The Forest 

I’m lost in a forest of the tallest trees, inundated with wickedly bent, sinister trunks, and thicket so dense my feet can barely move, the air damp and heavy, sitting like rocks in my lungs.

Swiping and slashing, I claw at the overgrowth’s sharpness, aching to lift my legs and move, grasping for vines that might save me. Yet, I don’t want to be saved. I crave absolution. 

On tattered, tired, and bended knees, I offer you a ridged branch, begging for penance, desperate for your command, yearning for you to envelope me in the shelter of your palm. 

Help me be my vine.

And then I wonder, how heavy is that staff? Is the weight just too much?

You answer, you deliver. You take and give, give and take. With each strike, a little of you infiltrates me, suffocating the darkness, penetrating every fiber of muscle, saturating each porous bone, filling and filling until you seep up through every follicle and pore, spilling out and bending to my every contour, forming a shield upon my flesh that no thorn can puncture.

And now, I can weave my vine, with threads of you in the center, the strength in its core. 

Together we can conquer; we can see the forest though the trees. 

Half Empty?

M has often said that I have a knack for focusing easily on the negative in a situation, especially if it has to do with the two of us. I can’t say that isn’t true, because it is, and sometimes it’s pretty frustrating. 

But I don’t focus on the negative because I’m a pessimist or because I enjoy wallowing in misery. I do not enjoy creating my own misery or conjuring anxiety for the sake of feeling crappy. I have a deep need to understand things, especially when it has to do with us. I need to know the why’s and how’s, especially when it comes to his thinking, and he is not an especially verbal person, so I ask. 

Our relationship is the foundation on which I stand every day. It’s woven into my backbone, and I count on it, I count on us, and this structure we’ve built. So when I feel unsure about a situation, or something has left me feeling off, I need to talk it through with M so I can understand. Sometimes I just need reassurance, because I’m fighting old habits or ways of thinking, and I’m left feeling vulnerable. 

Either way, when I’m focusing on the negative, I’m focusing on what I cannot understand or explain on my own, and I’m desperately trying to NOT make poor assumptions or speculations. I’m looking to him for clarification and assurance. Instead of allowing my mind to create a negative space that hurts us both, I’m leaning on him and placing confidence in him to guide us in the direction that suits us. 

That’s progress, I think. I’m not seeing the cup as half empty or doubting his abilities. I’m saying to him – our cup is not half empty or half full, but together we are the pitcher that can constantly refill the glass. I’m asking him to help me tip the pitcher. And, luckily, he is very patient, and we’ve talked it through so many times, he usually understands. 

Lost

the day is done

meet me at home

no more masks

imagination can roam 

open the door 

screw the lights

against the wall

pin me tight

tangle your fingers

in my hair 

tug it downward

hold me there

kiss me fierce 

no “how was your day”

let your hungry mouth

steal my words away

take my hand 

lead me down the stairs

give me that look

that tells me….beware

lock the door 

and in the moonlight 

let’s get lost in one another

lost in the night

Letting Go…

I need you. I am ashamed.

Those words are maybe the most difficult I’ve ever spoken. I’m not perfect, and I never was. I never will be, although I spent way too many years of my life hoping I could be, wishing I could live up to other’s expectations, and hoping I’d be enough.

And for most of my life, I tried really hard not to need anyone, even though I poured my heart into every relationship I ever had. I let others need me, but I couldn’t need in return. I mean, I could, I just couldn’t let the other know just how much.

I also jumped in with two feet into anything I did – relationships, school, jobs, everything. I found strength within myself to get through anything, regardless of the cost to me. It was never a question of whether I could, I just did.

I did what I thought I should. I put others first. I came through. You could count on me. Always.

But that had a high cost. So high.

It has taken me a long time, but I’ve come to a place where I can tell others when I need them, although it’s not always easy. I still feel shame, but I’m trying.

With M, I’m so open about my needs, but it feels all tangled at times, because I have this intense need to please him first and to seek his permission to put my needs on the priority list. And when I fail at making myself clear in what I need or expressing it fully, because I’m ashamed, I end up feeling even worse, as if even he isn’t making my needs a priority. I’ve made that mistake more than I care to admit.

Over the last few years, I’ve shared with M how much I need him, but my job is an issue that has only gotten worse. I’ve tried to express just how much worse, and what I need because of it, but I’ve not always succeeded. Now, I’m at a place where, despite the amazing things going on in our relationship and with my girls, I feel like I’m drowning. My job is sucking the life out of me. It has slowly, over the course of 13 years, completely depleted me, and it has far reaching affects in all areas of my life. I’m running on fumes at this point, and the thing is….I know I have the strength to get through. I do. It’s a part of me which will never ever go away. I can dig deep and do whatever I have to.

