Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.
Time to fess up. For the longest time I didn’t really give the concept of ‘coming out’ all that much thought as I didn’t think I had anything to come out about. I considered myself straight, monogamous (and I’ll throw in white, male, middle-class as well). I was the ‘norm’, my world view was very narrow.
A close friend came out to me during this time and I remember thinking, so what? He’s my mate, as long as he’s happy, what’s all the fuss about? Of course my reaction wasn’t what mattered at all and today, as part of a minority that isn’t understood, I am starting to better understand why coming out is so important.
For me coming out about my poly lifestyle is about my own freedom, about living honestly and not living a lie, maintaining my own integrity. It is not about seeking approval, just as it’s not about raising awareness. The latter is a by-product, for sure, but that’s not the end goal.
For me it wasn’t a big surprise that coming out garnered no negative reactions with my friends and family. I’m not a big fan of drama and tend to be careful about who I let into my life, so my nearest and dearest are level headed, open minded, supportive and understanding, which is pretty much as I expected.
But that’s not to say telling them was a walk in the park, it was a lot more nerve-wracking than I had imagined.
My biggest concern was my parents, not that I thought they wouldn’t understand, but that they would think it wasn’t right for me and that I wouldn’t be happy. Coming off the back of a long marriage, despite the divorce being amicable, I knew they’d wonder if I was diving into something new without proper consideration (to be fair, I’ve a tendency to make quick decisions and they haven’t always worked out).
That said, they were as supportive and understanding as I hoped they’d be. They’d already met Kirsty, could see she makes me happy, and were aware that we were both open to see other people (I think I used the term open relationship the first time I told them) but it was a couple of months into realising my relationship with Clare was becoming more than just ‘dates’ that I realised I needed to make sure my parents realised the difference between an open relationship and polyamory.
I’m still not sure they fully understand it but they are happy that I’m happy, and were very welcoming when they first met Clare last year. My sister was the same and although she is a little bemused by it, and has stated a few times she definitely couldn’t do it herself, like my parents she just wants me to be happy.
Like I said I’m very lucky; my friends and family have listened when I asked them and life has continued pretty much as normal. Only the occasional ‘should I invite both your partners?’ type enquiry reminds me that whilst I’m comfortable within our poly setup, it’s still a bit of a minefield for others.
Outside of my friends and family the reaction has been mixed. It’s not something I’ve announced at work, but a few people are aware that I have two partners. There have been a few odd comments but those most stem from misunderstanding the way our setup works*. I’ve found myself talking about poly in general terms a couple of times, but it’s not been something that many have asked about.
What’s important to me is that I don’t ever shy away from being honest about my situation. The most frequent conversational gambit that brings this to the fore is the Monday morning “How was your weekend?” question. The more I’m asked, the more comfortable I feel replying honestly.
“It was great, I spent Friday night with Clare, had some lunch and did some shopping with her on Saturday, then met up with Kirsty for dinner and a movie on Saturday night. Then me, Mark, Clare and Kirsty got together for Sunday lunch… anyway, how was your weekend?”
* This is understandable as there is no ‘right’ way to do be poly. Some people have clear primary/secondary style relationships, rules around who can do what and so on. Our poly doesn’t have that structure, and is based on trust, communication and love.
At the same time I’ve been focusing more on the things I post here which seems to have equated to longer posts. Not a bad thing but it was never quite my aim and, whilst it’s nice to get some praise, I find myself a little boxed in by the informal rules I seem to have set myself.
Last night I sat down and again tried to finish a few posts I have in draft at the moment. I managed to push one over the finish line but the rest sit there looking at me, challenging me, mocking me.
In my frustration I wondered if there were any other ways I could kick-start my writing or improve my focus. Google replied, as always, with several thousand responses, one of which suggested not getting hooked up on the length of the thing you are writing, let it be as long or short as it needs.
I had a vague recollection of reading something similar recently, that short form could be just as good as long, and so the idea stuck as one to try. I decided that tomorrow (today) I would just write a blog post and see what happened. Post and be damned and all that.
