Rambling Brain

I’ve done a couple of hours driving here and there the last few days, just helping ferry a couple of people around or doing shopping trips, and with it has come another round of my brain deciding that focusing on the road and tapping my fingers along to various songs wasn’t enough and that to keep itself from getting bored it would take me on a trip down memory lane – mostly as I zipped up and down the A3.

Of course, being my brain, it felt that the best use of this time wouldn’t be to reminisce on family holidays, or small achievements. It wouldn’t even touch on memorable journeys. No, my brain decided to let the weasels pick out a broad selection of cringe-worthy and relationship-sabotaging events from my mid teens to early twenties. Why? Possibly because I’ve been having a good time recently despite being tired and depression likes to keep things not just grounded but positively subterranean.

So passing certain junctions recalled conversations containing oversharing, while others sparked sort-of-pleasant memories that then bounced on to bemused introspection. One memory for example was of being at the Surrey County Fair with my girlfriend at the time and her family. We had VIP passes so had entry to a large food tent for lunch, which included arrays of whole cooked salmon and assorted side dishes and finger foods. Seeing the general melee of people and wondering where the queue started, I was told “Oh don’t worry about manners, get in there and tuck in. Only the middle class worry about manners – the rich and the poor don’t bother or don’t have time.” This would have been the late eighties, so make of that what you will. Funny how I’ve forgotten that for so long and a simple sign for Guildford brought it back.

That then of course led to more unspooling memories, both good and bad from around that time, and how badly I handled the aftermath of that relationship ending. I remind myself that I was little more than a boy, with some trauma in the background, and had a lot of growing up and healing to do. This isn’t the easiest to do all at once, so it took me a few years and along the way garnered enough moments to make me cringe for the best part of an hour while the show progressed in my mind’s eye.

As Lady M reminds me – I was young, I did stupid shit, the world hasn’t ended, and nobody was harmed along the way beyond some embarrassment or hurt feelings. My counsellor has pointed out on similar past occasions that the brain hides a lot of our memories until such time as we feel safe enough to begin to process them properly. Sometimes all kinds of things get caught up in the confusion along with the actual trauma events and suppressed at the same time so its not that unusual for the most random things to pop up all fresh and ready for inspection as other things heal.

My personal take is that my depression is getting desperate if it thinks that the merely embarrassing will get the black dog barking – especially when it starts looking at relationships given my wayward and idiosyncratic present. Perhaps its just my healthier brain pointing out that the lessons I’ve learned along the way would have served me well in the various memories dredged up and that therefore they were worth learning.

See? I can do positive!

Christmas and Beyond

As someone recently noted on social media, I live a strange life, and I embrace that and aim to keep it that way so it doesn’t lapse into being boring and dull. I am proud to include a diverse and vibrant bunch of people in my life and celebrate their individual journeys as well as our commonalities.

This Christmas has allowed us to reconnect and bond with friends, partners, family, and those who might wander between. I caught back up with my brothers, and the Charleesi, with friends who have built their own forge, my parents, my partners, and a variety of children attached to various of the above.

So the plan today has been to sit quietly with Lady M, give our presents to each other, watch TV, play games, and not stray too far from the sofa.

It’s not the family gathering we had planned, but it’s a good substitute and rest ahead of the excitement and busy weeks ahead.

A Very Polycule Christmas

I forgot to mention last night that boy s and Lady M ended the evening working out between themselves where I would be living for the next few days. They did so by debating among themselves who had the most energy vs the most things to do this week – in other words who had the capacity to put up with me for a few days. It was prompted by boy s feeling a bit down at the end of the game last night as we all packed up to go home. The prospect of going from a house full of people and laughter to it just being him and the cub was just making him a bit low, so Lady M volunteered me. I didn’t get any consultation on this, which I have not failed to rib the pair of them about all day.

