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Join me in Love

Confronting Disability

hartmans Monday September 26, 2022
Recently I've been confronting being blind and how that affects my participation in the kink community. Why now? I’ve never been shy about being blind or asking for help.
That’s true, but I’ve generally minimized how much I think about being blind. I do the things I can do, ask for minor changes, and ignore the rest. That’s 8 parts healthy positive thinking and two parts avoidant behavior. Recently, the stuff I’ve been ignoring has started catching up with me. I’ve realized that without a bit more focus, I wasn’t getting what I needed.

childhood Background

I had the best parents ever. They gave me all sorts of opportunities, and never focused on what I couldn’t do. They never let being blind get in the way. I played at being a doctor, a construction worker, a fireman, a hair dresser—whatever I liked. (Interestingly despite their recent conservative leanings, I was never pushed toward play associated with a particular gender identity.) So, I grew up believing I could do anything and being blind would not get in the way.
In many ways, that was great. I accomplished things people were skeptical I could do. Blind people weren’t supposed to be good at geometry or biology. I aced both classes.
But as a consequence, I had a couple of blind spots in how I approached the world. I am not used to focusing on the things I cannot do.

Recent Realizations

After moving to Denver, I realized that I needed to do something different. I was interacting with people but not really becoming part of the community. As I started to think about it and listen to advice for how to become involved, it became obvious that this was a situation where I could not ignore being blind:
  • We recommend new people spend some time watching scenes to learn what happens.
  • Much of our discussion of how to interact with a bottom talks about learning to read their body visually. There are other ways to connect, but that’s what we focus on.
  • At Topside Talk we recommend the way to become involved in the community is to become the best at something; regularly be seen in the dungeon doing something showy and interesting enough (and be the best at it) that you get noticed. I’m not entirely in agreement that this advice is healthy even ignoring the visual component, but as given it certainly doesn’t work for me either as the one watching or being noticed.
  • In other aspects of the community, we recommend people get involved and show interest by volunteering—perhaps helping confirm people are members at the door, learn to be a dungeon monitor, fetch/carry various things, etc. Most all of that is visual.
  • And even if I found an initial way to volunteer, all the more senior positions in the community are very visual in how they interact with paperwork or in other aspects.
  • Consider all the ways in which we recommend eye-contact as a way to see if someone is busy or is available and open to being approached.
Facing this has been hard. @Lee Harrington was running one of their classes on disability and kink. I’ve been at events before with classes focusing on disability. I had never gone—I have other things to focus on, I thought. I was afraid of how others would react to me. Because like any other minority, one person’s needs are not the same as another’s. Many of the times I’ve tried to work with other blind people, I’ve been told I’m going about being blind all wrong. I use the wrong tools, I shouldn’t be able to do the things I do, and suggesting that others consider the approaches that work for me is somehow ignoring my privilege. Doubtless I do have privilege, even in being blind, and yes I have gone my own way in a lot of respects. Still, my experience reaching out to spaces that were supposed to be safe is that they often haven’t been. Now, I absolutely do trust Lee to create a safe space. But I found that as the class approached, I just didn’t have the emotional energy to be ready for that. Which in its own way was a real wake up call. If I am having trouble facing an issue enough to work on it, then it definitely does need work.
I did go to my first class covering lifestyle and mental health/disability at MSC. It was good, in that it helped me get out of a rut.

Finding my Own way

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m different, and will need to find my own way. The general recommendations we give everyone probably won’t work for me. I’ve tried to stop judging myself by standards set up for people who are sighted. Feeling shame that I’m not good at reading body language will distract me from the successes at reading the energy of a situation. And yes, I’m always going to need more verbal communication than some people.
I’ve also accepted a shift and realized that more of my focus is on M/s and relationships than it is on playing in the dungeon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a kinky fuck, but I don’t need to judge myself based on how much play I get or on how much interest in play there is. Yes, some of the people I respect in the community do identify their success related to their play. I am not a failure because I don’t live up to someone else’s success metrics. I know that trap, but goddess, even knowing it’s a trap, it is easy to get caught.
So, what is my path? What are the ways I can get involved in the community even if the traditional entry paths aren’t a great fit for me?

