Pure As the Driven Slush: Heather Corinna's Journal and Diary, Online since 1999

Archive for the 'a boy named Blue' Category

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Life on the island is fantastic. I absolutely love it here. I feel at home, I feel at peace, and I find it very easy both to work and to relax, the latter of which is, was and always having been the bigger challenge for me. We’ve just had three days of nonstop rain, which hasn’t bothered me, but since the sun is out, I had Blue move my big blue easy chair out back so I could get some sun and some writing here in.

I didn’t mean to let a month lapse since I last wrote. I know this site of late (read: the last couple years) is something I’ve kind of neglected, or at least which has gotten far less of my time than it has in years past.  I want to just kind of sit with this today and thin — and write — about why.

When I started writing over here in 1999, Scarleteen was still in its infancy, the dot bomb hadn’t happened yet, and I was doing just as much work around sexuality and art for adults as I was doing sexuality work for young people. When it all comes down to it, I started this site, and writing here, not to long after I’d made some really major changes in my life, particularly leaving classroom teaching in order to make my work both online and around my arts and I’d moved to Minnesota after Chicago had been my hometown for most of my life.  I’d just come out of a few pretty damn dark years: of illness, of heartbreak, of almost winding up homeless again. I was 29 years old, in a relationship with my best friend at the time, and doing work that most people weren’t yet recognizing as work, or of anything of value, at all.  I was still doing some modeling for other artists, not just for myself (nor had I yet moved behind the camera, which is about 80 million times more interesting to me). I had a lot to sort out and suss out, very few supports in it and frequently fluctuated between states of intense inspiration and intellectual clarity and feeling totally, utterly lost, not knowing what the fuck I was doing in every area of my life. On top of that, very few women — or people, period — were talking about and working about the things I was. This site made a lot of sense then, and it makes less sense now, when so much of all of that has changed.

It’s so cliche, but I’m one of those creative people who tends to be most creative when I am hurting, angry, in a new emotion or in some kind of crisis or conflict.  I’d feel more stupid about that if there didn’t seem to be so many other artists and creative folks who are the exact same way.  All the same, it feels silly; lazy, even. I mean, if you can only artistically express a limited range of emotions, how creative are you, really?

So, here’s one thing: on the whole, lately — as in, over the past year and change — I’ve just been happy. Not the screamy, high-energy kind of happy, but the quiet kind, the kind that soothes and calms and contemplates and doesn’t have a lot to say a lot of the time. The kind that doesn’t keep its mouth shut because it feels silenced or scared, but because it’s just contemplating a gentle hum and finds it has little to report back.

The kind — no sense in being dishonest — I really don’t know much about at all. I’m a newbie. I can think of very few times in my life I experienced this, and the couple times that come to mind, I was so certain I was mistaking happiness for settling or complacency or detachment that I overthought it so much I didn’t really fully experience it at all, and also ran from it in due course.

But right now…okay, here’s my right now: I can pay most of my bills. I live in a rental — but a house — that is both beautiful and not in any way broken. I am in the middle of the woods, every day. More friends visit now that I moved out here than I saw when I was in Seattle-proper, and when they visit, we’re very rarely in the position where one or more of us is crying or venting because our lives suck in some major way. My sister even just moved to this state, a sister I have never really had a relationship with, but who it looks like I finally can, especially with both of us being so far away from home. I’m partnered with someone I have dearly loved on and off for 20 freaking years, who is both a peace and a passion in my heart and my mind.  All the drama around that when it restarted has since subsided. I feel able to be myself pretty much 24 hours a day, every day, no matter who I’m around.

Work is often a lot to manage (I’ll get to more on that in a minute), but it’s going well.  I’ve been doing what I have been doing for around 13 years now, solidly, and I know what I’m doing, I have way more support for it than I used to, it’s recognized as an actual job, and as something of value.  While funding, as ever, is always an issue, it’s not as much of an issue as it’s been in years past, and even when the shit hits the fan, I can usually figure something out.  I’ve been able to do some work through my work — like working for the abortion clinics and the teen shelter — I really wanted to do.  I may soon be writing a second book, which will carry a ton of stresses, but is something I very much want to do.

I could feel better physically, sure: my health is still not anything close to a non-issue.  Some things could be a good deal more stable.  Work could be less stressful.  But I’m 40, an age I never thought I’d even reach as a teenager, a concern that was more than valid then. I’m sitting on an overstuffed chair in the woods on an island, with a nice glass of wine, birds flying around me singing away, the sun is shining, the air is clean and warm and I’m comfortable.  And happy.  And mellow. In a couple hours, I’ll go make a delicious dinner with my sweetheart, which we’ll savor leisurely, then wind down with some lovely way of connecting and chilling, and then I’ll sleep like a baby in the perfect black dark.  It kinda rocks, to say the least.

Not only am I just learning how to be like this, I have yet to learn how to do my own creative work when I feel like this. I’m determined TO learn, mind you, but I’m not there yet.  And I forget, just plain forget, about my own writing or making art a lot of the time because I’m all caught up in my reverie.  When I realize that’s happened, I’ll start to give myself shit about it, and then I just stop.  Because I don’t have to do any of these things if I’m not feeling it.  But what I do have to do is learn to just let my heart be happy and my mind be quiet, one of the lone areas in life in which I am a late bloomer, and something I am actually learning to do at long last.

(more…)

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

There are haps for telling. Here’s what they be.

Friday, Blue and I went over to one of the islands, despite it absolutely pouring rain all day.  Knowing we were going to do that, and figuring what the hell, I made a couple appointments for us to see some rentals over there.  We’re not yet ready to move, but I have been looking at ads weekly for a year now, so it seemed time to at least get started, even if we’d be seeing things available way too soon for us.

And the very first place we saw, the first rental I have even looked at on this particular island — which is my island of choice — was PERFECT.  Beyond perfect, honestly.  I have maybe looked at one or two places as nice as this one to rent in my life, and I have never lived in anything even close to this nice.  Even in my dreams about places to live, things are broken or falling apart. Ungodly amazing kitchen with zinc counters and sink, maple shelves and this huge island, open to the living/dining room that is almost entirely windows, floor to ceiling, looking into a gorgeous garden and then the woods.  Loft over all of that.  The office has big stones built into the floor with radiant heat, french doors open unto a side deck the size of the downstairs of my rental now.  Two good bedrooms (the only place there is the wall-to-wall carpet that pretty much covers the whole Pacific Northwest: dunno what is with people and the carpeting here). Two beautiful bathrooms, one with the shower to die, which seems magical compared to the truly gross makeshift shower stall that was added into this place. Very creative little bits everywhere, and everything in good repair. The way the house is set, situated and designed, it feels like being in a big treehouse. The windows are NOT from decades ago, unlike the ones here which are the cause of my weeping when heating bills come in. Dog-friendly.  Smoking only outdoors, but whatevs: I need a new motivation to cut down. Only bit more a month than rent now, a cost that would undoubtedly be offset by the heat actually staying in the house.  Plus, no more fucking month-to-month lease like I have been dealing with, and which leaves me feeling totally unstable. Oh, and a working woodstove, unlike my sad, sad useless one now, which has sat gathering dust over the last year because the chimney here is toast.

Our view is into the woods, and the house is too, with some other houses nearby, but a very generous distance between, however, it’s around a half-mile walk downhill and you’re right at the beach.

We both feel in mad love with the place, which created rollercoaster waves of joy to sorrow, since we were just looking too damn soon.  Went and saw another place, way too big, in an area that felt suburban instead of rural, and some of the scariest wallpaper I have ever seen in my life.  Plus, it just had bad vibes.  Me no likey.

But wait! Since I’d asked about extended leases, the agent called us back later that day to say that was an option, which is when we found out it wasn’t going to even be available until June or July. We gasped.  We sat agape. We jumped and giggled.  And we all but ran home to do a bunch of math and other logistics then filled out the application.  Exciting, but honestly, this place is so nice and so freaking perfect, that it felt very fantastical to do this, because I still really wasn’t believing the rent was what I pay now.  So, app turned in, but we were both seriously managing our expectations and I, personally, just figured some shoe or another would drop.

Got a call today: this ungodly amazing baby be ours to rent, potentially for as long as an initial two-year lease.  Haven’t signed it yet, but the agent says so long as we still wanted it (umm, yes) we could rent it. So, unless something exceptionally weird and unexpected happens, we’re moving to one of the islands this summer.  And I finally have something other than a feeling of dread about being on a month-to-month lease here.

I’m waiting for that paper in my hand to let it really sink in that I finally am getting to do spend some of my life living full-time somewhere where my backyard is a forest, where the sounds I hear at night and in the morning are water and wildlife (and I’m not talking about the pets), and where I get to be all the way in the kind of environments I’ve previously only been able to be in when I am in desperate need of respite and solace and peace.  I can have my coffee outside in the morning in the freaking trees. I can take breaks by grabbing my camera and galoshes and sticking my nose into wildflowers. And all just a short ferry ride into the city.  When the paper is signed and that actually sinks in, my head may well explode.

It’s a leap we’re taking here, and a chance. I mean, it is possible that this idea I have had for a long time that almost a whole life spent urban needs to shift massively to the radically different environments I tend to think I feel more at home in is patently incorrect.  It may be I don’t like it at all, but you know, even if that’s true, I need that answer. If nothing else, it’ll be a much-needed sabbatical of sorts.  Plus, the house here will just not stop falling apart. I have loved this old place, so full of character, but at the same time, I don’t love a winter with broken heat, a door that I have to fight with for twenty minutes to lock or unlock, the carriage house leaning so precariously I’m sure one morning I’m just going to find it toppled sideways in the backyard or any of the other problems.  Being month-to-month in a neighborhood rife with development, it’s gotten to the point where I’m scared to even ask to have anything fixed for fear the landlord will figure he should just sell (or tired of asking for things that just never get fixed).  We’ve looked at some places in the ‘hood here in case it seemed like the islands just couldn’t happen this year, but everything we have seen has cost much more than we pay now for much less space and often no character.

Obviously, this will also be a bit easier for me, who only needs to go work outside the house a few times a month than Blue, but we did the stopwatching, and it’s still only about an hour’s commute, and a far prettier one than the one he has now.  Plus, he feels it’s way worth it.

So, there you go!  For the record, I’ve decided I like the sound of living “on one of the islands.”  As in, “Heather Corinna lives on a crunchy little island across the pond from Seattle.” Obviously, friends will know which one, and at some point, I’ll probably give it away without meaning to, but I like the very silly mystery and the sense of reclusiveness (and let’s face it, safety) not naming it publicly might offer.  I figure I’ll keep Scarleteen’s mailing addie somewhere in the city just for my own safety and to keep things from getting too claustrophobic,   so I get to keep my mystique.

Besides that big news, it’s otherwise just work-busy over here.  Working on the Our Bodies, Ourselves chap I’m writing for the next edition (still very exciting, but talk about difficulty avoiding perfectionism), working on the research, study and whatnot for the book proposal, and then doing everything else I do in a week, which is too much, per usual. Got taxes done early, which is nothing short of a miracle. That means I got the budget for the org laid out for next year, and while it’s not what I’d like it to be, it’s way better than it has been in previous years and far less panic-inducing. Haven’t been feeling all that hot lately health-wise, but I tell myself that this is another way the move will likely help. In case I hadn’t mentioned it, Blue would up getting a job at the teen shelter I do outreach for a couple months ago, and in typical form, is now managing the day shift there, and he loves it.  I certainly don’t require that anyone I’m this close to does activist or teen work, but I have to say, it’s very nice when it happens that way: it makes me feel a lot less isolated to have someone else get it so much.  Job aside, we’re still happy as two little clams over here, which is a little slice of heaven.

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

I just wanted to leave something from the past today for Blue more than for anyone else.  It’s a piece from around a year ago. Honestly, the both of us were going through hell, though his in a lot of ways was far worse than mine, or perhaps more to the point, some of his hells-of-yore just barely beginning the cleaning-up stage were very hard on both of us.

Life has been really good for us since Blue moved.  For the most part, crazy-good.  As stressed out as my work can make me sometimes, on the whole, our homelife has been such a solace, so much joy, so much fun.  We need to learn to leave the house more often when it comes to our leisure time, but I think we’ll manage that one, especially now that the weather is starting to improve.  But it taking so long for him to find work was exceptionally rough on him (in case I didn’t mention it, he wound up getting a job at the teen shelter where I do some outreach: major career change, but so far, he loves it).  As well, he’s still got a lot to unpack as well as dismantle from his previous relationship and everything that went down in it, as well as the dynamics that were part and parcel of it. His having to deal with those still when it comes to doing all that needs to be done to sever those ties has been really hard for him, and it breaks my heart.

We’ve talked about it, acknowledging we both knew that in some ways, it might have been better to wait for him to move until all the ink was signed over there and he’d had some more time to heal, but that we both really didn’t want to wait, and that was okay. I’m still glad we didn’t, especially given how many years we effectively had waited already. I’m glad to be his support in this, even though some of doing that means working through his learned responses to things from his marriage that just make so sense here and have no reason to come into play here.

Blue, like me, can be pretty rough on himself sometimes, and can sometimes go without acknowledging progress he’s made, or ways things have changed positively via his efforts.  I was revisiting some of our shared writing this morning from the last year and came across this, which seemed a pretty good time capsule to remind us both of how much easier things have gotten, as well as how much we’ve both weathered and come through just fine. Blue is an emotionally intense person, (again, like me), and that given, he tends to leave a lot of intensity in his wake.  Last year around this time it seemed to keep coming from every direction: a year and change later, things have calmed down a whole lot.

There are far fewer worms in our apple now, and to boot, we’ve got each other to lean on every day, rather than having month-long lapses where we both so acutely felt the lack of the other during a time when we needed one another so badly. We are ever-mighty, and only keep becoming all the more so.

in times of storm or drought

There are truths, and then there is truth
and they are not comparable.

