New shoes make everything better!
New shoes make everything better!
We, all of us, are a messy mix of virtue and vice. But virtual worlds may lead us to see people through black or white filters. Instead of character flaws, we see demons. Every human being has some goodness inside them. Somewhere. But in the virtual world, we become convinced that we are utterly just, and the other side is mired in evil (or at least incompetence). We do not see our opponents as they are: flawed humans, as imperfect as we are ourselves.
There certainly are people and situations that deserve righteous anger: those who hurt for the sport of it; deceivers and exploiters; and those who engage in destructive behavior and thoughtless self-indulgence that causes harm.
But it seems to me that too many people are addicted to the primitive thrill of drama. They seem to hunger for the battle-lust of explosive anger, or the conspicuous display of woundedness from having been wronged. I won’t deny it: both the anger and the woundedness can feel very satisfying–especially because it seems so clean, when we can’t see the effect of our words in the facial expressions of our target. When we see them only in black and white. When we do not see them as whole, imperfect people.
Speaking for myself, drama bores me. It also makes me a little nauseous. It feeds on emotional energy and I have none to spare. Life is too short to waste one minute of it on such nonsense. My instinct is simply to ignore it, mentally flipping the channel.
I cannot stop anyone from trying to hurt me. I cannot control the behavior of others. I can only control my own. I try to do no harm. If someone claims to have been harmed by me, I try to embrace self-honesty and humility, always allowing for the possibility, however remote, that I might be wrong, and that I might learn something from my opponent. If I have done wrong, I swallow my pride and apologize.
I do believe in standing up for one’s strong convictions. I am not a member of the spineless school of can’t-we-all-just-get-along. If someone is harming me, I will do what is necessary to stop it—which usually means simply walking away. In most cases, fighting back stops nothing. It only prolongs it. If I choose to participate in their negativity, I give it power. If I turn my back on it, it has no power over me. I just turn away, without saying a word… and without giving any ground. I have no time or energy to waste on this crap.
Even when I have been hurt, I resist the temptation to demonize my opponents. As difficult as it might be to imagine, I do my best to assume that they are people of good will, trying their best, as I am, to live lives of integrity. They may be damaged (as I am) or lacking in communication skills (as I am). Their action may have been thoughtless, or misguided. If so, then striking back would solve nothing.
I do not engage in vengeance or payback. I treat everyone with compassion, whether they deserve it or not. When you do a small kindness for someone who hates you, they might spit in your face. But sometimes, a compassionate act, even a small one, is infinitely more powerful than an angry one.
And when I have been hurt, I resist the temptation to wallow in my woundedness. All that usually accomplishes is prolonging the pain and spreading it to innocent bystanders. If someone hurt me intentionally, broadcasting my pain would only encourage them. If the hurt was unintentional, the flaunting of bloodied bandages accomplishes nothing, and risks making me look ridiculous. I know how to cope with my feelings in an adult manner, and then let them go.
At all times, I listen, with an open heart, to the words of others, and to their fear, their wounds, their hopes and desires. I listen for the good in them. And I have never yet failed to find it.
This was written originally about political debate. I am republishing it by request in a shorter form.
Many subs before me have written on this topic, so I’ll admit right away that this thought is in no way original. Even so, I find myself musing this morning about “freedom.” And since this is my blog, for me to write down what’s on my mind, here it is.
When I came to realize that I am submissive, it meant embracing certain aspects of my personality that are at odds with present-day American culture. I was thinking again about my friend with the balloons and the value he places on freedom. I was thinking about women who don’t want anyone to have power over them. I was thinking about women who complain that their boyfriends are too possessive. And I was thinking about how different I am from these people, and from women in general in 2013. And about how, to them, my preferences are incomprehensible.
How can I explain it to them? How can I make them understand that “freedom” to me is unpleasant? How could I ever explain the depth of my longing for a certain captivity and confinement? How weird is it to actually want a man to be possessive and controlling? What modern American woman in her right mind would want to be owned, and would willingly — no, not willingly, joyously — surrender her freedom, allowing a man to control her and take away her right to make her own choices and decisions?
