Posts Tagged ‘relationships’
Happy Anniversary! I think I’ve been reading almost that long!
You posted something that looked like a pie chart once. It dealt with something like life goals, or values, or time management as it relates to life goals or values–that I remember being really interested in and haven’t been able to find since on your site.
It was like a non-cheesy “self-help” book (sort of). So my question is– do you have any idea what I’m talking about and what the name of the book is? And barring that or with that what are some nonsmut, nonfiction books you use for personal betterment? thank you muchly!
I think I know the chart you mean—it is from the book How to Be, Do, or Have Anything: A Practical Guide to Creative Empowerment by Laurence G. Boldt, called the Integrated Life Matrix. I posted it in 2007.
It’s a lousy title for this book, it is actually better than the sensationalized “how to have anything!” style that the title suggests. It is a step-by-step guide for creating your life the way you want it to look, in many arenas, not just professionally, but also personally, which is where this matrix above comes in.
My favorite non-smut non-fiction book recommendations for personal betterment I have mostly compiled into a self-awareness section of my Amazon A-store, makes it easy to keep track of in a list that way.
I’m a big fan of these kinds of books, actually—I know it’s a huge industry and many of them (70%? 90%? A LOT) are complete crap and useless for me, but even if I just pull one tool out of reading a book like this, that can be helpful and I’m glad I read it. At their best, they can be fantastic personal guides combining spirituality, philosophy, and psychology, three of my favorite subjects. I think it’s kind of silly that we don’t value self-improvement or self-knowledge very much, to the point where these books are put into a very easily dismissible category of “self-help.”
I used to call it my embarrassing indulgence, reading these, or my guilty pleasure. But I’m not so embarrassed about it these days. I’m very picky, and there are terrible books out there in this genre, don’t get me wrong. But there are also some very amazing writers and teachers in this genre who have significantly changed my life and world view.
Cheri Huber’s The Depression Book was completely life-changing for me. I credit Sharon Salzberg with a lot of the sparks of my committing to the Buddhist path and learning to meditate, she is incredibly down to earth and easy to follow, and she is phenomenal at teaching beginning meditation. David Richo has excellent psychology books with a Buddhist bent about healing and relationships. Charlotte Kasl’s book If the Buddha Dated really helped me make good (well, better than I would have otherwise) decisions through the recent period of dating. Many of the books in my A-store are also about creating your own career, carving out your own career path, and figuring out what it is that you want.
All of these have brought me here, to the teaching, writing, studying, and performing that I do now.
Just one more thing, then I’ve got to get focused on some other work today.
Hugo Schwyzer has a post up today called Why Men Run When They Lack the Words to Stay, and it resonated with me with some of the recent complications in my relationship with Kristen and with my emotional landscape history in general.
Give it a quick read, then come back and read my comments on it, which I’ll try to keep to a few.
For the record, Schwyzer divides this into men and women, and generally I think what he’s saying is true, but it may not be true for individuals, and it may not be neatly applicable to a butch/femme relationship—meaning the butch might not have the same experience as the man, in this scenario. And there are parts that he describes that apply to me, parts that apply to Kristen, parts that apply to neither of us. Still, I think it’s relevant in examining some of the over-arching things we get taught that run along the gender divides, and interesting to think about these dynamics in any relationship, regardless of gender.
I have certainly “submarined” a lot in my past. I think that mostly comes from having a history of abuse, though, not a history of me not being able to articulate my emotions and being overwhelmed by my partner’s, though there is a piece of that too. And even though I am a poet, and highly emotional, I haven’t always been able to verbalize what was going on for me, especially not in the moment it was happening. I’ve been working on that a lot in recent years.
I also really like the breakdown of iron vs copper, of using those words to talk about certain styles of boundaries (or lack thereof). Though I’ve done a lot of work on this too recently, I do tend to get overwhelmed by my surroundings, and sometimes I cope with that by running away or shutting down. And Kristen has some aspects of being copper too, especially in taking things personally. It’s interesting to think about those tendencies as a boundary issue.
I do take issue with Schwyzer’s work on occasion, especially around men, masculinity, and pornography, but I find much of his work fantastic and I encourage you to subscribe to and read his blog if you don’t already. Lots of food for thought.
January is over, so my official hiatus is through. I had a very particular writing schedule for myself in January (that if I was being really honest I’d tell you I rarely adhered to) and some specific goals, very few of which were met. But it was a start, and I do feel like I have a better idea of how to grow this manuscript that I’m working on and what I need to do. Which is, mostly, work my ass off.
So I wrote some, I went to the writer’s space that I rent out, I worked at home, I focused, I cut out all sorts of unnecessary distractions except for Sideshow and the sacred sex coordinating and the weekly column and the porn party. Which I know sound like a lot but were actually relatively easy to coordinate and still write. Amazing how many of the things I do that fill my days are actually superfluous, extraneous, unnecessary. It’s a good thing to remind myself.
