mile high 30

Two Fridays ago, I was frantically prepping and packing for a business trip, and last Friday I was in transit for over 12 hours on my way home from said trip. It was good but exhausting (as these things always are) and I’m glad to be home.

A few hours before I got back, Wolf came back into town for the first time since his job started and thus was able to pick me up from the airport. It was late and due to a bit of sleep deficit, the ordinary rigours of travel, and especially business trips, as well as a minor mishap en route (I lost a library book!), I was completely done. Every goddamned thing was irritating: the way other passengers stood in the aisle or put on their coats or walked… so… slowly. The only thing I was aware of was all the things that were wrong, and that was everything.

But Wolf was there waiting for me when I arrived, and held me close, and carried my bags, and got me straight home to bed.

From Nov 2017, on a trip to see Jaime. I bake in a sweater while travelling; cardigans are definitely the way to go.

Boobday is a body-positive meme where women share images of their bodies in order to show that there is beauty in all of us. With confidence comes power and with power comes confidence.

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I think I feel like blogging again

If there’s something that I want to understand but don’t (or at least not as fully as I want to), I keep revisiting it until I have the answer. One issue that’s like this for me is why I slowed down so much with blogging. Yes, I’ve discussed this before, but I’ve discovered some new factors, and I’m feeling optimistic.

I posted a lot in 2015, my first year. I had a lot to say, and while I was suffering with undiagnosed depression, the fact that I wasn’t able to work much ended up giving me more time to write, and fortunately I had enough brainpower for it. Wolf came back that summer and in the fall I started teaching dance more than I had been. In 2016 I posted somewhat less.

I think the original causes for the slowdown were depression (starting in the fall of 2016) and the fact that my sex life was cooling off so I had less to write about. No doubt the depression affected my sex life, but it was also cooling off for its own reasons, not yet fully understood (this is something I’m working on now). Then I went on antidepressants, which basically doused what embers of libido that remained. I strongly suspect that the antidepressants also muted my creativity, so even if I had something to say, it was hard to give enough of a shit about saying it to actually write and publish. My many, many unpublished drafts speak to that issue. In 2017 I had half as many posts as 2016.

I was feeling better by December 2017 (yay, depression essentially gone!) but stayed on the antidepressants until spring on doctor’s orders. I felt my cognition rekindle; it took 3-4 weeks but when the change came it was pretty sudden (yay, I can think!). And that was over six months ago, so where has the blogging been? In 2018, I had half as many posts as 2017.

The way I had originally defined the scope of the blog has become limiting to me. I think this is key, and it’s taken me a few months to really absorb it. I kept having ideas of things to say but I felt like I wasn’t allowed to say them here. Weird, since this is my blog to say what I want, but it’s taken me a while to give myself permission to talk about other things beyond the original scope of the project. I’ve felt limited by the name of the blog (which I chose four years ago when things were different), but I don’t have a better name yet, so fuck it. For now, it stays. I intend to revise my About page to reflect the new scope, in bits, as the mood strikes. If I tell myself it all has to be done in one go, it becomes overwhelming and doesn’t get done at all.

I’ve just become aware of a few other factors – less significant, but they go some way to filling in the remaining gaps. I might have mentioned before that I have a new(ish) laptop and I’ve found it difficult to adjust to. The keyboard is different and I get typos more often than before. So that’s annoying. Also, the screen is smaller than I’m used to so editing photos is less fun and more hassle. I have a nice big monitor for my work computer, which spoils me for the small one.

In addition to this, I have few reasons to turn on the laptop, and it being off is a barrier somehow. I don’t really know why, but it’s definitely a thing. I’m much more likely to putter on the blog, and especially reply to comments and comment on other people’s writing, when the laptop is already on.

Wolf has been gone for a week now and I’m rediscovering the routine I had while he was away doing his doctorate. During the day I like it quiet. No music. No talk radio. No TV or Netflix or YouTube. Just silence, other than the sound of a bit of traffic outside and sometimes the wind. (Actually, a lot of wind lately.)

OK, this isn’t really any different from when Wolf is here. But in the evening, it changes. I now have to do the cooking and dishes, and I want music on while I work around the house. When I want music, I go on Soundcloud, which I do from my laptop because of technical reasons. And lo, now my laptop is on every day, and I can just decide to write a little something or do other blog maintenance and it feels so much easier.

