Monthly Archives: February 2016

Value and Vulnerability

Dear Nora,

Happy Leap Day! Did you do anything special to celebrate the extra day?

All of your Valentine’s dates sound incredibly romantic (including the one with your ex…*ehem*). I don’t know how you do it! I can barely keep feelings straight and manage one relationship at a time. Then again, being openly polyamorous maybe takes off some of the pressure of monogamy to be ALL for the other person, and perhaps you don’t waste so much energy worrying about it being long-term/permanent, being “the one”, all of that. I’ve done so very little casual dating, so that’s really a foreign concept to me, in terms of personal experience. I feel I am naturally inclined to competition and jealousy, and I’m guessing that mixes with dating multiple people like oil mixes with water.

So romantic dates with the ex, eh? That can’t be easy. Do you two work to maintain a friendship? How is that? I always thought that would be me. That I would be someone who was friends with my ex if I ever had one. And then, when that became a reality, I realized that our friendship had very little to build on—yes we had years of love and nostalgia and growth together, but it had become so watered down with her guilt and my mistrust of her in the end. Maybe someday we will regain some of what we lost. But for now I think it’s for the best this way.

I envy your voice of instinct and your ability to listen to it. That is something that often comes out garbled for me, due to my compulsion to people-please—I allow the voices of others to drown out my own. But the voice is there, and it’s my job to listen to it. “People will lie to you, you will lie to yourself. But in the depths of consciousness there’s still that compass of self protection that will continue to point to the north. Follow the arrow.” I really like that, Nora.

I found comfort and support in friends and family after the breakup. Making trips to visit good friends and lots of long phone calls and letters and tears. But everyone was as stunned as I was, and hadn’t really ever seen me like this before. I think they weren’t quite sure what to do with me. After thinking “it will be fine, I’m fine, I’m fine…” I realized I was not fine after all, and there was a big ‘ole crash and burn. Within three months of the breakup my plans to move to Portland were set and I couldn’t get away from Indiana fast enough.

Elise and I are approaching one year together. I wish I could say it was smooth sailing and the perfect light of a sunrise coming up on the horizon of our lives. But it is not that. It is hard. It is work. So in other words, it’s real life. We are living together, and throwing the “m” word around more and more frequently. Timing landed us in the same place at the same time, and in the same general stage of life—looking for someone to walk side-by-side with, someone to “adult” with, be ourselves with, grow with, enjoy both the mundane and the exciting with. Someone to hold onto through the pain. We had a very instant and deep connection and it sucked us both in—and now it’s almost a year later. And as the dust of this whirlwind has settled, I think we’re both taking a deep breath and looking around at where we’ve landed and really evaluating where this is going. Not just moving forward to move forward. But doing so only if we are both 100% in it, and committed to the not just the joy, but the hard work of a long-term partnership.


It’s made me really think about why we “do” relationships. Sure, the initial part is easy to explain. The attraction, the excitement, the intrigue and mystery and the game. But what does the long term offer? A lot of that initial stuff fades, and in the end you just have this very real, imperfect person next to you every day. And you choose, daily, whether to let them in. And you choose daily to love them and what to give and take. Finding the balance of what to compromise on and what to fight for. And sometimes it’s extremely rewarding. And sometimes it requires much of you. And this person is like your best friend, and your lover, and your family all rolled into one. Someone who knows your best and your worst and daily ups and downs, from all sides. There is a deep value in that, and also a terrifying vulnerability.


I found a really lovely quote the other day, written by Edith Wharton (one of my all-time favorite authors) to a good friend in a letter. It’s about how to be happy & fulfilled, whether alone or with someone else:

“I believe I know the only cure, which is to make one’s center of life inside of one’s self, not selfishly or excludingly, but with a kind of unassailable serenity—to decorate one’s inner house so richly that one is content there, glad to welcome anyone who wants to come and stay, but happy all the same when one is inevitably alone.”

Here’s to decorating your inner house,


On Trusting Your Instincts

Dear Ruth

I have so many updates for you in terms of romance.


