Auld Lang Syne

2014… A year come and gone. It really feels like this year just started, and now it’s over.

I rang in 2014 with my husband (B), in our tradition of pizza, whiskey, and champagne (honestly, those three things I plan to keep a tradition). We watched Sherlock, and I spent a lot of the evening thinking and writing about everything that had happened in 2013, how different I was than the year before that.

This year, while feeling like it passed in an instant, has brought even greater transitions. In fact, for this entire month, all I have been able to say about it is that it sucked.

In April, I was laid off from the job I had started only 5 months previous. I found a new one within a few weeks, and then was laid off from that at the end of July, starting a two and a half month period of unemployment. That’s just over a quarter of the year spent unemployed.

In July, B and I decided that while we do love each other and make a great team, we aren’t well matched in a romantic relationship. We decided to divorce. He moved out a couple months later. I got a roommate. A couple months after that, I finally started a new job (one that I’m hoping to stay at for several years. I am really over being unemployed).

2014 has been one of the hardest and most painful years of my life, and I will not be sad to say “Good Riddance” at midnight. But thinking back on it today, there has been as much joy as there has been pain. This year brought me people, experiences, revelations, and beautiful moments that it would be a crime to discount in favor of thinking about the bad parts.

At the end of last year, I started seeing someone who has become extremely important to me. The year that I have gotten to spend in a relationship with him has been wonderful. He is passionate, interesting, intelligent, thoughtful, and kind. He is the first polyamorous person I have ever had a relationship with, and exploring the ins and outs of it with him has been a fantastic experience for me. I get to ring in 2015 with him, and I’m thoroughly hoping that I’ll be lucky enough to end it with him, too.

He, in turn, introduced me to a lady who is as wise and kind as she is lovely, and I’m so grateful to be included in her circle of friends. She has been an incredible source of both comfort and advice to me in this very difficult year. Her compassion, understanding, and empathy is what I think everyone should aspire to. The level of productivity she manages to accomplish is absolutely inspiring to me. On the one hand, she puts in sharp relief how much of a slacker I am, but it’s impossible to know someone like that and not feel at least a little motivated to accomplish more with my own life. I’m fairly certain she has superpowers.

B and I still have a great relationship. We talk and see each other often, and despite the pain of ending our marriage, we are both happier this way. However, he remains one of the most generous, caring, intelligent, down to earth people I have ever known. I tend to live with my head in the clouds, and he helps to ground me in a way I desperately need. I’m not sure what I would do without him in my life. It’s been amazing that we have been able to be there for each other during this massive transition, and I feel so lucky that I continue to have him as one of my best friends.

I couldn’t even begin to actually list all of the incredible, interesting, smart, fun people that I have in my life.

The hard times that I went through this year gave me a chance to really find out what an amazing support system I have. My friends and family were absolutely wonderful and I don’t know how I would have made it through everything that happened this year without them.

Concerts

Parties and game nights filled with nerdery and laughter.

Connecting with my family in ways that I never had before

Quiet moments by myself

Lazy days in bed

Walks and picnics in the park

I can’t count the moments of ecstatic joy I experienced this year.

Tonight we say goodbye to 2014, and I’m not sad about that.

But I’m grateful for this year and the lessons it’s taught me. I’m grateful for the joy, the pain, the laughter, the tears. I might not have enjoyed all of it, but I can look back and see that every moment was beautiful.

 

Tonight we ring in the New Year.

Happy 2015 everyone

 

 

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,

and never thought upon;

The flames of Love extinguished,

and fully past and gone:

Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,

that loving Breast of thine;

That thou canst never once reflect

On Old lang syne.

-Robert Burns

Poly As An Orientation or: How I Stopped Worrying And Learned to Love Everyone

I don’t believe that ‘polyamorous’ is a chosen lifestyle. Or rather, you can choose to express it in your lifestyle, but I honestly believe that it’s just something you are (or are not).

When I was a kid, I remember playing House in the basement with my step-sisters. I was not interested in having a husband and a baby in these games. No, when I played house, I was moving into a tiny apartment that I was getting for cheap because the previous tenant had been murdered (I was a cheerful, but morbid child), and I was cleaning out his stuff (we frequently combined these games with tidying up the basement). In addition to my murder-apartment, I had 100 boyfriends.

