Restorative Justice and Peacemaking

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Restorative Justice and Peacemaking

A Moment For My Heart to Sing

I don’t talk a lot about new relationship energy.
That is, in part, because it takes quite a lot for me to both like and trust a person enough to experience it.

But here I am!  Experiencing it!  And so is she?!  What is my life.

We’ve been separated by geography (and a time zone!) for a few weeks, and while it has been hard in many senses, it’s also been a rather sweet opportunity to consider how we both feel about our dynamic, our significance to one another, and to make exciting plans for a summer together.  Doing that work at a distance has felt right and good and honest — I think we’ve gained a lot from it.  This is especially true because we’re both busy humans maintaining our own families and are both RATHER SHY IN PERSON.

Anyway, y’all.  It’s been hella great and both of us will be returning from vacation right around the same day next week and it’s just super lovely cue birds singing and flowers blooming and a lot of shy giggling over Skype.

Meanwhile, I’m heading to a week long LARP event this afternoon with Thomthulhu, Donna, and others.  GONNA GO PLAY SOME EXTENDED PRETEND PEEPS BYE SEE YOU LATER I WILL BE IN A LAKE.

Soon, our star child is coming to visit for a whole month, assuming she survives the UNENDING TRAVAILS OF BEING FOURTEEN which are many and trying.  I’m confident she’ll make it.

I’ve recently begun the initial work to organize (and participate in!) a restorative justice and peacemaking workshop and that’s been both healing and satisfying as an endeavor.  I’m still pretty firm that I do not want any more leadership roles in my life any time soon; but I do feel good about acquiring skills and domain experience facilitating difficult conversations because OMG LIFE IS LIKE THAT THIS SEEMS SUPER USEFUL.

I have some pending Other Exciting News, but I am waiting on some final inputs before I talk about that — keep an eye out.

A Moment For My Heart to Sing

Privacy and Patterns

So then I discovered that a person known to me has logged into my email and, as far as I can tell, my Facebook account.

This behavior is consistent with things I’ve seen the person in question do in the past (in March, for instance), and it’s for sure consistent with their other covert information-seeking behavior.  Based on that, I’m not inclined to believe it was an instance of seeing, “Whoops, this person is accidentally logged in on my device!  I’ll just log them out super quick.”  The device in question has been back with this person since March or so, and the last login to my accounts from it was April 26th.  I’ve contacted google to see if they maintain reports on login activity beyond the most recent login, so that should be interesting to find out.

It now makes perfect sense how this person was so certain of details in my life I had not shared publicly.  It substantiates the pervasive feeling of entitlement in their communications with me.  It further demonstrates a pattern of their behavior that had already put me in a tremendously uncomfortable position once before, and in which I had no desire to participate.

I took screenshots of the suspicious activities, changing my passwords as I went and linking authentication to my mobile.   Then I went to therapy.  I explained what had happened (blessedly, my therapist is excellent at mapping other people out in her head [she doesn’t take notes and yet remembers my whole life it is uncanny] so I didn’t have to explain who was who) and spent a little while oscillating between how it was probably all a big misunderstanding or mistake or actually not a big deal probably and being like, “Ok but yo, this shit scares me and makes me feel hella unsafe.”  I let Sarah read the email exchange that prompted yesterday’s blog post, feeling sheepish, like it was silly high school dramatics and that I was making an enormous mountain out of a moderately-sized molehill.  She opened with,

“HOLY FUCK.”

So, you know, there’s that!

We talked a lot about entitlement and unspoken expectations.  I haven’t had someone avail themselves of my private communication without my permission (to my knowledge?) in … probably nearly ten or eleven years.  Probably because the age group that generally feels like that behavior is appropriate is, you know, no older than twenty-five.  We also talked a lot about when people choose to make someone else’s behavior About Them, and steps I can take to hear my own instincts more clearly in the future.

Now, I have an article to flesh out and pitch on an amazing performance I saw last night.  I’m sure all of this will be brewing in the background but the clouds in my brain are clearing as the morning progresses, and I’m super excited about the article I’m pitching.

