When we met, you told me that what I need is a strong Master. And that you are one. You were absolutely right, on both counts! And you were exactly the right Master for me.
Thank you for everything you have given me and done for me.
Here’s to many more happy years together! I love you, Master 🙂
Aging, in many ways, has caused me to look at myself with wry amusement.
The creaks and groans. When it takes longer to rest than to get tired. When children I taught have their own kids going off to college. When pulling an all-nighter means not getting up to pee.
For most of my life, I was younger than everyone else around me; always a year younger than others in my grade at school, the youngest of my cousins, younger than almost everyone else in my graduate school class. Now, in many situations I am one of the oldest, if not the oldest person in the room. This amuses me. In the classic three stages of womanhood — maiden, mother and crone — I have become the crone. I honor and embrace my crone-ness.
Advancing age has brought on what I have called the “Never Again” effect. It’s a moment when you come to the realization that you have probably experienced a certain thing for the very last time in this life.
It’s not so much about deciding not to do something ever again. This is more about the realization that you will never have the opportunity again, even if you wanted it.
We all have a private bucket list of things we want to accomplish or experience in this life. “Just once before I die, I want to…” My bucket list included, among other things, five musical works that I wanted to sing at least once. It didn’t seem an unreasonable goal, as I was a member of two professional vocal ensembles that might have done any of those works. But age eventually got the better of my voice, and my singing career ended before I was able to sing any of those five works. No amount of effort or determination will restore my ability to sing. Physiology is what it is. Aging happens. I realized one day that I will never again be a professional singer. I will never again have that opportunity. That was hard to accept. I had spent most of my life in pursuit of, and immersed in that life. It was not easy to think back on the hopes and dreams I had in grad school in my twenties, the energy and optimism with which I embraced the journey, and to realize that now, whatever was going to happen, has already happened. That life is finished. It is over now.
That is just one example. There are many others. A few of them, in the past few days, have been very painful. The number of endings in my life is beginning to outweigh the number of beginnings. I am by no means unique in this. I’m guessing it happens to everyone. But in this journal I can only speak about my own experience.
In young adulthood, with decades ahead of me, the future was an intriguing mystery. With the arrogance of youth, I felt that anything was possible. I could select any path I desired, and pursue it with confidence and hope. Now, in my seventh decade, some of those paths are forever closed to me. I have been blessed with intelligence and ability and have always had a lot of drive to accomplish my goals. It has been extremely difficult to accept that some of those goals now will forever remain unmet.
Sometimes, I say “never again” with a sense of relief. About certain things, I think, thank goodness I never have to do that again. I grow increasingly aware of the things that are a waste of time and energy, and as I grow older and my supply of time and energy shrinks, I’m unwilling to spend any of it on pursuits that ultimately mean nothing.
A few things escape the “never again” effect because no matter how old one is, one can never be certain they’ll never happen again. Who can say for sure that one will never fall in love, or never witness an astounding event? In June 2014 I was pretty sure there would never be another Triple Crown in my lifetime, but the very next year, I was proven wrong. Sometimes you just never know.
But the list of assured “never again” grows longer with each year. It’s increasingly unlikely that I will ever be wealthy, own a nice home, have children, travel to far off lands, learn to sail, buy a new computer, etc. etc. My limited resources, my dingy little apartment, my solitary life, my physical limitations… this is it. This is what I get to have now. Whatever I have now, is what I’m going to have from now on. My ability to change it has diminished.
Should I mourn? Or celebrate?
There was a time when I had ambition. I had the vision of a hopeful future, and the energy to make it happen. Gradually, life’s defeats and disappointments took their toll.
Now, where once I had vision, I have understanding. Where once I had ambition, I have acceptance.
These are not bad things. Perhaps they add up to that elusive quality called “wisdom.”
I can no longer chase a bucket list of accomplishments I will never achieve. But I can love the people who are given to me to love. I can no longer sing as I once did. But I can embrace moments of joy and laughter.
I can’t escape the storm of passing time. But maybe I can learn to dance in the rain.
How “real” is the virtual world? Is it more than a cartoon, a video game or a fantasy? And what does “real” mean, anyway?
We might say that something is “realistic” if it closely resembles reality. Subtle shading and shadows in the corners of a room, or motion capture animation may make a scene look “almost like” the real thing. To say something is “realistic” acknowledges the craftsmanship of its creator. But saying that something is “almost like” the real thing is an admission that it’s not the real thing. It may resemble a real tree, but it is not, in fact, a physically real tree—it is a collection of pixels. I don’t think very many people believe that the virtual world is the same as the physical world.
That doesn’t mean it’s not real.
Whether or not it’s physically real, the virtual environment can affect us physically. It’s like when a skillful filmmaker weaves together story, cinematography, acting and other elements to make light, color and motion affect us emotionally, and even physically if we recoil in a horror movie or weep over a sad ending. In the same way, a well crafted scene in a virtual world can evoke real-world physical sensation and emotion. The serenity of a quiet virtual forest, under a protective canopy of giant trees, with sounds of birds, brooks and breezes actually calms my physical body in the “real” world. The desolation of a vacant shack on a dry, windswept plain makes me cough as if I can feel the swirling dust catch in my throat. Standing around in a virtual snow scene makes me feel cold in the physical world—and putting a sweater on my avatar warms me up.
