Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It Is Mostly in My Mind

We still play at spanking sometimes.

It is a different sort of experience than it was once.  I have more options, and way more control.  If I say "no," then everything comes to a halt, and we each go back to our corners.  There is not much discussion, and if it disappoints him, or frustrates him, or makes him wish for something different, then I don't ever hear about it.  He just quits, and we go on about our more ordinary, vanilla life together.

That means that, if there is going to be spanking play that actually goes anywhere much, the burden for making that happen falls on me.  I have to get to it, and stay with it, and find a way to be in the moment enough to follow the trail through the pain and fear to whatever good might lie on the other side of that sometimes formidable barrier.  And I have to do it without much in the way of help or support from him.

Spanking, for me, has always been about my mindset.  What I experience in the midst of a spanking session is determined, in large part, by where my head is.  I have to give it up, and go with it.  If I get caught up in any sort of emotional weighing or measuring or bargaining or calculating or wanting or demanding...  then I can pretty much guarantee that the spanking will overwhelm me, and result in a sense of anger and betrayal.  Nothing good can come from any of that.

Most often, I find that I do better with some sort of fairly rhythmic, mantra-ish mental chant that keeps me in the moment, and prevents me from swirling out into all the mental chatter.  Over the years, I have used a lot of different sort of mental chants to ride through the tough places in a spanking:
"Yours always and all ways"
"I love you, Sir"
"I am just a butt"
"One two three four five six seven eight"

At different times in different ways, each of those have helped me along the path to processing and eroticizing the pain of a spanking.

Now though, I find that my mind goes to the unseen, unknown others that loom on the horizon... the spankos that have or will be part of his spanking experience.  They are more willing, more sturdy, more pure in some sense than I am, and he is able to take a chance with them that he won't take with me.  I understand the need that drives the move to connect with them, and I endorse the general idea of it all.  It is not, however, a reality without its emotional challenges.  At the beginning of a spanking, when I am most tentative, most vulnerable, it is hard to be in a mental place of wondering if he is actually with me, or is really practicing for his encounters with those others.  Is what is happening about me?  About us?  Or am I just a stand in?  It is hard.

And so the session on Sunday morning started off a little rough.  I felt that he launched right in to more high end play than I was prepared for, with no real warm up.  It made me angry.  Frustrated.  I wanted him to help me, and I was immediately fussy.  Of course, the minute I expressed that, he got defensive, and began to pull away.  I knew right away, that if I didn't figure it out, he would end the session, and I would lose the opportunity.  And I wanted a chance to "get there."

So, I dropped back into position, determined to tough it out, see it through.  And then I hit upon the magic mindset that made it work for me.  I put the nameless, faceless others around the edge of the room.  Silent witnesses to what was happening.  And in my mind?  The mantra that worked to carry me along on the crest of the pain?

"Watch and learn, Motherfuckers!"

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Thoughts on Dominance and Submission

I spent a good number of years living in the "one down" position in a BDSM erotic power exchange.  Before that, I'd spent even more years wishing that I could find that sort of relationship dynamic.  Even as I held tightly to my strong feminist philosophy and political views, I wanted a different sort of reality for my own intimate world... a paradox that I came to accept without any sense of needing to reconcile or resolve the divergence.

I found comfort, security, and sometime even joy in living that life choice.  I remember those days with fondness.  Now that it is gone, no longer part of my life, I look back and find I have no regrets about the time I spent in that place.

But it is gone.  I am not, any longer, a submissive.  I do not practice submission.  I do not think about myself in those terms anymore.  The dynamic was created between my partner and me.  It was a joint effort.  While there are those who believe that a submissive can exist apart from the dominant opposite number, I do not.

Submission is a responsive expression of erotic potential.  It arises in the presence of a trusted dominant force; a partner who calls it forth.  I do think that some of us are "wired" to make that sort of response under the correct conditions, but being inclined that way is only part of what needs to happen to bring it all into being.  Without an active, conscious, deliberate and willing partner, there is truly nothing to submit to, and hence no real submission.  I know.  I have tried:  carried out all the motions, made all the moves, dreamed all the dreams.  It isn't the same thing.  I don't know what it is, but I know it isn't submission.

For a time, I mourned that reality.  Missed the charge that was, for me, present in the power dance.  But mourning ends.  It must.  Life calls us onward, and we move a s we must.

So, now, I take care of the things I take care of.  I carry my share of the work.  I make the effort to be a good partner.  I do not however, hang on his every word.  I do not wait, breathlessly, to know what he might want or need.  I don't strive to anticipate what he might require.  He can take care of the things he wants as well as I can.  If he doesn't ask it, I don't feel like it is my job to do it or give it or produce it.  I don't keep score or balance accounts, but I do stay in a place of awareness of what is "fair" and equitable, and these days, I want there to be equitable sharing.  The thrill that compensated for the lack of fairness in my D/s relationship is not there, and without that, there is nothing at all to pay me back for the self-discipline and sacrifices that submission requires.

I don't know which way is better. These two relationship styles are different.  Different enough that there is not really any good place of comparison.  I imagine it looks pretty much the same from the outside, but it isn't.  I know it isn't.

Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if he felt his own urges toward dominance surge back to life.  I wonder if he would choose me in that event?  I wonder if I would choose to try again?  I wonder if I could retrace the steps, find the path, bend that far?  I wonder...  and then I feel myself give a mental shrug, and go on.  It is an exercise in mental masturbation.  Nothing more.  You cannot step into the same stream twice.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Risking the Hostile Stare

A very long time ago, friends held a collaring ceremony in my home (http://theheronclan.blogspot.com/2013/09/bob-and-jans-collaring-song.html), using a modified version of the John Ball hymm, "The Summons," as part of the ceremony.  I am occasionally reminded about the event because the song comes up in a fairly regular rotation at the all school masses that I attend with my Catholic school students each week.  I generally take note, and privately label it as "kinky" with an inward smile.

Today, though, I heard the same music and the same lyrics, and was suddenly struck by this line:
Will you risk the hostile stare
Should your life attract or scare?

 I do think that there is, inherent to living in an alternative relationship model, the potential for those "hostile stares" when people notice that you don't adhere to the social norms.  That type of hostile stare is expected, and it doesn't surprise or particularly bother me.  People don't understand our polyamorous lifestyle, and it tends to scare the willies out of regular monogamously oriented types.  In the poly community, we encounter the hostile stares because "our kind" of poly is not as wide open and gender fluid as is the norm.  So, within that community, the hostile stares come from people who figure that if you are not up for full on poly-fuckery, then you aren't genuinely poly at all.

So be it.  We have, for many years now, done this thing that we do according to our own lights, and pretty much everyone has, at one point or another, been convinced we are doing it all wrong.

But, this morning, hearing that lyric, I felt an almost visceral response as I recalled the widespread recoil that happened around the BDSM blogging world when our family confronted issues of addiction and codependence five years ago.  Our lives had attracted plenty of folks.  We'd shared broadly and intensely about our journey.  If any of what we had together was scary to people, it was the sort of scary that drove their curiosity and hunger to know more and more and even more.

And then things got hard.  Really hard.  And ugly.  And painful.  And very, very, very scary.  And that's when the stares turned hostile.  With very few exceptions, people who had claimed to be "friends" turned tail and ran.  Or, worse, they stayed and lobbed judgmental, superior, self-satisfied comments our way.  Hostility ran rampant.