Now, I don’t know how I thought I’d have time for all of these people. Even as a child, I greatly valued my alone time, and I don’t know how I was finding time for all of these guys between that and my busy career as a writer/Olympic ice skater/rock star/actress (you’d think with all that, I could have afforded a better apartment). Even now, between my fairly mundane day job, various household chores (which I frequently neglect), and quite necessary ‘Me Time’, I barely have time to keep up with friends, my husband, and my boyfriend. I begged for a day planner for Christmas because I was having a difficult time keeping up with everything and I wanted to be able to organize it (I assume you are asking here “But Lily, why don’t you just use your phone calendar?” and it’s because I haven’t trusted Google calendars since it shared a dentist appointment with all of my Google+ circles and I couldn’t figure out how to change the privacy settings).

My point is, even when I was a kid, and all I had really seen was the traditional one man/one woman style of relationship, I was still imagining the alternative.

Of course, not being aware that polyamory was actually an option, I did settle into several monogamous relationships between when I started dating and when I became exposed to other ideas.

Still, even in all of the monogamous relationships I was in, I frequently developed feelings for other people, sometimes quite strong feelings. I just did my best to ignore them. But the issue would always pop up again, and again, and again, and in several cases I either ended up having emotional affairs with other people, or straight up cheating in a couple instances.

It wasn’t that the relationships weren’t good (though in several of them, that was also the case), or that I was being neglected (occasionally that also happened), or that I am a cold, heartless, evil bitch (I’m sure that at least one of my ex’s would disagree with this, and I was pretty close to turning into one).

I fall in love with multiple people. I just do. Falling in love with one person does not diminish my love for another. Attempting to suppress it because I feel like I have to choose one or the other does.

I could choose to not practice polyamory, but it would not change who I am. And in the end, attempting to be monogamous for long enough would be detrimental to whatever relationship that I am in.

Now, perhaps it was nurture and not nature that made me this way, somehow. Perhaps I was not, as with other sexual orientations, born this way, and it was just something that developed at a very young age (my barbies and stuffed animals also had many lovers), but it has had similar results. This is a part of me, which I cannot change. And attempting to do so would be poisonous to my relationships and my own mental health.

Living a polyamorous lifestyle can be challenging at times, though no more challenging than any other kind of relationship. It requires solid communicational skills. Occasionally I have to deal with my own or my partners’ feelings of jealousy. It takes effort to make sure that everyone (including myself) is getting their needs met. It forces personal growth and extreme self-awareness. But the effort and the work and the challenges are worth it. I can live as my whole self, I can express the many different sides of myself with different people in a way that I could not with only one person.

I love my polyamorous self, and the lifestyle in which I express it.

 

You’ll Never Find ‘The One’

You’re never going to find your One True Love. It’s not you, it’s them. They don’t exist, so don’t feel bad if you haven’t found them yet (or if you thought you had, but *gasp*  you still seem to be attracted to other people!).

I am kind of an advice column junkie. There should be a 12-step program for this sort of thing, but I suppose it doesn’t interfere with my life too much. Really the main symptom is developing a habit of offering (unsolicited) advice when someone tells me about a problem. I usually follow this up with “I know you may have just wanted to vent, so feel free to ignore me or tell me to shut up.”

I’m hoping that makes it slightly less obnoxious, but there are times when I wonder how on earth I still have friends.

A common theme in the letters I see is “I’m [married/getting married/in a relationship] but I’m still attracted to other people! I have feelings for someone else! Do I not actually love my [husband/wife/fiancee/boyfriend/girlfriend]? What do I doooo?”

People questioning relationships with someone they love, because ‘the one’ is such a pervasive idea that they think being in love is supposed to shut down your ability to be attracted to – or have feelings for – other people. When that doesn’t happen, well then they must not really be in love!

How many relationships end because people are jumping from one person to the next, ever in search of that elusive ‘One’. That person who will somehow permanently blind you to the attractions of everyone else in the world. How many wonderful, loving relationships are thrown into chaos?

