Venus must be transiting a weird spot in my chart. Ordinarily I don’t let these conversations get under my skin or get me talking. But a couple of drinks and I'm suddenly blathering it all. We’ll call it a cosmic realignment and not revisit again, I hope.
I recently had a long talk with a couple of regulars at the restaurant about the challenges of living in isolation, and maintaining human connections to fuel my work as a storyteller. They always seem to have new questions about what it’s like to be a recluse, live in a woodland cottage, write books, and generally “do whatever the hell you want”. They are mystified by what they call my “obsessive independence”. They’re always asking what’s new up in my little glade, as if anything interesting ever actually happens.
I’ll call the nice elderly lady Gladys. She could pass for a Gladys. Which would make him a Duke, though I’m not sure why those monikers seem to fit for the purposes of internet anonymity. Gladys and Duke have been married for fifty something years, and by their own admission, have fallen in and out of love several times. “Marriage is hard work” they say, since they don’t know I’ve been married before, and would rather resign myself to a coal mine shift than do it again. I mean, never say never I guess. But the possibility is so staggeringly low it’s hard to imagine that scenario entering my life again.
Still, Gladys and Duke are far too interested in my love life, or as Gladys has rightly guessed--my absolute aversion to it. Further still, Gladys has been interested in my books, and recently discovered I write erotica under a pen name.
When Duke made a trip to the gentleman’s privy, Gladys took her opportunity to ask some personal questions.
I was surprised. Embarrassed, even. Yes, I get asked about my books and adult content by readers at inopportune and often inappropriate times (often when my mouth is full or I’m sitting with friends at a cafe), but she seemed genuinely interested and non-judgmental.
So I said, “You know, I’d really love to answer those questions in full, and as you know, I have no shame or embarrassment around the topic…let me write a post and you can read it on my blog when I’ve had a chance to think it over?”
So, here we are.
Yes, Gladys, B. Unbidden (Blush) is based on my life as a sybarite; some real, some imagined, some dreamt. It’s amalgamated. Yes, I do believe in deep abiding, passionate love and intimacy. Some believe that the oceans are Earth’s last uncharted frontier—I believe our human capacity to swim in the totality of Universal acceptance and love with another human being is the last truly unexplored horizon. Or, well, maybe it’s just my last frontier. I’ll ponder that.
Yes, I do a lot of research. Yes, some of it is sexy and fun, and some of it not so much. I could write a whole book on the various and prolific uses of lubricants. Seriously. Some information is too much information.
No, I do not believe in hell as an afterlife punishment system for exploring love and intimacy. I have no personal judgments about anyone else’s way of discovering/expressing love, or of their choice of partner(s), or of their journey/method/practices to reach their own forms of bliss.
How then do I reconcile the need to have a balanced life of love, romance and connection, with my reclusive lifestyle and isolation when it comes to needing those energies to create believable stories and write “vulnerable and sexy” erotica that made her “enjoy that feeling of anchorage within another person?”
“Where is the middle ground on obsessive independence and deep human intimacy? How do you feed them both?”
Damn. Fine. Questions. Gladys.
I wanted to really think about the answer. It’s not very sybaritic to keep avoiding the truth of a situation or of the feelings it evokes. Sybarite ways are to feel it all; the depths, the discomfort, the bitter, the sour, the rank, and yes, especially the empty places.
Damnit, Gladys. Thank you for the opportunity to dig a little deeper into myself and my responses. Here it goes:
Living alone allows me to focus, to imagine without interruption or pressure, or expectation from others. It’s a weightlessness of being, as if floating in a creative amniotic womb. I consider my alone time sacred creative space.
Relationships, as wonderful as they can be, are fraught with unsaid or even said needs, desires, distributions of power, negotiations of time, effort, responsibility—all of which can be totally and completely valid, beautiful and fun. Negotiations are necessary in the healthiest and most fulfilling connections. We are humans. We all have needs. Whether that’s the need to be heard, and seen. Or the need to leave your dishes in the sink and not be nagged about it—the same as the other person’s need is to have an empty sink, see?
Engaging in those negotiations, schedules, expectations, desires is NOT a creative amniotic womb. It’s effort that can feel either positive or negative, and is often exhausting and draining. At least my experience with it has been so. I often stagger out of an exchange feeling smothered or having been a smotherer. No fun either way.