Because...  While kink has that delicious kind of exciting scary quality, the difficult business of holding on to a loved one through a nasty, scary, life-threatening illness like addiction is not at all exciting or titillating.  It is just miserable and hard and lonely.  It pulls the whole family system into the darkness.  And, as we learned, there is not anything at all sexy about being there, living there, healing there, and finding the strength to go on and live and love from there.

The hostile stares came from people who knew they were better than us.  The hostile stares came from people who felt we'd gotten what we deserved.  The hostile stares came from people who genuinely wished us ill.  The hostile stares came from people who somehow believed that we had disappointed them.  Did we RISK those hostile stares?  Did we invite the invective that was heaped on our heads and hearts?  What did we present to the world, and what was the attraction?  In what ways did we create that sense of fear?

I don't know the answers to all of those questions.  I do know that we survived, healed, and grew.  We are here.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

I Don't Care OR... Just Stop and Be Happy

Life, depending on how you look at it, can be hard sometimes.  OR...  If you just turn your head a touch, and look, you realize how really good it is to be alive.  I am, I have discovered, far too inclined to see life in the first sense, and not often enough in the second.  I am, it seems, forever wanting some undefined, nebulous thing which I do not currently have, and cannot seem to obtain.

Then I get all mopey and sad and dissatisfied.  I know it is all terribly unfair, and I know I am just not built for happiness, and I know that EVERYBODY ELSE drew the lucky hands... and got what I will never, ever be able to have.

It is such a crazy dance.  It comes from crazy, and it creates more crazy.  Because, here's the thing:  on a day when I have my head screwed on, I realize that my life is fine.  There is nothing at all to be unhappy about.  I am loved.  I love.  I am relatively well.  I have enough.  There are sweet, soft, gentle times sprinkled through all of the days, and it is not at all a bad thing.

The things that tend to make me unhappy are silly, unrealistic wishes:

  • wishing I could go back and not do the hysterectomy
  • wishing I could go back and not marry badly as I did
  • wishing I could go back and not fall into the patterns that led to crisis and destruction
  • wishing I could go back and not get to be so old
  • wishing I could not have migraine headaches
  • wishing there were more money and fewer worries
  • wishing I could find the perfect romance that would make my life full of roses and violin music
  • wishing I could retire now
  • wishing I could work until I am really ready to retire
  • wishing my kids lived closer
  • wishing I had the ability to travel to see my kids whenever I wanted
  • wishing there were more power dynamics in my relationship, but not so many that it would make me sad or mad

Wishing, wishing, wishing until the whole of my waking life is filled up with useless, endless, unproductive wishing for bits of nothing at all.  When it is all said and done, I am left exhausted and frightened and endlessly sad, with no idea where to go to change it at all.

Until today.

Today, sitting beside Tom, watching football, after a very nice morning and a good day together, I suddenly realized that HE is what I am wishing for.  THIS life is what I am wishing for.  The work I do is good and will suffice until I am really done -- whenever that may be.  And we will go on together to be who we are with one another.  There will undoubtedly be storms, but we've weathered those already, and will again.  It changes nothing.  My life is mine.  Fashioned as I have chosen to make it.  There will be times with more, and times with less, but it is all enough for me.  I choose, tonight and from here forward, to be grateful for this one moment in this one life that is uniquely mine.

Someone please, remind me when I get mired in the swamp again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Ones Who Do All the Hard Stuff

First, an update of sorts:

  • We are fine.  Maybe even good.  That is important to know.
  • He has begun to reach out to find other partners to spank.
  • The intent is for these connections to be strictly platonic; involving only spanking.
  • It is an opportunity for him to play with people at a more high-end level that I feel is beyond me these days.
  • I know about it all, and I am mostly fine with it.  For more about that "mostly" bit, you can read on.  I will try and explain.
  • There is some hope, from my perspective, that this is a development that signifies a level of healing for which I have waited years now.
  • I am also feeling hopeful that, in practicing some power-dynamics with people for whom there is no history, he will find his way into re-engaging in that part of our lives together.  A girl can hope.

There.  The facts as I know them.

Now, on to the mostly part of it all.  Because, of course, I am never able to just leave well enough alone.

Do you ever consider the people who do all the work, all the hard labor, that brings you the things that make your life good and easy and comfortable?  When you sit down to a nice meal, do you see any of those who tilled the soil, planted and nurtured, worried about the rain and the sun and the pests and the market prices?  Do you feel any solidarity with the ones who harvested the crop?  Do you hear the hum of the tires on the trucks and the trains that carried that food to market?  Do you have any sense of the investors who built and stocked and manned the stores where you purchased the groceries that adorn your table?  What about the people who supply the power to run the stove?  Or the ones who laid the pipes that carry fresh, clean water to your kitchen?

I am, at this moment, feeling strongly aligned with all of those who do all the hard stuff.  Who work and labor and go mostly unseen and unnoticed by all of those who benefit from their labors and their efforts.  Because...  I feel like I am in the position of those unseen ones who labor behind the shadows, doing all the dirty, drudge work, so that "we" can just kind of stroll into the local grocer, pick up whatever, and fix a nice meal without so much as a "thank you very much!"

I know that all these "new ones" who will wander in and out of here, getting spanked have no ill intent, and no idea about what they are tapping into.  They do not know or care about the years that have passed while the healing has happened; while I have waited and hoped and dreamed of once again having what they will now just show up and take as their due. I also know that it isn't a zero sum game, and I believe that their presence may, in fact, restore some of what has been lost.  I know all of that; believe all of that -- and still there is the niggling sense that they really SHOULD at least consider what it is that goes into giving them what they are taking out of here.  That is, of course, entirely unreasonable, and I can already feel it seeping away from my awareness.  Saying it here gets it out of the endless replay loop.  That can't be a bad thing.  If it quiets down in my head, I will get through this next leg of the journey with less fuss.  I am sure.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Time Has Passed

It has been years now; years since life was so radically altered.  So many seconds have passed since...  Well, truthfully, I don't even know the moment I should point to and say, "since then."  To be able to indicate the moment when it all began to change, I would have to identify the date and time when the dream exploded and it all started to crumble into a heap.  I can't do that.  I can tell you the dates when everything seemed to fall into spiraling crisis, but I think the destruction started a very long time before that.  The foundations were never solid, and the edifice that we tried to build could not stand.  Probably, it really doesn't matter when exactly the first crack appeared.  There were cracks.  That is enough to know about the beginning of the failure.

Now, though, time has passed, and we remain.  We have learned a variety of ways of living together in the rubble of what was.  I think, in some sense, we are healthier here in our rubble pile than we ever were in the castle in the sky.

I am approaching my 61st birthday.  So much of what was part and parcel of who I am in the world is now gone.   My past is only barely remembered.  The places I once knew.  The family I once had.  The people I once knew.  I am a long term transplant in this part of Ohio.  It feels familiar.  This is where I am.  I am no longer feeling pulled west.  That is no longer home.  In fact, the notion of home seems foreign to me.  To have a place where one undeniably belongs; that is a gift that only a few lucky souls ever really receive.  Not me. I have no home.  I have a place.  It offers shelter and a way to live.  I am not endangered here.  I clearly don't really belong in the spaces available here, but I am not obviously foreign either.

