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The opening of a new Terminator movie is a holiday in our house, so femetal and I took the day off as usual. We actually caught an evening showing the night before it officially opened, and saw it twice more on opening day (both Real 3-D and IMAX 3-D).

TL;DR version: It's disappointing. There's more to it than that, though.

I've read a lot of reviews and reactions, both glowing and scathing, and am surprised to find that I disagree with pretty much all of them. IMHO, the action scenes and special effects were top notch, there were some genuinely funny moments, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke did a great job, the recreation of 1984 was beautifully done, and the future war scene in the beginning - despite some forced dialogue - was a joy to watch. I wish we'd gotten to see more of the actual battle. They tweaked the T-800 endoskeleton design, but we barely got a good look at the new chassis.

I've imagined the events immediately surrounding Kyle Reese getting sent back in time for over 30 years. Finally getting to see it got me a little misty.

However, the story was an unmitigated mess. The "memories from an alternate timeline" idea insulted the audience's intelligence, Genisys-as-tablet-app-that-also-has-access-to-our-nuclear-arsenal was poorly explained and made little sense, Arnold's "upgrade" was implausible even for sci-fi, and Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke were poor casting choices. Everything about John Connor was dumb (much too much to list here). And what's with all the goddamn hologram projectors scattered around Cyberdyne? Skynet apparently wanted to talk the heroes to death (or at least the audience). There's a laundry list of other little complaints (nuclear missile trajectories, Sarah's magical acid neutralizer spray bottle, etc.), but I'll spare you the minutia.

I don't regret having seen it three times. There are some very cool things about the movie, and many absolute atrocities. I'm reading the behind-the-scenes book ("Resetting the Future") now, and it's really interesting. Despite my overall negative opinion, I genuinely hope the movie does well enough to warrant two more in the series. I'd like them to have an opportunity to explain some of the unanswered questions. The writers apparently have the entire story arc plotted out. If the next two movies don't happen, I hope that they'll at least give us the rest of the story in some other medium. The Terminator Salvation story got truncated. It'd be a shame to have that happen again.

Either way, the Cinema Sins review is going to be a hoot!

Thankful

I have so much to be thankful for. So very, very much. Family, friends, umfriends, work, society as a whole. I can’t possibly detail it all, so I’ll focus on just a couple of things.

It’s not a secret that the first half (roughly) of 2013 was the darkest, most painful time of my life. The second half was primarily crisis stabilization and learning how to continue to exist (along with a magnificent trip to Ireland). After that, I desperately, desperately, needed 2014 to be gentle, to have a kind and drama-free environment in which to begin the (probably life-long) healing process. Really, the whole Horde needed it in order to heal individually, repair bonds that were damaged and stressed over the previous couple of years, and to just be a family.

We got it.

I’ve had no conflict in my life (outside of my own head) that’s risen above the level of “squabble” in the last year and a half. It’s been wonderful and an incredible contrast. Thankfully, it hasn’t been because anyone has been walking on eggshells around anyone else or repressing needs or conflicts. We’re just working smoothly together, on the same page, and with everyone’s best interests at heart. If I live to be 120 I don’t think I’ll ever stop appreciating it. This is how family should work!

This has allowed us to begin re-writing our plan for the future and acting upon it. We’ve decided to stay in Florida, and our plan has evolved to include building or buying a large house together. This is awesome and exciting! It’s also become a major time commitment, despite still being in the early planning stages. We look at houses and lots most weekends, and are also involved in budgeting, home design, and investigating the possibility of forming an LLC. It’s not always fun, but it’s something we’re doing together. Adventure! :-)

One other little thing that’s worth mentioning about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinner was at redheadlass and zensidhe’s place, with their respective bio-families. Jessie’s mom has known about our relationship for a few years now, but Mike only recently came out to his dad and his dad’s girlfriend, so this year we didn’t have to conceal anything or refrain from showing affection cross-couple (I’ve never hidden affection with other partners in the past, which lead to some interesting assumptions). It didn’t really affect our behavior significantly, but not having to think about it was nice.

