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)
2016 summary: some of the best weeks and worst months of my life.
icon: "confused (photo of a purple diamond-shaped sign with a line leading to four arrows all curving and pointing in different directions)"

I started 2016 with a lot of hope. In January I connected a lot with Kylei, Sande, and Hannah; I had two graduation parties and started making more plans to spend time with people, and I started meditating weekly-ish with Elizabeth. But by the end of January I ended up in a dark crash over how little I felt connected to people. The beginning of February was a little better -- I got to go to Big Trees with some of my favorite people, and Topaz hosted Heather's birthday which was also nourishing and fun. But then I went to a party at Kylei's and had a terrible anxiety crash which ended up leaking into the next day and causing a horrifically painful miscommunication with Topaz. Later that month I went to the activist meet-and-greet for the first time after meaning to go for ages, and met three awesome new people. But just introducing myself made my heart beat painfully hard. At the end of February I asked my psychiatrist to prescribe me anxiety meds and start being medicated for that for the first time.

In March I did a lot of social -- met with four friends as well as with my ex-mother-in-law. I also began a four-week break with Topaz, in an effort to re-set our relationship which had become too central for both of us. In April I had two tinder fails (one flaked and the other I could hardly talk with), made a new friend, hosted a crafty party and a cuddly communion, spent time with Roger and Serenity, and went to Euphoria where I gave a talk on intimacy and made a game with it. (yeah I'd say that the anxiety meds were helping!) In May I spent a lot of time with Serenity and Evelyn, hosted a cuddly communion, spent time with Katie, Allison, Serra, and Indie, and wrote a lot of important posts. In June I spent lots of time with Serenity, presented at APW and SFQP, hung out with Arizona, Sande, Allison, Kylei, Evelyn, and Cass, and had a truth-or-truth videochat with LJ friends, as well as writing a lot of important posts.

In July stuff started getting very stressful -- Topaz went through something really traumatic, Kanika had a medical emergency and I had to take her to the vet, my little sister came in town unexpectedly, and I ran out of money and had to start begging from my bioparents. But also I spent lots of good time with Serenity and had several gathers -- two with my lil sis, also Katie, Allison, Hannah, Kylei, Elliott, Evelyn, Sande, Cass, and even Adi, so that part was positive. But August brought a lot of painful stuff for Topaz, was when I ran out of ADD meds with no access to a doctor, and was the last time I saw Evelyn for months. Roger and Allison were supportive and helpful, and I went to a SONG membership meeting which gave me hope like nothing else except for TBC ever has.

September I got a job at Starbux and finally started getting call backs and interviews for a few of the hundreds of applications I had sent. My awful bioparents also invaded my house and stayed for a month, harassing me about money, rearranging my stuff and throwing some of it away without my permission, invading my bedroom, and being transphobic. October was mostly filled up with my awful bioparents and working at Starbux but at the very end I began doing LJ Idol again. In November things got still worse -- Evelyn officially broke things off with me and Kylei blew up at me and told me we can't be friends. Then later that month Evelyn invited me to a party at their house which ended up being an emotional disaster. I quit Starbux for my new job.

December was a very mixed bag. I started my new job, which was amazing; I got a new psychiatrist and finally got medicated for ADD again; I got to spend time with Arizona, Felix, Felix's people Blaire and Shay, Allison, Jonathan, Heather, Brian, Jessica, and my little sister. But also, my grandmother died and I had to spend time with my awful biofamily, and I was so emotionally drained that I couldn't really enjoy Solstice. It was also a sad reminder of my estrangement from Kylei and Evelyn, because I wanted them at Solstice so much.

detailed events )

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belenen: (polyamorous relationship anarchist)
LJI topic 5, "fear is the heart of love": love and the fear-spark, creating intimate focus energy
icon: "polyamorous relationship anarchist (a rainbow-colored heart with the 'anarchy' capital letter A cutting through it, over a brick texture that suggests the heart is graffiti)"

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me,
"Son, fear is the heart of love."

- Death Cab For Cutie

There's this phenomenon most people experience when they first fall in love with someone; everything is more intense. One's lover seems like the best person ever to live. Just being in their presence is exciting and their touch feels magical. All conversations are filled with meaning and all shared experiences are filled with beauty. One craves the attention and time of one's lover; parting is difficult and reunions are joyous. Monogamous people call it "the honeymoon phase." Polyamorous people call it "new relationship energy" or NRE. Both sets of people assume that these feelings are a natural part of the beginning of a relationship but not a part of a mature relationship, as you can tell from the way they name it.

I call this experience "intimate focus energy" or IFE, and I know that it ends in most relationships not due to inevitable biology as the pop culture story goes, but due to a lack of understanding of what created that in the first place. At the beginning of any relationship there is what I call the fear-spark -- anxieties and fears that cause people to focus very intensely on each other. People worry that the other person won't like them, or that they will make a mistake, or that the other person will leave, and because of these fears they observe each other intently. It is this focus (when mutual), that allows for intensely intimate experiences.

But usually, when the fear-spark fades, people stop paying close attention. They stop noticing all the small things that make the other person a glorious creature; they stop being careful to be kind all the time; they stop watching for small signs of distress that they could soothe. And the IFE evaporates. Since they don't realize that it is their actions that have caused this, they can do nothing about it. Since they think it is natural for it to disappear, they let it stay gone.

People crave intimate focus energy and will do wild things to get it. They will induce fear in their lover in order for a fear-spark to create IFE again; they'll cheat, or try to make the other person jealous, or withdraw emotionally, or threaten to leave, or shove their anxieties on to the other person, or belittle, or invalidate, or make dangerous personal choices. I think most of the time they don't realize they're doing this -- they just have learned on some level that these behaviors can create the potential for IFE again through the fear-spark. Personally, I think the fear-spark is the worst possible way to build intimacy, especially when people are creating it through harmful behaviors.

I prefer to skip the fear-spark altogether. I know that I am more likely to get continued attention if I allow the other person to wonder about my intentions and desires, but that attention is not pure because it is motivated in part by fear. So I let people know my intentions, my desires, and my level of investment as soon as possible so that they don't have unknowns causing fear in those areas. I also do my best to avoid causing unnecessary fear in the other person. Sometimes this causes me to lose people, because they don't know how to maintain intimacy without the fear-spark, or they don't have enough desire in them to make up for the loss of the fear-spark. But it also means that the connections I do have can start out with a more mature and complete love, and that I can build positive IFE habits with them from the beginning.

There is no fear in love. On the contrary,
love that has achieved its goal gets rid of fear,
because fear has to do with punishment;
the person who keeps fearing
has not been brought to maturity in regard to love.

- 1 John 4:18

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belenen: (bel bites happy apple hannah)
play intimacy: sillinesses with Topaz
icon: "bel bites happy apple hannah (photo of Hannah and I from their first visit in 2006: they are smiling into the camera awaiting my kiss on their cheek but I'm biting it instead)"

^side note: holy shit it is exactly 10 years today that I first met Hannah in person *glowy hearts*

Topaz and I have a LOT of play intimacy. My connections with Hannah and Kylei were also very playful, but not this consistently. I think that part of the reason we have so much play is that Topaz really enjoys competition, and I hate it, but in play we can do it and both have fun.

A lot of our play is physical silliness. Topaz will bite me and I will bite back a little harder, and they'll bite again harder yet, and so on until they say "ow!" and we stop and rub our sore spots. Or they will try to kiss my cheek while I try to kiss theirs, both of us trying to avoid getting kissed, and landing kisses on random bits of face. Sometimes we will have raspberry-blowing battles where we both try to blow against the other person's skin to make a fart noise. Sometimes I will give them sloppy pets on their face and hair, which I would find unbearable but it makes them laugh, and I'm amused at how rude I'm being. Sometimes I will kiss all over their face, and they'll say "oh thanks, thanks, thanks!" while scrunching up to avoid the kisses. Sometimes I bite the apple of their cheeks.

Or they will try to kiss my neck, which tickles me, and so I will try to kiss theirs without baring mine, and we wrestle and giggle until we fall apart, laughing. The other day we were doing that and they accidentally blew in my ear, so I blew at theirs, which made them laugh harder than the kissfight, and they blew at mine, and we went back and forth hardly able to blow for the laughing.

We also do silly forms of affection like the 'flamingo hug' where we wrap our arms around each other and each lift one leg and wrap it around the other, so that we are both standing on one leg. It never lasts long because it is so awkward and unbalanced, but it always makes us laugh. And we will do 'puppy excitement' at each other because we decided that greeting each other as if we were lonely puppies whose human had just returned home was a fantastic way to show love. That always brings giant smiles and giggles.

And we sing silly made-up songs to each other, send poopin selfies, and poke at each other about our idiosyncrasies. We tell each other made-up stories, talk in silly voices, and color together. We used to play word association games but haven't done that in a while. We over-the-top complain about the other one's farts or bad breath, and laugh if we are the one creating the smell (but will also brush teeth or whatever if requested because we're considerate).

