Thursday, May 31, 2012

anxiety purge

Living with Noah has changed how I think about computers. I don't think of them as magic anymore. I think about them as the result of a large set of mathematical equations. I'm getting closer and closer to being interested in thinking about that. Right now my brain is pretty full.

I've been thinking about what the gardening represents for me. It's a combination of learning biology, which feels like an intimidating "science" thing for me, and learning how to do manual labor. I haven't done this sort of physical movement much in my life. Uhm. It's hard. I feel like a tremendous loser because it is so hard. A lot of the time I feel frustrated and scared because I don't even know how I should begin. I feel like I am doing it all wrong. I lost two plants this year. Well, I wanted a place to put yellow roses any way. Noah's mother sent me $75 as a congratulations for finishing my book. I want to buy yellow roses with that money. It will make me happy. It will make me think of her gratefully when I am outside of my house. It will give me a reason to think of her positively.

I'm not going to have a relationship with Noah's mother. Not really. Noah totally has an Oedipal Complex because he went off and married his mother. When he talks about his childhood it sounds like something I could easily do if I didn't deal with my mental health issues. It sounds like it is hard to be his mom. Being in her head must hurt. She feels a powerful fear all of the time. I can understand that. I can't have a relationship with that. I have too much fear as well. Neither of us has the ability to make the connection.

The one time I went out to meet his family his mother spent three hours telling Noah how inappropriate I was. We were already married. I am poor white trash and his mama knows it. We will never have a relationship. I was out fucking every kid in the trailer park when I was young. They don't like my kind where his family comes from. Really, what mother wants a girl like that for her son?

So his mother and I will never have a relationship. There is too much fear between us. Too much judgment. Too much crazy.  We are both wounded animals. I don't know what wounded her and I really can't care. I'm too busy tending my own wounds. But I want to plant yellow roses in my yard and think of my mother in law in Texas sending me a very lovely gift.

I hate the color yellow. I have since I was a kid. I had a yellow dress and yellow earrings and a yellow headband and my mama told me, "Oh God. You're just like your father. You like yellow. Ew. That's his favorite color." I have had a hard time with yellow since. Occasionally I get yellow clothing as hand-me-downs.

I stopped dressing in hand-me-downs when I had kids. No one gave me adult sized clothes any more. Now I buy them. It's weird. I feel like I am supposed to develop "taste" and I don't know what that even means. I still want to dress like Punky Brewster. I want to go shopping each time and buy something weird and colorful and end up just... not... owning neutrals. I'll look weird. That will be ok.

But it isn't. Because I'm ugly and my mama dresses me funny. I was told that over and over and over and over.

Today isn't shaping up so good. I have a lot of insecurities. It's hard to access them one at a time. They are all interconnected. Why am I so afraid of rejection? Why can't I let that woman be part of the park group? Because I can't be near someone who is going to send of pot shots. I just fucking can't. I don't want positive comments from an insincere person. I want to be invisible. I'm really not invisible. I don't want to become invisible so that I avoid comments.

I know how to dress in ways that will not attract attention. I've been doing it for a while. I wasn't ok with that whole "I can touch you because you are pregnant" thing. So I can dress in ways that don't attract notice. Why should I have to? Because I don't want people to comment on me. But I like it. Oh fuck.

I don't want to have to think about how my actions are going to effect someone else. I want to just do what I like. When I know I am going to be around someone who is quite happy to be vicious and spiteful in my direction I am immediately hypervigilant and I have to think about every fucking aspect of this interaction from what I wear to what I say. I pick my kids clothes out. They are neutral and subdued. Gender neutral, even.

My kids pick their own clothes out 99% of the time. They are not remotely subdued or gender neutral. They both like dresses in neon shades of pink. I think it is hilarious given that Shanna didn't have them when she was smaller. I only had boy hand me downs for a long time.

I always liked wearing bright colors. I've always liked the casual, easy, positive interactions I get with value neutral people in public when I dress the way I like. I don't like comments from people I know. I don't want to have to store up in my head that they said something nice to me now I am expected to return the favor and next time I should probably start the nice exchange and. No. Just no. I can't. I have no fucking interest in getting on the manners bandwagon at this stage of my life. I have to stay here. My kids get to grow up in one place.

It is challenging to manage my emotional needs as my relationships get longer and longer. I have to not expect anything from people in order to continue to know them over time. It's a very hard line for me. If we are doing an activity together and have no outside connection it is easy. I have no expectations of people I see at an event. They don't owe me a smile or a conversation. Friends are hard for me.

It is hard having people visit my house. Part of the reason I stress about housework is because I want to have a house that is "company ready" all the time. Not for them, exactly. My friends don't give a shit. I've seen their houses. When my house is "messy" it's really not bad.

My friends are busy. They have shit to do. They hold down jobs. They have vibrant social lives. I uhhh hang out in my house with my kids. We do go places. But it goes in waves and it's rarely for more than four or five hours. We are here a lot. If I leave the house messy then I have to live in that mess. I have to work and think in that mess. I find it horribly distracting. I don't go to Noah's job and pick up all the stuff on peoples' desks and throw it in the air. That would make doing actual work hard.

So I sit here and think. What is my job here? To educate my children. Basically. What do I want to educate them in? I want them to have the ability to have any kind of life they want to have. That means they need to start off in a whole lot of directions at once. Sure, we can do frilly princess and makeup. Her best (girl) friend is always the prince. They think role is about personal preference not about gender identity. That's fucking awesome. But I'm not trying to bring up a little gender queer so I can have street cred in those communities. I need to not be invested in any results.

I'm teaching the kids that your body has to be active if you want to engage in a lot of activities. I want us to go work on farms for a year. It would not be a kindness to bring the average kid around here to a rural farm where they don't speak the language. We have to be ready. We have to think about this in advance. What will that mean for our bodies? We should probably find a way to actually get ready. Which means that step one is for me to learn a whole lot more about gardening. Which is intimidating.

If you hadn't noticed I'm flooded with a lot of stress chemicals. Being in that state makes it harder to learn. This is a lot of how I live my life. But I really want to do this. I don't want to fail. I want to be able to be a productive and useful person on a farm. It's important to me. When people talk about their "roots" well, working on a farm is part of most of our roots. You may have to go back a bit, but really. People have to eat. Food has to be provided.

I didn't think about it very much until I had kids. I didn't think hard about where my food came from. When I look at their bodies I want to give them food that will help them grow up as strong as possible. I want them to be able to handle anything that life gives them. I won't be able to protect them forever. I have to do what I can now.

I don't understand how blasé other people seem to feel about parenting. When I talk about feeling insecure or doubting myself people quickly tell me they don't feel insecure. They must be lying. I can't be the only insecure person. Give me a break.

I talked about feeling kind of insecure about unschooling the kids. I'm going to spend a lot of time revisiting that concept. I'm going to think hard about what that means to me. "Back in the day" people raised their children to be just like them. Uhm. I don't want to raise my kids to be just like me, thanks. I want my children to live with fear like I do. Bad things happen. Then you move on. Normal people don't get caught in these loop tapes. Normal people have some normal to fall back on. Some sense of themselves that was formed during the long stretches of their lives without trauma. Depending on how you think about consensual bdsm I haven't had a period of my life without traumatic events. Hell, even having my second kid almost killed me. Woo.

I live in stress chemicals. They are all I know. I'm trying very hard not to teach that. The problem is, living in stress chemicals makes it hard to learn. All I am doing with my life right now is helping my kids prepare for life.

So I was looking at the California Content Standards for grade K. If I'm going to prepare her for being part of this society part of that includes having a vaguely similar knowledge base with her peers so that if anything happens she can transition back into a schooling environment. Things happen. I could have to work some day. Within the next two years (because she isn't old enough for kindergarten anyway) she has to learn hygiene and how to stand in line. She's otherwise pretty much there on the kindergarten standards for my subject. She has letters, morphemes, basic introduction to syntax, grammar... Math she isn't quite there yet on all of it. She's halfway there with two years to go. Obviously I have not failed her horribly so far.

Part of my weird social anxiety is that I really like being a teacher. That feels good to me. I don't like being didactic with peers so I feel like I have nothing to say. I don't know how to have conversations among peers. I can be a student or a teacher. That was, really, the primary positive relationships I had. That was my "normal" period that could be good. I had a lot of teachers who liked me. I had a lot of teachers who hated me.

There is a feeling I have when teaching. I am allowed to have intense bonding conversations within that format. I know there is a time limit on it. I know that the exchange is limited to what we are doing. I have no further expectations.

I get into a lot of trouble when I have expectations of people. I have to keep them further out at arms length. I can't handle being told "no". So I just can't ask. I think the intensity with which I feel this is somewhat higher than average but there is a constant component of it in my head. I have to keep in mind that I can't ask people for things. If they freely want to give me something I can take it, but I can't ask. It's hard to ask people to come over for this reason. I wouldn't want to insult something I have worked so hard for by having a messy house. I have no idea why I have picked this standard of measurement because I am otherwise a specifically crappy host.