With a solution in place I headed for my RSS feeds for a distraction and up pops a post by Jason Snell – Bigger than a Tweet:
a lot of interesting, albeit small, stuff would just fall to the floor and be swept away with the other detritus at the end of the day: Amusing, interesting tidbits that would never be seen because they didn’t cross some imaginary threshold.
Jason also links to a post by Andy Baio which is the piece I recently read. In it Andy talks about mid-length blogging, and links to a post by Gina Trapani on a similar topic, I had also read her post. Baader-Meinhof-tastic.
I’m not sure whether what I do here is mid-length, short-form, or something completely different. I just know that it’s fun. I think I’d gotten away from that in my desire to be a ‘better’ writer which something I can, and should, pursue in other avenues.
So here it is, the blog post I promised myself I’d write. I didn’t have much of an idea of how it would turn out, I don’t care how long it is, nor if anyone reads it. It is neither a long read, mid-length, or short-form piece of writing.
I’m an early adopter geek. I back Kickstarter projects, I buy the first wave of gadgets that hit the market, I sign up to new services when they are announced. Unfortunately this can turn out to be a problem.
I’m all for simplicity, it’s why using iTunes to store my music files actually works for me (as a system, iTunes deficiencies aside) because I just search for my what I what to listen to, it’s the same reason why Spotify appeals so much, why Evernote is my central digital information hub, and why Picasa is my chosen photo library.
It’s also why I use Apple products as much as I can, the ecosystem has limitations but they save me more hassle than they cause because they are designed to work together, and when they do it’s simple and easy.
My early adoption of products pulls me away from my desires of simplicity. A whole new slew of gadgets enter my life that, as yet, are definitely not designed to work together, nor do they seem to be headed that way. I’m trying to learn my lessons and be more cautious, but sometimes things come full circle. I’m hoping that Apple might be turning around one part of my ‘gadget life’ that has been causing me some headaches.
The last few years has seen the rise of the ‘quantified self’, a rapidly expanding universe of gadgets and services that help us understand more about ourselves by surfacing data that us geeks can analyse and use to drive better behaviours. That’s the theory at least. You might have heard about it.
My first venture into the world of health gadgets was the Nike+ system. A small plastic dongle strapped to my shoe which talked to my phone and tracked my runs. At the time I was training for a 10K and as soon as I got home and had cooled down I was on the computer, checking the data.
That behaviour made me realise that I was using the data to push myself to run further/faster and generally kept me focused on my progress. Little did I know that it was only the beginning.
My second venture into the world of the“quantified self” was when I purchased a set of Withings scales a few years ago. It was one first offering and I’ll admit it was mostly the geek factor that appealed. This was the start of a wave of devices and wearables that have since been launched.
A year or so after buying the Withings scales, I bought a Fitbit. Partly as a way to gauge my day to day activity levels, partly to give it a shot and see if it did actually make a difference, I think I still had vague notions of how my, now discarded, Nike+ system had worked for me and wondered if Fitbit could do the same.
At this point I will say this; if Withings had announced their plans to launch a similar device to the Fitbit pedometer I would’ve held off and bought that. But they hadn’t, so I didn’t. And, with that said, I’ll skip the period since I bought my Fitbit I’ve already blogged about most of it, as I want to look ahead.
Right now, like many many others, I have a mixture of devices and services, none of which really talk to each other. I use Runkeeper for tracking runs, Fitocracy for tracking gym visits, Fitbit for daily steps, Withings for my weight and blood pressure. I’ve dabbled with other services but those are the ones that stuck for me but there are many many others.
Like other people I know, I have my own hacked together system as, ultimately it’s my data, about me. It’s annoyance that there isn’t much in the way of sharing and cross-compatibility but I understand why, especially for the Fitbit and Withings of the world who were early into the game and are, still, trying to grab the majority of the marketplace.
Alas none of the services I’ve looked at have solved this problem.
What I really need is something that works on a single device that I always have with me, that can accumulate all the data into one place. Apple Health might just be the solution I want.
Right now, as it’s still new, I’ve no idea if Apple Health will be the answer to my problem but I do know this; the gadget and service makers have had their chance to work together to create something bigger than their own selves, they could’ve created a ‘health’ ecosystem but they didn’t. I think they’ve now missed their chance.
