Monday, September 29, 2008

Theory of commitment

It was a long, restful and pretty uneventful four-day weekend for me, and thankfully my first day back to work has been slow, leaving me time to blog. Things could pick up quickly this afternoon though.

Thursday was, of course, Bug's birthday, which started out with presents. Along with the plethora of TV show DVDs (The Addams Family, Spaced, Two Fat Ladies, Birds of Prey), books and an Eagles Greatest Hits CD, she also got a cute little Fender guitar amp and a wooden sword made of red oak for her tai chi practice. I miss having a sword in the house - I haven't replaced the one I lost in the fire of 2005. I've never been that much into the martial arts, but I do appreciate the symbolic meaning of blades in Asian culture, as well as pagan practice. Watching Heroes probably puts it even more sharply into focus.

After presents we went to Palisades Center Mall, the tenth-largest shopping mall in the U.S. Bug led us on a tour of all her favorite stores - the Japanese book store, the Asian tea house supply, the Lego store and the Disney store, plus Barnes & Noble, of course. I took a break when everybody gravitated toward the chocolate and candied apple store since I was still on my diet and didn't need the extra temptation. We had a nice lunch at The Cheesecake Factory - it was the first visit for everyone but me, and yet no one had any cheesecake. After all, we had birthday cake waiting at home.

After lunch we played around in the Dave & Buster's game room for a couple hours, playing skeeball, video games and trivia contests. Then it was home for cake (I had a tiny sliver) and watching one of the movies Bug received, Mysterious Island. The movie was fun in a corny, pulpy way, which everyone seemed to be in the mood for. Since it was late, and we were so tired from the day, Tara and I decided to take a raincheck on our planned sleepover, since we were going to get up early the next morning.

Friday I picked up Tara at 10:30 in the morning, and we took the train into the city, whereupon we split up - she took a cab to the Met for an extended solitary visit, and I took the subway to Chinatown for a hair coloring appointment. After about two-and-a-half hours in the salon, my hair is now once again very close to my natural dark brown color, but with just a hint of highlighting in shades of deep russet and ochre in direct light. I made my way uptown to the Met to meet Tara and we had a bite to eat at the museum cafe and a quick look at some of her discoveries before getting back on a rush hour train home. Then in the evening everyone came over to start watching Season Two of Heroes.

Saturday I ran my usual errands, buying lots of carb-friendly food for my diet, and then we had our usual dinner in the evening, followed by a showing of Howl's Moving Castle, which is becoming my favorite Miyazaki movie, displacing Spirited Away, then Saturday Night Live (which unfortunately seems to be losing its spark again after a promising start this year). Sunday was very restful and lethargic, as I didn't leave the apartment at all, even so much as to take out the trash. Even though I was in my pajamas all day long, it didn't bother me the way it used to in the past. I'm learning to enjoy and appreciate my alone time instead of getting melancholy, which is much healthier for me. I cooked food for this week's lunches, watched a lot of TV on my DVR, and one of my Chinese movies I'd checked out of the library, 2046.

On this movie, and a related one that is one of my favorites, Un Coeur En Hiver (A Heart in Winter), it occurs to me watching the protagonists (both male) that there is a fine line separating someone living a polyamorous lifestyle, and someone who has simply closed off from any possibility of a committed relationship. It occurs to me that pursuant to my post about unconditional love that some people might read it and conclude that I don't believe in commitment, since I didn't specifically address it. The answer to that is quite simple really - I believe in a relationship model where you can be equally committed to more than one person at a time. Why is it so hard to understand this, yet people easily grasp the fact you can love more than one child at the same time, or more than one sibling. So what's the difference?

One word - sex.

The root of a monogamous culture is based on taboos and ideals about sex, and by extension, procreation of the human race, which is certainly an important thing. However, they have little meaning for someone who can't have children or chooses not to have children, or someone who can simply view sex as just an extension of all the pleasurable acts we engage in when we love someone. Once we choose not to put such an unjustifiable significance on the sexual aspect of a relationship, it becomes easier to see that multiple romantic relationships (whether they involve sexual relations or not) have just as much validity as multiple familial relationships.

