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We are three adults living in a polyamorous triad family. The content here is intended for an adult audience. If you are not an adult, please leave now.

6/30/2013

Waiting to Know Our Fate

We have been Blogger bloggers since the end of 2004 -- a very long time.  We've survived at least one major upgrade to the Blogger hosting tools.  We've wended our way through all sorts of quirky and sometimes downright maddening glitches and oddities.  We've met so many interesting and good-hearted people from around the globe because we've spent a lot of time here on Blogger.

Blogger is not perfect, but Blogger has been good to us and for us.

Today, however, might be the last day for us, and a lot of our Blogger "blogspot" neighbors, and the really scary thing is that there is no way to know for sure.  I want to believe that my blog does not fall under the sanction delineated by this Blogger email that I received earlier in the week:



But, the truth is, I'm not certain.  This is a pretty tame site as adult blogs go, but I have some links in my blogroll to sites that do advertise for adult sites.  I have, over almost nine years, occasionally referred to and/or linked to sites that would probably be classified as "adult."  I've tried to be careful and respectful about that.  The place carries the adult content designation, and there is the "up top" disclaimer that tells you what you will find here -- in case you landed here by accident.  I'm not trying to shock or offend anyone who doesn't plan to be here.  I don't "monetize" this blog.  There are no ads for anything here -- not sex aids or whips or kinky books.  Honest -- I've never made a single penny as a result of writing here.  I'm just talking to myself and my friends; writing a journal that details my personal journey.  I know it isn't for everyone, but I can't imagine that my writing here does anyone any harm.

The ominous sounding Blogger email declares that everything changes as of today.  I don't know how long it will take for the beheadings to begin.  I don't know who is really at risk.  I don't know where the lines are going to be drawn.  And so...  I wait.  Maybe a lot of us are waiting to see whether our blogs will still be here when the sun rises tomorrow.  I hope I'm still here.  I hope all of the rest of you are still here.

swan

6/28/2013

6/27/2013

Stages, Seasons, and Nuances

We are all familiar with the relational vocabulary we've created inside the lifestyle:  M/s, D/s, OP, TPE.  The various acronyms are labels we use with one another to describe the types of power exchange at the foundation of our disparate relational dynamics.  We alternately insist that those relationships descriptors mean exactly what we say they mean, and then we back track and declare that each relationship is unique, and each set of partners defines the norms for themselves.  We can, and do, argue endlessly about what is what and who is who.  I've been engaged, personally, in more of those conversations than I can count, and I have no intention of revisiting that old wrangle.

However we define the power dynamics for ourselves, I believe the labels are too simplistic, too one-dimensional, too short-sighted to serve for the long-term discussion of the ways in which we live our lives together.  Our relationships may look different, in a wide variety of ways,  than more traditional relational models, but just like our brothers and sisters who might be inclined to the "vanilla" approach, our lives together are fraught with stages, seasons, and nuances.  We cannot simply declare ourselves to be "this" or "that," and then proceed as if all the questions and variables have been answered and resolved.  Would that it were so easy!


Relationships go through shifts and changes as they develop over time.  As people grow and learn their way into the patterns that form between them, there are recognizable stages to the relationship.  Just as we realize that children pass through stages as they grow and mature, relationships have stages, too.


In the very beginning there is the stage that is built out of a mutual attraction.  In vanilla relationships, and in many lifestyle pairings, this phase involves “falling in love.”  Our culture tends to see romantic love as the ONLY kind of love.  Those of us who practice BDSM sometimes have romantic love as part of our relational foundation -- just like anyone else.  We might also be attracted to a number of other characteristics, depending on our particular inclinations. It might be that we "fall in love" with the sense of power or control. Maybe we really get taken with someone's Dominant/submissive nature, or their sadistic or masochistic bent. There are lots of different things that might "ring our bells." Regardless of how we might characterize this stage, it almost always leaves us feeling as if we have found “the one.”  In the throes of this early stage of relating, we experience our partners as nearly perfect; we feel alive, excited, and passionate.  Euphoria is just part of the reality in this stage.  I know that we, early on, believed we were star-crossed, meant for each other, bound together at the level of soul and spirit.  In those early days and months, it was easy to believe in forever; to see ourselves holding hands into the mists of a future we could not even remotely imagine.


