The Aftermath–learning to breathe again

 

A lot of this blog has been about the traumatic experiences my partner and I have endured due to being “outed” as poly at my place of business almost 4 years ago.  I have documented the events at times, the struggles to rebuild our lives, the emotional pain of losing my family.  I wanted to share with my readers about my struggle with panic attacks that have been plaguing me for the past year or so as the stress has at times become unbearable.  I started having these last summer after another huge crisis that was fallout from the initial one hit.  My 12 hours days became 14-16 hour days last summer, then eviction, then another lawsuit as I was sued by my powerful landlord.

There have been moments when I seriously thought I wasn’t going to make it.  I hope that others who have experienced symptoms of PTSD or panic disorder can find promise in my story.  Promise that it will subside.  Promise that it can be overcome.   Chin up, friends.  Chin up.   And, remember, you can control this.  Your body is okay.  It really is.  You must learn to control your mind.

panic attack image for blog

March 15, 2017

It’s a nice, sunny day. Warm for March in Seattle. It’s time for me to make my monthly trek to Redmond to drop off a payment at my attorney’s office. I never dreamed when I made that first payment of $2000 back in November of 2015 that I would still be making these huge payments every month. It seriously never occurred to me that I’d not win the lawsuit. What those people did to me is so horrible I thought there was no way a jury wouldn’t agree with me and award me at least something. Unfortunately, the jury never even got to hear my story.

I’ve just left the office. As usual, there was no parking in the lot so I parked across the street near the bus terminal. As I’m leaving the building, I’m suddenly overcome with anxiety. I start to panic that it’s happening again. I start to feel numb, my heart suddenly starts to race, and I feel like the world is spinning around me. My mind is overflowing with their faces, with memories of events that occurred, with words that were spoken about me that were untrue. I am not sure where I’m going. I can hear sounds around me but they seem very far away.

I start to cross the street. There’s a crosswalk here, isn’t there? I’m confused when suddenly a hand grabs my arm. “Miss…Miss…” from a stranger. “You’ll walk in front of that bus. Come back.”. I can barely hear him.

A man I don’t know is pulling me back to the sidewalk. “What is wrong?,” he says. I stare at him blankly. “I don’t know,”, I mutter. “I can’t breathe.” As I say this, I bend over, trying to catch my breath. He bends his head near mine, trying to make sense of what is happening. I take a few gulps of air and straighten back up. I have to stop this. I’m going to die. I can’t die. My children. And…they would win if I die.

“I have to get to my car”, I say as I again begin to cross the street. The mans runs after me, “Let me help you there. Where is your car?”. I absently point at my jeep as I take deep breaths, reminding myself that I can breath, that this is just in my mind. We make it to the car and I climb in as I say thank you to the man. I close the door and remind myself again that this isn’t physical. This is my mind doing this to me. It’s from the trauma. I have made it this far. I can make it home.

I turn on the engine, part of me fearful that I am in no condition to drive but I can only picture home in my mind and experience the intense need I have to get there. At least if I die, I don’t want it to be among strangers on the sidewalk in Redmond.

Can We Ever Be Openly Poly?- Contemplating a fresh start

I have to say, I’ve been pretty discouraged lately.

The legal battle that raged for about 18 months regarding the destruction of my former business by my former employees is over.  It’s finish doesn’t make sense to me.  It was not how I thought it would end- I always imagined a jury hearing my story.  Alas, not to be since the biased judge wouldn’t even let it get to neutral ears.

So, now I’m left trying to figure out my next steps.  I’m writing a book about what happened so I’ve been piecing together accounts from others who wouldn’t speak to me or assist us in any way during the court case (“I don’t want to get involved”…).  Now they talk.  And they just keep confirming what I knew.  But, they wouldn’t say it when it mattered to me.

People suck.  They really do.

Everyone keeps telling me I need to move on and focus on the future now. But, I’m in so much pain.  I don’t know how.  I just want to understand.  I want to understand WHY the events that occurred happened?  Why did my employees disempower me so they could steal my business? Why did my own sister help them?  My ex-husband?  Was my relationship with J really that upsetting to them?  Clearly it was.  It caused them to act in ways that were beyond unreasonable.