Brains are weird.

mile high 29

So Wolf is getting settled in his new job in the other city (the other place, but not The Other Place, if you see what I mean). And I’m getting settled into my new solo routine at home. I have to get used to being on my own again (including cooking for myself, which I find difficult and stressful), at least for a few months, but there are significant differences this time. For one, Wolf now has a cell phone so it’s easier to be in touch from a distance, whether that’s by phone or text. We’re also in the same time zone so our cycles still mesh. And the distance, while inconvenient, is near enough for a weekly commute.

Except that we only have one car and the public transportation situation here is dire. But my mom will be away for an extended period — almost the exact same length as an academic term, as luck would have it — and she has offered to lend us her car, which will simplify things immensely.

But for now I’m now communicating with both Wolf and Jaime largely by text, which gives me a stronger sense of my menfolk; I’m more conscious of maintaining two relationships now that I’m alone in this house and they each have a specific text sound and call schedule.

From the last leg of my trip home from Europe in April. En route from Jaime to Wolf.

Boobday is a body-positive meme where women share images of their bodies in order to show that there is beauty in all of us. With confidence comes power and with power comes confidence.

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at the turning of the year

looking back

I launched this blog at Christmastime 2014, so this isn’t just the turning of the year, it’s also my fourth blogging anniversary!

In January, Wolf successfully defended his doctoral thesis and shall henceforth be known as Dr. Wolf. It represented the end of a long slog, and while his getting accepted into the university in the first place was a very big deal, we had no idea how emotionally difficult it would be on both of us. We are each other’s primary support systems and without that support, we both ended up in depression (though that wasn’t the sole reason for either of us). Completion for him was thus bittersweet as it had come at a much higher cost than expected and it left him wondering whether it would ever feel like it had been worth it.

March saw me take two very different trips back to back without stopping off at home on the way, which made packing a challenge! I was at a business meeting on a Thursday morning, in a succession of airports and airplanes from afternoon to night (my sleep time completely disappearing while I was in the air), arrived at Heathrow on Friday morning, then put in an appearance at the Eroticon 2018 Friday Night Meet and Greet that evening. I was, of course, exhausted.

My time at Eroticon (my second) was excellent, as expected. Although I’m now aware of one sex blogger and one romance/erotica writer who reside in my neck of the woods, it’s such a treat to just be in a room with more sex writers than you can shake a stick (or cane, or flogger) at. And everyone I’ve met has been my kind of people – intelligent, sexy and kind. Just wonderful. But it’s still a big trip for me. Would I have gone just for Eroticon? It’s hard to say, but I didn’t have to make that decision because Jaime and I had planned to meet up there and then travel together for a few weeks.

I made arrangements with the same photographer as in 2017 to do another shoot while I was in London. I must admit, both the shoot and follow-up were a bit disappointing, and I’ve spent the subsequent months forgetting it rather than remembering it.

Just before I returned home in April, I did my first shoot with Molly, which was also my first outdoor shoot. At about 10°, it was chilly to be naked outside, though better than I’d expected – and vastly better than it would have been if I’d been doing the same project at home! (Molly has given me some edited photos but I haven’t posted any yet; I’m experiencing some kind of block that is making it difficult, for reasons I don’t understand. With any luck, I’ll publish them soon.)

Just before I returned home from Europe, I finished weaning myself off of the anti-depressant I’d been on. By early May, my brain suddenly began functioning better; my cognition, focus and motivation improved substantially, which was such a relief! Since then, I’ve been working harder at the day job than I have in a couple of years, leaving me brain-tired and eye-strained at the end of the workday.

In November, I had a solo adventure in Japan; once upon a time I taught English there fairly briefly and went back this year for a visit. It was fun and stressful and tiring and delightful. I had a strong sense of filling my eyes with wonderful things, which I need to remember so I make a point of doing more of that. I’ve already posted a couple of photos (just before my flight out, and just after I arrived on the other side) and you’ll be seeing more from that trip in future.

On Christmas Day I set a boundary with my dad, which provoked a bit of a confrontation, so that was fun. But it means that I’m prioritising my needs over his wants, and that’s good for me. Five bucks says the next time we talk, he’ll pretend it never happened.

