belenen: (Default)

June 2017


Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.

belenen: (Default)
How I hear with CAPD: everything is mondegreens and listening to words is constant translation work
icon: "confused (photo of a purple diamond-shaped sign with a line leading to four arrows all curving and pointing in different directions)"

I have central auditory processing disorder, CAPD, which means that listening to words is always hard work. A mondegreen is "a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning." This is a daily occurrence for me. My hearing is always blurred; I do a LOT of guess work when I don't know someone's cadence, style, and vocabulary. Listening to people talk is easier if I know them well and have a subconscious catalogue of what words they tend to use, what letters they tend to emphasize or drop, etc.

If you have ever trained a device to learn your voice for voice-to-text, you know that you have to invest a good number of hours before the computer successfully translates your sound to text, and before that it is a muddled mess of nonsense. And if there is a lot of ambient noise -- especially sibilant noise like the rushing of wind -- the computer will get it wrong even if it usually gets it perfect. That's my brain.

I rely a lot on the length of words and logical possibilities for what could fit. An example: I hear someone say "-ee ay m|by --o|a-t|d-t|d --eem|n" while they hold an empty cup with white remnants in it and point at someone else. From this I guess that they are saying "he ate my clotted cream" but without context it could be "the gate by spotted beans" or "she may cry fated seams" etc. It sounds very nearly the same to me. Some words don't have a lot of sound-alikes that make sense to switch out, but a LOT of adjectives do, and adjectives can be stuck into a sentence almost anywhere. It's extra difficult when it's a three word sentence out of context with only an article in the middle, because "____ is ____" could be almost ANYTHING, and I can't even tell how long the missing words are. Also, I almost always miss the first word or two someone says to me, because I hadn't tuned in yet, so I have to allow for a missing word at the beginning.

This also means that short, out-of-context phrases can be nearly impossible for me to figure out within a reasonable conversational pause. The other day someone walked by and said "___ __ ___ __-" with some of these letters: h d g. I initially interpreted this as "have your good day!" since I was getting in my car and I replied "you too!" I got in my car, then realized the sound pattern was actually "___ ___ ___ __-__?" and they had asked me "how's your day going?" They mumbled the last bit so I didn't notice the last syllable, and I transposed the d and g accidentally. The "r" I heard but assumed I mis-heard at first.

a bunch of stuff that will only make sense visually ) And a lot of people in the south drop their final g and r and t and b in consonant conjunctions so "passing your best curb pound stomp" becomes "passin yah bess curr poun- stom-," for instance, so wherever one of those might be tacked on I have to guess whether it should be there or not.

So, "have you heard that wild geese are flying west now?" would sound like "(-w|h*a|o|u*v|s|z) (w|y*oo-) (w|h*e|i*r-) (d|th|h*a*t|d|p) (y|w*i*l-) (g*ee*s-) (a*ah|r) (fl|l|bl|pl*y*ee*n|m|b-) (w|h*e|i*st) (m|n|b|w|d*ow-)?" I separated letters with asterisks and put each word in parenthesis but obviously when I hear it I don't get those markers -- it's even harder to read. The vertical lines mean that a sound could be any of those letters. The hyphens are dropped letters or places where dropped letters could be, based on the cadence of speaking. Without context I would have a VERY difficult time translating this. It could be "has your weird dad file-greased at lying best down?" and I only know it isn't because that doesn't make much sense. But also, if I hear it strongly like that, it makes it impossible to back up and re-run the sound to guess again because now that's all my brain wants to suggest.

Watching a person's face helps immensely, because I'm reading their lips and their expressions, which give additional context. If someone is very good at mouthing their words, I can understand them almost as well (or as badly) as I can when they're speaking aloud. Better than people who mumble! I realized this when watching people perform deaf poetry, some of whom mouthed the words very clearly. Even across the room, I could understand them better with no sound than someone who mumbles, even if they mumble loudly.

I have a co-worker who has an unpredictable speech pattern and also mumbles, and I mis-read them probably at least 3 times a week. Since we mostly communicate via text in chat and not audibly, that is a LOT. But at least I don't mind being laughed at, so I just repeat what I heard and that gets them to repeat it more clearly. I used to make the mistake of asking people to repeat themselves and that is almost never effective, because with the same speed and inflection, getting louder does not help. And a lot of times they won't repeat, they'll rephrase or summarize, which frustrates my curiosity to no end. But if I tell them what I misheard, they will repeat it and put emphasis on the bits I didn't get, which is exactly what I need. It's less frustrating to them too, which is good because I don't like for people to associate me with frustration.

This is why I can't deal with ambient noise and conversation at the same time. Understanding sound as words takes so much mental processing and when there is any ambient noise it is twice as hard or sometimes literally so hard that it is impossible. I can't have music with lyrics on at the same time as I write, read, or listen to anyone speak, because my mind automatically tries to translate it and it takes up all my ability to think. I really miss being able to listen to lyrical music while reading or writing or spending time with people, but I don't think I will ever have that again.

it has really affected how I listen to music )

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belenen: (distance)
I'm hypersensitive physically & energetically: takes work & time for me to enjoy touch / shielding
icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

I noticed a weird reaction in me the last two times I spent one-on-one time with Evelyn. I wondered why I hadn't done more sexy things because I had been looking forward to that aspect and in thinking back, realized that I was feeling some internal resistance in the moment while I was with them. I knew it wasn't lack of desire, so I found that feeling confusing the first time it happened and figured I was just in a weird mood or something. Then it happened again, so I took it as meaningful and examined it until I figured it out.

I realized that this was coming up for the first time because last time we were dating, it was summer and we could only have short dates, so I could flow in and out of being sexual with them without a lot of effort. That's only possible when 1) I am not hypersensitive and 2) it's a short burst of time. (and of course I have to have a strong connection with the person, but that alone doesn't do it)

Often -- I'd say most of the time -- my body and my energy system are both hypersensitive. This is especially true in winter because cold really affects me, both by bringing my emotional energy down and by making my whole body tense and uncomfortable the majority of my waking life. I also tend to get hypersensitive when I'm highly stressed, when I haven't had enough platonic touch lately, or whenever it has been more than two weeks since I had an energy reset (which is easiest to get from sex but I can also get it from energy work, sensation play, concerts of artists I love, ritual, or getting drunk). Unfortunately masturbation doesn't really help with regards to this because it's more about my energy system being shocked by contact with another energy system.*

When I am hypersensitive, touch feels about 10 times as strong as it should. If I am super hyped up, this can be fun, but most of the time it feels like everything is too rough and too cloying at the same time. When people touch me I want them to press harder AND I want it to be barely there AND I want them to just move ten feet away immediately; it creates really intense ambivalence. It's not too hard to make the hypersensitivity stop, but most of the time I expect that people don't want to help, so I usually either avoid touch or steel myself against it like when you jump into a cold pool.

I can manage my hypersensitivity by artificially raising my inner energy levels, but I can't do this for very long and it is exhausting and stressful. So usually what happens is that I feel the need to block sexual energy unless I am actively interacting with it. When I have to block, that makes it harder to get into it in the first place because I have to take the block down and it takes energy so I don't want to do it unless it's gonna be down for long enough to make it worth it. And part of me feels guilty at putting up a block at all, which makes me feel internally pressured to take it down immediately when I perceive a request, which makes my desire deflate -- a weird, frustrating little cycle.

This is true with nonsexual touch too, and is part of the reason that quick hugs or pecky kisses are often draining for me. I have to do this inner work to prepare my body so that it doesn't feel like the tactile version of a train brake screech, and if the person stops giving touch before I even finish the work, then I never get the nourishment and it was a huge amount of wasted effort. I've figured out that it takes at least four full seconds for me to even relax into a hug, and it takes at least two seconds for me to get into a kiss, and if it doesn't last at least as long as it took me to get there, then it is overall draining. I'm still willing to do it sometimes but I can't do it a lot. I'd far rather have a high-five or a nod than a short hug. I need to remember this and offer people a high five or 8-second hug rather than letting them grab me for one or maybe two seconds.

Anyway, it was interesting to realize that I was having this reaction, and that trying to deal with it alone was so not the way to go. When I mentioned this to Evelyn I said I'd probably need some help with bringing my sensitivity down at the beginning so that I didn't have to block and/or I would need to have sexual time separate from the rest of our time, and they responded supportively and casually mentioned that we could be more intentionally structured about our time together (which I find very exciting & hopeful), so I look forward to experimenting with that!

*This used to happen to me every time I left the house, because I had no shield against other people's energy and it would all just cling to me. I'd merely walk past someone and feel like bursting into tears because I felt their pain, and I didn't know how to get rid of it either so I would just feel terrible for days until it wore off. Now it only happens when I let my shields down, but I prefer to drop my shields with people I love even if it means I pick up some of their stuff. I prefer to cleanse it out later if need be and be able to connect fully in the meantime.

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belenen: (challenging)
LJI topic 2, that one friend: when is it over? my 5 criteria for continued friendship investment
icon: "challenging (photo of me lifting one eyebrow and slightly squinting my eyes, wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

I've always been the thrifty type: can't throw it out if there might still be some good in it! I'm like this with people to an often-detrimental extreme. I have a very hard time giving up and mostly can't manage to do it unless the other person already has. I was thinking about this tendency recently and asked myself "if I had no memory of this person before this year, would I put effort into connecting with them?" and realized that for one friend in particular the answer is "hell no." Then I tried to remember the last time there was a long stretch of them being a nourishing friend for me and realized that it had been years. I'm pretty sure they started thinking of me as "someone they used to be friends with" a long time ago -- while I was still trying to be their friend.

I might have more good people in my life if I hadn't spent so much time and energy trying to resurrect this friendship. I need a better cut-off point where I don't let literal years go by of me waiting for them to start being my friend in earnest. But what should the limit be? I know people go through hard times and I don't want to end a friendship because someone went through a period of low energy. I also don't want to continue one where the other person doesn't actually bother. I need criteria for me continuing to invest, and I need to actually and honestly evaluate where I am spending my energy. So tonight I am creating criteria:
1) nourishment: interacting with them is net-positive at least half of the time. (net-positive means I leave an interaction more nourished than drained).
2) shared effort: they put forth at least 1/3rd of the total effort for us to connect (I'm willing to adjust to meet them).
3) fair expectations: they don't expect me to do more than half of the emotional labor or more than half of the logistics labor.
4) building together: we have shared goals, and I can see actual evidence of this in their behavior and in where they devote their resources.
5) evidence of care: they take action to show that they care about my feelings and (without prompting) express a desire to help meet my needs.
If none of these criteria are true for more than three months, I should discuss this with the person and if nothing can be done to improve the situation, I should take a break from the person.

If I had used these criteria to evaluate my relationship with this one friend, I would have recognized that the relationship showed
1) lack of nourishment: it almost always was way more draining than nourishing.
2) lack of effort: they did less than 1/3rd of the total effort to connect us, probably less than 1/4th.
3) unfair expectations: they expected me to do way more than half and expected me to accommodate all their needs while they didn't do anything for mine.
4) minuscule building together: I saw very little evidence that they cared about what mattered to me.
5) no evidence of care: they never checked in about how their actions affected me, reacted defensively every time I tried to discuss it, and showed absolute disinterest in helping to meet my needs.

