Tag Archive: Boundaries

Engage as equals.

This could be a diatribe filled with profanity.  It could be a gripping personal memoir of everything I have seen and done and been in the last year, providing every sordid moment in glistening, horrific 3-dimensional detail.  It could be a long, woeful ramble about what a horrible person I am, how much I regret being myself, and how I should never be trusted to make choices about anything of note, ever, because I am also an idiot.  It could be a lot of things, but really it’s just one thing: I have distilled everything I have learned from all that into three words, easily understood.

Engage as equals.

Easy to understand the concept, but hard to understand how it applies in so many walks of life, and why it is the first tenet I have added to my own personal code in a very, very long time.  I will give you some examples of why I think engaging as equals is critical, is necessary, is indispensable in being a functional adult.

DON’T BANK ON WHO YOU ARE:  If you make your living with your brain, but you are not willing to take your statements, opinions, and arguments into a forum where no one knows who you are, you are refusing to engage as equals.  That is demanding a handicap of reputation, and in many cases, a handicap of perceived superiority over the individuals who may disagree with you.  Your professional reputation was (I hope) based on your ability to state your case well, to research well, to debate intelligently and to prove your points or convince others that you had.  Refusing to engage when the other party is seen as your equal (in intelligence, in reputation, in ability, in whatever) is cowardice, and I will not abide it.

DON’T PITY FUCK:  If you have any interpersonal relationships that involve any level of intimacy, it behooves you to engage as an equal inside them.  Even if you have a negotiated unequal power dynamic, that power dynamic does not change the equality of the partners as people.  And, in a more mainstream sense, it is all too common for one partner to assume that they are more intelligent, more resourceful, more qualified, more attractive, or more *something* than the other.  The catch is this: that usually cuts both ways.  If you are both in a relationship where you feel like you are doing the other one a favor, on some unspecified level, that seems to be to be a great big giant red flag.  You must engage each other as equals – persons of equal value, of equal worth, who may have different things to contribute to the relationship, but whose contributions as people are essentially impossible to measure on a quantitative scale.  If your relationship devolves into measuring who has done more for whom, get out.  Refusing to leave just because you’re used to where you are, or you feel that your partner deserves your treatment of them, or you deserve their treatment of you, is laziness and cowardice.  Again, I will not abide it.

MAKE FRIENDS YOU LIKE:  This is a corollary to the previous point.  If you are in a friendship or acquaintanceship, and you feel like you are doing the other person a favor, get out.  It will drain you and make them feel small.  The same logic applies for friends who feel they are doing you favors – it will drain them, and make you feel small.  Neither situation is one in which friendship can flourish.  The only people who can last as friends, honest and open with each other, are people who engage as equals.  If they do not believe that the other person is bringing as much value to the table as they are, then there will (of necessity) be some sort of commodification of the friendship.  Doing people favors is only kind if you are not waiting to call them in, and not waiting to capitalize on being “that guy” who does people favors.  If you do it expecting a return, that is not friendship, and cannot effectively be masked as such.

KNOW YOUR LIMITS: There are people in the world who are less intelligent than you.  There are people in the world who are less adept than you.  There are people in the world who are less attractive, less motivated, less everything-you-think-is-important than you.  I have bad news for you, chum – those people are still your equals.  No more, no less.  Your criteria for importance are just that – yours.  Those criteria have no bearing on their actual validity as human beings.  Those people are your equals, and if you want to get anything out of your interactions with them, you have to treat them as such.

KNOW THEIR LIMITS:  Corollary.  There are people in the world who are more intelligent than you.  There are people in the world who are more adept than you.  There are people in the world who are more attractive, more motivated, more everything-you-think-is-important than you.  I have good news, this time.  Those people are still your equals.  No more, no less.  Your criteria for importance are just that – yours. Those criteria have no bearing on your actual validity as a human being.  You are the equal to those people, and if you want to get anything out of your interactions with them, you have to treat them as such.  And, corollary again, they have to treat you as such if they want to get anything out of those same interactions.

