Reflections from a flight home

On my flight back to Portland, by way of Salt Lake City, I sat next to a very friendly young guy- 21 years old, Mormon, and exceedingly friendly. In the culture of staring at phones while in public places, lest one catches the eye of a stranger and feels obligated to say hello, his immediate engagement in having a conversation with me was startling. And refreshing.

He asked me what I do in Portland, and I held back little in telling him about teaching Human Sexuality. After just teaching the week on sexuality education, I was highly curious to know how this person connected his religious background to his perception of relationships and sex. He was able to talk articulately about being committed to abstinence, not feeling ready to get married, and loving to date (he goes on 3-4 a week with different people). He also asked for my thoughts on what kind of sex ed I thought teens should get, and seemed to be able to hear me talk about comprehensive education and allowing teens to have choices and options over their sexual and relationship decisions.

Talking with him reminded me of an experiential assignment I have this quarter in my sex therapy class: I’m supposed to find some kind of sex related event to attend, one that pushes my comfort zone. I’ve been a little bit stuck with this- what am I uncomfortable with? I’ve been to swing clubs, strip clubs (male and female), tantric events, kink events, and poly meetups. I haven’t been to all gay male spaces or cuddle puddle events (and other things I’m sure I’m not thinking of right now), but I’m not uncomfortable with them. But I realized something very important during my conversation on the plane: I am uncomfortable talking with someone from a conservative religious background about sex. That sort of blows my mind. It was challenging for me to explain my perspectives without using language that could alienate him or result in some kind of disengagement. How can I be diplomatic when I have such strong beliefs of my own about sexual and relationship rights and autonomy? 

Thanks, Taylor, for a wonderful conversation and for reminding me where my growing edges are.

My Framily

For the second time in my life, I am in a class requiring me to create a genogram- essentially a family tree that uses symbols to denote characteristics like gender identity, family ties, marriages, divorces, family secrets, miscarriages and abortions, pets, sexual orientation, mental health diagnoses, substance abuse, and any other applicable dynamics. In mine, I also include domestic violence, poly relationships, education, and geography.

A few years ago, I discussed creating a critical sexual genogram, which is a variation on the traditional method that I totally love.

The last time I made one for class, I created it based on family ties and marriages. This time, I decided to include my framily- those friends of mine who have, over time, become family to me. 

Especially right now, when the world seems like total shit, it is extremely strengthening and heartening to me to see, on paper, the people who rely on me and who I rely upon, who I trust and love and care about. Who I know are genuinely kind and compassionate people, who are all doing their best in their own ways, of making the world a better place.

I talked to my sister on the phone tonight, and she was asking me, How do I not let the stress I’m experiencing from all of The Shit get to me? There’s only so much I can do! I have to work and I can’t know everything about everything, and there’s so little in my control.

I feel you, sis. Making my genogram tonight was so helpful though- people matter. People doing their best to be kind MATTER. Small actions matter. It can be hard to remember that, especially when we have been watching such big, destructive things happening so quickly. Creating community, building authentic relationships, continually striving to be more compassionate and loving people- that all matters, and it does make a difference.

Cheers to small actions, kind deeds, and the people who make the world brighter. I love you all, FramBam. You help me keep the hope that things, eventually, will be better for everyone. 

Loss & Comfort

A woman I went to high school with, but was never friends with or connected to, lost her husband this past week in a car crash. She’s been on my mind ever since I saw the news. Imagining her grief has brought me down the past couple of days. I just can’t imagine my life if something like that happened to J.

I have had to fall asleep the past couple of night channeling my inner Byron Katie; it has been keeping me up and distracting me throughout the day. He shouldn’t have died. That couldn’t have happened. It wasn’t time yet. And it’s not callous or un-empathetic, but my soothing response to myself is: He should have because he did. It could have because it did. It was time because it was.

It was a devastating reality check for me: I really cannot control much of how my life runs its course. I can control my thoughts and beliefs (and even that is up for grabs) and how I behave. That’s about it.

Imagining going through that kind of unexpected, unfair, and traumatic loss makes me feel so small, and it also makes me feel so grateful for the time I do have with the people I love. Hold your people, show them you love them, and stay in the moment- it really is all we have.

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Another Anniversary to Celebrate

Today marks one year since J and I celebrated our relationship with a fantastic ceremony and party. I can’t believe a whole year has passed- again. Time flies when you are having fun- it’s so, so true. I want to keep our September anniversary as our first date anniversary, and I love having our April 1 opening up anniversary. And it’s really fun to have a wedding anniversary and an anniversary to celebrate when we got legally married.

Truly, we could be celebrating every day over some milestone that has happened for our relationship. And for that, I am so grateful.

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I absolutely love having J in my life and getting to share my life with someone so intimately. I love building a home and waking up next to him and finding new sexy friends to explore things with and going to the nude beach and walking our dog and trying a new fitness video with him- and so much more. I love living with my life partner, and I feel so joyful in my current relationship circumstances with him. Thank you J for another great year. You are my rock and I love you so much!

In thinking about long term relationships, what is important to you? Do you prefer to live with your partners? Do you want to combine finances, share benefits, plan for vacations away together? Do you prefer to sleep every night with them in the same bed? Do you want to get legally married? Do you ever want to have a ceremony with friends and family? How much separateness and closeness sounds ideal to you? Do you want weekly date nights? How do you share love and affection? How will continue to give appreciation for a partner that feels so familiar? How will you negotiate the inevitability of being attracted to others?

May we all continue to negotiate our intimate and long term relationships with honesty, grace, peace, and love.

Change is Constant

My reflection for today is on the constant change we encounter: within ourselves, within relationships with others, with life circumstances. Our bodies are always changing and different. The way we narrate our lives, our past stories, our understanding of the world, our ideas about the future- they are always changing. Here are some quote that I found that most inspired me:

Somehow, in the process of trying to deny that things are always changing, we lose our sense of the sacredness of life. We tend to forget that we are part of the natural scheme of things. – Pema Chodron

Life is expressed in a perpetual sequence of changes. The birth of the child is the death of the baby, just as the birth of the adolescent is the death of the child. – Arnaud Desjardins

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. – Thich Nhat Hanh

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Successful Relationships

How do expectations and assumptions drive your relationships?

What do you mean when you say “relationship”? Are you referring to any kind of connection with another person? Do you specifically mean a relationship marked by a romantic and sexual connection, or if not romantic/sexual, an intimate one?

How do you know if that relationship is “successful”? Is it made successful by time? Marked by a level of intensity or commitment? Marked by shared interests or goals? Does success hinge on change?

And what do intimate relationships look like for you? Do you prefer them to be daily connections, or is it okay if they appear and reappear once a week or once a month or once a year? How do you decide when a relationship is a Relationship? Is it made by formal commitment? Does a certain level of intimacy have to exist?

Expectations and assumptions can, in my opinion, sour even the best of intentions. Having a clear understanding of what you want relationships to look and feel like, and communicating that understanding to you partners is essential. Releasing your desires and understandings will support you even further in maintaining a sense of flexibility.

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