I’m A Little Bit Proud Of Myself

Dear Diary,

I haven’t written much lately, in part because I’ve been swamped with work and answering messages and generally trying to catch up projects, and in part because I haven’t felt like I had much to write about in the meantime. Things are going well, I had this fantastic day about a week ago where I realised I was quite ready to start considering entering into another relationship. I’ve been more consistent this week with prioritising Bible study and prayer than I have been in a long time, and it makes such a wonderful difference.

Currently, my brain is being handled with great care after all the extroversion over the last week. I have to pace myself better, or I am going to be in tears. So, taking lots of breaks today between the longer messages (which I love, but they’re tough when I feel like I’m running on empty) and doing the self-care things I know I need: prayer, Bible study, playing piano, organising/tidying my house, etc.

The best thing that happened today, however, is I realised that I actually can and will say no to a situation I know isn’t right for me. In my last relationship, I said yes to a lot of things I didn’t fully want. I said yes because I knew my significant other wanted them, I wanted to please him, I hoped that if I just gave a little more that he’d be in the right place to give me what I wanted so badly, and on and on, until after the relationship ended I realised three things.

First, that I gave up a lot of what I wanted, I gave up hoping for the things I wanted, and even the things I needed because of what my ex wanted, and I let him convince me it was not only okay, but right. When I started considering looking for a D/s relationship a little over a week ago, I got so incredibly excited that it reminded me of when I first began exploring this part of my life, and I was elated. I didn’t think it’d feel that way again, but I actually have hope that I can and will find the right person, and the person that I genuinely fit too.

Second, I realised that I was right, and I let my ex convince me I wasn’t. It was such an incredible relief to realise I was in fact right, I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t horrible at relationships, I wasn’t entirely out of touch with myself and lying to myself half the time. I was right. And I’m still unraveling some of that from time to time, but I feel so utterly free all the same.

Third, I realised that so much of what I wanted in the relationship, so much of what I treasured and loved, they were promises that were yet to be fulfilled. They were promises that got put off, set on the backburner, replaced, sometimes deleted entirely, for a long time. And I hung on, and I fought, and I was faithful, and I supported my ex as best I could, I was understanding, I was patient, I prayed my heart out, I was available whenever possible…and I set aside what I wanted for him, I set aside my own needs to meet his, and in the end all I had worth grieving over in that relationship was things that never even got to happen.

So I’ve been rather careful with myself in the first leg of this search, I’ve been keeping an eye on what I say and what I am willing to change my mind about. I keep going back to the list of things that I realised I wanted before my last relationship (during the course of which I gave up on hoping for most of those things) and reminding myself that I want these things for a reason, that I need these things within the relationship, and to be patient and trust myself, to trust what I learned about myself through my experiences.

But amidst all of this, I’ve been quite afraid that I will make the same mistakes. That I will like and even love this new person, whoever he may be (it’s only been a week, I’m not rushing this at all), so much that I let him dictate when I’m ready to say ‘I love you’, that I let him decide what kind of online interaction we have, that I let him decide what I am and am not comfortable doing. That I will end up in that same place, where I feel afraid to talk about how I feel for fear that I’m ‘wrong’ again, where I feel more alone in the relationship than I ever did out of it, that I feel constantly set aside and pushed out, and that I give up things that I love for someone who does not actively love me back. And Friday night, I realised how afraid I’ve been and spent a solid hour crying while I explained it to someone else. It was cathartic, but now I was even more wary of myself because I know that is a kind of weak point for me, that I am sometimes self-sacrificing in the wrong ways. And I firmly believe there are good ways, very good ways, in which one can be self-sacrificing, and I don’t want to stop doing those but I need to get a handle on my bad habits here.

At the very least I want to make whole new mistakes, not cycle through the old ones.

One person seemed to stand out for a few days. He was insightful, we appeared to be on the same page regarding many things, we could message at length and have wonderfully detailed discussions (which, for me, is a very good sign, and I was surprised it happened so quickly). Then through our conversations I realised he was looking for more of an offline relationship and has certain views regarding online relationships (which is what I want) which do not fit with my experiences or desires. And perhaps I will write on why I love and feel genuinely fulfilled through online relationships sometime, but I’m prattling on enough as it is.

