Poly Nirvana

Love, Life and Rational Polyamory


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~Review~

I haven’t been able to eat today.

I’ve tried. My brain says eat. But I feel sick. Sick with that dread feeling, when there’s so much spilt milk that you are certain you will never be able to clean it up. There will always be another spot, another drop, another puddle.

In the Mormon church, there’s this scripture, about how there “needs be opposition in all things.” It’s used to comfort people in hard times, but also to make people feel superior when bad things happen. I think when I was a girl, I mixed up the scripture with Newton’s law, the one about “equal and opposite reactions.” If you get really good things in life, then you have to get really bad things too. That’s balance. That’s life.

The problem with this theory, is that there is no real balance. The starving, dying children of the world, do not have anything equal, but good, to counteract the fact that they are dying in multitudes. I suppose you could balance out the starving masses with the obese video- game playing children of the world who have plenty to eat, but I doubt that’s what God, or Newton had in mind.

I had a really, truly, to the core, rough year. It could have been worse, I am very aware. I had three children, each with a rare cancer syndrome (which they were gifted by me), undergo major surgery; all three within eight weeks of each other. As sole emotional, as well as financial caregiver, I am utterly exhausted. I keep telling myself to be grateful that nobody died. To be thankful that nobody needed long courses of chemo or radiation. I’ve reprimanded myself for emotions that range from feeling sorry for myself, to downright anger. My emotional reserves are depleted, and yet, the emotional demands on me remain the same. I’m still the mom. I’m still the grown up. I still cannot escape.

I am not really coping as well as I expected.

Add to the mix, a very intense relationship that almost ended, and several strong friendships that ended very badly, and it all makes for a very bitter girl, who is tired, and simply cannot lift her head up to see over the walls she has built in order to protect herself.

I sat in the hospital, in the dead of night, so angry at one friend in particular, because I loved her with all my heart, and she should have been there for me, and she should have been there for my children. I know her heart, and I feel the loss of her every day, and I know my kids miss her too.

Everyone leaves. Everyone changes.

This is the lesson I’ve learned this year. People can be mean. And people includes me.

For 1209 days, I have been loved by a man who is just as broken as I am, though I may have finally built my walls high enough to keep him out too. This beautiful man, with eyes the color of root beer, looked at me last night and told me he wasn’t sure we should be together. The light was fading from his eyes.

I’ve finally figured it out. It doesn’t matter if I’m poly or not poly. Not one bit. It only matters that I can accept the love and happiness that he gives me, for what it is, without fear of the pain and uncertainty of what might come with it. Will probably come with it. Because for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. You take the good with the bad.

Because this man makes me happy. He sees good in me. I’m a better person, because he holds up a mirror and doesn’t let me look away. In the mirror I see a scared girl, who can almost always hold everything together, until she can’t. And he isn’t afraid to tell me that I’m starting to drown, and he can’t come with me.

“If you give up,”  he said, “if you drown, I can’t let you drown me along with you. So please, swim for your life.”

So I’m treading water, and trying to decide which direction to go.

I don’t know what to do, I said.

“Breathe,” he told me.

I’m breathing. It’s all I can do.


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~So~

My ex-husband is getting married. In two weeks. I found out about this a week ago.

Being formerly LDS, and married in the LDS temple, where “eternal marriage” is considered the most holy of ordinances, I received a letter from the church asking me my feelings about him being “sealed” to another woman.

“Hallelujah”, I thought.

“I have no issue with him remarrying,” I wrote.

Of course this has brought up questions from the kids about marriage, and relatiohships, and when I’ll be getting married again. Because that’s what you do, when you’re old and single. Get married. My daughter, Georgia, says I should just say, “Man, I wish someone would propose to me”, and then Special Man will marry me. It’s been a rough week. Not only do I get to process some residual feelings from my failed marriage, but I get to deal with some of those mononormative knee-jerk reactions that I still carry. Marriage is romantic and dreamy. Weddings are exciting, and everyone is full of hope for the future, and love for each other. Weddings validate. It doesn’t matter that my children have yet to meet this new wife of their father, or that this wedding is happening extremely fast for any sane person’s taste. They are still validated because marriage is the ultimate stamp of respectability and acceptance.

I have a stable relationship of two and a half years. A wedding would not make it any more stable or loving, but it’s hard to get away from those societal norms. To be perfectly honest, I think Special Man and I would be terrible domestic partners. Seriously. (I’ve told him this before, and he disagrees, but I think he knows I’m right.) Still, the dress and the doves and the declarations of love…what little girl hasn’t been told that this is the ultimate accomplishment of her young life? And the fantasy still makes me sigh a little, though I’m a realist and I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever marry again.

A romantic commitment ceremony in the woods, however, might be another story.

A few nights ago we had birthday cake for SMF with the kids. It was good, and comfortable. I wouldn’t want to trade my alternative relationship configuration for another automatic marriage. I couldn’t.

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~Preach~

Once upon a time, there was a Southern Baptist man who told me he was polyamorous.

An hour into our first date, I knew that he was a liar. He had a wife. And she thought they were a happily married, monogamous couple. I was sad and cynical and bitter after my divorce, and for some reason, of which I am decidedly not proud, I went out with him a second time. Then a third. He fascinated me, as I tried to find my place in a world I was new to. I was newly single, I had walked away from the religion I was raised in, and all of a sudden, I was searching to find something I believed in.