Privacy and Patterns

Human beings are flawed, and other non-news items

There’s been a lot of conflict in my Spring.

This makes sense to me because I tend to anticipate that in every relationship, no matter its terms or content, some variety of conflict is bound to arise every three months or so.  It might be something small (hey could you make more of an effort to xyz for me?) or it might be something large (my needs are not being met and/or there is a rupture in trust), or it might be something somewhere in between those things (idk, I’m freaking out and need support/to be left alone).

I’m reading the Science of Trust, and although that book encompasses research primarily on single-partner romantic couples, I’m finding that it’s informing my practices pretty much across the board.

Did you know that the vast majority of conflict with your spouse is not resolvable?  I didn’t!  Fundamental differences in character, personality, values, and lifestyle are not things you “resolve”.  So revisiting a topic seasonally or periodically is just a surprising fact of an intimate relationship with another human.  Who knew!  Ideally though, you don’t find yourself in unmoving gridlock on those topics.  The Science of Trust is a data-driven primer on recognizing gridlock, and heading it off at the pass.

That said, boundaries are real and important and there are some things we can’t or won’t come back to intimacy from, once they have occurred.

Most of my boundaries honestly trace back to my childhood, when boundary transgression was a) happening all the time and b) not a thing I understood because I was a child.  So for example: If someone leaves my circle of impact or influence, I do not follow them and will usually take steps to limit their access to me.  I assume that they had reasons for their choice that were sound and made sense for them.  Those reasons may or may not have anything to do with me.  All relationships are at-will and I don’t need an explanation from anyone who wants to take their leave of me (nor is an explanation helpful, regardless of what we, in our hurt, might sometimes believe).  I limit contact with folks when this happens since, in the past, I have suffered for not doing so.  Angry drunk emails or text messages are one example.  Manipulative behavior is another.  History revision is yet another.  So is stalking and information stock-piling.  If someone wants to take their leave that’s fine, but they will need to do some work either before they do or after, to clarify things with me.   So while I don’t take it too personally when someone cuts loose out of my life, I do for sure take steps when I realize it’s happened to keep myself healthy, safe, and only as accessible as I’d like to be.   Whether it’s putting texts and emails through a filter, blocking my visibility (and theirs), or just seeing what they’re up to less frequently, those are choices I make for me, because they have consistently benefitted me in the past.

Another example of boundary setting is that I don’t engage with people who demonstrate the urge to hurt others when they are angry.  I simply don’t fuck with that.  Charity, generosity, and the ability to find gratitude and grounding in situations with high emotional charge is a fundamental set of requirements I have for any human close to me.  Humans are flawed, and might enact these things imperfectly.  That’s okay.  But to engage with me, I have to believe a human will not nuke me from orbit.  I’m not willing to use those tactics, and I won’t engage on unequal ground.  If your primary advantage is that you’re willing to be nasty, or see another human being’s narrative as a threat and are willing to treat it as such, well.  I’ll just see you later, and by later I mean never again.  I have plenty of experience with that dynamic, and it interests me Not At All.  Enjoy that.

Sometimes, though, we fuck up!  We might walk out of a room or the house to find space and center, not realizing that the person we left doesn’t know if we’re coming back.  We might shout a thing because we don’t feel heard.

I’ve had some combination of all of these things over the last season, and let me tell y’all: conflict is hard.  Repair is hard.  Rebuilding is hard.  Taking a moment to ask yourself, “Am I misreading?” or “Is what I’m interpreting consistent with how I know this human and their ways to be?” or “What am I missing?”  before speaking or writing or posting… is hard.  And we should do those things.  But perhaps we should be most willing to do them for the people who are also willing to do those things.