But I don’t want to be strong in this case, not anymore. The cost is far too high. Putting that face on and stuffing those feelings away so I can get through turns me into someone I’m not, someone I don’t like. Someone who isn’t ME.

And I NEVER want to feel like a foreigner in my own skin again.

In order to get through it, I need M more than I ever have. I need him to be the life raft. I need him to help me to not lose me. Ever again. I need my needs to matter as much to him as they do to me….and in order for him to be able to fully do that….I need to lay them in his lap and let go of the shame I feel for needing him as much as I do.

Slowly, and layer by layer, I have shared my deep need for him as well as my needs. I have laid them all out, open and honest, absolutely and completely.

I can’t say my shame is gone, but it’s one step closer to letting it all go. And it’s allowing us to go even deeper together. We are building the structure we need to get through it, the structure I need. It’s going to be a process, one we’ll have to tackle together.

And my strength? It’s still here. He’s my raft right now. I’m hanging on with all my might.

But I’m still kicking my feet like a mofo, while I hang on.

Tucked In

I love the bedtime routine M and I have established. It is maybe our most deeply connecting time of the day. As M showers, I take care of last minute business, and when he comes down the stairs, I’m kneeling and waiting at the edge of the bed (actually, I usually scurry to get into position as his feet hit the last few stairs, as I described in this post). 

When he comes to me, he always says a few words, kisses me and leans in to cradle me into him, and I wrap my arms round him, a full body embrace. He calls this our exhale. It’s our time to breath out all the days’ stress, to take off all our hats, and just be. He and I. He the one for whom I kneel and lean on and I, the one for whom he stands tall, but also leans on.

Many times, even if there’s to be kinky fuckery happening, he still wants to cuddle me, and talk a bit first. For the longest time, he’d tell me to lie down and he’d join me. Sometime over the last few months, it’s naturally evolved. 

Now, he’ll tell me to lie back….and he tucks me in. Pulling the covers up, he will often pinch, pull, bite, or slap my tender bits, then tuck the covers up under my chin, smooth out the covers, and kiss my forehead. He’ll slide in next to me, pull my leg up over him and we’ll talk (which is difficult if his hand roams, and it usually does!). 

M does so many things which communicte to me how much he cares. But this one, as its evolved as part of an evening routine he devised and instituted, one which means so very much to me, is more than just feeling his care. 

It’s a seemingly small gesture, but it feels much larger to me. It feels like M further embracing the small and most vulnerable parts of me that I tucked away for so long, the ones who desperately need to feel accepted and cradled. It feels like me allowing him to do just that. 

And it feels so good. 

Skeleton Key

I live in your words
Breath in every syllable
Take sustenance in every 
Roll of your tongue 
Each tooth-touch and 
Lip-biting pronunciation
Snuggling into your context 

And your words!
They flutter from your soul
Alive, fertile 
Taking root in my soul
Caressing my emotions
Sewing me into your will
And stitching me into your desires

Your words touch everything 
That was once untouchable 
Telling everything untold 
Your words hold my beating heart 
They lift me up, challenge me
And inspire me
I, the keyhole with the pouting lip

Your words are the gentle scrape 
Of metal against metal
The tumble and the click
Acknowledging my desperation 
For approval 
And my absolute delight in your praise 

Speak to me
My skeleton key
Unlock me

Her Offering

In the welcomed darkness,
On able, bended knees, she waits,
Cool anticipation drawn in labored breaths,
And morphed to flame upon its exit 

The visceral ga-gong, ga-gong 
Of her need so loud, it’s echo reverberating, 
And she can taste its familiar bite 
On the tip of her shameless tongue

At home in the even-handed off-balance, 
Her head bowed, in acquiescence 
And her eager eyes closed
At her alter,

She the offering 

Teamwork

A few years ago, when I first realized I needed to do something drastic in order to feel better about myself, one thing I did was join a walking club. I was seriously overweight and this club became just what I needed, providing motivation, friendship and goals. I walked, then ran my way through 12 half-marathons and lost almost all the weight I ever gained. Yesterday, I signed up for one of the most challenging trail runs I will have ever done. I’ve done some shorter trail runs like Warrior Dash many times, which was fun and I’ve done Pretty Muddy on a ski slope, but that was kinda foo-foo if you ask me. Bubbles? In a race? And you call that an obstacle? I paid $70 for that. Never again. This one is longer and on a treacherous course with ridiculous elevation. I’m actually a little worried, you should see the disclaimer! But, I love a challenge and I’m just shy of my goal, so this is just what I need, something to strive for in the next few months.
By fall, my goal is to complete another half-marathon. I need a goal to work toward that is just mine, independent of all the other stuff going on in our lives. We even added it to the rules, it was his idea. We also find that it’s healthy and important that we make time for one another to move or exercise without the other. We love spending time together, but we need to be alone sometimes. I do some of my best thinking listening to my iPod, logging in the miles, alone.
Biking is my husband’s meditation and thinking time and I always make sure my schedule allows for his rides. Not long ago, he was recovering from another surgery and needed motivation (this was his 12th corrective surgery after a college sporting accident). Sometimes, he’s an overachiever in this area, and he decided to strive to participate in a charity race…180 miles in two days. After a surgery. So, I supported his recovery and made sure my schedule put him on that bike whenever he needed to train for many months. One of my proudest moments was watching him cross that finish line. I’ll never forget it.
This all means so much to me because back then, when I first started all this, he believed in me even when I did not. He arranged his schedule around my exercise, made it a priority and has supported me the entire time. It’s taken a while, but I believe in myself now too. I know I can set a goal, work hard and find success in the trying. And no matter how many more surgeries my husband needs, he’ll always be perfect and whole and everything I’ll ever need. I’ll always support his goals and he knows I believe in him too. He believes in himself. We make a good team.

