Changes

The last few days have been full of changes. Overwhelming, wonderful, changes. I felt like I couldn’t blog because I had SO many different ideas in my head that I couldn’t pick any particular one. So I’m just going to kind of throw it all in here together, because that is how it all happened and felt, with everything happening so close together chronologically.

The collaring ceremony. The autonomy declaration. The Dinner and the Dollar and Jehovah Jireh. Yikes. This may turn into multiple entries.

Note to my readers: because of the length of this entry, I am going to publish it, but I will also be publishing each of the three major stories as their own post, since they each stand alone as well. Thanks for understanding.

The Collaring Ceremony

“The Sub” and I recently celebrated our 5 year anniversary, about a week before “The Hub and I celebrated 8 years of marriage. I’ve had submissive’s before him (and a few in the time we have been together, since I am poly), but “The Sub” and I have had a particularly interesting relationship. He is a switch, generally speaking, and I am a Dominant who enjoys bottoming to certain activities and types of play. Our relationship evolved very organically over the years, and he is many things to me. He is my slave, and he is also my Master. He is my friend, my lover (in certain ways – more on that later), my confidante, and the person I share the deepest and darkest parts of my BDSM nature with. He has lived with my husband and I for over 4 years, and my son refers to him as “Uncle”. He has been a part of my family through many life-changing events, including the death of my father and the birth and death of my business.

Two nights ago, in the middle of the night, we had played, and were snuggling and providing aftercare to one another. We were enjoying what has become much of a “renaissance” in our relationship over the last couple of months, and were talking about the ring that I gave him a few years ago, as a quiet, daily reminder of his submission, that he still wears every day. It’s nothing fancy, but beloved by both of us.

I have had submissives wear collars during play over the years. I’ve even had a few that earned something similar to his ring. But I have never collared someone formally. To me, collaring someone for real is in many ways the BDSM equivalent of a marriage. It’s not necessarily something I only intend on doing once (given that I am poly only in the context of BDSM), but it is something that I place just as much gravitas on, and I had always anticipated it would takes years to reach that point with someone.

I was right about that last bit. 5 years, in this case. But as we talked, we both realized that we wanted to have a real collaring ceremony. It’s time. And, much like when I married my husband, it’s not that “It’s time.” because we want to take the next step in our relationship; it is an acknowledgement of where our relationship already is. We have already committed to each other that way, and the ceremony is to celebrate that fact, not create it. My husband is my partner in the journey of life, and my submissive is my partner in my journey through D/s. It is the same depth of commitment, if not the same feeling or area of application.

So, it is official. We are having a mutual collaring ceremony in the spring. Yes, mutual. We are more than just Mistress and slave to one another, and we want this ceremony to reflect and celebrate all the different roles that we are to one another, even if it is not the “standard” way of doing things even within a subculture that is based on not being “standard”. My husband will be performing the ceremony, which naturally felt right to all of us. It’s going to be small, with only our closest friends and a few family members who are aware and supportive, like my mom (though obviously not my son, as that would obviously be inappropriate). Nothing fancy or expensive, just like the ring he wears now.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Autonomy Declaration

This is a pretty major deal for me. The other day, my husband and I were talking and dealing with some issues that had built up over the last couple of years, while we had a different submissive living with us (as well as “The Sub”), and things went very sour. The hubby and I have made it a habit, throughout our marriage, to periodically sit down and talk through any issues that may have been quietly building up, the kinds of things that don’t bother you enough individually as they happen to warrant a major discussion, but over time, lead to resentment. We work very hard at nipping those things in the bud through these talks, and have had great success with it over the years.

There has been something brewing in my mind for a while, and I have had no idea how to broach it with him. It felt an unfair burden to put on him, and yet it also felt fundamentally dishonest to omit, because it has been causing me so much distress and is definitely relevant and important. I am fundamentally committed to honesty, and I felt the time had come to talk about it, no matter what came of it.

I was raised by a father who not only was fundamentally geared toward’s a 1950’s style of living and relation between the sexes. It was drilled into me throughout my formative years that my purpose, as a woman, was to make myself a good person/mate for my future husband, and that when I was married, my existence would revolve around him. This was taught to me both directly and subtly, through observation of his treatment of my mom and I.  For a more extreme example of this type of brainwashing, once, early in my marriage, I made the mistake of trying to talk to him about an issue I was having with my husband (where my husband was, even in his own eyes, in the wrong). My Dad said that I should spend less time complaining and be spending all my energy making sure the house was clean, that I had a drink and a foot rub waiting for him when he got home from work, and that I was “performing my wifely duties regularly”.

