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Total Absolute Complete Fantasy


Life has been difficult and different here for most of the last year.  Much of what has always constituted the core of our erotic connection has fallen away, or been put on hold.  So, perhaps it is not entirely surprising that my mind has begun to concoct elaborate erotic fantasies.  This was where my brain was last night -- keeping me awake until the wee hours of the morning...

January blows raw here in the Midwest.  The snow swirls in every corner, and muddy slush splashes and then freezes in eerie forms on every surface. 

A few weeks into the new year, my students are deeply engaged in learning and growing with the winter break fading into memory.  The ninety-year-old bricks of the old school building echo the sounds of children from floor to floor as we all wrap ourselves into sweatshirts and warm socks to ward off the winter chill.  On this particular afternoon, we are given the gift of a visit from a traveling musician -- a concert level cellist from far away Montana.  His name is Cole Hammond, and he is as weathered, rugged, and beautiful as the wild western regions that he hails from.  I sit on the floor in the old gym with my students and am transported by the full, golden warmth of the music he shares with us -- Bach, and Handel, and some bit of Celtic enchantment. 

When the last quivering notes fade away; when he has answered dozens and dozens of questions from students young and old; when we are milling around working our way toward the doors and back to class, he materializes beside me -- and I smile my thanks and reach to shake his hand.  He asks my name, and I happily give it.  He sweeps his arm around my gaggle of pre-adolescents, and with a twinkle in his startlingly blue eyes, asks me who they might be.  "These are my kids," I tell him.  A smile spreads across his face, and he replies, "Why, yes Ma'am, I believe they are."  And then, I have to head off to class, to teach, to be who I am in my days.  

Hours later, after the bells have all rung; after things have been put away for the day; after the desks have all been straightened; after all is in readiness for the next day -- I head out to my frozen car in the nearly empty and windswept parking lot.  It is bitter cold, and the car is covered in ice and drifted snow.  Muttering and cursing the rotten weather I dig out my scraper and begin to do battle with the frozen mess.  

Suddenly, a big, leather-gloved hand covers mine, and a low, quiet voice says, "Here, Ma'am, let me do that."  I look up into his smiling eyes and leathered face, and he is so spectacular that I am struck dumb.  Like a silly, star-struck girl, I hand him the scraper and wave helplessly at the still icy car.  His low chuckle rumbles from deep in his chest, and I can feel myself blush.

It doesn't take long and the car is all cleared off and ready to go.  I thank him for his help, and prepare to leave, when that big hand comes to rest, light as falling snow, on my shoulder.  He turns me around, and asks me, "Wouldn't you join me for a bit of dinner?"  I think, for just a minute, that I need to call home, explain what is happening, get permission, but then (and I am not lying) my fantasy addled brain speaks up -- "No, dummy!  You don't have to call anyone.  This is your fantasy -- just go!"  

And that is how, at three or four this morning, I was lying there, wide awake, all hot and bothered, while in my head, I was sitting across the table at the funky little Italian place, sharing interesting appetizers and amazing conversation with my imaginary cellist from Montana. 

I don't know what to make of all of that.  I didn't consciously invite Cole Hammond into my head, but I'm not unhappy to have "met" (invented?) him.  Will he come back again?  If he does, what do I do about him?  I'm so confused...



A Little Bit of Sex Talk

In December of 2005, I had a total hysterectomy.  It resolved a number of difficult and potentially dangerous "female" problems, but it also created an enormous loss of sexual functioning.  I whined about it here for a very long time -- some would probably have said that the whining was nearly endless...

The state of medical knowledge is such that, while the doctors and surgeons were very capable of performing the surgery that rendered me sexually inert, they had nothing much to offer to remedy that situation.  I tried a wide variety of lotions, potions, exercises -- and even a course of psychotherapy.  It was all fruitless.  My libido remained intact, but my amputated parts and pieces were just as gone.

I lived, for a couple of years (or maybe more), with a towering anger that overshadowed just about everything.  Until, finally, even I wore myself out on that rocky shore.

I've learned, in the aftermath of all of that, to find the secret and hidden paths to my own pleasure again.  I can and do achieve sexual release these days, and it is different than it was, but good in its own right.  There is a mystical and magical glow around that, and I understand why it is that no one could show me the way.  It is a very subtle and delicate thing -- like chasing butterflies in a dense fog.  I am always surprised and delighted when I "catch" one of those glorious "butterflies."  Coming suddenly upon it, out of the shrouded mists is, indeed, a wonderment.

And there is, I am learning, a benefit to having made that journey that I never would have guessed.

Catching butterflies is a matter of intense focus, deep attentiveness, quiet calm, and unwavering persistence.  Years of hunting butterflies have shifted my love making.  I am become a seeker of joyfulness, and it turns out that, for us both, those skills are turning out to be a treasure.

