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Surreal June 14, 2019

Posted by shaunphilly in Personal, Polyamory.
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A week ago, I was in pain. I still am.

A week ago, I embarked on a new path with a person who I have respected and looked up to for many years, and whom I am beginning to love in a new way.

These things are related. Confused? Yeah, me too.

I’m not monogamous. No shit. But being actively polyamorous–or a relationship anarchist or whatever I am–is different from merely not being monogamous. Over the last several years of my life, I’ve dated women who were not nonmonogamous, but were willing to give it a shot. In some cases, it worked out at least for a while. In others, it flamed out spectacularly. Most recently, I lost a person who was very special to me because I made the decision to invite a polyamorous person with whom I’ve had a growing relationship and flirtation to spend the weekend with me, despite the fact that the first relationship was already in jeopardy.

And, you might say that such a decision was not wise. And you are right; it wasn’t wise, and it cost me that relationship. And when I made the decision, it was a last minute, need to decide this now situation. And I hadn’t slept the night before. Excuses? Explanations? Rationalizations? Yes.

And, didn’t I know, deep down, that that would be the result? I mean, if I had really thought about it? I mean, if I had the time to think about it, maybe. Hadn’t I learned that the learning curve for previously monogamous partners is too steep to handle real life, in your face, not owning your partner nor their time?

I understand, from the point of view of the traditional set of relationship rules and expectations, that what I did was too much for her to handle. More than a few people out there would read this and be like “what a dick!” And, from their point of view, it was dickish. I feel a little like a dick, honestly. It’s hard to unlearn those cultural rules.

I understand that accepting that your lover has other lovers is a thing most people can sort of understand; we all have those carnal desires, and deciding to be ok with the people you love actually pursuing those desires, so long as you are open about it, is reachable for a lot of people. It sounds hard, but many people get it and can possibly give it a try. I understand that if most people can keep those things at a distance, it can be fine.

But my mind doesn’t live in the world of traditional relationship expectations and rules.

I understand that from the point of view of polyamorous theory from which I center myself, what I did was a little selfish and sudden, but it was a decision I should be able to make without ending a relationship in doing so. I also understand that theory and real world feelings and expectations do not often mesh. I understand that in doing so, I took a risk which I didn’t need to take. But I also knew that doing so would only be kicking the can down the road, rather than dealing with it now.

And it also meant putting off another thing I’ve wanted for some time, and so when life handed me an opportunity I took it. I don’t believe in gods nor fate, but I know that life is short and truly amazing opportunities do not come around often. If you don’t grab a hold of those rare opportunities, then you may miss them forever.

And now, I have to live with the consequences. One woman I care very deeply for, and now miss, is mad, hurt, and she’s probably gone from my life. I’m sad, and I miss her.

And yet….

And then something amazing happened.

And I don’t think I’m able, even several days removed, to comprehend what has changed, and how significant it could be.

And I feel guilty for also feeling good about what I gained in making that selfish decision. I feel guilty for taking a chance which paid off fantastically (for me). I feel bad that my heart is simultaneously aching from loss and from the pangs of a new love which has been years in the making. It’s too much.

And yet I know it was the right decision to make. And I would make it again, even if I might have handled some of the details differently.

I don’t want to go on, and the truth is I cannot anyway. The gist is I have started a new relationship with a woman who is not new to polyamory. In fact, she is one of the people who, over the years, has been an inspiration to me as well as a person whose wisdom and experience within the community has given me perspective on my own views about the nature of relationships, love, and sex.

And I’m scared. Terrified, in fact. Because new relationships are always a combination of scary and amazing, but also because she’s someone I esteem so much, in terms of her knowledge and experience, that I’m afraid I’m not good enough. Because that never goes away. Not fully.

I don’t have any philosophical point to make here. I don’t have any great lesson or insight here, because I know I’m in the middle of the storm and I’m too emotional and cluttered to make any sense of it all right now. I lost someone I really love because I was selfish, and then I spent a weekend with a woman who was everything I thought she was and more.

And it’s all been surreal.

Perhaps I’ll have more to say when I’m not in the eye of the storm, and can reflect on it with more clarity. For now, I will need to weather the double storm of loss and gain, simultaneously. I think it’s a set of feelings that many polyamorous people have experienced over the years.

Pain, loss, and music December 4, 2014

Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society.
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Before reading this, give this movement a listen.  This is Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, 2nd movement, as conducted by Herbert von Karajan (my favorite version):

This, in my opinion, is one of the saddest, most haunting, and most powerful pieces of music I have ever heard. Listening to it, I mean really listening to it, never failed to bring tears and deep feeling.

