Wednesday, February 29, 2012

that is why it is called submitting and not being enslaved

A few people have commented lately in ways that make me think i'm fixated (again, still) on defining ourselves - i hadn't felt i was - but there must be something coming through, must be something more to it.  So i spent time thinking about it, and talking about it, especially with my husband, but also in a different way with a friend.

I realized two things, well three actually.  The third thing is that we aren't going to fit anywhere neatly and i will continue to stumble with how to talk about us, with him and to the world, starting with the rest of this post.  But that's not new, not the focus, and isn't really even important.  The other two things i was able to start to see i think are important.  They have to do with what lies behind the terms, the ideas not the labels.

First, i realized that there is something about the idea of 'slave' that speaks to me, intrigues me, appeals to me deeply.  When my stress increases, it becomes an almost overwhelming desire.  I want it - i want the control, i want stricter and harder and more difficult, i want cages and harsh use and humiliation, i want to be stripped down and brought low, etc etc etc...

 But i also realize that is fantasy, it's escapism, a desire to trade the real work and stress and responsibility of my life for no responsibility - just follow and do.  Yes - i know real life doesn't work this way - no mater what the dynamic - it is indeed fantasy.  I think probably the fact that my mind and my heart wander that direction says something about me, but i don't think it says i should or could be 'slave.'

I think i really am sub.  There is that definition that gets tossed around - a slave consents once then never again can say no - vs. a sub who makes each decision as it comes - decides each time to submit - can say no any time...  That feels insulting to me.  I really can't say no.  I've consented to anything and everything, any time, all the time, no time out's or take-backs or exceptions.  

But what i've really consented to - because all i am able to do - is to try. Yoda aside, the reality of being human is that i can try to do and be as he wants - i may often succeed, i will sometimes not - that's not the same as saying no i won't even try - or worse yet - saying i will, then not keeping my word.

It's work - it is in fact deciding to submit each and every time.  It is sometimes so simple as to not seem like a decision.  Sometimes however it is very hard, it is work, sometimes i fail.  And maybe that's where the appeal of the fantasy of slave comes in - it's back to the idea of not work, not responsibility, no decision to make... Again - i know life doesn't actually go that way, everyone has to try and work and succeed or fail at each point - this is part of why the damn definitions are so unhelpful.  

My friend gave me a slightly different way of looking at it though: that is why it is called submitting and not being enslaved.  And it is, it is submitting each time, which is what i have promised my husband i would do.

There is nothing new here - no grand revelation, no paradigm shift probably -except for me to have it laid out in a way that lets me look at myself more clearly.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

making it work

I wonder an awful lot if it's wise, if it's even possible, to make ttwd work added to an existing marriage.  I'm not the only one to wonder this either - lil explains it better than i do i think.  Plenty of the advice and cautionary tales out there say no - it just can't work.  And i suppose that the jury won't be in till we fail and prove them right, or die - and prove them wrong.    
The first time i reached out to anyone to ask questions - my biggest concern, my overriding fear, was that taking the first step would lead down a road that, if it went badly, would destroy what we already had.  It was an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" feeling.  The person to whom i had addressed the question pointed out that just wondering or considering it had already opened a door that changed our path, for better or worse, we couldn't pretend it wasn't there.  
My fears have been pretty specific  - i see how intense our connection and our feelings are with ttwd, i imagined that the depth of the hurt would be far greater when things are not right, i also imagined insurmountable guilt, recrimination and blame if it fell apart.  The depth of the hurt part is true - we have both experienced that - and it is more complicated to get beyond.  I think we do care more, think about each other and our relationship more than we used to.  The high's are higher, and the low's lower.  The question is - is it worth it to us, and can we get through each time.  
For the first time, i'm starting to believe though that we would survive and move forward in our marriage, even if ttwd didn't.  We are still trying to figure out what went wrong, and how to put things back together.  Looking at the possibility that ttwd is not going to work for us has at least made me realize that my underlying assumption, the given in my mind, is that we would of course stay together, just in a new way.   
I've only had experience with this way of going about it all.  In my mind - it would have been so easy had we met and started out as D/s or M/s.  Following the rules, pleasing him, doing as he asks - that is the easy part for me.  It sounds so mindless and freeing and right now that sounds sooooo appealing.  In my imaginings - the depth of the relationship would evolve easily and smoothly from there.  If he's making me into exactly what he wants anyhow - how would there be strife?  I realize that's my little fantasy view of it all - not reality, but sometimes i fall prey to the "If only..."
But we already are who we are, we know each other - good, bad, and ugly, messy and complicated.  I think both of us wish we could just go back and be what we were a few weeks ago.  I think we were even trying to do that as a way to fix things.  But i think we both realize now that we can't go back - that wherever we go - it's going to be new and evolved from where we were and where we are.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

no "on" switch

but i'm working on:

   - focus on the positive, try not to fall prey to the negative thoughts

   - act submissive, even if i don't feel it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

in "off" mode

I ended up further into "off" mode than i think i have ever been.

Not a hint of feeling submissive, could barely remember what it felt like.

I only knew it was how i wanted to feel, but no sight of the path to get there.

