Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What lies ahead

I don't think I've ever done this on my blog -- use an article I read to illustrate a point -- but I swear to god this one, by Douglas LaBier, "Our so-called Mid-life; why happiness and depression both appear to increase", could've started off "Dear Ivey."

Let me back up, we've been mostly coming through our little storm but not without repercussions. For me, there are several biggies:
  • Loss of trust that Vince means what he's telling me; after all, he told me he was "fine" and wanted a more "progressive life" before.
  • The retreat into "inauthentic Ivey;" one of the great joys I had leading into this mess was the feeling that I was finally being "me," -- integrated, whole. The other night we had a dinner party and I felt "her" return; the fake front that masks the real me. I was, of course, the hostess with the most-ess! Charming, witty, a great cook. But before this reset, I had come to see my Ivey persona as more like a hidden super-hero. Suddenly, that part of me was gone and my "shameful inner voice," was lurking behind my eyes; the person who NO ONE can ever see, that I must hide and repress, because if they do people, important people, won't like or love me. I've come to believe that difference was a major part of the isolation I've always felt in groups of people.
  • The idea that possibilities for experiences THAT HARM NO ONE were actually possible, and not fantasy or wishful thinking or delusions. That suddenly the doors of life had been thrown wide and that my Beloved and I were going to embrace them together.
  • I'm struggling with the idea that it may be that I have to come to terms and simply accept that my life (our life) is forever to be defined by limits, obstacles, fears, frustrations, distance. Just as I struggle to accept/fight the idea that I will always be over-weight; surrender is so much easier than being at constant war with your inner self.
  • Maybe all the last 2 - 3 years really has been is nothing more than a mid-life crisis. I mean, really. A tattoo? Isn't the idea of swinging just another version of yearning for sexual variety? I haven't bought the little red sports car but my minivan is red and does have a sunroof.

These are just a few of the biggies that have been plaguing my brain off and on. I vacillate between security in my love for Vince and fear that I'm truly not lovable if I pursue my desire for a fuller, richer life. I'm mourning for what feels like the short life of the slowly awakening inner me.

And then the article shows up today on Huffington Post and in addition to other very on-point paragraphs, this one lept off the page:

"I suggest thinking of so-called midlife as a positive transition zone into
full adulthood. A period for creative solutions and better trade-offs regarding
your current commitments. [] And a time for restructuring your choices,
values and goals; making them support an integrated, healthy and authentic life,
through which you can continue to grow and develop in all realms of your life.
That's positive aging."

That's it right there folks -- an authentic life. Up to this point, I've had a good life; one that I enjoy and am proud of, one that I want to continue with my Beloved Vince, one that we've worked fucking hard to achieve. I don't want to jettison all that we've built, the best of who we are. But what I've done hasn't always been authentic, and it sure as hell hasn't been my best. I want to grow. I want to help others (especially Vince, if that's what he wants) live the fullest, richest, most experiential life possible in this short time we have on earth. I don't know if there's an afterlife, but I know for sure there is this life.

The article's last lines also hit me between the eyes:

"The upshot here is that most people are capable of self-directing their
lives during the adult years. What you experience isn't some inexorable process
that simply happens to you. It's the product of how you manage the changes
within your mind/body/spirit; how you deal with the new possibilities that lie

"And keep in mind what the novelist George Eliot wrote, 'It is never too
late to be what you might have become.'"

The best years, if we can manage it, lie ahead.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back on track and better than before....

While there's wayyyyyy too much to go into here on this little ol' blog, suffice it to say that Vince and I have not only weathered this storm but come out on the other side better than before. There are, of course a few "time will tell" elements -- you don't get to have this kind of a meltdown without a little scarring -- but what we've always had is still there: a fantastic and total love for one another. Truly. Madly. Deeply.

We went out for dinner last night and this was in the sky as we left --

From there, we went to our little neighborhood hangout for dessert and to toast a few friends --

We were raising our glasses to friends celebrating a special event and to another set of friends who were leaving us to continue their journey elsewhere. We learn from there stories and they enrich our lives.

