Month: November 2014

No News is THE BEST NEWS

It’s been quiet around here, I know.

I haven’t said too, too much as yet about having cerebral palsy or what was involved in going from the way I used to be to the way I am now, owing a great deal to timing: for a bit there, most of the people coming here were very, very interested in my throuple marriage. On that subject, I intend to publish a post tomorrow about the perks for which I am grateful within my polyamorous marriage. Sort of in the holiday spirit, if a little late. I’ve been preoccupied.

Or, I should say, I have been stressed and anxious to agonizing, painful distraction.

Cerebral palsy is brain damage. It varies in severity and affectation so much because the places, and sizes, of damage vary too. Mine is spastic diplegic — both my legs are affected. Those aren’t the only places I’m hindered, as I have learned through living with this body, but “spastic diplegic” is an easy short-hand to direct attention to the worst of it.

It’s funny, but my brain — the higher, thinking part of it (the part that works) — is the part of me of which I’m most proud. Thinking, reasoning, articulating — these come easiest to me, and always have. My mother used to say to me: “People with CP are brilliant minds trapped in broken bodies.” I think that’s apt.

I was always great at test-taking, by which I mean the pen-and-paper kind. I never had anxiety about them, and I almost always got exemplary grades. Then, along came the challenge of driving.

I had had many corrective surgeries by then, so that my physical situation was a lot different than it had been when I was a child. (Other girls had time to watch their breasts grow; all I had time for was watching my progress at physical therapy. When all that was over, then I noticed that my body had changed in other ways. Only then. But that shock is another post.) No matter the improvements however, it was not enough… Driving was a real challenge for me.

I remember one day, my mother and I were talking about my woes regarding driving and, more specifically, the driving test.

“Well,” I said, “I mean… I have cerebral palsy.”

To which she replied: “No you don’t. You’re cured.”

This remark confounded me. I love my mother very much. She has done everything, everything in her power to understand, support, love and nurture me. I don’t begrudge her misunderstanding, because she doesn’t live in my body like I do. The truth is, though, that no matter how many modifications are made to my legs, I will never be cured. Or fixed. The disability is in my brain.

Looking at the moment now, I understand where we misunderstood each other, both at the same time. She thought I was talking about not being able to drive — that I was saying, for example, that because of my legs I couldn’t work the pedals, or because of my brain that I was incapable. In that case, her response was right on and good; it was as if she were saying, “You go, girl; you’re not missing anything other drivers have, not anymore!”

Totally true.

And I wasn’t old enough then, at sixteen or whatever, to articulate what I really felt. I had the words — I always have words — but not the courage to own as legitimate my own feelings or challenges. Now I do. What I felt then was an anxiety about driving, and about being evaluated for the same, that wrecked my body. What does everyone know about palsy?

Any hands up?

It makes you shake, baby. And not in the good way. For me (and for all?) anxiety compounds the issue, and the only other option is extreme rigor. Driving, my hands locked to the wheel in a paralysis of panic, to fight the trembling. My leg muscles were tense, my back was sore. I got out of the car from my hour with an instructor with a terrible migraine. Every. Single. Time. It didn’t seem like it would ever be a feasible reality, me driving. Why? Because all of these things still happened inside me even when everyone on the outside of me said that I was a wonderful driver, and that I was sure to pass my test. As far as performance, I was GREAT. But it was killing me. I hated it. I hated everyone who was “putting me through it,” for a time. I remember my father bought me all things car-related for my birthday that year, and I felt like he was mocking me (because I had tried to explain my trouble to him many times by then). I cried after he left.

My test date came. I went into it begrudgingly. I was even more panicky because this was for real, the big time — a TEST, and tests I hate to fail, nerd that I am. I failed, and all I had to show at the end of it was another whopping migraine. I cried. I felt like a huge failure. I refused a re-test, thinking myself unfit for the adult world. I assumed I would live my life dependent on the mercy and timetable of others, because I couldn’t face up to the awfulness of this thing. And no one around me was willing to agree with me that maybe, just maybe, my CP made it harder for me. I had gotten the impression that folks thought I was making a huge deal of nothing, so I hid in my shell, called myself an idiot, and shut way, way down.

