Polyamory – Could YOU make the proposition?

…”It means you’re my husband… but … I can have a boyfriend”…

WHAT THE F%*K?

 

As sophisticated a presentation of open marriage as Enchant TV has provided so far, I still found myself squirming when Keena made that statement in the first episode of Compersion.

It was perfect– an elegant packaging of a very complicated idea. Yet it felt sooooo uncomfortable. Why? Because, for all the thoughtfulness and maturity which typically saturates any serious discussion of open relating, that statement seemed dangerously oversimplified too. It seemed to play directly to the very fears and negative ideas that non-poly people tend to have about the idea. It made Keena seem like a simple, selfish, ungrateful, greedy bitch having a midlife crisis who wanted to “have her cake and eat it too”–at least, that’s what I was afraid others would think.

I was hoping that people (even those still on the fence about poly… or those balking from twenty yards behind the other side of said fence) would delay their criticisms just long enough to recognize the depth of conflict that Keena was experiencing. I don’t think such a conflict would exist if Keena and Joshua did not share a truly genuine love already. Yet she still needed more.

This is how I try to explain the concept to people who don’t get it: As a human being, you need food and you need water. Someone could feed you the highest quality, most delectable steak as often as you wanted or needed protein, iron, or vitamin B12, but you would still die without water. Your body needs a variety of substances to survive.

For people who benefit from open relationships, non-exclusivity meets a genuine need for variety and community–not just a desire to “have their cake and eat it too”.

But then again, what the hell is the point of having a cake if you can’t eat it too?!

cake

 

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Opposites Attract

1.20.16 OppositesOpposites attract. I hear people say it all the time. I’ve said it myself. I can relate. Though my husband and I have some things in common, we also have quite a few fundamental characteristics that are opposite. Because of this, in many good ways we complement one another. It’s like a natural system of checks and balances within the family unit. Opposites indeed.

But are we really all that different? According to some spiritual thought derived from the Tantric and metaphysical traditions, like attracts like. In many ways, what shows up in our lives is an indication of ideas, beliefs, or expectations that we hold on some level. In essence, we attract what we are. And though you may sometimes seem very different from the one you love, the two of you very well may be two sides of the same coin.

I’m a big fan of Carl and Kenya Stevens, relationship coaches who believe that the purpose of relationships is growth. According to them, we begin to reap the rewards of our relationships when we understand that our “mates are our mirrors” and we do the work of developing our character as a result of the reflections we see. So, for example, if you attract a mate who has problems with honesty, you yourself may have some hidden difficulty with being honest with yourself or others. You may have a subconscious expectation of dishonesty from a partner. You may be a doormat who condones dishonesty on some level. Your ideas, beliefs, expectations act like energetic requests and the universe simply responds with your order. Like attracts like. Birds of a feather… you get it.

It’s in keeping with the idea that we truly are not separate from the world around us. Everything is connected, there are no (or there are at least very few) true dichotomies. Take Jesus and the Devil for instance. (I know that’s a loaded one, but take a walk with me for a minute just to test the logic.)

Christians believe that Jesus is the blessed sacrificial lamb, the one who has taken the blame for all of humanity’s sins and made it possible for us to be in good standing with God. This is “Good” – Side one of the coin.

However, Satan has also been the one upon whom humanity has symbolically heaped the blame for all of its “sins”. He is the horned one, the scapegoat. This is “Evil” – Side two…of the same coin. Opposites, but not really…

See, we have all this polarity in our lives, in our relationships, in our society. We love to cling to sides, favoring labels that pit one extreme against the other: gay v/s straight, religious v/s nonreligious, republican v/s democrat, rich v/s poor, victim v/s villain. Too often, we don’t take the time to acknowledge that there is a spectrum that exists in the middle of these binaries. Most importantly, we don’t realize that the shared life experiences of the gay and the straight, or the shared zeal of the religious and nonreligious, or the shared pain of the victim and the villain make them all two sides of the same coin. We’re really not all that separate. We’re really not all that different.