One thing I have no patience for is a thing that in the past, family members of mine have done or do.  The process goes like this:

1) I’m mad, but don’t feel entitled to be mad because I’m MADDER than perhaps feels justified, or the reason I’m mad reads as controlling, entitled, or insufficient.
2) I will go looking for reasons to be as mad as I am!  That sounds good.
3) I will go combing through the internet and social media and whatever they’ve published recently and whatever friends we share in common to find additional reasons to be mad at them, without regard for their boundaries, sense of safety, or just general manners and consideration.
4) Build a narrative where they are, legit, the worst.
5) Stew, and wait for a catalyst for an argument or conflict.
6) Unload with both barrels on a person who is not armed.
7) *optional — Trash talk that person, seeking validation for the narrative built in Step 4, using the outcome of an unfair conflict for which that human was not prepared in Step 6 as additional justification.

I have often found that when this process is occurring, the person engaging in it is profoundly and deeply depressed.  It happened with my own mom, and legit, I love her and was fully prepared to terminate my relationship with her over this.  She is my mom, and we worked it out, and we don’t engage in this kind of conflict anymore and I am pretty relieved about that because it scares the bejesus out of me.  But it’s happened enough with a wide enough collection of humans that unless you are legit, my actual mom, my general response to finding out someone is at Step 3 is to lock down and brace for impact, knowing that when it comes I will have to dig deep or run hard.  I prepare for that person to forget every kindness I’ve ever given them.  I abide, knowing that any and all efforts I’ve ever made for them will be eclipsed by the supernova of their feelings.  I brace for that, rightly.  If someone gets to Step 3 carelessly enough that I’ve found out about it, Step 6 is where they’ll go.

We see this all the time.  How many friends have you seen dig through their partner or spouse’s email or text messages?  Or comb the facebook feed of a former lover?  Folks will sift through tweets and dating site activity.  I have fully watched friends do this to people with whom they went on three dates.  It consistently reads to me as masochism that quickly externalizes to sadism when the correct information is discovered.  And I get it.  We want answers.  We want to feel correct.  We want our feelings to feel grounded in some objective reality.  Anger can feel bonkers, and we want to feel less bonkers.  The problem is, that if we’ve gotten to Step 3, we are the ones transgressing.

I just expect that my pals don’t tell me everything.  Hell, my spouse doesn’t tell me everything.  The only creatures in my life who tell me everything are my cats, and they have pretty simple emotional lives for which I am entirely responsible.  They also only say Meow, and I’m left to interpret the rest.  We have different levels of intimacy and comfort with different human beings and the kinds of things we are willing to share are bound to vary based on how each relationship and person in it stands, day to day.

But just like I don’t tell my family of origin erry little thing about my life, I don’t share my full information set with every human I would call a friend.  There are probably two humans on this earth who know ALL MY SHIT and I pay one of them.  I am not an open book, because open books are things.  I’m judicious about what I ask and what I share, because 9 times out of 10, Answers aren’t the things we need.  What we need is connection and reassurance.  It’s so much harder to say, “We haven’t talked in a while, and some of that is my fault.  We’ve both had a lot on, but I want to reconnect with you,” than it is to say, “WHAT THE FUCK ASSHOLE, YOU ABANDONED ME. EXPLAIN YOURSELF TO MY SATISFACTION.”  It is a lot harder to say, “I get the feeling that you’re holding back with me lately, and I am wondering if there is something we can do to foster more trust and openness between us,” than it is to say, “YOU ARE KEEPING SECRETS.”  It is a lot harder to say, “I’d like to trace the source of this conflict with you so we can resolve it together,” than it is to say, “HERE ARE ALL THE THINGS YOU DID WRONG BOW DOWN AND GROVEL.  FEEL BAD.”  And above all, it is harder to listen than it is to speak.

The requirement that someone share something about what’s going on with them, no matter how hard or personally I might want to take them holding back, is controlling behavior.  It is especially controlling if we are not being as forthcoming about our own shit as we expect others to be.  I take controlling behavior for what it is: a warning.

Human beings are flawed, and other non-news items

I’m apparently writing a book now, and other personal admissions

Adventures in therapy: I’m writing a book, now.