We also play in a more cuddly, animalistic way, where we make noises at each other and playfully demand attention like a cat (usually this is just through texting). I bunt (a feline gentle headbutt that expresses affection) and Topaz squeezes themself into my lap or between me and what I'm doing. We nip, and nuzzle, and do 'tooth hugs' (soft holding and gentle shaking with teeth). We wrestle, and sometimes when I start to get up they cling like a sloth. Sometimes I give them rides on my back (though not often lately as I am not very in shape right now). Sometimes I squeeze them until they squeak (happily).

Often after we have had a little play-bout they will hug me and say "You're so fun!" and I tell them they are so fun too.

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belenen: (intrigued)
date w Evelyn: meeting Demeter, intense emotional & philosophical discussions, many cuddles & kisses
icon: "intrigued (a photo of a snow leopard with ears flattened, peering intently over a log)"

So I had a date with Evelyn on Saturday that was surprising, nourishing, exciting, scary, and overall quite magical. Part of our time will be described in my my sextalk filter, but this whole experience is so long and complex that I decided it was fine to put it in two separate posts.

seeing their house, meeting their cat )

Evelyn asked me about my life and I talked about frustrations with biofamily, then asked about their life. They didn't know how to answer at first and said that they have been feeling a particular kind of anxious that means they are avoiding something but don't know what it is (I do the same thing) and as they talked around it, the thing that had been weighing on them came up. They looked really sad and I asked if I could lay next to them -- they said yes so I climbed next to them on the couch and pulled them into my arms.

They talked about the thing that was making them so sad and cried, and apologized and said they felt bad for imposing their vulnerability on me. That made me laugh because it is so the opposite of my experience, and they said "I know, I know" when I laughed because they know that I feel it as a gift and not an imposition but still have the guilty response. We cuddled that way and I listened while they talked about it until their housemate arrived home, and then we went upstairs to their room.

We talked a lot for a while, about all kinds of things. I talked about my philosophical stance as an idealist and how I see 'objective' reality as an illusion, that to me all minds contribute a nearly-invisible layer of reality and 'objective' reality is merely the conglomeration of all that, a sort of 'average.' That the more complex a thing is, the easier it is to change the reality of it through thought due to a domino effect. I mentioned my experience of my self as five parts and how my non-physical parts are capable of shapeshifting. I can't remember all we talked about but it was really interesting.

They wanted to be spooned several times, so I asked them what being spooned meant to them and they talked about it: being small, being held. As they talked about it I realized that I do like being spooned also, but I like spooning someone else more. I like that feeling of enveloping someone. They also talked about how they find themselves more and more attracted to traits commonly referred to as masculine. I listened and didn't say much as they seemed to be working out a self-perception, but I think in me they're attracted to my assertiveness and power (which I do not consider masculine, as nothing about me is gendered).

I asked for coffee so Evelyn made french press and we sat in the living room to drink it. Demeter came to sit with us and Evelyn scooped them up and cuddled them, telling me how Demeter had helped them through the emotionally difficult times they've had lately. Evelyn said they had never connected with a cat before (partly due to allergies) and had considered themself a dog person, but that Demeter had changed that. Evelyn blamed the effect on toxoplasmosis, which I like as a general theory but in this case I think it is more about Demeter's personality; they seem very nurturing and sensitive.

We talked about the fetishization of coercion/non-consent, and about my insecurities around the fact that people might like someone being careful with consent, but they don't fetishize it, they don't think of it as actually sexy, and how sometimes that really gets to me. I can't NOT be careful about consent but I don't want to be considered unsexy because I check in and don't do things without discussing it beforehand. They told me that they find it sexy. I think still, not in the way that I mean, but I appreciated them saying that.

kissing them is wonderful )

discussing future plans )

They are outrageously beautiful and sexy to me and I remarked on this several times, to which they responded with hiding their face and laughing in seeming disbelief (with maybe/hopefully some happiness to it). I told them that they will eventually get used to it because I will do it a lot! I feel very strongly about them and so I notice every gorgeous aspect, and they have several aspects that I find aesthetically pleasing as well.

One feature I find sooo aesthetically pleasing is their lower eyelid shape -- their lower lid comes part-way up the curve of the eye, enough that there is a crease under the eye. I don't know why I find this so beautiful but I do! (Angelina Jolie has lower eyelids like that, which is one of the reasons I find them so aesthetically pleasing) Evelyn also has very mobile eyebrows, lips that are very sharply defined, a full lower lip, and very pronounced smile lines as well as dimples! all of which I adore because it makes the face seem more expressive to me. And their face is very expressive overall, and their eye color is gorgeous, and their smile is so radiant! I am more than a little smitten.

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belenen: (challenging)
relationship health check-up questions: abusive red flag questions & relative healthiness questions
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)"

Someone recently asked me if I had any relationship check-in questions to determine a relationship's health. The closest thing I had was questions to determine if a relationship is difficult-but-worthwhile or possibly/definitely abusive, so I went through that list and expanded it into two larger sets of questions. The first is a set of yes/no questions, and any 'no' to these is a red flag for an abusive relationship. The second list is about the relative health of the relationship, and a 'no' is not necessarily a red flag but does mark a place that potentially needs work (a 'yellow' flag perhaps).

to determine if the relationship is abusive )

to determine if it is a worthwhile difficult relationship )

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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: (garrulous)
what I am proud of about me: skills/knowledge about intimacy & consent
icon: "garrulous(a photo of my lips with the skin greyed out and the lips overlaid with a green and blue fractal pattern)"

prompt from [ profile] antuvschle: Describe the one thing about yourself that makes you most proud.

I am very skilled at creating and nurturing intimacy. I have been practicing one-on-one for 20 years (since my first intentional friendship) and practicing with the public for 13 years (through LJ) and practicing in groups for 4 years (through intimacy practice). I am always eager to learn, and quick to change my behavior when I come across a new concept, but it is rare that I come across someone who has a deeper understanding of intimacy.

I confess that I do feel pride about my level of skill, which can be very annoying because when someone I know re-posts something that is a simplified version of what I have been writing about I get miffed that they don't take me seriously but they'll take some random white dude with a Ph.D. seriously. If we dueled I'd win, and I'm very confident of this because it literally takes up the majority of my waking life. Some people with doctorates might know as much as me on how to create intimacy but I am certain that most of them don't. Frankly the literature available is mostly devoid of intersectional analysis (which means they miss even the basics), so if you're not learning from personal experience and/or justice-focused blogs you'll just not know much.

I also feel offended when people with less understanding of consent, power, and privilege get asked to talk/teach about sex or relationships. I keep this to myself because I don't think I have a legitimate cause for complaint, since I do not seek out platforms like others do, and I know that is a factor. But yeah, I can tell that I have pride there because I expect to be treated with more deference than most on the topics of intimacy, interpersonal power & privilege, and consent.

I don't think I should take pride like this -- it has no value and serves only to get me miffed over imagined slights -- but I do!
connecting: , ,

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belenen: (burn baby burn)
Euphoria 2016 / why I go to burns / new housemate feeds me, helps clean & tidy, & crafts with me!
icon: "burn baby burn (a photo of me silhouetted dancing in front of the effigy fire at my first burn)"

I went to Euphoria and camped with Topaz, Kylei, Heather, Brian, and Hope. It was a mix of pleasant and irritating, leaning a little to the irritating side. The best bits were sitting around the fire talking with people, smoking hookah with Topaz while petting Evelyn's hair, running an 'intimacy roulette' game, having people gift me and Topaz with exactly what we wanted, giving Rocky a meaningful hug when I came across them seeming in need of one, kissing Topaz, and kissing Evelyn.

The worst bits were our hugely inconsiderate dudebro neighbors who made loud noise and pointed floodlights at our tent all night, the unbelievably selfish shitsop who squeezed in front of me at the burn itself and blocked all my vision with their body which was a foot and a half taller than me, witnessing far too much waste and ableism, and getting sunburnt. I really was not expecting to get burnt because 1) I had been taking vitamin D religiously, and 2) I stayed in the shade the entire time. But I think that I didn't absorb what I had been taking, because I've been taking zinc and apparently it blocks magnesium sometimes, which is necessary for absorption of D (if I understood what I read on it). I started taking magnesium daily since then, and the purple-pink has turned tan far, FAR quicker than usual, so that's good at least. I ordered a calcium-magnesium supplement to balance out the zinc, and copper because the zinc I currently have doesn't contain copper and zinc can deplete copper. I recently started taking iron too, because I found a vegetarian source and I know that it is unlikely I get enough from my diet. Once all this stuff arrives I have to figure out what not to take with what, bleh. Never thought I'd be taking a bunch of supplements every day -- but I only take what I can actually feel an effect from, with the exception of these new minerals and curcumin, which I take because I've read that it helps with dementia, both prevention and cure.

I talked with Topaz after and realized that the reason I go to burns is purely to skill-share and/or for art. If I was not going to do that, I wouldn't be motivated enough to go, because I've never met a person at a burn who became important to me. Even though I have a lot of burner friends, I've met all of them in some other way. (technically I met Seth at a burn I think, but I met Seth through Abby so the burn was just a convenience) Other reasons to go to a burn are not relevant to me because they are already part of my daily life: self-expression, nudity, play, cuddles. For a lot of people burns are where they can really be themselves and feel accepted, but accepting me would require a lot of learning that people do not do, so I never feel accepted (it is nice that people try, but there's not much that can be done in the moment).