Now.  Most often.  I come to the sex act with knowledge that I did not have all those years ago.  Back then, it was enough to be hot and juicy and open and willing.  No more.  Now, I know that I need to bring my whole self into being with Him.  I know that I need to allow the sensations to flow through me and through Him.  I understand that I must quiet all the chatter and silence all the worrying.  It is about the sensations and the connections.  Nothing more and nothing less:

His breathing -- and mine
Firmness against yielding
Velvet softness and power throbbing into the darkness
Veins and ridges and folds and hollows
Pulses and quivers and shivers and electric thrills up and down the spine
Eyes that meet and slide away and meet again
Warm touches stroking places only we know
Groans and sighs and startled gasps of surprise
Scents and smells and salty sweetness

I have learned to follow the signs and discern the trail that leads to my own pleasure, and going there for myself, I bring Him along with me.  It is a "trick" that I've learned, largely out of my own desperation, and without really knowing what I was about in the doing.

And so it was that He and I collapsed in giggles the other day when, in the moment of His orgasm, I made a sudden shift of muscles and position that sent Him soaring.  When He asked what had made me do "that," I had no answer except to tell Him that "the penis was giving directions."  And it was.  Directions that I have come to understand and follow in a dance that has brought us back around again.



Name Silliness

You have but to know an object by its proper name for it to lose its dangerous magic.  
~Elias Canetti~

 My parents called me "Suzanne."  Well, truth be told, my mother called me that, and following her lead, all of my brothers used the name I'd been given at birth.  My father always called me "Suzy"  -- a moniker that I would tolerate from no one else.  

As a young adolescent, I tried to get everyone to use my middle name, and so for a short while, I became "Beth" outside of my family.  It wasn't something I ever successfully convinced my parents to accept, and the whim didn't last very long.

In college, I wanted desperately to be one of the guys.  The mining college where I studied as a young woman was a seriously male dominated world, and my jeans and denim shirts and combat boots belied the feminine handle I'd worn all my life.  There, I became "Zimmy,"  a shortened version of my surname.  

I spent years of with no name at all save the tags of "wife" and "mommy."

Arriving here nine years ago, to create a life of my own choosing, I flirted briefly with calling myself "Ahnold," but became instead, Master's "swan."  I've been swan for a really long time, and it is a name that I've loved and cherished and held close to me.  Of all the gifts He's given to me, that name holds a particular sort of mystery and magic.

Just lately, though, it seems that I've lost my "swan" label in favor of a more prosaic and less melodious appellation.  As Master has recovered from His shoulder replacement (and so been pretty restricted in the use of His right arm), He has taken to calling me without actually doing that directly.  It goes a little like this:

"Dammit!  I wish I had some more coffee."
"Dammit!  I wish I had my sandals."
"Dammit!  I can't find my glasses."
"Dammit!  I left the remote on the table."
"Dammit!  I dropped my pen."

And so it was that, about two weeks ago, I asked Him, teasingly, if He really thought that my name was "Dammit?"  I wondered out loud if I'd missed the one where He told me, "I love you, Dammit."  Wink!  

I don't know that I'm back to being swan, but I have heard way less "Dammit" in the last few days.

swan Dammit


Saving Ourselves -- Part 7

I began this series with a list of suggestions from Mark Gregston about ways to repair and rebuild a relationship after encountering struggles.  This last segment will be all about the last remaining technique in his list:

Remember the past and believe in the future

I've avoided that one; worked my way around all of the others; and tried really hard not to see this one looming inexorably.  This one feels really hard to talk about -- but I started this, and I intend to finish it somehow.
Part of my difficulty with talking about what I remember about our past and what I believe is possible in our future, is that it forces me to contemplate the flow of time in a linear stream -- from back there, to here, to out there somewhere.  That pushes against what I think is true -- that time doesn't really work that way, that time is more like a tapestry than a stream.  I like feeling that the time that touches me is connected to all the other times that have ever been.  Some pull on me more strongly than others, but there I am, caught in the web.
Trying to put the past, present, and future into some kind of sequence takes me out of that "one day at a time, or one moment at a time discipline that has brought me through these last months.  Just as I get through the hardest spankings by deliberately focusing on just one stroke; and just as I steadfastly refuse to count because it becomes overwhelming; I am afraid to look very far back, or very far forward.
Too, I am reluctant to revisit the past because I am afraid to disperse the magic with the clearer vision I now possess.  I know that there were plenty of warning signs that I should have heeded, and plenty of opportunities to pull myself, and possibly all of us, off of the path that we ultimately followed into the darkness.  Knowing that doesn't change the fact that He and I played to the point of rapture.  It doesn't change the fact that I once felt utterly free and safe inside of His embrace and under His care.  It doesn't erase the memories of moments when we were so close and so intimate and so connected that we came to believe that we were souls forever linked along the pathways of eternity.  The future isn't something that I can predict or control.  Much of what I hope for myself going forward depends on Him -- and honestly, it is likely too soon to tell where He will ultimately find Himself; or how He will come to feel about me when that does occur.  I want to believe that the day will come when He will pull me back, hold me close again, and take me again as "His."
Some days, when I am weary and frustrated and angry and sad because we've had to go through this, it is all that I can do to hold onto that belief -- that dream.  Sometimes, when He seems so tired of the whole business, and so unwilling to believe in any future at all, I can feel my own fear wash over me -- and I want to shake Him and somehow MAKE Him figure out how to save us.  But I can't make Him do this anymore than I ever could make Him
do anything -- and so I try to keep my balance, hold my tongue, do the things that need doing right now, and believe in the magic that I once held in my hand because I loved Him.
That's all for now...