I don’t mean to say that it’s an absolute. It’s not submission unless it is freely given, and clearly, I had to have some degree of personal liberty so that I could choose to submit, and to whom. He did not take that from me against my will; I gave it to him. But to focus on that element is to miss what I’m trying to say.
For me, in the context of a D/s relationship, to surrender my freedom and give it away to the Master I love and trust is the ultimate thrill. I want him to overpower me. I want him to control me. The more of my freedom he takes from me, the better I like it. The more possessive and controlling he is, the happier I am. I don’t want to be equals. I want to be less than him. I want him to be first. I want him to be above me, more than me, ahead of me. I want him to be in charge of me. I want him to take all my power… except the power to give up my power to him.
The weird thing is that the tighter he holds me, the freer I feel. In fact, I need him to hold on really tight or else I don’t feel free at all. All those years when I was an equal partner, a self-empowered woman, in charge of my own life, I was vastly unhappy, and I felt chained and trapped and confined in a way that I no longer feel. Submitting to my Master, surrendering my control to him, makes me feel happy and gives me so much more pleasure than “freedom” ever did.
I don’t know why I’m wired this way. But I am. Giving up my life to his control is what sets me free.
somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such fine hands
e. e. cummings
I love you, Master!
In addition to having the best family in any world, I am blessed to have some really awesome friends. I also have a lot of pseudo-friends. There is a difference. There’s nothing wrong with pseudo-friends, but it helps if you can tell the difference.
How can you tell if someone is a real friend?
A lot of people will SAY that they are your friend. But just because they say it, that doesn’t mean it’s believable. If they really are a friend, they will SHOW it.
What really matters, more than what you say, is what you do to the people you say you care about.
Real friends will show you that they want you. If they actually like you, they will take the initiative to seek you out, because they enjoy your company. Even simple, casual contact, phone calls and IMs show you that they want to be around you.
Real friends will show you, in word and action, that they respect you. They will show you to your face… and they will show it behind your back, too. Even when you are not present, they will not say anything negative about you to others, or do anything that communicates a lack of respect for you. Real friends will defend your honor.
Real friends will show respect for the things that are important to you, even if those things are not important to them. They will refrain from making derogatory comments about the beliefs and people you cherish.
Real friends will honor important milestones with you. They respect your significant events, places and people.
No one else but you is responsible for your feelings, but real friends will notice your feelings. They let you know that your feelings matter to them. They show you that it occurs to them to wonder how you might feel, and that they care. They know you well enough to sense how you feel.
Real friends share their important feelings with you, because they want you in their lives. Pseudo-friends continually shut you out, which tells you that they don’t want you or trust you.
Real friends allow you to care about them, and for them.
Real friends value you for more than your skill set. They value you for your character: for who you are, not just for what you can do.
Real friends give you room for failure. They do not devalue you for being imperfect.
Real friends are dependable. When you need them, real friends are there for you. And they trust that when they need you, you will be there for them, too.
Are you a real friend? I try my best to be one.
Are you blessed to have real friends, like I am? I hope so.
You’d be surprised how many people trying to go North get on a train going West.
They think the train’s supposed to go where they going, rather than where it’s going.
–The Piano Lesson by August Wilson (p. 18)
“There are two kinds of people in this world…”
How many jokes begin with that opener? Actually, in some aspects of our personalities people do tend to gravitate toward one of two types. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator measures these tendencies, to help identify your personality style. Many of us have taken the Myers-Briggs at work or school, and know our four-letter personality type, such as ESTJ, INFP, etc. (Just for fun, a free version is at http://www.keirsey.com) It sorts you out in four attitudes or preferences for which “there are basically two kinds of people in this world.” The first letter identifies whether you are an Extravert or an Introvert. That’s the one I want to write about today.
One of the many liberating things about the Myers-Briggs is the premise that people are different. I know that sounds obvious. But in acknowledging that people are different, we also acknowledge that just because someone else is wired differently, it doesn’t make them better or worse—just different.
As simple and obvious as that seems, it is not easy for everyone to accept. This is especially true when it comes to Introverts and Extraverts. Speaking as a strong Introvert let me say that there is a stigma attached to being an Introvert. At the very least, misunderstandings and misconceptions abound.