There’s so much more, but I’m already several days late posting this and I don’t want to drone on and on. I’m surrounded by wonderful, loving people. If you’re in my life, I’m thankful for you.

Cory Booker on love

* When they criticize you, love them for teaching you humility.

* When they heap scorn upon you, love them for helping you discover your resiliency.

* When they doubt you, love them for giving your dreams greater courage.

* When they point our your faults, love them for their accuracy.

* When they wound you, love them for showing you your capacity to forgive.

* When they try to stop you, love them for making your resolve even stronger.

* When they cast you into darkness, love them for helping you discover your inextinguishable light.

* And when you are victorious - despite the pain, sacrifice, critics, and your own imperfections - when your love has achieved the impossible, invite them to stand with you so they too can see that love is invincible.

-Cory Booker
(via Facebook)

Life Without Shelly - Day 366

The worst thing that’s ever happened in my life occurred a year ago tonight. (Yes, I’m including the deaths of loved ones here.) With a single sentence, my world was ended and the path of my life was changed forever.

”I can’t be in a relationship with you anymore.”

I was shocked and gutted. The wound was a mortal one.

Coming on the heels of my failed suicide attempt just 5 days before, I was shattered. She was a spouse, a best friend, the Superman to my Lois Lane. As much as being involved with her was eroding my sanity, and as much as there were (frequent) moments of conflict, she had become my anchor and primary source of joy.

“If I came back from the future and told myself `Look, this is all going to end, and it’s all going to end terribly, and it’s going to be absolutely ruinous from here on in’ - if I knew that was going to be the case, I would still absolutely ride it all the way down.”
-Me, 6/10/2013, on the first night in “our home”

Poor bastard. I had no clue when I said that that our relationship had 9 days to live, or that my welcome in “our home” would be revoked 4 days later. In any event, I would never say those words now, about any relationship. I’m not that person anymore.

So a year ago tonight it was explained to me, for the first time, that she “hadn’t felt safe” in about 6 months, and that she’d been suffering every day. To this day I don’t fully understand what “not feeling safe” meant or how I’d contributed to it, but that’s now a part of her story, not mine. If she’d been counting the days before, I explained, then for me it was Day One of my own vigil, with possibly decades or centuries remaining.

”I will walk this ground forever
and stand guard against your name.
I will give all I can offer,
I will shoulder all the blame.
I am sentry to you now,
all your hopes and all your dreams.
I will hold you to the light,
that's what forever means.”

Forever, Bruderschaft

One year down, and the rest of my life to go. I never anticipated the end. I never planned for it. I never wondered what a post-Shelly world would look like, or how I could function in it. My family clung to me that first night (thank you all!), with Mike even staying up the entire night to ensure that I didn’t self-harm. After that I managed it by clinging desperately to the hope of reconciliation that was (cruelly) dangled before me. It became the new focus of my life. When even that was taken away (about a month later), I ended up in the hospital.

”Save me from the nothing I’ve become.”
-Bring Me To Life, Evanescence

I came out a blank slate of sorts. I didn’t recognize myself or the world. The only thing that seemed to have carried over from the previous incarnation was the incredible support network of loved ones, friends, and those in between. Between them, therapy, and medication I wasn’t able to go back to who I was before, but I did pull together as someone new and quite different. Sadder, more fragile, no longer afraid of death, but kinder, more compassionate, and not entirely incapable of joy. There’s been happiness. There’s been joy. There’s been rebirth and growth and setbacks and oh so much goddamn pain. I have better days and worse days. On the worse days I wake up already thinking about her, and not a single hour goes by that she isn’t in my thoughts. On better days I’ll have stretches of a couple of hours where she doesn’t cross my mind. So far that’s the best I can hope for.

”I wish I knew then, what I know now. I wouldn’t dive in. I wouldn’t bow down.
Gravity hurts- you made it so sweet, until I woke up on the concrete.”