So which is it? Do opposites attract or does like attract like? Call me crazy but I think it’s both. Look into the mirror and find out why.

“You can’t hide from yourself. Everywhere you go, there you are.”

-Teddy Pendergrass

Is it unconditional love, “settling”, or submitting to reality?

DETACHSomeone once told me that while detachment can be a very useful survival tool in certain situations, it should not be a way of life. Yet I’m finding that there are some circumstances and people with whom I have had to adopt a lifetime strategy of detachment. Well maybe I’m not employing the strategy of detachment so much as I’m just learning to accept people as they come.

Sometimes you simply have to do away with unrealistic expectations in order to enjoy better relationships without the baggage of resentment or the negativity that comes from simply throwing people away. Clearing away the webs of expectations that we use to keep people within our reach can give us the clarity of vision to see (and be thankful for) the good that exists in them.

The first person that I ever learned to accept on his own terms was my dad. He was the kind of guy who wanted nothing more after a hard day’s work than to kick off his shoes, turn on the game, attach a beer to his hand, and have one of us turn out the lights on our way to our rooms from–which we would not bother him for the rest of the night. Sure there were those nights (which I’ll never forget) when we’d all sit around laughing at those crazy episodes of Cops or crack jokes during episodes of National Geographic safari or whatever.  But usually, he kept his distance.

I spent my entire childhood being friendly to him, wearing him down with good night hugs until he had no choice but to hug back, and learning to small talk with him. Small talk with my dad made me feel like I at least partially knew him.  It didn’t make him uncomfortable, because I never got too close.

As a teenager, I thought I could change the world, or at least MY world.  So I had a talk with him hoping that he would hear me out and start spending more “quality time” with my mom, my brother, and me.  I can still hear his response clearly after all those years.  It was a bit of a rant, but the ending went something like this:  “Fathers and daughters don’t need to be close, and I don’t need to be close to you.  Stop trying to turn me into something I’m not.”  In that moment I had a most potent experience of clarity, and I began to learn the art of detachment, which serves me well to this day.

resistance
STOP RESISTING

Eventually I came to learn that getting the love we want the way we want it from others is not always the point in life. As much as I needed my dad as a child—his approval, his time, his interest, his opinion of the guys I dated—he was just as much in need, or even more so. He needed something just as badly as we needed him. As lacking as he was in parenting skills, it seems he had been equally neglected and even more so.

As much as I wanted an affectionate, talkative dad who would wear a wedding ring, stay clean after rehab, and accompany my mom, my brother and me to the movies on weekends, I eventually made peace with the fact that that simply was not the hand that fate dealt to me.

Furthermore, it wasn’t about what I wanted for him or from him. It was about what each of us were supposed to learn in our individual journeys. He’s not beholden to my expectations. I don’t get to decide the timeline across which he should learn his lessons and finally “get it”. I am not fully aware of all the circumstances, memories, demons he has to fight through on the way to becoming the person he needs/wants to be.  And it’s no one’s fault.

Now our relationship has evolved into one where the small talk remains, but I can immediately interpret his tone, his insistence that I call weekly to check in, as proof enough of his love, of his pride in the people that my brother and I have become.  When he does say he loves me, it’s sincere.   When he calls, again, to make sure we’re coming to town for that visit we talked about, I don’t feel bad about the fact that the call only lasts five minutes.

I understand his personality and appreciate some of his tendencies more now.  I appreciate the artist in him–I only wish he would draw or paint more.  I admire the debater in him, the objective thinker who won’t simply give President Obama a pass on everything because he’s black.  I’ve come to agree often with the independent thinker who always so vehemently resisted religious dogma.  I understand his need to be free.

acceptance

This was a situation in which I had no choice but to adopt a strategy of detachment and acceptance. The slash and burn, just cut people off who make you uncomfortable sentiment that seems rampant these days just doesn’t work on a parent. I only got one dad.

