Requiem to 2020

Covid-19 has been in our lives for over a year now, and many of us are currently experiencing a second or third lockdown as cases around the world are on the rise. The promise of vaccination exists, but it could be another year or more before our population is protected enough for life to get back to ‘normal’. If ‘normal’ can even exist anymore. 

It’s impossible to say now what the long term repercussions of our first encounter with a global pandemic will be. Which leaves us in a very difficult place; only half way through a marathon period of fear, loss, and waiting, without even knowing exactly what we are waiting for. We are stuck pushing our way to an ending, without any guarantee of what that ending will bring, or when it will occur. So how do we cope when the world around us seems bleak, and we don’t know when the light will come again? How do we find meaning, happiness, and fulfillment in our lives when it feels like everything has come to a grinding halt? How do we get to the end of this race still feeling like ourselves?

I have seen many stories of people who have done wonderful things with this time. People who have learned to become amazing artists, chefs, or writers. People who have immersed themselves in health building activities, who have lost weight, gained muscle, or increased flexibility. People who have taken this time to educate themselves, improve their living spaces, or explore things they have never had the chance to explore before. People who have embraced this challenging time, faced it like warriors on a battlefield, and who have beat it into submission with their success.

I am not one of those people.

2020 was going to be a big year for me. After many years of isolation, a few more years of trying to find a way to fit into someone else’s life, and some time (finally) spent discovering what I wanted, I found myself starting 2020 happy with who I was, the people I had around me, and what my future held. I found hobbies that let me be creative and express myself, friends that embraced who I am and reciprocated by sharing parts of themselves with me, and a partner who was as excited to build a life together as I was. I had reached an age I had always dreaded but found an unexpected peace and acceptance with. My son was going to graduate, and we were going to have the opportunity to celebrate his transition from child to adulthood. I was going to have my first public speaking opportunity on behalf of this blog, and my first ever out of country romantic adventure. I was in the early stages of developing new friendships and relationships that showed lots of promise. And there were going to be several parties, conventions, concerts, celebrations, and get-togethers to help fuel my ever present need for new input. It was shaping up to be a big year. 

Covid-19 hit us in mid-March and everything changed. All of the things we were looking forward to, all of the get-togethers, trips, and events, became things we were afraid of. The simple acts of going to work, getting groceries, or putting gas in our cars became high risk, and introduced a danger into our lives we had never had to consider before. Instead of finding comfort or joy in other people, we had to be afraid of them. The freedoms we loved were now risks we weren’t allowed to take. And while there have been some short periods of relief sprinkled in, most of us have been living like this for the last year. 

Like many people I spent most of 2020 being reactive. I watched the news, followed the rules, and stayed home. My whole life became about watching, listening, and waiting for things to get better. Every time the case numbers went down I would get excited, and every time they went up I would get sad. I had endless discussions with people about how the pandemic was going, how it was affecting them, what the numbers meant, and when things would get better. It became an endless cycle of checking in and waiting, checking and waiting. And not once did I decide to take to accomplish something with all the time I now had. 

Does this mean I consider 2020 a lost or wasted year? Can I no longer consider myself a warrior able to take on any challenge that comes my way? Have I let this pandemic beat me?

No.

2020 was not the year I planned it to be, and I was not the person I always thought I would be in the face of crisis, but that does not mean it was wasted, or that I lost, or have been beaten. A lot of wonderful things still happened, and some of them wouldn’t have without the pandemic. I got to spend more time with my son than I would have otherwise, and was able to be there and help him through something that none of us have ever experienced before. My family had the opportunity to show him, and ourselves, that there are different ways than the ones we have always known to enjoy day to day life, celebrate accomplishments, and support each other through difficult times. My partner and I had more time together than we had ever had before, and had the opportunity to go through something truly difficult together. We learned to recognize, understand, and support stress in each other, which likely would have taken us years to do without something as impactful as a global pandemic. We found new hobbies to enjoy together, new ways to challenge and entertain one another, and truly learned how to relax into our partnership. I was able to reach out to friends and offer support, and in some cases was pleasantly surprised by who offered support in return. Some friendships were difficult to maintain at a distance and are in a holding pattern until we can see each other again, but others flourished in ways I don’t think they would have otherwise.