People also talk about how there are only so many hours in a day to devote to yourself and your significant others, and how does one manage to juggle multiple partners when one seems to be more than a handful? Again, I invoke the offspring example. People might talk about how they can't afford another child, but you will rarely hear someone say they don't have enough time or love to bring another child into their family. Of course having everyone under the same roof produces efficiencies that are not always possible with multiple romantic partners, but the concept is largely the same. Every child is considered a blessing - so should it be with new love, if approached with the same level of sensitivity and care as one would employ when bringing home a new baby. And like with those who love children, loving someone should not be considered a burden, but rather something that brings joy and positive energy to your life.

So how to juggle the demands of multiple partners? I really can't answer that authoritatively since I've never actually done it myself. Maybe I never will. But going into any new relationship with a poly mindset will at least give me a good starting framework.

Not that it has anything to do with all this, but Tara and I both had dreams Saturday night where we were either married or getting married. We haven't talked about such heavy, future-related issues for a while, so I'm not sure what those dreams are trying to tell us. They weren't "happily ever after" kind of dreams either - mine was pretty drama-laden involving my estranged birth family, and hers was just surreal. I guess anything's possible in the unknowable future, but I'm not going to spoil the present thinking too much about it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Bug!

Today we are celebrating Bug's birthday (not going to say how old she is) and the day is getting ready to start. We'll start with presents and then we're going to the big Palisades Mall in Nyack to do some shopping, hang out at Dave & Busters and eat at the Cheesecake Factory. I'm sure there will be some fish on the menu that I can eat.

Bug is such an interesting person that I can't really do her justice in such a small blog entry. She's an artist, an author, a graphic designer, a chef, and so many other things. She and I actually share a lot in common, and we have similar temperaments and interests. I remember the time I was talking about a beautiful and rare book about unicorns that I'd lost in the fire of 2005, and she went to her room and produced the same book from her bookshelves. We often joke that we were twins separated at birth, since my biological birthday is actually the same as hers, today, although I celebrate mine in July.

Bug has been part of Tara and Bee's family for more than a decade, and in the three years I've known her, she has always been a pleasure to be around. She is the most loyal, trustworthy and drama-free person I know, which is surely something to admire.

Happy Birthday, dear Jennifer - love to da Bug!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

On a much lighter note than my last post, I had a lovely time on Sunday hiking at the Delaware Water Gap, which is about an hour's drive west from where we live, on the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. My legs and ankles are just hitting the peak of soreness from the climb, which was child's play compared to some of the ones out there that go up to the top of the mountain.

We followed a stream into the forest for a while, then started the climb up, higher and higher, until we could no longer hear the babble of the water. This part of the trail is part of the much longer Appalachian Trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. At the higher altitudes we saw lush gardens of forest ferns dappled with sunlight, and unfortunately for me, a lot of pesky bugs. Winding on the loop back, we passed through the other side of the stream and made a couple of water crossings, luxuriating in the shady coolness as the afternoon wound down.

We also finished Season One of Heroes on Sunday night, but I'm not allowed to talk about it :) Season Two starts this weekend, and Season Three is recording on my DVR for later.

The diet is going well. I've lost about 5 pounds the first week, so I'm right on target to lose my 8-15 pounds at the end of the second week. At that point I'll have the option of going to Phase Two, where I can start adding some of the good carbs (fruit, whole grains) back into my diet. I can definitely tell the difference in the mirror with my waistline, it's very encouraging.

Theory of unconditional love

Several events in my life recently have intersected to make me think about writing this post. Basically, it’s kind of my non-conventional theory of love, like one of the stories in Plato’s “Symposium.” Some of these events are well-known, like my blog post about the Broadway musical “Rent” closing, some are not, like my comments on other blogs and letters written to friends. But they have all been related to the topic, so like pieces in a puzzle, I’m trying to fit them together to create a unified theory, like the elusive Theory of Everything but just related to love.