Top 100 Sex Bloggers 2018

I’m delighted that Molly (and Michael) included me in her list of the Top 100 Sex Blogs of 2018, which was announced in early December. I’ve fallen in the ranking since last year, which comes as no surprise since blogging regularly continues to be difficult for me, but I’m very pleased to have made the list at all. (Trying to remind myself that it’s OK if I’m less productive, and that I don’t have to blog if I’m not enjoying it.) Warm congratulations to this year’s winner, Rebel’s Notes!

I did find inspiration now and then through the year and there are some posts that I’m proud of, such as:

I’m also very happy to be included in Exposing 40’s round up of 40 [sex bloggers] over 40.

After my first adventure with Jaime in November 2015, I developed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which may have been caused by the gastrointestinal issues I had while travelling in a country where you need to be careful about drinking the water. In three years, following basic IBS guidelines has failed to control it and the constant bloating – as well as the resultant dip in body image, slight weight gain, and poorly fitting clothes – have really been getting on my tits, so this month I’ve started on a program to test whether certain categories of fermentable carbohydrates (collectively, FODMAPs) might be to blame, and if so, which one(s).

After the elimination phase, my bloating mostly went away. Around the same time, I was suddenly sleeping less and feeling more alert after struggling with fatigue for a number of years. The increase in energy hasn’t been consistent but this unexpected result provides a new lead for an issue where I’d mostly given up hope of finding a specific cause. There are five categories of FODMAPs and I’m currently challenging the third, so I’m about halfway done this process and I think I’ve identified two triggers. I’ll complete this project sometime in January and then follow up with my doctor.

My libido, which was variable at best and was convincingly sent packing by the anti-depressants in early 2017, is still AWOL. I originally started this blog as a place to record my new sexy adventures, but… I’m not having any. Forgive me Daddy, for I have failed to sin: it’s been almost 9 months since my last partnered sex. I don’t see that changing any time soon. And after giving me 4 orgasms on Christmas morning, my beloved We-Vibe Touch has died *cries*

looking forward

After over a year of looking for work, Dr. Wolf has been hired (last minute) for a lecturer position that starts right away. The catch is that it’s in another city – not too far from here but far enough to be inconvenient, especially given the lack of public transit and the fact that we only have the one car. We drive there tomorrow, I’ll get him settled and stay the night, and then I go back to an empty house. It’s a term position running until the end of June so he’ll be there and I’ll be here for the duration, except for the odd time when he can escape. He’ll be staying in a spartan place so it’s not especially practical for me to go visit him there. After that, we have to wait and see.

I have business trips in January and March, and the latter one (as well as the work to be done before and after) makes it ridiculously impractical for me to go to Eroticon 2019, alas. So my plan is to be dutiful, and then fuck off to Jaime’s house for a couple of weeks in April.

That’s my year in a nutshell. I hope you’re having/have had a great New Year’s Eve, whatever that looks like for you, and best wishes for 2019!

slow burn

I have never been a fan of quickies and that seems unlikely to change any time soon.

Before my epiphany, sexual shame put a damper on everything. I didn’t feel sexy. I didn’t experience spontaneous arousal. I didn’t experience much arousal even with help. On the rare occasions when I got warmed up, it took a long time to get there and Wolf and I would usually take, oh, 2-3 hours.

The last quickie I can recall was pre-Wolf, so a long time ago indeed. My boyfriend and I had been attending a low-key social event at a restaurant one evening. As I recall, we ducked out to his car in the parking lot and we had 15 or 20 minutes before we needed to give someone a ride home. I don’t remember anything more about it (and what I do remember is very hazy), but I must have been very turned on and that pleases me.

Thing is, as a rule, I still don’t get turned on easily at all. I think my libido is just naturally low, and having had all of my early learning about sexuality tainted with that deep shame, I suspect it continues to affect my relationship with sex even now, despite the fact that I don’t feel that specific shame anymore.

I’ve been trying to figure out my turn-ons but haven’t gotten very far with the project, or there just aren’t many. Either way, it’s a source of frustration. And on top of that, depression and medication have taken their toll. The slightest flicker of libido is therefore welcomed, but if I’m going to act on it, it needs a tremendous amount of coaxing to ignite, like damp wood.

