‘Till next year, Thanks for a great Pride Month

This month I’ve talked about what I mean when I say I have three unique relationships and shared some of my thoughts and excitement around Pride.  I hope everyone enjoyed the photos. =)

Does anyone else feel like we just sort of blinked and the month is over? Summer needs to slow down right now!

Anyway, if there was a theme to this month or a final reflection I could offer, it would be this:

Practice Pride Every Day. And not just when it comes to your sexuality or relationships. Take pride in yourself.

Get ready because next month I have a lot to say about body positivity, stemming from the idea that we should take pride in our bodies, our accomplishments, who we are as people and our relationships.

Live your life! Live with pride, and love, and don’t let anyone steal your sparkle. 

Carmen

Maggie: My Best Friend

This month I have enjoyed telling our love stories. From explaining what it means to me to call Ben my high school sweetheart to the personal growth I’ve found with Tom as my partner in adventure – it’s truly been a joy to reflect on and share our stories. Finally, I’m excited to share the story of falling in love with my best friend: Maggie.

Maggie literally found me when I was lost in the rain in Arlington cemetery. God only knows why my friends wandered away and didn’t inform the tour guide that I was still in the washroom. Or why the staff thought it was a good idea to send a 15-year-old into this massive cemetery alone to search for a group of other 15-year-olds. As strange and crazy as this chain of events was, it lead Maggie and I to each other and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

I mean, who else could have met me crying my eyes out, lost and frustrated in the pouring rain and decided to keep me around?

Ten years later we have escaped the cemetery, survived University, student organizations and volunteering together.  She did a lot of driving around to help me put my wedding together and even helped me pick my wedding flowers – a meeting Ben had zero interest in. I’m pretty sure my florist thought we were marrying each other – kind of funny, now. Maggie and Tom even picked those flowers up and delivered them the morning of my wedding.

Ben and I drove to Nashville to stand by her and Tom when they married each other. From drinking moonshine that should have killed us (I mean, too drunk to effectively eat french fries or form sentences – just embarrassing) to putting ourselves back together and getting down the aisle. We’ve seen each other through a lot.

I’ve confided in Maggie, always. When I faced turbulence in my friendships and when I needed advice on developing myself as a person and reaching my goals.

Looking back I should have known there was something between Maggie and I. I’ve always admired her. Since high school, she’s been a powerhouse for whatever cause she chooses to champion. When I met her she was rebuilding homes in disaster-struck areas on her holiday. Seriously – I was trying to make it to Canada’s Wonderland when I had a break from school and she was counting down the days till she could literally improve the world.

She then came home and developed events like 24 Hours for Hunger and connecting students with veterans. To me, it was like she never stopped. Now, being even closer to her, it’s still that way.

Maggie’s ambition to improve the world around her, from her hometown to the global community, has always inspired me. It has shown me that my own dreams are possible. It has given me something to aspire to.

How could I not fall in love with her?

Then, getting the chance to know her more it seemed in so many ways we fit together. We found comfort in each other when we discovered we had the same values. When the world didn’t make sense we could console each other. When we needed sound advice on almost anything, we always seemed to find just what we needed in each other.

Falling in love has changed our relationship in subtle ways. It no longer feels entirely appropriate to vent about everything our husbands or boyfriends do to bother us – I mean, those relationships are shared after all. It’s a little awkward to tattle on your boyfriend to his wife or to tattle on your husband to his girlfriend.

Still… she gets it.  She knows when I vent it isn’t because I want to tattle on anybody or even tell her something about her husband or boyfriend. Our relationships with the boys are separate. We actually use the phrases “girlfriend treatment” and “wife treatment”.  It just means that there are traits in Ben’s personality which have more influence on her relationship with him, and less influence or prominence when he’s interacting with me. At the same time, there are traits that Tom has which define his and I’s interactions but don’t play a big role in how he interacts with Maggie. It’s not always a bad thing – in fact, it’s what allows us to develop unique relationships.

