On feelings of home

On the way home from the play party last weekend, Kaywinnet mentioned that she was really looking forward to getting home. In fact, she seemed to very much longing for it. To me, this seems really weird; not because I think she shouldn’t feel this way, but rather because I never have.

You see, despite the fact that I have lived in a quite a few different places over the years, I have yet to actually consider any place I lived home. In fact, when I was growing up in the city that I was born in, I lived with this constant feeling that I wanted, or needed, to get out, as quickly as I could. Maybe it was because of some family issues that I was having or maybe it was the extreme lack of culture that the city suffers from, but either way, I just felt like I need to leave the city.

So, the first chance that I got, I got the hell out of there. I decided that I would go to a different city, and even a different country, for University and then live my life from there. However, just over a year later, I found myself forced back into the city where I was born, and managed to get myself stuck there for the remainder of University.

So, when that was over, I decided to leave the city again. This time I took a position as a Master’s student at a University in the middle of flyover country, Canada, where I am living currently. It has been almost two years that I have been living here now, and for the most part, the city is a pleasant change of pace from the one in which I grew up. There is a culture here that makes the city feel as though it is actually alive. The city has enough green space that you can lose yourself in it without needing to resort to heading out to the country. It has a pattern to streets and the city layout that makes sense (for the most part) and is really easy to understand. But yet, I still feel as though I don’t really have a connection to it.

It feels as though I am just passing through.

Maybe I am expecting too much. Maybe the feeling that I assume that other people have around their home is something deeper and more meaningful than it is. Maybe I just haven’t been in one place long enough to actually develop these feelings within myself. Or maybe I am just one of those people that constantly feels a drive for the road.

Whatever the reason, I guess that I am not all that bothered by it, really. This isn’t something that makes me lose sleep at night. Rather, I just wonder what it feels like feel like you are home somewhere.

Perhaps I’ll know eventually.

Understanding drop, headspace, and how to cope

N.B. Last weekend, Kaywinnet and I attended a party outside of our local area. Considering that we are from an area of Canada that is somewhat short on towns and cities large enough to sustain such parties, this was something of a special occasion. Additionally, this party marked the first of which I attended with a romantic interest. So, over the next little while I hope to talk about this experience in more detail, but for today, I thought that I would talk about some of the emotions that I had after the party was over.

[Image] A clothed man cuddling and holding a naked woman

For those of us who have at least some experience with kinky play and/or BDSM dynamics, the idea of sub-drop or top-drop shouldn’t be a new one. However, just in case, here is a definition:

Drop is an emotional drop that happens after a scene due, in part, to changes in endorphins, adrenaline levels, and/or stress levels. This drop could immediately follow the end of scene or be delayed, sometimes by several days. When this drop happens to a submissive person, it is often called sub-drop, although other types of drop exist.

For me, drop comes in many different types, sizes, and flavours. Dropping emotionally is not something that is limited to kink situation or restricted to the times after play. For me, dropping is more about exiting one headspace and moving into another than it is about a particular role or scene that I was engaged in. This means that I can experience an emotional drop after leading a workshop, because leading workshops puts me in a particular type of headspace.

But, what is headspace?

[Image] A person bound and chained inside a silhouette of a head

This is what headspace feels like some times, not than this is bad ;)

For me, headspace is a mental construct that I build when I am engaged in something that consumes a lot of mental energy. While this could mean that a particularly intense role, scene, or activity might create this headspace, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, and this is where it gets complicated.

Many people in the kinky communities understand, at least intellectually, what sub space is: a submissive headspace that allows a submissive to drift or float or withdraw or hide or whatever during a scene. For me, there are multiple such submissive headspaces that are all triggered by different things. Nipple play, for example, is particularly good and getting me in the mood for intense pain, such as biting and thudding pain play, and leads me to feeling floaty. However, intense, deep control, usually of the Total Power Exchange (TPE) variety causes a more drifty, peaceful headspace.

Similarly, other submissive headspaces exist around feelings of being little or childish (i.e., ageplay) and around feelings of being submissively playful and puppyish (i.e., puppy play). When I am in a more dominant role, headspace (and subsequently, drop) isn’t as much of an issue for me; though, I have found that I am susceptible to a top-like headspace when I being particularly controlling. Finally, other headspaces exist for me outside of kinky play. These headspaces exist mostly around things that I find intellectually strenuous or mentally involving. Some, but not all, have elements of stress, anxiety, and/or performance. These headspaces include the aforementioned workshop/teaching headspace, the socializing/public headspace, and the professional/performative headspace.