Recent noises from Fitbit stating that they won’t be sharing data with Apple Health seems a little like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum… ‘but I don’t wanna’, and whilst Fitbit does talk to a lot of services, as do Withings, there is no central place where I can get all of my data without buying into a specific ecosystem.
Withings, on the other hand, are already integrating to Apple Health and are issuing statements saying that they will continue to work with Apple to improve the service.
It’ll be interesting seeing this space develop, especially with the behemoth that is Apple now in play, and for once I think I’ll be cautious and let the solution develop. Perhaps that means adopting the ‘most popular’ service over the best one, but if that means a simpler life for me, then I’m happy to make that compromise.
Update: Reading this article – Apple Yanks Fitbit – And Looks Like A Bully For Doing So – made me rethink my position but, on reflection, I’ll stand by what I’ve said. Apple will get HealthKit ‘right’, most of their new services don’t start all that well as they take small steps rather than big ones on stuff like this (think iCloud, over 3 years old (under the iCloud branding) and only now is it hitting its stride).
I’m a bit of a daydreamer, I’ve always been prone to bouts of vivid imagination; childhood memories of numerous flights of fancy running through my head whilst I sat at my desk ignoring my homework. Watching the world through a rain soaked window I’d drift off time and time again.
I wasn’t an only child, although at times it felt like I was, so solitude was something I grew up with and I’d find myself seeking it out more often than not, content to be lost in my own little world. Perhaps this is why, to this day, I still like long train journeys so I can indulge myself in this wonderful distraction, this quiet hobby. The steady movement of a train, the ever changing scenery providing a backdrop to whatever I desire. Stories and ideas flow through my head. Thoughts of others mingle with desires and on I dream as the day floats by.
For the longest time I used to view daydreaming as a pointless exercise, a whimsical waste of time that I tried to rid myself of but the admonishments were futile and, as I get older, I realise that I crave those moments of idle calm and the contemplation of nothing in particular, sneaking an illicit slice of nonsense into my day. I find myself seeking them out, a short walk around the building if I’m at work, grabbing an empty meeting room for a few moments, or just zoning out as I sit and stare at the sky.
In the past I used to walk much more than I do now. I can remember many days when I’d leave college and rather than heading for the nearest train station I’d start walking, skipping one station after another as I meandered along, lost in my head. I would lose track of time, and at times location, a habit I’ll admit also happens when I’m driving… that sudden realisation that you can’t quite remember where your feet have taken you for the last 10 minutes was always an odd one.
The occasional sleepless mornings would also see me take to the streets; A summer morning at 5am, neighbours still snoring as I quietly let myself out the back door and wandered off. An hour later, still bleary and tired I’d realise where I was and wonder what route I’d taken to get there. With no-one around I’d ponder if I’d walked out of time altogether, if the people had all left the town without telling me, was I alone? And then a car would appear and reality was restored.
I know I’m not alone in this, that others find comfort within themselves at times, and usually a wandering path and no sense of time or destination is all that’s needed. It’s not a call for melancholy, not always at least – occasionally I’ll consider myself in quiet contemplation, introspection if you will – but most times it’s nothing of note, scenarios re-imagined, memories jumbled together to create new visions of an unrealistic future. Lottery wins, heroic acts, escaping fate.
In my past I’ve wondered just how much of this behaviour, this pandering to solitude, I’ve manufactured? Was it a way to seem distant and moody, was I trying to be the complex young man crying out for attention? Perhaps at times I did veer down that path, yet looking back I can see that sometimes it was a form of coping mechanism, a way to deal with life when things weren’t going so great. And tell me, where is better to go if you aren’t happy where you are, anywhere of course! And so, in my head, I did just that.
These days I find myself carefully considering how I spend my time, making sure I’m allowing myself a few small moments on my own. Do I need this quiet escape as a balance for the more frantic times in my life, or do I use balance as an excuse to seek out solitude? I’m still not fully sure and I’ve no real inclination to try and figure it out. I am who I am. Faulty but not broken, content and happy.