Sarah, my therapist, is a tyrant.  We spent my last session discussing LARP, what it is, and what I get out of it.  Somewhere around the time where I was recounting hiding in my sleeping bag in 30 degree weather in the pitch black of an eight-to-ten person tent, alone, hearing human beings on their NPC shift howling like savage animals and stalking through the woods to frighten and fake-murder their friends at around 2 in the morning, she asked me, “So, given you know, your history with trauma… how does this fit, and how does this feel?”

I then proceeded to speak, uninterrupted, for the rest of our hour about simulated risk, the physicality of combat, the power of fantasy, and claiming space as a femme-presenting person in traditionally masculine spaces and roles.  As we drew to the end of the session, she looked at me with an exhausted seriousness and said, “I want you to write that book.”

And I didn’t say No.

And then I came up with a title, a structure, and the titles of the first six chapters on the 42 bus home.  And then I wrote ten pages.
… Whoops.

So that’s happening.

Between that, teaching myself to sew, a new relationship ( ❤ ), combat practice, and my ongoing efforts to elevate myself professionally while being a long-distance Star Mom, a love-struck wife, and a devoted friend, and my docket is pretty packed.  I fully expect the research the book will require to take me for a long hard drag through some difficult feelings, so I’m earmarking a lot of my bandwidth for that ride.

When I take on a big project, I’m inclined to reevaluate my life choices. The weeks leading up to and following my birthday were rough for mostly practical reasons.  I had to buy a car, unexpectedly (though was given an amazing loan by a wonderful friend that eased that purchase considerably).  I had a job interview.  I learned just how hard it can feel to be a parent at 1,100 miles away because your kid is hurting and you cannot just hug her or take her out for a milkshake.  We hit a major milestone in our quest for Thomthulhu’s military benefits.  I questioned friendships twenty or more years old, finding them to be largely vestigial and plagued with dysfunction I’m tired of trying to fix without meaningful reciprocity.  I grew overwhelmingly tired of roles I never wanted in other people’s narratives of unworthiness, persecution, neglect, and entitlement.   I went quiet, seeking what I needed to recenter myself firmly in “Yes.”

I’m still pretty quiet.  I’m sure that’s uncomfortable for people who are used to me filling the silence, writing the emails, reaching out, setting plans, maintaining.  But realistically speaking, there are 168 hours in a week.  I spend 56 of them sleeping, 40 at my actual job, 1 in therapy, 11 in transit, 6+ with my husband, 6+ with my girlfriend, 6 hours by myself, and on a good week, 5 or more hours moving my body in ways that feel good for me. That leaves 37 +/- hours a week that are not explicitly earmarked in advance.  There is no guarantee that they will occur in convenient chunks or will not involve me needing to multi-task.  Once a month, I drive another 5 hours and spend an entire weekend being someone else for 2.5 days.

I also like, have laundry? And Cats?  I like to be able to read sometimes.  I’m watching Peaky Blinders.  I’m a team member on a mobile application that’s about to drop to beta test.  I occasionally write for money.  And now I’m writing a book, and teaching myself to sew.  Some nights, it’s my night to make dinner.

Part of loving me is loving this.  Part of loving me is not simply tolerating this or accepting it, but actively loving that I have learned, FINALLY, that I deserve to spend my time and energy on myself.  Sometimes (OFTEN!), that means I’m not available (unless you are my kid, or probably, Molly).  I’m not super inclined to apologize for that.  I’m not super inclined to carve out time for people who expect me to apologize for that.  I’m also not super inclined to carve out time for people who don’t get that legit, I am beholden to 3 entire humans at the moment, to see to their basic needs and their welfare.  I am typically not in a position to drop money on things like $35 worth of gas money to visit a friend unless they scheduled with me in time for that to be calculated into this paycheck’s budget.

