It’s been 2 weeks. Ron is still in the hospital; ze hopes to be released on Tuesday.

We’ve spoken on the phone several times; I’ve generally done my best to be supportive and our conversations have been mostly good.

I also visited zir once during the week. It felt a lot like how things had been around May Day, before the … crisis. I was happy to see zir and ze seemed calm, reasonable. We walked part of the grounds and sat on a somewhat secluded bench. Ze asked me to play a song on guitar, so I did, carefully focusing on the music. Then ze handed me a composition book and put zir arm around me, leaning in as I reviewed its contents. It felt good to be close, but at the same time there were alarms going off in my head. This was not what Fox and I had agreed would be appropriate for our first rendezvous, and I was allowing Ron to overstep the boundaries I’d promised to myself.

We talked and ze stroked my arm and hair and kissed me and it was wonderful. But then ze had both arms around me, essentially, and was leaning in …

“We shouldn’t get too into this right now,” I said, gently but firmly.

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Compassion / Pay It Forward

TW: mention of suicidal ideation

Ron had two really bad days in a row, and didn’t sleep in between. Ze told me ze was suicidal. On the first day I took time from my visit with Banji to have an extended phone conversation with Ron, anything to keep zir connected. On the second day I drove for five hours, successfully chaired a 90-minute meeting, reconnected with Fox after 5 days apart, then welcomed Ron into our home at 10:30pm. We decided to hang out in the back yard.

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Be Our Guest

[CW: description of thought processes that can trigger hoarding]

Fox and I spent pretty much every available second cleaning in preparation for Ron’s visit on Friday. It was quite the workout, and somewhat intense … but not quite as intense as I thought it might be. Maybe because I knew Fox was cleaning, too, and I’ve developed coping mechanisms. For example, I found a calendar with beautiful images that I might’ve been tempted to keep, but it’s obsolete (and damaged). So I looked through the images, showed one particularly beautiful one to Fox, then tossed the calendar. Minimal stress.

I’ve also decided to treat clutter like an addiction. Part of recovery (from what I’ve gathered, I’m not an expert by any means) is recognizing that while others may be able to engage in a certain behavior safely – even to their benefit – I cannot. For example, I’ve heard tips about reusing things like wrapping paper – but for me that’s a recipe for disaster. If I let myself think “I can reuse this” I will angst over every decision of what to/not to keep, hoard random items I don’t need, and drown in clutter. No. Maybe it would be ideal to reuse this wrapping paper, but I cannot keep it. Into the trash it goes. End of story.

I lost track of how many bags of garbage we filled, somewhere around 8. Maybe 12?

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(Don’t) Let them in, (don’t) let them see …

So… umm… I “might be” in love with Ron. And ze’s in love with me. And we’ve been connecting on so many amazingly awesome levels … It’s magical. I feel like I can talk to zir about anything. And I want to share the universe with zir.

(I should probably take a moment to mention that I’m in a polyamorous vee with Fox and Banji, and we’re open to additional romantic partners. They both seem more comfortable with this new development than Ron and I are!)

I know I was wary about this before, but I feel like our efforts to get to know each other are having a positive effect on me – including in the direction of finally doing something about all this clutter …

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Therapists

First off, I’d like to apologize for disappearing for 2.5 months. I’ve been caught up in the Skyrim Let’s Play, other games, working on my thesis proposal, and other stuff. The blog has been on the edge of my radar, but it’s only in the past week or two that I’ve started seriously thinking about posts again. I guess we all need a break from time to time?

Anyways there was a long time when I was first gushing about how much I’ve benefited from my work in music therapy with Wakana, then avoiding her. I’ve been sort of considering termination, but I don’t like the idea in part because that means I’ll stop seeing her and in part because I have this nagging suspicion there are things I still need to work on.

Then I finally met with her in person last week and did that thing you learn about when training to become a therapist that clients often do because transference and it’s awkward and wrong and you definitely can’t act on it… I, well, I started saying things that implied I’m interested in a romantic relationship with her. I even thought the words “I love you,” then pushed them back because I can’t love my therapist, that’s a violation of the boundaries we need to maintain a good working relationship and of ethics and ugh she knows, doesn’t she? Fuck. I have a crush on my therapist. I couldn’t even look at her for the rest of the session without being taken aback by how vibrant and radiant she looks. Why the fuck did this have to happen?!

I can deal with having crushes on many if not most of the people I meet and/or have been friends with for, gods, over a decade. It happens. It’s healthy. It’s kind of fun. I can enjoy the good feelings and focus on enjoying our interactions, which most likely are not romantic. But that’s okay because I’m crushing on them because their personalities are what I find most attractive, and I get to enjoy their personalities when we’re being silly nerds and geeks. (It doesn’t hurt that I find them visually attractive, too.)