I spent so much of my life focused on nothing but my husband, including the years before I had even met him. “Growing up”, for me, was supposed to be focused on grooming myself into the perfect mate for a man I had yet to meet, rather than discovering myself or exploring my own identity, talents and purpose in life. This messed with me, majorly, even in spite of my fiercely independent nature and the steps that I took toward self discovery, directly going against his wishes and often facing reprisal for doing so. It shaped my world view far more than I knew at the time. It has taken years to strip myself of those fucked up attitudes and mentalities, one at a time, like peeling an onion. The amount of gaslighting abuse that I endured as a child made each truth far harder to face and accept, but I have been fighting it for years and have no intention of ever stopping.

Over the past couple of years, I have had a major drop in my libido, accompanied by major anxiety when it comes to having sex. I’m incredibly comfortable with my husband, and affection and emotional intimacy haven’t been a problem at all, but sex itself has made me feel incredibly panicked. We have had a very sparse sex life for a while, because neither my husband or I wanted me to “force myself” to make love, given how that basically amounts to “self-rape”. Still, even when I have wanted the intimacy with him so much that it overpowered my anxiety, I have been uncomfortable and afraid off and on  during every time we have made love.

Much of this disturbance to my libido was caused by resurfacing memories of sexual abuse I suffered when I was younger, and we both knew that. But over the past few months, I had become more and more aware of another cause, just as deeply rooted.

One of the sexual “limitations” that my husband put on my BDSM activities and relationships was no intercourse, because he wanted something to still be “exclusively his”. I have followed that request to the letter, and we have always had open and honest communication about the activities that I do participate in. I haven’t minded the limitation itself, even when I have found myself tempted to push past it. It seemed a fair rule (particularly since we were already married when I discovered how much BDSM was my orientation, and not something I could stifle forever).

Over the past few months, I have begun to realize how much it bothers me that I think of my genitals as being “owned” by someone other than me. I made vows and signed away my right to make my own choices about sex and my body before I knew just how important those rights were. I have become more and more uncomfortable about having sex because it feels more and more fundamentally non-consensual. I cannot give consent for sexual intercourse if I am not the one who is in charge of my body and sexual choices in the first place.

And that is where it dovetails with the sexual abuse in my past. I had control of my body wrenched from me when I was so young that I was unable to even understand that my body belonged to me in the first place. I operated under those faulty assumptions and wrong mentalities for most of my life, and my Dad’s continual gaslighting and philosophy creation efforts ensured that I continued to do so, even though he was not the person who sexually abused me. My husband, for all his consideration, thoughtfulness, and understanding, cannot mend my attitudes. That is my job, and my responsibility alone, and I blame him for none of this. It is damage that was done to me before we even met, and even I was unaware of a lot of it until just recently.

I explained these feelings to my husband. I tried my best to explain how strongly it had affected my libido and my attitudes toward sex, while also making sure that he understood that I did not view him as the person who had been keeping me from being “free”. And while none of it was his fault, the fact that the part of me that was “exclusively his” boiled down to my genitals, had been quietly, unintentionally reinforcing the idea that my purpose in life is to fulfill someone else’s desires, not my own, and that my value was primarily between my legs, not my ears. I’m not even necessarily desirous of sex with other people, but I do want to be the one who makes that decision.

My husband is an incredible man, and I envy all the women on the planet who are not fortunate enough to be married to him. He understood. All of it. And he told me that my sexuality and my body were mine to do with as I chose; I was his wife, not his property, and that he loved me no matter what. We are still discussing details of disclosure and safety, in case I do eventually decide to have sex with someone else. But for now, it’s not about that. It’s about reclaiming myself, my autonomy, and my feeling of self-worth. It’s about unearthing the truth that was hidden beneath years of gaslighting. It’s about my being who I am, without apology, and not just being who I am supposed to be to please someone else.

Literally within minutes of reaching that decision, my husband and I were making love, and it felt different, better than it ever had before. I was giving myself to him with a freedom that I had never before possessed, because even while I had enjoyed and consented to sex with him before, I had never really owned that my body and sexuality were mine to give in the first place. I have never felt more close to him, more respected and cherished by him, or more in awe of the incredible understanding nature and empathy that my husband possesses.

I am a lucky woman. And now, I am more my own woman than I ever had been before, and our marriage can truly be one of equals.