And honestly, there are some weeks where I’d rather blow that $35 on a pedicure, or we’re over on our grocery budget, or I want to mail something to my child because she’s had a tough week.  It’s not that people are competing with other, cooler, newer, or more fun people for my time, attention, and resources — it’s that I don’t have a surplus of any of those things.  And I feel fine about that.  Chances are folks that spend their time feeling salty about that aren’t offering me anything that would incline me to overdraw against future resources.  I will carry a deficit if I have to, but it’s never a sustainable or rewarding choice; it always comes back to bite me.  We also don’t have a whole lot in common, probably.  Because when I hear that my pals are reading cool books, moving to a new place, doing things they love, or found a new volunteer opportunity, or are changing jobs/fields/whatever, decided to have another baby, are enrolling their kid in soccer, or found a new hobby, mostly?  I’m excited for them.  Even when it means I see or hear from them less often.  Because I just generally assume people are building the lives they want for themselves, and that part of loving them is loving the things they choose.  Even when those things are explicitly not me.  Especially when those things are explicitly not me.

So there’s all that.

And now I should get back to structured writing — I’m hoping to put in about 10 pages this week.

 

I’m apparently writing a book now, and other personal admissions

A Glimpse

It’s been recommended to me that I reveal more of myself.  Here is something from this past December that has been hidden from public view.

12 December, 2015

I just met my daughter for the first time this past weekend.

Let me start that again, actually.

I’m about to be married.  My husband elect is the long-distance father of an incredible thirteen year old human.  Circumstance separated them for about a decade, and we recently arranged for her to come stay with us for a weekend.  While she and I are close online, we had never met until this past week.  

Things are complicated.  It has recently been suggested by my doctors that I am hitting menopause early, and that I likely won’t be able to produce and gestate a fetus in my own womb or with my own ova in a timeframe that would work for our family.  I have feelings about that, but mostly accept it with as much grace and aplomb as I can muster in the face of likely infertility. I am aided by the fact that I hit the step-daughter lottery, and allow my love for her to fill my heart to bursting.  Things about my body are changing slowly, but not so slow that I don’t notice.  I feel like a weird mirror image of daughter’s struggle with puberty.  I remember this feeling.  Just as people tell my kid, hollowly, that puberty’s discomfort and awkwardness and volatility do not last forever, people begin to tell me that miracles happen all the time; not to worry or heaven-forbid, mourn because surely this thing that is actually happening to my body will relent for their comfort and my convenience, somehow.  

Meanwhile, as I wash potatoes in the sink, she reaches out silently and touches the scars on my wrist. They are long-healed, but stand as a reminder that I was once her age, and felt just as helpless.  She embraces me wordlessly, this treasure of a human being.  

It’s become hard for me to navigate other people’s motherhood.  I didn’t expect it.  I thought I’d be fine.  I recognize that no matter how real my feelings are for this brilliant gem feel for me, I did not give birth to her, nor did I raise her.  No matter how close, intimate, or important we feel to each other, there is not a name for me that other people understand.  She sometimes calls me “Star-Mum,” and I pretend that doesn’t make me weep with a bittersweet joy I can’t fully explain or articulate.  Because it feels like that.  Like from outer space, a blue-haired, fair-faced and blue-eyed genius landed, fully formed, tall as me and arms outstretched, offering me something most people simply assume is one milestone in a life among many but that, more than likely, I won’t ever have in the ways they take for granted.  In addition, all other children pale in comparison to this one.  Sorry ‘bout it.  Your child is gorgeous, talented, bright, and shining, rest assured.  But this one?  This one is sublime.

So last weekend, I met my daughter for the first time.  I’m thirty-three.  She’s thirteen.  She’s also got the appetite of an inquisitive and discerning locust, which pleases me.  I want her to swallow the whole world in one delicious complicated bite, and chew for the rest of her life.