It doesn’t matter how monogamous you are, crushes will happen. You will definitely still find other people attractive. You might even develop feelings for someone else. That does not make your current relationship, the love that you have for your significant other, less real or meaningful. It doesn’t mean you have to pursue that other person.

I’m not the first person to call BS on this term, and I know I won’t be the last, but this dangerous idea of a single ‘soul mate’ or ‘one true love’ is so prevalent that I don’t know if it’s actually going to go away anytime soon. I don’t think this is actually the fault of the cultural expectation of monogamy. Is it Disney’s fault? Chick flicks? A friend has informed me that we have Lord Byron and the beginning of the ‘romantic era’ to thank. Which, in retrospect, actually should have been obvious.

The idea of finding The One is seen as romantic, but I would argue that it is the opposite. Instead of seeing Love as the complex, beautiful, enlightening, wonderful thing that it should be, it boils it down to something simplistic, bare, one-dimensional. You find The One and then everything magically falls into place, requiring no special effort at communication and real connection.

It places your lover into a box, and when they begin to outgrow it or step outside of your idea of them, everything falls apart. It turns your True Love into a plot device rather than a person.

Don’t even get me started on the inevitable complications this idea brings about if your partner dies. What if you find love with someone else? Does that make either love less real, less important, less beautiful?

Looking for your soul mate, your one true love, is a recipe for inevitable disappointment. There are so many people that you can find happiness and real love and compatibility with. There is more than one person that you could be happy to spend the rest of your life with (or the next month/year/decade – just because a relationship ends doesn’t mean it fails).

By looking for someone to place in the ‘One True Love’ box, you are limiting your potential to be really, truly happy with anyone.

No matter what relationship you get into, it’s going to take effort. New Relationship Sparkle wears off, people have flaws and annoying habits. You will not like every single one of anyone’s qualities. You will have to work to communicate effectively. You will have to compromise in order to find harmony. You will hurt them sometimes, and they will hurt you sometimes. You will have fights and arguments. Sometimes, things will be just ‘okay’.

No one will be really, truly, absolutely perfect for you in every single way.

We are all just people.

The world needs to let go the idea of One True Love and embrace Real Love; in all it’s beautiful, terrifying, difficult, wonderful and sometimes painful splendor.

Love ≠ Possessiveness and Vice Versa

How do you know when you are in love? It’s different, every time. Not only are there different kinds of love – romantic, friendship, and compassion being the major ones – but each person that you fall in love with throughout the course of your life will feel different. It will never come on the same way. Different people will inspire vastly different feelings at vastly different rates.

So how do you know when you’re in love?

Out of curiosity, and because this is somewhat relevant to me at present, I Googled it. And there were a lot of extraordinarily unhelpful results. That was basically what I was expecting, but something about the articles/blog posts that I read really rubbed me the wrong way. They all had pretty common (incorrect, in my opinion) themes.

Mainly, for ‘signs that you’re in love’ they pointed to chemical and physical reactions to the person. Butterflies in the stomach, blushing, thinking about them a lot, etc. You know what else inspires those reactions? Lust.

But there was one other, that all of the various things I read had in common, in different words:

  • Not wanting to be with anyone else, and not wanting them to be with anyone else

  • Feeling like they are ‘the one’ (which is just a BS term, but I’ll get to that in a different post).

  • Feelings of possessiveness.

Can I just say one thing?

Ugh.

Now, did I need to perform this google search to know that for the most part, the world believes that love requires monogamy? No, of course I didn’t.

In a perfect world, more people would recognize polyamory as a valid thing. Not even necessarily a lifestyle choice, but something akin to a sexual orientation. I was never good at monogamy, and trying to deny that being polyamorous is a core part of who I am led to nothing good at all. Broken hearts and bitterness were the result of me trying to be something that I am just not.

But back to the topic at hand; all of those articles and blog posts that I read were just incredibly, unbelievably wrong. No wonder so many people go into relationships with messed up expectations if they think that’s the criteria for love. Because ‘Lust + Possessive Feelings’ are not it. Even if you are extremely monogamous, that’s not good criteria.