-Wide Awake, Katy Perry

There’s been enlightenment of a sort. I’ve learned a lot about the relationship in retrospect and gotten outside perspectives that I didn’t have before. Things were not as they seemed to me. Kim was on the verge of moving out and surrendering the house to Shelly and me. My relationship with Jessie had faded so far into the background that it nearly vanished. It was my fault for letting it get to that point. But the rest of the Horde and I were not treated fairly. She was not the person she’d presented herself as, attempts to set or maintain boundaries were emotionally steamrolled, and my family and I have paid (and continue to pay) dearly for that. The misrepresentation continued even through the breakup.

”If happy ever after did exist, I would still be holding you like this.”
-Payphone, Maroon 5

And still I love her, in a way that I’ve never loved anyone else. Despite everything, I haven’t found myself really capable of feeling anger toward her for more than a moment, which probably works to my detriment. I pine for her, every day. I still see and hear and read things every day that I want to share and discuss with her. The subroutine in my head that’s always looking out for something cool or fun to buy for her still runs in the background. I still cry, though not daily like I used to. I still manage anxiety and depression. I’m still in therapy and on medication to deal with the loss. I still take prescription pills to sleep at night, and even with them I can’t seem to reliably manage to sleep more than 7 hours or so. Seeing a black PT Cruiser sends me into almost a panic. Giraffes, Muppets, and Superman references make me sad. I am a “whole person” now, but nevertheless feel like an essential part of me ripped itself (herself) away. I’m working on that.

”These wounds won’t seem to heal. This pain is just too real. There’s just too much that time can not erase.”
My Immortal, Evanescence

Maybe the breakup wasn’t just her escaping from an “unsafe” situation. Maybe it was also me escaping from callous disregard and an impending more permanent death, in exchange for dying a little bit each day.

I’d rather be in a wonderful present but forever haunted by past loss than trapped in a nightmarish present tormented by the realization that my best days are behind me. Fortunately, the former option most closely matches my current situation. It could so easily have gone the other way. The best and most noble parts of my life are The Ones Who Stayed- who didn’t give up on me, who continued to find me worth fighting for even when I was so clearly enthralled elsewhere and giving so little back. Every day brings ups and downs, but the general trend is positive. I will always carry this sorrow, and I have every reason to believe that I’ll think of Shelly and miss her (and the future we could have shared) every day for the rest of my life. But I also carry the love and support of the people around me with whom I can look forward to a long life and future together. I have no words to describe how wonderful that is.



As a side note, I began writing this post crying mournfully about Shelly. I’m ending it crying happily about my fellow Hordelings.

Suicide Isn't Painless

Trigger warnings: suicide and depression

As I sit down to write this I don’t actually know where I’m going with this post. It may be short, or I may ramble aimlessly for several pages. I’ve been pretty open about talking about this, but I’m not sure how much I’m comfortable actually putting down in text. I may just write two posts- one for general viewing and one with more detail for family and my therapist. We’ll see. Apologies in advance for random bits of gallows humor.

I’ll start with the basics. A year ago tonight I tried to kill myself. More specifically, I went to a semi-secluded location and tried to shoot myself in the head. I’ll skip over the specifics of my plan, but it was well thought out.

It was actually the third time I’d planned suicide. The previous two times, circumstances shifted and I changed my mind before I acted upon it. After each crisis passed I’d decided that it was an emotional aberration, rather than an indication of a mental state deteriorating under relationship stress and anxiety. And any time I pondered how “best” to do it I brushed it off as mere thought experiments.

The third time, a year ago, I didn’t change my mind. I was overcome with despair like I’d never known, and I’d worked up my nerve. Instead I was discovered (by femetal and zensidhe) as I was trying to remember what I had earlier decided would be my last tweet. I’d also composed an apologetic text message for our family GroupMe account that was typed in on my phone and ready to send.

I was caught completely by surprise. I hadn’t even been aware that they were out looking for me. I had an alibi in case a stranger or cop interrupted me, but hadn’t accounted for the possibility of being caught by someone who knew me. In fact, I’d chosen my location specifically to avoid that. I was stunned, as I had no contingency for this and am unwilling to lie to them. I had no idea what to do next, because there wasn’t supposed to be a “next.” So I sat down on the ground and poured my heart out to my wife, who handled the situation with superhuman understanding and kindness (as did redheadlass and zensidhe later). They also made sure that all of the firearms in our home “disappeared”, for which I am grateful. I’m also grateful to my therapist, who has been truly amazing.