Human intimacy and contact is a real need. Since we have already established my sybaritic patterning, I will admit sex, vulnerability, and contact are all part of that complex matrix of human desires and grounding needs for me. These negotiations are also exhaustive and effort laden. Another human being’s needs, wants, and desires must all be satisfied as well in order for the exchange to be equal and balanced. It must be fair or it’s not going to be fulfilling. That’s relationship work, and it’s often very gratifying, but it’s not a weightless creative space. It’s an active building and development space. (A different kind of creativity)
True intimacy is the matrix wherein trust, vulnerability and willingness come together and partners actively and lovingly hold space for one another to bridge the unknown. How incredibly sexy does it feel when you believe you are held, your uncertainty cradled, your needs recognized? Super fucking sexy, right? Holy moly, what a turn on. Wanna know true partnership? Work on giving and receiving that feeling. Not that I need to tell you, Gladys, you’ve been married half a century—you don’t make it that long without figuring that out already.
I’ll admit I write about relationships, sex, and intimacy in storyteller idealized forms. This can be dangerous as it can set a false expectation or unachievable bar. I further admit, I have adopted that style because there is something so cosmically beautiful in that elevated expression of love, especially when anchored into the human fallibilities and frailties. The contrast is breathtaking, heart breaking, and often just downright inspiring.
And goddammit, Gladys, I need some fucking inspiration in love and romance. Yes, even me. It’s way overdue. So I write it in a way that I hope to inspire myself to keep a very small flame lit, and to help others keep that flame lit as well. (A pilot light for love, if you will) When that flame goes out, we’re all in serious trouble. I write love big and bold and dirty and musical in order to keep the spark within me, so I can go about the day to day knowing that tiny spark can be ignited into a conflagration when the time is right—not before.
Now, all that being said, I appreciate you thinking of me where your grandson is concerned. I’m sorry he’s had trouble finding a “nice young woman to settle down with”. That sucks. I feel for him, I really do. But I am not nice, young, nor settlement material, at least not right now. Nice try, Gladys. And yes, he’s pretty, I agree. Still a “Thank you, but no”. Also, I’m also not sure he’d appreciate you showing off his facebook page (and shirtless ab pictures) to random weirdos like me at the bar. Lots of nutbags living out in the woods, just sayin’.
In conclusion: How do I find that balance? And what am I looking for?
The truth is, I’m not actively looking. I’m waiting.
The truth is--I am waiting for someone very specific. Which is why it’s been such a long dry spell. I want someone so specific that I’m willing to hold out indefinitely, and I’m also quite happy being alone if he never actually shows up. I generally don’t tell people the truth, because one of two things happens: 1) they immediately begin trying to set me up (with their grandson/brother/neighbor/best friend/or uncle who just got out of jail) OR 2) they launch into an unsolicited lecture on how I need to have less specialized requests in a partner if I ever want to have a mate.
“Thank you, but no” to the first one. And as to the second—I’m simply not worried about it. I’m not losing sleep about being on my own…quite like it, in fact.
It’s a true partner for me or nothing—and I’m contented as I am, so why settle? I'm not lonely or unhappy. I'm not lost or wandering. I don't understand other people's obsession with the fact that I'm delighted to fly solo, or that I have a set of standards on which I'm not willing to compromise.
The thing is, I’m a bleeding hopeless romantic at heart. It’s why I write the way I do. I’ve spent fifteen years trying combinations of characteristics in potential mates and deciding none of them work for me, except a very few quality traits that I cannot do without in someone I would consider a partner-worthy adventure. Turns out, those traits are a little rarer and more difficult to find. Not impossible, just uncommon. But they are absolutely worth holding out for, right?
I can live quite happily without a mate—but if I must have one, certain attributes are essential. My faith in him as a man, and my respect and confidence in him as a human are completely dependent on his possessing specific ethical and noble qualities. In turn, I would hope that I possess the same qualities to match, so that any challenges we face will not be in conflict between the two of us over integrity/core principles. I would need to be able to rely on the quality of his humanity in order to put my vulnerabilities in his care—and vice versa. He would need to be able to see me, and I him, and adore that internal cosmos…or we would be short-lived.
