Does the flu shot cause insomina? and other middle-of-the-night musings

I googled the life span of a mosquito and the intarwebs said ten days, but I swear that little blood sucker has been plaguing me weeks. I finally lured it out of the bedroom, at least. Thursday night, I ate dinner in my bedroom ’cause it flew by my ear when I was sitting on the sofa.

I’ve already been its dinner for a while, as evidenced by the bites running up and down my legs.


How long do the side effects of a flu shot last, anyway? She told me my upper arm would be sore. “How sore?” I asked. “Like you got punched in the arm.”

“I can handle that,” I said.

She didn’t mention it would also be itchy and burning and that my armpit glands would swell up and be tender. She didn’t mention that at all. I was all but ready to go to urgent care this morning when I thought to look up common side effects of the flu shot and the swollen armpit gland was one of them.

Now I want to know how long that’s going to last, but the hypochondriac in me is afraid to look it up, because the google results for “swollen armpit glands” were not pretty.


I had an amazing scene last night and I keep wanting to express all the many ways that it felt amazing. There was some catharsis involved, since yesterday was officially my last day at an 11-year job that I’ve spent the past 5 weeks wrapping up. All day today I keep pressing that spot where he bit me on the shoulder so hard and remembering how amazing and strange it was that I wasn’t registering anything as pain last night.

But there was this moment at the beginning of our scene where the whole world got quiet. Now, mind you – this scene was happening in the privacy of my bedroom, and there was no “world” to speak of, but I can’t explain it any other way. At once I was standing in front of him in my bedroom and I was transported back in time to our second-ever scene, which happened 3 years ago at our local dungeon. That was the night I experienced my first clothespin zipper.

So simultaneously I was there and here and there was everybody watching and nobody at all and all of a sudden the two realities combined and the memory of that night three years ago lost all sound. It was just him and me and this connection and nothing else.

The feeling felt brand new and familiar all at once, and it was exquisitely overwhelming to the point where I think I may have been in a state of constant orgasm for about five minutes while I was just standing there getting clothespins put on.

I want to do it again. I want to understand why last night my tolerance for pain was so high I couldn’t feel any of it; where other nights the sting of a slap on the ass makes the walls turn white.

Was it because I was rolling on the high of breaking free of my job (plus that bit of cannabis we smoked?) or….I don’t know, is this another weird side effect of the flu shot?


Started watching Wanderlust on Netflix tonight. For those not in the know, it’s a British television series starring Toni Colette about a couple who open up their 20 year+ relationship for the first time. It has exceeded my expectations (which were that it was going to be a comedy that poked fun at the concept of ethical nonmonogamy). It’s not so much comedy, though it has its lighthearted moments – but some of the scenes (especially the most recent episode I saw with a long scene involving Collette’s character and her therapist) are really poignant.

The show isn’t in a hurry to tell its story. There are long moments of silence that I’d normally be annoyed by – but in this context, they feel very, very real. And they’re acknowledged.

I’m hopeful for this series to show the growth of this couple over time if they continue with their open marriage. It’s definitely addressing a lot of the rookie mistakes that newly opening up couples tend to make (though, thankfully, Unicorn Hunting does not appear to be one of them).


I’ve decided to sell the guest bed in my 2nd bedroom to turn it into a proper home office. I’ve spent the last four days looking for inspiration on wayfair and pinterest and other websites. I like the idea of a living wall in the room I would be working in. I want it to be cozy and inviting. I want white and warm wood colors and blue/turquoise accents. I want big, bold art that speaks to me hanging on the walls, inspiring me every day.

And then I remember that I’m unemployed and all of that costs money, so I am going to start with selling the existing bedroom set and some of the furniture I have in my garage and buying a desk, a chair, and a new desktop computer. The rest will have to grow as my business grows.


Speaking of my business growing, I am still kind of feeling like I need an actual break between the career I’ve had for 20 years and the start of this new adventure, but as hard as I tried to schedule said break, I feel like I have a ton to do! I need to figure out DBAs and invoicing and client agreements and two websites (I need something vanilla facing so I can also consult for nonprofit organizations). In the middle of it all I still have all the coursework toward my credential as a Professional Life Coach, and I really want to review everything I’ve learned so far in an organized way – which means I need to organize it first.