I don't want my house to broadcast my social class. I want people to be continually surprised when I talk about how bad it was. That means I am living right. In my head I can't separate out the messy house from the overall neglect and abuse and poverty. In my experience my friends who have decidedly messy houses have issues with their mental health and/or control. That's not a nasty statement. *wave hand in friendly way* Whether people want to admit it or not, your perceived social class has distinct influence on your life. I am a stay at home mom. If I didn't clean my house that would have social class implications. There is still a very strong element of "What the hell do stay at home moms do anyway?"

The point here is to teach them to be functional adult. If you have your house so messy that you constantly have to buy new things to replace things you have lying around somewhere and you don't have the money to really support this behavior then you aren't functional. That's broken. It's not a huge broken in the scheme of things but it's a behavior I specifically don't want to model or teach. We don't have the money to be callous with our things. We can't just go out and replace things right now. I mean we have money in savings but we don't have any spare money in our set budget. It is not a responsible or mature decision to be callous with our things. We don't have extra any more.

When you live in a messy house you break things and lose things. Ask me how I know. I don't want to teach that. I really don't. That means modeling doing things differently and not being a preachy asshole about it.

Now I'm just ranting. Ugh. My stomach hurts. Time to go look for food.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

You have no power over me.

Noah asked me why I am letting this woman have so much power over me. She responded to my first email with a short thing basically saying, "I was nine months pregnant when I sent this to you. Maybe I could have had more compassion. Can't you forgive me?" I ranted back. I explained that I am going to spend every minute I am near her terrified that I am going to have another panic attack in front of her. I'm afraid of how nasty she will be next time because apparently I go through "chances" without ever having any idea I am doing something wrong. I told her I don't really want to deal with that given that it took me a year to have the courage to leave the house because I was afraid of running into her.

Why am I so afraid of her? What does she represent to me? Noah pointed out that I'm creating my own self-fulfilling prophecies here. I say that people hate me and reject me foreverrrrrrr I will be aloooooooooooooone foreverrrrrrrrrrr. Ahem. Or something like that. She apologized, why don't I accept the apology?

If she had sent some kind of an apology spontaneously instead of because she couldn't ignore me any longer I would have had a different reaction. She didn't want to apologize. She doesn't think she did anything wrong.

Why does she have so much power? Why does her disapproval matter? Because I spent about a year telling her intimate things. It didn't feel like the break up of a "friendship". This was as emotionally intense as a romantic relationship. Since I had kids I have been bonding a lot more strongly with women. I am getting too attached too quickly, apparently. I told this woman extensively about my mental health issues and more specifically about my life. Then she shamed me.

I don't like someone deliberately shaming me. I shouldn't care what she thinks. I don't have anything invested in her opinion. She is not going to be part of my life again if I can help. She responded to my last rant saying she left the Meet Up group.

She's right that it will be hard to avoid one another given that she lives twenty minutes away. I get to ask her for space once. Past that she really doesn't have to give me any room. She gets to live her life as well. She lives around here and there is a finite number of kid things. I can't keep her out of all of them. That's not cool to her kids. But I can ask her to stop showing up at my gosh darn park day, once.

There were four of us. We spent over a year hanging out together at least once and up to four times a week. When we got together we would spend at least five hours, sometimes up to nine hours. We did a lot of long-term talking about things that our kids would do. We spent holidays together. Then I got told that I was out of chances completely out of the blue after I had a panic attack.

I was punished by the removal of two peoples love because I was bad. Because I am crazy.

So what happened was I was on edge to start with. I was at the beginning of the unravel I had last year. Shanna was in a brief hitting phase (it lasted less than a month). She hit this other little boy twice and I pulled her into the bedroom and told her that if she did it again we would have to go. It was not nice to repeatedly hit someone in their own house. That's just really over the line for me. She was two. No she didn't "get it" but if children never have consequences for their actions they will never "get it". Of course she hit him again. And right as I was telling her in a ranty voice that if she hits people we have to leave Calli had a dirty diaper. I tried to get Shanna to sit still while I changed it because she lost the privilege of playing. We walked out with me repeatedly saying in a louder-than-necessary voice something to the effect of "It's not ok to hit people. When you hit people there are consequences. Get your butt out to the van. No, don't play. You are in trouble. It's not ok to hit people." I never called her a name. I wasn't demeaning. I wasn't insulting or nasty. My tone of voice was really harsh and loud. I couldn't breath and my heart was racing. Dealing with both kids in that moment was hard and over whelming.

That night I received an email telling me that she didn't want to know me any more because my behavior is over the top and I am mean to Shanna. I don't have age appropriate expectations.

Uhm, I expect my two year old to hit people. I think it is then my job to enforce consequences so she can have some idea that it's not a great plan. I don't hit my kids. I don't call them names. I don't put them down. But I do separate them from their friends when they can't play nicely. I guess that's not "age appropriate".

I feel defensive and angry. I feel like for some reason she has the power to cause other people to share her opinions. I'm scared that she would join this play group and people who currently tolerate me would no longer want to because she would sit there and gossip about my faults. I'm worried because the "Attachment Parenting" community is very harsh and dogmatic. They absolutely encourage shunning people who do not completely follow the party line.

I have mixed feelings because I wonder if her nastygram was a good thing. I wonder if I really am a mean nasty person. Shanna really is a strange mini-adult. I don't tolerate a lot of "age appropriate" behaviors most of the time. I set really firm boundaries around them. Am I somehow robbing them because I expect manners? Obviously I am insecure.

I believe deep in my heart that I am nice to my kids. I get angry, yes. My anger is bigger than a lot of peoples, yes. My kids are going to have to deal with being my kids. I have mental illness. That's just a fact. I may always experience panic attacks. I don't know. I have no crystal ball. My kids have to be near me. It isn't possible for me to make my panic attacks completely invisible and silent to them. I talk to them a lot about how they aren't responsible for my emotions and my behavior.

Awhile ago I was having a panic attack and angry with Shanna over something. She started crying. I looked at her and asked her if she was afraid. She told me yes. I sunk down to the floor and put my head down. I told her that I was doing something wrong then. Kids shouldn't be afraid of their mothers. Mothers are never supposed to hurt kids. I sat up and pulled her into my lap. I asked her to explain what she understood about why I was upset. She did a good job. I explained the rest of the back story on why I don't want her doing _______. I told her that I was sorry I scared her. I didn't mean to. She hugged me and said that she would try not to do _________ again. I thanked her.

But I'm a terrible person, right? It's not ok to ever raise your voice. It's not ok to ever be angry.

Wait, what? Oh good grief. Why do I give this idiocy so much power over me? Partially because it feels like the drumbeat for my stage of life. It's not as if this woman is the only one presenting that image. I spent way too much time on Mothering.com.

She was just an echo chamber for what I feel society as a whole wants from me. The vast majority of the time if I express any anger near anyone there is some comment on it. "Don't hold back, tell me how you really feel." "My son is an empath so you can't get angry near him." "You get angry really quickly." I suppose that depends on how you look at it.

Why does she have so much power over me. Because she is able to smile and spew poison. Because I am very susceptible to girl games. Because I was taken down many many pegs. And now she has come and joined my new hierarchy. Those kinds of status things feel extremely transitory. I don't really want to get a sudden demotion.

When I transferred to Leigh High School during my freshman year of high school I started going by a nickname derived from my middle name. After I was there for a month or so someone leaved over a teacher's shoulder and said, "Wait. Your name is Kristine? Like Krissy? Are you Krissy Archer? That Krissy Archer?" I had sex with multiple people at my previous school. It was part of the reason I ran. I didn't want to deal with that reputation when I moved. Abruptly I had someone calling me a whore in every class.

And women are vicious in a way that is far more hurtful. They don't just insult you and call it a day. They get close to you and then use withdrawal of love as a weapon. They talk to your friends. They lower the general opinion people have of you. Often by repeating half-true stories. The more they smile at you while they are doing this the more problems you will have later.

My kids need a fucking stable group of friends. I really don't want to play the social status game. I only kind of interact with the other parents. I really need for my behavior and relationship with my children to be judged based on the things we actually do. Not the things people speculate that we might do because they witness some of our worst interactions. Everyone has their worst interactions. If mine involve my tone of voice being ranty and harsh while I say things that are otherwise fairly reasonable I will live with that and consider it a life well lived. I don't rant very often. It's quite rare. And Shanna is quick to tell me that my tone of voice isn't ok and I need to change it. I don't think she is a beat down child.

Why have I set her up as a judge and jury I have to defend myself from? Because most other people don't pay enough attention to me for me to feel like they would bother judging me? And yet mob mentality is very real. I am weird. I am reminded over and over again in a variety of ways (parenting books like this try to make it a joke) that for me to be weird is a problem for my kids. They will suffer for it. It will be my fault and that's bad. I should be trying to blend into the crowd. That book in particular stressed how it is ok that you know you don't fit in but you have to learn how to fake it so your kid isn't punished. It's true if you are in a public school. I don't want it to be true at our home school group.

It's kind of like playing Plants Vs. Zombies. She's a double pea shooter walking towards me. She's going to kill me. She feels like she can poison my environment. She was certainly good at having me like her and think well of her. Until she turned on me abruptly and was really nasty. Oh shit I don't want that kind of poison in the well. It's just a bad idea.