Way back when I first began exploring D/s, I had this one incident where I submitted to someone I could not please; essentially, I tried to be someone I wasn’t to make him happy, and it was an awful experience, I wound up hurt in many ways, and I swore: never again. If I ever submitted to someone again, I would only do so as myself, I would only submit if being myself, as purely and fully as possible, was what pleased that person. That was the confirmation that led me to submit to my first Dom, who was fantastic and taught me more than I can ever thank him for. And when I realised that this new person, with whom I thought I was feeling the ‘click’, wanted something I was not ready to give, did not know how long it would take me to get ready, and had very different views regarding the nature of online relationships, I went back to that core concept: if I cannot be me, I am not the person he is looking for; correspondingly, he is not the person I am searching for.

As nicely and encouragingly as I could, I wrote him and told him what I thought, explained why, told him I thought he was wonderful and I knew he’d find someone who suited what he sought. He had said in his previous message that he would respect my decision, so I also offered to be friends, because we did converse well and shared some similar interests.

Then today I got an extremely long and emotional message from him, which I understand, I was a little disappointed too. But this message crossed some lines. He assumed the role of ‘Dom’ when I had not submitted to him. He told me to apologise to him and to reconsider. He told me that it was about him and his feelings, and not mine (he was half right). He accused me of making decisions for him and not giving him a chance to decide how he felt – and there I can understand his frustration, but at the same time this is my life and I know from experience, multiple experiences, that it’s absolutely miserable to be submitted to someone that I know I’m not pleasing, not to mention it causes some significant emotional damage. He accused me of using this as an excuse because I am afraid of being in a relationship with him, and that I haven’t allowed myself to be truly open to anyone in the last 2.5 years (he and I have been talking for five days, just so we’re clear about the strangeness of that conclusion).

Then he wrote this: “So I am going to do the very best dom/daddy thing I can for you and tell you that you are mistaken here. That I love you (figuratively, don’t know you well enough yet to say that) and that I think you should listen to me on this, because I think I’m right and if you honestly search yourself I think you’ll agree.”

And dammit, if that wasn’t something that sounded eerily like my last relationship, and I realised Wow, nope, I do not feel bad about ending this. Because I know I’m right, I have lived the difference between being in a relationship because it’s kind of what you want and being in a relationship because it’s exactly what you want.

Then this clinched it: “It has become more and more apparent that you do indeed need a dom. Not necessarily to tell you what to do, not my style, but to give you a swift kick in the ass and say pull out of your head and live your fucking life.:

I just stopped and enjoyed the moment. Because if I learned one thing, one solitary thing from my last relationship, it’s that I can have the most important person in my life putting me through this hellish rollercoaster of emotion and drama, and I can not only take care of myself but him too. I have realised that I can lose the relationship (referring here to my first D/s relationship) and feel utterly crushed 24/7, and I can not only survive but that I can continue living and being happy without a D/s relationship. I have learned that as much as I want to be submitted to someone, that as much as I treasure getting to express that part of me, that is absolutely part of my core self, I only get to genuinely do that with the right someone. And I have learned that I can be right when it comes to knowing myself, that I am not being unfair when I take my needs into account, and that if a relationship ends it is not the end of the world and I will be okay. I will be better than okay. I can be alone. I can be happy and be alone. I can be myself and alone. And I’m not afraid to be alone.

So no, I don’t need a dom. And I am living my life, and learning to live it better by the grace of God. If anything, I need God, because He’s the one who has led me through all this and never once failed me.

I wrote this person a reply, and I was polite but firm, I clarified things as best I could, and then I told him that I thought it best if this was the last message exchanged. I have a lot of wonderful friends, and there are plenty of people who respond to me respectfully, but this message did not fit either of those scenarios. And I’m a little bit proud of myself, because I said no, and I thought it through a second time, and I said no again. I did not bow to pressure, I did not let someone else talk me out of my conviction, I did not let myself start doubting that I knew what the right thing to do was.