It will matter to you — of course it matters,
as it would to anyone — to have facts
lined up neatly, linearly;
to have fictions exposed and
shelved with the rest of the world’s imagined stories,
great and not-so.
I understand that this matters,
it has mattered to me before, too,
but right now, for myself,
it is nearly irrelevant.

There is a truth
which is wordless, boundless, nonlinear.
It is messy, often inconvenient and untimely.
It expresses itself better in
childlike images painted with blood on the walls of caves
than in any one language,
sound or pretty symbol. There is neither
any clear way to affirm nor deny it,
no formula to affix that tangibly validates.
It is a truth rooted not in fact but faith,
and one which feels all the more true
when it fails every proof applied to it.

These other truths or untruths
have little relevance or particular weight:
when I sit them on a scale with
that larger truth, they fly up and away,
landing flat on their ass
as a much smaller-child does
when the biggest kid in school
comes by and idly slides
onto the other end of a see-saw.

That larger truth lives in an effortless
space, be it silent or full of
words, tears, moans, grasping hands,
linked gaze, difficult history,
absolute acceptance, loud frailties,
unresolveable conflicts and the primal
urge to merge completely.
It makes a home where I am at the same time shaken
and yet still as stone.

I feel it when you lock your mouth
to my breast; it lives in that illogical sense
of nourishing you from glands I know
provide nothing, do not leak
or swell, and yet
when I look down at the angel
suckling me, when I feel how,
in those moments,
I soften and you impel
a strength in me. I am a mother cat
then: should I perceive anyone to even think
of doing you harm, I know I would
hiss, scratch, repel.

It lives in the fact
that if either of us are going to have
white-hot, seething anger with anyone
it should be with each other,
however much we have recovered,
and yet, even when I seek it out,
it denies me access. It has dissolved
as easy and invisibly as dew at dawn.

It lives under the soles of my feet.
My legs have always been peasant-thick,
but there is a certain force of will and ground
like the roots of grand redwoods
which could not be felled by word or deed,
no matter how poisoned, and such a tiny axe
is impotent even to seek intrusion by carving in its own petty initials.
It does not require
firm nor solid ground to walk upon, and meets resistance
with the confident quiet of giants.

I look at who comes to tangle with me,
and some part of me cannot help
but laugh: it feels a delusion, a jest
for anyone, at this time, in this space,
to seek battle with me. I feel I can pick them off
and blow them away with a huff and a puff,
as I would a piece of lint on my shoulder.
When you stand, solid-legged
with an ancient blade in your hands,
there is a certain hilarity
when facing the barrel of a Nerf-gun.

None of this is to say
I like seeing a worm in my apples,
I don’t, and it does disturb.
The grey, turning parasite
sours my stomach when my mouth
should be watering.
There are moments in which
it has felt as if my bathroom door
was broken down, my diary read,
a horse’s head placed on my pillow.

There are moments today where I feel
as vulnerable and overexposed as you:
while I often want to shout us out to the sky,
I do not relish intimacies of mine
in the sweaty palms of crooks or liars;
nor a hole for peeking into my heart
shared with an eye seeking an eye.

* * *

When first we met, I had all the seeds
of what I’d become, but some had grown mold,
many had yet to find soil or water.
Some had been purposefully stolen, for fear
of how much bigger I’d become
than those making off with my possibility
in their greedy pockets. I have since
not only germinated, pollinated, blossomed, grown,
I have overtaken every small patch
I found myself planted in. I have spread far
by wind, by water, by fur and by paw:
I have dispersed
myself and become hardy enough
to be capable of withstanding any manner of conditions,
and flourish even when it is proclaimed improbable.

This is who I bring to you, to us, to this:
to everything.
I would wish
it is who I had brought before, save that
neither of us were that expansive yet.
We are now. This is who knows
that no smaller truths even when juxtaposed
speak as clearly as that wordless one,
who knows how something rich and lush can grow
even in the most inclement of weather.

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

In case you haven’t noticed in your Internet travels, we’re getting towards the end of our big end-of-year fundraising drive for Scarleteen.  This drive is crucially important for Scarleteen as an organization and for myself as its executive director and lone full-time staffer. I haven’t blogged about it here yet, because I was holding out for this week.

From Friday morning through Sunday night, two awesome donors will be matching funds raised up to $2,500.  As of right this second, we’re at 1/3rd of our goal, which we have raised since releasing our appeal a little less than one month ago.  I’m hoping that over the weekend, we’ll be able to make some serious headway: while we really need to reach our goal, even if we can raise $2,500 to have it all matched, we’ll be past the halfway mark, which will also make a tremendous difference.

So, I’m including our appeal here.  You can check in with our meter on the site to see how we’re doing on the home page for the appeal here, if you like. If you can give during this time period, that’d be absolutely fantastic: same goes for getting the appeal out in front of more eyeballs.  Thanks so much!

You probably know Scarleteen has been the premier online sexuality resource for young people worldwide since 1998. We have consistently provided free inclusive, comprehensive and positive sex education, information and support to millions for longer than anyone else online. We built the online model for teen and young adult sex education and have remained online for nearly eleven years to sustain, refine and expand it.

What you might not know is that Scarleteen is the highest ranked online young adult sexuality resource but also the least funded and that the youth who need us most are also the least able to donate. You might not know that we have done all we have with a budget lower than the median annual household income in the U.S. You might not know we have provided the services we have to millions without any federal, state or local funding and that we are fully independent media which depends on public support to survive and grow.

You also might not know Scarleteen is primarily funded by people who care deeply about teens having this kind of vital and valuable service; individuals like you who want better for young people than what they get in schools, on the street or from initiatives whose aim is to intentionally use fearmongering, bias and misinformation about sexuality to try to scare or intimidate young people into serving their own personal, political or religious agendas.

To try and reach our goal, we’re asking our supporters to consider a donation of $100 or greater. If that isn’t possible for you, whatever you give will still help and will still be strongly appreciated. To donate now, click on one of the links below. If you’d first like more information on why we’re setting the goal we are, what Scarleteen has done in the last year and during the whole of our tenure, our plans for 2010, and what the scoop is with our budget and expenses, keep reading.

Ready To Donate Right This Very Second?

  • To donate to Scarleteen by credit card, online check or via a PayPal account: click here and choose the button at the top of that page for the donation amount and style you prefer.
  • To donate by check or money order directly to Scarleteen: make checks payable to Scarleteen and send to: Scarleteen, 1752 NW Market Street #627, Seattle, WA, 98107.
  • If you would like your donation to be tax-deductible: you can donate through The Center for Sex and Culture, a fiscal sponsor of Scarleteen online here (scroll down to the option to donate to Scarleteen on the left side of that page). To mail a tax-deductible donation, make your check out to The Center for Sex and Culture, writing “For Scarleteen” in the memo. Mail that to: The Center for Sex and Culture, c/o Carol Queen, 2215-R Market Street PMB 455, San Francisco, CA, 94114. They will send a written acknowledgment of your donation to you for tax purposes, and will send us donations made to them on our behalf after deducting a very reasonable percentage.
  • However you choose to donate, if you want to be listed as a donor on our site, please send us an email to let us know how you’d like to be acknowledged.

Want some more information? So far, in 2009 Scarleteen has:

Had around 1 million overall hits to the site each day from an average of 25,000 unique users daily. Scarleteen has a very high page-load rate as compared to other websites: on average, our users load 3.5 pages each when visiting Scarleteen. Since 2006 alone, our site has had over one billion overall hits and nearly 70 million page loads.

Currently, Scarleteen is the #1 ranked site by Alexa for teen sexuality education/information and for general sexuality advice for users of all ages. It is ranked 27,823 of all websites internationally, and is ranked 11,210th in the United States (on 10/12/2009). Our core users are international, 15-24 and diverse in their race, gender and sexual orientation. To see some of our user testimonials, click here.

To find out more about our educational philosophies and model, you may want to read Scarleteen Is…, What Is Feminist Sex Education?, On Innovation and Inclusivity in Sex Education, A Calm View from the Eye of the Storm: Hysteria, Youth and Sexuality or look at our general about page. If you’ve never taken the time to just look around the site as a whole, please do!

Engaged in over 4,000 conversations with young people on our message boards, providing them factual and friendly answers on contraception, sexual anatomy, safer sex, sexual health, masturbation, interpersonal relationships and other related topics; helping them through struggles like pregnancy scares or unplanned pregnancies, STIs, sexual harassment, rape and intimate partner violence or abuse; talking them through relationships and breakups, family conflicts, gender, sexual identity or body image issues and their sexual decision-making; discussing political issues pertinent to sexuality and youth rights. Most posts at the boards are answered within a few hours, some within minutes. Many of our board users return to the boards again and again for more help, to engage in deeper discussions or to talk with or support other users.

In total our boards have over 43,000 registered users who have posted over 60,000 topics: all have been answered by one or more of Scarleteen’s staff and volunteers. Our boards are fully moderated and a safe space for young people. To help protect our users from potential harassment, they may not share personal information like full names, e-mail addresses, messenger or social networking handles or personal webpages. Managing and moderating the message boards often requires the bulk of our staff and volunteer time.

Answered nearly 100 column-length young adult questions in our Sexpert Advice section, which is also syndicated weekly at RH Reality Check. There are around 900 Sexpert Advice columns in total published at the site. However, our advice queue typically has over 500 questions waiting for answers. In order to catch up with this backlog, we need the funds to acquire more staff to handle the high demand for the longer, in-depth answers our advice column provides and our users are seeking there.

Generated fresh static content. So far this year, we have posted 42 blog entries, half of which were penned by young adult volunteers, and have added more than ten new full articles to the site. Some of our most recent articles include Positively Informed: An HIV/AIDS Roundup, Boys Do Cry: How To Deal With a Breakup Like a Man, An Immodest Proposal, Chicken Soup for the Pregnancy Symptom Freakout’s Soul, Let’s Get Metaphysical: The Etiquette of Entry, Give’em Some Lip: Labia That Clearly Ain’t Minor and Love Letter. We have also added several new youth-written articles this year, and updated several existing articles to be sure our information is accurate and timely.

Excluding the message boards (where there are tens of thousands of pages), Scarleteen currently contains around 1500 pages of content: articles, advice answers, blogs, external resource listings, polls and more. We are not able to pay authors for articles, though we often are queried by authors we’d love to hire who have great ideas. An increase in our budget would allow us to provide more new articles and to further diversify Scarleteen’s editorial voice.

Received media coverage: In the last year, Scarleteen was mentioned by/in Salon, Glamour, BUST magazine, Medill Reports, TIME Magazine, City on a Hill Press, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, Utne Reader, CBS News and other outlets. To see some of this and more media coverage for Scarleteen in previous years, click here.

Provided direct community education and outreach: In the last year, Scarleteen director Heather Corinna gave talks to sex education students, sex educators and sexologists, youth and/or their allies via presentations at or for the University of Texas (NSRC Regional Training), the sex::tech conference, the American Medical Students Association, Harvard College, the NARAL Youth Summit and Garfield High School directly reaching around 350 total participants. In addition, through the CONNECT program for Washington Corinna currently directs through Cedar River Clinics, direct to-youth sex education was provided on an ongoing basis both to Cedar River young adult clients and homeless teens in Seattle at Spruce Street SCRC, a secure residential shelter. In 2010, Scarleteen will inherit the CONNECT program and continue Seattle-based direct outreach. We also have plans to continue providing information and education both to youth and other educators via conferences, summits and other public outreach opportunities nationally. In addition, with the help of a student intern, Scarleteen is preparing four informative pamphlets for print and distribution to clinics, schools and other groups which serve young people on sexual readiness, consent, managing sexuality after rape or abuse and on how to be queer and trans friendly.

New at Scarleteen in 2009

In 2009 we ran a pilot program to train young adult peer sex educators online. To find out about that program and see what trainees had to say about their experience click here. We want to provide two more sessions of the training for 60 trainees in 2010. We have also just debuted a new SMS service for young people to text sexuality, sexual health and relationship questions to us and have them answered on their mobile phones. For more information on the text-in service, click here. As with all of our services, both of these new services are provided at no cost to youth.

Goals for 2010:

On top of continuing the existing services we provide, we would like to continue to grow, adding new sections, functions and levels of service.

  • Find-a-Doc is a user-fueled database we’d like to build to help young people find the in-person sexual and reproductive healthcare, counseling, LGBTQ support, rape and sexual abuse survivor support and other services related to sexuality they need. Unlike many adults, young people often lack the ability to get a recommendation from a friend: many of their peers and partners do not often yet use or know where to get these services, either. Some do, but are reluctant to disclose they have used them. This database would allow a user to enter one of these services they have used and would reccomend to another young person. Scarleteen staff will validate the service/provider by phone before publishing the listing. Our users in need of these services will be able to search for these services by choosing the type of service they are looking for and entering a zip code.  They will also be able to read comments from others who have used these providers/services to help them make their best choices in care. Find-a-Doc has been on our list of to-do’s for two years now, but the budget has not yet allowed us to pay a tech developer what would be needed to build it.
  • Improved Mobile Performance: More and more users are accessing the web via their mobile phones.  While Scarleteen is currently browsable via mobile, it is not optimized for that use.  Site improvements for mobile use can help us expand our reach and the ability of users to get to us exactly when and where they need us.
  • Volunteer stipends: Our volunteers are an integral part of Scarleteen. Most of them are young adults themselves, and having peer or near-peer voices and perspectives on the site is crucial to keeping Scarleteen youth-centered and accessible in tone for young people. Not only do our volunteers have their own valuable experiences in working as volunteers, they help keep parts of the site running smoothly and assure our users who are asking for one-on-one interaction get it from caring, compassionate and informed people. And the longer we can sustain a volunteer, the more skilled they become. Beyond slathering them in thanks and providing them skills and training, having some reasonable stipends is one way we can help retain the volunteers we value so much.  For more about our volunteers, as well as more about our executive director, Sexpert Advice authors and guest authors, click here.
  • Scarleteen would like to increase our traffic and our reach. Increased reach not only means more young people getting the sex information they want and need, it also can help support Scarleteen by creating greater opportunities for fiscal sponsorships and advertisers. Scarleteen has never purchased any kind of advertising to let young people know about our services. Given that all of our traffic has been via direct referrals and word-of-mouth, just imagine how many youth we might be able to reach with other means of promoting the site. We would also like to serve our global reach better by adding more sexual health resources specifically tailored to our users in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the South Pacific.

