Posts Tagged ‘character study’
“Put nothing between yourself and your grief.” —Tara Hardy
So I get raw. Strip away that which makes me numb. I try to substitute something else, unconsciously, until I realize and strip that away too. Showering feels good, turning up the water just a little too hot. That wakes me. Movement feels good, but I am so sluggish I can rarely remember to do it. Like my brain tricks me to stay still and not feel. Close and collapse and tighten, it silently urges.
But I don’t want to.
It’s so much easier to push it down, push it away. Easier to numb out the heart. Easier to harden. In some ways, I wish I was that kind of person. I miss the ability to turn things on and off. Or—can you miss something you’ve never had? I am envious of it. Want more of it in my own life. Want a little light switch on the back of my neck. That’d make for an interesting tattoo. I have enough marks but sometimes I seek more needles, more things staring at me, yelling, you survived. Marking time passing. Marking a different state, so I can remember that things always, inevitably, change.
I have thrown myself into shadow comforts. Films, tv shows, food, alcohol, sex, power. I even started smoking again. Quit now, once I left New York there wasn’t quite the need to regulate my anxiety so daily. I caught a cough the week I came here and didn’t shake it for long enough to stop wanting them every couple hours. I wonder if the same will happen for a drink. Still, in the evening, when I’m done working, when the boy comes home from work, I crave a little something in my glass. Something liquid and smoky to sip on. Ice cubes clinking.
I lied. I do want to.
But I’m trying not to. I’m trying to be aware. My brain that is seeking aliveness, awakeness is sometimes at odds with the part of me that screams, I can’t feel anymore of that stop just make it stop I don’t care what I have to do just stop. Take a deep breath. Feel down into my feet. It will pass. It’s probably temporary. Just wait, and feel it, and be still.
Those are the easy shadow comforts. There’s also Facebook, reading things online but not really reading them, being way too busy, sleeping until noon. I am on entirely too good of terms with all of those habits these days. I am not good at being still, but I’m not good at moving either. I’m not sure where my aim is, so I’m not sure how to move. The apartment where I’m staying has an arrow on the wall above the bed and I stare at it when I can’t sleep. How do I become an arrow? How do I find a target at which to aim? How can I make myself sharp enough and strong enough and capable of riding the wind enough to find something close to center? I filled out a form today for a coaching session with a I’ll-make-your-business-better coach and it asked, Where are you now? Where do you want to be? … That’s kind of what I need to figure out. Sometimes I think, I could do anything, if I only knew what it was.
But grief is a fog, something that envelops, “its tropical heat / thickening the air.” Something I am choking on, sometimes without warning. I’m all fine, thin sunny air with lemons and lemonade and ocean breezes through the leaves making the most pleasant sound, then I get a flash and I’m on the floor, searching for that one foot of air that isn’t already black. Floundering. Grief. I don’t know what happened. It feels like a before and after, the landscape devastated, muddy brown everywhere. The rage bubbles up like the electric tea kettle water which is probably done in the kitchen and now back to cold. Push the little button down again and make the blue light appear. Does twice-boiled water have any benefit? I’m floundering now. It doesn’t matter. Either way, I will make some tea and get another sweater because I haven’t been able to warm up at all today.
I’m trying to listen. What does my body need, what do I need, what do I want, what would feel good. Maybe not even good—nice. What would feel not like a football thrown by a pro straight to my chest. Anything but this. Anything but this. “Shadow comforts say, ‘Come home to your life.’” wroteJen Louden. I’m trying to come home. I know there’s a boy and some fresh vegetables, even a bit of chocolate, my most important things. Funny how little I have discovered that I really need. Thirty boxes in storage waiting for an address, four suitcases from sublet to sublet. I don’t need much. I’ve been looking at photos of myself all afternoon and now I feel the ghost of me behind each of these lines. My own image is starting to come into focus. I already know the answer to all of those questions. I don’t know what that means, but I know it’s true. It’s not time to sit still. It’s time to move. I have already purged. I have already fed myself full, gorged on honeysuckle and lavender ice cream, water with meyer lemon that puckers just right, all of my favorite things I am letting myself indulge in. I don’t know what else is going to happen, but I know I’m heading toward home. The compass of my body is telling me it’s time.