Vince and I, for the past 15 or so years, have had the relationship that others envy. I refer to him not as my husband but as my Beloved. I am not his wife but rather his Compliment. We are simpatico. We have never wanted other than what is best, what is true to our highest natures, and for our lives together to be rich in love, friendships, and experiences. I can count on one hand the number of times that we've had what we call a major "reset." This past month was one but reset we have and we are back on track.

Vince and I have a vision for our life together. Barring anything unexpected, we hope to end our days together remembering the adventures and people we encountered along the way. He married an open, honest, experiential, adventurous, happy, enthusiastic person that denied (and was denied) that side of herself for 40 years. Embracing who I really am is a good thing for both of us. It enriches not just my life but his. Working out the details is just part of the trip.

So I don't want to say much more than that for now. Knowing me, it'll come out in later posts and in other ways, but the bottom line is we are, as always, back on track.

Thank you all for your kind words of support. Your faith and optimism were not misplaced.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A letter from Vincent

Hello everyone. I've been away from the blogs for a while now and returning, even briefly, reminds me of how much the real, true, painful world is part of this one. My heart is with those who are suffering immense tragedy right now. My situation is solve-able; theirs is not, and I clearly see the distinction.

All that said, I wanted to offer you an update, especially to those of you who've been so supportive. After the shock, dealing with the hurt and confusion, watching me descend into a horrible emotional place, Vince decided to "stop talking" so that he wouldn't say the wrong thing. Instead, last week he told me that he would write a letter so he "could be sure he was saying what he really felt, and not just reacting" to conversations. He gave it to me this morning.

I asked him if I could post it here because, as one friend told me, we often gloss over the harder and more difficult parts of our individual journeys for various reasons. Here's a small look into his. And just so you know, the movie reference at the beginning is an inside joke. He always makes me laugh with his off-the-wall references, and this is one of them. I eliminated some names but for this is what he said.

It starts with "Dear Ivey,"

“No matter where you go, there you are” said 80’s spoof sci-fi adventurer Buckaroo Bonsai. I believe that I’m much better at divining my take on myself and my life with the written word so here I am in my attempt to find my true feelings and share them with you. I do this to understand myself better, and to share my inner self as we regroup and move forward after the events of the recent past. I now find myself somewhere, Buckaroo, and it’s time to figure out where exactly that is.

This last week for me has been a hard one in feeling remorse for losing my temper and causing you pain. “Hold your tongue in a time of anger and you save yourself a hundred sleepless nights” is fortune cookie advice but in this instance, for me, true. I am deeply sorry for the loss of my temper and any pain it caused you. I’m sorry for acting towards you with suspicion and abusing your trust of me. I regret causing you the pain my words brought. I love you deeply and only want the best for you in life and to protect you as my partner from any such pain. Hopefully you empathize that I’m someone who rarely loses their cool to that degree, and pride myself and not being so, and to say I’m deeply sorry is what I can offer. You don’t need to feel that pain and I wish only love for you. Truly. Madly. Deeply.

I think that nuclear moment, like most cathartic moments, aren’t caused by the immediate event you may find yourself in but the release of what has been building for some time. Our foray into what we have been exploring for the last year has been of different emotions for me. When you brought up the notion of swinging with me a year ago I was completely caught off guard because we had never shared fantasies or desires of something like this in our marriage. Moving forward for me not really sure of how these things were going to come about and uncertain why they were coming about was the first thing that I had to come to grips with. Why was this happening? What was lacking in our lives that this pursuit was going to fill? Why were you showing desire for others? I can have sex with other women? Again, I can have sex with other women? These questions were some of the many that I attempted to address, process and understand. I wanted to be as supportive as I could be for us to have these experiences and as you know I didn’t want to be a roadblock to your happiness and agreed to cautiously move forward. But moving forward for me can be challenging for you because as much as I think I know what my feeling are, I just may not be fully, completely aware of them. Like a jazz musician I improvise scales of self-expression of my true inner self all the while hoping that the music I’m creating is connected to the others around me.