I lived as a dependent, non-driver ever after (about 9 years). I met my now-legal husband. We married. He had no problem being my transportation, never pushed me, never questioned the validity of the pain I could recall too easily. I did other things for him, he said, and he could do this for me. I have my master’s degree because of that man’s goodness, his commitment to that promise. He saw that I got to classes even when they met two hours from where we lived at the time. It makes me tear up just thinking about it. He never complained, not once.

Not once, for goodness’ sake…

Things got simpler yet when we linked up with other husband. Now we were a network of helping each other, seeing that all were fed and well and loved and, in my case, transported in a timely fashion. We built what we lovingly call a tiny artist’s commune between the three of us. We made an effort to be positive, to be open and honest, and to be receptive to what one another had to say. We wanted to understand, not to shut each other down.

And one day I said that I would like to try driving again, if they would help me. My stipulations were that they had to be patient, and understand that this was the hardest thing I would probably ever have to do. They had to listen when I said I couldn’t do anymore on a particular drive, so that there were no bad, deterrent experiences. And they had to refrain from making long-term goals for me… at least out loud. Of course, they said.

So we started. Parking lots. I was rusty. I almost hit a dumpster and I couldn’t park to save my life. A few weeks later, I mastered pull-ins and turning again, and took to the back roads. I started changing lanes in panic mode. I started changing lanes out of panic mode. I noticed other drivers making bad moves, and anticipated them. I got on the highway. A lot. I waited all the while for the return of the migraines, the hyper-tension, but it never came. I was practicing with people who loved me, and who knew that this was hard for me, instead of curt and impatient strangers.

My mom found out I was trying again and, in her infinite joy and generosity, bought me a car. Three weeks ago, I took the second driver’s test of my life. The husbands came with me (other husband with a Rarity figurine on his knee, brought along for luck). They held one of my hands each while we waited for my name to be called. When I came back crying, because I had failed, they took me to breakfast anyway and we talked it all through. I had a good long cry in the car on other husband’s shoulder.

Then I drove us home. I wasn’t giving up this time. I had made a new test date, for three weeks later. For today. It made me a huge stress ball for Thanksgiving, and — as I said at the beginning — impeded my ability to embark on creative anything (though I did make a dessert, and read other husband a good chunk of Tess of the D’Urbervilles while he cooked.) I cried in panic and self-hate and restlessness when I couldn’t sleep last night. I wished the test was behind me even as I wished it would never happen.

I was with legal husband only when I went today, as other husband had some Man of Honor duties to do for an engaged lady friend. I came back into the DMV crying, yet again. But this time legal husband cried, too, and then I got my picture taken by a guy who looked like Santa Claus.

Just Bringing this to Your Attention… and a Brief Tangent on Hedwig vs. Rocky Horror

John Cameron Mitchell is taking over as Hedwig for eight weeks, starting January 21st. 

This is like being able to see Queen WITH Freddie Mercury, or Rocky Horror with Tim Curry. JCM is 51 — this is likely the last time he’ll don the wigs and heels. If you love Hedwig and the Angry Inch, consider seeing it played by the man who wrote it, and performed it first.

I remember watching the film for the first time, mostly because the back of the DVD case said something about it being like Rocky Horror. It’s not. They both have men in make-up in them and they’re both rock n’ roll musicals — that’s as far as any responsible, critical comparison can go. I, being a very big Rocky Horror fan, was defensive. I was thirteen or so, and all I could grasp was a film unfairly riding the popularity of my much-beloved cult favorite.

When I got older, I understood that the comparison to RHPS was a marketing technique and nothing more. Hedwig was not trying to be a newer, or better, Rocky Horror. Hedwig was, and is, it’s own very different thing.