And I’m learning that even in the relationships that I’ve chosen, there’s still room for detachment from certain expectations. I’ve learned to recognize those fair-weather friends and simply appreciate them for the fun and breaths of fresh air they provide when they’re around. Instead of resenting them for being themselves and entrusting them with things that they cannot handle, I keep them in the proper compartments.  And yes, I have absolutely no problem with compartmentalization.

For me, this thinking goes hand in hand with developing a more balanced and realistic perspective on relationships, one where we stop expecting other people to be our all-in-all (or to be what they do not have the ability to be), stand on our own feet, and learn to appreciate people for who they are.  Of course we need relationships, we need those relationships to be healthy, and we need to back off when they are not.  We can also learn to appreciate each unique individual for the small pieces of the puzzle that they bring to the table instead of expecting each person to be one completed 1000-piece puzzle that we can simply look at and admire.  We are each in a continual process of refinement.

So long as our interactions are not toxic, we don’t have to toss out the people who aren’t the “complete package”. And we don’t have to go without the relationships we want and need. We can simply seek out relationships with others who fill in the gaps. Variety is, after all, the spice of life!

What do you think of this way of dealing with relationships?  Some people may call it a form of settling or allowing others to get off “scot free” for doing “wrong”.  But is it really our responsibility to police the behavior and emotional/mental/spiritual development of others?  Aren’t our own individual plates already full enough?  Does trying to get another person to “do right” ever work, anyway?  Who gets to define what’s “right” for a particular individual for a particular point in time?

Adventures in Bermuda

white roofBermuda’s on my “Traipse Across the World” list.

No, I haven’t been—only Jane Luck, my alter ego has. Yes I’m dreaming again.  I’m picturing myself there.

It’s a little game I like to play called Pretending–that’s Pre-intending.  I’m setting the scene in my mind, just the way I like it.  Sooner or later, the Universe will have no choice but to plop me smack dab in the middle of Bermuda where I’ll suddenly find myself darting around on Vespas, wallowing, on the pink sand beaches, wading among the towering limestone rocks, eating fish chowder and hot cross buns, and drinking swizzle.

But then what?  I don’t mind a little resort area life, but I’m eventually going to want to chill with some people and get into some adventures that aren’t connected to the ministry of Tourism  or it’s aims.

Local flair.  It almost sounds cliche, hearing some tourist in hiking boots and a backpack say they want to go “off the beaten path” or “meet some locals”.  But who wants to travel all the way to another part of the world just to stay in “little America” and watch dance performances at the “cultural museum”?

The best thing about travel is meeting the people who live in the place you’re exploring, having them show you how they live, and discovering just how different and alike you are.

So, Bermudophiles, where are you?  What exceptional activities do you recommend?  Any popular, local characters I should meet?  Is there some tucked away bar or restaurant that shouldn’t be overlooked?  A little known spelunking site that’s worth a peek?  Lemme know!

PAIN!!! Write it anyway.

Whether you write in a journal, for a blog, for poetry readings, creative gatherings, for your own pleasure, or for the masses, there may be times when bringing your deepest emotions to light becomes painful.  Write it anyway, the painful stuff is some of the best work, not just because dumping it on the page can help keep you sane, but because it may do  the same for someone else.  Don’t let painful memories or lack of understanding from others who fear exposure stop you.  Ultimately, it’s your story, and there’s a way to tell it tactfully.

The Blame Game | Does religion foster a sense of victimhood?

At times, I sit back and recall my days as a devout, nearly fundamentalist, Christian and lay minister. I consciously de-converted from organized religion 8 years ago, and I consider the effect that inherited thinking patterns had on my experience. One glaring element of my worldview was a strong sense of victimhood, though I wouldn’t have called it that back then. I’ve since unpacked it and made a significant effort to rid myself of it.

This did not come only from my upbringing as a Christian, but also from being raised the black female child of an addict father and a mother who grew up impoverished. I realize now that there was a bit of poverty- and inferiority-consciousness coming from several angles.