But as we are a very compatible pair we are also different souls with different capabilities. I’m a private person at heart and the idea of intimacy with strangers isn’t one of my strong abilities even with the promise of new sexual partners. Also I had a pre-conceived idea of what swingers were like - glib, shallow and self-centered – solely based on the people I had encountered in the past that were ‘rumored’ to be swingers. I just didn’t see myself as that type of person and did so because I had reservations about the culture and community. As we progressed past our first stages of evaluating what it was that we were doing -- and there were many moments of working through my reservations of moving forward -- I learned to trust you in your message of ‘experience over exclusion’ and how opening up the greater ideals of communication, trust and generosity shape individuals to a greater life, not lesser. Your enthusiasm, love and generosity moved me and I agreed to follow.

So we moved forward together, and you being the more enthusiastic person, patiently (mostly) waited for my own self-discovery of our path. It was slow going for me but through the trials and tribulations our communication was becoming better. Our sense of our greater sexual confidence from our awakening was showing. Our confidence in ourselves and our relationship had been tested and we had emerged stronger and better for the quickening. Our sex life improved with more frequency and passion. We became more playful. We became better connected to something sexier in life and our marriage and can even laugh at things that most other couples wouldn’t be able to fathom let alone celebrate (our disastrous meeting with [removed] and [removed] for one.) Over time I found that the nature of what others shared in their open relationships showed pride, connection and support in each other’s personal joy and most have haven risen above base elements of the human condition – fear, jealousy – in turn offered to me a greater perspective and outlook on life. I embrace this aspect of the people and community we have encountered and I am still in awe of the ones who seem to have met and exceeded these challenges in their relationships. My hat is off.

So why did I react as I did? Over the last year I saw us growing and being made stronger from the challenges we faced. But you being more intrinsically adapted to this culture found more outlets for your experiences while I did not. You were supportive for me to also have other contacts but, being more reticent and less communicative than you, I wasn’t as successful in doing so. So I was faced more and more with the differences in how we were evolving – you moving forward with greater and greater confidence with others which helped accelerate your journey while me still struggling to find my acceptance of where we were at and how to move forward. ‘Thrive, not survive’ was the motto I held because I didn’t want to enter this pursuit without the ability to pursue it with gusto. And being of a more reserved nature it was harder and harder to do. I could talk the talk about “progressiveness” and “openness” and “support” for what we were doing but always found reasons to be frozen to action and not move forward with most people we met. I now realize that these were fears of my own choosing and in not being totally honest with you made you misunderstand our cohesiveness. But I was still willing to find those perfect moments with you and chosen others. The experience we’ve had was a good one with people who I felt comfortable with and without jealousy.

So it’s not jealousy that roots me to inaction or to rage. It’s not a threat of another that causes me concern. What I believe happened was that I finally snapped from the pressure to do something that I wasn’t ready for – namely you moving farther and farther forward while I remained static and not progressing: I wasn’t ready to accept this new normal of what you and I were evolving to because I just wasn’t there yet. I came to see what you were doing and how you were progressing as being in a state of imbalance with me and I felt more and more pressure to adapt to newer and bolder ways when I wasn’t ready to. I believe my outburst was my way of venting my frustration to release inside me what it was that I was dealing with and like a compressed spring, I sprung. I’d be lying if I wasn’t hurt that you were corresponding with others and I had to try to cope with these entities taking up some of your affection and attention. I feared that they had surpassed ‘dildo’s with personalities’ and in my mind were becoming more of a presence in our lives that I was comfortable dealing with. These new friends were becoming daily visitors and reminders of the fact that you were progressing farther and farther from me.

That also goes for the sense of imbalance that I thought you were displaying about your pursuits of blogging, nudism and HNT – innocent endeavors but in my mind and more and more they seemed nearer the forefront of our focus and I just needed to break away from the pressure of my inability to connect with these things seemed to present. Why was this hard for me? Why didn’t I embrace the collection of worthy souls and fun pursuits and relish the community they offered? All I can offer is that deep down I wasn’t at the same level as you to find that this was what was needed for my joy. But there have been good moments. Reading their stories. Garnering their wisdom. Creating and posting good pictures. Seeing you blossom into a bold, fearless individual with greater joy and confidence with herself and life. But I think as an occasional diversion these things are more in tune with my interest for them but I felt more and more that you were more enchanted with these activities and therefore evolving past me. I guess I just hit a point where I needed to slam the brakes to curb the pace of what you were moving so fast on with me fading behind.

