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Things I do not do

Rant
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

Phoenix
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

Neural
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

Robot Heart
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

Phoenix
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

An observation about Phoenixes

Phoenix
I've been thinking a lot about Phoenixes in the last 6 months or so, and in particular in the last month. While I was in the hospital recently I had a tiny revelation about them. This is one of those things that's so obvious that I think people miss the point.

A Phoenix isn't immortal because it can withstand everything that's thrown against it. That's a great strategy for a mountain, but not for a living thing (even a mythological one, apparently). It's not indestructible. It endures what it can and then burns to ashes. It dies - in one of the most agonizing ways imaginable. The Phoenix's ability is that it suffers its painful, fiery destruction and is then reborn.

And the new Phoenix? From what I've found, its rise from the ashes isn't as majestic as it's often pictured (see userpic!). It's reborn small, weak, and frail - just strong enough to gather the ashes of its previous incarnation, put them into an egg, and carry the egg to Heliopolis. It may be a beautiful process to the outside observer, but from the Phoenix's perspective I suspect it's a horrific experience (though better than the alternative).

I've gotta say, I know the feeling. Also, I may not be able to fly on my own, but I've received an incredible outpouring of love & support from people willing to help carry me when I need it. For that I am deeply, deeply thankful.

A little sensitivity, please.

Robot Heart
(I'm cross posting this to the forum which inspired it.)

A small portion of breakups are amicable. A rare few are even happy for all parties.

This is about the rest of them - about the rest of us. I have a humble request: can we please stop using the word "dumped" in the context of a relationship which ends for reasons other than mutual agreement?

It may seem like a little peeve, and maybe it is, but hear me out. Saying "Bob dumped Mary" is crude, hurtful for everyone, and disrespectful to both the participants and the relationship itself.

dump |dəmp|
verb [ trans. ]
1 deposit or dispose of (garbage, waste, or unwanted material), typically in a careless or hurried way


To say that someone "got dumped" is to, on a certain level, imply that they were deemed to be waste or unwanted. That's nonsense. One dumps garbage. A relationship partner (or former partner) isn't garbage - they're a human being, and deserving of more respect than that. Presumably the relationship isn't what defined them, and isn't the source of their value as a person. That value is retained post-breakup. They were in a relationship for a reason - because someone saw them as having so much value that they wanted to join their life with them, and the feeling was reciprocated. Even under the circumstances of an angry, hurtful breakup, one assumes that they are fundamentally the same person. Whatever the events were that precipitated the breakup - even if they involve a betrayal, malice, or unethical behavior - this grants no one license to pile on to the suffering or to gloat. That's just wrong.

For the person doing the breaking up, this likely isn't a casual or careless decision. Choosing to end a relationship can be one of the most agonizing, gravely serious decisions one makes in their entire life. It's a decision to unilaterally change the course of at least two lives, presumably directly against the wishes of a long-time loved one. Even if it's the right decision in the long run, even if it's in response to something terrible, it's still a conscious decision to do something that is going to cause suffering, destabilization, and ill will in someone they love. It's a decision to accept the burden of being seen (and possibly portrayed to others) as the bad guy in the life story of someone who you love.

To end a relationship is to let go of not just a cherished part of one's life, but of a future that was intended to be spent together. Even for the person making that decision, the deep loss, the scars, and the sadness can be something they'll carry the rest of their lives. At the risk of invoking a flawed metaphor, it no more warrants being referred to with casual terms like "dumping" than the euthanizing of a beloved pet warrants being referred to as "offing an animal." It's callous and hurtful.

The only person who I feel can rightly choose to describe it in those terms is the person who has been broken up with. Not because it's necessarily true, but because they're hurting and it's only natural to lash out.

Nobody comes out of a breakup happy. Under most circumstances, nobody should. Don't revel in others' sorrow - help them to grieve and recover. If you're peripheral to a breakup - if you've considered yourself a friend to one party, the other, or to the relationship dynamic itself - please see the gravity of the situation, and don't diminish its significance. There may be a storm of conflict and hurt, but you don't have to fan the flames. Instead, treat the participants with the respect, compassion, and love that you would've shown before.

Thankful

Dancing Gir
There's no other way to put it. This year has been hard. There have been problems I never would've anticipated a year ago, and others that had been brewing for some time have come to a head. I've come out of the past year with new scars, both outside and inside.

And I'm so incredibly thankful.

You see, this year was so hard because I have so very much to lose. To say that I lead a charmed life is a gross understatement. I am fortunate far, far beyond what I deserve.

So, as is the way at this time of year, here's an incomplete list of things I'm thankful for :

* My real extended family, the Amorphous Squiggle. It's a large and far-flung tribe, and I haven't met them all, but I'm still proud to call them my tribe. And the ones I have met? You guys are amazing, wonderful people, and it's a privilege to count myself among you, and a delight to know that we have a connection over and above just friendship.