Why does she have so much power over me? Her brand of poison is pretty powerful. I believe she mostly liked being friends with me. But I'm one of those polarizing figures. She liked me a lot but the things she didn't like she disliked a lot. I don't need to have someone who is good at making me like them but who occasionally tells me I am a terrible person in my life. That's kind of my crack. What's our favorite game, Noah?

I don't want her in the group because all of a sudden park day becomes a whole different beast for me. I no longer have to think of whether I'm up for all of the basic things. I have to think about how secure I feel that I can sit off to the side quietly and not get into a conversation that might trigger a panic attack. Because it absolutely not ok to have a panic attack with that woman nearby. Oh God. Poor Shanna might lose more friends. And it would be All My Fault.

I'm not planning to move. Shanna is stuck here. She has to make friends here. I have to not fuck this up.

Why does she have power over me? Because I'm not good at taking it back once I give it to someone. Why the fuck do I care what Tom thinks? Why in the fuck do I care what my mother thinks? Because I do. Because I love them. Because I wish with every part of me that they thought I was good. Because I am very used to people who profess to love me telling me that I am horrible. I have a magnetic attraction to this cycle. I like people who have more control than I have who tell me I am bad for not having it. It's really pretty fucked up and self-loathing of me.

Why does she have power over me? Because in my experience, other than the people I live with, people don't give other people second chances. Not really. She has a bad opinion of me. I'm supposed to try and prove that I am worthy of a second chance. Now she has told me that I am going through chances so I can be held to it.

Noah thinks I should just think of her as a stupid person and move on with my life not caring how she feels about me. He has a point.

Even though I feel wicked uncomfortable about having done so I created a socially safe place for me. I hope. I don't think I will have a perfect experience without her there. But I'm not going to be judged on something half remembered from a long time ago.

I'm not at this group to make friends. I am cordial. I participate in conversations enough that I sort of look like part of the group. Mostly I play with the kids or run. People probably either think I am aloof or shy. I'm ok with either. I have told more than one person that I have horrible social anxiety. That's as personal as I have gotten.

Where is this space in our life for acquaintances? For community? For people who are around but with whom you don't have a personal connection? If I keep people out at arms length then they can be out at arms length forever. What they do has very little effect on me. If I let someone in closer they have to be shoved much much further than just arms length away when they hurt me. It's not a very forgiving system. My problem is I assign too much intent to behaviors. People aren't trying to hurt me. They are trying to express their emotions.

She felt intimidated by me. So she attacked. Normal. The person who sent the recent accusatory letter? He's not really upset because of my actions. He's upset about things in his life and I'm a good target. He at least thinks he is doing a good thing.

It's not about me. Don't make excuses. Don't apologize. She apologized to me. Shouldn't I take that at face value? What I should do is get off my butt and go eat a banana. Then get dressed. Then go run. Today my wonderful friend Taylor is coming over. That guarantees a good day. I'm going to stop thinking about her. I asked her to leave the group and she did. I may run into her again some day and then I will have to revisit this emotional experience. That time I won't get to ask her to leave a group. She lives here too. It's not ok to make her pay for the rest of her life. That's really not cool. Hell, in a few years I may suddenly grow up and decide I don't give a shit. Folks either like me or they don't and I will have been part of the group long enough that it really won't matter.

But I'm not there yet. My skin is not that thick. It's too raw. It's too scary. I have a hard time getting out of the house. If I knew she was going to be there I wouldn't be able to go. I wouldn't be able to put my kids through the experience of dealing with my panic attacks. That's not fair.

I'm going to go now.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I can't make this up.

Ok, we have a neighbor over. I am going to call her Monique. Because that is not her name.

Monique holding up spoon: "My spoon is the boy spoon and your spoon is the girl spoon."
Shanna holding up spoon: "Yes, my spoon is a beautiful princess."
M: "My spoon is Justin Bieber."
S's spoon runs away and hides behind a cup: "He is scary."
M, with a confused look on her face: "But he's not mean. He's nice."
S, spoon cowering in fear: "Nooooo!!! Noooooooo!!!! He's terrifying."
M, with a more confused look puts her spoon in her mouth.
S: "M is sucking the boy."


I almost choked.

I did a hard thing.

Last February I was sent a nasty Dear Jane letter. Someone no longer wished to know me. I had a panic attack at her house and she told me that I was a bad parent and she could no longer bear to see how I interact with Shanna. She said I am far too hard on Shanna and my expectations are not age appropriate. There was more. I don't want to read it again.

She showed up at the home school group today. She asked me if it would be a problem for me if she was there. She was smirking while she asked. She had already let her kids run off to play. She said she could round them up and just go "If I was going to feel uncomfortable". I told her that Shanna still asks to play with her son so it is fine.

I lied. It wasn't fine. When I got home I sent her an email. I responded to her nastygram from last February (for the very first time) and included the full text. I said, "Given the hostility with which you ended our friendship I would prefer that you not join a group I am a member of. I'm sure you understand given that you don't particularly want to know me."

I ended a sentence with a preposition. Bah. That was hard. I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I didn't wait. I'm glad I didn't let her get friendly with a bunch of people so that it becomes "drama". She doesn't know those people yet. She has met them once. I don't really want to get chased out of this community. I don't deal with passive aggressive behavior very well. Someone who will be nasty to me then smile all pretty like has no place in my life.

Her son came over and wanted to play soccer with Calli and I. He got really angry when I insisted he share. He sat down and told me he wasn't going to play anymore because I was mean. Calli had the damn ball first and it wasn't his. Yeah. I don't really need to deal with that family every week at the park. I hope she doesn't come back. I really don't think I was mean to him. I was very careful with my tone of voice. I can't be passive aggressive enough for that family and I have no interest in trying.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I was all set to have a gosh darned good day. By the way, I think it is hilarious that Shanna talks about the "darn freakin' housework". I did finally clean up my language some year. Like the year I heard how fluent my three year old was with "fuck". Neither of us say it much any more. Ahem.

I feel weird. I feel like I was inappropriate in setting this boundary. I feel like I should have kept my mouth shut. It's not like I own the group. But man. She was freakin mean. I don't want to deal with her. UUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Good stuff.

I think the next thing I should work on is I need to stop feeling embarrassed that I cry when I run. It's ok. Really. Many spiritual traditions believe that grief is held in the lungs. Running makes me breathe very deeply. I have a lot of stored grief. I'm feeling very nervous about that. I am running with friends this weekend. I don't know how that will go. I'm nervous. I don't like for other people to actually know how sad I am. I want to get to pretend it is invisible forever.

We had a really good weekend. I feel quite good about myself for successfully managing to get through babysitting with a smile on my face. When I left the little boy with his parents he told me, "Goodbye Mama" and "I love you". Now, I don't think I'm his mom. But he recognizes me as a caregiving woman in his life that he loves. He doesn't have another word yet. That makes me feel so good about myself. (For the record when we cuddled I said, "Krissy loves you" even though I felt idiotic. I was *not* trying to introduce myself as Mama.) Ahem. End defensive side note.

I can do this. I can take care of people. I can be nice. I can be generous. I can be loving. I am not someone that small children feel fear around. I'm an intimidating person. I'm also a very kind and understanding person. If you need to cry I'm not going to show irritation with you. I'm going to sit down with you and hug you and tell you I know you are sad. I love you and I'm here with you. And that is actually enough.

I'm enough.

He was calling Noah Daddy and he didn't want us to leave. He was even cuddling the girls by the end. That is how family acts. I got to hold his sister less than twenty-four hours after she was born and promise her that I will take care of her too. I'm going to take that seriously.

I'm enough.

I'm good. I'm kind. I'm smart. I'm good enough. I can take care of people. I can bring them comfort. I can make it easier for them to get through their days. I make their lives better.

That's really hard to believe. I'm not mean. I don't hurt them. I scare teenagers. I scare adults. At least, that is what people tell me. I feel slightly bewildered every time someone feels the need to tell me how much I scare them. It's hard for me to deal with the fact that they should be scared. I would very easily and quickly hurt an adult who did something that was a problem for me. I don't hurt kids. Adults may need to be taught a hard and fast lesson in manners. I don't have patience with adults. I don't know where I am finding it for the kids.

It was really weird this weekend. I felt good enough. I felt appreciated. Shanna's birthday party was lovely. Cooking and clean up were non-stressful. Noah cleaned the whole damn house as a way to thank me for the party. I felt very appreciated and loved. He and I both try hard to meet the others needs. He really needs the floor to be picked up or he trips and hurts himself. I keep the stuff off the floor for him even though I'm fine with walking around landmines. I need the floors to be clean. It grosses me out and makes me feel bad about myself if the floors are really dirty. He doesn't notice in general. This weekend he vacuumed and swept and mopped. He doesn't do that very often. But it means that I have a much easier week. It feels like such a kind gift. He went out of his way to lighten my load. Just because.

