I have become obsessed with the concept of fluidity.
I am fluid in nature; my passions, desires, and attractions all shift on a pretty regular basis. I am going to talk about how much I love the concept of sexual fluidity next week, but today I talk about my efforts to achieve balance by understanding time as a fluid resource.
My emotions may be naturally mutable, but my thought processes are frustratingly rigid. I have a bad habit of all-or-nothing thinking, and buying hard into scarcity mentality. In order to temper this, I am trying more and more to acknowledge that different arenas of my life have separate rhythms. Not only is that ok, but it might be crucial to living a fulfilled life. Attempting to identify these different time scales has helped me chill out about polyamory in particular, although it is all still a work in progress.
One of the not-quite-jokes in the poly community is that a shared google calendar is THE most important tool for being polyamorous. Confession time: I do not use google calendar.
I try, I really do, but it never quite sticks. To be honest, I haven't found scheduling dates any more or less difficult than scheduling time with friends. So, really pretty hard, but not necessarily requiring a special tool. My issue with scheduling dates is not as much about finding the time as it is prioritizing, figuring out what I want, and preserving time for myself.
My angsty brain
We talk a lot these days about whether or not hierarchy within relationships is ever acceptable. I have many thoughts that I am sure to write about (and these are absolutely important conversations to be having), but if I'm not careful all the talk of equality combined with the concept of time as a resource seeps into my brain in weird ways. I grew up very concerned about being 'nice' and 'fair,' and, frankly, like I owed my time to everyone but myself. I grew up in a culture where if you asked a few people to your birthday party, you had to invite the whole class. If you turned down one boy, you could not then say yes to the next boy that asked you to a dance. In addition I was weird, and shy, and took things to extremes. When I was 10 years old my very worried mom sat me down to tell me that if a friend asked me to go outside and I didn't want to, I was allowed to say 'no'. In dodgeball-like games I literally gave balls to the other team if they asked.
Every once in a while, my brain says "If you see partner A, then you have to make sure to see partner B just as often. Within this same week, if possible. If partner C asks to see you, you have to say yes or they will think you don't like them." This is, obviously, some bullshit. And before my current partners call me up frantically: I've gotten pretty good about ignoring these impulses. I can pretty much guarantee that if I see you these days, it's because I want to be seeing you. Promise.
Perspective, time, and honoring rhythms
Still, it bothers me that those thoughts happen at all. They are full of some pretty toxic assumptions, and it is terrible to feel like you have to rank the people you love. Making those comparisons – or thinking that partners will be monitoring me and comparing themselves – is really very gross. Thinking of each relationship as having a unique, fluid time scale has helped me enter into another dimension entirely where worrying about 'fairness' is irrelevant.
The reality is that, try as you might, you cannot quantify love. Thank goodness.
Sometimes the people I see once a month feel as close to my heart as the people I see once or twice a week. Frequency is not necessarily a statement about how much I like someone. Figuring out a balance that works for two people is tricky. Not only is it going to differ based on the individual, it's going to vary based on relationship. Everyone's life has different situational constraints and each relationship dynamic is going to have its own rhythm.
That's not to say that infrequency is never the sign of a deeper problem, or that I never get frustrated and miss people when I don't see them. Like, you should want to see someone you're dating, for sure. But, noticing and valuing these different rhythms helps me step away from aforementioned anxieties.
When I worry about scheduling snafus within a relationship that is otherwise healthy and strong I remember my best friend from childhood who I talk to approximately once or twice a year, and my current bestie who I talk to more often but has been studying in Turkey since last summer. These people are so important to me, and I know that when I see them again our relationship will continue. The relationships have slowed, been stretched over time, but they have not broken. I remember that my boyfriend has an extremely close long-distance, long-term relationship with a cutie they get to see every few months at best, that my girlfriend has a child to take care of, and that I have spent entire summers away from Alexis despite her being integral to the fabric of my life. These things help shift my perspective so that I feel more secure in making choices that are in tune with my introverted needs, and that are best for each relationship in context. Time is not running out, and balance is a dance, not a calculation.
Metaphors are powerful tools
A few weeks ago in therapy I was worried about achieving balance in my life. I have been eating healthier, but I haven't been exercising. I have been pouring creative energy into things like this blog and my art, but I have been slacking at my day job. In the wake of a breakup, I let my partner do even more of the household chores than usual. I was so frustrated that I couldn't seem to hold everything at once.
My therapist pointed out to that I have still been making positive changes and moving forward, and that all of life is a back and forth. She talked about the physical act of balancing. If you stand on a balance board, you begin by heavily swinging from one side to another. With time, with practice, your teetering becomes more subtle to the point of apparent stillness. If you stand on one leg and try to hold all of your muscles rigid you will fall on your face. In order to balance, you have to breathe, relax, and allow your body to make those micro-corrections. You may look completely still, but you are not. Balance is motion.
In terms of relationships, balance does not look like nailing down a magically perfect and consistent schedule. Instead, it has to do with flexibility. When a partner needs you, are you able to make that time? When you are overwhelmed, are you able to articulate new boundaries? How deftly do you react to the shifting undercurrents of a relationship? It is not as precise as a shared google calendar, but it is infinitely more satisfying.