Tag Archives: Love

Cabinet of Wonders

22 Feb

Cabinet of Wonders

 

I’ve decided to re-open my blog The Practice of Goodness as the place where I post stories, poems, fragments, etc, keeping No Place for Sheep for politics and commentary. This piece to my late husband is the last of its kind I’ll post here.

 

Cabinet of Wonders

I dreamed I was walking through the park at the end of an autumn day. The tree shadows were long and the light golden. I saw you on the path in front of me, and hurried to catch up. Your hands were in the pockets of your jeans. You wore the dark purple sweater I knitted for you to keep out the cold you felt so keenly. The pattern was elaborate, it took months to finish, and you marvelled that my hands, with wool and needles, wove for you enduring warmth.

My wife made this, you told people.

Sometimes you would cradle my face in your hands and look at me and say, my wife.

When I caught up with you I slipped my hand into your pocket to touch yours. You turned your head and your look was quizzical. I saw the man I thought was you, wasn’t. The difference was barely discernible, but it was there. Shaken, I pulled my hand out of your pocket. We kept walking side by side, in silence.

We came to a bandstand, painted white with green trim, and hung with paper lanterns. Silent still, we walked up three wooden steps to the platform. We stayed there for some time, leaning on the railing, watching park life. I started to cry. You gazed at me then you pointed to a small house with double doors, off to the right, whose windows top and bottom looked to be filled with hand-carved toys, painted silks, and the mysterious devices of starlit sorcery. A cabinet of wonders, I thought. Our hearts.

You started down the bandstand steps. I cried harder. You looked back at me and smiled and pointed again to the house. I was to go with you there, I believed.

I could barely see for weeping as I stumbled down the wooden steps and followed you. But I was far behind and you forged ahead and I knew I wouldn’t catch up.

That moment in time, between when I put my hand in your pocket and when I realised the man I thought was you was not, has now settled deep in the cradle of my belly, where it has taken on the qualities of eternity.

I watched as you looked back and raised your goodbye hand. I watched as you disappeared into the cabinet of wonders. I watched as its doors closed behind you and I did not try to follow.

Awake, I know again that you are dead, and there is not one part of me that does not grieve you.

Wife. Time. Eternity. Wonders. The mysterious devices of starlit sorcery. Come back, and I will throw my arms around you.

Beyond Monogamy: exploring the possibilities of the human heart

1 Feb

 

monogamy not amrried to the idea

 

Like many of our abstract sacred moral concepts, the cult of monogamy is reified to the degree that it’s considered “natural” for humans to live within its framework. Never mind that people break out all the time, and that the entirely monogamous relationship exists more in the theory than in the practice, still the monogamous ideal dominates our culture’s sexual and loving relationships.

However, “it just is” has never been a persuasive argument for me, and the reification fallacy of misplaced concreteness always comes in useful when thinking about morality.

I’ve wondered often if one of the unacknowledged goals of monogamy is to protect us from experiencing difficult emotions such as jealousy, insecurity, a sense of abandonment, of being displaced by another. Of loss, of insignificance, and so on. These are emotions we first experience in childhood, for some of us when we acquire siblings, and for all of us when we realise that no matter what we do we will never be able to enjoy an equal relationship with any of our primary carers. As children, we will always be excluded from their adult mysteries. The parental figures upon whom we are entirely dependent will never be exclusively ours. They are our centre, but we are never entirely theirs.

The only chance we ever get to heal this insulting psychic wound is in an adult monogamous relationship of our own. In this, we believe, we will be loved to the exclusion of all others, and we will love exclusively in return. In this way we will at last achieve what we have so long yearned for: the exclusive gaze of the beloved lover.

There is an enormous industry dedicated to the maintenance of monogamy, and the healing of sexual and emotional betrayal. One of it’s more bizarre branches is the one that claims infidelity can save and enrich your marriage, and none of its proponents seem at all aware of the irony of recommending breaking out of monogamy in order to make it easier to stay in it.

The idea of using the aftermath of infidelity to strengthen a marriage has spawned a million books and papers. In privileging the relationship of marriage, however, any other relationship and any individual other than the married couple is perceived as little more than a means to an end. The morality of that use and manipulation of a third-party is rarely examined, so strong is the stranglehold monogamy has on our culture.