Why?  What was so disturbing about seeing our other partner at a concert, painting on stage live as the music spun around her?  We auctioned off her painting at the end of the show– no bidders– please someone bid.  My poly mentor had come to the concert.  It was his first time at my music school. Thank God he raised his hand and bid on the artwork.

We’re in year four now.  Year four of the destruction of my life and it’s not getting any easier.  I’m trying to move on.  I went on a journey last week to a new town– just a couple of hours away– but far enough that no one there knows me. I holed up in a hotel room with my doggo.  Just he and I.  Top down in my daughter’s convertible (bought by now wealthy ex-husband, of course) as we drove.  Hair blowing all over in the breeze.  I felt better for a bit.  The town was nice.  It was sunny and warm.  I pondered for three days the possibilities of making a new start.  Just pulling up all my roots.  J could go back to school.  There’s a nice college there.

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But, I couldn’t help but think:  Could we be openly poly here?  For Pete’s sake– we live in what is considered the progressive Northwest.  If we got so completely demolished for being in an atypical relationship in our seemingly progressive city, what would life be like for us in a town covered in Trump signs??  I shuddered to think. Nope, if we came here, monogamous we’d be or else we’d probably have to end our relationship. Or keep hiding.

One of the issues I’m facing as a wanna-be poly person is a serious one.   I DON’T FEEL SAFE BEING POLY.  And, worse, I don’t know how to fix this.

My life has been a mess for quite some time now.  The financial devastation.  The emotional devastation.  The physical toll that working 7 days per week for almost 4 years has taken on my body.  I couldn’t save my business.  I no longer own it.  Sure, it’s still there to some extent as a non-profit, but we’ve only about 1/3 of the students we used to have.  I don’t think we can ever recover in our small city.  It’s too small.  Too many people remember what happened, what they were told by those that spread the vicious lies and rumors about us.  There is no escape here.  And no way for us to live the lifestyle that we desire.

J and I have not actively engaged in poly for over 18 months now.  Partly due to the stress we’ve been under. But, it’s also just because the prospect of how much work it would be to hide such a venture from those around us and the dangers we’d face if more trouble stirred are daunting to us.

So, we wait.  For what, I’m not sure.  And we rest.  Since we surely need that.

 

 

 

 

Coming Out To Your Family

At the recent Poly conference in Berkeley, J and I spoke about the dangers of either coming out or being outted at your place of work/business as a poly person.  We have lived first-hand, every single day for the past 3+ years the painful results of what that has brought to our lives.  But, today I want to focus on coming out to your family.

When I left my 18 year monogamous marriage, my parents did not support my exit– even though my mom hadn’t spoken to my ex-husband in about 8 years.  My parents were very dissatisfied with my marriage partner.  They were appalled by the way he didn’t provide for his family, by the ways he didn’t support me or try to improve our marriage.  He wasn’t being a “Godly” husband and father in their eyes.  And yet, when I left, because they so wholeheartedly disapproved of my choice of a new partner, they switched teams and have supported my ex while actively participating in the destruction of my life.

There are no words to describe how painful this has been to me.  Not a day goes by that I do not feel sadness, anger, hurt, frustration– all over their actions that are still inconceivable to me.

But, it is what it is.  They are close-minded “Christians” who are so set in their ways that they cannot even use logic to make rational decisions about the situation.  They respond only with their emotions which are unequivocally linked to their religious beliefs.

I could write for days about how they wrote a declaration to the court asking the judge to take my children away in a custody battle that happened two years ago– Claim #1 in the case– that my polyamorous lifestyle was inappropriate and a danger to my children. Or, I could write a novel about the role my own sister played in the destruction of my business because of her disapproval of my relationship-  “When I found out what they were doing.. I didn’t want to have any part in that.” (from her September 2016 deposition).

Instead, I will tell the story of the empty fridge.

In the fall of 2013, just 2 months after my ex had moved out and I began my journey to finally leave my marriage, my parents came to take care of my three children one Saturday.  I had to work so I thought I’d give them a chance to see the kids.  I also couldn’t afford a babysitter and didn’t want to make my 14 year old daughter feel like she had to care for her 11 year old brother and 7 year old sister.