But my therapist?

I told Wakana about the crush when I met with her over Skype on Wednesday, because I knew there was no hiding it from her. I just wanted to deal with it so we can get back to the therapy I’d been gushing about because it’s really helped me so much. I feel whole, or at least a lot closer to it, and stuff that used to cause me a ton of emotional turmoil is so much easier to deal with now. I’m actually quite happy with where I am in life and confident that I’ll work out the stuff that still needs a lot of work, such as (finally!) applying for internships so I can begin my career.

You know what she told me? She said this is a normal stage that most clients go through and that it’s a good thing because it means I’m starting to love myself. She explained that she holds so much of me – everything I share with her in our sessions – and acts as a mirror for me to see the aspects of myself that have been hidden away for most of my life. I can finally see them, and I’m realizing I think they’re awesome, and now I can reclaim them. “These are mine, I’ll take them back now, thank you.” She said I can also let go of things that aren’t mine, such as thought processes I learned in childhood and adolescence that aren’t helping me.

We can totally work through this crush, processing the feelings I’m transferring to her, so I can focus my love on myself.

It almost feels kind of wrong. Selfish.

She said we could explore whatever fantasies I’m having – not do anything of course, but talk about them and what they symbolize. That was kind of awkward because to be honest I hadn’t gotten that far – and I’d really rather not go there. I almost don’t want to tell her I’m not fantasizing about doing anything specific with her, because I don’t want to hurt her feelings. She embodies much of what I want to be, and I’ve come to feel a strong connection with and positive regard for her. I guess if I’m having any fantasy it’s that I want to move away from our interactions being therapy for me, toward a more mutual emotional sharing through the music we make together. It’s hard to accept that we can’t do that while I’m her client. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about termination: if I’m no longer her client, there’s a possibility we might make music together as a more mutual exchange in the future.

Shifting gears a bit (or perhaps not really) I have finally started meeting with the therapist who will hopefully use cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help me overcome my social anxiety (so whatever anxiety I feel before/during social situations won’t hinder me). We just completed intake – so there hasn’t been much time to develop rapport, and we haven’t actually started CBT.

She seems nice and I like her, but I feel like I have more experience as a client than she does as a psychotherapist. I’m trying to resist the urge to ask her about her qualifications and experience because frankly it seems kind of rude, and I’d hate for clients to do that to me (in the near future). Perhaps I’m projecting my own insecurities about becoming a therapist, I don’t know. I don’t want to over-analyze myself.

The thing is, she keeps using stereotypical responses – the kinds of things we learn not to do in active listening. As I was answering the intake questions, she filled the pauses with “mmhmm,” always in the same tone of voice, which kind of gave me the feeling she wasn’t really listening. Then when I was done answering almost every question she said “okay” – again always with the same inflection. It felt like she was doing things she was trained to do or thought she should do, not like she was being genuine.

I want to tell her that these vocal habits are bothering me, but I’m not sure how. I don’t want them, nor my efforts to/not to talk to her about them, to interfere with therapy. I just want to go, do what I need to do, and come out feeling empowered to live my life the way I need and want to. Why must emotions be so complicated?

Blessed Imbolc

Monday, February 2nd was the Pagan holy day (or sabbat) known as Imbolc, Imbolg, Candlemas, (Saint) Brigid’s Day, etc. My understanding is that it is a festival of lights celebrating the strengthening of the sun (e.g. days getting longer) and looking forward to  spring. In some areas the first signs of new life are beginning to show; where I live it is (I hope) the coldest and most wintry part of winter. This sabbat is a very well-timed reminder of the life that still thrives buried underneath all the snow, waiting to burst forth when the time is right. The Wheel of the Year continues to turn, and seasons will change.

My observance of Imbolc has thus far been limited to taking a few moments out of shoveling to just Be in the silently-falling, surprisingly peaceful, and beautiful snow. I felt the Child so full of wonder inside me, bursting with joy just to breathe in the cold air and see how everything sparkled. I used to love winter when snow meant a day off from school that I could spend building igloos and snowpeople, then come inside for hot chocolate. Now by the time the shoveling is done I’m usually too tired, achy, and grumpy to enjoy additional time in the snow. But I’m trying to get back some of that joy.

