I was at a conference this past weekend and re-connected with many people that I haven’t seen in a couple of years. Old work colleagues and friends. Many of them had been in my life for 10 years and more and it was a chance to touch base and catch up.

I moved from the area just over 2 years ago after the sudden death of my son and lost contact with most people in the space that followed. Grief and depression took a hard toll and I isolated very effectively; even easier since I was geographically removed.

In chatting with someone this weekend, she was very open that a lot of my friends had been worried about how I was doing and if I was getting along ok. She made a point of referencing one friend in particular who, she explained, had voiced a strong concern over my well-being. She relayed that this friend had been very vocal over a number of months in a very public way at my previous work location about how worried she was about me and how concerned she was about how I was dealing with the loss and the change and if I was ok.

So, here’s the interesting thing… Not once, ever, did this friend connect with me. Not once, since the day I left town – even to this day – have I had any messages or calls or any contact. Now this is not me saying “oh, she let me down”… quite the contrary. I never contacted her either and communication goes both ways. I accept full responsibility for many many relationships going silent and growing apart. That’s something I understand. But to be so openly vocal about caring and concern all the while never once doing anything about said concern… not exactly my take on sincerity.

If you really care and want to know how someone is… talk to them, not to everyone else.

I’ve been in a place in my life lately where I have been seeking and feeling very unsettled. It seems to be going around. I have a few friends who have been struggling with some significant decisions as well. Lots of questioning and soul searching has been happening.

With some, it’s a matter of choices. There are clear and laid out options. This or that, or maybe a few this and thats but essentially, the options are known. The talks and texts…the coffee dates and the walks… all connecting and trying to come to some sort of place of knowing, really knowing what is the “right” decision to make. Weighing all the pros and cons and talking it over for hours. Calculating out and projecting and trying to make rational and logical decisions over matters of the heart and spirit. What it inevitably comes down to is what “feels” right. What does your gut say? What sits right in your heart?

At the end of it all, when you take the chatter and the lists and the scales of option a or b away… you’re left with the truth. The scary truth that we avoid with a vengeance.

The truth is, we each know the answers we are searching for. We know the answer even before we’ve let ourselves pose the question; because, by the time we start to question, the answer has been found inside already. The question is our mind and hearts way of bringing us to that answer. Sometimes it takes a little longer and sometimes we have false starts and we pick the other option that we know, deep down, isn’t “right”. But the fact is that even then, it is right. For that time. Because it wasn’t the right time yet to make the choice we need to make. But we find our way eventually. We always will, if we look inside and listen. That’s where the answer is. Always has been, always will be.

The place I have found myself in is a bit different. There’s no way to listen to the answer because I’m stuck with my Self not being able to bring through the question yet. Just unsettled and knowing that there’s a maelstrom brewing underneath. A change needed, a time of growth is here and a direction needs to be seen. Some answers have already been discovered and they feel right. But there’s more. Not sure exactly what or how or where but a calmness is inside, knowing that the answers I look for are waiting for me to find them. And I will.

An interesting aspect of trust in relationships is how sometimes, it changes dynamics in unexpected ways.

 

When one person in a relationship has actions or behaviours that causes the other person (or persons as the case may be) to lose trust that’s understood. We try not to blame or accuse or find fault for why things are how they are… but the facts usually are such that a breakdown in trust in a relationships comes down to one person and that person’s actions.

 

Now that can be actions that are obvious and physical, such as cheating or hiding activities that are knowingly outside of the realm of accepted and agreed upon boundaries within the relationship. Or, it can be hiding emotions or feelings from a partner that results in a breakdown in communication that can result in one partner being unable to trust the other. Not being able to trust that answers to questions about feelings are honest and true sets the stage for a level of distrust that can kill a relationship… and that, rather than the physical, is the aspect that I am trying to examine right now.

 

For me, communication and sharing is paramount in a connection with a partner. If I am being given incorrect or watered down information on how my partner is feeling or experiencing emotions, then I can’t accurately make decisions or base actions for “us” or even for myself within a relationship. Regardless of the reason, the end result is the same. Distrust from me that what I am receiving is the truth. It’s like a pilot trying to navigate after being given a wrong map. The pilot is set-up from the start to be behind the eight ball and is going to have a hell of a ride.