What We’ve Got & What We Need: As of November 1st, 2009, Scarleteen has received approximately $42,000 in grants and donations, the bulk of which has come from a single private grant. Only around $8,000 of that total has come from individual donations, $3,000 of which was from a single donor. To meet our needs for 2009 and the start of 2010, we need $70,000 in total financial support. Our goal now is to raise at least $24,000 in the next two months to meet our needs and cover the costs of 2009, as well as to walk into 2010 on financially healthy footing.

Beginning next year, we will require a minimum annual operating budget of $75,000 and the revenue to support it. While that is a substantial increase from our existing budget, it is essential: our existing budget cannot adequately sustain our staff or the organization as a whole. That new minimum budget is also still incredibly low: it accounts for the site running at a total of around $200 a day to provide all of the services we do to all of the young people and their allies who use them.

75K is exceptionally cost-effective and reasonable for the level of service we provide, especially compared to other organizations and initiatives, including those which do not match our reach and our level of direct-service. To find out details about our budget and expenses, and to compare them to other budgets and expenses of both similar and opposing sex education initiatives, click here.

As you can see, we need your help.

Please make a donation if you are able, and consider the value and level of the services we provide to young people in doing so. A $100 donation can pay a major chunk of our server bill for a month, or half the monthly cost of the SMS service, or, can fund any kind of use of the site, including one-on-one counsel and care, for around 10,000 of our daily users. However, we would very much appreciate your a donation at any level.

We’d also be grateful if you’d share our appeal with your own networks to broaden ours, and let the people who care about you know why you care so much about us.

In advance, we thank you for all you can give us and all you do or have done in support of Scarleteen.  We fully intend to keep doing all we can to give just as much back.

Once More with Feeling

  • To donate to Scarleteen by credit card, online check or via a PayPal account: click here and choose the button at the top of that page for the donation amount and style you prefer.
  • To donate by check or money order directly to Scarleteen: make checks payable to Scarleteen and send to: Scarleteen, 1752 NW Market Street #627, Seattle, WA, 98107.
  • If you would like your donation to be tax-deductible: you can donate through The Center for Sex and Culture, a fiscal sponsor of Scarleteen online here (scroll down to the option to donate to Scarleteen on the left side of that page). To mail a tax-deductible donation, make your check out to The Center for Sex and Culture, writing “For Scarleteen” in the memo. Mail that to: The Center for Sex and Culture, c/o Carol Queen, 2215-R Market Street PMB 455, San Francisco, CA, 94114. They will send a written acknowledgment of your donation to you for tax purposes, and will send us donations made to them on our behalf after deducting a very reasonable percentage.
  • However you choose to donate, if you want to be listed as a donor on our site, please send us an email to let us know how you’d like to be acknowledged.

If you would like to support us in some other way, such as through advertising, sponsorship or by volunteering your time or if you have any questions about donating, we’d love to hear from you.  You can contact us via e-mail here.

P.S. If you’re curious about how I’m doing, this is me in a nutshell: I have the working-too-long-on-fundraising crazies.  My main computer here kicked it a few weeks back, and thankfully I got a good deal on a new system, but am still switching everything over, which is the pain that stuff always is. (And means the new photo work I have ready will still be a wait, as I will now need to learn and use a whole new application for the site here.) The dogs are getting along swimmingly.  Blue and I are happy as clams, even though it is freezing cold in this house and we rarely see one another without hats on, that given.  I’m overworked, but what else is new? I need more coffee, but what else is new?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The other day, a friend called to catch up with me and asked how I was.

I answered her by saying that the house won’t stop falling apart on me, that I’ve been beyond overworked and am scrambling to make ends meet, that I spent a week with what undoubtedly was H1N1 that flattened me utterly, but that otherwise, I’m seriously great.

Which is true, even in that context of not-at-all-great stuff.

Sorry to have been so absent. I was first gone for a while because of taking my Staycation, which I completely enjoyed, especially since half of it involved Blue’s arrival. Being able to have real time together without seeing and feeling the sands of the hourglass dwindle to an inevitable and painful separation was amazing. Having the time and the freedom to really spend some time ushering in a life together we’ve both wanted on and off for such a long time was a very big deal and a seriously righteous gift.

Then I forced myself to go back to work again, which included a day at the youth shelter, where it was total pandemonium including a couple of the teen boys hacking up a lung in everyone’s face. Two days later, I woke up feeling a little out of sorts. Four hours after that, I passed down face first on the couch and don’t remember a damn thing that happened the next couple of days afterwards, mostly because I almost entirely slept through them. I was still sick — but much more lucid — for a few more days, but it took well over a week for me to even resemble being back to normal. I thank my lucky stars that Blue was here to be a killer nursemaid.  It’s crazy to be so sick you have no memory of whole days at a time.

After that, I not only had to try to jump back into work again, but into big-time high-gear.  I had abstracts to prepare, a presentation for medical students to prep and deliver, a book foreword to write for an anthology, several local meetings, an interview and all the usual work I already have to do. I read a bunch of libelous commentary in both a printed book and online from a religious conservative about me that made me want to get out a Ouija board, channel Jesus from the dead, and demand he go and do something about some of his apparent followers because some of them are really out of hand and he’s clearly the only one they’ll listen to (if that: they seem to dismiss a lot of his messages, but just showing up would at least scare the crap out of them and get a momentary silence we all could use). After that, I needed to prep a feminist carnival, roll out a huge new addition to the services Scarleteen already provides, and start prepping for the big end-of-year fundraising appeal for Scarleteen that is critical to our survival. In case you haven’t picked up on this about me already, I HATE dealing with, thinking about and talking about money. I hate asking for it even more. I just hate money, period: I’d give just about anything to live in a totally barter-based world. When my days are filled with large portions that are about nothing but finances (especially since it’s usually about finances that aren’t there), I begin to slowly and surely lose my mind. It doesn’t help, of course, that Blue is in a similar spot right now himself.

The night before the fundraising release, my stress levels and way too many 12-15 hour workdays in a row broke the proverbial camel’s back.

I had a meltdown that made almost all other meltdowns in my personal history look downright amateur.

Mind, that was also in part because of the falling-down-house. The house I rent here is 107 years old.  It’s clearly withstood a lot, but the maintenance on it over the years and the time we’ve been here has been less than fabulous, and it’s a typical old west coast house: built fast, not in any way insulated. In the last two months, I’ve had so many things break it’s just nuts, and they seemed to have liked to do so in a way that gave it all a very dramatic build: it started gradual, but then picked up so there were days towards the end here where something would happen almost daily. First it was one broken sink (paired with another that was already broken: anyone who has stayed here recently got used to brushing their teeth in the kitchen). Then a broken toilet, which we woke up to with the floor full of water it resulted in. Already, the woodstove was toast (and the landlord doesn’t want to pay to fix it), and then the heat in the main rooms downstairs broke (which is also still not repaired). Next, one of the kitchen cabinets just fell off in my hand. Then the dryer broke. We’re not provided a washer and dryer in the lease: the last were bought used, so are up to me to replace: thankfully, we lucked out and found a free one. Then the toilet downstairs started leaking, providing the cold downstairs of the house with an oh-so-wonderful urine-scented perfume.  Then — not actually part of the house, but still — my main computer system which houses all my music, all my photo work and what I use to do it with, and my most important software, went kablooie.  And because we’ve had a recent move-out and move-in here, a good deal of the house was already in disarray.

And that’d be when I totally lost it, sinking into a pile on the floor of the stinky bathroom. It absolutely did not help that in that same week, we’d decided to double feature the original Grey Gardens with the dramatized new version (which was exceptionally good, but somehow manages to be even more depressing than the original documentary, which is quite a freaking feat). Both Blue and I could identify the stage the place here was in with its matching Grey Gardens stage, what felt like only a couple steps away from a pile of cat food cans in the corner and water from the ceiling pouring unto the piano.

I needed that big cry, really. It’s hard and it’s scary to work so much, so diligently and for so long in my life and still be dealing with things like not having working plumbing and heat. I was basically raised with very strong messages that I, like everyone else on both sides of my family, should expect to be overworked and underpaid, to always be bone-tired from work at the end of every day of my life and to not find work would net me even the basic the things it can net others. Those messages in some ways were helpful — after all, they have helped me manage my expectations — but in other ways, especially the older I get, they can feel a whole lot like a curse, especially given how deeply I am realizing I internalized all of that stuff.  Perhaps internalized to the point that others read that in me and figure throwing me crumbs is just fine since I’m clearly fine with it myself and will not stop doing all I do regardless of the conditions. It’s also hard and scary to be very transparent in asking for things I badly need, and most others in my position have, knowing that ask is inevitably going to meet with at least some cold shoulders that are going to either make me very angry, or just really hurt my feelings. Some of my meltdown was me bracing myself for some disappointment I knew would come.
It’s also hard and scary for me to have someone else around who very acutely feels my pain and frustration; who I’m both really letting all the way in, and who goes all the way in when I do let them.  Usually when I totally lose my shit, I’m alone, which sucks in some ways, but in others, I can really go whole hog with a freakout when it’s totally private.

While it’s certainly ironic, since it’s not what I want, it’s no coincidence that in my relationship history, it’s more common for me to be with people who keep a certain distance from me or withhold than it is for me to be with those who get very close and go all-in. With Blue back in my life full-stop, I’m acutely reminded that in some ways, I can be somewhat Wild Boy of Aveyron emotionally: a bit feral, twitchy and skittish when it comes to anyone really being all the way open to me and wanting the same in return. I’m reminded that this was part of the issue with us way back when, and that while I’ve certainly come a long way in that regard, I’m hardly all the way there. This Mowgli still has some serious work to do in this department. However, having someone so deep in it with me who will really just let me go and listen to all I’m crying about — both the reasonable and the not-so — is a gift. I also need to remember that especially for someone who knows — perhaps better than anyone — how hard it is for me to really open up and speak to the things that scare me the most, that make me feel the most awful, that my doing so is a gift, too.

But.

Like I said to Becca when she called and asked how I was, all of that aside, I’m actually ridiculously happy. Which might seem completely insane given all the crap I just chronicled, but there it is.

Last night I was saying to Blue that if the two of us are as happy as we have been with everything in such total fucking disarray and utter chaos, it’s kind of mind-blowing to figure how we might be if and when it’s not. Even something relatively tiny, like getting an electric blanket to help with the cold, seems to make us much happier and more giddy than it might otherwise. Life here is very good despite all the other kinds of crazymaking and badness.  It’s amazing having Blue here and continues to be awesome for us both to finally really be together. In setting up some of what we can with the place here, it feels homier than it ever has, and that process has been exceptionally nice. Nice enough, even, that when I had heartburn the other night and Blue pointed out the Tums were next to the condoms on the nightstand, it made me laugh instead of making me feel geriatric. The animals are all socializing well. The meadow I cultivated — where the tree used to be — is beautiful and flowering. I have some good work stuff on the horizon in the next six months, just have to see it all through and hopefully get there.  I have had some great help and company in Blue with some of my work stuff and functions. And while I am not in the position to cut back my work hours, I really, really want to, and that wanting is in and of itself a very positive thing.

It sucks that we have to deal with the crap that is this crumbling Grey Garden right now, but we’re still planning a move to the islands, hopefully in the spring. I think we can get through one winter here, even with busted heat. Thankfully this is Seattle, not Chicago or Minnesota, so even if we had no heat at all, it’d be uncomfortable but hardly lethal. It sucks that I have to keep pushing the envelope so much with work, and have to work so hard right now, but it’s hardly anything new.  And I *did* get a weekish off this year, and that really was a lifesaver.

So yeah: a whole lot of everything really is quite shit. But I’ll work my way through it — and get to some of the bright spots looming on the horizon up there –  and am sure I’m not only going to get through it all okay, but in some ways, all that shit only has so much impact because it hasn’t yet managed to overrun the stuff that’s really, really good.

P.S.  I deeply apologize to site subscribers for the lack of photography updates.  I actually have one fantastic completed set that was ready to go online, and two in the process of being ready, but since the main system died with all of that inside of it, I can’t get to any of that or upload any right now.  I may be able to get the data off of it in the next week, but it’ll still be a bit after that for me to be able to get everything moved over to another computer and get it all up.

P.P.S. For those of you who don’t know, when I’m silent here, I’m rarely silent on Twitter, where you can keep up with my life and work mini-updates, things that politically infuriate me, my irrelevant random thoughts and my attempts to stop eating the pretzels I’m unable to stop stuffing in my gob right now.

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Just a couple short hours ago, I began the time off I said I was going to take last month.

To prepare for it, in the last week I earnestly can’t think of a freaking minute I wasn’t working.  But I got one of my local volunteers trained in, deposit-paid, and raring to go to effectively be my body double for the minimum work that has to be done each day to keep Scarleteen running smoothly, and I got a few updates up before I headed out, too.  I had a meeting with my new intern (did I mention I have one?  I do: it’s very exciting) yesterday, so she’s all set to get started on her projects.  The bills are paid.  The clinic knows I’m AWOL through the 14th.  I have my Reality Check pieces for the next two weeks sent in.  I just need to push a couple buttons in a bit to add an update to the members area of this site.

I don’t have an autoresponder set for my email, because the last time I did that, it autoresponded retroactively to every email I ever got.  Oops. Not doing that again.  I do have a form letter ready I can cut as paste as needed, though, and should only need to check the work emails briefly every few days. As much of the world as I can possibly inform knows that for the next weekish, I’m off-duty and Not To Be Bothered.