Saving Ourselves -- Part 6

Alright.  Surely, by now, it is obvious to just about everybody, that I am filling space here -- working hard to find things to talk about when there is very little to talk about.  I have become one of those bloggers who pretends to write about a lifestyle dynamic that I don't actually live.  That is the reality, and it is clear that pretty much nobody cares what I offer here.  All these heady, academic posts are about as exciting as watching grass grow.  I get it, but I don't have anything else, and I can't seem to help myself.  I've done this too long to quit now, and doing that would be to admit defeat.  I'm not ready to give it all up just yet, so let's go on shall we?  I'll do my best to make these next few quick and painless.  Here are three more Gregston tips for healing broken relationships:
  • Establish boundaries
  • Practice selfless confrontation
  • Correct and discipline, even when it makes you uncomfortable
 Now, whatever it may seem like to those of you watching from the outside, and whatever judgments may have been made about my actions over the course of the last year, I FEEL like a submissive inside.  My reactions and responses and instincts are all tuned to pleasing Him and serving Him and earning His approval.  For years and years now, my boundaries have been His; my wants and wishes have been driven by what He wanted; my opinions and beliefs and values have all been shaped by Him.  I don't know where my boundaries are anymore.  I wish I didn't have to find out.  Surveying the perimeters of my own psyche seems scary to me.  I don't want to find the edges, and I don't want to have to defend those edges.  I will but it isn't what I was planning to be doing at this point in my life.

As for "practicing selfless confrontation," I understand that it may be useful to Him for me to try to point out the flaws in His reasoning; to shine a light on the things that keep Him stuck; to demonstrate what works and doesn't between us... and I know I should do that even when it isn't what He wants to hear.  It makes me uncomfortable, and it leaves me feeling "out in the cold" when that confrontation makes Him angry, or causes Him to withdraw.  What if I'm wrong?  What if, in doing all of that, I break the bonds between us?  What if He never comes back to me?  I do not feel at all secure in all of this, and if it looks otherwise to you, then it is because I am faking it.

And, as for "discipline and correction?"  I don't know.  We've incorporated those elements into our lives from the beginning.  We've never been of the "He's perfect, and she's the only one who needs discipline" school of thought.  We've always switched, and while it isn't easy, I can take the disciplinarian role when necessary.  So that set of tools belongs to us.  I hope it doesn't come into play.  I really do.



Saving Ourselves -- Part 5

In the work of Mark Gregston, one piece of advice about relationship building and rebuilding is to "listen more and answer less."  The advice is to stop telling the other what you are thinking until your are asked for your opinion...
  • Just be quiet.
  • Stop lecturing.
  • Start listening.
  • Hush and get out of the way -- let the other take the lead.

For those of us who live inside of unequal power balances, this presents an interesting set of challenges and begs the question -- "who should be quiet, and who should listen more -- or answer less?"  Most often, and surely within the relationship that He and I have, the tendency is to assume that His opinions and ideas are more valid, more "right," and more likely to be heard than mine.  After all, He is THE MASTER, with all that that implies.  Working our way through the difficult days, part of the work has been to "renegotiate" that understanding.  Moving forward, we both need to know what the expectations are within our relationship.  He and I have never been inclined to do that sort of bargaining in formal terms, and so for us, it has been a slow and organic process -- we have felt our way along, pretty tentatively, trying to understand where we are.

Before our crash, I tended to simply retreat when His views and mine did not match.  I'd say my piece, and then, if He contradicted it, or disagreed, I'd simply concede the point.  Even when I knew He was "off base," (and yes, it is possible for Master-types to be seriously off base), I'd let it go.  That worked to maintain the peace, mostly, but it likely contributed to us veering dangerously off course.  Some might have viewed my silence, in those instances, as appropriately submissive, but I sense that I did not serve well in allowing myself to be bullied and pushed into acquiescence with behavior and choices that obviously put us all at risk.

In Gregston's view, the idea would be to remain quiet; to listen until you partner initiates the inquiry into what you think -- until they WONDER about it.  I can't imagine that I will ever live long enough to maintain sufficient quiet that He will really wonder what I think.  When He is interested in generating a conversational give and take between us, He has plenty of skill around initiating that exchange, but I believe that I'll never "wait Him out" on that "what are you thinking" field of play.

And there's another facet to this that Gregston doesn't really address, and that is "sound."  For me, it
is not so much what I say, or don't say, but more about how I sound.  As long as the voice I use is sweet and light and happy, He'll talk and relate.  If I let my voice convey frustration, hurt, anger, or any sort of darkness, He pulls away and things get miserable.   So for me, for now, the "telling" part of our communication is more often a problem when I am reactive rather than when I am actually trying to just simply SAY something.   It is a verbal sort of female teasing and flirtiness that lures Him into conversation much more successfully than my grumpy, aggrieved voice. 