So as everybody knows by now, I’m following a polyamorous lifestyle and involved in a poly relationship at the present time with my girlfriend Tara, who also has a committed relationship to Bee. Before I go further, let me share the newly included definition of polyamory that was just entered into Webster’s Dictionary:

Polyamory: the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time.

The key word of course is “open.” Poly people don’t sneak around. We are open about our wants and needs, and the people who are fulfilling them. We live authentic lives; we don’t pretend things are or are not going on. If we find someone attractive, we are free to express it. We can be open about the desire for sexual variety without feeling guilty. If our needs are not being met, we ourselves take responsibility for meeting them without expecting it from others.

Okay, enough poly propaganda.

As I’ve written before in my “Rent” post, I live my life by three core tenets - be true to yourself, live for today, and love unconditionally. Now, what do I mean by “love unconditionally”? It means I don’t place expectations from those I love, and if they don’t love me or are unable to give me as much as I want from them, it doesn’t invalidate the love I feel for them. It just means I have to take responsibility for looking elsewhere for the love and affection I need for myself instead of expecting it from them. Without expectations, there can’t be any disappointment, as happens with a typical unrequited love scenario.

Love is not always an even exchange - in fact, it rarely is. Loving unconditionally means being able to love someone without expecting an equal amount of love back, like the way you can love an infant child. Part of loving without limits is to not limit yourself to loving only those who you deem can love you back the way you want them to. Love cannot be forced - it has to appear organically when the right people come together in the right conditions, without our desires as to what we want to happen getting in the way.

This is a point that is sometimes difficult to grasp. We can all say we are “looking for love” but I don’t believe you can "find" love - it has to find you. That is, it has to appear unbeckoned when the time and situation is right, like any other natural phenomenon, like a lunar eclipse or the aurora borealis. The best we can do is be open to loving someone if the right person and situation comes along, because if we are not open to it, we will miss it if love appears. That’s one of the big problems I have with monogamy - by definition, it closes us off from being open to love. I can’t subscribe to a belief system that curtails the ability to communicate honestly and openly about your true feelings and forces you into a role where you define yourself by your relationship to another.

Obviously monogamy has its supporters, and they are legion. I’m not saying that monogamy is wrong. It certainly has its benefits, and for most people I’d say, it’s the better option. But just because everybody else is doing it doesn’t make it the only game in town. Polyamory is simply another option for people who struggle with monogamy.

The part of loving unconditionally that’s been hard for me until recently, as I’m sure it is hard for most people, is the recognition that we have no control over being in love. Once we recognize that, we can stop beating ourselves up that we’re not experiencing it. It would be like being disappointed that the sunset is not as beautiful as we’d like it to be. Each relationship is different and unique, and tends to develop as a product of the individuals involved; much like a baby becomes whatever kind of person through a combination of their parents' combined DNA and upbringing. Sure, we have an influence in the relationships we create, but we are not solely responsible for how they turn out. Whether a person becomes an acquaintance, a friend, a f**k-buddy, a secondary lover or a primary partner is not going to depend on what we WANT out of them. They will become who they are supposed to become - the only thing we can do is show up and see what direction things go.

I recently quoted Thomas Merton in my blog during one of my down periods with Tara. He said, “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” I think only by allowing others to be truly authentic and not projecting our own expectations on them can we build loving relationships that endure. Of course, one of the hardest things to do is to show your true authentic self, warts and all, to the object of your affection and hope that you don’t scare them away. But the alternative is that you always have to be on guard around them, keeping things hidden. For me, that’s not the way to love someone, but we all decide for ourselves how much we’re willing to bend to be with the people we’re attracted to.