And I feel that freedom again. I feel pretty good. I’ve continued talking with other people and getting to know them, and enjoyed it quite thoroughly today. I feel like I can trust myself a little more, like I made it through the first trial and have proven that I have perhaps learned a valuable lesson and am capable of applying it.

Finally, I am grateful that things didn’t go further, because that is not a situation that I think would end well otherwise. I don’t do well with people who cross lines at will, and who are not respectful of my decisions when they become emotional. I cannot and will not submit to that, and I feel quite strongly that I’m being watched out for.

So I continue, slow and steady. To the kitchen to enjoy my strawberry ice cream, because frankly I think I deserve a treat.

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The Intrinsic Components of a Power Exchange Relations

 

I’m working through this week’s Bible study (bear with me  for this one paragraph, this really is about power exchange relationships), and learning about how one of the core purposes of prayer is to provide us with an opportunity to ask God for what we need. Now, this is not so we can tell God what we need, because if He really is all-knowing then He already knows. But rather, this is because when we go to Him and ask for what we need, and He shows His love and power and provides for us, then we get to experience Him, draw nearer to Him, know Him better, and trust Him more. God could simply give us what we need, but then we do not get to actively build that relationship with Him and come to know Him through our experience. So this got me thinking about my past relationships.

Early on in my relationship with my first formal Dom, I remember at least a few instances where my former Dom would give me certain instructions like ‘Be careful with the icyhot and make sure you don’t get it in your eyes,’ and I would respond by indicating, politely, that I already knew to be careful. I didn’t do this because I was trying to be sassy or because I felt he was being condescending; I just felt the need to show that I wasn’t a little child or clueless and I didn’t need to be told.

Because at that time, I felt my former Dom was telling me those things because he believed I needed to be told. I’ve since realised it wasn’t really about the specific instruction, but rather a show of his affectionate, caring domination over me. He was being protective. He was dedicating himself to my safety and ensuring that I had all the information I could possibly need and want in that situation to minimise the possibility of negative incidents that might detract from what he was giving me. Whether certain instructions were precisely needed or not was incidental; the purpose of those instructions was to express his abiding care for me and to give me an opportunity to experience that care.

Over time, I figured this out, albeit not so explicitly. I stopped feeling the need to assert my knowledge (in part because I knew he respected me and knew my abilities, and he made me feel safe just being me, without having to prove anything, which was incredible in and of itself), and I instead would reply ‘Yes Daddy, I will,’ and endeavour to honour his instructions and reminders. Even before I figured this out, he continually reminded me, helped me, guided me, not because he thought I was an idiot or helpless, but because he cared and he realised I needed to experience that care, actively, day in and day out. And gradually, my continual experience of that care led to the development of this phenomenal trust and intimacy developed between us. I savoured those commands, because I had all this experience of his care before, and I knew that whenever he gave me instructions, whenever he updated my training, whenever he told me to do anything, it was out of this deep, consistent, genuine care.  Of course, there were other things that we both did which fostered this, but I realise now how those commands, that attention to detail, the consistent care and instruction even when he could have assumed I knew well enough on my own, they made a world of difference in our dynamic.

In my second formal relationship, my responses became quite different when I felt I could not go to my significant other at the time. Not for lack of invitation or even willingness on his part, but because I saw how busy he was, how he was often preoccupied with his own struggles and difficulties. He always was dealing with something big, and I either didn’t want to intrude or didn’t think he’d be available. Sometimes I would go to him, and things would be okay for a little while, and then something would interrupt us again.

I have known for a long time that I can take care of myself, and I will. But in one of those relationships I was given the chance to develop intimacy and trust. I got to see that I mattered and that there was a space in my former Dom’s life and mind where I mattered. I learned that my physical and emotional safety was a priority. And it was not done through bossiness or arrogance or extra rules. It wasn’t done through whips or toys or stellar erotica either. It wasn’t done through degrading me, diminishing what I knew or what I was, nor through proving himself my superior in some way. It was done through this simple expression of his care. In perhaps unnecessary instructions, that became absolutely essential to our dynamic.

