Community

There was a time in my life when I scoffed at the idea of “community” and was proud of my lone-wolf, individualistic life. Years went by where I felt almost no emotional connection with people, and I was fine with that. The reason for this self-imposed solitary confinement is multi-faceted: I felt betrayed by previous religious and social institutions, my heart was broken by someone I was engaged to, I was basically alone on the east coast while everyone I truly loved was thousands of miles away, my introvert nature made being alone easier than going out, I had embraced an individualistic political philosophy with just enough understanding to be dangerous.

In the end, the reason is irrelevant. I spent years shutting myself off from people, including the few people who knew me since childhood, and it is beginning to hurt. I don’t feel like I have a real community. I see friends who have 2-3 couples who are a tight part of their regular lives but I don’t have that.

I failed to take Baz Lurhman’s advice to “work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle”. I didn’t work hard. I thought my friendships were immune from entropy, but they weren’t. Without new energy my friendships decay. As my lifestyle changed and views on the world evolved I didn’t work hard to keep in touch with those people I knew when I was young. I often wonder if it is too late.

Maybe the geography and lifestyle has become too much to overcome. Despite modern technology, thousands of miles do prevent strengthening relationships, particularly relationships that have not been strengthened in decades. The friendship decays like unused muscles, and the pressure that you could once endure easily now cause you to collapse into a heap of weeping regret.

Lifestyle provides its own challenges. It isn’t just political or religious views, those are easy to overcome. When your friends start having kids and you choose not to you will likely be left behind, unless you work hard… before the children are born and for every year afterwards. It isn’t enough to just to talk, action must be taken. Financial differences are just as difficult to overcome. I don’t fear that my friends love me less because I live a simplistic life below the poverty level, but when my whole budget for social activities is $100 for a month it makes it difficult to connect with friends who see no problem dropping twice that in one night. It just makes things difficult.

It has never been easy for me to make friends. I am skeptical of people and a bit stand-offish. My views on the world are, umm, unconventional, and I tend to advertise my strange views regularly. It is particularly difficult for me to make friends with guys for reasons that may be worth going into in another blog post, and making friends with women when you are married and openly “non-monogamous” brings the assumption that I’m only looking to hook-up. Again, I am to blame for most of this, my fascination with sex is well documented and even I have trouble separating my curiosity from my platonic friends.

So, while I see my acquaintances have deep friendships with a non-biological family I feel alone. My friendships have deteriorated and I’m not sure how to fix them. Making new friends is difficult because there aren’t a lot of social groups out there really looking for new members. I feel like I’ll always just be an after-though, someone on the periphery who moved to Wilmington and kind of hangs out with a group of people who are all best friends.

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try though. I should try to make friends here. I should also try to repair my old relationships. There was a time when I was part of a four-person group that seemed inseparable. College, the military, and all the travel in between has fragmented that group… maybe it can be fixed, if I’m not the only one who wants to fix it. I often daydream about having adult friends that I go on vacations with and visit each other regularly. And, there are other couples that I feel like we connect with in a way that could provide a family for me (despite lifestyle and geography), I need to learn from my mistakes and work hard to keep those relationships growing. “I suck at communicating” can no longer be my mantra if I want community.

I long to feel like I’m part of a peer-family… something ten years ago I would have never said. Hopefully, my 20’s didn’t fuck things up for the rest of me.

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Removing my Self

When I started my mediation app today I realized that the app’s motto is “Treat Your Head Right”. This got me thinking… which isn’t a great way to start my meditation, but whatever. I find it beneficial to remove the “self” from my body and mind. If I see my mind and body as something I love, but separate from my being then I am more comfortable and motivated to adopt healthy behaviors.

Instead of seeing it as “my mind” I see it as a close friend. If my best friend told me that in order for him to reach his full potential he needed me to spend ten minutes a day doing something that was mildly uncomfortable or difficult I would gladly do it because I love him, and I know he would do the same for me. If I think of my mind and body along those lines it makes it easier for me to prioritize much more than ten minutes… hell, dedicating one hour to training my mind (meditation, learning a foreign language, reading, writing, solving puzzles, etc) and one hour a day to physical activity is an easy price to pay for my best friend.

It is even better than that though, because by helping my best friend become the best they can be I get to reap many of the benefits. It is a win-win for me, I get to feel good because I helped a friend out, and I get mentally and physically stronger.