In contrast, my three closest people at the moment share these qualities:
1) nourishment: time together is net-positive way more than half of the time.
2) shared effort: they do way more than a third of connecting us (one of them actually does more than me on a fairly regular basis!).
3) fair expectations: they don't expect me to do more than half, and they offer to take half of the burden (or even more sometimes!) if they can.
4) building together: they show they care about community, justice, self-education, etc by hosting gathers with me, participating in protests, learning new things, etc.
5) evidence of care: they check in about how their actions affect me, and they offer to help me in whatever ways they can. They try to accommodate my communication needs and express appreciation when I move outside of my comfort zone for them.

I have to learn to accept when someone is not interested in investing in me, and I have to learn to stop pouring effort into them. I only have so much and I can't build good connections if I spend all my energy on people who do not want to create a positive feedback loop with me (wanting it to magically exist without them working for it doesn't count as 'wanting to create').

This one friend I'm talking about is someone who is in my top-five most-loved human beings of my entire 33+ years. I really wanted to be able to be connected with them. But I cannot. I will accept this and allow them to recede into my past, as I have receded into theirs.

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belenen: (disassociative)
How to Help Belenen When They are Stressed: the Don'ts and Do's
icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

Several people have been concerned and reached out to me lately, as I'm dealing with a lot of stress due to still not having a job. I never really know how to answer when people ask "how can I help?" so I decided to tackle the issue by writing reference material, of course. I wrote a little bit on this before: what I need to live, to cope, and to thrive: notes for self-care and usermanual reference.

How to Help Belenen When They are Stressed

The Don'ts:

1) Don't offer advice or try to problem-solve with me unless I explicitly ask for it.
I'm almost always stressed by one of two things: my bodily needs, and the needs of people I love. These stresses have been a constant companion for many years and I have chased every cure. You cannot fix these problems (unless you have a job to offer me). Accept the stress as a fact of my life, and don't stress me out more by making me prove to you that I've tried all possible fixes. Especially don't give me job hunting advice.

2) Don't ask "how are you" or "how are you feeling." Instead ask "any changes in [the source of stress]?"
I feel like I must respond in detail to these questions, which involves reflecting on the overall tone of my life. If the overall tone is stress, that is a depressing and stressful thing to do. Asking only about changes allows me to dismiss the stress immediately if there have been no changes, and if there have been changes, I can process only a piece of the stress rather than the whole thing.

3) Don't be very sympathetic or mushy. Be matter-of-fact. Don't ask how I'm feeling.
You being really emotional or sympathetic makes me move more into the emotion of being stressed. My main coping skill is by shutting that down, and when you sympathize it opens it up. I feel relief when I mention being stressed and the person responds with "oh yeah, sorry *changes subject*"

4) Don't give vague affirmations.
When someone gives me a vague affirmation like "it will get better," that has no positive effect on me and sometimes it stresses me out, because I try to believe them and I cannot.

The Do's (easy):

1) If you sincerely feel them, give specific, descriptive compliments.
Unrelated to the source of stress is actually best. Specific like "I love the patterns in your eyes, they look like tree roots" (probably my favorite compliment I have ever gotten). Also, I'd like compliments that aren't related to social justice work because I often feel like that is the only thing people notice about me. Sharing links to my work, commenting and liking/reacting on facebook feels like a specific compliment, also. It doesn't get less special if you do it a lot, either.

2) If you interact with any of my art -- writing, fractals, photos, etc -- tell me about how you process it, in detail.
Examples: "this post made me reflect on [specific aspect of my life]" or "I have a similar experience to what you wrote about in this post [explains experience]" or "this photo makes me feel warm in a summery way" or "this fractal looks like an angry ogre or a creepy cave."

3) Remind me of successes I've had, if you know and remember them.
I have a truly dreadful memory, so even if it happened last week I've likely forgotten it. A success can be anything, large or small, where I tried to make a thing happen and it did. "Remember when you figured out how to save the code for your fractals even though the program won't do it?" (this makes me realize I need to write down my small successes)

4) In person, if I'm describing possible reasons for a source of stress to be the way it is and you think of other reasons, tell me them.
This is ONLY in-person, because when I write I don't list all the ones I can think of.

5) In person, if I describe a situation, respond by talking about your own experience.
So if I say "I'm feeling hopeless about [thing] because of [situation]" reply with "the closest thing I have experienced to [situation] is... [tell the story]" or "my experience with [thing] is..."

6) Show curiosity about the things I love and the things that nourish me.
Read my journal entries (and in some way mark that you have done so). Ask for details about things I share. Ask about specific projects (don't ask "what are you working on" because I can't remember, but ask "how is [specific project] going?")

The Do's (difficult):

7) Offer to feed me, if you can.
This relieves stress from worrying about money, and it means that I eat without having to spend energy on planning or preparing food, which are usually high-stress for me because I hate that I have to think about money every time I eat. It is extra helpful if it is food I like, but as long as there is no meat, highly-processed bread (such as wonder bread), artificial sugar, or soy sauce, I will eat it.

8) Take a responsibility or share one, if you can.
Going with me to social things or scary appointments, making phone calls, keeping me company while I tidy, doing dishes, doing laundry, helping me with bills, or keeping me company while I do paperwork stuff.

9) Pick me up or come to my house.
I am nourished by being in my house and by being with my people, but usually I have to choose. Social is far more nourishing to me when I don't also have to drive lots and be in spaces that are not comfortable to me (and most people's spaces are not comfortable to me).

10) Help me do things that nourish me by doing them with me.
Going to social events where I will meet new people who might care about social justice, walking in nature, going to natural places where I haven't been before, doing mixed media art, taking photos, writing, doing ritual, going to concerts, listening to my music with me, breaking taboos in public, prolonged eye contact, smoking hookah, drinking coffee, cuddling, sharing stories of growth and self-care, responding enthusiastically when I am enthusiastic, etc.

11) Relieving some of my memory stress by offering me memory markers.
Take photos of us and what we are doing when we are together, and afterward send them to me. Write down a summary of what we did and what we talked about afterward, and send it to me. Remind me to add the nice thing you just did to my love memory bank.

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belenen: (honesty)
How Loss of Alone Time, Constant Caretaking, & Medication Stigma Almost Killed Me
icon: "honesty (me, outdoors, gazing straight at the camera with a solemn expression)"

I've told this story many times now, though never as one piece: How Loss of Alone Time, Constant Caretaking, & Medication Stigma Almost Killed Me. In the worst period of my life, when I was suicidal for months and felt in more pain every day, I learned several vital things:

1) relationships don't have to be abusive to be profoundly damaging.
2) self-awareness is as necessary for safety as anything else.
3) I literally cannot handle living in a place where anyone wants my attention randomly every day.
4) just because you can caretake someone does not mean that you should.
5) giving doesn't have to be in huge pieces to take a huge toll.
6) once you are situationally depressed for long enough, your brain can forget how to be non-depressed and need chemical help.

I love Kylei as one of my favorite people, but living with them when they didn't have someone else to have casual social interaction with (and thus talked to me randomly through the day whenever we were both at home) was one of the most depressing and draining things I have ever experienced. It was just as bad for me -- if not worse than -- living with an abusive person.

It wasn't good for them either because the best I could offer was not enough to be nourishing, so it drained them also. Let me emphasize here: I was not doing anything that felt generous; I was not doing anything that was significantly helpful. I was allowing them to come into my room 3-4 times a day and randomly engage me in conversation for 1-3 minutes. That's it. I didn't think to tell them not to for months because it was 'such a small thing' that I could 'easily afford to give.' But it was torture for me. They were small gifts but they took superhuman effort from me.

I felt just as much need to hide as I did when I lived with my abusive parents. I had to be just as hypervigilant and seeing them became a stress to the point where we couldn't have any good interactions. Yet I missed them and was sad to have none of the connection that I wanted because there was too much of the unwanted! this made it even worse than when I was living with someone abusive who I didn't want to be around: that at least I could withdraw from and feel better. Withdrawing from Kylei made me feel worse because I missed them! But I just cannot deal with unexpected real-time interaction. It only took about six months of that for me to be drained to the point where I could not recognize myself.

There was additional stuff going on at the time, but most of the reason I can't handle this is because with my ADD-PI, that breaks down my ability to process anything; it literally shatters my ability to think. My thinking becomes disjointed and even more forgetful, like the thinking of a person who hasn't slept in three days. I can't do any art or reading or anything that matters to me at all, which rapidly increases any latent depression and makes me feel worthless.

I learned that I mustn't allow people to randomly talk to me when I am at home, that I mustn't take on responsibility as a person's only source of comfort (nor be more than 70% of their comfort), and that I mustn't be the only one initiating connection with anyone for more than a few months. I was doing all three of these things and together it made me drained to the point where I could not even feel the most basic motivation of my life: empathy.

I could no longer care about any suffering, human or otherwise. Even when I realized the problem and stopped it happening, nothing got better. My brain ran completely out of the chemicals necessary to feel happiness, and stayed there for about four months. Every day I would have said it couldn't hurt more and then the next day it did.

--------CN/TW: suicidal ideation, deep depression, medication, stigma against mental health medication (the rest of this entry)--------

I would have committed suicide if not for the fact that Topaz had already experienced too much tragedy for me to be able to handle the guilt of causing more pain for them. I daydreamed about making them hate me so that I could feel free from that guilt and able to kill myself, but that would have required me breaking my ethical code to do things that would cause them to hate me. I didn't think about anyone else. I didn't feel like anyone else would really care, even though I knew logically that people would mourn. I felt unloved and unloveable and it was only through Topaz proving daily that they cared that I managed to believe that they did love me.

Eventually I felt desperate enough that I went to get medication. I was put on citalopram, and after a month of slowly stepping it up, I stopped feeling worse every day. Just that was such a relief I can't even describe. After a few months, I started to feel better each day rather than just the same. A few months after that I started to feel aware of being numb and it started making me feel worse, so I weaned myself off of the drug. This all totaled maybe 8 months. Mental health medication saved my life.

There are people who push their personal quackery on others who are depressed, telling them to "just" exercise, meditate, think happy thoughts, take herbs, change their diet, etc. That might work if you're just feeling a little bad one day. It does not fucking work when your brain has worn a rut in the negative emotion pathways and forgotten that the positive emotion pathways even exist! Also, while talk therapy is effective and important, it only works if the problem is that you need to process your experiences -- it doesn't work if the problem is chemical!

I suffered so much longer and so much worse than I had to, because of the stigma against depression medication. If not for the coincidental timing of Topaz, stigma against medication would have killed me. I did not try to get medication until after I was already suicidal enough to go through with it. I will not take any of that quackery lightly because it literally kills people.

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belenen: (presents)
gifting: what makes a gift more meaningful for me
icon: "presents (a photo of a colorful pile of presents: my gifts for others for winter Solstice 2013)"

prompt from [ profile] kehlen_crow: If someone wanted to give you a gift, what would make the object, or action, more special and meaningful?

Unlike most people, a gift is more special to me if it is given in honor of a day that matters to me: winter solstice, spring equinox, my birthday, my spiritual birthday, or if we are close enough to have one, our friendiversary. So that is one way to make it more meaningful. Another is to tell me ahead of time (but not more than a month ahead of time) that you are getting me a gift, and give me a very general idea of the genre of the present, because I like to anticipate (but if you tell me exactly what it is then it just feels like an annoying wait, not anticipation). That's not to say random gifting isn't special, but it doesn't have the additional aspect of "I know this day is important to you" or "I value our connection enough to celebrate it with gifts."

The things I want a gift to express are: I know you, I value your contributions and support your efforts, our connection is important to me, I want you to be happy, I want you to be taken-care-of.

