Saturday, April 28, 2012

When I raked the springtime across your sheets...

Something about this time of year. Seven-thirty, mild late-April evening, nowhere near cool enough for a jacket. Still light enough for me to see well-enough to write this on paper in my car, but the steel grey clouds promise rain tonight. No, not just yet, I can't smell the rain, but it's there.

At the house we owned just outside of the large Midwestern city, there was a lilac tree just like this one. It always smelled so good. When people talk about loving spring, it's usually because it's the end of winter, there's sunshine again, and everything is growing. May flowers and all of that. But I can't remember this tree without seeing it against a stormy sky, can't remember the smell of the flowers without also smelling a coming storm. It's not just the growth. It's the chaos and destruction that brings the growth. As a Midwestern girl, spring means thunderstorms and tornadoes. Autumn is lovely, with crisp fall days, the sound of rustling leaves, and the fear in October storms. But it is is all death, leading to a long cold winter. The fear in spring comes with the promise of life. It's probably no coincidence that this is usually when my depression eases up.

Last night, I sat out on the step in front of our house until the rain started. It felt like the wind was blowing in a huge storm, looked like the new green leaves were about to be pulled from the trees. But I felt peaceful, like I was the eye of whatever storm might roll through.

Spring has also always meant open windows for my family. The humid heat of our summers demands air conditioning and then of course there the heater in the winter, always gas, sometimes a roaring fire as well. But spring and fall call for open windows. The bedroom windows in our house outside the large Midwestern city were placed higher up in the wall, long but no more than 2 feet tall, if that. The roof hung over enough that, most of the time, you didn't have to worry about rain getting in the windows, so we left them open through all kinds of rainstorms and thunderstorms. No matter how bad the lightning and thunder were, it lulled me to sleep like few other things can. Still does. But, for a suburban girl who doesn't much like camping and the like, liking with the windows open in my house, with them rolled down in my car, feeling the breeze, makes me feel closer to whatever is out there. It can be soothing. But it can be scary too. Opening up to the things you like also opens you up to things you might not like.

I don't know how to end this, so I'll end it with a song, the one the title is drawn from, which seems quite appropriate for this post.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

More Problems With Words

Upon further reflection, the other problem with using the word "dominate" in how you handled the relationship is that it implies I submitted. There might have been times when I surrendered or just plain gave up, but I never submitted. 

Maybe I'm feeling lazy today, but here is a sort of basic outline of what is expected of a submissive:
The behaviour/expectations of a submissive are that they should be open, honest and respectful, polite at all times as your actions will reflect upon your Dom/me and if inappropriate can lead to loss of trust, a break down in communication, or punishments and in severe cases your service terminated.  A submissive should be able to carry out instructions and obey his/her Dominant. Desires and needs should be discussed at all times and a realistic solution will be negotiated with the Dominant.  If you are in a 24/7 D/s relationship then you will have had specific training, acquired knowledge on how to carry out your every day duties and have a contract in place.  Communicating with a Dom/me is not an open reason to "whinge or whine" they are there to guide you and their word is final.  Share your concerns in a respectful manner and remain calm, sharing is good but done in the right way will lead to positive solutions.  If further training is required then your Dom/me can put this in place.  Accepting your Dom/mes decision if they feel scenes are dangerous or unsafe, remember they know best and you need to respect this.  If there is any disrespect, you must accept that you will be dealt with directly and to take whatever punishment is seen fit.  Understand your levels of submission and what is expected of you, this is all part of your training. 

Someone who is submitting is not, unless it's part of the established play, going to actively disobey or disrespect zir Dominant, or violate the existing agreement. A submissive should not attempt to push past the Dominant's own hard limits. Negotiations are not arguments and should not result in the submissive yelling, screaming, crying or threatening because ze did not get zir way. A submissive would work hard to be a good reflection on zir Dominant. A submissive would realize that zir Dominant is human, makes mistakes, and not nag them to death about every little thing. Or nag them at all. A submissive would strive to understand zir Dominant's particular and specific expectations and either strive to meet them or renegotiate in a calm and respectful manner. A submissive would know that zir Dominant loves zir, even if the Dominant cannot or will not give them everything ze wants the exact moment they want it. A submissive would not manipulate or cheat on zir Dominant because of that. Even in a relationship where one partner is dominant and the other submissive, both partners are equal in their humanity and adulthood and should treat each other as such. 