Discussions

I’ve found I am good at participating in discussions. I am articulate; I understand some of the issues that affect M/s, kink, poly, and spiritual; and I can present things in a way that others can connect with. Joining a community through discussions involves balancing being vocal against the humility of sitting back and making sure everyone is heard.

Classes

I’ve been teaching on and off for a long time. Now, presenting and putting together classes is becoming a key focus both for me and my vassal. It is a way to reach people and to give back. The trick is to gain sufficient reputation that people will be willing to take a risk on our classes. We taught two classes September 24th; they were well received and we’re applying to other venues and developing additional content.

Contests

My vassal and I were sitting at the 2022 Colorado Master/slave contest interviews this spring. After, she turns to me and says “We could do that.” I had been sitting there thinking much the same thing—thinking about how I wished we had an opportunity to share our story with the community, to help others, and to stand in front of the world showing people what our slice of M/s was like. I just didn’t expect my vassal would be open to doing something that public.
I hope we win; we would love to have a chance to serve the community that way. However, even running for the contest is a way that we can get involved in the community. In exchange for submitting to the contest, the judges and some portion of the community agree to listen to what you have to say and vet whether you are in alignment with the community. It’s a way of saying this is our home; we are part of this; we want to give back. If we have valuable things to say and an interesting perspective, people will know that regardless of whether we win. And again, if we are doing our jobs, even during the contest, there will be someone out in the audience touched by what we say, encouraged to reach further than they otherwise would have. After all, that’s what happened to us: we listened to the people at the front of the room and they gave us the courage to try to share our story.

One Heart at a Time

The theme of next year’s Master/slave conference is “One Heart at a Time.” It’s the individual connections that profoundly change people’s lives. It might be a word of encouragement at the right time, seeing someone we can relate to, an answer to a pressing question, or seeing a lived relationship.
I value doing that work. It’s hard because reaching out to people in a crowd is one of the places where eye-contact matters most. I’m approaching this in two ways. I’m co-hosting the Denver Munch. I’m also working as an ambassador at Denver Sanctuary, available to answer questions from new people. The munch is working well. I think there are other people who are filling the role at Sanctuary well enough that it is not a big deal that I’m not being as effective as I like.

What Isn’t Working Great

Writing this post, I realized that I have made much more progress than I at first thought. I think I have made great strides in being more intentional about my disability and how it affects my participation. I still think there are some areas to work through. I think there are still areas where the lack of ability to make eye contact is making it harder for me to connect. I think I need to find better ways to express an openness to deepening a connection. I realize that’s hard for everyone, but I suspect there are cases where the lack of body language is getting in the way. I’m still struggling trying to figure out how I relate to dungeons, public play, and some related things like that. Some of that is related to being blind. Some of that is just general growth, rejecting others’ expectations, and deciding who I want to be.
Participating in discussions of disability and figuring out how active i want to be in thinking about disability issues is still a work in progress. I know I need to face my frustrations and fears and be more involved. Yet I’m not the first member of a marginalized community who wants to focus on themselves and their interests rather than being identified by some attribute of themselves. I want to be more than blind. Yet thinking more about how this affects me has already helped me achieve my goals of involvement.

A Warm Welcome

hartmans Saturday August 6, 2022
Last night, we had the house warming for Manifest house, and had an opportunity to welcome the community we found to our space. We were nervous as party o’clock rolled around: what if no one showed up.
Our friends came through; with their time, their joy and their gifts they showed us the community we found was real. We had people from all over: neighbors, people who helped us manifest our house, coworkers, and people we’ve found in the leather community.
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Scenes and Energetic Connection

hartmans Monday July 4, 2022
A couple weeks ago, one of the local clubs had a top tasting. There were several stations designed to let people practice and learn skills related to being a BDSM top. My vassal and I ran a station focused on energetic connection.
It was lots of fun and I think we helped several people really level up their BDSM and relationship skills. For most people we focused on intent, because the most important thing you can do to get energy going the way you want is to know what sort of energy you are looking for. The intent of a scene is more than just what tools you will use and what you will physically do with those tools. It is as much about what emotions you are looking for. How does the top want to feel at the end of the scene? What about the bottom? What will each of them do to achieve that? Are there words or ways of connection that will help enhance that? Often just keeping in mind what you are looking for will influence how you approach an interaction in a way that enhances the intent.
We also talked about explicit mechanisms for connecting with and manipulating energy. This involved working the feel energy between two people as well as things like breathing exercises. For people who had experience already, we work through chacras and various approaches for using meditation to move energy around.
As relatively short individualized instruction, this worked well. It will also work well as a full-length class. We are looking forward to finding a venue to present that. If you'd be interested in such a class, let us know and we'll keep you informed when we find a place to teach it.