* The Horde, my immediate family and the absolute best thing in my life. The five of you are utterly indispensable to me, and my greatest source of joy. I love you guys.

* The Horde, part 2: We're all still here. We're all still together. We're spending the day with each other, and just shared a meal at the same table. It didn't have to work out this way. There've been too many moments this year when I didn't think it would. And yet, here we are.

* My extended social circle - friends, tweeps, and especially the whole Freaks/Mellow Mushroom crew! My god you people rock! Everything is better and more fun when you guys are involved.

* My bio-family, who regularly disappoint me with their politics and woo, but without whom I wouldn't be me.

* Gir. 'Nuff said. I'm incomplete without this little machine, and he's treated me so well this year. As is the case with every single one of my relationships, I haven't spent enough time with him.

* The pets - Trogdor, Reina, Ruby, Misty, Onyx, Winston, and Rosie. Sometimes irritating, often inconvenient, all-too-frequently messy and gross. But they still make our lives better, and I'm glad we have them.

* The Cheat - Your time with us was far, far too short, but I'm so glad you got to be part of our world. Someday I'll be able to think about you at length (or write about you) without crying, though apparently today isn't that day.

* Despite what redheadlass's mom's psychic predicted, joreth and I still don't have a child. :-D

* For that matter, I don't have a child with anyone, despite many lovely, thoroughly enjoyable attempts! ;-)

* My job. To put it mildly, this is a mixed blessing, as my job is also the single biggest root cause of stress and upset in other aspects of my life. However, at a time of economic uncertainty I remain gainfully employed, at a job that I generally enjoy and at which I excel, working with good people who appreciate what I do. For better or worse, it's also served as a place of security of sorts. It's not always fun, but it's a place where I feel… safe. It's also easier to understand - a simplified microcosm with straightforward goals where I can build, fix, and help. And it is getting better.

* The election. Seriously, we not only dodged a big, horrible bullet, but the down ballot election results went far better than I dared hope. I see it as a resounding statement in favor of reality, sanity, and basic human decency. I also can't help but see it as a message to the rest of the world: "Yes, the US has cruel, delusional crazies, but they're not the majority!"

* We no longer have combat troops in Iraq. (This is balanced, of course, by the fact that the troops in Afghanistan are now fighting the longest war in US history.)

* The basics, and let's not overlook them. We are alive, in a time where our technological progress is unmistakable and our social progress, while inconsistent, muddled, and full of setbacks, is nevertheless trending toward a world of less violence, greater respect for human rights, and an increasing value placed upon both reason and compassion for the most disadvantaged of us. We have so much more to do, so much wrong to set right, and it seems as though our world is imposing some increasingly solid deadlines on us. But our species is practically defined by our ability to create new tools and come up with novel new solutions. We adapt. Our technology increases. We persevere and thrive. That's a hell of a record to build upon, and gives me tremendous hope for the future.

And for that, I will always be thankful.
Rant
My work situation seems to be slowly improving, which is starting to give me a long overdue opportunity to actually have an existence beyond doing tech support and relationship triage.

This is such an overpoweringly good change that I can't begin to express it. Unfortunately, poking my head out of the gulag of work is giving me a reminder that not all is well in the rest of the world.

Like most of the country and much of the world, I've been watching the events surrounding "Frankenstorm" Sandy with growing concern. As I type this, the death toll is at 74, and there are still fires burning, still people trapped, still people in imminent peril. As a co-worker who lived in New York City pointed out, they haven't even started draining the subway tunnels yet, and there are entire communities living in/under them. It's going to get uglier before this whole episode is over.

I grew up in central New York (state), but have lived in Florida for the last 25 years. This makes the self-righteous and heartless reaction of many of my fellow Floridians to the tragedy embarrassing as well as sad. Florida gets hit with hurricanes all the time, up to the full Category 5 of Andrew, so the people in the northeast freaking out over a subtropical storm are wusses and noobs, right?

I'd like to cordially invite any of my fellow Floridians who hold this ignorant attitude to fuck right off.

Where I've seen this attitude online, I've been responding with minor variations of the same rant. Here it is. (Apologies for not converting links into embedded images. I do still need to work):



I'm glad that the Mighty Floridians here are empowered with special knowledge that makes them impervious to large storms. It must be something intrinsically superior about you, right?

I don't know anyone in this thread, but I'm confident that most of you are usually decent people. However, since your comments here are my only window into your character, I have to say that many of you seem like callous prigs who are happy to turn a natural disaster into an opportunity to make yourselves feel somehow superior or tougher than your fellow human beings who are currently in peril. Shame on you.

As someone who grew up in New York State but has lived in Florida for the last 25 years, it pains me to see shallow, dismissive attitudes like those displayed here here directed toward the region I'm from and coming from people in my adoptive home.