When my parents came that day, there was very little food in the fridge.  It was the end of my shopping week– I had plans to go to the store that evening after work.  But, rather than going to the store for me, seeing that I needed help or assistance, or even asking me if I had enough money to buy groceries, my parents got upset that I was “not even feeding my children”.   Their story of this became part of a CPS complaint two months later and was also mentioned in the custody case to take my children away from me 18 months after the incident.  Last week, this particular day was mentioned to me by my cousin in a text conversation during which she was trying to convince me that I need to “get my life on track and leave my sinful lifestyle”.  So, clearly, the lie lives on.

My beautiful oldest daughter is now almost 18 and soon will be launching out into her own life.  Before long, I’m sure she, too, will be a parent and I will experience the joy of having grandchildren.  I cannot imagine ANYTHING that my daughter could do that I’d perceive as being so aversive that I’d NOT buy her groceries if I went to her house and found an empty fridge.   I’d be worried– “Is she okay?”.  What my parents should have done is HELPED ME!!  Instead, they twisted this into further evidence that I’m a horrible parent, horrible person and making horrible choices.  All to justify their atrocious behavior.

I have no regrets about leaving my marriage nor about starting my relationship with J.  Even though it has meant horrific sacrifices on my end, I would not change a thing.  I am healthier,  I am happier, I am growing as a human being.  The challenges have made me strong, despite the fact that they have brought me so much grief and pain.

I sit here now, in 2017, and say that  I could never in my life have imagined a circumstance in which my own family would act in such destructive ways against me.  Unfathomable.  And yet, it has happened.  And they are unrepentant, continuing to lob dangerous balls at me every chance they get.

I cannot change this.  I can only work every day to protect my children from further damage from their close-mindedness.  Thankfully, my oldest one is showing signs that  she’s going to be just fine.  My middle child is a happy, healthy high schooler also well on his way to adulthood.  But, my 11 year old daughter is still embroiled in her own pain and inability to make sense of this mess.  For her, I worry most.

Today, there is food in my fridge.  It’s there at a price of almost $30k in credit card debt that I have accumulated over the past 3 years just paying for basic life necessities.  It’s getting harder to put it there as the credit cards are now full and I’m in a constant struggle to keep them away from being maxed out.

But, I will continue on.  Caring for my children.  Trying to forge my new path.  And standing up for what I believe in.  Whether or not I have the support of my family.

 

 

 

 

 

Born this way- Polyamorous as an orientation vs. life-style choice

About a year ago, after months of anguish and fighting every time my partner brought up the prospect of another female, I came to the realization that I needed to ask him to close our relationship.  I have been under a tremendous amount of stress related mostly to my business for about 3 years now.  Last year around this time, a particularly bad crisis hit that   required I muscle every ounce of my emotional, spiritual and physical strength to fight it.  I began working 12 hour days– every day.  I went 7 months this past year without a day off.  It was hard.

Lucky for me, my wonderful partner understood and could perceive that I was correct in my assessment that I  currently do not  have the emotional depth and fortitude to actively practice polyamory and he agreed to the closure.  For how long?  Good question.  We do not know.  YIKES!  DOES THIS MEAN WE ARE NOT REALLY POLY??

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We have had several discussions lately about why being poly is harder for me– I’m much older and lived in a monogamous marriage for 18 years whereas he’s been practicing polyamory since the age of 14 and has NEVER been monogamous;  I grew up in a very strict, conservative home where I was told that sex is a sin outside of marriage whereas he was handed pornographic novels at age 13 by his liberal thinking mother–” Here son, read this!”.   A number of factors have led us to very different places on the poly spectrum.

I recently had an epiphany moment when having a conversation with a transgender friend about whether or not being trans is a “choice” or if transgender people are just born that way.  We were discussing my friend’s daughter, who has been exhibiting signs of being trans since she was only 2 years old.  Now as a 9 year old, she looks, acts and dresses like a boy.  She/he has been my most convincing piece of evidence that being transgender IS NOT A CHOICE for some people.  It is who they are.  I realize I may be stepping on the line of not being PC here, folks….please have mercy on me if I’m using words that are offensive to you.  This conversation about my friend’s daughter led me to say, “Oh, my God….J was born this way!”.

My friend laughed at the way my face lit up as the thought of polyamory being an orientation struck me.  It made me consider my own ideas about poly?  Is this my orientation or is this more of a lifestyle choice for me following the stifling experience I had in a long-term marriage?

