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.

I’m still alive

Is something wrong? she said
Of course there is
You’re still alive, she said
Oh, do I deserve to be?
Is that the question?
[“Alive”, Pearl Jam]

Oh dear, it’s hard to get back in the groove after so long away. I’ve had a busy couple of months, but it’s been so long that nothing seems significant enough to talk about. I have lots of ideas of things to write about – or at least I thought I did, until confronted with a blank page. It feels like when you run into someone you haven’t seen for years and yet somehow you’re able to catch up in about 10 minutes. I must be forgetting something…

So, what have I been up to? Well, I went to Eroticon, and it was my second time attending. I’m definitely glad I went and I hope to attend next year too. Although this last year has been very quiet on the blog, it was good to hear interesting talks, visit with people I’ve met before (friends? is that the word?), and just be in a room with a bunch of people who are weird like me.

When I arrived at Heathrow on the Friday morning, Jaime was there to pick me up and escort me back to our room. We spent the next three weeks travelling together, mostly in southern England but we also spent the better part of a week in a Paris AirBnB. By the end of my trip, I was starting to get homesick and tired of the pace. I am, in many ways, a delicate flower.

Being away from Wolf is always strange, since we always spend so much time together. Well, we’re both introverts, so this often amounts to him at his desk and me at mine, but we’re doing our solo stuff together, if you see what I mean. I had good wifi connectivity throughout the trip so staying in touch wasn’t too hard, but this whole me having adventures while he’s at home thing is new so we don’t have a long-distance routine worked out as such.

While I was on this trip, I was tapering off my anti-depressant medication – citalopram, which is an SSRI. I had a bit of a bumpy ride but there were too many variables to know whether that was due to the meds or all of the other novelty that was going on around me. Prior to going off the meds, I had been feeling consistently good and the side effects were starting to bother me, so I think the timing was right. An issue that’s been plaguing me is the not really caring about doing things, or finishing things I start. This was a symptom of the depression but in a slightly different version it became, I think, one of the side effects.

I’ve had a series of mild but still significant health complaints in addition to the mental health stuff. The most recent in the litany is arthritis in my neck, the treatment for which has caused low-grade tension and chronic pain from the shoulders up, plus mild nausea. Add this to the irritable bowel syndrome, whose primary symptom for me is wicked bloating, and my ongoing hypoglycemia, and my stomach is very confused and unhappy.

My libido is still very low and the above seems to have killed it again. I have given Tabitha Rayne‘s #30DayOrgasmFun project a go, but my disinterest, it is high, and persisting would defeat the purpose of having fun with it. So.

Even though I haven’t been posting photos, I seem to have established a habit of taking mile-high selfies (and the occasional comparable ground-level ones) whenever the opportunity arises. It has arisen rather a lot in the last while, and I expect it to do so a couple more times before midsummer.

So that’s my life in a nutshell.

I have Oxford on my mind

1

Wolf finished his thesis last week, and I insisted on proofreading until past my bedtime even though a deadline was looming. I hadn’t been able to help much with the doctorate beyond being a sounding board, but this was the assistance I’d been planning to give him since he first was admitted to Oxford. It was for him but also for me.

He emailed it off to the printer down the street from his former residence, and try as I might I can’t visualise the shopfront. Once printed, the readers’ copies would be delivered to the Examination Schools, another place I’ve walked past countless times. He’ll be mildly fretful about it until it’s successfully delivered, and so it’s on my mind too.

2

An acquaintance from sexy Twitter just ran the Oxford Half Marathon the other day. I’ve spent some time in the city and though I haven’t been there for the Half Marathon, I’m certain I’ve seen some other race there. I have a mental snapshot of runners in bibs, which must then date from May or June 2015. Where were they? Longwall?

 

3

Another acquaintance from sexy Twitter has family in Oxford and also studied there. We’ve talked about that a wee bit, and discussed colleges. No doubt some of his most vivid memories of the city are situated near some of my own. Like that evening when I saw an undergrad in a room above street level, carrying on with the music loud and window open, and wearing a bedsheet toga.