In time, of course, reality sets in, and all relationships have to adjust.  It turns out that real life can’t be all roses and/or whips forever.  Inevitably, predictably, reality rears its sometimes ugly head and partners have to confront the demands of life and living. No matter our early dreams, we discover that our “perfect” love is human.  Small (and sometimes large) conflicts occur, and the fantasy begins to crumble.  The demands of work, the strains of managing finances, the demands of family and work, the minor daily irritations of personal habits and quirks, betrayals, mismatched desires and needs, all of these and a thousand other hurdles line the path along which we must all travel eventually. Conflicts, anxieties, disappointment, struggle, and hurt replace the effortless rapture of those first, breathless days.  This is the point where we first lose our relational innocence.  It is the stage where we learn that our once perfect love is not likely to live up to each and every one of our hopes and dreams.  It is at this point when we have to figure out how to negotiate through the sense of loss, of being somehow cheated by life and love.  Now, the real work of relationship begins as we start the process of learning how to deal with conflict, and create the intimacy we seek, and interweave that with the independence which is an essential part of our human condition.  Of course, inside our deliberately unequal power relationships, the incongruities and confusions are more sharply drawn, and navigating this stage is often more complex and more treacherous: How do I tell you that I want and need your control and attention without, simultaneously, creating a circumstance where I am, in fact, the one who controls?


As we struggle to adjust to the reality of our relationships, disillusionment deepens, and we tend to disagree more.  We may argue more.  Partners dig in their heels and battle lines are drawn.  What was once, sweet, sexy, and thrilling turns into a battleground as we find ourselves mired in a daily power struggle.  No matter the agreements, and whatever the labels we adopt, this stage is part of the relational work for those of us in power based dynamics just as it is for the more vanilla couple.  All of our lifestyle specific trappings cannot protect us from the work of this stage.  We are not immune from the requirements of this stage:  learning to listen, to negotiate, to seek mutual solutions, and to care for ourselves and one another.  As we struggle with our disappointments and broken places, we (hopefully) choose to stay in the relationship, even as it may seem tempting to leave.  If we stay; if we manage to weather the storms and battles of this stage, perhaps we will have the chance to grow and strengthen the bonds that will hold us together into the future.  It is, often, an exhausting, wrenching, painful process.


Sooner or later, all is laid bare.  Over time, we learn to really know who our partner is, limitations and all.  Whereas the original commitment we make is typically based on projections of fantasy, now we can ask and answer the essential question:  “Knowing all of it, do you still want to stay?”  This is the time of re-evaluation and, perhaps, reinvestement.  Especially for those of us in power-based relationships, this is a passage through uncertainty -- a time when the hot, sexy passions fade into memory.   Unless partners are willing to do the hard, personal work of understanding their own part in the disappointments; unless we are willing to confront our own fears and wounded places; unless we are willing to endure a period of limited gratification and security; unless we are each up to the task of staying present and honoring our commitments as we develop as separate people; there is a real likelihood that our once luminous dreams may crash and shatter.


Finally, most relationship experts assure us that if we can survive, relationships re-awaken.  I have to rely on the experts here. We are, I think (I hope), at the beginnings of this part of the work.  My sincere hope is that they have it right.  In the re-awakening stage, people understand the realities, and decide to try again.  Now, knowing about all the differences, and with a shared history of conflicts resolved, we have the tools needed for growth and change.  Once we come to the point of accepting that life and love are never going to be “perfect,” and that we really can’t change another person, we are ready to start working to create an honest, genuine intimate relationship. In this stage, partners finally get that no relationship can ever “save” us.  Whatever scars we bear, they will not go away just because we are in a relationship.  However, now  the war is over, the conflicts are accepted, and there is a sincere desire to learn how to work through the issues, and find a satisfying place to live together.


