My counsellor is the first to tell me that I have a tendency to want to help people and put their problems above my own – and she usually says so when I’ve spent a long time talking about my concerns about a friend, or someone I work with. So this extended period of lockdown and general stress has been an exercise in closely managing my own mental reserves so that I stay boundaried in the sense of maintaining my own safety while still being present for people.
Its not easy. It can be quite seductive a call to throw grand dramatic gestures. Everyone wants to be a hero after all, but keeping the slow and steady drip of checking in on people – listening when they do or do not respond, or sending the odd off-colour joke without expecting a reply – seems to be a middle ground that is allowing me to not over extend myself or to feel that I’m abandoning people.
Its hard when there’s that little voice wanting to leap down the phone and hug someone who is clearly in distress, but that little voice doesn’t take into account other people’s wants, needs, or support networks – that’s where it becomes unhealthy in trying to impose itself.
That’s the point where it becomes about me, not about them.
I am glad to bale to report that I amvery lucky with the support networks that I do have, and with the friends that can and do ping in and out of sight on various platforms. I’m doing my best to be a reliable generally positive part of their networks, rather than a burden on their time or the cause of a heavy sigh.
So, silly memes and reimaginings of scenes with disney characters, songs and daft videos – all of these and more will continue to flow as distractions. I might even get some work done in between them all too.
I’ve been going to the same counsellor now for the best part of twenty years. Initially it was do deal with issues around trauma, depression, anxiety, and prolific self harm, but these days is as much a clear space to keep grounded and to work through and process life in general. Lady M has recently started seeing one too.
I mention this because we had a huge power cut a couple of evenings ago in our neighborhood. With our usual aplomb we both said ‘candles’, turned on the torches on our phones, and soon had enough light from various sources to relax on the sofa and have a quiet natter about life, the universe, and everything else our attention latched onto.
Lady M started recounting how she was talking about our polycule in session, and how supportive her counsellor had been. From various online discussions I’ve become aware of just how lucky we are to have found people who have not been judgemental, let alone supportive of how and who we love. Some of it seems in support of something that makes us happy, and some of it is recognition of the emotional labour and honesty required to make these – and indeed any – relationships flourish.
While all of us are out – and in general have had positive regard from co-workers and most of our families, it has still been hugely important to have these structured places to be able to talk in depth about each other and what’s going on in our collective and individual lives. Humour plays a huge part in how we talk about and to each other – and while it’s not my place to recount what Lady M says she talked about and the responses she got, I do want to share something from one of my recent sessions.
I’d been talking about myr s and their embracing of their non-binary journey and was asked how the changes made me feel. I said that the great advantage to my partners of my being bisexual was that I can put my hands in their pants and be very happy with whatever I found there. It took my counsellor a good couple of minutes to stop chuckling.
I’ve been asked to stop breaking Lady M. The comment came from our metamour, the inimitable Lady J, in response to pictures and video I posted earlier this evening of Lady M after we watched the finale of The Good Place.
Side note: If you haven’t watched The Good Place, I highly recommend it to you as an intelligent and witty story that hides behind a facade of goofiness.
There were tears, and blocked nostrils from a light cold, and snot, and laughter in frustration, and giggles from teasing. All at once. Which of course I had to share with lady s, and then with permission on social media – and now here, because I think you’ll all join me in laughing with her, and commiserating if you’ve seen it too.
I stayed over at lady s’ on Sunday, and we rounded out our evening with trying out the worst jokes and puns we could think of. The puns in particular got more and more laboured and tortured, fuelled by YouTube videos playing in the background. Inspired by a brief piece that mentioned the extinction of Moa birds, I piped up with “Moa, Moa, Moa your boat, gently down the stream…” and got covered in the mouthful of drink she’d been swigging at the time. It’s the little sillinesses in our shared weird little humours that I love – even as we have to endure some bloody awful jokes along the way.
By way of contrast, there’s a building I work in that has had ongoing problems with leaks; but today a new wrinkle presented itself and I’m very glad I’m not working there at the moment. A colleague had noticed an odd smell, and discolouration near a wall, and on investigation found that the underfloor heating was flooded. After joking among ourselves that we now had not only a built in spa at the library, but hit and cold running damp, the hysteria was firmly muffled and the engineers called in.