I know that I was NOT born poly.  I had never heard that word before I was 41.  I knew as a college student that I liked men– a lot– and I often had more than one partner, all of whom knew of one another and a couple were even friends.  But, I thought I was a slut.  I thought this because I had been told that this is what girls who slept around were.  When I left my marriage about 4 years ago, I told my first partner (who happened to be J) that I would not be monogamous with him.  But, it was a lifestyle choice for me.  J could never be happy in a long-term monogamous marriage like the one I had for so long.  However, that is not true for me, even now.  I could just as easily be happy in a monogamous marriage/long-term relationship if that situation were presented to me and I decided to go for it.

So, where does this leave us?  

I think with more questions than answers at this point:

*If one member of a poly couple/triad or more has a poly orientation but the other(s) do not, what will this mean for their relationship?  What challenges will they face? How will they deal with them?  Is their relationship destined to fail?

*How can the orientation poly person help the life-style poly person better navigate the poly world?  Is the orientation poly person inherently more capable of higher functioning in a poly relationship- i.e. less jealousy, more open to the benefits of being polyamorous?

For now, J has agreed to our closure.  But, I feel guilty about it.  I struggle with my feelings around this almost every day.  I want to be okay with him experiencing meaningful relationships with others.  I want to trust him enough to let him make his own decisions and not have them be hindered by what I feel I can or cannot handle emotionally. I want to be happy for him when he expresses interest in someone else he’s met.

So, what do I do?  For myself?  For my own understanding and growth?

What does he do?  Just wait?  Help me find ways to de-stress and find more balance in my life so I can become more emotionally stable?

DOES THIS MEAN WE ARE NOT POLY?

I believe the answer to that is no.

We want this for our lives and we hope that someday soon we can re-open our relationship.  But, for now, we need to keep each of us healthy and that requires this sacrifice.  For this time.  For this place.  And that’s just how it is.

 

 

 

Being Vulnerable

It’s been about a month now since my blog was viciously attacked and made fun of on a social networking site.  I am feeling better now, but I am still afraid to write.

It was hard for me to experience people I don’t know taking my words that are meant for healing, for guiding,  for inspiring—both me and my readers —and turning them into folly.  It made me realize how vulnerable we become when our words are shared in a public format. Not only our words, but our emotions, our inner thoughts– all are exposed.

What will our readers do with them??  One would hope hold them with care and compassion. Or, if our words raise issues or challenge assumptions, be willing to hold honorable discourse. That is not what these people did to me. They mocked me. They attacked my ideas, the premises of my posts, even my personal self. They made a big deal out of finding me in the real world. I am not hiding.  I recently spoke at the Polyamory Conference at Berkeley under my real name.

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I have missed this outlet. I write to understand myself and the world of polyamory more. I read what many of you write. I seek understanding.  I do so with an open mind and an open heart. I may not agree with many things I read,  but I can question respectfully.

I am going to reopen my mind to this venue. Even though the risk of being attacked again is high. I can tell they are still watching.

Thanks to you who have supported me through this and encouraged me to keep writing.

 

 

 

Getting Stronger This Holiday Season

This was my third post-divorce Christmas.

The first one, 2013, was a very difficult time for me.  I was severely depressed, I couldn’t focus on my children at all.  I went away for about 2 weeks between December 15th and 30th that year to try to find healing for myself.  I lived in a yurt with no heat other than the fire I built each day, no running water, no way to cook other than the woodstove.  It was raw.  I was raw.

The neighbors let me borrow a tiny pink Christmas tree for when my kids came to visit on Christmas Eve.  I had purchased them each small gifts– mostly books and a game or two– at a toy store in Olympia the day before.  Shopping had been so hard for me.  Too many memories of what was.  Too much fear of what was happening to me.  Too much worry about the future.

That afternoon, J came to get us, bringing us back to my long-time family home where my life was falling apart.

That evening, I got drunk with our former partner, C.  We made a terrible attempt to forget the past and make new memories.  It didn’t work.  I just got more depressed.

I didn’t have the kids that year.  But, my ex was going to my parents’ home as we did every year.  Trying to keep things the same for the kids, you know.  I remember sitting in the chair in their computer room, away from the hub-bub of the living room where my ex, my children, my sister and my parents were gathered.  I now know that my sister knew that the next day, the axe would fall on my business when the first of the teacher resignations came in.  I can still hear her laughter as she played with my children (she has none of her own) and acted as if everything were just as it always had been.  I was dying inside.

