Sep 232014

I am lost in the woods. I am caught out in the tall grass. I stepped on a landmine, no, a bear trap. I stepped in a bear trap, pried my leg free and now I find myself, limping and alone in a deep valley hidden amongst the mountains of madness.

I am, for the less poetically inclined, heartbroken.

Heartbreak is a remarkably different thing when you’re pushing 40, a divorcee, when you’re poly and have spent a decade of your life as a commitment-phobe playing the nickel-ante version of Poly Pokemon. Heartbreak is a familiar chasm of despair. I know when the brief respites of sunlight will come. I can see scratches in the walls from my previous attempts to scrabble out. I do not hasten down the dark corridors of regret.

I may be lost, but I have been lost this way before.

Sometimes, I come to a crossroads in my grief, in my yearning to clutch at precious things pulled beyond my grasp. So far, they have been familiar crossroads, and it is not a choice of trying something different this time. It is a choice of which way to walk *again.*

Shall I take the low road and protest her flaws and faults, scream violent promises in the dark and empty coldness of my bed? No, I haven’t the strength just now, and the path leads to the same way as this other choice. Besides, so much of the language of angry rejection is steeped in misogyny, and I grew tired of spewing angry overly-inclusive epithets long ago.

Is it the high road for me, then?

I could split the difference and push my way into the thicket, try and forge a new path down the middle, but then I would have to constantly watch my footing, lest I slip and fall to the low road or even beyond.

Perhaps, some coldly analytical, mirthlessly cynical part of my mind suggests, I could just fall to my knees right here, paralyzed with indecision. Just here, in the twin indents mark where my knees have fallen so many times before.

Sometimes, I think about setting up camp, right here, in this country full of ghosts and shades of recrimination. Oh, I know that if I forge on ahead, I’ll find these very same shades, only less bitter, less angry, eager to show me the path ahead and remind me that I am worthy of love, that I have struggled in earnest and that although we parted ways, it was not because I was less than some mythical Other. I know that those reminders lay ahead. I’m just not there yet.

I’m not there yet, and I don’t know that I feel like getting there. I don’t know that, given a choice down all these familiar paths from heartbreak to wounded to healed to trying to find love again, that I want to particularly try any of them.

I could set up a little campsite, right here. Dig myself a lean-to, or a grave. I could just let myself dwell in bitterness and anger and incomprehension.

I think these things, as I almost always think these things when I walk down this stretch of it, and before I can decide, I see that I have already walked on. “Shelters,” I think. “That’s what I should really be making along these paths.”

Tiny, solidly built shelters. Sanctuaries from the rain and needless extra suffering. Stuff it full of medical supplies for my gorram bleeding heart. It would take time, though, and the belief that I was going to walk this way again.

Somehow, on this familiar journey, I can never quite bring myself to believe this. Oh, certainly, sometimes I think the road is endless and I despair of ever breaking through the canopy of unspoken regrets that keep the road dark and full of stumbling blocks. But never, while I walk the path back from heartbreak, do I manage to say convincingly, “Oh, I’ll get better and someday I’ll fall in love again, and when she breaks my heart, I’ll get back to this spot in just a day or two.”

It used to be that I would keep an eye out for others walking this same road. I’d convince them to spend a night or three with me, and share warmth, fluids and the desire to heal. But I just can’t bring myself to make that mistake again. I used to wonder why, in the movies, exiles from wartorn cities never lent each other a helping hand, but now I understand the weariness that they felt.

I pause at this thought, wondering if this entire gorram metaphorical forest is actually some bomb-blasted city of dreams that I’m trying to escape from, instead of a forest I’m working my way through.

Soon enough, I will get to a high point. Someplace where I get enough signal past my own gorram noise that I can reach out and connect with a friend. They will ask how I am doing, and I will tell them. My voice will be a tired monotone, and I will recite an empty list of facts.

I am eating at least one meal a day.
I am getting outside during daylight.
I am spending time with friends.
I am not drinking and driving.
Am I daily drinking to excess? Well, define “excess,” please.
Don’t worry, I’ll stop. Eventually.

Yes, I am getting my shit done. Bills payed. Commitments met.

It’s all bullshit, of course. I can say that I am eating, but the truth is that I am waiting by the phone. I can say that I have left my house, but the truth is that I am waiting for the phone to ring. I can put my body in the physical space that my friends occupy, but I’m not Here.

I can make metaphors about journeys and forests and walking through darkness, but the truth is that I, meaning the most real part of me, am still having that last conversation. Over and over again, the words that we said and variations I could have tried instead. As if I could fix it all in one last effort. As if finding the exact right way to phrase my feelings would have changed everything.