This is clearly not a question Google can answer. Really, I knew that before I tried. The only way that you can know if you’re in love is through reflection and introspection. Knowing yourself well enough to understand your own feelings for other people. Experience doesn’t even really help that much because, as I mentioned above, it’s different every time. Though, as a side note, experience can be very helpful for determining when you’re not in love.

Still, here are a few things that I think are pretty universal across romantic (or fuck, even friendship) relationships, be they monogamous, poly, or otherwise:

How Do You Know You (Might) Love Someone?

  • You feel comfortable and safe around them.

  • You enjoy being around them, regardless of what you are doing.

  • You trust them and feel comfortable sharing yourself with them.

  • You feel happy when you think about them.

  • You respect them.

  • You want them to be happy, whatever that entails (unless it entails, like, meth. You can draw the line there).
  • You want to spend time with them

Romantic love is all of that (and probably other things that I’m not thinking of) + lust.

Yeah, that’s all I really have. Those are the only really universal things that I could name. I welcome other suggestions.

What did I really learn from this?

The Google doesn’t actually know all. (Sorry, overlords.)

Promises, Promises

Disclaimer: This post has absolutely nothing at all to do with polyamory. It’s really just a personal manifesto. Read on at your own risk of absolute boredom.

I am not generally good at new years resolutions. I mean, in the past I have made them and then totally failed to accomplish basically any of them. So the past couple years I have just been making a general promise to the universe to improve myself in some way, so I’m slightly more bearable to be around for the general public. This year I am going for something in between those two things. I’m not going for anything really specific (i.e. “I’m going to lose 30 lbs by June!” “I’m totally definitely going to quit smoking!”).

This year I have specific ways in which I want to be awesome, and here are my promises for what should be an amazing year.

I will seek out new experiences and adventures. I will do things that scare me.

I will turn off netflix, close my computer, stop checking facebook and tumblr, and devote more time to the things I am passionate about.

I will stop letting a fear of failure keep me from trying to create things, and learn things, and try things.

I will strive to make my lifestyle even slightly healthier on a long-term basis.

I might quit smoking.

I will go out of my way to do something nice for someone, every single day, even when I’m in a terrible mood.

I will join a fight club.

No, actually, I probably won’t.

Probably.

I will make absolutely sure that all of the people in my life (husband, lovers, friends, and family) know exactly how much I love them and how grateful I am to know them. I will show them, at every opportunity, that I love them.

I will write more.

I will read more.

I will think more.

I will laugh more.

I will love more.

I will worry less.

I will take care of myself, and the people I love when they need me to.

I will let the people who love me take care of me, when I need them to.

I will give myself time to enjoy my own company.

I will recognize that this world and this life, despite all the grime, is spectacularly beautiful. And I will strive to make it even more so.

I will remember that the people who surround me have the very best intentions. When they hurt me, I will let it go.

I will extend that same forgiveness to myself.

I will stop obsessing that I am awkward and weird and loud and frequently say disconcerting things and just accept that I am me, and that’s okay.

 

All of these things I promise to strive for, starting yesterday.

Let’s get this shit started.

2013: A Retrospective

Well, the new year will start in just under six hours. Well, in Colorado it will, anyway. I have been thinking about the changes, both good and bad, that my life has undergone since last year. I rang in the new year a year ago in the same place that I am right now. Sitting in my living room, with my husband, drinking whiskey and watching things we enjoy. I believe the choice last year was Pulp Fiction (or some other Tarantino flick, as is the tradition with my husband and myself). This year, a second season re-watch of Sherlock, which is coming back in the UK on January first, and the US on January 19th. I have been counting the days for two years.

Anyway.

I am in exactly the same place, with the same wonderful person, that I was exactly one year ago. Except that I am not the same person I was a year ago. My life has changed, quite a bit, in that time. While a lot of good things happened to me in the few years before that, and I was quite happy, I had settled into a comfortable pattern. A rut. This is not a bad thing, really. For awhile, it can be good for things to be static. But, in the words of The Doctor – “Times change, and so must I.”