I go to burns because I like that people there are often willing to try new things, and so if I bring a skill I think will help make the world better and people are willing to practice, I can make change there in a way that is not possible elsewhere. This time I felt like I did kind of a bad job with planning, and that meant that the intimacy game I made did not reach many people, but it was still worthwhile. I think the few strangers that came and participated appreciated it.

In other news I have a temporary housemate, Serenity (also called Twilight) who has been WONDERFUL to have around. They were in need of a place to stay and I had a room which wasn't being used so I offered it to them. I didn't ask for anything, but they have cooked for me four times (delicious healthy vegetarian meals) since they got here 10 days ago, and have done dishes and swept! Also, having them around as a tidy person helps me to be better about tidying also, so the kitchen table is usable again for the first time in ages. And they wanted to craft which got me crafting too -- now I have a new project half-done that I think I will actually complete soon. They have a service dog who is INCREDIBLY sweet and Kanika is slowly adjusting to them. I am really enjoying having them stay with me. We've talked a lot and I feel a lot of resonance with them.

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belenen: (voltaic)
rant: I hate the idea of 'honeymoon phase' or NRE / start with reality rather than fantasy / IFE
icon: "voltaic (me, face at a sharp angle staring out of one eye with a slight smile and streaks of rainbow light on my face)"

I LOATHE the idea of a 'honeymoon phase' or 'new relationship energy' (NRE). I hate it like I hate the idea of men being less emotional than women (which, in case you didn't know, is empirically untrue). It implies a lie. It is true that some relationships are only good for the first 1-2 years. What is false is the idea that this shift is naturally occurring or inevitable. It is NOT AT ALL 'natural' to stop being excited about your lover. It's a sign that one or both of you need to develop your intimacy skills and/or personhood (or it may be a symptom of general lack of nourishment, or lack of common ground). The only thing that you have at the beginning that you can't have forever is novelty. If you crave novelty, just call it novelty. Stop acting like it is a part of every relationship or that every relationship has a 'honeymoon' and 'post-honeymoon' stage.

Reality can't dull anything that is real. I realized today that probably some people begin relationships with a fantasy of perfection. Starting out with fantasies and trying to see how much of each others' fantasy you can fulfill is not remotely appealing to me. I prefer to start out with nothing but questions and figure out what potential currently exists based on who each person is now (not who they want to be, not who the other person imagines them to one day be). Starting out with the idea of 'perfect' and working backwards to 'possible' seems inherently disappointing to me. Of course you're going to lose excitement that way -- but it's a loss of your ability to pretend, not an actual loss of something real. This is why in my relationships, I want to figure out if I have compatible values, goals, skills, and needs with a person BEFORE I invest deeply in them. Otherwise I'm likely to end up putting pressure on them to be what I want and need, and vice versa, and we're both going to end up hungry and drained.

Going back to the idea of NRE -- I don't believe in it. What people call NRE is actually IFE -- intimate focus energy. The giddy, excited, highly-nourished state is not caused by novelty, and does not have to dissipate with time. It gets associated with newness because in the beginning of a relationship there is a lot of fear and anxiety -- fear of losing this person, anxiety about making mistakes, etc -- and that gets channeled into focusing intensely on the other person (Abby coined the term "fear-spark" to describe this). You watch their every move because you're trying to figure out how to interact with them in a safely intimate way, and BECAUSE you're watching their every move, you're enchanted by them. Everyone is amazing if you look closely enough (well, everyone who isn't evil). Then, when you know them well enough to feel safely intimate, you stop looking so closely, and you stop noticing their amazingness. You take them for granted, because you can. And you call that the end of NRE and assume it is a natural phase of relationships. It's common, but it is NOT inevitable and it is NOT biological.

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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: (ADD-PI)
biofamily visit: discussing add-pi, racism, sex, poly, cuddles / clash w Ace / sharing lovetech
icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

Earlier this week I explained ADD-PI to V and M, and they seemed to take it seriously which was a relief. I told M that I had learned some of my coping skills from them and explained, and M seemed to listen and feel pleased and connected.

Several times this week I've had discussions w Ace and M about race and they just... go nowhere. Ace doesn't seem willing/able to understand that their experience is not automatically representative of all experiences. I have tried to explain in several different ways. Also M had negative experiences as a white child in 80% black schools immediately following integration (and white flight into pop-up private schools) and they don't seem to be able to understand the misdirected anger any more than Ace. The worst is that every time I reference a fact M is not aware of, they dismiss it with "I don't know about that" and act like I didn't even say it. They told me they enjoy these arguments and when I merely raised my eyebrows in response, they asked if I enjoyed them. I said I would enjoy them if I could assign homework. They laughed. Since they didn't shake their head or offer rebuttle, there's actually a chance that I could do that and I may try.

Yesterday was fairly uneventful. Pibling L, cousin E, Ace, gparent V, and I went out shopping. We went to some thrift stores (I found several work-appropriate overshirts, two soup mugs, and an Upwords board game that was only missing 2 letter tiles) and a rocks/minerals touristy store. P had offered to put $20 towards getting me a present, and so I was able to get some stones shaped like eggs (which I'm going to use as meditation tools, rolling them in my hands).

Later P, E, L, Ace, V, M, and I played truth-or-truth again, this time just using the question sheets as backup. It was a good time, and interesting to have the contrast. A lot of questions centered around memories, some of which weren't at all personal, but everyone was enjoying it so it worked okay. At one point M asked me a question from the question sheets - (what are my thoughts on the parts of a person) and I gave a long rambly answer but people liked it and M later referred to us having green hearts as I mentioned I saw several of us that way. After M and V went to bed the rest of us kept on, and we did a merry-go-round of asking each person to list two qualities that they share with each other person. Everyone really loved that, and it gave me an idea for a similar project.

When people say goodnight I offer them a hug before bed, and E and L liked this idea. L said they want to make the same habit.

Today I spent most of the day online, having a good but intense discussion with someone about energy work, and then a giant terrible discussion/argument on my wall about the definitions of trans/cis and identity. I cried a lot. I don't know if I was having an extra ADD day or what but I felt like I could not explain myself and after a certain point it was like I couldn't even understand the words in front of me.

During lunch/breakfast I suggested a project: we all write down 3 outstanding qualities for each other person. Everyone said it was a good idea but they didn't want to do it then, and they scattered like cats.
At one point just after lunch, Ace and E were making a smoothie and I asked if I could make suggestions. Ace said no, and it hurt my feelings because they had already been doing stuff without me all morning, and I said that it hurt my feelings because it felt like they didn't want me to talk to them. Then E immediately said I could give suggestions and that made me cry. P and E were nice to me and Ace was upset. I asked why and they said they only wanted to discuss it alone. So we went into the room we're sharing and they said that they felt like I was crying whenever I didn't get my way (manipulatively). I told them that it might not seem like it but this is taking a lot of effort from me and I only ever cry in front of people when I am so overwhelmed I can't control myself (also, this was only the second time I had cried in front of anyone). I talked about how I was feeling and Ace said they felt like I wasn't trying to connect with them, that I didn't like them any more. I told them that wasn't true, I was just having a harder time with them because they're guarded. We talked a bit more and hugged and went back to work on the smoothie.They were all at the pool or grocery store from after that until to dinner.

Then we all had dinner and afterward M went immediately to bed, with V following shortly. I felt very upset that they hadn't kept thier word, and more upset because E and L were talking about being tired and I'd had no time with them all day. But they said they wanted to stay up a bit, so I asked everyone to share the story of their best sexual experience. P and E were not comfortable with this, so I changed it to top 3 necessary elements for a good sexual experience, and they all answered. We went on to talk about sex, poly, bdsm, and cuddles. And I revealed yet another layer of difference in discussing my polyamory (which L really took in stride, so much so that I think they must know a poly person). We shared our favorite cuddles as I asked everyone what theirs was. When I asked for a volunteer to show my favorite cuddles with, L offered! I was surprised because I guess I see them as being reticent. Then they came over and just curled up on the floor next to me, adorably. I showed them my favorite way to hold someone and also the infinity cuddle. They were a little nervous but they really liked it at the same time. At the end of the time, I showed everyone how to do a spiral hug and they loved that.

Also the other day I taught everyone the -5 to +5 scale for making fairer decisions, and we've used it since then (but only at my prompting, so far). I hope my parents learn to do that because it's so much better than "I want this and you want that, I'm more powerful so we do my thing."

I really want someone to say to me "wow, you've really made this trip a time of deep connection, thanks!" but I doubt that will happen. I wonder if they can tell that this is different because of the things I'm bringing to it.

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belenen: (Ma'at)
visiting biofamily: Truth-or-Truth, intense discussions about race/class, coming out in stages
icon: "Ma'at (a photo of one side of a brass balance scale, with a feather inside the bowl. The background is sky blue. On the bottom of the image, below the photo, is the word "Ma'at")"

These past few days are a blur and I am baffled. Mostly in a good way.