I can make all the metaphors about growth, healing and taking the good from the bad, and I can make them because I know that someday I’ll be better, and these things will be true.

But the truth is that right at this moment, I am sitting in the dark, clinging to my regrets like they have some kind of value. Like they’re worth more than the mistakes I made and never owned up to. Like they are some kind of true and accurate representation of the inexplicable validation that is Love. I am sitting in the dark and I am clinging to my regrets.

I know it is pointless. I know it won’t help me move on. I know that my friends think I am torturing myself pointlessly.

That’s just how I do this, okay?

Trust me.

I’ve done this before.

Jul 092014

Note: Posting this here because I typed out this giant essay on a Facebook comment, and there was some kind of network error.

I think that we (Bryan and I) are exploring the divide between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Bryan, you seem to be suggesting that what is important is what your beliefs about the True Nature of the Universe(tm) are, and that there is some sort of advantage to being on the right team when it comes to picking your religious group. (Since that view is foreign to me, it’s likely that my description of your viewpoint may come off as dismissive — it’s not meant to belittle your position, but rather to demonstrate how my perspective differs from yours).

As someone who believes in orthopraxy, the basic currency unit of my faith is that God cares about what we do and how we act, not WHY we do things. I believe that God understands that we struggle between our conflicting desires, that sometimes we don’t want to be The Good Guy, that sometimes its hard to respect other people’s civil rights, that I will have days when I do not argue with my beloved from a place of compassion and faith. I believe — or rather, I *have faith* that God doesn’t mind that internal struggle, and judges us on whether or not we muster up the courage to be good people regardless of those circumstances, and that our afterlife experience will be an opportunity to work on further improving ourselves in the areas we did poorly in this time ’round the Merry Go Round.

I think that it’s important to note that this is a personal belief, that orthopraxy is my CHOICE about FAITH and its impact on my life and the lives of those around me. Not all Hindus believe this way. My mother, for example, believes in doctrinal practices. She thinks that if she prays when she’s told to pray, and shows up for the festivals, and sings the hymns you’re supposed to sing, that makes her a Good Hindu(tm).

Since I believe that what I do is more important that why I do it, it doesn’t matter to me what groups I support or associate with, EXCEPT for how membership in that group encourages or discourages Right Action.

Membership in a particular faith-based organization inherently causes conflict (because, hey, conflict is the nature of the universe) between your social, spiritual and physical duties. They are social organizations, and they create political situations. As organizations, they choose doctrine which they believe will encourage spiritual growth among their membership. That is why it is important to have a multitude of conflicting faith-based organizations — to provide a variety of options for the spiritual growth of all the different people out there.

That last paragraph is pretty in-line with “general Hindu belief,” although it’s tricky to say some things like that because there are several other important distinctions between Hinduism and Christianity which seem to be part of what you’re struggling with, Bryan. Notably:

* Christian Churches are hierarchical structures, with a clear line of power and responsibility leading from a central authority down to successive stages, ultimately coming down to a priest or pastor, who holds power and responsibility over a particular congregation.

* Hindu temples and religious organizations are non-hierarchical, and independent of each other. In America, where Hinduism is a minority religion, this is harder to see, but in India, there is a clear division between temples maintained by brahmins (which provide the opportunity to perform artha, your spiritual obligations to treat God like he’s a cool guy you want to show up to your parties), and religious organizations (I forget the term for them) which study the writings of theologians (swamis) and encourage the practices which enlighten your soul. These organizations are typically fairly grassroots, and can be vaguely grouped into “schools of thought,” but we don’t have anything akin to the Catholic Pope.

* Christianity teaches that contact with the divine is primarily managed by an mediating third party (ie, the priest). Although there is theoretically room for an individual to experience connection with divinity unaided, in practice there are extremely few cases which are deemed authentic divine experience, and they are subject to organizational scrutiny and approval.

* Hinduism teaches that contact with the divine is actually going on all the time with everyone, and that there is a basic set of practices which anyone can practice on their own in order to gain a greater understanding of their ongoing connection with the divine. In other words, Hinduism believes that unaided, unsupervised divine experience is happening all the time, and there are a couple hundred schools that can help you achieve that if you’re interested — let the buyer beware.

* Christianity accepts only one book as an authentic religious text.

* Hinduism has, quite literally, thousands of religious texts, including the Bible (although, admittedly, we tend to think it’s poorly edited). You’re encouraged to find some of those texts to be ludicrous and off the mark.