It's really weird for me to realize that Noah isn't used to people liking him any more than I am. He's weird and difficult and abrasive as well. We really are a lovely match. We are both blunt to the point of brutality. I will say that he has learned how to not make me cry. He's willing to try as many times as he needs to in as many different ways as he needs to in order to communicate his actual meaning to me. That's not how communication usually works. He wants to make sure I understand his intent. On the first listen through I rarely do. I'm trying. I do better than I used to.

At the very core of me I understand that I am hearing the world through a broken filter. I think everyone hates me and that I deserve all the mistreatment I have ever gotten. It's my fault that people treat me so badly. If I were less of a bitch maybe I would deserve better treatment.

Noah tells me adamantly that people are indifferent to me and are acting in self-serving ways and I should be equally indifferent to their actions. It's a useful perspective. It causes me to think hard about the fact that very few people know me. Of course their behavior isn't about me. I take up very little space in their lives. I take up a lot of space in Noah's life. He's really nice to me.

Noah comes home from work and tells me "thank you" for the things I did that day. He takes time to stop and look out the windows and appreciate out loud what I have done in the yards. He likes hearing what the different plants are and what my future plans are. When I ask him for help he is unstinting. Mostly he just lets me do my thing and he does his thing.

Ack. Time to go to the park.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The years go by.

I only have fourteen more years where I have "control" over making decisions for Shanna. What was I doing fourteen years ago? I was sixteen. I was a high school drop out. I worked full time at Ross Dress for Less and my mother took my paychecks. I only had access to $20/week. To buy all of the food I didn't get from the kitchen at home. My mom said my paycheck didn't really even cover my room and board so she was being generous. At the beginning of June my mother wasn't getting any child support for me any more. My father obviously wasn't paying it while he was waiting for the trial. For some reason me saying, "I'm not interested in being raped" means my father doesn't have to support me any more. Fair enough. I worked because I wanted to eat. I wanted to have my own room because all of the people I lived with looked at me like I was a dirty and disgusting person because I lied and claimed my father had sex with me. No one believed me. They were angry with me for making up lies. Rent on a room was $500. Auntie had to survive and pay the bills somehow.

So I worked full time. I made $6.00/hour. I had no benefits. I worked 40 hours/week, often with overtime even though I technically wasn't legally allowed to do so. I reliably made just over $1,000/month. I was given a $20 bill every week. My room was half of my paycheck. My food took the other half. My mom was generous. I did not have a social life that cost money. Bus fare ate into that $20 quickly. I sat at home and read the same books over and over. I watched the same movies. How could I not be a geek fangirl? I watched Hackers hundreds of times.

My daughter is going to have a very different life. I cannot imagine what she will be like in fourteen years. I have no idea. I'm scared to death. I don't think I could have imagined where I am now. Now when I think about figuring out money I'm working on a different scale. It's a lot harder and more complicated. I'm learning a lot about planning. I think this is good for me.

Many years ago my brother told me that my insurance settlement gave me a mindset difference. He told me that whereas I could be broke I would never be poor again. I think he is right. There is some crucial jump that most people never make. How do I prepare for an unknowable future? It's complicated. I don't feel like I know.

But I know it will involve living on less money. And then less money again. And then less money again. Unfortunately, $60 for a mixer is still... $60. When I shouldn't be spending any money I shouldn't be spending $60.

What do we actually need? We need food. I make a lot from scratch. We still get a meal a week mostly from food I grew last year. That's pretty cool to me. We are eating out less and less. I have downgraded our food in a variety of ways already. I've cut at least $200/month on food and I need to cut a bit more than that. I no longer buy raw milk. Noah is lactose intolerant and the difference he experiences is dramatic. Nevertheless at $16/gallon... that's a luxury we can't afford right now. We used to buy a quart a week. Now we go through more than a gallon a week because the girls like to drink milk. And I'm cooking with milk more. Things change.

It is interesting to examine where and how I make decisions. If Noah really manages to start going on a business he is going to need someone else to handle money. It's just not his strong suit.

I feel like I am trying to learn how to actually get shit done with a certain amount of money. What does that mean? How do you handle shifting priorities? We will never run out of things we would like to pay for (the mixer is really a metaphor) and how do we handle that?

It means I have to think about how much labor I can accomplish with my body. If I can buy a season pass at the local water park (we can walk to it) or a mixer... I'm buying the season pass. It is incentive for me to walk 5 miles multiple times a week pulling the wagon. I'm going to be so fucking buff. And if I decide to be brave and start trying to make bread I will have to learn how to do it by hand. Oh god nooooooooo the horrorrrrrrr.

What things are more like needs and what things are more like "enh I'd have slightly fewer excuses for being lazy if I had ________ expensive tool". Thing is, in my experience, having the tool doesn't cause the work to magically happen. If I want to make cookies I make cookies. I don't need a mixer. Not having it causes me to build up strength in my arms. How is not having a mixer a bad thing? Oh. It means I say, "Well making bread would be a lot easier." I used to have a mixer. I didn't make bread. I made cookies and cakes. I still do that by hand. Yeah.

If you "save money" by buying a cheaper version of something you don't need... you haven't saved any money. You have spent money you didn't need to spend. I may not have taken any accounting classes or business classes or whatever. I took maths. I can add and subtract. Mint.com is a really fucking awesome website. I can't lie about spending money. It is all tracked. I even parcel out my cash spending.

Right now I need to try to remember what it is like to live as if I have no money. If I am lucky I will never get back to the point where it is actually true. If I pretend it is true and live like it is true I am more likely to survive longer. I will have a buffer. I come from a long line of hearty peasant stock. I need to remember what it is like to walk and carry things by hand because that is what I have the money to do. Cars are expensive to operate. Right now I'm thinking about trying to live without it for the sake of saving money. I have certainly had times in my life where we simply didn't have a car.

I'm trying to not feel weird about walking. I have a lot of weird internal dialogue about it. Here walking to the store is a conspicuously low class activity. No wonder my neighbors think we are poor. I've had people say I can come over and watch tv at their house. Uhh, no thanks. I don't have a television because I don't enjoy watching one.

It's an entire culture I don't share. It's weird. I don't watch very many movies either. People don't know what to talk to me about. Random people I meet. I don't think I'm the only socially awkward person. Uhm, obviously if you slog through all this shit I write you would probably be able to find something to talk to me about. I reallllllllly like all twenty or so of you. Ha.

Sometimes when I write I am kind of mentally addressing Noah and sometimes I have a specific person I think about. Not very many people have told me they read my blog. A number of people have told me adamantly that they don't. I like talking to them the most. It's extremely passive aggressive of me. I am going to hell.

And the kids came in. No more babbling today. I had fun though. I don't know why I enjoy doing this so much. Thank you all twenty-ish of you.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

More money.

When I turned thirty we lost $14,400/year in income. I hadn't thought hard about how much we depended on that to catch budget shortfalls. It was a cushion because I officially budgeted as if we saved all of it. Ha.

We have to start saving money. We have to if I am going to be able to keep my promise to Noah that he can quit his job and do something important to him. I have to be able to fund that promise. Noah doesn't touch money very often. For a few years he didn't have a pin number for his atm card. (That wasn't actually my fault.) It's weird having so much control over money I haven't earned. But I feel like my annuity money was in the same category. I didn't exactly earn it.

How different would my life have been if I hadn't been essentially independently wealthy when I turned eighteen? I instantly had access to more money every month than my mother earned to support us both. What kind of sanctimonious bitch am I to judge how she managed to survive when she never earned enough money. No one was willing to pay her very much money.

My mother and I had very different approaches to being poor. I feel frantic if I am in the red in one section of my budget. I want to save for large purchases in advance. I want to pay in cash. If I don't have the cash to spend then I can't fucking afford it. My mother liked to impulse buy and worry about finding the money later. She was very status symbol focused. She had a large wardrobe of name brand clothing that she bought for a few dollars each because she worked in the Ross mark down department. I worked in the stock room. I saw things when they came in. She hid things under fixtures for months until it went into deep discount then she bought it on the employee 40% weekend. She had nice clothes.

I still wear a no brand random $5.00 dress I bought when I was fourteen. It hasn't come apart at the seams. It is still fairly figure flattering, why not? I don't go shopping until I'm about to be stuck running around in public naked. Or there is an important party coming up. I have a really nice costume collection. Most of that comes from the Tom-era.

I digress. Right now I am terrified Calli is going to spill a water bottle on my laptop. Corrective action taken. I can't regain that train of thought.

So I'm having trouble downsizing our lifestyle in a way that isn't bullshit. What I'm doing right now is bullshit. I'm depending too much on things being paid off over several months. I'm not saving up money in advance. I'm not getting ahead in any area. And I'm not saving anything. This isn't working.

A rather large chunk of his salary goes towards things like property taxes, home owners insurance, life insurance and other such festive big chunks. Things that are fixed expenses. I need to build big buffers. I can't just expect Noah to make more money to cover shortfalls. I can't. That's not reasonable. This is going to feel hard.

Things like: in the Sarah experiment I gave up a kitchen mixer. Whoops. That kind of blows now. I can't purchase another one. I don't have anywhere in the budget I can put it. I have a blender. I have a pastry blender. I can bloody well use my hands.

