Let`s be real: I doubt there is a single queer soul in Brighton or any other urban community that doesn’t know the crushing feeling of knowing that someone you love and would like to share your time/porridge/bed/body with is sleeping with someone else. Because we are all such wonderfully liberated little creatures, shit like that happens all the time. I am not suggesting that I have it all figured out with what I am about to write, but I really wish we would talk about this more. So I am just sharing my thoughts and I want to hear yours. I know that we have all seen the dark side of the moon and we usually talk about bloody everything, so lets take a look at the pink elephant in the room, shall we?
Knowing what you want, why you want it and what you are willing to do to get it
Seeing someone you really like kissing someone else, finding out that your partner has lied to you or being rejected by someone you really care about can feel devastating if you get caught off guard. Your chest feels compressed, you can`t string a sentence together and it feels like free fall. It´s a human experience that touches our core and our sense of stability and safety. Feeling unloved is the worst, darkest place I have ever been to. But it rarely really is about what it is about on the surface – its not about kisses and lies and dancing with someone you think you shouldn’t be dancing with.
This is why I think a mindfulness practice, be that meditation or yoga, is so SO so important for queer communities (and everyone else). If we can get to the bottom of why we can`t trust that we will always be loved, then that will set us free and give us so much more clarity around the drama we create. If we can realize that all our relationships are as individual as we are, then why would we compare them? If we feel our shoulders getting tight and our jaw clenching (mind-body connection = one of my favorite things to geek about!) and if we can recognize that, take a time-out and breathe, then we will take the edge of a lot of drama that really doesn’t have to happen.
Being honest (I know you love my over-sharing), most of the relationship-related suffering in my life has been related to me either not knowing what I wanted, not being able to communicate it or not being able to forgive. I spend a lot of time in child’s pose on my yoga mat till I noticed that maybe two people I really like having a good time together is something to be happy about. Because…you know, maybe there is enough love to go round for all of us and maybe what there is between two people can never really be replaced by another constellation, because we are all unique snowflakes. You can get that on a mind level, but a truth like this doesn’t necessarily settle easily into your heart – I am being reminded of this very often. Figuring out which commitments are needed and worth it and how to make everyone involved comfortable is a fine art worth mastering. Compromising friendships, trust and loyalty for a bit of ego-stroking will only leave us bitter.
This doesn’t mean I don`t believe in having rules that have been well negotiated, instead I am saying that it helped me a lot to unlearn what Disney told me about love – that there is your one true soulmate and that as a woman your major goal in life is to attract that person and keep them glued to your side no matter what. If we love someone, the best we can do for them is showing them how we feel and giving them space for their own development and adventures. And if we can still build a life together, even if its just for a summer, that`s when we really win.
Why yoga can cure heartbreak
Denying ourselves the feelings we have, even if they are dark, is not the goal. It´s about being mindful of them. Because what we persist resists, right? As queers we often have a lot of other challenges in our life – minimum wage jobs, complicated families, uni etc. It`s human to get overwhelmed to the point that you are unable to pinpoint exactly what makes you unhappy, but that would be the key to letting it go. Sitting in meditation is a great way to ask yourself if you really are motivated by love or if you are trying to make a point in a game that really shouldn’t be about competition. Ask yourself if you are putting a veto on your partner because you can`t find it in your heart to let them have a good time or because you just need them with you now (which is a totally valid need). Are you pretending to be in love when you are actually just in for the heady rush of new skin? The better we know ourselves, the better we know the boundaries we need. Maybe being exclusive is right for you or maybe your current relationship is not serving you, but you wont find out unless you take time to clear your head. Even though we can expand our heart with every new person we connect with, there is only so much time and energy that we can divide between people and sometimes distance can bring another complex dimension into our relationships. Mindfulness practices help us to learn to be really present when we are with someone and to really see and listen to them which is such an amazing gift to give, even if it has an expiry date.
Maybe it would help to remember that our romances can be as fluid as the rest of our lives. It doesn’t mean that we value the people involved any less, it just means that we stay open to what really is in the present. We will grow up, things will change and our needs will be very different, especially if we decide to start queer families. We might even love to make commitments that feel unthinkable right now. But then when we allow major things like gender, sexuality and relationships to be so truly fluid, things can easily feel very complex and overwhelming. I think that meditation and yoga can provide the grounding that is necessary to stay focused on what really matters here. We always have a choice between a loving and a fearful reaction. Sometimes it`s easy to love someone and sometimes it`s not, but it`s always worth it.