I know you )

I value your contributions and support your efforts )

Our connection is important to me )

I want you to be happy )

I want you to be taken-care-of )

A gift has the opposite effect when it shows a lack of knowing me. Examples are giving me perfume, lotion, or bath products (because I don't like or use those); giving me boring makeup or lip balm with artificial ingredients (I only like extreme colors and I am very particular about lip balm); giving me shoes or clothes (unless I chose them they are almost guaranteed to be stuff I won't wear); giving me pens or stationary (I am very particular! though there have been exceptions -- Elizabeth I genuinely liked your gifts!); giving me scented or ornamental candles (I like very few scents available in candles, almost never burn anything other than tealights, and I loathe when practical objects are made impractical); or giving me jewelry (I prefer to make my own jewelry and almost always dislike any other jewelry, though there have been exceptions when the artist knew me and made it in a style I'd like, or when the piece had deep personal meaning somehow). It also has the opposite effect if someone gives me something that violates my core values (one-time-use objects like glowsticks or k-cups, conspicuous consumption stuff like an expensive 'big name' purse, objectifying or exoticizing art, media that affirms oppression, etc), though that is more on a spectrum because what seems problematic to me may not seem so to others. For instance, I would feel somewhat pleased and known if someone gave me a copy of Tina Fey's "Bossypants" (more so if it was a used copy!) -- there is a lot of problematic stuff in Fey's feminism but if I only ever consumed perfect media I'd consume none at all.

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belenen: (bluestocking)
an access request (dyslexia related): spaces between paragraphs, more breaks
icon: "bluestocking (photo of a book lying open on a table with a bright window in the background, overlaid with a yellow fractal that looks like the sun shining through dust motes)"

I've realized that there are some things that make it hard for me to read. One is a lack of spacing between paragraphs; making a new line but not skipping a line. This is apparently an issue for dyslexic readers as well. I am part of a facebook group that works to be inclusive and one of the guidelines is breaking up text into smaller chunks, rather than having long paragraphs. I can actually read long paragraphs without too much trouble, but I have started trying to break mine up a bit more to make it more accessible.

The other problem I have is the opposite thing, where there are several paragraphs that are each only 1-3 lines, usually list-type posts. I can't read these without a huge amount of effort. I think it must be that on some level I take in multiple lines at once when I read, and parse them together, but I can't do that with the list-type posts. It's like my eyes skitter all over the page and I have to focus very hard to actually read.

All this to say: I care about all of your posts or I wouldn't have you on my friends list, but if you post without spaces between paragraphs or if you post list-type posts, I will rarely be able to read them and it will take a lot of work for me to do so. If it doesn't matter to you, I would vastly appreciate spaces between paragraphs. There's no way to help me with the list-type posts, I'm afraid.

Lastly, small images (like emoticons or decorative text) within posts also make it difficult for me to read, as does text with background color. I understand these can be important to one's textual sense of self, so I'm not requesting anything, just sharing my experience. I don't know why these things have become an issue for me, since they weren't years ago, but I think that as my ADD-PI got worse, these things became more difficult.

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belenen: (imperious)
what makes social interactions easier or harder for me in one-on-one and group settings
icon: "imperious (photo of me w imperious expression wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

prompt from [ profile] secret_keep: what can make a social interaction easier for you? Harder for you? (ideally, answer for both 1 on 1 and group interaction.)

One on one:
What makes this easier for me is if the person has areas in common with me in values and passions so that we have enough to talk about, and if they are good at asking interesting questions and/or taking at least 45% of the responsibility for coming up with topics and branches. What makes it harder is when we have clashing values that make me not even want to be near the person, or when they have few things they are passionate about, or when they have little experience with the passions we have in common, or if they do not try to give back in equal portion. I like conversations to go like this:

A: *asks interesting question*
B: *answers thoroughly, sharing whatever is relevant beyond the scope of the direct question. Asks related interesting question*
A: *answers thoroughly, sharing whatever is relevant beyond the scope of the direct question. Makes broad statement.*
B: *asks a specific question that helps define broad statement*

These patterns repeated and blended up make for a relaxing, nourishing conversation. Asking thoughtfully (and not too many questions that I have answered a million times like "where did you grow up"), sharing openly (which means including more than requested, answering the spirit of the question), and taking initiative are all qualities I need to not feel like it is mostly a drain. I am an outgoing person, but I have social anxiety, so while I might enjoy initiating/guiding conversation somewhat, that all takes work and I can't relax if the other person is just not going to talk when I don't guide the conversation. Sitting in silence with someone is not fun for me unless we're very very intimate.

In large groups:
What makes this easier for me is if I know everyone or if I have an outgoing ambassador friend who will introduce me to people or be the one to butt in to conversations and then include me. It's also easier if there is a meaningful shared activity like crafting or a discussion topic or playing get-to-know-you games. And it is easier if I go WITH someone, so that the transition from in my house to out is not in question. I don't do transitions in/out of my house well, so it takes a lot of spoons just to do that part. If someone picks me up, that makes social interaction SO MUCH EASIER, like a WORLD easier, but people don't do that. It eases the transition on both ends, and it removes any sense of deadline stress since it's not my responsibility any more. It also makes me feel free to drink (if I am driving myself I won't drink even a little unless I'm spending the night); drinking makes it easier to interact with people because I stop judging my words in five different ways before letting them out of my mouth. I also find it easier when I am wearing an outfit that feels comfortable and 'me' and wearing expressive makeup, because I feel like that helps to attract the right sort and scare off the others.

What makes it harder is when I don't know anyone, don't have an ambassador, don't have a meaningful activity or focus, have to drive myself alone, am stressed about money, am stressed about my car breaking, or have a deadline (that sets off mild panic as an ADD coping mechanism). Having to drive someone else makes it both easier and harder. It's more stressful, but it stresses me to GO rather than to stay. It's also much harder if it is an event I have to spend money on, even if I have the money, because I feel bad about spending money regardless of why. That might change when I have a job that pays me a living wage (which I have never had).

In small groups:
What makes these easier is the same as in large groups, but there is one thing that make it harder in small groups that doesn't matter in large ones. If the group is 7 people or fewer and there is anyone who seems ill-at-ease or like they're feeling excluded, I feel responsible for connecting with them and helping them to be connected, and I can't relax unless/until they seem to feel better. I'd love to NOT do this but so far I haven't been able to resist the impulse to try to help. The smaller the group, the more intensely I feel the need to do this. Which is one of the reasons why I want to cancel crafty parties if fewer than four people are attending and none of those people are outgoing ambassador types -- I am relaxed in larger groups in a way I cannot relax in small groups.

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belenen: (distance)
resolving conflict in 5 steps: ask myself what hurt, assume the best, ask them why, accept, resolve
icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

prompt from [ profile] secret_keep: What is the first step for you when resolving a conflict with someone? What is your ideal first step when someone is trying to resolve a conflict with you?

1) Ask myself why I am upset. Something the person has said or done has upset me, and I have to figure out why before I can productively discuss it. So let's say that someone invited all my friends to an event, but not me. My first reaction will be to feel hurt, and when I ask myself why, it's because this seems to me to be deliberately excluding me. But this is not necessarily the case!

2) Assume the best. I consider other possibilities -- maybe they thought I was busy, or uninterested, or they thought they invited me already but didn't, or they accidentally double-clicked and unselected me (in the case of evites). If one of those possibilities is true, then it is not hurtful any more. So, I am prepared to accept alternative reasons. Sometimes I can resolve a conflict all by myself by using these two steps.

3) Ask their motives. I approach the person and tell them what I was feeling and why, mention the other possibilities I thought of so that they know I am not automatically assuming the worst, and ask what their reason was for their behavior. It is very important to explain that I am not assuming some negative motive, because assuming a negative motive sets up something that they have to prove to be false rather simply asking a question they can freely answer. Unfortunately, people will often assume that you are assigning a negative motive anyway, because they are so used to only being confronted if someone has made them into an opponent. Pre-emptively empathizing by explaining how you can see positive motive usually helps but not always. There is also the problem that sometimes what I think is a neutral motive others will see as a negative motive, and so they will feel defensive if I mention this 'neutral' motive as a possibility. I don't see a way around that, but explaining that I see it as neutral sometimes helps.

4) Accept their reason and ask for clarification if necessary rather than assuming a particular meaning for their reason. If their reason was one that didn't hurt me, yay! all is better! If their reason was hurtful, then there may be a discussion or I may have to accept a painful truth. Let's say in this case that the person didn't invite me because they didn't think of me, but I would have expected them to think of me if they desired my company in general. I would tell them that I wanted them to desire my company and why (probably because I desired theirs), leaving it open-ended or directly asking if they desired my company. They can either tell me that they do desire my company but didn't think of me because of some other reason, or they can tell me why they do not desire my company, or they can drop the subject, or they can express empathy and leave it at that.

5) Resolve any remaining issue. If it still hurts after I understand their motives, I will ask them to empathize and/or problem solve with me. Sometimes despite the motive being fine, the action itself is upsetting, and then I discuss that with them and try to find a solution. For instance, if they didn't invite me because they were inviting someone else who wasn't comfortable with me being around, I could accept this as not personal, but if I was close to this person it would hurt each time unless they messaged me to say "it's about so-n-so again, sorry to not invite you, still love you." or perhaps they could alternate inviting me or this other person. Sometimes there is no solution to be had, and then all I can ask is that they consider how I feel and express empathy.

My ideal first step when someone is resolving conflict with me is the same. I want them to 1) figure out why they are upset, 2) give me the benefit of the doubt in assuming that my reasons are not hurtful ones, 3) tell me what they felt about what I did/said, why they felt that way, and ask me about my motives in an accepting and non-blamey way (for instance "what was the reason I wasn't invited?" not "why didn't you care enough about me to include me?"), 4) accept my motives and empathy, and 5) help me figure out a solution for future occurrences if one can be found.

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belenen: (ewwwww)
I hate empty words like "hello" oops I'm super rude
icon: "ewwwww (a photo of me making a disgruntled/disgusted face)"

I hate it when people say 'hi' to me. It does not convey any meaning except 'pay attention to me now' and you're not even explaining WHY you want my attention. I hear 'hello' either as meaningless noise or as an irritating demand. Just go ahead and talk!

Unfortunately, greetings DO convey meaning to other people. What meaning, I cannot fathom. But this gets me into trouble because rather than going through back-and-forth exchanges of meaningless words, I just want to jump right in. I want to walk up to a person and say "I need to drop off some papers for so-n-so" or "do you know where blahblah is?" without irritatingly insincere questions and uselessly vague answers! I do not want to ask how you are when I don't actually have the time or interest to hear a real answer, and I do not want to lie to you with a vague expected response, ughhh. Can't we just be practical and stop this fucking pretense?

Do other people actually enjoy the ritual of "hello" "hi" "how are you" "fine, how are you" "fine." before the actual conversation?? How does that not annoy the shit out of people? I don't want to exchange names unless I plan to talk to you again. Why would I?

It took me this long to realize that this is probably part of the reason that other people think I don't like them - I do not want to make pleasantries, ever. Ugh. I gotta figure out a way to make it interesting for me so that I stop seeming like the rudest person.

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belenen: (Renenutet)
relationship anarchy: we each only do what we want / my intentions & desires in all connections
icon: "Renenutet (a relief carving of Renenutet, represented as a winged cobra, overlaid with a fractal coloring)"

I read an article by [ profile] joreth the other day that got me thinking about how I have never posted about my identity as a relationship anarchist. I tend to refer to myself as polyamorous because I use that as an umbrella term (which is not correct, just habit), but I don't line up with mainstream polyamory. I use the term 'relationship anarchist' because I have the intention of building nothing but continuously voluntary associations where anyone is free to leave at any time for any reason, and only does what they want. This will remain true unless I decide to raise children (I consider it unethical to leave children after you made a decision to parent them).