The key to all this is acceptance. We have to believe that things happen for a reason, and accept that the world does not always give us what we want from it. If I find someone attractive, I’ll pursue them, get to know them, and some kind of relationship will form - or not. Whatever the relationship is, it will be something that’s comfortable and works for both of us. It might even change over time, but we will deal with it each and every day. I’ve become much more adept at dealing with my changing relationship with Tara than I used to be, back when I thought about the future a lot more than I should have. We simply try to be good for each other each day, and whatever happens, happens. The important thing is that we can be authentic with each other, and not put expectations on our relationship that neither of us is prepared to fulfill.

One final note - one blogger I follow was recently confronted with a situation where she was in love with someone who was in love with her partner. She felt that it was unwise to pursue the new person because she didn’t want to interfere with her partner’s advances. Personally, as a polyamorist, I don’t believe in the whole “one true love” theory. Obviously we can have loves that are greater and lesser than others, but I don’t believe that we have to stop loving once we’ve found someone we love very, very much. We as humans have an unlimited capacity to love, and all love brings something very special into our lives. Ultimately, love is the only thing that’s worth living for.

Just my opinion of course, for what it’s worth.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Update on busyness

I've had a post brewing in my head about my philosophy of unconditional love, ever since I wrote that post about Rent closing on Broadway. However, I haven't been able to get enough time to put it to paper because of the catastrophic events on Wall Street in the past week that has directly affected my largest client. So I've been having to stay later and even work a little at night and on weekends to keep up.

Plus, it's also been a busy week outside the office as well. Tara and I had a quiet date night on Monday watching Big Fish on my Big Screen. Tuesday night I had dinner with Lori at a diner in New York (which was rudely interrupted by a New York cockroach crawling on her side of the booth). Then we went to Barnes & Noble and I bought a couple of adult vampire books (Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton - I just finished the two-part graphic novel and loved it - and Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, which inspired the current HBO show Tru Blood). Then last night was my PolyNYC meeting where we had an excellent speaker who is a poly psychologist and talked about poly compatibility.

Hopefully I will have some time soon to get back to blogging more regularly, but for right now, I'll probably have to curtail this a bit. Also, big hugs and sympathy to my Houston friends and readers who are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. I hope everything gets back to normal soon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

South Beach Diet - Day 1

Today I started my long-awaited South Beach Diet with which I hope to lose about 50 pounds over the next several months. The last time I tried this diet, I lost 60 pounds in only six months, so I know it works for me, and I know 50 pounds is an achievable target.

When I did it before, it was during the most emotionally tumultuous period of my life in 2004-2005. My life today is much more stable by comparison, so I'm hoping it will actually be easier for me to stick with it. Part of the reason I think I gained back a lot of the weight I had lost before was that I was decompressing from riding out that time period in my life when things were so turbulent and uncertain. Basically, I celebrated a little too long that I'd made it through. I also had a year-long recovery from major surgery that made my diet a secondary concern.

Now that I've pretty much arrived at a place in my life where I'm reasonably stable, happy and not anticipating any other major emotional or physical turmoil, I'm looking at this diet to help me achieve my target weight and stay there for the rest of my life.

Speaking of beaches, Tara, Bee and I sent to the beach yesterday in an improptu search for adventure. The water was pretty cold, but we eventually succumbed to the waves and were floating past the break zone on our boogie boards. I had one good ride onto the beach, which had been swept clear of all the shells we encountered on our last visit earlier this summer from the recent storm activity from Hurricane Gustav. After our swim, Bee and I flew her dragon kite while Tara took some pictures. In a last hurrah before starting my diet, I had White Castle for dinner - 10 little sliders with A-1 sauce, onion rings, and an Oreo sundae shake from Burger King. That kind of excess is why I need to get on this diet, to enforce some discipline in my eating habits.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pearl the pop star

Longtime blog readers probably remember my friend Pearl, who was tremendously influential to my life in the early 1990s. Her parents are one of my family's oldest friends, and for a period of time after college, she and I grew very close as friends, although I am 15 years her senior. She has two older sisters, and the middle one became a huge pop singer and actress in Taiwan (and still is) and Pearl followed her to Taiwan a few years ago to chart the same path.