In my second relationship, I learned a great deal about myself. I learned to love myself. I learned to take care of myself. I learned to look for my own answers and not use someone else as a substitute for God, eventually to look to God myself. All of this has been invaluable, and I am forever grateful. But amidst all that, with all the time, energy, straining, fighting with myself, the determined bandaging of my wounds before attempting another round, we never quite developed that trust and intimacy that we both needed. That the relationship called for, and, if we had been able to form that first layer of trust and intimacy, that a D/s dynamic would have required. This was partly because, I firmly believe, the relationship was not meant to be, and I fully own that relationships go both ways and everything I ever did or said or neglected to do or say also shaped the relationship. I just see this…factor. Where he didn’t seem to have the opportunity, and sometimes the energy, to give me that kind of consistent care, and we never seemed to grow past a certain point. It is not that he did not care deeply for me, I know he did. But we never got past a certain stage of trust, we never got to develop the intimacy, and we never got to do much more than scratch the surface of D/s together.

I’m not writing this to rehash my relationships, but because today something clicked regarding the nature of domination and submission. The experience of domination, I am slowly realising, is not just in the giving of instruction, nor is the experience of submission just the obedience to that instruction. We tend to say things like trust and intimacy are the essential foundation of a power exchange dynamic; I wonder if that would be better nuanced if we said that trust and intimacy are the the very nature of a power exchange dynamic. That the faithfulness, the consistency, the very basic follow-through of a dominant-type and a submissive-type where they endeavour to keep their word even in the smallest things, where care is shown in simple ways but reliably so, that perhaps this is not the foundation on which the power exchange relationship is built, with all the rules and kinky things, the accessories, the scenes, the titles, the protocols, and everything else we see as pieces (or potential pieces, we get to mix and match) of a power exchange relationship. Perhaps this consistency and faithfulness, this reliability and genuine commitment and care, is the relationship itself.

Let me attempt to clarify this another way. If the exchange of power, of control, cannot happen without trust and intimacy then it follows that a genuine power exchange relationship must include trust and intimacy. Therefore, if we define a power exchange relationship (D/s, M/s, DD/lg, O/p, etc.) as a relationship in which the power of one is given over to the control of another, then it follows that as much as the exchange of power is part of the core nature of such a relationship so too are trust and intimacy. Not merely the means by which we get the power exchange, not the necessary hoops, not the process that comes before the fun stuff, but the very core nature of what a power exchange relationship is and requires in order to function well over an extended period of time.

And the more I think about the people that I have seen over the years building their relationships, growing closer, taking further steps into intimacy, learning to trust more and more, some to the point where they do not even feel the need to have limits so insanely, miraculously, beautifully intimate is their relationship, the more I think that yes, these are people who are consistently caring for one another, on good days and bad days, through thick and thin, not with big grand gestures but brick by brick, every chance they get.

The little things are the ones that matter the most.

Perhaps this is just me, maybe I’m overreaching (two relationships, count ’em, one, two), and perhaps this is something that has more emphasis in a DD/lg relationship (which I am more familiar with) than in other dynamics. I can certainly see how I am biased here in that consistency and people simply doing what they say they will do is of paramount importance to me, so I don’t want to impose this on anyone. I also realise I’ve focused more on domination than submission here, and I do not mean to imply submissive-types are not also responsible for earning trust and building intimacy through consistent care and genuine faithfulness and all that good stuff. It goes both ways, I just didn’t want to make this twice as long as it already is. This is a theory, and I lay it out here because I would so love and appreciate your thoughts on this. Does this resonate at all with your experience? Does this seem warranted or a stretch? Is this even helpful and worth discussing? If you disagree, why?

 

This Week’s Realisations

Dear Diary,

It’s been a kind of…up and down week. Not in an awful way, but I’ve been somewhat frustrated with myself. I’ve been feeling strongly for a while, a long while, that I really ought to be prioritising prayer and Bible study, quiet time where I wait on the Lord, far more than I do. Because I try to get everything else cleared out of the way, and sometimes that becomes an excuse to avoid, and then go to pray and study. Or I tell myself I’ll get up early to do it, and I suck at getting up in the morning. The object at rest would love to stay at rest.