 

When I have made it clear to my partner that I want, need and must have openness and honesty in communication of feelings and emotions; whether they are pleasant or not… I mean that. I can’t impress enough that I would rather hear something that hurts me than not hear it and be “sheltered” – only to dig it out eventually and then have to deal with the hurt AND the deception. It’s that deception that will chip away at the trust and the connection. I am a big girl and I can handle whatever gets tossed my way. That doesn’t mean I won’t feel and be hurt, but I can take it. It’s not that I can’t take lies, I won’t. And lies by omission are still lies.

 

Then there’s another bent to this… one that’s not as cut and dried…one that’s much harder to navigate because the edges of the boundary are vague and fluid.

 

There’s the aspect of deception that occurs when the person that is not sharing is not sharing because they, themselves, just simply don’t know what their feelings are. They aren’t necessarily hiding how they feel or lying about how they feel. They very simply, don’t know. Someone who, when you ask how they feel about a major,important issue that is going on, is unable to answer and gives you an “I don’t know”. Someone who isn’t purposely deceptive or vague but who lacks the self-connectedness to even be able to access their own feelings and emotions to either deal with them or share them. How do you deal with that? You can’t fault them for deception when they don’t even know what they feel in order to hide it. Or they have a vague feeling but can’t express it. What do you do? Do you continue on in the relationship, knowing that it’s up to you to pull out the information and that, at best, you *might* scratch the surface.

 

Now here’s another scenario… You’re involved with someone who displays all the earmarks of the aforementioned inability to access or share their own feelings because they explain they just “don’t know” how they feel when asked. Yet, almost every time that an hours (or days) long discussion ensues because of the importance of an issue; you are faced with an admission that they did in fact “know”, they just knowingly hid it from you and deceived you in order to spare your feelings or because they didn’t want to face the bad feelings they have. It comes to light eventually, all the time, that the initial “I don’t know” is always a smoke screen. Not done with malice or to manipulate, but because of a deep seated aversion to them actually feeling what they feel. What then? This is different than the simple aspect of “you can’t fault someone for not knowing” and brings it back to “they’re lying and hiding”… even though the reasons aren’t classically “bad”.

 

What happens is that you lose trust. Everytime that you see altered behaviour that could indicate an “issue” and you ask, you don’t believe what you’re told. Why? Because the history has shown that, if you push the conversation, you’ll eventually get the “real” answer and it won’t be the same as the first “It’s all good, I’m fine”. They express that the real problem now is that you don’t trust them. That they *are* trying and that you just need to trust them…

 

So you’re faced with a couple of options. One is simple… you communicate that – as has been discussed – honesty and openness is wanted, needed and not optional. You make sure that they know that, from this point on, you will trust that what they tell you is what they are feeling. Period.

And you trust… and follow that up with actions. Trust that when you see something and call the person on it and ask how they are and they say “I’m fine” … you will simply trust that answer and take it as truth. You will then base your following actions on that being truth – because they know that that is what is agreed upon. An example… “Hey sweetie, how do you feel about me doing xy and z?”  The answer you get verbally is “That’s great, I’m fine with it”… even though the tone and body language says they’re not.. you reply with “great” and go ahead and do it. You discussed it, they said it was all good… they have expressed that they know the issues they have with sharing feelings and they know the importance and they have said they will be honest and that you need to trust them… so you do.

At this point, some may argue that you *knew* they weren’t ok with it by their body language etc and should have pressed it. But, and here’s the but, you both agreed that you would trust and take them at their word. You can’t rebuild broken trust if you don’t take that step. Sure, someone may get hurt. That’s the risk. The partner may come back, guns blazing a couple of days later (or the same night) saying that you *knew* they weren’t ok… or they may never share that and bottle it up and the relationship implodes weeks or months later as time after time the same thing happens. that’s the chance you take.