And why bother with short-lived romance? Le sigh. I’m over it. Got things to build and a world to rock…aint got no time for flash bangs. (they’re fun, sure, but distracting)
Beyond core principles and nobility of character—literally everything else is negotiable. I have no preference on age, education, appearance, profession, etc. and so forth. I don’t care about his packaging, breeding, or origin. I care about what he is. What does he stand for, even when it’s difficult or inconvenient to do so?
The question of balance is answered in what I’m looking for in a man. How do I find the balance between intimacy and independence? By choosing the right partner for me. My true partner. Someone who will recognize and be able to negotiate my sacred creative time and space. If we cannot work that primary need into the matrix, we just wont work.
Kids? You ask? Oh, Gladys, how I long for the day people stop asking me, “But don’t you want to have children before it’s too late?” as if my only purpose or value is measured by my ability to contribute to overpopulation. The answer is this—I am not unfulfilled by my lack of spawn. I do not feel less a woman for it. I do not hunger for motherhood, BUT I will not hesitate to step into the role if the occasion calls for it. There is no “too late”. The opportunity to mother can appear at any time and may happen completely from outside my womb. Children are a negotiation I will have with a true partner I have utter faith in, OR I will be prepared to fulfill the calling on my own in an emergency if needed. Thankfully, I will only have to endure this question and its expectations and implications of my value to society for a few more years. (I know you didn’t mean anything by bringing it up…you were probably thinking of your grandson’s future which is perfectly natural. No offense taken.)
When I’m dating, I never ask myself, “Do I love him? Oh, crap. Could I actually say yes if he asked?” When I want to know how I really feel about having someone in my life on a permanent, hard work, abundantly beautifully romantic level I ask this question.
“Athena, you can have a life of freedom, creativity, exploration, personal growth, family, community, and blissful adventuring if you leave right now. OR, you can have him. What do you choose?”
If what I know of him or have seen of his behaviors, if what I feel about him leads me to believe in any way that he is the consolation prize for my creative independence and freedom—it’s time for me to go. Preferably while he’s sleeping.
Only when I can honestly answer that I believe I can have a fulfilling life WITH him in it, and that he will make for a better adventure than I could have imagined for myself, I’ll stick around and make coffee while I wait for him to wake up.
I honestly don’t know what I would do if I ever found myself in a situation where I believed I could have it all. It would freak me out. I’d probably panic to be honest. I’m not sure I’d even know what to do with that kind of treasure.
The point is, when you get to be a hermit for long enough, and you love the way your life is playing out, and your road is open, loaded with opportunity and curiosities—it takes a very strong, special man to make you feel like there’s a whole other scenic route worth taking with him. And if he is capable of inspiring that risk, well then…why the hell not?
Until then, I satisfy the hunger for intimacy by writing about it and living in my imagination. It’s a pale shadow by comparison, I know, but it holds me in check so I don’t do something stupid like run off with the cowboy at the end of the bar then break his achy heart. I keep it locked down in everyone’s best interest, right? No need to be hurting other people in an attempt to fulfill desires I know can’t be met. Better to just tuck into the forest and only occasionally come out for a drink at the bar—but never when I’m ovulating, right? Better safe than sorry.
Anyway, damnit all to hell, Gladys. A couple of vodkas and I’m blathering away all the details I never wanted to talk about again. Well played, Master Jedi. Well played.
Long story short, too late…I’m in no rush. This transformation will take some time yet, and I’m in no hurry to be available to anyone. I’m happy. I’m fulfilled. And there’s a spark to be lit when the time is right. I need to clean up some personal messes I’ve made of my body and habits, and get my shit together. I need to put my tools away and tidy up my mind as I’m not currently in a condition to bring my best to a partnership table. I’ve got some work to do, and books to write…timing and fate will do what it does in the meantime.
Thank you, Gladys. Apparently, I needed this. I started out a little irritated, but once I got going it all sort of spilled and I do feel lighter for it. So, next time I see you at the pub, your Tsunami Stouts are on me.
P.S. Tell your adorable grandson to take a breath, it will happen for him. Probably when he’s working on his own personal mastery and not even looking for love. That’s how magic works after all, it manifests when you’re not looking right at the void. It’s likely when he stops aching for her to appear and just goes about his happy life, she’ll land right in his lap. Kismet. And it will make an awesome story.