Among the things that have happened this year I left a job I had been at for 4 years and many people I really enjoyed working with. I started a new job, well, two of them actually. I experienced life as an escort (I didn’t like it, personally). I lived as a night owl (quite contrary to my morning-person nature). I spent quite awhile depressed. I spent months being broke, with new expenses on top of that. I started a new relationship in January, became very attached, was extremely happy, and then it was ended in August. It hurt like hell. I made wonderful new friends. I became re-acquainted with a very old friend. I lost a friend.

I am not the same person I was a year ago. I am more grown up (only in the good ways), I am more comfortable with not being in control, I am more able to speak up for myself, I am more confident, and I have learned to let go.

The best possible change that could have happened to me this year was the duration and death of my secondary relationship. It was a wonderful time, while it lasted. It taught both me and my husband that I really could love other people without it affecting our relationship (at least not for the worse, since I feel we are actually closer and stronger now). It re-introduced me to parts of myself that I had forgotten were there. It gave me confidence. It reminded me that I am more whole when I don’t try to suppress my feelings. And when it ended, it gave me a wonderful gift. It taught me that if I let go, if I let things happen in the way that they have to happen, my life can be that much more wonderful for the changes and new opportunities that arise.

Every person is a phoenix. Things fall apart and we rise from the ashes brighter and stronger, and better able to deal with the breakdown the next time.

Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty horribly depressed for awhile. I’d just bought a car and changed my work schedule and I wasn’t making any money but I had a new car payment, and I hated my job on top of that. I’d been dumped. A friend had stopped talking to me. My husband was stressed too, and couldn’t really be there and I was closing off so I couldn’t let him. We were broke. Everything had gone really really well for one bright and shining moment, and then collapsed into itself. No one thing was really terrible but it all just combined to make me feel like nothing could go right.

I started applying for new jobs. It was a giant pain in the ass. I really hate job hunting. But I sat down every day, and I fixed my resume and wrote cover letter after cover letter and obsessed over each and every new possibility because that is what I do. Eventually I just started going with it. I knew I could always go back to my old job, and so I stopped stressing quite so much. And in the meantime, I got the job I had been hoping for all along, with all of its risk and potential.

I started making an effort to meet new people. And it was exhausting. I joined a dating site (because I just… don’t meet people in real life and also because I don’t want to have to meet people in real life). There were a ton of assholes to wade through, but I met some pretty cool people in the meantime, some of whom I dated (or… currently date, in some cases) and some of whom I became friends with.

I decided that I wanted to be friends with my ex boyfriend, because he is pretty awesome. And can you really have too many friends? I love this person, so why would I willingly eject them from my life, just because they were no longer a romantic possibility? That conclusion took awhile to get to. And when I made the decision, I wasn’t exactly sure of it. When I went to the first party he was at, I had knots in my stomach. I was prepared to exit at any time. I wasn’t sure if I’d start crying or yelling or just feel sick the whole time. And you know what? I was fine. It was fun, and it was nice to hang out with him again. And after that night, I felt like a brand new person.

My husband and I started figuring the whole money thing out in our changed financial situation. We kept up with our expenses as best we could, spent as little money as we could manage. Learned to roll cigarettes, because it is so much cheaper. Didn’t fight once. We stayed a team, through it all. And we celebrated it, every chance we got.

And I had friends. I had new experiences. I had my husband. I had a huge new world of opportunities. Things to be learned, and tried, and done.

I re-built. I adapted. I became a new person.

I am in the same room, with the same person I was a year ago.

But it is not the same place. And I am not the same person.

Happy New Year.

May 2014 bring all the best that life has to offer you.

And remember – sometimes the worst ends up being the best.

Annoyed Ramblings of a Poly Married Lady

As my first post, I would like to share something which has been increasingly annoying to me. Expectations of ownership. Read on

I am married. Happily. Really, really happily, to a wonderful and kind man. I am also polyamorous, which means that I love him and also other people sometimes. I have sex with him and also other people (more often than sometimes). I devote energy and time to multiple relationships, though I treat my husband as my primary partner.