So where do we go from here? The things I do know are that we love each other deeply and have a truly great relationship. I want you in my life and am overjoyed you are here to provide it the spark, intelligence and good humor it brings. What I do ask from you is understanding. Understanding that I am not like you and it’s not as easy for me to share these same enthusiasms and therefore have my own likes and dislikes and to please not judge me or hold me in contempt for my fears. My inaction is based on my comfort level of what I feel and I’ve found that the opposite is true and when I’m in, I’m all in. I know that you crave and need a connection with others and I will try not to be threatened by things I don’t fully embrace and nor see these things as examples of my failure to keep up or disavow your dreams, hopes and desires. Not to box you in or expect you to change for me is my goal and I will live up to that promise to the best of my ability to make our lives richer and fuller.

Much, much love for you. More than I thought I knew I could.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Close the lid

[Aug 8: Update -- Things have been challenging this past week. Very. But we're not down for the count yet. We've been able to get away from everything, refocus on what we do and who we are when we're at our best, rest our souls, and slowly, tenderly, reconnect. We're not out of the woods completely, but there are some very positive signs and we love each other very much. We may still work this out yet.]

I have just had the most fantastic weekend. It was truly joyous and an enormous part of what made it so was more than two years of introspection and personal growth.

I was planning to be a bit more cagey but as you'll see later, there is really no need.

I was at a twenty-five year reunion for a group of people that I performed with for a year in 1985. I was 18, a musician in a band, and with more than 100 people from countries all over the world -- from Canada to South Africa to Japan to Mexico to Poland just to name five of the more than 20 nationalities represented -- we traveled the US, Mexico, and Europe. We were young, idealistic, and in that year developed bonds that have stood the test of time.

At the reunion, years melted away as if they'd never happened. Within moments of each greeting, it was as if we'd picked up exactly where we'd left off a quarter of a century ago and we once again were sharing our mutual successes and hardships. We effortlessly flowed between the mundane "here's what I'm doing now" to our greatest joys to our inner most fears and challenges without fear of being hurt, mocked, or judged, and with nothing but love and support in return. We laughed so hard we hurt. On a few occasions, missing those who've already left or who soon will, we cried as well.

I reconnected with old friends as the new, authentic, and very real me. During the year of travel (as well as many years after), I struggled to fit in, to feel accepted with other people. It's only been in the last year that I realized that distance and emptiness that seemed to permeate so many of my relationships was self-inflicted. It's too much to get into and I have much more important stuff to share but I couldn't connect with others because even though I wanted to be an open loving person, the truth was I was a scared, self-loathing, and harshly judgemental -- mostly of myself.

You can imagine the response as well. For the first time in twenty-five years, I connected with people as fearless, accepting, and with sincere love for who I am and who I saw in others. I actually had something to give -- something worthwhile to those who were hurting -- and something to share. And I didn't hold back. One woman's husband has advanced cancer and she will be a widow and her children will lose their father soon -- she and I are a wickedly funny pair and she wanted/needed to have that back. I am not afraid of death nor of the "conventional" way of dealing with it so I was able to give her what she needed.

A couple of people's marriages are coming apart, one of whom -- who 25 years ago I had an 18-year old's crush on -- said that he knew he was a good father and that he'd tried to be a good husband but he no longer felt like a man because he hadn't been desired in years. I assured him he was desired. Not by sleeping with him of course; that's not the arrangement Vince and I have, but by holding his hand, looking into his eyes, and telling him where he could see and feel it that it wasn't true. And I felt no shame and no guilt. A friend was hurting and I was there for him.

Had Vince and I not come to the place we are I couldn't have done any of that. I would have stayed locked in the box of conventional thinking that says you don't joke about dying and married women not only don't desire men who aren't their husbands but the never, ever fucking tell someone if they do. And these two hurting souls, friends who I love, would continue in pain, isolated in their sorrow, and separated from that which makes us human -- our ability to laugh and to love.