 

So I said a couple of options and that was one. The other option is you don’t trust… you spend every day questioning and second guessing their feelings and what they’re sharing with you and whether they even know what they’re feeling well enough to communicate it to you – and to themselves. You get to the point that your communication is so muddled in distrust that you are accusing them of lies and deception inside your own head and it starts to eat away at how you feel. You lose the ability to trust and can’t find it again. You feel that they are moving along blissfully happy that they can just be as vague and hidden as they want and get away with zero responsibility since it’s just “how they are” and you’ve accepted it. You see a pattern in yourself evolving – one that is leaving you as a suspicious and distrustful person… and that’s not who you are.. or who you want to become.

So it comes to a decision to be made and it’s not an easy one. Trust or not. In the end, it comes down to that very simply.

I was asked last night what it is that I want in my life… Now to narrow that down, because that is a huge question…. I was at a gathering of friends when that question was posed to me. During a discussion about relationships and sexuality to give some context.

After a bit of stumbled thought and sentences (some wine had been consumed) it clarified for me very simply. Simple. That’s what I want. Not necessarily easy, because that’s different from simple … But simple. I know what I want and I know what is right for me when it comes to intimacy and closeness and relationships.
I have run into struggles when I have turned away from what I feel and know is right for me in attempts at “should”. Marriages and monogamy that just aren’t for me. Neither are random encounters with strangers to just satisfy base needs of the moment – although that’s not to say that doesn’t or hasn’t happened or won’t again… I’ve learned enough about myself to be honest enough with myself to know not to say never to that.

What I want is simple. I want connection and intimacy. Without the expectations that an evening of wonderful shared time will be anything other than what it is..that maybe that evening is just an evening; or maybe it’s an ongoing, “when we connect and the mood strikes” type of thing; or maybe it’s once a week, established and “us”. I want for what is, to just be allowed to be what it is. I

I want relationships that are open and loving with people who I care for that care for me. I want, and need , communication that is honest and expansive … I am purposely transparent in my needs and wants and in how I “do” relationships; I have spent too much time and effort in years of discovering that and owning my feelings to settle for people in my intimate life that can’t be that way with me. That means me listening and hearing their needs and wants and boundaries just as much as them hearing and listening to mine. I want to see my partners in love and loving others who fill their needs and wants just as they see me expressing mine with others as well.
I want, and need, and am, primary and committed to myself first and before anyone else. Solo poly and not only comfortable that way but happy and right that way.

I want the people who I chose to share my life and my Love with to know that me identifying as single and solo doesn’t mean that they mean less to me but that they are THAT important to me that I DO chose to welcome them to my heart and my life.
I’ve been doing this long enough to know that this doesn’t always translate to easy, but it is simple.

The key to making it work, I have found, is not only honest and open communication but being self-aware and honest enough with yourself to be able to communicate with others what it is that’s in Your heart and mind. Without having that connection and understanding with yourself first, there’s just no way you can relay it to someone else in order to convey what it is you want. YOU have to know what you want and need before you can tell anyone else 😊.

That question last night was a great reminder to me that I DO know and it really is simple.

As my role as a staff and facility manager for the past number of years I have had a number of times when I have been needed to help my staff deal with emotional responses in the realm of client service. My staff would often tell me that they were stunned at how polite (without condescending sounding) I was to clients in email – even when faced with rudeness or ignorance or even downright stupidity; let’s be honest, the customer is NOT always right. They talked about how nothing ever ruffled my feathers. How no matter what, my email replies were so professional and well thought out – devoid of emotional responses.

I had one staff in particular who had a nasty habit of typing heated and emotional responses… filled with sarcasm and blatant rudeness. She would fire them off in a fury then come to me apologizing; usually a few minutes after she did it. Her anger would be cooling off and she would realize how unprofessional her response had been and she would regret having sent it. But here’s the key… she never regretted WHAT she said, just that she had sent it.

That’s the clincher here… and how I explained to her how I kept it together. The fact was that I was just as reactive as she was… just as fired up and inflamed at times. But that I had developed a safeguard.

Having grown up with a wicked temper, I realized in my early teens that I needed to do something to control it and vent it safely. After the second hole in the all that I kicked the idea took hold. So I worked hard to find ways to vent. Learning to recognize when I need to walk away if I am unable to control my emotions was a big step for me. Not running away, but knowing when to step back and “walk it off”. Being able to move physically allows me to process the emotions and move them through me… in a more healthy way. Most of the time.

