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Day 357: So You Want to Know About Poly?

Several months ago a family member who knows that I am polyamorous asked how being poly “worked” for me. The question caught me off guard because I’d never had anyone ask me in-depth questions as to why I chose to be polyamorous, and the last person I ever expected to be curious was a family member, though in hindsight maybe it shouldn’t have surprised me much at all. So, in case anyone else is interested, here is a little bit of a roadmap for how I got here, some of the differences I have noticed as compared to monogamous relationships and things I wish someone had told me when I first got interested in the possibility of a nontraditional relationship. I would also like to add the caveat that this is how I choose to live my life. Polyamory is not for everyone and that’s okay. I will never bash traditional monogamous relationships just because I’m not in one.

 

I am lucky enough to have grown up in a household where I always knew what polyamory was even if it wasn’t the relationship model I saw at home. I have never feared the idea of my immediate family knowing that the people I choose to have an intimate relationship with are more than just good friends. Extended family is somewhat different but the older I get the less apologetic I find myself being, so if someone asks a question, I will answer truthfully and if they think less of me for living authentically that is their problem, not mine. when Oz and I first started, dating we discussed the idea of a polyamorous relationship partially because of my disability. There are things that he is interested in that I couldn’t experience with him, longer/ non-accessible hiking trails for instance that I would feel bad if he gave up just because I was in his life. I also dislike the idea that a lot of people have that once you are in a committed relationship you must only do things the other person enjoys. Personally, I think that is ridiculous. Just because we don’t have all of the same hobbies or pastimes doesn’t mean we can’t still love each other. In a lot of traditional relationships, I have seen there can be a lot of resentment build up between partners if one spends a lot of time doing a hobby the other does not or cannot share with them.That is one of the nice things about polyamory, Oz can find someone who (among other things, I’m sure)enjoys hiking the harder trails I can’t follow and therefore is less likely to resent me because he felt he had to give up something he likes doing just because I can’t. On the other side of that coin, I have always enjoyed the Society for Creative Anachronism and Oz is currently on the fence about it. I would like him to go to at least one event but even if he does go and decides it’s not his thing, Dylan enjoys it as well so I wouldn’t have to feel like I was twisting someone’s arm just to get to go to an event.

 

Poly is a lot of talking. If you’re not good at verbalizing things be prepared to write a lot. Communication is key to any relationship and that is magnified exponentially in polyamory. Some little thing bugging you? Talk about it, even if only results in a two-minute conversation because staying quiet does nothing except continue to rub a sore spot raw. One of the things I was asked was how I made sure my emotional needs are met, the answer is more talking. Most people do not claim to be a mind reader and therefore one of the things that one or the other of us has said repeatedly is “I can’t fix a problem I don’t know exists.” A good rule of thumb I have found is that if it’s bothering you talk about it. If it’s something that’s bothering you that you don’t want to talk about then you should definitely be talking about it, it probably won’t get fixed overnight but at least it can be worked on.

 

A lot of people may ask how individual time gets worked out between everybody. The answer is that it is different for every relationship. Right now Oz and I live in Tennessee and Dylan and Sera live in New York State.Gods bless Google video chat.Oz and I have DVD delivery from Netflix plus the streaming service so at least once a week so at least once a week we make it a point to watch a movie or a couple episodes of television. It’s a good thing we’re all a bunch of third shift working people at my house because I don’t get funny looks for going to bed at four or five or later in the morning because I refuse to sleep until Dylan is home from work. Also, I going to visit them in about a month yay!

 

A specific word or two about terminology. Many poly people use terms like primary, secondary etc. to differentiate between their relationships. For example in a lot of cases, I have seen people use the term primary relationship to refer to the relationship they have with their legal spouse. A lot of people would consider Oz my primary relationship because he is the one I currently share living space with on a regular basis and finances etc. I do not personally care for labeling things that way. If it was necessary and within my capabilities to do so I would give whatever was needed to those I love, whether it was blood, money, food, organs, a roof over their heads, bone marrow etc. and they all know this. I don’t do things by halves if I’m in your life I will stay there as long as you will let me and while I’m there I will support you in any way that I can.

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Authors note: This is what polyamory looks like for me there are as many different forms of it as there are people who are in polyamorous relationships.