But what if the desire for exclusivity is based on a deep need to avoid the difficult emotions we struggled with and never managed to resolve in childhood? And what if learning to negotiate those difficult emotions could enrich our lives and deepen our intimacies? And what if intimately loving more than one person is not “wrong,” but struggling not to love more than one person is our biggest relational mistake?

Which brings me to polyamory, defined as:

The practice, state or ability of having more than one sexual loving relationship at the same time, with the full knowledge and consent of all partners involved. Polyamory, often abbreviated as poly, is often described as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy” An emphasis on ethics, honesty, and transparency all around is widely regarded as the crucial defining characteristic.

Overcoming difficult emotions that close the heart rather than open it is the goal of polyamorists. Challenging the inevitably tribal nature of family founded on monogamy, and replacing it with family founded on an acceptance of the remarkable ability of humans to love more than one person deeply and intimately at the same time, is their daunting task. Imagine a society in which intimate love is not exclusive but inclusive, and the emotions that prevent such open-heartedness are viewed as emotions to be grown out of, rather than avoided through confinement and threat of punishment.

According to polyamorists, it isn’t a betrayal of one person to love another as well, it’s a skill that can be decently acquired. The heart can learn to be open instead of closed. This makes so much more sense than a monogamous ideal in which we are rewarded for confining ourselves in a closed system, in which we must be everything to one other person, and that person must be everything to us.

Because monogamy is a closed system. Not only are many married people forbidden to intimately love anyone else, they are frequently urged to avoid close friendships with others, or to engage in any kind of affection that might be threatening to the primary relationship. The monogamy industry produces another million books and papers on how friendship can threaten the marriage, how work relationships can threaten the marriage, how emotional attachment to others can threaten the marriage, even how other family members can threaten the marriage. Just about anything, it seems, can threaten monogamous marriage, and it is privileged to the degree that every other relationship is by default subservient to it.

This admitted fragility of the monogamous marriage, it’s susceptibility to threat, ought to be telling us there’s something seriously awry in the arrangement.

We have to learn to manage and overcome all kinds of difficult emotions in the process of maturing. We can’t give anger and aggression the physical expression we did when we were two, unless we want to end up incarcerated and friendless, for example. Is it really so outlandish to imagine mastering jealousy and insecurity in much the same way, so that we can allow ourselves and others the freedom to love and express that love? People do fall deeply in love with more than one person, and usually have to make a choice. The experience is fraught with secrecy, guilt, and shame, and powerful distress all round. But does it have to be? Who says it has to be?

I’m not suggesting it would be an easy way to live, because it demands a generosity of heart and spirit of which our dominant culture currently has no recognition, and thus permits no expression. As things stand we privilege exclusivity, and all the undesirable ramifications that can lead to, inside and outside of the monogamous relationship. Polyamory requires a new way of thinking about love, and about being human. It requires a level of honesty and ethical interaction that is quite foreign to monogamy. In monogamy, loving another is treachery and betrayal, usually done in guilty secrecy and fear. In polyamory, loving another is done openly, in transparency and in willing negotiation through inevitably difficult emotions and tensions.

I am hard-pressed to see much moral virtue in closing the heart, as opposed to opening it. If I love you, and I see that another’s love enhances and enriches your life, am I “right” to demand that you forego it? And if I do, what do I gain?

Love whoever you please

 

 

 

The point of love…

13 Jan

 

solitude

 

“The point of marriage  is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good  marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his [sic] solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

My husband often used to tell me that as well as looking into each other’s eyes, he liked us to stand side by side and look out together at the world, while experiencing it individually.

Where Rilke uses the term “marriage,” I would use the term love.

 

Dear you. Cat fight. Whatever.

12 Jan

This post belongs in the page Infidelity, and the category Adultery.

Gustave Klimt Girlfriends

Gustave Klimt. Girlfriends

 

In the first conversation we ever had you said to me, “Perhaps (insert name) is not the right man for you.”

I had, at that point, absolutely no idea what you meant. (Insert name) is your husband. Why would you suggest to me that your husband isn’t the “right man” for me?

I echoed: “(Insert name) isn’t the right man for me? I don’t know what you mean. I had a relationship with him. I don’t want another. I only want to talk to him.”