So I guess there are a great many words and phrases that describe me better than someone who was dominated. 

The Problem with Words

I google image'd "Dom husband" and got this.

You think it's funny that I bitched about your lack of dominance in bed but that I also still bitch that you dominated our relationship. 

I think I misspoke when I said the latter part of that.

Maybe I should have chosen my words more carefully. Maybe you think that my desire for dominance in the bedroom means I, naturally, also actually want dominance in my romantic relationships outside the bedroom. I can understand how someone who's never felt the desire to dominate or be dominated sexually, much less who's been involved in the lifestyle as it's typically practiced, could feel that way. Even if that was true, the way I use the word in the first context is not the way I use it in the last. Even so, I feel the need to clear things up, though I will not be using that word in the second context again.

Dominants do not actually set the limits in a relationship. Ze might have things ze will not do, which ze are upfront about during open vocal negotiations, but ultimately, no matter how far out zir limits are, ze cannot go past the hard limits of the submissive. Dominants test a submissive's capabilities while respecting limits, while paying close attention to a submissive's state of mind in the moment. Dominants express their expectations and swiftly voice when a submissive has transgressed, as well as set up ways for that transgression to be made right again. Dominants enthusiastically take on the responsibility for the safety and well-being of zir submissives. 

Though I might have once used the word this way, dominance is not deciding the parameters of a relationship without the input of one's partner and without telling even telling that partner. Dominance does not expect something that has not been expressed. Dominance leads gently, but firmly. Dominance does not lie. A Dominant is not ashamed of zir submissive or ashamed of what others think of them being together. A Dominant does not all the relationship to devolve into chaos or equivocate about the relationship. Like all humans and like zir submissive, a Dominant is fallable and will make mistakes, but, just as ze quickly corrects zir submissive, ze takes responsibility for zir own transgressions and corrects them.  

Through therapy, I currently know quite a few straight Christian women who believe the Biblical command that a woman should submit to her husband in all things just as people should submit to God in all things. Whenever someone mentions that, my mind fills up with all the shitty, unethical, immoral abusive things that people do to each other and wonders how one person could submit to another in the context of husband and wife. In those moments, I usually forget that the other side of that is that the husbands also have an ideal that they are supposed to live up to, which includes not doing those shitty, unethical, immoral, and/or abusive things. These husbands are supposed to lead, love, cherish, and pull their weight in the relationship, just as the wives are supposed to submit, love, cherish, and pull their weight in the relationship. (In Biblical times, the division of labor was different from now, but I think it's safe to say that both spouses had to work hard and the phrase "breadwinner" would have been pretty meaningless.) In fact, there actually is a Christian-based Dominance/submission movement.

In the end, I think there are probably several other words I should have used instead of the second usage of a variation of dominance. All of which I'm not feeling mean enough to write, but are probably quite apparent at this point. 

Oh, and I also got this pic from that search.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In case you didn't believe me...

In case you didn't believe me in the previous post, and you don't watch "Sex and the City" or read chick lit books, the us vs them in the straight dating world is alive and well. Obviously, I'm a little out of touch with popular music, as I was told this was a pretty popular song last year and I've never even heard of this band though all their albums have gone platinum. I think I prefer the hair bands to current rock, if this is it's pinnacle.

Ugh. I can't even bring myself to embed this song that I find pretty misogynistic in my blog. Here's the link if you dare: Theory of a Deadman "The Bitch Came Back" . Sample lyrics: "She's so fuckin' stupid bet she's singing along. The trouble with girls is they're all the same. Forget the diamonds and pearls they just want a ring...The bitch came back the very next day." blah blah blah.

Look, I'm all for a "he/she/you did me wrong" song, whether their conclusion is just "now I hate him/her/you" or "now I'm stronger and with someone way better than you." But those are very specific to individuals. I find less enjoyment in anything that says "all x are y." I know that people (mostly) write their experiences. These rockers have obviously had bad experiences with female partners in their lives. Rappers who's songs are mostly about crime and violence grew up seeing that. BT tried to convince me that all the violent, "women are all bitches only good for blowing me" songs from some band on the ICP label was tongue-in-cheek about the harsh, abusive world they grew up in. That's swell. And I'll defend their right to say, sing, make art about that. But that also means that I get have the right to not like their art and to think their art makes them seem like misogynistic, violent, abusive, criminal assholes (or some combination of those things.)