Some relationships make it.  Most don’t.  According to the people that do this kind of research, only 5% of couples ever reach the final stage of "complete acceptance." This is the point at which, each person takes responsibility for their own needs, for their own individual lives, and also for providing support for their partner. And that is a scary thing in a relationship that self-defines as unequal.  I think that it is particularly hard for the “one down” member in a power dynamic to understand that they do have a responsibility for themselves -- a responsibility that has to be fulfilled if the relationship is to survive and thrive.  Does the “top” of the dynamic have the same ambivalence about all of that?  I cannot tell. It seems to me that this is all very convoluted, and my efforts to untangle it, from my perspective are likely matched by Him. How He perceives all of this -- you would have to ask Him.  In the end, if it all comes together, couples develop relationships filled with warmth and balance.  They learn to navigate through the inevitable conflicts, and they mostly avoid resentment and nasty surprises.  Once you have dragged each other through all of that “stuff,” you know what you are getting -- no denial and no fantasy.  Working together with clear vision, couples who have learned to really accept one another learn the ways to maintain their connection AND their own identities.


From what I have learned, the stages of our relational lives are pretty consistent.  Most of us traverse the various stages, assuming that our relationships endure long enough for that to happen, and that is true no matter how different our relationships might appear on the face of it all.  Navigating all of the various stages can be a challenge.  There are difficulties to spare along that path.  However, the structural stages are not the only set of issues that most relationships must deal with.  There are “seasons” to our relationships as well.  
Just as our familiar, annual calendar cycles through from spring to summer to autumn, our intimate lives experience passages that mirror that cyclic shifting.  We have periods in our intimate lives that seem lively and fresh and new, and we have corresponding periods of declining heat and vigor.  The events of our physical lives push us through the highs and lows of our days and nights, and we respond to what IS with shifts in our energy and vitality.  I imagine that anyone who has spent much time in a close relationship has experienced times that might be compared to the seasons of summer or fall or winter or spring.  Just as my spring tulips bloom and wither to be replaced by the phlox and blanket flower of July; just as the blazing oranges and reds of the autumn give way to the stark blacks of bare branches against winter gray skies; the intimate connection between us ebbs and flows, blooms and fades -- over and over and over.  

The trick to riding through the seasons of our relationships is that the seasons overlay themselves on that other pattern of stages.  There are ripples and reflections and interference patterns in our lives, and it is easy to get turned around and disoriented by all the variations and nuances.   Add in some days of moodiness, exhaustion, frustration, illness, loss, and all the other bits of being a living, breathing, human animal -- and there should be no surprise that things get bumpy.


I don't have the fix for any of that, and I don't imagine that all of that sort of "heady," intellectual babbling will make the least bit of difference to anyone but me. I can't picture the me of eleven years ago believing that the bright promising future that I saw from that vantage could possibly hold so much trauma and turmoil. Funny how that works -- we can never see beyond what we can see. And so it is and so it will likely always be. I've often thought that some of this writing is about leaving signposts for those who might wander by. So here it is -- another one of those signposts.

swan

6/26/2013

The End of DOMA

It is a good day.
Today, the United States Supreme Court declared that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA (1996) is unconstitutional -- that legally married same-sex couples cannot be discriminated against in terms of taxes, social security, and about 1000 other advantages and benefits granted to married couples by federal law.
The Court also sent the case of California's Proposition 8 back to the district court where judges backed the state’s top officials who have said same-sex marriage is a matter of equal rights.
It is a good day.  Not a great day, but still, a very good day.
It will be a great day when all people have the right to marry whomever they choose; when the government removes itself from the business of marriage; when marriage becomes a matter of personal choice.  That day is not yet, but it is closer because of today's Court rulings, and the work done by so many to bring us to this point.  
Today, fair minded people ought to join our LGBTQ friends and neighbors in celebrating the victories won.  Tomorrow, the battle continues.

swan

6/21/2013

Please Tell Me I'm Not the Only One...

OK.
Someone please tell me that I am not the only one who listens to the news headlines in the last couple of days:  "One Million Brazillians," and pictures something besides people marching in the streets!

Seriously?

swan

6/17/2013

Meaning

When I went to the emergency room last month, I was cared for in the very first minutes by a big, deep-voiced, brusque but very competent, African American nurse who was the first person to ask me about the cutting on my back in ... forever.  FOREVER.