I didn’t make any vows, I thought. This is all on him. So I quietly had an affair with a married man for almost nine months.

This man symbolized everything I was, at that time, pushing back against. He wasn’t just a Southern Baptist, he was a minister with his own congregation. He was married with a pregnant wife. He had a position with the local right-to-life organization.

I had a friend tell me, that the irony was so ridiculous, he couldn’t get over it. “Religion completely fucked you over,” he said, “And now you’re fucking a preacher.” I didn’t feel anything. I felt numb. I wasn’t attached to him, though I enjoyed our conversations and our time together was pleasant. He expressed much more moderate views of the world to me, in private, than he did to the public. I felt like he was one person with me, and another away from me. Maybe this was how I justified what I was doing. We joked that we were therapy for each other.

After about six months, I began to feel that I was wronging someone. I was wronging his wife. I was wronging myself. I had found the boundaries of my own personal morality, not a forced set of moral laws set on me by a church or a god, or a society. I was a human being, and human beings should be kind and do right by each other. Even if you didn’t make any vows to them.

After another few months we parted, and I didn’t look back. I didn’t love him, though I wished him well. I told him I hoped he would figure out a way to be true to himself, and to honor his wife’s expectations of their marriage. I don’t know what choices he subsequently made in his personal life, but he continues to lead his congregation, even writing in a public forum, about the dangers and immorality of adultery. I don’t know if he’s a hypocrite, or simply a sinner with good intentions.

I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I am hesitant to post this, even as I know that nobody can judge me as harshly as I judge myself, but it happened, and this experience pushed me to figure out who I really wanted to be, and how I truly wanted to live my life. This was my first introduction to non-monogamy. It wasn’t ethical, and it wasn’t honorable. But the idea was planted, this possibility of open, consensual, loving relationships, where everyone was doing their best for each other and for themselves, and this vision both enthralled and terrified me.

And that hasn’t changed. The concept of polyamory absolutely thrills me.

But some days I’m still a little scared of it.

The end.


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~Worship~

I have a story I need to tell. A story about My Big Fat Mormon Family. It’s a story so complex, so convoluted, so fucked up, that I don’t even know what the first sentence should be.

I come from a family, well rooted in the Mormon faith. ( I use the term faith very loosely here.)   As I grew up, I learned not to ask too many questions, because if you did, and the answers didn’t make sense, were unknown, or were just ridiculous, I was told that what I needed was prayer.  And more faith.  (Basically, what I needed was a blind belief in a nonsensical fairy tale.)

I am not going to write about church “doctrine” or the details of why I do not hold with the beliefs of the LDS church any more.  There are a myriad of blogs and websites to that end, if you are interested.  I wasn’t given the chance to know anything different than the fairy tale.  I grew up the good girl, and I did what was expected.  It was all I knew.  I was obedient.  I was compliant.  I was faithful.

Everything that was expected of me, I did.  I went to BYU.  I married young, to a man who was wrong for me, because I was afraid of being an old maid.  I went to church, and I reproduced.  I tried to be a good homemaker, a good wife to a violent and angry man, and a good mother to children I probably shouldn’t have had.

I was rarely happy.  I was never me.

If my faithful mother were to read this, she would weep and wonder how she had lost me to the sinful and wicked world.  Every so often, she hugs me and whispers in my ear that Heavenly Father misses me.  I keep quiet, out of respect for her belief,  and out of some misguided desire to avoid conflict.

In my mid-thirties, I went back to college, and I stopped being afraid.  Money is power (especially if you do not have it), and once I had my own, I took my children and left my marriage. It took me some time to be brave enough to turn away from the church, not because of belief, but because of fear.  The guilt I felt as a mother was deep-rooted, and toxic.  Taking on the eternal salvation of myself was easy, but being responsible for my children losing the blessings of the Celestial Kingdom, was another.

(Don’t ask.)

After thirty-odd years, I held on so tightly to what I knew, simply because I didn’t know anything else.  As I slowly loosened my grip on this idea that the world would end if I said the words out loud, “I don’t believe any of it,” I began to discover who I was.  I could make my own decisions.  I wasn’t restricted by anyone’s rules or expectations for my life, except my own.

I started to drink coffee.  Now don’t laugh, but buying my first coffee maker at the age of 39 was a big fucking deal.  It was a symbol to myself, and a sign to my children, that Things Were Different.

That same year, I read my first Mormon history book. One that was not written by a Mormon.  I bought cute panties, and bras. I went to the store and to the movies on  Sunday!  I dated, and eventually, I had sex.  With a man who wasn’t my husband.  And then I had more sex. With another man who wasn’t my husband.  It was scary, and it was new, and it was glorious.

In the middle of all of this self-discovery, I took a good look at the vision of  the Big Fat Mormon Family that my mother had worked so hard to maintain.  What I saw, were nine brothers and sisters, only three of whom still went to church.  I saw my parents, divorced after years of adultery and dishonesty.  I saw substance abuse among my siblings, and failed marriage, after failed marriage.  The happiest of my siblings were those who had stood up and said, “I don’t believe any of it.”

So I stood up.  And I was happy.