REMEMBER, CAESAR: Thou art mortal.  Even when you are in the height of your field, at the top of your game, in your best element, and absolutely top-flight of where you will ever be… There is still someone who knows more about it than you do, for a correctly phrased definition of “it.”  That is not a reason to despair – it is a reason to make sure that “someone” has to be so narrowly defined that it takes serious research to find anyone who *does* know more, or is better, in your chosen field.  “Thou art mortal” – praise and damnation all neatly wrapped up in one package.  Thou art mortal, and so is everybody else.  You are, at the basest level, and from a fundamental human perspective, their equal.

Engage as equals.  Give your friends and your opponents the respect they are due as human beings.  Anything less is ego, hypocrisy, cowardice, or outright denial of fact.

“Thank you for not throwing away the things I gave you.”


When she said that to me, I was flabbergasted.  Seriously, completely stunned.  I still am, to a certain degree.  Why would I?  What could possibly have moved me to throw away anything given out of love, out of care, out of a desire to bring peace and protection?


“You seemed pretty angry at the time.”


I don’t care who you are, or what your life has been like, or what your circumstances are.  Don’t throw away anything someone gives you out of love.  Those things are too precious, too rare, too delicate to be cast out.  If you cannot live with them, find someone else who can, and who will benefit from the giving of them.  Love is worth more than any price, and cannot be replicated or replaced when it is cast off or cast out.  Don’t throw it away.  I don’t care how angry you are, or how hurt, or how whatever.  It is irreplaceable, and you cannot afford to throw the gifts of love away.  They are precious things.


If you are very, very lucky, you may never notice their loss.  You may be blind and deaf to the hole in your life where that love would be if you had not cast it out.  If you are not as lucky, there will always be an empty place, like a missing tooth that you just can’t help prodding with your tongue.  Relationships change, circumstances change, hearts change – but love doesn’t.  Gifts don’t, not when they are freely given.  Don’t throw them away.  You throw away a part of yourself, a part of your life, in the bargain, and it is something you can never retrieve.  If you cannot live with a gift, for its history or the pain that comes with it, find it a home.  Give it new life with someone else, and make it a gift again.  Hammer its love into a new shape, so that it pains you less, so that it brings someone else joy.


Gifts of love are priceless, and irreplaceable.  I will keep repeating that as often as I have to, because it is worth saying until everyone has heard it.  Too many people forget the value of gifts in the heat of anger.  If you love, or are loved, or both, cherish it, because love itself is a gift, too.  Don’t throw it away.  Better to put a price tag on your own soul than to throw away love, because the results will be less jarring, less painful, less wrenching, less killing.  At least you’ll get something back in the bargain, even if it can’t compare to what you’ve lost.


Love makes us bold and brilliant and beautiful.  Don’t throw away someone else’s beauty by throwing away their gifts, and don’t throw away your own in the heat of your own anger.

Stand up and kill.

If you’re going to cut somebody up, have the decency to do it face to face.  If you’re going to gut a person, it behooves you to be a human being about it and do it right up close, where you can see what it does to them, where you cannot escape the consequences of the actions you take, where you cannot deny the essential humanity of the person you are cutting.


I am thoroughly tired of watching maiming and murder by proxy.  I am not a nice person; anyone who has known me for any length of time is well aware of this.  I am eminently pragmatic, and this often leads to me thinking thoughts that are quite uncivilized and extremely antisocial.  My brain is, by and large, short, nasty and brutish.  (Pun definitely intended.)  That being said, I am completely fed up with watching people who do not have the balls to pick up a knife pick up pens or keyboards instead, and go on tirades and rampages about the denial of rights and humanity to their fellow human beings.


These are humans, you ignorant bureaucratic cowards.  They eat and sleep and love and live just as you do.  They have lives and dreams and aspirations and loves big and small, just as you do.  They are three-dimensional, complex, and fascinating, just as you are.  So if you are going to call for them to be made small, to be made to fit, to be denied rights or reasons or justifications or simple humanity and complexity, it fucking well behooves you to do it to their faces, to gut them in person.  Pick up your damned knife and watch them bleed, because you owe them that as people.