Sunday we stayed in, mostly, and at the end of the evening we played Dixit and Truth-or-Truth For Newbies. Before I left Topaz printed my 188 questions out (by request) and I invented an easier way for people to play. On first play almost everyone finds it difficult to decide who to ask and difficult to come up with a question, so I randomized those choices. I also created a possibility for a point system because Topaz says it's not a real game without one, but everyone opted out of that so I'm gonna discard it I think. I think I might turn ToTfN into a physical game I can carry, by making the questions into color-coded cards and buying a dedicated set of dice and making number cards. But that's a load of work, so maybe not. Anyway, we played them and everyone really enjoyed both games. And, to my surprise, my gparent V and parent M both participated and gave it their best. V actually said today that playing the games was their favorite time so far this visit. I felt really pleased that it went over so well and I'm looking forward to playing again!

I looked up local Champion Trees and found a nature tour that showed off a bunch of old live oaks (my - AND cousin E's - favorite tree) and the state champion red cedar (among other things) and told everyone about it and asked if they wanted to go. They did, so we got up early on Monday to go. The tour was great except that it was scorching hot and the group kept scattering and we moved pretty fast around things, all of which kept me from being able to truly tune in. But we came by this one Loblolly pine that I just fell in love with and really want to go see again. I felt such a connection with it, but it was near the end and everyone was so tired and hot and hungry that I didn't want to hold them up, so I just marveled for a moment and took a quick photo for memory and that was it.

Then we went to a restaurant which was a mess of disorganization - M wanted Golden Corral, everyone else wanted mexican food, we were in two cars and got separated without a shared destination address and then there was a horrid speakerphone call where everyone was saying something different and finally E hung up and I just texted them telling them we decided on the simplest plan. Pibling L was super stressed out by this and so was Ace, which I found interesting and bizarre, as it annoyed me but didn't stress me out. I tried to ask why it was stressful and didn't get much of an answer but I think it has to do with wanting to make everyone happy? If it was my friends having a squabble and not talking out the plan in a kind and respectful manner I probably would have been bothered by it but I think i would have reacted the same way, by making the practical choice for myself and letting them deal or not as they would. I think I only care about making people happy while they are willing to try and help. If they're just going to dig in their heels and shout, I no longer care if I make them happy right now.

Later that day we were going to go to the beach but it started raining right as we headed there, and thundering meant no one else wanted to go. So we sat by the pool and watched the sky until it was no longer thundering, but then everyone just wanted to be at the pool. It was sprinkling lightly for a while and then there was a gorgeous double rainbow! Also E asked me about my ex-spouse and I told them that story, including the years I was working through childhood sexual abuse while my ex-spouse supported me. I also briefly explained poly. And we talked about E and their person, and churches. I told them about my experience with Liberty and how that informed my requirements for future choices. I talked about the Quaker meeting I like and they said they want to go with me sometime.

Later it was just me, P, E, and Ace after everyone went to bed, and we played two rounds of Blockus which was fun and I realized that E is a determined creature, because they were almost completely blocked off but they refused a free move and figured their way out. I would have been despairing of my choices in their position.

Today I woke up to the sounds of an argument about immigration. I hoped it was over before I came out but it was not, so I waded in by explaining the extreme poverty associated with being undocumented and how creating monetary requirements for citizenship (including in the form of fines plus amnesty) is never a solution. Then I mentioned widespread poverty in the US and exploitation of the poor and Ace went off about welfare 'abuses' (from buying alcohol or a car to shopping at a gas station) and I just couldn't get them to understand that them seeing it 20 times or even 100 times doesn't make it true of the average person on welfare. M was certain that welfare makes people lazy and I refuted that with the Mincome experiment and various other countries very successful systems with social safety nets. M then refused to believe in the existence of these things and demanded that I show sources. I told them no, you don't get to put more stringent requirements on my arguments than on your own, and you have shown no sources for your statements. That was the end of it because other people got impatient with the conversation.

Later we went to the beach, which was fun but not really worth it to me - I guess I got spoiled by the trip with Topaz to that pristine bay beach last year. This water felt like human soup - it was still fun to be in the waves but it wasn't a serene experience where I could connect with nature. It felt polluted and overwhelmed, and it was so salty that it stung my eyes from the barest of splashes. But I think that was also the time of day, and I want to try going again around 7p to get softer light and fewer people. I got to share my boogie board and goggles with people, which made me super happy.

After two hours we came back and went to the pool. Ace and E and I hung out for a while talking about sexuality and racism, and E's stories of their person getting stopped for driving while black and then E getting thrown to the ground for videoing it made way more of an impact on Ace than anything I ever said. So I felt like a failure, and also vindicated and also like I need to memorize some stories because damn, don't nobody take macro-level facts seriously.

I asked E what they wanted to get out of the trip and they said they wanted to build relationships that would be more than talking while on vacation. I asked Ace and they said they wanted to be able to relax and build up some strength and confidence. Then E asked me and I said that I wanted to feel able to be myself. L joined us somewhere during this and asked if I felt I hadn't been myself. I said no, I hadn't, because I didn't correct people and people assumed things about me that weren't true of me. I used the example of someone asking me if I have a boyfriend - if I just say no, I'm not being myself because that assumption left unchallenged makes it seem like I'm straight. They seemed to understand that and feel sad for me that I had not felt able to be myself. I mentioned that getting to know Topaz' family made me realize that maybe my family could handle the real me and I should give them a chance to. Somewhere in this conversation I talked about being trans and (in response to E's question) mentioned that I want to change my voice and facial hair.

E asked me how I first knew I was trans, and I told the story in a better way than I had last time someone asked me that, explaining that I felt pieces of it for a long time but it wasn't until I had a mild breakdown that I realized that it wasn't just a set of feelings, but part of my identity. L had a hard time understanding what exactly I meant by genderfree/agender, partly because they hang out with mainstream gay people who are all binary. They couldn't imagine sex outside the hetero script (since even their gay friends use it) or relationships outside of gender and I had no idea how to explain. It's hard to explain because there are no cultural references to non-binary people. How do you even explain an absence of something? My identity with gender is actually not a presence of something but the absence of it. If I were bigender it would be easier to explain, I feel, and easier to accept. I got lost and felt blathery. E took it in and without missing a damn beat started using gender-neutral pronouns. Holy fuckin shit y'all, I hadn't even asked for them. I was so impressed.

L and E exclaimed when I mentioned that being 'ladies'd bothered me and I hastily assured them that I wasn't upset by them and that I hadn't mentioned it because I figured one step at a time, that I know it's tough to absorb. E was appreciative of that and I think L was relieved. I also said that it's okay to call me stuff like 'girl' if you do that with literally all kinds of people.

Later I ended up in a conversation with M and P about homelessness, veterans, and the intimacy of facing death and trauma together. It was fairly on-topic and not too horribly full of wrongness (M made one comment about personal choice to which I said "I'm not going to talk about that"), and it lead to a moment of what felt like real vunerability from M. I was saying that lots of the people who go to war have no experience with real emotional intimacy, and then they go into an intensely intimate experience with others where they share responsibility for each others' lives as well as living space and work - coming back, part of the trauma is loss of that intimacy with no tools available to them to get it back. Nobody teaches intimacy in a meaningful way except in therapy and even then it's iffy, and men especially are taught by society to avoid intimacy with each other, so not even the people who were there with you and came back are available to you when you get back. I said that this was just my guess, and asked for M's thoughts on it. They said it was true, and mentioned their own loss. Something interrupted, and they said that they needed to go lay down and walked into the other room. They did this same abrupt ending last night so I didn't think anything of it at the time but now I'm a little worried I may have stepped on a very sore place.

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belenen: (ADD-PI)
333+ intimate, intense questions & prompts to get to know friends & lovers (or yourself!)
icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

I've been compiling questions for truth-or-truth as well as to re-do my own get-to-know-you survey, and I want to share. Please feel free to take these questions and ask people, or use them as writing prompts, or whatever. I think I will come back and edit whenever I come up with something good to add! Feel free to add any questions you like to ask people in order to get to know them.

The levels are based mostly on how much I think you could learn about a person by asking them, but it is biased toward questions I have particular interest in (like the one about critical analysis).

level 8 - most revealing questions )

level 7 )

level 6 )

level 5 )

level 4 )

level 3 )

level 2 )

level 1 - least personal )

Most of these I made up (the top two levels are all me). 10 of them I took or edited from the "36 questions" which frankly are mostly mediocre. How are you supposed to answer what role love and affection have in your life? that is way too vague to make a meaningful answer. I dunno if I complained about this before but that article -- and the fact that a billion people I know shared it -- is something I find irritating, because I've been saying the same thing, written way better and more in-depth and effective, for years. But people don't care because I don't have a doctorate and I'm not a default. Also got a few level 1 or 2s from hellogiggles & maybe 10 from the weirdly nested saviodsilva site, and two or three from Relationship Dialog Questions (that one has good questions but they're aimed at relationships not people). I got about 25 of the lower-level questions from collegeessayguy. Some questions were edits from this tumblr 365 day challenge. And then there are some from questions that have been asked of me or around me by [ profile] volamonster, [ profile] darkestgarden, [ profile] hardigrin and [ profile] call_me_katya. And I skimmed through the 5,000 questions survey [ profile] 5000questionsur (which has a lot of repeats, btw) and took some and edited some.

