Working from Home and Setting Your Own Schedule

The biggest misconception people have about working from home or working for yourself is that you work when you want or need and can take it easy the rest of the time.  The reality, for online teachers at least, is that we work at the demand of our students.

The only way to make this job work as a full time gig is to set work goals in accordance with your financial goals.  I know I need to make X number of dollars a month to pay my bills, save and have some room for unexpected costs.  It is necessary to translate that dollar amount in to classes taught, break it down by week and meticulously track day by day.

I’ve learned I have to notice early on – by mid-month at least – if I’m falling behind on my goals. After that point there isn’t enough time to meaningfully add to my schedule and make up the hours. With teaching it’s easy to fall behind on goals.  If classes don’t get booked it adds up fast. Being a class or two short of a daily goal quickly means stripping down the budget to accommodate anticipated shortcomings.

The truth about working from home means I am available until my goal is met.  Maybe I only need to work 8 hours in a day but I can’t force my students to consistently fill 9am-5pm so that I can go live my life. I start around 7:30 most days, many days earlier, and most days I work until 11pm or midnight. Some days it’s 1am or 1:30am.

Working crazy hours Monday to Thursday allows me to end earlier (mid afternoon) most Fridays and then take Saturday and Sunday off with my family.

The hard part is having to politely remind people that you actually do work and it isn’t possible for you to change your schedule last minute the way some work from home jobs can.  Even if I could, changing my schedule for last minute plans would still mean making the time up so chances are even if my companies let me change my schedule last minute I would still be held on schedule by financial obligations.

What we really mean when we say our work from home jobs are flexible is that, with 24 hour potential to work you might be able to set up a unique schedule that suits your life.  My whole family works 9-5’s with weekends off so I try to mimic that as much as I can to maximize my time with them.

That being said lots of people are working jobs like mine on a when-the-kids-are-out schedule, or using it as a night job. Flexibility doesn’t mean that I can change my schedule last minute, but it does mean that I can book classes around other obligations outside a traditional work schedule.

Oh, and I guess it’s true that outside of my budget, I don’t have to ask anyone for approval when I want a day off.

Thinking of picking up extra work? What kind of schedule would working from home mean for you?

Emotional Responsibility in Polyamory

Sharing emotional responsibility was easy in a monogamous marriage.  I could ask my husband to take some of the burdens if I was feeling less than peachy, and I could do the same for him.  It felt like a normal part of a partnership and truly, there was nothing wrong with it.

But in polyamory that just doesn’t work.  With three partners to balance I can’t expect them to take on my emotional baggage or take on all of theirs myself.

It’s not such a bad thing.  In one-on-one romantic relationships as well as friendships its normal to exchange emotional responsibility.  We always want to lighten the emotional load for those we love (as partners and friends), and we truly do appreciate how they do the same for us.  As I said, there’s nothing actually wrong with this.  As a common practice, it’s a tango we’re all pretty good at.  That doesn’t mean there isn’t value to changing the tempo a bit and taking more responsibility for ourselves.

Let’s start with the big one, shall we:

Jealousy

When I explain to people that I’m in a relationship with multiple people one of the most common questions is how we can love without jealousy.  There’s a couple points that I want to address on that front.

First of all,  we didn’t eliminate jealousy from our range of emotions when we chose this relationship.  However, we did make a commitment to manage all of our emotions, including jealousy, appropriately.

In our language, we tend to attribute jealousy we feel to other peoples actions.  For example: “He was flirty with her all night just to make me jealous.”  We talk about how other peoples actions are the cause of our jealousy and therefore we see it as their responsibility to relieve the jealousy with reassurance.

We might experience jealousy when we witness someone else’s actions but it isn’t something they actually created.  When you see your partner interact with someone else and feel jealous it’s an expression of fear and insecurity. Try this on: “He was flirty with her all night and I was scared he’d like her better than me.” 

Let’s be clear – it’s not inherently bad to have these fears and insecurities in our relationships.  Some people feel them more often or more strongly than others but they’re pretty normal.  My point here isn’t that you should or shouldn’t feel this way – just that you have to own that insecurity and address it.