Polyamory as a default mode
I think growing up with a sense of otherness is a gift in many ways – having to figure out that your place in society is a rather complicated one can take you a big stop closer to leading a happy, authentic life. Which is not to say that oppression is to be celebrated, I am just talking about one aspect in the experience of growing up queer. So, when you know that you´re a special unicorn, it is easier to realize that everything is possible (like it is for all really all of us, wether your straight or not) and that since you will never really be mainstream anyway, you might as well question everything else – marriage, career, education, consumerism and relationships for example. Hurray! So many of us decide that monogamy is not for them which can be a real liberation. Double hurray! However, I think one of the problems connected to sexual jealousy in our community is our assumption that polyamory is somehow more radical than other forms of relationships. You know what`s really radical in this fucked up world? Daring to care – for yourself and others, knowing what you want and being able to communicate it. Polyamory is one way of getting there, but it is not the only way.
Forgiveness and being in a relationship with everyone
I think on every level of our existence, our suffering ultimately comes down to our false sense of separation, the concept that there is an us an a them, good and bad, straight and queer etc. Whatever we do to each other or to the planet that causes pain kind of boils down to the perception that we are not all connected and that we therefore only hold limited accountability for our actions. Michael Stone suggested this beautiful metaphor: If my body is made of 70% water, then the way I care for the rivers and lakes in my community is how I care about my body and myself. True, or what? There just is no way out of dealing with our communities and taking responsibility for our experiences. The same issues will just come up again and again until we get the lesson. And at the end of the day, what will have really mattered is how we treated each other.
I think language matters a lot so I wonder why we always talk about relationships the way we do. We ALL have relationships with each other, they are just different and there are infinite possibilities in how we create them. Lover, partner, girlfriend or boyfriend – these are just labels and they actually say very little about what is actually going on between two people. We are not islands, we are all in relationships with each other.
From my little point of view, forgiveness is often the easiest way to more happiness. Your friends might have hurt you and maybe they deserve to know how they made you feel, but ultimately holding on to anger is like holding on to a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone – you only hurt yourself. I know this is easy to say, but wouldn’t you agree that your past struggles made you a better person in the end? I love this talk by Ram Das. He says that “If everyone gets caught in your game, you loose.” Maybe its a good thing to be grateful for the people who didn’t buy into your charm straight away or those who have taken something away from you which made you realize how much you loved what you had in the first place. It´s not a gentle pat on the head that makes us grow, it`s tough love that does. I very much doubt that anyone ever got up in the morning thinking “Oh, today I am totally gonna screw xy. I am going to make them cry! Hell, yeah!”. People act from what they know and what they can and they hurt each other because they are in pain themselves. That doesn’t mean you can`t hold them responsible and communicate your anger, it just means you get a chance to expand your compassion while your at it. A nice side effect if we are in that place of freedom and trust that everything will be ok is that we are a hell of a lot more attractive to other people – win win.
Knowing what is best for someone else is impossible
Welcoming new people on the scene thinking that they will just need time to figure out how cool it is to just screw anyone you´re vaguely interested in is not only arrogant, it also creates a lot of unnecessary drama. We need to keep all our movements open to people who are interested in getting involved without raising our fingers and telling them how to do it, be it feminism or anarchism or polyamory or whatever. Everyone has their own story worth listening to and we should be able to talk about these issues without vocabulary that excludes new people. We talk about privilege so much but then we often forget that spending three years of your life geeking about queer theory at a relatively liberal university is a massive privilege too.
Also – I know I am suggesting something really crazy now – but maybe sometimes choosing to take a little time out from dating is a really healthy thing to do that we shouldn’t belittle. If we can learn to be happy on our own, running ourselves a hot bath, making blueberry pancakes for one and spending sundays in bed taking up all the space like a starfish with good books, then surely that will make us happier but it will also make us better future partners.
Let`s stop being so cool. Tenderness is sexy too.