Dr. Frank N. Furter is a man who accepts himself as he is — as a (“sweet”) transvestite. His struggle is in facing a society that is repressed and, thus, cannot accept him; he works to bring that society along with him on his journey. Hedwig is a woman who was pushed into becoming what she is, and the break was not a clean one (hence the “angry inch”). Her struggle is in accepting who she is without society’s approval, finding self-love and permission from within instead of chasing the approval of others.

They’re opposite stories, if we step back. One acted, the other was acted upon. The one doesn’t care what people think, and the other cares too much. The one is a loner. The other is alone.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is, in many ways, more responsible in its message than Rocky Horror. It’s campy, but only on the surface — just because campy is (unfortunately) what we call it when dudes wear make-up and sing rock songs about sleeping with other guys. The circumstances are not campy — they’re not funny at all. We’re not expected to accept, and look past, things like murder-by-pickaxe or cannibalism (as we are in Rocky, because whatever, camp, right?). Hedwig is a human being, and we can love her/him as such and not be kidding.

I love Rocky Horror. It’s my favorite-favorite. Don’t dream it, be it — by all means. But I love Hedwig, too, and for deeper, darker reasons. So I’ll be there when John Cameron Mitchell puts on some make-up and turns up the eight-track.

Will you?

What’s Wrong with Monogamy?

I had an epiphany this week. It was as I was reading a less-than-nice comment about the wedding, which has gotten a lot of attention through Offbeat Bride. The epiphany was this: the people who are angry about polyamory are, often, really just defensive of monogamy. And more, I completely, totally get it. In fact, I’m on their side. Hear me out.

Please.

(more…)

New Chapter of Naughty Meets Nautical! (and other writing business)

A new chapter just went up on Wattpad for “Naughty Meets Nautical” (the story in which Dr. Frank N. Furter and Captain Jack Sparrow come together on the high seas for laughs and love and drama). You can start reading the story right over here.

Got my first paper rejection this past week, from F&SF. It’s pretty cool. Lots of journals have embraced the digital age so, while I have been rejected many and many-a, this was my first tangible proof of, you know, not being quite the right fit. Some people don’t understand how exciting rejections are to me. They mean that I am trying! I’m putting myself out there. It’s good. And I know I’m a decent writer — I got an Honorable Mention for a pretty sizable contest the first time I ever sent anything out — so I don’t feel hopeless. It’s just all a journey.

Living Polyamorous: the Sleeping Situation

I think that “Living Polyamorous” will be a series of posts that I’ll offer up as I go, centering around the logistics of living in a throuple/triad–that is, with three people, all of whom are in love, in the same home. To begin, let’s talk about… the bed.

We all tried to sleep-over simultaneously before we lived together. The first time, it was in the other husband’s full bed. Too small. Somebody was always on the edge. Worse, it was way too hot. Add his dogs, who love the bed, into the mix and… well, it was a bad, sweaty scene. We tried it sideways the next night (the bed is longer than wider, right? Makes sense.), but as it turns out lying with your legs hanging off the bed does not make for happy sleep. Other arrangements–for example, the men on the bed and me on a chaise longue that I had drawn up beside the bed–were more physically comfortable but emotionally upsetting.

Because, okay, one night sleeping separate from your husband (or wife) isn’t going to kill you. But what if that one night spent separate was also spent watching the other two people you love (who are also in love with each other) snuggling happily? Not that there was ever any deliberate taunting (The happy couple were asleep when the lonely other lay awake.). The emotionals that situation caused were not intended or rational, but we couldn’t ignore them; any feelings of resentment or shut-out-ness are bad, bad news in a polyamorous situation. Letting that kind of insecurity grow and fester is like letting your house burn down. And it was happening at night, too, when even our most irrational fears have a way of seeming plausible.

Ick.