So I’ve been inconsistent, feeling somewhat guilty and other times making excuses like my Thursdays are busy, and then Fridays I catch up on sleep, and then I’ll just watch one episode while I eat lunch, and then it snowballs from there. Saturday I have all day to study, and I often end up putting it off because I have an abundance of time. Until I have no time left, and Monday I’m rushing to cram in everything I meant to do all weekend. It drives me crazy but this has been my cycle, unless I have some commitment that I feel will directly affect someone else.

This last weekend things became worse. I started sleeping a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Friday I had some work. Saturday I was volunteering at my church in the evening, and so I wanted to have some time to myself before I had to spend part of my introvert-recovery day around people. I did not want to be around people. I was definitely wrung out from people from the rest of the week, and was hopefully I’d get to leave early (and I did). But I spent most of the day sleeping beforehand, even took my temperature because I thought it was weird I was so inclined to sleep. Then Sunday I had the usual church services, and then went home. Ended up napping for several hours. And my schedule was all out of whack, but it was definitely way more sleeping than I usually need, even with catchup from a busy week figured in.

It reminded me of how I felt a few years ago when I would spend the better part of the day in bed, usually asleep. School would be finished up for the year, I would be waiting for work to start, and I just…slept a lot. Too much. It scared me a little because I really do not want to cycle through that depression again. And it’s been so long since I felt that way, not having a defined stressor that made me inclined to nap for an hour here and there, but wanting to be asleep almost every chance I got… I thought maybe it was the weather, but that didn’t satisfy the dissonance I was experiencing. I thought maybe it was stress from people, that I was more affected by not having a full day off than I realised, but the timeline didn’t quite fit. Then I thought, briefly, it was because I was neglecting prayer and study. Regardless, I didn’t figure it out, I just tried to get myself in gear, and I did do better when I got up and started working on things like cleaning my kitchen, cooking, prepping for work, etc.

Tuesday night I spent a good chunk of time in Bible study, finally, and that helped too. The feeling was passing, definitely, but the memory of it still bothered me more than I cared to admit at the time. Then Wednesday I had planned on getting up earlier in the morning, as I had the first part of the day off, and finish Bible study for the week. And I hit the snooze button a few times, and reset my alarm, and eventually I think I just shut it off. Same cycle starting up again. Sometime in there, though, I had this dream. I am not the kind of person who thinks everything means something mystical, I am definitely not the kind of person who looks for meaning in all of the randomness of her brain processing things and amusing itself all night. But this dream struck a chord, so whether divine message or subconscious processing, I’m going with it.

I dreamt that I was in a hotel room, and the alarm went off, and I rolled over and went back to sleep. When I did get up, I realised my Mom had been waiting for me, and she was disappointed and rather sad, not in an accusatory or guilt-tripping kind of way at all, but sad that our time together was cut short. There were things she had hoped we could do together. And then I found it later in the dream that because I’d slept in and missed the checkout time, she had to pay extra for the hotel room. Later in the dream (skipping the stuff that’s foggy), I realised I’d better get working on my thesis, and my other term papers too (I have none right now, but dream ‘me’ did). My next thought was that I needed to go into my research mode, where I spend every spare moment reading and researching, taking notes, planning my papers, and then writing, editing, formatting, etc. I know this mode well, I’ve spent most of my adult life in university, and I love it. It’s exhausting sometimes, but I love getting to dig in, and I know the discipline and dedication it requires to do this well.