For the last week of January I was on a DIY writing retreat up at a nearby retreat center, which was an interesting experience too. I’ve never done that before, never taken myself somewhere else to just focus on writing. The internet was out for two of the four days I was up there so it was really just me and my words. I would’ve liked to have gotten farther than I did, but I do like what I did do, so that’s good. It wasn’t completely successful but I think it’ll be easier to do next time, and it is something I’d like to do more regularly than I do.
January was not without challenges, though. I wrote about the snowstorm at the very beginning of this writing leave of absence, and the weather has been a factor, since feet (feet!) of snow, ice, and rain are often a good enough reason to stay at my lovely little home office and not trek to the writer’s space. But aside from the weather, Kristen and I have had some kind of awful fights. It seems like January hit and everything changed, though of course it’s not everything, it’s just a couple key things, things to which I’m still adjusting. That was part of the point, and part of the reason I started this month-of-writing leave-of-absence in the first place, that I was getting itchy and dissatisfied and she was going through her own stuff, so we both decided that separately and together we needed to shake things up, make some significant changes in what we do daily and, to a certain extent, our emotional landscapes too.
I don’t want to get too much into that. Partly because some of that belongs to Kristen and partly because I don’t have a good grasp of it in my head yet, so I’m not ready to write through it publicly. But we’ve been fighting. And it has at times completely thrown off my writing.
And then, on top of the weather and the fighting, I’ve been sick. It’s actually kind of rare for me to get sick, I generally take good care of my own health, but somehow this cold has gotten away from me. I’m still sick, actually, and this is the third wave of the sickness, I’ve gotten better twice before and then had some sort of relapse where it seems like it started all over again. I went to the doctor when it started up the second time, which I rarely do, and of course they just told me it was a cold, but I guess it’s good that it wasn’t bronchitis or something. But I thought I was getting better! I even went to the gym! And I went on that retreat! I was okay! But now: sore throat, congested sinuses, which is how it started the other times. This time I’m so congested that I can’t taste anything, or smell anything. Isn’t that weird? I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything and had absolutely no taste of it before, it is kind of freaky. I’m sure it’s just temporary, and I really should remember that, both about the taste thing and about the sickness, since I can be a kind of lousy patient and just sit around moaning about how sick I am. That’s not very attractive or fun or Daddy-like. Not that I’m saying I should “take it like a man” or anything, just that I could probably have a bit more self-control and that would be fine. It’s just so annoying to be sick, it’s hard not to express that annoyance.
And it really is getting in the way of writing!
I guess this is something I need to learn: how to keep my writing steady even if other shit is going on. How to let writing be my refuge from all the other shit, instead of needing the other shit to be calm and fine and in place in order to do the writing. Problem is, my brain really has not worked for the last four weeks! So of course the writing I’m producing has been pretty, well, thoughtless. And extremely frustrating.
Even if these distractions weren’t going on, this writing project would still be hard. I’m kicking up some memories and trying to wade through them, organize them, and write about them eloquently. I’m not sure if this will end up where I think it’s going, but for now I’m just trying to generate content, and have something to edit and improve.
So, my point is that my hiatus may continue in February—I’m going to keep focusing on this manuscript. But I also hope that I’m going to write here, too, and use this place as my morning pages. And of course I still have some events I’m hosting, and I need to get the manuscript together for the lesbian BDSM erotica anthology, so there is much to work on. Oh yeah, and I have some events too, so I’ll be doing some traveling to Boston and Philadelphia and upstate New York to Syracuse. (More about those soon, I’ll post a full event schedule.) And you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been posting some reviews lately; I still have a few in my back-log but I’m not taking on nearly as many as I used to. It’s great to have access to new products, and I’m enjoying building up my porn collection, but I don’t have the time to review all that I used to, and I have a very specific wishlist of products I’m picking from these days.
It’s a new year, and things are changing. Time to pick up the pace and jump over the hurdles and accomplish some shit. Which for me, first and foremost, means writing a book.
That’s where that whole online writing project (aka blog) of mine started, really: in an attempt to write myself into a better sex life, and into personal relationships about my own sexuality, gender identity and expression, and sustaining relationships. For the first three years, I was attempting to write myself into a long term, stable, sane relationship, in part because I wanted to have a better sex life and in part for all the rest of the good stuff that comes with intimacy, cohabitation, and love.
And now, I’ve found the girl I’ve been with for a year and a half, Kristen. And the longer we’re together, the longer it seems we’ll last.
So, now what? Is my quest for a fulfilled sex life over?
To some degree, yes—many of the problems and questions that plagued me as a single butch top, such as, “When am I going to get laid next?” and “Who’s it going to be with?” and “How do I know if she’ll be into what I’m into?” are no longer a factor. I love that I am with someone as open and eager to explore sex as I am, if not more so. I love that our sex drives are pretty well matched. I love that I am with someone whom I can try out new toys with (it was much harder to be a toy reviewer when I was solo, that’s for sure).
But that is not necessarily a recipe for perfect sexual compatibility, or ongoing sexual fulfillment. Note the key word there: ongoing. A sex life is just that—a LIFE—which means it happens every day. And like any other aspect of life, it is interwoven tightly with all sorts of other aspects, and can be different, feel different, or present unique new obstacles at any time.