I know it is there.  I know that people, especially medical professionals see it.  The technicians who do my mammograms see it.  The dermatologist sees it.  Probably there are others who have seen it over the years, but it never evokes any comment.  No one seems the least bit interested in what it might be, or what it might connote.

And so, the question coming as it did out of the blue after years and years, caught me off guard:  "What does this T E on your back mean?"  I muttered something about it being a very long, very old story, and let it go at that.  So did she.  But, I have been plunged into a month of wondering, after almost eleven years, what those old scars do mean.

I know what they meant then, when we did it.  I remember how intensely I wanted to belong to Him, and I remember that having those marks meant that we were connected in blood and flesh, but also in spirit, mind, and heart.  I remember what He said they meant to Him ... that He felt He had freed marks that were on my soul to become evident on my flesh.  To Him, and to me, it was that cutting that signified our bond and our commitment to one another.  I remember the long period during which we did not allow the cuts to heal, working instead to cause scarring that would remain visible -- and it has done that.  I remember the burning and itching that drove me to distraction; that can still flare up and live, even now, in the flesh on my shoulder blade.

Of course, we have passed through fire and storm, and nothing is as it was.  Today, the marks remain.  We are alive, and our love continues.  The marks are still, obviously there.  But the trust and the faith and the simple belief that we were meant to be?  All of that is gone.  The willingness to hold onto each other and risk everything is blown away.  I don't think we'll ever find that again.  And so...  if there remains any meaning in the marks on my skin, it is the meaning that one finds in any bit of history...

swan

6/15/2013

Driving

We have driven 1000 miles in three days.

Thursday, we drove from here to Washington, D.C., to attend the graduation celebration for my granddaughter.  We stayed in the tiniest hotel room I have ever seen -- a real throwback to the early sixties.  It was certainly not opulent, and we joked that we couldn't both breathe at the same time.  It was inexpensive, clean, and serviceable.  In our nation's capital, finding inexpensive lodging is not a small thing.
Yesterday, we took the Metro into the heart of the city, and walked the mall from the Washington Monument to the Capital steps and back.  It was probably 3-1/2 hours of walking out in the sun; really a beautiful day.  We found a wonderful mortar and pestle to bring home for our T, and were back to the hotel in time to get ready for the evening with the graduate.

The group that gathered for the party was eclectic, interesting, and really a lot of fun.  It was neat to be able to visit with my granddaughter, my daughter, and granddaughter's mother.  Granddaughter's father was also there, but not a very social or friendly sort of guy.  We had a nice meal and a great evening.

This morning, we got up early, ate breakfast, and packed the car.  By about 8:15, we were on the road and headed home.  It was just after 6 when we pulled into our driveway.  Everything has been hauled in, and unpacked.  The tomato plants have been watered.  The cats are settled in...having forgiven us for our unexcused absence.

We are exhausted!  T will have dinner for us at 8:00, and I'm betting that is it for us this day.  We just can't do this like we used to do...  Sheesh!

swan

6/12/2013

Grandbaby Memories

Eighteen years ago, my daughter, who was incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility, gave birth to a beautiful, violet-eyed,  little mite of a baby girl.  I remember holding her in my arms on the day she was born, peering into her baby eyes, and wondering if I'd ever see her again...

My sixteen year old, acknowledging that she was in no way equipped to parent, had been determined to find "the perfect parents" for her baby.  I remember agonizing about the potential that I would take the expected child on and raise her myself.  It was a time when my own two were nearly launched, and I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  I knew that my own chance to finally exit the rotten bargain I'd made when I married, was there within sight at the end of my active parenting years.  What if I chose to begin again with an infant?  The cost of doing that was going to be very high from a personal perspective.  As it turned out, I had no reason to worry.  My own child had other plans for her child.  She wanted the best.  She wanted a stable family with the resources to give her baby all the things she might ever need or want.  She wasn't too crazy about me in those days, and she was no way having me raise her baby.  Probably, she saved me from talking myself into something that would have been a bad deal for us all.  In the end, she found an open adoption and the little one went off to be "their" daughter.  They did, in fact, do all the wonderful things that I could never have afforded to do ... AND, they kept their hearts open and made sure that my daughter and I were always able to be in touch with them and with that grandchild.