And you know? Fast and furious just isn’t my style. I don’t do anything quickly. Shopping, travelling, crafting and sewing. I like to take my time with all of it, and if I rush, I don’t enjoy it.

So for the foreseeable future, any sex is going to be slow sex.

photos from the vault: still life with stilettos

The other day I decided to have a look at the photos on my memory card, which had been sitting on my desk for long enough that I’d forgotten what exactly was on it and why I’d put it there in the first place.

The major thing I’d forgotten was the fact that my entire archive of sexy photos (begun after my epiphany and before I started blogging) was still on it. I’d bought my external hard drive expressly for the purpose of storing photos but it was a big organising job and I’d run out of steam after sifting through the safe-for-work stuff. So yesterday I set to work transferring the NSFW images from card to disc. I’m about halfway done at this point.

Even though I am prone to clutter, I’m very analytical and thus very good at organising most things when I put my mind to it. Since I’ve been having difficulties with depression and, more recently, anxiety, I’ve found that organising the materials as a first step often helps me to overcome the challenge of starting a project that (for whatever reason) feels difficult. As I engage with the various items, I start noticing patterns and small tasks that need doing, and then it doesn’t seem so hard to start doing those tasks.

Organising my photos is, fortunately, firing up the same neurons. I use separate folders for each month, which for me is a long enough period of time that there’s more than just a handful of pics but short enough that it doesn’t bog down the computer when it’s loading up the thumbnails. I’m finding that looking at a collection of photos taken on different days tunes me into the similarities and differences better than looking at each shoot separately, and I start mentally categorising the images and coming up with labels. [Note: I’ve never actually tagged photos before this so I don’t know if I’ll find tags useful in future, but I’m not doing many so it’s not much of a time investment.]

Looking at those early images now, I can see that they are cautious and tentative, and I remember the awkwardness and self-consciousness when I took them. I don’t even appear in the very first images; that honour goes to my then-recently purchased stilettos.

FYI, I’ve gotten loads of enjoyment out of these shoes and have only rarely worn them outside the house. I’m glad I didn’t let “Oh, I’d never wear them anywhere” be an excuse not to buy them.

Photos from the vault:
still life with stilettos
go fish
I spy
blue coat

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a tale of two choices: what pro-choice looks like in practice

I have never wanted kids. I knew this at age 5 and my opinion on the matter has never substantially changed.

I was raised pro-choice. When I started having sex, I/we always took precautions but in the knowledge that if the preventative measures failed, I’d definitely get an abortion.

The first time I had (PIV) sex was when I was 17½ and about a month or two away from graduation from high school. Teen pregnancy was a huge nope for me, and pregnancy in university would have been pretty lousy too. Eventually I finished my education, had a job and was in a stable relationship, but though the ‘bad timing’ reasons had fallen away, that fundamental desire not to have children was still as firmly in place as always.

Even now, when pregnancy is still probably physically possible for me — but only barely (my age is now a more effective barrier than a condom, hurrah!) — my decision would be the same. If I became pregnant despite precautions, I would not hesitate to have an abortion. This would not be a difficult decision for me, really, since I’ve made the same decision over and over anytime I’ve considered the issue.

No, I’ve not been confronted with having to act on that decision. I’m a thoughtful, sensitive person, and I’d expect to feel a bit of a pang. It wouldn’t be regret about the child not had; it would be that I’ve always done my damnedest to avoid having an abortion and regretting that I had to have one in order to continue to be child-free.

Now let me tell you about my good friend Rosa. She’s like me in many ways: staunch atheist; a highly sensitive person; cautious and slow to trust; intelligent and educated; world traveller; no desire for kids.

I should qualify the last a bit. Once upon a time, she accidentally got pregnant. She loves her child dearly and wouldn’t give them up, but she has been clear to me that this was really not the plan and she would have preferred that things hadn’t worked out that way.

She recently got married and with marriage comes the questions about whether you’re going to have a child, and her (their) answer was an unequivocal no, in part because it’s getting a bit late for that but mostly because they really didn’t want to.

But then she got pregnant accidentally. It really shouldn’t have happened. At her age, she should have had only a 5% chance of getting pregnant during any given cycle. But more to the point, she had an IUD, which is 99% effective. With an IUD in place, it should have been an ectopic pregnancy if anything, but no, it’s all normal and viable and looks fine.