With work I developed a similar response. Although on the surface different, it works the same way. When I would walk as a teen I would say all the things I wanted to scream out inside my head. By the time I made it back, two things had happened. One; I had realized that my responses were irrational and emotional and I was over them and could move on , or , two; I had at least calmed down enough and organized my thoughts enough that I could now calmly and rationally have whatever discussion was needed without my actions being controlled by my temper.

So my work response was simple. When faced with a situation via email that triggered a temper response I would open a new email and type… whatever response came to mind and no matter how vile and angry and unprofessional … just let it all out. Purely emotionally driven and as fast and unbridled as it could be. My fingers would fly and I would have tunnel vision sometimes even and it would all come out. When done, I would read it over… usually at least a couple of times since I was upset and I tend to skim when I’m reading angry. Then I would take a deep breath and hit… delete. Not “send”. The first and most important rule is to never, ever, type a name into the “To” field. Even if you know you have no intention of sending it, the automatic pinkie finger whack on “enter” is too risky … and there really is no recall no matter what anyone tell you ;). Then you type the real email and all is good; or at least better than it would have been.

With my staff, she said she would try that option and the very next day she called me from a site she was at and said that she needed to send me an email that she had typed to a client who was driving her batty. She just could not have it just be deleted… she needed it to be read – maybe not by him, but by someone. After that, it became a thing… she would vent and type and send it to me instead of the recipient. It worked great.. she got it out of her system, the client was none the wiser, and I always got some giggles. Those emails were quite something 🙂

I’ve extrapolated the same working theory lately to relationships.

There are some emotions and issues that come up when dealing with relationships that are just better served when you process them solo. I’m not talking about issues that need to be dealt with or else the relationship is in danger of a lack of communication but rather, emotional responses that are purely personal and driven by fears or insecurities that just need to be dealt with alone. These are the things that come up again and again and that, when they do, are the same over and over. At a certain point I realized that these are MY emotional responses and that it serves no purpose to voice them to my partners when the reality is that they are mine to accept and deal with and move through.

I do need sometimes to say that I am needing time to just be with what is going on inside my head and heart and that is ok. Often I will write out a letter or email to the person explaining my hurt or my upset, being brutally raw and open and giving voice to every fear and insecurity that is driving my turmoil. I will read it over and see that no purpose is served in sending it. That these emotions are mine… not theirs to assuage or calm. So I delete. I go for a walk or run or have a nap… and process… and come back having managed the floodgates, so to speak.

Smiles and happiness today because I am blessed enough to have people in my life that I care deeply enough to call my chosen family… and doubly blessed that they have chosen me as well to be part of theirs!

The saying “blood is thicker than water” doesn’t do justice to the truth that the people we chose to bring close to our hearts have special meaning. Whether right or wrong, there is a certain sense of obligation to love and care for the people that we are born into as family…if we’re lucky, then we like them too… but that’s not a certainty – the odds of actually liking and wanting to spend time with the family you are born to aren’t great. You have genetics or nurturing in common but that’s about it. All too often, families are groups of people who tolerate each other because they “have to”.

Yet with chosen family…we’re able to connect with a person or people that we share so much with… and build that connection and nurture a bond… and chose to invite them into our lives and our hearts and call them “ours”.

As I close today I smile because of that blessing.

The space, the void of emptiness that exists

A vastness, bereft of feeling

My spirit residing there for so long now

A choice made to cultivate that arena of a barren heart-scape

Alone being a preferred state of being

The awkwardness of trying to feel

Pressing me further into that world

Timid steps out met with fear and apprehension

Uneasiness and trepidation has replaced my Self in this universe

A hand reached out, so quickly pulled back

As if from a flame…

Spirit extended, trembling

As I strive to return

I was having a text conversation with a good friend the other day and part of it got me thinking about snuggling and intimacy and how it’s viewed…and what it, and physical closeness in general, means in my life, to me.