Think of it this way: “If he chooses her over me – that’s his choice, and not a fault of mine.”

He can appreciate her beauty and still love me just the same.” 

I’m worth loving and we’re happy together. I trust him and don’t hold
his actions against him; I’m not looking for any reason to retract my
trust.”

Taking ownership of the jealousy means we have more power than we originally thought.  We can ease our own emotions and reassure ourselves.  We aren’t relying on someone else to remind us of our value.

It also ties in a way to my post on maintaining your own identity within your relationships – just like having your own hobbies and interests, you should know your worth and that it exists independent of your relationship, even when experiencing jealousy.

To be fair here we’re also humans and we don’t always handle our jealousy as appropriately as we wish we did. It’s hard for everyone but as much as we try to practice owning our jealousy and coping with it effectively we also practice forgiveness when we throw each other off balance.

Compersion is the opposite of jealousy

A word that quickly got added to my vocabulary as Ben and I fell for Maggie and Tom was compersion. This is the feeling of joy and happiness you feel knowing your partner is experiencing joy and satisfaction with someone else (no, it’s not just sexual but a whole and full relationship between two humans!).

Instead of inspiring fear that he’ll choose Maggie over me, I usually lean the other way and feel happy for Ben that he has such happiness in his relationship with Maggie.  It’s the utmost security knowing that his happiness with her does not diminish his happiness with me and so instead of resenting it and feeling jealous, I celebrate it and feel happy.

It helps that I have a relationship with Maggie that is separate from the boys, and have a relationship with Tom that is also unique.  Knowing from personal experience that loving Maggie and loving Tom has not lessened my love for Ben makes it easier to know that Ben can also love Maggie without it taking anything away from me.

When I read posts from others in a polyamorous relationship that are struggling with jealousy they are often struggling in part because their partner has one or more other partners but, for one reason or another, they do not.  I think that balance isn’t necessary – one doesn’t have to have something just because the other does – but it sure helps with an empathetic understanding of the emotional experience.

Take emotional responsibility In all your Relationships

Learning to be more consciously responsible for my emotions in my romantic relationships has opened my eyes to the value of emotional responsibility in general.  As a student in particular over the past 6 years, it’s been almost necessary to lean on each other.  In the high-stress atmosphere of University with half your friends in an identity crisis and the other half confident in who they are but stressed about their future the emotional exchange helped all of us balance out enough to function.

As I age into adulthood, my stress level, identity and relationships are all stabilizing and I see emotional responsibility as a way to maintain more even and balanced control of our own lives.  There will always be circumstances beyond our control and they will inevitably fuck with our plans.  We will also always be surprised by emotions we didn’t expect to feel – jealousy, anger, sadness, even strange amounts of joy that we may or may not know the cause of.  Managing these emotions on our own limits the havoc they may wreak on our daily lives and stabilizes our sense of self.

Developing Emotional Responsibility

So now that I’ve made the case for emotional responsibility, how can someone begin practicing it?

Reflect before you speak.  Before you share your emotions and get caught up in what others did that contributed to them consider what existing emotions allowed others to have an impact on you (ie: existing insecurities that turn in to jealousy, as explored above.) Consider how you can work through those existing emotions with a focus on your own abilities. When you’re approaching someone else it’s beneficial to both of you if you can ask for support handling certain emotions rather than just asking them to calm those emotions for you.

For example – approaching your partner to say “Hey, in this situation I felt really ______. I know that isn’t what you intended and doesn’t really reflect your intentions or behaviour, but it helps me feel better when you _____.”

Be open with those you love.  Owning and taking responsibility for our emotions doesn’t mean they have to be secrets. Share how you’re feeling and what you can do to alleviate any negative emotions. If I do feel a pang of jealousy or sadness I can say to my partners “I felt a bit jealous when —–, so I’m working through that right now.” It lets them know what’s gong on with me without obligating them to take action on my behalf.

Above all, stay calm. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and quickly fall in to old habits but take a deep breath and assess what’s happening as separate from how you’re feeling. Then assess how you’re feeling and look at how the two connect.  Try to be specific in identifying what you would like to change, what you can change yourself and what you need from others to accomplish the change you want.