I had no desire to continue my relationship with (insert name) after you’d caught him at it, and the only thing that interested me was having a civil conversation with him during the course of which we would bid each other a civil farewell. I have this tedious and apparently unrealisable thing. I think it’s important that people who love each other take civil leave of one another when circumstances make the ongoing expression of their love untenable. I’d prefer whenever possible to leave with good will, rather than disordered and excruciating emotional anguish. Admittedly I have absolutely no experience of this kind of leaving, so I could well be an idiot for imagining a decent farewell possible under such circumstances.

I suppose it’s something like people talking about having a good death. Sadly, a having a good death seems to have become a test of moral character.  I don’t know what a good death can possibly be, unless it’s like a good farewell, done with gratitude for the life lived, sorrowful acceptance of its ending, and the courage to face the pain of farewell.

Whatever. You and I appear to have reached a painful impasse. (Insert name) could be dead for all I know, the energy of the drama has shifted entirely to you and me, fulfilling the what now appear to be prophetic dreams I had at the beginning of the relationship between (insert name) and myself. In this oft-repeated dream you and I were intensely engaged, a good deal more amicably than we are at present, while (insert name) remained a shadowy figure huddled under blankets, entirely disengaged from both of us. I could make no sense of this dream at the time, though I recognised it as significant, as are all repeated dreams.

I marvel, I absolutely marvel, at the inaccessible knowledge contained in the unconscious, and again I claim that we are as icebergs,  one tenth of us above the surface while the other nine-tenths lies below, determining our lives in a manner entirely unknown and inaccessible to us until it’s far too late.

We have a great deal in common, as you’ve pointed out. We both play the piano. We have both had to deal with adulterous husbands. We both lost our beloved dogs in the same damn week. We both love the same man. We have both been horrendously damaged by the duplicity of this man, you more than me, I admit.  And yet, in spite of these commonalities, I would like to shout at you until I can shout no more, and I strongly suspect you are of a similar mind.

I am interested in what happens between two women when they both form attachments to the same man, and he to them. In this instance the man has turned out to be something of an emotional clod, and entirely undeserving of both of us. So why, when our rage and distress ought to be squarely aimed at him, are we firing our most serious bullets at one another?

I think we are conditioned from birth to behave in these ways, to see one another as rivals even for the attentions of a clod, as long as the clod is male. I hate this. I had no idea it existed within me. If anyone had told me I would one day be entrapped in a cat fight such as this has turned out to be, I would never have believed them. You have aggravated me beyond reason, and I, apparently, you. Women torn asunder by a man. We are living in a cliché. Somebody help us.

On being irresistible

31 Dec

Perhaps I’m contrary and ungrateful but I never felt good about being told by a lover  “You are irresistible.” I’d much rather he or she said something like  “I can’t resist you” and in that utterance, joyfully assumed the burden of supernatural compulsion instead of burdening me with it.

It would also be much more honest if things went wrong and my lover said “I now can/must resist you because my wife caught me, or I found someone else, or I’ve changed my mind” or whatever event provoked a change in his or her assessment of the situation. Instead of undermining my sense of myself with their change of heart, the responsibility then properly rests with the one whose desires, for whatever reason, have shifted.

I’ve never in my life found anyone to be irresistible. I’ve been overwhelmed by desire, overwhelmed by love, overwhelmed by seriously significant stupidity, but overwhelmed by my own sensations, the agent of my own downfall, not a victim subjected to another’s supernatural powers. In the end this matters, this sense that if I am drowning in love and desire, however recklessly, I am doing my own drowning the other isn’t bewitching me into it.

This may seem like unimportant hair-splitting carping, but it’s actually about taking responsibility, and empowerment. The statement “You are irresistible” gives the other all the power, and denies me the opportunity to take responsibility for my own actions. “I can’t resist you” takes all responsibility, and taking honest responsibility always empowers. The inability to resist is not in itself a negative thing. Denying it as part of one’s character might well be.

And there is something endearing about a human being who can admit an inability to resist as an aspect of his or her own self, rather than it being the fault of an irresistible other.

For women, being thought irresistible has caused and continues to cause us no end of grief, abuse, and in some instances, death. If we are credited with supernatural powers, we will also be made to pay for them. Excessive restrictions are placed on our freedoms in an effort to contain and control our perceived potentially uncontrollable natures. Those who abuse us may be leniently viewed in the light of our magically seductive powers. At its crudest, the irresistibility narrative says wearing short skirts will make men rape us, and there is a continuum from there. Telling a woman she’s irresistible is always an abdication of responsibility. You can’t resist her. It’s your thing, not hers. Own it.