This morning, after I showered, I decided I really needed to hear Phish’s Wading in the Velvet Sea, which I did while I started to dress. IIt had been in my head ever since I woke up this morning, and when that happens, only a listen will help, I’ve found. You can skip this one, if you like, but here’s the song in case you are curious and/or unfamiliar:

I had left Rhythmbox (my audio player on my computer in my office) on random, and my computer decided that the next song it would play would be Beethoven. You know, the piece I embedded at the top of this post. And I heard the first note. And I froze.

That very first note has a way of transporting me to a place deep within me, and I was helpless to do anything except listen. I was helpless to the power of this piece of music to evoke, within me, all of the beautiful, terrible, and heart-wrenching pain of which I am capable, and transforming this pain into a transcendent experience.

If you don’t know the story of this symphony in context of Beethoven’s life, then let is suffice that when he finished this symphony, Ludwig van Beethoven was nearly completely deaf. I cannot imagine the internal struggle and pain that a person, especially a musical genius, must have gone through upon losing the ability to hear. The effects were pronounced, and Beethoven was forced to take a back-seat to playing and conducting, as a result, and yet he wrote two more symphonies after this one! Including the famous 9th Symphony, of course.

Nonetheless, we can all, perhaps, sympathize with that pain while listening to that piece of music. For me, at least, there is a sense of profound sadness and loss within those notes, but also there is a sense of hope, I think. That hope, buried within sadness, peeks through like a shy puppy during a thunderstorm, afraid and trembling, but capable of forcing a smile onto our lips as well.

And as the piece ended, the emotional resolution left a ghost of those feelings on me for my ride to work, and even resonated into the rest of my busy morning. And here I am, sharing with you.

That’s all I can express, right now. Writing, for me, is an expression of hope and a desire for understanding and intimacy, but recently my life has been an orchestra of painful notes, with a phrasing of hope, now and then. This is a note of hope, but one surrounded by pain, anger, and loss. I hope to return to writing more consistently, soon.

I urge you to listen to the 7th symphony, in whole. This time, start with the first movement, which is wonderful on its own, and listen to at least the first two movements (I think the second two are not as good, but still worth the listen).

 

Reflections on loss and regret February 11, 2014

Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
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I’ve been here before.  It’s after 3 AM (as I started to write this, anyway) and I’m awake, tired, and anxious.  I’m sure many of you have been here too, from time to time.  The thing about this, however, is I was sleepy and went to bed hours ago.  I slept for 2  hours and woke up thinking it must be 5 AM (which it is now, as I am about to publish) or so because I felt awake but it was still dark. Anxiety is fun.

The last few years have been the theme of my thoughts, which are admittedly disorganized and barely consciously available, despite my intense desire to glean them.  Sometimes, even being deeply introspective is not enough to dig that deep.  I very much want to understand my mind, especially where the fears, insecurities, and darkness lay.  I believe, quite strongly, that one of the most moral things we can do is to know ourselves; not as we want to see ourselves but as we actually are, under all the bullshit we create to hide the terrifying truths hidden within.  Only through such labors can we even hope to effectively grow and contribute well to our environment.  Without such a desire for self-understanding, I would be but a shadow of the person I am today. I would not (could not) love myself (and yes, even in the depths of sadness I still love myself).

How do obtuse and oblivious people survive without deep introspection? (is a question I wonder frequently). Probably because success and superficial contentment are not dependent upon self-knowledge or the courage to dig into oneself critically and honestly.  One can get along quite well, in our current human culture, being myopic because depth of spirit is not the root of the social and political games which bring ‘success.’

Such myopia is an ideal firewall to the insight that would prevent someone from valuing such ‘success’ as highly as so many do. Without insight, one would never know that something was amiss and keep themselves in the delusion that they are healthy and good people.  I have come to learn, over the years  (especially the last couple), that myopic, obtuse, and oblivious people tend not to think about such things often or deeply. I am not even sure they are capable of understanding what I mean.  I hope they will, sooner than later, for all our sakes.

What’s worst, however, is that many who read this will not understand that it is them I am talking about (such people seem immune to such self-criticism), and yet there are many others who will assume I am talking about them (for them, self-criticism is usually the default).  But such a self-deprecating thought usually implies the depth and complexity of a mind who couldn’t be myopic or obtuse, even if they might think such things of themselves quite often.