So [deep breath], hopefully all of that will help to inform your understanding of what I say next:

> …if I first say that I sincerely believe that admission to heaven requires baptism, but then later say that another person’s belief that admission to heaven only requires God’s grace is equally valid, am I not impliedly undermining the first statement that I sincerely believe that admission to heaven requires baptism?

Yes. Absolutely true. Because you’re making generalized statements about what OTHER PEOPLE need to do in order to get to heaven. And mind you, there are Hindus out there (like my mother) who will argue over what OTHER PEOPLE need to do also.

But I don’t make those sorts of arguments, because I don’t believe I have any right to tell another person what they need to do in order to achieve spiritual salvation.

At best, I might talk about why *I* chose to undergo a baptism (or a hatha yoga practice, or a monastic retreat, or a flesh hook ritual, etc etc) and what that experience did FOR ME; how that baptismal experience felt for me, and why it turned out to be the experience it was on my journey towards a more compassionate life. If I saw someone who seemed to be stuck in a rut that I found familiar, I might encourage them to explore engaging in a milestone ritual akin to my baptism, and would view that conversation as an opportunity to explore my own spiritual needs in this moment, and examine why I felt inclined to encourage them to follow one particular path over another.

> This raises a pair of related questions: can one be Christian if one doesn’t believe in the divinity of Christ; and can one be Hindu if one doesn’t believe in iterative reincarnation? Or, can I be Hindu if I believe that I’m finding spiritual truth through Christ?

While I can’t tell you what the requirements for your religion are, as far as Hinduism goes, Swami Vivekananda is quite famously quoted as once having said, “There are only two requirements for being a Hindu: You have to believe in the existence of a Divine Being, and you have to like that He or She exists. Everything after that is just gravy.”

> …[begs the question of] whether strict adherence to the idea that “everyone’s spiritual journey has some validity” requires surrendering the Hindu label. Otherwise, isn’t he claiming that Hinduism has the uniquely correct view of spiritual truth?

Strict adherence to a lax set of parameters? I think you’re missing the whole “I don’t judge other people’s paths” point. Again, you’re confusing prescriptivist and descriptivist labeling habits.

Think of it this way: Where do I live?

The answer to that lies partially in who is asking the question, and where we are when you ask me that. If we’re in Germany, then I tell you I live in America. Closer in, and I might tell you “Illinois,” or “Northern Illinois” or “Chicago.” If you’re actually in Chicago with me, I might tell you what neighborhood I live in. If it mattered to the discussion, I might give you the nearest major intersection, or my exact street address.

Similarly, when talking to a Christian who needs me to “briefly overview the basic tenets of your religion,” I am a Hindu. But within that larger label are many smaller labels. I believe in a specific set of religious texts, and I worship a specific set of God/Avatars (loosely analogous to the practice of worshipping Saints). I engage in a specific set of practices that help me maintain a daily sense of spiritual growth, and there are other practices I hope to engage in someday once I feel I am spiritually ready for them. Each of those carry additional labels that I would use to describe myself to someone who understood their meaning.

I use those labels to describe what has and has not worked for me in my spiritual journey.

I don’t really care what labels other people use to describe those beliefs. So if it helps you to understand my beliefs as “similar to UUA,” then go for it. You’re losing a lot of nuance in that transcription error, but the data loss will only matter if you try to dig deeper into what I actually believe, and besides, YOUR labels are meant to help YOU understand things. They do not “describe” me.

And really, at the end of the day, I believe that the point of all of this is how it impacts the way you treat other people today and tomorrow. Any discussion of an afterlife is really just about what sort of carrot I dangle in front of my nose to get me to move forward in the direction I want to get this stubborn ass to move in.

Jul 112013

“You know. That guy? The one on your couch, who’s always being cool to women and then bragging about it?”
“You mean the couchsurfing feminist blogger?”
“Yeah. Him. I tried to hook him up with your roommate.”
“How’d that go?”
“Horrible. I don’t even know their names yet.”

 Posted by at 1:54 am
Jul 112013

People often ask me, “Okay, but then once I’ve got them tied up, what do I do?”

Okay, first, some basic things you can do:

  • Beat them, kick them, punch them, pinch them, slap them
  • Torture them with violet wand, tens unit, etc
  • use them as furniture: foot rest, table to hold your book/crafts, drink holder, etc
  • simulated non-consensual sexual activity
  • Force them to do chores/run errands and then laugh at them while they try
  • jerk off while watching them try to escape from the bondage. All that wiggling!