We picked her up from the airport at 7 PM, and were back at the house by 8.  Friends were joining us in celebration from out of town, and I had about an hour and a half to get some sort of stick-to-your-ribs, warm comfort food together to feed my people and my kid.  While the childling and her father caught up at the dining room table and steeped tea for me, I took stock of what we had.  We had a ton of fresh herbs in the freezer left from Thanksgiving, and had recently received a potato ricer as a wedding present. A further survey of the fridge and freezer spoke to me.  Here’s what happened next:


Ingredients:

2 to 2.5 pounds of yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed by your loving housemate
¼ C Heavy Cream
4 T unsalted butter
¾ t to 1 t truffle salt leftover from the holiday (regular salt will do, but I’m not fooling that truffle salt is the best savory addition to your pantry you can make)
1 large or jumbo egg yolk

2 pounds ground lamb (you can also use ground beef or bison or venison or just about any other red meat)
2 T olive oil or fat of your preference, high smoke point is ideal.

1 chopped or sliced onion (my partner likes to pick onions out of things, so I usually do half moons)
2-3 carrots, sliced thin
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
Some collection of pepper, salt of your choice, rosemary, sage, and thyme (whole leaf or chopped is up to you, though I do recommend using fresh herbs if you have them)
1 C broth or stock of choice (I had bone broth on hand from the holidays, though I bet mushroom would also be a treat!)

2 t  tomato paste
2 t all-purpose flour (we’re gluten free in our home, so I used stone ground rice flour)

½ C to 1 C+ frozen peas (or fresh if you can find them!)
Optional: a few dashes of really good fish sauce (I use Red Boat) as an umami booster.
Equipment:
Potato Ricer
A Large Cast Iron Skillet (at least 2 inches deep) or a Dutch Oven.

A Large Bowl
A Good Chef’s Knife

A Cutting Board
A M-L Saucepan


Yield: a generous serving for 6 adults and 1 ravenous teenager.

I start the mashed potatoes first.  People will tell you to heat the water with the potatoes already in the pot.  These people are firstly wrong, and secondly have no sense of adventure.  Ignore them entirely.  Bring your enough water to cover your potatoes with an inch to spare to a rolling actual boil.  This takes longer than you think, so slice your carrots and onion while it does its thing.

When the water is boiling, gingerly put your potatoes into the water.  This will stop the boil, so keep an eye on it while it comes back up.  Place your butter in a glass or ceramic dish and let it sit on the stove to soften.  Boil your potatoes for 15 minutes, then check them for softness.  When they squish freely, they’re ready.

While you’re waiting, put oil in your cast iron over medium-high heat.  When it’s nice and hot, saute your onions and carrots for about 3-4 minutes, then add garlic.  When the garlic becomes fragrant, add your meat, fish sauce, salt, and pepper.  Brown and cook through thoroughly.  This takes about 3-4 minutes, which is riiiiiiight around when your potatoes should be checked.  

If the potatoes are ready, enlist a helper to drain them, and put them through the ricer into a large bowl.  Add the egg yolk, softened butter and heavy cream with some salt, and stir gently until the ingredients are creamy, soft, and fully incorporated.  Have this same human start to preheat your oven to 400F, and place a baking sheet with a rim on the bottom rack as it comes up to temperature. (This is to catch any bubbling fluid to prevent an oven fire, which has for sure never ruined dinner at our house ever in the history of time.)  

Meanwhile, toss the cooking meat in your flour to thicken for a minute or so.  Add tomato paste, broth, and herbs, reduce to low for a simmer, and allow the mixture to incorporate and thicken for about 12 minutes.  

Add frozen peas to the top of the mixture, then top with a spread layer of mashed potatoes.  A strong seal is nice, but not  100% necessary.  

When the oven is preheated, place the whole shebang in the oven, and let it bake for 25-35 minutes.  The potatoes should be browning at the edges, and the house should smell amazing.  Let it cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.

 

A true supper, as my Nana would have called it (suhppah, actually, she was from Plymouth), it is best enjoyed late on a cold night over board games with the lights of your life.  Bonus points if there’s an evergreen tree in your dining room, lit for whatever winter solstice you celebrate.


A Glimpse

Revisiting, a year later

So, I wrote a piece on my personal experiences of #abuseinpoly a year ago.