This view of the mind and body as separate from the self probably won’t work for many people. I’m sure many people are more responsive to viewing at as a strict cost/benefit analysis (if I dedicate one hour today that will give me greater than one hours worth of value at some time in the future), but for me it helps to remove the ego from the act. My mind and body should be my two best friends and I should treat them as such. I wouldn’t poison my human best friend, I wouldn’t work towards them being turning into a mental or physical sloth, I don’t want them to have a shorter, unhealthy life… and I should do those things to my body or mind.

I love my body and mind, they are pretty kick ass, and I should treat them like I love them.

Exponential Friendship

It is the unfortunate truth that we probably only have a limited life to live. While we may conquer death soon it is not yet a guarantee. Time is a finite resource and whenever we decide to do one thing we are also deciding not to do all the alternatives. Hell, even when we reach immortality time will still be a finite resource, though a much less demanding one. For example, Proxima Centauri will only go supernova once and if I want to witness that then I am not going to be able to witness some other event elsewhere in the galaxy at that exact time. I guess if the multi-verse theory is true and we are able to figure out how to travel between the infinite universes you might be able to experience everything… but that’s a bit off subject.

One of my favorite things about friendship is it allows for you to experience multiple lives. By choosing a fairly nomadic and child-free life I am missing out on other types of living. But, thanks to friendship those alternative lives are not completely foreign to me. Friendship turns life into a buffet of experiences where you can pick and choose different tastes and flavors from different cuisines. And the more experiences and travels you have the more diverse friendships you build, allowing for a more wide range of experiences.

Many of my friends have lives that wouldn’t allow them to spend three years on a bicycle, but through me they can see photos, read posts, and maybe even join for a week or month of the journey. They don’t need to commit to my life in order to benefit from it, and I get the same opportunities through them. I can live near the beaches of southern California, help raise a child in Texas, work at a gun shop in New Hampshire, explore Australia, live in a commune in Washington State, live on a farm in Colorado, or a thousand other places.

Much of this is thanks to the internet. A decade ago it would have been nearly impossible to keep up with the lives and communicate with the thousands of people I’ve met. That isn’t the case now. Whether I became friends with someone in 4th grade or worked with them in a grocery store in Montana in 2015 I can stay connected, share in their victories, provide support in their defeat, and continue to love them.

Friendship, like love, is not a finite resource. Becoming friends with person doesn’t take away my friendship from others. In fact, they benefit from it. Our relationships become like tree branches that grow and fan out, when one branch draws in energy from the sun it benefits the tree as a whole. The different branches can protect each other and support each other, even if they never actually touch or see each other.

Communication through the internet makes this even more possible, when a friend of mine needs help on a school project I may know an army buddy who lives thousands of miles away that can help them with it, and all it takes is one message to connect them. We truly live in an amazing time where we can almost have it all, and things are getting even better. I’m fucking excited to see how my friendships grow and the new friends that join this little magical tree I’m a part of.

30 Days to a Better Man – Day 1: Define Your Core Values

When I read on Facebook last week that a friend of mine decided to do the Art of Manliness 30 Days to a Better Man I was intrigued, as I often am by all things.I was so intrigued in fact that I decided to do it as well. My friend encouraged this and asked if I would like to share my thoughts with him as things progress and to offer support for each other, that seemed awesome so I decided to also put it into a blog. I’m not sure if this will be a daily thing or not due to my busy schedule but I am certainly going to try.

I guess I should mention why I found this interesting. As a feminist I seem to have a knee-jerk reaction against all things masculine, but this seems like an incomplete way to live life. There should be balance in all things, yin and yang, night and day, feminine and masculine. In order to understand and experience all things that humankind has to offer I feel the need to dive into new scenarios and viewpoints. I refused to take the government, religion, and societies views on life as gospel, I shouldn’t also take how I perceive feminist views on masculinity as gospel either, instead I will dive into the art of manliness and see if I can learn something.

This particular friend of mine makes the perfect companion for this adventure. In many ways he and I seem to be very different people. He is clean shaven, clean cut, classically attractive, wears fine suits, has dated an international model, professional, and articulate… he is the reincarnation of Frank Sinatra, including the voice (maybe) and the blue eyes (maybe). I, on the other hand, am bearded, cut my own hair, look like a lumberjack, have not put on a tie since 2012, have a partner who was lovingly described as a woodland princess, am a hippie burner, and am kind of a wreck when talking to anyone. I’m not trying to say that my life is better than his or anything, just highlighting that he and I are different (though we both love good booze and motherfucking liberty). In a way I feel like my venture into “manliness” is an exploration of his world.