Also, I tried to set up a Patreon to launch when I start writing my book next month and it glitched, which just feels like another thing left unfinished that’s probably keeping me up at 2am instead of sleeping soundly.

I suppose I can’t blame it all on the flu shot.

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Coaching Files: Answering the intention and not the question

There’s a thing my family does that kind of drives me bananas. It’s the thing where they ask you why you’re leaving [an event you barely wanted to go to in the first place] after you’ve been there the requisite number of hours +1.

I hate lying. If you know me, you know that I always prefer to just answer with the truth, albeit diplomatically when appropriate.

So when, for example, I’m at a baby shower for 5 hours and I say “Hey, it’s time for me to get going” the last thing I want to be asked is “Leaving so soon? WHY?”

BECAUSE I WANT TO.

That’s my answer. That’s THE answer. But I know my family, and I know that this is not an answer they deem “good enough” to warrant my departure.

The question always lands on my ears like a judgement. I’m not living up to their standards of socialization. I’m not placing a high enough value on family time, or babies, or socially influenced personal milestones.

And I don’t want to have to make up plans that I don’t have.

I’ve learned that in most [healthy, unenmeshed, nontoxic] families, this is not a question that would be asked. People that hail from families like these are the type of people that will look puzzled and suggest that I don’t owe anybody an excuse for why I won’t be attending or want to leave something. I can just say “Decline” and not have to tell them why.

First time I heard that I was like “Wait, what???”

So… I worked with my peer coach today. We decided to try out some of the tools we learned last weekend during the second module of the class, and I brought up this topic to work on, since the holidays are coming (and a couple family weddings) and I feel like I need to have a plan for how to deal with this without defaulting to blatant rudeness.

And, you know what? The tool worked.

I decided at the end that when someone asks me “why” I am leaving, or “why” I won’t attend something, I will just pretend that what they did say was what they probably meant to convey, which is: “I really enjoy your company, and am sorry to see you go.”

See…with that, I can respond “Thank you. It was lovely to spend time with you. I’ll see you next time!”

I will respond to the statement they should have been making, which is kind and fuzzy, instead of the question they are asking, which is rude and intrusive.

Can’t wait to start using these tools on my own clients and see what incredible ideas they come up with to get out of some of life’s pickles!

 


Interested in learning more about my new coaching practice?  Click Here

Toxic Relationship Memes

There is a meme that is posted regularly in virtually every polyamory-related group I participate in. It is a bullet point list that is titled: “What I mean when I say ‘toxic monogamy culture.'”

I remember the first time I saw it posted on a freind’s timeline on facebook. I “liked” the post, because it made some valid points about relationship behaviors that I agree have a measure of toxicity (or unhealthiness) to them. I even understood the nuance between the concept of calling out “monogamy” as inherently toxic, and recognizing that the “culture” surrounding society’s current “default” relationship style had some inherent toxicities.

But, memes are not known for their ability to convey nuance to a mass audience. Over time I started seeing people (especially polyamorous people) who used the words “toxic monogamy culture” interchangeably with “toxic monogamy.”

At that point, they’re just calling out monogamy as toxic, rather than focusing on the reality that many of those characterizations of toxicity are present in polyamorous relationships too.

Once the meme had been reposted several times in the span of a couple weeks in the poly + mono group I help moderate, the admins suggested coming up with a standard response for it, and I did.

Now every time I see it posted, I just find that canned response and post it, rather than having to reiterate again and again that monogamy by itself is not inherently toxic, (nor is polyamory), and that “toxic relationship culture” can happen in every lovestyle.

Sometimes people push back. Especially the so-called “enlightened” polyfolk. The ones that are so angry (or traumatized) for having been subjected to the pressures of conforming to society’s standards that they’ve decided that if monogamy is wrong for them, it is obviously wrong for everybody.