Also, if it didn't come across in my last post, I don't think that either side of the "us vs them" straight dating world divide is right. Everyone is different and shouldn't feel like they have to be squeezed into roles or desires. Straight men and women should feel free to want to get married or not want to get married, to want or not want children, to feel like the current ideal straight relationship roles are too constraining or are just right or something else along that spectrum. But, in case you hadn't figured this out about me, I think it's more important for an individual to figure out what they ultimately desire, and what they can work around, and for couples (or more-ples) to be honest with each other about those desires, find ways to for everyone to be as satisfied and happy as possible within reason, or to realize that they just aren't a good fit, without it being anyone's fault. Women, in general, are not bitches. Men, in general, aren't dicks or assholes. We're all just people living in this messed up world, trying to be as happy and fulfilled as possible given our cultural pressures and our unique histories. I think most of us want love, want loving relationships which nurture and support us. But those things mean different things to all of us and we have to find a way to make friends out of frenemies.

Friday, April 13, 2012


So I've been thinking quite a bit about relationships, romantic and friendly, lately. Analyzing past relationships to learn from them, trying to figure out what people I'm currently in relationships with can give and what I can or should be giving in return, how I want all this to translate into future relationships. As evidenced by previous posts, Moneypenny and I are still having trouble navigating our friendship, which really isn't anything new, though I do think that we're being more candid earlier than we used to be.

I got this song in my head:

Official video won't embed but here's link:
Completely complacent
So decidedly vacant
I keep waiting for something to give
But that something is always me
You consume what you’re able
I get crumbs from your table
You call this comfortably normal
But I call it getting by
Baby, it’s a fine line
I’m holding on, you’re holding back
Baby, it’s a fine line
Can’t you hear me knockin’ at your door?
But you’re taking your sweet time
In love, out of touch
Baby, it’s a fine line
Baby, it’s a real fine line
Do you feel the distance
Like I feel resistance?
If I pulled any farther away
Would you even come after me?
But the one thing I’m fearing
Is that I’m disappearing
How can I keep believing
If you won’t prove me wrong?
Baby, it’s a fine line
I’m holding on, you’re holding back
Baby, it’s a fine line
Can’t you hear me knockin’ at your door?
But you’re taking your sweet time
In love, out of touch
Baby, it’s a fine line
Baby, it’s a real fine line

Now the current situation with Moneypenny isn't that desperate by a long shot, but just a few weeks ago, this is pretty close to what I was feeling. I think that our biggest problems lately have come from the a simple misunderstanding. Moneypenny will tell me that he wants to do x or wants to be x, which I misunderstand to mean that x is his goal right now. What he really means is "I want to do/be x, BUT I'm not really able to." What makes it a bit more confusing is that sometimes he'll do/be x for a bit after saying that, but then things go back to how they were or go in the opposite direction, like yo-yo dieting. Then I bring it up, he tries really hard for a bit, then it goes back. The biggest area this has shown up in lately is our level and frequency of contact. He's said time and again that I'm his closest friend, that this is the biggest relationship in his life, which I am not denying is true, but for me that means fairly frequent contact, responding when someone asks you something in text or email, not disappearing for days at a time without a single word. (Yes I know this sounds more like I'm his girlfriend or his mom, but those of you out there with someone you call your bestfriend, what do you expect?) Now when he says he can't do that, when he's sick, when he's working lots of overtime, when he's got a busy week or weekend, I don't expect that. But, as we live in different cities and he's not one of those people who puts his whole life on Facebook, I don't really know that stuff. Maybe I do expect too much, but I feel like I try to expect something along the lines of what he says he'll do. (Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.) He's thought a bit about this too and thinks that it would be easier if we saw each other more often, as he's more connected in that way to local friends who he sees regularly. Of course, we're having a bit of trouble finding times when we are both free at the moment.

For a few years now, I've tried to both be aware of how I feel about other people, what I'd like from them or with them, but ultimately to know that they can only be who they are at that moment and they can only give what they can give at that moment. I'm not saying I always do this successfully, but I try. Even though it can be really awkward at times, I do try to ask the other person instead of making assumptions.

