Category: open relationships


A friend just wrote in response to a depressed and distressed message I sent her. In her short note, she asked:

> tell me what’s in your heart right now that you
> don’t want to see or know! and what is keeping you
> going and sustaining you?

I replied:

Thanks for asking the great questions. What’s true for me that I don’t want to see? I’m changing… my identity as communard, radical lifestyle activist, and polyamorous multi-lovered independent spirit has diffused away, and I feel mainstream and uninteresting, unchallenging to a crazy system. I feel ineffective and unimportant, like my life is just becoming a part of the Machine. I’ve lost a sense of what I offer the world… I’ve lost a sense of purpose and passion. I don’t have a driving motivation behind what I do everyday… I just do it because I’m “supposed” to. This is the life I judged in other people from my lofty seat at Twin Oaks, where my life was grand and important and fulfilling a larger purpose. Now I’m judging my own life from that perspective, and I hate it. AND, the hardest part is that I don’t see a path towards something different, except back to TO, which isn’t a possibility as long as I’m with Free.

These are the thoughts that drag me down. What sustains me? Coming back to the belief that my purpose in the world is to share love and offer the experience of love to whoever I come in contact with. Remembering that I have the capacity to be open and loving whenever I choose it. Writing in my journal and working with tarot helps me remember, and dancing, and sitting in meditation. Crying to Free helps sometimes, when he just listens, and when I feel his love I remember my own capacity to love.

thanks for asking… it helps to acknowledge both pieces.

love,
tickledspirit

I took the artwork down from my walls last night.  I’ve been packing in small bursts since last week, books first, since there’s little to cull and they’re easy to stack in boxes and the quickly-bare shelves affirm my intention to leave.  Then art supplies, choosing what to pack away, what to bring on my travels, and what to let go to the universe.  I’m a hoarder, especially when it comes to art supplies.  If I think I might want to use something later (tissue paper, ribbons, a random tube of paint), I put it in the “art tower,” a set of shelves I devoted purely to supplies for creative expression.  Twin Oaks helps me feed this slight obsession — we have a “grabs” table up at the main dining hall, and there’s often weird photographs, scraps of fabric,  and earrings-that-could-be-turned-into-something-else.  I try to be selective…

As for packing, the artwork coming down from the walls was significant for me.  Up until now, my room has still felt like “home” despite the boxes all over the floor and the empty shelves.  I noticed myself feeling antsy and anxious while I was packing up my “body supplies” (medicine and makeup that I’ve scarcely used in the last 3.5 years).  I realized that I didn’t feel like I was REALLY packing to leave… more like I was packing for a trip that I’d be returning from at some point.  But that’s NOT what I’m doing, and the emotional discord with reality was distressing to me.  I decided that I needed to have a more tangible space of transition for these last four days (FOUR DAYS!).  So I spent the late evening talking with a friend who sat on my bed while I meticulously pulled out thumbtacks and took down posters and paintings and photos and the smearing genius of my 3 year-old friend Willow.

Behind a few of the posters, I found love notes taped to the wall, some from over a month ago, some from as recent as New Year’s Eve.  Paxus strikes again — the master of love letter delivery.  He and I are in a major transition in our relationship as I leave the commune and align my life more closely with another partner.  We’ve struggled and fought the change, and now we’re moving into a place of accepting each others’ lives for what they are.  He has a new lover here who I’m in awe of, who I’ve respected from afar for years.  Seeing them together and seeing him growing in new ways is a joy and a relief for me, most of the time.  Some moments of grieving what we’ve lost and feeling envy when I see it in them… for the most part, I’m happy that we’re both in powerful relationships and continue to feel the power of who we are together.  The whole “monogamy/polyamory” question has been coming up a lot — Free and I experimented with a “sexually exclusive” relationship for awhile and discovered that it felt too restrictive and didn’t credit the trust we have for each other.  We ended up agreeing that we both feel we want to be “sexually focused” with each other right now, and carrying that as an intention (rather than a rule) feels more in line with how we want to engage with each other and with other people.  I’m not interested in pursuing sexual energy with other people, but if it’s there I’m not going to feel guilty or ignore it.

so many changes…

Closer to leaving, and I’m starting to really feel the intensity of letting go, instead of just thinking about it.  Pretty soon, I’ll start having an onslaught of  “lasts”: my last tofu shift, my last Planner meeting, my last childcare shift with Willow, my last date with Paxus, my last women’s group meeting.  Tomorrow marks the first day of my last week of assigned labor — after this week, I’ll be on “transition” for two weeks, where I don’t owe any labor credits for the week and I just get to pack and hang out with friends.  Some people use transition time to get a short-term job and earn some extra money for leaving, but I’m going to travel using  the money I got when I sold my car three years ago, when I was still a new member here.  Since it was based on a prior asset, it wasn’t legit to use any of that money while I was a member, so I saved it in an account here for just this moment, not knowing when it would come.  And now here I am…

I’m crying a lot these days.  My life is going to change dramatically in the next 3 weeks, and the magnitude of the change is overwhelming.  I’m also excited.  I’m smiling a lot these days, too.