On Friday, that little one will graduate from high school.  She has grown to be a lovely, talented, brilliant young woman.  Tom and I will leave here on Thursday morning, and drive to our nation's capital so that we can be there to help celebrate the event.  I am so excited to be able to be there; so happy that it all turned out this way; so thrilled to have been invited.  It feels like this is one of those mysterious places where the stars all aligned, and everything turned out just perfectly.

swan

6/11/2013

What if We Shared?



Sunday afternoon we traveled just a bit north and east of where we live to the Fort Ancient historical site to spend some time at the Gathering of the Four Directions Celebration.  It is an event that has been held for 23 years at the Fort Ancient site, and involves a weekend of Native American drumming and dance, accompanied by a sort of festival including vendors of all sorts and some educational demonstrations and performances.  There is something that simply draws us in and relaxes us as we join the circle around the dance area, to watch and listen and enjoy.  There are elements of religion and spectacle and veteran's parade and community party to the whole business.  There are protocols and customs and a definitive hierarchy that is sensed more than seen by those of us who are outside the tribes.

I am always taken by the way dancers and singers are with one another; with the way that the youngest and the oldest all join in the rhythms and patterns of the dances.  I know enough to know that, for the people of the various tribes, there are huge parts of the whole business that are strictly private.  I know that there is a place where the drumming becomes hypnotic and transports those who dance into another frame of awareness.  I know that they know, as they dance, that beyond the rope that delineates the circle, we are all there, watching, talking, drawing our own conclusions about what we are seeing.  I know that they watch us, watching them, and I know that there is something remarkably generous in their choosing to invite us in and share what they have with us.

Spending time at a Pow Wow has some of the same electricity as does spending time in a public BDSM dungeon.  It is another example of a non-dominant culture group taking hold of a space and making it "theirs" for a bit of time.  It is a circumstance in which the "outsiders" become the normative culture, and that shift changes everything for a space.  The air is different.  The light is different.  The sounds are different.  The reactions and interactions are all changed, too.  Something very powerful happens.

Sitting there in the green light of Sunday afternoon, floating along on the pounding of the drums, I wondered:  "What if the BDSM community were to adopt this model?  What if, instead of hiding away in hotels, behind carefully controlled access points, entirely separated from the 'normal' culture, we instead, set our public events up in public places, and invited those who were not us to come and be 'audience'?"  Would doing that make big changes in the way that WE relate to the dominant culture within which we all have to live.  Would doing that give the 'vanilla' people who are our neighbors a chance to know us as a culture that is apart and different, but not necessarily bad?  Would we be able to show how we are with one another, in ways that would shift the perceptions that are created by the porn industry?

I don't know.  I only know that I wondered.

swan

6/10/2013

What is OK in Public?

We had tickets to the ballgame on Saturday night.  It was a beautiful evening.  The weather was perfect, with a cool breeze blowing in from the river.  We had our usual seats behind home plate, and fairly high in the stands.  The view from there is pretty good, and we have come to anticipate being able to see and enjoy the game from that vantage point.

This outing was a shared "anniversary" treat for the three of us, and it was meant to be a pleasant and fun time.  We arrived at the ballpark on schedule, and found our way to our seats.  We got settled in and waited for the pre-game festivities to end.  Everything seemed just about perfect...  and then THEY arrived.

THEY appeared to be a group of once and former sorority girls, apparently out for a bachelorette party at the ball park.  Of the four, one was wearing a wedding ring, and then there was the "guest of honor," still intent on making sure that her diamond was on display at every possible opportunity.  The other two young women in the party were, apparently unattached.  One was quiet and unobtrusive, but the other was wild, hyperactive, noisy, and (as the evening progressed) increasingly drunk and disorderly.