Apparently she's succeeded - she and her older sister are now like the Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears of Taiwan. As you can see from the cover above, Pearl just released her debut album last year (under her stage name Ivy), and there are videos of her on YouTube singing with some boy band, reminiscent of Mariah Carey singing with Boys 2 Men in "One Fine Day."

I have to say, it's weird seeing my little friend all grown up now. I've known Pearl since she was five years old, and the last time we saw each other was in 2005 at the Galleria with our mutual friend Amy. I still have a photo of her blowing soap bubbles when she was about 7 or 8 years old on the bookshelf in my apartment, along with a figurine she gave me long ago. I hardly recognize the girl I've known for most of her life in this made-up, artificial pop star that's been created in her place. I just hope that she's found the happiness and fulfillment she's been seeking in the glitz and glamour of the Taiwanese pop scene.

I found Pearl's sister's Friendster page and found some other photos that are more reminiscent of the Pearl I know. She's grown into such a lovely young woman.

Photobucket Image Hosting
Photobucket Image Hosting
Photobucket Image Hosting

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Books and movies

I finished "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" last night - one down, six to go! It was a fun read, although it doesn't quite fill the void left after finishing the Twilight Saga. I admit it, I'm a Twi-hard fan of Stephenie Meyer's fictional world of vampires and werewolves. Maybe future Potter books will change my loyalties, but I doubt I'll ever get to the level of the fans in this recent story in the Wall Street Journal:

"Voldemort Hath No Fury Like Angry Harry Potter Fans" - Wall Street Journal, Sept. 8, 2008

Speaking of Ms. Meyer, I was disappointed to read of her reaction to copies of her unfinished draft of her next Twilight book, Midnight Sun, being circulated on the Internet without her permission. "Vampire Novel Is Put on Hold" - Wall Street Journal, Sept. 3, 2008 While I certainly respect her decision to stop working on the book and will support her whichever way she goes in making the point for artists' rights, I guess I think it's a little naive to expect in today's world that leaks aren't going to happen when you create an electronic version of your work and give it to someone. As one fan said, musicians have tracks leaked all the time, but that doesn't stop them from finishing an album. I hope that she pays heed all the fans who are begging for more Twilight stories and changes her mind about not finishing the book someday. The upside is that she posted the partial draft on her Web site so fans could read it without having to find it on a file sharing site.

Tara and I had a quiet date night last night, which was good. We are making some strides in communicating our differing philosophies and lifestyles, and hopefully paving the way for better acceptance and harmony in the future. We watched Madagascar, which made us laugh a little, and want to go see the Central Park Zoo. I got a chuckle out of the fact that the zoo gang visited the subway station at Lexington and 59th Street, a station I had just been in earlier in the day when I came back to the office from the Federal court building downtown. I also pointed out the exact location in Grand Central Station where Tara and I had stood once before, the last time we visited there. Living in New York makes a lot of movies more interesting, I find.

Today I bought the complete box set of the old TV show Get Smart, starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon, available from Time-Life for a discounted price of $149 until the end of this month. I don't know why, but I'm feeling very nostalgic for some of these shows from my childhood, and I've always had a secret agent vibe anyway (as some of you know, I've seen every single James Bond movie, and own most of them). Besides, the whole 25-disc set comes in a phone booth collector's box - who can resist that?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Rent closes Broadway run

After 12 years and 5,124 performances, Rent is finally closing its doors on Broadway:

'Rent' brings down the curtain on Broadway run - Associated Press

I saw the live performance of Rent twice in my lifetime. The first time, I fell in love with the opening song, "Seasons of Love," but otherwise I didn't really get what all the fuss was about. That was more than 10 years ago. However, with the second and third times Rent found its way into my life, via the movie version that I watched with my family a couple years ago here in New Jersey, and when we saw it last year on stage, it's hard to understate the enormous impact this show and its message has had on my life.

There's only now, there's only here,
Give in to love, or live in fear.
No other path, no other way,
No day but today!