Time has changed so much.  They say that time heals, but I don't think it really does.  It allows the bleeding to be staunched, the scars to form, the new patterns and realities to become habitualized...  The wounding, however, remains.  For me, the grace is that I have come to accept most of it.  Not all, but most.  Like the losses that came with the hysterectomy, now almost a decade ago, I have become accustomed to the emptiness and the distance and the toned-down politeness of my life.  It is what I expect, and those other expectations have largely expired due to lack of any sort of sustenance.
I remember, early on, when I was still on fire, trying to do IT all right.  I felt there was a bargain in place within my relationship, and that if I held up my end sufficiently, there would be some sort of reciprocity -- a payback of sorts.  I talked at some length about it all to a domme friend of ours.  She told me, quite sternly, "You say you want to be a slave.  So slave."  I did not know what to do with that then.  The wants and the needs and the expectations were all still alive and kicking.  Now, at almost 61, most of that drive/demand has passed on.  I can take care of my own wants and needs for the most part, and I have very few illusions that anyone else really cares much.  And me?  Do I care, really?  Not enough to fight for it all.

I've made the choices that brought me here.  It is all on me.  I can't go back and change the story.  What lies ahead is exactly what lies behind.  Time has passed.  What time remains will pass as well, and this story will become just a memory.  Nothing more.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Trouble with Meetup

Image result for meetup
We have, over the last couple of years, tried several Meetup groups.  Meetup is a social networking site for groups of people who share common interests.  Leaders pay a fee, and then can set up a group to focus on just about anything that interests them.  We've spent time with an atheist group, a group of "alternative spirituality" types, a polyamory group, and most recently, a sex-positive group.  Sometimes we attend several gatherings over a period of time.  With other groups, it is one and done.  In general, our experiences with the various Meetup groups has been disappointing.  So, what is it that causes the reality of Meetups to fall so far short of the promise?

The first factor that impacts our experience of the Meetup experience is that we are OLD.  Whatever the stated purpose of the group, there is almost always an unstated purpose which is for young adults to find sexual/romantic partners.  We are clearly not there to hookup at the Meetup, and so we become significantly less interesting to the rest of the group.  I did, just last week, have a series of emails from a Meetup Troll.  His first email was pretty innocuous, asking, "what is a triad?"  I answered that we are polyamorous, and there are three of us.  So, we are not a couple, we are a triad.  Almost immediately, I got another email asking if we wanted to add a good man to the family.  Blech.  The move to treat Meetup like a meat market is strong.

Then there are the Meetup denizens themselves.  We have found that, while the goal is to provide a vehicle for social interaction, many of the individuals we've met lack basic social skills.  The events that we have attended are full of people who are painfully shy, can't hold up their end of a conversation, are frightened and terribly defensive, or, at the other end of the scale, are so full of ego that they have no use at all for other people.  The truth seems to be that people who can engage adequately with other people make friends without the intermediary function of a Meetup style vehicle.

Meetup provides the connection between individuals, but the necessary infrastructure for the actual face-to-face encounters is a tougher challenge.  Meetup groups need a place to actually meet up.  Here, at least, that happens most frequently in public venues like restaurants.  Since most restaurants charge extra for a private meeting room, and since most of the folks we have met want to keep the costs down (and we are all for that ourselves), gatherings tend to happen in big, open, noisy restaurants with the whole bunch seated around some large table configuration.  It doesn't lend itself to deep conversation, and really limits you to chatting casually with the people across the table and on either side of you.  If you really want to sit and talk, or discuss something in depth, then you need a quiet place to do that.  Tom tends to observe that most Meetup events are designed to prevent you from actually Meeting Up.

Meetup groups that survive very long; that develop a following or a core group, tend to grow inner circle cliques.  Once there are a few people who know one another in the center of the group, newcomers and occasional attendees can, quite naturally, find themselves on the outside of the circle.
We attended an event last night; a burlesque show at a local "concert" venue. The tickets were not inexpensive, and the parking in the area was very limited.  When we did finally find a lot with a space available, we had to pay $25 for the privilege.  Inside, the music was cranked up to deafening levels, and the only alternative to buying booze was overpriced bottled water.  Our shoes stuck to the floors and the restrooms ...  Well, never mind.  You do not want to know.  It was impossible to have a conversation.  We were seated on miserable, uncomfortable, metal folding chairs with a terrible view of the stage.  The event organizer turned out to be a young guy with minimal social skills who seemed to find it painful to talk to us.  Other members of the group took one look at the three of us, and clearly decided we were too old to bother with.  When the show actually started, it turned out that most of the "dancers" were of the opinion that they did not need any talent as long as they were willing to show their butts and shake their tits.  We left at intermission.

Probably, we are done with Meetups.  We keep thinking that maybe THIS time it will be better, but it never is.  We sometimes imagine a social group of interesting, bright, conversant friends with whom we could just be who we are.  Statistically, there have to be people like that out there, but perhaps they are as "undercover and in the closet" as we are.  In any case, wherever they may be, it seems clear that Meetups are not the places where we are going to find them.

Friday, September 4, 2015


I have a friend and a colleague; a woman with whom I taught for a short while.  She owns a bit of land.  Among other things, she grows milkweed.

 Milkweed, as it happens, is the ONLY food that the caterpillars (larvae) of the monarch butterfly will eat.  We humans tend to view milkweed as a weed, and therefore, a nuisance.  We have worked hard to root it out of our gardens and our farm fields, and hence, we have left the monarch butterfly with severely limited range for laying its eggs and propagating successive generations.  Between the loss of milkweed, climate change pushing the distance the butterflies must travel on their annual migration, and large-scale logging in the regions of Mexico where the butterflies go to overwinter, monarchs are in BIG trouble.  Some counts put the loss of this beautiful, winged creature between 50% and 80% in the last few years.

So, a couple of weeks ago, my friend called me to say that her milkweed was just covered with growing caterpillars, and would I like some for my science classroom.  Oh HECK Yes!!!  So, now my room is filled with a series of glass aquarium tanks, with screen tops, housing the voracious and messy caterpillars, the pupa stage chrysalises, and a series of emerging butterflies.  My students are absolutely fascinated by the whole thing, and it has brought a lively dialog to life as they flock in and out of my room to check on OUR butterflies.

So far, we have released three of the magnificently lovely, orange and black, flying works of art.  We have seen them lift into the sky, flutter around in erratic, jubilant circles and then soar off; headed we hope back to their winter homes in the highlands of Mexico.  There is the scientific interest and inquiry that has grown up around it all, and that is very satisfying to my teacher's soul.  But there is an element of magic and wonder and pure amazement at the whole vibrant, insistent, nearly incomprehensible metamorphosis.  And, THAT is something I never expected.  What a gift for us all!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quiet and Glow-y

School started last Tuesday.  Our long, lazy summer days have come to an end.

We did not spank much this summer.  Tom had his left shoulder replaced at the end of June, and the recovery period is long and very, very, VERY limiting in terms of the level of mobility that is allowed for weeks and weeks.  Even though it has been, theoretically, possible for him to spank me with his right hand, we both find that the activity is much more two-handed than it might seem.

So, except for a few sessions prior to that June 30th surgery, spanking has been mostly off the menu for the last two months.  We are, slowly, working our way back to it, but to me at least, it feels like beginning from the start.  I'm more iffy about the whole business, and more erratic in my capacity for just going with it.  I approach each attempt with some wild mixture of eager anticipation and intense anxiety.  It still IS my primary pathway into sexual satisfaction, but it never has been an easy path, and that does not get better as I get older.  I am not the sturdy masochist I once was.  Achy joints and fragile skin just complicate the story.