I turned in my application to UVA a few days ago, after working diligently on my personal statement  and having it edited by at least 5 people here.  A former college professor, an indexer who loves to edit, a friend with a passion for writing, a guest here for New Year’s who is actually a Sociology grad student right now…  and I’m pleased with the final version.  I’ll post it here for your enjoyment!

The instruction  was to “discuss some of the issues and questions that occupy your mind” (or something like that).  Here it is, my grad school entrance essay:

Over the past several years, I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the connections between social change, deviance and taboo, and the social construction of the concept of “self.”  While living at Twin Oaks Community and being involved in the broader movement for social justice, I’ve found myself yearning for a forum to explore my ideas and questions about self, society, and change.  It is with this yearning that I return to academics to pursue graduate studies.My interest in social change began as a sociology undergraduate, where I focused on the development and impact of social stratification.  The understanding I gained in these classes grew into dismay at injustice and corruption that seemed to be passively accepted as “just the way things are.”  My distress was fueled, I believe, by a component missing from my academic study of stratification: an analysis of the possibilities for change.  In none of my classes did I learn about efforts towards creating a different, healthier model.  I sought out the political system as an avenue for creating change, and became disillusioned after a semester as an intern with Common Cause in Washington DC.  Experience with grassroots activism eventually provided hope for me, and I started to notice how I could create real change by changing my own life and through subtle and not-so-subtle conversations with people around me.  As part of my explorations, I visited Twin Oaks Community, an income-sharing community of about 100 people in Louisa, VA, where I have now lived for over three years.

In my own investigation of social change and from a desire to “live my values,” I unintentionally became a deviant.  I abandoned some of the social values and norms that I had previously accepted, in favor of new ideas that made more sense to me.  I stopped shaving my legs.  I moved to a commune.  I gave up monogamy, grew my own food, and started telling people what I really thought.  From this new perspective, I’m fascinated by the difference in my experience of the world, compared with when I simply followed social norms.  I’m curious about how a culture can encourage and discourage deviance, and the impact this has on society. I want to research how taboos are communicated and culturally enforced.  I want to analyze different types of taboos (those based on tradition vs. contemporary social necessity, for example) and explore the social process of defusing and dismantling taboos.  What enables some people to step outside of social norms, shrugging off socialization to intentionally try to create a different culture?  I want to study groups of “intentional deviants”: innovators, activists, and radicals such as the CrimeThInc collective, the Zapatistas, the Black Block, people in the Communities Movement, and others actively working for social change.  I want to explore their experience of socialization and their process of dissolving it and claiming something new (if that’s indeed what happens). I’m interested in looking at how one’s perception of “self” shifts as someone opens to identifying as deviant, especially in relation to theories on the social construction of the self. I recently revisited an old Social Theory reader (Lemert’s “Multicultural and Classic Readings”), and I found myself especially inspired by Cooley’s description of “Looking Glass Self,” and the works of Erving Goffman and George Herbert Mead.

I’m also interested in specific movements for change and the process of how something deviant becomes more integrated into a culture.  Malcom Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point has been particularly interesting to me as a look at how an idea spreads or a trend emerges.  Contemporary movements that are particularly interesting for me are urban community gardens, car sharing cooperatives, alternative currencies, radical intimate relationship models, and intentional communities.  Beyond current movements, I want to explore social change in a broader sense, theoretically and historically. How does culture change?  Who changes it?  Why?  What are different methods people use to intentionally change culture?  What things do people do that change culture unintentionally?

With a strong foundation of researching and understanding stratification, I ask the question, “what can be done to change this?”  To be clear, the question is not “what should be done?”; the “should” is up to philosophers, ethicists, and religion.  I certainly have my own personal ideas about the “should,” but as a sociologist I want to ask questions of possibility.  How can societies change?  What methods have worked?  What methods haven’t?  How does legislative change reflect or inspire cultural change?  In what ways does a society invite or impede social change? Additionally, based on sociological theories of how culture works, I want to extrapolate new theories of how people could try to create effective social change.

At the University of Virginia, I’m especially interested in studying these topics with Krishan Kumar, Sarah Corse, and Steve Nock.  Kumar’s focus on revolution and utopian ideals aligns well with my interests in social change, as does Corse’s examination of engineering culture and organizational change.  Nock’s studies of relationships and intimacy are particularly interesting to me because of my recent experience and study of alternative relationship models.  Overall, I’m attracted to the UVA Sociology Department’s small size and friendly culture, which I experienced during my visit in mid-November.  I had the opportunity to meet with Steve Nock and Paul Kingston, as well as several graduate students.  My conversations with them were encouraging and inspiring, and I look forward to meeting others in the department, as well.