So, what does it mean to be an Introvert? Well, I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean. Being an Introvert does not mean one is self-centered, self-absorbed, antisocial, shy, timid or fearful. All of those qualities can be found just as easily in Extraverts.
Put simply, Extraverts are action-oriented. They are energized by doing things, more than thinking about things; when they are inactive they get bored and lonely, and to rebuild their energy they need to take action and spend time with other people. Introverts, by contrast, are energized by depth of thought; they find too much activity draining, and need alone time to recharge. Extraverts tend to prefer having many friends; Introverts tend to prefer having a few deep friendships.
Extraverts draw energy from being with other people and find it depleting to be alone; Introverts draw energy from being alone and find it exhausting to be with large groups of people. It seems like a simple difference. Yet for some reason Introverts remain misunderstood. After all, let’s face it: the world is run by Extraverts. American culture especially values them. America likes action. Extraverts get things done. Most workplaces value how much you can do, more than how well you can think. Introverts are told, “You think too much.”
Extraverts love to be with lots of people, and seem especially puzzled that Introverts do not. To me, as an Introvert, hell is a crowded, noisy nightclub. Heaven is a quiet evening at home. An Extravert hears me say that, and thinks there is something wrong with me. “You need to get out more,” says the Extravert. “You need to be with other people. It’s not good for you to be alone.”
Oh really? Who, exactly, decided that? Anyone who thinks that big parties are good for me, and solitude is bad for me, does not know me. “No,” I want to say to the Extravert, “it’s not good for YOU to be alone. YOU need to be with other people. That’s YOU. It’s not me.”
Both Introverts and Extraverts are guilty of reducing the other to extremes. Yes, I am more oriented to thought than action; that does not mean that I never want to do anything. Yes, I find large noisy crowds exhausting and depleting; that does not mean that I hate people, or that I want to be isolated, or that I do not want to spend meaningful time with one or two close friends. Personality types are not a hard and fast rule; they are about a style, a preference, and a source of energy.
Conversely, it would be unfair of me to characterize Extraverts as shallow, hyperactive party animals incapable of reflective thought. Oddly, though, one rarely hears an Introvert say that; and this is another difference. For some reason, Introverts seem able to understand and accept the differences in Extraverts. However, Extraverts seem to find it difficult to understand and accept the differences in Introverts. Extraverts are much more likely to see those differences as shortcomings that need to be fixed. It’s almost as if they believe that Introverts need to be converted into Extraverts.
So let me make a stand. Dear Extraverts: I am not one of you. I am an Introvert, an INFP. And there is nothing wrong with me. My source of energy is reflection, deep thought, solitude and intimate relationships. You are different. The world needs both of us. I celebrate our differences. And both of us are just fine the way we are.
The only real failure is the failure to try.
And the measurement of success is how we cope with disappointment, as we always must.
Can we be blamed for feeling that we are too old to change? Too scared of disappointment to start it all again?
We get up in the morning. We do our best. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing.
All we know about the future is that it will be different.
But perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same.
So we must celebrate the changes.
It will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright — then it’s not the end.
— The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (John Madden, 2012)
I struggled with insomnia for many years, and it made my life miserable. Sleeplessness starts a chain reaction that affects everything else in your life: your energy and productivity, your mood, your sex life, your health, your personality and your mental health included. When I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t do well at work, I was irritable and my relationships suffered. My perception of the world was skewed, so that all my problems seemed much larger, and it seemed that everyone was against me. My immune system suffered, making me more susceptible to illness. Worst of all, insomnia made me depressed, and depression triggered more sleep difficulties, including nightmares and night terrors.
I wish I could say there is an easy three-step solution that will help you conquer your sleep difficulties. I was able to conquer mine, and this method does work, but takes time and self-discipline. Everyone is different, and some things work for some people but not others. All I can do is tell you what worked for me. With a lot of discipline, over time, little by little, I gradually got back to normal, healthy sleep.
Before anything else, I should mention that if you have an underlying cause of anxiety, coping with that will solve most of the problem.
After that, the core of the strategy is to train your body, mind and emotions to sleep when it’s time to sleep. This training will eventually work, but it may require some sacrifices. The payoff, though, is huge: less depression, more energy, feeling better about life, doing better at work, being more likeable, and in general being healthier and happier.