Mainstream polyamory, as I interpret it, is monogamy* with add-ons. Most polyamorous people I have known structure their relationships in a role-based hierarchy with romantic relationships on top, just like monogamy except with more people. Many of them put those relationships into an additional hierarchy, with 'primary' and 'secondary' etc. In mainstream polyamory as with monogamy, a relationship is created by achieving certain milestones and/or agreeing on certain limitations: you are 'officially' in a relationship when you say I love you, or when you decide to be exclusive or partially exclusive. There is an end goal, and the progression generally looks the same. One rides the relationship escalator: initiating romance, determining roles (boyfriend, girlfriend, etc), changing to fit each other better, committing, becoming comfortable, creating a legacy. OR the relationship is defined by the absence of those things, and understood as lesser for not having them.

I don't want any of that. I don't want to choose a role with all the un-negotiated expectations that usually come along with it. I don't want to change to fit someone else or have them do that for me. I don't want to have external commitments which I count on rather than making the decision anew every day. My legacy is what I learn and what I teach and it happens along the way, not at some end point, and not through 'relationship milestones.' This is certainly not due to being lazy, irresponsible, selfish, or uncaring, though those are often the perceptions people have of those who don't want to tie themselves to others. Rather, it is because I have found that roles are giant bundles of un-negotiated expectations (which are unethical) and that changing for any external reason or doing something because I agreed to do it even though I don't want to is usually both ineffective and damaging. Conversely, I am simply not nourished by changeless connections: I need change and growth in my connections and I need that change to be internally motivated for each person.

I am defining 'want' not as in transitory desire, but as in overall goals. So, while partially I may not 'want' to be open with you because it is uncomfortable, in my larger goals I have a VERY strong desire to maintain openness and this is larger than my transitory desire to be comfortable: it makes it so that I actually desire the momentary discomfort in pursuit of my overall desire. If I did not have that very strong overall desire, then being open just because I had agreed to would be a terrible idea. I would resent the person and the relationship for making me uncomfortable when I didn't want to be. Each time I did it when I didn't want to, that resentment would increase until it became unbearable and I broke up with the person, feeling great animosity towards them for 'stealing' so much of my effort (which they have not actually done! but having given what I didn't want to give, I feel stolen from nonetheless).

I am convinced this process happens with the vast majority of humans, and the only way I know to have a healthy relationship is for each person to do only what they genuinely want to do and would do regardless of the person or the connection. So, the only things I do for my romantic relationships are things I have the goal to do in any connection. For my lifesharers and core tribe, I make these things a higher priority, but they are intentions I have with any person I am connected to. Whether the relationship is romantic or not, sexual or not, makes no difference. (my friendships are just as important as other relationships)

the intentions I have for myself in all connections, and what I desire from others )

*It is completely possible to be monogamous and negotiate your expectations of course. Or to have role-based polyamory where expectations are negotiated. It's just easier (though not less painful) to not negotiate them, so most people don't.

The post that introduced me to relationship anarchy: Relationship Anarchy Basics

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belenen: (pensive)
I usually prefer to process alone, in writing: Heather explains why this is odd
icon: "pensive (photo of me with a dark purple glitter goatee, looking down pensively with sunny woods in the background)"

When I have an issue and people ask if I want to talk about it, I feel like they're asking if I would like to do the dishes -- they're offering me a chore like it's meant to be a gift. I can feel that it is a gift for them and so I appreciate the intention, but I find it baffling that other people seem to want this. I prefer to process in writing, alone, unless the thing I am processing is a conflict with another person (then I prefer to do it with only them). I will process things with other people sometimes because I recognize it as a way of building intimacy and I value that, but it is always a sacrifice (because then I lose the motivation for a more nuanced exploration of it in writing). The only time I have actively wanted to process something with another person is if I feel like that person will have questions or ideas that open up deeper understanding for me, and that is extremely rare. Usually people only mention things I've already considered. I do find it validating for people to say "yeah that's shitty" but I find it an equal amount of frustrating, because I don't like to focus on things that can't be improved.

I talked about this with Heather and they said that that's not so rare for most people because most people haven't invested hundreds of hours in considering external perspectives. Which was a total perspective shift for me, haha, because I can't imagine that! It would certainly make processing with others a lot more useful! This is one of the things Heather is fantastic at: explaining to me the "normal people" stuff that I don't understand. I think Heather sees my oddities as oddities and therefore can compare me to normal people more easily than Kylei or Topaz can, even. I didn't even realize that I practice perspective-taking so regularly; it's as habitual as making faces (which is something I'm noted for among my in-person friends).

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belenen: (hypnotiq)
I need my social and alone time well-mixed / productive, good job me
icon: "hypnotiq (my fractal "Windwheel" -- an abstract swirl of yellow red and orange with a little green)"

So, this break has taught me that 5+ days in a row of intentional social is too much, and 3+ days with no intentional social is too much. At the end of day 2 with only my own company I start feeling lonely. Although, if I had forced unintentional social (like going to work or the store) every day, it would take way longer for me to get to the point of needing people.

I have been so productive yesterday and today. I did 5 loads of laundry, including washing the couch cover and my bedclothes; I consolidated all the recycling and took 4 bags to the drop-off; I tidied the downstairs bathroom and hung a pretty sheet to block off the view of one of the unfinished sides; tidied the living room; hung up and put away all my clothes including making sock pairs; chose my outfits for work next week; tidied the upstairs walkway and the cuddle room; cleaned half of the kitchen and did dishes; cleaned the cat box; changed out half a gallon of the fish's water; and kept my room tidy. My house is so pretty and welcoming now. It's still not done (I neglected it for months) and could do with a mopping, but I'm proud of myself.

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belenen: (honesty)
dear friend: please reconsider your use of that slur
icon: "honesty (me, outdoors, gazing straight at the camera with a solemn expression)"

If I gave you this link, please understand that it was motivated by affection and/or respect. I have this conversation over and over, and it takes a lot out of me, so I needed to create a less energy-intense way to communicate about it. If I didn't respect you and/or feel affection for you, I would not risk giving you this link. If I have already talked with you about it*, this is my low-energy way of reminding you (with bonus of allowing bystanders to also learn).

I give this link in response to people using slurs. You probably didn't realize that what you were saying was a slur, or maybe you didn't realize the harm. The most common mistakes I come across are use of the words stupid, lame, crazy, or insane. Usually I put asterisks in these to make it clear that I consider them slurs, but sometimes people can't tell what word I am referring to, so I'm writing them out here for clarity.

TW slurs--------

a full list of the slurs which I may be referring to:
stupid, idiot, dumb (if you mean the physical quality, the term is 'mute' or 'nonverbal'), derp, ermahgerd, duh, crazy, insane, psychotic, wacko, mental, psycho, cray-cray, bitch, douche, pussy, cunt, lame, ghetto, blind or deaf (when used to mean "not paying attention"), gay, retard/ed, nigger, jew or gyp (as in to swindle/cheat), tranny, shemale, cripple, slut, whore, fag/got

------------end TW

Here I explain what is harmful about using these words.

Here I explain why it is still a problem to use slurs even when you are not aiming them at a person.

Here I explain how you are not missing out by avoiding these words: you are becoming a better communicator.

If you read all of this and you still want to feel free to use slurs, please let me know. That is a dealbreaker for me with friendship. I can totally understand it being difficult and I won't hold it against you at all if you make mistakes, but if you have no intention of removing slurs from your communication, you are not a safe person for me and I do not want to invest in you.

*I find it almost impossible to remind people in more direct ways because I empathize so hard with trying and making mistakes and how embarrassing that is. If I give you this link and you have already decided to try not to use slurs, please feel no need to apologize or engage about it, just take it as a reminder. I promise I don't need an apology; I understand that it is a process.

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belenen: (vivacious)
an 'about me' that is exceedingly dense and comprehensive.
icon: "vivacious (my face with bold cat-eye makeup, with my head tilted down and to the side, looking at the camera with a wide close-lipped smile, hugging myself)"

There is a steep learning curve for most people to be close with me because I am so different from the default in identity, values, and language.
photo of me

I have pale pink-toned skin, blue hazel eyes with light brown bushy eyebrows, and very dark brown hair with silver in it. My eyes are long and fairly narrow, my nose is medium-sized and upturned, my mouth is wide with full lips, and there is a gap between my two front teeth. I am wearing cat-eye liner that is very dramatic, with violet on my upper lids and shimmery white under my eyes down to the curve of my cheeks. I'm also wearing silver and violet jewels on one cheek and a goatee made of violet glitter. I don't wear foundation or lipstick, so you can see freckles on my cheeks and that my lips are a pale cherry red. I am making eye contact with the camera and grinning widely enough that you can see my upper teeth. I'm leaning against a scaly bright green plant so that it frames my face in the foreground and background.


my identity has many facets )

my values and qualities )

I am careful with language )

This on top of the fact that most people have to learn a whole new set of words/concepts to even start to understand me: queer, trans, agender, polyamorous, demisexual, fat & proud, nudist. To understand these things you have to break down the idea that gender is a continuum from male to female or that gender is any set of discrete categories, the idea that there are only two sexes, the idea that you can only be attracted to one gender, the idea that everyone has a gender, the idea that true love is exclusive, the idea that sexual attraction happens by appearance, the idea that fat is bad, the idea that nudity is sexual or scandalous -- for starters.

I'm invested in social justice and respond to injustice in every aspect of life )

I have non-average needs in communication )

I cherish art, I cherish creation )

I build my own spirituality )

I prioritize friendship )

I'm not an easy friend! but my friends have told me that I am trustworthy, compassionate, empathetic, generous, encouraging, insightful, creative, genuine, and growth-inspiring, so I think that I am worth the effort. Still, it's so much easier for someone to be comfortable with me if they are already careful with language and already self-educate on sex, gender, relationships, race, disability, etc.

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belenen: (ADD-PI)
how I cope with my ADD-PI (other than meds): supplements, caffeine, music, water, book, food, sleep
icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

a brief history of my ADD and of supplements I have tried )

Two supplements did have significant effect, and I now take them daily: Choline (which I take at 900mg per day) and Vinpocitine (which I take at 30mg per day) The brand and dose matters! some brands are ineffective or unclear about how much is in each pill. Of all the Choline available on amazon right now I'd only recommend KRK Supplements (unless you can afford to spend significantly more, because there are better ones but not better ones for under $15). For Vinpocitine I'd recommend Puritan's Pride or Swanson's. Both of these help so much with memory that if I run out, I can tell because my memory and focus gets noticeably worse within 3 days. Choline is helpful because it is one of the building blocks of the memory molecule acetylcholine -- and it is particularly helpful for vegetarians or anyone who avoids fatty meats or eggs, because that is the highest natural source (you'd have to eat 5 eggs per day to get the amount in my supplements, unless you ate them raw...). I had been vegetarian for at least 3 years when I learned this, so I think I had a significant deficiency. Vinpocitine increases blood flow to the brain.

I also take caffeine. When I did not have medication, I took caffeine pills (one in the morning and one halfway through the day) -- they're cheap, they really help and since it's just a pill, there isn't the block of having to go find coffee/soda/energy drinks AND they don't carry the sugar crash that a lot of drinks do. I either have a caffeine pill or a coffee every day.