The group of them had, as luck would have it, the four seats directly in front of us.  From the moment that THEY arrived, the evening took a turn for the worse.  THEY were loud and obnoxious.  They never sat still for a minute, bouncing up and down, leaning on one another and into one another.  They waved their giant beer cans in the air -- and of course took photos of all of it with their phones (even the beer cans).  They wrestled and tussled, pinching and poking each other, arms and legs flailing without the least concern for the fact that they were sitting in the midst of a crowded public place.  Every time they moved or squirmed, we each had to readjust to try to peer in between them so that we could see the game.  No sooner would we find a clear sight line, than the shenanigans would recommence, and the ball game would again be obscured in a flurry of boobs and butts.  Simply put, they were rude and inconsiderate -- and there was not one thing we (or any of the other people around them) could do about it.

After all, a public venue, like a ball game, is just that.  It is public.  We generally count on people to exercise good judgement and practice good manners in such a setting, so that everyone can enjoy being in whatever public place.  When people deliberately choose to behave badly in a public place, their behavior choices impact everyone around them.  The truth is, though, that, for most people, there is that option.  Those young women were able to choose to ignore our feelings, and simply indulge themselves in their self-absorbed nonsense -- and no one was going to stop them.  Being rude is not a crime.

Which has had me thinking...  Our family is careful to keep our lifestyle under wraps out in public.  We don't go out in public places dressed up in our fetish gear.  We don't practice bondage in public.  We don't carry paddles or floggers around attached to our belts.  We don't usually hold each other's hands, except as couples.  We are careful not to expose ourselves to any sort of persecution, and we are careful not to impose our lifestyle choices on anyone else, even insofar as to make those choices apparent to the casual or unsuspecting observer.

Why should that be so?

Why should it be "OK" for a bunch of ill-mannered, inebriated, privileged, young women to completely and utterly disregard the comfort and rights of others around them in a public setting, while it is somehow viewed as totally inappropriate for us to display the slightest signs or symbols of who we are?  In what ways does our "overt" display of our lifestyle choice violate the rights of other people in a public place?  Do we, in showing our true selves, obstruct their view?  Do we interfere with their enjoyment of the public facility?  Do we disturb the peace?

Am I the only one who sees the inequity?

swan

6/09/2013

Apology

All right.  I'm back here.

I apologize for the dramatics.  There was no real reason, and no excuse for me to take that approach.

A confluence of events and emotions, made up of fear, exhaustion, loneliness, and frustration boiled over, and I threw in the towel, and tried to walk away.

Except that I can't seem to really do it.  The minute that I say I am done; that there is nothing left to say -- that is the point at which a half dozen topics bubble up to the surface of my mind and cause me to regret my hasty decision.  And then there are those of you who wrote to tell me that you care; that you read; that you have found some of my blatherings interesting or helpful or insightful... or something.  I had no idea.

Blogging is hard work.  This blog, by its very nature, requires a level of vulnerability and personal exposure that is very demanding.  For me, writing here, year by year by year, has become a largely solitary pursuit.  There are people that come and read and comment regularly... and I think I am more emotionally dependent on those people than I let myself believe.  I know who doesn't come here anymore either, and I tend to dwell on that.  And there are so many, many voices who have been part of this circle over the years... who are silent.  I miss them too.  A lot.  I pour out my heart on these pages, and I long for a word, just something ... anything from Himself, and His silence is painful.  Add the seemingly endless, and totally unpredictable string of attacks from spiteful and nasty comment trolls, and it can become overwhelming.  I let myself get overwhelmed.

I am sorry.

I am strong (I think), but then I splinter, break, and shatter.

swan

6/05/2013

Where the Sidewalk (and Everything Else) Ends...

Where the Sidewalk Ends
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
Shel Silverstein

Over the last couple of months, I've written here about the use of Captcha, and the opening day of the baseball season, and my heart pains, and the end of school, and my topsy turvy garden planters.  I've also written a series of four posts based on a comment left by the wife of my ex-husband.  Clearly, there is not very much to say here that is of any import, or that has any relationship to BDSM.  The truth is we are OK.  We live and really things are pretty fine.  We sometimes spank, and that is OK too.  There just isn't anything at all like the heat and fire that once powered this place.  We are old and tired and life is sort of quiet.