Too, my frequent migraines make my life an ongoing series of prodromes, actual headaches, and then post-migrainal after effects.  I find I have very few days when I just feel GOOD.  Not feeling GOOD makes much of the rest of life harder, and the sexual/erotic parts of life are no exception -- especially when the sexual/erotic mode that is best for you is firmly anchored in sadomasochistic impact play.  How I envy the folks who do all of this in some easy, "normal" fashion.  Ah, well...

This morning, however, we hit it just right.  Pun absolutely intended.  I got my spanking, He got to spank, and we were right there together, in a really good place.  The sex was good for us both, and the after glow was comfortable.  I noticed that, in that space, my mind is quiet, and the world seems glow-y.  Not church this bright Sunday morning, but surely a chance to touch the divine.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


I dreamed up Jimmie a couple of nights ago.  Literally, I dreamed him:  a beautiful young man, with dark eyes, gentle hands, and an uncanny sense of how to please a woman (especially a woman of 60 years who just isn't that easy anymore).

The interesting thing about my dreaming Jimmie is that I put him into a context where I got all the goodie out of the encounter without having to supply anything much in return.  Jimmie and I met at a party.  That's all I really know about that part of the dream.  No real context; just a gathering in someone's home.  There was music and food, and lots of general milling around and social chatter.  Jimmie materialized out of nowhere, and we talked.  We talked for a good long while, and then, after a bit, I suggested to him that we might go downstairs and find someplace quieter.  He agreed, and we wandered off into the basement of the house, and into a back bedroom.  There, Jimmie used his hands and his mouth in ways that were quite wonderful and left me panting in delight.  However, when I offered to return the favor, Jimmie, who had not even unbuttoned his shirt, declined.  He told me that he had gotten into poison ivy, and did not want me to be exposed, and then he was gone, and I awakened.

Not the most sophisticated dream.  There doesn't seem to be much of subtlety to all of that.  I am laying it at the door of an anti-depressant medication that I was given to prevent migraines, and have recently stopped taking.  I feel certain that the medication was suppressing my libido and my sex drive, and that the removal of the drug has turned up the heat on my sexual urges.  And so, Jimmie.  I wonder about the imbalance between us, but then it seemed that neither of us were unhappy, and so maybe that is the lesson:  things don't have to be equal as long as everyone gets what makes them happy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Policing in Our Communities

I grew up in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, and Officer McCarthy was a fixture in our schools and neighborhoods.  There wasn't a kid who didn't know him and love him.  He was a one man ambassador for the local police department, working to promote safety and community relations.  Whether he was running a bicycle rodeo, or playing the role of Santa Claus, his big smile and booming voice made us all believe that the police were there for us; a part of us; people we could trust and count on.

I have thought about Officer Ed McCarthy many times over the last 4-1/2 years, wondering what distance has come to separate the inherently good, entirely service oriented Irish cop of my childhood from the brutish, thuggish types that answered my desperate calls for help when our family was in crisis. I've thought about him often in these days when the police have been so often in the news, at the vortex of a rising tide of inexplicable violence tinged with racism.  I remembered him, with fondness, as our city buried a seemingly "good cop" who died trying to talk a young black man out of suicide in the heat of the summer.

What is it, I wonder, that makes for a "good cop?"  Over the years, I've known many law enforcement personnel; parents to the children who have passed through my classroom.  They are as uniformly human as parents of any other profession -- some are wise and kind and perceptive while others are frighteningly angry, mean-spirited, and vindictive...  It is my observation, based on limited data, that not everyone is cut out for police work; and that not all who begin the work should continue it.  The truth is that, in the performance of their duties, police see things that are hard to witness, and that can work to change them for the worse.  Some are strong enough, but not all of them.

Every time I hear another report of a young black man, woman, or child shot by a white police officer, I wonder why it matters what the respective racial identities might be.  Is it measurably worse, or better, for an armed police officer who is black to shoot an unarmed white citizen?   I don't mean to deny the depth of the pain at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement in this country.  I think that anger and pain is entirely appropriate and justified.  I do however wonder if our fixation on the race of the officers and their victims obscures a very salient fact:  Police should belong to us. They should come from our communities.  They should know us, and we should know them. They should serve as we choose for them to do, and they should yield only the powers with which we endow them.

As police departments have moved toward an increasingly militarized stance; equipped with weaponry and technologies developed for the battlefield, is it any wonder that our streets have come to seem like war zones?  How is it possible to police a neighborhood that is populated entirely by strangers -- the other?  How can we send young men and women out to prevent violence and protect the citizenry, if they do not know those same citizens.  Shouldn't our police be our brothers and our sisters?  Shouldn't the cop who patrols our streets know the elders in our communities; the power brokers; the neediest of our neighbors?  Shouldn't our children flock to greet our neighbors who serve and protect?  And -- shouldn't they be entirely safe and welcome in doing so?

I think there are some BAD cops.  I think there are some very bad cops; people who haven't the moral strength or judgement to fit them for that so very important role.  But I think there are some, even now ... decades from my childhood, who serve with honor and dedication and a sense of mission, and they should be the models for the future of a better kind of policing.  Our police ought to come from us.  They ought to be "of" us; raised in our neighborhoods, and intimately familiar with us.  They ought to derive their powers from our consent, and they should have no power at all except what we give to them.  We ought to be able to clearly define what it is we need them to do, and we ought to negotiate with them about how those needs can and should be met.  From the streets of Detroit to the sidewalks of Liberal, Kansas, there should be no police with power to destroy our children's lives.  They ought to work with us, for us, beside us.  We ought to embrace them and hold them close.

As long as police see the citizens who are theirs to protect as "THEY," there is a problem.  As long as we see our police as "THEY," there is a problem.  Policing is hard work, and it is work that we need to have done well.  But as long as we are not defining the parameters of that police work, we will continue to be served badly, and that is not a function of race.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Liberal Old School Feminist

Image result for feminist
I happened across this blog entry by Margaret and Helen, and it reminded me that I am of one mind with these two women -- feminist to my bones, and appalled by the anti-female bias that is so much of the fabric of the thinking that goes on in Republican political discourse.

Actually, I've been reminded of my liberal feminist leanings several times in the last few weeks.  I guess that the fact that I have been reminded points to the fact that those long-held fiery views have been somewhat more quiet of late.  I am, like Margaret and Helen, of a certain age, and so while I can get furious over threats to women's reproductive freedom, and the associated threats to their overall freedom to live and choose as their male counterparts can, I am no longer personally wrapped up in those issues.  For me, it is more purely political and less directly personal.  Life brings its own changes at every turn, and being 60 is a reality not to be discounted.

I've never made my political views a secret.  I am pro-choice.  I am anti-war, and anti-gun.  I think that everyone ought to have the same rights as everyone else, regardless of race, color, gender, sexual identity, economic status, etc.  I think that there are limits to the potential for the free market to get it right in cases of social well-being and simple justice.  I don't think that anyone should have their religious freedom curtailed, but I am adamant that your religious liberty should not ever impinge on me or anyone else.  I am for the living wage.  I am for universal, free educational access from pre-school through college.  I think that workers ought to be valued for the worth of their contributions -- tell me why the person who mops the floors and scrubs the toilets in the office tower is less valuable than those who sit in the corner offices?  Who values the contributions that each one makes?  I absolutely insist that climate change is a real thing, and that it is we humans that are the primary cause of the whole mess.

