How to Maintain Balance When Everything is On Fire

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
– Albert Einstein

Balance, however you define it, is important. But it’s also really hard when everything feels overwhelming. And oh my goodness, everything does feel overwhelming right now, doesn’t it?

As of right now, the UK is in what has been not-so-affectionately dubbed “Lockdown 2.0”. After completely failing to take care of my health in any reasonable way during Lockdown The First, I’m trying really hard to maintain balance and a modicum of self-care practice this time.

To that end, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite tips for staying balanced and grounded when things are hard everything is on fucking fire.

Rest

I put this first on the list because it’s by far the one I’m worst at. It can be so, so hard to switch off, unplug, and decide to do nothing for a while. But rest is absolutely vital. Without it, your health will suffer and you’ll hit burnout before you know it.

Here’s a hack that works for me: put time for yourself in your calendar, like a date you’d make with someone else, and stick to it. Then use that time to binge that Netflix show you’ve been saving, read for pleasure, take a bubble bath, or just take a nap/go to bed early.

Rest isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Eat something

When did you last eat? If it’s been more than a few hours or if you feel hungry right now, go and eat something! I recommend something with complex carbs and protein, rather than something that will give you a sugar high and then make you crash an hour later. But hey, if a sugary treat is what sounds good right now, have at it!

The trick is to listen to your body. It knows what it needs.

Move your body

I don’t mean “go out for a ten mile run” (though if that’s what makes you feel balanced and centered, knock yourself out.) Just move your body in whatever way feels good. That might look like hitting the gym and working up a sweat, or it might look like practicing some gentle yoga, or it might look like dancing to some music in your bedroom, or it might look like just doing a few stretches without even getting out of bed.

When I’m feeling sad or stressed out, I find getting on my yoga mat or having a play with my hula-hoop really helps me to regain and maintain balance.

Say no

If you’re feeling stressed, stretched, and overwhelmed, it might be because there are too many demands on your time and energy right now. Practice saying no.

If a client wants you to take on some extra work last minute? Sorry, no. Yet another Zoom happy hour? Pass if you don’t feel like it. Colleague wants you to pick up their shift? No can do!

If it doesn’t serve you or make you happy and it can possibly be avoided, just say no. Saying no firmly but politely doesn’t make you a jerk, it makes you a person with good boundaries.

Masturbate

I had to throw this one in the mix – this is supposed to be a sex blog, after all! Seriously though, masturbation is amazing. It not only feels good, it has so many benefits for your physical and mental health. Need to get out of your head and into your body for a while? Grab some porn or erotica and your favourite vibrator/stroker/hand, and give yourself some love.

Ask for help

The idea that we are all supposed to be self-reliant is so, so toxic. You know what’s a sign of strength? Asking for help when you need it. So if you’re struggling, reach out to someone. Talk to your partner or a friend, call a helpline like Samaritans, make an appointment with your doctor or therapist. Whatever it is you need to help you ground and maintain balance, you can ask for it.

You don’t have to do this alone.

You’ve got this.

It’s going to be okay.

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Reflections on Four Years

Yesterday (11/11/20) was the fourth anniversary of my relationship with my secondary partner, The Artist. This year has not been easy – we only live an hour from each other, and at the time of writing we haven’t seen each other in a little over 9 months. (For context, in non-pandemic times our average was once to twice a month.)

In honour of them and all they’ve given me in our time together, I thought I’d share a few reflections on our relationship.

It’s possible to have a secondary relationship that is truly, deeply joyful

Years ago, I wrote a defence of hierarchical polyamory and how people need to lay off judging it as Always And Absolutely Unethical. I said at the time that I was happy being The Artist’s secondary partner, and I stand by that now.

We have no desire to be each others’ primary partner. We each have our person that we live with and have entangled our lives with, and we love them very much. What we have with each other is different.

When people decry secondary relationships, it’s usually because they’ve been in one where they got burned. And I’m sorry for that, because I’ve been there. But this relationship has affirmed what I’ve always believed: that it’s possible to have a secondary relationship that is loving, nourishing, and joyful.

Because secondary doesn’t mean “just sex” or “less important” or “I don’t really care about you.” In the last four years, The Artist and I have had some amazing experiences together and shared mutual care and support in crises. We’ve held each other up and we’ve had each other’s backs. It might be secondary, but it still matters. A lot.

Taking it slow works out well sometimes

There’s been a post sitting in my drafts for over 2 years that I might publish eventually that explores this point in more detail. The working title is Fucking is Easy, Loving is Harder.

Because it took me a long-ass time to fully open up in this relationship. I got very adept at slamming a lid on my real feelings, keeping my emotions in check, because I was still convinced there was a catch. That I liked them more than they liked me, that they’d get bored with me, that I’d fuck it up. Saying I love you took me just shy of two years.

Because love is high stakes. The highest. Letting someone in is fucking hard when you’ve been hurt multiple times, especially when you’re an abuse survivor. By taking it slowly, my brain had time to catch up to my heart. And the trust we built was real, not based on impulsivity or rushing headfirst into something without thinking it through.

We can get through a lot

As I mentioned at the start of this post, we haven’t seen each other since February (it’s now November.) We currently have no idea when we’ll be able to see each other again. The UK is back in lockdown, and COVID-19 cases are still soaring. At this point, I’m expecting the total length of our separation time to stretch to a full year or more. If it doesn’t, I’ll consider that a pleasant surprise.

Is it easy? Fuck no. Does it suck? Yes. A lot. But have we got through it so far and do I believe we’ll keep getting through it? Yes and yes.

It’s not all been hot sexting and mushy online dates, either (though there has been some of that.) Some days, it’s been nothing more than an “everything sucks, but I love you” message. Of course there have been moments I’ve wondered if our relationship could survive this, if the long separation will result in them deciding they don’t need me any more, if one of us will just get too fucking depressed to keep this thing going.

But overall? I feel like if we can survive nine months to a year of lockdown, we can survive a lot of things.

I love them super-much

Basically, I think that’s what I’m trying to say, here. This is a fucking weird love-letter, but it’s a fucking weird year, so this is what I have right now.

I love you, sweetheart. Here’s to the next four.

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