When you grow up in the kind of Holiness storefronts, Baptist chapels, and non-denominational Megachurches where parishioners now stand by with cell phones ready to capture the next shouting phenom for YouTube, ironically, you hear a lot of victim talk. You may be familiar with that cloud of struggle, negativity and complaints patched with a shallow “but-I-shall-overcome” refrain:

 -Life is chaos-

“Girl, these people at this job can’t stand to see me coming ‘cause they know I love Jesus. They tried to get me demoted. It’s always a press goin in there for this ‘lil bit ‘o money. My lights bout to get cut off…yeah, and my daughter no-good boyfriend got arrested again… But I’m yet holdin on.”

 

 -The devil is always trying to get me-

“I can’t leave the house yet. The devil is busy—he done hid my car keys!”

 

 -I’m unhappy and I must grin and bear it-

“This marriage must be my cross to bear. God only approves divorce in cases of adultery and abuse. As long as ‘he be pleased to dwell’, and our life isn’t in danger I can’t leave him. I’m still believing God will save him one day.”

 

 -It’s us against the world-

“We are God’s chosen few, and the world hates us for it!”

 

In this spiritual twilight zone, religion thrives on getting you to believe that there’s something wrong with you, that you need something outside yourself to make you “right”, that you are worthless without devotion to ground you and keep you connected to God. You are sinful and insignificant in and of yourself. And everyone, including Satan, is ALWAYS after you.

Head in Hands
http://www.software.ac.uk

You are one of very few spiritually awakened people in a dying world, a world which is always looking for a reason to persecute you. (How ironic that this thought pattern can be so humble and so arrogant at the same time.) You “die daily” with Christ, or whichever venerated prophet of your religion suffered greatly for the cause. You are a constant victim, a target, a living martyr, and martyrdom is noble.

If you aren’t struggling, then you aren’t doing something right. If your life isn’t a struggle, a climb up the rough side of the mountain, that’s a sign that you’re in cahoots with Satan. After all if Satan saw you as any kind of threat, he’d be on your heels at every turn, making you late for church, causing your boss to hassle you, or hiding your car keys.

Struggle becomes a way of life and something to be proud of.

So it’s no wonder that this same mentality of acceptance of victimhood and passivity weaves its way into the romantic lives of those who possess it. Men and women hide behind their holy books to avoid taking initiative to improve their lives, to avoid making demands in their relationships.

Some put up with downright abuse, because “God hates divorce”.

sophia

Others refuse to speak up when they have unmet needs because they believe “love your neighbor as yourself” actually means “love your neighbor (wife, husband, child, etc.) instead of yourself. They live on the back burner…then secretly resent being overlooked.

Then there are those oddballs who have somehow come to the conclusion that God only approves of vanilla, missionary-style sex. (LOL!  I’ve actually found myself in this conversation.) Their passion wanes, their beds grow cold, they go months at a time without even a little spice. And they still don’t take action! Now, in eleven years of intense scriptural study, I never came across a biblical Kama Sutra. And I can tell you, if had to keep my legs shut, chomp at the bit and wait years for God to send me a mate, and I finally got the chance to walk across the threshold into natural bliss, I’d enjoy it in WHATEVER position I wanted! But I digress.

After unpacking this element of victimhood and passivity, I realized that I had to learn how to be happy. I’m still learning. I had to take more initiative in my life, and that included taking steps toward a more balanced mental state. I asked myself:

“Do you even know how to be happy?”

“Can you accept your current position, flaws included, as meaningful and good—no doom and gloom? Do you know how to acknowledge the difficulties of life without wallowing in them? Can you take the initiative to use the resources that you already have rather than constantly begging God for a fix, rather than struggling through everything and waiting for happiness in the sweet by-and-by?”

“Do you realize that positivity, peace of mind, beauty, fun and enjoyment, flirtation and the dancing of masculine and feminine energies, laughter—all those things are supposed to be the rule, not the exception? Goddammit, your name is Joy (not Job). Pick up your mat and walk! Get down off your cross and live.”

At some point, the prospect of leading a life full of optimism and growth became much more appealing than existence as a self-absorbed victim. I started to understand why the Joy of the Lord is said to be our strength.