And yet, such deep and complex people are quite forgiving of such obtuse banality in others, for reasons which escape me.  I don’t think it’s mere compassion and forgiveness, although that’s often a part of it.  Such sensitive people often excuse and even come to accept and love that which they would never be, usually because the insensitivity that compels banality also often makes one seem confident and attractive.  Like a moth to a flame.  Nothing is less attractive than undeserved and so obviously pea-cocked confidence (but you have to be able to see through it, first, I suppose).

Vanity and illusion attract those who are neither vain nor delusional but who seek to be beautiful.  What such-attracted-people often don’t understand is that they were already beautiful, and they needed no salvation from anyone else.  Yet, they so often attribute their concocted ‘salvation’ to the smoke and mirrors of illusion because once you invest so much into the illusion (religion is the most obvious example of this), it’s hard to see it for what it is because we are prone to cognitive dissonance.  It’s why people tend to not leave religion, unhealthy relationships, or their own bad habits. They rationalize and make excuses for what habits they have acquired. Eventually the illusion hides within their own mind, and their very memories are forged to reflect the lie.

And it’s more obvious from the outside.  Atheists see it in Christians, polyamorous people often see it in the monogamous world, and most of us have seen it in the unhealthy relationships of friends, family, and acquaintances.  Not that those relationships could not become healthy if both parties were willing to actually deal with their shit honestly by tossing aside their illusions. This rarely happens, however, even among the intelligent and relatively enlightened.   It’s nearly impossible to have the affected see it for what it is, and so in the vast majority of cases the dissonant song plays on, unchanged and unchallenged, sometimes for many years.  Some never see it and die in the illusion, never knowing there was a better way.

I will never let the above happen to me.  And I don’t have time for people in or adjacent to my life who will allow it to happen to them.  That thought is what has been keeping me awake. In the last week, I have not slept more than a few hours per night and I have bouts of sadness between moments of joy and relative contentment.  You know; I’m human.  But at night, when there are no distractions, I rake myself over the coals of the past, wondering what there is to learn, knowing all too well I’m just making this worse.  But I can’t turn it off.

This week, I’ve also had some good times.  I have to keep moving forward, or the sadness and regret will take over.  But when I can’t sleep, alone in the cold and dark, I can’t escape it.  The fear, the uncertainty, and the loss are palpable.

It’s just like it was 4 years ago when Seana left me, in many ways. Just like back then, I know I have made mistakes and those mistakes led to lack of trust, but there is more here that I may never understand.  Most frustratingly, I’m not completely sure what I am supposed to be learning.  The loss feels surreal, and I don’t have a direction in mind.  I don’t know where the goal is, or what game I’m playing.

As I sit here, writing in the heat of emotions and uncertainties, I reflect once again on what happened 4 years ago.  It was within 2 weeks of losing that relationship when I awoke, in a fever of creativity, and made a truly terrible and sappy video for the woman who left me.  I have no idea if she ever watched it.  It doesn’t really matter, because that creative burst was the beginning of moving on.  It was the first glimmer of what became an understanding that I was better for the loss, even if i did still love her.

But right now, the problem is that I don’t know what side I will land on, when that time comes soon, with this loss.  I do not know what I will want in the future.  There is no lack of love, but the fact is that I have never stopped loving someone who I genuinely loved. I miss Gina. I loved her more deeply than most, and miss her more than I will try to express. How will I feel in a year? I don’t know.  I’m scared to know, and perhaps that’s why the mind refuses to settle on any one feeling so close to the event.  Perhaps I’m stuck in my own illusion.  

But what I am fairly sure of is that part of what causes such losses are out of my control.  No matter how much responsibility I have for what caused her to leave me, there remains the parts I could not control.  Whether fear, unhealthy attachments to ideas, people, or things (on both our parts)—whatever the cause, there comes a point where punishing myself will have to end.  There is a point, and I see glimpses of it already, where the pieces of the puzzle become more clear from a distance.

Will my face appear in that completed puzzle? I don’t know yet. And I still am not sure what exactly I am supposed to learn or what I will want.  There’s still too much debris from the destruction, too much sifting through the ashes, looking for surviving relics that I may or may not take home with me.

Where our lives were entwined, they are now days away from essentially being estranged.  What was to be home is now a place of pain and sadness.  What was a source of hope now has become a source of sadness and emptiness.  What was certain has become uncertain.

Can I sleep now, please?

Lost and Found February 6, 2014

Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
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A little over 4 years ago, I lost a relationship which was, at the time, important enough to move me away from Philadelphia.  The same day that relationship ended, just a few months later, the origins of my relationship with Ginny started.  And that, ultimately, brought me back to Philadelphia.  More importantly, it brought me back to myself, and possibly a better self due to the struggles I had with depression and other emotional difficulties caused by that loss.  In my opinions, the gains outweighed the losses in that case.  Ginny is my rock.  She always stands besides me and loves me, and I am extraordinarily lucky to have her.