Of course there is the whole matter of virtual sex and BDSM, and the very real arousal it can incite. “In the real world, arousal mostly happens between your ears anyway,” a friend of mine said recently. “Virtual sex is just like physical sex—but with better animations!”
We all know that the emotions we experience through our encounters in the virtual world are real. The whole gamut, from mirth to rage, wonder to repulsion, heartbreak to love—yes, love—all just as authentic as if they were triggered by events in the physical world. And the qualities of the human spirit we encounter are also real: generosity, creativity, selflessness and selfishness, forthrightness and deceit.
A better question would be: are your experiences real? Does the virtual world evoke real emotions and sensations? Is pleasure real? Is inspiration real? Is friendship real? Is excitement real? Is beauty real? Is laughter real? Are art, craftsmanship and creativity real? Dare I ask: is love real?
Some people ascribe no reality to the virtual world; they see it as a cartoon, with no value in and of itself. They treat it as if it were only a screen separating them from other “real” people. They seem impatient, then, to get past this screen and connect with a physical person, who is, to them, the only person who matters. These are people who typically don’t put much effort into their avatar, since the virtual world is not important to them. They don’t care about their avatar, or yours, but they are very interested in who you are in “real” life, where you live, what you look like, how old you are, etc. For them, the virtual world is not real at all. For them, the physical world is the only reality.
On the other end of the continuum, some of us inject so much of our conscious awareness into our avatar that our physical self becomes secondary. As in the movie “Surrogates” I live through my avatar much more than through my physical self. If you only know me in the physical world, you don’t really know me. Camryn Darkstone is the “real” me. In the virtual world, I am freed from some of my physical limitations and allowed to be my most authentic self. Of course it can’t be carried to extremes, since I do enjoy some pleasures with my physical body that aren’t available in the virtual world, for example singing and food. But in terms of my sense of self, and everything else that is most important, I am much more present as Camryn Darkstone.
For others, the avatar is a fantasy, a character they have created, through which they role-play. Some even view the avatar as a separate person, with a life of its own. I know at least one person who, when speaking as his avatar, refers to himself in the third person, as though he and his avatar were two different people. The avatar refers to “that person behind the keyboard” as if it were someone else.
I can’t wrap my mind around that kind of disconnection. For me, there is no boundary between myself and Camryn Darkstone. I am Camryn Darkstone. Camryn Darkstone is real. In fact, Camryn Darkstone is much more real than my physical self. Camryn Darkstone is a better representation of my sense of self than my physical presence.
The seamlessness between virtual and physical has been enhanced since I accepted my Master’s collar. He is a TPE Master—Total Power Exchange—and he is my Master all the time, 24/7, not just for the duration of a scene. I don’t segment off certain areas of my life for him to dominate. He has total access. He gets to be in charge of every part of my life, virtual and physical. So the seamlessness between the virtual and physical aspects of my life is strengthened even further by him.
It is also strengthened by the culture of our family. Whereas many people draw strict boundaries of anonymity and privacy when interacting in the virtual world, within my family we are very open. Each of them, for me, is the same type of blended virtual-physical person as I am. We don’t role-play, we are our authentic selves. I voice with them. They know my real name, and some even know my address (and are likely to send me mail order gifts, as I do for them). My Master has been to my home. They know what I look like, where I work and what I do for enjoyment. And yet, even with all of this “real” world information, I am still Camryn Darkstone to them. I am one person—submissive, builder, tree lover, horse racing enthusiast, fashionista, bourbon connoisseur, anglophile, musician. This—all of this, virtual and physical—is Camryn Darkstone.
I am not a virtual person. I am a real person in a virtual world—a real person whose real life is extended, enriched and enhanced beyond the limits of the so-called “real” world.
“Expectations are limiting.”
I have said this before, but in our goal-oriented world, my assertion is usually met with blank, uncomprehending stares, or polite dismissal.
It is fashionable to have expectations. We are supposed to decide what we want, and go after it. Admiration is lavished upon those who achieve their goals, and get what they want.
The problem is that most of us get so focused on achieving our goals that we totally miss glorious surprises that don’t fit into the preconceived plan. When something comes along that isn’t what we set out to achieve, it is too easy to simply dismiss it as irrelevant.
But what if this unexpected development is actually better than our original goal?
Not only do we miss glorious surprises, we may get mired in the negative emotional energy of resentment, frustration and disappointment. I have known so many people who seem never to see or appreciate what they do have. Instead they can only think about what they don’t have.
When I was younger, I had goals and expectations. Almost none of them came to fruition. My life has turned out very differently from what I imagined it would be.
The way I see it, I have a choice. I can be sad and resentful that I didn’t get the life I wanted. Or: I can pay attention and notice all the wonderful things I do have… and be grateful.
My life isn’t what I wanted.
Let go of the limits of expectations. Have enough humility to admit to yourself that you don’t know everything. Accept that you may not be able to know, in advance, exactly what the best outcome is. Have aspirations, but be mindful that there might be something even better waiting for you, something you can’t envision or predict. Be open to the possibility that you will be surprised by something wonderful you could never have imagined. Open your eyes, and your heart, to the surprise and delight of unexpected pleasure.