Let me be clear – they have every reason to be angry. I was livid when I found out that, as a woman, I could have higher aspirations that marriage and motherhood. I will admit that I don’t fully understand why people feel such a strong urge to procreate, and I will also admit that I often think that a significant population of people who make babies happen are unknowingly pressured or influenced by family and/or society to make that decision.

I am also aware that some people really, really, really wanna make babies. Like, even if society didn’t put pressure on people to get married and have babies, they would 100% willingly choose to have them.

I support that.

I support people doing what they truly want to do with their lives and their bodies, whether than means having 2.5 children or 2.5 romantic relationships. I won’t say that I don’t judge. I wanted to be able to say that, I really did – but as I wrote this paragraph I knew it wasn’t true. I judge in the sense that I weigh people’s decisions based on my perception of their circumstances and question whether I would make the same decision under the same parameters. I don’t for a moment think that my judgement has any authority to influence their choices, but what is a judgement if not asking oneself the question: “would I do that?”

When it comes to monogamy, I know far too many people (including my own boyfriend) who have come to recognize that it’s not their default setting. Monogamy is not their preference, and they won’t be forced to do it, just like the decision to participate in the making of a baby is up to me. Hell, like sticking with just one partner is up to me.

I have the option: I can choose to date more people. Sometimes I even wish I wanted to, but as of the moment I’m writing this – I don’t want to, and that’s fine. My choice. It’s cool.

So, when the post came up again today – the meme about “toxic relationship culture” I paraphrased and posted my standard response. Effectively: these examples of toxic behaviors appear in all kinds of relationships including polyamorous ones. They are examples of potentially unhealthy relationship values. The values are set by a culture that is predominantly monogamous, but monogamy by itself is not inherently toxic.

My message was received, but there was still a little pushback and I decided (for the first time in over a year since I’ve been posting the canned response to the meme) that I would read through the bullet points again and verify whether or not my response to them has changed.

I realized that for each of them, there was a counter-example that I would consider to be part of a “Toxic Polyamory Culture.”

Honestly, I love the concept of polyamory. I’m all for it. I wish it were standard operating procedure and that choosing monogamy was more of an active and informed personal decision than society’s default, but folks – some of y’all are need to recognize that neither one is “better” or “more enlightened” than the other. They can coexist, and in my relationship (and many, many others who are successfully poly+mono) they do.

So, let’s take a look at each of these points one by one:

Toxic Monogamy Culture: The normalization of jealousy as an indicator of love.
Toxic Polyamory Culture: The mischaracterization that jealousy does not exist nor drives people’s actions or reactions in polyamorous relationships.

Toxic Monogamy Culture: the idea that a sufficiently intense love is enough to overcome any practical incompatibilities.
Toxic Polyamory Culture: the idea that one can avoid dealing with practical incompatibilities by opening the relationship.

Toxic Monogamy Culture: the idea that you should meet your partner’s every need and if you don’t, you’re either inadequate or they’re too needy.
Toxic Polyamory Culture: the idea that one can outsource core relationship needs to other people, or that the only reason to open a relationship is to have additional “needs” filled rather than acknowledging it’s just something they want to do.

Toxic Monogamy Culture: the idea that sufficiently intense love should cause you to cease to be attracted to anyone else.
Toxic Polyamory Culture: the idea that sufficiently stringent “rules” and “boundaries” will protect a “primary” partner from developing unsanctioned feelings for or desires to explore certain experiences with another partner.

Toxic Monogamy Culture: the idea that commitment is synonymous with exclusivity.
Toxic Polyamory Culture: the idea that NRE is an adequate excuse to break plans or commitments to your established partner(s).

Toxic Monogamy Culture: The idea that marriage and children are the only valid teleological justifications for being committed to a relationship.
Toxic Polyamory Culture: The idea that marriage and children automatically imply and/or justify a hierarchical structure and the treatment of any other romantic commitments as “secondary” or “less important.”

Toxic Polyamory Culture: The idea that your insecurities are always your partners responsibilities to tip-toe around and never your responsibility to work on.
Toxic Polyamory Culture: The idea that your insecurities are always your metamour’s responsibility to tip-toe around and never your responsibility to work on.