2020 was a difficult year, because it was a year I entered full of expectation. In the end 2020 taught me the value of embracing and enjoying the things I have right now, showed me the immeasurable love and support that surrounds me, and left me in awe of the way we are all able to adapt and grow in new circumstances. I am now ready to move on from mourning what 2020 could have been, and to more forward looking at 2021 with hope free of expectation.

Flying Solo

I started my journey into ethical non-monogamy alone. I don’t mean without support, information, or mentoring, I have all of those, in spades. I am very lucky in the people I have around me who are there when I have questions or need reassurance; discovering this community has been one of the most positive influences in my adult life.

Most people I have encountered who identify as ethical non-monogamists are on their journey with a primary partner, or at least started their journey while they were with someone who fit that title. Because of this a lot of non-monogamy I have seen is hierarchical in nature; there is a core couple that ‘comes first’, and other partners are secondary or tertiary. That’s not to say that other partners can’t be as cared for or loved, or that those relationships are less fulfilling or important because of it, but the distinction is there, and it is something that needs to be respected for things to work.

I identify as polyamorous, but I do not have a primary partner. Emotionally I want multiple, loving, long term, committed relationships, where all partners feel that they are valued, cared for, and wanted at all times. No part of that requires me to elevate one above any other. From a practical ‘real life’ standpoint I am not looking to merge homes or finances with anyone, get married, or have more children. I am quite happy in my independence and am able to support myself. 

I have occasionally been told that I’m “doing poly wrong” or that I’m “not really polyamorous” because I don’t have a primary partner. Whenever I hear this it sounds like an echo to me of something I’ve been hearing my entire life in mainstream culture; that something is wrong with people that are “single”. It seems sometimes like the expectation of “coupling up” is still alive and well, even within the non-monogamous community.

I recently came across a term that I feel describes my situation perfectly; solo polyamorous. Like any other label it means different things to different people, but most agree that it is the decision to be your own primary partner. This is not a decision made out of lack of other options, but because you have made a conscious choice to have your primary allegiance be to yourself. It doesn’t mean you are being selfish or that you don’t care about others wants or needs, but is because you are strongly motivated by your autonomy, you value your freedom, and you are most comfortable identifying as an individual.

Solo polyamory opens a lot of doors that may not be there for couple based relationships. First, it allows you to put the emotional energy of maintaining a primary relationship into yourself, to come into each new relationship strong and whole, the best version of yourself that you can be. It gives each new relationship a chance to be what it will be, with no potential to be vetoed and without rules that can be hard to understand or fit into. It can make it easier to date people who do not identify as polyamorous, as they do not need to feel that they are coming second to anyone else, and because there is no need for them to build relationships with or get permission from your other partners.  Any or all of your partners can be identified as a girlfriend, boyfriend, or whatever term you prefer, depending on the relationship itself and not on how it relates to your other partnerships. You can commit to doing what is best for everyone, even if that means splitting up with someone for a time so you can grow separately.

Defining myself as solo polyamorous allows me the option to care about each of my partners as if they were a primary partner, if that is the way each relationship goes, and if those partners do not have other relationships with rules that need to be followed. It allows me to love them as deeply as I want, if love is there, or to enjoy the journey together for as long as it is enjoyable if it is not. I can develop relationships without feeling like I am suffocating, giving up too much of myself, or endangering something I have with someone else. It lets me develop the skills necessary to advocate for what I want, and it gives me a chance to find out what that is. It gives me the ability to discuss options with others, get their input and consider how it will affect them, but ultimately make my major life decisions on my own. It allows me to have deep, intimate, long term relationships, but still maintain my independence.

I’m not saying that solo polyamory is easier or better than any other type of ethical non-monogamy; it isn’t, it’s just different, and it comes with its own set of pros and cons. There are still moments of loneliness, times when you wish you had more support, and the occasional bouts of wondering why you don’t fit into something more traditional or accepted. Sometimes it means standing up for yourself or doing something alone, and disappointing others who might want to take on something for or with you. And just like any other relationship, sometimes it means missing out on something because the other person doesn’t want what you want. I don’t know if I will always identify as solo polyamorous; I am very happy in all of my current relationships, but I am as prone to what I want changing as anyone else is, and sometimes people already in our lives or new people who come into our lives can make us want to change with or for them. All I can tell you is that right now is that this is how I identify, it is what I want, and it is making me very happy.