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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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

It’s Different for Girls

A man can sleep around, no questions asked, but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes she’s a tramp.”
– Joan Rivers

I thought I’d try something different today – this little poem is my contribution to this week’s Quote Quest, a meme by the gorgeous and talented LSB.

TW for sexism, references to sexual violence, slut shaming, body shaming.

It’s Different for Girls

“It’s different for girls,” they said.
Don’t go out late at night
Don’t take a different way home
Make sure your skirt’s not too short
Don’t be with a boy alone

Don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t

“It’s different for girls,” we heard.
Don’t wear your hair in a ponytail
Don’t have a second beer
Carry your keys in your fingers
Nurture the gift of fear

Be afraid be afraid be afraid

“It’s different for girls,” they told us.
Cover your body, don’t be a slut
Keep an eye on your drink
Laugh politely (but not too loudly)
“You were asking for it, don’t you think?”

“It’s different for girls,” we learned
Your body is open for public discussion
So look pretty (but don’t be a slut)
Don’t you know men only like hairless virgins?
You’ll never get a boyfriend like that.

“Boys will be boys,” they told us.
When what they really meant was
“And you will be held responsible
So you’d better start getting used to it”.

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Loving Someone You’ve Loved Forever

“We had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”
– Louis de Bernieres (from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin)

I won’t knock New Relationship Energy for a second. It’s fun and it’s wonderful. Who doesn’t love that part at the beginning of a new relationship, where you’re feeling each other out, learning each other’s bodies and minds, figuring out how you fit?

But for me, the best things in a relationship have always come with time. Things like learning how to move around each other in the kitchen as we make a meal together. Knowing exactly what treat to bring back from the store to make the other’s day a bit brighter. Hearing I love you in words like “drive safely” and “you need to rest“. A whole shared language of jokes, memories, experiences, trips, fights and resolutions, fucks, films, friends, and so much more.

And sex with someone I’ve loved forever? For me, that’s where the really good stuff is. When there’s no pressure to be perfect. No worries about what if we don’t fit, what if it doesn’t work, what if what if what if

No fear I won’t be good enough, because they’ve already seen me at my worst and they still love me. Knowing that if I don’t come, they won’t think my body is too finicky or complicated. Knowing that if a body makes an unsexy noise, we’ll laugh it off and carry on. Being 100% certain that if I say no, they’ll respect it and still love me. Not being scared to take my clothes off, because I know they find me hot, stretch marks and body hair and all.

All other things being equal, I’d far rather have sex with someone whose body I know. Someone who knows mine. The creativity that comes with keeping the lust and the spark alive over years. Morning sex when we’re still half asleep, afternoon sex when we’re both working from home, giggly sex when we’re just on the right side of tipsy, sex club sex when we’re getting off on showing off.

I’ve never understood people who think long-term relationships are boring, that forever love is unexciting, or that sex with someone you’ve loved for years has to be less passionate.

So yes, casual sex is fun and NRE is wonderful. Give me the breathless excitement of fucking someone for the first time. Give me the heart-skipping moment when one of us finally moves to kiss the other. Bring it on – I love that stuff. The ability to enjoy that stuff over and over, without hurting anyone, is part of why I’m polyamorous.

But more than that? Far more than that, give me waking up next to someone I’ve loved for years. Bodies that can keep rediscovering each other every time we come together, again and again and again for years. Give me the two puzzle pieces that know they fit together.

Give me roots that have grown together underground. In the face of all that, the pretty blossom is just decoration.

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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

5 Things I Used to Believe About Myself (That I Don’t Believe Any More)

I’m writing this as part of the Smutathon 2020 writing challenge in aid of Endometriosis UK. We’re coming to the end of hour number 10, with two more to go.

This one is inspired by this week’s Quote Quest prompt:

“Change your conception of yourself and you will automatically change the world in which you live. Do not try to change people; they are only messengers telling you who you are. Revalue yourself and they will confirm the change.”
– Neville Goddard

I’ve done a lot of work on changing my perception of myself over the last few years, particularly since leaving my abusive partner just over 5 years ago.