4

My mood is tenuous. It’s bedtime and I’m looking for a book to read. Must be fiction but there’s precious little new fiction in the house. I haven’t yet cracked the new Yann Martel, in part because the quote from a review on the front cover calls it “entirely heartbreaking”. Why did I buy this? So I look for an old friend and choose Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches, a goodly chunk of which is set in Oxford.

 

I’d spent time in the city before I first read the book, but only a couple of weeks by that point. My visual memory is shit and I could barely remember the things that I had seen. I reread the book in preparation for my trip in 2015, and then soaked up vistas, views and sights. Radcliffe Camera. The Bodleian Library, the Sheldonian, All Souls (all from the outside). New College mostly from the outside but briefly from the inside once to take in evensong. The Covered Market, Blackwells, Holywell Street. The river down to the college boathouses and beyond. On the second-last day of my two-month visit, I took a tour of the Bod and got to see the famous Duke Humphrey’s Library and the Selden End (alas, no photos allowed), where the Harkness book begins.

 

As a student, Wolf was in and out of the Bod regularly, though not this building. He has a few business cards and one of those makes an utterly perfect bookmark for this book.

5

When I arrived in Oxford that time, Wolf and I both had things to tell each other that needed to be said in person. We’d been living apart for the better part of three years, though our last separation commenced only about two months before. He told me that he wasn’t feeling well and hadn’t been for a few months already. He had noticed a problem soon after he had last returned to Oxford, so it must have been March. There wasn’t much to be done until we got home, but at least I’d already set up a checkup for him. Seven weeks after he went for that checkup, he was having open-heart surgery. The ends of the scar are still pink, the drugs a daily reminder.

It was all I could do to wait a week before sharing my own news. During that week, we fucked up a storm, jet lag and period notwithstanding. It was a delight to reconnect, and to connect sexually in a way that we hadn’t really ever before. I’d been busy having my epiphany and related revelations but I was at home alone most of that time. And when he had been home, he found it a bit overwhelming.

When I could no longer hold my tongue and finally confessed that Gawan wanted to come and meet me, it was very difficult and took quite a while for Wolf to process. I have a trip to visit Gawan in a few weeks, and my departure date is almost two years from the day we first met at my local airport. Gawan is now my dom, and though the distance and polyamory are a challenge, Wolf is comfortable with it now, which allows me to be too.

6

The book I brought with me to Oxford was Guy Gavriel Kay’s River of Stars. I’ve since given Gawan the previous GGK book, which he’s currently reading.

7

I’m not generally one for romance novels, but I found I enjoyed the romance element of A Discovery of Witches. The main character is a witch who has avoided learning anything about or using witchcraft and magic since childhood, and the love interest is a vampire. Leaving aside the issue of how vampires in literature (and other media) went from being terrifying to romantic, many of the little things he does are dominant; it reminds me a touch of D/s. One of the first things he says to her is that it can be pleasurable to let someone else take the lead, he’s protective of her, and following a bonding moment he declares that she belongs to him. And she agrees. He’s used to being obeyed. He also wears a lot of black, so there’s that.

sleeping together 3

On the fourth day, Gawan took me to the outlook he’d shown me the day before and went beyond for a proper hike, though there were paved paths and steps throughout.

falls

He even brought a picnic: nice thick sandwiches and homemade pie for dessert, which we ate while looking out over a dizzying height. But we had mostly walked down to get to this particular height, and the return trip was up the equivalent of something like 40 flights of stairs. I would have eaten more pie if there had been any.

vista

That evening, Gawan and his roommate’s boyfriend wrestled the soft office mattress upstairs and plonked it on top of the hard mattress in Gawan’s bedroom. It turned out to be just right: baby bear’s bed.