Last but not least, before you ask for support consider exactly what you’re asking. Taking emotional responsibility is all about being more self sufficient and managing your own emotions. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask your partners, from time to time, to adjust their phrasing on a certain subject or keep an awareness of how a situation impacts you but asking that they completely change an aspect of another relationship or otherwise let your emotions dictate their behaviour may lead to trouble later on.  Keep this in mind.

Your quest for emotional responsibility may surprise or confuse others.

This has been the most unexpected part of this emotional journey. I think it has affected most of us in our little family. It seems natural to let our new found emotional attitude permeate through all the different relationships in our lives.  Since the most outward aspect of this journey is asking less of others the people around us have sometimes felt we isolated ourselves or abandoned them, depending on their perspective.

People are used to feeling needed just as much as they have need for other people in their lives.  We were focused on guarding ourselves and our relationships against negative emotions like unexpected jealousy or the disapproval of others. It was later we realized that needing our friends less for that emotional support meant finding new ways to look after them and show them that they are just as important to us as they always have been.

 

Well – that was a long one! Thanks for reading!

Carmen

 

 

 

 

 

My (Ongoing) Battle with Body Positivity

The body love movement is just so freaking happy, bubbly and pastel coloured. Seriously… check Pinterest. Go ahead and search “body positive” there. I’ll wait.

Did it look something like this?Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 8.40.51 PM.png

Gosh there are some great messages but it’s just sooooo pastel. Nothing wrong with pastel, in and of itself, I like pastels… but there’s something missing in this movement and these messages. Something I need.

My mom and I spoke not long ago about how it seems so ridiculously easy to be kind and see the beauty in others but when it comes to ourselves it seems impossible.  Working in retail I used to be someone women I didn’t know confessed their insecurities to… they’d tell me “I love this dress but I can’t show my legs…” or “That top is adorable but there’s no way it’d look good on me.” I was there for them, more than happy to encourage them to let go of those negative ideas and embrace wearing whatever the f*ck they wanted.

Retail is a notoriously menial job but damn did I feel proud of myself when customers walked away glowing because they found a bit of confidence in the outfit I helped them pick.

Then I went shopping and passed right by the shorts, skipped the crop tops, and wouldn’t even look at anything fitted because my mind told me don’t you dare – you’ve gotten too big for all that!

How was it so easy to embrace the positive and help other women fight the very same demons that I would let win me over? Why did I tell them to go ahead and buy the short shorts while I searched for a way to hide my body?

It took a few days for it to click but I think I’m beginning to realize what makes Body Positivity so illusive in how I think about myself:

I see my body as a personal (and public) failure.

I can’t be skinny, even just for a second. I can’t look a whole lot smaller than I am. I can’t show people what I intended to look like or wish I looked like… I can’t make them not see all the things I pick on myself for.

In that sense, my body is public.  Whether it’s the figure I want or not, it’s part of my public image and how I’m viewed.

And I haven’t made it a secret that I wanted it to be a small, toned imitation of what we see in literally all our media.  I have an instagram account @fitishkitten which is public – anyone can follow it – and 850 or so people do. They’ve all seen me, in my underwear taking “before” pictures… and 6 months later taking “before” pictures again because time passed but the pounds stayed. And the process just repeats.

I’ve never posted “after pictures”.

I’ve written about it on this blog… not a lot, because I don’t always have the right thing to say, but none the less. I’ve written about wanting to lose the weight. I’ve written about the excitement of losing 4 pounds.

4 pounds didn’t make my jeans fit. I am still down those 4 pounds but I haven’t lost more (yet?).

So that I want to be smaller is my very personal relationship with myself, but it’s also very public knowledge.

I know that doesn’t need to be past tense. I know I can still (and will still) continue my efforts to lose weight.

But I realize that not being where I wanted to be, where I said I’d be, is a big part of why I can’t seem to make my thoughts more positive.  It’s not as simple as telling myself that I can’t wear this or that, or that I’m unattractive because of my size. In telling myself that I can’t have this or that because of my size there’s also a narrative of you could have had that, could have been better but you weren’t good enough on your diet or at the gym. This is your fault.