End of rant.

Happy New Year.

 

irresistible

 

 

 

The Erotic II

11 Dec

auguste-rodin

 

(This post is part of the longer story Infidelity at the top of the home page.)

 

“The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, and plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information…” Audre Lorde

“As often as not, it seems to be assumed that man has his being independently of his passions. I affirm, on the other hand, that we must never imagine existence except in terms of these passions…” Georges Bataille

∫ 

 Oh, Jen, your breasts are talking to my cock. Make them shoosh for a while, I have to do stuff.

I desire your breasts so much. My mouth and my hands yearn for them.

I woke up picturing holding your breast on the palm of my hand and feeling its weight.

I love that we can express any desire at all and know that the other will share it. So extraordinary.

Oh, love. We are so in tune with one another.

There are so many things I’ve only done or talked about doing with you…it all adds to the richness of us, to have so many firsts. My love.

 

She wants to feel the weight of him on her. She wants him to hold her down with his body on hers. I will be too heavy, he tells her, but she doesn’t think so, what she thinks is that for years she has been waiting for the body that will hold her in place and it is his. Finally, he lays himself naked the length of her, propped on his elbows to spare her his weight. She says no, all of you, all of you on all of me, and he gently lowers himself, his chest against her breasts, his belly on hers, his cock hard against her mound. Keep your legs closed, he tells her, don’t let me in yet. His thighs rest on her thighs. She raises her arms and lays them either side of her head. She lifts her pelvis to his. He grabs her wrists and holds them. He breathes softly into her open mouth his face so near his features are indistinguishable, his eyes holding hers in their close gaze. Don’t come, he whispers into her mouth. You mustn’t come. His gentle breath in her mouth is almost too much, she feels desire overwhelm her and struggles to keep it in check. Then she feels the tip of his tongue stroke hers. Hold still, he breathes. Don’t move.

 

Sex is a deep search to uncover everything that is hidden. She shows him what he wants to see. She takes him where he wants to go. She lies on their bed, her legs slightly bent and open. She takes the outer folds of her sex in her fingers and holds open her secret place. He gazes upon her. Then he looks at her face. His gaze travels between her cunt and her face. He shakes his head in amazement and disbelief. You doing this, he says, it feels like the most natural thing in the world that you should lie here like this and show her to me, how can it seem so natural? I don’t know, she tells him. They are now sharing the intense gaze they’ve perfected. I don’t know how I am doing this. I only know I want to. Do you like her? Oh, god, he groans. Oh god, she is the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen! She is pink, and glistening, and plump, oh god, she is everything I imagined she would be.

They don’t touch. They call it their fierceness, this desire they have to be in one another, this desire that transcends the physical, this desire of which physical expression is only one small part. He calls it their “psychic sex,” a merging of energies that doesn’t require his cock in her cunt, but is at its strongest when their tongues meet, and their eyes. They discovered it by accident, in a situation where fucking was impossible, and it is their favourite thing, the thing that binds them irrevocably, that is particularly theirs, that they can have even when separated by thousands of kilometres.

She learns how to feel his absent hips nestled between her thighs; she learns how to move her cunt as if around him, and when he takes out his cock it is her hand that holds him, even though a vast distance physically separates them. Once, after they have been interrupted by some domestic matter in his household, he writes: this psychic sex is so strong that my cocked twitched for ages and my balls ached, just as if we had been physically interrupted. What is this love we’ve made together?

I don’t know, she tells him. I don’t know.

Neither of them knows where the fierceness might take them when they are physically together. He writes of how he wants her to use him, to take everything she wants from him, he won’t stop her and when he’s exhausted, she must take even more. They agree that in no other parts of their lives do they desire fierceness, only in this mutual intimacy do they want to break through their learned limitations, the abstract restrictions of taboo, the pointless inhibitions life has instilled in both of them.

Your nipples are beautifully designed for my mouth. And somehow my cock seems to have been made for your cunt. Am desperate for your body. Every part of it. Every part. Does that frighten you?

