Something I thumbed into my iPhone notes app one day last week…
What do I want?
I want to enjoy my joy. I want to enjoy it in a full throated and ecstatic way. I want to celebrate my joy as it should be celebrated.
I want to celebrate my joy in this way without fear or guilt. Without the fear that my joy of the moment is a judgement against other joy and other moments. Without the guilt of knowing that my moment of joy may very well be another’s moment of pain.Â I recognize that living completely without guilt is practically impossible, at least for me, nevertheless, I can dream of having that freedom. (and really, I can’t know that I’m causing pain, I just assume it, which is part of the problem. Â Guilt isn’t something other’s do to me, it’s something I do to myself)
I need to stop trying *not* to do things and start doing. Take positive action over avoidance of effect. That’s not to say I want to cause pain or fear or hurt feelings, only that a plan that consists solely of acting to avoid these is not a plan for fully living.
Of course, I do not want to cause my loves any pain. Of course, I want to avoid hurting feelings or causing my loves to fear for our future. But if I am only focused on avoiding, my path will always be a series of sidesteps and jumping over puddles and boggy spots. What if I focused instead on the path I want to take, the impact I want to have on my loves rather than what I want to avoid doing? What would that path look like?
There are numerous, well-thought-of resources on polyamory and open relationships. They lay out configurations, pit-falls and potential solutions to conflicts. There’s a lot about communication, open and honest and transparent. Maybe I haven’t read enough of them yet, but it seems to me, the missing reference is how to navigate the day-to-day internal struggle some of us are going through.
For example, how much do I disclose to my lover about what I’m doing with another? What do I do about the acid in my belly because I’m worried that my lover is hurting and dealing with jealousy but we don’t have enough time to talk it out? Or maybe they don’t want to talk it out and I just need to give them space.
And, oh, giving space. For me, it’s scary to hear, “I need space”. Those three words are loaded with way too much bad precedent and sad history. Of course, doing the asking is no easier, knowing the avalanche of reactions likely thunder through your lover’s mind upon hearing those words. But asking is necessary and a relationship that is healthy can withstand some space. Granting space is scary as hell but equally necessary. Asking and granting such requests helps build trust.
And it’s still hard. Every time. So where’s the manual explaining a method for dealing with that rush of fear and insecurity? I suppose one problem is that even if our external situation looks the same, our internal landscapes are different. We each have a different set of experiences informing our reactions. In the end, no matter how many resources we consume or how many friends we get feedback and advice from, we in it alone.Â We have to deal with the gnawing fear and insecurity right where we sit, no one can climb inside and help us with it.
Right now, when I’m being asked to give my lover space, when EVERYTHING in me wants to help,Â I need to allow my lover to move at her own pace, to find her own solutions without the pressure of forced collaboration. Â As much as I might want to manage and limit the pain my lover is experiencing, I can really only stand and witness. I can’t get under the hood and modify the machinery. Heck, given my track record with dealing with my own emotions, I shouldn’t be trying to help anyone else manage theirs.
In the midst of an ever growing poly web, I am alone in the moment-to-moment reality of how to manage my expectations and reactions. But we all are, that’s just the way it is.Â Which brings me right back to myself and what I can do. I can take better care of myself and my emotional health. I can trust my lovers to likewise take care of their needs and I can respond positively when those needs result in a request for action, or inaction, from me. I can, hopefully, stop feeling like I have to hold it all together every minute of every day lest the whole world fall apart around me. What hubris, to believe I wield that kind of power. Instead, I need to acknowledge the strength of those who share this life with me and their abilities and responsibility for holding up their part of the world.
I hope to someday be in a place where I can enjoy my joy, and my loves can enjoy theirs and we can all enjoy the joy of others and do this with minimal pain, misunderstanding and fear. If communal joy is not our ultimate, highest goal, what is? Yes, it’s a challenging goal but that’s what makes it a good one.
to all my loves, namaste
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