I’m still learning, but I’m enjoying the process.

 

Distance Lovin’ Part 4: These Black American men are sick of ya’ll women! Are there better pickings in Brazil?

frus womanBack in 2006 Essence Magazine published the article, “Blame it on Rio” which examined the phenomenon of Black men traveling to Brazil to find love and/or sex. Seems that the article provoked some strong responses.

On one hand, many black women were offended by the idea that some black men would feel the need to escape to a foreign country to find viable mates. Many Black men, on the other hand, saw no problem with regular travel or even moving to some other country where they anticipated that the pickings of female fruit would be easier. In many ways, it turned into one of those Black Man against Black Woman B.S. Fests that annoys the hell out of me. So I’m not attempting to revive some tired, useless Battle of the Sexes debate, okay.

Here come the Sistas again, cryin bout them other bitches “taking” our men.

 

I’m interested in encouraging some reflection, and it’s all about examining expectations.  I saw a video on YouTube called Frustrated: Black American Men in Brazil, was produced by Al Greeze in response to the Essence article. He wanted to give the Black men in question a chance to explain this phenomenon in their own words and to provide a counter to the seemingly one-sided and judgmental tone of the Essence article.frus women
While watching Frustrated, I had the same initial reaction that I had while watching the other videos featured here in the Distance Lovin’ series—“Who the heck cares! Variety is the spice of life. Travel is an enriching experience. If people can find a little extra happiness abroad to go with their exotic foods and the extra stamps on their passports, good for them.”

But then that sad, pathetic music became more and more noticeable. The movie opened to sad, pathetic piano music. The introduction was accompanied by sad, pathetic piano music. It was the ominous kind of tune you’d expect to hear in a documentary about cancer patients fighting for their lives, abused children slipping through the cracks of the Child Protective Services system, or insidious chemical companies dumping toxic waste into poor people’s drinking water. It wouldn’t stop! Then, finally, at about 8 minutes, 37 seconds the tune changed to something a little more upbeat. (But it crept back in and out at key moments throughout the film.)

So here’s my first gripe: This supersized portion of doom and gloom accompanies far too many discussions about Black Male-Female relations, the state of the Black Family and such. Most of the other Sex/Love Tourism videos that I’ve viewed examine the very real issues of loneliness, frustration, and deteriorating relationships that prompt people to search abroad for a mate. But they all seem to suggest that these things are part and parcel of the human experience and that it probably won’t cause our undoing overall.

frus mad black womanBut when it comes to us Black folks, Lawd anything that takes us outside the realm of traditional expectations could, apparently, bring us to our knees. Or to our stomachs, because we’re already on our knees, right? Maybe with one more push we’ll just evaporate into thin air.

We’re already so much more likely to be uneducated, uncultured, unemployed, poor, obese, sick, diseased and without good healthcare, imprisoned, financially illiterate, just generally illiterate, divorced or never married to begin with, the product of single parenthood, parenting single, or likely to become single parents eventually, on drugs, raised by somebody on drugs, robbed by somebody on drugs, shot by somebody selling drugs… Whatever the atrocity or misfortune, we are most likely to suffer it.

We get a steady diet of statistics that prove our supposed inferiority. And it’s not some grandstanding Klansman or Fox News anchor giving them to us. It’s CNN. It’s NPR. It’s W-something-something-something, your local news station. It’s our community leaders and folks who are on the front lines daily trying to help others get ahead. It’s our own brown-faced beauties, in whom we take so much pride, shoveling the Pitiful Black Folk statistics down our throats from the anchor’s desk daily.  This is news, important stuff going on in the world of which we should be ever aware, right? And the numbers don’t lie, right?

Well to answer those questions with another question, I’m going to take it back to a little Pentecostal church I attended as a girl. We sang a song there in which we asked, “Who’s report will you believe?”

The realities of our existence surround us daily. Sure, we have to have awareness of our challenges, inasmuch as that awareness helps us to create solutions. But we have to be so careful not to internalize this information to the extent that it becomes our expectation of ourselves, our definition of ourselves.