Jehovah Jireh: The Dinner and the Dollar

Last night, I attended an annual “Ladies Dinner” with my mom, that is hosted by several local churches, including my mom’s. It was my third time attending with her, and, despite my discomfort with any organized religion based event, it is a great chance to spend quality one on one time with her, as well as reconnect with many people who attended my old church, which closed several years ago. Given that I always feel like the black sheep, or more accurately, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, every time I go to a church function, I always look forward to this annual dinner with a combination of pleasurable anticipation, and dread. It’s always been a mixed bag for me.

The past two times I went, I enjoyed myself, despite any blemishes during the course of the evening where I felt awkward or knew I was being judged. Generally, I just kind of keep my mask on and try to survive the evening without being stoned to death for being a heathen.

This time was different. I overslept and had to rush through getting ready. I was a bit more anxious going in than I usually would be. We got there about 15 minutes late, and people were already well into the socializing portion of the night. As I looked around, I was pleasantly surprised to see several familiar faces that hadn’t attended the past two dinners, and who I hadn’t seen in years, as well as lots of long-known ladies who had come to previous dinners.

There was one face in particular that I was surprised and happy to see. A woman who we will call Cheryl, from the church I grew up in. She suffers from some rare disorder (I never knew the actual name of her diagnosis), and has spent her entire life on oxygen, with limited mobility. Even when I was a child and she was in her twenties, I knew that it was common knowledge that she was not expected to make it far into her thirties. She had been declining rapidly for a long time, until, when I was quite young, she went through something that drastically improved her health and prognosis, which I only learned of years later.

I am, as a Christian and a human being, an eternal skeptic. I’m the Doubting Thomas, and I was the kid who asked the difficult theological questions that made pastors stumble all over themselves before landing on a vague brush off like “God works in mysterious ways” or “There’s a reason for everything”. I make no claims to be right about anything, or to have a special corner on truth, particularly because I am always questioning and testing everything, including my own beliefs. My Dad, despite teaching me many negative and incorrect things, passed his critical thinking on to me, and he was the OG Doubting Thomas that I believe helped build me into one myself.

With my ingrained skepticism in mind, I’m sure you can imagine how, even as a Christian, I put no stock in claims of faith healing. It’s not that I don’t believe that God is capable of such things, it’s more a belief that if He does intervene in such a drastic way, it would be an exceedingly rare occurrence, and that in 99.99999999% of cases of supposed faith healing, claims of improvement could be chalked up to the placebo effect, not anything supernatural or a case of divine intervention. I also consider many aspects of faith healing to be dangerous, in that there is so much potential for faith to cause someone to not seek medical treatment, on the premise that God will save them (despite Him giving us the inquisitive nature to develop such treatments in the first place). I had never seen any evidence that disproved my beliefs regarding it, and so, they continued to stand.

I had seen the radical improvement in Cheryl’s health that had occurred in my childhood, but having not heard the story, I assumed for years that she had found some new treatment for her condition, or had been put on a different/better medication. When I finally asked my mom, in my teens, about what happened with her, I was shocked to hear the story.

My Dad (aka, the OG Doubting Thomas), had never believed in faith healing either. If anything, he was much less open to changing his mind on the matter than I have ever been. Apparently, he started having recurring dreams of walking up to Cheryl, putting a hand on her shoulder, and saying “In the name of Jesus Christ you are healed.”. The first few times, he thought it was a weird dream, particularly because he barely knew Cheryl, so he brushed it off. Soon, he was having the dream every single night, and it distressed him immensely. He went to our pastor, a man with an incredible heart for God, who also was generally able to answer even our annoyingly frequent, previously unanswerable questions. I’ll call him Sheldon. My Dad told Sheldon of the dreams, and of how frightened he was. Sheldon did not want to jump to the conclusion that the dreams were God inspired (which I will always respect), and he and my Dad prayed together, asking for a cessation of any influence other than God’s, and asking that if the dream was in fact a message from Him, that He would make it completely and abundantly clear that was the case.

That night, my Dad had the dream again, but it was different. It began the same way, but this time, after he said the words, she hugged him, and ran off. When he awoke from the dream, instead of the panic and confusion that he had felt in the past, he felt a clear sense of calm, and an underlying knowledge that it was something he was supposed to do. Cheryl was able to walk with assistance, but had never been able to run, even as a child. He believed that, even with the dream feeling like a message from God, her running in the dream was probably symbolic. After all, even with his new calm, he couldn’t bring himself to believe that he could do anything so powerful as that, even as an instrument of God. He and Sheldon discussed it, and agreed that if Cheryl was willing to try it, they should move forward with it, trusting that God had some plan for it, even if the specifics of the dream were symbolic. As soon as the choice had been made, the dreams stopped, but my Dad still felt (almost uncomfortably) comfortable and calm about it. Cheryl was told of the dream, but not about the running, because both Sheldon and my Dad were concerned about both the placebo effect, and the possibility of giving false hope.

