Month: February 2015

My Shadow

You do not know me.

I do not know all of me.

What you read here is not me. It is a small part, a feather plucked from my plummage.

Sometimes it is shiny and bright, the dazzling blue shimmering in the sun. Sometimes it is dull and brown, a soft down of comfort. Occasionally the feather is jet black, absorbing light, hanging heavy on the page.

And that’s the thing, we are all complex people (we are all our own unique fucking snowflake) and through social media we can pick and choose which parts of us we expose.

Some people enjoy the peacocking of social media, their lives painted in vivid technicolour, bright daubs of achievement are all you ever see. You marvel and admire how shiny their life is, how wonderful they are, how aspirational to be so luminous!

But of course that isn’t them, not the real them. They will have days where they achieve nothing, they experience doubt, they have insecurities. Their lives are not perfect. The facsimile does not reveal all.

You are not missing out. You are no worse than them.

You are no better than them.

Everyone has dark moments, shadows they try and ignore. Everyone can be mean, short-tempered, impatient, annoying and selfish. It is in all of us. Some people know their shadow well enough to be able to angle the light just so, tricking your eyes into thinking it doesn’t exist. Moments of blackness flit past your eyes and are gone before they can be recognised.

A polished act. A mask.

Everyone has a shadow, but I think the trick is to embrace it, to welcome it in and know it better. Let it become a manageable part of who you are, rather than a face that you hide away. Acknowledge it, speak honestly and openly to it, and hopefully you can find a balance that suits you both.

You and your shadow.

I’m have been pretty candid on here at times but there remains some things I have not, and will not, write about.

My dark places are mine, my shadow does not loom over me but follows me quietly. We both like it that way.

Honesty and trust

One thing that has continued to take me by surprise, despite the overwhelming evidence that suggests it shouldn’t, is how many benefits there are to being open and honest in your relationships, building a trust that makes so many other aspects of the relationship so much easier.

What that really means is being honest with yourself and that’s one of the things that being poly has really helped me with. I’m forced to look at myself, raw and exposed, to face up to my own shortcomings and issues rather than putting them away in a box.

This is nothing to do with being poly of course, it’s something I should’ve been doing for years but those boxes were so easy to use, so much easier than facing up to the facets of my personality I didn’t like.

Journaling, aside from being a horrid bastard of a word, has helped. In the past I would write reams and reams of self-analytic prose, reading it back I can see the beginnings of where I am today, the pain and uncertainty, the fear of change, the hope and pity all mixed up into ramble after aching rambling.

I’ve talked about it all since then, twice over.

Kirsty and I talked a lot during our early days together as we reeled into each others arms after the ending of our relationships. We discussed love, jealousy, trust, desire, selfishness, and more as we each explored our basic needs and expectations both within the frame of us and of ourselves. We stepped back in time to dark places, uncovered them to the light and watched as the dancing shards of the mirrorball reduced them to dust. We talked it all through. It was painful, brutal at times, but it got easier. We slipped, stumbled and recovered. Each step back a chance to check our place so we could walk forward together.

It got easier and easier but still, to this day, retains the surprise of what it reveals.

When I met Clare I still had some realisations to come, a second love amplifying the first and I latched on to what we had. A bonus in so many ways, a tribulation in others as we dived once more into the dark places of our pasts, finding new routes through them, out of them. The more we talk the easier it gets, the more evidence we show each other, the more accepting we are.

It gets easier and easier to talk. The surprises stay because of my fears write large in my imagination.

I write all of this after talking to both of my dearly loved partners, to tell them I needed a little more space than I currently had, that I wanted to step back a tiny way to give myself what I know, deep down, that I need. It is a time change not a time for change that I hesitantly proposed. It was a conversation, an offering on the table to discuss and reason with. It could be altered and changed, compromised to their individual needs.

The hard work of being honest with myself got me to those discussions. The realisation that I taking a little more time for myself doesn’t mean I love them any less, I know that is true because I asked myself that question. Was I pulling away because the love was fading? Was the distance being driven by something else that wasn’t in my view?

No. I am managing my own need pure and simple. I am being honest and trusting that they would indicate if it impacted them in a way they did not like, if they were not happy.

There are many benefits to being open and honest in your relationships, but for me the main advantage is the trust it builds, the trust that makes so many other aspects of the relationship so much easier.

A box of valentine

Whilst it may be Chaucer that popularised the notion of romantic love being celebrated today, it seems that social expectation has taken hold and placed us all at the behest and behemothic budgets of a massive industry.