“Emotional landscapes / They puzzle me / Confuse …” Bjork sings in “Joga.” This has long been one of my favorite songs.
I am in love with the western United States, the pacific northwest in particular. If you followed my column on Eden Fantasys about my love affair with New York City, Mr. Sexsmith’s Other Girlfriend, you may remember that I also wrote often about visiting Seattle or San Francisco or other cities and my ongoing draw to being out west.
There are amazing things about living in New York City, like the Public Square and the community and the lack of bullshit and the lack of people offering you sliding scale energy work when you’re crying on the subway, and in a hundred ways, New York has been the diamond I’ve cut and formed my adult self against. Not a lot of things have been hard enough for me to form against—Seattle certainly wasn’t. I wanted something more.
But the actual geographic land over here … has never quite been enough for me. I drive outside of New York City and into the Adirondacks or the Catskills—places people call mountains over here but that I tend to call “mountains” or, more accurately, hills—and into the rolling baby green hills of pastoral New England, and I can’t really separate the cliche picket fences and porches and quaint mailboxes with this puritanical moral ideal of the nuclear family, sexual shame, and policed gender roles.
The west, though … the Rockies … I have such a different relationship with the earth when I’m over there, when I’m looking at towering peaks on my morning commute, when I see the canyons and the deep green forests, the earth cut by water and carved out by glaciers. I feel so much more at home, so much more connected.
It’s in part because that is closer to my landscape of origin, that is closer to the drama of Southeast Alaska where I was literally created, birthed, and grew up.
But it’s partly something else, too. I think it’s partly because the grandeur, the sublimity of the west looks a lot more like my inner emotional landscape than the pastoral, serene east.
I talk about my “inner emotional world” or “emotional landscape” frequently. Lately, I’ve been talking about how many earthquakes it has endured, how much instability is in there now. Sometimes it helps to visualize the earth cracking apart, splitting, the magma of the earth spewing forth to destroy whatever structures I’ve put into place, like in that Joga video.
I like to talk about my emotional world in geographic metaphors. I’ve been deeply shaken this year. I’m still trying to clear the rubble and rebuild. A friend of mine recently said that she thinks the apocalypse—the impending end of the Mayan calendar, uh, tomorrow—actually is “all the hard stuff all at once” for everybody. It’s certainly true for me: the power dynamics in my life have dramatically shifted, my relationships have shifted, I woke up after a couple of months of being unconscious to find myself buried under a mountain of shit out of which I’m still trying to dig myself.
The sublime nature of the western United States matches my inner emotional landscape so much more than the east.
And if you’ll forgive the comparison, being out in the east feels incongruous almost in a transgender type of way—that my inner self does not match the outer surroundings, and I feel a serious disconnect. When the outer landscape matches my inner landscape, I feel integrated and whole in a much more comforting way.
Perhaps I should be aiming for more inner peace, inner calmness, such that the pastoral landscape surrounding me could be a goal, rather than a reflection. I don’t know about that. I’m a student of buddhism and tantra, and those lineages say that it’s not so much that I think our inner selves are peaceful, but that we separate our divine nature Self from the monkey mind self that is often chatter chatter chattering.
I don’t think a dramatic, sublime inner emotional landscape is bad. I think it’s real. I love being deeply in touch with emotions, experiences, divinity, the universe, energy, god, myself—whatever you want to label that. Lately, I have been incredibly reactive, moreso than I usually am, since my inner world has been such a disaster, but I usually have much more space between my reaction and my response, I usually have more control over my ability to respond, my response-aiblity if you will, and I am using all of my tools to lengthen the space between my reactions and my responses. (Meditation helps with that practice immensely.)