They held a private service one evening at the church, and my Dad, afraid and feeling incredibly awkward and on the spot, humbly did what he had seen himself do in the dream: he put one hand on her shoulder, as she sat in her wheelchair, and he said “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are healed.” He leaned down and she hugged him, and that seemed to be that. He felt okay about it, though a bit confused and self conscious.

Over the following few months, Cheryl seemed to blossom. Her skin became less sallow, her breathing less labored. Soon she was walking with assistance more and more, instead of relying on the wheelchair. Then, she didn’t need assistance, and was walking on her own for the first time in years. Eventually, with incredible delight, Cheryl actually ran for the first time in her life, and she no longer needed to be on oxygen. No one was more shocked than my Dad. He still didn’t know what he believed or how faith healing could be possible, and he couldn’t believe that a sinner like him would be God’s choice to use as an instrument in the first place. But he couldn’t deny what he had seen, either. The dichotomy of doubt and evidence never fully resolved itself in him, and so I didn’t press him to talk about it (something that now, after his passing, I deeply regret).

I was stunned when I looked across the room at the ladies dinner and saw Cheryl sitting there. She had a backpack with an oxygen tube for her nose, but she was laughing and talking and, I noticed with almost childlike delight, when she got up, she walked on her own, confident and steady on her feet.

When I walked up to her, nervous and with no idea what I was going to say, it took her a moment to realize who I was, and she was thrilled when it clicked in her head that I was my Dad’s daughter, just looking much different after 20+ years had passed. My awkwardness passed quickly as I began to get to know her as a peer, since all our previous interactions had occurred when I was a kid and she was an adult. We clicked instantly, and spent most of the night talking and laughing, and she told me all about the healing with my Dad and how her doctor’s still don’t have an explanation for how she is up and walking around, in her fifties, when she was never expected to reach her 35th birthday. Seeing her was all the confirmation of a miracle I think I will ever need, and it gives me strange comfort knowing that, at this rate, she will have a longer life than my Dad did, because I know that he would be so happy for her were he here to see it.

Seeing Cheryl was only one of the things God had in store for me at the ladies dinner, though it would have been more than enough by itself. If I wrote about each interaction that felt like a “God appointment”, this entry would really be a novel. But there was one particular appointment that needs to be here.

The sermon and music for the night were provided by a couple, Terrance and Alyssa (again, fake names), a couple I had known and loved for years. Terrance had been my piano teacher when I was in elementary school, and Alyssa had directed several plays or pageants I was in at church during the same time. They sang together and while Terrance played the piano, and they were, as always, incredible. Then Alyssa gave a short sermon (that word feels too formal, but it is the closest word I have). The sermon was all about how God provides, and about the concept of going “All In” with trusting Him to provide for us and our material needs. My mom and I kept eyeballing each other throughout the sermon, both thinking “Sheesh, have they been spying on us or something?” because of how frighteningly spot-on the message was regarding our current financial circumstances and how we have wrestled with God about them. (I wrote about this previously, in an entry about Possibilities that can be found in my Christianity and Faith folder/category). At the end of the service, a pastor I don’t know personally got up and thanked Terrance and Alyssa for everything, and asked for an offering to help them continue with their ministry.

For the past few months, in the back zippered pocket of my wallet, there has been a single, one dollar bill; the very last of the profit I made when I sold/closed my business. I haven’t been able to bring myself to spend it. I didn’t know what I was going to use it for, but even when we had been returning bottles and cans to scrape up change, it never felt right to spend it. I had considered framing it, as I tried to hold on to the last piece of my business, but even that didn’t feel quite right, so there it stayed, tucked in a small pocket in my wallet.

Suddenly I knew why I hadn’t spent it, why I hadn’t framed it, and why it had been sitting in my wallet all this time. It was meant for this.

I pulled Alyssa aside when she had a free moment, and I told her about my business closing, and about the dollar. And I gave it to her, and told her I thought that God had a plan for it in their ministry, even though I don’t know what that plan is, and I wanted them to have it.

She cried and hugged me and thanked me, and I walked away a few minutes later, finally having gone “All In”, and completely content having parted with the last piece of my business. I’m glad that I could put it toward what God wanted, and I am confident He will use it for good.

I’ll leave you with a song by a man with a heart for God that I will always aspire to: I am a Servant by Larry Norman.

An Anonymous Outsider

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