It’s odd writing about being alone when I am just that at this very moment. At home, on my own, writing.
I’d love to portray a romantic vision; a description of the ornate antique desk at which I’m sitting, the way the soft leather in my chair creaks as I gently move back and forth, gathering my thoughts and contemplating the next line of prose. I’d describe the dark deepness of the red wine in the glass at my side, the way the dimmed lamps soften the evening, and how the gentle crackle of the LP spinning on the deck on the other side of the room quietly sets the mood.
Alas, the desk is modern, the music is electronic and seeping from the speakers in my laptop. There is no wine, no leather chair. And whilst the wind is rippling the trees outside my window I am not ensconced in a cosy cottage at the end of a country lane, miles from anywhere, I am in a modern flat in a modern city.
Short version: I hacked a way to only get the weight gain/loss number notified to me from my Withings scale. See here for the end solution, or read on for the background.
I’m overweight. It’s a fact that hasn’t really changed in the last 10 years or so, my weight has fluctuated but not significantly. Recently I’ve taken a step back and tried to look at the things that influence me, what I eat, how/when I exercise and do my best to give myself a proper chance of success. I realised the one thing that triggered my emotional eating was seeing my full weight whenever I weighed in.
I could either stop weighing myself and use other methods to define ‘success’… or I could hack together a system that only should me the difference between my last weight and my new weight (gain or loss). Simple!
One part of that was realising the emotional impact my weight has on me, specifically seeing the numbers when I weigh-in. There is an argument to be made for not weighing yourself and relying on how your clothes feel/inch loss measurements instead but I know that, at some point, I’d still want to know what weight I am. Given that I turn to food for comfort, well the emotional impact is a big factor in my eating habits for any given day.
I have a set of Withings Wi-Fi scales. You stand on them, and the weight is logged on my Withings account (available online or via an app). Each weigh-in logs my weight (108.8kgs today), fat mass (30.8) and BMI (31.4), so when the information is displayed on the app/website they can also show the gain/loss.
Realising that my actual weight – 108.8kg – is the thing that is bothering me and which is triggering negative emotional thoughts (I’ve been below 100, so I know I can manage that, why can’t I get back to that, why? WHY IS LIFE SO UNFAIR!!! etc etc) I decided to try and do something about that part of my ‘system’.
Poly Means Many: There are many aspects of polyamory. Each month, the PMM bloggers will write about their views on one of them. Links to all posts can be found at www.polymeansmany.com.
No-one told me that being poly would mean I have to buy more towels. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t have any towels it’s just that I only had a couple which isn’t exactly ideal when there are more than two people who want to have a shower on the same, or subsequent days. And we all know, for many reasons beyond their simple drying capabilities, that towels are very important, after all:
any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with
So I went and bought two thick, fluffy new towels. A purple one for Kirsty, a red one for Clare. I have yet to buy myself a blue towel with yellow stars…
No-one told me I would have to buy towels. When Kirsty and I first discussed the wonderful possibilities that lay in front of us in the land of polyamory, towels did not come up in the conversation. Nor were they mentioned in any book, article or blog post that I read at the time… or since for that matter.
But that’s ok. A couple of towels is a small price to pay and it’s a small, simple gesture that affirms relationship status, and we shouldn’t discount the power small gestures have. Think on how good it feels when you make someone smile with a small act of kindness. That there is the towel effect (as I’m now calling it, apparently). The towels say ‘you are part of my life’, ‘our relationship is important’, the towels also say ‘let me dry you’ … but that’s a whole other thing.
Simple acts of kindness are commonplace in all good relationships; small gestures, little presents, signs of partnership and love that are personal. So, whilst these things aren’t unique in poly relationships, they maybe hold a little more weight than we sometimes realise.
It’s not about keeping score, or always being unique — as well as buying both partners towels, they also have their own Scrabble letter mugs in my flat for those coffee in bed mornings — but it’s a simple way to show that each person is as important as the other.
Don’t get me wrong, these small gestures won’t save any relationships, and if they dramatically impact the relationships negatively then I’d suggest you have other issues to confront but so far it’s been nice to learn the likes and dislikes of my partners and to try and accommodate them as best I can in my home and my life.