I’m getting better. Slowly waking up. Bringing myself back into alignment with these paths, my callings, my desires, following my goals, containing my time and energy and emotional landscapes. But I miss the west. I miss the mountains and valleys and deep lakes and rainforest. Sometimes I wish I was a better visual artist, that I could actually draw out an inner emotional landscape map, full of trails and paths and adventures, with maybe even a big X right over my heart to mark the treasure.
I’ve started crying on airplanes. It used to be ginger ale, now it’s wine. I probably should have eaten more than a bagel, should have had more for dinner last night than a whiskey flight and a kiss, but now I am crying and beginning to hear the beat of a second heart in my chest.
I am exhausted. I’d like to sleep for a year. By which I mean, I’d like to turn down my consciousness in order to have some rest. My rest has not been deep enough, has not penetrated my bones. Too much has happened in the past year. I opened up my chest from the back and wings sprang out, and now I cannot wear my shirts or binders or coats or old patterns anymore. Nothing fits. I am running, running to catch up with myself, when really I’m supposed to be flying. Why else would I have these new tools?
But sometimes my pen won’t move. I love and love and love, aching to make sense, make meaning, make love with my every movement, and sometimes all I can do is collapse because I’m overfull and not full enough. An underactive nervous system prone to depression and shutting down, a blank page. Still I ache and move and nourish and detox and meditate. Still I feel this pulsing in my chest, faint like something coming from within the walls, this second heart beating and every once in a while blinking a tiny little light like a pulsar star. I want to build. To do something with all of this love and throbbing energy and heat and pure life force I am lucky enough to have. I hope to never forget to be grateful for every breath of air I magically take in, every moment of reception, penetration, release, surrender, power. I can’t help but course it all through my every vein.
I am starting to cry on airplanes. It is a place I can rest, so high above my email inbox and big loves (I count five) and the ground floor surface of earth’s crust. I am lightheaded up here, stripped of the daily needs of the world, and when I drop down under my days I find this ache. This exhaustion. This ongoing fear of misunderstanding. This curse of a body, of mortality, of injustice. I haven’t reconciled. I miss the clarity and discovery of youth, of innocence. I’d like to make sense of so many things, like how the black holes grow within us and what it could ever take to fill them, like how stone can trickle away through consistent gentle water, like why humans destroy each other from the inside out. I can’t seem to find meaning in wars, but still I engage, sometimes late at night with the ones I love most. Sometimes silently stowing my own cocks in empty boxes unworthy. Sometimes desperate sorrow. Sometimes the silent blank faith of the line without the next word.
The first day I had wings, it was awkward and inconsistent. The second day I toppled over, top heavy. The third day my errands were effortless.
I guess that’s all I want. Less effort, more sweetness. Less struggle, more radical empathy. To cry because it feels good to release, above, hurdling through the sky, the taste of wine on my tongue.
Sugarbutch turned 6 years old on Sunday, April 29th. It was in 2006 at a corporate office job I’d just started, after obsessively reading every sex blog I could find for about a month, that I started publishing my own sexy fantasy writings.
I’ve told this story many times over the last six years, but here’s how it started. I was in a bed death relationship with my college girlfriend of four years, meaning for about the last two years of our relationship we had sex maybe six times (a few of which were when we almost broke up). I was going nuts, tearing my hair out, getting off multiple times a day. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had stopped writing for a long time because all I was writing was about how I wanted to get out of that relationship, and that was a reality I wasn’t quite ready to face. So I decided that every time I wanted to have sex, I would either go to the gym, or write erotica, and I ended up writing a lot of erotica (and not really going to the gym much—this was before my gymbunny days). I started liking some of the work I was writing, and I went back to a medium that was one I had relied upon for many years: the online writing project, aka the blog.