My ultimate goal in graduate study, beyond the immediate experience of wrapping my mind around these questions, is to teach.  I want to facilitate the examination of social stories, helping people identify and evaluate the forces that have shaped their perception and understanding of the world around them.  During my time at Twin Oaks, I’ve traveled to colleges around the country and given numerous presentations in sociology and political science classes about my experience of living in an intentional community.  At conferences and festivals, I’ve taught workshops about open relationships, intimacy, communication, activism, and resource-sharing. In the course of this work, I’ve discovered that I love teaching.  I’m excited by the process of developing ideas and figuring out how to present them in an accessible way.  My objective in pursuing graduate study is to eventually become a professor of sociology and help students cultivate a deeper awareness of the complexities of the social world.

I don’t have adequate words to describe the last 3 weeks of my life.  Extraordinary.  Other-worldly.  Transformative…  these don’t even come close.

I went to the Rainbow Gathering last month, in the mountains of West Virginia.  Thousands of people (at least 15,000 at the peak, I’ve heard) camping together and sharing food and responsibility with no exchange of money.  Everything happens through gift or barter, and all food is available to anyone for free.  I was there for 5 days, though the gathering lasts for about a month.  There was the typical drumming and dancing of any hippie festival, along with a multitude of kitchens cooking food for every meal, a yoga meadow, a kid’s village, and a trading avenue where folks with things to trade laid out their wares on blankets along the edge of the path.  People traded jewelry, clothes, medicine, tools, stones, and art.  I brought along some of my old jewelry and traded for a necklace and homemade pants for 3 yr old Willow (Pax’s son), and a hair wrap, a necklace, and a ring for myself.  I love the idea of moving out the old clutter of my life, passing the energy on to other people to enjoy, and creating opportunity for new things to come in to my world.  The ring that I traded for is wildly significant to me, and I’m wearing it every day.  The jingle of the bells on the end of my hair wrap (colored embroidery thread wound around a section of my hair) remind me constantly to relax and enjoy the moment, remembering the magic of the Rainbow Gathering.  Folks there call everyone “sister” or “brother”, and though at first it felt silly and cliched, I grew to love it as a reminder of our connectedness in the human family.

praying for peace on July 4

After Rainbow, I came back to Twin Oaks for two days and then headed off to “Summer Camp“, an event created by the Network For New Culture.  This 10 day event focused on intimacy and deepening relationships with ourselves and other people.  I originally planned to go because I had been invited to present a workshop on sensuality (“Living a Sensual Life” — it’s all about awareness and communication).  I was expecting to enjoy myself, have fun, and maybe learn some new things.  I wasn’t expecting a spiritually transformative experience, and it snuck up on me and bit me in the ass.  All of the workshops were designed to give people the opportunity to open themselves and explore their masks and fears… and then share their discoveries with the rest of the people there (a small community of about 40 people).  I’ve never been in a place where the collective goal is to express and honor what’s most authentic, even when it’s hard.  The depth of connection that forms out of this is incredible.  This event reminded me that connection and love are what I’m seeking with everyone I interact with, no matter what the nature of the interaction.  In a conflict, I’m seeking connection and love.  In a standard social script with the person behind the cash register, I’m seeking connection and love.  With all my co-communards, I’m seeking connection and love.  Nothing more, nothing else.

And now I’m back on the commune, and I’m trying to fit my daily life to this newly refreshed awareness.  I’m tempted to give in to the gravity of old habits, and when I notice myself doing that I find myself missing the richness I felt at Summer Camp and Rainbow.   So I breathe, take in the moment through all my senses (that’s the core of sensuality!), and remember to love.

What I did this weekend:
1) went to a rave
2) had “existential sex”
3) navigated complicated poly relationships (not connected to the existential sex, unfortunately)

rave lights pattern

a rave, commune-style

1) We had an outdoor rave here last night, up at our conference site.  It was so kooky and out-of-the-ordinary, and so much fun because of that.  We rarely have community events at the conference site (except for the conferences themselves), and I don’t think there’s ever been a proper “rave” at Twin Oaks, ever.    Having never been to a rave before, I was giddy and excited for a night of techno music and dancing with glowsticks, especially underneath the nearly-full moon.  I had fun dressing up in what I conjectured might be “raver” clothes: a tight sparkly superheroesque shirt with big-legged lime green pants, and pink tennis shoes that I found in Commie Clothes.  I put my short curly hair in pigtails and covered my eyelids with glitter.  Does that sound rave-ish?  When I was actually dancing to the electronic music and aware of my clothes and pigtails (with a blinking purple light threaded through my hair), I definitely felt like the persona I’ve ascribed to ravers.

