Hello loves! Instead of a regular blog post this week, we decided to get a little more personal. As much as we love writing about polyamory and all the different ways it can work, we want the main theme to be a little more intimate: the beautiful alchemy that is our triad. We hope you enjoy this video and that it gives you a little more insight into our family. (Featuring a Humane Society’s worth of dogs.)
My wife is happy by nature. She has always been this way, for as long as I’ve known her. Barring outside intervention, she is simply… happy. Content. Joyous.
The concept is entirely foreign to me. My mental health has often felt more akin to a war, waged against myself. It is said that neural pathways are strengthened by repetitive use, so that the same thoughts crop up easier and easier each time:
I am worthless.
I am not wanted.
I am not loved.
The script it gives me changes, the only consistency that I am always on the losing end. Sometimes I am able to combat these thoughts successfully. Sometimes I lose. Sometimes my heart will not see reason, can only focus on the loneliness of that moment.
I was diagnosed with depression when I was in college. I could tell you what the DSM (Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, the bible of criteria on mental disorders) specifies must occur for that diagnosis, but for me, it has always been this: an uphill battle, happiness like sand slipping through my fingers.
As I’ve grown, this mental illness has presented itself in many shifting forms: sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, numbness. I have had panic attacks on the bathroom floor, I have looked at oncoming traffic lovingly.
I have also felt endless love. Boundless joy. I have felt so entirely filled with these things that I dared to use the word recovery.
Friends, it’s okay to need help. It’s okay to struggle, to show weakness, to reach out. It’s okay to be imperfect. You are worth love, worth gentleness, worth care. When I struggle, when I am lost, I try to summon the same unconditional love I have for my partners and turn it towards myself.
Then I get out my toolbox and I get to work.
Sometimes that means stepping into battle. Reminding myself that my brain is lying to me, tearing down each and every one of those traitorous thoughts with cold, hard logic. I am not worthless; if I believe every living thing on this earth is worth love and care, I must also grant that to myself. I am wanted; I have two partners who have chosen to spend their lives with me. I am loved; there are many people who have told me so, and it is my responsibility to trust them.
For those times when I simply cannot win a battle of logic, I care for myself in different ways. I take a hot bath, I drink a cup of tea. I pull a dog into my lap and marvel at the love in their eyes. I remember all of the times I have felt hopeless or lost, and the ways in which those feelings gave way over time to happier ones. I remember that my mental illness does not define me, and I grant it the kind of gentle understanding I would give to anyone else who was struggling.
I tell it: It is okay to hurt, my love. It is okay to feel lost and alone. You have made it through this and worse, and you are still here. You are strong. There are brighter days coming, as they always have before.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
National Suicide Prevention Online Chat
Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
Crisis Textline: 741-741 (Text HOME to begin)
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
-written by rife-
For the first two years of my life, I was blessed with only a very tiny amount of peach fuzz on my head. This is a curse bestowed on nearly all of the children on my mom’s side of the family; in fact, mine and my brother’s hospital photos are nearly indistinguishable, save for the color of the blankets we are swaddled in. My mom, presumably filled with visions of pink and frills, topped me with headbands and bows. She must have been so disappointed when, as soon as I could communicate, I declared a full-scale war on anything with fringe.
Not that I won, of course. I recall many aspects of my childhood as a precarious balancing act, me always aiming to please. We could pry apart all of my various childhood tendencies, but it would be a waste of time; for every doll you meet, there’s a matching nerf gun. The truth is, some things are only clearly seen in hindsight, and this has often held especially true for myself.
I suppose, as a kid, I must have been different. But if so, I never knew it growing up. Even now, I can point out a dozen reasons why that would be so: I was shy, I couldn’t figure out social situations, I was too serious, I was anxious, I was depressed. There are so many different ingredients that make a cocktail of a person, and it took me a long time to distinguish the different flavors of myself.
I thought I had it figured out when, just after my freshman year of college, I informed the world I had a girlfriend. My introduction into the queer community was in no way spectacular, but it was populated with people who, like me, knew what it felt like to be different. I started to allow myself to indulge in things I’d previously thought were forbidden to me: a men’s t-shirt here, a tie there. As a lesbian, I was afforded a great deal more social grace than I had when people believed I was straight. No longer carrying the burden of “attracting the right man”, I thought I was free.