I had kept personal writing projects online since 1996—for the last sixteen years, now—in various states of anonymous or semi-anonymous, but this one was the first one that grew to this caliber. Sugarbutch was completely anonymous for a few years, but as it grew, my identity became less and less hidden. (It’s not exactly anonymous anymore, it’s only been semi-anonymous for a few years now, and then I came out on Coming Out Day in October of last year.) I’ve had to deal with writing about the people I slept with without them knowing—and what to say when they later found out, and now I’m a lot more open and always get permission before I write about someone here.
So it started out as a place for me to get out of my bed death relationship, and quickly became a chronicle of that relationship ending. When it ended, I realized that I thought I knew what I wanted in a relationship, I thought I knew what my gender was and who I was attracted to, I thought I knew the kind of sex I wanted to have, but none of that had worked out. So how did I get that? Who was I, and how do I date the girl I want to date? How do I have the kind of sex I want to have? Can I really be who I am and get what I want?
These became the central questions I was exploring—and still explore—on Sugarbutch. It’s always been a personal exploration. As the blog grew, much of the more personal explorations have been put under a password (which you can get if you sign up for the mailing list—the idea is that you can see the more personal things in exchange for interacting with me with integrity).
The initial focus on this blog was where the subtitle of “kinky queer butch top” came from: a) my gender identity (butch), b) my sexual orientation (queer and attracted to femmes) and the process of seeking a serious partnership with someone, and c) exploring my kinkiness through my particular power orientation of masculinity and dominance. I wanted to figure out who I was in those contexts, who I would be to a partner, who I was in the butch/femme world, how I could continue to grow and push myself sexually, and how I could maintain all of those dynamics over a long-term relationship and not fall into another bed death situation.
The first three years of Sugarbutch were a lot of exploring and a lot of rebuilding myself. Early readers will remember the difficulty I had getting out of my relationship with The Ex and the box of darkness gift that one particular rebound relationship gave me.
Then I started dating Kristen, and the last three and (almost) a half years have been exploring with her. Having a steady partner meant that I had a steady sex life that I could explore, and I stepped up the product reviews. It was so much easier to review products frequently when I had a steady partner, it was much harder when I’d bring a new harness to someone that I hadn’t slept with before to try to figure out whether or not it worked for me and us (for example, was it the harness? Or was it the newness of the sexual partner that meant that I wasn’t getting off or fucking comfortably?).
Product reviews, of course, get old pretty quickly, and I never wanted this place to turn into an all-product blog. I’ve scaled back on products significantly, though I’m still interested in keeping up with the strap-on hardware that is being released.
Kristen brought some new sexual explorations, too. It was with her that I started exploring this Daddy identity of mine, a new space that I didn’t really see coming but that fits very well. We’ve also been exploring D/s and pushing our BDSM play to new places, and in the last year or so we’ve been deepening our relationship to the leather communities, being more involved with leather and BDSM retreats and culture. It’s been incredibly rewarding.
And for the past seven months, Kristen and I have been navigating non-monogamy in practice since I started dating rife. It’s been a challenge for our relationship, and while Kristen is totally behind this shift in our relationship (and recently wrote here about her thoughts on non-monogamy), it has not been without difficulty. It’s been very hard to write about because it’s been painful—for both of us—at various times, and it’s been hard to reveal the mistakes I’ve made, the pain it’s sometimes caused, and the ways that we are trying to move forward. I know there has been judgment about that decision from readers, too, so that’s made it harder to write about, but I’m trying to continue to stay open to chronicling my journey—our journey—as an open couple.
So while Sugarbutch used to be an exploration of gender (specifically, how I would be butch), sex (and getting the sex life that I wanted), and relationships (finding a girl to explore and deepen with), the edge now that I’ve been writing about has been non-monogamy (and I’m sure there is tons more to write about that as this expands), Daddy and D/s dynamics, and our deepening relationship to the BDSM and leather worlds.