Saving Ourselves -- Part 4

 Summer time is "project time" for me.  All of the big, complicated, high energy things that I don't tackle through the school year get put off until the long, uncommitted days of summer.  Give me a bit of unscheduled time, and I make stuff happen.  So far this summer, I've rearranged my kitchen, planted a fair garden of flowers, vegetables, and herbs, replaced bulbs and cleaned the ceiling florescent in the kitchen, reinstalled all of the smoke detectors, undertaken to revamp our meal planning and eating routines, reworked and tidied up the family records filing system, and created a significant new set of curriculum materials for my social studies classes for next year.  Of course, I've been actively engaged in helping Master through these first four weeks of post-surgical recovery -- lots of help with dressing and undressing.  Too, He and I have been investing about an hour and a half each day in our power walking exercise routine.  The big, gnawing at my brain, making me crazy, summer project though, has been the garage.  My garage is the primary storage space for our family, and over the years, I've struggled to keep it neat and make it work efficiently in that role while simultaneously providing the intended shelter for an automobile.

When we first moved in here, some eight years ago, the "then" husband installed a hodgepodge of shelves all over the place.  Some were wide and some were narrow.  Some were up high, and others were so short as to cause one to wonder what the hell he was thinking.  Over the years, I've tried a number of approaches to the garage storage dilemma, but I've never just ripped out the whole mess and started fresh.  I'm not sure why, but it all just seemed too daunting.  Last summer, I created a serious "Rube Goldberg" style shelving arrangement that involved stacking a number of trunks and plastic storage bins up, and using them to support the wooden shelving boards I'd gathered from all over the place.  The bins and trunks would, I reasoned, do double duty that way -- acting as both storage and supports.  It looked great and it functioned pretty well ... just as long as you never needed to get anything out of one of those bins at the very bottom of the whole jumble.  And, of course, because the universe operates on the principle that, "left to themselves, things follow the path of maximum perversity," everything I have ever needed from the garage in this last year has ALWAYS been at the bottom of the stack.  

So, for obvious reasons, my summer project list included a major overhaul of the garage.  Which brings me to the point of today's conversation about ways to help strengthen and repair a damaged relationship (other parts of this series are found at posts about Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3):
  • Share challenging experiences… 
  • Develop a sense of humor

The redesign of the garage storage space may not seem to you to be particularly challenging, and it probably doesn't appear, at first glance, to be the occasion for any significant humor.  But, my friends, that is only because you underestimate the ways in which the universe likes to fuck with some of us.  Me, in particular.

I had, at the very beginning of the summer, shared my thinking about the garage situation with Master, and I told Him that I intended to tear out everything that had been put up by "He Who Shall Remain Nameless," and put in something straightforward, simple, and functional.  I wanted maximum storage with minimum mess and hassle.  He accompanied me on several scouting trips to explore the possibilities, and we saw some awesome and amazing storage systems -- at prices that took my breath away.  I became convinced that there had to be a way to install workable storage at some reasonable cost.  In fact, I got very caught up in that idea of "inexpensive" storage.  That was the beginning of the "challenging experience" that He and I would ultimately share together around this project.  It also turned out to be the driving force behind the cosmic joke that played out at my expense.

I searched and researched for weeks, and I finally decided that the best approach to the garage of my dreams was a simple system of wall mounted uprights and brackets with plain dimensioned lumber boards for the shelves.    I measured, and calculated, and headed off to the local big box hardware store to acquire the needed hardware.  I found some very inexpensive standards and brackets and bought up what I needed, dragged them all home and worked through a wickedly hot couple of days to get the old stuff taken down and the new ones installed.  It looked great, and I was awfully proud of myself:  forteen feet of 20" deep shelves, running three high all down one side of my garage.

Last night, I loaded them up, and called it a job well done.  We stayed up late watching a movie, went off to bed about midnight, slept fairly late this morning, got up and had breakfast, and then got ready to go out and walk.  When I walked out of the front door and down the sidewalk, I could see, through the window into the garage, that all of my wonderful shelves had collapsed -- and dumped all of the stuff all over my new little car!

I would like to tell you that I took it all in stride and laughed at the joke -- but that would be a lie.  I was furious!  Panicky about my pretty, new car, under all of those boards and brackets and boxes of stuff!  I must admit that I said bad words.  I did. And, He and I walked our 4-1/4 miles with me fuming and fussing the whole way.  Yeah!  Develop a sense of humor my ass!

The good news?  We walked at the fastest pace we've achieved since the surgery.  Rage is a great energizer.  We got home and He helped me excavate the car and haul all of the stuff out to the front lawn -- WITH His one good arm.  And...  underneath it all, unmarked and in fine shape, the little car survived just fine.  OK.  So, then I was able to laugh at the absurdity of it all; laugh at myself for going so cheap that the project didn't serve its purpose;  wander off, with Him in tow, to buy better brackets and better supports (and a new rug for the living room -- HIS idea not mine).  I got everything torn down, and reinstalled, and all the stuff  moved back to the new shelves in just over two hours.  And it looks good, and sturdy, and functional.

Lesson(s) learned.



Saving Ourselves -- Part 3

This is the 3rd part of a series of discussions about ways to recreate relationships (especially BDSM relationships) after surviving a major "bump in the road."  For the first two segments, look here and here.

Continuing with thinking about the work of Mark Gregston, today I want to discuss the idea of "Looking for opportunities for discussion" with your partner.

We are quick, in the lifestyle, to exhort each other to "talk" with our partners.  We pride ourselves on being more open, more honest, more transparent.  We learn skills that help us to negotiate; to state our needs; to define our limits.  We make checklists and contracts and mantras.  Oh yes... we are big on talking, and we create relationships that are awash in words.