So here are some of the things I used to believe about myself but don’t believe any more.

I have a low sex drive

Turns out I DON’T have a low sex drive – if anything, my libido is on the higher side (depression notwithstanding). I just thought I had a low sex drive for a long time, because I was in relationships where I didn’t feel empowered own my sexuality.

The first two men I had long-term relationships with both conceptualised my sexuality as something they could – should – own. They both placed a high value on “purity” and “innocence”, expecting me to stay a timid, shy creature forever. They wanted my availability, but my actual desire was somewhere between “irrelevant” and “mildly distasteful”.

I don’t have a low libido at all. No – I just need to be with people who value it.

I can’t leave a relationship

This is probably the most toxic and harmful thing I used to believe about myself. I believed this one for years. Prided myself on it, even. However bad things got, I told myself, I wouldn’t be the one to leave.

Loyalty and commitments are values I hold very close to my heart and take very seriously. But loyalty and commitment have limits. Eventually, even the most devoted person will be pushed too far. It wasn’t actually a virtue to stay in a relationship with someone who continually harmed me. It was a symbol of a profound degredation of my personal boundaries and self esteem.

Now, I know that if I am not being treated well, I will leave. And as a result, I’m in healthier relationships.

I’m too difficult to love

This was another narrative my abuser put into my head. He convinced me that I was inherently difficult to love because of my mental illness, trauma, and – frankly – my reasonable and sane negative reactions to the ways he treated me.

Another part of the reason I stayed so long? Because he convinced me that no-one else would love me the way he did. That I was “poison” and “cursed” (his words) and that he was doing me a huge favour by putting up with me.

The reality? I’m no more difficult to love than anyone else. We all have our “stuff” and in any long-term, commited relationship it will sometimes feel challenging. But no-one is too difficult to love. Especially not due to things like illness or trauma.

I’m defined by my trauma

It would be a lie to say that my trauma hasn’t changed me. Of course it has. No-one can come out of a long-term abusive relationship unscathed. The fact is that I do not know who I would have been without that experience.

But that doesn’t mean I am defined by my trauma. It is a part of me, but it is not me. I’m many things, and a survivor is one of them – an important one. But not all there is. Not by a long shot.

I’m straight

Lol.

Yeah, this is something I really used to believe about myself at one time. Seems strange now.

If you haven’t donated to Smutathon 2020’s charity yet, please do so now! We’re into the last couple hours and we really need your support. (If you read this in the week or so following the event, the page will still be open).

The Me Who Never Met You

TW: abuse, suicidal ideation (in the past, am safe now)

There is a version of me who never met you.

In another life, I am whole. In another version of the story, the ending is different. Somewhere in that parallel universe, I am different.

In that life, I do not jump at nothing. I don’t have walls six feet thick around my heart. I don’t have nightmares about the goofy, charming smile I fell in love with, the smile that hides the monster that terrifies me. The monster I cannot tame with pleasing and placating and fucking and offering myself up as a sacrifice, even though I’ve tried.

In that life, I have not spent thousands of pounds on therapy just to stay alive. I have not been medicated and hysterical and within an inch of slashing my wrists alone in a random hotel room because of all the times you convinced me I was nothing.

The me that never met you might have had a chance to be alone for a while. That girl could have spent the best years of her youth travelling and learning and fucking and fucking up and spending all that energy on literally fucking anything else but trying in vain to meet your impossible standards.

The me who never met you might have kept more of her softness. Gentleness might have still come naturally to her, rather than being something unfamiliar and alien she had to relearn piece by piece. She might not have had to forge steel psychic armour just to survive.

There is a version of me who never met you. I wish I had been able to know her.

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This piece was (albeit loosely) inspired by this week’s Quote Quest. Want to join in? Go see what everyone else is writing and submit your own work, too! And as always, if this piece was meaningful to you, you can buy me a coffee.

[Quote Quest] Feelings Can’t Be Ignored

“But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.”
– Anne Frank

TW: bullying and homophobic violence

When you try to deny how you feel, those feelings will swallow you whole. If you try to pretend to be someone you’re not, something you’re not, eventually the mask will crack. It always does.