Looking back at my relationship with TyRoy, both the romantic period and the friendship period, I think that both of us being as honest as we could be about what we expected and what we could give, and accepting where the other person was, is what allowed us to stay together. I think most of the rather few, considering how long we've known each other, times we clashed were precipitated by my negative BPD coping skills getting the best of me and him having no clue what the fuck was going on. These always started with some crazy little thing that upset me way more than it justifiably should have, but at the time I didn't have the knowledge or the skills to take a step back from it. But looking at my relationship with TyRoy, the biggest thing it brought to my life was consistency. He is a very consistent person, lives a very consistent life, was present in my life in consistent ways, had consistent expectations of me, was consistently honest about who he is and what he wants and how I do or don't fit into that. It can't be overestimated how helpful this is for someone who has never felt consistent or stable.

Bipolar disorder is largely believed today to be a brain chemical imbalance that switches a person between depression and mania. Then let's add to that borderline personality disorder, which has a great deal of black and white thinking, living on the extremes in my personality, where I'm either experiencing unrelenting crisis or inhibited feeling, look completely competent or practice active passivity. I'm one crazy chick, right? Then you put me together with Moneypenny, who can easily get carried away in the early part of a new romantic relationship, but, in the long-term, is governed by a Ben Stiller's actuary character from "Along Came Polly." This means that once he's gotten over the heady falling in love period and knows a lady a bit better, he determines what risks there are to being with her, and, so far at least, those risks always outweigh the uncertain reward. So he pulls away, except not quite far enough away to actually leave, because he still does have hope, hope that she'll grow out of that risk. Not surprisingly, she doesn't. Usually, his pulling away only magnifies the qualities or behaviors he found risky in the first place. I'm not writing this to be judgmental or put him on blast. Honestly, while he has many qualities that are extra-ordinary, this all-in then pull-out seems to be rather typical (romantic) relationship behavior for many people, especially men, of our age and I think that cultural and socioeconomic factors, as well as being able prevent pregnancy, tend to allow it to go on longer without it being questioned. I'm not saying that any of those things are wrong or that I would want those contributing factors to change. Just that this is what is. But when culture still pushes (straight) women to think that their highest goal is to get married and have children, when their friends and family put pressure on them to get married, when they are barraged with stories about how not making babies as young as possible after their teens because they start losing fertility, but, on the other hand, pushes even harder on men to not get trapped, to not be invested, to put their male friendships first, to be the cop making sure that feelings don't speed in the relationship, to not feel like they can lose this woman if they don't act to shore up the relationship, well, for better or worse, this creates two people in a relationship with completely opposite motivations and goals. It's not a romantic partnership. What you have here are romantic frenemies.

After my romantic relationship with Moneypenny ended, I really thought that all straight men were like the above. BT showed me that a man my age could jump right in, all the way in, though maybe he only jumped right in because he knew he was physically leaving. On the other hand, he was from a completely different cultural and socioeconomic place than my previous boyfriends. TyRoy had jumped in completely to a fairly new relationship when he was my age and had done all he could to stay in it, though it ultimately didn't last. A bit older than me (or Moneypenny) and much farther along in his life goals than either of us, he seemed to be past the bullshit. More self-assured, he laid out what he wanted, didn't like to waste any time, apparently still felt that it was better to go for that relationship than let the potential (or obvious) risks get in the way. I think this came from age, experience, and, because of his career, not being allowed the extended adolescence post-college that many of us have today. Though I know of plenty of (straight) couples that seem to get engaged and married more out of the push of the female partner and the male partner's feelings of inevitability, this weekend, one of my uncle's close friend's boyfriend of five months surprised her by proposing to her while they were visiting her family for Easter. He wanted to get married as soon as possible, to start this new life together as soon as possible, but because he also wanted them to have a party to celebrate it, they're crunching the numbers to balance that out. She told my mom that he's already been out tasting cakes. Seeing both people so excited about it just makes me all criemy-wimey. It's nice knowing it's not all one way.

They say that the only constant in all your failed relationships is you. Looking back, I see how the tango between my poor BPD and bipolar coping skills and my partner's extreme all-ins then pull-back-outs spelled disaster for us. But I picked these guys, didn't I? So why was TyRoy different, so I can try to repeat the success of that one? Honestly, I think it's because I didn't really pick him. At least not for that. If I'd just went on a regular date with him, a romantic date which I hoped might become a romantic relationship, I honestly probably wouldn't have gone on many more. Gods love him, but he's a pushy, aggressive, stubborn, not traditionally romantic bastard. We became e-mail friends because we had shared losses at the time, with no intention to meet in person ever. We met in person because I also answered a kinky casual encounters ad that I didn't know was his. We were just supposed to be a sexual stop-over relationship for each other, so all those things that I would have rejected him for if I was going to date him didn't really matter to me. I think that we became closer as we found more and more common ground and the more the relationship proved to work for us in real time. While his consistency might have been a no go in someone I sought out for dating, I think it was a large factor in how successful we were. So I think my choosing is all of.