I have a headache, of course, from all of that work in preparation, but I predict that it will soon pass.  Especially since as I write this, I’m sitting on the futon on the porch during this lovely, sunny day, having taken a walk and ingested a quite delicious lunch paired with a very tall glass of juice.  I’m writing now as a sort of welcoming-in ceremony for my beyond-needed, very-much-desired and first-ever-of-its-length Staycation.

Big breath in, even longer one out.  Sun on the face, sun on the feet.  Pug snoozing happily beside. Headache feels better already.

What’s the plan?  For the rest of today it’s probably utter sloth.  I intend to sit out here, moving on to a book, for as long as it stays warm and sunny.  I might grab a hoop and play in the yard for a bit, but then again, I might not.  A Buffy marathon may happen later, or I may marathon something far more silly, who knows.  Even though I ordered in last night because I was on a work bender, I’ll probably do it again tonight.

Tomorrow, if the weather provides, I want to roll out of bed whenever I do, have some coffee WITHOUT starting my workday at the same time, and then grab my bike and go for a seriously long ride, stopping at the market on the way back to get some dinner goodies, maybe some champagne for mimosas for me, me and only me.  I want to get cracking on one of the rooms that wants tidying, then I’m going to steam my face, take the longest bath in recorded history, sit with a wad of the color conditioner I like in my hair to put some of my red back where it belongs, try and nap, read some books and maybe take the pug on an evening stroll.

Thursday I want to spend the day just out in my neighborhood with no specific intent or plans. I actually got quite a few things done on my to-do-during-vacation list already that would not have been big stressors, but not so much fun, either, like making the garden path and getting kitchen curtains up. So, I have even more free time than I thought I would to do things like just bum around Ballard. I also want to get the damn hoop isolations down that I’ve been so frustrated trying to learn.  Little more tidying, but not much.  Thursday night I’m going out with a friend I have not seen in forever, and have seriously missed.

Friday I just try and keep my marbles together and not wear a path in the floors from excitedly pacing.

Because Friday night Blue gets here, after having driven across the country since Monday with a car overflowing with his worldly possessions as well as a nice, big (well, by her standards) dog for Sofia.  Sofia has always wanted a big dog: when they walk past her, she will often sit down on the sidewalk and moon over them as they walk away, gazing in rapt adoration. So, as far as she and I are concerned, Blue’s dog is a present for her. I know, I just objectified a dog. I’m a terrible person.

We’ve recognized, for the record, that this is — in my estimation — all approximately 33% certifiably insane.  Mind, a compelling argument could be made that the whole of my work and my life is, which either makes everything I do crazy or nothing I do crazy: I’m not sure which.  But even by my lunatic-fringe standards, this is, partially, a little nuts.

There are sensible parts of this, to be sure.  We have been reconnected for over a year and a half, we have been together again for nearing a year, and we’ve lived together before very well, and that was before either of us really knew how to live with anybody.  Blue has wanted great big changes in his life for years: he’s getting them.  We know full well that if we had him come here and we didn’t cohabitate, we’d basically just be paying two rents to still be in the same place every night, anyway.  Plus, I like this old house, I don’t want to move until I can move to the islands ideally, I can’t afford it all by myself nor would I want such a big place just for myself, and if I got a roommate who had to live with the two of us fully reunited after seventeen years apart, they’d be wanting to rip out their own eyeballs and eardrums in no time flat.  See? Crazy = practical.

Know what else?  We both could use a big dose of doing something a bit loony.  For myself, I get few opportunities to do so anymore, and I like the freedom of this, the kinda-unpredictability of this.  I won’t say I don’t certainly have moments where I’m not like, “What on EARTH are we doing?”  I do.  But then I have this pretty simple answer I don’t have to think too hard about, which has something to do with following my guts, what they’re saying now and have said more than once before now.  It also has something to do with this strong, mutual knowing what we want and need, and a knowing we fit both for each other, now and in the past.  Really, the real question when it comes to pretty much all of this isn’t about what we’re doing now, but what the hell each of us, at given times, was possibly thinking in choosing not to do this until now.

Friday night it’s pretty much going to be car arrives, two people squealing like small children and scaring the crap out of the neighbors, arranging the dogs and getting some sort of leg up on making up for a fuck of a lot of lost time in several departments.
So, yeah, that’s Friday.  And Saturday, and…well, no more budgeting days for us at that point. If history repeats itself — which, in our case, it clearly tends to a lot — I imagine that by Sunday night we might just consider leaving the house.  Maybe.  From then through the rest of my days off, I imagine we’ll tackle quite a lot of the things I have left on that list I made last month of what I’d like to do with my time off.  Maybe we’ll grab the dogs and go to Vashon for a day or visit the zoo, we’ll get started on the settling in of stuff, who knows, but I assure you, it’ll all be good.

And after all this, my time for myself, my time once Blue completes his Odyssian journey here — a rather stellar combination, if you ask me — I imagine that when the time to get back to work rolls around again, this girl is going to be feeling a whole lot better.

Hello, vacation. You have no idea how happy I am to meet you.

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

I’ll apologize in advance for being pretty scattered, and also issue a warning that I expect to be for a while longer.  It’s entirely possible I’m saying that more to myself than to those of you reading.

I’ve been having a tough time getting and staying motivated with a lot of things lately.  I think most of that comes down to a strange combination of grief finally coming to a head (in terms of Mark and myself), anxiety around all of my work, a need for some big changes in every part of my life but feeling overwhelmed about how to make them happen, as well as a sense of very profound excitement and a continued sense of flabbergast when it comes to Blue and myself, especially Blue’s impending move here in just a little more than two weeks.  All of this comes on the heels of a feeling of exhaustion from the last year or so, which has been full of a whole lot of struggle and confusion, and nothing close to enough sleep.  Thus, scattered.  To say the least.  And that’s something I tend to give myself a very hard time about, even when I know it’s completely understandable for me to be this way.

Of course, now that I’m also here living alone for the time being, I’m also having to try and get that groove back on.  I’ve always liked living alone, but it’s been a few years, and my management skills when it comes to the nicely stretched-out periods of time are rusty. The last time I had them wasn’t that long ago, but in the interim, I also seem to have lost my ability to stay awake for more than 18 hours at a time, which used to be fantastic to marathon work and art with when I lived alone.

This is an exceptionally large space to be living alone in.  Until I’d lived here, I’d never lived anywhere this big, even with housemates.  Being in it completely alone feels bizarre: like I’m some sort of vagrant squatting in someone else’s space who is going to be pretty surprised to come home and find me here. I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning, moving things around, going through closets, cursing my magpie nature.  I’m finding it easier than usual lately to throw things away, a change I think has to do with my wanting a tangible representation of some clear space in my head and my heart.

I’ve been resuming some simple routines I haven’t done for a while, and something about some of those routines is very compelling when it comes to trying to get grounded again.  For instance, there was a dishwasher here.  I hate dishwashers, especially when you’re not running a school or cooking for 12.  The dishwasher got in the way of the sink; having that sink back and fully accessible and washing the dishes by hand is a quiet ritual I missed, and I’ve got dishpan hands from my fixation on constantly doing it again.

* * *

One thing that’s been bothering me work-wise is feeling like Scarleteen is the ugly duckling of online sex education. I’ve felt that way for a long time, but it’s just been getting more and more tiresome over the last few years. It’s not something I talk a lot about because it feels like a pity party, but it’s been gurgling in my gut very strongly of late.  It just gets so frustrating because a decade-and-change of doing the work with really tireless (or perhaps, tired) dedication, millions of users in that time, countless hours of constant overwork — some years without pay, and in the good ones, making around minimum wage — a girl’s gotta wonder what on earth she has to do to get some solid credibility. Or if she’s ever going to get it.  In this field, betting on never getting it would be the smarter bet, honestly.

I had a conversation a little while ago with another online sex education leader that, in hindsight, really upset me. The conversation wasn’t about this, but in the midst of it, I was essentially told how fantastic we are, and how great it is that we’re so understanding that this particular site can’t very visibly support us because we don’t fall in step with more conservative attitudes, and I mean liberal-conservative, mind, not fundie-conservative. And those sentiments were hardly unusual. I’ve tried right from the start of running Scarleteen to form relationships with other similar organizations and I have completely failed at that for those most part. Heck, once a year I used to email the other existing orgs just making clear that I think it’s crazy we aren’t all pooling resources to work together given that all of us together STILL don’t fill the level of need young people have, offering up our ad space for free for their PSAs, what have you, but to no avail.  Sometimes, we just don’t even get an email or phone call back, despite our placement, tenure and the millions of young people who have always found us invaluable.  Despite my never even asking for anything in return. Now, I know some of that is other orgs worried about losing funding via any strong association with us, that’s what is sometimes said anyway, but I have to be frank and say I really don’t think that’s a bonafide issue most of the time. I think it’s hooey, honestly.

It’s a tough spot.  I always want — and have always wanted — our content to be primarily led by what our users are asking us for, and also have always wanted to talk to our users with a certain depth and confidence in their maturity, as well as an acceptance for where they actually are sexually, rather than where many adults would prefer they be.

Mind, there are some exceptions to some of that based both on questions we really just can’t answer without making shit up or being overly anecdotal or without doing what I think is a disservice to our users.  For instance, we do get a lot of “How do I give a blow job?” or “How do I make my boyfriend/girlfriend more horny?”  We don’t tend to cater to that stuff because a) I am absolutely, positively certain I have never engaged in oral sex with their boyfriends so have no idea what said boyfriends like (and will usually respond explaining as much, and that he’s the one to talk to about what he likes), and b) save the barest basics, I don’t want any of our users to get robbed of the joy of experimentation and communication with partners by feeling like they should need a cheatsheet with them to partnersex.  As well, we watch some things, certain language, certain links, simply because I do want the site to be accessible enough to all that it both doesn’t freak out the younger or less experienced users, but also to be age-appropriate AND do what we can to limit how often the site gets blocked.  Plus, some of it is just a matter of taste: I just don’t talk about sex when educating (or heck, during sex for that matter) like I’m running a phone sex line.

Point is that overall, our model has always been user-led, and that’s also my own core philosophy as an educator. I keep hearing that we’re “radical,” and I guess we are when graded on the curve, but certainly not by my definition. We actually feel pretty conservative to me, but I know that my idea of what really is radical is hardly in alignment with many people’s ideas of what is and is not radical. I don’t know how we’d be less “radical” and actually stick to our mission or really educate honestly and well. I’m well aware how we/I do things and want to do things means making some sacrifices, like not getting funding the way other sex ed orgs our size do, but it just seems like it shouldn’t have to be this hard, and still this struggly, at this point.

Who knows, maybe the Obama administration will change this, but I have to say that I’m not particularly optimistic.  So far, what’s come out of that administration around sex ed doesn’t look much different to me than what did under Bush, and it’s also one of those issues that often gets relegated to the back page because it’s so divisive among adults (to say it’s practical, not political, for young people is stating the obvious).  Expecting a focus on inclusivity as far as what’s LGBT-friendly goes, or some recognition that what orgs like mine do when it comes to be fully inclusive is important?  I expect neither.   I’d love to be pleasantly surprised, but I’m not holding my breath.

It’s just rough.  We continue to have the widest reach and highest traffic of any of the YA sex education orgs, and yet our funding/donations are dismal and I can’t ever get enough volunteers to help run things, either.  When I listen to other people in similar positions as myself organization-wise bitch about money or staffing, I have to reign in some seriously homicidal urges because I know other executive director’s ideas about what a crappy salary is, or a low budget is. It’s a salary far higher than mine, a budget way larger than ours.  I just mostly lost one of my very best volunteers to another org because I couldn’t possibly even have one paid full-time staff position to support him properly with and keep someone fantastic. I also really don’t want us to forever be in the proverbial back room of the bookstore.  I just don’t know what to do to change that, and suspect that it’s the biggest thing that keeps us largely unfunded.  In a word, I think I, and my org, might just like sex too much.

I never really know how to talk about all of this, especially professionally.  It’s obviously totally unprofessional to shout out that everyone’s idea of how well we must be doing is off-base and that nearly any other org running this way financially and practically would have shut down years and years ago, but at the same time, I worry that our need for funding, for volunteer help, for more support overall won’t be understood unless I’m frank about these things, either.  But I worry that when I am, because of how things are, it always gets disseminated as this big panic that we’re on the verge of shutting down. We’ve been there twice — and when we were, I did say as much plainly — but we’re not there now, and haven’t been there for quite some time, even though, when you look at everything on paper, it probably looks pretty unsustainable.  Mind you, some of why we’re still around is that I am capable of living very simply, and living without some of the things many people are not. I only have myself to feed, I don’t own a car, I don’t own a house, I don’t have a credit card. It also has just the weest bit to do with the fact that our executive director is just a little bit stubborn. Plus, as I’ve said before, I was raised with the notion that activists not only needed to accept that we may never see results of our activism in our lifetimes, but also that we may scrape by the whole of our lives if activism is what we decided to do full-time.  And scraping by, I know how to do.

It’s probably obvious, but I hate, hate, HATE having to deal with money or any of this stuff.  Growing up with the idea that money is The Big Evil probably didn’t help, but marketing also just isn’t my skillset, and there’s always something really uncomfortable about having to do marketing and fundraising when it’s not about someone else. I’m a much better cheerleader for other people’s causes than I am for my own, and way more comfortable doing fundraising and marketing for others than I am for myself, even if I still don’t like doing it.  Even when it’s important, it just always feels like money-grubbing.

But I need to work that out, big-time. I need to work it out in terms of our funding and finances, and I need to work it out when it comes to our place in all of this.  Because it really is preposterous that in something we really blazed the trail for almost singlehandedly, we wind up often going unrecognized by others who stepped unto that trail after we cleared the freaking path for them. Maybe I just need to get a little more irritated about that; maybe I need to be less irritated.  Again, I just don’t know.