The dance was set to begin at 9:30, which is a LATE start for any Twin Oaks party.  There was a “caffination party” after dinner for folks who wanted to get themselves properly energized for the evening.  I opted out of that (choosing instead to do the relationship navigation mentioned above), and headed up to the conference site with a few friends right before the beginning of the dance. It’s a long, dark walk (maybe half a mile?) from the main part of the community to the site, and we were having quiet conversation when we rounded a corner and collectively said “ooh” when we saw the glowing lights through the trees.  Some communards had spent the afternoon decorating the outdoor space with holiday lights and colorful sheets (masquarading the pavillion that we’re using as storage for the hammocks business).   The DJ station was glowing with lights and glowsticks and the DJ wore a headlamp to see his music in the dark.  The “dancefloor” was the flattest part of the dirt and gravel (still not very flat) covered with carpets.  The fire circle was already blazing, and there was a long table full of fruit and chocolate and beer and coffee.   We had a small opening ritual of setting a safe space of openness and fun, and then the music began.

It seemed like it took awhile for things to really get going. Some folks danced intermittently, many clustered around the fire circle chatting and eating oranges/strawberries/grapes dipped in chocolate sauce.  It wasn’t until the fire dancers lit up that the energy really sparked.  It started with a hula hoop with 4 wicks lit, donned by a funny “class clown” kind of guy who actually was a pretty good hula hooper.  I took a turn next (and loved it!), and then the two women who have been diligently practicing hula hooping for many months.  They were incredible, maneuvering the ring of fire around their bodies in awe-inspiring ways, grabbing the hoop as it swirled around their hips and flourishing it up to spin around one arm raised high in the air.  Then a poi dancer, with balls of wicking attached to the end of two long chains.  She lit the wicks on fire, and then swung them elaborately around her body.  Then a guy with a staff, balls of fire on both ends, dancing and spinning and wowing us all.  Finally, fire-breathing.  Folks took deep mouthfulls of lamp oil (yes, they did) and then held a lit torch in front of them.  They took a deep breath and then forcefully sprayed the oil from their mouths through the fire, resulting in a giant blowtorch effect.  Quite impressive, and quite unbelievable how willing they were to drink lamp oil.  Everyone who tried it spent the rest of the evening trying to get the taste out of their mouths.

All the fire livened up the party a fair bit.  Some folks got out glowsticks and were dancing wildly with them, half in parody and still with utter enjoyment.  I grabbed some and played for awhile, and I was suprised at how much fun I was actually having with them.  I got compliments for the rest of the evening for my talent with the glowsticks, which filled me with pride…

At some point, my partner Paxus handed me his 3 year old, Willow, so he could go dance for awhile with another partner (this isn’t the complicated relationships part).   Dancing with Willow ended up being one of my favorite parts of the entire night.  He had a glowstick which he swirled around in energetic circles, arm outstretched as we bounced around the dancefloor together.  He’d lean back in my arms, head falling away from my body, and we’d spin in circles to the music.  “Again!” he’d say, laughing, and we’d spin some more.

(Side story about Willow:  someone asked him today what the meaning of life is, and he said matter-of-factly, “It’s a secret.”)

The party lasted late into the wee hours, the dance floor sometimes lagging and then suddenly coming to life again.  The fire was warm and some folks cuddled on the mattresses and blankets around it.  I mostly danced, sometimes watched, sometimes talked (and ate a LOT of oranges dipped in chocolate!).  A few times I found myself dancing to the digitized music with glowing plastic in my hands, and then turning my face upwards to the dark sky and stars and moon-illuminated clouds, feeling the seeming contradiction.   I had fun, and it was different from what I expected.  I was hoping for soemthing that would sweep me off my feet and carry me along on a wild experiential journey where I didn’t think, just danced and played and laughed.  I guess at real raves there are drugs to help with that.  I think I thought too much, more than I wanted to.  I was quieter and more self-conscious about my dancing than usual.  I think the costume was a part of that, though often costumes and themes and “alternate realities” help me drop that self-consciousness.   Hmm… regardless, I had fun.  My partner Free and I were the last to leave at 2am, except for the DJ and another person who volunteered to stay and clean up.  I woke up this morning exhausted and aching from dancing all night, and I spent the day in a rather blissfull “I love my life” place, boxing tofu packages for many hours and playing with Willow on an extra long childcare shift.  And then…

some movies just have that power to alter us, physically, spiritually, emotionally...