On the morning of the fifth day, we explored each other more, and this time it was not entirely vanilla. He visited the leather paddle upon me again (the first time for that had been at the hotel). We fucked again. He gave me oral, explored with his fingers, and wielded my trusty little vibe on me. Whenever I got close, he sweetly crooned “good girl” until I eventually came. He was unconditionally invested in my pleasure and happiness, and he swaddled me in a blanket of warmth and love.

In the afternoon, he drove me to a notable landmark, one of the sights you really should see if you’re in this part of the country, partly just to have a little outing and partly so I could say “Yes, I saw the famous sights”. I had travelled a long way to get here; if I didn’t see any sights, there would be some awkward questions when I got back home.

So by the fifth day we knew we had a bed that was comfortable enough for me and big enough for us both, but we slept on it only once more before leaving town for the first time, then a couple more days here and there. Otherwise, it was a parade of five different hotel beds over the next two weeks.

***

Throughout the trip, I continued to check in with myself, but less and less frequently as the guilt and anxiety failed to materialize. I did, however, experience some guilt for a while after I got home, in response to Wolf’s moods. He had been consistently supportive of me taking this trip and having fun but had nonetheless found it difficult with me away, and more difficult that I was with another man. This almost certainly hit him harder than it would have otherwise because of his depression and anxiety (which was finally diagnosed only a couple of weeks ago).

But he was still unhappy even after I returned. It pains me when he’s unhappy, so I have a tendency to take more responsibility for his mood than I should, but it seemed clear that the trip was the cause of his unhappiness. And this probably hit me harder than it would have otherwise because of my own depression.

Looking back, I suppose I was projecting my own fears: that non-monogamy would hurt him, and when I saw that he was hurting I unconsciously assumed that was the reason and duly felt guilty about it. While it was unresolved, I couldn’t face writing about this trip. We’ve talked about it many times since: he didn’t expect or want me to do anything differently than I had done, and I’ve let go of feeling like his pain was my fault. I think we’re in the clear now.

Sinful Sunday: in good hands

I’m always in good hands with Wolf.

in-good-hands

I’m leaving on my trip in a few days, so Wolf’s excellent care is much on my mind. And I do feel tremendously well cared for: it’s clear that my happiness is his top priority. It’s his generosity and deep love for me that is behind him encouraging me to take this trip, wanting me to have a blast, driving me to the airport. All while he makes do without the one thing he wants most: me.

badge Sinful Sunday

Sinful Sunday: beloved

It was a year ago today that I dropped Wolf off at the hospital for scheduled, but still life-saving, heart surgery. (Bicuspid aortic valve not shown.)

His bravery was business-like; it needs to be done, so do it. Simple. Mine was the kind that acknowledged the fact that one possible outcome was cataclysmic but improbable and that I was powerless to influence the result, but I somehow got through the day anyway.

The blood was all his: he barely avoided getting a transfusion.

His body had betrayed him, and no longer felt like home. Still doesn’t, not quite. He’s off the other meds but will continue to get regular blood tests and take blood thinners.

beloved 1

But I still have my beloved, and that’s the most important thing on this, his re-birthday.

beloved 2

The Sinful Sunday theme today is “the letter B“.

badge Sinful Sunday

the love of four men in one weekend

I exaggerate of course. It wasn’t really a weekend — it was about a 48-hour period starting on a Saturday afternoon. But during this time, four men told me they loved me.

Wolf made small gestures, such as making gourmet sandwiches (complete with little love notes) for my first flight. And then there was the grand gesture first made many months ago (and subsequently reaffirmed more than once) when he agreed to amend the terms of our relationship to allow for one specific exception to our monogamy, without which the trip likely wouldn’t have happened. When he dropped me off at the airport (sending me into the care of another man) and said he loved me, I knew in the marrow of my bones ­— as I have for years ­— that it was absolutely true.

The purpose of the trip was to spend time with Gawan. After serendipitously meeting online, I was surprised to find myself falling for a man I’d never met. I’ve termed that emotion “love” for over a year now. When he picked me up at the airport on the far side of the world and said he loved me, I felt completely secure in his love, though it still feels fresh. This was only our second time meeting – our “second date”, if you will.