Depressed Christmas for blog

I went home that evening to find J waiting to take me back to my retreat where I stayed for another 6 days.  On December 26th, my life, my business, my livelihood exploded.

I somehow made it through 2014.  On the Winter Solstice of 2014, I celebrated my first Yule with J.  I made him a nice dinner complete with candles and fancy dishes.  I gave him a warm, fuzzy robe and pajamas which he then barely removed for the next two weeks that we were home on a stay-cation.  It was a new tradition.  It felt good.

I had the kids on Christmas Day and it felt awful.  I managed to get a fake tree up a few days before and I actually bought them each a few gifts.  Shopping was still hard.  Being in my new house and away from the memories of the old one helped.  I let the kids spend a couple of hours with their dad that afternoon and then a couple of hours with my parents who were boycotting the offer I’d made for them to celebrate a Christmas dinner with us at my home.  They don’t come to my home.  They don’t like J and they don’t approve of my “life of sin”.

Then, 2015 was a year of recovery.  For me personally, for J as well.  And, certainly for my business.  Every day I am getting stronger.  I am watching J grow and mature, realizing more all the time who he wants to be.  I am learning to be a mom again and helping my kids work through the pain of this mess as best as I can.

This year, a week before Christmas, I went shopping.  I actually enjoyed buying gifts for J and for the kids.  I bought all new ornaments and decorations for the tree and my house.  For the first time, I put up lights.  And, I was happy.

I didn’t have the kids on Christmas Day this year– and my lousy ex didn’t return the favor of allowing me to spend a couple of hours with them–.  But, I had a friend over who recently started her own divorce process. We went for a nice walk.  We made lunch together.  We talked.    Then, later in the day, J and I spent several hours with his family at his grandparents house.  We played games.  I felt like part of a family for the first time in a very long time.

Surviving this divorce mess and my venture into a whole new way of living in a communal, polyamorous lifestyle with my much younger partner has brought a lot of challenges.  But, I’m doing okay.  I’m getting stronger every year.

I can do this.  I know I can.

 

 

 

The Matriarch– communal living

I ran the dishwasher three times today.

The house was filled with the aroma of curry this morning, the scent of pasta tonight.

The doorbell rang as usual at 8 p.m. with Ryan’s pizza delivery.

With the holidays here, the house was full with 14 people at one point today when we all had visitors.

This is my life.  Every day.

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J and I have chosen to live in community. People come to our home or hear about it from us and say, “What!?! You have 8 people living in your house!?”

Last December when we realized we were in a financial crisis following the events at my business documented elsewhere in this blog, we had to make a choice– move or find a way to rent out part of our house. So, j moved into the master bedroom and I moved into the living room/dining room with my 3 kids. All of us crammed into about 500 s.f.  We then began hunting for housemates.

This was no easy task given the unusual family that we are– 43 year old female, 23 year old male, three kids ages 9, 13 and 15. Who would want to live with us??

Kraig (age 21) and Jeevan (age 20) came first.  Kraig had been my babysitter for 3 years back when I first started my business almost 9 years ago. He had cared for my children when they were just 8, 6 and 2. It was a strange kind of homecoming of sorts. He also happens to be j’s brother. They didn’t always get along so it was a bit of a risk for Kraig to try this living environment.  Jeevan is a fairly recent transplant from India and Kraig’s best friend.

The guys were so uncertain at first that they would only sign a 6 month lease.  I remember with a smile when I shoved a 2nd lease under their door in September.  They were in awe that the first lease could be up already.

Ryan (24) came later. A six feet six giant of a man, I have known Ryan for years. He was my martial arts training partner when he was 19 or 20. I hadn’t seen him in years. Ironically, he used to live with j a few years ago.

We make a rather interesting family—so diverse. But, the guys think of me as the house mom–  and they love my kids.  That’s important.

The kitchen is always clean. They laugh and smile when I ask if my vacuuming will interrupt their videogames. They often find a load of folded laundry outside their room when they left it in the dryer too long.

It’s nice to have someone to welcome me home from work. To have someone to call when one of the kids needs a ride. To have strong arms to help me move the couch–again.

I am the matriarch and they respect me as such. It’s nice.  Really nice.

Most importantly,  they respect my relationship with j. They love us, support us and share a lot of fun times with us in this place we call “home”.

 

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