San Diego, CA February 2016

Valentine’s Day was Amazing this year. On Saturday I had a Mariachi Dinner with Jayne*, she loved it. On Sunday, I had Palentine’s dinner with a friend. Friendship is the best of the loves. Then Monday and Tuesday I was in San Diego with Trace*. I have been seeing Jayne since September. We are both in our first polyamorous relationship and it has been such a learning experience. I have a longer history of on-and-offs with Trace. We are currently in a situationship. She is monogamous though, which complicates things. How can a monogamous person date a polyamorous person? I do not know, as of right now, we are making it work.


I also saw my ex this week for a salsa concert. Which made me a little melancholic because 1. Gilberto Santa Rosa has the most romantic salsa on earth and 2. We went to so many of these events together throughout our relationship. It makes the guilt come back to remind me that I had someone that I was extremely compatible with and that I ruined it. Guilt is lying though, I did not single handedly ruin it. It takes two to tango. Plus even though we seemed so compatible, I was very unhappy throughout our time in California. I was a lot happier when we were together in Brooklyn. That being said,

guilt will come to chase you and you just have to run faster.

It is interesting that we had the same but opposite experience and we had the same but opposite response. If there’s something that I came out with from my last breakup was trusting my instincts. This requires me to give up my hopes and daydreams. Understanding that the small voice inside of me is thinking ahead, it’s seen this before, it knows where this road leads.

I knew when my ex left New York City that I was extremely hurt by her abandonment. I was hooping to get over it. I supported her decision, and encouraged her, to apply for jobs here in LA. She was having a hard time in New York. But I did not know was how this would affect me, and the relationship.

By the time I got to LA, six months later, the whole thing was broken. I could not trust her with my heart since she had no problem picking up and leaving me behind in a span of about a week. It all happened so fast. I had to give away her clothes, move apartments, put our furniture on craigslist. The dog would roam the house looking for her, waiting for her to come home. She left me alone with a pile of shit to deal with and came to live the life in California.

I thought I could move on once we were back together. I thought the distance was the root of all the evil and that once we were near each other again, the feelings and the trust would return. (They did not). I ignored the parts of me heart that could no longer believe in someone who so easily just LEFT ME. From then on, I have a rule:

When in doubt, go with your gut.


People will lie to you, you will lie to yourself. But in the depths of consciousness there’s still that compass of self protection that will continue to point to the north. Follow the arrow.

It is hard to trust yourself when your instincts have failed you before. When you were convinced that you had something that may or may not have existed. But go back to that time, to the moment, really. I bet it seemed like a good idea at the time to let go of yourself, to alleviate the pain of betrayal by denying it. It is a lot easier to sit and think that you were unworthy and “not enough” and make poor decisions, than it is to accept that this precious thing you handed to someone so carefully, YOUR HEART, was dropped. For some bizarre reason, and I have seen people do this a lot, we tend to justify the shortcomings of our loved-ones at our own expense. We make excuses for their behaviors and exonerate them.

Forgiving yourself means giving yourself permission to make mistakes, understanding that most of life is playing trial and error until something works. It also recognizing our faults and taking responsibility. It requires us to separate what we did from what they did and being able to let go of both. Not an easy task but once it’s done, the voice that has been saying “I told you so” will stop pointing fingers. And you will have you back. 

I am curious as to where you found support after the crisis. How did your friends and family react? What reasons did you give them for the break up? How long did it take you to move to Portland?

I hope this week brings you lots of blessings.


*Jayne and Trace are not their real names. But they both approved these aliases.

Pretty Lies and Ugly Truths

Dear Nora,

I knew we came into each other’s virtual lives for a reason. It is funny to me that we’ve never met in “real” life. But I am sure we will remedy that some day. In the meantime, thank you for your letter.


We took a road trip to beautiful Montana for Valentine’s Day.

I finished The Book of Unknown Americans (Cristina Henríquez) this week, and there was a line that reminded me of what you said, that everything sounds better in Spanish: “English was such a dense, tight language. So many hard letters, like miniature walls. Not open with vowels the way Spanish was. Our throats open, our hearts open.” The book was moving, about Latinos moving to the US from all over South and Central America, pursuing the “American Dream”. It’s fiction, but I suspect there was a lot of truth in the stories it told.