My original plan had been to just have a quiet day playing on the XBox, but such was not to be – Lady M had her booster shot due in Kingston so I got dragooned into driving her to that but took advantage of it to sort out some boxes and envelopes for boy s for some items he needed to post so I could at least be useful in the process. Then I gathered an overnight bag, my laptop, a couple of journals and some pens and wandered over to the new flat while Lady M got back to work. I may be on holiday, but Lady M isn’t for a few more days – but that’s largely because I haven’t taken much time this year while she used her leave to recover from some things a few months back. So I’ve left her to it while she sorts things out ahead of her break – much as she let me get on with things to clear the decks for my work last week.

I think I’m just going to chalk this up to “unexpected things that are part of being polyamorous” – where teasing and silliness meet care and compersion, and the quieter partners sometimes bargain amongst themselves as to where the token extraverted person goes next so that they don’t feel overloaded. Its a thing I’ve seen in joking posts on social media before now but never encountered before this weekend. As our flats are about five minutes drive away from each other it isn’t really a huge issue – I’ve already made plans to wander back tomorrow to annoy Lady M and retrieve more of boy s’ laundry as I carry on finding more odds and ends he’s left behind in his moves. Well, that and annoy people by playing Christmas songs on Spotify because I seem to be the only person in the polycule particularly fussed about it this year. There are probably worse roles to have in life.

I think in part its down to having to cancel our plans to visit my parents so we’re having to stock our households up with food and drink, having run down the larders in anticipation of being away for a week or so. Still, better safe than sorry with omicron careening around our communities. I’m taking boy s to get his booster in a couple of days and that catches him up with pretty much everyone else at that point so that’ll be something to celebrate.

I still have difficulty as seeing myself as the extraverted person, but multiple Myers-Briggs tests over the years can’t be wrong – to be fair I do tend to recharge being around people along with being comfortable being alone so I think I’m a borderline case – which no doubt explains how I have no problem standing up in training courses and holding the floor. So that now leaves me sitting on the sofa playing Boney M songs while boy s triumphantly reclaims the cardigan I’ve been wearing today and curls up with a cider and his laptop. Welcome to Christmas

No Rest For the Wicked

I’ve just spent the last couple of days compiling my first article for the Surrey History Centre, and it is centred around our experiences as a polycule, banding together in the face of the first lockdown. It seemed appropriate with the news of the emergent omicron variant to reflect on how we got through the early days, and supported each other. It’s a couple of thousand words – about four sheets of A4 if you’re trying to picture it – and is a whistle-stop tour of how Discord and social media became a way of making our own virtual bubble even while apart.

Of all the things I might have expected to come of it all though, I don’t think I really expected to be as forthright when talking to strangers about things as I am now. I’ve always been more of a people watcher when in new surroundings. I tend to open up and gather my storytelling largesse once I know who I’m talking to instead – or at least to waffle as a smokescreen. I’m under no illusions that part of that is a trauma response gathering and redirecting attention where I want it to be, but I digress. A large part of living with, loving, and knowing the people I do has been accepting that I need to speak up and educate where needed – and sometimes that’s in the strangest places.

This weekend, that turned out to be in the back of an Uber with a very talkative driver from Sri Lanka as I made my way to catch up with the folks at the Excel. Over the course of our meandering journey, we exchanged elements of our life stories and then I started to talk about my extended found family. I challenged his expectations about sexuality, trans people, and relationships based on my own experiences and the tales I’ve had shared with me – and delightfully he was curious rather than hostile, listened and learned. While he didn’t totally understand, he was able to ask questions that weren’t insulting.

Even maybe six months ago I wouldn’t have credited myself to have the courage or wits to engage in this way with someone, let alone a cab driver, and especially not about matters of sexuality or my own personal life. This may come as a surprise to some, given my penchant for speaking up or about things without any apparent concern – but that’s something I’ve been practicing hard at over recent years – overcoming my natural reticence. What was different this time was that, other than a brief pause to mentally shuffle the cards in the right order to provide context, I didn’t feel any concern. If anything I mentally rolled my eyes at having to explain my situation to round out the statement and challenge I was about to make.

Thankfully years of counselling and the various counselling-adjacent training I’ve had have helped me marshal points succinctly and retain some distance mentally while engaging in these conversations. Far more important in getting to this point though has been the hours and hours of no holds barred conversations we’ve had among ourselves in the DDC and among our friends circles. I wasn’t so much regurgitating points previously discussed as being able to be mindful of nuance that might not necessarily be obvious.