2)… the existential sex!   (It’s different than you think)  I watched a movie with my friend Valerie (the same as the Valerie of Matrix fame), and it was such a powerful experience that at the end of the movie we laid there wrapped around each other on the couch in the video shed, in awe, reveling in the intensity.  “I (heart) Huckabees”… anyone seen it?  Goddess, it’s amazing.  For me, the movie was a reminder of some “deep truths” that I suspect are significant and “real”, and it took me to a place of centered and intense awareness.  Sharing that space of Knowing (or whatever) with Valerie felt better than sex, a shared experience of “getting it” (something… what, I don’t know… reality?).  I tried to express it to her as we cuddled on the couch afterwards, and she deemed it “existential sex”.  I’ve only really felt it once before, in the back room of Denny’s with the lovely Serenalu, wired on coffee and thesis deadlines, suddenly wormholing into a universe beyond self-censoring and mistrust, where everything we said elicited a “I know exactly what you mean” and then stunned silence.  There have also been, of course, the chemically-altered experiences of existential sex with everything in the universe (dude)… but it’s been awhile since I had one of those — this way has fewer side effects.

many hands make... deep complex emotions

3) and finally, the relationship navigations.  I currently have two pretty intense partnerships, amidst other connections of varying depth and intensity.  Paxus and I have been together for 2 and a half years, and Free and I have been involved since November.   For the first time in our relationship, Free is seriously pursuing another deep intimacy.  He’s been fantastic about letting me know from the start — she and I even met and hung out for an evening.  He did a great job sharing his attention and energy and love that night, being open and clear and loving with both of us.  I admitted my fear of the unknown, wondering how our relationship would change.  We talked again yesterday before the rave, and I touched a deeper charge of emotion that I hadn’t really been aware of initially.  It started out as a calm and reflective conversation about the new relationship, how he was feeling about it and how I was feeling about it.  I started to talk bit more about my fears,and then I started a sentence that immediately brought tears to my eyes and a tightness in my chest.   I admitted that I was sad about shifting out of this unique place in his life of being the only person serving the role of lover.  It made me feel special, and that was hard to admit because it doesn’t seem very poly.  And yet, it’s the way our relationship has been for the last seven months and I got used to it.  Now it’s shifting and there’s some mourning in letting go of that way of being together.  Crying in a hammock together in the early evening sunlight was a fantastic release — and having had that experience of acknowledging the sadness letting go, we can move forward intentionally.  And it does feel like moving forward.  Free said that the love he’s felt in our relationship has helped him come to a place where he’s able to love someone else, and he experiences that as a great gift of what we’ve created together.   I’m honored by that sentiment, so deeply.  And I’m excited (and a little fearful, though less now than before) about where we’ll go from here.  Ah, change…

The tone of a didgeridoo echos through the courtyard, accompianied by the song of the peepers in the pond.  It’s a warm night, and I just walked accross the community after an evening band practice.  The All-Request Dance Band is gearing up for what’s likely our final show in our current configuration.  Three members of the band are taking off for sure in the next few months — our drummer is getting married and moving to Cville, and two more (a singer and a guitarist who became a couple last fall) are leaving the commune to travel cross country and end up working on organic farms in California.  So, this summer’s Anniversary party (celebrating the 38th anniversary of the founding of Twin Oaks) will be our last show together.  We’re putting together a medley of some of our favorite songs we’ve played over the past 2 1/2 years, playing snippets of about 40 songs, with some new ones thrown in and weird new arrangements of some of the old ones.  Yeehaw.  Band practice is at the tedious stage right now, when the musicians are still working out chords and timing, so us backup singers spend a lot of time sitting around.  I brought a sewing project to work on…

It’s been a weird day for me… I woke up feeling dizzy and out of it, and it didn’t really change throughout the day.  I had a meeting in the morning and then spent all afternoon putzing around the courtyard trying to find someone or something to inspire me.  My throat was a bit sore, so I found a big patch of a plant called “cleavers” growing along the path and picked some for tea.  I like that wildcrafting medicinal herbs has become a natural part of my life here; another of Paxus’ partners is a naturopath who has reccomended and helped me identify some specific plants around the farm.    I love that we’re connecting around this shared passion — we went on a walk a few weeks ago to talk about how it’s going sharing a lover together (after a hard winter of struggles last year — it’s so much better now!), and we ended up running around exploring the plant life and sharing about their medicinal uses.

What else to write about?  I’ve decided to go for it and apply to be a planner.  I had my interview with the current planners last week.  Some of the questions were:
How do you feel about current happenings in the community?  I’m frustrated by managers who don’t seem to be taking our economic situation to heart and spending money excessively, and overall I’m happy in the community and have been feeling and enjoying a sense of “group identity” lately.
What role do you see the planners playing in the community?  I see the planners as information collectors and processors… gathering input from community members and our bylaws and policies and stirring it all together and finding ways for it all to fit together.
How do you feel about working with the current group of planners? I gave my attention to each of the three and told them why I’d like to work with them.  One is witty and sharp, one is a friend who I already connect with on a deep level, and one is brilliant and someone I respect a lot.
What issues in the community are you particularly interested in?  I’m very committed to the idea and practice of income sharing and resource sharing.  The ideal of egalitartianism is key for me, too, and I’m delighted by looking at how the ideal plays into “real life” decisions.  On a less general level, I’ve been really interested in following the “kid’s labor” process and watching the kids take ownership of crafting a policy that works for them and the community.
How are you at hearing criticism? Ugh… it’s hard for me.  And it’s an area I’m willing to be challenged on.  If it’s about me personally, I get really self-critical.  If it’s about a decision I make with other people, I can blame it on them 🙂 or just listen to the criticism without taking it personally.