Those explorations are my personal explorations, my personal edges, my personal work. I know many readers aren’t following me into these worlds, not only because they are edgier, but also because those aren’t as reflective of what you’re going through personally, and it’s harder to follow and relate to. I know many of you don’t agree with or understand what I’m doing (and you’ve said so in comments and emails frequently), and I’m going to continue to do my best to explain what I do and how it comes from a feminist, open, consensual perspective, but I know sometimes those things are just beyond grasp. I find it fascinating to continue to reconcile feminist politics with heavier BDSM theory, and I hope that I can keep writing about that in ways that incite curiosity rather than judgment and hateful comments.
Of course, Sugarbutch is still an exploration of those things that sparked it—sex, gender, relationships. In fact, as I’ve been teaching more and more, leading workshops and writing advice columns and learning more about how to counsel people one-on-one, I am surprised at how much comes back to those three things. They are not simple, after all. Figuring out who we are in the world and what we want are basic, on one level, but they are also Our Life’s Work, and they are not small. Plus, they are ever in flux, constantly changing.
That’s the other major thing that Sugarbutch has evolved into over the last six years: It’s now more than just a place where I go to work out my own shit, it’s also a platform for my work. I’ve turned it into my full-time job (which still scares me), and so part of what happens here is promotion for my books (!), workshops, travels, appearances, retreats, and writing elsewhere.
As I’ve had more of a position of teaching, I’ve been going back to those basics—”basics”—of sex, gender, and relationships, and the things that I’ve learned through this journey to know myself, over and over. I have come to all of this work from a very personal perspective, never assuming that I know what’s best for anyone else, only putting forward what has worked for me and what I’ve discovered—through reflection, writing, and various research—with the hope that something in there might be helpful to you, too. I don’t expect 100% of what I do or say or write to apply to you. Hell, even I don’t agree with 100% of what I’ve said. I revise my ideas constantly, or sometimes someone will ask me, “You just said ___, what did you mean?” at a workshop and I’ll have to backtrack and say, “Yeah, I didn’t mean that at all.” (Or, more likely, “I didn’t articulate that very well, let me explain what I meant.”) I am in a constant state of revising how I understand myself and my relationship to the world, and how I understand all of this work.
These topics are huge, and central, to all of us.
(I debated saying “almost all of us,” but in actuality, I think those issues affect all of us, every one of us, whether we are aware of it or not.)
I have some goals for this sixth year: I want to publish an ebook (or maybe more than one). I want to keep working on my finances and figure out how to be able to afford this patchwork freelance life. I want to get my Cock Confidence Product Guide up and running (I was working on that over the winter but the release of Say Please has pushed it back). I want to continue to collaborate more with Kristen, since her voice hasn’t been heard much here and I hope to do more of that (we have some ideas about what she might do). I want to keep writing elsewhere, and keep publishing my own short stories in anthologies, and hopefully do another erotica anthology soon. I want to keep writing about the things that are pushing my own edges, the non-monogamy and the BDSM and the D/s and Daddy play, even though it is not always well received. I want to keep teaching and doing workshops. I want to keep traveling, and to figure out how to travel better so that I’m away from my girl less and so that my recovery time is easier. I want to write here more, which is frequently a challenge because of the challenging feedback and the personal reveals and the traveling that gets in the way, but I want to keep it up.
I am thrilled to be doing the work that I’m doing. I love that my personal explorations have turned into lessons and guides and ideas for other people to learn more about their own lives, their own genders and sexualities and sexual satisfactions, and I still sincerely hope that what I put forth can help, in any way whatsoever. I am so grateful that you are reading and listening and buying my book and attending my workshops.
Thank you for reading over these last six years, thank you for commenting, thank you for your emails and your questions and your praise and your critiques. I couldn’t do this without you, and I am so grateful that I get to keep doing what I’m doing.
Some of the other anniversary posts:
- Fifth Anniversary
- Fourth Anniversary
- Third Anniversary
- Second Anniversary
- Bed Death, Standard Variety: the post that started it all.