In all of this worrying about being cheated on and trusting others, I’ve been distracted from the part I’m most ashamed of–as a result of all of this, I stopped trusting myself. That is the biggest piece I must sew back together in my new canvas–it is the heart of it all.

After she cheated and I was hurt, I should have been my own greatest advocate–first and foremost protecting and defending myself. Have the self-respect to stand up and fight for myself. But I am ashamed to say that isn’t what I did. Instead I limped out slowly, with my head hung and cowered, mumbling something about how that was all I was worth. I made poor decisions in the aftermath that there are no excuses for. Even now it makes me cringe. My ex is long gone, so who cares if I can trust her anymore. But ME? I see her daily, face-to-face in the mirror, and I am still pissed at her. I expected more of myself. I deserved more from myself. I let myself down when it really counted and as a result lost a considerable amount of self-respect and the much of my ability to trust myself.

Now that I have the perspective I lacked when I was in it–it is all so clear to me, and I am ready to put in the work. I will regain the trust, I will forgive myself for not acknowledging my own worth, and I will not soak in the guilt.

No one is above it. No one. No one is above being a coward, and taking the easy way, and lying and cheating and covering up their lies and skulking around and betraying their own beliefs and hurting others. Not you, not me, not my ex, not the girl I’m dating now. I guess all we can ask of ourselves, and others, but especially ourselves, is to be as honest as we can be. That sounds so obvious, but my god it is hard. Lies try to protect our pride and our ideals of who we are and who we’re trying to be, and are dressed up as qualifications and justifications and reasonings. In fact, lies are quite often much more pleasant and pretty than the ugly, raw, vulnerable truth. It’s hard to be honest with ourselves, let alone with a partner.

Being honest doesn’t mean beating yourself up and making a big show of it. It means owning what you’ve done, humbling yourself, making amends and then learning from it and moving forward when you’ve made a mistake.

It sounds like that’s what you’ve done, Nora. I know that can’t have been easy. But I’m proud of you for taking positive steps in accepting yourself, learning from what happened, and figuring out what you really need. I like what you said about forming relationships that are real and not ideal–more on that later. I am lucky to have found someone who is a very brave and honest soul. She makes an effort daily to self-examine, and offers up the truth, even when it paints herself in an un-flattering light. It is refreshing, to say the least. It might not be easier, but that’s how I’d like to go through life.

Only two things are certain in life: one day, you will die. And in the meantime, you have to live with yourself.

Here’s to forgiving our own cowardice, accepting ourselves, and telling the ugly truths.

Your friend, Ruth

Readying to Bloom

Dear Ruth,

If it rains there it won’t stop here. I realize that is a terrible way to start this letter but I promise it sounds beautiful in Spanish (Si por alla llueve, por aqui no escampa).

soundsbetter in spanish

The oatmeal in your breakfast reminds me I bought a huge pack of oats and I have to make some cookies because they are a lot tastier than oatmeal. I am happy to hear than you are singing in the Lesbian Choir (you are growing as a gay), and that this past year brought so many positive changes.

It has been an eventful year for me as well, this time last year I was also going through a breakup, alas on the opposite side of the coin. My ex-girlfriend of 3 years went through my cell phone and found very inappropriate messages between me and a girl from school. I am not sure how long I cheated on her for, I don’t even know what counts as cheating at this point since the girl in question was on the opposite coast. I had a sexual encounter with this person once while I was with my ex. So “technically” I only cheated on her one time?, one day?. I could try and justify the cheating and say it was the alcohol, a moment of weakness, that I was in heat, anything. But really, that is not how it works.

With cheating, comes an incredible amount of lying and omitting, violating your partner’s trust and the terms of the relationship. My ex did not deserve that. You did not deserve that. Once your needs are not being met in a relationship the adult thing to do is to address it, to have the open honest, painful conversation that the end is approaching. Denial has never served anyone well. I was alone in a foreign city, where I moved to be with my ex, depressed, lonely. and feeling unsupported. I developed feelings for someone else, I struggled with those feelings and I listened to my heart, not decency or common sense, and allowed myself to engage with someone else.