It took a long time for me to realize that this, too, didn’t quite fit. I’d buried, deeply, a jealousy I couldn’t name or quantify: for square jaws, for muscular shoulders, for flat chests and stubble. My exposure to the trans community was brief, even as a collegiate queer, but a fascination began to form: one in which I would only allow myself to indulge on rare occasions.
Still, the process of realization was incredibly slow for me. This was not a truth I wanted to know. It wasn’t until Ali met me with absolute and unconditional love that I even began the arduous task of addressing what, exactly, I had been feeling all this time. When I finally, with her love and acceptance, admitted to myself that transitioning was something I very much wanted, all I could think was: “this is going to be so. hard.”
And, indeed, sometimes it was. Is. Those moments when I have to divulge intimate parts of myself to family, to strangers, or anywhere in between, and always bracing for impact. The knowledge that my body is considered relevant to people who will never need to know it the way my partners do. Trying to escape the shadow of the girl I used to be. But I consider myself lucky. I have a stable job, a safe home, and two wonderful partners who love me for who I am.
One day, this won’t be considered luck.
Hopefully, one day very soon.
This week, Ali and Adam learned that octopuses have three hearts. Now, we all enjoy a bit of useless trivia, but this particular tidbit of information struck a chord. We have a longtime joke that poly is really just being sassed in surround sound, but truly, it must be closer to the existence of an octopus: three hearts and a lot of arms. We are all pretty funny people(though Rife may disagree and think that he isn’t), but we’ve suspended the usual wit for a bit of sentimental squish in honor of Valentine’s month.
If you do not enjoy the lovey-dovey, squishy romance that this month represents, turn back now. Run. Flee! For this week we have decided to each answer some questions of the squishy romance variety.
1. What is your favorite thing about your partners?
Rife: Adam is so easy to just be myself with; I never have to put on a show for him. He’s like the master of unconditional positive regard. There’s not a part of myself I worry he won’t love. And Ali, she just has this beautiful childlike wonder and optimism. Everything feels brighter through her eyes.
Ali: My favorite thing about Rife is his softness. He is always so gentle and caring. The world is such a harsh place and he is so sweet despite it all. My favorite thing about Adam is his passion. He loves with all of his heart and wants so much out of life. He chases his dreams no matter what obstacles are in his way.
Adam: Honestly it’s really tough to choose a favorite thing about either of them, but I’m going to give it a go. For Rife, I’d have to say my favorite thing is his steadiness. He isn’t prone to panic and flitting between things the way I tend to be. He holds the course, and when I find myself lost and drifting, I can always look to him to find my way back. For Ali, it’s the magic she brings back into life. Remember the way the world felt when you were a kid? That’s what Ali breathes back into in these jaded old bones of mine.
2. What is one of your favorite memories with your partners?
Rife: Almost too many to choose, I feel like this isn’t fair. The first that comes to mind is from my very first trip to Colorado, and the first time I met Adam. We spent those few days desperately trying to hold onto the moment. I remember sitting on top of this ridge, overlooking the hills and the interstate, holding hands, and wanting to stay so much longer than I knew we could. And Ali, I think one of my most favorite experiences was the time we got stuck hiking in the middle of a crazy summer storm. We’d hiked probably two miles down to the river at Raven’s Run when the sky started to grow dark. We turned back, but too late. First the rain came, and then the severe weather sirens. We ran back through the mud and lighting and wind, soaked to the bone, holding hands and laughing like we weren’t in danger.
Ali: One of my favorite memories with Rife is our spring hike in the Pinnacles last year. There were wild flowers everywhere and the weather was perfect. We spent all day playing and taking a hundred pictures and soaking up the sunshine. It was amazing. One of my favorite memories with Adam is the day we spent in the Arboretum. We took the good camera and took silly pictures of each other, caught Pokemon, and spent almost an entire hour trying to find what I called “the faery spot,” a few wooden pews in the middle of the woods that looked like magical ceremonies took place there.