What do drops look like?

As I mentioned above, dropping emotionally is more about moving out of a headspace than it is about anything else. Because of this, most of my drops look very similar and they almost all involve the same three elements: intense negative emotions, lethargy, and existential crisis.

While I am sure that you have some idea of what I am talking about after list those three elements, let me give you an example. Last weekend, I got played with quite a bit. Kaywinnet enjoyed tormenting me, biting me, spanking me, and much more. It was a lovely experience, and once it ended… I didn’t drop. Instead, I stayed pretty stable until Kaywinnet and I got back to the city and I was dropped off at home. Then, the existential crisis hit. I started questioning everything in my life. Why do I want the things that I want (kinky and otherwise)? Am I truly happy with my partners? Did I pick the right degree path? And so on.

Considering that this type of questioning is basically a daily occurrence for me, I didn’t give it much thought. I dealt with it, as I usually do, and I went to bed. The next morning, WAM! I woke up feeling awful. If I had to assign a number from 1 to 10 to my mood, it would have been no higher than a 3. But it wasn’t like a feeling of being depressed. Instead, it was more like all the wind was let out of my sail, like I was expecting to feel amazing, but instead I was feeling normal… and wow was that a letdown.

But, I tried not to let that stop me, I tried to push through and get on with my day. Yeah… That didn’t happen. Instead, the process of getting out of bed took more almost 3 hours, and I couldn’t even manage to eat. I was just feeling rough the entire day, and for a while into the next one. I swung between needing to cry and curl up to feeling mostly fine and back again, all while feeling like all my energy had left me and dealing with big questions about the meaning of my life.

And, this is what normally happens.

How to deal with it?

The short answer is: I don’t. From everything that I have tried, I have yet to find anything that works better than nothing at all. Fighting the emotions that arise from dropping emotionally never works for me. Doing so only serves to make the process of dropping longer, more stressful, and less predictable than it would otherwise be. So, instead, I try to just let the emotions happen, and deal with the emotions as they come up. This means that all the same rules for emotions apply, having someone to cuddle with, talk to, and whine at, particularly someone that I trust implicitly and I know will be able to handle my existential ramblings, helps a great deal. Assuming that this is possible, the emotions usually pass quickly and about as easily as emotions do, and then I can get back something resembling normal (i.e., panicky, anxious, stressed, and having one existential crisis a day =P)

Misgendering and Cisgender Empathy

N.B.: A couple of posts ago, I mentioned how I am currently involved in something of an activist training camp at the moment. In that post, I talked about how I was feeling really tense after being told, yet again, that I talk too much for my own good. Well, now I have more news from that group, and this time it is something a bit better.

Yesterday during our weekly meeting, I was in the role of being the super busy person that was jumping from task to task. While everyone was filing into the meeting, I heard that my mother had fallen again and that Patience wasn’t feeling well. Considering that I had out of the house all day and didn’t have the chance to manage these situations earlier, I took the time to check-in and make sure that everything was alright. With Patience particularly, I wanted to make sure that she knew that she was really important to me as I have been somewhat absent lately. So, even though the group was starting with their introductions, I took the time to make sure that she wasn’t in critical need.

Once I re-joined the group, I took a moment to orient myself and then went on with the business of attending to the meeting. Since the topic was facilitation training, the conversations that took place became very Meta very quickly. For example, for one of the activities, the present instructed us to describe how we would facilitate a particular meeting. Then, he turned it around so that we described how we facilitated our own drafting of this description and applying that to session that was currently going on. Meaning, we ended up talking facilitating a meeting that we were having about facilitation while being the participant doing exercises on facilitation… ( @_@ ) Needless to say, this really Meta approach to offering facilitation training set the atmosphere in the room somewhere between super confusing and super awkward.

[Image] A child looking very confused

Literally our faces during the session.
Image by: Mindy Gerecke

To make matters worse, a short while into this weird, awkward, and confusing session, the facilitator ended up using the wrong pronoun for me in front of the rest of the group. When this happened, I stopped, assessed, and decided just to let it go. The session continued on as normal, but afterwards it was mentioned that the energy in the room was really weird and kind of tense.