It's interesting to think about. I am stopping to think about what messages I received when I was a child. If you didn't have the "right" equipment you just didn't do things. We were always waiting for our lives to begin. I wasn't taught to use my hands. I was taught that you use money to buy a machine to do work. If you can't buy that machine you can't do the work. I've worked really hard at learning how to do hand sewing for minor repairs. It's a simple skill. Sorta.

I'm thinking a lot about my mom and my class issues. But I have to go make dinner so those thoughts will stay in my head for now.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I think I can; I think I can.

I get told pretty often that my kids are challenging. People tell me they are tired when they leave here. But my kids are difficult because they are used to a non-stop stream of energy and input from me. I talk all day. I answer questions. I interact. But my kids and I have an understanding. When I tell them I am at the wall and I need to rest they go play. We are learning boundaries slowly. I feel like it is mostly working because they are getting older and have fewer this minute needs. I tell myself it helps a lot that my kids have never known the feeling of having unmet needs. Not for more than a few minutes. We are working on differentiating between wants and needs. 


I'm having to work very hard on being patient and loving with the boy I am babysitting. I'm bloody well doing it because that's the deal--but it's so hard. I have to be patient even though his crying is very loud and I have a terrible headache. He's sad and scared. He doesn't understand why he was taken away from his parents. He has never been away from them for this long before. This is terrifying for him. And my kids scare the shit out of him. Their volume is jarring.

We are a loud house. I feel embarrassed about that. I consciously try not to speak when I am around people because I believe that my voice is irritatingly loud. I learned how to project when I was a stage manager. Then I was a teacher. I feel that I sound bombastic and didactic pretty much all the time. I feel like I don't know how to have a conversation. I feel bad about it.

I don't know very many men who waste time feeling bad that people can hear them clearly. I'm not screaming. I just have a voice that carries well. I did that on purpose. But when I see a little boy flinch when I speak I feel ashamed of myself. I try so hard to make my voice soft and gentle.

Right now I can't let that feeling of shame be part of me. I have to not think about it at all. If I let that tape run my behavior will change and I won't be able to notice. I'm not doing a thing wrong. I am a nice person. I am gentle with these kids. They do know they are loved.

He's just also scared and confused and he can't really communicate. Everything he is doing is the natural reaction to his biological state. He is not an inconvenience. If I have to wear ear plugs, that's ok. I'm not being mean. I am dealing with my physical needs in a non-obtrusive way.

I can be patient. I can. I will be nice all god damn day. I will find games to play and we will be excited and happy. Today is Shanna's birthday party. She is so excited she is bouncing all over. We have cooking to do. How can I get them involved.

This is my life. This is what I want to do. I am god damn lucky to be where I am and doing what I am doing. I have a lot of luxury and a lot of privilege. I don't need to be a whiny bitch while I'm doing the things that are involved in life. I will be a good example to the kids. I will help them learn things that are hard. And I will smile while I do it.

God damn it.

I'd like to stop talking about my mom, eventually.


Nights/mornings like these are the reason I tell people not to worry about my “triggers”; you can’t possibly figure them all out. No one can.

Someone I barely know on the internet posted about how her mother died years ago and left a bunch of quilting projects in process. She sent the pieces to her mother in law (because she is a master quilter) and now the woman I know talked about the joy she feels getting these pieces back finished. It’s like more love arriving postmortem.

It has made me cry and cry and cry. Why don’t I get to have a mother who wants to take care of me? Why did that pass me by this lifetime? My mother didn’t want me from conception. She was raped. She gave me the bare amount of care necessary to keep me from dying for a lot of my life.

I like to look at my children when they are sleeping. I like to think about how much I want them. If they disappeared my life would be over. It’s not exactly a healthy response. I think that I love them with all the love I couldn’t give anyone else in my life as a child. I love them as my daughters and my sisters and my friends and my mothers. I don’t have anyone else of my blood and I never will. Well, they could grow up and have children. But that is decades away.

Babysitting makes me think of my mother. He’s adjusting, slowly. It’s hard for him. He is to young to be able to understand what is going on and my girls are being kind of jerks to him. They are young enough to not be able to be sympathetic. They are playing the “Hey if we scream in his face he cries and that is funny” game. It’s not nice. They are also both wildly jealous of this interloper touching their Mama. This sweet little boy was left in my care because his mother trusts me. I don’t want to fuck this up. I cuddle him when he wants it even though it bothers the girls. They can adjust too. It doesn’t make me love them any less because I am rocking an interloper on my lap.

To be honest it makes me think it is highly convenient that my kids are on the smaller side because I can still rock both of them on my lap at once. With the boy I am babysitting it’s a one kid ride. It was weird cuddling him as he fell asleep. With my kids I can’t put an arm on their body as they are falling asleep. Shanna says it hurts. My arm is too heavy. This little boy held on to my hand so that my whole arm stayed on him. He didn’t want to be alone so he held me hostage. It was quite wonderful. I’m not Mama but I’m ok. He is starting to trust me more.

He got a huge goose egg last night. He and Shanna were running around as usual and they slammed into one another before bouncing off of separate walls. Of course I feel like a horrible child abuser. I let them get hurt. I honestly think it is better for them to run and get hurt so I will have this feeling again before too long. Free range parenting is not for the feint hearted. I think they collided because it was right before bed time and they both had slower reflexes than usual. They have to learn how their bodies work. I can’t teach them that by lecturing them and controlling their movement. I have to let them figure it out. That will be painful. For everyone.

I wonder if I will ever stop missing my mother. Somehow I doubt it. I think I will miss her on the day I die. I don’t understand Noah not feeling connected to his mother. I could understand breaking contact because you have to. God I miss my mother. It feels like this ache will never go away. But she hurt me so much. She would hurt my children. I can’t allow that. It doesn’t really matter that I would like to still be on the roulette wheel of abuse with her. It would be something. My mother does love me.

I can’t handle the lying. I can’t handle the stealing. I can’t handle being told that I should be grateful for all that people do for me as I serve them. No one else gets to set the terms of my reality. I can’t sit there while my mother and my sister talk about what good mothers they are. No. You cooperated when your children were being raped. You are by definition bad mothers. My mom at least kind of gets a pass on the fact that she was never in the room. She got to always say she wasn’t responsible. My sister actively taught her children oral sex. She is going to straight to hell on a bullet train. My mother was at least classy enough to only give me verbal pointers. My sister taught her children by modeling and direct instruction. I can’t prosecute and the victims would turn around and lie to a police officer to defend their mother. The only thing I can do is keep my kids away from them.

It hurts and hurts and hurts. I feel like I am not good enough. I wouldn’t be able to protect myself from them. I want them and miss them so much. I want to cuddle up with my mom. I slept with my mother till I was a teenager. I miss her smell. I miss brushing her hair. I miss…

I don’t know what to do with this ache inside of me. I don’t know how to stop crying. I smile during the day, as much as I can. The sun isn’t up yet. The kids are still asleep. I cry.

My stomach hurts. I have this horrible physical sensation of impending horror. Something bad is going to happen. Something terrible. I don’t trust that feeling. That feeling is a liar. Who is going to leave next? Who else is going to stop loving me?

I really want to hurt myself. I want to be in pain right now. I know I deserve it. I know I am bad. I know I am not deserving of good feelings. I don’t really care how I do it: cutting, beating my head on concrete, burning myself. I don’t really want to keep listing the things I have done to hurt myself. It’s fairly humiliating. I know this isn’t normal. I’m not going to. I’m going to cry because it is sad that I feel like I deserve to hurt this much. That’s enough. I don’t need more pain. This is enough.

When I went to the grief ritual a woman invited me to join her support group for people who were adopted or grew up in foster care. I sent her an email a couple of weeks ago. She wrote back asking me to explain my family situation before I could come, didn’t I grow up with a single mother? I can’t tell you again about my fostering situations. I just can’t. You enthusiastically invited me and then ask me to justify myself? I can’t do that. I can’t. I just know that again I’m asking for support I don’t deserve. I need to stop trying to find a support group. I have me. I have what Noah has going spare. That’s it. I can’t try for more. I can’t believe that more exists. Even if it exists for other people it doesn’t exist for me.

So what if I’m sad. Life is hard all over. Suck it up, Buttercup.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Babysitting


I think that most people want to feel like they are part of something. Families, churches, college alumni—it doesn’t really matter. They just want a group identity. People like being an “us”.

Starting yesterday morning I have been babysitting my friend’s two year old. It’s going quite well, I think. He even slept well. He woke up at four with a dirty diaper. Noah had to change the sheets but he’s used to that. Noah couldn’t get him back to sleep (that’s normal for the kid) so I spelled Noah at five. I pulled the boy up onto my chest and rubbed his back. I talked to him softly about how happy I am that he is visiting us. I told him that he is a wonderful little boy and I’m glad I get to spend time with him. I told him that I loved him and I’m happy to take care of him. He went to sleep with a smile on his face.