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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: (healing)
cuddle communion #1! so nourishing! / consent agreements / cuddle list / leading to fill a need
icon: "healing (a photo of me and Hannah curled up together, naked, with Hannah's head resting on my legs and my arms around/over them. it's colored in violet with a fractal overlay of purple, blue, and green.)"

I had a really lovely nourishing evening last Sunday. I hosted a gather I called "Cuddle Communion" which was based loosely on cuddle parties I'd been to in the past. I went over a short list of consent agreements to begin with, and then we did structured cuddles, had a break for snacks and coffee, and then had unstructured cuddles and played truth-or-truth. I felt really connected with almost everyone there, and I definitely want to do it again. Next time I'm going to set the structured part into a flow from least to most intense, because I just did them randomly this time and that was okay, but could have been way better. Also, I want to finish the structured cuddles before the break, because after it is too hard to get back into that. And I looooove that truth-or-truth was the mental focus of the unstructured part this time, but others might want something less intense, so I want to try to set up something to listen to or watch, at least as an option.

consent agreements )

structured cuddle list )

After most people left, I was hanging out and talking with Serah and Alison about social change and leading things. Serah used to lead a spiritual gather but got burnt out, and I understand that feeling so well. I mentioned that that is why my ideal leadership is at least three volunteers who take turns and step down when they get tired. Usually what I see happen is one person leads and no one helps, and the leader gets so burnt out that they quit forever and the group disintegrates. I really think that any good leader doesn't lead because they want to lead, they lead because they see a need that no one else is filling.

Speaking of which, I felt so supported a few weeks ago when I was too exhausted to participate in intimacy practice, and the others took leadership and made it happen without me. I don't want to feel like it's mine, I want to feel shared ownership and care of IP, and that definitely made me feel that way.

I was talking with Saleena a few days ago about the same thing (good leaders just filling a need). Saleena and I are going to run a local community discussion/connection group together. The original idea was that it would be for trans people, but we want to expand it to all othered people and make it a safe space to talk or listen. I'm worried about creating a safe space where strangers can attend, because if an unsafe person attends that can be horrible, but there is no perfect solution. I think as long as Saleena and I are willing to call people on being problematic, we can make something good and safer than life in general while being imperfect.

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belenen: (overwhelmed)
where has all my energy gone? / focus time / Kylei's wonderful conversations / stresses stressesssss
icon: "overwhelmed (the character Keenan from "Playing By Heart," with hands over their face covering their eyes and head tilted back)"

I've had a strange few weeks as I've been working at my new job and finding that I don't have the energy to do much besides work and maybe one outing a week. I got out and about more often than this when I was working at the awful job where I was harassed by my boss and that really perplexes me. Talking about it in Intimacy Practice last Sunday made me realize that even though I don't have a lot of actively or significantly negative things in my life, most of the things in my life are equaling out to neutral or slightly negative. Like hanging out with friends - if I go see someone, that takes effort and money stress, and then the interaction starts out already at a deficit. So I need the interaction to actively nourish me or else I spent too much energy. I talked with Topaz and realized it would be helpful if I figured out what would make me feel back in balance, energy-wise, and asked ahead of time if people would be willing to give that to me. I think eye contact and foot rubs (not at the same time) would do a lot. My friends are already good about trading off who drives to who, but that doesn't help in the moment. And probably I need to only meet halfway if we're not having focus time.

It was weird realizing that I needed to spend more time with Kylei that was in a house, because when we are in nature or in public there are so many distractions. We definitely can have focus time in those places but it is very difficult. And with Topaz it is the opposite -- we have gotten in a habit of watching netflix all the time and so being at home usually means we don't get focus time. We need to remember to set that time aside in the middle of the day, instead of waiting until we are exhausted and finally going to bed and then talking for an hour because we have hardly had a conversation all day. I don't think I have ever had deliberate focus time with any of my other local close friends. I want to change that.

Spending time with Kylei this week was so, so, so wonderful and nourishing. I went to their house, which was a VERY long drive, and I arrived frazzled and overheated. They gave me some orange juice and bread and sat with me while I took it in and settled, and then we went to their room and we had a short nap and then we hung out, just cuddling and talking and making lots of eye contact. Oh Godde, that was a relief. Lengthy eye contact that felt balanced in its flow, not interrupted or pushed or pulled. And talking with them I realized something I love so so so much about them -- that they reflect on things I say and take them further, and then share that with me. I can't think of an actual example, but what I mean is I'll say something like "I think you are happier now that XYZ is true" and they'll either ponder on that out loud with why they agree or disagree, or they'll reflect silently and then when I ask what they are thinking they'll tell me. I'd say most people are not responsive in that way. Most people will take in what I say, but not turn it over and play with it to see what new thing they could realize from it like Kylei does. It feels so good, it feels like a kind of affirmation that they value my thoughts and my sharing. And I love it the more because it's not for my sake, it's just how Kylei works.

I can't remember what it was I used to get out of going and spending time with people -- am I getting less or is there something wrong with me now? I feel like it's both. Like, I used to get more out of going to spend time with people because they gave more focused time because usually I was dating them. I hate that people just don't have a habit of doing that with those they aren't dating. Or really, with anyone. I mean, I don't even think of it myself except with people I already have that habit with.

Why on earth don't I have more energy?? I don't think I'm depressed. I worry that I'm developing or starting to exhibit some kind of anxiety issue because I never used to be so weighed down with the billion tiny stresses. I don't feel like I'm dealing with more than average, I'm just dealing badly with the average amount of stress. There are so many tiny stresses that are just bothering me SO MUCH. It my reaction is out of proportion, it's ridiculous. The refrigerator isn't working properly and is leaking and is making my food go bad quicker than it should (this just started and has ruined my smoothie streak) which makes me not want to buy anything that will go bad which means I eat stuff that isn't as healthy which means I feel worse. My upstairs bathroom is all wrecked and two of my indoor plants are dying despite my best efforts. My cat is being picky and I'm worried they're going to not eat the rest of the great big multi-pack of wet food I just got to help them not end up with bladder infections. So I'm worried I'll have to get more and then if they don't eat that then they might get seriously ill. The living room is covered in my last half-finished crafting project. I really want to finish that project but I really don't want to finish it and have it go nowhere just like all my other art. I have two giant piles of laundry in the hallway because I am putting off doing laundry because the dryer is not working properly and everything has to go through twice to get dry. There's a bunch of recycling I need to take out. I'm not finished setting up the cuddle room and I want to have it ready by this weekend because I'm having a gather in it. Also Topaz is dealing with a ton of actually bad shit and I can't do a damn thing about it and it makes me feel helpless and full of dread. Also my car needs to go to the shop but I don't have the money to take it. And I need to go to the dentist (I haven't been in 15 years) but I don't have the money. And I need to go to the dermatologist about what might be skin cancer but I don't have the money. And I need new bras (some are too small and some are too worn out) but I don't have the money. And I need new shoes (I only have one pair and they're over a year old now) but I don't have the money. And I realized that my camera takes blurry photos most of the time and I want to replace it with an older model that actually allows me to set things but that feels like a huge risk (I think I could trade it in for an older one for no extra cost but it would need to be old and unused as the inside parts die over even the most gentle use). Also my shoulder/neck has been hurting for like five days now, slowly getting a little better but ugh, it's awful. Also I'm planning to go on vacation in late August with my biofamily and just found out my grandmother is going -- I find it very hard to be relaxed around them because I feel so much judgement and just massive lack of understanding. I was looking forward to it before I found that out. Also I'm past due for an eye exam but have to put it off because I know I won't be able to pay a random hundred before my second job starts in September. I have several things I have promised to ship but I haven't had money and memory and time all at the same time and that makes me feel like the WORST PERSON. So fucking many of these stresses could be fixed with money. It makes me want to scream and cry.
sounds: Halou - Things Stay The Same | Powered by
connecting: , , , , , ,

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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: (progressing)
Gonna use daily template / truth-or-truth, planning w jaime, relaxing w topaz
icon: "progressing (a deeply, vividly green forest of thick vines and trees, with a tunnel running through where unused train tracks lay)"

I'm gonna attempt to write more often and to bolster this effort, I'm gonna try to write daily summaries if I don't already have something else written. I hope that this doesn't make my LJ boring or make people less likely to comment on more substantial posts - but even so, I'm gonna act out of desire rather than avoid out of fear. I'm gonna use this template: what happened, what it meant, overall emotional arc, & realizations (what I learned, realized, or remembered, if anything significant).

Early this morning Tasha came over to visit their cat Cupcake, who is staying in my basement room right now because Tasha can't keep them where they live and can't move yet. I stayed up way too late last night so after I unlocked the door for them I went back to bed. When I did get up I scurried out of the house to get groceries before truth-or-truth started (and made really good time running from one end of the store to the other). I felt bad about sleeping in but I felt really accomplished that I managed to get everything done in time.