We ended our journey amicably, even though I’m sure there are a few new grey hairs in my beard after some of the more erratic driving manoeuvres we did in Central London – and he learned a new phrase: “having an inquisitive mind”

Coming at the end of a fourteen hour day though, I was glad to stumble out of the car and into the arms of my loved ones. I was wondering if I would actually get any reset this weekend.

Found Family

It’s something of a trope to call queer gatherings and especially polyamorous groupings as a Found Family and its a concept that appeals to me, even if I have no intention or desire to replace the perfectly wonderful and odd family I was born into. I’m lucky in that respect as I haven’t suffered the rejections so many other queer people have experienced, and so my Found Family is an addition to my life, not an alternative.

At the same time it still came as a surprise yesterday to be called Dad by the cub – not in a casual slip of the tongue way, but as a deliberate statement while we were discussing our Christmas plans for this year:

We will be going up to visit my parents and taking over the spare bungalow in the process. The thought of having five adults around was a bit daunting for the cub until we told him there were two houses side by side and it was while we explored that with him that he explicitly acknowledged that he saw Lady M and I as parents alongside his dad: that he sees Lady M as mum and myself as a dad.

And then he asked, with the perfect timing of a child, if he could have ice cream for dessert.

I’m still processing it, having dropped him off to school this morning. It’s one thing to have that warm affection for a child grow into a fierce, if sometimes exasperated, love – and still quite another to hear it returned, expressed, and said outright by that child. I think I lost sight that I wasn’t the only person recognising and building a found family in this new unit.

A little Change

In my post a few days ago about my Equalities Journey, I talked about the amazing trans man in my life and I realised that for some if you it may not be immediately obvious who I’m talking for about. Given that I’m polyamorous it may even have seemed a possibility that it was announcing someone new.

I was in fact talking about myr s, who has been socially transitioning over the last year. During this time, by his request, I’ve been using gender-neutral terms on the blog to talk about him and this was in part because there were people to whom he had not felt able to talk to about things.

This changed last week, and so while asking if he minded my referring to him in the Equalities blog posts at work and here, we also talked about evolving his title here as well. With his being my sub, we felt that the usual Sir or Lord that I tend to use would not feel right and he wanted to keep the lack of capitalisation as well.

So as of today, may I introduce you to boy s, and what a relief it is to be catching up here with how we talk to him in the real world.

As a cosplayer, there may be a temptation at some point to do a dad-bod Kratos just so I can shout “boy!” across a crowded hall…

Explorations

We went to Bletchley Park today, despite the best efforts of the Bank Holiday traffic. We picked it partly our of interest in its history, and partly so we could return our niece to her aunt as it was a little over halfway there.

I’m not entirely sure where the afternoon went as five hours sped by and there was still a lot we didn’t see. What we did find was fascinating and heartbreaking in turn, especially when it came to the areas devoted to Alan Turing. Going from a case containing his Teddy bear Porgy to a recreation of his office was surprisingly affecting as it brought forward the human behind the stories.

We had conversations with the kids around LGBTQIA+ history and in particular around Alan Turing’s treatment – which in turn led to conversations over lunch about our relationships and the polycule. And now Lady H is friends on Facebook with myr s, and the kids want to meet the cub.

Not really what I foresaw for the day, but a positive turn amid the strangeness all the same.

Don’t Keep Straight

I burned out a bit this week with a second week of recruitment interviews that frankly left me staggering around like a well-past-best-by-date zombie. Hence no updates for a few days, because I could barely function, let alone get creative, by the end of each day.

I’ve had a bit of sleep now.

Something amazing that did happen at the beginning of the week was that I ended up being the unexpected guest blogger on the work intranet. This put my face on the front page, talking about Surrey Pride. This will take place in September 25th in Godalming, and I’ll both be in the parade, and attending with the rest of the polycule.