Of course, this doesn't help the situation with Moneypenny, now does it? *Sigh* Except that maybe I should work to be more consistent and to see the ways in which his behavior is consistent in itself, even if it's not consistent with what he says. Though I'm not a huge Oprah fan, I take lessons where I can find them. One of her favorite sayings, which is from Maya Angelou, is "When someone shows you who they are, believe them." I also remember a further quote from a relationship expert that she used to have on her show all the time, but had developed a rift with, just about the time the expert's own romantic relationship fell apart. When the two reconciled in Oprah's last season, the relationship expert said that she completely agreed with the quote, but would add, "And when someone TELLS you who they are, go to the other side of the street," meaning when someone tells you that they are in a negative sense, if that is something you don't want in a relationship, instead of thinking they're going to change or that you can fix them, don't proceed with that relationship. I don't think that the Maya Angelou quote has to be taken negatively though. TyRoy has shown himself to be very good at day to day life, to be completely open and honest and without guile with me, though, while he's never turned me away, he's also shown that he does not have a clue what to do with me when I'm in an emotional crisis. Moneypenny has shown that he's not very good at the everyday, but he's amazing when I'm in a crisis, knows just how to cut to the heart of the matter and make me see things in a different, more helpful light. If I could put the best parts of them together.... Nevermind. I can't control other people, so I always try to find what I can do to make situations more tolerable for myself. Here, I think I need to keep working on accepting and making the best us of who Moneypenny really is right now, and ignore anything he says that's not backed up by actions.

Finally, a closing number, by the Boss himself. How I often feel in life and relationships, but am trying to develop the skills to change, because time only moves one way, away from yesterday:

Woke up this morning the house was cold
Checked the furnace she wasn’t burnin’
Went out and hopped in my old Ford
Hit the engine but she ain’t turnin’
We’ve given each other some hard lessons lately
But we ain’t learnin’
We’re the same sad story that’s a fact
One step up and two steps back
[ Lyrics from: ]
Bird on a wire outside my motel room
But he ain’t singin’
Girl in white outside a church in June
But the church bells they ain’t ringin’
I’m sittin’ here in this bar tonight
But all I’m thinkin’ is
I’m the same old story same old act
One step up and two steps back

It’s the same thing night on night
Who’s wrong baby who’s right
Another fight and I slam the door on
Another battle in our dirty little war

When I look at myself I don’t see
The man I wanted to be
Somewhere along the line I slipped off track
I’m caught movin’ one step up and two steps back

There’s a girl across the bar
I get the message she’s sendin’
Mmm she ain’t lookin’ too married
And me well honey I’m pretending
Last night I dreamed I held you in my arms
The music was never-ending
We danced as the evening sky faded to black
One step up and two steps back

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"She's not a friend. She's a hostage."

"People love that cliche, time heals all wounds. But live long enough and you'll realize that most cliches are true. It's amazing what even the smallest passage of time can accomplish, the cuts it can close, the imperfections it can smooth over. But in the end, it comes down to the size of the wound, doesn't it? If the wound is deep enough , there might be no way to keep it from festering, even if you have all the time in the world."
From an intro voice-over on Being Human, US, emphasis mine

I keep finding myself coming back to the same old questions. How do we know when it's time to give up? Where is the line between sticking to your guns and just being stubborn? How long can you ignore the advice of people you do think are wise, wiser than you? How do you figure out if your wound just needs time to heal or if that wound is just festering and will never heal?