How does one navigate fulfillment with all sorts of other things—bills, work, health, family, projects, friends—are also vying for attention? How do you keep the spark going?
Perhaps this relates to my theories around general relationship intelligence and the lack of depiction of many stable, sane, healthy relationships in the various storytelling arts. Most romantic comedies or dramas, for example, focus on the part of a relationship story where the couple is overcoming obstacles in order to begin their life together. At the beginning of the film, the couple is not together; the dramatic action focuses around their miscommunications, struggles, possibly sex, expectations, who called (or didn’t call) who, and who can get over their issues in order to fully embark on a committed monogamous relationship; then the end of the movie shows the couple, triumphant, and we are happy, having been rooting for them all along.
But we see very little of what happens next in the relationship. How the couple communicates, negotiates, reaches consensus, struggles, forgives, fights, and maintains a balance between their individual separate selves and their collective togetherness. So rare is a film where the couple is together at the beginning and the end, where the dramatic action centers around the relationship trials or the couple coming together to solve outside problems.
Without such good models of problem solving in long term relationships, and with such high divorce rates, meaning that for folks my age it is rather rare for our parents to still be together, or even to have an older couple in our lives as mentors, how can we be expected to have the relationship skills to sustain our own long term relationships?
And isn’t it similar with sex: when we are single, we expect getting into a relationship will fulfill our sexual needs. The smarter folks among us know that getting into a relationship isn’t quite enough, but that we need to get into a relationship with a person with whom we are sexually compatible. A subtle but key difference!
Yet still—life happens. Even if you find that special someone, there is still ongoing navigation to keeping it up and getting off. And sharing a life with someone means distractions, miscommunications, unforeseen occasional tragedies, and our ever-changing bodies and lives.
This is what I have been puzzling through in my own relationship, as we are increasingly sharing space and continually sharing our lives.
My relationship with Kristen started as almost purely sexual. She lived a few hours away from me, and worked in another state, and would come visit on weekends. She’d lived in New York City before and planned to move back, which is how we met in the first place. We spent whole weekends in bed, rarely leaving my apartment, rarely leaving my room except to eat and shower and rest our bodies. After she left, I would spend the whole week playing over and over the last weekend, often writing about what we’d done, how we’d played, and planning some new ways to play when she came back.
I would pounce on her as soon as she walked in the door. Already hard packing and waiting anxiously to feel her again. Not even letting her put her things away before shoving her up against something, so eager and grateful to have someone who let me play with dominance, someone who was open to play.
It was erotic, connected, passionate, heated sex, full of longing and relief and release. Plus, we continued falling in love, discovering all the ways we enjoyed each other’s company outside of the bedroom.
It’s easy to look back and see the bliss, but equally present was the ache of longing, the fear of the fragility of a new relationship, those days when we would have given anything to come home to each other, all the fetishizing and idealizing of a shared domesticity. I brush over those feelings now because that wish was granted, I no longer have to long to share other parts of my life with her, as our lives are increasingly entwined.
Now we have the new obstacles of sustainment: Am I getting what I want in bed, in this relationship? Are we having sex often enough for me? Are we having the kind of sex I want, or am I longing for something else, something new? How do I ask for more, or different, sex? How do we keep the spark of eroticism, passion, longing, and eagerness when we are available to each other, in so many ways, constantly? How do we keep it fresh and new when we’re willing to do, and have done, so much experimenting already?
Maybe this sounds like a trite problem, especially to those who don’t have partners, don’t get laid, or don’t prioritize sex as a serious hobby the way Kristen and I do, but I suspect many people in reasonably satisfied relationships ask these questions at some point or another.
I’m sure all of our relationships have a unique set of circumstances behind these questions. For me, it seems to be that my girlfriend would like to have sex more often than we do, and in part because of our dynamic and the sexual roles we like to play with of Daddy/girl and domination/submission, she has a hard time asking for more. She feels greedy and unwarranted. I know I also have a hard time allowing myself to be seduced, so even when she does feel bold enough to make her desires clear, I don’t always respond with what she wants. I adore our dynamics and they are a key important part of this relationship, roles I have been eager to explore for years and I am grateful to do so. But precisely those dynamics erase my own desire for the chase, since she is constantly available to me, sometimes my desire runs a little low. I crave some denial, something to conquer, something to come up against in order to create friction.
We have discussed this; and of course I don’t want her denying me just for the sake of denying me, of turning me down when what she’s really interested in is playing, but we are still working out the details of dynamics we have chosen.
I’m pretty confident that we’ll figure this out, but I’m not exactly sure how. For now, we’re talking about it (though hopefully not too much), being open with each other, being honest about where we’re both at and what we want, and of course, working on our own shit in therapy. Every relationship is complicated. Every relationship has triumphs, low points, complications. I don’t know how things will get resolved, but things are improving, we are talking well to each other, still having great sex, and enjoying each other.
Really, does it get any better than that?