It is even more infuriating to watch it happen in small communities, rather than large and impersonal ones.  Watching relationships dissolve, and then the partners dehumanize and demonize each other, or uninvolved parties take sides, and only talk about or villainize the participants in their absence, is becoming actively and aggressively repulsive.  I have always tried to maintain a policy of being unwilling to say things about people that I will not say to them, and I am finding it more and more intolerable to see that other people do not hold the same.  People are not steak, to be bought cleanly dissected for your convenience and consumed at leisure.  They are messy and must be butchered in the first person if you want them to fit into neat packages.  Pick up your own knife.  Do your own dirty work.  Don’t murder by proxy.  Stand up and kill.  If it’s a crime worth killing for, do it yourself.  If the person they are or the behaviors they engage in are worth cutting or gutting for, get your hands dirty and keep your fucking gorge down, because it’s work that needs doing.  If you can’t make yourself do it in person, then question whether it needs doing at all.


If you can’t do it to a real human, standing in front of you, what gives you the fucking right to do it at a distance, where you don’t have to feel it?  Because they do.  I guaran-damn-tee you they do, because they’re people.  They are not steaks, or Guy Fawkes effigies stuffed with straw.  Just because you distance yourself from them in the confines of your own mind does not make their selves any less real.  You cannot unmake them for your convenience, and pretending you can is hubris of the most disgusting kind.  Murder by proxy is cowardice.  Stand up and kill, or sit down and shut your fucking mouth.


Pick up your own knife, or put down your weapons and deal with them like people who have rights.  There is no middle ground.  Not in my world.


(This rant has been brought to you by the Stop Feeding Me Coffee And Then Getting Me Started On Politics and Ranting Fund.)

“Don’t fight what you need or it will fight back. The more you deny the essential the more belligerent the essential becomes.” – DiViNCi, from the Solillaquists of Sound

(It may be a quote from one of their songs; I don’t know their work well enough to tell.  Found it on DiViNCi’s Twitter (@solilla) and it stuck in my head.)

Too many people play Gandhi and Attila and Hannibal to their own needs.  They make their own lives into a constant battle of needs against wants, themselves versus the world, and they pit their own desires of flesh and spirit against those of everyone else, as though there could only be one winner, as though there had to be a loser in the game.  As though there was a game to begin with at all, as though the pie was only so big, and could be no bigger.  Fuck that.  Stop starving your needs, because needs are predators in their own right, and a starving predator will fight for its territory.

Belligerent essentials.  They will take back their ranges, and tear up your life in the doing, if you tear down the wild places that they need to survive.  Belligerent essentials will ravage the nice, neat little cubicles and boxes you build to keep them constrained and orderly, to compartmentalize and organize and satisfy the civilized outlook and the calm and sedate way of putting the civilization and its needs before your own.  Belligerent essentials will bully you, will berate you, will badger you and tree you and howl down your walls and crash through your windows and blow down your houses and eat your children and your creations alive in the dark forests of your mind, because you refused to give them enough room to grow and live in their own wild places.

If you don’t ruin the wild places with paving and portraits and politeness, the wild creatures have no reason to eat you.  Isn’t it nice when we all get along?  Don’t fight what you need, and your needs won’t eat you alive.  Belligerent essentials.

And by you, I mean me, of course.  I mean us.  No dodging, no assuming innocence.  We are all guilty until we shoulder our own work and fucking haul.  Belligerent essentials accept no less, and no one can excuse us from ourselves.

Love is stretchy.

“When you think of love as being stretchy and able to expand, you can see that there will always be room for everything.  You can love as much as you want. ” – Allie Brosh, from Hyperbole and a Half

Anybody reading this probably already knows that my personal life has gone through a lot of upheaval in the last week or so.  I am rearranging and reprioritizing a lot of things, and it is turning out to be very, very good for me.  I am evaluating a lot of the things I have learned about myself and what I need and want and am looking for out of life and love, and trying to come to some intelligent, well-thought-out conclusions.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m really, really good at solving other people’s problems, and really, really bad at my own, just like everybody else.