I didn’t want to be queer when I was young.

I grew up in the shadow of the last years of Section 28, and went to a school where homophobic bullying was par for the course. The kids would bully anyone they suspected was queer. If you actually came out, they’d beat the shit out of you. Is there any wonder I didn’t want to be queer?

So I pushed those feelings down. Repressed them and repressed them until I’d buried them somewhere deep in the darkest corners of self-loathing that I only rarely peeked at.

But the thing about those parts of you that you repress? They come out eventually. They always do.

Feelings can’t be ignored.

For years, I’d catch my eyes lingering a little too long on girls I liked. That stunning girl in the year above. My female music teacher. Random women on TV. When my friends and I flicked through magazines and talked about which of the boys we fancied, I always found my eyes drawn to the girls instead.

I realised I couldn’t lie to myself any more when my then-boyfriend told me point blank, “I think you’re bisexual”. And I realised that I was. For all his faults, I have to credit him with this: he supported my bi identity from the beginning.

And then I had to work through all that self-hatred I’d cultivated through years and years of repressed desire. Because you don’t just flick a switch and go from “I can never show this part of myself to anyone” to “woo-hoo, queer pride, gonna go smooch some girls!” in three seconds. It takes time.

It took falling in love for me to fully be okay with my queerness. When I was with her, everything felt right. How could something so perfect possibly be wrong? Of all the things she taught me, perhaps the most important was how to be proud.

Because feelings can’t be ignored. Identities can’t be silenced.

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I wrote this piece for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else is writing about this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

[Quote Quest] Love is Many Things

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself- and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”

Love is many things.

Yes, sometimes love is red roses and grand gestures. But more often than not, it’s the quieter things that speak so much louder.

Fingers reaching for yours as you walk side by side. A hand on the small of your back as you wait in line at the supermarket, or resting on your knee as you watch TV.

Sometimes love is, “I love you”. But other times, it’s let me know you got home okay. It’s you’re exhausted, why don’t I pick up takeout on the way home? It’s I set the coffee pot up for you.

Love is the silly trinket they saw and couldn’t not get for you, because it spoke to some inside joke. It’s the meme in your inbox that they knew would make you laugh.

Sometimes, love is the person you’re fucking. Other times, it’s the best friend who peeled you off the floor when you were at your absolute worst and loved you unwaveringly anyway. Sometimes it’s a person who will hold you with strong arms until you feel safe again. But other times, it’s a gently purring cat who somehow knows exactly when you need a cuddle.

Sometimes, it’s I just met you but you’ve completely commandeered my thoughts. Then again, sometimes it’s also I’ll wait patiently for two years for you to fully let me in, because I know how badly you’ve been hurt before.

Love can be lavish dinners on special occasions, but it can also be homemade pancakes the morning after a night of filthy sex… or the morning after you’ve handed in your Masters thesis and all you want to do is fuse with the sofa and never move again.

Love is having your back and fighting by your side when someone has wronged you. But it’s also calling you out on your shit, because they love you and they know you’re better than this. It’s respecting your boundaries, and communicating theirs. It’s saying what they mean, so you don’t have to play guessing games.

Love is letting you feel your feelings. It’s allowing you to be where you are, without trying to fix you. It’s listening with curiosity and empathy, letting you define your own experience. Letting you sit in a space of uncertainty, not knowing, figuring things out.

Love is many things.

Love is not all you need, but it’s a damn good start.

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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

[Quote Quest] It’s Never All Bad

Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
– Brene Brown

TW: abusive relationship, mention of suicidal ideation

I don’t understand why you didn’t leave.”

I’ve heard some variation of this question dozens of times, if not hundreds of times, since I left my abuser a little over five years ago.

It’s an understandable question. Anyone who has heard me talk about what living in that relationship was like could be forgiven for wondering the same thing. Hell, I’ve asked myself the same question countless times.

The truth is nuanced and complicated. The truth is partly that I was so young – still a teenager when I met him, and he was so much older. I had precious little power to begin with, and he robbed me of the rest.

