This is Forty

I turned forty about an hour ago.

Minutes before that, I completed the last act of my 30th year – I turned in all the assignments for the advanced standing section of my coaching certification.

The process was more self-reflective than I imagined it would be. Much of the work I’ve already done. In fact, I went through my blog archives as part of the process of examining many of the “life review” questions I was asked about my childhood and relationships.

I can’t think of a better way to set the tone for the next ten years of my life. I spent the entirety of my 30s working at my current job. It was simultaneously a time of significant change and personal growth in some areas, and a time of stagnation and demoralization in others.

As part of the process, I was asked to idealize what my life as a coach would look like in one year, at three years, at five years, and at ten years.

It amazed me how achievable each one of those dreams is. How within my grasp it all is.

I can do this. I really can do this.

I keep thinking of where I was ten years ago. I wanted a big party for my 30th, and I always loved themed parties. My partner at the time (not yet husband) organized a 60s cocktail themed party at my brother and sister-in-law’s house. It was during the time that Mad Men was all the rage. I bought a pink cocktail dress, got my hair swept up into a beehive up-do, and perfected my cat-eyeliner by tediously studying youtube videos for techniques.

It was the night that the old-school bartender gave me a sampling of all the classic cocktails and I discovered that I love bourbon the most. To this day, a Blanton’s Old Fashioned is my jam.

I was anxious and hopeful that Tony would propose to me that night. Everybody was. He made a speech. We all waited for it. I think he knew that and intentionally decided to wait, just to fuck with us.

It happened a few months later, while he and I were alone on vacation in London.

That night of my 30th birthday party, my brother had just arrived home from his first trip to China. He and his wife had been trying to conceive. My niece will turn ten in nine months.

My brother reminded me that I was ten years off from his prediction – “One day, you’ll turn 40 and decide to write a book. It’ll be a bestseller and you’ll be set for life.”

My future husband laughed. He’d written a best seller. Before he died, he would have written two best sellers.

We were not set for life.

A year later I was married.

Three years later I was widowed.

A year after that, I was here…writing. I found you all, or you found me. I’m not sure which of us is the chicken or the egg.

I spent the second half my thirties undergoing the most challenging and rewarding personal growth spurt I may ever experience. I was confronted with the consequences of 35 years of unhealthy relationship habits and addictions to external validation, codependency, and labels.

Three years ago, the work paid off. I successfully established a relationship with myself that I had previously taken for granted. I have spent the past three years loving myself unconditionally – and in the process, I’ve learned to love and be loved without fear.

These past three years have been, without a doubt, the best of my life. And I know there’s even better to come.

At this point, an hour and 22 minutes into my 4th decade of existence. I’ve successfully completed the first big milestone of the next big step in my ongoing journey. I’m engaged and enthusiastic to continue with the in-person training for the coaching certification next week.

On Monday, I’ll be featured on one of my favorite podcasts – multiamory – as a guest interview on the topic of poly + mono relationships. I’ve had my first paying client (though as I am not yet certified, I asked instead that he donate to a fundraiser I was running for my metamour).

I’m creating a business plan. I’m setting goals. I’m meeting deadlines. I’m networking. I’m investing my time into this dream, and I haven’t felt that excited about anything (other than sex and star trek) in a really long time.

Every time I have a fear, or a doubt, or that little voice of risk aversion in my head that asks me if this is the right thing…. if I should be moving away from a steady career I’ve put 20 years into to start something risky and new…

I think about the woman who had a Mad Men themed birthday party, hoping her boyfriend would propose, who had no idea that less than four years later – every expectation, every plan, and every dream she’d ever had would get thrown out the window.

It’s time for my new dreams to come true.

This is forty. This is when it happens.

I can’t fucking wait to see where this decade takes me.

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Experiencing “top space” through hedonism

Prologue

I decided to give topping a try a few years ago. I had connected with a submissive male, and we’d talked a lot about what he liked and wanted, and I gave it a go.

We did it once in my home and once in public at the dungeon, and it was entertaining, but the role didn’t sing to me. There was spanking and paddling, lots of teasing, and even a bit of boot worship.

But the reality was, he was getting all of his wants met. My teasing and denial of him (which was totally what he wanted) was also denying myself…and that wasn’t much fun for me.

I’d essentially “bottomed from the top”, because I didn’t do a single thing that gratified me, personally – but he had a lovely time, and the satisfaction I derived from the experience was purely about having done a “good job.”

After this, I positively declared that there wasn’t a single toppy bone in my body, and that was the end of the experiment.


Present Day

We got a little stoned. In this deliciously altered state of mind, while waiting for the timer on our dinner to ring – I was given the direction to “do whatever I wanted with [him].”

I had just over 30 minutes.


I think I found my top space. It was really difficult to hold at times, because part of what I want IS to make him feel good based on his own desires and preferences – but there were moments when my every move stopped being about what I thought would get him excited, and became purely about what was driving my own pleasure. The pace, the angle, and the strength of each thrust were bringing me closer to orgasm, and I was greedily doing what what made me feel good without consideration of how it felt for him.

Not that it felt bad for him in the slightest, but that wasn’t top of mind, you know? It had nothing to do with spanking or paddling or teasing and denying.

It really was about my pleasure. His was a side effect. But then, whenever he’d moan with pleasure, I’d remember how much I enjoyed being the source of it and suddenly I’d revert to bottom space long enough to think about asking permission to orgasm (something I enjoy doing in my bottomy space), and then remembering that the directions were to do whatever I wanted, and back into toppy space I’d go!

It was pretty fucking amazing.

I finally understand what some people get from topping. It’s neat!


As the timer wound down, I started to notice and feel the ways he was reclaiming the top side through his sadism. I don’t know if that was intentional on his part, but that’s how it felt for me and I really enjoyed it. Going from ‘it’s all about my own pleasure’ to relinquishing control through intensifying levels pain was the most incredible fucking rush.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like it.


Seriously considering changing my fet role from “bottom” to “hedonist.”

Putting relationships on “hold”

I have such a visceral reaction to the phrase “put my other relationship on hold” in the poly discussion groups. It’s usually a phrase uttered when the following scenario applies:

The hinge in a “vee” has developed a solid and happy relationship with one partner that going swell, but everything in their additional relationship is falling apart. Some versions of that sentence would include “….everything in the additional relationship is falling apart because of the other one’s existence.

I’m trying desperately to stay away from calling either relationship “other” or “first” or “second” because I’m trying like hell not to imbue any of this with implied hierarchy.

My reaction is to the idea that you can put someone you say you love on “hold” because someone else you love is struggling. I don’t care where on your relationship flow chart they live.

The phone company puts me on hold. My partner does not. If you can put your relationship with me ‘on hold’ then we have no relationship. That’s how I roll.

But, I realize that this visceral reaction to this phrase stems from a past experience I had, in one of my early attempts at poly with someone who made a LOT of newbie mistakes that I see playing out again and again in the advice forums.

His relationship with me was solid. The more solid we were, the less stable she was. So when she struggled, he would “dial it back” with me in order for her to get stable again.

Guess what?

She used that. She used it regularly. Every time her jealousy would flare up, she’d have a panic attack or get herself into trouble or blatantly break one of his rules (these were both D/s relationships) and he’d dial it back with me to help her recover.

I’d complain to him and try to reason with him. “It’s like if there’s one kid who always follows the rules and another kid who’s constantly breaking them, so what you do is take away the toy from the good kid and give it to the one throwing the tantrum in order to shut them up.”

“It’s that saying that the squeaky wheel always gets the grease, but if you don’t pay attention to your other wheel you’re going to end up with a flat tire.”

He’d say he understood and things would change, but then he’d keep doing it. He’d keep rewarding her tantrums by denying me. When she felt like she’d “won” then she was fine again.

Guess what I did?

I started having panic attacks. I mean, it worked for her. Why wouldn’t it work for me? But, it backfired. I hadn’t set a precedent for having panic attacks, so when I had them I was told I was “faking” it, and to pull it together.

I wasn’t faking it. I was trying to control something I couldn’t control that I SHOULD have had some control over. The protocols and boundaries of my relationship should have been something he and I discussed and agreed upon together. Our boundaries and protocols should have been the foundation of stability upon which our unique relationship could be built independently of any other relationships he was building with anybody else.

But he kept allowing someone else to pound cracks into our foundation.

And, here’s the fun part… Usually, it’s the “primary” or the “first, and more established” partner that thinks they have a say in how their partner conducts their other affairs. In my case? I was the first one there. She came in three months after me, and it only took three months for her to completely destroy us by shedding the light how little control and integrity he really had.

So now, when I hear people wanting to put one relationship “on hold” I want to tell their seemingly dispensable partner, “RUN. RUN FAR AWAY.”