So by the time I got back home on Sunday night and my beloved Vincent picked me up at the airport, I was exhausted (about 4 hours sleep a night) but happy. Vince didn't go so that I could be free to reconnect with old friends without having to explain every anecdote or worry that he was bored. It was a gift of amazing proportion and a sign of our complete and utter devotion. I was able to talk and laugh and flirt as well as totally focus on whoever I was talking to at the moment.

Once, when someone asked if Vince "cared" that I was there by myself, without him I started to reply "Oh, he doesn't care!" but stopped myself and instead said "He cares very much. He cares that I'm happy and having a good time. It matters to him that I'm able to reconnect with all of you. He's not threatened by my friendships with other people. We run our marriage a little differently than most people; we have no secrets. Our communication and love for one another mean we are able to let go of the other, relax, and trust."

I was wrong.

Or rather, he was wrong.

As we drove home from the airport, me a bundle of energy and excitement, talking a mile a minute about how wonderful it was to be "all of me" with that solid bedrock of our love, Vince became a bit snappy. In fact, some of the words he used were quite hurtful.

The next day, after a twelve hour sleep I woke up to a very agitated Vince. As the day went on, the argument got worse. Much worse.

It's too much to share here but the sum of it is that Vince is not okay with who I have become. He says and has said he loves that I'm an open, enthusiastic, smart, and giving person. But apparently, only if it's reserved for him. He loves that I am sincerely and honest, but not if it means I sincerely care about someone else. My enthusiasm is great, except for when it's not directed at him. My affection is his and should be his alone.

Moreover, in spite of the fact he has for the last year told me and acted otherwise, he is not okay with our foray into swinging. But perhaps most importantly, to me at least, he is not okay with my affection for you or anyone else. In fact, that is the straw that broke his back.

Jealousy. And not simply of the sexuality, but rather he is jealous that I actually have genuine affection and yes, love for any one other than him, especially if that someone is a male, it is somehow a loss to him. It is the conventional paradigm -- love is finite, desire (regardless of action) is only reserved for one, friendship that acknowledges attraction is not proper and is disrespectful.

In fact, his jealousy pushed him to do something that I thought was impossible -- betray my trust. I have never lied to him nor hidden anything from him. He had a standing invitation to read my email or text, he reads every blog post before it's posted (except this one). I have never done anything he didn't know about and have always accepted the limits he put on my behavior as we navigated these waters. He has the passwords to everything -- my phone, computer, IveyLane. And yesterday, without my knowledge, he went through my phone and read the texts between myself and my old friend. He read them with no understanding of context and no trust for my judgement.

There were really quite benign. Such a small thing really. But I am devastated. More than the yelling, more than the anger and rage that filled his face as he screamed "you brought this on yourself!" as I was huddled, crying, in the stairwell.

He is tired, he says, of always being "portrayed" the one who is somehow "holding Ivey back." He says he has "eaten whatever shit [I've] dealt out" for over a year. "Who the fuck are these men and why are they in my life?!" he wants to know. He would be quite okay if I only wanted to fuck another woman and more than happy to participate if he get's to "pick her out" but another man "better have something to trade."

I have been, perhaps stupidly, honest throughout this whole experiment into openness. I feel now that is a mistake. Unfortunately, I'm a horrible liar and fairly self-aware. I, naively, believe what people tell me and act on whatever they say. I think actions speak louder than words so when Vince would search the swinger sites, bookmark people, and contact them I believed he was okay and interested.

I've always said that I would not sacrifice my marriage for swinging and I won't. That pursuit is now closed. And since this blog was part of that I'm going to close it as well. Close the blinds, so to speak.

I need to retreat. I need to lick my wounds and examine the mess that is now, to my utter surprise, my marriage and figure out what went wrong and what to do to move forward. Vince and I have no children to bind us together so regardless of whether we love each other if trust and joy are gone then there isn't much left.

Thank you all for you friendship and support. I know that in the conventional world there isn't much support for my perspective, that I am totally in the wrong and that Vincent is right, that I brought this on us. In fact, if our troubles ever come to light with our friends and family, I will clearly be the transgressor. We have been, or so I thought, the perfect couple. But perhaps I'm a better liar than I knew, only I've been lying to myself.

Next to me sits a box and right now I think my marriage and my husband's love is inside it. I have to crawl back in. And close the lid.