I have since renounced monogamy. Today, a year after being found out, (and having to move out, she kicked me out naturally) I am with two people who care for me, value me, don’t make me feel restricted and, best of all, know each other and about each other. I am being a lot more honest these days. Primarily with myself, accepting that I am not made for the stereotypical relationship that I may never have the white picket fence and the 2.2 kids. But sacrificing this fantastical notion of what a relationship should look like has allowed me to build strong REAL (not ideal) bonds with people.

You and Elise seemed to have formed a very strong bond in such a short time (You met her on Valentine’s? How romantic). I am not sure how she’s coping with your lack of trust and on-going healing process, but really it is not her job to clean up after the last mess. It’s yours. You get the broom and pick up the pieces of your soul that were scattered. You must wash them by hand and hang them out to dry. You then have to sew them back together, I warn you though, it won’t look the same. Even after ironing the last wrinkles of resentment you will be a whole new canvas.
I was tempted to tell you that you should have taken more time before committing to a new person, but I know that this is not how it works for everyone.

In actuality, it is love and not time what heals wounds.

When I think of healing, I like to think that we were born perfect. We are just trying to re-discover our heart and what it looked like before it was broken. I am just here to remind you that it is not your fault that you were hurt, that you ex’s decisions were hers to make and she selfishly sacrificed your well being for her wishes, that her lying is NOT A COMMENT ON YOUR WORTH, that you are wonderful and you are loved.

I welcome the spring with you, ready for the warmth, the flowers and the next adventure. I can sense changes coming the way flowers know it’s time to bloom. I am ready to flourish.



Coming out of Winter

Dear Nora,

I’m sitting this morning at a favorite coffee shop in my neighborhood, and today is the first day I truly believe spring is coming again. It’s been a little over a year since I showed up on Portland’s doorstep, standing broken-hearted in the rain, and hoping that this place held the fresh start I needed to restart my heart.


One of the first things I did after moving here was attend a concert of the Portland Lesbian Choir. I stood in the very back of the packed hall, and my eyes filled with tears of joy as I watched this community of brightly clothed women singing passionately together–and being met by thunderous applause of the loving audience. I didn’t know a single soul in the room, but it felt like home, and I knew I belonged here.

Nora, last night I was in that same place, a year later… I stood this time on the stage, singing with more than 60 of my sisters. And in the audience–good friends, supporting me, and among them my girlfriend of almost 11 months with tears in her eyes, smiling at me.

This winter has been dark and dreary. I’m realizing, as time passes, where the deepest bruises on my heart are. A simple circumstance or word will brush past and I’ll yelp out in pain–surprising even myself. When my relationship of 6.5 years abruptly ended at the close of 2014 with confessions of cheating and lies from my then-girlfriend, I sank into a dark place. It’s a sobering phenomenon how these things, which are no fault of your own, are somehow internalized as something that is your responsibility. Like… there had to be something wrong with me to make her do that. I am slowly, but surely, working to rebuild and restore my self-worth. It is hard and good work. But I do get discouraged when I see the steps I took backwards.

Worse than that though, my ability to trust has been reduced to rubble. That kills me, because that doesn’t feel like who I am–it’s a betrayal of myself and also a wrong against the amazing woman I’m dating–she deserves to be trusted. How do you get to the point where every harmless thing is not perceived as a threat? And when you no longer assume the worst (that everyone I date will inevitably cheat on me)?

There are no blank slates, only hearts that are worn and bruised–that is the starting point we have to work with. But I hold tight to faith that good and strength come from the broken places.

It has definitely brought about raw and honest conversations about trust and fidelity for Elise and I.

It is terrifying to risk my heart again. But it demands that I take that risk. My heart is braver (and maybe more foolish) than my mind. A year ago, on Valentine’s Day, I met a small, hilarious, sassy Colombian girl… and I knew immediately she was going to be an important soul for me to know. Shouting over the crowded dance club about our Christian upbringing and coming out, I felt more known by her within minutes than I had felt in a long time.


Here’s to brave and foolish hearts, and healing.

Your friend, Ruth