There’s been a lot of change in my life lately.  Classes starting up again is one of the best things that could have possibly happened for me. It’s given me structure, purpose, motivation, and a reason to get out of the house. I have opportunities to socialize with my classmates before, after, and sometimes even during class. I find that my attitude toward the classes has changed: where in the past I’ve felt self-conscious and deficient, I now feel like I have something unique to offer as well as opportunities to be creative and to learn. Being on campus opens other opportunities as well. In addition to the extracurricular social/support groups I plan on joining, there is also a psych counseling group for people who are in the process of “coming out” as LGBTQ+. It seems like it could be really helpful right about now, for multiple reasons.

I’ve also started decluttering and cleaning the apartment. I put old clothes aside to be donated and reorganized the rest of my wardrobe to fit in drawers instead of being thrown on the floor. I recycled and reorganized the kitchen to make it a pleasant place to cook and eat. I even cleaned part of the living room!

The process isn’t just about physical cleaning, it is an emotional restructuring and reclaiming of a space I’ve felt like I’ve had no control over. I needed Banji (my best friend) to witness all of it over Skype: the ambivalence, the temper tantrums, the catharsis of throwing things away, the pride in looking around the newly-cleaned space. I needed her encouragement to keep going. I needed her to hear my stories, to commiserate and celebrate with me. In return I did my best to be supportive of her doing schoolwork. I think I got the better end of the deal.

some backstory: About 5 weeks ago, I had a conversation with Wakana (my therapist) that I feel speaks for itself. I had been talking about how much more alive I feel when Banji is around, and how we’ve come to appreciate each other more since she moved away.
Wakana: “Are you in love with her?”
Ziya: “Yes. I have been for years…”

I remember being aware of such feelings even back in high school; the amount of attention I paid them kind of waxed and waned over the years. We’ve always been very close and valued our friendship highly. Even though we don’t express particularly romantic feelings toward each other, I’m pretty sure they’ve always been there. This was the first time I used that kind of language to talk about it with another person, though.

It’s been a bit of a landslide. I feel like a part of me that’s been hidden and silenced is finally bursting forth, fully alive! For the longest time I felt confused and guilty about valuing my time with Banji more than my time with Fox (my husband). I’ve wished there were traditions in our culture to give the same recognition and importance to close friendships as to romantic/sexual relationships. I’ve felt like I’m not being fully honest by calling her my “best friend” and making a huge deal out of my relationship with Fox in front of all our friends, both our families, the government, and Facebook. I feel like I slapped her in the face by telling her she was my “maid of honor” when I decided to marry Fox, instead of asking her to marry me.

Now all these feelings finally make sense! While I can’t take back my years of being dense, I can be more self-aware and genuine in the present and future. To be clear, that includes continuing my relationship with Fox: I love him and find joy, comfort, and opportunities for growth in our marriage. He accepts me as I am – even when I find it difficult to accept myself – and was actually the first to bring up an interest in polyamory. He wasn’t surprised or upset when I told him about being in love with Banji.

Taking to her about it was a bit more difficult because I was afraid of losing her (again). Above all I want our relationship to be a safe place where we can just relax and be fully ourselves, without any weird expectations that might come up if someone starts talking about “love.” Among the holiday insanity I tried talking about the importance of our relationship and the life I want to have with her – basically expanding on plans she initiated and that we’ve been talking about for years now – all without mentioning “love.” She said she sees the three of us as a polyamorous V with me in the middle, so I took it to mean we were on the same page. But were we really?

Finally, on Saturday – when I’d decluttered most of the kitchen and could no longer put off finding a home for some of the stuff from the wedding – I decided I just had to be honest about it. I told her I love her as a lifelong partner and that I don’t need anything about the way we relate to each other to change, but it’s important to me that she knows. She said she loves me too (squee!!!) and that she’s known for a while now (*facepalm*).

We talked a bit more but weren’t able to get into too deep a conversation because she had a lot of homework and a tight deadline. She said that in the past she hasn’t been sure whether to envy me for having boyfriends… or my boyfriends for the relationship they got to have with me. She also kept saying “it’s complicated.” I could hazard some guesses about what might make it complicated – beyond the obvious fact that polyamorous family structures are more complex than monogamous ones (oh, yeah, and we currently live a 5-hour drive apart) – but I’d rather talk with her about it. I worry that I might assume things that aren’t true, so I’m trying not to get too preoccupied with all of this. (oops)

In some ways it’s big and scary and new. It definitely flies in the face of dominant cultural norms. She’s expressed not caring what people think, nor feeling anyone needs to know. I don’t have to shout it from the rooftops (just my blog, lol) but I don’t want to hide it, either. I’ll admit to some anxiety about being discriminated against and/or ostracized from my recently-expanded family. I care about others’ approval – perhaps moreso than is healthy for someone as ‘outside the box’ as me. “But if that’s love / it comes at much too high a cost.” (Elphaba in Wicked: “Defying Gravity”) One of the things I’ve been working on in therapy is experiencing myself as someone who is worthy of my own love, without the need for others’ approval.