While people can interpret the message of Rent in many different ways, I tend to distill it down to three things - love unconditionally, live in the moment, and be true to who you are. I think about how different my life was five years ago - even though the message of Rent didn't make it to me until last year when a lot of my big life changes were already in progress, they renew my reasons for making these changes every time I hear that iconic music.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Still working...

Things are really complicated with my family life right now. It's too difficult to explain, so I'm not even going to try. I wish we could just find a way for everybody to be happy.

Speaking of the avenues to happiness that I seek in a polyamorous relationship, this blog post from a fellow secondary outlines some of the possibilities and challenges we're going through:

"A Poly Page for Secondaries - Joy and Satisfaction" - Aug. 28, 2008

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Dreams and learning burlesque

From a new friend on MySpace - no hidden messages here, I just think this picture is funny.

when polyamory goes wrong

I've been having some pretty weird dreams lately, and funnily enough they usually come on Friday nights when Tara stays over. The last one I still remember vividly is the four of us taking a road trip in an RV and stopping to visit a casino (like Foxwoods in Connecticut, which is funny in and of itself) but this was no ordinary casino. We split up and I went to the bathroom, and found it to be dozens of unisex open shower stalls, with all kinds of men and women showering separately without embarrassment, reminiscent of Robert Heinlein's book Starship Troopers.

After using the bathroom, I walked through the casino until I came to an empty room, with a door on the far wall. I went through that door and found myself in an infinite outdoor space, a pocket universe of sorts, where there was a lake with an island in the middle, and a footbridge to access the island. It was beautiful and peaceful, with only a few people about, basking in the sunshine and fresh air that was so different from being in a casino. I sat at the lakeshore and gazed for a while at the water before reluctantly leaving to return to the casino to find my family.
When we all met up, I excitedly told them about the lake and island, and wanted to show them before we left. Unfortunately, an announcement came over the PA that the casino was closing and everybody had to leave. Bee suddenly remembered that she had left her sketchbook in the bathroom and we had to go back for it. I said if we were going back to the bathroom, then we should also make a quick trip to the lake since it was only a room away. But then we saw coming down the hall an army of robots, standing shoulder to shoulder like riot police, cleaning everything and pushing people to the exits. It was clear we were not going to get past them, that we would probably be trampled if we attempted it. That's right when I woke up.

We continued our Heroes marathon with viewings on Friday and Saturday nights, and Saturday I took Yoshi in for his bi-annual vehicle inspection, which he passed (I'm so proud!). Sunday afternoon I went into the city with my friend Agnieszka to take a class in basic burlesque dance at the Slipper Room on the Lower East Side. We learned some of the basic moves - the glove peel, the bump and grind, and the tassle twirl. The last bit required us to put on homemade pasties on our breasts under our bras, which we then proceeded to peel off and reveal the tassels and make them twirl in different ways. Thankfully I had just gotten a very cute polka-dotted bra from Frederick's of Hollywood in the mail the day before - I got lots of compliments on it. Aside from being a lot of fun, it was very affirming for me to be with other women in a supportive environment as we all got over our natural shyness together. It was kind of like locker-room bonding is for guys, I think.

On Labor Day Tara and I went out to run some errands, first to the bookstore where I got the second volume of Laurell Hamilton's graphic novel Anita Blake series ('cause I just need more vampires in my life right now until Twilight hits the theaters Nov. 21) and Tara got a Brian Froud book of pressed fairies that she's been eyeing for some time now. I went to Sephora to get some makeup, then we went to buy her some clothes from Target and the Gap. I also got my Clinique Bonus from Bloomingdale's at another mall. Then we went to get groceries for our weekly visits, including a second griddle so she can make two stacks of pancakes at the same time so we can eat breakfast together on Saturday mornings. In the evening, Tara helped Bee organize her bookshelves while I reorganized my closet, since the shelves were repaired last weekend. All in all, it was a very productive day, and a relaxing weekend.