And also, pretty much every single one of my coping skills is discussed in this book: Your Life Can Be Better -- which is written by a person who has ADD, so it is easy to read and absorb for ADD people (at least I think so). Most chapters are about 5 pages long. It is miraculously useful.

When trying to focus, listening to wordless, complex but steady music is very helpful. Also, taking breaks can be damn impossible, so drinking loads of water is actually helpful because eventually I HAVE to pee.

Eating regularly is very important. I'm sure there are additional factors, but one reason is that stress makes ADD worse, and not eating regularly means that your body releases cortisol, the stress hormone. This does all kinds of negative things to your body. I am really bad about remembering to eat (which is a huge problem for ADD people since ADD fucks up your memory/focus and ADD meds reduce your appetite) so I try to carry some crackers or a food bar or some nuts, and eat according to a schedule rather than waiting for body signals which always come VERY late. I eat a fairly natural diet, but I know that MSG and artificial food dyes can cause ADD to be worse, so I'd recommend avoiding them.

Last but not least, getting enough sleep is vital. I had to train myself into regular sleep using melatonin (which should never be used in doses higher than 0.3mg (300 MICROkilograms) or for more than 3 months at a stretch! I learned this the hard way.), but now I can go to sleep easily 99% of the time and sleep for 7 hours and wake up rested. I am convinced that sleep is even more important for people with ADD than it is for neurotypical people. It's like a sleep-deprived neurotypical person has about as much focus as an ADD person does on a decent amount of sleep, so yeah, very important!

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belenen: (giving)
love memory bank
icon: "giving (two cartoon figures: one fills in a heart with red marker on its chest while the other watches. Then the other points at it and "...?" appears as a thought above it. The one with the heart on it smiles and glomp-hugs the other, who looks startled, then blushes and hugs back. The first one pulls away again and the heart has been copied onto the second one's chest. both smile. image repeats.)"

love memory bank which is woefully neglected oops -also is almost only topaz because they are the only one who reminds me )

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belenen: (disassociative)
prosopagnosia and memory as it relates to taking photos and believing in love
icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

The other day I had a terrible depressive crash and I cried from 9am to 4pm, almost solid. The worst point was when I thought to myself that I could feel the truth that I am loved if I could picture someone looking at me lovingly. But I couldn't. I can't picture people's faces in my head, not even when I look at them and then close my eyes. I don't think it's just coincidence that the two people who have made me feel the most loved even when we're apart for a long time are the same as the two people who I have taken the most photos of. I can remember photos. And when I take the photo and then look at it, I can access that moment. So if I can take photos of people in moments where I feel loved, I can access that memory almost like other sighted people can in general. I feel like no one understands this as an access need. "You can't NEED to take a photo."

I remember someone talking about how taking photos requires consent and although I agree, it makes me uncomfortable because other sighted people can just look and remember, but I can't, so in not taking photos I am blocked off from remembering. I wish it was just a general habit that people took photos but never shared them without consent, so that it wouldn't be a problem for others. I understand that it is, and I respect that. But it means that my memory is a dark blurry mazelike gallery that I traverse with a flashlight. If I could take photos any time I was in a loved moment, I wouldn't have such a hard time believing that it's true. I can't just flip through memories- and my memory gets significantly worse when I am depressed or stressed.

If I had only one wish that applied only to my own self, I would wish for a perfect memory. Not money, not even love or the ability to find all the people who would be good connections for me. My lack of memory is the most painful part of my life. I can't even remember my own favorite things (music, books, etc), which is why I write them down. Otherwise I have to go actually look through what I own to know, and if I don't own it, it could be one of my very favorite books and I wouldn't remember it. I don't know if the bad memory and the prosopagnosia are related, but they make each other much worse.

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belenen: (ADD-PI)
my ADD-PI: stimming and prosopagnosia (difficulty recognising faces)
icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

Some people say ADD is on the autism spectrum, and I certainly see a lot of similarities between my experience as an ADD person and other people's experiences with autism. Someone with autism mentioned having trained out their stimming behaviors at age 12 and that suddenly brought back a memory of myself at age 12 or 13, at a family gathering. I had long hair and I twirled it around my fingers often (and had done this since age 3 or so) because it was comforting -- it made me feel like I had a bubble of protection somehow. My pibling P told me I shouldn't do it and gave me the impression that people seeing me thought it was a combination of grossness and proof of lack of intelligence. I felt like I had been caught doing something private (I don't think it had occurred to me that others could see me doing this) and I felt deeply shamed. I didn't do it in public any more, and didn't have the urge to do it in private unless I was going to sleep.

Thinking back, I feel very upset with my pibling P. They disrupted my relationship with my hair, my body, and the way I thought of how people looked at me. I hadn't considered that people might examine me for things to judge my intelligence. They stripped me of a protection that I didn't even know was there until they took it away. I remember being angry at the time that they dared to tell me what to do with my own body, but the anger didn't keep me from extrapolating that if they thought this, so might others. Since the only part of me that people ever expressed valuing was my 'smarts' I couldn't risk losing that.

Now I rub my fingernails when I am in public and overwhelmed and have nothing to distract myself with. I put the fingerpads of one hand on the bed of the fingernails of the other hand and stroke down hard, past the tips and down, then do the other hand, back and forth. If I feel like I shouldn't let people see me do this, I will do it with just my thumbs. Paying a little more attention to my movements today I have realized that I do this in a mild way (rubbing thumbnail and forefinger on the same hand) just generally. I also count steps when I am walking in public (usually just up to the thirties and then start over) especially at school (which is where I feel most watched) or when I am in a hurry. I hadn't thought of these as stimming behaviors but I definitely use them for the same reasons.

I was just reading thecaffeinatedautistic and they mentioned face-blindness as more common in autistic people... reading more on that I realize again how much a part of my life this is. Oliver Sacks says "I am particularly thrown if I see people out of context, even if I have been with them five minutes before... Many prosopagnosics recognize people by voice, posture, or gait; and, of course, context and expectation are paramount—one expects to see one’s students at school, one’s colleagues at the office, and so on."

This literally happens to me with even my most intimate people. I was married to someone for 8 years and had known them for 19 years and if I saw them unexpectedly I still wouldn't recognize them until I added up their features. That takes between 5 and 10 seconds: it doesn't sound like a lot, but imagine looking at someone's face while they look at yours and count 5 seconds before you greet them -- and meanwhile, you are making a confused expression. Fucking awkward as shit. I often am greeted by people and don't realize who they are until after we have passed each other -- then I feel terrible because I worry I have made them feel unimportant.

"The artist Chuck Close, who is famous for his gigantic portraits of faces, has severe, lifelong prosopagnosia. He believes it has played a crucial role in driving his unique artistic vision. 'I don’t know who anyone is and essentially have no memory at all for people in real space,' he says. 'But when I flatten them out in a photograph I can commit that image to memory.'" - Oliver Sacks in the New Yorker

HOLY SHIT. This! this is how it works for me! I literally cannot bring to mind the face of a person I love and stare at often -- I can bring to mind individual facial characteristics, but they swirl around like they're parts of an amoeba. But I can remember a photograph! Something about the 2-D visual is memorable while the 3-D just vanishes. This is why it is so important for me to have good (emotionally representative) photographs of people, and why I can recognize a photograph of a person fairly easily but have so much difficulty in person. And why I can recognize actors I have seen before in a different show with a very different character and look (I do this better than most people), but I cannot recognize people who I have met in person if they show up in an unexpected place, and often have difficulty recognizing someone if they significantly change their hair.

I just realized that this is part of why I find unique features and high-contrast features so attractive. If someone has a scar or large birthmark on their face, I don't have to add up more features to know who they are. If they have crooked teeth I can recognize that pattern very quickly. Essentially those faces are less work and less stress, so I associate them with relief and therefore like them more. (I also just like uniqueness in general)

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belenen: (kissy)
the art of hugs

icon: "kissy (a photo of me outside in soft light, blowing a kiss)"

Hugs are the usual greeting in my group of friends, and are not uncommon among my family and the families of other southern people I know. (some people take this so far as to hug others without asking first, which is horrible) It's also a really common method of comforting via the internet, at least everywhere I have been. But a lot of people don't put any thought into a hug beyond "we encircle each other with our arms and then stop." But there are such a variety of hugs!

the christian side-hug
A hug that involves people being side-by-side and wrapping the near arm around the other person's back, bringing the far arm around to touch the other's far shoulder and leaving a circle of air in between, usually looking away.
The only people I allow to do this to me are my bioparent M and Topaz' family. With my bioparent, it's because they have self-imposed limits of bodily contact with those they perceive as women. With Topaz' family, I let them set the parameters of hugs.

the straight girl A-frame
This is a variant of the christian side-hug where you face each other and put your arma around each other, but do so with your bodies at least a foot apart and your backs arched so that your chests don't touch.
I do not tolerate this kind of hug. I'd rarher have a handshake, or nothing at all.

the limp noodle
This is when someone goes to hug you but doesn't place any firmness into it, holding all of their parts away, barely touching you with their arms and chest, sometimes giving a light tentative pat at the end.
GROSS GROSS GROSS I hate this kind SO MUCH. It makes me feel like I'm covered in slime and you're trying not to get it on you. This kind of hug makes me want to punch whoever is doing it.

the quick squeeze
This is when someone hugs you for about 1.5 seconds - just wrap arms around, give a quick squeeze, and immediately pull away. This is the usual greeting hug among hippies.
I like this one okay. It's better than no touch.

the back-cracker
This is when someone hugs you with such a hard squeeze that it could crack your back (or in my case, cause your boobs to ache).
I hate this one. People do not seem to realize that the fact that it feels good to them doesn't mean it feels good to me. There's also a sub-variant, where the person isn't squeezing too hard but is squeezing at the wrong place and it is smashing my boobs. PSA: if you are hugging someone with large breasts, squeeze them around the waist ONLY not around the chest (or ask).

the favorite hug
This varies from person to person I'm sure. For me, there are several elements that make up my favorite hug; time length, emotional presence, arm placement, body height, pressure, hand movement, and above all posture softness.

For length, I prefer longer (in the 8-11 second range usually) but I let the other person end it as quickly as they wish. As soon as they lift their head from my shoulder, drop their hands from my back, or otherwise shift to end the hug, I mirror and let them out of the hug. Otherwise it's not good consent.

To be emotionally present for me means we're silent, eyes closed, fully emotionally focused on each other, not thinking about other things, not hurried.

Position-wise, I prefer to have my right arm over their left shoulder, with my other arm wrapped around their waist and them mirroring - this is an idea passed on to me from someone else that solves a lot of the squishing problems and also is more egalitarian. But one person's arms under the other is a better hug for comforting, I feel - with the person giving comfort having arms on top because they feel like a shield then. I want bodies to be close, either with us sitting next to each other thighs touching, or standing face to face with feet staggered and foot-circles overlapping.

Height should be adjusted for the hug. So, a standing person should sit or kneel to hug a sitting person. A standing tall person should widen their stance or bend their knees to hug a standing shorter person, or they should find something for the shorter one to stand on.

Pressure should be firm but not suffocating- applied only from the hands and the chest, not the whole length of the arms like a boa constrictor. Imagine folding around the person like you would fold one paper around another. Pressure should also be at the top of the back and the middle of the back, because lower back is sexual for many people and so you should ask first (I certainly don't want anyone touching me there without asking).

Hand movement should be thoughtful and not too hard of a rub, nor too much in one spot, NO PATS.