And, well, it has us talking about our relationship in ways we haven’t really before. She’s dropped some hints here and there, but I was being dense to escape feeling guilty about what she was – or kind of wasn’t – saying. *facepalm* Now I need to be more honest. I can’t be so enmeshed with her, primarily requesting her support in dealing with my other relationships (like Mom does to me). I respect her as a separate, awesome person with whom I’m dedicated to maintaining and growing our meaningful relationship.

In some ways I find it all very comforting. The earlier cognitive dissonance about these relationships has been resolved. I feel whole – or at least a lot closer to being whole. I feel secure knowing I don’t have to navigate whatever happens next on my own. I’ve got my two favorite people on either side of me. ❤

Father’s Day

Fox and I visited his parents for Father’s Day. I decided to go because I like them and want to have a relationship with them, and I’ve been avoiding them. They know about our situation from my perspective, and they were both eager to show their love and support regardless of the decision we make. They are two of the awesomest people I’ve ever met.

We had a wonderful time and stayed up way too late last night, so I ended up sleeping over. Fox went to church this morning and his dad has work (which is why we celebrated Father’s Day yesterday), so it’s just been me and his mom. We had a heart-to-heart sharing our stories and family baggage and wants and fears, including what’s going on between me and her son.

“I’m sensing a pattern: there’s a lot of loss in your life, and you cope with it by pushing people away or withdrawing. You’re pushing him (Fox) away and he’s anxious and that’s why he’s being so clingy.

“I see you in a place in your life where you need to make a decision. Either you are going to use this relationship to learn how to be in healthy relationships with yourself and others, or you are going to keep pushing people away. You need to decide: either try to work with him to learn and grow together, or let him go.

“You need to either give yourself wholeheartedly to this relationship (and life in general) so you can learn and grow from it, or you have to walk away from it. Either way, the worst thing that will happen is you’ll get a divorce – and you’re already willing to do that. But if you keep doing what you’re doing – if you stay connected to him while simultaneously pushing him away – you’re both going to be miserable.

“So decide.”

I’ve had my quills out for too long. I’m poised, my hood spread, ready to strike. I was actually snarling at other motorists on my way here yesterday. I’m tired of being so tense. I’m exhausting myself and wasting my energy – energy I could put to much better use.

When I’m connected with people – open, honest, vulnerable – that’s when I feel the most alive. Listening to their stories, sharing in the creative process with them, enjoying a delicious meal, giving and receiving hugs… these are the things I thrive on. I need relationships; the most painful thing about the way I’ve been living with Fox is that our relationships with other people have become so limited. We’re disconnected. I’ve disappeared inside myself; I almost did that again by trying to drive home while exhausted last night.

“Yes I’m alone, but I’m alone and I’m free. Just stay away and you’ll be safe from me.”
“Actually, we’re not.”

~ Frozen: “For the First Time in Forever (Reprise)”

Everything comes down to one innate need: the need to be fully myself in relationship with other people. I’ve spent most of my life learning that I can have one or the other: I can be myself when I’m alone, or I can sacrifice myself and become enmeshed with others. To this day my mother actively teaches me to hide part of myself to be more acceptable to others (her).

Neither of those options is acceptable anymore. I can have periods of time when I’m alone, that’s not a problem. It’s healthy and necessary. But I need to be connected with other people; I can’t have being alone be a requirement for being myself. I need the people I care about to see me – all of me, not the mask and armor I’ve been hiding behind and trapped within. To feel safe doing that, I need to be able to see myself.

So whatever decision Fox and I make regarding our marriage, I choose to let go and throw myself wholeheartedly into our relationship – even though I find it terrifying. Not for him, but for myself. Worst case scenario I get the thing I’ve been leaning toward anyway and maybe I learn something useful I can build upon for future growth. Best case scenario I grow and I get an awesome life partner – with an equally awesome family – who can help me continue to grow. I think it’s worth a bit of risk to shoot for that.

I’ll close with a bit of wisdom from my father, one of the ways he’s still alive in me after all these years: Be honest. I choose to be honest with myself and with others, even (especially) when it’s scary. I love you. I need ______. No, I don’t want ______. I’m not sure if I want _____ but I think it’s worth considering. I’m sick and tired of _____. I’m sad I’m scared I’m angry. I can’t live like this anymore! I don’t want to talk about this right now. I feel _____ when you _____. Please give me some time to process. Please respect this boundary. Please listen.