Because what we think of ourselves is what we will get. And numbers do lie, it just depends on who’s calculating them and for what purpose they will be used.

My point: discarding this hefty layer of doom and gloom removed an unnecessary distraction so that I could clearly see the other very intriguing points touched on in the film. And I now have more questions:

1a. Why are so many of these men finding themselves in relationships with women in America who are too materialistic? Are there no other women to attract, no other qualities that they are capable of evoking in a woman?

1b. And why are so many of these women finding themselves surrounded by men who don’t measure up to their standards? Are the standards fair and balanced or based in fairy tale logic?

1c. When one finds oneself in a repeating cycle such as this, isn’t SELF the common denominator?

2.   What exactly is a woman’s place, other than the place where her natural talents and spirit guide her? Is it better for a couple to follow prepackaged gender roles or for them to do whatever works in their own unique situation with honesty, mutual respect, and zero concern for outside opinions? Isn’t the overall balancing of energies the most important thing?  When will the stupid power struggles stop getting in the way of meaningful human interaction?!

3.  What part might the church be playing in this phenomenon? So many women are being taught that the only type of man worthy of their prize is “Boaz”, who will come riding in on a white horse dressed in an Armani suit.

He’ll leap out to open every door you plan to pass through before whisking you off in his Range Rover where he holds your hand the entire ride. He will, of course, have a PHD and will be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or wealthy businessman, because he’s a man of excellence, and that’s the only way to be excellent. He might show up well after you reach menopause, but it will be well worth the wait. You will still be a virgin, right? …No, masturbation counts also… Jesus will be your man ‘til then.

4.  Why is the quest for companionship always met with so much shame and blame? Blame what on Rio?  This sense of scarcity that so many love-seekers are feeding into–is it a reality? Or does the answer lie in expectations?

Maybe you have some answers to my questions or a few intriguing questions of your own. Let me know!

 

Wanna Write?

snoopy
https://www.pinterest.com/j113fischer/peanuts/

Since I began sharing the news of my first book with my family members and friends, I’ve heard several of them say, “That’s something I hoped to do some day”.  I anticipate that I will hear this regularly as I meet and engage with more people on this writing adventure.

I’m convinced that everyone has some amazing story to tell.  Whether it is the story of your grandfather the Tuskegee airman, your neighbor who hid the fact that he was a serial killer from everyone around him, your mother the high-priced escort, or your own triumph over adversity–there is something you know about that somebody would want to read about.

How do you get started?  How do you find time?  How do you know if you’re doing it “right”.

I say, stop.  Make time.  Just get it on paper.  Worry about the formalities (spelling, grammar, complete sentences, story structure) later.  Then, when you feel like you’ve squeezed the sponge of your inner thoughts dry, do your research.

My first book, Pretty Little Mess:  A Jane Luck Adventure, began as a journal entry.  I figured my grandkids might be intrigued to find it and learn a little more about Granny Joy one day.

I was used to ranting in my journal about things, just dumping my thoughts on paper as quickly as possible in whatever form they emerged.  I made time to do this, because I could see and feel the positive results of this form of purging every time I wrote.  It provided immediate release.  I was less angry, sad, or frustrated.  Seeing my thoughts on paper highlighted flaws in my thinking that I otherwise would not have noticed.  Journaling provided hindsight.  It wasn’t until after I got it all “out of my system” that I started researching the ins and outs of proofreading, editing, and publishing.

If you have something to say, just give yourself an hour to sit down and write whatever comes to your mind.  It may be hard to stop.  You may look up and find that several hours have passed.  And you may need some Kleenex.

See, I think a big part of the reason people don’t journal or tell their stories is that the page (or screen) is like a mirror.  When you sit down with your raw thoughts, the lights are bright, the mirror is right in your face, and you can hide nothing.  You can try to run or distract yourself, but the truest thoughts will flow.  It’s your choice to let them… or to save the writing for “another day”.