What this means is that if I do need to get something off my chest about a bit of friction between myself and one of the boys, Maggie can listen and be my best friend. As much as she’s also in a relationship with these people, the relationships are different. The moments of friction, and the moments of joy – moments that give the relationships character – are different. That makes it easier to avoid the feeling that I’m simply tattling on her husband or boyfriend to their wife or girlfriend.

It’s taken a while and it’s still a work in progress to figure out what it means to fall in love with your best friend. She doesn’t stop being my best friend – she never has, and I can’t imagine that she ever will. I mean, we literally share everything.

The relationship changed: it became more than it was, I fell in love with my best friend.

Carmen

Celebrating Love at Pride Toronto

 

This is the first pride month that I’ve been out as a bisexual woman, and of course, the first pride month that I’ve been out as polyamorous.  We started our pride festivities with a wonderful Women in Power event at TD. A little while later we attended Pride Night at the Aqueerium at Ripley’s Aquarium and then danced and partied on Church Street.  A day later we were back to march together with TD in the Pride Parade and enjoy Church Street by day.

All this is well and good but pictures tell our Pride story better than words ever could so check out all our photos below =) Especially the last ones.

Carmen

 

Women in Power event at TD – #ForeverProud 

Night at the Aqueerium & Dancing in the Rain on Church Street.

All ready with Rainbow make up, a renewed attempt at body confidence re: crop top style, and the best of friends. Even the rain couldn’t stop our smiles. Also, how adorable is it that google maps showed the parade route in rainbow when I opened the map!?

Just being cute together and celebrating our love after the parade 

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We’re so cute we even made Brett Kissel’s instagram story – how awesome is that? 

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And of course, we answered hate with love.

 

Tom: My Partner in Adventure

 

Last week I talked about Ben as my high school sweetheart and everything that means to me.  Now I want to share a little bit more about my relationship with Tom in this ongoing Pride month series.

Maggie and I spent years joking that we could trade husbands on date night since Tom and I had a shared taste in movies (Ahem, we’re both big Harry Potter fans), while the same can be said about Maggie and Ben’s shared interests.

So it wasn’t entirely surprising when Tom and I took time to discover our shared interests for ourselves.  I think what was most surprising was that Tom and I have very similar relationship styles.  We had the same ideas about the goals of the relationship. We both knew that if this was going to be a thing, we wanted it to be serious. We weren’t looking for a fling and we were both cautious and guarded at first.

Since then we’ve found it easy and natural to support each other in various adventures and exploring different interests.  My  favourite example is my increasing interest in Tom’s demolition derby hobby.  I had been watching his runs for a couple years – Ben and I liked coming out to support him and Maggie.  I knew from watching that it looked like a lot of fun and I’d love to be more involved. I didn’t really know how to make the jump from the stands in to the ring, though. With Tom, I’ve been able to explore this interest.

We’ve also found a shared interest in hiking and exploring the area around us.  While our partners love a high paced weekend Tom and I like our weekends interesting, but not stressful. We’ve found this balance in each other.

Where I talk about my relationship with Ben being one where we grew together, Tom has shown me a different side of my potential and encouraged me to pursue things that interest me with less consideration for what fits with who I thought I was. It’s been easy to support new interests for each other and give each other space to change our minds about how we think of ourselves.

This has allowed us to explore a shared interest in hiking. If you don’t know me personally you might not realize but I sunburn basically as soon as my skin becomes aware that it’s sunny and I’ve left the house. I also attract mosquitos at an alarming rate and am somewhat allergic to their bites. I was perfectly fine being “indoorsy” and relating to the outdoors mostly through the “Planet Earth” series from the comfort of my couch.

With a little help from sunscreen, bug spray and google maps Tom and I have slowly begun exploring our local hiking trails. I am finding I really enjoy it. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised since I was a girl guide but I guess I left the “loves hiking” part of myself as a childhood memory, until now.