Toxic Polyamory Culture: the idea that your value to a partner is directly proportional to the amount of time and energy they spend on you, and it is in zero sum competition with everything else they value in life.
Toxic Polyamory Culture: the idea that your value to a partner is directly proportional to how much MORE time and energy they spend on you than any other partners, and it is in zero sum competition with everyone else they value in life.

Toxic Monogamy Culture: the idea that being of value to a partner should always make up a large chunk of how you value yourself.
Toxic Polyamory Culture: the idea that being of value to as many partners as your partner is of value to should always make up a large chunk of how you value yourself.

Here’s the thing – I know a LOT of polyamorous people that do not represent these behaviors. But I am also aware of many polyamorous people who do – enough that the bulk of these examples are readily found in the last 20 posts in most of the polyamory support/discussion groups I frequent.

Polyamory is not inherently toxic.

Monogamy is not inherently toxic.

Relationships are not inherently toxic.

The patterns exist and are recognizable. They are reinforced by the messages we consume, whether they are generated from the society’s large-scale mononormative culture, or the small microcosms of polyamorous subcultures. We internalize and normalize them until we don’t even see them anymore.

At least, not until we take a moment to dig deep and uncover what is truly motivating our behaviors, our decisions, and our attitudes.

Find the script – tear it up. Write your own story and break free from the meme.

On biting that apple

After spending a weekend at her sister’s wedding, a member of one of the groups I moderate wrote a post that described a feeling I think many people, especially those who are on the early side of transitioning into non-monogamy, can relate to.  She wrote:

I never “felt poly” before I met my main squeeze, who was already poly. My love for him brought me into this lifestyle, and I have other partners that I care deeply for, but I never planned out my life to include multiple partners.

As a little girl, I imagined the day I would marry someone on top of my favorite mountain, and really thought I would have a white picket fence life path.

I feel like I don’t know what a successful poly life should look like. How will I know when I’ve made it? How will I gauge my success? How do I get over this weird feeling of jealousy I have for my sister, when I don’t even want a marriage that looks like hers?

Maybe, now that I’m thinking about it, a lot of what I’m feeling is a bit of resentment that I now know poly is an option.

With her permission, I’m (lightly editing and) sharing my response:

“…a lot of what I’m feeling is a bit of resentment that I now know poly is an option.

This is such a strong statement that really gets to the guts of so many people’s fearful reactions to hearing that someone else might do relationships differently than they do. When I share with strangers how my relationship is different, they generally surprise me by taking it in stride.  Sometimes, however, I can tell that they tense up – because it is so different, and we are socialized in so many ways to believe that different is “wrong” and “wrong” is “scary”.

It makes sense that this unsettled reaction from loved ones could lead to you feeling resentful that you’ve suddenly been given the knowledge that you want something that sets you apart.  It’s so much easier to conform when you don’t know you don’t want to conform.  But I think beyond that, I eventually got to the point where instead of resenting being given this information- I resent that society didn’t offer it to me to begin with.

I get mad at the world for limiting my potential.,

I hate that every fairy tale I grew up with made it seem like marriage was the highest level of achievement I could reach, and that it was up to the men to “save me” and that i could only have this if I were the most beautiful princess with the smallest feet or the prettiest voice or the longest hair. I HATE that on top of all of that, I was given a list of what “beautiful” could look like and spent so much of my life comparing myself to (and not meeting) that ideal.

We are so indoctrinated into the idea of comparing ourselves to what we’re “supposed” to do or be or look like based on a standard someone else set for us, that even when we break free of it and accept the concept of polyamory into our lives, we’re still grasping at comparing our poly to the “ideal” of what polyamory is supposed to look and feel like and how we’re supposed to measure our success and standing within that structure.

What if where you are in your life is EXACTLY where you’re supposed to be right now? What would that be like, to stop comparing your current location to a perceived end-game?