Day 1: Define Your Core Values —-

When I saw this was the first day I was not really surprised but I didn’t think it would be much of a challenge. I’m 31 years old, I grew up on the west coast, went to college in the south, worked in the mid-Atlantic, had a threesome in the northeast, and rode my bicycle across the country. I have also served as an infantryman in the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, work in corporate America, and had a job since I was 12. Basically, I figured I was pretty in touch with my core values. Before I started I decided my core values were “individuality”, “love”, and “freedom”. I wasn’t sure if these are the things that the exercise would point out but I was shocked when I printed this days work and saw it was six full pages. How in the world could it take me six pages to figure out what I value?

As I read through the instructions I found a passage (below) that really stuck out to me. It really reminded me of some of the stuff I am reading in “Steering By Starlight”, this day seemed to really be trying to help me find my North Star and find the path to the my own happiness and potential. It also reminded me of the often conflicting Army Core Values (Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, Personal Courage – LeaDeRSHIP) and how different it was to search for my own values instead of having them drilled into my head during Basic Training.

Defining our values gives us purpose. When you don’t know or you haven’t clearly defined your values, you end up drifting along in life. Instead of basing your decisions on an internal compass, you make choices based on circumstances and social pressures. You end up trying to fulfill other people’s expectations instead of your own. And before you know it, life has passed you by and you haven’t even started to live. Trying to be someone else and living without core values is down right exhausting and leaves you feeling empty and shiftless. Conversely, living a life in line with your core values brings purpose, direction, happiness, and wholeness.

So, per the instructions I spent some peaceful time thinking about my values. I ran through different scenarios and tried to focus on how I felt when exercising those values. I whittled it down to the following five. I wasn’t instructed to share them here but since I share pretty much everything with y’all I feel no need to censor myself now. So, my five values are:

  • Peace: The silence of internal and external conflict. The former may be impossible to achieve as a human but the latter is possible in most cases.
  • Intimacy: Human contact, love, touch, and affection. This includes friendship, sex, love, partnerships, cuddle puddles, and all combinations of expression love for one another.
  • Exploration: The freedom to see how far and wide I can go in this world. This is internal and external exploration… reading, writing, travelling, learning
  • Accomplishment: The sense that I have pursued something and truly did all I could. This may not mean I hit the goals I mentally focused on but I can rest comfortably knowing I did my best.
  • Variety: New experiences that challenge my mind, body, spirit, and expectations. This is my seemingly endless thirst to try everything myself to see if I like it or not.

So You Wanna Go On A Bike Ride…

So, our upcoming bike ride has garnered some interest from friends and strangers. One common question we get asked is “can people join you for a day or nine?”. The answer is a resounding MOTHERFUCKING YES!!!!!!!!!!!! We love our friends, even those that we haven’t met yet and adventures shared are better than adventures alone. I think there is a ton of value in riding with your friends and exploring the world. There are some things potential travelers should know though…

1. We are burners and that means we will take the 10 Principles of Burning Man as guidelines for this adventure. While all 10 will be important I think Gifting, Communal Effort, Immediacy, and Leaving No Trace will be common themes throughout. It would be lovely if our friends who join us are at least familiar with them.

2. We are a dating couple who plan on having sex in every state and skinny dipping in many places. You should be at least comfortable with nudity and tolerate the sounds of us rubbing against each other. To be blunt, I can be a bit loud, particularly when I know I have an audience.

3. We don’t have a set plan and things can change quickly depending on how our minds and body feel or terrain and weather. Also, we will definitely discuss routes with all parties involved but in the end we will follow the path we choose, even if other people don’t like it. Of course we would never leave anyone behind though and when things break or people need to rest we will do that.

4. Be prepared to take care of yourself. As it is put in the pickle back video, we will work together but everyone should have what they need to survive alone. That means having a bike, food, water, and shelter at the minimum.

5. This is going to be fun. There will be hard work and we will all get less fat but it is about the experience and enjoying everything nature and society has to offer. We aren’t setting any land speed bicycle records, rather our plan is 50-60 miles per day on average with many breaks

So, if you are interested let me know sometime… it can be today or 6 hours before we arrive in your general area. We aren’t comfortable anyone riding with us for the entirety at this point but if you want to spend a week or two with us that would be really glorious. Much peace and love to you all.