How do you train your body, mind and emotions to sleep? There is more to it than simply telling yourself to sleep. There could be many factors keeping you awake, and some of them might not respond to simple willpower. You need to train yourself, consistently and clearly, to sleep when it’s time to sleep.
First: develop a regular bedtime and stick to it. I know this sounds boring, but it really works. Even if you don’t feel sleepy, go to bed at the appointed hour. It may be tough for the first week, or even the first month, but eventually, your mind and body will be conditioned, and you’ll find yourself getting sleepy at the appointed hour. If you are tempted to stay up, just remember that every time you don’t observe your bedtime, you set yourself back, even to the point of having to start over. If you can’t sleep, just lie in bed and rest with your eyes closed. Try to form a mental image of something pleasant, abstract and far away. Odds are, once you stop thinking about yourself, your life and your surroundings, you will fall asleep. If not, resting will still be good for you.
Once you have an established bedtime, the next step is to teach your body, mind and emotions to wind down. Create a period of about two or three hours before your appointed bedtime, that will be a buffer zone between wakefulness and sleep. In my case, I go to bed at 11:00 p.m., and the period from 8:00-11:00 p.m. is my sleep buffer zone. During this three hour period, I avoid certain activities, to allow myself to wind down and prepare to switch off for sleep. Protecting the sanctity of that two to three hour buffer zone is crucial.
Let’s talk about your body. You need to give your metabolism time to wind down before bedtime. If your body is working on digesting a meal, it’s going to be harder to fall asleep. So, for at least two to three hours before bedtime, don’t eat or drink anything. No bedtime snacks or late dinners. No alcohol, caffeine or sugar within three hours of bedtime. Also, it may sound obvious, but consider reducing your overall intake of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, sugar and other stimulants. Also avoid sleep medications if possible; the idea is to train your body to sleep naturally.
Add more physical activity during the day. Not only is it good for you, but it helps your metabolism function more normally, which can make it easier to fall asleep at night. Inactivity contributes to insomnia.
Now let’s talk about preparing your mind for sleep. Just like your metabolism, your mind has to wind down before you can fall asleep. The more mental stimulation you have in the late evening, the harder it will be for you to sleep. There is evidence that over-use of electronic media of any sort, including television, computers, video games, phones and other devices, contributes to insomnia. All these things can switch your mind into wakefulness rather than sleep. Avoid them for two or three hours before bedtime, to allow your mind time to wind down. Reading can go either way: a relaxing book can lull you to sleep, but an exciting mystery is more likely to keep you awake. Choose your bedtime reading carefully.
The same goes for your emotions. For at least two to three hours before bedtime, don’t watch the news, read newspapers or blogs, post on forums, or allow any other mental input that could make you feel anxious, angry or depressed. Your emotions have to wind down, too.
Now that we’ve identified some of the triggers that keep your brain awake, and have talked about how to deal with them, let’s talk about training yourself to sleep. Timing and environment are two of the most important ways to teach your subconscious to sleep when it’s time to sleep.
Timing and schedule are the crucial elements in this strategy. As I mentioned before, it is important to develop a regular bedtime, and stick to it. In addition, develop a regular bedtime routine. Do the same things in the same order every night. It’s a signal to your subconscious that it’s time to sleep. It may take some time, but eventually, your subconscious will get the point.
The environment where you sleep is important too. A quiet room with a comfortable bed helps, of course. If possible, use the bedroom just for sleeping (or other relaxing activities). Start calling it the sleep room – reminding your subconscious what it’s for. Don’t allow a television, computer or work desk in the sleep room. If there is a source of mental stimulation in the sleep room, your subconscious will learn to wake up when you go in there, which is not what you want.
Now that you know what to do, the next step is to do it, and keep doing it. It takes awhile. I finally achieved regular sleep after observing these methods for about four months. Don’t stop, or else you might have to start all over, retraining yourself from the beginning.
Sleep well! And may you have sweet dreams.
Recently I’ve been reflecting on past relationships I have had in virtual worlds. One of the things swirling around in my brain is the subject of honesty. Honesty in relationships is an extremely complicated idea. I’m writing this journal entry mainly for my own sake, to help me get it sorted out in my head.