We were looking, always, toward the future. If we couldn’t find a solution that worked both ways–physically and emotionally–then the situation wasn’t going to work in the long-term. So, I saved and scrounged until I could afford a king-sized bed and mattress, and I bought them both to coincide with all three of us moving in together.

There should have been a hallelujah chorus, really. Flopping ourselves down, one after the other, it was clear that we had more than enough room. Even any two of our three pets could be on the bed, in addition to ourselves, and we could still fit. Thank goodness, too, that the bedroom in our new apartment was big enough for the frame and a few dressers to fit inside.

It seemed like our problems had been solved. High on gratefulness we slept well for a little bit. Then, we had to come to grips with a few things. One was that heat was still a problem, especially for whomever slept between the other two. Even with the overhead fan on high, no one slept so much as sweltered. Neither of the men could really handle being boxed in on either side by human furnaces, so it was decided that more often than not I should take the middle spot.

Not only am I the one with the highest tolerance for heat; I am also the tiniest person in our trio. Imagine, if you will, three people spooning. The people on the ends are broad-shouldered, and the person in the middle is petite. Can you see the way the blanket falls? If it’s taut–and it often was, we three keep firm grips on the covers–then it doesn’t really touch me. Okay, it touches my shoulder a little. But it doesn’t contour my body the way you would want if you were, oh, trying to keep warm. And my tolerance for high heat is more a… crippling need.

I like being warm. And I do not like it when air touches me when I am trying to sleep. Unfortunately, the breeze the fan created could and did shoot cool air right down under the covers, between the men and me. I couldn’t get them near enough to me on both sized to alleviate this issue, either, because a) they were asleep, and b) they didn’t want to overheat.

Often, I would become frustrated by the cold and sleep on the living room couch. Sometimes, the other husband would go because he was too hot. This interrupted our good rest, and also left us feeling like we used to feel: left out. It seemed like the logistics couldn’t be conducive to a functional relationship. We were cranky, but not for anything anyone had done wrong. It was confusing and frustrating that we were happy with each other but unhappy with the situation, and we didn’t know what to do. We were so afraid of the relationship falling apart, when everyone was really wonderful and blameless, that we never really talked it through like we should have.

Polyamory is all about talking. You think it’s about sex? Noope. Talking.

Winter was better for the other husband, but not at all for me. Other husband took the middle often during that time, to save me from the awful cold fan, but it didn’t matter. I slept on the couch some more.  I was worried about how I was feeling left out, and about the lack of intimacy between legal husband and I; we hadn’t slept beside each other for ages.

Then the summer came around again and we installed an air conditioner in the bedroom window. This had not been enough last summer. But then, other husband coupled its use with an electric fan that would sit near the end of the bed and blow over the comforter, rather than down and under it. The overhead fan was phased out.

Voila! And thank goodness. I mean, really.

But it’s not just the AC/fan combo. It’s conditioning, too. We’ve had to sleep in smaller beds since, while staying in hotels and stuff like that, and been much better off than we were when we started. You get used to the extra heat. You get used to being hedged in by bodies and not feeling particularly crammed. You even get used to cycling the sleep rotation without even properly waking up.

For example, if other husband sits up from the middle, I wake up because I know he has to go to the bathroom, sit up, and let him out. Then I slide over, switching our pillows as I do, so that I can snuggle legal husband. By the time other husband returns, I’m probably asleep and he happily snuggles me. Sometimes we switch mid-night, sometimes we don’t, but figuring out the temperature issue allows us to switch it up more on a regular basis, which is enough.

Other husband goes away for work sometimes. He’s actually gone for this very weekend. When he’s not here, the bed feels huge. The first time this was coming, we all joked that it would be a little retreat, a plus side to missing him. But no… It’s a vast, lonely sort of bigness that feels wrong.

It was a tough thing to make livable, but now that it is… It’s, well, our life. It’s snuggly and peaceful and warm and loving. There are three goodnight kisses to give, and for any one person there are two different hands to hold.

So: what questions about day-to-day polyamory do you have?

