Sunday, January 17, 2016

Virtual Book Club: More Than Two // Topic: "The Sushi Effect"

I decided to pick up "More Than Two" after a few months of leaving it on the coffee table (or on my bedside table, or wherever I moved it to) with a bookmark lodged somewhere in Chapter 3 or 4. I have no idea why I decided to stop reading it. Nothing really irritated me about it, it's not written in a way that makes it painful or slow to read. I just... didn't want to read it. And so it sat.

As part of my "Seven Things," I decided to make it my January book. A little extra motivation is good for kicking my butt in gear, but I digress. This isn't really a post about my Seven Things, but more about discussing things that pop up in my head while I read.

I do plan on writing a review, and overall, I think it'll be a good one. The book makes many fantastic points (the chapters on "Tending Your Self" and "Communication Pitfalls" are great, and I'm not even halfway through the book), however, there are still the occasional tidbits that make me scratch my head, think a bit more, and wonder if we're just speaking a different language.

I'd love to encourage discussion (from mono and poly folks alike) on these points, sort of like a virtual book club. Although I do encourage you to read the book, it's probably not necessary for discussion. The more comments, the better - let's hear what you have to say!

Topic: The "Sushi Effect"

In Chapter 4, Franklin and Eve share a story about "Melissa" - a friend of Franklin's who tried for months to get her husband to try sushi with her (and was rejected each time). When her husband started dating, his new girlfriend asked him to try sushi. This time, he agreed, and discovered he enjoyed it, to Melissa's irritation.

The situation was used to illustrate that change can be beneficial. Why get upset about a change in your relationship that can benefit you, just because you weren't the person who brought about that change or "did it first"? Why do we feel entitled to being first?

I'm making the same face now that I made when I initially read this passage... something of a "hmmmmm..." face. I've certainly been through this scenario - almost exactly, except it was Ginger Chicken. My ex-husband steadfastly refused to order Ginger Chicken when we went out for Chinese, to the point of making "ukkk" noises when I'd suggest it. He took on a girlfriend near the end of our marriage (no. it wasn't really a poly marriage, but it got a bit wonky near the end), and one day, as we drove through a town I wasn't particularly familiar with, he blurted out, "That's <GF's> favorite Chinese place. The Ginger Chicken is really good there!"

It wasn't the "he did it first with someone else" thing. It was the continual rejection of MY suggestion, only to say "Sure!" when the same suggestion was made by someone else. I'm going to rename it the "Scooby Doo Effect" (bear with me): Shaggy would make a suggestion and the girls would pooh-pooh it. Then Fred would make the same suggestion, and suddenly it was, "Great idea, Freddie!" At least Shaggy would go hang with Scoob and let it all roll off his back with a couple Scooby Snacks. I just found it irritating as fuck.

Of course, it comes out looking like jealousy, or envy. "Why would you do that with her and not me?" Upon further reflection, though, at least in my case, it was more, "Why are we in such a rut that you automatically dismiss anything I suggest?" Getting ginger chicken with his GF simply highlighted that we'd established ourselves into a cycle of doing the things we knew we enjoyed and not leaving that comfort zone. With someone new, there is no comfort zone. It may seem easier to try new things when you don't know what you enjoy doing with that person. It's nothing personal against the "tried and true" partner, but it sure feels like a smack in the face when seen from that person's point of view.

So, the point? I think there's some misinterpretation of the rejected partner's feelings. It may come across looking like envy that we couldn't do this thing with our partners first, but in my case, it was more a feeling of being repeatedly turned down as a matter of course over something that really wasn't a "no" after all. It's getting upset with my partner saying "no" as a knee-jerk reaction, rather than thinking it might be fun to try something new once in a while. Why shouldn't I get annoyed with that?

To me, the solution isn't, "I need to be the keeper of all 'firsts'," but more, "please give my suggestions the same consideration you'd give someone else's." Not too much to ask, in my opinion.

I'm definitely interested in hearing other people's thoughts and opinions on the matter. Please feel free to discuss in the comments!

Now... back to the book!

Friday, January 1, 2016

State of the Union 2015 / Seven Things for 2016

Once again I find myself dusting off the blog. It's probably time for a bit of an update regarding what's rattling around in this chick's head - a "State of the Union" for 2015 if you will - before moving on to 2016. Is this a "resolutions" post? Er... yes. Clich├ęd, but it's as good a time as any to take stock in what's going on in my life and to plan for the future.

State of the Union 2015

Lots of good things happened (or continued to happen) last year - I probably can't remember them all, and some are probably small-potatoes enough that you don't want to read through it all (it's nice that I love my cats and all, but gushing over how awesome they are takes me into "Crazy Cat Blogger" territory, and I still think I'm a few years away from that level), but there were plenty of nice things both in my relationship and in my life in general:

  • The bathroom project is done! Mostly. Just some caulking and painting to go, but it works! And it's cute! Yay!
  • I took a bit of time for me and joined a gaming group that I've really enjoyed. On a related note, my game library at home has grown, and the kids are enjoying them as well. Win-win!
  • My relationship with my partner is still strong, after around five years. I still struggle with things (see below), but overall, we have weathered every storm that has come and gone, and I think we've become stronger because of it.
  • My metamour is a good-hearted person who has not just put up with my struggles, but supported my working through them.
  • My relationship with my kids is changing as they get older, and I think this is probably the best relationship I've had with each of them so far. I like that they're growing into young adults, and I like the people they're becoming.
  • My relationships with my partner's family are growing, and I'm feeling more and more like they are my own family as time goes on.
  • My cats! One likes to be "shoulder cat" and knead my partner's beard (don't ask), and one is a total lap cat (to the point of competing with the laptop at times). There, I said it. They're great little buds.
  • My partner arranged a surprise birthday party that was such a surprise, I cried because my brain couldn't process what was happening. I can't even describe how incredible that felt, and I will carry that one with me forever.
After all that positivity, it seems like a drag to discuss the negatives, but I think they're important to acknowledge and work through:

  • Armchair diagnosis (although I have plans to get a professional opinion - see below): some level of depression. Some of the negative thinking patterns and self-talk have worsened over the last couple years, and I've begun to notice that it seems tied to certain things like lack of sleep or over-consumption of alcohol. Overall, I know I have a list of things to do (hello, blog!), even things I really enjoy doing, but I have no oomph left to do them at the end of the day. I end up sitting in front of the laptop or TV with a glass of wine, perpetuating the problem. 
  • I still find myself holding on to old resentments toward my metamour, despite the fact that she's a good person who really doesn't deserve it (see above). Knowing I have them and saying that I need to work on them doesn't mean that I know how to work on them, however. I still find myself in a place where different circumstances set off the resentment, and I continue to struggle with it on and off.
  • Still some smaller residual relationship / poly issues that get set off from time to time depending on the circumstances. On a related note, Facebook can sometimes be that nasty bitch of a friend who likes to toss things in your face and stir up trouble. Except, it's much harder to cut out of my life than the nasty bitch.
  • Exercise has taken a back seat to just about everything else. I've put on quite a few pounds, my clothes don't fit, and I'm starting over from step one, which is discouraging.
But look at this! We have a brand-new year that's just built for making new plans! 

I took my inspiration from Wil Wheaton's "Seven Things I Did to Reboot My Life" blog post, and wanted to do something similar for myself. The small number of goals seems manageable, and if I can make them SMART, I should be good to go. In theory. In practice, I can edit as I go, as long as I'm measuring from the start.

So, with no further adieu, it's time to stop looking at the past (except for reference). 

My Seven Things for 2016

1: Prioritize Myself

Okay, as it stands, it's not really SMART at all. I have two points with this goal, though: think of myself and my needs before falling automatically into "people-pleasing" or "yes" mode, and to make sure that I spend the time (and occasionally the money!) on things that enrich me.

Let me break this up a bit better:

1a: Spend money/time on myself

Spend some stinking money on new clothes, new books, a new game, whatever. Something that I will enjoy and not just serve as a distraction (TV / booze is out!). Do this once a month at a minimum. Put it in my budgeting software as a monthly category with a real dollar value. I'm worth it too, dammit.

1b: Say "no"

Not all the time, obviously, but enough to know that I'm considering my own time and desires as well as other peoples'. One "no" per month will be the starting measurement, although it seems a little strange to quantify it this way. Revisit this if needed.

2. Write / Create More

I could get lazy about this and say that more than zero is an improvement, but I won't.

Blog Posts: One post per month. Additional quarterly check-ins regarding this list (so I remain accountable).

Creative Stuff: Start with 2 days/week for 20 min./day. This must be spent on something creative (not a house project!). Acceptable projects: crochet, piano, writing stories or poetry, other crafty types of things. Goal is to work up to more days/week, but for the first quarter, 2 days/week will be fine to establish the habit.

3. Read More

One book per month. Facebook, Reddit, Magazines, online articles, or online ANYTHING (other than Kindle books) DOES NOT count. Books only.

4. "Healthy Stuff In"

For the first quarter:

  • Vegetables with 2 out of 3 meals per day
  • Vegetables for one snack per day
  • No solo drinking (booze of any kind - beer, wine, or liquor)
The goal is to start slow and add more healthy habits as time goes on. I will probably slack the first week of January, only because my birthday food is in the fridge and I'm not wasting it. Nom nom nom...

5. Exercise More

The quintessential New Year's resolution, am I right? Still, the measurable goal:

Sign up for a half-marathon in May and pull together a training plan. I've done this before and know it's doable, but I have to get off my ass.
  • Sign up in January
  • Pull training plan together by the end of the first week of January
  • Cross-training twice/week.

6. More Social Connections

Again, Facebook does NOT count.

  • Reach out and text a friend / family member once per week. This has to be a friend / family member I don't normally text (i.e., not my partner, my kids, my aunt, or my ex).
  • Once per month, get together with a friend / family member I don't normally see.

7. Go Back to Counseling

It's one thing to understand that you need to make changes. It's another thing to know how to make those changes. I can say that I need to let go of my resentment until I'm hoarse, but if I don't have any tools to do so, then it's going to be extremely difficult.

Goal: meet with my counselor once/month.

So, here you go. A mostly non-mono/poly post, but a decent "Let's Tackle 2016" one, with some more specific goals than the norm. We'll get to see together how well they work out. In the meantime, have a great 2016, and I'll see you again later this month!