Relations I Seek

It is no big secret that I see little value in small talk or networking. I find the whole practice of meeting people to be tiresome, and the games we play as humans are ridiculous. When it comes to meeting other people I am usually hoping for one of three things: friendship, partnerships, or sex. This may sound a little harsh but it is true for me, I just don’t care about meeting people that will help my “career” or just to pass the time on the bus. I want something deeper than that in my human reactions but because time and resources are finite the entire population can’t fit into one of these three categories for me.

Friends: I have a good core network of friends right now but this is in transition. As I have left the beltway liberty movement many of my friends from the east coast are not as prominent in my life. They are still important to me and I love them dearly but email and g-chatting is not the same as having these friends in my life. So, there is room for more friends right now but I tend to get along with women better than men. I’d like to believe I am a true individualist and post-gender but the reality is I generally feel more comfortable around women than men and am able to open up more to them. I don’t know if this is because I view men as competition or what but the friendships just seem harder to forge with guys for me. I actually think it is because women are most likely to fall into the next two categories which means investing in a new relationship with women opens up a lot of potential where men will only be in the friends category.

Partners: This is the ideal for me. To find romantic partners that will be part of an intimate family of love. This is tough to find though, especially when part of a poly relationship that is long distance. It is hard searching for a partner on your own when many people are not familiar with the concept of polyamory and it isn’t something easily broached early on in an encounter. In my experience the one exception is OKCupid where the poly lifestyle is not that unheard of and their matching algorithms do a good job of linking people who are at least open to open/poly relationships.

Sex: Lastly, sometimes other people are a strong sexual connection but not really a potential partner or friend. This is what I probably have the most room for in my life but is also very difficult to find. As an introvert poly it is not easy to approach someone or to explain my relationship as it is so I rely on others to be more aggressive who are familiar with my views. I guess my views are becoming more well known due to my blog and open acceptance of my own lifestyle. I realize I might be rationalizing my own aversion to approaching women now by basically saying, “they know me and what I want, it’s out there, they will approach if interested”.

Hmm, I need to give all of this more thought.

“Low Standards”

Since I began practicing open relationships and polyamory I have generally been accused of two things: being a womanizer and having low standards. The former accusation is usually from people who don’t know me that well and have never actually conversed with me because when they get to know me they realize, in the words of a dear friend, I am not a womanizer I just love women. That is very true. I love female energy, their perspective, and their presence in my life. They balance my sometimes cruelly overanalytical nature and provide a softness to my edges. A womanizer deceives, I am always honest.

The latter accusation is what I really want to hash out though because it is something I joke about myself and I think my jokes have caused part of the confusion. It is usually people who know me quite well who say that I have low standards in sexual partners and I have not done a good job explaining why I don’t think this is accurate. I really find two problems with this statement, the first is the implication that sex is special for a singular reason and the second is that there is some sort of universal measure of beauty.

The first I have talked about before. Sex is often viewed as something that is spiritual, special, unique. It should be done when love is involved or else it loses it’s value and is dirty. I disagree. I think sex certainly can be done to build up a relationship built on romantic love, but it can also just be something fun, new, or exercise. Sex with strangers, friends, and partners can all serve very different and unique purposes.

The second seems to cause me more discomfort because the person accusing me of having low standards is generally implying that the person I’m interested in is not as attractive as I am, or maybe I can “do better”. This is really saying that there is a sort of universal rating system and it is against the social norm to operate outside of it. I don’t believe such a system really exists, I think many people can be sexually attractive for many reasons. Maybe it isn’t that I have low standards, maybe it is that I can recognize beauty in a lot of different women and translate that beauty into sexual desire.

The reality is that if you are a female that I know I have probably thought about the implications of adding a sexual dynamic to our relationships. Now, I would NEVER, EVER cross any boundary. In fact, my introverted nature and painful awareness of social norms means I will likely never even bring the subject up. As a general rule I believe sex is a good thing for people to experience together and has positive effect on friendships. If the occasion arose I would likely be interested if I find that person attractive, think it would benefit our relationship, it would be a good time, or I’m curious.

That being said, I have many, many female friends with whom I will never have sex and this does not take away from our relationship at all. I value them greatly and want our friendships to continue to blossom and grow. My interest in exploring a sexual element with my female friends is not having low standards, it is showing the diverse power of sex to help bring about happiness and fulfillment within relationships.