Heaven is Irrelevant

That is, it is irrelevant to your moral choices. There is a persistent view that atheists and agnostics are devoid of morality, with which I disagree, and this post is not about that. I’ll say it again: I’m not talking about not having any moral code at all; I’m just saying that Heaven is not relevant to the moral code you do follow.

Let’s explore.

Imagine that you are gay. Your religion says that gay people will go to Hell, or at least be shut out of Heaven, so you spend your life hiding who you are and torturing yourself because Heaven is supposed to be this great place of eternal happiness where your soul can frolic forevermore. You want to go there.

Or do you?

What gay person wants to frolic for eternity in a Heaven full of homophobes and homophobia? Is that eternal happiness for you, the gay person? No, it is not. That’s denial of yourself at the deepest level, and that is not the path to bliss.

Let me suggest instead that you, whoever you are, live your life with intention. Examine yourself and your choices, so that whenever possible you only do or say the things that you think are right to say and do. Be the ideal person you can be, according to the morals in which you believe. Be good, whatever that means to you. (To me, it means that my right to swing my fist ends at your nose – i.e., I am free except when my freedom would harm another, or limit their freedom.)

Then, when Judgment Day comes (if it comes – who knows?) you can be judged as you are. YOU. And if your definition of goodness does not match up with the definition upheld by the powers that be, then you would not be happy in that Heaven anyway. That Heaven is not Heaven for you. That Heaven, with its different (even opposite) ideals, would be a misery for you to endure as you are. If you aren’t welcome there, you wouldn’t want to go there anyway.

Make sense?

Make God Believe in You

I had a dream: an angel said,
“Child, you are strong.”
He cautioned me with sober eyes,
“I won’t stay very long.
 
“I just came to tell you,
Though you’ll soon forget,
Even wrongs will serve you rightly
If you reason through regret. 
 
“There are those that beg me
For help they wouldn’t need
If they’d only help themselves
By getting off their knees.
 
“If what you want is to impress me,
I’ll tell you what to do,
Don’t make yourself believe in God,
Make God believe in you.”
 
This having been said,
He left me thus adorned
With knowledge I was soon to lose,
For right then I was born.
I admit, this poem is a little Hallmark-y. But there are some interesting ideas here. I was fifteen when I wrote this, and had recently finished reading Ayn Rand‘s The Fountainhead. I’m not sure if this poem is Objectivist, though. It’s more existential, though I wouldn’t have any formal idea of what existentialism was for another five years.
Something else in here is that idea at the end, about being born and thus losing all knowledge. It’s very much like Socrates’ explanation for how human beings can go from not knowing something to knowing it. (He argues that all learning is actually just remembering: before we had bodies, we were souls that looked upon the Forms — Beauty, Truth, Courage, Wisdom, and so on — and knew everything. Then, we were put into bodies, and our souls were distracted by things like hunger and sex drive, so we forgot it all.)
So it’s rhyme-whymey. I still like it. If there must be a deity at all (and I’m happily agnostic, so in my opinion there mustn’t be), we should endeavor — I think — to be exemplary humans rather than helpless, impressionable, weak ones. If I were a supreme being, I’d be really lonely for someone of whom to be proud.

Return of the Saga: Naughty (Rocky Horror) Meets Nautical (Pirates of the Caribbean)

In my first ever post, I mentioned a 1,000+ page fan-fiction I maintained during my teen years. No one can read those stories now but the (lucky?) few who read them then. However, I would like to announce that I am under-taking a huge re-write! I’m posting it on Wattpad, here.

If you like Dr. Frank N. Furter, Captain Jack Sparrow, and dudes loving on dudes, it’s for you. If you don’t, it’s not. Is it a literary master-piece? Nope, but it sure is fun. I try to update every week, as a break from more serious writing and editing. Expect a certain standard–I’m deficient in prudishness, but I have an excess of pride!–but also please understand that this is all in fun. I’m apt to be silly, make pop references, and turn the tables on the story for my own amusement.