 

 

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Day 356: Fun with Astral Projection

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I finish tying my shoes and carefully stand up. The moon is full so my brightly colored hair and shoelaces are an unexpected contrast to a mostly dark landscape. I’m walking down the path away from the log cabin on whose front porch I had just tied my shoes, who it belonged to or how I got there seemed unimportant. I’m walking with my hands held away from my sides, like a tightrope walker. The moonlight flashes briefly off of something moving in the woods nearby and I smile. My eyes now searching the trees for the flash I  had seen  I don’t really notice exactly when my unsteadiness fades and I’m no longer walking at all. I am running, fast enough for the wind to pick up my short hair off my shoulders and keep it out of my face for once. Is not quite “normal”, my right leg drags a little bit but I hardly notice. In the woods on either side of me glints of light off moving shadows that might have had fur tell me I’m still being paced. I can’t help but laugh,”Come on guys, I’m not that fast! You’re letting me win!”  Just then, as though to remind me of my waking limitations that I had somehow managed to set out of mind for a few minutes, I trip, my right foot caught on a barely visible tree root.Well, this is going to hurt.I mentally brace myself for the impact and reflexively close my eyes. I never hit the ground.  Laughter in my ear,”You’re right, you aren’t that fast.We don’t get ahead of you because we know you will eventually fall.” I have landed in an awkward half kneel leaning most of my weight on Oz shoulder. “Bet she twisted her ankle,” this said over my head to Dylan who is walking back carrying my right shoe, whch I  had lost. “Did not,” said through gritted teeth as the ankle, which is most definitely injured is checked over. “What was that baby,” and I can tell from the tone of his voice Dylan isn’t fooled in the least. “Well, it isn’t broken but it needs ice so this night’s run is over. Next time, ask one of us to tie your shoes for you.”

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Day 355: Running, Ableism, Personal Autonomy, and the Search for Space

rainbow shoesWhen you live with four other people it can feel a little claustrophobic at times. It’s also somewhat noisy not because there is anything particularly of note going on, it’s just that five people in one house aren’t exactly quiet even if they are not trying to make a lot of noise. When one of those people cannot seem to remember that it is polite to knock on a closed door and ask permission before entering, it’s even more frustrating.Some days I can barely hear myself think. So I appreciate the evenings when, if I’m lucky,  I can sit in the quiet living room with my laptop and write.I have been thinking a lot about the act of running lately. Running has always held a fascination for me, possibly because it is something that my disability keeps me from experiencing, at least as an active participant in the actual mechanics. I think my mom has carried me on her back while running and several people have pushed my chair while they ran,  so I guess I have experienced it in a passive, secondhand fashion.  It’s not the same.

Some people may think that driving my power chair at top speed is an equivalent,  it is a close approximation I guess, but still not the same thing. There isn’t really a whole lot of physical exertion involved. To those who say I am not missing much by skipping over that I say, you don’t know what you have, appreciate everything because tomorrow it could be gone in less than the blink of an eye.Sore muscles are a small price to pay for having your fellow citizens notice your existence. If you think I am overreacting let me tell you a story. When I was 13 years old I met a young man who was a few years older than me. For the first year I knew him I tried my hardest not to like him but he eventually won me over and became my best friend. 10 years later I’m in college and he is working on his Masters degree in teaching, he’s not even 30 and has already achieved two Bachelors degrees. That summer he takes a kayaking trip gets bit by a tick and contracts both Rocky Mountain spotted tick fever and Lyme disease. He misses the antibiotics window because it was originally thought that the rash on his hands was an allergic reaction. The last Christmas time I spent with him he was on forearm crutches had to use a scooter to get around Walmart. This was a guy who would show up at the drop of a hat say, “we are going somewhere”, and toss me and my manual chair in the back of his truck without a second thought. I almost cried before we even went into the store, it was about to get worse. We had gone there so that Nathan can get a few things for some Christmas gifts he was making, the rest of us were mostly window shopping. I had to use the restroom so I only heard about the incident secondhand but I returned from the bathroom to find my friend livid.with anger. Apparently, while I was gone he had carried some cloth up to the counter to have a specific amount he needed for his projects cut from the bolts. A woman who should have been behind him in line stepped around him and said, “oh this will only take a minute, you don’t mind do you,” not even speaking to him but to the associate responsible for the craft area of the store that day. He replied as though she had spoken to him, “yes, I do mind because I was in line before you.” He bought his lengths of fabric, met up with the rest of us, and left. I can tell you from having made several similar trips with him before he got sick this would not have happened if he had been able to walk. I cried for him that day, not because he was sick, but because he was well and truly in my world now. The smartest man I knew, who had already run four of his own businesses by the time I met him when he was 17, was working on his third diploma when most people I knew may have been halfway through their first, was reduced to one thing in the eyes of strangers,  an impediment. A roadblock in their routine, something to be skirted around, avoided, not even given enough humanity to merit the decency of a moment’s worth of eye contact. You think that any means of moving yourself through space is equal to being able to do so on your own two feet, you’re wrong.