So, what would be different if we looked for opportunities for discussion?

Discussion is more than talking.  It is inquiry and examination.  While talk is about conveying information, discussion goes further, looking to explore, examine and discover things that might not be contained on the surface of our words.  The word comes from Latin, and the stem, discussio, means "a shaking."  Literally, to discuss is to "strike asunder," or "break up," from dis- "apart" + quatere "to shake." While the usual meaning of the word is to "talk over" or "debate," the early sense seems to have evolved from "smash apart," "scatter," and "disperse."  So, when we discuss, we break things down; we shake up our assumptions; we smash through our biases and preconceived ideas.  We inquire and examine.  We talk things over, and we debate.

I am reminded of the ancient and traditional practices of divination -- "throwing the bones" (and comparable techniques). In bone divination, bones of various sorts (and sometimes, other small objects like shells, seeds, and nuts) are ritually tossed onto a mat, an animal hide, or into a circle drawn in the dirt.  The resulting patterns are interpreted to provide information and guidance about travel and love and fortune.  It seems to me that discussion, as opposed to more casual conversation, might be the path for us to divine the deeper mysteries and fortunes of our relationships.

In discussion, we'd ask questions of our partners, and keep digging -- searching with them for answers and ideas that might be beyond what we anticipate and expect:
What is important to you?
Why do you feel that way about _____________________________?
Where did you learn about?
What would you do about this problem or that challenge?
Where would you go?
Explain that to me... 

Our discussions, whatever the subject matter, might well be the pathway into journeys of the mind.  Together with our partners, we could find ourselves amazed at the places we might go together.



Saving Ourselves -- Part 2

This is the second of a series of discussions growing out of my personal sense that there is very little useful and accessible information available to those of us in the lifestyle when our unique relationships encounter challenges.  If you choose to end a power-based relationship, there's plenty of advice on exactly how to go about doing that, but not if you want to save and strengthen that same relationship.  In that circumstance, you are mostly on your own.  For us, in our moment of crisis, the choice was to hang in, stay with it -- and with each other, and work to be better than before.  Some of what we are learning through that process will be here.

As I noted in the first of these posts, I am using the work of Mark Gregston as a jumping off point for each of these pieces.  He proposes that there are ten techniques or tips that can be used to strengthen or recreate a damaged relationship.  Today, I want to consider the recommendation that we spend time together, one on one

    It seems obvious, but if we want our relationships to be strong, healthy, and loving, we must spend time together with our partners relating one on one.  It's easy and fun to do that when things are going well; when life seems good; when being together is affirming and pleasant and sexy.  However, for partners who have been through a relational struggle, the aftermath of a crisis leaves behind a host of difficult feelings and fears that can make the prospect of one on one relating seem daunting.

    One on one time is important.  This is the time when we develop close and intimate bonds.  One on one, we focus on each other; we listen more intently; we discuss what is important to us; we imagine together; we touch; we share dreams and fears.  When we find ourselves in this close, uninterrupted exchange with our partner, we become deeply aware that we matter to the other.  However, if you have been hurt -- or if you have hurt each other -- it is a complicated thing to choose to get close to the one who did the hurting, and that is precisely what is needed in this part of relationship building.

    In retrospect, it isn't difficult to see where He and I lost track of each other.  We got --
    • busy
    • distracted
    • focused on other things
    • self-absorbed
    • defensive
    • deprived
    Busy-ness is the bane of our modern existence.  When I was a young teen, I remember that we imagined a future when technology would free us all from the drudgery of work.  Robots and computers would take over all of the boring and mundane details of day to day living (the laundry, the cooking, the vacuuming, the correspondence, ...), and we'd find ourselves with time to relax, relate, and enjoy life.  Instead, we find ourselves awash in texts and emails and "smart" phone calls.  Even when we are not working, we are working.  In our household, there are no resident children, and so we don't have the demands of parenting, but we have surely had the responsibilities of helping our own elderly parents at the ends of their lives.  Add to those kinds of obligations, even a minimal engagement with the world outside our doors, and it can easily come to seem as if we are ALWAYS on the go -- somewhere.

    Then, we allowed ourselves to get pulled off into a thousand other distractions.  From financial concerns to health worries, we began to race around into the morass of competing issues demanding our attention, energy, and focus.  Even when there were no BIG things needing to be attended to, we were pulled toward the latest sporting contest, or television series, or news event, or email, or computer game, or outside connection.  It is pretty easy, actually, to live side by side -- and never really engage with one another...

    We moved further and further apart, emotionally -- battling each other and protecting ourselves.  Discontent and disappointment became the currency of our lives.  We each came to feel as if we were being denied things to which we felt ENTITLED, and we couldn't bring ourselves to talk about it reasonably.  Every encounter seemed to end badly.  We knew better.  We had the knowledge that should have shown us how to tackle what was growing between us and driving us apart, but we each retreated to our separate corners, licked our wounds, and glared out at each other -- refusing to give an inch. 

    These days, we are consciously spending time with one another deliberately and purposefully.  We've learned not to look back too much; not to revisit the "bad old days;" not to try to figure out who was to blame for our private disaster...  The truth is -- we were all to blame in our own way, AND it doesn't matter at all.  What matters is the NOW that we have together.  That NOW is good and not mired in angst, bitterness, fear, or resentment.  We got lucky, back there -- luckier than we probably deserved.  That is enough to know about the past... 