Cards to buy, chocolates to order, flowers to be delivered, candlelit dinners to be enjoyed, discrete Ann Summers packages to be unwrapped in the bedroom.

It’s all very formulaic and about as far removed from romance as I can imagine.

Of course it’s easy to dismiss all of this. A roll of the eyes whilst you point out that you don’t need one day to prove your love, and the clarion call of ‘commercialisation’ is an easy one to fall back on but it is exactly this pre-packaged, mass market, off the shelf approach that irks. The lowest common denominator isn’t far away I fear; the Valentine box containing a card for ‘the one’, chocolates, a single red rose and a lurid red and lace lingerie set. It will be prominently placed in all the best supermarkets, indiscreetly labelled as “all your romance in one place”. How depressing.

It’s been many years in the making, the gentle conditioning that has ebbed into our lives unchallenged, tricking and treating its way into the common psyche.

But then what harm some flowers and a card? What harm of such a day that brings love into focus,  that forces it to the forefront of our busy lives. It can’t be that bad, can it? In a world full of pain and anger, headlines thrust into our views to remind us the world is a bad place, an evil place. The world needs more love, everything in black and white.

And so it is that our integrity is diluted, the cliffs of my belief are slowly eroded until I look around and realise I do not recognise this land, where am I and how did I end up here? In my confusion I wonder what my beliefs are now, I question what I hold dear about the notions of love and romance, of that spark of connection with another human being and start to wonder if my approach has been so wrong all this time.

I find myself confused and conflicted. The sway of the masses is strong, my island of belief grows small but I will stay here until I too crumble and once more fall into the waters from which I dragged myself a few years ago. A sodden rag of bewilderment, I will stumble forth and buy on command.

I say this from a position of love. I am very lucky to be in a place in my life where such rambling proclamations can be made.

I will confess I bought and received cards but, more importantly, I spent time with my loved ones. It’s taken me a long time to realise the real value of love can’t be measured by one day.

There will be flowers, chocolates, romantic meals and discrete packages bought and received in the future but not by any other schedule than ours.

No Excuses

It’s too easy for me to avoid and put off things I know I should do.

I’m not sure why that is, why my willpower diminishes at odd points of the day and with little to no warning. Some days I’m buzzed up and feeling good and getting things done, which in turn helps me feel good and get more things done – nothing like a bit of achievement to drive more achievement, regardless of the scale.

But some days I can go from that to sofa mode in a matter of minutes.

I get around this by scheduling time and by keeping a list of things I need to do, even if I don’t always stick to them it does help.

For the to do list the app I use (Todoist) has a little gamification option called Karma points which I’ll admit do keep me more honest and more driven to both use the app and to complete tasks rather than deferring them.

For the scheduled time I have slots in my calendar (recently added) to go to the gym. I don’t have a way of gaming that but I do have a post-it stuck up on a mirror in the bedroom that says “No Excuses”. By and large my approach is to remove as many obstacles as I can because I know that even the smallest road bump could trigger an excuse and a switch to sofa mode.

For example I’m about to change gyms from one which is about a 10-15 min drive from my flat but has no parking, to one which I pass on my way to work every single day and has plenty of parking. I’m gaming myself in that respect, relying on the guilt of driving past the gym every single day I’m in the office to change my behaviours.

I’ve failed at this in the past, and I will fail again. As I’ve already said, that’s ok but I’m trying and that’s what matters to me.

Daily Personal Bandwidth

How much energy should I expend on what?

How much is my time worth?

With finite resources available these are questions I find myself far more aware of these days, both in my personal and professional lives.

An example: I’ve recently been having issues with my internet connection at home. Sky are my internet provider and it’s been ok aside from some quirks when I switched over (top tip: Sky routers really don’t like it when you change the SSID) but occasionally I get a little drop out here and there.

I’ve tried changing the broadcast channel but that hasn’t really seemed to help so I end up rebooting the router from time to time, probably not even once a month. Rebooting isn’t a permanent solution but as I live in a block of flats and I can see up to 20 different WIFI networks, it’s probably about as good a solution as I’ll get.

Basically I don’t think it’s worth the time and effort to find a permanent solution, so why bother? Why spend time and energy on something that doesn’t really bother me all that much?

I realise now that I’ve been taking the same approach with my emotional energy. I accept that I have a limited bandwidth and that that bandwidth changes from week to week. Some weeks I can handle anything the world wants to throw at me, others I’d much rather hole up on my sofa and binge watch TV (which I know doesn’t actually help… ).

It means that my interactions with people can and do change from day to day. If I’m honest it probably changes hour to hour at times depending on how my day is going. Top tip: my Twitter usage is probably a good indicator, lots of tweets equals spare emotional energy, fewer (or no) tweets means I’m preserving what I have for the people I love.