At 3 I set up the truth-or-truth videochat and J and Aubrey and I started but neither of them had video so it was mostly like a call. Then Elizabeth came in (text only) and a little later Jaime joined in person. The experience was slightly awkward technologically but everyone was patient and so I didn't feel guilty. Whenever someone gets frustrated with technological difficulties I feel guilty for some reason I don't quite understand. But I didn't feel bad. Also everyone came up with such great questions and overall it was super nourishing and I am really happy everyone was able to come!

Afterward Jaime and I had a brief planning chat about the trans-centric gather we're having next week, and then they left. I feel really good about the fact that Jaime wanted to create this and is using my space to do it. I'd love to have all kinds of gathers at my house (as long as they weren't oppressive of course).

I made myself a smoothie for the first time in what seems like years. Topaz bought me a double-walled 30oz cup w straw and lid the other day and I think that made me feel able to make smoothies again, which is great because it's a way for me to consume more fresh fruits and veggies. I want to get chocolate whey protein and also start making smoothies with spinach or kale. In an odd way I feel like I was creatively blocked and am not any more.

Then I gathered my things and went to Topaz', where we watched netflix and made brownies. I put a SHITTON of Topaz' fresh mint in my corner of the pan and it turned out delicious! I brushed, combed, and played with Topaz' hair for a good while and then braided it.

Overall, I started the day with worry and rushing, then moved to happiness and nourishment, then rest and comfort. Soon, I'll get ready for bed and have some cuddles.

I remembered that when I was a kid I practiced expressions in the mirror, and was often read as hostile because my relaxed lip shape points down at the ends. I now get comments on how expressive my face is, but that was a thing I trained into myself as a means of communicating with others.

Also, I was thinking about autism and how it's looked at as a dysfunction, but I could see how it could be an evolutionary adaptation to an environment that is unacceptably busy and fake. Perhaps our species is evolving to be less prone to / capable of this capitalist bullshit because it's terrible for everyone. Or maybe I'm just universalizing my own feeling of increased safety around people on the autism spectrum.

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belenen: (interconnectedness)
4 levels of friendship: fun, support, learning, mutual accountability
icon: "interconnectedness (two bald purple-skinned people in the ocean: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

I'm not calling these truths, just musings. As such they could be totally wrong, so don't hesitate to disagree!

When you have only had shitty friends, you don't get a chance to learn all the friendship skills, because a friendship can't go beyond the most skilled one in it (unless you mutually work on it).  So if you are a level 2 with only level 1 friends, you can't move to level 3. If you're a level 1 with level 1 friends, you could both move to level 2 if you both decided to build that skill. Some of friendship is about intention, but a lot of it is about experience.

I think that people are composed of their experiences (and don't have much power over what those experiences are) so all you can really do is seek people who are similar to you in level, want to grow in friendship, and aren't so privileged or prejudiced that they can't see you as a person - and hope you get lucky. This is obviously easier if you are in a category that isn't routinely dehumanized and othered. Many more people are willing to invest in you when your looks and identity are something they feel comfortable with. Just from my relatively privileged experience, it was SO much easier to find friends when I was thinner and identified as a monogamous straight cis person. Also I am beyond lucky/privileged in the fact that I got to go to therapy for two and a half years, and got plenty of time to write and learn how to hone my communication, and more than anything else I was able to find people who were on my level but ready to move to the next and willing to do so with me. You can't create friendship skills without time, energy, and people to teach you and/or practice with. So, if you have few friendship skills it doesn't actually say that much about you as a person, necessarily. I think it only matters how you react to a chance to learn a new friendship skill.

I see four levels of friendship experience.

1) spending time together (not sharing deeply) in fun.
Most people exist at this level of friendship; at this stage a very close friend is one with whom you spend time with regularly or at length. At this stage, to feel close you have to be in-person and get things like smiles, laughter, hugs, overlapping energy, silliness, and play. You need (nearly) all interactions to feel good, because the only bad-feeling things that nourish a person involve sharing deeply.  If something feels bad about spending time with a person, they no longer count as a friend, because they're not doing the things that you consider to be friendship (sharing fun time).

2) giving emotional support/listening.
This next step often still requires spending a lot of time together for closeness, because people in the first stages of vulnerability often need the immediate feedback of in-person or real-time communication. Saying something vulnerable and then waiting is often much harder than saying something vulnerable and having immediate response.  For people in this stage, fun is still important, but it is also important to be able to express your negative feelings and have them held safely. People in the first stage can do this rarely if someone in massive crisis, but more often and they're gone; people in the 2nd stage consider supporting each other emotionally to be a vital part of friendship. I dunno if this is true for others, but when I was in this stage, I had a very hard time balancing my support for others with my own needs. It was like receiving support was so important to me that I imagined it as just as vital for everyone else, and I couldn't manage my own boundaries because it seemed so terrible to ever say no to a support need. This got me into trouble a lot.

3) giving feedback in a way that sparks new self-understanding; inspiring each other.
In this stage, spending time together for fun and support has decreased in importance.  I think that a person has to receive a certain amount of support for a certain length of time in order to move to this stage. I think ideally, your parents would give you enough support in your childhood that you could go into adulthood in this stage of friendship, but I've never seen that happen. The people I have seen in this stage at early adulthood had unusually supportive friend relationships early. For me, I got to this stage through the unbelievably kind and generous and faithful love of my LJ friends throughout the time I was working through childhood sexual abuse. Support is no longer a strong need for me, because I once hit that critical level. I think it is possible for people who have not yet hit that level to still very much value feedback that leads to new self-understanding, but I consider the level marker to be when it becomes more important than emotional support. At that point, you seek different friends and different kinds of interactions. Instead of seeking comfort first, you seek friendships that push you out of your comfort zone. You have a new set of goals in friendship. Support and spending time is of course still a need and important, but it's not primary. It becomes more important to be able to learn from and about each other.

4) challenging each other and responding positively; mutual accountability.
This may not be the final level but it is the deepest and most intense one I have witnessed. This is when not only do you value each other's feedback, but you hold each other accountable to the values that you have decided are important (not necessarily the same ones). For instance, Kylei values a broad sense of community and I do not, so in this level of friendship I would pay attention to whether or not they were investing in broad community, and point out any way I could see that they could invest more. Likewise, I value creativity, and someone could check in on me to see if I was living up to my value and creating regularly, whether they valued that for themselves or not. This level requires a lot of time and energy as well as skills in self-awareness and observation of others.

rambles... )

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belenen: (pensive)
realization: I need group intimacy as well as one-on-one
icon: "pensive (photo of me with a glitter goatee, looking down pensively with woods in the background)"

realized yesterday that I was craving intimate time with multiple people simultaneously in person. I'm not sure if it has actually been a while since I've had this? it feels like it. I've had casual time with multiple people and intimate time one-on-one, but last intimacy practice was like a month ago and I think that was the last time I had in-person group intimacy. But it could be because I'm finally appropriately medicated yet no longer spending all my energy on school, so I actually have time/energy to reflect on what is causing my feelings.

I didn't even realize I had a need for this but yeah, I do. I've been feeling a weird kind of lonely that doesn't go away from anything else. So I made a plan w Heather and Kylei and Topaz to have a sleepover and I can't wait. I think that I need specifically this for two reasons: 1) it is a broad kind of love (that many people associate with 'family' which I have nearly never experienced in biofamily situations) which brings its own nourishment, and 2) only by spending time with mutual intimates can I be deeply nourished by seeing one person's love for another. and I think maybe 3) flowing back and forth in my focus from person to person makes me feel a harmony and unity I can't feel otherwise.
sounds: Heather Nova - Wicked Game | Powered by
connecting: , , , , ,

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belenen: (curious)
wanna play truth-or-truth with me?
icon: "curious (my face, looking straight forward with one eyebrow up and a sideways smile, head tilted down a little)"

Truth-or-truth is a very simple game I invented for practicing openness and curiosity. I'll explain how it works with an example. A, B, K, and T are playing. B starts off by asking K a question. After K answers, they can choose to either ask someone a question or assign a questioner and questionee. They tell A to ask T a question (this is called passing a question). Since a question can only be passed once, A asks T a question. After answering, T asks A a question (this is called a bounceback). Only one bounceback is allowed, so A can ask or assign B or K but not T, for that round. If ever someone asks another person a question they aren't comfortable answering, that person can just ask for a different question.

The point of the game is to ask questions that make people reflect and share some part of themselves that doesn't usually get shared. The more specific the question, the better. You 'win' by asking a question that makes everyone feel curious or that makes someone realize something new about themselves, or by giving an answer that inspires strong feelings or thoughtfulness. It's not a game with points or competition; everyone can win. It's about building your skills at getting to know people and at helping people to know you.