As a young widow who got all the way to the end game significantly earlier than expected, I cannot tell you how much of my own life I got back after I realized that there was no longer a set of expectations for me. People stopped trying to put me in a box, because the box of “30 something widows” was so small that they couldn’t decide for me what I was “supposed” to do.

After I came out of the shock and the haze of my mourning period, I realized that for the first time in my life, I got to decide what I wanted for myself. It was liberating.

I know that before I ever got married, it’s all I wanted. It didn’t matter how many friends told me to wait, or to not do it, or that they’d never do it again, I KNEW that I’d been thinking about that party and my dress and all that went with it since I was a little girl. I knew the pressure that my family put on me to be a wife, because – again, it was constantly reinforced that becoming a wife and mother was the highest achievement I could ever hope to have.

It wasn’t until after I’d had the experience that I realized that those dreams of mine were heavily influenced by the limits of society’s expectations for me. They were not purely my own, and as I went through all that processing to regain my identity after my husband passed, I recognized how deeply influenced I was to make my “choice.”

Today, I’m learning to transition that resentment into pity. I feel pity for the people who can only see beauty in a certain “type”. I feel pity for the people whose self confidence is based on having to measure themselves against another person or a made-up ideal. I learned to stop worrying about how well society or my family accepts me. If they want to be part of my life, they’ll do so on my terms.

People who cannot accept me and love me aren’t deserving of the energy I would expend on being angry with them. For the ones, like my extended family members who I’m not “out” with about my relationship style, I pity that they’ll never really know me and that the person they call “granddaughter” or “niece” or “cousin” is a costume I wear in their presence. That version of who they think I am doesn’t define me.

Only I get to define who I am.

The beauty of being where you are in your life right now is that you have the freedom to redesign the life you want based on who you want to be. It takes a while to disentangle it all to figure out which parts of what you wanted are still the things you want and which parts were the things you were influenced to want.

There’s no reason why you can’t have a special moment, for example, with someone (or someones) that you love on top of your favorite mountain. It doesn’t have to be a government sanctioned marriage for it to be a meaningful and beautiful moment for you.

The possibilities are limitless.

There will be blood: When hormones affect emotions

Originally posted to my fetlife blog about a year ago.


When I’m in the middle of it, I don’t want anybody but me to say “it’s just hormones,” because the feelings are real and I don’t want them dismissed; but at the same time, I want it to be understood that the hormones involved are causing the feelings to be exaggerated to a degree where they are now affecting my mood in a negative way. I also want it to be understood that I know this is happening.

So, “it’s just hormones,” isn’t a way of dismissing the feelings, it’s a way of explaining their severity.

That’s probably why so many of us get that venomous look when someone tries to write off our feelings or behaviors as “must be that time of the month again.”

The thing that bothers me to the point of an eyeroll on a normal day may bother me to the point of frustration on a hormonal day, but the bottom line is it still bothers me either way.

I think people often mistake the hormonal amplification of a feeling as a sign the feeling has no merit at all, when it might be at the root of something that’s been bubbling under the surface for a long time.

So, what’s the right answer when an issue has come up and you are pretty darned sure that hormones are making it a bigger issue than it would be on any other day?

I don’t know how it works for everyone. For me? It’s patience and understanding. It’ll go away in a few days, but acknowledge that it’s there that day. Show compassion. Don’t dismiss it. And let’s talk about it later, when my emotions are balanced again.

I suppose this is somewhat of a PSA from a much more clear headed perspective than I was in yesterday.

Bye, Felicia

Last month I attended my first in-person training session for my coaching certification. During the course of those three days, I (rather quickly) identified the biggest block I have to achieving any of my goals.

Laziness.

Throughout the three days in that session I worked with other members of my cohort on learning some skills to successfully coach clients to move past their blocks to achieve their goals. At the end of the three days, we symbolically broke through the biggest block that we’d identified at the beginning.

I felt really, really good.

I came home with every intention of doing the things I had planned to do. I was going to go back to weight watchers. I was going to start meditating daily. I was going to get myself organized and finish the final touches of putting together my workout area.