We were meandering down the streets of the town where I live, enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon. He had surprised me by driving up to take me to breakfast. I was floating, savoring the pleasures of the moment: the beautiful cool spring day, a tasty breakfast of pancakes and bacon, and most of all, being with my Master in person.
He is subtly different in person. He looks very much like his avatar. But his avatar never smiles. The flesh and blood man smiles constantly. Always smiling. He exudes warmth and charisma and charm. In person there is a difference in the timbre of his voice. Richer. Softer. I hear confidence and strength, but surprising tenderness. His voice wraps around me like a down comforter, and makes affection and adoration pour out of my heart.
We passed a new Italian gourmet market. With a twinkle in his eye, he asked if we should pop inside to have a look. I smiled and nodded eagerly. We perused the culinary delights: trays of salads, entrees and artisanal pizza. The salumeria tempted us with fresh pasta, prosciutto and cheeses. We oo’d and ah’d over the pastries: creamy cannoli, tiramisu, butter cookies piled high. He said he was going to get himself a sandwich for later. I wandered through aisles of imported olive oil.
A few minutes later we left to head home. As we came out of the market, he pressed a bag into my hand. “Here,” he said simply. Curious, I peered inside. The bag contained dinner for me for that night—chicken francese and polenta—and a huge box of the cannoli I’d been admiring. My little gasp of delight at the unexpected treat made his face light up with pleasure.
This simple expression of generosity will come as no surprise to anyone who knows him. I have never met a more generous person, or one who takes more delight in it. He absolutely loves to cause that response of surprise and pleasure with his gifts. And because he does so much for me, he gets to see that reaction often.
I hope he knows that I love his gifts—but his gifts are not why I love him. My love grows from the honor of knowing him and having him in my life, being loved by him, and the remarkably wonderful person he is.
He is the most delightful gift of all.
Are submissives more likely to end up in abusive relationships? Does being submissive imply acceptance of abuse? Is a submissive a victim?
These questions, inspired by my last post, have come to me in emails and IMs the last few days (come on, people, don’t be shy; post a comment!). I realize now that I did not elaborate on some elementary aspects of BDSM before that post, and those who are unfamiliar with the lifestyle might not understand them. So it probably would be responsible of me to back up, and reiterate the basics of BDSM safety.
One poll in 2011 reported that 30 percent of women have experienced abusive relationships. I am one of them. I am a survivor of an abusive marriage. I know all too well the terror, the agony, the resignation, the despair of abuse victims; the sense of being trapped with no way out. I also know what it is like to try to convince an abuse victim to leave an abusive relationship; the helplessness as you struggle with their twisted sense of loyalty to their abuser, and their intransigent belief that their situation is hopeless.
So yes, I know something about abuse.
I also know the other side. I was lucky. I escaped more or less intact and, after a lot of healing and work, have been blessed with a D/s relationship that is the polar opposite of abuse. I know, now, what it feels like to be loved, respected, safe, and cherished.
In my previous post I talked about my desire to surrender control to my Master and the pleasure I have received from giving up my right to make decisions. BUT it is essential to note that this surrender occurred only AFTER I had carefully considered and made a thoughtful, conscious choice to submit. I willingly gave him my right to choose—but first I had to own it, before I could give it away.
My choice was the culmination of a long, careful process. I did not jump into the collar of the first Dominant I met; I “auditioned” quite a few. A D/s relationship must be built on trust. Trust rarely happens instantaneously. Even after my Master expressed his desire for me, I did not say yes to him immediately. He had to earn my trust, until I was sure that he would take responsibility for my emotional and physical safety. I had to be sure of his character, and know that I could depend on him. By the time I submitted to him, I had proved, beyond any shadow of doubt, that he was not an abuser, but a generous, loving man of integrity.
“Safe, Sane, Consensual” (SSC) is your key. Be smart, and strong, and responsible. Some believe that when one is “submissive” you just naturally do whatever anyone tells you to do, without thinking, and that you become conditioned to blind obedience. I don’t know what that is… but it is not submission. Submission requires your clear-headed consent. You must be able to choose whether or not to submit, and to whom.
You get to negotiate the terms of your submission. You may expect a Dominant to push your limits a little, but not to ignore them. You do not have to experience anything unless you want it, and have agreed to it, and then, only in the context of emotional and physical safety. And if something goes badly wrong, you must have the choice to walk away.
In my post, I also said, “I don’t want to be equals.” This doesn’t imply any lack of respect from him. My Master respects me, even admires me a little. I know that I am valued; he makes it clear to me every day. I defer to him, because I chose to. It is consensual. He would never put me down. He raises me up, and I raise him up out of my admiration and respect for him. I can release myself into his arms, trusting and secure. He will never let me fall.
If you are very lucky—like I was—you will find a kind and loving relationship that is safe, sane, and consensual. Then, and only then, you will have the choice to throw off the chains of freedom, and experience the delight of surrendering total control to a competent, trustworthy, loving Master.
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!