When the questions were done (there were abour 10 in all), then each planner told me what they thought and felt about me as a potential team member with them.  All three gave positive feedback, saying they’d like to work with me.  One acknowledged that he thought I might get frustrated working with him because I’m an idealist and he’s a cynic, and he said he was still excited to work together.   The next step is for an input box to be pu tout to the community, and folks will give their opinion about me being a planner.  After an input period of 10 days, I’ll have a chance to post a letter to respond to the input.  Then a veto box will go out, and 10% of the community can veto me.  If not, I’ll be a “stand-in” planner for 3 months, and then if I want I can apply to be a full planner for 18 months through the same process, when the 18 month term of one of the current planners is complete.

And now I’m going to bed.  Tomorrow morning I’m hanging out with a 92 year old woman named Rose who lives in a nearby town.  Her daughter is an ex-member who has hired Twin Oakers to stay with her mom for a few hours each day.  She plays Scrabble against all her caregivers, and she usually wins.  She’s pretty sharp… so I’m going to need to get some sleep if I have any hope of holding my own in the game tomorrow.

Quick update

I’m exhausted.  Pax and I just returned this afternoon from a speaking gig down in North Carolina at East Carolina University.  We taught 5 classes in a day and a half, mostly about Twin Oaks (though whenever we’re there we also throw in at least one class on Polyamory to the “Courtship and Marriage” sociology class — quite a thrill for these mostly Evangelical Christian students!).  We scooted back up here to be ready for rehearsal this evening, as we start the final week of rehearsals for Cabaret.   My plan tonight was to write some reflections about doing theater in the context of community, but I’m finding I’m just too pooped.  I know it’s been a long while since I’ve written a real entry, and I can’t promise you anything until after Cabaret is finished up next weekend.

topics to cover, just to whet your appetite:

1) thoughts on leaving the commune (possibly!)
2) theater in community
3) new relationship!
4) sparking new thought in college students, and how fun it is

and much much more, I assure you

until then, goodnight

Pax and I gave a polyamory workshop tonight at an anarchist infoshop called Better Than Television. I love that this is my contribution to the cultural happenings on Valentine’s Day, a holiday so entrenched in posession and obligation (though I’m sure there are some of you out there who have fantastic monogamous relationships and had a lovely time today).

It’s been awhile since I wrote about open relationships here — you can go back through the archives to last winter (Dec 03 and Jan 04) to read my rantings and retchings. It’s been quite a ride. And it continues… my relationship world is rich and complex and I’m being challenged in some beautiful ways to really be honest about what’s true for me.

We gave the workshop participants the address for this blog with promises of posting poly resources. Thanks to all of the folks who came to the workshop! I appreciated the self-reflection and emotional openness of so many people. Here’s an initial list of some things we mentioned right at the end.

The Ethical Slut, Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt
Polyamory: Love Without Limits
, Deborah Anapol

Loving More Magazine

Network for a New Culture Summer Camp

if you’re interested in good poly fiction, we mentioned Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein. Many utopian fiction novels include some mention of open relationships. I just finished reading The Kin of Ata are Waiting For You, by Dorothy Bryant, which laid out a subtle poly assumption within the utopian culture.

Other books with poly themes include:
The Forbidden Tower
, Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Fifth Sacred Thing
, Starhawk
The Herod Experiment
, Robert Rimmer
Ecotopia
, Ernest Callenbach

other suggestions? Leave a comment!

“He who binds to himself a joy

Does the winged life destroy;

But he who kisses the joy as it flies

Lives in eternity’s sun rise.”

~ William Blake

Happy Valentine’s Day! Love with open arms…

Even on January 7, folks are still recovering from the New Year’s Eve party.  The physical recovery was easy enough with the 80 degree (F) weather on New Year’s Day.  People gathered in the courtyard to sit in the grass in shorts and tank tops, drink carrot juice (quite a treat with homegrown organic carrots), and play music and sing and enjoy living on a commune.  Quite the vision of utopian life… whatever hangovers still lingered were melted away by the sunshine and commune love…

The real recovery is of the “I can’t believe that really happened/did that really happen?” variety.  The party was an extraordinary experience, and now people are figuring out how to move on with reality.  Maybe it’s just me… I had an amazing time on New Year’s Eve, and now I’m looking at how to incorporate all that happened then into my daily life now.