I know the way I think about myself and body positivity is flawed. I love reading the posts of body positive icons and I understand the message that nothing needs to change for us to love ourselves. I know I’m supposed to love myself at any size. I know that I’m allowed to love myself even if it’s not the way I planned.

Yet here I am – spreading a message of body positivity that I let myself believe doesn’t apply to this body.

This shit is so much harder than it looks

Real. Talk.

I love the messages in the pastel pinks and purples. I love the illustrations of girls loving themselves and I am HERE for the insta-babes rocking their rolls, their swimsuits, their everything and not giving a f*ck who finds it “attractive” or “insta-worthy”.

But if it was as simple as being told “love your body” and “size is just a number” or “Don’t let your mind bully your body”… well if it was as simple as that I wouldn’t be so far in to this post.

Some days I put on my stretchy pants and my fave comfy sweater and I enjoy being able to just breathe. But other days I need to leave the house. I might have something to do where I want to look put together, polished even. Or I might be going out with my beautiful girlfriend who has style for days. I want to feel good about how I show who I am to the world.

This is where it turns out that the quotes on pinterest don’t help very much. They don’t make my jeans fit. They don’t take away my dislike for that gentle collection of pudge around my midsection. They certainly don’t make it look less violent when that pudge is squeezed in the wrong way creating some god-awful muffin top.

The idea that I cannot be seen to have such a soft and chubby body is so deeply ingrained that it’s like if I just searched harder or adjusted my top this way and my pants that way… maybe I could somehow fool people looking at me in to just not seeing the 100 pounds of body I wish I didn’t have. Right?

Like a little well placed draping of the fabric fools everyone.

These demons know how to protect themselves better than I know how to fight. These demons don’t just tell us that we are fat, that we are unattractive or that we don’t deserve certain styles or experiences because of our body.

These demons tell us that body positivity doesn’t apply to us. That the “chub rub club” is a punishment, not a babe squad, and that this body can’t have my love. So even though I might surround myself with body positive messages my mind is a fortress against their positive effects.

It is the thing that body positive messages aren’t equipped to help us with; we need a body positive movement of leather wearing, mohawk rocking, force weilding badasses with better advice than “have a bubble bath” or “repeat “I deserve happiness” until you’re happy”. Sorry girls – I love the girly, pretty, bubble bath image but I’ve sat in that bath-bombed water until it was cold and when the bubbles disappeared I still hated the body they hid.

I need a movement that answers the demons of negative self talk and the crippling effects of low self esteem with equal force and fury.

It has to be bigger than the industry selling me my skinny self one pill and one protein shake at a time.

So let’s band together and create it. We can still sparkle. I will still love pastels. But let’s make our edges sharper, let’s get sassy and crazy and be bold.

Let your inner tough girl beat down the inner bitch who calls you fat

How do you make your body love louder than your doubt? I wanna know 😀

‘Till next year, Thanks for a great Pride Month

This month I’ve talked about what I mean when I say I have three unique relationships and shared some of my thoughts and excitement around Pride.  I hope everyone enjoyed the photos. =)

Does anyone else feel like we just sort of blinked and the month is over? Summer needs to slow down right now!

Anyway, if there was a theme to this month or a final reflection I could offer, it would be this:

Practice Pride Every Day. And not just when it comes to your sexuality or relationships. Take pride in yourself.

Get ready because next month I have a lot to say about body positivity, stemming from the idea that we should take pride in our bodies, our accomplishments, who we are as people and our relationships.

Live your life! Live with pride, and love, and don’t let anyone steal your sparkle. 

Carmen

Maggie: My Best Friend

This month I have enjoyed telling our love stories. From explaining what it means to me to call Ben my high school sweetheart to the personal growth I’ve found with Tom as my partner in adventure – it’s truly been a joy to reflect on and share our stories. Finally, I’m excited to share the story of falling in love with my best friend: Maggie.

Maggie literally found me when I was lost in the rain in Arlington cemetery. God only knows why my friends wandered away and didn’t inform the tour guide that I was still in the washroom. Or why the staff thought it was a good idea to send a 15-year-old into this massive cemetery alone to search for a group of other 15-year-olds. As strange and crazy as this chain of events was, it lead Maggie and I to each other and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

I mean, who else could have met me crying my eyes out, lost and frustrated in the pouring rain and decided to keep me around?