Oddly enough, that piece still gets between 10 and 50 hits a day from about 10 to 20 unique visitors.  It is also the landing page for my blog for probably a third of my readership, followed closely by my solicited response to Wes’s attempt to hoover me back into a place of exploitation and unpaid emotional labor.  It is the most commonly searched item on my blog, and still gets shared on twitter occasionally.

There was a recent conversation between a friend and I regarding local polyamory groups — I am beginning to become active again, in part because of an exciting side project I’m working on which I will talk about in a moment.  I’m likely to begin attending Polydelphia events from time to time to connect and promote with humans for the app I’m a part of developing.

So that’s some feelings.  Polydelphia approached me quietly around this time last year, among a few other organizations in the area, asking me to talk about my experiences with my former polycule.  At first, I had asked to keep those conversations private, but ended up changing my mind after Wes, Gina, Amber, and Jessie all, in their own ways, publicly solicited myself and other persons of interest to air our grievances in the light of day.  As it turned out, sunshine was in fact the best disinfectant, and it helped clarify the distinction between human beings I could trust and upon whom I could rely, and human beings who had way too much of their own shit in the way to be present or accountable with me.  I stand by my choice to risk public exposure and ridicule (of which honestly, I received very little from anyone except, you know, the people who had been bent on controlling my words, responses, and behaviors for the previous year from the start.

Now, a year later, I’m a member of a development team for an iPhone based dating application that is inclusive, consent-promoting, trauma informed, and revolutionary, and specifically targets LGBTQIA and polyamorous humans as its user-base.  It’s called Dating Sapiens, and I am super thrilled to be their GitHub Seneschal and resident polyamorous team member.  (By the By, if that sounds up your proverbial alley, we are actively seeking Beta Testers — please do sign up!)

That means that I’ve had to examine my own thoughts and feelings on dating and connection, and also my role in the greater polyamorous community — however big or small I want that role to be, and how much or how little I want to have to share space with manipulative and poisonous people.  Dating still feels weird for me.  I don’t feel ready to trust people’s motives for expressing interest in me — a legacy I’m still processing.  For sure, there are humans in whom I am interested and friendships that for sure exist in romantic or pseudo-romantic territory.

It’s been helpful that I’ve been reading The Science of Trust by John Gottman (mandatory reading, especially for dudes, y’all).  It has helped undo damage done not only by the NJ crew of my recent past, but also damaged messaging I got earlier from people like my parents.  Things like, the difference between someone who is emotionally coaching and emotionally dismissive (and how they teach someone a new thing); what data shows about how trust is built and how it is degraded or repaired; these lessons do a lot to form a new understanding of how I want my relationships to function outside of former toxic (not to mention, just plain incorrect) influences.  It’s also taught me that just because Some Dude speaks with authority on the subject of relationships doesn’t mean he knows jack shit.  Now when I have questions, I go to rich data sources, people who have done actual professional research, and thus have no stake in dictating how I relate to others, what I require from them, or how we ought to interact.  Just because a human thinks he knows what’s best or effective doesn’t mean he has soundly grounded those thoughts in a fully informed view of the available data.  There is a lot of available research and data out there, and assertions about how we treat others perhaps ought to at least have some root in what we, as humans, actually know about things like trust, intimacy, consent, and kindness.

I’m a far happier, more fulfilled human than I was a year ago.  I’m also far more confident in the social circle I’ve cultivated.  I’ve moved from a place that felt pressured to assimilate and be subsumed by rhetoric and values that were not my own to a place where the people around me see my own contributions as valuable, worthwhile, and worthy of love and respect.  I’m so happy to be bringing that journey to bear in a way that will impact my community in a positive way.  And if you see me at the next poly meet up, come grab a business card!  I might not feel ready to go on a date, but I’m happy to talk to you about changing the face of dating and connection, building a robust culture of consent and respect, and using technology to fuel diversity in our communities.

Revisiting, a year later