    Spending time one on one needn't be complicated or difficult.  What we do together, when we are together, isn't particularly important as long as we enjoy doing it.  It is, we have discovered, OK to let the things that are complicated, uncomfortable, or emotionally loaded go for now, and stay with those things that are simpler and less demanding.  If it is easier to share a sandwich and a glass of tea than it is to get into a full on heavy scene, then that is what we will do.  We know that the whole range of "doing things" is in our repertoire, and we know that we'll get there in time.  We aren't so much "waiting" as we are simply letting the relationship between us set the pace and establish the rhythms.  Perhaps we are being helped by the unyielding limits of surgical recovery and rehab -- but that is OK.

    We are learning to invite each other to be with each other -- that thing we all do almost instinctively when our relationships are new.  How did we forget?  It is so important to say to our lovers, "I am going for a walk, will you come with me?"  "Won't you come sit over here next to me?"  "Would you like to watch this program on the television with me?"  "Let's go get a bite to eat together, shall we?"  Hearing that invitation, and having our invitation accepted connects us to one another.  We know that when we are dating/courting, and we ought to remember it as we grow into long term companions and lovers. 

    That then is the all and all of this particular "technique."  Be with one another.  Walk and hold hands.  Share a meal and talk.  Take a drive and look at the world around you.  Snuggle up and listen to music.  Sit out late at night and watch the stars spin around.  Lay down, as much as it is possible to do, the cares and worries, the blame and the hurt, the fear and the sadness, the expectations and the demands.  Look at the face of the one you love and simply be there in the moment.  Being with one another, one on one, is for now.  It has no past that matters, and it has no future that is pressing.  This is, for us, the most important time of our lives.



      Saving Ourselves -- Part 1

      I feel like we've been through it in this last year or so, and I feel as if we've learned somethings in the process.  Maybe some of what we've discovered, and some of what we are discovering, can help someone else someday.

      Because -- one thing that we found, in the midst of our own crisis, was that there was little or no information out here in cyberspace about what to do.  Looking around, making Internet searches, one finds that the best wisdom in our "village" is that, when our non-traditional types of relationships hit rocky places, there are only two choices:  put up with whatever IS, however bad it might get -- or quit and walk away.

      Partly, that awful dichotomy is derived from the fact of our alternative lifestyles.   It is nearly impossible, when we hit relationship snags, to find the kinds of resources that vanilla couples can call upon -- good kink friendly therapists, marriage counselors, financial advisors, lawyers, medical professionals, and clergy are few and far between and difficult to find.  Too often, we find that those who might help us if we were more "normal," simply decide that whatever our problem is -- the biggest problem we have is related to our lifestyle.  Not much help there.

      We were lucky to have a remarkable group of good people who rallied to us right here at this blog, and held us up.  Many of those people wrote thoughtful and kind comments here, and many of them wrote to us privately, offering care and support and sometimes advice and guidance.  It is true that some, who had long been part of our circle, dropped out of sight as things grew ugly.  They clearly opted out of the whole scene; perhaps deciding that we were inherently "bad" people, or maybe just feeling unequal to the task of cheering us through the mess in which we found ourselves.  I believe that some number of those who have fallen silent simply do not know what they can offer -- that the larger question for us all is this:  "How do we really help, and what can we really offer of any substance, to those in our community who encounter relationship trouble?"

      With that set of assumptions in mind, I am starting, with this post, a series of pieces that will (I hope) lay out some practical tips and strategies for repairing , reinventing, and rebuilding our relationships when we find ourselves on the calmer side of a major struggle.  I know that, sometimes, things end dramatically, definitively, and decisively.  In that event, there is likely no repairing or rebuilding or reinventing to be done.  But I am very aware that we came perilously close to losing everything just because we didn't know what else we might do after we'd washed up on the beach of relational shipwreck.  Our inherent stubbornness saved us.  Perhaps, as we wander our way through this part of our lives, we can leave some markers along the trail we're following -- and maybe someday, that will signpost the way for others who might walk in our footsteps.  We're not experts, and we've not got any sort of professional credentials, so take it for what it is worth.  What you will read, in this series, like everything else that you read at this blog, is just our story -- plain and simple.

      I plan to base the things I'll write about all of this around a set of principles taken from the work of Mark Gregston.  His real expertise is in the area of relationships between parents and teenagers, so the focus is not the same -- but then almost no one focuses on OUR kind of relationships.  Gregston offers a set of ten tips for repairing and rebuilding relationships, and I think they work for us, too:

      • Spend time together, one on one…
      • Share challenging experiences…
      • Look for opportunities for discussion…
      • Listen more and answer less…
      • Develop a sense of humor…
      • Play together….
      • Remember the past and believe in the future…
      • Establish boundaries…
      • Practice selfless confrontation…
      • Correct and discipline, even when it makes you uncomfortable…

      We are, ourselves, in the midst of learning our way along through this.  Some of those things, we've gotten well into and are feeling pretty comfortable with.  Others?  Not so much.  So, I will pick my way along through those "tips," speaking to them in no particular order, starting with playing together...