I think I’ve been doing this for a while now without even realising it so it’s good to be able to step back and realise that I’m managing my moods better and spending my energies in the ‘right’ places.

I recently wrote () about my desire to better manage my moods and this is an extension of that. It’s not something new, I’ve been tackling this for a while now, but in the past month or so it definitely seems to have gotten better. I’m less stressed at work (which can use a LOT of my emotional energy) and I’m noticing small changes in my own behaviours and reactions to things that, in the past, would’ve had a big impact.

This year is about slow and steady. I’m tempering my usual ‘want it all now’ desires and realising that it’s taken me a long time to become who I am today, so changing any aspect of that will take a while too.

It means realising that I have a limited bandwidth for dealing with life. I won’t be able to everything every day, some days it’s ok to do nothing (something I struggle with), and some days I’ll only be able to handle a few things.

One day at a time.

On Dating and Poly

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.

One advantage of being non-monogamous is that you can go on dates even if you already have a partner or two, how great is that? Not only can you have wonderful long-term relationships, you can still cast your line out into the rocky sea of potential ‘others’ and then spend nerve-wracking night after nerve-wracking night trying to convince said ‘other’ that you aren’t a complete mentalist.

I kid. Sort of.

As it turns out, I’ve not been on that many dates myself. My first date with Kirsty was under the monogamous guise and… well I’ll be honest, neither of us is really sure what our first date actually was; we worked together so already knew each other, we’d both recently found ourselves single, have similar tastes in music and movies, we kinda fell into a relationship.

That said I do remember our first kiss. It was so romantic, after a candle light dinner, we walked until the sunset, nervously hand in hand across the beach, listening to the gentle lapping of the waves. We paused to watch the last shard of the red sun dip beneath the horizon, slowly turned, looked into each others eyes and realised we’d fallen for each other. We leaned in and … nope I can’t lie, it wasn’t like that at all.

It was a hastily grabbed snog on the stairs of a bar called Nice N Sleazy in Glasgow, on a cold October night. We were both tipsy enough to be able to abandon ourselves to the moment and I won’t ever forget it! Screw you romance, gimme beer and a grungy bar any day!!

Time passed, we decided to try an open relationship and so it was I found myself walking through Glasgow on my way to meet Clare for our first date (I’m not sure stealing her chips the first time I properly spoke to her really counts).

I can’t recall why I picked the pub I did, maybe because I knew it, maybe because it’s a low-key kinda place, not too ‘old man’ nor too ‘trendy hipster’. As I walked down the lane, early as I am wont to be, I sent Kirsty a quick text telling her I was almost at the pub and completely shitting myself.

She reassured me, for about the 100th time that hour, that everything would be ok, that I should relax and just be myself. Thankfully the bar has a large glass frontage so I could see that I’d gotten their first so I walked in and quickly ordered some dutch courage.

The date went well, my fears about not having any conversation were unfounded, we laughed, and smiled, it was a pretty damn good first date.

So what’s so special about dating if you are polyamorous? Well for one you have someone to talk to about it, both before hand and after, and I think it relieves some of the pressure. If both parties know the situation going in then you’ve immediately taken away the ‘find the one’ aspect that a lot of dating seems to include.

One thing I would say, if you are considering a poly or open relationship, is that you don’t need to go on dates. When we first started looking at this lifestyle I read a lot of articles and there is an almost assumed state of poly = longer term partners + a lot of dating.

I will now contradict this and say that, whilst I have two very lovely, loving partners, there is part of me that enjoyed the excitement and nervous tension that dating brings. It’s not so much the New Relationship Energy (which is also great) but that sense of the unknown. Maybe that’s why so many poly people are actively dating, to keep that element of the excitement in their lives.

Kirsty and I touched on this when we discussed changing our relationship structure, we’d both come from long term relationships and recognised that one thing we should guard against is complacency. It’s easy for a good relationship to slowly crumble through comfort and familiarity, for two people to drift apart and not even realise it’s happening until it’s too late.

Regardless of your own situation, communication and honesty are key. If you are going out on a date with someone, make sure they know your circumstance in advance. Sure, they might not understand it but if they are interested you can talk them through how, and why, it works for you. Equally I know some poly families have rules around dating, and it’s not a bad idea to set some expectations; if you are going to ask someone out on a date, or have been asked, then mention it to your partners.

Of course once you get on the date it’s the same whether you are poly or not.

Nerve-wracking.

But maybe that’s just me.