I took the opportunity to visit two friends en route, one of whom (Lucas) is the only ex who I still consider to be a real friend. We don’t keep in touch as much as we should (he’s a self-described recluse and workaholic, and I haven’t been reaching out) but we’ve vowed to do better. I’ve been thinking about him more since I started blogging because he was the person who first told me about BDSM. During our brief visit, I raised the topic and was pleased to find that he’s still interested in it. Why pleased? It means that I still know him, it’s an interest we broadly share, and I now have a trusted friend I can talk to about it. When he dropped me off at airport #2 and said he loved me (there’s something about airports, or at least infrequent goodbyes and hellos), it was no shock — I’m one of his oldest friends — but the word “love” is new. This is the love of a deep friendship built on the pillars of years.

The fourth man is Mr. Pleasant Surprises, whom I’ve known a little longer than I’ve known Wolf but we’ve been in touch only very sporadically over the years. It wasn’t until we visited in May that I got any hint of how much he cared for me — the delighted smiles, the warm hugs, the arm flung around my neck as we walked together. I invited myself to crash at his place. This time he shared things with me that I hadn’t known and I came to understand that I’m one of the few people he trusts, and that he has an even bigger love and touch deficit than I do. He’s a self-described loner, so I was even more surprised that he invited me in emotionally. We talked for a few hours, and at one point we just stood and held each other. We looked into each other’s eyes, seeing fondness, acceptance and caring, both of us drinking it up, and he kissed me. And told me that he loved me.

In reference to Mr. PS, Gawan playfully decreed “no more boyfriends”, not that that’s where I see this heading. But PS has made it abundantly clear that he values this relationship; I’ve never had a lot of friends myself and I can’t recall any friend ever expressing their appreciation for me so intensely. I want people in my life who want me in their lives. I’ve heard of that notion, of course, but hadn’t personally experienced it until recently. It seems I still have things to learn about healthy relationships.

With four declarations of love in the space of a weekend (give or take), I feel loved. Even lovable, which is… unfamiliar.

This is right. This is good. I was in need of more love in my life and somehow I’ve stumbled upon quite a lot of it.

Sinful Sunday: change of pace

badge Sinful Sunday

The theme for Sinful Sunday is “change”.

For a change, I’m posting a photo of Wolf instead of myself. Wolf hates having his photo taken but, for a change, I asked him – and he agreed.

I’ve had issues with body image. I have suffered with my own perfectionism plus a small helping of the self-criticism that is culturally mandated for girls and women. When I started posting photos for the Sinful Sunday and Boobday memes, I had no intention of changing my attitude – it didn’t even occur to me that that might happen. But change it did, and for the better.

Wolf has a general discomfort with photos of people, himself and others, arising from the fact that the image is meant to capture a moment in time but it’s always somehow unreal. The only photos of himself that he doesn’t mind are candids because he can see them as an observer rather than as a participant. Looking at a posed photo of himself inevitably reminds him of the self-consciousness he felt when the photo was taken. (Now there’s a captured memory that one can live without!) And then he just doesn’t really like how he looks. Body image can be an issue for men too.

change of pace

Boobday: six months on

It’s been six months to the day since Wolf had his open heart surgery. There are constant reminders — the unmistakable but no longer livid scar, his easily audible heartbeat that sometimes ticks like a watch, fistfuls of medication in cheerful candy colors — but I still feel a vague sense of unreality.

I still sometimes wonder how the surgery can have been possible. I suppose it’s grief-lite. Such a shocking thing takes time to fully absorb and accept. That day six months ago was probably the most frightened I’ve ever been — not because of the odds (which were very much in his favor) but because if things had gone wrong, it would have shaken my world right down to the core and broken me into tiny pieces. I feared the Big One but got just a tremor. That was more than enough.

The early days were tough, but after 7 weeks he was definitely on the mend.

The three-month mark seemed to be another turning point, when suddenly he felt almost normal again. His voice sounded strong again. We both relaxed and the tension around the house began to thaw in earnest.

He’s on four medications. He gets regular blood tests (fortnightly for now) to ensure the dosage of blood thinners is correct. There are certain foods that he has to be careful about because they affect clotting, and some he has to avoid entirely. Two of those prescriptions will likely come to an end over the next number of months, but he’ll be on the blood thinners forever.

His sternum is healed so he no longer has any specific limits on how much weight he’s allowed to lift, and he’s cleared for being active (read: vigorous fucking is fine), although he’s been procrastinating about starting rehab. He’s back to his pre-surgery weight.

six months on 1

six months on 2

Life is good.

Today’s Boobday post is here.

badge Boobday

on the mend

Before Wolf’s surgery, the doctors pointed out a few landmarks in the healing process.

The first 24 hours was critical. In effect, they go in with science and technique and swap out parts, and then cross their fingers and solemnly wish that the mysterious essence of ‘life’ will work its magic and, for its own ineffable reasons, simply continue. At least the landmark here was clear: they’d take the breathing tube out as soon as he could do without it, which happened a bit earlier than expected.

The next landmark was expected around 3 weeks, but it was rather vague and neither of us can remember exactly what it was supposed to be. Perhaps an absolute minimum amount of time off work? If you had a very sedentary job, you could conceivably go back to work. I suppose. What Wolf does is sedentary, sure, but it requires clever thinking and his brain wasn’t 100% online again yet. Or maybe 3 weeks was the amount of time he could be certain to feel like shit.

As I recall, we were told that after 6 weeks his sternum would be healed, and maybe it was, but Wolf’s research suggests that 6 weeks is a bare minimum. Regardless, his center is holding together well enough that he’s able to drive again. (He’s now able to get himself to his weekly blood test. Um, hooray? His ability to go on his own to pick up Indian food is a lot more fun.)

He has now cleared 7 weeks, and he’ll probably be able to start doing rehab soon to rebuild the muscles that have atrophied — mostly arms and torso, from what I can tell. The scar down his center is still livid.

pills
Pretty, aren’t they? All together like this, they make me think of candy. But they’re not sugary sweet. I’m told the red ones (iron) taste like blood.

The doctors’ landmarks are averages meant to help you manage your expectations and identify when there may be a problem. There have also been some personal landmarks, which are more objective and in some ways more significant.

2½ weeks – first blowjob
3 weeks – first PIV sex
1 month – first time he could finger-fuck me
6 weeks – first time he could cuddle me in a spooning position
6½ weeks – we had sex three days in a row

He still feels “not himself”, and it’s going to be a while before he does (or at least gets used to the new normal). But sexual excitement is good, and a rush of endorphins is highly distracting and makes everything seem right with the world (or at least the bedroom), if ever so briefly. And his male sexual pride should be preening in light of his renewed ability to thoroughly get me off.

I had had a significant drought during which my libido responded by cooling dramatically and then, thanks to my hormone cycle, had reheated to a smoulder that lasted for two frustrating days. But my frustration got resolved in a deeply satisfying way. Finally! It wasn’t quite a screaming orgasm — I wasn’t so vocally abandoned as that — but I was yelping, in a good way.

The next day, I woke up feeling satisfied and remained so for, oh, about an hour, but I soon started to get wound up again and continued to feel aroused all day. So that was rather distracting. That night, as he worked me to my climax, the sensation on the way up was particularly delicious, and the noises I made were more of the savoring and appreciative sort: throaty moans and groans, developing into contralto “oh god”s and “oh fuck”s, as my legs began to straighten and my toes to point. (It wasn’t “toe-curling”, but close enough: it seems that I point rather than curl. That’s probably the dancer in me.)

On the third day, what was most notable wasn’t the noises and the sensations, but rather the feeling afterward of being utterly spent and wrung out.

It’ll be a while yet before he’s fully recovered, but he’s definitely on the mend.