In addition to my husband, I have lots of good friends and acquaintances, all of whom know that I am polyamorous (though my family, currently, does not. If it ever makes sense to tell them, I will). A pretty common initial reaction, or even regular comment in the cases of some of these people (whom I love) is: “Wow, you must have the coolest husband ever. I can’t believe he lets you do that.”

Now, I actually do have the coolest husband ever. He’s really amazing and that’s honestly one of the many and varied reasons that I am married to him.

But listen up, because I am going to say this exactly once:

My husband does not “let” me do a goddamn thing.

I am not his property, he does not own me, we are in a relationship of equals.

I understand this, he understands this, and I am becoming increasingly vexed at the idea that we “let” each other do things. We have a relationship based on mutual understanding that we are exactly who we are and that those people are compatible, and if that stops working then we re-evaluate and compromise so that we can continue being who we are and being happy with that.

I met my husband at the tail end of a bad, unhealthy relationship. It was the last in a series of bad, unhealthy relationships. This was because I did not know how to just be who I was, and so I would attempt to conform to what they thought I should be, and I failed miserably each and every time. Because you can’t hold out in a lie for that long without being deeply unhappy. I was dishonest, I was occasionally a CPOS (Cheating Piece of Shit, thank you Dan Savage). I had difficulty expressing my real feelings when I was unhappy, so I was frequently passive aggressive. I’d jumped from one serious relationship to the next for fucking years without giving myself any time at all in between for self-reflection about why the last one sucked so much. And, I mean, some of the guys were really awful jerks, and some of them were not being honest about themselves either, but all of those things applied to me also. I mean really, I was terrible. And I didn’t like myself. So, during the tail end of this last bad relationship, I started doing some self-reflection. It took me a long while to actually get anywhere with it and in the meantime I was still partially a passive aggressive douchebag, but I at least decided one important thing that started me on a path to actually becoming a person that I liked: I was not capable of being monogamous, and I was going to stop lying and stop making promises I couldn’t keep.

So early on, before my husband and I started dating, before he ever had a chance to fall in love with me, when we were still getting to know each other, I put it out there.

“I can’t be happy with just one person.”

Yes, I’m sure that sounds awful to some of you, who believe that we need to get back to the “old” ways of just meeting our soul mate and committing to that one person no matter what even though it’s hard. Just… yeah, okay, you can do that. If that is what makes you happy, then I’m not going to tell you that it’s the wrong way of doing things, because we are all different. So just do me the same courtesy, alright?

I told him that. And he decided that that was alright with him and eventually we started dating. I told him early on that it was going to be awhile before I was ready for a serious relationship, even though I had strong feelings for him. So, we dated. And I casually dated other people, and spent a whole lot of time alone because I needed that.

Eventually, we fell in love with each other.

And I decided that for awhile I wanted to be monogamous, because I wanted to build a solid foundation.

One that was just ours.

And it was wonderful, but he never expected it to be permanent, because I had told him that I couldn’t do that. Right at the beginning. It was the “price of admission”. He accepted mine, and I accepted his.

Around four years later, we got married. Before the wedding, we had a discussion about re-opening our relationship. It was an important thing to do before we vowed before all of our friends and family that we were going to spend the rest of our lives together.

We discussed rules and boundaries, because it was important to both of us that we were on the same page. A couple of our friends tried to meddle, initially. Drama ensued, very briefly, until he and I had a chance to talk about it.

Another close friend stopped talking to us entirely, believing that my husband was simply too passive to speak up for himself and how he really felt, and that I was taking advantage.

Somehow, our friends decided that they had more insight into our relationship than we do.

But my husband and I talk. A lot. We are constantly communicating with each other about our worries and fears and wants and needs. Occasionally, one of us will accidentally hurt the other’s feelings.

Because that’s what happens when you have a meaningful relationship of any kind.

I trust him to tell me the truth if he doesn’t like something, because if I didn’t I would be a worried mess all of the time and we wouldn’t last long.

I trust him to tell me the truth if he doesn’t like something because I respect him.

He doesn’t “let” me. He loves me.