Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 in review

Today is January 1st, and longtime readers know that it's time for my annual year in review recap. When I was thinking back about this year earlier, it seemed to me that I wouldn't have much to write about, because this year has seemed much less eventful than the previous three years of my life. But looking back in my 2008 blog entries, what I realize is that instead of big dramatic events - like surgery or house fires - there have been a lot of small milestones that have quietly become the fabric of my life.

But before I get into the annual tradition, it's time for a little holiday catch-up, since I've been absent from this space for an unprecedented two weeks, my longest unannounced absence ever. Obviously I've been enjoying an extended holiday break with my job layoff, and we've been getting some snowy weather here in the northeast lately, so I've been spending a lot of time reading, watching TV (i.e. Firefly) and movies.

Christmas Eve my family did its traditional vegetarian feast, which Bug handled solo this time, and I got lots of cool presents, mostly graphic books that continue what I'm currently reading: Fables Vol. 11: War and Pieces, Jack of Fables Vol. 4: Americana, Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2, The Brave & the Bold Book 2, Batman: The Black Glove, X-Men Legacy: Divided He Stands; plus an assortment of books and music tangentially related to my Twilight fetish, like Linkin Park's Road to Revolution, Paramore's The Final Riot, and of course, Twilight: The Complete Illustrated Movie Companion. I also got a couple Neil Gaiman books - The Graveyard Book and Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett) - the novel of the Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In, and a new deluxe hardcover of Camelot 3000, one of my all-time favorite graphic novels. I got about a half-dozen other assorted books and DVDs - my family does enjoy spoiling each other for birthdays and holidays, as I was by no means the top recipient in number of gifts this year.

On Christmas Day, a day that traditionally I have either spent alone or with Tara, Bee was kind enough to bring me along to her birth family party, which is only the second time I've met any of my family's birth family (we ran into Bug's father by chance at a restaurant earlier this year). We shared a wonderful traditional holiday feast (which included, for once, meat) and passed presents around. I met her parents, grandparents, brother and sister-in-law, and their little dogs too. I loved seeing photos of Bee when she was young, and even glimpsed a picture or two of Tara in the house.

I will digress here to return to the purpose of this post, the year-end recap, before I return to my New Year's Eve activities. If the major theme of last year was about recovering from surgery, the main theme this year has to be the growth and development of my poly family, and the impact of my intention to live polyamorously, which I decided in mid-January. In February I started attending monthly meetings of Polyamorous NYC and helped found a new poly support group for women only on I also started the regular routine of cooking dinner for my family on Saturday nights at my place. This year I've learned to fry tofu and dumplings, and make stir-fried bok choy and curry chicken, among other things, so I've been productive in the kitchen.

On March 10, Bee and I had an important talk, which I refer to as "the bookshelf talk" because we were building bookshelves while we were talking. It was the first time since mid-2007 that we talked openly about our poly situation and how we were feeling about it. Even though I'm the avowed poly girl, I rarely talk with her about the subject because I don't think she's as comfortable about it as I am, so it was good to hear her thoughts firsthand. The only problem is that these talks are not a regular occurrence, since we haven't had such a candid talk since then.

Just like last year, June was again a milestone month for me, and not because of jury duty where I started reading Twilight. On June 11, an overnight thunderstorm led to Bee, Tara and me spending the day at the beach, the first time we'd done anything like that since we dissolved as a triad. Two days later, Bee was attacked by one of the dogs she was training and badly mauled on her arm (the first in a string of mishaps for her this summer that included a bout of stomach flu, falling down stairs and tripping over her feet at work, once straight into a pool and another time cutting her forehead). Since she couldn't drive her company car, I took five days off to help them get around, and in that time we all became much closer as a family. I spent the night for the first time with Tara in her bed and Bee on the couch, and a couple days later Tara spent the night at my place for the first time, which has become a regular Friday event, followed by family nights on Saturdays.

However, the goodwill did not last for very long as Tara and I continue to struggle with our poly/mono differences, along with my own day-to-day communication challenges of a poly novice navigating a poly relationship with two people who don't wish to learn poly communication strategies. Up until Mabon (late September) dealing with my theoretical poly-ness was difficult enough, but things became even more complicated when I met Polina (Penny) at the PolyPride event in Central Park on October 4. After less than three months, we have become affectionate friends, although many obstacles impede the development of a serious relationship. Still, we enjoy spending time together whenever we have the opportunity (about once every seven to 10 days) and we try to connect in some form or fashion - email or phone - at least once a day.

Case in point was Penny's New Year's Eve party last night at her family's house on Staten Island. About 25 of her family and friends showed up to count down and celebrate the new year, a big tradition for Russian families (her Jewish family is from Ukraine). As midnight approached, Penny's father organized a group ritual to write down the things we wanted to leave behind in 2008, which he then burned in a Pagan-inspired ceremony with a candle. We had all kinds of deli food, like half-sour pickles, liver salad, gelfite fish, seaweed salad, smoked salmon, etc. Penny showed us her Argentine tango dancing, and I even took a turn on the floor dancing with her dad. We played a competitive word guessing game, where Penny's grandmother showed her psychic abilities to jaw-dropping effect. We talked and talked until people started dropping off one by one to find a spot in one of the bedrooms to sleep. By 6 a.m. everybody was headed upstairs but actually, I wasn't all that tired, so I decided to drive home to sleep in my own comfy bed.

As I was telling one of Penny's friends Rosie last night (who seems to be a fellow introvert and easy to connect with - maybe because she's friendly to the goddess), the party reminded me very much of the parties of my old life, with multiple generations present and accommodations made for non-English speakers (all the announcements had to be said by Penny's father in Russian, then translated by Penny into English). I could almost imagine that this would have been the kind of party I would be having in Houston on New Year's Eve, if things had gone differently with my birth family, if I'd been accepted and loved for who I am instead of being disowned. Although Penny's family is not the same as my birth family (no one is), it was a pleasant illusion to indulge in for one night.

Speaking of the birth family, I did get an email from my mom over Christmas, the first contact I've had with them in about two years. She was kind of passive-aggressive, saying that she hasn't written because she thinks I don't want to hear from them. I wrote her a measured response back, correcting what has been the case for years now - that if they can't respect who I am, then it's better for everyone if we keep our distance from each other. I fully don't expect to hear from her for at least another year, but I'm trying to keep an open heart about it, should there be any kind of breakthrough.

So as you can see, 2008 has been a quietly eventful year, and mostly positive for me. I've deepened my friendships with Lori and Agnieszka, had a nice vacation at the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, fell in love with Wicked on Broadway and Twilight at the movies, and became a member of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. My family is still close, and we are still very committed to each other, even though we have our ups and downs. I am exploring my budding relationship with Penny, who presents a particularly stringent test of my theory of unconditional love that I ascribe to. I am still very much in love with Tara, and even though we sometimes have a hard time understanding each other, we can still make each other laugh and we still create magick together that sustains us through the difficult times.

Happy New Year everybody, and bright blessings for 2009!