So.  Time to call it for what it so obviously is.  The End.  Don't worry about us.  We're just us, and this is where the sidewalk ends.

sue/swan

6/03/2013

Disclaimers

One other thing --

It is just fascinating how some people, usually those who intend to be nasty, will open up their comments with some sort of disclaimer that only serves to elucidate their intention.

 Why would you think that starting off a comment with, "I'll be nice about this...," is going to somehow obscure the fact that you absolutely intend, from beginning to end, to be anything but nice?  "Nice" would sound pleasant, good-natured, and kind.  

That sort of blatantly dishonest disclaimer is in the same category as those that begin with things like:

  • "I hope you don't take offense at this, but..."
  • "Not meaning to sound rude, but..."
  • "I don't want to sound judgmental, but..."
  • "Please don't be hurt, but..."


The translation for each of those is so evident and so clear that it is amazing that anyone ever tries to get away with that silliness.  How much more honest it would be to simply declare from the outset that what will follow is, of course, meant to be offensive, rude, judgmental and hurtful.  People who begin comments, or conversations of any sort, with that kind of thinly veiled excuse for bad behavior, know better.  After all, we teach toddlers how to be "nice."  It is one of the earliest social skills that small humans learn.

I don't know.  It makes me just shake my head.  

swan

6/02/2013

What Do You Believe?


belief (n.) Look up belief at Dictionary.com
late 12c., bileave, replacing Old English geleafa "belief, faith," from West Germanic *ga-laubon "to hold dear, esteem, trust" (cf. Old Saxon gilobo, Middle Dutchgelove, Old High German giloubo, German Glaube), from *galaub- "dear, esteemed," from intensive prefix *ga- + *leubh- "to care, desire, like, love"

"You may believe in this shaman hooey..."  That's the last little fragment of the comment left here a few posts back.  I've taken off and written this series of posts about the content of that comment that got me to thinking.

I found it amusing that the immediate, and obviously unthinking follow on to the characterization of shamanism as "hooey," was the assertion that her "god" was into making me pay for what I'd done.  I guess one person's hooey is another person's belief.  And vice versa.

I'm not sure that I'd say I believe in shamanism.  I'm not sure that I'd say I believe in much of anything, actually.  I style myself a scientist, and I understand the basics of a lot of scientific theory from natural selection to quantum mechanics -- but believe it?  Well, that's a little different.  If you told me that the existence of dark matter is akin to magic, I'd take your word for it.  I can push the clouds around and move a storm from one track to another, but I can't explain it and I don't really "believe" it.  I can prove that 2+3 equals 3+2, and I can also prove that the interior angles of a triangle always add up to 180 degrees, but believe it?  On faith?  No.  Not really.  I for sure don't believe in some up in the sky somewhere "god" who keeps track of human doings and then evens up the score.  I don't believe that some or any of the gods of human mythology were really born of any of the virgin mothers found in those same myths.  I don't believe that any of them ever rose from the dead, or caused anyone else to do that.  I don't believe that god sent Katrina to New Orleans or allowed crazy people to fly planes into the World Trade Center to punish us for our sins, and I sure as heck don't believe that god is out to get me because I chose badly when I married at the age of 21 years.

I think that, as humans, we believe in the abstracts that we believe because they help us to explain the unexplainable:  emotions and feelings, intellectual uncertainties, and arbitrary suffering.  Too, belief in the abstract works to stabilize the social order, to oppress and manage the masses, to define the roles and rankings among us all.  In the end, believing in whatever it is helps us make sense of a world and life that most often does not make sense.  No wonder we come to "esteem," and even "love" the belief system that enhances our sense of comfort and belonging.  Shamanism is like that for me.  It works in some instances to help me make sense of things that make no sense.  I feel the same way about parts of paganism, the practice of wicca, and native American spirituality.  I can get lost in the music at a Catholic mass, and love the ritual and ceremony, even as I reject the basic theology.