One of the big things that has always haunted my life is my complete inability to manage time wisely when it comes to myself.  I will put off everything simple – sleep, food, things I want or wanted for me – to serve someone else’s needs, because I have a very basic presumption that other people’s wants or needs are inherently more valid than my own.  If somebody else looked at me and said that, I would give them a Patented Motley Speech about how one has to take care of oneself if one wishes to take care of anyone else, and if one fails to care for one’s own system, the system will fail when the people one wishes to care for are in need.

It sounds simple – poly people come from a basic premise that you can love more than one person, right?  We start from the idea that you can dedicate yourself to the happiness, fulfillment, and joy of more than one person, even simultaneously.  Why, then, would it be such an alien concept for me to grasp that I have enough love, enough time, enough resources to be dedicated to my own happiness, fulfillment, and joy without it having to be a detriment to someone else?  I am responsible for my own well-being, because I am an adult.  It is my job to take care of me, so I can keep my commitments and do the things that make me me.  If I am too busy or tired or apathetic or depressed to take care of myself, then I am not doing my job.  That simple.  And I am no longer qualified or allowed to give the kind of Patented Motley Speeches that work so well on and for others if I am not willing to practice what I preach in my own life.  That simple.  Not easy, but simple.

I owe it to every woman I have ever fussed at to order her own entree in a restaurant.  I owe it to every man I have ever held while he cries and said it was okay.  I owe it to every girl I have ever taught that her vagina was not a spring, and every boy I have ever shown “girl’s clothes” to and stared down a shitty sales clerk who didn’t think boys should wear pink.  If I am going to be an ally with any credibility, any authenticity, any fucking right to say I support a world in which people have room to be themselves fiercely and forthrightly and with power and pleasure and consequence, then it fucking well behooves me to be myself, fiercely and forthrightly and with power and pleasure and consequence.  I matter, because if I don’t matter, then I have no right to tell anyone else that they do, and no credibility when I open my mouth on the topic.

I have no one to blame but me for where I got myself in the last year, because all of the decisions and non-decisions were mine to make.  The changes are also mine to make, and I have re-found a path to being a dyke, a woman, a deity, a writer, a reader, a dancer, a singer, a putterer, a shop rat, a crazy motherfucker, and a fierce and fabulous being who defies every fucking pigeonhole.  I am Motley, and my love will stretch far enough to include whatever that means.

Love is stretchy.  Thank you, Allie – I’m stealing it, with gratitude.

I am tired of watching people gum their way through life.  You have teeth for a reason, people – use them!

You live and you love and you learn every day, and a lot of it is hard work, because many things that are worth doing are hard work.  Doing a job well is hard work.  Creating relationships that last and have meaning are hard work.  Living a life that has meaning, affects people around you in a positive way, and leaves a lasting impression on your world is hard work.  And it’s all worth doing.

So pull out your teeth and sink them into the things and the people you do.  They are your best weapon, your best tool, your best expression of “I am dedicated to this cause or this person, and expressing an intimate connection to this person or thing.”  Show serious dedication, serious drive, a determination to hang on through thick and thin, and a motivation to chew through obstacles like they are so much paper pulp.  That is how you get places; that is how you achieve goals; that is how you make things happen that otherwise would stay dreams.

Defend what is yours.  It is not a crime to say “This is mine – back the fuck off.”  Defend your boundaries, defend your territory, defend your people if they want you to and have given you permission.  Make the world around you a better place by not allowing the people around you to create havoc and unwarranted chaos by letting them walk into your space and your head without a fight.  Most people who are shitty like that will pick a softer target rather than fight, so let them go somewhere else and pick a softer target.  Don’t make that softer target be you – show teeth! Be willing to use them in defense of yourself!  It is not a moral failing to be willing to bite someone, either literally or metaphorically.

I am feeling bite-y today, and tired of watching other people getting railroaded and run over and not do anything about it – can you tell?  Use your teeth, people – they are there for a reason!

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