In case you’re wondering, a gun tastes like steel. I expected it to have a slightly oily flavor as well, but nope. Apparently at some point while I was working up my nerve I bit down on it wrong. The next morning the cap on one of my front teeth (chipped as a child) came loose.

For the record, I never threatened suicide. I had a partner with whom it wasn’t safe to share the fact that I was having suicidal ideations, and assumed that if I told any partner then they’d share that information, so I couldn’t tell the safe ones either. I was (and still am) certain that if I had done so I would’ve been accused of being manipulative or using emotional blackmail. (Now, instead I’m accused of withholding information. I literally couldn’t win.)

I also would not, under any circumstances, have threatened or harmed anyone else. The notion sickens me, but apparently that’s how I’ve been portrayed by some.

I don’t know how to convey the reasons or the chasm of despair and hopelessness into which lead me to suicide. If you’ve been in that state of mind then you don’t need (or want) an explanation, and if you haven’t then it’s incomprehensible. A year prior I would’ve seen myself as the last person in the world who would contemplate suicide, let alone carry it out. I was an Extropian, after all! A cryonicist and life extensionist!

And I still am, only now I know I’m an Extropian who knows that there is a point at which death is preferable. It still boggles my mind a year later, and I’m still working to reconcile these mental states. As I sit here, I have no suicidal ideations or desire to self harm. I’m very glad I didn’t kill myself. But I know that there are circumstances under which I would want to die, because I’ve been there. As much as my life has worked out over the last year, as much as my stress level has plummeted, the pain of that night and the days that have followed has been so unbearable that if I knew then what I know now, god help me, the only thing I’d do differently is be faster on the trigger.

So I have a new glitch in my head. I didn’t used to, but now I do. In some important ways (and some trivial ones) I’m not the same person I was that night. Fortunately, I also know a way to work around my new glitch. I tell someone I love.

For me at least, that’s enough. I don’t even need any particular response or action from them - just to have someone I love be aware that my head is going to dark places. It brings into the foreground the effect it would have on those around me and short circuits the mechanism which otherwise shrinks the world down to just pain and despair. It obviously doesn’t make everything all right, but it keeps perspective more firmly grounded in reality.

I could write a book about that night and the days and months that followed, but I don’t see the benefit and I’m sure I’ll be writing about related topics soon enough. I will say this, though: I’m certainly not a qualified professional, and I don’t know if my situation is typical or not, but if you’re even just “toying around” with the idea of suicide in your head, find someone safe and tell them. Get it out on the table. You might be amazed at the level of support and love that materializes around you (I was!). If you don’t have someone safe, find a professional and tell them. It can make all the difference in the world when your world is ending.


Quick Addendum: It was never my intention to keep the first two "incidents" a permanent secret. I'd decided to wait a year (again, so it wouldn't seem like I was trying to be manipulative), then sit the Horde down and tell them everything that had happened. Obviously it all came to light significantly sooner, which is a good thing.

Things I do not do

There are things I do not do. I do not lie. I do not mislead. I do not threaten. I do not gaslight. I do not block people from communicating with me, even if I choose not to communicate with them.

I do not hide my feelings, my experiences, or my pain. Not anymore.

I try not to make accusations, but I acknowledge that sometimes I do. Sometimes it's warranted. But I share my experiences openly, for everyone to see, rather than hiding them behind filters for fear of being called to task for them. Silence and censorship are the tools of the abuser. If I've said something about you in private, you can be assured that I'd say it to your face.

I do save everything. Every email, every chat log, every SMS, every DM. When I speak, I make sure that what I say is consistent with the record. That's not for the purpose of "setting traps." It's to keep me from rewriting history in my head. I don't trust my memory. I don't trust yours, either. I can back up what I say. While I don't claim to be the final authority on it, I believe in and strive to know objective reality, even while I also believe in subjective interpretation. I don't think that this is contradictory.