I've never claimed the label of atheist, or even agnostic.  I really don't feel the need for any of the labels.  There is so much that is not amenable to any sort of "unified theory."  The universe is one unfathomable mystery piled on top on all the others.  From the beginnings of time, which is, itself, shrouded in mystery beyond our reach, we've tried to find the stories that help us understand (just a bit).  Religion and all its secular counterparts are nothing more than that:  the stories we tell ourselves so that we can make it through the darkness without being too afraid.

swan

6/01/2013

"Failed" Relationships

This is the second in a series of posts "inspired" by a recent comment.  I'm indulging myself, and writing out the internal monologue set off by words left here by the wife of my ex-husband.  She and I do not have a pleasant or friendly relationship, and I am not at all interested in engaging her in a conversation, but I am intrigued by some of the assumptions at the heart of what she had to say.  So, I'm inclined to pick up those threads and spin them out here over the next few posts... until my head stops chattering.

So, the "second wife" believes that bad things happen to me because "God is in payback mode -- slapping me down for what I did to my ex (and her current) husband."  From my perspective, she gets to believe whatever she wants to believe, and I don't really care, but it does beg the question:  "What is there to learn about the experience of having had a failed relationship?"

My marriage ended in divorce after 27 years.  He and I married when we were very young.  We raised two children together.  But, the fact is that the marriage ended, and if we define a relationship that ends (short of the death of one of the partners) as a failure, then that relationship between the two of us qualifies.  There is no doubt that I have a share of the responsibility for the fact that the relationship ended.  When it came to the end, I was the one who initiated the legal proceedings that ultimately resulted in the divorce.

That is the plain and unvarnished truth of the matter.  However, I think that "failed" relationships are not all that rare, and I also think that the subject of relationships that do not continue on for whatever reason, is more complex than it might first appear -- and certainly, it is more nuanced than the "second wife" thinks it is.

There are lots of relationships in our lives.  We enter into relationship with family members and friends and colleagues.  Each of those types of relationship has its own dynamics, but for the sake of this discussion, I am interested in the intimate relationship.  Typically (and I do know that it is not always the case), we enter into these relationships when we find ourselves "in love" with another person.  Falling in love is, I think, an emotional state unique to humans, and most of us have a very hard time explaining how it happens or exactly what it involves.  It is not a simple thing, but at the very elemental level, when we "love" someone we perceive (often unconsciously) something(s) about them that we value.  Whether that is physical beauty, or intellectual depth, or personal ambition, or wealth, or even temperament, or spiritual/philosophical compatibility, we respond to and value the traits and qualities that attract us to our beloved.

Things get tricky because humans grow and change.  If lovers grow and change in complementary and compatible ways, the relationship is not confronted by shifting values.  But individuals can and do value things differently as they move through their lifetimes.  What may have seemed charming and exciting in a young romance can come to seem risky and dangerous or irritating and annoying as partners grow and mature. The partner who seemed steady and safe in the beginning, can come to seem stodgy, rigid, and unimaginative over time.  Even though our society glorifies the "til death do us part" vow embedded in the traditional wedding ceremony, we know that, statistically, more than half of all marriages "fail" to go the distance.

Ending an intimate relationship is hard -- even when that relationship is clearly no longer characterized by the things that the partners each value.  Separating the intimate tangles can be painful and wretchedly ugly.  The process leaves scars, but then life tends to inflict scars in a variety of ways.  I am quite sure that my ex-husband bears scars from our parting.  I would expect that it is the rare person who leaves a long-standing relationship without losing some hide.  I don't blame the "second wife" for seeing what she sees about that history (which is not hers).  I don't blame the ex-husband for telling the story that he tells.  His story is his, and the only one he knows.

For me, I remember that, although we started off with high hopes and big dreams, our lives descended into criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.  He did it.  I did it.  We did it.  It became the awkward and destructive dance we did together.

The relationship ended.  It "failed."  He did not fail, and neither did I.  We are not failures.  We are people who came to need and value things that were different than what we understood when we were very young.  That does not surprise me.  I learned and grew through that marriage, and because of it.  I am who I am because of that experience.  I have the children (now grown to adulthood) that I have because he and I were once lovers; because we parented them as best we could.  I am happier outside of that relationship than I was for most of the years I spent inside of it.  I hope that he has found his happiness as well.

swan