Ten years later we have escaped the cemetery, survived University, student organizations and volunteering together.  She did a lot of driving around to help me put my wedding together and even helped me pick my wedding flowers – a meeting Ben had zero interest in. I’m pretty sure my florist thought we were marrying each other – kind of funny, now. Maggie and Tom even picked those flowers up and delivered them the morning of my wedding.

Ben and I drove to Nashville to stand by her and Tom when they married each other. From drinking moonshine that should have killed us (I mean, too drunk to effectively eat french fries or form sentences – just embarrassing) to putting ourselves back together and getting down the aisle. We’ve seen each other through a lot.

I’ve confided in Maggie, always. When I faced turbulence in my friendships and when I needed advice on developing myself as a person and reaching my goals.

Looking back I should have known there was something between Maggie and I. I’ve always admired her. Since high school, she’s been a powerhouse for whatever cause she chooses to champion. When I met her she was rebuilding homes in disaster-struck areas on her holiday. Seriously – I was trying to make it to Canada’s Wonderland when I had a break from school and she was counting down the days till she could literally improve the world.

She then came home and developed events like 24 Hours for Hunger and connecting students with veterans. To me, it was like she never stopped. Now, being even closer to her, it’s still that way.

Maggie’s ambition to improve the world around her, from her hometown to the global community, has always inspired me. It has shown me that my own dreams are possible. It has given me something to aspire to.

How could I not fall in love with her?

Then, getting the chance to know her more it seemed in so many ways we fit together. We found comfort in each other when we discovered we had the same values. When the world didn’t make sense we could console each other. When we needed sound advice on almost anything, we always seemed to find just what we needed in each other.

Falling in love has changed our relationship in subtle ways. It no longer feels entirely appropriate to vent about everything our husbands or boyfriends do to bother us – I mean, those relationships are shared after all. It’s a little awkward to tattle on your boyfriend to his wife or to tattle on your husband to his girlfriend.

Still… she gets it.  She knows when I vent it isn’t because I want to tattle on anybody or even tell her something about her husband or boyfriend. Our relationships with the boys are separate. We actually use the phrases “girlfriend treatment” and “wife treatment”.  It just means that there are traits in Ben’s personality which have more influence on her relationship with him, and less influence or prominence when he’s interacting with me. At the same time, there are traits that Tom has which define his and I’s interactions but don’t play a big role in how he interacts with Maggie. It’s not always a bad thing – in fact, it’s what allows us to develop unique relationships.

What this means is that if I do need to get something off my chest about a bit of friction between myself and one of the boys, Maggie can listen and be my best friend. As much as she’s also in a relationship with these people, the relationships are different. The moments of friction, and the moments of joy – moments that give the relationships character – are different. That makes it easier to avoid the feeling that I’m simply tattling on her husband or boyfriend to their wife or girlfriend.

It’s taken a while and it’s still a work in progress to figure out what it means to fall in love with your best friend. She doesn’t stop being my best friend – she never has, and I can’t imagine that she ever will. I mean, we literally share everything.

The relationship changed: it became more than it was, I fell in love with my best friend.

Carmen

Celebrating Love at Pride Toronto

 

This is the first pride month that I’ve been out as a bisexual woman, and of course, the first pride month that I’ve been out as polyamorous.  We started our pride festivities with a wonderful Women in Power event at TD. A little while later we attended Pride Night at the Aqueerium at Ripley’s Aquarium and then danced and partied on Church Street.  A day later we were back to march together with TD in the Pride Parade and enjoy Church Street by day.

All this is well and good but pictures tell our Pride story better than words ever could so check out all our photos below =) Especially the last ones.

Carmen

 

Women in Power event at TD – #ForeverProud 

Night at the Aqueerium & Dancing in the Rain on Church Street.

All ready with Rainbow make up, a renewed attempt at body confidence re: crop top style, and the best of friends. Even the rain couldn’t stop our smiles. Also, how adorable is it that google maps showed the parade route in rainbow when I opened the map!?