      Experts recognize that, from earliest infancy, play is the primary way children learn.  Children play because it is fun. The heart of play is pleasure, and with pleasure comes the powerful incentive to repeat the activity. With repetition comes mastery. And mastery brings a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

      Children engage in different types and stages of play depending on their personal development and their indivudual needs.  Their play may be solitary, parallel, associative, or cooperative, varying in terms of the levels of interaction, complexity, and organization.  

      Through play children learn about concepts, how to group and classify objects, how to make sense of things and events, and how to solve problems. Play requires a child to make choices, direct activities, and make plans to reach a goal.  It is through play that children gain social and emotional skills such as waiting,
      negotiating, taking turns, cooperation, compromise, sharing and expressing emotions.

      We are not children, but we are finding that one of the most productive ways for us to interact these days is from a playful stance.  We have, largely, put most forms of BDSM play on hold for now.  Mostly, that is because of His surgical recovery, and has nothing to do with our relationship struggles.  To be sure, there is some tension and uncertainty between us about how we will ultimately come to engage in that kind of play, but we have grown increasingly easy with each other about other kinds of teasing and lighthearted banter.  We touch -- tickle, scratch, swat each other playfully.  We joke and giggle together, and it delights us both.  Sometimes, we just sit and watch the antics of the cat, and enjoy the lightness of it all.

      It is good.  We had, over time, come to live in a world that was dreadful and dire and dark.  Everything had gotten serious for us.  There was very little that was fun or joyful, and how sad is that?  We'd gotten to be very grown up, I guess -- so grown up that we were nearly dead from the weight of all that seriousness.  And, in the final analysis, none of our grown up intensity could save us from the rush of our self-made calamity.

      So, that's the first tip:  Play.  Laugh.  Enjoy.  Stop being so damned serious.  Yes, there are responsibilities and obligations and duties and all of that, but when all of life becomes a long list of "should's" and "must's" and "ought to's" it leaves no room for spontaneity and joy and lightness.  "All work and no play," the nursery rhyme admonishes us, "makes Jack a dull boy."  We've found a bit of sparkle left in our days and nights -- and we are not missing all that drab and dull grownup business.



      Repeating Old Lessons

      A commenter on another blog ruffled things up just a bit by her phrasing and word choice recently.  I am certain that there was no intent to create a disturbance, or to be offensive in any way.  There was really nothing at all wrong with what was offered in the context of the discussion.  It was simply a matter of communication that implied (or maybe came right out and said) that things
      be handled in a particular way.    I've written out here in the blog universe for a long time, and I've "met" lots of people that I consider friends and companions -- AND, on any given day I will take exception if someone wanders into my space and sounds judgmental about what He and I do inside our relationship.

      A long time ago, we encountered a lifestyle know-it-all who got into a wrangle with Master about the use of safe words.  She was quite sure that she knew how it SHOULD be done, and there was no convincing her that her way wasn't the "only" way.  We eventually gave it up, but I came away with a set of personal principles that I intended to put into practice in my own dealings with BDSM and kink.  I think that bit might be worth sharing here again...
      • When someone says this is what I/we do, or this is how I/we am/are, I'll try to remember to listen carefully and openly. I'll watch myself for strong reactions that may lead me to make judgements that are grounded in my own biases and fears.

      • I'll speak (and write), when I speak, respectfully and gently. I'll try to remember that the tone of my words can invite and welcome others to dialog -- or create distance and dissension.
      • I'll be mindful that my experience is limited. I'll keep in mind that I am a learner, and that there may be others who have experiences that are beyond what I have seen, tried, experienced, or contemplated. When I encounter something new, I will recognize that I am seeing something that is outside my experience. I will feel free to explore and question things that I do not know or understand, but I will try to avoid moving to condemn or judge based on my own limitations.

      • I'll understand that not everyone lives, practices, plays, or relates in the same ways as I do. I will assume that there will be some "ways" that will be outside of the boundaries of my comfort zone. When that occurs, I will understand that I may choose to not participate or endorse without any need to attack or tear down. 


        Parent -- Still

        Thirty five years ago I was on the eve of the birth of my first child, my son, Rick. 

        He was the child who seldom gave me much trouble -- sweet and compliant, careful and deliberate, steady and sure.  He grew from year to year, doing all the right things on exactly the right schedule, and while he could be stubborn, he was almost never difficult.  About the only real issue that I encountered, parenting this boy was the annual trip to purchase school clothes.  He and I did not appreciate the same things, and what he did not like he would have no part of.  After a time, I simply gave up and sent him shopping with his father.  He navigated the depths and shoals of adolescence with nary a bump, and he was careful to protect me from the few indiscretions of his youth.  I only ever had one call from the school authorities concerning him.  On that occasion, they had found him selling condoms (at a tidy profit) to his 6th grade buddies who were too embarrassed to go buy them for themselves.  I worked hard to sound appropriately appalled, but was frankly amused by his entrepreneurial vision. 

        When he turned 16, he went to work delivering pizzas, and with very few exceptions, that was the work he did for many, many years. 

        He set off to college, hoping to study forestry.  Sadly, in the spring of his freshman year, his college roommate and good friend took his own life.  My Rick found his friend, and it broke his heart.  He came home, went back to the pizza route -- and never went back to college. 