We’ve established it’s nothing as simple as the local river rising – and therefore ruled out that it was a hitherto unknown vampire defence – and now await the reports and recommendations on how best the building can be rescued.
I finally have some glimpse of the truth and irritation that lives in the hearts of fifty percent of the population. It’s my day off, and I needed to get some more coffee.
I was already slobbing around in a teeshirt and tracksuit bottoms, so I pulled on some trainers and slung my new hoodie on, gathered phone, wallet, and keys and stride in out. I was halfway down the stairs from the flat when my brain started to twig there might be a problem.
Where was I going to put my keys? Where, for that matter, my wallet or phone? I was halfway across the estate before my brain caught up to the conclusion that I had no pockets. Ah, I thought, so this is what it’s like.
I could have turned round then, but my coffee was calling, so I carried on, thinking that I really wished I had something to carry them in rather than all consumed in one of my fists. The only way to be more convenient and have my hands full would be… Yes, a bag over my shoulder.
It was at this point that my irrational hatred of “manbags” or satchels rose to the surface. Why need one? I thought, if you already have pockets?
As I walked across the car park, I spotted various women grimly holding possessions or wandering carefree with their handbags. I then got a bit confused at seeing a woman with pockets still carrying things in her hand until I realised she was playing Pokémon Go as she walked up to her car.
Once in the supermarket I if course had a basket, and then the luxury of a plastic bag in which to put my possessions along with my shopping.
How have women not risen up in fury yet at a lack of pockets?
I really must remember to buy some more small cat bells. I’ve been getting complaints. Oh, not about my silent padding about and giving Lady M and coworkers nasty surprises when I start talking behind them, but about lady s.
The small bell that she has worn on her collar for quite some time snapped off recently. Her fiancée is most put out about this – she had got her ear in to listen out for the little jingle as lady s wandered around the house and now she has no warning.
I did offer one of the larger bells I have in the flat just as we headed out to the anniversary party, but this was deemed unhelpful.
I shall have to peruse online for replacements – I say plural as I’m bound to need spares…
There’s a stack of shelves in our spare room that is groaning under the weight of many, many games. Card games, board games, and dice games lie alongside rulebooks for various roleplay games and are frequently pawed over before visiting people, or when we have people over.
Here then is one of the secret reasons why polycules gather: it’s the only way you can guarantee having enough people for a decent game of anything without going down the pub and dragging random people to the table. Most games need at least three or four people to play with any degree of complexity.
It’s one of the highlights of gathering loves, metamours, and kids around; now if only we could pick just one to play…
Lady M has had knee pains for quite some time. In one knee it’s been since childhood as a result of intensive dance and gymnastic training (and kneeling on an upturned plug, but let’s not go into that right now). The other knee however has been deteriorating too, especially when on stairs or bending down to pick things up – somewhat tricky in a second floor flat.
I eventually nagged her into consulting our GP and with some health insurance queue-jumping (because let’s face it that’s all that a BUPA membership really is) we got the diagnosis that it was early stages arthritis.
So early in fact that it could be offset or even sidestepped with physiotherapy and exercises.
As a result, Lady M has an exercise regime that she keeps forgetting to do at home. She does it, or at least elements of it, at work instead with stretches and various bits of leg contortion under her desk. I have come to call this the Ministry of Silly Sits, largely from her recounting the occasional expressions of concern from co-workers when they catch sight of her doing it.
Any of her co-workers reading this who is willing to do a complete Monty Python-style Ministry of Silly Walks routine past her desk will probably get to hear her taking my name in vain.
Lady M was recounting a moment from her work day where all professionalism and reserve went out the day as banter and silliness in some downtime had people quietly chuckling. Although there are apparently new people in the wider team around her, they all seem to have started to get their ear in for when she adopts a new portmanteau word or malaphor inspired by her fibro-fog.
As such, hilarity abounds when they notice – and Lady M was happily telling me all about the various reactions and how they were “kinked with laughter”. Now she meant “creased up with laughter”, so the jump still maintains the same visual imagery, but I of course had to tease her.
“Kinked with laughter?” I said – “have they all discovered a tickling fetish?” And I advanced on her, miming a tickling motion that had her backing away and giggling uncontrollably. I couldn’t not pursue that tease, and our flat echoed with screams and laughter for some time…