I have ALWAYS voted democratic, with only one exception. In the year that Jimmy Carter was elected president, I wrote in my vote for John Anderson.  It wasn't a lean to the right.  It was a declaration that Carter was too conservative in my view.  I will, again, cast my vote for the democratic candidate for president in 2016; whoever that may be.  I am not wildly enthusiastic about Hilary Clinton, but I absolutely think she is the best choice out of the likely options.  I'd be more inclined to vote for Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but I am not thinking that those two will turn out to be choices this time around.  So, Hilary it is.

So, yes -- I am unashamedly, irredeemably liberal/progressive in my views.

But for today, let's talk about reproductive freedom and a woman's right to choose what happens to her body.  I was pregnant, for the first time, when I was 20 years old.  I was remarkably naive, and sexually inexperienced, and I thought I was in love.  When I turned up pregnant, I was scared and confused and defiantly determined to "take care of it myself."  I wanted not to marry BECAUSE I was pregnant.  I did not want him to feel trapped into a marriage he did not want, although that was my fear; not his.  I did not know what I should do.  Roe v Wade was, at that time, two years old.  Abortion was legal, although not widely or easily available.  I did consider the possibility.  I also considered leaving town; finding someplace where I could work anonymously and quietly and support myself and my unborn baby.  In the end, I was persuaded to stay, to keep the baby, and to marry that baby's father.  My firstborn is now 39 years old.  I've been divorced from his father for many years.  I am thrilled that I chose to become his mother.  I cannot say, looking back, that I made the correct choice regarding the marriage.  I do however remain convinced that, for right or wrong, all of those choices were mine to make.

I cringe each time the news brings fresh reports of renewed assaults on that right to make a choice.  As our nation veers toward ever more shrill expressions of religious fundamentalism, it seems the chipping away at reproductive freedom is relentless.  Those who would view women as vessels for babies, are more and more strident in their calls for limits to access to contraception, access to safe, legal abortion, and access to fertility treatments.  There is the ever narrower window before our medical science can, in theory, keep a very, very, very young fetus alive; the point of, so called, viability.

Now, we have a presidential candidate who is pushing to apply our Constitution's 5th and 14th amendments to embryos and fetuses.  Because, of course, all life is sacred and worthy of protection ...  unless that life is female or black or brown.  Those lives become far less valuable and worthy at the moment of birth than they are at the moment of conception.  That is every bit as crazy as it sounds.  The truth is that, while we can see the chromosomal information that will result in the eventual formation of a fully formed human infant at the moment of conception, that bit of cellular material is more potential than it is human.  According to the March of Dimes, about 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, many of them before a woman even knows that she is pregnant.

The current target for the anti-female conservatives is Planned Parenthood. Nothing particularly new there.  Planned Parenthood has been in the line of fire for years. This time, it seems that some young doctors with an unfortunate lack of good sense held a shop talk conversation full of graphic details about the abortion procedure and the use of harvested tissues and organs in a public venue.  It seems a remarkable and regrettable lapse in judgement.  However, that being said, the Republican rush to "defund Planned Parenthood" is as appalling as it is predictable.  The fact is that, while Planned Parenthood does provide abortion services to women who choose that option, that is a very small percentage (about 3%) of what the organization does.  Too, there is not one penny of federal funding for abortions at Planned Parenthood.  Some 2,840,000 men and women receive services and education from Planned Parenthood in the U.S. each year.  Other vital medical services and educational programs for women and for men, such as cancer screening, well woman check ups, STD testing, contraceptive services, etc., make up the vast majority of the health care provided by Planned Parenthood.  Many women in difficult economic circumstances, who struggle to pay for regular health care, are served best in Planned Parenthood clinics.  In fact, Planned Parenthood provides the information and access to contraceptive services that work to prevent a great many unplanned pregnancies, and thus reduce the demand for abortion services.

I think this anti-abortion push is grounded in exactly the same sort of argument that conservative fundamentalists make about same-gender marriage:  their religious beliefs tell them that it is wrong, and so they seem convinced that all of us must adhere to their belief system.  I don't intend to insist that those who have religiously based objections to abortion should participate in the practice.  If you think abortion is wrong, then don't have one.  Beyond that, keep your own counsel.  You have no right to impose your beliefs on women who do not believe as you do.

I am aware that this issue of reproductive freedom is not all there is to the feminist agenda.  Today's young women are in the trenches, fighting for equality for women on a wide variety of fronts.  Much of what the youngest feminist activists are about these days seems subtle to me, and I take some pride in that fact.  From my perspective, the good news is that the gross injustices that sent me and my feminist peers to the streets in the 1970's are largely absent from the lives of today's young women.  As the older generation of feminists fought for the right to equal access in schools and workplaces and the world of sports, the younger cadre of feminists see themselves as standing toe to toe with their male counterparts.  That basic equality frees them up to fight the more systemic forms of discrimination, and I am happy to cheer them on.  They make me proud.

If only, we were closer to the day when the idea of gender-based inequities were utterly unthinkable.  If only women could stop fighting against the system that disadvantages them relative to their brothers.  If only we could finally establish, the obvious -- that women's lives are inherently valuable; that women's bodies are their own; that no state and no religious institution has any claim to ownership or control over the lives or bodies of women and girls.  If only...

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Power of Consensual Power Exchange

There have been some four and a half years of struggle in our lives.  Little bits of that have been shared in what I have chosen to share here and at The Heron Clan.  Most outsiders have some sense of the searing pain we've lived through, but what I've shared has been very limited.  The traumas were so deep and so complex that I simply did not have the strength or insight to lay it all out in the public eye.  I do think, however, that we have come most of the way through the worst days.  We are all much better.  The healing continues, but we have more good days than bad, and we are, generally, feeling good about our life together again.

I tend to not look backwards much.  It is a conscious and deliberate choice for me.  I do not find it useful or helpful to wallow in the pain, fear, and anger of those dark days.  With that said, I do think there is one salient fact about our transit of this passage.  In my view of it all, from this vantage point, I find that I have an increasingly strong sense that it was (to some significant degree) our consensual power exchange that saved us.  I don't want to discount all the help that we found, and were given along the way.  We were held close by a few good friends.  We were listened to and helped significantly by some very, very skilled and talented therapists.  We had excellent medical help to track down some underlying, and sometimes arcane, medical issues that needed treatment as an adjunct to the whole of the healing work that has taken place.  We even had the great good luck to find some fascinating spiritual principles that bore us all up out of the muck of the "alcoholics anonymous cult" that we were all forced to take part in for the first years.  I am continually in awe and so grateful for the many, many gifts that the universe put into our hands.  With all of that, though, there were the strong pillars and powerful boundaries that the power exchange dynamic we have forged gave us... and those structures saw us through the minutes and hours and days when we were alone together trying to find our way.

To be clear, the dominance and submission that pervades our intimate life is different from what it once was.  It is less obvious and less flashy than that early, cocky, "we've got this" thing we once crowed about.  It is, perhaps, more subtle -- but that is really only true in the same way that the individual threads are only barely noticed in the weave of the finest fabrics.  That we do not focus on the single threads, does not diminish the value of each bit in the overall whole.  It turns out that, for us, our D/s dynamic is like that.