I keep a good supply of tea in my flat. I don’t drink tea but Kirsty lives on the stuff. I am not a big wine drinker on the whole, but I have a few bottles in because Clare prefers drinking wine. Both of my partners have a ‘drawer’, and a pair of hair straighteners live in my flat (and I clearly have zero need for those myself). Pandas, kittens. Leopard print, leather.
These are little gestures that cost virtually nothing but let the people I love know that they are part of my life. It’s important to me and once you start noticing these things, and sharing them with your partners it becomes infectious. I’ve lost count of the number of times when, wandering round the shops with one of my partners, they exclaim ‘Ohhhh, she’d love that…’ in reference to the other.
As yet the little gestures haven’t really needed to extend to my metamour but as chance would have it, he and Kirsty are away for a few nights so I get to help him out and feed his cat whilst they are away. Another little gesture.
Within our little poly family we don’t have a sense of primary and secondary partners. Kirsty and I have the longest running relationship but that gives me no ‘rights’ over and above Mark, or Kirsty over Clare. So perhaps, for us, these little gestures carry a little more weight as they (hopefully) reaffirm this belief and ultimately contribute to a happy, loving group of people.
Is personal (or perhaps personable) social media on the way out?
I’ve been on… in… using… making… I’m not even sure which verb to use but that’s by the by… let me start again.
I’ve been ‘involved’ with social media for a long time now, certainly longer than the term itself existed (round ’ere, t’were all fields.. etc) and recently, with yet another option starting to make some noise in my own circles I’ve been wondering about where my future with social media lies.
What value social media?
I am not a follower whore, but then my livelihood doesn’t depend on my internet presence, so as a hobbyist internet user I have a different view of the value I get from social media. For those who worry about stats, how to improve their coverage and saturation is important, but as I use social media on a personal level my value judgements are very different.
For me it boils down to a simple equation, what is my return for the energy I spend on social media?
Recently I closed down my Google+ profile because I wasn’t expending any energy or time using it so, obviously, it wasn’t giving me anything back. My lack of desire to invest made it an easy decision to close that account down. Zero investment. Zero loss.
But could I do that with Facebook? Possibly, although it has some uses for keeping up to date with friends and family (as opposed to, you know, phoning or visiting them). I don’t use it all that often, and it’s definitely not where I focus my energy. Equally I rarely get ‘news’ via Facebook. Low investment. Medium loss.
Could I close my Twitter account? Again possibly, but of them all it’s the most ‘fun’. It’s also the easiest way for me to get a view of the world that is different from mine and due to the nature of the medium I’m much more relaxed about ‘missing’ any updates. But the world of Twitter is changing, adverts are becoming more and more prominent, and some people are starting to look elsewhere. That said, Twitter is where I’m most active and where I find out what’s going on in the lives of my ‘internet friends’. High investment. High loss.
It’s not the first time this has happened – anyone remember App.net? – and the current noisy startup is Ello which is promising to be ‘ad-free’. And yet, after only a few days of noise, there has been a tempering of enthusiasm. This cycle has happened before but it seems to have quickened around the launch of Ello. The realisation that there is a business, money and investment behind something being offered to us for free is an obvious one that many still don’t always consider, and why should they when places like Facebook offer no ‘harm’ (on the surface at least, which is where most people focus).
And there is the key. The many millions of people who use these free services, monetising them, who don’t mind how Facebook makes money, just that they can use it for free. It’s a simple enough equation.
My social media
What of my usage? There is no doubt it’s changing. I find myself looking for where the value lies and where I want to ‘exist’. Facebook, despite a recent slimming down of my friends list, remains a chore. It feels like I have to use it because so many of my friends and family do, whereas most of my internet friends are more active on Twitter.
Even then I find myself dipping in and out of Twitter much less often than I used to, perhaps my interesting is waning there too? It’s hard to tell.
I know the value I’ll get out of these things is largely a result of what I put in and, as I continue to streamline and minimising the things in my life that aren’t all that important (or don’t bring much value) then I’m not expecting any of the above to change.