One of the tricky things coming up with this is that this is Blue’s skillset: he’s an amazing communicator, and an incredible marketing person, especially for progressive initiatives and causes.  To say he’s willing to help is an understatement, and he is going to help (read: I am going to grudgingly let him help), but I also want to keep very clear and firm boundaries around that. I have a pretty intense rule that I mix as little business with my personal life as possible, and when I’ve bent or broken those rules, it’s never gone well for me or others. He’s also coming out of a relationship where there were NO boundaries with any of that, where his work was 100% merged with his relationship, so it’s going to be important for him, too.  But we always did have a seemingly-natural inclination to merge (and that’s very much his individual nature, as well: not so much mine, I am my father’s daughter) we’ll have to keep in check on this.  I need my own space, a good deal of it. I also need for my work not to be overly influenced by the dynamics of close interpersonal relationships or vice-versa.  I know there are couples and families who work out running businesses together, but for me that just feels too precarious, especially since on a personal level, work as a whole is a haven for me; a place I can go and put my energy even when everything else is problematic.

To lighten the tone here, I had a meeting this week about adding a new service to Scarleteen I’m really excited about, through a company who came to me because they really wanted to work with us.  It’s a plunge I have been hoping we could take for a while, but until recently, I didn’t know how to accomplish it, and now it seems we have a great way to do so. It’s also something the other online orgs like us haven’t done just yet, and something I think is going to prove incredibly useful for a lot of young people.  Given it has a cost, and also requires labor we aren’t already doing, I’m seriously hoping it helps with funding.  I don’t mean to be obtuse, it’s just that the ink isn’t yet dry.  When it is, I’ll shout it out, I promise. I also had a different meeting about some potentially very good news per funding next year as well as for me overall when it comes to my work with Scarleteen and the clinic.

I think I need to remind myself that what I do know how to do, and know I do very well, is take leaps.  I know how to jump, and I rarely struggle with any anxiety or worry about jumping. I just feel like I’ve fallen on my face a lot when I’ve jumped over the last couple of years, personally and professionally, so I’m struggling with feelings of dread about continuing to do so. However, here I still am, right?  I’m not my best ever, I’m not super-great, but I’m okay, I’m fine, so clearly I CAN leap and wind up falling on my face and it’s not the end of the world. The theme in my life of late seems to be that jumping is the thing to do, no matter how I land.

I’ve told this story here once years ago, but I feel the need to retell. Back in college, my Blake professor made our first assignment to go out and find heaven (we were starting with The Marriage of Heaven and Hell). My first thought was that I needed to be somewhere outside and beautiful, with a horse to ride, just chilling out. So, I asked John, my financial aid advisor, if I could borrow his horse.  He told me Mango was old as dirt, and may not even take any steps at all, but I figured it was worth a shot. Due to an injury, at the time I was walking with a cane, and I also hadn’t ridden in some years, so a mellow horse sounded best, anyway.  As it turned out, old Mango clearly decided this was his last chance to get a big run in and bolted like nobody’s business. I wasn’t even saddled, and I had not ever learned to ride bareback. At a certain point, he clearly was not going to slow down, I couldn’t get him to slow, and he was also about to run across a highway. So, I just let go, figuring falling and breaking my neck in a meadow beat being splattered under a horse by a truck.  Apparently, even from a distance, John had seen all of this, including my attempt at flying when I let go.  Once he came and found me in the mud, the very first thing he said was, You fall exceptionally well and with astounding grace.”

Need to remember that, too. (Mango, for the record, had gotten across the highway just fine, and was back in his stable when we got back, with seemingly no awareness about anything that had happened.  I, for the record, reported to my Blake professor that my discovery was that there is an incredibly fine line between heaven and hell, and their borders are closer than one would presume.)

I also think I need to consider that it’s entirely possible — maybe because I have to to push through, but maybe because it’s true — that I’m on the apex of getting TO being my best ever. I did most of the work I have, after all, in a completely unsupportive administration, and a largely unsupportive culture, and the former has certainly changed for the better, and the latter just might. It is entirely possible that in the next year or two, I will be able to get myself to somewhere a bit more rural, which I know feeds my spirit better than cities do, despite spending most of my life, save my very early childhood, so urban.  And however rough all of this transitioning has been for everyone, I may both be about to discover a much better relationship with Mark than the one we had been having, and I’m also about to be fully reuinted and rejoined with someone who has been a tremendously large part of my heart for 20 years, who is as amazed, excited and is feeling as equally spaztastic and relieved about it as I am. And to quote everyone’s granny, I do have my health: it’s still been on a strong upturn and that’s quite the relief.

P.S.  I should also note that in the middle of writing all of this, I had two people/small groups I really like email and ask about doing some kind of joint work together. Go figure. That given, I’m going ahead and also voicing wishes for a million dollars, a vet who loves to work pro bono, a farmer who wants to give me her land just because she thinks I’m awesome and my 18-year-old ass back. ‘Cause you just never know.

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I just needed to remind myself that, per the terms of my one grant, I am really only expected to work around 30 hours each week at Scarleteen.

And that when I literally never go a single day without at least doing a couple hours of work on it, even if I only worked four hours on it every day I’d be at about that level.

But that what I, in fact, am logging when I usually not only never do less than a minimum of those four hours, but tend to do more like a few nine hour days, a couple six hour days, and a couple four hour days, is seriously surpassing those hours. I’m nearly doubling them.  Factor that into all the hours I work on other things and even if you don’t consider everything else I have going on, it’s easy to identify the why of my creeping burnout.

So, on top of my promise to myself about time off in October, I’m also promising myself that I’m going to start logging my hours and set those 30 hours as a goal. Our donations this year overall have been incredibly miniscule, so it’s pretty easy for me to logically justify why it only makes sense for me to dial back my hours. If I’m not getting paid for more, and the site can do fine (which it can) without my doing more, doing more starts to look a lot like masochism rather than devotion.

I say all of this because after doing a few hours of work on the site, it occurred to me that what I wanted to do today instead was do some housekeeping, edit some more photos, write a little here, take a long shower and go to the Storm playoff game without working until the very last minute.  It also occurred to me that having to struggle with myself about that is mighty silly when I haven’t taken a day off from any work in days. While I logged a lot of hours doing photoediting last week, a lot of it was about work; about prepping sets for the site.  Thus, work.  Had to remind myself of that, too.

Mark has set his moving day as the 19th.  It’s a mixed bag, my feelings about that.  Many are sad and not at all comfortable, but overall, I know it’s what needs to happen here for both of us as well as for the sake of our friendship.  And when I get past the sad, and don’t guilt-trip myself about the feelings I have that aren’t sad, one thing I’m really looking forward to is a few weeks of being able to have the place here to myself before Blue gets here.  I’ve been a bit of a social hermit lately, and I’ll probably keep that up, because frankly, I want and need the time to myself.  I’m really relishing the notion of being able to have a lot of time and space to regroup, but also the opportunity to kind of regroup the house, as well.

While as I said, I’m always reticent to talk too much about an ex-partners side of a relationship changing or ending, I don’t have a problem talking about my own. I think I’m allowed that.

If I’m honest with myself, one responsibility I bear in all of this is not having taken enough time not only away from working, but where my head was all the way away from working, in the time Mark and I were together.  Mind, I don’t think that would have changed anything as it is now in any essential way: in fact, I think we may have just gotten to this point a lot sooner. (I also think we both share this particular error.) But I think us having gotten here sooner also would have been a lot less painful for us both, and my being more mindful, more truly present in the time we spent together, and making time for more of it is something I think would have made a big difference; a positive difference no matter what.  It’s not a mistake I want to make again. If I’m not all-in in that way, it’s only going to make so much difference if someone else is, especially since I can be very stubborn, it’s very difficult for others to drag me away from work and I should be the one dragging myself away in the first place.

Mark and I are, and have been from the start, very different people: our interests only strongly intersected in a few places, which is not nor has ever been the case with Blue and I. So, something else I need to remind myself of is that making that kind of time is going to get a whole lot easier no matter what, because things like tending to my garden, going to the market or the nursery, riding my bike, boxing, setting things up around the house, going on some wild, random rampage for new shoes, sitting down and writing, reorganizing the fridge… these are things where I am now going to have opportunities to do them with a partner, rather than trying to squeeze them in on top of everything else so I have time for a partner AND all of those things.

Of course, I’m going to have to remind myself of that, especially with my lifelong case of  “I can do it by myself!” syndrome. Shouldn’t be too hard, though: I’m really looking forward to it. Like, I’m earnestly dizzy in the head at the idea of someone wanting to plant flowers with me.
And that stuff is another bit where I feel awkward talking about it. Shifting a secondary partnership to a primary one, and then also ending the primary partnership at the same time is sticky and tricky.  I’m really incredibly excited about what’s to come with Blue, especially given our history and how long we both feel like we’ve waited for this, but I don’t know what is and isn’t graceful when it comes to how much I express that here and elsewhere.  I’ve never been all that confident in my own social graces.  But Mark is excited about his new place, and has voiced that plenty, and is also excited about moving back into life as a single and has talked plenty as we’ve gone through this about his dates, so I may just be being overcautious.

Still uncertain about that, I veer.  In figuring out how to restructure things, I want to be able — both in the weeks I’ll have to myself, and then after Blue arrives — to have days where there is plenty of room for all of the parts of my life, all the parts of life, period.  Where I don’t feel like I’m shirking my duties because I want to tend the house and garden for a day (things normal people make time for all the time, Corinna), or work on art for a day, or write something that isn’t for Scarleteen, or even step away from there altogether for a few days at a time now and then.

I feel a bit silly saying that, because I often feel like most people my age seem to have this stuff down to a pretty decent science by now, whereas it usually confounds me.  But, I yam who I yam, I suppose, and I get to have my own challenges.  I’m allowed to be daft with some things, after all.

Friday, July 31st, 2009

This is the twentieth time or so I’ve tried to write here in the last month and a half.  I’m determined to succeed this time, despite my fear of doing so.  I got a few notes from people starting to earnestly worry about me: I certainly didn’t need to make anyone worry, but do appreciate the concern.  Given my time lapse, and how complex everything is, there’s going to be a lot to read here today, and it’s going to read a whole lot like a confession, even though I’d prefer it didn’t.  I don’t really know how to do this: I expect to be clumsy, which feels like my default these days.

A lot of my silence has had to do with waiting for a very, very big shoe to drop.  The long and the short of it is that the once-primary relationship — a marriage — Blue has been in for over a decade has been troubled and deteriorating for quite some time: years before we even started talking again, let alone renewed our romantic and sexual relationship last winter.  And it has now led to his taking the first steps of a divorce.  I haven’t felt comfortable sharing that aspect of all of this until now because…well, wait.

I still don’t feel comfortable sharing, but I feel even more uncomfortable not doing so.  I don’t like keeping secrets, especially big, nasty ones.  I don’t like being secrets, either. All the same, I haven’t felt okay about even thinking about disclosing that until this point.  Both knowing (which I have for some months) what choices Blue wanted to make, and having those choices begin to be enacted was something I needed before I talked about it publicly, for everyone’s sake.

Let me get this out of the way: in general, I don’t care if someone is married, so long as it isn’t me.  However, I have always had a hard and fast rule about dating or sleeping with anyone who is married, even if it’s an open marriage by full and glad agreement: I don’t do it. The one time I was with someone who I found out wasn’t truthful with me about the status of a marriage, I put an immediate end to the relationship, even though it was an important one I didn’t want to sever.  If I went into all my reasoning around why that’s been my rule, I’d have too easy a distraction, but the crux of it is my feelings about marriage, honesty, honoring people’s existing agreements (and dating people who honor their relationship agreements), emotional availability, how much drama I’m up for and what I want and need in my life. I also have been close to too many messy, ugly divorces in my life, with family, with friends, and I want to be as far from divorce — always a possibility with any marriage — as humanly possible.

I made an exception this time, which I’ve had mixed feelings about. Because I did go outside my own ethics, ethics I tend to broadcast, I feel a need to explain why. I made that exception because of the nature of both my and Blue’s relationship, now and in the past, because of my understanding of Blue’s relationship with his wife, because of existing nonmonogamy over there for years before I was back on the scene, and because my feelings for Blue and vice-versa are very strong and enduring.  I’ll also be honest: given our long and complex history and how we have always been when together, beyond my usual bristling at the idea of anyone having ownership of someone else, the idea that Blue is “someone else’s” just isn’t how this feels or has felt.  Not to me, not to him. I made an exception because we both felt gypped at not having another chance to be together at a time in our lives when we could finally handle it. I made an exception because a lot of this — most of this — just felt right, and because in weighing my options, not pursuing this as we have felt like a choice I’d regret more than I would in pursuing it.  I don’t intend to absolve myself of any responsibility for my choices, but in terms of how it has felt and it feels, this hasn’t been one of those things where I’ve been all, “I’m not proud of what I’ve done, but….”  I’m neither proud nor not proud.  In making my choices, I consulted at great length with my heart and head, and with people close to me who I know care about me a lot, understand me, and hold me to the same kinds of standards I hold myself to. I also made an exception because we both intended the way things have been to be temporary.

The end of this marriage isn’t about me: it’s been creeping towards this for some years now after efforts to repair problems for a very long time, and also has not been a sexually active relationship for a long time. Both for longer than I’ve ever even been in a romantic relationship, which is an odd perspective to have.  As far as nonomonogamy over there has gone, they have had is what I describe as a passive agreement to active ignorance (and not the pejorative meaning).  There’s essentially an agreement to denial, rather than to an open relationship, and some interpersonal structures built to provide certain freedoms for nonmonogamy while keeping a strongly padlocked silence about it.