But the piece that’s always been hard for me to face is this: it wasn’t all bad.

It would be easy to leave an abuser if they were all bad. Very few people would even enter into, let alone stay in, a relationship with someone who treated them like shit right from the beginning. Abusers show their true colours over time, once you’re already invested. Or they temper their explosive outburts with moments of behaving like the sweetest, most loving person in the world.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about how I sometimes wished he would hit me because then I would feel confident naming it as abuse and be able to leave. Would I actually have left if he had done that? I don’t know. I might still have justified it, excused it, run logical rings around us until I made it somehow my fault.

He wasn’t all bad.

I still remember the first time I saw him. A shock of long hair and a cheeky, charming grin, brown eyes that sparkled mischievously when they locked with mine. The first time we kissed, by still water on a chilly November night, when I thought my heart would stop. The first night we spent together, when we stayed up talking and fucking and talking until we fell asleep sometime past dawn.

Later, too, the lows that made me want to kill myself were interspersed with highs that felt like dancing on a cloud. He’d scream at me and throw things while I cowered away from him, wondering if this would be the time he’d lose control and throw a punch. But later, he’d shove me against a wall and kiss me and the incredible sexual chemistry we undeniably had would rush to the surface, and I would be powerless to say no.

One day he would tell me I was poison, a curse who destroyed his life the day he met me. The next, he’d tell me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known, a goddess who had him under a spell. From day to day, I never knew if I’d be an angel or a demon.

The man who reduced me to calling my best friend, sobbing and suicidal, in the middle of the night was the same man I waited for in airports at dawn, just to throw my arms around him when he came through the barrier.

Even when I was in the middle of it, I recognised the rollercoaster. I remember telling friends, “we never do things by halves. It’s either incredible or it’s terrible, there is no middle ground”. Every time a low was low enough that I almost left, a new high would suck me back in. It was like almost dying and then taking a gulp of oxygen. Over and over and over.

It wasn’t all bad. And I wish it had been. Because then I might have left much sooner… or never got involved in the first place.

If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this piece, it’s this: maybe don’t ask survivors why they didn’t leave earlier. Our reasons are personal, complex, nuanced, and our own. We don’t have to justify it to you or to anyone. For me? I stayed for so long because it wasn’t all bad. Until the day it was.

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I wrote this piece for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see what everyone else wrote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

[Quote Quest] Sex-Positive Spaces and Fragile Freedom

“Raise a glass to freedom,
Something they can never take away.”

– Lin-Manuel Miranda (“The Story of Tonight” from Hamilton)

Despite everything I’ve achieved with this site and the work I do surrounding it, I don’t get to be quite so outspokenly sex-positive as I am on here out in my daily life.

I do what I can, of course. I’m unapologetically feminist and openly queer, and will call out shitty behaviour when it’s safe to do so. But there’s a level of inhibition that doesn’t exist in the same way when I’m Amy Norton, Sex Blogger and Sex Positive Badass Extraordinaire.

I miss sex-positive spaces

For obvious reasons (no, I’m still not saying that particular C-word on my blog,) I haven’t been in any physical sex-positives spaces in months. No dungeons, play parties, orgies, wild nights, or sleepy morning threesomes. I haven’t even seen my secondary partner in close to six months.

I miss the filthy sex, of course. I miss the naked bodies and the kisses and the fucking and the “ooh, whose hand is that!?” But more than that, I miss the cuddles. The flashes of a grin from across a bed, the catch of the eyes with my partner that means “our life is fucking awesome.”

I miss the safety most of all. The freedom. The ability to be completely and wholly myself, unapologetic and raw and real. A place where my queerness will be celebrated, not looked upon with suspicion. A place where being a kinky feminist submissive polyamorous swinger is a beautiful thing, not a threat to fragile male egos or straight people’s marriages or the fabric of society itself.

So no, I don’t think it’s frivolous to be said that I haven’t been able to attend an orgy or a dungeon in months. Because what I’m really missing is something we all want: acceptance. Community. Connection.