Yes, she tells him. But being afraid doesn’t stop me. With you, I will go anywhere.

Aaaaaaah. I will tell you what to do? You will obey me?

Yes, she says. I will.

 

 

“The very word erotic comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects – born of Chaos, and personifying creative power and harmony. When I speak of the erotic, then, I speak of it as an assertion of the lifeforce of women…  Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives. And this is a grave responsibility, projected from within each of us, not to settle for the convenient, the shoddy, the conventionally expected, nor the merely safe.” Audre Lorde

The Erotic

6 Dec

Gustav KlimtThis post is one of the pieces in the ongoing page Infidelity at the top of the home page, and the category Adultery

 

“The whole business of eroticism is to strike to the inmost core of the living being, so that the heart stands still. In essence, the domain of eroticism is the domain of violence, of violation… The whole business of eroticism is to destroy the self-contained character of the participators as they are in their normal lives…Eroticism always entails a breaking down of established patterns, the patterns, I repeat, of the regulated social order… ” Georges Bataille

 

Without discussing it they decide that for the few hours they have together their mouths and their tongues will be all that will meet. He waits, holding himself away from her, allowing only their eyes to engage. A vibrant energy emerges from their joined, concentrated gaze. It shimmers and sways between them, a third party. As they stare, not touching, the force they’ve brought into being intensifies. What is this, he breathes. What is this? Their mutual gaze does not falter. It is the both the creator and disseminator of the energy. She lets his presence enter into her, and sees that he has allowed hers to enter into him. There is no resistance. There is only surrender and acceptance.

She knows now that when he said they are perfectly matched he knew better than her what complex intensity was growing between them. Their silent communication is perfection. There are no barriers of fear or guilt. Their hearts are at their work, naked and unprotected, and they make no effort to conceal them.

He is her perfect partner. She is his. In their lives before each other they have never known such a thing. It is fierce. It is frightening. She does not know where it will take them, and neither does he.

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along.”*

 

He writes:

Of course I don’t want to leave you, how could I? Have been so sad all day, thinking I’d been so stupid I’d lost you. Are we ok again, love?

Here’s a new adventure for you to read. It’s very short

I hold out my hands to you. You tie rope around my wrists and then my ankles. I lie on the bed and you bind my wrists to its head, pulling so that my arms are full stretched upwards and then you bind my ankles to the bed’s end. I am completely helpless.

You put a blindfold on me, so I can’t see what you’re doing. Then I tell you you can do absolutely anything you want to any part of my body for as long as you like. You put a gag on me as I finish speaking.

You proceed.

 

He is enchanted by her body. As well, he is delighted by her enchantment with his. She writes of her love of his cock, sweetly at rest in his red-gold nest. Her touch on him, he tells her, is  consummately gentle, her fingertips soft with love. He wants to nourish her from his cock while he is nourished from her breasts. In this way they will nurture each other, love will in a circular motion proceed from one to the other, pleasure begetting pleasure, her joy birthing his, his delight birthing hers.

She tells him what comes from him does not make mess, as he has worried for so long. She tells him she desires his juices on every part of her, her breasts, her belly, her hands, her mouth. He writes, oh, how I love how you love my body, my cock, my semen. How I love that. Do you know how much I love how you love me?

After he’s gone and she’s alone in their bed she writes, I have wrapped myself in our stained sheets. In the night I woke and felt you leaking from me, down the inside of my thigh. You know now that what comes from you is only lovely, don’t you? And he replies, yes, you have taught me. You have given me that. Me inside you, on our sheets, on your thigh, your marvellous delight in me. You have given me that.

He writes:

You want me to mark you. I bite your shoulder and neck, and you rake my back with your nails, leaving red trails. I slide down so I can suck your nipples hard enough to leave the marks of my teeth, while you stretch up and bite my neck, and bruise me with your sucking. I want us to walk down the street, each one secretly marked by the other, glowing, hurting, aching, exhausted, bruised from our mutual pleasure. Marked. My sweet. Oh god, I want you. I know I have no right, but I want you to be only for me. No one else. Only for me. 

“The stirrings within us have their own fearful excesses; the excesses show which way these stirrings would take us...eroticism, unlike simple sexual activity, is a psychological quest…eroticism is assenting to life even in death.” Bataille

*Rumi

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,991 other followers

%d bloggers like this: