(image found at http://xkcd.com/137/)

There's been some stuff that I've been wanting to write about lately, but I've held myself back because I'm afraid. I'm afraid of rejection, afraid of judgment, afraid that I might offend those readers whom I call friends so deeply that they will turn away and never come back. I've been toying with the idea of writing it anyway, because really, this is my space to be free and be myself without judgment, and the moment I censor myself because of some imagined consequences at the hands of probable judges, well… I might as well just stop writing altogether.

I do know that some of the things I have to write will be unsavory for certain members of the conservative Christian crowd that I used to run with, and that's fine. Different strokes for different folks, you know? But it's the thought of those conservatives that fills me with such dread, as I know that such a community can be rather… unforgiving in nature, and I don't want to bring that kind of wrath down upon myself. I also don't want to make myself the target of some kind of evangelistic campaign designed to "win me back to the truth" or "bring me to the light" somehow. The choices that I've made have been very deliberate and thoughtful, not hasty compromises made in the throes of passion or despair. 

I don't feel like I'm being true to myself, editing out important bits of my life and personality this way. With this in mind, I have decided to write. Stumbling upon this cartoon earlier this evening just underscored my conviction and reinforced my thoughts. I still wish to take the convictions and repugnances of others into consideration, however, such as the toning down of the language that I often use, substituting swear words and epithets for other phrases. My plan is to speak in broad strokes about what I wish, and if I feel the need to go into detail I'll save it for a separate post, so readers can decide if they want to read that particular entry or not.

Why all this hesitation, all this caution, you ask? To put it simply, I'm an active member of the BDSM culture and community where I live, and I apply the kinks and fetishes I am interested in to my lifestyle on a regular basis. No, Corey and I aren't having sex on a very regular basis anymore, simply due to illness constraints and stress problems, but I can say in all honesty that kink isn't just about sex. That is, it doesn't have to be. It can be, or it can be completely removed from lust and intercourse. You really have to be involved to understand. But yes-- I like leather and lashes and corsets and ropes. All of that good old taboo stuff. There is a huge wide world of kink and fetishes within BDSM, of course. There's no way one could possibly be interested in or involved in everything. What I appreciate most about the culture is its emphasis on Safe, Sane, and Consensual, or alternately phrased, Risk Aware Consensual Kink.

What I would ask is that anyone who is finding themselves repulsed or immediately huffy and judgmental, do some research. There are a million and one websites that explain the basics and the theory without being pornographic, and who knows but that the information may prove of use in the future? Just because a person looks "vanilla" (not involved with kink) doesn't mean they are. Most of us keep up a very good front, afraid to come out of the closet for fear of losing jobs, friends, family relationships… There is a lot of stigma, and a lot of misinformation. That's part of the reason why I want to be open and honest about this; to dislodge and refute stereotypes and negative associations.

The reason I bring this up at all is because it's how I celebrated my birthday. The group in Yuma that I'm a part of has monthly "munches", which are vanilla gatherings where we get together and eat, hang out, and just generally have a fun time together. We also have monthly play parties where we get together and do just what the name implies-- we play, as groups, couples, or individuals. I've attended several parties but I've never had the opportunity to engage in any play before, as one of the rules imposed on me is that I'm not allowed to play unless Drogo is in attendance and gives me permission. His days off were changed to include the day the play party was held, and he came with and gave me permission to engage in some play. He said, "It's your birthday; go have some fun," all indulgent-like. It was cute. I was ecstatic. But I will write a separate post about the party and how it went, what I did, etc. for anyone who wishes to read it. Most of the time, at that party and at all the others, my time is spent hanging out with a plate of food and chatting with my friends. Just like any other party. We really are like any other people, except that our mutual hobbies are considered alternative, or even "bad". (Hence the secrecy.)

Another thing I've been wanting to write about but holding back on is my spiritual journey. If you've read some stuff from the early days of my blog, you may know that I was struggling along in a particularly conservative branch of Protestantism known as Seventh Day Adventist. I have absolutely nothing against the Adventist church, as I was essentially born and raised SDA and have a great number of fond memories throughout my life associated with it. A large amount of the people I hold near and dear to my heart are active SDA members, and I spent 3 or 4 years working as a missionary for the church here in the States. That being said, some of the attitudes and actions of members and leaders in the church really damaged me in profound ways, and some of the beliefs held by the church and by the members crippled me in ways that have been difficult to undo.

After moving back to the Southwest from the Northwest, where I lived for several years, I engaged in about a year and a half of study as to whether the basic tenets of Christianity and the authenticity of the Bible were real concepts that I could trust and build my belief system upon. I didn't find it to be so. When I stopped trying to make Christianity my worldview, life started making more sense. I began recovering from the depression that gripped me with suicidal force and pulled me into a blackness so thick that I could feel nothing else, nothing but crushing despair and agony. I laugh a little bitterly to myself when I think that I have a "reverse testimony"; that is, I'm the opposite of the people that stand up and tell how they were tormented and miserable and did all kinds of things and couldn't find happiness or true satisfaction in life until they "found Jesus", and once they became Christians and got saved then they had happiness and peace and life made sense for the first time. For me, I was tormented and miserable and couldn't find happiness or true satisfaction until I walked away from Christianity. Finally, finally, for what seemed the first time in my life, I had peace. I was happy. And I felt guilty, because from infancy up I had been taught that the SDA church had "the Truth", and if I walked away from that I would be lost forever. I worried that maybe it actually was true, and I was going to be lost for walking away… but I couldn't bring myself to go back, to resign myself to a life of such deep unhappiness and emptiness. Not now that I'd finally started liking who I was, seeing worth in myself and seeing beauty in the life around me and before me.

I've come to the place over these past 2 years where I will now call myself an agnostic atheist. My belief is that deities are the creations of mankind, a projection, a metaphor, something we need to survive mentally and emotionally as beings of higher intelligence. Don't quiz me on facts and details-- I'm still figuring all this out, and I was never a good apologeticist, no matter what side of things I stood on. I've always had leanings toward paganism, though-- Wicca or NeoPaganism and all that, or maybe some of the New Age beliefs. As I've been doing research lately, though, I have found that even Wicca is too "religious" for me. Again, I don't believe in actual, literal deities, and Wicca calls upon the God and the Goddess as literal beings. No, I'm more interested in earth based religions that acknowledge the energy and the life forces in the world around us, in the universe we reside in, and that seeks to reach out and redirect those forces with my own will. I think that the rituals have some kind of scientific effect that we don't understand yet, and so the results are attributed to "magick". A great deal of what is done now, without a second thought, could and likely would have been labeled magick a few centuries ago, much less thousands of years ago. If you went back to 12 A.D. and had a Bic lighter in your hand, do you think the people around you would recognize the interaction of friction and heat and fuel? Nope. You'd be a wizard, a sorcerer, a speaker for the gods.

Anyway, that's where I'm at now. I feel a large sense of relief to have written all that, but I also feel a nervous quivering throughout me as I contemplate pressing the "Publish" button. What if I lose my friends? What if my bestie doesn't wanna be my bestie anymore? *sigh* But then I guess… this part of me is still there, whether I speak about it or not. If I lose friends or family or whatever over this, well… them only accepting part of me isn't enough. That's not real acceptance, nor is it real love. It's just a test I must brave, I suppose.

That in mind… there's no way I'd ever reveal any of this to my grandparents, though. My grampa and I recently got into a very heated disagreement regarding Adventists who keep the Old Testament feasts. I know several people who do, and did myself at one point in time. My point was that they are living up to what they believe is what God wants them to do. Grampa got angry because they're WRONG, doesn't matter if they believe they're right or not, and they need to give up their sin and come back to the truth of God, yadda yadda yadda. He came to me and apologized afterward, admitting that he was being very closed-minded and cruel and it wasn't okay. I appreciated that very much. But if I were ever to tell him that I'm a pagan atheist BDSMer who is heteroflexible? Yeah. He'd probably never speak to me again. I've noticed that as people age they tend to become very inflexible, closed, and narrow minded. Their way or the high way, you know? Maybe it's just older Christians, or older Adventists in particular. I mean, they've spent so long having the idea pounded into them that only SDA's have the Truth, everyone else is wrong, and that a good SDA will tell them they're wrong so that they're not eternally lost. Otherwise it's on your head if they're "lost" and you didn't tell 'em, you know? Just another reason I left. I was sick of the gut sickening feeling I'd get when I walked into a grocery store or a gas station and felt like had to pass out tracts and witness or else I wasn't living up to my commitment as a Christian, and that maybe I'd let an opportunity pass that was the person's last. You know, like they'd die in a car accident right afterward on their way home or something. I hated that pressure. I still exult in my freedom as I walk into the grocery store and know that I don't have to interact with a single damn person if I don't want to, and usually I don't.

As my friend and I were discussing earlier, things change and people change right along with them. I am a very different person than I was just a year ago, or even a few months for that matter! I feel like springtime, like a bud poised on the edge of blooming at any second, like I'm finally growing after a season of being stumped and stunted and I'm coming into my potential at last. It's a great feeling. I'm learning and expanding in so many ways, and I just want to keep going. Everything inside me feels clean and happy, despite being sick, despite my life having taken such a drastic left turn. No, things aren't perfect, and there's still stress on me and in our household due to various things (bills, illness, general relationship stuff that happens to everyone), but I know that I'm already a richly developed woman and that the trend will continue. Honestly? I feel like I'm my own friend for the first time, and I'm actually glad to know me. I'm proud of myself. Isn't that the craziest thing?
I got my hands on an off-brand of Nutella that I can actually eat (can we please stop with the gratuitous soy usage, corporate America?), and I understand everything now. I mean everything. The meaning of life, the universe and everything. Turns out it isn't forty two, it's chocolate and hazelnuts. In spreadable form. The gods have descended and Eden is here. It's like the Ferrero Rocher chocolate candies that I've loved so much for so long but can't have anymore (thanks again to the soy problem) have exploded all over this whole grain toasted pita…slice? (what do you call a single piece of pita bread in all its pockety glory?). Of course, the whole wheat makes it healthy. Right? Right. Also, as a completely pointless side note, I must say that not indulging in the Oxford comma for the phrase, "life, the universe and everything" is killing me, but I am pretty sure that's how it's written and I want to be faithful to the original text. Douglas Adams deserves it. (For those completely lost, I'm referencing "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series by Douglas Adams. It's a series of books that is completely silly, mind bending, and entirely sensible if you read them all through.)

Chewing this deluxe chocolatey treat is killer, though, thanks to the good ol' oral surgery recovery. The gaping sockets where my 3 wisdom teeth used to be are pretty much alright, in that there's no easily discernible spikes of pain above what I normally experience, but the bottom left jaw pain has got to be the incarnation of everything evil in the world. Due to the positioning of that tooth, the extraction involved cutting open the gum and sewing it shut again afterward, and this stitched area is causing me debilitating pain. Yes, even with the copious amounts of strong pain killers that I am taking, and yes, even with all of the little countermeasures you can take against pain in addition to the pain meds, it's keeping me from sleeping at night, keeping me from eating solid food, giving me migraines, making the hours pass soooo slooooooowlyyyyy, and making my supply of pain killers look suspiciously puny. Once or twice a day I give in and eat something that requires chewing, but ouch.

I finally caved yesterday and started applying ice directly to my jaw, and that was an amazing breakthrough... at first… for a bit. Now it doesn't seem to matter. Sorbet has been a helpful friend as well, kind of numbing things out with cold from the inside, plus it's super delicious! The weather, though, has been affecting the pain levels. Clouds have been coming and going and bringing rain, so on the days that the weather is changing my pain is skyrocketing. On the calm days with no clouds and no changing, I was able to get it mostly under control. Since I cannot control the weather, I will simply do what I can to get this healing up as fast as possible. It's nice to know that this intense pain will end at some point. I'm not used to thinking that way anymore.

So. Birthday coming up in a week, give or take a day. I'm going to be the ripe old age of 27. I think it's fair to say that I'm definitely not where I thought I'd be in life at the moment, and things are going to be different than I had planned, but I think I'm coming to grips with that. I feel like I'm coming to after some time in a thick, numbing sleep, coming back to myself and gulping a huge lungful of air. I've had several "off" months and lots, lots, lots of heavy blows in a row. That's had me staggering, trying to come to terms with reality; adapt, adjust, and survive. I have not lost myself, though, and I feel that irrepressible sense of self rising yet again, despite the surroundings and trappings that modify the expression.

While I was on a walk the other day I caught sight of the desert mountains in the distance, and the dark-light pattern of the clouds and sunlight passing over them in turns gripped my heart as it always does. I felt the familiar yearning for a good, solid hike, followed by a mournful thought that hiking is out of the question when I'm scraping along the road with my walker. The second thought I had was, "Fuck that noise!" I refuse to let myself be bleached barren and bled dry by my disease(s). When I go hiking or backpacking I definitely won't be able to travel as far or as fast, but that doesn't mean that I have to give it up entirely. Yes, there's something to be said for working within the parameters of reality, but there's something more to be said for not giving up on yourself and refusing to become a bland mush of a person when faced with limiting circumstances. So no, I won't be a massage therapist like I had dreamed and planned, because that's just not realistic when you consider my connective tissue disease and my fatigue and pain levels. It's not a matter of want, it's a matter of not physically capable, no matter how hard I push myself and aim for the dramatically inspiring documentary story of a life.

But I still massage my husband, my friends, when I can. When I can. I've adapted. I've altered. But I'm not giving up, not unless I want to, and for my own reasons. Because while I refuse to be conquered and give up on my hobbies and my interests because of circumstances imposed on me against my will, I also refuse to be stuck doing stuff that I no longer really want to do or that I didn't want in the first place, simply to prove that my illness "doesn't define me" or whatever. If I were doing stuff just to prove that my diseases don't have me by the balls, in that moment I'd be proving myself wrong. It's a tricky thought, and a tricky balance, and it's taken me some time to get to this place. At first I needed to simply withdraw and lick the wounds inflicted upon diagnosis, to simply ride the tide of one appointment after another, and I'm okay with that. There will be times when I do so again, and that's fine. So long as the reasons are mine, and I'm doing it for me (and not because I've been bullied into it by people or my diseases), I can do whatever I need to do to get by. For me, for now, it means letting myself emerge once more, a slightly different incarnation with all the spunk and sass of my former self combined with a new balance and perspective tempered by pain and trials.

Hey, did I mention that I got glasses? Yep, I sure did, and they make me look hot. I'll get a picture in here sometime when I can, but for now just take my word for it. Here's how great they are: I actually feel more attractive with them on than without! Yeah, I know. That's never been a thing for me before. In fact, I feel very good about my appearance in general lately. Sure, I'm still overweight and trying to slim down, but my hair has been growing out and is now a chin-length bob in my natural color, my skin is clear, I've got really cute glasses, I finally found a type of bra I can wear comfortably, thus my breasts and cleavage look fantastic (even if they *are* sports bras), and I've got some really cute earrings. I want to get more holes in my ears and I've been playing with the idea of a nose ring, a very thin and delicate hoop (see below), but I just don't think it would look that great.

I've always wanted an eyebrow piercing, however, so maybe I'll go for one of those...

I definitely want what the ponytail lady (that's Fergie, right?) has in the way of earrings-- a whole ear-full, all the way down. (I just hope my babies don't decide to reach for the shiny things, you know? Yikes!)

Of course, I want a tattoo in the worst way but since I struggle with hyperalgesia and always will, I figure that it's probably out of the question. Unless I were to use medical grade anesthesia or something for the procedure. Hmm… (Kidding.) My first tattoo, though, would be this:

To wrap things up, and on a completely unrelated side note, I love my kitties. We took Fancy, the new cat, to the vet today to check out her ears--either mites or an infection, either way real bad when we got her but improving while with us--and she behaved so well both on the car ride and during the appointment itself, even while they made use of the rectal thermometer. I know that I wouldn't be as quiet and docile as she was if a rectal thermometer was involved in my exam! Turns out that there are no mites, at least not right now. It could have started out as mites and then progressed as they left their waste behind, but she has a fungal infection that a course of ear drop medication should clear right up, and I expect that we'll see a bit of a change in her disposition once that's better. She's already sweet now, but there's a difference between being nice and sweet while you're in discomfort or pain and being sweet and nice because you're no longer in discomfort or pain. You know what I mean? Well, right now she's kind of a bitch to Bob and Juneaux (pronounced "juno", by the way), hissing and swiping when they come near or if they (try to) pass by, growling at them if she so much as sees them, but it's just driven Bob and Juneaux closer which is what I was hoping for. They're becoming bros, which didn't happen before because Bob actually had his bro, Cortes! So we'll see what happens as the kitty soap opera continues. Tune in next time for more drama on As the World Tunas/General Pawspital/All My Kitties/As the Fur/Litterbox Turns.

By the by… Which is your favorite kitty soap opera name? Got an original one? Let me know in the comments!