How many couples say to one another, “Let’s be completely honest”? And how many couples actually are completely honest with each other? Not many, I’m betting.
The truth is that everyone lies. People lie for lots of reasons—some of them good reasons. It would be a mistake to cast all lies in the same light. Some lies are harmless; others are hurtful. Most lies swim in the gray area in between.
Fantasy role-playing could technically be considered a lie. Those of us in virtual worlds adopt an appearance and sometimes a persona that may or may not resemble our “real” selves. We operate under a social contract in which we all agree to suspend our disbelief about this. Some people are better at it than others. Some people look straight past your avatar and only want to know the “real” you. Others easily accept the fantasy avatar you have created. Is fantasy dishonest? Or is it playful?
Beyond fantasy, virtual worlds are a hotbed of deceit. Lying is far too easy. We can cover up where we are, and what we are doing, and with whom. We hide our online status. Knowing that no one can see our location, we feel free to invent stories about where we are. “I’m talking with a friend.” “I’m shopping.” “I’m checking something out.” Or, for total privacy, we just create an alt, and do as we please without detection. I know of at least one person who has a partner, and also a sex alt the partner doesn’t know about. I expect there are thousands of others in exactly the same situation. It almost seems to be the norm in virtual worlds.
Personally, I sometimes lie to preserve my privacy. When writing online profiles I usually say that I live in NYC. I don’t. I live near NYC, and I do spend time there, but I don’t live there. I don’t really want strangers to know where I live. I think that is a fairly smart lie and I doubt many would disagree.
“Privacy lies” happen when someone is pressuring you to reveal something about yourself that is actually none of their business. The response “that’s none of your business” might be counter-productive—it might actually increase your interrogator’s curiosity. Telling them something else may call off their prying. Are “privacy lies” good or bad? Rather than focusing on the morality of the lie, it would be better to examine the thing you are lying about, and decide whether it is hurtful.
That leads me to the “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings” lie. Sometimes this type of lie is actually compassionate, or at least benign, like when he assures her that she doesn’t look fat in those pants. But most of the time it’s bogus. Let’s say he cheats on her, and lies to cover his tracks. She confronts him. He says “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” That’s bogus. The lie is not the issue. Clearly he didn’t mind hurting her feelings, because he cheated on her. That is what hurt her. The lie is extra. Lying about it is the secondary issue that piles hurt onto hurt.
What if he’d had the courage to be honest with her long before? What if he’d had the courage to admit that he wasn’t feeling satisfied? That she wasn’t meeting his needs? That something had changed in their relationship, or in him? That type of honesty is extremely difficult. First it requires being honest with yourself. Most of us would rather placate ourselves with lies. “Things are basically fine.” “I do love her.” “I can control myself.” “I can live without it.” “I should be satisfied.” When we can’t even face the truth about ourselves, how can we hope to be honest with anyone else?
The idea of hurting someone we care about is extremely difficult for most of us. He may find it impossible to imagine saying to her, “I’m not satisfied. This relationship is not giving me what I need.” He pictures her ashen face, the hurt and disappointment he sees there, and he just can’t face it. He can’t bear the burden of having to hurt her with the truth. So he lies.
When there is a truth that would hurt our loved one if they knew about it, it’s natural to want to withhold it, or cover it up. The trouble is that this deception almost never works. Not facing a painful truth does not make the painful truth go away. It just sits there, eating away at the relationship and causing damage to both of you. For the sake of not hurting her, he decides to forego his happiness. Does he think she won’t sense that? Does he think that he won’t eventually be compelled toward something outside the relationship that does meet his needs? Does he think that won’t hurt her even more?
Others may feel differently, but speaking for myself, I would choose a painful truth over a comfortable lie every time. Hurt can be healed, but only when it’s faced. If you need something that you can’t get from me, let’s face that together. Give me some credit. If I love you, I want good things for you. I am not so selfish as to demand that you fake it, just so that I can pretend that everything is fine. I know that relationships are not black and white. I know you care about me, and that, at the same time, it’s also true that I cannot meet all your needs. So tell me the truth. Let’s face the next step.
At least, that’s how I’ve always preferred it.
What do you think?