Apparently, symbolically counts about as much as reddit karma, ’cause I did none of those things.

In fact, when I got the email last week that alerted us that our three weeks of respite was about to end and the coursework and deliverables were about to be assigned, I became overwhelmed! The next thing I knew, I looked at my calendar and anything remotely resembling free time was GONE!

I was feeling overwhelmed. Really overwhelmed.

Tonight I spent an hour with my peer coach – another member of my cohort that is also earning her certification as a professional coach. She asked me what I wanted to work on and I said “I’d really like to work on getting healthier.”

Thus began about 20 minutes of back and forth about why my health was important to me, and how it has nothing to do with my self-esteem (which is super high) or a need to be validated by society or men or anything like that.

She seemed confused about what my block was. She finally asked me to name the thing that’s blocking me and I said “laziness.”

That’s when she suggested one of our coaching tools. What if I gave this block a name? Personified it?

I was stunned that I hadn’t thought of doing this myself. For a decade I’ve been talking about naming the depression or the anxiety or the other mental blocks that have plagued my lovers and friends. As a way of naming the thing and not internalizing it….”Jake is here right now and he’s taking up all my energy,” would be a way of saying “My anxiety is acting up and I can’t really be here for you right now.”

“OK,” I responded, feeling very open to trying it out. I walked by my bookcase and I was scrambling to try to come up with a name for my laziness. “I’ll come up with a name later, but yeah…let’s say….Uhh…..”

And then I just picked a name: Felicia.

I think it’s because it’s the name of a vendor I’m working with for an event I’m putting together, and she was the last person I spoke with before I left work today.

I figured I’d pick a better name later.

Now, to be completely honest – it took my coach and I a bit of time to get to the point where she started to listen to me and stop advising me (which is what coaches are supposed to do), but when she eventually got there, I did have quite a breakthrough.

“Felicia would say that she’ll unpack the suitcase that’s been sitting for a week in the basement tomorrow, but I am going to go downstairs and unpack it as soon as we hang up the phone.”

See, ’cause Felicia LOVES to say she’ll start things tomorrow and then find an excuse not to.

“Felicia would agree to doing 20 minutes of exercise three times a week, but I am committing to ten minutes of exercise every day for the next two weeks.”

Too many times, Felicia has committed to 3 days a week, and it’s amazing how easily three becomes two and two becomes one, and one becomes a string of excuses.

“Before I moved, I used to spend two hours a day in traffic commuting to and from work. Felicia has replaced those two hours in traffic with two extra hours of sleep in the morning, but I am going to utilize those two hours to give myself the free time that I’m saying I don’t have to exercise, meditate, or work on my blog.”

“You know what,” I said as we wrapped up our session, “the name Felicia is growing on me. I’m going to keep calling her ‘Felicia.'”

It wasn’t until my peer coach asked me what I wanted to say to Felicia that I realized what an appropriate name I’d picked for her after all.


From Urban Dictionary (modified for grammar and spelling)

Bye, Felicia

A goodbye given to any unwanted, irritating, or disliked person. Start[ed] as a [reference] to the character Felicia in the movie Friday.

Interested in coaching/mentoring?

In January, I will graduate from an IFC certified course in professional coaching.  As a Certified Professional Coach, I’ll have been trained to coach people on any subject about any issue, but the niche and specialty I’m most interested in hanging up my shingle for are helping people succeed in non-traditional relationships, including mono + poly relationships.

As a mentor and a coach, I can help guide people through the process of self-discovery, and understand how to overcome some of the emotional and mental blocks that keep us from truly loving and accepting ourselves and our loved ones.

Though I am graduating in January, I am able to begin coaching and mentoring clients  prior to receiving my certification.  In fact, I will need to complete a certain number of coaching hours prior to receiving my final certification – so if you’re interested, here’s where you let me know.

I created a short 3-question survey for those who would like to be contacted when my coaching/mentoring services become available starting December 2018 / January 2019.

If you’d like to get started sooner, drop me a message through your social medium of choice.  I will have some limited slots available for select clients starting mid-November.

Here’s the survey link!