For a couple of the people in the group, at least some of the awkwardness of the evening started when the presenter misgendered me. Being that the room was almost completely comprised of cisgender people, this was a novel experience for me. Amongst trans* friends, discussions about how we want others to deal with someone misgendering us are common; However, cisgender people rarely notice or care about such things. So, I tried to explain, but I think that I only made things more confusing than they were beforehand.

You see, dealing with someone using the wrong pronoun is something of a complicated matter. It isn’t simply something you can set a rule for and expect things to work out: There are contextual factors at play. Since I having been dealing with situations like this ever since I came out nearly 9 years ago now, I have a nature feeling for these contextual cues.

For example, in this situation I realized that I missed the introductions section of the evening. In doing so, I missed the part of the session that we typically use to identify our preferred pronouns. This means that, not only does the presenter not know my preferred pronouns, I don’t know theirs or their general awareness of the importance of pronouns. And this second part is the one that particular poignant to me in this situation. Some cisgender people don’t take pronouns seriously, they figure that they are an artifact of progressive spaces and movements, but that they don’t really mean anything meaningful. Usually, this manifests as the cisgender person replying to the question of pronoun preferences with something like: “Any pronouns” or “I don’t care what you call me.”

In responding in this way, the person in question acts to reify the privilege that they have by subtly suggesting to the room that they don’t think anyone would accidently refer to them with a pronoun incongruent with their gender. People like this pronoun misuse really hard. This is because if they can’t understand the power that pronouns have (in the English language), then they can’t respond or respect a challenge about their use of them, and this is exactly what was responding in this way shows, a fundamental misunderstanding of what pronouns are and what their power is.

So, knowing that I didn’t have this information, I figured that challenging the presenter (i.e., the person with the most power, or perceived power, in the room) may not go over well. But at the same time, I was concerned that by challenging the presenter, I would trigger some sort of defensiveness within them and/or distract them from the topic that they were talking about at the time. In this way, I worry that pulling the conversation to a discussion of pronouns would limit the learning that my peers were experiencing in that space. So, once again, I decided not to say anything.

Instead, I chose to hang back and allow the conversation to continue on mostly unabated. But, that isn’t to say that I wasn’t wounded by this interaction. And during the discussion that we were having afterward, a couple of my peers said that they had noticed this. They mentioned that I looked as though I had been winded and that I started to act a bit distracted after that point. To me, this isn’t really a surprise. I mean, being misgendered like this hurt. When this happens, it is hard not to worry that I somehow performing my gender incorrectly or doing something that I shouldn’t be. So, rather than attending to the topic at hand for the next few minutes, I was last in my head thinking about my voice, the ways that I was moving, and my manner of dress.

But returning to the question at hand: What does this mean for my cisgender peers? Should they have spoken up to defend my pronoun choices, or should they have just remained quiet?

Well, in a situation where I am not present, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem. If they feel willing and able to address a misused pronoun when I am not part of the conversation, I have no problem with them doing so. However, with me being present in the conversation, there was really no way that challenging the presenter on my behalf would have gone over well. Since I had already chosen not to challenge the presenter myself, a challenge from one of my peers would completely overridden my autonomy on the issue and risk triggering the problems that I listed above.

So, what is there for an ally or friend to do?

Well, during the discussion after the fact, one my peers suggested, what I thought was, the best possible solution: to lead by example. In this, my peers, rather than obviously challenging the presenter on his pronoun mistake, would just make sure to use the correct pronoun as they discussed what I was saying. This subtly challenges the presenter while respecting both my gender identity and my decision making capabilities which, considering how often the identities and autonomy of trans* people are respected, is a radical act in and of itself.

Meta-Journal :: On Journaling

[Image] A fountain pen resting on a old, written in journal

Hello everyone~

A couple of weeks ago now, I started work on the practicum that I need to do to complete my Master’s degree. For this practicum, I decided to work with University’s Special Collection and Archives. My goals here are to understand how and why people engage with the archival materials, to explore the effect this engagement has on the local community, and to figure our tactics the University can use to increase the number of people who engage with the archival materials.

When I started this project, I knew that part of my job would involve learning about the archives, the materials contained within, and the people who make it all possible. What I didn’t know when I started was that this would inspire me to archive parts of my own life.

You see, I always figured that the reason that archives existed was to hold the materials of important people. You know the people that I mean: kings and presidents, revolutionaries and visionaries, geniuses and inventors. I figured that archives existed to make sure that the documents and materials from these fascinating people didn’t simply get discarded.

Well, I was right, but I was wrong. Much like the field of History both supports and challenges the idea that History is created solely by a small number of Great Men, so too do archives. This means that the archives do have some amazing artifacts from famous, recognizable people in history, but at the same time the archive also has a lot of materials from and about just regular people doing regular things (because sometimes regular things lead to regular things that lead to HUGE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS).

So, while I was looking through these files from and about old dead people who I didn’t know and had never heard of, I came to the understanding that, just like their lives and their materials have meaning, so too might mine. And with that, I understood: I needed to make an effort to collect and document my life, the things that I do, and people that I inspire, because even if I am never the person that leads a huge social movement, maybe one of the people that I inspire will be, and that is important too.

And that is what I have decided to try to do here. I have decided that I should, once again, have a journal to document my travels and adventures. So, welcome back, and I hope that the ride is long and meaningful.

I get it, I talk alot…

[Image] A drawn character with a  speech bubble reading bla, bla, bla, bla...

Strangely, most of the images for “talk too much” seem to feature women……

Since the end of September, I have been participating in something of an activist training camp here in Flyover Country, Canada. Over this time, we have been meeting every week to talk (and learn) about activism, advocacy work, and fostering progressiveness locally and beyond. Early into this program, I was super excited about the opportunity and about being in a room with a bunch of other amazing local progressive youth. However, not more than a month in, I found this excitement cut down when the coordinator of the program phoned me to talk about the amount of space that I take up in discussions and activities; That is, she wanted to tell me that I talk too much.

Realistically, this may well have been the case. After all, I do have a habit of chattering. And in academic and learning situations, I have made it a habit to ask at least one question or make at least one comment about the material that I have just learned. However, this all gets amped up when I am feeling nervous or excited about something. In these situations, my brain starts running a million miles an hour, and I sometimes end up with three or four really important (i.e. really important to me) questions that I have to get answered RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE. even if these questions are poorly thought out, poorly worded, or overly confrontational.

At the same time, a lot of other people around me were likely also feeling nervous, excited, or somewhat scared in this room filled with a bunch of new progressive people. Some of these people may have shut down to deal with their emotions, as I know many are wont to do. In this situation, I end up talking more than I typically do and those around me may end up talking less, and suddenly something that isn’t usually a problem is, well, a problem.

So, when the coordinator phoned me up to tell me that I have been talking too much, I took it well. However, as time went on and my nervousness and excitement started to fade, I started to see this conversation with the coordinator more as an act of silencing than anything more productive. Tonight, this came to a head somewhat as discussion in the group turned to this very topic.

Separated into those who feel they talk a lot and those who feel they don’t talk a lot, I sat, as I feel I should, in the group that talks a lot. Then the coordinator sat and asked us (as a group) a bunch of questions about what talking brings to the group, what listening brings to the group, and how we can talk less. I just about lost it.

I wanted to point out how judgemental this whole conversation was. Being separated from the rest of the group and asked how we can talk less, while the other group was asked how they could talk more, sent the message that being verbose (or quiet, for that matter) is somehow problematic within this program.* And to me, this is a problem.

This is because this assumes that there is this magical, mythical, middle ground where everyone gets to talk the same amount as everyone else. And it also assumes that once we find this magical land of compromise everyone will just be comfortable or, at least, everyone will be equally uncomfortable.

But, this completely neglects people’s emotions on the topic. After all, not everyone actually wants to talk as much as everyone else. Some people in the group actually like remaining quiet as they sort out their thoughts and absorb what they are learning. Others, however, need to speak about the topic so that they can internalize the material or figure out a part that just isn’t making sense to them.

Both of these types of people are doing exactly what they need to do to learn, and neither should have to feel bad about doing so. However, from the conversation that took place tonight, neither should feel good about what they are doing either. In fact, the only people that should feel good at the end of this exercise seem to be those who want to change the amount they talk, likely the smallest contingent amongst the participants of the program. *sighs and silently head desks*


* Not to mention how this conversation assumes that listening and talking are somehow antithetical

[Poly Adventures] And the teacher becomes the student

I realized something today: I am afraid of my own shadow. No, not literally; figuratively. At least when it comes to relationships and interacting with people that I care a lot about, I am afraid of my own shadow.

You see, last night I was laying in bed cuddling with Kaywinnet, my girlfriend/partner of about three weeks now. We were just laying there talking about the people in our lives and their relationships and we ended up on the topic of ours. After a little discussion, she asked what would have happened if she hadn’t asked me out. Would anything have happened between the two of us? My answer was an unequivocal ‘No.’ Nothing would have happened if she hadn’t have asked me out.

Don’t get me wrong here, I had strong feelings about Kaywinnet for weeks before we started this adventure. I found her cute, funny, extremely sharp, and refreshingly authentic. I loved spending time with her, and when I would get home, I would gush to Patience about how amazing she was and all the things we did together. I had a crush. I knew it, Patience knew it, my friends knew it. But yet, I know nothing would have happened if she didn’t make the first move, and there is no way around that.

But why not? If I had such strong feelings about Kay, why would I not act on them? Why would I just accept the status quo when I wanted more?

Well, obviously, part of the answer to this question is fear. I was afraid that, by acting, I would ruin a good thing. I was enjoying the time that Kay and I were spending together, and if that just continued as friends (and survivors of graduate school), that would be great. I didn’t feel like I needed things to go any further.

But, I don’t think this simple and rational sounding solution is really the entire truth. Rather, I think my fear runs a lot deeper than that, and I think this because I worry, a lot.

I have worried that something that I would do would drive her away (as anyone worries when they are first developing feelings for another person)

. I have also worried that my confessions of romantic feelings would go unreciprocated (bad) or that it would spoil the friendship I have developed (atomic fall-out levels of bad). I have worried that my asexuality would become a burden or that my relationship with Patience would be seen unfavorably. I have worried about compatibilities and about running out of ideas, time, or money. I worried about appearances and Patience’s feelings. I worried about.. well, everything really.

Basically, I found excuses to avoid the issue, and stopped an interaction that would highlight my vulnerability; thus, keeping yet another friend I care about at arms’ length in some foolish attempt to evade the pain of getting closer only to be pulled away again. This is what I think would have happened with Kaywinnet, and for once, this concerns me.

How many other people in my life want to be closer to me (whether romantically or platonically), but haven’t said anything? How many people have given up on their feelings or penchant for closeness because I’ve kept them at arms’ length? What other adventures have I missed out on because of my intense desire to avoid vulnerability and the possibility of future pain?

The answer to these questions is that I just don’t know, and I never will. However, in this case, I am lucky enough to be able to experience just what I would be missing out on if Kay had left this first move to me. And this makes our relationship the perfect opportunity for me to learn just how messy, complicated, and potentially rewarding vulnerability can be.

This opportunity to learn is meaningful in its own right, but given the context of my romantic relationships, it seems particularly meaningful to me. You see, historically I have been something of a protector and a teacher with Patience. That is, I have focused a lot of my energy on making sure that Patience is safe and that she is constantly moving towards her goals of self-improvement. For Patience, this is extremely important because as much as I am her Dominant, I am also her caregiver (especially when her mental health issues start to flare up). It is my job to push her to improve, even when those improvements aren’t kinky in the slightest.

And after last night, I am realizing that with Kaywinnet I am clearly a student, at least in this respect, rather than being the teacher I have always been with Patience. This marks a significant role reversal for me, and one which is as frightening as it is filled with possibility.

[Journal] Working through self-destructive perfectionism

[Image] A coffee stain on a white peice of paper with the word Perfectionist typed across it

Image by LordEfan

Here is something that you should know about me: I’m a perfectionist.

I mean, like, really, really a perfectionist. I am not one of those

Interviewer: “What is your biggest weakness?”

Interviewee: “I’m a perfectionist”

people. I am one of those perfectionists that their perfectionism actually cripples their productivity. I have gotten to the point where I can’t start on projects (including projects I am super passionate about) until I think about everything that can go wrong (or right) in the process of doing them. I attempt to write, or produce, something of substance only to stop a few words in worried about what my word choice could mean to the reader or if that word is secretly offensive. I waste hours researching things that are only tangentially involved in projects, just so that I better know how people will respond and react to my work. Then, I get tired (or stressed) and I can’t avoid taking a break. I distract, lose my train of thought, and start back at square one again, worrying my way back into a circle.

Of course, this method of dealing with projects is not something that I have developed overnight, so why am I bringing it up now?

Well, it is mostly because of my thesis. As you may or may not know, I am currently working my way through a graduate school program. I am about a year away from having a Master’s Degree, and so far it has been one of the worst experiences of my life (that is a story for another time). As part of my program, I must complete a Master’s thesis on a program of unique research. Because of my academic masochism, with one year left, I have only my thesis remaining. My coursework is finished and behind me, all I need to do is write, analyze, and write more.

This has been the case throughout the summer. This summer, I had no other academic task to perform, I just needed to write. Want to take a guess on what I didn’t do this summer? Yep, I didn’t write. Or, in my mind, I couldn’t write.

I kept trying to, but I kept coming up short. When I did get words onto the page, I would stop almost instantly worrying about what my supervisor would think of my writing or if my word choice was unintentionally offensive. I would have battles with myself over how strong my wording was or my use of cliched forms of writing. Then the really bad thoughts would come. I would tell myself that I should just be writing, I shouldn’t worry about anything like that yet. I should just being producing something!

Rather than taking this as the kick in the pants that I required to get out of this funk, it would just dig me deeper. I would yell at myself for not getting things done, and stress myself out to the point that I couldn’t avoid taking a break. During the break, the thoughts would continue though. I would think:

You’re playing a game!? Really!? You could be writing! WRRIITTINGG!!

or:

You just wasted two hours. You know how much you could have written in two hours? Like 1000-2000 words. That’s 4-8 pages! That’s 1/4 of your introduction!

And, of course, because I was distracting myself from the task at hand, when I would eventually come back to it. (The scribbles and the blank pages) I would feel as though I was just starting again, from nothing. Lately this has been getting so bad that I have been avoiding other tasks solely because I know that I would yell at myself for not using the time more wisely. Worse still, these tasks aren’t even the going to the bar with friends tasks. No. The tasks that I have been avoiding have been the self-care tasks such as showering, taking out the garbage, or doing my dishes.

That’s right, I was basically sabotaging my own physical and emotional health because I felt that I could better use that time. Then, when I didn’t use that time for “better” things, I yelled at myself till I was depressed and unwilling to do self-care (or anything else, really). ( >_< ) It became a cycle.

To be clear, I am not just coming to the recognition that this was a cycle. I knew that I was in a cycle and that the cycle was definitely a bad cycle to be in. I was just somewhat unaware as to how far into the cycle I was. That didn’t hit me until I went out for dinner with a friend. I was treating her to sushi because she had recently left a truly toxic job (I knew, because I worked there too. Again, a story for another time), and during our dinner, I told my friend:

“I am to the point that even sitting down thinking about my thesis makes me feel like I should be doing better, I should be actually writing it.”

It was that moment that I realized how deep I was. This was no longer a small problem, it was a serious, serious issue. My standard course-corrections weren’t working; In fact, they were part of the chorus of thoughts continuing the cycle. Something needed to change.

So today I tasked myself with catching up on the chores that I have been neglecting: showering, sorting out the recycling, doing the laundry. I focused on the tasks in front of me and invasive thoughts about how I could be doing more or doing better were allowed in, but ignored. As I finished task after task, I started to feel better (after all, my environment and hygiene were getting better), and I started to feel more like writing. However, instead of forcing myself to sit down and write the perfect words of my thesis, I figured that I should write here first. Here words matter less. They aren’t a treatise of my education, research, or developed skills; they are my thoughts, my feelings, my experiences.

Here there are poorly phrased sentences and poorly worded paragraphs, but the words (and the meaning behind them can’t be invalidated). And while writing these words, I have been reminding myself what it is like to write, why I enjoy it so, and what can happen if I just let myself go. Maybe my thesis isn’t going to be this perfect piece of academic literature, but why should I care? I am not wanting to be an academic anyway.

So, maybe with these thoughts in mind, I can just sit down and let myself write. Allow my thoughts, experiences, and knowledge flow onto the page.

Or not, that’s okay too.