As the late Patrick Swayze declared, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

My Bookshelf Brings All the Boys to the Yard

This post was inspired by a couple of posts I saw on FetLife about being attracted to a person by the books on their bookcase.  Since I don’t want to link to someone’s blog there without permission, and he hasn’t yet posted them publicly – for now, that’s as much attribution as I’ll give for the inspiration.


Up until about a month ago (when I moved), my bookshelf was a farce.

Someone perusing my titles might have found me eclectic and interesting and imminently fuckable because of it.

Thing is, based on those books, they’d probably meant to fuck my late husband.
It’s too bad they weren’t around to meet him, because most of those books were his. He was a voracious reader. He had 52 years on this earth to collect – and collect he did – since he never threw a damned thing away. Ever.

No, I mean, like…ever.

I went through one purge shortly after he passed. I kept my books – (and I’ll get back to that) – but I also kept a lot of his. The ones I thought were cool. The ones that attracted me to him. Had an entire room in my house dedicated to books because they were precious and I had a difficult time letting them go.

But I never read them.

If you were to look at my bookshelf….the books that were placed there by me?

Well, you’d probably want to fuck the version of me that existed 20 years ago. That’s about how long it’s been since I’d have considered myself a “voracious reader.”

Then again, you might be turned on by the fact that after so many purges, those are the ones I’ve kept. Those are the titles I want serving as the ambassadors of what you might think is my intellect, but really? It’s my sentimentality.

That’s where you find my entire collection of Star Trek novels. I was in junior high when I started reading those. They take up a lot of real estate on that shelf. I’ll likely never read them again, but I love them. I just love them for my love of the franchise they represent and deeper insights and further stories about the characters I love.

I mean, I read all the Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books during that time, too, but even though I can remember exactly when Bruce took Jessica’s bikini top off in the ocean and the description of the water swirling up and chilling her breasts (the cornerstone of my early sexual fantasies for years) – I don’t actually HAVE any of those on my bookshelf anymore.

There’s one still on the shelf called Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, published in 1989. I read it when I was in elementary school. It was the first book of a serious nature I’d ever read – about two young girls during the Holocaust. It made an impact on me. I tried to get my parents to read it so that we could talk about it.

They didn’t. But I kept it. I still have it.

Ooh. And the Westing Game. I loved that book. Read it so many times. It had an effect on me – there was a character who was lauded for her beauty, but she quietly hated it. She wanted to be known for who she was as a person and not respected for how pleasant her face, hair, and body were. I related so strongly to her. I tried to get my parents to read that one too.

They didn’t.

I still remember exactly where I was when I read the big reveal. Oh my goodness, that feeling of all the pieces starting to fit together. I was in an after school program at the Jewish Community Center, ignoring all my peers and huddled into one of those plastic orange chairs leaning over a low table. I raced through the last few pages and went right back to the beginning and read the whole thing again in one sitting; now with the key piece of information in mind.

I think that’s the first book I ever read multiple times. I loved it so much!

I’d loaned it out to somebody and it never made it back to me; but some time in the last year, I found a copy in a giveaway pile. It’s back on my shelf again.

Any books that have found a place onto my shelf since then were either given to me by my husband, or compulsorily purchased for high school or college courses. After all, I was an English major with an emphasis on creative writing. I liked a few of those, so those are the ones granted intentional place on my shelf.

From him: Lolita. Don Quixote. Permanent Midnight.

From School: The Awakening. Metamorphosis. House of Mirth. Geek Love.

And, of course, there’s the entire Harry Potter collection. I started reading those right after book 4 was published – devouring my cousin’s first three during a week-long family houseboat trip on the Sacramento Delta. I read 4 – 6 electronically, and pre-ordered the final book in hardcover as it came out. I read that one from cover to cover on a flight from LA to New Jersey ten years ago. I then lent my physical copies to my stepdaughter when she came of age to read them. Being a child, she loved them to the point of destruction – so the hard-bound ones that now sit on my shelf with uncracked spines in the collectible trunk were a gift (like many of the Star Trek and Doctor Who coffee table books I do already have on display) from a loving husband who enjoyed my fanaticism.

That’s about what’s on my shelf that I’d say is mine. Except the ones in my kindle and audible accounts.

There aren’t many. And there are several that are in there that I haven’t read yet. But…unless you’re looking through my phone or tablet or laptop, you won’t see an accurate representation of what I’m into today.

But, as I wrote this out, I realized that the ones you might see in my house (or in a photo of me in my house) were a bit more than simply sentimental. In many ways, the ones I kept helped to influence who I am at my core.

So maybe taking a look at my bookshelf, now that the books there are mostly mine is an accurate representation after all – maybe not of the entirety of who I am and what I’m about, but certainly there are some key elements they helped form.