So, I explain all this because I love this game and I want to play it more often and with new people (because that is more of a challenge!). I was thinking of doing a videochat (and drinking!) this Friday at 9pm EST. Wanna join? the first 7 definite yes-es are in. I'm screening comments; if you wanna join, leave your gmail address and whether you are a definite yes or a maybe (if you don't leave an email address or ask to keep screened, I'll unscreen). You don't have to drink, of course, I just want you to know that I will be :) I may have a sober one at another time, I just wanna drink to celebrate the end of the semester because by then I will *crosses fingers* be DONE!!!

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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: (interconnectedness)
forms of intimacy and societal assumptions made: there is no highest form of intimacy
icon: "interconnectedness (two bald purple-skinned people in the ocean: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

from [ profile] delicatexflower: what do you consider the highest form of intimacy? does it vary on the person?

I think the most intense form of intimacy does vary both from person to person and interaction to interaction. I recognize many different kinds:

mental, physical, romantic, creative, sexual, resource, spiritual, dwelling, amusement, trauma, historical, exposure, access, conflict )

The two kinds with the highest esteem in society are sexual and historical. People refer to loving someone "like family" when they mean "with great intensity and closeness" but rarely do I see families with any real level of mental intimacy: they just have a lot of historical and exposure intimacy. People are assumed to hold sexual intimacy as a special kind and once they have it with someone, it is assumed that some kind of bond is formed (which is true sometimes but nowhere near always). I feel deep resentment that these two kinds are held as more important than the others, because they are not better and they are not necessary for deep intimacy!

Also, few people realize that more kinds exist than sexual, historical, and exposure. And because of this, they think that you can only get intimacy on accident, because you 'fell in love' or fell in lust or because you were raised with/by someone or because you went to school together or worked together. But those can be such shallow types of intimacy. Historical intimacy in particular tends to stagnate people: they have intimacy with someone because of what used to be true, so they are afraid to change because if they break with their history, they break with those that they connected with through it. Exposure intimacy is only meaningful if it is current or if everyone involved is stagnant. For instance, if you spent every single day with someone for five years you probably know them REALLY well unless that happened ten years ago, in which case you might not know them at all. Sexual intimacy can be completely shallow if people are just following scripts without thought or intention. I would say most of the others can be shallow too; no form of intimacy is inherently more intense than another. It all depends on what kinds you have access to and what you do with them.

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belenen: (woven souls)
spiritually inspired/nourished / how I meditate / what eye contact feels like for me
icon: "woven souls (me and Hannah lying naked on black cloth, with legs entwined, laying on our sides facing each other with one set of hands entwined with each other's, and the top shoulder leaning back, relaxed. there is a red and violet overlay with the violet coloring me and the red coloring Hannah)"

I haven't been this regularly spiritually inspired and nourished -ever. I was gonna say "in a long time" but really, I think the previous longest streak that felt like this was a week and a half. I can't express how good it feels. I think part of what is fueling it is the fact that I've been keeping up with writing and daily photo-taking and daily unprompted openness and regular time with friends and time in nature. The flow of creativity and connection is very inspiring. Also I think I'm in a great place where I am starting to develop things that I have already discovered, and it builds much faster than when I'm initially just fumbling around.

This Wednesday I met up with Cass (a close friend of Heather's who I have known peripherally for a long time) and we had some great talks. Partway through we parted so that I could do my weekly meditation, and I sat on a dock next to the river and stared at the water for a while, and closed my eyes for a while, and had a difficult time settling in. Eventually I was able to get in the space (it is much harder for me when I am not in my sanctuary) and as I was meditating I realized that I want to re-make my sistrum with a heavier handle, perhaps with stones embedded. I felt really pleased with this prospect. After meditation Cass asked if they could ask me what my meditation was like. I said firstly, you can always ask me any question ever, and on the rare occasion when I don't wish to answer, I will just say so. Then I rambled about what I do and as I did so came to realize what it is that I do.

I don't ever do emptiness meditation. Sometimes I hold an object and focus on it, sometimes I gaze at something and focus intently on that, sometimes I look through a deck of oracle/tarot cards, sometimes I read a book, sometimes I chant, sometimes I dance, sometimes I focus on my breathing, sometimes I focus on a situation that I want to change. In a good number of these, I am thinking. But when I start going down a thought-trail I have already explored, I stop. And I just block off old thoughts, one by one, until new ones have a chance to come up. I developed this totally unintentionally but I really like it.

Cass also asked me what eye contact feels like for me, which was also a question I hadn't considered. I reflected, and said that with most people I become a mirror, they look in my eyes and see themselves reflected, but through a lens of compassion. The first time I did silent prolonged eye contact with someone, the person cried and cried (that one was at least 10 minutes). People always seem to have a strong emotional response. I tend to get a strong sense of their pain or longing when this happens, sometimes seeing bits of memories that aren't mine. I enjoy giving them feelings of being noticed, of being cared for.

I'd really like to get that feeling others seem to get, but I think that maybe that requires a skill most people don't have or maybe I unconsciously block off the flow in that direction or both. I know I need to trust the person on multiple levels: trust that they want to see me truly and without a role or pedestal, trust that when they see me they will be reverent, trust that they can handle my full self without crumbling, trust that they will not use what they learn to manipulate me whether on purpose or accidentally, trust that they will not attach to me or pull my energy from me. So, yeah, writing this out I realize why I have rarely had eye contact be so emotional for me; that list is a rare and extremely high level of trust. I have such a deep level of easy-vulnerability that the vulnerable-to-me level is something most don't seem to look for. Few people seem to realize that more exists, much less ask me to open that up for them.

I have had transcendent eye contact, mostly during sex. I feel like that is when people get in a space of focus where it is easier for them to try and see me without getting distracted by their reflection. Also, there was this barista I met in a coffeeshop when I was 19, who from the moment I met them locked eyes with me and it felt comfortable and easy and natural and loving, and we had amazing conversations for the 6 months that I frequented that coffeeshop. But between that person and now, I have had a number of experiences where people would make eye contact with me and try to attach to me or pull from me, both of which feel like someone trying to sneakily rub their genitals on you. It's awful. But then the people that I do trust tend to consider eye contact too difficult. So I don't make a lot of eye contact now, relative to me. Relative to your average person I make a SHITTON of eye contact.

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belenen: (snarling)
if someone shares their vulnerability w you, to use it against them is evil, blasphemy of intimacy
icon: "snarling"

To deliberately use someone's vulnerabilities against them is to commit a great blasphemy against intimacy. Anyone who is willing to do that under ANY circumstances is not someone who deserves my trust. I consider it to be a deep emotional violation, as much the inverse of positive sharing as stabbing is the inverse of petting.

I think I am capable of hitting someone in rage; it's not likely, but if they are attacking someone I care about, or if I cannot escape and cannot otherwise stop them from hurting me, I might hit a person. I do not think there is any way I could possibly use a vulnerability shared with me in trust to attack someone. That is fucking evil. I wouldn't do it to the person I hate most in the world. I wouldn't do it to the fucking Koch brothers, and I'd cheerfully watch them drown.

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belenen: (osculant)
what's the point of friendship? / closeness related to time&distance / romantic love / sexual desire
A friend was writing about the point of friendship, and the substance of closeness, and it made me reflect.

For me, the main point of friendship is to understand people. I get a lot out of learning people, and just as much out of them learning me. It's almost a sensual pleasure, like someone lovingly petting my brain (when they learn me), or wandering through someone else's garden exploring and smelling and seeing and tasting (when I learn them). So each interaction is its own little world, and has its own purpose for existence. In this way I never regret investing in anyone, even if they turn cruel and hurt me on purpose, or even if I never meet them again; those experiences still exist and they formed pathways in my mind that cannot be undone.

I've been thinking about closeness as it relates to time and distance. Some people I can talk to sporadically with gaps of months even, but always feel at a similar level of closeness with. But with others, I do not feel close at all if we don't see each other regularly and talk often. On reflection, I have realized that when I feel closeness despite time lapse and distance is when I have a connection with someone who is in a stable place in their lives -- when we come back together after a time apart, there have been events that passed, but the person is on the same basic trajectory, and I still know their wavelengths enough to harmonize with them. When the person is in a period of great upheaval, or when they have a fairly chaotic trajectory, I feel distant from them very fast, and it feels difficult to find a harmonizing wavelength when we reconnect. I feel a great loss at this, because of all the harmonizing that could have happened, and didn't, and can't ever come back. I also feel fear, because what if we no longer can harmonize at all because we have become too different? So far that fear has never come true, but it remains.

Also, when I get used to being aware of all the small fluctuations in someone's wavelength and then I miss a bunch (such as when I connect with someone every day for a month and then not at all for a week), I feel quite jarred when they are not where I expect them to be the next time we connect. I then have a similar feeling to when I've missed greater changes, because the little ones became important to my life. If this happens over and over, I stop wanting to be close in a daily or continuous way because that jarring feeling is really upsetting, and I begin to dread it.

Relatedly, this has been the pattern at the end of several of my romantic relationships. Daily/continuous closeness is a vital part of romantic feeling for me, and lack of that means that I might feel occasional bursts of romantic love, but it's not the same as being in love. Continuous closeness isn't the only thing needed for me to feel romantic love but it is an essential part. I need that harmonizing feeling to sustain my romance. I need to not dread the 'drop' and I need to not have to spend so much energy getting back in sync.