There was a point at which we were both trying to get back, both scrambling...

It is astounding how far apart two people can get so quickly, how fast you can both roll down different sides of the same hill.

Words are words, their meanings are fixed and clear.  How can we communicate so well, so seamlessly, on, and have so little idea what the other is saying, off?

How is it that in a relationship - in a reality of two people being together - there are even times that things are on, and times when they are off?    We are the same people across time, same history, same context... What is it that changes inside to skew all meaning and perception so terribly?

The saving grace is that whatever clicks to alter the sense of the dynamic so badly can eventually unclick to restore it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

reproductive rights ARE human rights

I am generally very reluctant to drag religion into polite conversation; I find that the conversation quickly becomes un-polite.  I'm making exceptions today - because SFP asked, and because my personal faith makes it important.

I considered digging up statistics and citing lots of research to try to make an argument here.  The statistics and research are out there, and frankly, the big picture is bleak, which drove home to me exactly why the topic of women's reproductive rights is so important.

I was raised Catholic: the doctrine on birth control and abortion were made pretty clear.  To a young girl - it was simple to accept.  Even as a teen, sex was something i wanted but still viewed as sinful - I was weak, contraception was necessary, but a defeat, a giving in to my weakness.

But the flavor of Catholic i was raised with also taught me to question and follow my conscience, not blindly follow doctrine. Eventually that helped inform my thinking about sex and sexuality as well.  Like an awful lot of other people, i recognized that i believed the church was just plain wrong on this one.  Over time, i saw that the church wasn't just wrong, it was also oppressive and causing harm.

I have relatives who were crushed under the imperative of having children when they weren't ready, only to be abandoned by their husbands, the childrens' father.   My mother has a very serious condition.  Each pregnancy and delivery became more dangerous for her, yet the church  encouraged her to continue to accept "God's will."   My grandmother was eventually able to convince her to use birth control, to take that step to preserve her own life, but i'm not entirely sure my mom ever forgave herself for it.

It's about much more than an individual woman's freedom to chart the course of her own life by giving her the ability to have children or not have children with intention and thought.  Taking that freedom from all women collectively damages the whole society deeply, just as systematically denying any portion of a group the rights of the whole damages the whole.  

It is also incredibly naive to think that the reality of access to birth control, like access to all forms of health care, applies evenly across our society, or much of the world for that matter.  It doesn't.  The disparities are enormous, and that becomes a powerful force, a powerful weapon in some cases.  Women struggle to raise children, often in poverty, and those children grow up with very different opportunities than others.  The disparities become perpetuated across generations and the divisions among the groups that make up the society as a whole become deeper.  This is played out across the globe.

In the end, whether reproductive rights for women are denied through religion, legislation, systematic inequality of access - or a toxic combination  - it is a dangerous thing for women, and thus for all of us.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

i seem to be doing it wrong

I understand about cycles, and ups and downs, and this is real life not make believe......

When he's around - physically, or at least mentally, i fall nicely (mostly, eventually) into line -- i listen, my attitude adjusts, i can step back and submit, be submissive.

Maybe sub lite really - by outward appearance, you would probably never guess  - but there's a definite shift in my mind.  I'm his, and that gives me confidence and joy and that in turn rolls though me back to him, and around and on.

When he isn't available, at least mentally, when we have so little communication and so little time, and even less is about us, i have to forge ahead on my own.  Yea - i know - poor me.

Obviously, i can do this, i can manage.  I'm not interested in becoming incapable, and he certainly isn't looking for that.  He in fact needs me to manage.

The problem is that i do manage, pretty well most of the time actually.  I manage logistics and caregiving, home and job,  details and big picture...

I even manage my own emotions.  Even when i've fallen off a cliff, if i'm alone, i pick up and carry on. If the guidance, containment, or plain old physical re-alignment aren't to be had - i still have to move forward and function.  So i do.

So remind me why this submission thing is so attractive????

If I can do it myself, with him moving in and out of the picture as it does or doesn't work out, why bother with the shift?  Why not stay in this mode and skip the transitions.  The transitions are a bitch.

This is the part i think i must be doing wrong: there must be a way to submit gracefully when he's here or at least there and available, and also gracefully be both submissive and entirely self-sufficient when he's not. There must be a right way to be to cover all the contingencies.    

Saturday, February 11, 2012

the "I" states

I had a friend in college once who could never remember where i was from.  She called the midwest the "I" states - as in - 'Oh yea - you're from one of those "I" states'.  Never mind that many don't actually start with "I", I think there just had to be an "I" sound somewhere in the name.  But yes - I was and am from one of "those" states.

I know - it's all about the journey, not the destination: ttwd, life, love, all of it...

But I can tell you,  as someone who routinely makes long car trips across the middle of the mid-west (also called fly-over country), that there are parts of some trips in which the scenery can be less than captivating.
Sure, the journey sometimes affords an opportunity to talk with your kids (captive audience), talk with your spouse (but nothing too intimate - remember the kids in the back), torture the kids with mom and dad music, sleep, or read a whole novel out loud.  All worthwhile, necessary sometimes, often even enjoyable activities.  But you still wouldn't traverse multiple "I" states in the winter just for the fun of the journey.

