, I constructed an altar and hung a wooden hoop. Participants would go through the four self-guided meditations, then light a stick of incense and place it upright in a bowl of earth. Then, they could tie a strip of colored cotton fabric onto the hoop to mark their place in the global web of human interconnectivity. The hoop was burned in the temple/art burn on Sunday. At night, the tent was illuminated with white, orange and red twinkle lights. I almost think it was even more beautiful at night.
I want you to know with certainty exactly what draws me to you. I am consistently awed by your ability to pursue that which will add to you and to remove from your life that which does not support you in fulfilling your highest purpose. I am drawn to you because you are always seeking for more and better, deeper and higher. When I look at you, I see a well of potential, the dark center of the lotus, the thousand petaled blossom. New petals constantly opening as older petals curl backward. Your colorway is always changing, the shades and patterns in perpetual evolution. You are always learning new things about yourself, and adding powerful self-care tools to your practice. You are not afraid to know what you want and to go after it unapologetically. This enriches your life as much as it enriches the lives of those you bless with love. You bless me with love. You listen to me, you tell me the truth, even – at times – the truth about myself. You encourage me, too, to pursue more, better, deeper and higher. To cast off the weights I am carrying. To leap, to fall, to float. I am looking forward to enjoying gardens with you and holding your hand, to afternoon tea and saying I love you, my breath grazing the smooth skin of your neck. I am looking forward to making my body an offering to you. And to bringing you pleasure.
I’m seeing her in August, and I’ll be singing this song.
From a visit with my far away person last month…
She has gone to visit her family in town and I am sitting in an empty banquet hall watching the sun illuminate last night’s snowfall. We trudged through it about a mile with our luggage, heating up our bodies such that I had to take off my scarf and other articles to keep myself from overheating. Today, though, I am comfortably warm in my body and spiritually warmed by the timeless vision of a historical campus blanketed in snow. I am thinking about the many women who were educated there, especially those educated in times when women having knowledge was radical (even more than it is now). I head back to the room we are sharing, pick up her button down shirts and walk upstairs to the laundry room where I set up the ironing board and plug in the iron. As the iron is heating, so is my love for her. This is but one kind of warmth through which I express my love. Warm heart, warm body, my mind on fire. I am thinking about her soft chest enclosed in crisp cotton, her strong arms straining the seams of the sleeves. I imagine her fingers fastening each button with precision, her brow is tight and her lips are proudly, confidently posed. As my imagination wanders, I think of her dress pants belted comfortably at her waist, just above the buckle. I imagine the warm yellow light emanating from her solar plexus – the center of her creative power. And lower, the gentle orange glow of her sacrum. In this region of her body, her erotic power and her creative power are interwoven, each influencing the other. The erotic is ever present in her creative expression and there is art in her expression of eros. With the heated iron, I press the collars, the backs, the sleeves, the plackets and the bust darts of each shirt, carefully, and return them to their hangers. I put away the ironing board and set the iron out to cool. As I carry the shirts back to our room, I am thinking about the transgressive nature of my presence in this place. I am no student, nor a student’s relative, nor an instructor. I am here with my lover who is preparing to engage in professional activities. The only people who know I am here with her are the three different people I have met in the lobby. In moments of pleasure, we have struggled to keep quiet, though neither of us feels much remorse about that – perhaps I feel slightly embarrassed, but it is an embarrassment that arouses me. She has given me these instructions. Take time for yourself. Iron these shirts. Be ready for dinner later. Wear something that makes you feel sexy. Even running short on time, I finish every last one of her instructions. That success keeps me warm as I rush through ice and snow on foot to the restaurant in my favorite dress.
From twisting vines
hangs her bower
flowers and moss
make her bed and
adorn her hair
gleaming in the dark
warm skin enclosing
First: a golden heart
Second: blood of molten silver
shining in her veins.
Third: bones bronzed
She calls down
from the high leafy branches
the name of her lover
but cannot descend.
her lover cannot climb.
so much like the murmur
of birds in the darkness.
Who will come to lower
her bower? Who
comes to help her lover alight?
In the night their
wind rustling the trees,
cooing doves in nests obscured
wailing souls wandering
through willow groves under
streams of cold moonlight.
They silence in
the instant of recognition
visions vanishing like mists
swept off by a breeze.
Bend, high branches!
Lower, you slender vines!
Rise, O earth!
Love is no adynaton
while creation still
responds to desperate calls
woman to companion.
(I have no idea when I wrote this. Best guess, 2012)