Conceptually, think about it this way:
Once you’ve put them in bondage, you’ve done the thing that they wanted. You are STILL doing the thing they want you to do. You are accumulating credit on the “for him/for me” scale. While they’re in bondage, you are MORE free to do whatever you feel like to them, because as long as those chains are on, you are actively doing something that gets them off.

Plus, they’re really helpless. Let yourself be inquisitive. How bendy IS the human ear? Does he really need to be able to flex his big toe in order to walk? Where do his lips attach? Do his teeth wiggle? Does he have cavities? Are they attached solidly to that tooth? Now’s your chance to really get to know your partner as a human being.

What the fuck is he going to do to stop you from finding out? He’s chained up.

 Posted by at 1:53 am
Apr 102013

I embarrassed myself a bit last night with the vehemence of my position. Someone had asked me how I fulfilled my responsibility as the secondary partner to maintaining the primary couple’s boundaries.

I began by pointing out all the couple privilege and hierarchical assumptions that question contained, and how I disagreed with his premise.

First off, let’s toss out the hierarchy from this question, because I am not going to play second to anyone, particularly in my own love life. So then question becomes, “How much responsibility do I have to maintain my partner’s relationship contract with her co-habitating partner?”

Now let’s toss out the couple privilege from that sentence as well: “”How much responsibility do I have to maintain my partner’s external relationship contracts?”

At which point, the answer becomes pretty obvious to me: None at all.

She is responsible for maintaining all of the contracts she enters into. I am not responsible for maintaining any of her agreements. I didn’t make them. No one invited me to that negotiation.

Equally, I feel that she is responsible for presenting the sum of her boundaries as her choice, and not as restrictions that have been forced upon her by external parties. “Oh, I’d love to fuck you but my other partner would get jealous” is really close to telling me, “I regularly enter into relationship contracts that I don’t intend to keep.”

My responsibility, I informed him, rests solely inside the relationships I choose to enter into, with the people I enter into them with.

“Well, okay, I can see that being true for a casual, one-night sort of thing, but aren’t you going to be the guilty one if you violate the primary partnership’s agreements in a long term relationship? You presumably care about her feelings, about hurting her,” goes the argument.

Well, yes. If I were being victimized by couple privilege, and being held responsible for her failure to respect her relationship contract with other people, then I’d be held as the guilty party, just like when a husband cheats on his wife, society is quick to blame the adulteress, who didn’t even know the guy was married.

I can only be held responsible for doing the best that I can do, given the knowledge that I have.

As far as her violation of her relationship boundaries go, if I’m in a long term relationship with her, then sure, I will absolutely support her and nurture her while she resolves HER mistakes.

(This was, if you hadn’t guessed, the point where I got rather loud, and quite a few people stopped talking around me.)

In this scenario, I most likely have a relationship with my metamour, her other partner. And I recognize that their relationship has a certain value to them: they have agreed to co-habitate and co-mingle their finances, and that indicates that they perceive that relationship has legs, will be lasting for a while. But I am also in it for the long-haul, and to suggest that my relationship is less worthy of consideration or allowance just because they met each other first…it’s simply insulting to me.

Furthermore, until they, as a couple or as two individuals, sit down with me and negotiate all the terms of the dozens of relationships going on in that situation (her + me, her + him, (her+me) + him, etc)…until my voice was a part of that discussion, and I agreed to the situation, I feel no obligation at all to uphold those contracts.

It is not enough for them to have simply considered my feelings when renegotiating their positions. In fact, I’ve been in situations where they have given me more than I would have asked for, and I found that insulting. I have to be in the room. I have to be treated like an equal member of the negotiation, or I reject outright the suggestion that I am liable for those agreements.

You might well imagine how I react to the idea of End User Licensing Agreements.

 Posted by at 1:18 pm
Mar 262013

I had lots of fun at Bound in Boston 2013, teaching my class on Karadas. I received possibly my best compliment so far after the class: “You’ve added flexibility to my world.”

I’ve barely got time to think before I need to leave for Frolicon but I DID have time to throw this little number together:

During the Open Space Technologies section of Bound in Boston, I stepped up to teach an impromptu class on Chest Harnesses when the originally requested presenter recalculated his transit needs. When I asked the attendees what they wanted to know, they asked for examples of male harnesses. Operating on my basic principles, I tossed out a few example ideas, and they liked some of them enough to ask me to put together a tutorial document on it.

Here’s a simple Chest Harness for Men, may you use it in good health. (You probably want to right-click/Save that link, rather than opening it)

I’ve decided to use this tutorial as a freebie introduction to my new project, Knotty American Comix. That link will presumably have issues of the comic available someday.

A simple Chest Harness for Men.

 Posted by at 4:12 am