Thankful

When I first set out to compose this post, I expected it to be particularly difficult. After all, 2013 has been by far the worst year of my life. With the loss of half of a third of my family, depression, a suicide attempt, chronic insomnia, etc, etc, etc, what do I really have to be thankful for?

So very, very much.

This year taught me how much I am loved, who's truly on my side, and that there are people I can count on when I need them most. A lot of them. This year also saw a strengthening and repair of many of the relationships in my life, at exactly the time when it was needed most. I can't hope to do justice to the thanks I owe, but here's a start.

The Horde
I cannot find the words to express how grateful I am for the Horde. They literally saved my life, and that was just the beginning. They've shown me incredible patience and boundless love and kindness. They've supported me in darkest hours, helped me begin to put my pieces back together, and continue to put up with my crazy PTSD shit when I lose my mind. They were also patient and understanding when my energies were focused on other relationships, and more recently when they've been directed inward. I know I've been super needy, loves. Thank you for being here for me. I've never felt closer to you all than I do right now.

My Friends
The Horde has kept me alive, and my friends add color to my world. They bring fun, love, additional shoulders to cry on/bitch to, and much needed distraction. From the Beer Knight crew to the peeps I mostly interact with online, you guys are my extended family and my larger support network, and your presence and camaraderie are a true treasure. I've changed more as a person in the last year than at any other time of my life, but here you still are! I need to spend more time with you all, and need to spend less of that time being emo and withdrawn. :-)

My Bio Family
I get along well with my bio family, but hadn't felt especially close to them in a long time. When things went bad though, they showed their colors and made it clear that time and distance don't diminish love & importance. My dad came to visit me in the hospital, my sister and I spoke for the first time in almost a year, and my mom called daily, starting a dialogue between us that's still ongoing. She'd suffered a similar recent loss, and our ability to commiserate has led us to open up and have deeper conversation than we've ever had in my life. All of this has been a marvelous and unexpected boon.

My Therapist
It has to be said. Patty has been a godsend (figuratively speaking, of course). To look back and remember that I initially resisted the idea of seeing a therapist seems almost comical. She's provided a safe venue and been an insightful guide for both mending my relationships within the Horde and for recognizing and navigating the minefield in my head. She does an amazing job of both being a sympathetic & impartial ear and calling me on my bullshit when it's warranted. I couldn't ask for more.

Xanax
No, really. It's worth mentioning here, and the people who invented it should be nominated for sainthood. When The Crazy takes hold it can be brutal and incapacitatingly painful. Xanax shuts that shit down, and does it in a hurry. Having gotten experienced enough to know when my brain is heading for a panic attack, I can now take it prophylactically. I've been spared untold suffering because of it. I seldom need it anymore, but it's a relief just knowing that it's there.

Here's hoping for a less eventful year to come for us all!

Coming Out

Today is National Coming Out Day, which seems as good a time as any, so here goes (in my usual long-winded, low-payoff fashion):

It's no secret that this year, and the last 4 months in particular, have been traumatic for me. Things are improving, though. Where I was drowning in depression before, I now seem to be merely wading in it.

Believe me, this is a big improvement! It's also been a very puzzling and unpredictable journey. As I first began to have moments of having my head above water, I noticed that a lot of seemingly random things were shifting and changing within me. Some of them are fairly superficial: I still like hummus, but it's no longer the be-all-end-all food that it used to be (pumpkin seems to have taken its place). Some are more fundamental: my whole outlook on human interaction (and relationships in particular) has moved to a place of at least trying to at all times maximize kindness in the world. This isn't a radical departure from my Utilitarian viewpoint, but I think it's significant in practice.

It seemed like every time my head bobbed above the surface I was finding something new. New musical tastes. New perspectives. New habits. And eventually, a new sexual orientation.