The New Year’s party is a time out of time.  It’s culturally developed into a space of unlimited possibility.  Twin Oakers anticipate the experience of wild magic, and create a collective energy that allows anything to happen.  Old relationships are rekindled, emotional wounds are spontaneously healed, and vibrant new connections are formed.  Dance music plays from 8pm until at least 4am, and the dance floor vibrates with raw energy — sometimes packed to capacity, other times vacated for a spectacle of performace by a few wild people.  Musicians filter in and out of the acoustic music room, the ladder to the “cuddle loft” is often occupied, and an upstairs living room hosts the “Temple of Oracles” where folks can go for tarot and rune readings by empaths, healers, and wise ones.

Ex-members come home, some even flying halfway around the world to be here on Dec 31.   Friends and other guests come for the experience too, so the community is full of people we don’t usually get to see.  The days leading up to New Year’s Eve help build the energy, as more people arrive and the excitement amplifies as we welcome more people we love into our home.  A friend and lover of mine came down from Massachusetts, my ex-member partner who lives down the road was here, and Pax —  who has been travelling for the past six months — was home for 4 days before jetting off to Europe again.  All this, in addition to the ex-members and other friends who made it out here for the party.  What a full life!

The party was extraordinary for me for a few key reasons.  I had a reconciliation with someone who I’ve had some friction with for the past year.  He and I had been getting close early on in our friendship, and then we both started to distance ourselves when things got complicated.  He and I ended up on the dance floor together in an intense dance that evolved into quite a fantastic spectacle — we’re both “contact improv” enthusiasts and we ended up doing lots of acrobatics together, rolling around and throwing each other alll over the place.  We ended up in a tangle on the floor and hugged, and he whispered to me “Let’s learn from our past mistakes.”  Then we both jumped up and started dancing, and I smiled and laughed uninhibitedly.   We shared a sweet kiss later on in the evening, and I’m excited about the potential for our deepening connection.  Part of my “party recovery” has been checking in with him about his experience of us that night, and finding out to my delight that he’s also interested in exploring a deeper connection.   I also had lovely moments with other friends — jubilant declarations of appreciation and affection, and intense confessions of respect and admiration.  Seeing these people around the commune in the past few days has been fantastic, reconnecting with that energy of love from the party.

The party was also an experience of much of the inner work I’ve been doing for the past 6 months (uh… 10 years?) coming to fruition.  Something about the extraordinary “carnival” nature of the party (time out of time) helped me allow myself to BE who I’ve been TRYING TO BE.  I got rid of the trying, and just did it.  In the midst of the experience, I took a step back for some brief analysis (so I could have a better understanding of it later, outside of the context of the party).  I realized that I allow myself to be more free when I don’t feel responsible for the experience of other people.  When I trust other people to take care of themselves emotionally, I can act from a more authentic and clearer place.  AND, when i don’t make myself responsible for other people’s experiences, I also don’t make other people responsible for my experience.  If I’m not enjoying myself, it’s completely within my capabilities to change how I’m engaging with a situation — I don’t have to blame anyone for my dissatisfaction; I can simply choose to shift my
participation in whatever it is.

An example of this for me was when I was engaged in a conversation with a woman at the party.  I realized pretty soon into the conversation that I wasn’t very interested in talking with her, and that I actually wanted to be talking with other folks across the room.  I noticed myself trying to make a graceful escape, and getting bitter at her for not taking my subtle hints.  I didn’t like being bitter with her (I actually like her!), so I decided just to be clear.  I smiled, and said “I really want to connect with some people over there — have a great night”.  I hugged her and moved away.  I felt GREAT having communicated what was really true for me instead of trying to negotiate through social conventions.  I don’t want to put my energy into trying to figure out the best way to take care of people.  I just want to say what’s most true for me and go forward from there.

Of course, the broader view is that I DO care about how my actions impact people and I don’t want to ignore my effect on the people around me.  This “New Year’s Revelation” is mostly about moving in a  direction on a spectrum — I’ve been so focused on taking care of other people to the point of not taking care of myself.  I see the freedom in taking responsibility for my experience and giving other people the space to take responsibility for their experiences, and I want to cultivate that more in my life, while still maintaining a deep awareness of what’s happening around me (and within me!).