It has not been something workable for me in anything but the short-term, if that.  Even in that limited way, I don’t see my ever agreeing to this with anyone but Blue.  I’m not down with multiple partnership like that where everyone isn’t talking and negotiating as a collective, especially with relationships as serious and loaded as these.  I also feel conflicted with anything — even when it’s a choice one woman has made — that keeps women from connecting with one another.

However, it’s not my relationship, so I’ve tried to be a grownup and not project what I think is kosher for me or in general unto them. Suffice it to say, I can have a certain arrogance about things like this as an occupational hazard, especially if I’m not mindful about it. I’ve tried to deal only with my and Blue’s relationship and how their stuff involves me.  What I could address, obviously, is our relationship, and both what I can live with and want to live with.  I had my ducks in a row over here on my end, and my agreements with Mark sorted already; I had from the get-go.

So, back in March, Blue and I made an agreement that by fall, he would either a) create an open and fully honest agreement per he and I within his marriage — which included the honesty that he wasn’t with some random person, but with me, as well as that he wanted me to become a primary partner — b) for that relationship to switch to a fully acknowledged platonic relationship and/or for the legal marriage to be dissolved, or c) for the model of our relationship to change so that it became a platonic friendship, either permanently or until one of the other options was wanted and chosen.

It wasn’t an ultimatum.  In fact, if his marriage wasn’t in disrepair already, and it was meeting Blue’s needs, in many ways I’d have preferred the first of the three options.

The why of that is complex, but I know part of it is that I just hate any a situation where one person is chosen “over” another or perceives things that way no matter who it is getting chosen, even when it’s me.  (Maybe in some ways especially when it’s me.)  My internal sense of fairness revolts at it, as does my core feeling that we all have room for infinite love in our hearts; room for far more than one person we love in life, and I don’t understand why we accept that as a culture with friends and family, but not with sexual or romantic relationships.  This “pick one” thing just doesn’t sit well with me when it’s about people.  I also know that Blue has a lot of love for the person he’s married to, and has valued many aspects of their relationship.  I hate to see love lost.  However, this is another area in which I’ve needed to work on being an adult when it comes to what other people choose and what they want.  I didn’t have a say in their relationship, to how they structured and lived it: that was all about their choices, choices made a long time before Blue and I reconnected and renewed our relationship.

In any event, Blue wound up choosing door #2.  At this point, discussion of he and I has not yet happened between he and his wife.  I sit on that precipice very, very nervously, the same way I’d sit in the open maw of a lion.  I don’t know what’s going to happen when they get to that point, especially since it’ll mean his breaking an enforced silence on a bunch of things she/they clearly just has/have not wanted to face or address.  His disclosures around nonmonogamy are going to be one thing when talking about other partners, but most likely something else when it comes to me.

I’m not entirely sure if it’s okay for me to talk about this here, but it’s really heavy for me and no small part of all this, so I’m going to say it for now and hope I don’t trespass. I’m a very loaded person in that relationship, and that’s age-old: in many ways I’ve been the most loaded person in that relationship since it began. I started out the bad guy (or rather, girl) for them both: I was the terrible person who broke Blue’s heart, who in some ways he was treated as needing nursing from.  In some ways I’m sure that he did, of course, but there was a lot of demonization there, some of which I understand now, but still don’t like.  I, or the history of myself and Blue, seems to have been a foil for some of their problematic dynamics.  Mind, I don’t think that was fair.  I was 22 years old when I left Blue and in the middle of very terrifying, overwhelming and unanticipated PTSD that took some things away from me (or seemed like it did) that I deeply cherished and felt utterly lost without.  As well, Blue and I had some shared issues, and he had his own missteps. I had a fight-or-flight impulse, and I flew. I handled it all badly, without question, and only after finally really working through all of it together last year did I stop feeling horrible about some of what I did which I know was awful.  However, I didn’t mean to hurt him: I was trying to protect and guard myself with limited skills and a mind that was in total disarray.  So, not fair, but that’s not all that relevant: a lot isn’t fair in life and love, and it’s very clear at this point that they were probably more hurt, and will be more hurt, in creating that dynamic around me than I was or will be.

It’s a bit tough not to feel like something of a homewrecker, though, even though I know that’s not what went on, nor what is going on, and not at all what anyone intended or wanted. But I anticipate it may be perceived or presented that way, especially since it’ll probably be more comfortable in some ways to point at me rather than acknowledging tougher or more painful truths.  If it is, if I am, presented that way, I don’t know how I’ll deal with it.  If I’m honest, I have to acknowledge that I have equal parts sympathy and a total lack of sympathy in that department.  I feel some guilt around this, particularly because I know that there has always been a good deal of jealousy in terms of the strong feelings he has had for me, as well as a (obviously valid) fear he’d choose to be with me instead of her.  I would never want anyone to feel like they were in or lost some kind of competition to me for someone else’s heart: that just sounds abhorrent to me.  I don’t even want to be even a tangential cause of someone’s pain. Suffice it to say, I have a lot of sympathy for anyone losing Blue in any way: I know too well how painful that can be. On the other hand, I have to be kind to myself and cut myself a break knowing that this is not a dynamic I set up: that was someone else’s choice, not mine.   I made clear what I felt and wanted a long time ago, and that last time around, in Act II of all of this, I stepped aside without argument to allow Blue to choose to go to her when a “choose one” was their deal, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do, it hurt like hell and I was the walking wounded for a couple years afterward.

It still sucks that this dynamic exists, regardless, and I still don’t look forward to facing it, but expect I will have to.  That everyone will have to.  But maybe we’ve all needed to, perhaps for longer than any of us have realized.

Okay, taking a breath.  Now another one.  One more.

I realize there’s another reason why this has been so tough for me to voice here, even once I had the criteria I thought I needed, we all needed, for me to do so.

It makes me feel small to admit it, but one benefit of having and living very stringent ethics is that it allows you a certain lack of vulnerability. In some ways, a perception of you being superhuman and perhaps not as flawed and fallible as everyone else.  Even if it’s not why you choose your ethics, certain standards of living and thinking do put you on a pedestal to some degree.  They can protect you from some measure of judgment. Of course, if that is the case, however rough some of this is, that’s very important for me to ditch, especially since it may well be part of some treatment or perception of me in life I don’t actually like and which can feel very isolating.

Let’s also face it, I’m hardly anonymous, and putting this out there does make me nervous in terms of my job and position in the world.  I know all too well that there are some individuals and groups who will relish evidence that I am the immoral, skanky harlot who is out to wreck families and traditional relationships it’s been sometimes suggested I am.  I’ve joked about it among friends sometimes, that that’s my easy out, my being everything some have said or implied I was in the first place. But my jesting there comes out of guarding how vulnerable it makes me feel and my desire not to be that person.

I’d be remiss to leave out that disclosing all of this means that if I wind up with egg on my face I can’t hide it.  (I was so close to typing “…then the yolk’s on me” instead.  I’m very sorry that I still did it.)

And that’d all be some of why I was so quiet.  Believe it or not, that is only some.

It’s been rough to figure out how to talk about Mark and I, too.  Some of what came out in all the communication around the poly agreement last winter was a level of honesty Mark had withheld from me –  and himself, really — that was so rough for me.  It wasn’t anything malicious, cruel or purposefully deceptive.  At worst, I’d say it was careless, but at the same time Mark and I have had very different lives, very different levels of experience with relationships and very different personal growth experiences. All the same, what came out hurt me deeply in some ways, and was a dealbreaker for me when it came to us having the kind of relationship we had been building, or that I thought we had.  I don’t mean to be obtuse, but it’s not my right to spill Mark’s guts for him on the Internet, so what I’ll just say is that I want and need certain things in a relationship of this depth and level of commitment that just didn’t mesh with how Mark was feeling, thinking and constructing his own frameworks.

It’s not an honesty I regret, and it was a brave one on Mark’s part that I’m exceptionally grateful for.  I think when this kind of stuff comes out of poly — as it tends to since you’re usually deepening communication a lot — it’s so convenient for people to blame the poly, and this just isn’t poly’s fault.  A lot of good things have come out of us opening the relationship up at the end of last year: I’d number those tough truths among them, even though the outcome of that truth led to a split.  I think, though, it’s probably also going to lead us both in directions that will result in both of us getting what we really want and also coming to whatever our best relationship is.  Mark still feels like my family: I have a hard time imagining Mark will ever feel like, or be, anything but. Mark’s family feels like my family, and they’ve made that clear on their end, too. Mark also remains, however sticky some things are right this second, one of my very best friends in the world.  Visualizing a life without him in it makes no sense to me.  And some of all that is why it’s been tricky to talk about what went down with us: I’m a ferociously loyal person with those near and dear to me, and can be very protective.

Over the years, I have kept finding that one area where it gets tough to write here about my personal life is all about loyalty.  Sometimes, it’s hard to be truthful about the not-nice stuff interpersonally, not just around protecting the privacy of other people, but because I also know that how I talk about someone, how I present someone or a situation with them creates a representation of them a lot of people read here.  I never want anyone I care for and love to be disliked by anyone — heck, even if and when I dislike them, which isn’t the case here, but certainly has been in a couple previous relationships of mine I’ve journaled about.  I absolutely don’t want anyone to think someone in my life is a jerk because of what I say, or because people who know or read me feel a loyalty to me, rather than to that other person.  Talk about unfair.  I can see how, over the years, from an outsider’s view it probably looks like I’m with someone and with someone and then BOOM: I’m not.  I can see how it probably presents a lot of my relationships as a bit one-dimensional, since I tend to talk more about their strengths than their flaws.  But again, I’m not anonymous here, and often, neither are the people I’m involved with.  I think being responsible around that inevitably means presentations that are often fair-weather.

That’s played a part in both of these relationships and my silence around them of late.  That loyalty made me want to withhold that Blue was married because I felt protective about anyone leaping to cliched notions about him and thinking he’s a bad person: I know he’s not and I have loved him dearly for nearly all of my adult life.  That made me want to withhold some things about what has been going on with Mark and myself because I love and care for him deeply and hate the idea of even someone he’d never meet having a fleeting thought that he’s a jerk because it’s so easy to do with only slices of a picture or only my own words.

To keep you in the loop with more practical stuff, Mark and I have stayed living together throughout, which has been okay sometimes; not so okay at other times.  It’s come to the point where we both clearly need some more space.  That means one of us leaving the big old house that we rent, and based on a bunch of issues (I’ve done much of the work to it, it has things I need or like but Mark doesn’t, it’s trickier for me to find a good place because I don’t have a car, etc.) we’ve decided I’m going to stay here.  I still intend to try and move to the islands, so Mark may even come back here and take over when I can do that (probably not until next summer, mostly due to the health stuff and its expenses).  And Blue is planning to move to Seattle to be with me in the next few months, which most likely means moving in here.

I keep going on tangents which I know are coming out of left-field — a very defensive left-field, no less — but I’m going on them all the same.  I feel the need to say that this is probably, from an outside perspective, seeming a bit fast.  From the inside track, though, it feels like something we have both waited for for close to two decades. We were also Olympic Gold U-Haulers when we got together in college.  Our first “date” lasted three solid days and we moved in together right on its heels.   It’s probably the most stereotypically dykey thing I have ever done, and I did it with a guy.  Figures.  All the same, we loved living together, it never felt too fast, and we lived very harmoniously for a few years at a time in our lives when we barely knew how to live alone.  We figure we’re probably better at it now. To boot, when we were together the first time we always basically headed these small collective households.  They were lovely — I often miss our shared house with Becky and Thai and all the kittens a ton.  However, the idea of actually being able to live by ourselves for the first time is pretty exciting.

Where things will go from there, where we’ll want to take them, we don’t know. We’re not there yet and don’t feel a need to be there yet. It’s been one of those things where you just jump.  You don’t have to, but you so want to and you can, so jump you do.  We’re still mid-air, so who the heck knows where we’ll find ourselves when we land.

The timing of all of this has been seriously rough, or maybe perfect, depending on how you look at it.  If Mark had not shared with me what he did, and our relationship hadn’t changed markedly because of it, then we’d still probably have been negotiating switching from primaries to secondaries a few months back.  We’d probably also still have been doing that even if Blue had wanted to choose for he and I to stick to a friendship, or if Blue was going to stay in his marriage.  Hell, the this of this has been rough.  Even from when Blue and I first just started talking again, I was endlessly checking in with Mark because he knew how I felt about Blue: he knew in the first six months we were dating, as I told him about the relationship way back then, before we got to Act III of it.  But of course, I didn’t tell him about it with any expectation that that relationship was anything but over. (In hindsight I’m glad of that: I never had to wonder if I was honest about my feelings.) I never thought any of this was going to be easy, but I do think all three of us thought it wasn’t going to be this hard.  We’ve all been clumsy, we’ve all had our moments of thinking and feeling we have loused everything up or taken missteps.  Maybe we have, any of us, all of us, but all things considered, I think we’ve all done alarmingly well in caring for everyone involved.  And that’s not something I’m simply saying out of loyalty, either.

On a strangely bright note, my parents, who got along for five whole minutes of my life and have agreed on things less often than the fingers I have on one hand (the one without all its original fingers, no less), have both been incredibly supportive.  Oddly enough, my father was the one with some issues at first — usually, it’d be my mother with the finger-wags — but at this point, they’ve both been great. And that’s been a real and unexpected source of comfort.  My friends have also been totally amazing.

On the health front, for the last two weeks, I have finally gotten feeling in my left arm and hand 100% back.  I also have been almost entirely without the constant pain in that arm and shoulder.  I cannot begin to tell you how amazing it is to have months of that be over, even though I am still enormously behind in everything from the months it went on for.  I’m still having weekly therapies for that and some of my other symptoms and issues — muscle work, acupuncture, nasty-tasting herbs — and we still don’t know why it happened, or why I have some other things going on.  But to be plain, the pain and numbness being gone, having full use of that hand back, is enough for me for right now.  I can live without that question answered at the moment.

However, in a lot of ways, all this health business has been a bit of a straw breaking the proverbial camel’s back.