Sexual freedom is fragile

Those of us who do work in this space have always known that, of course. There will always be far-right campaigners and religious fundamentalists and conversative politicians trying to take away the rights of consenting adults to do their thing.

Now more than ever, we cannot afford to take our sex-positive spaces for granted. We cannot take the freedom we have for granted. Losing access to those spaces for the last few months for public health reasons has thrown a new light on just how important – how essential – they are.

Our sex-positive spaces – our kink clubs, private parties, swinger socials, munches – give us the freedom to be ourselves. They give us a place where no-one thinks who we are and how we love is wrong. And that? That is worth fighting for.

I am glad I didn’t know that the play event I went to in March, where Mr CK and I played next to a gorgeous couple I’ve crushed on for ages, would be the last one for who-knew-how-long. I’m glad I have that memory of one last normal, kinky, filthy Sunday afternoon before everything went to shit.

I just hope we can have more of that soon.

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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch, and this week’s quote was submitted by Yours Truly. Click the button to see who else was inspired by it! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

[Quote Quest] You Need to Have Power Before You Can Give it Away

“Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”
Oscar Wilde

TW: abuse, abuse of power, shitty Doms

I’ve always found the term “power exchange” – to describe a Dominant/submissive dynamic, relationship, or scene – fascinating. It’s not called a power over or a power from, but an exchange. I think there’s a reason for that. And I think that reason is as this title says: you need to have power before you can give it away.

Have you ever noticed how toxic and abusive Dominants (particularly cishet male Doms) try to get into relationships with the most powerless people they can find? Dominants who are insecure in their own masculinity and their own power chase submissives who are extremely young, extremely inexperienced and new to the scene, and whom they can groom into a relationship under the guise of “that’s what dominance is.”

It’s no surprise that those relationships tend to end up with, at best, a wildly uneven level of dependency. Often, they end up horrifyingly abusive.

Is it really consensual dominance if you take control over someone who has so little power, relative to you, that they can’t meaningfully push back or say no or leave? I don’t think it is. Are they truly giving power consensually if they can’t take it back? I believe not.

My first Dom was intimidated by me the moment I gained any real power. When we met, I was meek and quiet and obedient and so very, very young. A few years in, when I went to University and met my people and found my voice. He told me that he didn’t know what to do with me any more. “You don’t need me any longer,” he said. What he meant was, you can live without me now. And he didn’t like that.

Later, he told me that he couldn’t be my Dom any more because he was worried I was smarter than him. Because I was suddenly confident and outspoken. And what I realised is that he didn’t want to consensually dominate someone who was consensually subservient for fun. He wanted to domineer over someone who he could conceptualise as genuinely lesser.

Power is complicated and multi-faceted. You can have more power than someone along one axis, and less power along another. It’s not always an easy thing to quantify. That’s especially true when Dominant and submissive kink dynamics come into play.

But if you’re seeking out someone who doesn’t know any better due to age or inexperience, who won’t question you, who won’t leave because they need you or feel like nothing without you… ask yourself why.

If you feel threatened by someone who is a little older, has a modicum of experience, or is as smart or as successful or as confident as you (or perhaps even more so,) you need to interrogate that. Why do you need to feel like your partner is beneath you? Isn’t it more satisfying for someone who has a secure sense of their personal power to choose to give it away to you as their Dominant?

And if someone is chasing you who clearly has a hugely disproportionate level of power over you, ask questions. Do they fetishise your youth or your newness or your inexperience or your naïvety or the sense of security they get from feeling like they’re just kinda better than you? Do you feel the urge to put them on a pedastal or to do everything they say, even if it doesn’t feel right, because they say they know better?

Don’t give power over you to someone who doesn’t view your personal power as a beautiful thing that you alone own.

Learn yourself first. Explore with people who will make space for you to be curious, to try things out, to not know. Not with someone who treats you like an untouched lump of clay they can mold to their specifications.

Because you can only consensually give away your power, for a scene or a weekend or a few years or a lifetime, if you have that power to begin with.

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I wrote this piece for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see the other contributions or to take part. And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!