so that was my New Year’s experience.  We’re all getting back to business here now, as the ex-members head home to their post-commune lives and we get back to figuring out our drastically-reduced finances for 2005.  There’s still a feeling of festiveness in the air as we head into this weekend.   One member, Sean, is having an art opening at a gallery in town and 40 people from the community are going in to support him tonight.  Some folks are making treats, and our own homegrown Klezmer band (the Vulgar Bulgars) are going to play.  I’m warmed so sweetly by the care people here show to fellow communards, especially around individual pursuits like this (though admittedly, this isn’t always the case… just to be honest).  And tomorrow night is the first performance of the play we’ve been rehearsing for two months — The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.  It’s an intense emotional drama, and I’m excited to share it with the community.  We’ve taken over one of the larger living rooms (the same one used for the New Year’s party, in fact!) and converted it into a theater.  We’ve got stage lights and everything!  For those of you who know the show, I play Tillie.  For those of you who know me, it’s quite a challenging role for this former cheerleader, the character’s personality highlight being restrained exuberance.

well, I hope this post satiates all you hungry readers who I’ve slightly neglected for the past couple months.   Carry on your merry ways, and enjoy yourselves.

I’m down at Tekiah again, the community in southern VA that I’ve visited a few times before. The community is dissolving after 13 years because they haven’t been making it financially and the woman who has really been the heart of it, Joy, is moving to New York. My partner Pax, his partner Hawina, their son Willow, and our friend Spot have been down here for a few weeks helping Joy finish things up here and saying goodbye to this place. This has been a significant place of retreat for us, a three hour drive from Twin Oaks. There have been major Samhain rituals and other healing rites held here. The land is beautiful and the community has been open and flexible. I came down a few days ago to help out and drive the clan back home tomorrow. We’re saying goodbye to the land, closing their hemp hammock business, and honoring the work that we’ve done here (especially interpersonally — Hawina and I have really evolved our relationship during our stays here, as have Hawina and Spot, Joy and Pax, and all of us as a group).

Last night we helped Joy host a farewell party in Floyd, the small funky town in which the community is located. About 40 local folks came, including many people who had lived in the community and then moved to town. We had a light solstice ritual, and then a “saying goodbye to Joy” ritual where she put on her coat and walked away, out the door, while we sang a song and waved goodbye. We rested for awhile in the feeling of having her gone, and then she came back in for cake and dancing! It was a sweet and powerful experience, for her especially.

My big news now is that I’m hurt. I was dancing at the party, right at the end, and I did something that squinched my back and now I’m having a hard time with pain whenever I move. Yikes. It feels pretty significant, like it will take awhile to heal. Joy and Hawina are both wonderfully talented healers, and they’ve been giving me a lot of love and attention. I noticed that my first instinct when I got hurt was to go hide in a corner behind a table and stretch on my own, but then Pax came and found me and got Joy to help me. It’s so interesting to me that my first instinct was to go hide by myself, when I was surrounded by people who I know are healers and who I know love and care about me. I think it was a “I have to be happy all the time” kind of thing, thinking that other people wouldn’t want to deal with me when I was struggling. And of course, that’s not what I THINK; on some level, I guess it’s what I BELIEVE.

When Joy came over to me, she had me lay down on a long cushion so she could work on my back. At one point she asked me to roll over so she could work on me from a different angle. I couldn’t. My muscles just couldn’t do it. Eventually a few people came over and helped me roll slowly onto my side. I laid there, with different people coming over to work on me and talk with me and just be with me, until the party and cleanup was all over. When we were ready to leave, I struggled to get up, wanting to do it myself and simply being unable to. Pax and Joy helped me get up, and I felt so sad and frustrated that I started growling. “Yes, do that!” said Hawina. “Do what?” “Do that release thing you were just doing. Let it out!” And I growled loudly, which turned into a yell and then a scream and then sobbing. “That’s it, let it out. Keep going,” Hawina said. And I screamed and cried and yelled and at some point I looked down and saw two year old Willow staring up at me with a huge smile on his face. He was just beaming. This morning I was hanging out with him and I told him I was having trouble moving because I got hurt last night, and I asked him if he remembered when I was crying and yelling. “Yeah, it was a song” he said. “A song?” “Yeah, it was like a song.”

So, here I am. I can walk slowly pretty well, and I can sit without pain. Getting up from laying down is very diffucult, and I haven’t figured out a way to put on my shoes successfully (Hawina and Joy have loved helping me with my shoes, kneeling down at my feet, each taking a foot). Joy has been massaging me hourly, and I’ve been doing ballet exercises in front of the woodstove — keeping my back completely straight and doing plies and other french-titled moves. I’m getting lots of love and allowing myself to recieve it. It’s amazing what a conscious choice that has to be — my first inclination is to feel guilty that I’m taking so much time and energy from them. ! What a fucked up mindtrip. When I realized that was going on in my head, I intentionally chose to trust that they were doing it out of a place of love, and if they didn’t wan’t to be doing it, they wouldn’t be. So there, all you messages of inadequacy perpetuated by mainstream culture! hah ha! I choose something different. I choose to nurture myself, and allow others to nurture me.