I am doing something with my life. I am helping people grow up. We are not a culture that values stay at home parents. We treat it as an unfortunate occasional necessity when people can’t afford to pay day care because they don’t make enough money. I don’t make money. I do things that earn small amounts of money occasionally because that way I can take care of budget shortfalls without having to talk to Noah about it. Noah doesn’t really like talking about money.

We have had to start talking about money more lately. We have fairly large specific goals. Ok, how do we get there? It is feeling pretty humiliating to me that if we are to save money the only option I have is to deny myself things. To be fair, not all of the denial will be to me. I don’t make money. Sometimes being dependent feels humiliating. I’m having a hard time with the fact that I don’t feel like I am helping to build a life with Noah. I feel like I’m sitting at home and waiting for him to bring me a life.

I feel fairly guilty that I want to be with my kids this much. I have no interest in finding a job. Who would take care of my kids? The idea of them being with someone they didn’t know freaks me out. They are still so dependent.

Babysitting shows me a lot of this. He’s not mine. I don’t have an innate understanding of all of his needs in order. I have, in fact, specifically resisted learning even though his mother rattled it off every single time I talked to her for over a year. I have mostly trained her out of that. Learning a baby is hard. It is work. You have to sit there and stare at that person and figure out what the fuck do they need? Their needs are different from mine. They need slightly different foods and liquids than adults. As they age their needs are going to change. I have to figure them out and adapt. That’s my job.

I’m struck by the fact that refusing to call domestic labor  “womens work” means that women who stay home are treated like they aren’t doing any work at all. It doesn’t earn money. Therefore it’s not work.

Right now the sweet little boy is crying. He misses his parents. There literally isn’t anything I can do about it but tell him I understand and I’m sorry he is sad. I cuddle him when he wants it but he doesn’t always want to be touched. I get that. Watching him struggle with this tells me so much about my life. I was closer to Shanna’s age the first time I was sent away. I had more understanding of time. He is genuinely terrified that he will never see his parents again. Barring some hideous childbirth accident (You had better not read my blog while you are in labor) he will see his parents again soon once his mom finishes bringing his younger sibling into the world. He doesn’t get it. I can tell him I like him and I am glad I get to spend time with him all day. He’s still going to be sad. I am not his mom. I am just not as good. I know. I really really understand.

Then the storm passes and he plays again. He’s starting to try to play with the girls. He doesn’t have a lot of exposure to other children. Group play is a learned skill. It’s neat watching how he learns it. It makes me cry when I think there is the real possibility that I will spend more birthdays with this boy than I spent with my mother. In two more years I will have lived with Shanna longer than I lived with my mother consistently. Who I am now is already a bigger chunk of my life than any other stage. I have more consistency and routine and stable people. I struggle so hard with this.

I feel scared because every day is a whole new step in doing something hard that I have never done before. I have never stayed this long. I have never been part of anything like this. It’s all new.

I have this image of myself being a nasty, hateful person. I try very hard to pay attention to what I say. My tone of voice is often harsher than strictly necessary, but my words are gentle. “Oh that was an accident. Let’s practice cleaning up.” “That happens. Everyone makes mistakes.” “I love you. I want to spend time with you. Thank you for being here with me.” I am so overwhelmingly grateful for the ways in which I get to spend the hours of the day.  I have to steal time on the computer. I’m not bored. Well, sometimes I’m bored. But I don’t have time to kill. Sometimes I’m doing rote work that doesn’t engage my mind and I am trying to find my zone on that. It’s an every day challenge.

How do I do this? How do I be this person? I’m really gentle with kids. Sometimes I don’t enjoy being gentle. I get so frustrated. I don’t want to clean up any more messes. I don’t want to gently say, “That’s ok. Let’s try again” when a kid makes an enormous mess. I want to scream and jump up and down. I want to hit. But I don’t. I take a deep breath. I close my eyes. I think, “If this is a day they remember, what will that memory make them feel?” I say it nicely for the 3,523 time. Everyone else can be impatient and difficult to adjust to. I’m going to help them learn how to do things without having to feel bad. No one is bad here for having an accident. Accidents happen to everyone. Accidents are value neutral.

He’s not crying. He’s pulling apart my broom. Calli is “typing” next to me on the couch. Shanna went to try out the shallow pool in the back yard. I can see her from where I am sitting. There is about 2” of water. Technically a drowning risk but come on people. I can see her. I doubt she is really going to get in. It’s pretty chilly at this time of day. Nope. She is going to poop on the ground instead. Right. I cleaned it up. She’s in her room for a while. I think it’s time to get off the computer. I have laundry to fold and dishes to wash and kids to talk to.

I’m scared that I won’t be good enough. But I just have to be good enough for a little while. I think I can do that even though it’s scary.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My local bdsm community; or Sex is complicated.

When I'm not writing I have a harder time remembering my resolutions and I don't feel like I make progress in "processing" because I just say the same thing over and over. I like to pretend that when I write I occasionally mix it up and say different things and reach new-to-me conclusions or connections. This is what I tell myself to justify my continual verbal diarrhea.

My kind of rough plan at this point (in my head so far) is that I will finish editing a friend's book by the end of June (I'm honest about my limited time available for such work) and then I need to start editing No Secrets again because I would like to put the kickstarter up during the summer. I think it would be nice to have it end on my birthday. After I see if I can get funding for a print edition (so I don't have to front all the money [that I don't have]) [incidentally--the ebook has paid for the editor and has mostly paid for the ISBN number. It's only been out for nearly three months. I'm thrilled.] I will deal with that. Then I can turn my full attention to Part Two. If Noah says it is ok I want to spend October doing pre-writing stuff and then see if NaNoWriMo is sufficiently inspirational again this year. What do you think, Noah?

It's hard trying to work on multiple projects in my head at once. Things get kind of muddled. Although I have to say that editing my friend's book right now is ideal in terms of making me think about how I want to phrase things in Part Two (capitalized because for the moment it is the working title and that makes it a proper noun--I'm kind of obsessed with thinking about when capitol letters are appropriate right now).

I'm thinking about the bdsm community. What am I going to choose to write about? How am I going to show what happened? I don't want this to be another "telling" book. I want this book to do more showing of what happened and that means cherry picking experiences I had and creating dialogue for them. Dialogue scares the shit out of me. I don't want to remember something differently than someone else and be called a liar. Instead I will call it fiction and improvise freely to make my point. I'M NOT ACTUALLY SAYING YOU SAID IT. SEE IT'S FICTION!!! That's my motto right now. And yes, I am yelling it in my head.

I came into a very particular community at a very particular time. I traveled a great deal during the four years I was heavily involved in the bdsm scene. I got to find out that people in Australia and England and the East Coast of the US treats things quite differently people do in the bay area. Holy moly the Seattle scene is different. And Portland was different again. There are a bunch more cities I could list off but that seems silly. I got out of my bubble as often as possible. At the time I don't think I knew I was trying to learn bdsm in a studying kind of way. I wanted to find out what it meant to different people.

I only knew what my local community taught me at first. That was a fairly biased starting point. I went to the Wednesday munch in Palo Alto for four years. I rarely missed a munch in that time period. I went religiously. It is the longest period of my life of having an intensive social experience. I have certainly known people for longer than that--Britt and Jenny are the best examples of that. We have come-and-go relationships and we have rarely spent all that much time together. I saw the Wednesday munch crowd (there was a sizable 'normal' crowd) at least weekly and often more than once a week. That's a lot of contact for me.

When I try to think of how to describe the crowd I am struck by how afraid I am. Most of the folks who still hang out near the munch like me well enough. I don't want to fuck that up by writing about the experience I had. I don't want them to know that sometimes they weren't very nice to me and they didn't even know they were doing something challenging. I'm pretty sure that folks were trying to be nice to me. It isn't their fault I am damaged. I came pre-fucked up.

I'm beating around the bush and wasting time. Most of the folks who were part of that social group can be charitably described as being socially awkward. When you get together and hang out with people for years and years just because you all like deviant sex you are going to have an odd group. People different types of deviant sex, by and large. My opinion is that community focus comes about through a sort of peer pressure and exposure. Themes emerge. Seattle is known for blood play and suspension. In Australia they talk about "performing" and many people in their community will not play in private. They think it all must be done on a stage in front of an audience or you are weird for doing it. I thought that was hilarious.

In Palo Alto when I was part of the crowd there was a heavy emphasis on straight up fetish gear (mostly latex though no one scorned leather or pvc) and pushing people to the edge of their pain limits. The crowd really thrived on trying to break people. Not everyone. Just the loudest players who played the most often.

I get the impression that many of the people who were there for the social aspects were not looking to be bad ass players but they certainly were happy to egg the conversation on. I spent a lot of time there knowing that I was mostly attractive because of my age and willingness to do whatever someone wanted me to. I don't play with safewords. In general that just means I don't say no regardless of what someone wants to do.

But I'm really harsh and abrasively defensive with everyone I don't want to play with. I think that got worse not better over the years of spending so much time in La Dolce Vita (the name of the cafĂ© the munch was in). The group was very dismissive of the intelligence of women. Most of the men in the crowd worked in tech. Almost none of the women were computer people. As a female friend said to me years ago (roughly paraphrased because the passage of time is like that): "Of course they treat you like you are stupid. You don't even work in the computer field." If you aren't a geek you are shit. Check. Got it. I wonder why I have such a fucking chip on my shoulder about the topic.