You have no cause to gloat. What we deal with in Florida during hurricane season is not equivalent to what's happening in the northeast. It's not that the people there are lacking in some magical quality that allows you to shrug off a storm while they have a death toll of 74 and counting. It's that the situations are fundamentally different. Let's look at the differences.

The areas hardest hit have higher populations and higher population densities than anywhere in Florida. By a lot.

New York City is the 11th largest city on the planet and the center of the 4th largest metropolitan area. It's the largest city in the US and has the highest population density of any city in the US outside of California. If the New York Metropolitan area was its own state, it would be the 3rd largest state in the Union.

To compare this region with Florida is absurd and ignorant.

The only way to maintain a population and a population density that high is with a massive transportation and utility infrastructure. There is nothing even close anywhere south of the Mason Dixon line, and it's currently crippled. A critical part of the infrastructure is the subway system, which is currently completely flooded for the first time in over a century of operation. As I'm sure you've seen on the news, the automotive tunnels are also flooded.

NYC is right next door to New Jersey, which has the highest population density of any state in the US. The number or people without power (day 3 and counting) just in New Jersey exceeds the total populations of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, and Hawaii COMBINED.

In Hoboken, NJ alone, over 20,000 people were trapped by water w/sewage, fuel, & exposed electrical lines with no clean water or power. That's over a third of their total population. The rescue effort is ongoing, but I'm glad you're able to be so blasé about it. They're just noobs who can't handle a little wind and rain, right?

Looking at the storm itself, there's more to it than just peak wind speed and wave height. I've been focusing on NYC and NJ, but take a look at the size of the area impacted:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/8136478097/in/photostream/lightbox/
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/10/30/a-wind-is-rising/
It's running from well into Canada down to north Florida. That looks to be at least twice the length of Florida to my eye.

Here's hurricane Andrew by comparison:
http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories/images/andrew-comp0822-2592.jpg

I'm not downplaying the significance or impact of Andrew. I know people whose families lost their homes, and a lot more people who lost power or whose homes were damaged. It was certainly a more intense storm, but it was also significantly more localized and hit far less densely populated areas with no subterranean transportation infrastructure. And I never saw anything but support and concern coming from up north about it.

I've been focusing on NY and NJ, but right now in Cleveland, OH (which is 500 miles away from NYC, roughly the entire length of Florida) a quarter of a million people have been without power since Tuesday night because of the *same* storm. I'm sure they'll be comforted to know that if they were as awesome as we are in Florida then they'd still have power.

Oh, except for the almost 4,000 families who lost power here in Florida due to Sandy.
http://www.clickorlando.com/weather/Hurricane-Sandy-s-strong-winds-cause-power-outages-in-Central-Fla/-/1636950/17141130/-/hl6umv/-/index.html

Brain Dump - I'm a Space Cowboy!

Eye-con


I was first introduced to Sigue Sigue Sputnik by a friend of mine during my first year at UF. We were in the same RPG group together (we played Robotech and Cyberpunk), and at the time his Walkman and headphones were ever present (this was fall of 1988). I asked him once what he was always listening to, and rather than just telling me he made me listen.

I think I was hooked right away. Almost 23 years later, I own boxes of Sputnik remixes and singles, several t-shirts, autographed posters, and at least one book. I've bought new Sputnik merchandise as recently as last month.

A lot of punk and rock bands in the `80's adopted a futuristic/post-apocalypse look, but Sputnik applied that theme and aesthetic to the music as well, and in fact it informed everything about how they presented themselves. If Max Headroom and The Road Warrior raided Bootsy Collins' closet and built the Terminator, it would be Sigue Sigue Sputnik. They fit in perfectly with a cyberpunk world. One could easily imagine turning on a radio in the R. Talsorian Cyberpunk universe, and the corporate trash music that would pour out would be Sputnik.

Sputnik raised gaudy excess to an art form and portrayed selling out as a virtue. For their first record "Flaunt It" they sold advertising space on the album (to this day I still use Studio Line hair gel because of this), and conspicuously displayed Sony gadgets in their videos. This was the `80's, after all.



Their songs and sound samples weave a story of a post-nuclear dystopian future with lunar hotels, revolution on Mars, androgynous cyborgs run amok, and makeup & hair care products in greater demand than fossil fuels. It was a vision of the future that didn't exactly come to pass (yet), but to my knowledge the scattered sound bytes from the future only ever referenced one explicit date.

"This is July 13th, 2011! The forecast is heavy acid rain, many expected highs, a few lows, and mostly crowdy. And now the news!"

The 21st Century may have started in 2001, but to me the future starts today! 8-)

It's definitely not for everyone, but take a listen to what the future sounded like in this alternate timeline:
https://rapidshare.com/files/1762839617/Twenty_First_Century_Boy__Extended_Mix_.m4a