I think when we were monogamous we had both settled on the idea that we knew ourselves and the lives that we had created. I was indoorsy, kinda nerdy, really liked creative activities even if I never showed a special talent for the visual arts, and at heart, a crazy cat lady.

All of those things are still true but when I reconsidered my ideas about love and relationships I found a bit of a cascade effect that helped me constructively reconsider my ideas about my identity and interests.  I discovered that I still really want to learn and the adrenaline junkie in me (a long standing relationship with thrill rides), is a little crazier than any of us thought.

Tom also has new or different ways of addressing how I need to be supported. When I talk about Polyamory I talk about having the opportunity to let partners who excel at meeting certain needs help you with them, and not forcing them to be something they aren’t for other needs. I should say that what Tom has shown me is that he can address the same needs as Maggie and Ben, for example, but he has his own way of understanding and addressing the need. It’s helpful to have this kind of support – really helpful.

I’ve talked before on this blog about struggling with self consciousness and weight loss efforts.  If I’ve said something negative about myself Ben has always been quick to tell me I’m beautiful and deny the negative charge. This has always been helpful and I’ve always appreciated his support. Tom surprised me with a slightly different phrase – he never denied the size of my body but he reminded me that he finds me attractive. I never really thought about what positive comments I need to hear from people supporting me because really, I hated needing help from others to build up my confidence. I always wished I never needed their reassurance instead of thinking about what kind of reassurance I needed. Both are needed and valuable and having different perspectives or ideas of what to say when I’m struggling has been a blessing.

Falling in love with Tom has taught me to embrace and explore so much more than a new way of thinking about love and relationships. He’s supported and encouraged a new way of thinking about myself and my identity. He’s been my partner in adventures big and small, so I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Thanks for reading the 2nd of 3 relationship reflections. =)

Carmen

 

 

Learning to Practice Pride Every Day

The hardest part of coming out, for me, was realizing that it’s not quite the grand leap out of the closet that you expect. Even with social media, the message doesn’t reach everyone. Even if it did, there’s meeting new friends or colleagues and the assumptions they make (about me at least) are that I’m straight and monogamous.

The fact that I wear wedding rings and have a husband definitely gives people reason to make that assumption. None the less, it can be a bit jolting when casual conversation turns to family life and it turns out, mine isn’t quite what they expected.

In the few weeks or months after officially coming out on social media I wasn’t quite prepared for the situations where I would fine myself inadvertently in the middle of another “coming out” conversation. Especially since the people I had to “come out” to in these odd after-thought conversations were usually co-workers at my old retail job or someone else on the outer rings of my social existence. I don’t usually talk about my personal life at work – I make it a general practice not to – but from time to time it would slip. Now it isn’t strictly the conversations with coworkers specifically that were awkward, it’s the fact that in the grand scheme of my life and coming out these people weren’t important to me.  Once it was a nail lady who asked about my weekend plans and was super confused when I told her I had plans with my boyfriend while she was holding my ring finger and admiring the bling.

When we decided to come out we all created lists of who needed to know. Our parents and family of course.  Then there were the close friends who we wanted to tell personally, rather than letting them find out on social media. After we had these conversations to the best of our ability we figured out how to post and went ahead with the big leap of coming out publicly.  Truthfully we could of gone on forever with the private conversations and there were probably a few people we missed or didn’t contact in time but we were so excited to make our announcement. I took a lot of back and forth for us all to decide exactly how we wanted the announcement to go – we had to figure out what coming out meant to  us and what that looked like. When we finally felt ready, we weren’t patient.

After making it public on social media there were a few follow up conversations and messages from friends and family members we didn’t speak to previously.  Beyond that, it was relatively smooth. At least, none of the turbulence we experienced was completely unexpected, even if some of it was a little more intense than we anticipated.