In those times - the promise of the destination is often what makes the trip bearable.  The destination is in fact why you started out and undertook the journey in the first place.

I don't approach life as having a destination.  I haven't had a plan for where my life was headed, didn't have my husband/wedding/kids planned by the age of 9, don't have my ideal career path mapped out, don't have any specific vision when i dream about retirement.  I tend to make each choice as I approach each crossroads.  But certainly many people do it differently from me: they set goals, lay out a plan of action, work on the plan, and know exactly when they have arrived (even if they don't know what to do once they get there.)

On the other hand, it's hard for me to imagine a way to approach love as a destination.  How would you figure out what the final or absolute love looked like, or how to get there?  How would you know if you were still on the path. Sure - some roads definitely don't lead there, and there are times it's pretty clear you've strayed way off the path.  But really - love is the path, not the endpoint.  Or maybe - love isn't related to the path or the endpoint at all.  Maybe love just is.  It can accompany you where ever you go, what ever other paths you take.

So TTWD must fall somewhere in between.  In life, i understand that some people can point to the brass ring and say that is their destination.  I can't look at ttwd and see a logical end goal.  Although it does feel more structured, more defined and explicit, more step-wise, which makes it seem like it ought to be leading somewhere specific.  But it obviously isn't leading anywhere in particular - there is no brass ring or top tier to reach.  

There are those times that this trip is just not captivating as other times.  Or as internally motivating.   If any trip goes on long enough - there are portions that lead to the inevitable "are we there yet?" or "I'm bored!"  Like the "I" states - the incentive of a goal might be useful.   I guess the trick is to relax and just wait to see what might appear around the next bend.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

a poem and a song

   I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

                   Emily Dickinson

I'm not anybody - I'm not exciting or sparkly or shiny or captivating or fascinating...  I'm not imaginative, or flirty, or bratty, or fun. 

I'm more steady, sensible, dependable, capable --> just cue Supertramp - you'll get the idea...

Most of the time - i find it a good way to be - it's who i am and how i know how to be, and frankly it works for me and for my family.  I do what needs to get done, I handle things, I've accomplished a few things over time. People know what to expect and usually i don't disappoint them.   

But sometimes..................there are those times i do wish i could be more of a frog.  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

my son's brain

My older son has an amazing mind.  He grasps things and sees connections and puts pieces together in ways that leave us behind- quite often.  He devours other peoples' writing and creates his own that is complex and insightful and incredibly imaginative. He will talk to anyone and has sought out opportunities to present to groups of 20 to 1000.

He also has been known to forget his shoes even in the winter, to get distracted walking from one room of the house to another, and to trail off mid-sentence because some shiny new idea flitted past in his head.  He was the kid comparing the shapes of the blades of grass in the field in the middle of the soccer game,  the one with the trail of papers and pencils and supplies falling out of his bag as he walked from one class to another at school, the one who couldn't finish worksheets in first grade because he couldn't get past the pictures of balloons and stars on the page to find the actual problems.

We chose a very small, very structured elementary school for him; the thought was that fewer external distractions, less noise in his environment, less logistics for him to need to keep track of, would allow him to focus on schoolwork.  He struggled - every day.  It was a constant battle for him to keep track, to stay on top of things, to meet the minimum requirements.  And the actual thinking and learning and using his mind, that part was just an extension of the rest and so it was just boring and unpleasant to him.

When we moved, the new school was the opposite: it's huge, it's crowded and noisy and busy and incredibly diverse.  The logistics are fast and spread out and have no wiggle room.  The classes are demanding and there are always a million other things going on, to keep track of and to work on.  We were very nervous about him handling all this; intuitively, it seemed like a recipe for disaster for him.  But we also hoped that maybe the challenge of it was what he needed.  What intuitively appeared like it would be good for him had been a disaster.

It took a few months for him to get his footing, but since then he has taken off.  He manages to get where he needs to go with the items he needs to have.   He remembers his schedule (and his shoes).  He manages himself.  And he loves the learning.  He has taken on challenges, signed up for extra, and excelled at it.  He has made friends who are the same as he is and they feed off of each other, accomplishing impressive things.

All of which - you must be thinking - have absolutely not a damn thing to do with D/s....

But it occurred to me that things don't always work the way that seems most intuitive.  The simple answer is sometimes just too simple.  Maybe, for some people, making things harder or more challenging is what it takes to bring out their real potential.  Our instinct with this son was to control his world for him as much as possible so he could manage.  As it turns out, he thrives with more freedom, more responsibility, more expectation, more possibility.  

It seems to me that there are all kinds of ways of providing control and containment.  I go through periods where i feel an overwhelming need for just that - it confused me because i'm not looking for my world to be made smaller or simpler, but i hadn't been able to describe what i felt i needed.  My husband has always been a nice guy - whenever i was stressed or busy or overwhelmed, he would step in, take part of the load, be extra nice.  Which helped in practicality, but always made me feel worse.  Lately, he's finding a balance of raising expectations rather than lowering them, but in ways that make me feel he is more there - without adding to the stress or to the workload.