Ooh. That was a fun thing to write. It even surprised me at the end.

I’m gonna go back to the beginning and read it again.

The Consequences of Consequence Free Devotion

“My partner is extremely jealous. He cheats on me. He locks his phone but insists I keep mine unlocked and that he’s allowed to check it whenever he likes. I can’t be friends on facebook with any men who aren’t related to me, I can never talk to any of my exes, and he is very secretive about wherever he goes all the time with other women.”

Fifty people immediately respond:

“This is abusive.”

“Run.”

“Get out of this.”

“One million red flags here, you should reconsider your relationship with this person.”

And the OP is dumbfounded.

“I came here to get support. I don’t understand why everyone is telling me to leave. I will never leave him no matter what. I love him. So, what can I do?”

That’s when I tap out.

I used to be that person. The “I’ll never leave him no matter what,” person. That wasn’t even in a traditionally abusive situation. That was with a person with severe substance abuse and mental disorders who loved me very much, and trusted me implicitly.

But I was miserable. His illnesses were physically crowding me out of my own space. Our sex life was a distant memory. He became a recluse that would never leave the house, leaving me to fend for myself at holidays and family gatherings, and when he would come out? He was high, incoherent, and an embarrassment I felt I had to make apologies for.

I would complain to my friends and coworkers about the mess in the house, about his uncontrollable shopping habit, about his lack of sexual interest and they would suggest to me that I consider leaving.

I’ll never leave him.

He was terrified that I would. So many times, he’d break down sobbing and inconsolable, convinced that I would wake up one day and realize he was a failure and that I could do better (his words, not mine) and that I would leave him.

Which, of course, solidified my resolve to stay.

He never changed. He was never going to change.

My leaving wouldn’t have caused him to change.

My leaving would only have (potentially) improved my own quality of life, though I would certainly have felt guilty and miserable doing it.

The truth is, as I’m writing this I can remember being her. I can remember being that one who would never leave, and I know at the very depths of my soul that I absolutely never would have. Not that version of me, anyway. He passed away, and that’s the only reason I was able to get out. I was forced out.

I didn’t love myself enough to set boundaries. I loved him so much there were no consequences if he harmed me, even in the non-traditional ways that people tend to imagine harm.

There was no magic advice that could be given that would have changed my mind. There’s nothing I’m going to ever be able to write to anybody that is going to convince them that if they are willing to accept all manner of bad behavior from their partners without any consequences to their partners, their partners are unlikely to have any motivation to change. Ever.

Why should they?

You’ll never leave them no matter what.

So, that’s where I have to tap out. That’s where I have to shut down my empathy matrix, because…believe me. I can empathize. But I can’t help. I can’t be supportive of staying in a fucked up situation, and I can’t offer the “cure” for your partner’s toxic behavior.

You won’t like anything else I have to say, and it will only strengthen your resolve to stay in a bad situation indefinitely.

I wouldn’t wish my way out on anybody.

The Exhibit

Is there a better museum for rare and priceless experiences than words on a page?

I could try to preserve all the details – how we began, how many strikes from which implements, how he moved me about the room, how taut the rope felt on my skin, and the way my thighs ached as I squirmed in the stress position in which he’d restrained me.

Those details may convey my surrender, but won’t capture my emotion.

I could record the hearing of footfalls and whispers, soft murmurs of interest or (possibly) admiration lingering in the hallway, and my vague awareness of some shadows in the door frame as the intensity of a final powerful orgasm ripped through my soul.

Those details may convey my vulnerability, but won’t capture our connection.

It’s just three words I’ll keep in this museum of intangible artifacts. The three words I whispered when, toward the end of our scene, he leaned down for a kiss, and warm tears escaped the outside corners of my eyes:

I missed this.

I got to play last night

Visits to the dungeon are rare these days.

I like them. The public aspect of playing in a dungeon pushes me to endure just a little bit more than I tend to at home. People are watching, after all…

And that’s how my exhibitionism works.

I got to play last night.

Thank goodness I didn’t find out until this morning that someone entered our room during our scene. My partner ushered him out without me being the wiser.

I got to play last night.

But at one point, while trying desperately to hold on to the edge of an orgasm, I growled “Please tell the people in the hallway to shut the fuck up.”

I got to play last night.

But I couldn’t wait to get home. Being in public certainly pushes me.

…But public play when the others in attendance aren’t well-versed in dungeon etiquette is pushing all the wrong buttons.