This blew me away. I've been roughly a 0.5 on the Kinsey scale for my entire adult life. Waking up one day and finding myself at a 2 (bisexual, but leaning more toward heterosexual) freaked me out more than a little. I've known that orientation can shift throughout one's life, but knowing that intellectually and having it happen to oneself, and suddenly no less, was still shocking. I mean really?? Can it happen because of trauma? It's not like anything that's happened would reasonably create any kind of aversive response to women or positive response to men. Like hummus and pumpkin, it seems completely random and unrelated. I asked my therapist and did some research on my own and found that yes, it can and does happen.

Freaky.

*deep breath* So there you go. I've already told the Horde of course, along with a few others here and there. It's been a total non-event so far. This, at least, is not a surprise, but I've still been nervous every time I've broached the subject. I don't know if this is something that will shift further or shift back as my recovery continues, but I suppose that's part of the "fun" of rebirth, right?

Besides, there are whole genres of porn that I can now look at with new appreciation. ;-)

It's all in my head

I had a minor realization this morning that I think shines a new light on my current tribulations.

If you went back in time 6 years you'd find that I had a general sadness about me. It wasn't pervasive and all-encompassing, but it was clearly there. The reason was plain; my family had broken up. The Smoosh (as that incarnation was called): redheadlass, femetal, and zensidhe, and I, had recently parted ways and gone back to the original two couples we'd been, and even though we parted on friendly terms and even though we were still socializing together it was a huge blow. My family and my relationships are parts of my self identity, and to suddenly lose half of my family was terrible. Additionally, I sincerely (and foolishly) worried that my time as an actively polyamorous person was over. And as a bonus, my work schedule was, to put it nicely, problematic.

So if you went back 6 years and told me about where I am today - not the circumstances that lead up to it but instead just the situation, with the four of us back together, happier & closer together in a much more stable relationship, and the fundamental problems that had plagued the Smoosh well behind us - I would be dumbstruck and elated. Back together? Intractable problems solved? Even my work situation fixed? Fantasy!

And yet that's where I find myself now; in a situation that not long ago would've been the absolute best case scenario. I love my family dearly, and appreciate them more than I know how to fully convey. These are three people who I know will go to the mat for me because they've done so when I needed it most. They've carried me through the darkest times of my life and shown nothing but love, patience, and true compassion. I love the more stable configuration where everyone is closer, happy to be with each other, and there are no swords are hanging over anyone's head. It just works. While it may look much the same from the outside, from the inside it's built on such an improved foundation that the name change from the Smoosh to the Horde is really necessary. (I'm ignoring for the moment the recent changes in me personally, since that's a bit off topic.)

So why then am I having such a hard time finding joy? Why am I on medication and in therapy? Why do I cry at random, why does my hand twitch and shake, why have I gotten exactly one full night of sleep in 3 1/2 months, and why does a sense of sadness and loss color every aspect of my life? Because I once again have had half of my heart ripped away, and even the strongest heart can't sustain you when half of it is missing.

My current situation would be heaven if I'd jumped straight to it from where I was six years ago, but that's not how it happened. Life is vectors, not static values, and in the last year (and in particular the last 4 months) my vectors have involved so much deep loss that it's crippling.

I was recently clued into a useful metaphor about turtles. A turtle kept in a small habitat will stay small, and will happily live its life adjusted to its environs. If it moves into a bigger environment it'll grow to suit its new home. The problem is that if you then move it back to the smaller habitat, it dies.

I'm happy to report that I have no intention of dying, but I don't know what to do about this hole, and at the same time there's a sense of guilt over my seeming inability to feel truly happy and complete in a situation that would be the envy of so many - including earlier me.

Somehow, knowing that it's all a matter of perspective and therefore literally all in my head doesn't make it any easier.

Closure

I suck at giving up - on people, on relationships, on dreams. That's not a "boast in disguise". I've suffered mightily for it, and lately the people I love have also. But when, finally, the last bit of hope is taken away, I can still be an optimist about life in general and about the future in particular.

It may not be the future I'd planned, the future I was working so hard to build, or the future I'd hoped for, but I am still the architect of my world, and I can make my world fucking awesome.

Doctor Who Optimist

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