Last week, my favorite afternoon dj's had a discussion about staying friends with ex's. (It's the third section down, with the offensive Asian caricature. The first streaming audio is their overall opinion. The rest are discussions with callers, the final caller being the most interesting to me.) Lazlo, the older, more experienced man, who I usually, begrudgingly, agree with, asserts that no one can be friends with their ex because that ex will always have some control over you and your emotions (or vice versa), your current friendship will interfere with one or both of you's current romantic relationships and one of you is always more emotionally involved, (unconsciously) only does it because you still LOVES that person. This is why Lazlo says that an ex is dead to him. Slimfast, the younger, more idealistic of the two, wants people to call in and prove Lazlo wrong. Lazlo makes some exceptions for people in open relationships and people who have children with ex's and keep a cordial relationship with that co-parent. Of course, Lazlo rips all the callers excuses to pieces. The first two callers were men who still hung out with their female ex's and the ex's new boyfriend/husband, men who couldn't say what positives they got from their friendships with their ex's. Lazlo declared that these men were the ones who still cared and that they needed to cut the cord and move on. The last caller was on the opposite end. He was the only close friend that his ex-girlfriend had. She had not had a serious romantic relationship with another man since they'd broke up, though he'd had other girlfriends and even been engaged for a bit of time. The caller was on his way to have an after-work drink with this woman and Lazlo asserted that the best thing the caller could do for this woman was to not show up to it, to, figuratively, kill himself, so she would be forced to move on. "She's not a friend. She's a hostage," was Lazlo's closing salvo.

And I'll be damned if that didn't ring true. One of those harsh truths that you want to deny, deny, deny, but the words get under your skin, play on a loop in your head.

My friends and relatives don't get why I'm still friends with you. They think being friends with you is so hard that it might not be meant to be. They see that we have very very different values systems, goals, and outlooks on life. And for everyone of your friends or relatives who thinks I'm a crazy unstable jealous bitch, I have a friend or relative who thinks you're a moralistic asshole who needs to take the stick out of his ass and live a little. And I'm pretty sure there are times we agree with that assessment. We also have complaints with how the friendship currently is. Ok, well, I know I do and I'm pretty sure you do, though I couldn't say what yours are at this point. You're great in a crisis, but you kinda disappear for the everyday, though you keep saying that isn't how you want to be. In your own words, "A man shows how he feels in his actions." Though I'm trying to get over it, I know that I'm the ex who stayed on, at least in part, because I thought we'd get back together. And I know I'm the person who feels more wounds more acutely, because it's in my nature to do so.

She's not a friend. She's a hostage.

Now I don't feel that with my other bff who's an ex. But our romantic relationship was far from traditional and we both kept our distances, for a variety of reasons. And while neither of us have plans on being in a romantic relationship with the other, we still relate to each other in much the same way as we did when we were involved. I guess neither of us has felt rejection from the other just because we aren't pursuing a romantic relationship with the other. Maybe my parting with him was not as brutal as my parting was from you.

I thought it would be easier than this, you know? But few things are easy, at least not with me. I had lots of reasons for accepting you back. I have lots of reasons for keeping you in my life. But probably none so strong as sheer stubbornness, the idea that this is one thing that I can make work through the sheer force of my will, that the things we do have are stronger than all the obstacles that lay in our way, that I want to see who you'll be and I want you to see who I become.

So I'll find antibiotics for the deep festering wounds. Call it Stockholm syndrome. I'll be your hostage, at least for now. Gods know you've been mine before. And you can be the symbol of my rebellion, even if you never have one of your own.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Care-taking and Being Taken Care Of

So I feel like I'm kinda a "ride or die chick" when it comes to my family. I'm going to be there, no matter what, if someone I feel is family needs me. I might not keep track of extended family the way that my mom does and I might not have a day to day relationship with some family members, but, if something happened to them, I'm pretty sure I'd be there in a heartbeat. Even family members that I'm estranged from, for this or that reason. If my black sheep uncle actually needed me, like he was sick or injured or dying, I'd be there. No matter how crazy my grandma got, I couldn't break that relationship. I know that isn't how many people feel. Moneypenny and his parents have severed their relationship with most of their extended family, which serves them well in many ways, and I don't judge them for that. TyRoy, no matter how much he does love his family, doesn't put the same premium on being with them for holidays, for various reasons, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't love his parents or that he wouldn't give both his kidneys to his niece if she needed them. Once again, different strokes for different folks. And I'm sure that my way hasn't always served me well, has prevented me from saying 'no' when I should have. Right now, I have the future-anxiety of how much I'll be involved in caring for my step-dad's parents, if/when they need more care, and how I'll be able to balance my desire and obligation to care for them with doing the other things I want to do in my life, especially when that means not living in the metro area where I live. The same is also true when I think of my parents growing older, as I'm the only child.

Family is also not defined strictly by blood or marriage for me. I have a few close friends that I think of as family. This very much includes Moneypenny and TyRoy. I think that anyone who I've been romantically involved with who is involved in my day to day life afterwards and has been there 3+ years seems a shoe in for being family. If my uncle showed me anything, it's that you can make your own family and keep your blood family too, and that it helps everyone if you all have others to carry your burdens.