Posture should be softened (if possible) with shoulders loose and spine curved: if one person stands up straight that forces the other to bend twice as much and it feels awkward and uncomfortable.

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belenen: (analytical)
trust: what builds it and what burns it, for me
icon: "analytical (a close-up photo of my eye in bright sunlight, showing the green and grey and roots-looking patterns)"

How do you define trust in your relationships? Do you believe it is a black and white issue or a grey area one in that you can trust people in different ways?

Trust comes in various levels, for me. I start everyone at about 60%: assuming that they respect me, they want to avoid hurting me, and they're not going to lie to me.

Things that add to that trust are:
- not hurting me often (which requires them to be careful with their language and actively practice removing slurs and stereotypes from their thinking),
- being remorseful and productive instead of defensive when I have told them that they hurt me,
- telling me as soon as they can when I do something that upsets them so that I can adjust my behavior,
- being willing and able to share their feelings and experiences with me (self-aware and open),
- taking action to care for our relationship,
- sharing freely with me without me needing to prompt them,
- showing curiosity and thoughtfully engaging with things I share,
- practicing good self-care, especially in such a way that they can have more quality time with me,
- openly (especially publicly) admitting when they made a mistake or realized a change they need to make.

There are probably more actions that build trust for me, but that list alone would bring someone up to 90% at least.

Things that lower my trust in someone:
- deceiving me,
- hiding things from me that they know I would want to know,
- not telling me when I bother or upset them,
- showing that they don't respect me or others,
- showing that hurting me doesn't matter to them,
- using slurs,
- mocking people for anything that is related to their status as an oppressed person (seriously anything),
- making fun of anything that is part of who someone is (like their laugh, their name, their style, their body shape, etc),
- trying to push someone into doing something (ANYTHING) they don't want to,
- affirming stereotypes,
- trying to 'win' in an argument or agreement,
- showing a lack of self-awareness,
- showing that they value me more than themselves,
- disliking all conflict,
- avoiding giving direct answers when I ask direct questions.

Any one of those things would drop my trust at least 10%. Not all of these are things I think are bad, but they are all things that show I cannot be very close to that person.

Things that have little to no effect on my trust, usually:
- keeping plans we made (all I care about is desire and effort, not success)
- being on time
- being available when I am in need
- remembering anniversaries/birthdays
- responding in a timely manner
- backing me up in a conflict
- showing me that I am more important than others
- staying consistently in my life

I notice many people expressing desire or need for these things but frankly, that stuff is mostly stuff that only neurotypical people can do, or stuff that creates a hierarchical relationship. I have had maybe two relationships with neurotypical people and they were ages ago. I don't really forsee myself being in any of those in the future and if I did, I hope I would not become reliant on those things as markers of trust. They have not at all correlated with people who remained nourishing, non-damaging connections for a long time.

So overall, yes I trust people in different ways. I trust Topaz probably about 98%, Kylei, Heather, and Hannah about 92%, and other people vary from 0% to about 88%.

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belenen: (ADD-PI)
how I manage my neuro-atypicality in relation to others
icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

I've been thinking about this for a while and today I had a breakdown that brought it very sharply to mind. I'm worried that I won't be able to express this in a way that makes sense and is clear but I'm gonna try. Please read with the understanding that I may phrase things badly and need questions so that I can clarify.

As a person who has dealt with severe memory issues and attention issues and depression, I know that I am not reliable. I can be draining. I can get stuck in an old trauma and pull others in. I can get blamey. I can't help these things. They're part of my brain. But I can try to temper the effects.

There are a number of ways I do this. Number one is using whatever support resources I have. When I have access to the right medication, I take it. This isn't just for me, but to allow myself to be fully present and at my most capable to deal with my own volatile emotions so that I don't hurt others. If I had a therapist who actually matched me (asked me meaningful questions and prodded me to greater self-understanding, while not applying false rubrics to my life), I would also be in therapy.

A close second is practicing self-awareness as much as possible.  I want to be able to tell people what I want and need, so that they can decide if that is something they are willing and able to give; if I am not self-aware, I am literally incapable of doing that. I also want to be able to talk myself down if that is possible - note my feelings and check where they are coming from. Many times this is all I need to do to resolve a feeling. One aspect of self-awareness is when I have an emotional breakdown (like I did today) I analyse where the feelings are coming from and don't apply them to the wrong person. I will often explain why I'm feeling these things to the person who has sparked the feelings, and if I have no issue with their behavior I will assure them that I do not think they did anything wrong.

A backup for self-awareness that I use is willingness to be checked by the people I trust to know, respect, and love me. In practice this list is mostly Topaz, Heather, and Kylei, but there are many others who have known me for a long time who I would also value checking me. If they notice that I am going down a path that seems bad for me, or they feel like I am overreacting to something, or that in any other way I am lacking awareness of myself or my behavior in a potentially damaging way, they have my permission and encouragement to call me on it. My ability to notice things is vastly increased by adding more observers.

Last is self-care. This is vital. I know that all of my worst issues are exacerbated when I am not practicing enough self-care, so I do. I spend at least one evening per week alone (usually a day: I know this is a huge privilege). I have on my daily goals list to read, write, share openly with someone, take a photo or make visual art, connect with my body through movement and/or connect with nature, and sing aloud and/or do a spiritual practice. I have weekly goals of cleaning, crafting, accomplishing something scary, spending time with 2 or more friends, and a few other things. I don't ever manage to do all of these, but keeping them in mind as a goal means that I do far better than I otherwise would.

I need these practices in people close to me. I can handle people blowing up as long as they are willing to be told "I think you're blowing this out of proportion" or "please go take some time and calm down before talking to me about this." (Kylei is great about this) I can handle people taking my words in a way I didn't mean and getting very upset at me as long as when I say no, that isn't what I meant, they take it in and choose to believe me. (Topaz is very good about this) I can handle people making any choices for their own life as long as I am not expected to react any way other than honestly. (Heather is the one who I can be most brazen with: for instance I can tell them how disgusting I think meat is without them taking it at all personally) I can handle people crying and wilding out around me if they explain to me what is happening and don't blame me for their reactions. I can handle people sometimes treating me badly as long as when I point it out and ask for change, they check within themselves and do their best to make that change to keep from hurting me again. And it's so important that I be able to get very upset or sad without the person taking it personally, because only then can I feel safe sharing all my feelings with them.

These needs I have from others are also very important practices of mine, so that I can offer a balance.

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belenen: (distance)
lonely in any crowd / spirit-to-spirit contact / conflict is a tool of intimacy
icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

I feel like no one talks about the loneliness of rejecting oppression. It's like being a creature that looks like its surrounding creatures but isn't, while the surrounding creatures just don't have the ability to connect with you the way you need. How there's this missing piece in most interactions. Their words, their kindnesses, their touch, their thoughts, just don't reach.

I can never tell by looking. I can't tell by touching. I can't tell by smell or taste or sound. I have to investigate their mind, and it takes such work, and the longer I go the more it stings when suddenly I fall into a poisoned thornbush of defensive privilege and refusal to empathize or learn. It takes so very much risk for me to connect. There are so few people who are safe. There are some who are safer than others, because I know where the thornbushes are and there are few enough that I can avoid them. But it still takes work because conversation changes the landscape and I can't predict when a thornbush will show up. I can never relax.

I marvel and shake my head at people who don't have this experience. Getting to know people, for them, is just about shared hobbies and lack of deliberate attacks, plus good intentions. Those are so easy to find, comparatively. So EASY!

Most humans need skin-to-skin contact. If they lack it, they feel a thing called "skin hunger." I spent my minor years in such a state of skin hunger that I would feel rage when people touched me accidentally, because I blocked it out and the slightest touch would open it up, which HURT. I think there is a similar thing for spirit-to-spirit contact.

I need spirit-to-spirit contact. But I can't have it with most people because if I run into a thornbush in that state, it will shut me down. It's shocking and painful: a sudden dehumanization while being in the most vulnerable state. And so many people don't even know how to make that contact to begin with. So there's already almost no safe people. And then there's even fewer who know how to make this kind of contact; yet fewer who aren't in such a state of spirit hunger that they won't devour you accidentally.

Sometimes I find someone who I can tell could share this spirit-to-spirit contact with me, but they're surrounded by thornbushes. That's the worst, but it also crushes me when they're mostly free of thornbushes but the world sucks so much from them that they don't have the energy to connect. That happens almost every time, because people don't usually clear their thornbushes unless they have endured the trauma of oppression, and that trauma drains your energy.

(I feel like I just realized why mixed-status relationships are more common than I would expect- the effort it takes to call someone out (if they are empathetic and growth-focused) may be less than the effort it takes to support someone else through their oppression while daily dealing with your own. I've never been genuinely close to someone who didn't have at least two axis of oppression, but I can imagine it's a relief to rarely be called on to comfort your close ones' suffering.)

Every person with whom I have felt that 'click' that should allow for easier, deeper connection but did not because of  thornbushes or trauma or lack of energy or space or time -- every one of those people I feel a gap in my life. Even if I think they are full of awful hateful ideas, I can still feel what SHOULD be and I still crave it.

I'm so passionately dedicated to creating intimacy wherever I can because I feel the holes where it should be. I know that some people probably see me quite negatively for for my furious and often rude resistance of evil. But human intimacy cannot exist without conflict because humans vary and that causes conflict. And in a world full of oppression, there's a shitton of trauma connected to that variation, which makes conflict way more common and way more difficult.

I used to avoid conflict because I wanted to be seen as a loving person. I wanted to be seen as loving more than I wanted to change this hateful world to one where love could flourish. I have given up being seen as loving. People who understand intimacy will understand that I am loving and that is enough.

I need more connection. I need to not have to fight endlessly through barriers to feel connection. I need it to exist for me in more than just two or three people in my 32 years of life! This is part of the reason I work to do whatever I can to create justice. It is only in a more just world that I have any chance of having my needs met. I don't just crave a world that doesn't damage people. I crave a world where I can meet a person, feel a click with them, and explore that with joy, knowing that there will not be evil dysempathetic ideas lurking or so much trauma and energy-drain that I cannot connect with them.

I have not killed off my naive former self who literally wanted to be intimate with every human. I fight against those who attack intimacy with oppression and denial, so that maybe someday another spirit like mine will have more of a chance of doing what my child self wished. I fight for all those who suffer and I fight for that little part of me that can't help hoping. I won't ever stop. I will not avoid conflict. It is not only a necessary tool for creating intimacy, but perhaps the greatest one.

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belenen: (brewing)
4 elements needed for me to feel sexual attraction: consent, bodily respect, awareness, generosity
icon: "brewing (a photo of a ceramic mug with sticks of cinnamon poking out and steam rising up)"

As a demisexual, I need to feel some kind of emotional connection with the person for there to even be a chance of sexual attraction. Often this is a connection on the spirit, soul, or heart level, but sometimes it's purely a mental connection in that we have shared a lot of intimacy in our conversations. Once I have this, the following four elements together may create sexual desire (in order of importance, not chronology).

The number one thing that determines my sexual desire is consent, both ways. To desire someone I need them to tell me that they want sex with me. No, I don't mean say flirty things or act attracted, I mean actually flat-out say "I want to have sex with you" or say an unequivocal "yes" if I ask if they want to. I'm pretty sure I won't ever feel sexual desire for anyone who doesn't feel it for me. I might have in high school (before I ever had sex), but not since I became sexually active. I also need them to be fully invested in my consent, not just asking but also showing awareness of my reactions and adjusting accordingly.