        Now he is turning 35.  He works in a small family owned equipment rental business, and takes care of his own small family.  He is dependable, reliable, gentle, decent and good.  When I see him with his small son, I am just stunned by the simple beauty or this man who was my baby boy.  His modest life does not cause anyone to say, "WOW!" except for me.  I see a man who has made choices, who lives with integrity and kindness, who has found that having enough is enough for him -- and I am very proud of him.  He gives me great joy.

        Sixteen months after Rick was born, his sister, Sarah, made her appearance.  She was, and is, about as different from her brother as anyone could have been.  Wild, impulsive, volatile -- Sarah is all of that and more.  She was a delightful and wickedly bright child, but keeping up with her antics left me perpetually exhausted. 

        Adolescence with Sarah was pure hell.  A long, unending slog through the courts and mental health system, punctuated with periods of time when she was incarcerated or hospitalized -- Sarah, in spite of all I could do, swirled further and further into drug and alcohol addiction.  She was just 16 when she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl while she herself was serving a sentence in the juvenile correctional system. 

        Sarah's path remains difficult.   Only a couple of days ago, I received a phone call to tell me that she has been arrested again and sent to prison -- most likely that is a parole violation that will land her in the correction system until sometime next year.  It is the sort of news that causes me to curl up in a ball and sob with a pain that lives deep in my belly while in my head I can only cry, "my baby, my baby!"  I know I cannot save her.  I know she must do that for herself.  Still, each time we cycle back through this, I hurt afresh. 

        So.  Here I am, caught as I have been for most of my adult life, between my two very different children.  Loving them both as they are, with all the joys and sorrows that brings...



        Small Intimacies

        Life moves us along in ways we don't expect, swirling us up in currents we can't predict or anticipate.

        We've gone through a good number of surgeries in the last years, and the path of post-surgical recovery is pretty familiar:  manage pain, keep track of medications, do the necessary doctor follow-ups, facilitate the recommended physical therapy, and tend to a wide range of needs and wants that contribute to keeping the "patient" comfortable.

        With this particular surgery, the added challenge is that part of the recovery process is that His right shoulder and arm must be kept immobilized as much as possible for something like four weeks.  He's gotten amazingly adept at managing a lot of things with His left hand (assisted by the very restricted right hand/arm in its sling), and He isn't nearly as dependent as any of us feared He might be.

        Still, some things are pretty near to impossible without help.  The one thing that we've found that He really still needs significant help with is showering.  He can't wash His own hair, or reach all the places that need to be washed and rinsed, or dry Himself off, or...  And so, our daily routine has come to include a time for me to help Him bathe and dress.  It is a simple thing, really.  A small thing that most of us take for granted -- hop into the shower, soap up, rinse off, towel dry, comb your hair, dress and go.  Helping Him do those things is, on the face of it, pretty mundane stuff -- a service rendered, a necessary chore.

        Except that I am finding that it feels like something more than that to me.  It is time that we spend together engaged in the small intimacies of suds and warm water and gentle touch.  I sit on the floor and wash His feet -- and He smiles down at me with a sparkle in His eyes that I just adore.  I wash His hair with a good shampoo  scented with mint and lavender -- and I can hear the pleasure in His quiet moans.  My hands work the soap into a lather, and my hands seek out the places that He cannot reach.  There is connection and pleasure for us both in these simple things. 

        Under ordinary circumstances, none of that would be very remarkable, but in our "one armed" reality, physical contact and intimacy is pretty complicated and significantly limited.  Showering together is turning into a time and space for us to just enjoy each other.  That seems important to me, and I suspect there is a lesson in all of that for me.  If I had words for whatever it is I think I've learned sitting on the floor of the shower, washing His feet, I'd put it here, but all I really know is that it feels good to me to be right there.



        Look What I Got!

        Just before His shoulder replacement surgery, Master took me  by surprise on the way home from a doctor's appointment -- and dragged me off to look at cars.  It was not a nice afternoon.  There are very few things on the planet that can get me wilded up faster than putting me in the position to look at RIDICULOUSLY EXPENSIVE cars while I contemplate having to make ASTRONOMICAL payments for years and years and years.  I pouted and stormed and growled and snarled through that little adventure -- and ultimately, we headed home with all of our same old cars and no new ones.  But, He does not give up easily, and He does love a new car almost more than anything.

        So today, two weeks to the day after His total shoulder replacement surgery, He woke up ready to go.  We breakfasted.  We walked.  We showered.  And we headed off to see what sort of wheeling and dealing we could do around a new car purchase.  I was in a much better frame of mind -- not caught off guard and not surprised, so better able to accommodate the high stress levels of car shopping. 

        He was in His glory -- loving the whole scene.  We connected with a very good, and easy to work with sales guy, and before long the deal was made.

        The end of the story?  Tonight I am the proud owner of a brand new, beautiful, silver, 2012 Hyundai Accent hatchback.  It handles like a dream, has lots of pep and power, and gets 40 mpg on the highway.  The warranty covers it bumper to bumper for 100,000 miles.  We bought the maintenance agreement, so for 36 months, I won't even pay to change the oil on the little bug. 

        He's thrilled.  I'm thrilled.  T's thrilled.  New car mania!