Just being cute together and celebrating our love after the parade 

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We’re so cute we even made Brett Kissel’s instagram story – how awesome is that? 

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And of course, we answered hate with love.

 

Tom: My Partner in Adventure

 

Last week I talked about Ben as my high school sweetheart and everything that means to me.  Now I want to share a little bit more about my relationship with Tom in this ongoing Pride month series.

Maggie and I spent years joking that we could trade husbands on date night since Tom and I had a shared taste in movies (Ahem, we’re both big Harry Potter fans), while the same can be said about Maggie and Ben’s shared interests.

So it wasn’t entirely surprising when Tom and I took time to discover our shared interests for ourselves.  I think what was most surprising was that Tom and I have very similar relationship styles.  We had the same ideas about the goals of the relationship. We both knew that if this was going to be a thing, we wanted it to be serious. We weren’t looking for a fling and we were both cautious and guarded at first.

Since then we’ve found it easy and natural to support each other in various adventures and exploring different interests.  My  favourite example is my increasing interest in Tom’s demolition derby hobby.  I had been watching his runs for a couple years – Ben and I liked coming out to support him and Maggie.  I knew from watching that it looked like a lot of fun and I’d love to be more involved. I didn’t really know how to make the jump from the stands in to the ring, though. With Tom, I’ve been able to explore this interest.

We’ve also found a shared interest in hiking and exploring the area around us.  While our partners love a high paced weekend Tom and I like our weekends interesting, but not stressful. We’ve found this balance in each other.

Where I talk about my relationship with Ben being one where we grew together, Tom has shown me a different side of my potential and encouraged me to pursue things that interest me with less consideration for what fits with who I thought I was. It’s been easy to support new interests for each other and give each other space to change our minds about how we think of ourselves.

This has allowed us to explore a shared interest in hiking. If you don’t know me personally you might not realize but I sunburn basically as soon as my skin becomes aware that it’s sunny and I’ve left the house. I also attract mosquitos at an alarming rate and am somewhat allergic to their bites. I was perfectly fine being “indoorsy” and relating to the outdoors mostly through the “Planet Earth” series from the comfort of my couch.

With a little help from sunscreen, bug spray and google maps Tom and I have slowly begun exploring our local hiking trails. I am finding I really enjoy it. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised since I was a girl guide but I guess I left the “loves hiking” part of myself as a childhood memory, until now.

I think when we were monogamous we had both settled on the idea that we knew ourselves and the lives that we had created. I was indoorsy, kinda nerdy, really liked creative activities even if I never showed a special talent for the visual arts, and at heart, a crazy cat lady.

All of those things are still true but when I reconsidered my ideas about love and relationships I found a bit of a cascade effect that helped me constructively reconsider my ideas about my identity and interests.  I discovered that I still really want to learn and the adrenaline junkie in me (a long standing relationship with thrill rides), is a little crazier than any of us thought.

Tom also has new or different ways of addressing how I need to be supported. When I talk about Polyamory I talk about having the opportunity to let partners who excel at meeting certain needs help you with them, and not forcing them to be something they aren’t for other needs. I should say that what Tom has shown me is that he can address the same needs as Maggie and Ben, for example, but he has his own way of understanding and addressing the need. It’s helpful to have this kind of support – really helpful.

I’ve talked before on this blog about struggling with self consciousness and weight loss efforts.  If I’ve said something negative about myself Ben has always been quick to tell me I’m beautiful and deny the negative charge. This has always been helpful and I’ve always appreciated his support. Tom surprised me with a slightly different phrase – he never denied the size of my body but he reminded me that he finds me attractive. I never really thought about what positive comments I need to hear from people supporting me because really, I hated needing help from others to build up my confidence. I always wished I never needed their reassurance instead of thinking about what kind of reassurance I needed. Both are needed and valuable and having different perspectives or ideas of what to say when I’m struggling has been a blessing.

Falling in love with Tom has taught me to embrace and explore so much more than a new way of thinking about love and relationships. He’s supported and encouraged a new way of thinking about myself and my identity. He’s been my partner in adventures big and small, so I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Thanks for reading the 2nd of 3 relationship reflections. =)

Carmen