When I come out to people as polyamorous, I generally get the response, “I could never do that”. After I reveal that I have suffered from severe jealousy issues and insecurity, I usually get the question, “How do you do it???” I usually give a concise answer as no one has hours to listen to me articulate how I actually do it. What I usually say is “Well, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it, so I make it work and grow as a person.” That is not a lie. It’s just a really simple way of putting and maybe makes it sound like I’m some kind of Zen master who never had to work hard at anything. This, my friends, could not be further from the truth (as you could probably guess).
As it turns out, I have a very particular approach to these things. I have a very specific approach to my life and how to become the best I can in it. I have kept a lot of this to myself and not out here in the blogosphere because I see it as somewhat controversial and I thought it might offend people. It probably will. I expect to be judged by everyone all the time. Sometimes we are judged in a good light. Sometimes we are judged badly. Anyway, this ended up being quite long, so I will be posting it in three parts.
To put it simply, my philosophy about relationships, dealing with personal and practical issues, and life on Planet Earth in general is “Just Fucking Do It”.
Don’t tell Nike. There might be some copyright infringement there.
Now, “Just Fucking Do It” is pretty simple, but do not assume that it lacks complexity. Just getting over things and moving forward takes a tremendous amount of work and commitment. AND YOU WILL FAIL OVER AND OVER AGAIN. But the net gain is progress towards the person you want to be.
First, some preliminaries that are true about me:
FACT: My primary goal in life is to be happy. I do not consider something a success if it does not result in increased happiness about my life in general.
FACT: Success to me is defined by my own happiness. The happiness of those around me adds immensely to my own happiness.
FACT: I give as much as I can and expect little in return. All I expect from those close to me is honesty, respect, a willingness to take hard looks at themselves, and a commitment to self improvement. OK, maybe I ask for a lot. Whatever. Everyone should expect these things from people close to them.
FACT: Trauma makes all of what I am about to say harder and adds another element to a person’s hierarchy of needs. Some people need more help coming to terms with and learning to live productively with the things that have happened to them before they can be in truly healthy relationships and circumstances. It is for this reason that I wish mental health services were as easy to get and as stigma-free as flu shots.
Part One: Who Do You Want to Be?
This is a hard question for a lot of people to answer and people conflate answering it with not being true to themselves. Incorrect. You are not written in stone. Your challenges in life are not immovable objects and you are not doomed to suffer from them for all eternity. Some people have larger boulders to haul then others, but nothing is permanent.
That being said, you will never be rid of your challenges completely. Elements of them, remnants of them will always be there. However, if you commit to the idea that they do not have to rule you and that you have the power to attain tools with which to manage them, they do not have to define you. You do not have to say “This is just who I am”.
For me answering this question was pretty easy. There was a version of me that the “public” saw and a version of me that people saw in private. I wanted to be the public version of me all the time. She is confident, honest, outgoing, happy and calm. She doesn’t hide her struggles but deals with them head on.
And so it was that I was thrust into some things that brought out my issues in full force. My choice was either to suffer with them and be miserable or to analyze their root causes and determine ways to live with them productively. My choice was either to view myself as a victim of circumstance (in my case, being born with a docile and obedient personality, and then having my sense of value nurtured to revolve around how hard I work and what I can give to others), or view myself as someone empowered to change and take charge of myself and my future.
To me, the choice was clear.
So, you make a choice and you commit to that choice. Commitment is key. Commitment is the thing that keeps temporary failures from feeling like permanent ones. Commitment means that every day is a new day to get back on track.
But it is very important that you are the person YOU want to be and not what you think other people want you to be. You can not do this for other people. The underlying goal must be for self improvement for your own happiness and well being. This will, of course, benefit those close to you and I would be lying if this wasn’t a motivational factor for me. I love very awesome people and they deserve the best I have to offer. But it wasn’t THE motivational factor.
Full disclosure: I had been working on these things for years as I didn’t think it was right that I was so miserable as a teenager and young adult. I made progress, but it was slow. It was not until Wes and I decided to open up our relationship and I had to deal with the reality of what that meant and how I felt in the face of real practice that my need and desire for huge leaps in dealing productively with my personal issues became basically the most important thing in my life. And this was not simply because I wanted to have the best possible relationship, but also because the skills and improvements needed to be happy in my relationship were skills and improvements I needed to be happy in all areas of my life.
For instance, I used to be a generally negative, jealous, envious person. This may surprise some of the people who know me, but it is quite true. I didn’t realize how far reaching these qualities were until I found myself jealous about things like people having days off when I didn’t or people having more money than I did. I held people’s successes against them if they didn’t have to work hard for them. I suffered regularly from “Grass is Greener” syndrome, always thinking that other people were living more interesting lives than I or thinking that “I would be happy if I was doing…something else.” I refused to acknowledge that it is valid to try to fix what’s wrong in your current situation before up and leaving everything and starting over. My dad was famous for saying, “Who’s always there when you are upset? You.” And in my case, ultimately, it was in fact me that was the common link amongst all my issues. My outlook was a cloudy filter that made everything I was and did look bad. And so it became my goal to attain a new filter.