Next in importance is bodily respect: them not having terrible ideas about bodies, sex, or gender. No assigning stereotyped personality traits to body parts including genitals. No assigning body types/parts as attractive or unattractive (this is gross no matter what shape you decide is best). No ideas about more or less legitimate kinds of bodies. No believing in rules for genders. Never imposing gender on me. Not interpreting my fat as a cause or effect of my personality. Basically, not being sexist, cissexist, or looksist.

Next is awareness; self-awareness, awareness of me, ability and desire to maintain this awareness and express it throughout. To feel sexual desire for someone I need to be able to sense them letting my touch reach them emotionally. (otherwise I will feel unappreciated and/or worried that they don't really want it) I need a balance of reactive and attentive. I do not want someone who always turns into pure reaction (sometimes I might want to provide that space but not often, as it's exhausting!), but I also don't want someone who isn't reactive. I want a person who can stay mentally, spiritually, and emotionally present while feeling intensely. Someone who will still notice if I seem 'done' even if they are in the throes of sexual ecstasy. Someone who can make eye contact with me or grip my hand during sex and I can feel the 'click' of that connection.

Last is generosity (desire to give). If you could be happy only receiving every time we have sex (while knowing that I love being touched) or if you never offer anything and only give when asked, I'm not interested. I know some people are scared of not being perfect and that's why they don't want to give, and I can empathize with that, but it is not a turn-on. People who have no desire to give sexually would not be people I'd be sexually compatible with. People also need to not be so full of need that they subconsciously pull at me. That one I can't really explain, it's just a thing I feel. I don't think I can feel desire for anyone who is looking for salvation outside themselves.

If these are all met, I can have satisfying sex with a person. But each of these four elements is fucking rare. Especially awareness. So many people check out when they have sex and go to a purely physical place or have sex as a mental escape. I just don't find that remotely appealing.

Usually for it to go from "I can feel sexual desire" to "I actually want this enough to deal with the hassle of the STD/trigger/expectations conversation and the potential concerns of my current partner(s), therefore I will flip my internal switch and become sexually attracted to them" I have to be in love with the person. I don't find sex more nourishing than cuddles or conversation, so it's not worth the bother unless I am in love and therefore want to experience all possible connecting activities and want to bring them joy in any way available to me.

In a world without oppression where people valued awareness and giving, there would be many opportunities for me to want sex with people. as it is I am unlikely to want new sex partners very often )

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belenen: (oneness)
what makes me fall in love & how it feels when I am in love
icon: "oneness (the characters Keenan and Joan from "Playing By Heart," sitting so close together that their shoulders overlap and their faces nearly touch, both with laughing smiles as they look in the same direction)"

Feeling/being in love, for me, is not sexual at all, nor is it related to looks, nor can it be sparked by social scripts. I cannot fall in love at first sight if the person isn't doing or saying anything.  I cannot fall in love from someone buying me things or taking me to fun places or giving me compliments or making me laugh or sharing my hobbies or making me feel like the center of their world.

What makes me fall in love? Feeling a mutual excitement at the understanding and growth we are creating together. Feeling that they are as excited about my ideas and experiences as they are their own. Feeling them be fully present with me, especially when it's because they are so engaged with my presence that other things fade out (not including chronic pain/depression/etc).  Feeling a strong desire coming from them to know me balanced by a strong desire from them to be known coupled with a strong self-awareness; especially when they take opportunities to self-examine in front of me, without forgetting me. Feeling a vibrant connate resonance about them enacting/embodying one or especially more of my core values: justice, respect, compassion/connection, wonder/reverence, curiosity, transparency/openness, honesty, thoroughness, creativity, imperfect action, growth/change.  This can happen in so many ways. Examples: they describe how they engage in justice work, they show respect to someone who usually doesn't get it (like a child), they describe a connection they have, they respond to an expression of wonder with an equal level of enthusiasm, they ask prying questions or wonder aloud about something your average person takes  for granted, they share something vulnerable and self-aware, they tell the truth when it makes them uncomfortable, they make sure to be complete when doing a task, they customize items they use daily, they take action when it is needed even though they are clumsy at it, they describe things they've learned and how they've applied them to their life... Many many possibilities here. 

Feeling in love can also be squelched by violating one of my core values. If you are unwilling to devote spare resources to creating justice, show lack of consideration for how you affect others, show apathy to suffering, react to wonder with dismissiveness or indifference, don't question yourself, respond to questions without thought or depth, lie, are sloppy in tasks done for others, act like skilled technique is the key to art, refuse to take a helpful action because it's not the perfect solution, or think that staying the same is good, any feelings of in-love I have for you will be diminished.  That also has many possibilities. Often I will feel a swell of in-love for someone and then five minutes later that will be burst; for instance I'll notice their carefully and meaningfully decorated music case and feel very in-love, and then they'll talk about all these 'poser' musicians who don't do [some specific technique] and that feeling will be completely dissolved.

I also can feel in love without it being a constant state: I have felt in love with people for a moment or a day, or constantly over a period of years.  I often feel in-love with people, but I don't describe it as 'being' in love unless it is mutual and consistent, something that I see continuing indefinitely.  Usually it goes from a feeling of in-love-ness to actually being in love when we deliberately create the space for that, or when the space is accidentally created through just spending a lot of time together, or when they express the same feeling and a desire to explore/deepen that feeling.

When I am in love with someone as a state of being, I feel a continuous strong desire to be close to them. I feel like I want to know every meaningful thing that goes on in their lives, I want bring them joy, I want to help them grow, and I get easily overwhelmed with how wonderful they are and want to talk about it all the time. I want to kiss them, hug them, and touch them in ways that feel good to them. I think about them often and miss them when we have not connected in an unusually long time (for us: this can be a few hours or a few weeks). I want to give them presents if I find things they would like. I want to help them with tasks that they find difficult or stressful. I want to share meaningful places, art, and media.

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belenen: (interconnectedness)
why I identify as demisexual / what makes sex worth the effort / sexual vs sensual touch / kissing
icon: "interconnectedness (two bald purple-skinned people in the ocean: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

The main reason I consider myself demisexual is that the actual 'sex' part of sex doesn't interest me. It's the things that I get during sex other than physical stimulation that make sex valuable to me. Things that make sex worth it for me are...

1) energy play that is easier and more intense because my body is revved up (exercise or roughhousing play works for this too, or some drugs I'm sure).
2) the intimacy of having someone watch my body and listen to my sounds when I am totally uninhibited. (being very drunk and dancing would provide this too, but is more work and expense).
3) the emotional high that my allosexual partners get from sex which makes them more relaxed and affectionate, sometimes for days after.
4) learning about someone in a wordless way through their reactions and desires.
5) in-depth discussions of feelings. I don't get much out of sex despite the above unless we talk out the experience afterward. This has been a difficulty for me because frankly most people are really bad at talking about sex and not great at talking about their feelings either, but I've had the occasional lover who was naturally good at it and others deliberately built their skills.

I don't experience any particular touch as always sexual, not giving or receiving. Nor do I experience any touch as inherently non-sexual. For me, sex is about intention more than anything else. I can't stand for my non-sexually-meant touch to be taken as sexual by someone else. Even if I am in a sexual relationship with them and often enjoy sex with them, if I am not wanting and intending sex, I don't want my touch to be taken that way. Along the same lines, I can often miss "I wanna have sex" signals because I don't apply sexual thought to touch unless that is invited. Someone once literally put their face in between my breasts and I did not interpret this as an expression of sexual interest (later they told me that it was and I realized that most people would probably have taken it that way).

I sometimes enjoy giving/receiving touch that would usually be sexual as purely sensual instead. Touch with that level of intimacy minus the urgency of sex makes for the most tender touch I can imagine. But then, I am not sure this translates for other people because my body still responds in a sexual way eventually. It just feels completely different and makes me almost want to cry (not in a sad way, but like I'd cry at a particularly beautiful piece of music). I've experienced this with Topaz, Kylei, and (to a much lesser extent) my ex-spouse.

I do like the physical sensation of touching other people's genitals. If not for all the mental associations, I would probably like to touch them often in non-sexual ways. That is, not for sexual pleasure but because they feel nice, warm and soft and close. I could cup my hand around them and have it held in place by their thighs which would feel very intimate (whether they were clothed or not). If not for people being ticklish or otherwise uncomfortable with the idea, I'd probably enjoy putting my hands in people's armpits for the same reason.

kissing )

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belenen: (delectable)
my eating habits: what I don't eat at all, what I generally avoid, favorite meals & ingredients
icon: "delectable (photo of a snow leopard licking its lips)"

I told Anika that I'd compile a list of my dietary restrictions, avoidances, and preferences, and figured I might as well share.

the nopes )

preferences, favorite ingredients, and other things I often eat )

favorite meals (all best with NO oil or butter, or as little as possible):
tacos/burritos/salad w salsa and a shitton of raw veggies, plus beans and mushrooms
lasagne (almost never get a good one -- they all have those mushy squash or zucchini UGH)
chili (almost never get a good one -- it's like people don't know how to flavor and thicken without meat)
paninis (warm crunchy sandwiches mmm)
pizza! with fine-cut broccoli, black olives, spinach, roma tomatoes, banana peppers, red onions, portabella mushrooms, & roasted red peppers.
veggie soups, especially fresh, thin ones w lots of fine-chopped veggies
thick chunky tomato soup with brie on rye toast
thin pastas (angel hair or rice noodles) w lots of tomato sauce and added veggies/mushrooms
cheese w lots of raw veggies, herbs, and whole grain crackers or bread.
smoothies w fruits, peanut butter (w no oils, salt or sugar added) or whey protein, whole milk yogurt.

favorite desserts:
super-gingery ginger cookies and hot spicy tea
spearmint (NOT peppermint) gelato or ice cream w as little sugar and few bits of chocolate as possible
chopped fruits and Topaz' fruit goop (a mix of cream, soft cheese, and sugar)
dark dark chocolate bar w ginger bits (I savor this in small bits -- usually have 1/8th to 1/6th of a bar at a time)
lime sherbert (or it would be, if I could find some that didn't have too much sugar)
sheer bliss pomegranate ice cream w dark chocolate bits (not sure if it still exists, haven't found it in stores in years. but most pomegranate ice cream has WAYYYYYYYY too much sugar because people try to overwhelm the tartness)

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belenen: (plant magic)
what nourishes me in friendship: self-care/growth/awareness, shared passion/enthusiasm, creating...
icon: "plant magic (photo I took of a tree blossom cluster, still in buds)"

A friend asked me what nourishes me in friendship, and after thinking on it, this is how friends can nourish me:

1. self-care/growth/awareness. This is far and away the most important, the thing that nourishes me most in spending time with someone (whether virtually or in-person). A person can be the best person in the world, but if they aren't good at self-care it will not nourish me to be around them. I think this is partly because I sense the care that they need and I have to practice a lot of self-discipline to be around them without trying to fill that hole (a vast improvement over my previous self, but still an intense and draining struggle for me), and that struggle gets exponentially harder the more I care about them. So the skill of self-care prevents me from feeling a constant drain (due to that internal struggle) in their presence.

But the other side of that, growth, is actively nourishing to me when it is shared with me. When someone has been, for instance, going to therapy regularly and learning new skills that they are applying in their relationships or their daily habits, I can feel that and it subconsciously nourishes me. (or if they have simply been taking a walk everyday because it helps them feel mentally clear and less anxious, or they've been reading more, etc) Further, if they describe it to me, it nourishes me more because I learn more about them as they learn about themselves, and I also learn about myself as they share. Sometimes this is because they share something that teaches me something new, sometimes it's just as simple as noting my reaction to a particular aspect of something and realizing something new about myself from that.