Denver Pride

hartmans Monday June 27, 2022
I marched in the Denver Pride Parade with Colorado Leather. This was the first time I've marched at Pride: it was the first time I identified with a specific community to march with.
The solidarity was amazing. There were far more groups than I could count taking pride in their identity. The cool thing was a vast majority of those people were willing to accept me for who I am. I could be me, shared that and hold my head high. **And those other groups would support me just as I supported them.** The big we—the whole parade—were united in that acceptance, in creating a space where people could be themselves. And let me tell you a larger community where you can do things like hold the ABDL flag high with pride is something I can really get behind.
Then there was the small we: Colorado Leather and the actual group I marched with. Not only do they accept me, but we can work together as we each explore what leather means to us, growing together as we walk similar paths. I knew many of the people I was marching with already, but spending time together, connections grew and I found all sorts of new things we had in common.
My deepest thanks go out to the audience. That was a long parade, and yet many people kept up the energy, kept shouting and cheering until the end. That energy is a critical part of the experience. The audience was there offering acceptance, validating us as we stood proud, just as they accepted themselves.
There was a bondage bear on our float. One kid asked whether the teddy bear was happy being tied up like that. “Yes, he’s happy,” the person I’m marching with said, “we asked him if he wanted to be tied up.” We always ask. If we get kids talking about consent that young, the world will be a better place!

My Thanks

My thanks go out to the people who welcomed me to the community and made it possible for me to participate. It means so much.

A Solstice Manifesting

hartmans Wednesday June 22, 2022
We manifested a house. A year ago we moved to Denver; the plan was to see what we thought after a year, and if we found friends and liked the area, buy. That's exactly what we did. And so this solstice we had our opening ritual at Manifest House.

The Ritual

We gave thanks for what we’d accomplished: manifesting the house, but also manifesting a community and friends that create a space in which it makes sense for us to put down roots.
We also dedicated our house as a magical home from which we can manifest ongoing love, joy, intimacy, abundance, and connection.
The magic was strong. We felt it settle on us as we welcomed Abundance back to her fountain on our altar. It only grew deeper as the ritual progressed. We celebrated ourselves, our divinity, gave thanks, and worked the magic of our intent going forward.

What does it Mean to Manifest

How is this more than buying a house? How is this more than hoping for good things in the future? Manifesting is an intentional magic, where you align your will with bringing what you are looking for into being. Like all intentional magic, things work on multiple levels. You still get to a point where you’re sitting around a closing table, signing all the paperwork in the world. There are other levels. I’ve found that for me, manifesting works best when I:
  • Know what I want. I have words to describe it, but I also feel what I want at a deep level.
  • I believe. I have confidence in what I’m looking for,, and I have confidence that it is achievable.
  • I am ready to succeed. I am prepared to give my yes.
  • I work to succeed. I actively work both to believe at an energetic level and at a practical level.
  • I’m open to alternatives that allow me to succeed. I am not so rigid in what I am looking for that I cannot adjust to better align with what the universe has to offer.
  • I give thanks when I succeed. I offer back to the universe for making things easy.
When this all comes together, there is an inevitability, or an energetic draw. It’s like the peaces of a puzzle falling together.

In Practice.