Power exchange ties us together.  It is a dynamic that works for us; that we each want.  A lot.  It is so fundamentally who we each are that, even as we found our lives and our relationship in a smoking heap, we remained tied to each other in that delicate balance of consensual power exchange.  Even on days when we did not feel it, and couldn't DO it, it was still there.  It held us in place while we hurt and healed.  It kept us here.  I couldn't bring myself to leave, and he couldn't bring himself to let me go.  It was all we had a lot of the time, but it was so very important.  If either of us had let go, that would have been the end. The strong desire was sometimes confusing, and often painful, but it was also a bond that held us together when we could not see our way through the rubble of our former life.

We don't do this out of some broken place.  If nothing else, this passage has highlighted our various strengths.  We are tenacious and stubborn, sometimes to a fault.  But neither of us is looking at power exchange to fill a gap.  We are capable of building a life without the direction and strength of another person.  We want the power-based relating. It is not a "need."

We clearly understand the difference between fantasy and reality.  Boy, do we have that one down!  If there was an element of fantasy to our "before" life, it was broken to bits in the storm that took us down.  If we were living some kind of "fairy tale" in those days, we got yanked into the real world with a vengeance.  It is really real.  What we have now is solid and sure.  Nothing that we have, and nothing that we do is "pretend."

We discovered that we are equals.  We each bring talents and strengths and limits and failings to the table.  Neither of us is perfect.  That is so very, very clear.  We choose the power dynamic, because it works for us, not because one or the other of us is inherently better or superior.  I've always held that a power exchange cannot work except between people that have power to exchange.  Only equals can make the choice to engage in a consensual power relationship like ours.  This is not a relationship style that lends itself to great unevenness.  Weaklings need not apply.

What we discovered, in the shattered shell of what was, is that each of us had great issues.  What we have learned is that neither one of us can fix the other one's "stuff."  We managed to suppress the FACT of our various fears and traumas and scars in the early intense passion that we felt together, but in the end, they caught up to us, tripped us up, and caused us to fall in a great tumble of arms and legs.  So, we have spent time working on those individual bits and pieces.  That work continues.  I imagine that work will continue for however many years we have left.  The truth is that you can't do D/s if you don't recognize and then work on your own shit.

I had to come to grips with the fact that I am a human, and the fact that he is a human.  I wore myself out trying to be the "perfect" slave, and I put unfair demands on him to be the perfect balance to that.  We both proved ourselves unequal to the task of being other than human.  We make mistakes.  We fall short.  We behave badly.  We get tired.  We feel sad.  Some days there is nothing grand about the two of us, individually or together.  Knowing that; acknowledging that; taking that on as an undeniable reality, frees us up to be who we are together.  Now our power dynamic does not have to be perfect.  Ours does not have to be like anyone else's.  We are learning, finally, to simply be who we truly are together, and that is a good thing.

We've learned to be patient.  Well, more patient.  Sometimes, there is nothing to do but listen and wait.  Nothing has to happen right now, in this relationship.  We can know what we each long for, and what our shared hopes are, and we can work toward those things together.  But it may take time.  We may never get to it all.  We will, surely run out of time before we run out of longings and hopes, but each day we have together is a gift that we will never have again.  We have found the quiet patience that helps us to know that.

We've figured out where the supports are.  We've got friends, and those who have stuck it out through these dark years without judgement or taking sides, are valued beyond any treasure.  We've found some wise people to help us sort it all out, and they are important parts of our lives, and will be going forward.  We've got a life that we share, and that we enjoy.  It isn't grand or showy, but it is comfortable, and we are happy with it.  It is enough for today.

So, as our big, showy, boastful displays of D/s have faded; as we have chosen to talk less about the nitty gritty details; we have learned about the real strength of our power dynamic.  It stood firm through all the bumps and upheaval, and it remains.  It has held us together, and I am convinced that it saved us from washing out into the pounding seas of rage and disappointment.  We are together, and we live in a consensual power exchange relationship.

Friday, July 17, 2015


Today, in my feed, I find this article about a new bill being introduced in Congress by conservative Republicans:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/first-amendment-defense-act_55a7ffe6e4b04740a3df4ca1.  I find this kind of thing just almost incomprehensible.

I get that there are people who hold religious views that specify all sorts of prohibitions and proscriptions about what is and is not acceptable for them and their relationship with their "god."  I am fine with that.  I really am.  Whatever you want to believe, for you, is really just fine with me.  What I do not understand, even a little bit, is how anyone can be so utterly convinced that whatever they believe should impinge on my life and my belief.  What is that?  Where does that come from?  How can you ask for, demand even, that I respect your right to worship and believe whatever you choose, and then deny that same right to me and everyone else?

Balls!  Pure unmitigated arrogance and bad manners to boot!  These people, these fundamentalist, so called "christians," because let's face it -- they are the huge majority of the ones who are convinced that their religious liberty requires the subjugation of everyone else's view to theirs, have gone over the edge altogether:

  • Same gender people have the constitutionally guaranteed right to marry AND that means that they may, in the course of conducting their business in the public sector, "participate" in some fashion in that constitutional right.  Horrors!
  • Women may choose to conceive, or not to conceive, AND that means that they cannot impose their will on them in the workplace.  Abominable!
  • People may choose to manage their intimate lives in any of a variety of consensual configurations, AND no one will be stoned in the public square or dragged in front of a firing squad.  There will be no scarlet letters adorning the breasts of all and sundry who do not toe the one man and one woman line.  How can it be?!?!?
  • No one will be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy.  No one will be forced into some back-alley abortionist's hands, AND no matter how much marching and screaming on the sidewalks, women will not be treated as property.  Inconceivable!

I am so tired of it all.  Believe what you will believe.  Live your life by your very best lights.  Honor every bit of whatever wisdom and guidance that you think you have been given.  And then...  Leave the rest of us alone!  Your soul is your business.  Mine is not your business.  If you choose to come into public, then you are in public.  "In public" is not "in church."  If you want to live your life inside of some sort of spiritual cocoon, tucked safely away from those of us who are, in your view," confirmed sinners, then remove yourself and go off to live communally with those who are of like mind with you.  Do not seek to stick your values and beliefs into the public square, and then scream discrimination when the rest of us say, "No!"

And that is as polite as I can be about it.  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Companionable Kitchen

My kitchen has a dish-washing machine.  It is the same age as the house, and that makes it "elderly" in dish-washing machine years.  It still washes pretty well; a good and faithful beast chugging away as it sloshes my dirty dishes with hot water and suds.  However, it has its quirks.  Most notably, the top rack is no longer very firmly attached to its anchors, and that makes it nearly impossible to slide in and out of the machine.  It is fairly well worthless, and so the utility of the whole contraption is diminished.

Image result for washing dishesOf necessity, my regular kitchen clean-up routine has come to involve a significant amount of "doing the dishes by hand."  When that circumstance first evolved, I fussed about it.  "Just one more thing to do; one more chore," I labeled the business of making soiled plates and pans and tableware into clean and usable items.  But time has passed, and I have fallen into the routine ... warm sudsy water, and rows of clean dishes lined up drying on my counter.  And, I have learned something that I knew once, a long time ago, when it fell to my brothers and I to clean up after dinners in our family home.  Doing dishes is both sensual and companionable.