I often spark this on my own by asking questions that prompt self-reflection and growth, but that is usually a much much smaller nourishment because it requires energy to put in. If I ask a simple question and then the person makes explores it carefully and thoughtfully, that can be really nourishing, but that requires a certain mental habit of critical analysis and a level of practiced openness that most people don't have, so it is rare.

2. shared passion and enthusiasm. This is more complex than it seems at first glance, because it involves the other person not only understanding and caring about the same thing I care about, but expressing that emphatically and emotionally, 'hyper'ly even. And this could be anger, joy, excitement, shock, wonder, etc, any passionate emotion. Kylei has always nourished me in this way, because Kylei is very VERY good at being enthusiastic and loud about it. On the flip side, if I share something I feel passionate about with someone and they have a calm or flat reaction to it, I will feel drained by having shared with them and will wish I hadn't, because if I had instead written about it I would have had a better reaction just from myself re-reading it.

3. creating together. I find creating to be nourishing in itself, and when someone creates with me I feel extra nourished because I feel like they are investing in their self-care/growth as well as my self-care and growth. Conversely, if someone sets the intention with me to create, and then doesn't, I sometimes feel worse than I would have if I had just created alone.

4. spiritual working together. This can be incredibly nourishing but it requires number 1, 2, and 3 or it takes more energy than it gives.

5. asking me meaningful specific questions. This can be nourishing from anyone, but has far more impact if the question is one that I hadn't considered, and/or if it is about something that I am currently positively emotionally invested in. (being asked about things that I find stressful is draining, not nourishing, though someone who is really good at questioning can sometimes make an overall nourishing conversation out of it) Vague questions like "how are you?" are not at all nourishing because they take so much work for me to organize my thoughts and answer. (my ADD-PI means I hate vagueness in general, btw)

6. cuddles/focused touch. This can make me feel REALLY nourished BUT it is only good for me if the person is 1) good at self-care AND 2) is good at noting my reactions and adjusting for the comfort of both of us AND 3) is generous. I am very physically sensitive and it is easy to make me feel bad, and if I give a lot of cuddles without also getting them it rapidly gets more draining than nourishing. I like drinking and cuddling because I get numbed and then it is not distressing to the point of emotional suffering to have someone brush a sensitive place accidentally. Otherwise, I exclusively give (which I do really love when it doesn't happen too often) or do some specific and boundaried touch (like let them rub my feet or pet my hair).

7. gifts of effort. This can be things like driving to see me when you live far away, or doing a chore I hate doing. But if you don't ask if I want it and get a yes first (or ask if I have a blanket answer for that particular thing), it can be upsetting, because I want to be able to measure my gratitude against your effort. If it is going to take a lot out of you but only give me a little, then it is not worth it and if you do it I will just feel bad for your loss rather than feeling happy for my gain.

Things that have low to no nourishment value for me: activities which don't involve the previous things (so, going to the movies together would not nourish me unless we deconstructed it after or something), people expressing empathy/sympathy for my negative feelings (I want them to care, but I'm okay just trusting that they care unless I am in a desperate place and if I am there, I will specifically request support), being told nice things about myself, being listened to without feedback. These are all nice and certainly don't have a negative effect, but they are not things that have a large emotional impact on me.

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belenen: (overwhelmed)
overwhelmed / my friendship needs and dealbreakers
icon: "overwhelmed (the character Keenan from "Playing By Heart," with hands over their face covering their eyes and head tilted back)"

Sorry for my absence; things have been wild but they should be settling now for at least a few weeks.

One of the major aspects of life taking my thoughts and energy lately has been my friendship with Kei-Won-Tia. I won't go into details for fear of betraying confidence, but we had a major, two-week clash over what it meant to be open, and then they expressed a need that I cannot meet and still be a whole person, so we can't be friends right now, and not in the future unless they no longer need that thing I cannot do.

It made me realize that I have a need from all of my friends, which I am not sure if I have expressed recently or clearly. I need to be able to trust that you are not going to lie to me -- that you are not going to deliberately deceive me. That is a dealbreaker for me. My dealbreakers are:
1) deceitfulness/insincerity
2) disrespect
3) manipulative behavior
4) destructiveness of self and/or others and/or living things (see original post for details)
5) indifference/apathy

and mapped out with more specificity: my minimum requirements for friendly acquaintances and actual friends / my ideal friend's qualities.

Hopefully I'll write something of more substance soon.

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belenen: (distance)
the intersection of openness, intimacy, and privacy as it relates to me
icon: "distance (two hands (from two people) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

So a friend of mine told me something that had an intense emotional impact on me (and was then unavailable for conversation), and I talked with another friend about it to try to process it. Several days later, the first friend told me that they wanted it kept secret. So as not to lie by omission, I told them that I had already told a mutual friend of ours as it literally did not occur to me to think of this as a secret, or to think of the friend as the wrong person to talk about my feelings with. The first friend is upset with me now because they feel I broke their confidence. So that this doesn't happen again, let me issue the following PSA:

I do not understand social assumptions regarding privacy. I do not know what qualifies as 'private' to you if you have never told me. If you have never told me that something you are sharing is private, expecting me to know that is not okay. If you want me to keep a secret, tell me it's a secret. I cannot know what you want to hide. And if you want me to keep things secret, don't tell me you want to be open with everyone.

In most cases this should be irrelevant. Most events are not going to affect me in a way that mentioning you specifically is important. For instance, if you describe a fight with your partner and that sparks memories and feelings in me, the specifics of your situation are not relevant and I wouldn't feel a desire to share them. However, if something happens between us or if something happens that could change or end our connection, then mentioning you specifically is relevant because our connection is unique and my feelings about it are going to change based on who you are and the history of our connection. If Kylei was moving away, that wouldn't feel at all the same as if Heather was moving away. If they didn't tell me "keep this a secret" then it wouldn't even occur to me to keep it to myself because I'd be thinking about it a lot and I'd want to discuss it and/or write about it.

If you ever ask me to keep something in confidence, I would do it as a matter of course. In any case whether you tell me it's private or not, I am not going to tell an abuser, authority figure, or dangerous person something that makes you vulnerable to them. That would not be me sharing my feelings with someone I love and trust, that would be me exposing you to danger for no reason. Of course I would not do that!! but if you have never told me that a person is dangerous to you, and I love and trust them, then I may unknowingly do that. This is why I must be told who not to talk to about something you want kept secret. In the rare case where I want to share something that involves you, I am willing to suffer a loss by not sharing if it will keep you from feeling hurt.

If you want me to default to not talking about you at all, tell me and I'll do that. That will seriously impact my desire to be close to you, because I loathe making secrets out of things that have personal meaning to me (like my close people). I would never have a secret lover, for instance, because that would feel torturous to me, and would disrupt my intimacy with everyone else I cared about. I don't want to be told lots of secrets, because the sheer amount will cause me extreme distress considering that my memory might make me fail at that point. But conversely, if you're gonna keep secrets from me about things that would impact our relationship, I can't trust you. So, secretive people do not work for me as close friends. I can be casual friends with secretive people and even love them, but I cannot be close to them.

For me, there are literally hundreds of people I am okay with knowing the details of my life. I warn my lovers that if they want to be a large force in my life they need to be okay with me writing about them (about their actions and their words to me) in my LJ. The exception I will make is that I will lock it if it is something they don't want shared publicly, and/or use a pseudonym. This is something I try to mention fairly early on, as it's extremely important to me. I spent my first relationship not talking about that person with anyone and it hindered my growth and nourishment extremely.

I have one friend who values privacy very much. They have made this clear to me. I ask them which people I can talk about them with and what I can talk about, unless I'm being very vague (vague being something like "a friend of mine was talking about media consumption"). This is possible mostly because we have a very specific methodology of sharing with each other. I could not be happy with that situation if we were in a more intimate relationship, because people who affect my daily life are part of my story. I would need at least to be able to talk about them (without checking) with a few people they had vetted. If I love you and invest continually in you, what happens in your life is a part of my life. I need to be free to be open about my life with the people I trust at the very least.

I value having a circle of people (most of those in intimacy practice) who all know each others' business, who all call each other out and point out when someone is getting off track. This is why I put myself in uncomfortable situations for intimacy practice and have conflict resolution that is witnessed. if I fuck up, I want everyone to know about it, so that if there is something I could learn, I have the greatest chance that someone will teach me. I would rather be embarrassed than ignorantly problematic.

In short, here are your privacy choices with me:
-anything is fine to share unless otherwise specified.
-anything is fine to share with identifying information removed. (this doesn't work if people know you well enough to guess)
-nothing specific is okay to share unless specific permission has been granted for what to share and with whom.

or come up with your own preference and ask me and I'll let you know if I can do it, and then you can make an informed decision.

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belenen: (voltaic)
a note for self-care: grocery shopping.
I went grocery shopping today with a list (on my phone via colornote, it's awesome) and coupons loaded on my Kroger card, and WOW that was satisfying. And now I feel so good about life, so safe and so taken care of, just knowing that there is food in my kitchen. I've realized that to perform good self-care, I need to go grocery shopping once a week (when I can afford it), instead of waiting until I have nothing left in the house but crackers and condiments. It is hugely draining and depressing to me to know that I have very little food, and yet spending money stresses me out so much that I avoid going to get food even when I can actually afford it. This is so counterproductive, but it's almost a compulsion; it's like I think if I avoid going shopping, maybe I can make my food last longer. The only way I can think to make sure that doesn't happen is to go shopping once a week. That's the best way to find cheap stuff anyway; so, new goal for me.

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belenen: (mysterious)
eye contact is intensely intimate and nourishing for me
I find it easy to make eye contact in conversation when the other person is talking, because it helps in listening -- I can sense what the person is meaning as well as hearing what they are saying. But if I'm talking I find it difficult because it's distracting -- I'm taking in emotional information and I want to concentrate on it rather than on what I'm saying. I also find it difficult because it intensifies the intimacy of whatever I'm saying, and if I'm not already emotionally intimate with the person it feels too intense. I think this might be annoying to others though, as I tend to look away when talking about anything of emotional significance or anything I haven't already said many times. I catch myself doing it and it bothers me, but even when I make a conscious effort I still find it almost impossible to look the person in the eyes.

There've been a few, VERY few, people whom I immediately found it easy to talk to while maintaining eye contact. Really just those I have spirit connections with -- I guess because we already have that sense of intimacy. Strangely, if I'm crushing on someone I tend to REALLY avoid eye contact because the longer I maintain it the more impossible it is for me to think about anything other than kissing and touching. It's easier if I have no romantic interest or if there are clear boundaries (like with a co-worker). Or if there is already intimacy there, because then I don't feel compelled to close the distance between us now-now-NOW!

I need prolonged eye contact like I need touch or communication. For me it IS a kind of touch, spirit touching spirit, and it is a kind of communication too, spirit speaking to spirit. At the last cuddle party I went to, we did an eye contact meditation which was INCREDIBLY profound for me, even more so than the actual cuddling was. The downside of this is if someone usually breaks eye contact quickly I feel shut out and rejected, like I would if they shook off my touch.

Oh, and another aspect of this is that I loathe glasses because they break that contact. Even though aesthetically they appeal to me, I really don't like for people to wear them -- like holding hands through gloves, it's just not the same.

How does eye contact affect you? I've never talked about this with anyone before ('cause this is a recent realization) and I'm curious.

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