That is all a bit abstract. To make it a bit easier, let me explain how it looked for the house:
  • We knew what we wanted. We needed space for ritual, for kink, and for vanilla entertainment. I need a home office. My vassal needs her space. We needed a place that was big enough for the things we might manifest in our life: a place for our community to gather and a place for our tribe to grow . But we had flexibility in how we’d achieve these things. We didn't have a particular layout in mind; we just needed to be able to figure out how to fit that layout to what we were asking for.
  • We had our logistics in order. We knew what we could afford. we knew where we would find money, and understood how the buying process could work.
  • We put in our energy and will. Once we started, we made sure to reward and respond positively to anything that was moving forward. So, for example when the lender quickly turned around and got the pre-qualification letter to us, we made sure we were on top of the next phase. By the time we had an introduction to a realtor, we were already looking at places and scheduled for open houses.
  • We were ready to decide. Within 30 minutes of finding Manifest House, we knew it could work for us. After running a quick exercise to make sure we were not overlooking negatives, we had made our decision.
And so we went from actually deciding to get serious about buying to closing in one month.
There was fear along the way. This was a big decision both in terms of the money, but also a commitment to Denver and to a particular direction in our lives. Yet it was also the least stressful decisions about where to live in my adult life. Buying a house was far less stressful than renting an apartment a year ago, and even the move went relatively well.

The Momentum Builds

Everything is connected. A space that is good for community does no good without a community to use it. So as we manifested our house, we have also continued to put energy into what we started last year. In the middle of going from agreement to closing, we went to Colorado Leather Fest. It was my first leather event. There was a moment; we had just walked out of a presentation. “We could do that,” my vassal said. I had been thinking the same thing. We could teach; we could help people do the hard work of building relationship and connecting together. We have an important story to tell. Our path is different enough that we have an unusual perspective but similar enough that others can learn from our experience. We’ve found a community that both of us feel comfortable being part of. We both want to contribute, and we are causing that to happen.

The Next Morning

After our solstice ritual, there was a crow sitting on our out-door love seat, cawing into our bedroom window. The crow is a symbol of the Morrigan, who I turn to for this kind of manifesting. What a blessing.

Beltane 2022

hartmans Thursday May 5, 2022
It was September of 2019 when I last danced around a ritual fire. This Beltane I returned. I almost didn't. That would have been a huge mistake.
I was doubting my place in the community—doubting whether that community was part of my life now that I’ve moved to Colorado. Back in 2016, I still worked to bridge gaps and connect with people, even those who disagreed with me significantly. These days, my focus is on my local community. The broader world is too filled with fear and hate; it is not a safe space. I was struggling trying to figure out if Beltane was too distant from that local community. Was it worth the investment of energy and vulnerability. I struggled the last couple of times I danced around a ritual fire. I wanted to find a way I could grow and contribute more effectively. I was a thinker in a community of people who work with their hands. I was someone whose ordeals run toward the mind and spirit in a community of people who turn to the physical. I’d been reassured that I belonged. And yet again and again that weekend in 2019, as I offered to contribute in ways that played to my strengths, I was told “No, we don’t need that. We’ve got it all covered.”
If that had been true it still would have stung. But as far as I could tell, my contributions would have improved our rituals. So I struggled, trying to find a voice, trying to find ways to give back, and most of all trying to find ways to grow with the tribe I had found. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to face that struggle again from across the country.

The Long Road

Thursday’s ritual focused on telling our story over the two years we were apart. It was a real gut punch. I know I’ve struggled. What shocked me was how universal the struggles were. Yes, each of us faced different obstacles. But we were all alone, disconnected, and fighting in our own ways. The forms of connection we grew to depend on to support us often failed. Some of us found connection during the pandemic, but that connection was tight and close rather than the kind of community we were used to. It seems like in many cases building even that connection was a struggle.
As the event progressed, it became clear we had gotten used to being isolated, and this harmed us. Several people expressed relief and joy that I had chosen to attend. They told me I was an important part of the community and it meant a lot I was there. They said they were worried I would not come. “Why didn’t you reach out and ask if I was coming?” I asked.
One person told me that felt invasive. They weren’t sure that it would be okay to reach out into my life outside of festival.
If they only had! That sort of contact would have helped me step past my fears about whether I belonged. It would have created an opportunity for me to explore ways of improving how I interact with the fire tribe and how to grow in that environment.
I could have reached out too. I had doubts. Why didn’t I reach out and ask what was going on and whether I could help? Why didn’t I choose the path of vulnerability and openness, share my concerns, and ask for help?