She’s already had a child, she didn’t (doesn’t) want another, her husband doesn’t want a child, and it’s massively inconvenient. When she told me about it, she was clearly unimpressed with the situation, so I started gently encouraging an abortion, but then it became clear that this had happened long enough ago that the decision had already been made. The basis for her decision? She checked in with her gut and chose the option she could live with more easily.

I can’t pretend to relate to her choice because obviously it’s the opposite of what I would have done. But — and this is the really important bit — it is and should be her choice.

The issue she was dealing with at the moment was how to cope with the negative reactions of her husband and child while she was going through something she didn’t want to be going through in the first place. To my mind, my job was (and is) to support her.

If she had come to me for advice earlier to help her make that decision, I would have encouraged an abortion because I knew that she didn’t want to have a child. Knowing what I know now, I doubt very much that I would have changed her mind.

But when the decision is made, it’s made. I’m not going to tell her what to do or undermine her choice. Even when it’s not the choice that I’d make for myself. Even when I know she’d rather not have the child. Even when I can see that the consequences for her are going to be huge; she knows so much better than I do what the consequences will be for her and there’s nothing I can tell her that she doesn’t already know.

Being pro-choice isn’t about demanding that everyone have an abortion — what utter nonsense! Pro-choice is about respecting every individual’s personal autonomy to make their own decisions, especially when those decisions have profound consequences for the person making them. Pro-choice means not criticising or offering opinions that are not asked for; it means not saying explicitly or implying that the choice made is wrong. Pro-choice means trusting women, which I suppose is why this patriarchal society has such a problem with it.

I think there’s a misconception (no pun) that if a person is pro-choice, that means they would automatically have an abortion in the circumstances where that’s a consideration. This isn’t true. A pro-choice person respects other people’s bodily autonomy, but you don’t actually know what decision they would make for themselves. In contrast, if a person is anti-abortion (also misleadingly termed ‘pro-life’), you know that they wouldn’t have an abortion, and that they want to impose that choice on others.

Another way in which Rosa is like me is that she is very precise with her words. She had told her husband that she didn’t want another child and that remains absolutely true; unfortunately, he interpreted that to mean that she would abort an unplanned pregnancy, which is not true. I have a lot of sympathy for him since he’s now in a situation he never bargained for, but my understanding is that they never discussed what would happen if the IUD failed.

There is no contraception that is 100% effective. If you are sexually active, please consider how you would want to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Just as a vasectomy is ultimately the decision of the person whose penis it is, an abortion is ultimately the decision of the person whose uterus it is. If you and your partner disagree about abortion as a backup plan, then you should seriously consider additional contraception. And for the love of all that is good, talk to each other about it before anyone gets pregnant!

my interview with Tantra Punk

Over a year ago, Ben over at Tantra Punk (@tantrapunk on Twitter, “Your guide to sexual liberation, healing, and empowerment”) contacted me to ask if I’d like to do a podcast interview with him. With one thing and another (including a cold that wouldn’t die), we didn’t get to it until recently. But the interview is now done and published!

I could tell you about it, but nothing I say will sound half as awesome as his very flattering description: “In this episode I’m joined by an deeply intriguing and empowering sex blogger Zoë K. She provides a very insightful glimpse into the lifestyle of an open relating, shame-free sex positive web-enabled literary voice of liberation.”

Click here to listen to our chat on the web, or find him on iTunes.

If you have any questions flowing from the interview, ask away in the comments.

I don’t feel safe

I don’t feel safe. I mostly mean sexually, but this could apply to other things too; I’m not sure.

Intellectually, I know that I am safe. Wolf and I have been together for a lot of years, and while there have been rare mistakes or missteps, I’ve never felt that he he looked down on me, disrespected me, or used me. Since I’ve been more aware and deliberate about trusting him, I’ve made a bit of progress but not as much as I would have liked.

I seem unable to feel safe. It’s like I don’t have a sense of safety because I don’t have the organ, nerve, bulb, whatever it is that I need to sense it. Or maybe my sense of safety exists but is partly impaired, since I’m perfectly attuned to detect the slightest whiff of danger.

Not feeling safe means I’m always reflexively on my guard such that I don’t necessarily even notice the tension. (It has recently occurred to me to wonder whether my chronic physical tension is connected to this.) Because of my history with Wolf, I can choose to let my guard down a bit but it takes a great deal of effort, and it’s imperfect because I don’t fully understand why I’m on my guard in the first place.