Now when I refer to snuggling, I mean cuddling, holding, snuggles… whether that be out at a dinner where you slide over and have someone’s arms around you for a few minutes or at home, curled up watching a movie in bed… or even a whole night spent together, naked bodies together with arms and legs entwined but sexual interaction not part of the night. Just writing about that puts a smile on my face …

Back to the writing though.

Physical intimacy and closeness is something that I think has been lacking in my life for a while now. Dealing with grief is something that , for me, results in me isolating myself and distancing myself from those that I care about in my life – physically at least, and sometimes emotionally as well.

Physical contact that I have musing over lately seems to settle on two primary types: sexual intimacy and non-sexual intimacy for me. The other night was one of the first times in a very long time that I wanted to be close to someone and actually desired to have someone to snuggle with. Wanted, but not “needed”… and that’s a big difference for me.

I’m not, by nature, someone who has one-night stands or sex with people who aren’t a part of my life in some way; whether that be friend with benefits, lovers, partners or such, it’s just not something that is generally in my behaviour pattern. Now that’s not a hard rule… I have engaged in encounters like that before and I will again. There are times that there is simply a click – a physical and almost chemical reaction with someone and sexual intimacy is what’s on the mind. Nothing wrong with it at all and certainly has its place. For me though, those are few and far between. My preference just doesn’t run towards that most of the time. Having sex in that situation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cold or unemotional but, for me, the level of connection is different in a way that’s difficult to explain. It can be a great connection and you can share a bond and an experience that leaves you both feeling fulfilled and satisfied, just in a different way than when I’m with someone that I have a deeper or more long standing connection with. Don’t get me wrong, I have walked away from “casual” encounters that have been transformational – for me – for what I have taken away from the experience… but generally it’s more physical than emotional.

Snuggling on the other hand feeds a different need for me. It’s also something that I am far more selective about who I do that with. Snuggles and cuddling opens me up and exposes a side of myself that I guard fiercely. To be close to someone non-sexually and share that intimacy of holding and sharing time – even just a few moments – is a connection that I don’t easily do. For me to want to spend time snuggling is to want to be close to you, and to have you close to me…something that means a lot to me. It’s not easy for me to share my body but I have that ability and desire to at times… for me to want to and be able to share my Self is much harder and rare for me. The truth for me is that I can have sex with you and not have you see who I am, intimately… but that’s harder to keep closed off with cuddling or holding…that’s when you’re more likely to “see” me… and that can be scary.

When I decline an offer of “just watching a movie, nothing else” or “No pressure, just hang out and spend an evening together”… it’s usually because I’m not able to share “me” because of things going on in my head and heart that I need to work through…it would almost be easier to have sex with someone when I’m like that than to sit and talk or just be quiet and watch a movie. And nooo, that doesn’t mean that if I turn down a movie suggestion that I’m then open for a romp 😉 – well, maybe… or maybe not ;). It never hurts to ask.

For a long time I have recoiled from the idea of being close to anyone, physically or emotionally. That is starting to lift now and I’m seeing around me those that I care for and I’m starting to explore possibilities and options in a way that has eluded me for so long. I have always been a cautious and slow moving person with regards to personal interactions and I have a tendency to tip the toes then run back to the safety of the shore… Healing from grief and starting to see out of the fog of depression now has that reaction on a trip-wire that is spring loaded right now. Where I am usually analytical of getting myself into situations I find now that I am hyper critical of not giving someone misleading cues. I tend to pull back and hold someone at arms length rather than draw them in when that’s what I want… My logic being that it’s easier to just not show interest rather than have to explain why I am hesitant at times even though I’m interested in more.

I’m so thankful for those that understand and have expressed that a snuggle is a snuggle and not necessarily more… and thankful that I can finally voice that while a snuggle may be “just” a snuggle… it’s more.

I work as a manager at a clinic of chiropractic, physiotherapy, massage and acupuncture. We have a patient who I see come in almost every week. He is a small, hunched over old man who wears the traditional brown robes of a Monk.
Brother Paul, as he is called, is now 90 years old and still walks everywhere. He is slow and unsteady, a walker assisting his travels, stopping often for rests as he goes. I pass him often as he lives in my neighbourhood. Before I started work at the clinic I would see him and wonder about him… who he is and what kind of life he’s had. I have the chance now to speak with him but I don’t really; not beyond the pleasantries of greetings or as I hold the door open for him to leave. The practitioner who treats him tells me how bright and quick witted he still is and how the stories he tells intrigue him…wondering how different his life has been from ours. A life chosen of devotion and faith.