On the other hand, I know that I rely heavily on my close blood relatives, especially my parents, to the point of taking them and their generosity for granted sometimes. They don't have to let me live here, rent free at the moment. They don't have to help me financially when I'm unemployed or in a tight spot. I'll probably never be able to repay them all they've given me, though I'm sure that can be said of most child/parent relationships.

But I'm a bit ambivalent about taking help, especially financially, from others, especially non-blood/marriage relations. Though the family on my mom's side was always close and leaned on each other, my mom pushed me to have my own money and be independent. This is good advice for anyone, but was important advice for her to pass on to me after her experience being married to my father, not being able to leave the relationship when she wanted to because of the financial situation. While I've not been as great at this as I've wanted to be, the principle/aspiration stuck. In the realm of dating, even living together, until I was married, I never had a significant other who regularly paid more than half for things. I'm not faulting them for that. At the time, those people and I were usually pretty broke. Unless it was a birthday, dinner out was usually fast food and whoever had money that week paid. When I first got with BT, I was a bit flush with cash and paid for almost everything until he was getting full pay from the army. While we were married, theoretically, he didn't see any need for me to work and we could make all the necessities and have money left over to save for after he got back (though that was purely theoretic.) I tried to be a good wifey, spend my time taking care of his needs, be available at crazy hours to talk to him online, etc. (Honestly, that was mostly theoretical too.) But I (mostly) didn't feel bad about "mooching" off of him. In fact, the way Army pays, a part of that money was supposed to be JUST for his spouse, even if we were legally separated, up until any divorce was final. The next person I was involved with was TyRoy, who I've never seen let anyone pay for a check in my life. In the day to day, he didn't really spoil me while we were living together, but he paid the general bills. There I didn't really feel bad either because I knew he'd pay the same amount on the bills if I was there or not. I tried to contribute as much as possible in other ways and, in all honesty, I knew he just didn't want to be alone in that big ol' house, so I didn't really think he minded me being there.

But now I'm not romantically with any of these people, or anyone else for that matter, and I'm ambivalent about them helping me financially. I'll be honest- I'm probably not going to turn them down, but will try to be grateful and gracious in accepting their help. What I'm wondering about is if I should feel guilty about that. With the exception of letting them pay for gas to go see them or dinner/concerts/movies when we're together, the things that people have offered to pay for, already paid for, are...well, not necessities, but quite helpful. Like parts for my broken computer so I can look for work online at all hours, not worry about my parents needing their computer or having the light or noise wake them up. Or recharging the A/C in my old car, so I can go to interviews without being remembered as the sweaty woman. These were things they offered, not something I asked for, though I'm not currently turning down. But I worry that accepting this financial help goes against the principle of being self-sufficient and independent that I really want to work on, though am falling woefully short of at the moment. I'm not necessarily the kind of person who can't accept help and gods knows I've tried to help others when I could, even financially. But this feels different.

This week, when I told Therapist (yes, that's her pseudonym!) about TyRoy buying me the components for my computer, which weren't cheap, she asked why I thought he did that. Maybe my ambivalent feelings are coming from that fact that I'm not really sure. I've never really been sure why he was so generous, but I guess I was always afraid that asking would stop that behavior, so I didn't. At the time, I told Therapist that he's just generous. I'd like to say that TyRoy and Moneypenny are generous financially because I'm generous in other ways. Maybe it's that they love (small l love, like you love your family, not in love) me. Maybe it's because they love me (again small l) and want to take care of me. Maybe it's because they're men and they see a woman in distress, know they can help financially so they do. I kinda shoot down the idea that they are trying to get into my pants because that's completely free and neither of them is currently trying to take advantage of that pay in.

I suppose it's difficult for me to think that these friendships, which I view as family, these (male) people that I would do anything for, but have no plans of current or future romantic or sexual relationships with, are actually as deep for them as they are for me. My commitment is that I'd go running to their non-local home to care for them if they needed it, though I can't contribute to their lives financially. Their commitment is that they can contribute financially to these specific one time things that will help me right now, but they can't drop their jobs, their life, where they are now to come take care of me. On both sides, I think it shows that we dedicate what we have, what we can do, what we can give up, to help the other, to demonstrate that we're in this, that we aren't going anywhere. And to me, that's family. Thanks guys. I'll try to pay it forward (and maybe back) when I can.