I need to accept, I’ve been trying to accept, that I simply can’t do 60+ hour workweeks anymore. I need eight hours of sleep a night. I need to take plenty of breaks during the day, especially breaks to play outside where I can move my body around and turn off the incessant furnace of my brain.  I need downtime in the evening, and I need something close to two days off a week, not two hours.  I turn 40 next year, not 20.  I need time for my freaking art, including creating things I have no intention of showing or selling.  I also need more flexibility to call it a day when I’ve worked with someone in any given day who has just emotionally tapped me out: the longer I work in the fields I do, the more easily people very deeply connect to me, the more rough stuff they disclose and ask me to help them hold.  Sometimes I can hold it and move through the rest of my day, able to hold more.  Sometimes I just can’t.  That needs to be okay: I need room for that to be okay.

And on top of all of that, with as much diplomacy as I can muster, have to say that I want to be able to have the time when all of the preexisting context of all this is sorted (which may be a seriously long haul) to simply enjoy Blue and being with Blue.  Without attaching any sort of hierarchy to any of the relationships in my life, including my relationship with Mark, I am on the precipice of being able to spend a lot of time with someone I have loved for an age, and to be with him in a way that it seems we are both finally ready for.  In so many ways, there was an unwieldy enormity to our relationship and chemistry the first time around, and for us individually in terms of dealing with very difficult issues in our own lives.  It was a LOT of relationship, a crazy-quick depth of connectivity, some very strange fateful details, and no small measure of drama; a lot of for two relatively young and very passionate people with poor relationship modeling growing up to handle. At this stage in our lives, we are much more capable of both handling it and appreciating it for the rare, mighty thing that it is and always was.  Then, it felt like trying to be out in a thunderstorm holding nothing but an umbrella, more likely to get you electrocuted than it was to offer any shelter. Now I think we’ve both got handfuls of thunderbolts and a far greater strength, care and power to use them wisely and without so much fear.

The both of us, albeit in different sorts of ways and on different schedules until the last year, have been hoping for a chance again for a long time. The only things I’ve waited for this long in my life have been health insurance, world peace, the passage of the ERA and a perfect vegan donut (I at least got the last when I moved here). That it seems we’re going to have it feels pretty miraculous and incredibly unlikely.  I get to find out what happens when you get, and take, the second chance you never thought you’d get but always wanted.  Strangely, this is one of the few times in my life where I find I am not worried about what happens after, not even thinking about what happens after.  I don’t know why I’m feeling that way, especially about something so huge and potentially disastrous, but I don’t particularly care.  I’m just delighted TO be feeling that way for a change.  It’s very freeing.

So, sometime soon, I need to sit down and figure out what has to go in my life: which projects, which jobs, which way I use my time.  Some things simply have to go or get cut back to make room for everything else or I’m either going to lose my mind or do myself in with sheer exhaustion.

Okay.  So, that’s what I’ve got for now.  It’s a lot, I know.  Believe me, I know.  The funny thing is, it feels like I’ve only addressed a little, just kind of opened the door a sliver.  But I had to open it: the longer it sat closed, the more uncomfortable and dishonest it felt, and the more was going to bust out of it when I finally did open it.

I have some silly, light stuff to tell, but putting that here before I just spit out some of the other stuff felt disingenuous, so I can get to that stuff soon now.  Writing those trifles is easy as pie.  The other stuff?  Not easy.  And perhaps not graceful either, but at least it’s done.  I’ve got trembly fingers, but I’m going to push that button that says publish, even though “save” seems more fitting.

P.S. I think the most gracious way to handle this per saying so much, including about other people’s private lives as well as my own, is to password this entry in a little while.  So, I’ll leave it up for all for around a week, then it’s going somewhere more protected.

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

I know that of late I’ve been talking much more work than the rest of my life (and I’m still due to blog about sex::tech), but the work stuff is a lot less complicated.  Given what I do, that’s seriously saying something.

The thing is, there is a lot of limbo right now, and it’s not just my own.  Since I accepted that no, I’m not digging Seattle and I seriously doubt it’s ever going to feel like a home for me, I’ve started looking more at elsewheres.  My feeling right now is that I’m in no way ready for an out-of-state move yet, for a whole lot of reasons: financial limitations, because that’d also mean moving far away from Mark (he wants to stay here, and it’s also more complicated than that), and because I’m also not sure I dislike Washington state yet.  Just sure that I dislike most of Seattle-proper.

Of late, I’ve been thinking about trying life on one of the islands here.  The rents are about the same if not better than in the city, there is water everywhere, loads of trees and green stuff, beach and, in general, a slower, more quiet life. The social dynamics also seem to be less chilly, cliquish and painfully hip, which is my primary complaint about Seattle. That’s sounding very nice to me, more like a life I have wanted to head towards for a while, but didn’t think would be able to happen until much later.  It also sounds like a much more suitable place to write a second book.  Oddly, just as I was starting to think that early in the week (I haven’t known when I’d get going on another since I finished the last), an editor from an imprint I like wrote me asking about something else, but we also may start batting around ideas, since apparently they’d love to publish me. I need to spend some time later today, in fact, creating my writing wishlist for her, then hop to more photo editing: it’s been great to have whittled out time to get back to my artwork.

Next week, I’m heading to a cabin on Bainbridge island for a few days to feel life there out some more, and to get some serious downtime, solace, creative inspiration and a visit with Blue.  I figure that’s one of several little minibreaks-with-purpose I’ll do over the next few months, trying a new island each time.  I’m just going to make-believe I live there and see how I feel about it.

Lord knows I could use the downtime anyway. There has been so much travel, so much work of late with both Scarleteen and the clinic.  I’ve also been putting so much of myself out there in life and work in a way that does take a lot of energy, and is a bit more than even I’m used to.  I can do all of this for the rest of the year, I think, but I’m going to need more downtime than I usually take to manage it.

The relationship limbos are even tougher than the locational ones or the work ones.  Well, tougher in some ways, anyway.

I find I’m frequently inarticulate about what’s all been going on in my love life, despite babbling like a brook about it with both my partners and with some friends.  Things are tricky and sometimes tough, though I don’t know if I’d say they’re capital-H hard.  There have been some moments of sadness, but in so many ways, things are also really good with everyone, too.  Where some aspects of the relationship Mark and I are in have been seeming to be stagnant or go on the back-burner, over the last year or so, other parts have been growing; they’re just not the parts either of us expected to be at the forefront of everything, especially when our relationship was new.  There’s not really anything hugely wrong, per se, with our relationship right now, it’s just been transitioning over the last year or two as it is, and us getting to adding other partners — and the deeper communication involved with that — seems to have amped up or illuminated some of those changes more over the last six months.  Even just in talking more and more deeply, some things have come to light coming from both Mark and myself about our relationship, not about anything outside of it, which have made many things more clear which were murkier before.

The quick-and-dirty on all things interpersonal right now is that both of my most intimate relationships have been changing, and both have their own kind of intensity.  While some of the changes are certainly challenging, I also think that things are all moving in the direction that is likely most right for everyone, even if it’s not what any of us expected, even if sometimes it’s been a bit rough and bittersweet and scary.  There’s a whole lot of surprise in everything, really, whether we’re talking about Mark and myself per how we saw this at the onset four years ago and how we see things and interrelate now, or talking about Blue and I: heck, after Act II of our relationship in ‘96, we were both absolutely sure (actually, I more than he, as he tells it) that we’d never even see one another again, let alone be involved like this.

I know I’m being annoyingly obtuse. It’s so damn tricky to write much about this or Blue and I here, despite there being a whole lot to say, and a whole lot I want to say. Mark and I’s courtship was so all over this journal that, understandably, he feels some sense of ownership with this space and it feels uncomfortable for him to not have that same ownership or, more accurately, that singular focus.  I get it completely, and want to honor that because I love him and want him to feel good, but that doesn’t mean I can easily figure out quite how to walk the line here.  It’s just as tough to talk or write about new-old relationship energy (still haven’t figured out if you can have NRE in a relationship with this much history) at the same time our relationship is in transition.  And it’s always tricky to write publicly about the parts of any relationship when it’s not just mushy-gushy stuff: I think it’s safe to say that no one wants to read about the tough parts of their relationship online. We’re all three of us (Mark’s other partners have so far all been very casual, one-time folks, so none of them are involved in the big stuff yet) pretty tender-hearted about everything lately, and sometimes it feels like everyone is getting the shaft in some way, but that may just be my own guilt talking; my own need to have everyone taken care of all of the time.

A month ago, in a wonderful but very intense therapy session I had in Austin, I came to some conclusions about how I have been living my life and some things I really need to work on changing.  Some of these led me to a desire to have this be the year I worked on learning how to be more… well, self-centered.

The therapist talked a lot about my nature to be a caretaker — in work, in my interpersonal relationships, even just in my worldview at large — which also made me think about parts of how I grew up, and how often I parented my parents more than they ever parented me: it’s crazy in how much of my life I’ve felt like an orphan, even as a child.  My last couple moves, for example, have been about what was most convenient for others rather than for me, about making sure the other person was comfortable, even if that meant I wasn’t.  What I’ve said to myself about them in the past was that I had the ability to be more flexible than others. But when I take a long, hard look at it, that’s just not true: it’s that I was willing to be flexible when others were not. I have to take responsibility for some of that, too, because I often don’t even ask for concessions to be made for me. And I often see myself as more flexible and able to give than everyone else, in work, in my personal life, in a ton of even just simple, daily interactions: as the person who needs to provide comfort, to help and aid others, who needs to step aside or yield, who needs to fight for so-and-so’s rights, with my own stuff second.

Long story short: I need to seriously knock it the fuck off, because I’m at an age where if I don’t soon, it’s likely to stay a pattern through the whole of my life.  So, I’ve proclaimed 2009 as The Year of Being Selfish.  We’ll see how well I do with that, and obviously, there are limits to it beyond being just not being a total asshole.  I have no desire to do different work than I have been doing: I just may need to deal with the doing of some of it differently. I want to be yielding, flexible and giving with the people I love, I just need to require more mutuality in all of that, and step into these things with more already intact in the first place. I need, I think, to recognize, that everyone has the ability to be just as adaptive as I have been, it’s just a matter of whether or not they want to, and also a matter of whether or not I keep shouldering everything by default.

(As an aside, I did manage to do this even with my father lately, who is the toughest person for me to do it with, since I am his lifeline in so many ways, and the only person he’s really got.  I also love him to bits, and his opinion of me very much matters.  But he’s been very strongly judgmental with me lately, especially about my relationships, and was kind of going to the place where it’s my job to take care of everyone and give everyone what they all want, even if it isn’t in alignment with my own wants and needs. I was able to draw a very serious boundary about this with him, which included making clear that I’ve clearly shown myself to be more capable of managing my relationships, and having healthy ones, than not just both of my parents, but than most of the people on either side of my extended family.  I was also able to make clear that he gave me the message loud and clear growing up to create my own models, so it was a little late now to have a problem with my doing that.  He’s still a bit pissy with me about my refusing to talk with him about certain things, and my insistence that I am making the best choices I can despite his feelings to the contrary, but I think we’ll work it out in time.)

I also have been thinking about how much of my life has been about fighting for survival.  Mind, much of that was unavoidable if I was going to survive, or others — like my father — were going to.  However, it’s so easy to kind of get stuck in that place, and be fighting and struggling even at times when you don’t need to anymore, or don’t need to be fighting quite so hard anymore.  I also find myself in the position, now, of having some more resources than I have during much of my life, and thus, have the ability to restructure so that I do that less, especially when we’re talking about the ways I do it so unconsciously. Heck, I fight enough with my work: needless struggle or needless battles elsewhere is just freaking silly.

… and as I hear myself say that, while struggling with writing about this when I’m really not required to, one supposes I’d best heed my own advice, figure I did the best I could so far, and get on with the rest of the day as I want it to be.

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

One thing I love about you journal readers is that I can vacate for a while without having to make any kind of big to-do about it.  I appreciate that kind of latitude.

I’ve been working a lot, and struggling to keep up with the mad pace of work a lot , which for this year includes a lot of planning for both Scarleteen and the FWHC job and dealing with a lot of adjustments and shifts.  I’m also adding a few things to my load for the year: I recently accepted a position on the editorial board for the American Journal of Sexuality Education, I’m soon starting a Teen Talking Circle through CONNECT, I’m doing a bunch of travel for work which I’m usually more apt to decline.  I’m also keeping up with the column over at RH Reality Check, and have a couple new pieces for various things I’m working on in fits and starts.

When it comes to my more personal stuff, I’ve been writing for myself or writing for, talking with — to a point of very intense immersion –  the people the most close to me and the people I want to be closer to.  I’ve been spending plenty of time with my piano and even the dulcimers now and then (ah, to have my hands work like they used to: it’s a pity fingerpicking hurts like a bitch so much anymore), reading, meditating, taking long walks.  I took a break from my camera for a bit there, and it’s time to pick it up again.  Just being able to write a snippet of this, a snippet of that, and know it doesn’t have to turn into anything else or more is golden: I haven’t given myself that permission in a long while.

None of my time away or to myself is because anything is wrong: despite things being challenging in my life on several levels at the moment, nothing feels at all wrong.  Quite the opposite. There’s just a lot of cross-roadsy stuff that’s been going on all over the place, and it’s been really nice to be very introspective about it — and private about it — and when I do share outwardly, to be making an extra effort to do so almost entirely intimately.

It’s not something I tend to be inclined to do much of the time: hermit that I can be in some ways, I also don’t tend to keep things very close to the chest.  I usually write about them or express them very outwardly in some way.  But every now and then, the time calls for it and it feels like just the right thing.  And this has.  Of course, this season always lends itself to that, it’s for that, really.  The time of year is not inconsequential.

I have a very expansive heart right now: it’s been stretching its legs exponentially of late.