Adam: Our cross country road trip. This applies to both of them. Not only was that the trip when I moved to finally be living with them, but it was our first road trip together and the longest road trip I had ever been on. They flew out to Utah to help me load Ryder and the last of my few possessions into my Pathfinder before the four of us made the drive from southern Utah to central Kentucky. The miles we logged on that trip will forever be some of my favorite miles traveled. Even Kansas. We joke now about how awful driving through Kansas (the long way, from the western border to the eastern border) was, but let’s be honest: if your relationship can survive being stuck in a car together all the way through Kansas, it’s a solid relationship. I’ve got a heart full of wanderlust, and getting to share that long of a trip out on the open road with two of the most important people in my life is definitely making it on my highlight reel.
3. What are some of your favorite things to do together?
Rife: I always love exploring with both of them, usually some dirt trail in the middle of a tiny town. I love making things with them too: sewing shirts, planting things, taking photos.
Ali: Rife and I love to hike together. We find beautiful places to explore, spend the day getting lost there, and dream of the day we can live in the middle of it all. Adam and I like to camp out in coffee shops, catching Pokemon and comparing our highest CPs while talking each other’s head off for hours. I absolutely love it.
Adam: Hiking, exploring, traveling, napping, snugging up on the couch to watch TV or read, preparing meals together, laughing at the dogs when they do weird things… Honestly, how am I supposed to pick? Anything we do together, whether trivial or adventurous, is made better and brighter when we do it together.
4. What is your favorite physical feature of your partners?
Rife: Ali has the best smile, it lights up her entire face. Gosh, and her eyes too. Such bright eyes. Adam’s got bright eyes, too. Both of them looking at me with these striking eyes and beautiful smiles. Adam’s also got these perpetually soft lips.
Ali: My favorite physical feature of Rife’s is his smile. He has the most gentle and genuine smile I’ve ever seen. For Adam, it’s his eyes. His eyes are so bright and so blue, and light up when he sees something he loves. He looks like a kid on Christmas morning when the first snow falls or there is a particularly cute puppy in the car next to us.
Adam: Butts. Both of ’em. You can’t just not acknowledge butts that great.
5. What is something you’re looking forward to doing with your partners in the future?
Rife:I feel like our future is full of bright plans. Live somewhere where we’re surrounded by nature, grow some things, maybe make some things and sell them. Be together and just take it all in.
Ali: I absolutely cannot wait to homestead together. Find a big plot of land, build a house that’s perfect for the three of us, and raise some babies on this wild earth.
Adam: Carving a small space out of this planet that’s just for us. Always having Ali and Rife to come home to any time my wanderlust builds up and I need to venture out. Naming newly rescued dogs. Being the one to teach any and all kids in our lives to be rebellious but kind, and to never stop yearning for more adventure and knowledge.
We hope your Monday was a good one and that the rest of the week goes well! Love to you and yours.
I was born and raised in Kentucky, near the foothills of Appalachia. I could drive twenty minutes in any direction and find myself square in the middle of abject poverty. Every spring, winter-hardened homeless men reappear to beg for change by the end of most interstate off-ramps.
The people here don’t love me. I’ve been glared out of nearly any kind of establishment you can think of. The south is a place where there are crosses in sight nearly everywhere you go and Mitch McConnell has been voted repeatedly back into office since 1984. They play country music in the Dairy Queen and everyone has a Ford pickup (“because they’re made in the USA!”). It’s a place where speaking in tongues isn’t crazy but being transgender sure is.
Everyone I know wants to leave. They set their sights on Colorado, California, Washington, Oregon. Out in the west where everything is bigger, more open, more open-minded. A place where they might feel safe.
But Kentucky is my home. I love it from deep within my bones. The hills nestle you into them, lovingly, nurturing. In the summer, the air presses into your lungs like it has something burning to say. The forests here are more alive than any other place I have seen; the cicadas sing nonstop and the greenery is so lush that it holds you. A teacher once dubbed it “the sacred yoni” and I have since longed for nothing but mother earth’s embrace. I feel her magic everywhere.
Y’all. I can’t leave. I love these people the way you can only love the people where you come from. I love all of the brave queer kids and the scared queer adults and everyone in between. I love the homeless men begging for the kind of change that you can’t pull out of a wallet. I love the hills and the rivers and the trees.
Someone has to stay. Someone has to make it a better place.