I’m not someone who has faith in god or the divine. My beliefs tend towards Buddhist principals but even then I falter when the subject of faith comes into it. I have an analytical mind, discerning of reason and logic. Faith of anything without proof that is calculable is beyond me. I look at someone like Brother Paul who has lived his entire life devoted to a divinity that he has no assurances exists is inspiring as well as dumb-founding to me. Part of me wishes that I could have just some of that inside of me. That I could trust in something intangible … be it a deity or something as “earthly” as love and a soul’s connection to another.

You see, my absence of ability to embrace devotion also translates to intimate relationships. The trust and faith to believe the feelings that I feel at times elude me and I struggle to temper the rational and calculating side of my mind with the emotional and passionate edge that I know does reside within. I long to throw myself with abandon into feeling and experience what it is to just love and enjoy and not question. I’m not foolish enough to think that relationships are like that in perpetuity … but a taste of it would be nice. Yet my mind holds me back… are some people just wired differently? I don’t know… maybe it’s conditioning. I try to think back to my younger years and relationships and see if there was a difference. I was more impulsive and impetuous. I made decisions based on emotions and desires and many times those decisions brought me to hurt and ruin. So I became more distant and guarded. I started to hold back and fence every emotional response and impulse. I would, and do, resist urges and desires and be my own strictest chaperone – halting actions before I had a chance to act – erring on the side of caution to the point of not experiencing anything. A self-imposed celibacy and break from all intimacy of an emotional or physical sense has ensued. I now find myself wondering how to come back from that.

All of this swirls through my thoughts as I go back to my office after holding the door open for Brother Paul to exit. We lock eyes as he passes me… he thanks me and the sparkle in his eyes in unbridled and beautiful.

Doing some thinking today about cheating and relationships. I am trying to come to terms with feelings of anger and hurt that I have surrounding a relationship that ended, essentially, a year ago after I discovered that the person I was seeing for a year and a half had been less than honest about his interactions with others. I put it that way because we had a relationship that went through some changes that included us being open/poly towards the end of our time together…and yes, you can cheat when you’re in an open relationship.

I do differentiate between someone who has a one off lapse of judgement and cheats vs. someone who knowingly and purposely has intimate interactions with persons that he hides from his partner (s). It hurts to find out that your partner has slept with someone else but it’s a special kind of hurt to discover after a year and a half that you were deceived and manipulated in your relationship.

Someone who cheats and is caught quickly (or admits to it) shows a lack of judgement, possibly could be a liar … but it could also be just “one of those things” that happen. We all make stupid decisions sometimes and everyone deserves a second chance I believe.

However, someone who cultivates a relationship based on lies, from day one, purposely hiding information and asking others to help keep secrets shows much more than bad judgement. That behaviour speaks to a person’s basic nature – to their character and to who they are in their core personality. Pathological liars will ALWAYS manipulate other people and situations to ensure that their needs and wants are satisfied – regardless of how much they hurt the people in their lives, even the people they “love”. When you find out that someone who you trusted for so long and that what they told you as truth was in fact all calculated deception it hurts on a level that is deep. The sad issue is that people like this will simply repeat the same behaviour again – with the next person.

It makes you question every aspect of your relationship. When they were going for coffee with that person, were they really? When they just went out for a movie with that person, did they really or was it more? Personally, it turned me into someone distrustful and jealous and petty as we tried to work through seeing what could be salvaged. The truth of the ensuing many months was that, for me, there is no coming back from that level of deception. I have forgiven and moved through issues of cheating in other relationships but this was different. This spoke to my very ability to trust *anything* that came out of this persons mouth. Without trust, there’s no way that a relationship can have any chance.

The mind moves on faster and easier than the heart; but eventually, the heart does catch on and let go. It hurts to lose what you thought you had but when the truth is that you never had what you thought you did… it’s no loss.