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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about wanting; about desire; about hope; about the strength required to want something and the power involved in getting what you want. This is probably the first in a series.
There’s this tug of war between want and need that we learn when we’re really little. We WANT stuff because, well, we want it. It feels good. But it feels like an indulgence. It feels like extra. It comes with an extra shot of guilt.
Need, on the other hand, need is easy. If you need something, then you have to have it, so you might as well be done with it. Need is justified. Need is important.
Want is frivolous.
It’s a false dichotomy. And it all comes down to that damned oxygen mask. You know the one: when you get on a plane the flight attendant always says, “In the event of loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the panel above your head. Please put your own on first before assisting others.”
Put your own on first.
Because want becomes need really fast.
Because not tending to yourself first can make you pass out (metaphorically if not literally) and you’re useless to everyone else if you’re lying on the floor. In fact, you’ve just become a liability.
So to reiterate: don’t become a liability. Put on your own oxygen mask first.
Which means in this case, your wants might need tending.
Of course, that means that you need to know what you want…
Julia Terry is one of the amazing accidents of my life. We happened to meet online, and then we happened to be able to meet offline, and even though we rarely see each other she’s one of those wise, laughing, real people that I love to know.
She wrote this and posted it in her private spaces online, and when I read it I immediately asked if she would let me republish it as a guest post. She graciously said yes.
So here it is!
(note: the following message does not apply when one or more of the participants just aren’t interested in getting down with other participants. people need to engage consensually for this shit to be healthy. seriously. also note: this isn’t specfically about lesbians. )
There’s a joke about lesbian bed death – you know, when all the lust has been sucked out of your relationship and you mostly just lay around looking into each other’s eyes and thinking about how all you need is love? Yeah. I’ve forgotten the joke because losing the fire in any love relationship isn’t actually funny. It’s challenging and sad and can feel like a great loss when we acknowledge that it’s happened. Too often, we make excuses, saying that all passions wane. We settle for less than what we want (and even sometimes what we need) because there are other (important and valuable) things that weave together to create the foundations of our relationships. The things we know about our partners, from the tragic to the decidedly mundane. The small gestures of affinity (always making sure there is good coffee, cooking together, grinning at each other while singing along to the radio) and the grandiose (wherever you go is my home, we build family together) all bond us to one another. There is comfort in pattern and familiarity and that’s a good thing.
That said, all of these components of loving one another that aren’t specifically about sexing it up are the wood we need to keep passion going. If you know anything about starting and tending a fire, you know that the best way to keep a fire going is to use seasoned wood of all shapes and sizes. You need to have a shit ton of it too, cause otherwise you end up huddled under all of your blankets while your 16×20 cabin steadily gets colder and you feel too lazy to go and gather and chop more wood so you might as well freeze and you watch the breath coming out of your body billow up to the ceiling until you say fuck it and find some 24 hour diner (cough Jeffry’s) to drink coffee at all night so that you can stay warm without any work (not that that’s ever happened to me…).
For me, this means making sure there are lots of things that are established in my love relationships as things that I can put my trust and faith in or that bring me joy. I need to know that we aren’t going to run out of wood – and I need to make sure that doesn’t happen by actively and intentionally working with my partners to keep discovering and supporting things that sustain our relationships. It feels like it’s far too easy to get caught up in the business of day to day life, to be in a routine where people are always too tired or have too many other things on their plate or just plain don’t feel like doing it, whatever it is. The woodpile needs to be replenished though, so even when you are feeling like adding one more thing to the list of things you need to do is going to overwhelm you, consider that we need basic fuels to survive – air, food, water, fire – you take one of those away and the whole thing starts to fall apart.
So, in my heavy handed way, I think I’ve established the necessity for your combustibles – you gotta keep on feeding them to the fire or it will burn out, dwindle down to glowing embers which are evocative of the fire you once had but aren’t going to keep you warm through the night and may leave you feeling vaguely dissatisfied. Remember though, embers can be built back up given kindling and more wood. Which leads me to smooching. Seriously people, let’s touch our partners. Not every touch has to be about ultimately getting it on, and yet when we establish that it feels good to have a back rub (and that the back rub itself is enough) and that making out for 5 minutes doesn’t need to lead to anything in that moment, though it can give you something delicious to ponder during the lulls in your workday, we are creating an environment where there is the potential for hot entanglements.
Sometimes the things we communicate nonverbally can create miscommunications with our partners – so, in the course of remembering to engage in touch (hold hands, people! hug! cooties are a myth and you are an adult!), I think it’s helpful to talk about this shit too. Like – tell your partners you really enjoy helping them feel good or talk about how awesome it felt when their face lit up when you came into the room. We have a tendency in our culture to only talk about the stuff that needs to be processed and to forget about verbalizing the yummy stuff. Yep, there’s a fire analogy here too: this is the smoke. When things aren’t burning up properly or when you’re burning a bunch of garbage, the smoke is plentiful and grey and probs pretty smelly. A good fire (ie one where there is clear, transparent, intentional communication) will burn with tendrils of white smoke, the kind that you smell on a fall day and it makes you feel cozy down to your toes. Now, sometimes you just have to burn the leaves that have been gathering in the yard or you throw some pbr cans in to see what happens – this happens. It’s ok. It will burn away, given more of the good stuff. So yeah. Talk about it, the yucky stuff *and* the stuff that gets you worked up in a yay way.
And then we come to one of the most important parts of keeping a fire nice and hot, efficient and sustainable: friggin space for the air to flow through. You can douse a fire by smothering it. You can go through your woodpile putting more wood on than you need to to keep that fire going. You can work and work to get that fire ablaze, but if there isn’t any room for oxygen, that fire won’t happen.
This is the part where we talk about doing our own stuff. This isn’t about making yourself more interesting to other people, it’s about having time and space to explore the things you care about. It’s about going on a camping trip by yourself so that you can get up and watch the sunrise while you drink a cuppa cowboy coffee. It’s about having a job that keeps you engaged (paid or unpaid work). It’s about having a friend community you nurture and feel invigorated by. It’s about supporting your partners to have all of those things too – and separately from you! Having space that is our own gives us time to continue to grow in our own right…and let’s be honest, it’s really ok to miss your partners for a bit. It makes it even more exciting to jump all over em when they return.
There are ways, of course, of making your fire flare up, though they may only be momentarily pleasing or may only give the appearance of creating warmth. You can totally douse your fire in gasoline and watch it leap (fights and making up? last ditch efforts to instigate some kind of response?), and then the gas burns off and the fire is a little weaker because of it (not to mention it smells like hell).
I hope we all take time to ignite, giving ourselves space and time and fodder and remembering that some work is helpful and some work will only lead to burn out. Lighting a match and holding it to a log ain’t going to do shit…except maybe burn your fingers.
Passion needs to be tended in order to be sustained.
Julia Terry is a queer, polyamorous, poor person who is married to a transmasculine person. Julia’s preferred pronouns are she/her and her gender identity and expression is working class femme. Julia recently became a mother and is busy being excited about every new sound her sweet baby makes. Her paid and non-paid work involves working as an advocate, educator, and support person. She travels frequently with her partner’s show, the Tranny Roadshow, is a church administrator for a Unitarian Universalist congregation, and will soon be blogging for The Mommies Network. She thinks sex and love are full of awesome.