And up until a few days ago, another person was as integral to my life as Ginny is, in many ways.  We lived together, laughed together, and when things were wonderful they were amazingly wonderful.  Gina was a person I intended to spend the rest of my life with, and now that possibility is uncertain.  Now that relationship is gone, at least for now.  And I feel lost again.

So, now I spend a lot of time analyzing what it’s like to struggle through painful times, while looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.  And being the cynic I am, I’m not seeing beds of metaphorical roses.

Pain, struggle, and all the related emotions and circumstances are hard, especially for someone who struggles with emotional stability and proportionality.  The increased introspection brings forth more self-awareness, emotional maturity (at least, hopefully), and forces me to take some more time for re-evaluation.  At least, that’s what I have told myself, before, when I healed from such times.  But right now I’m not sure if I buy that narrative; at least not completely.  It’s true that I think more than usual, but not really that much.  I just think about specific, painful things more.  I just hurt more.  I may not actually be any more introspective at such times (but I’m definitely outside the norm in terms of my normal level of introspection).

I’m starting to think that maybe the narrative of ‘painful times are periods of growth’ is not completely correct. Our brains do their best to maintain the illusions and narratives of a whole self who does not act completely crazy and unpredictable, let alone simply irrationally and unreasonable.  Our memories are altered by a process that maintains this illusory narrative to put together our selves and lives into a sensible story.  As we remember those times of pain and struggle, we have to put them in a context of where we are when we don’t feel that way any longer, and growth is as good a narrative as any other.  In order to maintain some level of consonance with our self image as a stable and grown person, we humans tend to construct a narrative of how the pain we went through made us stronger, better, and more prepared for life.  It never feels that way when in the midst of it, though.  At the time, it just sucks.

I hope I’m a stronger and better person than I was 4 years ago, but the fact is I can’t be sure.  I have painful memories which give me pause when approaching similar mistakes which helped precipitate those painful events, sure, but is that strength? Isn’t that just conditioning, a la Pavlov? Is it not possible that I would actually be stronger today if those painful experiences had never happened? How would I know?  Because if I’m stronger and better today, perhaps that would have happened whether I went through those painful times or not.

Then I think of all the utterly obtuse and non-self-aware people I know, and I think that maybe I’m just being too pessimistic and cynical.  Why are so many people apparently oblivious to not only their own issues but the cues of others? How have they avoided actual emotional growth for so many years? It seems weird to me to not be introspective, but I guess my introspective nature looks weird to them, too.  I’m getting off track.

What I want to know, essentially, is whether the pain we go through when dealing with loss–whether through death, break-ups, etc–is actually ever good, or whether we create a narrative which makes it seem good in retrospect.  Because when we’re better, things look better.  And so in that case we can weave memories to fit how we feel.  If we are fine after the shit is all over, then the crappy days, weeks, or months we just plowed through must have been worth it, because here we are! Right? But that’s not how the brain works.  Sometimes, we just feel better because we forget the pain (or, at least, most of it), new good stuff happens, or because we ate the right foods that day to help support a healthy mind.  And then we reconstruct the past to fit the present state of mind.

I really am being cynical and pessimistic, aren’t I?

*Sigh*

I’m dealing with loss right now.  I’m hoping that I will run into some ‘finding’ as well.  The fact is that I am on the verge of starting a new relationship, so I may be repeating the pattern of losing and finding simultaneously, but it’s also premature to make any hay out of that.  The happiness I am feeling from that is somewhat mitigated by the pain of that other loss, but it’s still happiness and hopefulness.  But mostly, right now, I’m feeling sad, hurt, and angry (mostly at myself).

And I miss her.  Badly.  I’m trying to make sense of my life without her in it, and it just doesn’t make much sense at all.  I think of things I would usually share with her, and I can’t.  Too painful to talk right now.  And everyone keeps telling me that this might just be temporary, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel that way.  I’m just going to have to wait out the worst of this, and hope that when I feel better things will be different.  The scary thing, however, is I don’t know how they will feel better.  The uncertainty of it is terrifying.  I guess I just need to practice patience, and hopefully all will be better soon.

In the mean time, I can’t stop moving forward, otherwise I will spin my wheels into a rut of listless sadness.  I need to keep moving forward, and hope that maybe that lost relationship might be found when things feel better.

But for now it hurts too much.