I had a bunch of men I would talk to. I did have female friends but they tended to pay less focused attention to me. The men appreciated me sitting on their laps and being flirtatious. Most of the men in that crowd had virtually zero traditional sex in their lives. I find that fascinating. There were a fair number of single guys who were single for many years and some married guys who had wives who just... didn't. I was quite happy to fill their need for feeling interesting  and wanted. I'm not very good at talking to men without acting out in a somewhat sexual manner. All of a sudden I was the best thing ever.  It's not that I was ever that hot, I'm not, and it's not that I was ever going to fuck them, I didn't, but I looked hard at them. I got to know them and had a consistent relationship. It was quite lovely in a variety of ways.

I'm willing to bet they would still enjoy having a friendship with me even if I didn't sit on their laps and uhm move about. I have always had issues with compulsive sexual acting out. I was really grateful that Tom told me early on he wanted monogamy. I got to stop having to follow through on my teasing. I could tell people in advance that I was in a monogamous relationship so what I was doing had limits. When you are talking to men who aren't getting any sexual activity and you say you will tease but not go all the way they get to make the decision and avoid anger. It stays friendly and light. They don't start getting more interested and pushing. Monogamy gave me a lot of freedom. These guys were all good friends with my boyfriend and they had known him first. They weren't going to push my limits because they didn't want to step on Tom's toes.

Once I broke up with Tom and moved around the community a bit more freely I had several sexual assaults in a short period of time. I think my local community is quite misogynistic. It is my experience that men who aggressively want violent sex often have no interest in asking for consent first because they would risk hearing "no". Fetishists are different. Most fetishists (in my little corner of the world--who knows about your corner of the world) are not particularly aggressive about sex. There is a lot of bdsm play that lives in this weird gray area of sensory experience that feels unrelated to ones genitals. It may be pleasurable to each individual but they shouldn't be sharing that feeling. It's about them each having the body experience they want. Being encased from head to foot in latex makes sex basically impossible. Sure you can do some masturbation, but who counts that?

My local community had a bizarre focus on no-sex. Bdsm is not about sex! It's a "hobby". It's members are enthusiasts. I know it wasn't just Tom. I went to a party every month with this crowd. I think I can count on my fingers how many times anyone had sex at one of those parties. I went to more than fifty of those parties. If I count up all of the times someone was having sex and I was not involved the numbers fit on one hand with room to spare. That's kind of odd for an event that is ostensibly sex focused.

That was where I spent my early adulthood in the sex community. I found a no-sex ghetto. It was hilarious. It was really weird to me that I managed to find the group that didn't have sex. It massively shaped my attitude about bdsm. It has been a weird journey to try and combine the two. Noah is the sort who doesn't play without sex. Sex is the point. That other stuff is kind of interesting for a bit but really we are here for sex. Let's not kid ourselves.

It is a night and day contrast. Tom and I had sex in fewer than 5% of our scenes. Roughly. I didn't actually count. We just didn't have much sex. Sex was different. I think that sex was too emotionally vulnerable. He doesn't like being vulnerable. With sex you can't control a lot of it. Bodies are unpredictable. Tom has trouble orgasming. He doesn't really do it any way other than masturbating by himself. Having a partner there is distracting. I am a competitive person and I learned how to get him off through oral and vaginal sex. I know I can count the number of times I achieved those goals on my fingers. It was too hard, honestly. Over an hour of oral sex makes your jaw hurt something fierce. Tom has an enormous cock. It hurts no matter where he puts it. Sex was really complicated.

So I lived in this strange world where people liked having me around to wear fetish gear in front of them because they liked seeing it and I was appreciated for hinting at sex and not delivering. It was a strange period in my life.

Tom wanted me to learn how to tie him up. He likes the experience. I was under contract so I couldn't say no. I didn't want to learn how to top. I was correct in assuming that once I was known for having those skills I would be asked to do them a lot. I have no sexual interest in having someone helpless. Just not my kink. But I have a lot of interest in meeting my friends' needs and helping them have happier lives. I topped a lot. I'm sure it was a mixed bag experience for people because I'm an inconsistent top. I either broadcast that I'm doing this because I feel like I have to (how sexy is that? not at all) or I ask people how/where they want to be pushed. I like doing very intense scenes both as a top and as a bottom.

When I top I only do a few activities. I'm a very competent suspension top. I certainly can and do floor bondage on occasion but I really prefer suspension where possible. For me it is about the trust involved. Tying someone up on the floor always leaves me thinking, "Oh shit what now?" I often feel uncomfortable touching people. I don't know what the fuck to do. I've never figured it out well. I was taught it wasn't about sex so I feel uncomfortable going there. Not to mention that I don't find submissive people sexually attractive so... yeah. I don't want to go after peoples genitals. I actually did a lot of sex play with Tom when he was tied up. That was the big exception. (I swear to God I have asked for permission to talk about this at least three times and he says it is ok.) He liked doing the forced feminization then getting tied up and "taken" thing. I feel bad about these events in a variety of ways. He wanted to be forced to be like a woman (which I have weird feminist feelings about) and then raped. Lots of men fantasize about what it is like to have this happen.

I have this really uncomfortable set of emotions around these men thinking it might be fun to have my life for a few hours. I know that there are people who have never been raped who do rape play. I have mixed feelings about people thinking that rape is hot. There are things about rape that are hot, I get that. Power imbalance feels sexy. It's just one way of imagining a power imbalance.

I imagine it would feel different for a woman who has never been raped to dress her boyfriend up in a dress and sodomize him. I have a whole complex swirl of emotions around, "See. I'm supposed to like it when people "rape" me. Obviously I am just interpreting things wrong in other situations in my life. I was supposed to enjoy them. Does that mean I am bad because I didn't enjoy it when Jeremy sodomized me? Am I broken? Was I just not quite big enough? What? What did I do wrong?"

For me to do rape play as the top I have to play very carefully close to becoming my father. These things just pass right along don't they?

And he didn't want to be raped "as a man". He wanted to be forced to be something weaker. Something that could be raped. I have some complex fucking emotions around that. The biggest part of me tries to believe that it is ok for people to have whatever sexual predilections they have. I just don't need to do it with them.

I spent years at that munch listening to the loud, overbearing men lecture me about Libertarianism (I still haven't resigned my party affiliation), cars, guns, and computers. I was welcome to develop an active interest in all of the above with them. If I had a dissenting opinion I could either deal with being shouted down (and called a bitch) or keep my fucking mouth shut. I learned to keep my mouth shut. Tom and I didn't argue very much. We got along very well. I didn't say a lot.

I sat on their laps and flirted and was looked at while not talking. That was what I was wanted for. That is what I felt was wanted from me. They haven't made a lot of effort to continue to know me. When I broke up with Tom I stopped going to the munch and the monthly party. That was his space. Apparently all of those friends were his friends too. I didn't try real hard to pull anyone out of the crowd with me and they haven't tried to stay in contact with me. Several of them have given me half-hearted "sure we should do dinner some time" shit. When I ask for a date I get brushed off with, "I'm really busy right now and I will get back to you". Crickets.

I didn't really want to be the fetish doll for the rest of my life. I want to be allowed to have dissenting opinions without being told I am a bitch. I asked him flat out, "If I was a guy would you call me an asshole for saying that?"
"No. I wouldn't call him anything. I would just think he had strong opinions."
"Then why did you call me a bitch?"
"Because you are one."

Why do I want monogamy with Noah? Because when I ran into that guy fairly recently I totally offered to have sex with him. I have thought about it for many years. So I told him flat out that I thought about it. For the record I did this before we agreed to monogamy. I have withdrawn all of the offers I was flinging out left and right.

I think it is time for me to move on to a new stage in life where I can recognize that people who only want to spend time with me because I will have sex with them are people I don't actually need in my life. I have gone literally my entire life using sex as a way of developing relationships. I have a very hard time having contact with people without feeling like I owe them something for putting up with my company and I have so little to offer.

I can see Shanna figuring out how to organize groups of kids to engage in play she directs. It's fascinating to watch. It gives me a lot of insight into how and when I locked on to sex as a coping strategy. I think that it wouldn't have worked as well if I had been in one place. You run out of people eventually. Or you end up in cyclical patterns with one abusive partner. I had endless people to try out my opening moves on. It means I didn't have to do the uncomfortable work of trying something else in order to make friends. I just did the same thing over and over again. When whatever sexual relationship I arranged kind of fizzled out I was dropped like a hot potato. I was usually not acknowledged again while I lived in that place.

I need to stop fucking people because then I feel shamed out of communities. I feel like if I am no longer offering up sexual interaction I don't have a lot to offer. So I shut my mouth and feel unwanted and I leave.

There is a new family in our homeschooling group. The mom has moved a lot all her life. I've been talking to her about displacement and getting to know new people. It's really interesting. She doesn't have any abuse in her background. Her family isn't warm but they aren't abusive.