The Pandemic Poisons Us

I think the answer to both questions is in the long road we’ve traveled. The pandemic has poisoned us. We are used to being isolated. We are used to hurting in a world that is harder to understand. Frightened, afraid, in our own little bubbles, reaching out for the very things that would nourish our souls is too much.
For me the really scary thing is how natural the isolation had become. I didn’t realize I was poisoning myself. It scares me how close I came to losing a community that has been part of my life since 2011. It would have been all too easy to walk away. Facing the vulnerability of coming even though I had fear and doubts was an act of will and stubbornness.

Lifting the Veil of Isolation

It was liberating to let go of that isolation and to be in community. I began to see how I contributed, and how the community’s care lifted and supported me. It felt like coming out of a shell after a long winter.
We all experienced a shared trauma. I pray that as we begin to heal from the last two years, we find some way to reject that isolation and use the experience to motivate ourselves to come closer together. I know that for myself I value connection more than ever.

As the Goddess Comes, Thunder Rolls

hartmans Tuesday August 3, 2021
Against the backdrop of a Colorado thunder storm, we celebrated how our dynamic has strengthened. In the beginning, we picked out several different collars, each one of them focused on a different aspect of love and surrender:


  • A collar to focus on the primal mess that is our mammal, animal selves

  • The couple’s collar we wore at the wedding

  • A collar to remind her that she’s still mine even when we’re struggling and trying to figure stuff out

For most of our relationship we’ve changed collars fairly regularly. But for much of this year, we’ve been wearing only one of the collars. And when we tried to change it, we felt off. The energy was wrong and tensions grew. Part of it was doubtless that there was friction the last time I placed that collar around her neck. Increasingly though, the energy changed and flowed too rapidly for any single aspect of our dynamic. I’d find that just after placing the sexy collar around her neck, we would find ourselves facing a week where our strength of our bond together was our focus. And like as not, just as I acknowledged that and shifted to the couple’s collar, we’d reach a place where we were ready to celebrate the strength of my physical claim. The collars had never been an absolute focus; we acknowledge the overlap from the beginning. However, as our dynamic grew, these different focuses became even harder to separate.

Yet my vassal still likes lots of collars. Changing collars can be a way to focus and remind ourselves about how precious what we have is. We didn’t want to lose that.

So we had a collar weaving. we wove the energy of all the collars together in a ritual before the gods. We let go of thee negative energy and the aspects that no longer served us and dedicated all the collars in service of love and surrender.

The gods were present and the magic strong. We’ve grown so much over the past five years. We are blessed.



So, why is this significant? Sure, it’s great to have sex in ritual setting with the blessing of the gods. But why is this worth blogging about; why is this an important ritual along a path of surrender?

The short answer is that it’s big and significant because we choose for it to be. Ritual lends power to things. By finding aspects of our path and our love where we can lend that power, we lend power to the whole. Our path is big and live changing because we’ve found places along the way that we decide are big. Those specific places might only matter to us, but making a practice of choosing moments to focus on is a key part of spiritual openness.

Like all rituals, the preparation is at least as much of the magic as the ritual itself. I can capture the intent and a little flavor of the ritual in a blog post. But to actually bring that about, we planned for days. What and how did we want to remove negative energy from the collars? What were we letting go of? What protocol do I use for collaring my vassal? What is the intent behind that?

When we ritualize that introspection, we work magic on ourselves. We influence how we will remember things. What aspects will be emphasized going forward? For example, I asked my vassal to review the collaring protocol. She spends a few minutes reading and says, “Yes, that’s good.” She’s saying that I’ve captured the important parts of the intent we’ve shared. That’s the magic we’re going to focus on going forward, and when we look back, that’s what this transition will mean to us. And she’s given her willful consent to that spell, lending it her strength.

The details matter because they are the language we interact with the world and bring about love. The process matters too, because that’s how the details get turned into magic.

Belonging

hartmans Tuesday July 13, 2021
Feeling like you belong—like there’s a place for you and you can hold your head high—that is the best. It looks like we’re finding that here in Colorado. Last night was the second part of our house warming ritual. We invited the spirits that we work with to join us as we give thanks for the community we have found and our ever-growing love.