The ability to run saves lives. Stand in the emergency room of any hospital for long enough and you’ll see. Soldiers in the US Armed Forces have to be able to run a mile in six minutes if they are ever deployed into a combat zone that six-minute mile will save their life more times than they actually want to think about.  If you run, you are seen. Caitlyn Jenner, Jesse Owens, you know these names.

I bought a new pair of shoes recently, black sneakers with rainbow shoelaces. I bought the laces and discarded the mundane black laces before even leaving the store.My family jokes that my shoes last a ridiculously long time and that this is one of the few “perks” of not being able to walk. They are right, my shoes may end up a little scuffed and the tread may pick up small amounts of dirt now and again from standing during transfers, but I will never wear a hole in them or have to keep them held together with duct tape. Yes, when you live in the South, duct taped shoes are an actual thing.

There is a scene from the movie Practical Magic where are the main character, Sally, runs and jumps into the arms of the man who will become her husband. Funny, the things that stay with you. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first saw that movie, maybe 14, but I do remember horrible, gut twisting anger at the fact that I would never be able to do that. Even though I am much older now and concede the fact that there are many ways to express that level of emotion I still feel a little bit cheated every time I watch the movie.

I’ve never been able to run in my dreams. I walked sometimes, albeit unsteadily. I have tripped a lot, fell on my face numerous times, belly crawled,  used my chair, or found myself stranded in bed because I’m unable to get up without assistance. I have never run, not once in my whole life.A  few weeks ago that changed. In my dreams, I panicked when a person I was supposed to meet did not show up in the usual place and without a second thought, I ran to find them.Weeks after the fact there is a voice in my head screaming,”Holy sh*t I RAN,” every time I think about it.

In case you’re wondering, I did not run, or even stand and walk completely under my own power the next morning, that’s not how dreams work, and I am in no way disappointed or upset. What I do find interesting is the fact that my dream self can run now when I have never been able to before. I can still run and it’s not a function of the blind panic that I felt the first time I ran. My best guess is the fact that I can now run in my dreams signifies positive potential that I didn’t have before, or at least couldn’t see or access before now. Change is in the wind and while it may not bear Mary Poppins, come to illuminate all our problems and put us on the path to fixing them, I have a feeling it might just turn out better than we thought.

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Day 354: Kimmy

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Today I am reminded that I am lucky. Even though I was born with cerebral palsy with the exception of my orthopedic surgeries I have only been hospitalized for “normal” things, pneumonia,  strep throat, the flu. My immune system isn’t exceptionally weak, in fact, I am almost never sick and I have never even come close to organ failure, thank goodness.  My cerebral palsy did not come with a long list of other diagnoses, things to complicate and maybe shorten my life. So most days I forget that my CP reality isn’t everyone’s. Then someone who also has CP dies and just how lucky I really am shows up in the stark black-and-white newsprint of the obituary column.I often tell people that just because I have cerebral palsy doesn’t mean I know everyone with cerebral palsy in the state. I don’t know everyone but I do know a lot of people from my age group. I didn’t know Kimmy Jones as well as I might have even though we went to the same college and summer camp but I do know that she made a lot of people smile and laugh and as far as I know never did anything but inflate and enhance the lives of others. That is the best any of us can hope to be remembered for when we die.You will be missed, Kimmy.