This was where I woke up, a bit disconcerted but not really sure why. Mildly annoyed with myself that I’d slept so much again. I got up and began getting ready, and slowly my thoughts sorted themselves out, particularly when I got back into my Bible study. I realised three things. First, that I need to stop spending my time asleep. Not just physical sleep, although I need to be careful of that (I love sleep, naps are beautiful, good sleep is healthy and important, but too much sleep can be a sign that something else is amiss in my life), but spiritual sleep. I keep going back to sleep. I keep putting off what I know I need to get up and do. I keep avoiding rather than doing and studying and seeking God. Which brings me to the second point, that this is the time, right now, when I need to get into study mode. And not just for my thesis, although that was definitely part of it (I have actually wondered if maybe I was pursuing something that wasn’t God’s will for me, that perhaps this was my plan and not God’s plan and perhaps I should drop it, that this was why I was unmotivated sometimes, but this was fantastic confirmation that no, this is where God wants me, this is important, this is where I’m supposed to be, and I’ll come back to this rabbit trail later). But for the prayer studies I’m supposed to be working on, all the Bible study stuff and devotions and the actual practice of prayer that I ought to be working on – it is not a coincidence that people keep recommending all these phenomenal studies to me and I keep getting these answers to things I have been asking about and praying about and seeking some halfway satisfactory answer for now. Here. In this church. Under my current pastors and the various other wonderful leaders and friends there.

And third, that there is a cost, a real cost, when I spend my time asleep. When I don’t do what I ought to do. I don’t write this in guilt, just…it’s a solid realisation that it isn’t just about me. It’s more than me pulling an all-nighter to catch up, there’s fallout that affects people around me. Not just my Mom, although if God wants to get my attention about how I’m affecting someone negatively and uses my Mom to drive that point home, I really don’t think there’s a more effective way for Him to do that. Which obviously, God would know. It’s not just my Mom. It’s my church. It’s the people I serve with. It’s people at work and school. My advisor, who is going to smack me for taking so long on this thesis, and has every right to. It’s my family and friends.

And then to top all this off, I think God allowed (not caused, but allowed) me to slip back into that old habit of too much sleep this weekend. I also had started turning to some distractions and substitutes for God, which I have since removed from my life (again). I wasn’t seeking Him, I was hoping for fulfillment of some kind where I knew from so much past experience that I would not get it. And I went right back to being mired in that kind of…out-of-touch place where I slept, and functioned more at night when almost no one was around, and I did little of substance, and just sort of drifted until I had to get up and go somewhere. I can’t even decently describe it, it’s kind of a Twilight Zone kind of feel, and it scares the hell out of me because I so do not want to be in that again.

So points have been driven home. I knew in my head that I needed to pray daily, I needed to spend time with God, I needed to draw near to Him, I needed to study diligently, I needed to prioritise my relationship with Him. And now I know it experientially, and I have some jarring (in a good way) memories and impressions which will keep that need at the forefront of my thoughts, even when I am tempted to let busyness crowd it out. Today has been better. Tomorrow will be better still. God is good and He is faithful.

Which brings me to the previously abandoned rabbit trail. I realised while spending some much-needed time in prayer super early this morning that I have avoided the thesis because I am afraid that I’m not going to measure up, that I don’t actually know what I’m doing, that everyone is going to realise I’m not nearly as smart as they think I am. That I’m going to let everyone down. Queue that Bible study, which was almost brutally challenging this week (which I needed), and then ended with one of the most encouraging lessons I’ve ever received. God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called. He knows everything that’s going on in my life, He knows me, He knows what I need, and He doesn’t call me to do anything that He is not entirely prepared and capable of accomplishing in and through me. But the key is He does it. God prepares me. God teaches me. God shapes me, brings the people and opportunities, the studies, the experiences, even the heartaches and trials (that sounds so overdramatic, but sufferings felt grammatically weird), that I need. It doesn’t depend on me, I was never meant to take the assignment and figure it all out on my own. I was designed to depend on God, and when I don’t do that, then I end up terrified because I don’t know what I’m doing. But God does. And after struggling for a long time about why I was avoiding my schoolwork and how to deal with that, this is the first thing that feels and sounds like a satisfactory answer.

I still have a shit-ton of work to do, but I know where to look now. God is good. God is faithful. So every spare moment is the order of the day now. Every spare moment I seek, I study, I pray. Which, it turns out, is a lot more satisfying than sleeping.