The other half of the article was about what I ended up calling my Equalities Journey (mostly because that was the draft file name as we scrambled to meet the deadline). While most will have read it and passed on, there have also been a scattered few lovely remarks – and a request from the Surrey History Centre to add it to their LGBTQIA archive.

Not only did they ask that, but they said if I had anything else I’d like to write for it, then they’d be happy to take that too – so I said I’d have a look at things I’ve written here and would repackage some of the appropriate content for them, as well as add whimsy and thoughts along the way.

All of which leads me to this blog, where I’ve spent a morning driving my niece and Lady M to Chislehurst Caves for a visit. With a rainbow headscarf holding her fringe back while she talked about a girl in her class and their girlfriend, she was relaxed and happy.

Meanwhile, the satnav kept telling me to ‘keep straight’ on the road – and although the urge to call out ‘I can’t do that’ never passed, it kept happening and it felt more and more tiring and frustrating to keep saying it in my head. Although not the aim of it, it did start to feel a metaphor for bi-erasure: “Keep straight, keep straight. For another five miles, keep straight.”

It was exhausting, and I felt I couldn’t say anything. While it might have been funny the first time, by the third, fifth, eleventh, seventeenth time it was a mindless litany of call and mental response. Keep straight; can’t. Keep straight; not in your dreams. Keep straight; oh give over, I’m switching you off. Beep.

If only there was that option in real life – and yet, I get that I’m in a minority and that the default societal mores and expectations have nothing to do with a satnav device. And yes, it’s picky, but representation matters. Language matters, being able to say no matters.

Well, that all got a bit serious, didn’t it?

Changing Tack

We had planned to have a very poly Christmas this year, having our first Christmas together in the almost three years we’ve been bumbling along. Oh well.

I was going to go pick up myr s, the cub, and Lady W as metamour in chief on the evening of Christmas Day. That way they could enjoy a family meal with myr s’ father and Lady M and I could have a quiet morning to ourselves. A quick dash down to Portsmouth and back in the evening and we could then have a few days cosily in our flat. In line with the then-restrictions we would also be able to welcome Lady B during that period and have a table-top dungeons and dragons extravaganza.

Because that’s how we roll.

Instead, I am now busily making up details for that one-shot game to convert for Roll20 and our usual Sunday Twitch slot. No pressure or anything, I had been planning to largely wing it for the table but now I need to at least draw some maps. I’ve even written a four part structure for the characters to completely derail.

So, there will be other Christmases, and certainly plenty of other opportunities to get us all together again, no matter what coronavirus throws at us. For now, we’ll stay safe and do our bits to keep others safe.

South Coast Sauntering

Its been a good day today, albeit one with a lot of driving. myr s invited me down for breakfast, and this coincided with Lady B having arranged to pick up a vanity table from a friend, so we thought we’d make a day out of it, kidnap Lady J too, and bustle over to Eastleigh for the morning.

My sat available decided that with all the local roadworks on the motorways that it would try and ratrun us cross country, so we had an enjoyable bought of trying to work out where it was trying to take us and then willfully ignoring it based on my passengers’ local knowledge.

If nothing else it made for cheery conversations as people recalled past jobs, workplaces, or relatives in places we passed. We duly picked up the vanity table, tetris’d it into the car with only one seat needing displacement, and went on search of food before myr s could turn into the hangry hulk.

The last time I was there was for Pride a couple of years ago, so bits of the street layout started to come back to me, enhanced by Lady Best memories of working at a now defunct club that seems to now be an empty space. We allowed the mental stretch of imagining reworking it as a split use site with an LGBTQ+ coffee/bookshop space during the day and club/bar space for the evening. Maybe when the best sellers and/or lottery wins roll in…

Oh, and we hit Poundland, partly for sugary drinks, and partly to raid the Halloween supplies. We’re all cosplayers, it’s what we do…

I also got told that the cub had explicitly demanded I not leave until we’d picked him up from school, so we did that and treated him to McDonald’s for his supper before I headed home. The grins and hugs were well worth it.

And so home, with a bag of goodies for Lady M from myr s, for a curry, mindless nonsense on the TV, and more tinkering with scenario details for the next game.

Can’t complain really…