As ever there are many things I don’t blog about, politics is one of the main ones and given the fervour around the recent Scottish referendum I’ve been even more reticent to offer my views and thoughts.
That said, despite some negativity (the idiots in George Square) there is a lot of good that should be taken from recent events. Number one would have to be the voter turnout, 85%! By any measure that’s impressive and shows that Scots are passionate and value their country (be it in, or out of, the Union).
Lessons learned are important too, the massive sway that social media held and how it seemed to suggest that the Yes vote was gaining ground and, on voting day, the mood in my social ‘view’ was certainly that Yes would prevail. Of course I should’ve known better, my social media circle is one of my choosing and doesn’t include many people with opposing views to mine (although I had a reasonably fair split of Yes/No voters across Twitter and Facebook as it turned out), so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when result after result came back No.
I was appalled by the trouble in George Square, appalled by the media bias (more was made of the trouble than the impromptu foodbank, or the massive number of people signing up to the Green Party in Scotland), appalled that my home city had gone from a vibrant, positive place during Glasgow2014 to a snarling, violent square of land.
I remain proud to be Scottish. The repercussions of the referendum will ripple on for months to come, and in the long run maybe it will be for the best for everyone in the UK. Within Scotland it looks like we will soon have all three ‘major’ parties headed by women, and that can’t be a bad thing.
I voted so that I would be able to say that I did, it was a historic moment in Scotland’s history. I voted to make sure that, one way or another, the UK Government would have to act. I voted to make sure that this particular conversation would not be silenced.
I voted because, regardless of the outcome, Scotland will continue to change and I’m proud to be a part of that.
I am overweight. Regular readers, hell even occasional readers, of this blog will know this and know that it’s something I’ve been battling on and off since… well since this blog started (gosh, that’s a bit depressing).
I’ve joined gyms, adoped diets, and being a little bit of a geek (oh shut up) I’ve turned to gadgets and tech to help me. I’ve had a Fitbit for a couple of years, a set of Withings scales and a blood pressure cuff (as I have high B.P.) which both hook up to the Withings app on my phone, and I use Runkeeper to log any runs (few and far between recently).
Since signing up with a local gym I’ve also been using Fitocracy as a way to track my time and effort there, and I had using MyFitnessPal to track what I eat and for a while everything was ticking along just fine, gym visits were logged (personal bests gained most weeks), and I faithfully logged everything I ate in MyFitnessPal.
And then it all stopped.
A slow realisation
I’d tried hacking my behaviours and it took me a while to figure out it didn’t work.
Why? Well I could offer up various reasons (excuses), my time at the Commonwealth Games knocked me out of my schedule, for example. But eventually I realised that it was because I just didn’t wanna keep logging what I ate every single day, it felt like an obligation, a “hafta”:
Unfortunately, too many well-intentioned products fail because they feel like “haftas,” things people are obligated to do, as opposed to things they “wanna” do. Schell points to neuroscience research showing “there are different channels in the brain for seeking positive consequences and avoiding negative consequences.”
When faced with “haftas,” our brains register them as punishments so we take shortcuts, cheat, skip-out, or in the case of many apps or websites, uninstall them or click away in order to escape the discomfort of feeling controlled. [source]
I know how to eat sensibly and healthily, I’ve read up on leptins as suggested by my Doctor, I know what to avoid and what to moderate, so the extra step of plugging it all into an app became a chore and, without realising it at the time, triggered exactly what the above quote describes.
Whilst I’d open MyFitnessPal I started to miss things out, or not bother measuring portions and guessing; nights out became an open entry of calories with a note of “meal and several beers”. I clearly wasn’t invested in using the app, my hack had failed.
Props to Fitocracy
If you click through and read the rest of the article you’ll also see why I’m sticking with Fitocracy, whilst I’m not big into the community side of it, having taken a step back I can see that getting Props (likes in Fitocracy speak) from people when I complete a work out or get a PR (personal record) does influence what I do the next time I go, pushing myself a little more each time.
Of course I’ve not been to the gym in a couple of weeks so I still need to crack that particular challenge but, for now, I’m choosing to make things easy for myself and focus on the things I wanna do, not the ones I feel I havta do.