Yours, too, I hope.

Bicycle Race

Even before I was born, my mother had to square with the fact that I might die.

Her contractions started about a month too early, and as a premature baby I was at risk for a whole bunch of things. The most terrifying possibility was that my under-developed lungs weren’t world-worthy, and I might suffocate when I left the womb. The doctors had my mom sign a waiver that she wouldn’t sue, because in working to better my odds of getting oxygen they were also making cerebral palsy more likely. I’m safe in saying that everyone is happy with that decision, as I’m alive to write about it.

Still, my mother had seen the Grim Reaper over her shoulder, gunning—scything?—for her baby. They played high-stakes tug-o-war for a while as I, the trophy child, sat by in a clear plastic crib, wrapped up in tubes and tape. When at last my mother wrested me from the bastard she stormed from the hospital for the last time and didn’t look back. Whatever else she did, she had determined never again to let Death near her daughter.

In winter, I was that kid wearing a full-body snowsuit so thick that I couldn’t put my arms down. Underneath, I wore a sweater, sweatpants, and a jacket. I remember longing so much to actually feel the cold that I bolted into the night jacketless—just for a second—from the sliding door of our kitchen. I came back as soon as I was shouted for, but I had a moment of freedom and it was worth it.

In summer, I rode my bike, a scooter, and even—for one ill-advised moment—a pogo stick. But on top of the standard-issue helmet, I was required by maternal law to wear elbow- and knee-pads. If I was going to go out into a world where Death walked free, I was going to do it in armor.

For a long time, I went along. I was a Good KidTM, operating indefinitely under the assumptions that 1) Mom was always honest, 2) Mom was always looking out for me, and 3) Mom probably knew best anyway, so whatever. Then, one day, I forgot the elbow- and knee-pads.

She didn’t notice. Then I started skipping them on purpose. But hey, I still wore my helmet. Right about then was when I started pulling stupid stunts.

It started with the stairs. We lived in a split-level condo, so on either side of the long building there was a big hill. On the right, there was a sidewalk that led from the front parking lot to the back one. In-between, in order to navigate the hill, the sidewalk broke up into three steps. Each one was far enough from the previous one to fit a bicycle. So, on that pad-less day, I rode down the stairs.

I did it slowly the first time, certain that some law of physics beyond my comprehension would immediately bring about my death simply because I was doing something I was not supposed to do. Navigating each step was a shock to my system: first the climbing anticipation as the wheel approached a step, then overtook it, hovering over nothing; and then the crash that shook the bike and me.

Everything rattled. Then everything was still. And I hadn’t died.

Soon I was riding circuits around the condo. No stopping, no slowing down. From there, I started trying to tighten my bike turns in the parking lots. I remember—though perhaps I remember wrongly—one time brushing the side of my sneaker (which was on the bike pedal) against the ground during a turn, and not falling over.

Down the other side of the condos, instead of lawn, was a bunch of trees. There was sidewalk there, too, but it just ran in a long, somewhat steep decline. Here and there old tree roots broke up, through the cement, for tripping over. I used to ride full-speed down that hill, bumping over the cracks and the roots, until I flew off the sidewalk at the bottom and rode a victory lap through the big puddle that always gathered in the waiting parking lot after a good rain. It was wonderful.

One time, I rode so hard up onto my mother’s lawn that I flew off the bike seat and into the handlebars. My chest ached for days. I scraped my hands, skinned my knees, and scared myself. Finally, I realized what my mother had known from the first: in everything I did, I might die.

The knowledge was liberating. It gave my life value, because it could be taken away.

The pain was liberating. It made my body a real thing: weak because it sustained injuries, but strong because it could withstand them.

I wasn’t going to live forever, and I wasn’t just my brain. Those were the two things I learned out on my bicycle. I had limits—of control, time, pain thresholds—and the real joy of existence is exploring all that lies between them and me. Maybe even pushing them.

A little.