I have totally glossed over the beating part of bdsm so far. I grew up in the "hit her harder" school of thought. We were a crowd of very heavy players and we felt distinct pride about that. I showed up to this crowd when I was eighteen. I spent my nineteenth birthday feeling like I didn't get to say no when everyone at the party wanted to line up to hit me. I never did a group spanking thing again. After that I learned that I was allowed to say no.

But you have to be careful. You can have rules like "I'm monogamous" because of course guys recognize that some guys are possessive of their pussy. But you have to be as available as someone else wants or you are a bitch. Telling guys no makes them hate you. There is a fine line between not looking like a good person to ask (and being roundly ignored as a result) and looking absolutely available. If he has the nerve to ask you really should say yes. You wouldn't want to be part of the Embargo, now would you?

Sexual longing is so big. It encompasses so much of who a person is. My munch was full of male fetishists (there are not nearly as many women who are into it) who didn't have sex. Either because they couldn't because they didn't have a willing partner or because they didn't enjoy it that much. Sometimes I feel like a liar when I identify myself as part of the sex community. There wasn't much fucking going on. But the needs came from similar places. Instead we encased one another in latex or rope. We beat the shit out of one another and called it love. "I know you have a need to feel pain, let me help you with that."

I have a hard time with going to parties and not playing. I don't play because I want to, exactly. I play because I feel compelled to. I feel compelled to meet someones needs. Either they want to hurt me or they want to be hurt. I don't really play with people anymore unless they manage to hit that button. Well, uhm, before that monogamy switch. Ahem.

I don't know how to channel this with Noah. I'm really struggling. I know that part of it is that I'm having a weird psychological reaction to the fact that I shouldn't feel shame about what Noah and I do. What we do is given the thumbs up by every legal, moral, and ethical standpoint one can have. We have remarkably vanilla, standard PIV (penis in vagina) sex.

I'm not really a deviant any more. Was I ever one? I struggle with that. I think I wanted what I did when I was younger. But why did I run so hard and so far away from it? Why did I go find a partner who would not be capable of playing out similar roles with me forever? I often feel like I do things wrong for Noah. I'm not very good at the things he prefers. I feel like I am better suited to being in a relationship where I am continually silenced because then my depression is apparently entirely invisible.  Isn't that better? No? I don't know.

I haven't been hit to the point of getting a bruise in a long time. It used to be my main hobby. Well, the bruise wasn't entirely the point. We all loved comparing our bruises though. It was proof that we could handle it. That we liked intense play. We wanted to bear the intensity that someone else wanted to dish out. That proved how submissive we were. I don't want that shit any more. I'm tired of having to accept pain in order to prove I like someone. If you fucking like me, don't hurt me.

But but... it gets me off. Really. I'm having a hard time with how difficult it is to get off if I am not in pain. I've had a long life to acclimate to believing that I should experience pain as a normal part of sexual activity and I am supposed to shut up about it and smile. And get off. Because then it is better for the person hurting me. They have proof that what they are doing is justified.

I have a lot of complex feelings about that time in my life. I used to put up personal ads for girls. They would come over and we would have awesome, wild, vanilla sex and then they would go away and never be seen again. That was the only way I could have sex that wasn't painful at that point in my life. Tom was simply too large to ever be comfortable. It always hurt. I just didn't talk about it. He didn't really know. And I am god damn good actress. I should have been in porn. I pretend sex is awesome better than most people.

Tom never ever once pushed past me actually saying "no". Our relationship existed entirely within the realm of me actively consenting to what happened to me. Most of the time I scripted the play. He told me what porn websites he liked (insex.com was his very favorite) and I spent a lot of my free time looking at the pictures trying to figure out what I could handle doing. I tried to write a story with those pictures in my head. I would then tell him the story and how I wanted to play and he would do it. I picked a lot of really brutal play. I'm always interested in proving that I can take pain. At least these days I have gotten over punching games.

For a long time it felt like I was building towards the goal of being able to take enough pain that I could lie on the floor unable to stand and still say, "Beige".

I want to be hurt. Deep inside me I want to hurt. I want to feel pain more than I want to breathe. Tom and I had a system that worked for several years. When I was getting antsy I didn't talk about what I was feeling, I asked for a beating. It kept me distracted. Focusing on my beatings was far more socially acceptable than cutting. This way I got to be cool at the same time instead of a damaged little freak. I don't think it was good for me to hang out with the "hit her harder" camp. I am very competitive in my head.

I feel the need to point out that I know people who take way more intense beatings than I ever have or want to. That's ok! I'm done trying to climb that ladder. I don't want to be the biggest masochist. I think I only need to be picked up by my pectoral muscles before being shaken like a dog once. I thought I was going to lose my mind from pain. I couldn't get away from it. It was every where. It chased me through every back corner of my mind and screamed pain and pain and pain. Giving birth was not that painful. During labor I always had a corner of my mind that I could hide in for brief breaks. (Unmedicated home birth, for the record. After nine days of labor. I hemorrhaged and almost died. It was festive.)

I think I am comfortable saying that I have had the most intense scenes I ever want to have. I'm done climbing that mountain. Those were my personal peaks. I want to not go anywhere near them again. That was a very dark and scary place for me. I don't think that all masochists have as little respect for their bodies as I do for mine but I am not that sturdy. I didn't really enjoy all that much of it. I was way past the point when I was doing it for my own masochism. I like to play with sadists. Actual sadists. The kind who like it best when their partner genuinely isn't having fun. They are willing to really hurt me. After all the years of cutting I have done it seemed kind of ridiculous for me to explore the lighter side of beatings. I didn't bother. I like single tail whips. I like having my flesh ripped open. I like canes that leave welts that last for weeks. If I don't have long-term reminders it is like it never happened. It is like I am not serving my purpose.

Noah and I have a hard doing sm play together. It's complicated.

I wish I knew what I wanted from sex. I wish I had a better understanding of what parts I am doing because I like them. What I like is that my partner is having fun. But that's a lie. There is stuff I wish Noah did. I haven't really been talking about them so I can't get mad at him for not doing them. I consider that to be an inconvenient proviso for life. I can't get mad at people for not reading my mind. I'm not sure how to find enough time to think about this in my life. I don't think about sex much when my kids are around. That is just off-limits for me. I'm with them so much that I don't have a lot of hours of the day when I am able to think about sex. I don't feel like I am finding a way to figure out new things. I am stuck on old tapes because holy crisco I don't need something else to be working on really intensely in my personal life.

This is how these things die. They become not a priority. I don't know how to maintain balance and give everything in my life the attention it deserves. I'm not big enough. I look out at the next few years and see no sign of increased time for sex. Not really. Not for many years, probably. Between the kids and other things that pull our energy I just don't see much happening. This is how bed death happens.

We still have sex a few times most weeks. We do skip weeks. It's just not that high of a priority. Too many conflicting factors have to be in alignment. And then we are too tired to do anything all that exciting. I like the intimacy of sex a great deal or I wouldn't be having it at all right now. Physically it is sometimes annoying and we have an understanding that I "take one for the team" at times. This is part of that sex that women don't exactly want but they have any way.

This is so complicated. I love Noah. I want him to be happy with me. Noah loves me and wants me to be happy. We are trying to walk a very narrow line between his interest in having sex daily (and sex where I protest is really fairly hot) and the fact that being actually raped over and over again isn't ok.

I have to get something out of it too. It doesn't have to be the same thing he gets. If I don't get anything at all out of it, then I shouldn't be doing it. I'm ok with the fact that life has some weird trade offs. I get to pick what the hill is this time. I don't have to have one goal at all times. I don't get off very often. I know that I can predictably do that if I tell him how to inflict pain. I generally don't want to feel pain so I don't ask him to do that. As a result my body is dramatically less responsive and I often feel physically kind of uncomfortable during the act. But I love knowing that I am meeting his needs. This is something that he really needs in order to be a happy person. He will still be here whether I put out or not. But he will be sad and withdrawn. He won't feel very loved. He will feel rejected. He doesn't ask me for sex. I have to initiate the vast majority of our sex. I spend every day looking at him. When he is sad, I know I need to.

This sex stuff is so complicated. Noah and I are a good match largely because of the way we have complimentary compulsive sexual behavior. Woo. And we really are learning how to be nice to each other. He likes having sex with me when I'm fighting but he doesn't push for it. He certainly doesn't initiate it. I have to verbally request it. Usually by saying, "I want to wrestle and lose." He perks up more than a child on Christmas.

Noah is my provider. He is my protector from the big bad world in some very material ways. Yes it is hot for him to feel like he is strong. He really isn't the type to get into sports or other public ways of proving his manliness. He's a geek. He's realistic. But he does notice that he needs to work on getting stronger because I'm about to beat him.

It's very complicated, this liking to lose. This liking of pain. It's all wrapped up. It's all wrapped up in thinking that taking pain is required of me. That I am only interesting if I am taking pain of some sort.

I didn't start talking about my childhood in a public way until after I had mostly retreated from the public scene. They people I had all of my adult relationships with in the bdsm community knew very little about me. I think I talked to a few people one on one a little. I had a few conversations with motherly women. I had female mentors.

That's all the time for today.