The other night, Wolf and I cuddled the way we always do. Ordinarily he’d touch my back and rub my neck, and I’m happy to let him because he knows through lots of experience what I like. But it still feels to me that he’s in control.

This time I was thinking about my feeble sense of safety and what I could possibly do to develop it. We decided that I’d tell him what I wanted and he’d do it, or he’d stop if I said stop. I often ask him to touch or massage one spot or another, but this time I just told him “touch me here” or “massage me there”. It’s a minor grammatical difference but it was enough to make me feel a little emotionally vulnerable. I hope I’m not imagining this, but when I told him to hug me a certain way because I needed reassurance, it seemed to sink in more thoroughly than usual.

With Jaime, dealing with my inherent feeling of unsafeness is more challenging. He has demonstrated his trustworthiness to me in myriad ways but we don’t have the same length of time together, and most of the time that we do have is long distance, which is qualitatively different and can’t really address issues of physicality.

I think this is why I haven’t really progressed beyond splashing around in the shallow end of the BDSM pool. BDSM often uses a dash of fear to heighten physiological arousal, but when I don’t feel fundamentally safe, all it seems to accomplish is to make me even more cautious and guarded.

I’ve been thinking about how things are with Jaime, and how I’d like to go deeper but I feel like I’ve plateaued. This relationship started with a BDSM flavour and the undercurrent is still there but right now it’s very quiet. I feel a bit disappointed about that. My difficulties with depression and low libido have been a significant issue, and in response to my general mood Jaime has chosen to back off, BDSM-wise.

Thinking about some of the BDSM things that we’ve done together that didn’t go so smoothly, I realised that I’ve probably deferred to him too much, trusting his domming experience more than my understanding of myself and my needs. And frankly, I’m not always that good at knowing my own needs, so it’s really attractive to believe that someone else knows what they are and will satisfy them.

Now, I like to know why things are the way they are, and when facing a current challenge, I often revisit my childhood to see if there might be some early learning colouring the way I think about things now. One of my tentative conclusions is that my parents were not very responsive to me when I was very young. This difficulty is that you develop your earliest sense of self from what is reflected back to you from your caregivers. If my parents weren’t good at knowing me, then they couldn’t teach me to know myself. As an adult, wanting someone else to know and satisfy my needs without my having to figure it out myself sounds like a mind-reading fantasy. But isn’t this basically what parenting young children is about?

But despite the past, I’m an adult and I now understand myself better than anyone else does. “Just going along with things” is a theme in an awful lot of my sexual experiences, and historically the results for me have been neutral ranging through to actively bad. If I’m going to submit, I think I need to trust myself more and be more assertive regarding both process  (how and when we communicate, how I express my needs and concerns) and substance (the activities I agree to).

I believe that it’s possible to be both assertive and submissive, but what I’m struggling with is whether it’s possible for me to do so, in my way, in this relationship.

recovery day

Yesterday was a big day: a dance performance, preceded by anxiety about the quality of my piece and last-minute work to complete my costume. The performance alone would be enough to take it out of me, let alone the bonus anxieties.

So today was a scheduled recovery day during which I planned to do not much at all. (The other option would have been to plan to do things, inevitably fail to do them, then feel like shit for failing to accomplish what I’d planned to do.) I ran a couple of loads of laundry, picked up the “shrapnel” from the dance bomb that had gone off, and generally puttered around the house.

My energy has been low, my mood tenuous. It’s possible that my brain is doing that thing where an emotion just happens but then the brain looks for evidence to justify the emotion, confirmation-bias-wise.

But even if that’s true, I have been feeling down today, though not about the performance. I strive for excellence but as a recovering perfectionist, I’m aware that sometimes my goals or self-criticisms are unreasonable, and that usually happens when my energy and resources are low. I seem to avoided that pitfall this time, partly because I think I was effectively distracted during the time I would have been most prone to it.

My down mood has latched on to more abstract or indirect issues today. A feeling of disconnection from friends (do I have friends?). Disappointment with how my body works and feels.

Being haunted by the ghost of my libido. I just want to feel desire.

I generally tend towards optimism, but it’s been difficult.