What else do I need to feel romantic love? 1) mutual desire/effort for closeness and 2) kisses and/or effusive honest verbal expressions of love and 3) the choice to feel it (which depends on a kind of certainty I can't explain). I had a very romantic friendship with Hannah long before we had a sensual/sexual relationship, because sexual desire is a completely separate thing from romantic love, for me. It's basically something I can switch on (initially) for anyone I please, and can almost always switch off for anyone I please. I choose to switch it on when I feel it would make my romantic relationship more intimate and joyous, or when I want to be closer to someone and they aren't skilled at non-sexual intimacy (much less common, but has happened once or twice). I switch it off -- or, more accurately, hold it at the off position -- when sex would possibly cause a painful situation (such as when I was first getting close to Topaz and was sure that ze was not down with dating a poly person).
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belenen: (Ma'at)
conflict is a kind of intimacy: be it bratty, unresolved, or constructive, it's not enough by itself
All conflict is intimacy. It is a genuine, exposing kind of interaction. This is why people say that hate and love are two sides of the same coin, and the trope of falling in love with the antagonist exists. This is why if you're constantly in disagreements with someone (like a coworker or classmate), you may feel closer to them than to strangers, even though you might dislike them at the same time. And of course, it's why "hate sex" or "makeup sex" is considered hot. This is why little kids will annoy the shit out of you and laugh with glee. It's not that they want to make you unhappy, it's that they want to be close and conflict intimacy through poking or noises or whatever is the easiest and (as long as they trust you not to be abusive) lowest risk form of intimacy. If someone grimaces at your annoying behavior, it doesn't mean they dislike you, and you get to feel a little closer through that interaction. If someone grimaces at your attempt to hug them, or looks away from your smile at them, it's hard not to feel that they dislike you, so that is a higher risk. I feel tolerant of people who attempt to bond with me through annoying me, but I don't like it and I will usually try to push them to ask for what they really want. With little kids it's usually physical play or cuddling, with adults it's usually focused attention.

People who never learned non-conflict intimacy can grow up into people who constantly make sharp jokes and tease rudely. Sometimes they're actually mean-spirited but I think most of the time they don't know how to feel connected any other way. I think this is also part of the reason that people fall in love with mean, selfish people: they are a huge source of conflict, and if that is the only way you know to be intimate, a relationship without conflict would be one without intimacy as well, so it seems 'boring.' Really it's that the skills for non-conflict intimacy are so much more work and take more risk because you have to learn who you really are, and then share that, which means a potential blow doesn't glance off your shell, but hits home.

There's different varieties of conflict intimacy of course- the simple bratty kind that usually isn't consensual and can't mature, the unresolved kind (with anyone whom you can't or won't work it out with) that doesn't mature, and then the constructive kind, which matures through resolution into a deeper understanding of the other person. That last kind is obviously my favorite. Recently there was a conflict between Roger and Heather, and another between Kei-Won-Tia and Zawn, and all the people involved used it constructively and because they shared the process with me, not only are they (potentially) closer, I feel closer to each of them through empathizing with their feelings and learning about them through their reactions.

Constructive conflict intimacy takes a lot of energy though; if there isn't enough non-conflict intimacy then you'll get worn out and eventually not have enough energy to engage, and then your conflicts will be unresolved and your intimacy will stop being so nourishing. This happened with me and Kylei when we were both depressed and being crap at self-care, and neither of us realized it was happening because we had always had a lot of conflict, but we had also always had a lot of non-conflict intimacy through mindful touch and silliness/play. When our non-conflict intimacy stopped happening, we still felt intimate but it didn't feel good, and we didn't really understand why. Eventually we got to a point where we had endless unresolved conflict and even though we were still very much in love, it was terribly damaging for us to be together. Since then I've learned that conflict intimacy sometimes needs to be avoided for a little while and other intimacy needs to be used. So if Topaz and I are having lots of hard conversations, usually we'll have a little down time with casual cuddles while watching a show and then we'll have focused mindful touch while silent. I always want to get all the hard stuff over with so it can be very hard for me to put a conflict on pause but if I didn't learn to do that I'd be making energy deficits that were much harder to fill back up.
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belenen: (woven souls)
inefficient ways of creating intimacy through "drama" or sex, creating deep intimacy, my methods
Some people haven't learned many ways of intimacy; they might use "drama" (artificial fights) or sex to try and reproduce the times they felt intimate with another person.

With "drama" they're seeking the deep intimacy of conflict: when you are in serious conflict with someone, you have stripped away all the social norms that you usually hide your feelings behind, and you're showing your true self. If there isn't someone in your life who is causing conflict with you, and you crave intimacy, you might try to create it by convincing yourself that there IS conflict. Unfortunately, if they won't play along and "fight back" you don't ever get to a point of sharing true feelings, because the situation has not been completely created. To get conflict intimacy you need two (or more) people invested in settling a conflict: if the other person is convinced that the conflict exists only within you, they won't invest, and the situation will not be created for you to both share deeply.

With sex, they're seeking the deep intimacy of learning another person's desires and pleasures and sharing their own, and meeting them in a space beyond the physical. For people who aren't conscious of this as the process, they think it only happens accidentally, and they don't know how to produce that intimacy. Since it happens most often at the beginning of sexual interactions, before you create your set of assumptions (and thus are still open to learning), those people will often seek new people and/or new experiences to try and stumble upon that intimacy again. Obviously sex can be sought for the physical, and novelty for its own sake: but they can also be sought as a very inefficient way of getting intimacy.

These intimacies are just little flecks, gained at the cost of losing people or spending lots of energy. It's so important to know what you are really seeking, and to seek it consciously, because people in need of intimacy can be voracious and consume others, creating harm in themselves and those around them.

To create intimacy in a steady, nourishing way, you have to do it on purpose. You have to find someone who already practices openness and honesty who wants intimacy -- not just sex or romance or fun or an activity partner -- and practice. This means when you find something that makes you BOTH feel intimate, you take note and do it regularly, as a commitment to each other. If the person who gives you butterflies or seems "just so awesome" does not want -- ON THEIR OWN and not as a response to a request -- to be intimate with you, find someone else. It is hard to find people who want to actively practice intimacy, but if you want to actually find it you have to find self-motivated people, not try to convince someone that it's a good idea. They also have to be self-motivated for honesty and openness. AND so do you. If you want to keep your image or hide things, you are restricting yourself to accidental moments of intimacy rather than deep, continuous intimacy. You will not get intimacy while trying to control how you are seen by others; that's like trying to make out with someone while wearing a mask that covers your mouth.

The ways that have worked for me, after finding a self-motivated partner, are these:

my methods ) I don't expect that all of my methods will work for everyone, but some might: and if you have others I haven't listed, please share!

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belenen: (analytical)
on excitement and nourishment in romantic relationships -- NRE versus IFE
NRE (new relationship energy) is this thing you hear about a lot in poly circles -- it's accepted as fact that when you start a new relationship, you get more energy out of it. You get excited and giddy and have the ability to sink tons of energy into the new relationship without feeling drained because there's so much NRE coming in. And then it fades, and there is nothing you can do about it.

I think that's total bullshit. I don't believe in NRE. What people call NRE is actually IFE -- intimate focus energy. The giddiness, excitement, high-nourishment state is not caused by novelty, and does not have to dissipate with time. It gets associated with newness because in the beginning of a relationship there is a lot of fear and anxiety -- fear of losing this person, anxiety about making mistakes, etc -- and that gets channeled into focusing intensely on the other person (Abby coined the term "fear-spark" to describe this :D). You watch their every move because you're trying to figure out how to interact with them in a safely intimate way, and BECAUSE you're watching their every move, you're enchanted by them. Everyone is amazing if you look closely enough. Then, when you know them well enough to feel safely intimate, you stop looking so closely, and you stop noticing their amazingness. You take them for granted, because you can. And you call that the end of NRE and assume it is a natural phase of relationships. It's common, but it is NOT inevitable and it is NOT biological (and I would really like to destroy the idea that those two things are synonymous).

People tend to feel very intimate and safe with me quickly. I like that in and of itself but I don't like the fact that it usually has the effect of intimate focus ending on the part of the other person. I remember near the beginning of my relationship with Arizona, ze told me that ze felt very comfortable with me and I was very disappointed to hear that, expecting it to end the giddy excitement between us. It didn't, I think because Arizona already saw IFE as a process to engage in, not a fickle self-creation.

It wasn't until the past few weeks that I finally found the words to explain this -- previously I'd frustratedly concentrated on the symptoms, saying that I need intimate focused time in order to be romantic with someone. I finally realized that it's not just about lacking that intimate focus time, it's about the attitude that people have about whether romantic giddy high-nourishment can be created or whether it "just happens." If they don't think it can be created then they won't see the lack of it as a symptom that there is not enough intimate focus in the relationship. I cannot be in a romantic relationship without IFE, not because I'm "just in it for the excitement", but because I value that intimate focus, and I know it can be created any amount of time into the relationship. ways of creating it )

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