Wednesday, June 17, 2009

the declining years of the long war

The only self-help book I think I’ve ever read was The Ethical Slut. Which, yes, is a book about polyamory (for the record, something I have pretty much sucked at in practice), but also has some truly excellent advice on personal relationships with other people and with yourself if you can get past the rather cheesy overall tone of the writing. Since I read it four years ago, I’ve loaned my copy out to countless people, straight and queer, single and in relationships, interested in polyamory and absolutely not interested at all; in truth, I think everybody should read the chapters on jealousy. Even if I have not been good at what the book is about, I have vastly improved my connection to and understanding of myself and that’s pretty impressive.

I’m not in a relationship right now, so polyamory (at least in that format) is more or less a moot point. But somehow, in this free space that I’ve created for myself, I think I’m finally starting to get it, or at least some of it. One of the things that I read and held close to my heart–but did not really understand, I would say–from TES was that you can let relationships and interactions reach their own level, whatever that level may be, and you don’t have to impose any of your own ideas about what that should entail onto the situation. I really, really liked this idea conceptually, but I never was able to fully put it into practice until recently. And you know what? It feels amazing. I’m not perfect and my vision of what this is like is idealistic, but even the extent to which I’ve been able to explore this has been absolutely enlightening.

If you and I hang out, there are so many possibilities: we might bake cookies, or talk through our last or current relationships, or make out, or cry, or anything. And while that is maybe not all that new (all of those things could have happened before, too), the way I’m approaching it is completely different. I seem to be letting go of my internal hierarchies, for one thing; each of these activities is more or less equally appealing. Sometimes baking cookies together might be a deeper experience than crying or even sleeping together, although I’ll admit it’s generally a little easier to feel closer through sex than through chocolate chips. But because I’m taking each activity and each person as a unique interaction, something to be savored and explored with relatively few preconceived expectations, I am able to be fully present, fully engaged. I feel like even with people I barely know I’m on a whole different level, and with people I already know well our relationships have deepened and become infinitely richer. (Do you feel this? Or is it just me? I wonder about this a lot.) It’s about paying more attention to right now instead of just worrying about what might happen next. Even when I’m by myself, it applies; I’ve stayed home alone more nights than not this week, reading and cooking and writing, and I have been just happier than I would ever have anticipated. Even the overheard conversations I peer into as I travel the city are more beautiful. I walk around grinning like an idiot most of the time.

I don’t really believe in fate per se, but I do believe in things generally working out. Some of the worst things that have ever happened to me have had the best results, and I feel like that has to mean something. Right now I’m ecstatically happy, full to bursting and feeling more alive than I ever have before, and a few months ago I was sad and downtrodden and on the verge of giving up. The same thing that I’ve long applied to my overall life, the idea that the journey is part of the process, is now what I’m trying to put into better practice in my daily interactions; no matter what we wind up doing, we can enjoy the company and form new connections between us and where we end up is so beside the point. We will reach our level. There’s no rush.

10 comments:

Siobán said...

Ok, now I need to read this book.

I've been striving to be less jealous and let go of expectations in personal relationships for a few years now, but over the past little while I haven't had as much time to think about it haven't really had to. Now suddenly these issues are coming up like crazy. I hadn't really thought it was possible to get to a point where you could just live in the moment, so this makes me hopeful.

ammie said...

Do it! Want me to send you my copy when I get it back from the current loanee? If you can start implementing simple things like this, life can really open up.

Siobán said...

I checked and the local library has it, so can just run out and get a copy from there. That'll save you the postage :) but thanks!
Does it actually give concrete suggestions?

ammie said...

Your library has it? Super cool!

Lauren said...

You are so beautiful and thoughtful! I miss you! I am about to start reading The Ethical Slut and I am excited to learn things!

justin said...

Maybe you're using the wrong kind of chocolate chips.

ammie said...

I miss you too! and damn, I knew I should have gone with semi-sweet...

Mugsie said...

OK, I actually need to get around to reading this book now - I've been meaning to for a while! That's so wonderful though! It's something that seems like such a good idea and goal, but is difficult, so it's really exciting and encouraging to see that you're doing so well and that just makes me really happy!

ammie said...

It makes me really happy too! Even if it took four years for me to finally get my act together, right now is pretty awesome :) All about the journey, truly.

ShanaRose said...

The lesson in this post is awesome. Thankyou.