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Showing them the Ropes

hartmans Thursday June 10, 2021
We'll call him H. He asked some questions about polyamory. After exchanges some answers we got together for drinks. We had the opportunity to help someone who was exploring how he thought about relationships. We were able to show him that through communication and intentional love work, we had built something wonderful between us.
We were also able to show H that that his fears and doubts were a normal part of growing as a lover. Everyone goes through something similar. That doesn't make them less real, less important, or even less personal. It does give us a greater hope of empathy.
One of the biggest challenges H faced is that negotiation and communication about what relationship structure he's hoping for seem awkward and challenging especially at the beginning. Of course he's absolutely right. Negotiation gets easier with time, but it starts out hard. We need to be vulnerable enough to ask for what we want at a point where we may not even be comfortable admitting it to ourselves. We don't know whether our desires will come across as strange, or how they will be received. We don't even know if our vulnerability will be greeted with compassion. Yes, some of that is always true, but as we get experience and confidence, it gets easier.
My vassal and I didn't have any easy answers. But we were able to help H think about the different options for how poly might work, and give practical examples of how communication worked. We were also able to tell our stories of how negotiation worked in practice both around scenes and around relationship boundaries. We didn't make it easy, but we walked away feeling like we'd managed to demystify some of the hard work of being a lover.
If it ended right there, I would have been happy with a job well done. But a couple of weeks later, H wrote to my vassal to explore the possibility of getting together for some play. And so H got to practice negotiation and he worked with my vassal to see what was possible. I found myself teaching an introductory rope class.
So many things worked well. It was gratifying to see H picking up on negotiation skills and asking for what he wanted while being clear about his boundaries. This also required more advanced negotiations from my vassal and it was neat to see how far she's come in the kink community. For myself, I realize that my rope skill has reached a level where I can confidently and safely introduce someone to rope. It felt really good to acknowledge that growth. And it felt good to see H begin to take strides in something he had wanted to explore for a while.

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Venus and the TSA

hartmans Monday May 31, 2021
The TSA decided that my idol of Venus is too dangerous to fly in my carry-on luggage. I have a sculpture of Venus that has been a central figure on my altar throughout most of my practice. She inhabits a hollow log. Being able to take her with me to various spiritual events was an important consideration when I had her commissioned. So, she's small enough to easily fit into carry-on luggage.
I've had very little trouble flying with her until my most recent trip. We were moving from the Boston area to Denver, and so we had all our most fragile possessions with us. The TSA agent examining my bag called over his supervisor because he was concerned that Venus was a club or bludgeon. She doesn't have any good handles. I mean, yes, you could hit someone with the sculptureyou can hit someone with anythingbut it would be awkward and relatively ineffective.
The process was entirely humiliating. The supervisor demanded my documentation that Venus was religious art. When I stopped to think about what paperwork I had with medid I have any of the discussions with the artist or any pictures of her on an altarhe insisted I answer immediately. "Yes or no! Answer now." Later he made jokes with the agent about how they didn't let baseball bats through, and so they certainly wouldn't let this through. (The sculpture is smaller, less dense, and less designed for hitting than a baseball bat).
I overheard him saying that the agent was right to ask for help; this was on the edge, and he considered letting the sculpture through, but it was always best to be safe and not let something through when there were doubts.
There's a huge cost to that. My spirituality has been tainted with a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness. There was no way I could protest his actions. He refused to even document his actions and formally write down his decision. I still struggle approaching Venus to avoid thinking about how I had no way to stand up for my spirituality- -no way to be strong.
And this has irreparably damaged my ability to bring the symbols of my path to events. If I bring Venus I'm going to be dreading the entire airport experience, worried about what I will face and whether she will be damaged as checked baggage. If I don't run into trouble getting to the event, it's going to be a low level anxiety that I cannot step aside from during a time where my mind should be faced on my spirituality. And of course if I don't bring her, I'll be reminded whenever I realize her sculpture is not there that I have allowed our culture of fear and non-consensual dominance to intrude onto my path of personal power and love.
In closing, if you were going to use a club, would you rather be stuck with a hollow log with no easy handles or a nice big solid crucifix with a cross-bar to swing from. Who wants to bet the TSA would have been as reluctant to let me take a crucifix through as a pagan artifact? No takers? Really? Yeah, I'm not surprised.

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