Then sometimes the moment comes up where you’re about to say something and you hesitate because you don’t want to come out and explain everything. For example, when someone asks my weekend plans and I want to say “I’ll be at a derby with my boyfriend.” but I don’t want to get in to the whole thing.

True story: When I had that retail job I once bunch of underwear at the end of my shift. The coworker ringing me out said something about how happy my boyfriend would be when I got home and another coworker yelled over “Husband – she’s married!”. I laughed all the way home.

Seriously though, moments where being honest about something unrelated could lead to coming out are silently awkward.  There’s a lot of guilt about avoiding a conversation or avoiding having to acknowledge your relationships fully. It felt unfair to Tom or Maggie that I would acknowledge my relationship with Ben but potentially not talk about them the same way because it was easier.

I’ve gotten over that now, clearly.

For this month I promised to reflect on Pride month and come up with some musings.  As I was thinking about how to do this I’ve been thinking about how excited I am that this is my first Pride month being completely out. In that string of thoughts it occurred to me that coming out was a plural experience. And a plural experience that I was not always prepared for, at that.

Having that unexpected series of conversations and experiences has helped me come to practice pride every day. It’s made me realize that when we decided we wanted to come out on social media we really wanted more. We wanted the openness and honesty that had always been part of how we lived our lives and related to others to continue being part of our lives. With this we committed to pride as a daily action.

Almost a year in to it though, it does get easier. When I decided to blog about this life I think I had to commit to practicing pride every day. I love my life so much, how can I avoid celebrating that?

Carmen

Ben: My High School Sweetheart

I said at the beginning of this month that I wanted to do a bit of a series for Pride. I also said that in that series I’d talk a bit about the different relationships in my life. Since I always refer to “my three unique relationships”, let’s talk a little about them.

Ben is my husband and the person I’ve been with the longest.  We met and began dating in high school – I know it’s a cliche but we are high school sweethearts. I even changed my university plan to stay with him. I know that changing your big life decisions to make a relationship work isn’t normally recommended when you’re 18 but it worked out for me.

Because of this, Ben and I have grown up together.  I was only 16 when we started dating.  In a practical sense he’s seen me through a lot.  Right away there were big decisions about university and the logistics of applying, registering, etc.  Then there was dorm life, figuring out how to feed ourselves, managing classes, getting jobs… until we mastered living together and planned a wedding … well, I planned the wedding and he showed up at the agreed upon time 😉

From graduating to jobs and everything in between we really have transitioned from teens in love to partners in life together.  People always get really excited and happy to hear that we are high school sweet hearts. We get a chorus of “awww – that’s adorable!” And I do like to think that we are.

When reflecting to write this post though I realize that we tend to think high school sweet hearts are special because they found their partner at such a young age and when many people spend their 20s on an emotional dating rollercoaster we’re already living together and committing to each other. (I walked down the aisle and married Ben when I was 22)

I think what’s really special is that we manage to grow together.  The truth is that it meant choosing our relationship at really critical moments in our lives.  It meant choosing Ben instead of pursuing an interest in moving to Newfoundland for university. That changed my major from journalism and creative writing to English and History.  It also meant moving to Oshawa because that’s where Ben’s career opportunities are and he was in the workforce ahead of me.  It means that the first thing I decided about my identity, values and lifestyle as an adult was that everything about me is connected to him.

I don’t mean to make myself hard done by – let’s be clear.  It has also meant that through really big and intimidating decisions like pursuing grad school and then dropping out of it, making a career of  being a freelancer and transitioning to a polyamorous lifestyle I have had an amazing support system. In these moments where I have designed my adult life and worked to define myself I have always had him, like a lighthouse in moments of uncertainty, he has given insight and lit my way.

I absolutely loved the university I attended and couldn’t have dreamed a better university experience for myself.  I loved living close to Toronto and exploring the GTA.

I love him.