The water is warm and soothing to tired muscles and joints.  The scent of the soap is clean and refreshing.  The bubbles tickle.  The rhythms are made for quiet contemplation, or pleasant conversation.  If there is a companion, doing the drying and putting up, then the kitchen sink becomes the site of far-reaching philosophizing.

The time required is not burdensome.  It serves as a buffer between the pleasantries of the meal, and the quiet of the evening ahead; a natural and useful transition.  I like it, somehow.

Perhaps, I will simply clean it out and let the old dishwasher be.  Let it retire.  Maybe I will become an old woman who indulges in the simple pleasure of washing her own dishes.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Quiet in Mind and Heart

Image result for green shoots

I am feeling quieter today.
Quieter than I have felt for many, many months -- years even.
Something in my insides has shifted, and I am finding some level of peace in my internal world.
I am glad for the change.

I have no big explanation, and no real understanding of how I came to be here now.  Anyone who is looking for me to point the way to this place will be sadly disappointed, I am afraid.

I've been noticing this happening for a few weeks now.  I've watched it quietly, feeling a bit skeptical.  Too many rounds, and too many ups and downs have taught me that it is easy to get knocked off this horse.  Better to hold on tight and not get too cocksure.

Here are the outlines:
I have learned to say what I need and what I mean.  If something upsets me, or if there is some circumstance that seems unfair or unreasonable, then I say so.  I am learning to do that without much heat -- trying not to let myself get SOOOOO upset that I cannot simply say what I need without bitterness or anger.  Being able to recognize my own boundaries, and defend them for myself, by myself, is important to me.  I do not handle resentment well.  Better to just own the things that make me unhappy, and ask for those things to be addressed appropriately.  I understand, finally, that allowing others to act in ways that make me unhappy isn't, in any sense, a good thing.  Not for me, and not for them.

I am listening more carefully.  Most of the emotional hurt, and the burden of fear and anger that accompanied that hurt has worn itself out.  Like some sort of tattered flag, whipped by stormy weather, the shreds of all of that have blown off.  They do not wave in front of my mind's eye any longer.  My vision is clear.  I can hear when he speaks of his own fear and his own pain -- and not overlay it with some sort of sense of blame.  I can sit with his struggles, and not feel that they either add to my struggles... or negate them.  Now, at last, I think that we can walk forward together as partners rather than adversaries.

Just yesterday, working to clear up the dishes after breakfast, I found myself rejoicing in that simple service.  I was happy to be able to do this small thing in support of our life together.  There was no feeling that there should be some quid pro quo.  I was able to give and glad to do so.  The sublimation of my own agendas; my wants; and my fantasies came as a gift.  I did not earn it.  I did not reach for it. I felt no sense of struggle at all.  It simply was, and I am so glad.

It has been 13 years since I came to this place, and entered into this relationship.  I came as a dreamer with wide eyes and big plans.  I wanted a very great deal.  My hungers and my fantasies drove me in a frenzied grab for the thing that I believed could fulfill me and make me whole.  I tried, desperately, to build the life that I could see in my life, and I believed that the strength of my own will could bring that dream into reality.  My own ego put me in a continual state of conflict between who I am and what I thought I wanted.  The fragile sky-castle that I was so determined to build could not stand.

I have grieved the destruction of all the pretty, brightly-painted visions.  And while I moaned over the broken bits, something stronger and healthier sprouted quietly from the rubble.  No phoenix, rising from the ashes this time.  This time, I will keep my eyes on the tiny, fresh, green shoots growing in the fertile soil of love and companionship and faithfulness.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

One More Bit of Ruin

Over the weekend, we were at a wedding.  T's niece.  It was a pleasant weekend.

When we came home on Sunday afternoon, we found that trouble was brewing.  It seems that there is someone who, through the wonders of cyber connectedness, has put us all together; Tom, T, me, and the niece.  Niece is receiving nasty phone calls and texts, from at least two different phone numbers, suggesting that she does not really know what sort of people we all are, and directing her off to look at our online profiles.  There is no secret about our relationships with one another.  The niece knows who we are, and how we are.  She's a dear young woman, and she is, understandably, worried for us all.

When one of these storms breaks over us, it is always a place of uncertainty.  How exposed are we, and what is the level of risk?  How should we move to protect and shelter us from the inexplicable and unpredictable outside world?  Who might this be, and what motivates them?  Why?

Image result for ruinAt any rate, I have deleted all of the spanking pictures.  All of them.  No more evidence exists of the life that once was.  It is all gone.  What remains are blank, empty, place holders.  I feel that as an enormous loss.  But it is, or was, necessary.

So much ruin.  So many necessary losses.  So much of our history -- just wiped away, and gone forever.  I wonder when the losses will stop hurting.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Winston Churchill once said that Russia was "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.  That would be me.  My sexual identity collides on a regular basis with my understanding of my own life and the world around me, and I end up a pure mess.

The sexual identity part ought to be simple enough, especially in this age of "Fifty Shades of Gray."  I am a sexual masochist and submissive... but only under very specific circumstances.  It is true that I eroticize pain, and that clearly puts me in the masochistic category, but it is a little more complicated than that.  For me, pain is just pain -- and pain served up all by itself, cold, with nothing driving it; nothing to justify it...  well, that just hurts and it pisses me off.  I am turned on by pain when it represents control.  I will submit, and submit at stunningly intense levels if it "pleases" a partner who is in control.  I will fantasize all sorts of spectacular miseries at the hand of an imagined dominant
partner who demands it, and holds me in place with his will.  It is the control that takes me there, and then it is the pain that tells me that I have relinquished the control, and then it is that sense of voluntary surrender that pushes my buttons.  Complicated.

For a few years, I was there.  I was able and willing to play at that level, and I'd found a partner who wanted that as well.  Sort of.  Actually, I think he mostly wanted the sadomasochistic element.  The responsibility of control was too much.  When the control crumbled around us, then the whole dynamic shifted, leaving us where we are today.

Now, I engage with him in sadomasochistic play, but I hold all the control.  I can stop the action at any point if it isn't going along just swimmingly.  He is quite considerate of my moods.  We're polite like that.  So, I am left to decide, at every step, at every stroke, if I am willing to go on.  Now I find myself trying to please myself instead of him.  And that is a challenge.  Because the beginning of a spanking often just hurts.  The endorphin cocktail that makes it all flip into something hot and sexy isn't there in the beginning.  In the beginning there is just endurance ... and the exercise of power.  In the beginning, I have to make the calculation:  "is this going to turn into something good, or is it just going to hurt for no reason at all?"  Because, it won't make any difference to him, and my own menopausal sexual response is pretty unreliable.  On any given day, the odds are far greater that I will not get off, than they are that I will.  It takes work, and luck, and some mystical mix of factors that I can't even identify to get me there.  No one is more surprised than I am when I achieve sexual release during sex these days.

Given all of that, I can talk myself out of it, before anything much happens.  If he starts in, and it seems tougher than I expect, I can  (and sometimes do) bail out before we have really started.  And then, of course, I wonder if I made the right call.  For me.  For him.  For us.  And there is the rub, ultimately... it is all in my hands; all in my power to control it.  I have the control.  And with the control in my hands, the key that unlocks the door to my sexual response is very, very unlikely to swing open.  So, I am left disappointed and empty and bereft.  I can't figure out how to untangle that tangle.  Seriously.