There have been a lot of opportunities for me to water and grow my compassion over the last few months, my ability to love well and wholly.  I’ve felt it at work with the Scarleteen users and the FWHC clients, with my family, and even just out on the street as I walk the dog.  It’s been a marvel, especially with things with Mark and Blue where as all three of us have stuff to work through, inconnectedly and separately, when either of them apologizes for bringing heavy bags, and I say it’s all okay, I mean it so sincerely.  I also mean that it all feels okay: I’m feeling so freely able that sharing a tough load with either or both of them may have its moments, but can feel nearly effortless when it comes to the flow of my heart and what I want to offer.  I feel bigger of late, more mighty, I feel like I have a clarity in how I’m seeing people, experiencing people, what I have to offer — and want to offer — others that’s more attuned than it has been in a while, one that makes getting really close much less daunting.

There are a few strings of phrase from some private writing a month and a half back which does a very good job of expressing some of this:

This is not often a sanctuary
for small, broken-winged birds,
a Muzak-humming rest home for invalids.
It is where the giant-footed few
who have the seemingly strange inclination
go to toast marshmallows and sing campfire songs in the midst of an apocalypse;
it feels a temple for legend, not leisure.

We seem to tend to err most
when we underestimate the nature of who we are,
what our unique alchemy is,
and try and fit magnitudes into the tiniest of boxes.

I have to confess that I can sometimes have — have certainly had in the past on far more than one occasion — the tendency to give people I am close to a whole, big lot, but also to withhold just an eentsie-enough that I am still withholding.  I actually think it’s partly a writer thing: I seem to notice that many of we wordsmiths have this tendency. I’ve been a lot better about that lately, a lot more fearless with it.  I’ve been letting people really know me, which perhaps sounds very strange coming from a total oversharer in so many ways, but to anyone in my life who has come very close to me, I assure you, those kinds of barriers of mine are well known. Opening things up and being in both of these relationships has been so just right for me, and I feel so, so nourished by all of this.  Nourished in my own heart and head, nourished with what I give out interpersonally, in work, in everything.  I have had a very strong feeling of being exactly where I am supposed to be.

Pema Chodron said some things I really like which relate to some of what has been going on with me:

There is a Tibetan teaching that is often translated as, “Self-cherishing is the root of all suffering.” It can be hard for a Western person to hear the term “self-cherishing” without misunderstanding what is being said. I would guess that 85% of us Westerners would interpret it as telling us that we shouldn’t care for ourselves—that there is something anti-wakeful about respecting ourselves. But that isn’t what it really means. What it is talking about is fixating. “Self-cherishing” refers to how we try to protect ourselves by fixating; how we put up walls so that we won’t have to feel discomfort or lack of resolution. That notion of self-cherishing refers to the erroneous belief that there could be only comfort and no discomfort, or the belief that there could be only happiness and no sadness, or the belief that there could be just good and no bad.

But what the Buddhist teachings point out is that we could take a much bigger perspective, one that is beyond good and evil. Classifications of good and bad come from lack of maitri. We say that something is good if it makes us feel secure and it’s bad if it makes us feel insecure. That way we get into hating people who make us feel insecure and hating all kinds of religions or nationalities that make us feel insecure. And we like those who give us ground under our feet.

When we are so involved with trying to protect ourselves, we are unable to see the pain in another person’s face. “Self-cherishing” is ego fixating and grasping: it ties our hearts, our shoulders, our head, our stomach, into knots. We can’t open. Everything is in a knot. When we begin to open we can see others and we can be there for them. But to the degree that we haven’t worked with our own fear, we are going to shut down when others trigger our fear.

So to know yourself is to forget yourself. This is to say that when we make friends with ourselves we no longer have to be so self-involved. It’s a curious twist: making friends with ourselves is a way of not being so self-involved anymore. Then Dogen Zen-ji goes on to say, “To forget yourself is to become enlightened by all things.” When we are not so self-involved, we begin to realize that the world is speaking to us all of the time. Every plant, every tree, every animal, every person, every car, every airplane is speaking to us, teaching us, awakening us. It’s a wonderful world, but we often miss it.

Of course, in all of this as well is the fact that for a very personal writer, I often find myself lately in the position of being the keeper of more than one very private vulnerability or big confidence which is okay, but it means that the gristle of a lot of my life at the moment is behind a closed door. It also means I’m being trusted to hold all of it, which is so small gesture, and these are trusts I’m grateful for.

I’m off for the most whirlwind of trips to Chicago on Monday for both love and for work — my apologies to all the Chicago people I just can’t see and who can’t (or don’t want to) catch up with me for a short bit at the workshop (by the way, I think we still need some more women on the younger end).  I get back Wednesday night, then head right into the clinic on Thursday morning, and if all goes well, on Friday, I have something to do with something that resembles rest.

Friday, December 26th, 2008

My poor dog.  Everytime the last few days I’ve taken her out for a walk or let her out back, she’d had to effectively try to learn to ice skate or swim.  The remaining snow here — which is of course, everywhere, since no one in Seattle owns a shovel — is so hard, and she weighs so little that when she walks on it, she either slides right over, or her little feet fall in an inch or so, leaving her stuck.  Her other option is to try and swim in the huge pools of melting snow which are the other half of the landscape right now.

She also did not get our annual ritual of an early yule morning walk, something we both (well, I can only assume) have enjoyed in the past here.  Ballard is total Goyville, so pretty much everyone else is in their homes celebrating Christmas, which leaves our usually bustling neighborhood beautifully silent and empty.  But it decided to rain here much of yesterday, so all she got was a round of toy-wrestling in the living room followed by the daily ear-cleaning she despises.

I’ve been fairly lazy here the last few days, only working half-days, and spending the rest of my day in the tub, reading, cleaning the closet, writing for myself, and starting to go through some photos.

When I was at my mother’s earlier this month, we sat with a big box of some of my childhood art and schoolwork, some of which is completely hilarious, so I have a bunch of those shots to edit.  I also left home with a handful of photos, mostly from childhood, and some slides (most of what we have from my childhood is on slides, because that’s the age I am).  I say some of which because looking at things like an earnest will written at the age of 12, not long before my first suicide attempt, is not hilarious.  Suffice it to say, things like that are not going to be making it into the archives.

When I was looking at those photos, there was a whole lot of bittersweet that started happening, and then some outright meltdown, some of which has continued since.  Most of what that comes down to is that I actually had a pretty good childhood, despite a lot of tumult (some of which I didn’t really know about until later in my life), and when I see photos of myself as a kid, I’m looking at a kid I really like.  But I’m also looking at a kid whose childhood came to a crashing halt due to a confluence of events — my mother’s second marriage and the nightmare of a man she married, my pre-teen assaults, some other things.  Seeing, for instance, a photo of me at 11 the other day, seeing what a baby I was with my shirt covered in rainbows, barrettes in my hair, I realized I was looking at what some vile man in his 40’s decided was ripe for the picking and it just left me floored and furious.  I cut my hair after that primarily to try and cut him out of it.  So, while in some sense, I love seeing me and aspects of the childhood I cherished — and honestly, thank the powers that be I had, otherwise things that happened later may well have left me a vegetable — in another, I find myself feeling angry at the world-at-large for taking that kid away so fast and so suddenly, and, in some sense, robbing me of enough of her left over.

I’m not going to get too into it, because so much of it feels so private, but my visit with my mother this last time was exceptionally healing for me.  I got the chance to tell her something I have simply needed to for some time.  That was that while there are things from my late childhood and adolescence I just don’t think I can ever forgive, and certainly cannot forget — some of which she was part of or very much enabled — the older I get, the more I understand not just the greater context of her life, but the lives of so many women like her, and can see the bigger picture of what landed her and us there and fed so many of the dynamics at play.  I was able to tell her that the more I understand, the more I accept, the less I blame, and that no matter what, she’s my mother and I love and accept her.

Being able to say that was a huge deal, and also had an unexpected impact on her: it seemed to make her feel safe enough to finally ask — just outright ask — about some of what had happened to me in the last handful of years before I left home at 15.  She was able to be honest enough to say that she didn’t think she could handle hearing all of it — an honesty I really appreciate, particularly since it reminds me that that’s some of why there was so much denial about what was going on with me then.  And we were able to talk about some of it, and she was able to really listen, to hold what I was telling her, to take responsibility for some of the things I have very much needed to.  Mind, I found out some things which were in some sense a relief, and also in some sense had already known or strongly suspected, but which were also tough for me to hear: for instance, finding out that it truly was only me who was the object of my stepfather’s malice made me glad that my mother and sister were not done any real harm.  It also validated how totally alone in everything I felt then, how singled out and victimized. But at the same time… well, it wasn’t a pleasant truth.

That process also invoked her to tell me some things about her life I hadn’t known, particularly in my early childhood, when my mother, at only around 21, wound up the head of a household that included 2-year-old me, my Dad (who stayed at home with me while my mother worked), and my fathers two teenage brothers who survived the accident that killed the rest of his family.  Unbeknownst to me, my mother even had to be the one to identify the bodies — my Dad just couldn’t deal — and this image of my so-freaking-young Mom with too much already on her plate having to literally look at bloody heads in bags just gutted me. (Not to mention that both of us having to deal with bloody heads and dead bodies at a point in both of our young lives was just eerie.)

Again, not going to get into too many details here, especially since a lot of it is about someone’s life that isn’t mine.  But I think this may have been the first visit I have ever had with my mother that left me feeling even remotely like this: it was intensely liberating, very healing for the both of us.  We’ve even made tentative plans to, for the first time ever, try and take a vacation together somewhere in the next two years, something which, before this month, would have been a daunting, rather than pleasant, prospect for me.

* * *

On the home front, Mark is back in Ohio visiting family after getting waylaid in Philly on Christmas Eve.  While I usually enjoy the time to myself when he goes home for the holidays, having him leave this time was a bit sad, because it drew our all-night conversations we have been having on the couch every single night since I got back from Chicago to an end.  He was just saying the other night that he has never felt closer to me than he has in these last couple weeks, and indeed, while I didn’t think we needed a turning point in our relationship, we seem to have landed at one, and it’s so, so good.  I feel like we wound up going to this totally new place that’s really exceeded where we thought we could go, where we thought we would go, which is seriously huge since I already have thought we’ve got something really damn good.

Next week, we both have dates: Mark has one out where he is, and Blue is coming to see me for a couple of days.  In our heart of hearts, we were hoping for a magical harmonic convergence during which we could both be in those things at the very same moment, but alas, it didn’t quite work out that way.

All of this moving into a much more tangible and physical reality is all the things one’d likely expect: exciting, nervewracking, anxious, exhilarating and more with the anxious.  Obviously, it’s a bit like a moment of truth is coming, where we’re going to find out if everything that seems like it feels so right to all of us involved really is.  I keep having these small moments where I second-guess what we are are saying and feeling, how harmonious it all seems to feel so far for everyone, and then I second-guess (or is that third-guess?) my dismissal of those moments, worried it is coming from a selfish place because exactly what I want appears to be something I can have that is also in alignment with everyone else’s wants, even though we all seem to have such different sets of needs.  When I voice this to either, the both of them effectively sigh and suggest I start trusting all of us — and myself — more, which is apt advice.

Having such history with both of the people involved on my part vacillates from being a total comfort to being completely daunting.   But I just got off the phone with Mark (clearly, we both want to continue our couch-conversations, even without a shared couch), and one thing we noted that seems to make this such an unusual scenario — and which I actually think makes it an easier adjustment for all — is that the person who is my domestic partner is also the newer person in all of this.  In other words, he’s already well used to Blue being in my heart and  being a part of who I am: when he walked into my life, that existed before he and I, and he obviously has coexisted with it just fine.  I can’t figure out if I envy Mark that, for now, anyone he’ll see is likely to be very new to him, or if I wish he were in my position on his end.  I do envy him some for having the ability to just ring Blue up and talk together, and I can’t say it wouldn’t be nice to have the same opportunity, but hey, maybe I will at some point.

This is one of those times where I wish I knew a bit less than I do, particularly about sex and love and relationships.  I was sitting last night in a stack of books from the shelves which addressed open relationships, and feeling very much like it was all so 101, and of such very little use to me.  I wanted the AP versions — even though I don’t think we really need them — and they don’t seem to exist.  I sat scrolling through my head with my own history with things like this, save that I don’t really have anything like this in my history.  Anything remotely close has felt like splitting before, or sharing, and it doesn’t feel like that, perhaps because both of these people have been in my heart already: no one is taking up any new real estate here.

I’ve also gotten to the point in my life where I know I am big enough, wide enough, AM enough for this.  Oddly, I think working at the clinic has been part of that: keeping a lot of distance is so typical in anything remotely medical that my being very open to clients, really kind of letting them in has occasionally worried my co-workers.  And yet, the way the clients have been with me, the way they want to disclose so much and have me hold so much while they’re in with me stands counter to that. I’ve heard more than once that I “just can’t” be as open to them as I have when it comes to kind of holding their truths and their feelings and really being in it with them for that brief period of time and possibly deal with it…and yet, I know full well that I certainly can, and that it’s one of my gifts as a person.  It’s not one-sided, either: it doesn’t just benefit others, but it also deeply enriches and expands me, too.

* * *

And I suppose that’s my rather random set of bleats for the day.  A Scarleteen once-user, since-volunteer and someone who feels very much like family to me is moving into the neighborhood next week, and will also be housesitting for me with her kid while I’m staying downtown.  They’re coming over the evening before for some hangout and dinner, and our place is so far from toddler-proofed, it just isn’t funny.

Thankfully, this week of the year is always exceptionally slow at Scarleteen, so it’s one of the few times where I feel able — without guilt or worry — to take some time for myself and work a short shift.  So, I was able to spend some time just talking more to Mark and Blue, and can now go spend some time housecleaning (which needed to happen anyway: bless houseguests for making you have to hop to it), maybe going through some more of those photos, doing some languid yoga, writing a bit more just for myself about everything going on with me, taking another bath and setting up a new computer that needs setting up.