Connected

While I was not raised in a strict religious environment, I went to Catholic school all the way to college. My home life was tumultuous, so I found comfort in the church, it’s rules, school, books, and learning. When I was younger, I poured myself into school and went to church a few times a week on my own, I just walked or went with neighbors. As I grew up, those church rules and it’s doctrine became a sharp contrast to my mother’s behavior, which caused me so much confusion, embarrassment, even shame. By 7th grade, I was so intent on a path so far from my mother’s that I actually talked to the nuns about becoming a nun! Of course, after my first boyfriend, this changed rather quickly. Even so, I went to confession regularly and I chose to go face to face so I wouldn’t feel like a coward (and I told the truth!), I couldn’t accept any less from myself. I welcomed the opportunity for absolution and penance. I often found comfort on my knees, in prayer, alone.

In high school, I really started to question the doctrine, it’s inconsistencies, and for a while I stopped going to church unless they made us. I think I needed to rebel against something I had control over and this fit the bill. Though I was a great student, I lived in my head most of the time, was very sensitive internally, and had difficulty connecting with others sometimes. I never felt anyone understood me aside from a few close friends. While maintaining my grades, I had as much fun as I could without getting caught. My mom trusted me since I got good grades and followed the rules, so I sort of took care of myself. The choices I made weren’t always good ones. I’d get upset at myself for doing exactly the opposite of what my brain knew I should do, thus feelings of betrayal. Betraying myself. Allowing myself to go against what I thought was right and good. Still, I’d wander into church now and again, on my own, simply to sit. To reflect. To hope. There was comfort there in the ritual. Stand, sit, kneel, pray. Confess and try to purge some of the guilt. Try to make sense of all those conflicting thoughts and feelings.

I spent a lot of time applying for scholarships so I could get out of my small town and my family situation. I left, focusing on college and trying to figure out how to be on my own, to trust in myself without all the craziness around all the time. The trusting in myself part was where I faltered. I tried so hard on my own, tried to maintain control, on the outside, at least. There was no church, a new city, no friends. I made a few close friends, played soccer, excelled in school, but I was empty. Again, I’d wander to the local Catholic church from time to time, simply to immerse myself in it’s ritual, to find comfort, to feel at home. Yet, there was guilt, feelings I’d betrayed myself over and over. Guilt at not being the person I knew I should be, could be.

Maintaining the facade of control was difficult, for many years, even into adulthood. Knowing what to do and having the courage to do it are two very different things. My courage came later. Much later. That guilt is still there from time to time, regret at having betrayed myself for so long, for going against what the church taught about being the best version of myself, who I knew I could be. To aid in this, my husband and I sought out a church and attended for a long time. For me, as I grew, it was always about feeling like a part of something bigger than myself, a greater good, a feeling of community and connection to a purpose. There was a gap that need filled and I was grasping at anything I thought could fill it – outside of myself.

While I still wander into church now and again, it’s not something I do often. I’ve found that I don’t crave the ritual or the confines of the walls in order to feel what I always needed to feel when I went there and to feel like I’m putting forth the same into the world. My experiences in church taught me to believe in myself, be true to myself, to find goodness all around me, to create goodness and to give of myself. I am finally at a place where I can embrace all these things. I’m able to look inside myself, see strength and accept who I am. I can look at M, see a leader and appreciate him. I feel a connectedness, not always from inside a church, not always from a god. I feel it with M – I draw strength from that connectedness, from our faith in one another. In our ability to provide absolution for one another, simply in our unclouded acceptance of who we are for one another. I find connectedness everywhere, all the time. On a run, in a handshake, in a nod and smile from a stranger on the street, in a hug, gliding on the water in my kayak, in a laugh or in tears and especially when I’m able to help someone in need. Even on a blog, when a few words from a wise person are able to punch me in the gut or squeeze my heart, I feel connected. Even amongst all the risk of the unknown. I can’t help it.