Maybe the only hope is that I will eventually get old enough to just not give a fuck.  Would that be better, I wonder?  Is it even possible to live long enough to just not care...  about sex and intimacy and that connection that only comes when two people cross over the barrier of skin and really touch one another?  I cannot imagine there will ever be a day when I don't long for that.  Ever.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Drama Llama

I work with a young woman who is completely certain of her own intelligence, wisdom, and just all around righteousness.  She teaches language arts, has her Master's degree, and has obtained the state issued designation of "master teacher."  There is no doubt that she is bright and she has great teaching skills.

She is, however, utterly convinced that she is entitled.  Entitled to be heard.  Entitled to be listened to.  Entitled to be indulged.  Entitled to whatever it is that she wants at this particular moment in time.  She has a very grandiose sense of her own worth and importance.  In her mind, I imagine, she is cast in the starring role in every encounter.  The script for life is written with her at its center, and all the action spins around her.  She is arrogant, boastful, and prideful.  She demands attention in every gathering.  She is the most narcissistic young person I have ever met.

If she decides that she should have some sort of privilege, and then she does not get it, she becomes angry and vengeful.  If she believes that "this or that" is not her responsibility; that she should not be held accountable for whatever, then she will pitch a two-year-old fit over any attempt to hold her accountable for "this or that."

She has a very odd sense of appropriate boundaries with students.  She steps into situations between students (situations that are generally best left to the young ones to sort out for themselves), and then she will choose sides, and sound the charge.  Young guys almost always end up on the short end of that stick, because, as everyone knows, they are forever on the verge of committing sexual assault on every female in sight.

She loves gossip, and even more, loves to be the one who knows and shares the scoop.  No one is safe; not her coworkers, not parents, not the administration of the school.

She makes me crazy.  I want to take her and just shake her.  I wish I could believe that she might be open to some "old lady" advice.  I would tell her to watch and listen more.  I would advise her to start from the assumption that she might not know all there is to know in any given situation.  I'd tell her to let students, parents, and others come to her with issues and problems, rather than running head on into the fray.  I would try to show here the power of letting things work themselves out; the wisdom of not meddling in absolutely everything you can reach.  Unwanted and unasked for advice, I know.

The good news?  She has found another position, and will be leaving us at the end of this school year.  We have only to make it through one more month, and she will be on her way -- and Godspeed!  I just need to hold my tongue and keep my mouth shut for a few more weeks.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Now It is Like This

Sometimes, I think to myself that it would be good to bring people up to date about the part of my relationship with Tom that once involved BDSM.  “People must wonder,” I tell myself.  And then, I hear the laughter in my own mind -- surely no one is sitting around wondering about me.  So, OK, the fact is that I feel like I need to take stock of where that relationship is.  For me.  Just me.  I am, truthfully, the only one to whom it matters.

I’m not going to look backwards.  The history of my foray into the BDSM lifestyle, and the details of the power-based relationship that I shared with Tom for about 8 years is all documented at www.theheronclan.blogspot.com and at www.theswansheart.blogspot.com.  My goal here, is to try and say what there is to say about where we are now.  

Some things have not changed.  

I still do many of the same things for Tom that I have always done.  For me, it simply feels right to do the things I do:  to manage his medications, to prepare his meals, to take care of his laundry, …  Most of the time, I just go right on doing what I do, because that feels appropriate and comfortable for me.  He still, almost unconsciously, just expects that I will keep doing those things.  It really isn’t about power exactly.  At this point, I think it is the sort of thing that might be pretty common among men of his age.  The fact is that, while he could do some or all of those things for himself, he isn’t particularly adept at all of those tasks.  It is easier for him to let me do it, and it is probably easier for me to do it than it is for me to try and “teach” him how to do all of that.  Sometimes, when I get a clear view of how it goes; when I am tired after working all day; when he is parked on the couch while I clean up the dishes from the meal that I cooked and served, I can be a bit resentful.  I sometimes fuss that, “for a guy who claims to not have any power; who claims to not be ‘Master’ anymore, he sure manages to get a lot of ‘slaving.’”  Yeah, I’m sometimes downright bitchy.  But mostly it is OK.  Just two aging people, with a long and tumultuous shared history, learning to live sort of peacefully together.

We do still play sadomasochistically.  Straps, paddles, floggers, canes, and whips are still a part of our lives; still hanging on the wall where they have always been.  It is a more equal sort of interaction these days; not precisely negotiated, but carefully nuanced and balanced.  I have much more control these days.  If I fuss at all, struggle at all, whine at all -- he backs off.  Where I once endured for him, to please him, now I do it for me -- to keep things going along for myself.    There is seldom any sort of euphoric sense of triumph or connectedness in our play -- no fire.  He takes from it whatever he does, and I do the same  We are partners in the quest to quiet the urges that still drive us both.

We are peaceful enough these days.  The fury has burned itself out, thankfully. We interact carefully.  We are conscious of one another’s emotional hot buttons, and we tend to avoid them. There are safe topics that we use as conversational stages; the places where we can enter into very considered and stiff dialogs that help us feel as if we are still talking.  It is a formal sort of relatedness, following its own peculiar rules.  We have traded in a very great deal that seemed important and vital and lively for this leaden quiet.  

Change is the nature of living.  Our lives together have changed.  I once believed that nothing could ever tear us apart from one another, but change certainly proved that belief wrong.  Now, I do not believe or hope for anything different than what is.  If there is change, and I am sure there will be, I have no idea what it will bring into my life.  For now, this is what is.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Learning Joy

“In my own worst seasons I've come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again(15).” 
― Barbara KingsolverHigh Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never

I am; have been for many years, a fan of Barbara Kingsolver.  I love her novels, but I keep close to hand her book of essays:  High Tide in Tucson.

Now, many years after it was first published, there are many places where it feels, on the face of it, like the writing is hopelessly dated.  But there, underneath the obvious, are these amazing gems of wisdom and truth and simple humanity.  I am called back, each time I pick it up, to my deepest and best self.

That is surely true of the quote that appears at the top of this entry.  I have been through one of those worst seasons.  We all have them, if we manage to live long enough...  Dry, dusty times when the water of life refuses to flow for us; times when the icy winds blast our bones; when it is too hard to stand, or move, or even breathe.  Times when we believe, in our small, frightened hearts, that we must surely die; that it is simply not possible to survive THIS.

However often I find myself in that darkness, I never seem to actually die. I survive.  I keep on living.  I find the places where I can focus on the beautiful and glorious and graceful...  and pull myself out of the dark.  For, there is life and beauty and joy in the miracle of being, and that is the core truth that remains; whatever storms may come our way:

Sunlight glinting off of fresh snow.
The slow, soft greening of the coming of spring.
The glimmer in the eyes of a young person when profound understanding comes in a flash.
The warmth of a hand slipping into my own.
The quiet of the night when sleep steals in softly with the ticking of the clock.
The unmistakable morning scent of bacon frying.
The watercolor abandon of a summer sunset.
The soft purring motor of a happy cat.
The satisfaction of a clean house.
Bird songs at dawn.
The "I love you,Grandma" that echoes in my heart long after I hang up the phone.

And much, much more.  Enough beauty and joy to keep me living and believing.  For the ladder that I can climb up out of the darkness, I am grateful.