My relationship with Ben, I think, is unique for the history and the safe space we have created for ourselves – hey look, a buzz word! Seriously though, there is no space safer for me then beside Ben. He has seen every side of me. He allows me to talk his ear off, or to be silent. He encourages me to write while he practices bass and takes me on adventures when I need to get out of the house.  He is familiar with the complicated balance required to look after someone who may be extroverted or introverted depending on the day… and he can always, always make me laugh.

He knows me to my bones because he watched me build myself.  He never asked me to choose him – he never did anything to limit my growth or push me in a direction I was unwilling to go. He has always loved me with such certainty and kindness that I knew wherever life took us I would be happy, so long as I had him.

Yes, I am a super cheesy girl, through and through. It’s Pride month and I won’t hide that side of myself anymore than I hide anything else. =)

Hope you enjoyed this little reflection on my relationship with Ben. It’s only the first of three relationship reflections. Watch out for some other pride-related thoughts I’m musing on.

Carmen

Sincerely, Carmen in Canada

When I write about working from home I caution my  readers not to romanticize the reality – I give up stability, normal working hours (although I am slowly building towards normal hours, more on that another time.), and many of the perks of a “regular job”. I always acknowledge that I’ve traded these things for the convenience of staying at home and pursuing a flexible career.

Let’s talk a bit about what I get in return for my trade.

Who I work For and What I Do

I work for three different companies.

Company one, the company I’ve been with for the longest, is a Chinese company focused on educating Chinese children. It offers one to one classes and they have designed the curriculum. Students book me at the time they prefer and I try to make the process of learning English fun and interesting with games and lots of smiles, virtual high fives and rewards.

Company two I am new too. It offers one to one classes as well as group classes with as many as six students. This company focuses on adults, however, and they take student from all over the world. In a class I might have a few people from Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, or Germany! These classes are also focused on teaching the art of conversation by supplying students with useful sentences, natural back and forth examples and pronunciation guidance. They will have already studied the basics like vocabulary and grammar on their own – I’m just there to help bring it all together.

Company three is the leas formal. There is no powerpoint or directed class goal. Really it’s skype built in to a web platform where the minutes spent on a call can be easily tracked. This offers a one to one video connection and the goal is unstructured conversation practice. Think of it this way – someone in a foreign country has spent a lot of energy learning English but doesn’t know if they can take what they know in theory to the real world with effective conversations in English. This company is their way to connect with native English speakers, practice, have interesting conversations and get some advice along the way.

Why I Love my Job(s) – Seriously!

What all of this means is that I spend my day talking to people around the world, literally. They tell me about their homes, the culture and the politics, their travels and their experience with travelling.  They tell me what they do for work, why they like it and what makes it difficult. I learn about and sometimes meet their families.

Secretly, I think I learn so much more than I teach.

I am so lucky to genuinely smile throughout my time working.  Even in hour 12 I am still smiling my face off listening to a 6 year old describe their day at school.

I could work less. Twelve hour days, even if they only happen once or twice a week, are undeniably overkill. Nobody is forcing me to open my availability and allow that many bookings. But its so hard to resist when I know I will more than likely enjoy all 12 of those hours!

I mean, the paycheques don’t hurt either.

My Work Identity: Meet Teacher Carmen

Don’t we all have that person we are at work? That personality we fold up and tuck away in an office drawer when we’re done for the day? I sure do.

She likes tea – and need a  lot of it. But she’ll drink diet coke if there’s no time to make tea. She is obsessed with her planner and anything organizational.

She’s got a bit of a sticky not problem/addiction, and she’s not seeking help.

Sometimes her pets make guest appearances in class.

Her favourite students are the ones that laugh with her or tell her about different cultures.

The practice platform does not require me to send formal feedback to the people I meet but the other two are more formal education platforms so my students always receive feedback. That is how my teacher identity got her name – from my introduction:

Hello, my name is Carmen and I live in Canada.

… to my sign-off:

Sincerely, Carmen in Canada.

 

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