+ the anti-stigma project : two people holding hands making a heart shape

The Anti-Stigma Project

In all honesty, I’m not sure ultimately where I want to take the idea for The Anti-Stigma Project. I feel like there’s something big here, I just haven’t pinned it down yet. I mean, there are sooooo many things that our society unnecessarily attaches a sort of “automatic” stigma to, for one reason or another (or even for seemingly no reason at all). And living under the black cloud of that stigma can have a lot of really damaging, negative consequences for a lot of people, not even just for the people immediately affected by it, but for the people that those people interact with, and so on and so forth.

Just look at the top news stories over the past decade or two. The pain and suffering caused by ceaseless stigmatization has driven people to do unthinkable things, including causing harm to themselves and/or others. It shouldn’t be that way, and I believe it doesn’t have to be that way, but there is also sooooo much work to be done to dismantle the stigmas that are all around us every day.

What is stigma?

The word “stigma” itself has some religious roots, but a stigma is basically any mark of shame, dishonor, or disgrace attached to someone because of some perceived difference or “abnormality” setting them apart from the majority. Stigmatization is often achieved by means of some sort of labeling or stereotyping.

Bullying is born in stigma

the anti-stigma project -- woman with finger to lips shushing, with tape over mouth

When you think about it, bullying — the act of persecuting someone for being different — would not exist without stigma. Our schools would be less contentious environments without stigma, and the anti-bullying movement would never have had to come into being.

Without stigma, I wouldn’t have to be afraid to send my future child into the school system and be considering homeschooling instead.

(I have seriously had this thought in the past. No way would I trust my kid in the public school system. Or even a private one. But “future child” isn’t in the cards for me at this point in my life anyway, just FYI.) Anyway, seriously, think of all the good The Anti-Stigma Project could do.

No one is safe from stigma

No one is really safe from stigma in today’s world, unfortunately, because stigma can attach to just about anything that the majority might perceive as different (and thus threatening to the majority’s status quo), but underrepresented groups are very disproportionately affected, as you might imagine. This concept is especially prominent in the limelight at this time of year, as Pride month comes to a close.

See my stigma, hear me roar

Some of the issues in this realm that are nearest and dearest to my own heart include the stigmas attached to:

  • being a nerd (my original sin… which was a painful AF stigma to suffer through when I was in high school, but is now, miraculously, wondrously… trendy!?? #notfair!!),
  • having a non-mainstream sexual orientation (I’m pansexual and demisexual — the first part means I experience attraction without regard to gender; and the second part means that feeling a strong, intimate mental connection with a person is a big part of what draws me to them),
  • living a polyamorous lifestyle,
  • being an ex-drinker / non-drinker of alcohol,
  • living full-time in an RV,
  • having a history of body dysmorphia / eating disorder issues, and
  • being kinky / into the BDSM lifestyle (yep, I said it out loud here where the world can see… umm… sorry, mom).

All of these uniquenesses — things that to me are nothing more than a part of me being me and living life true to myself — are things that many people might see as “abnormal” and thus shun, ridicule, or even just generally talk smack about me for.

The dark side of stigmatization

the anti-stigma project -- woman covering her face with her hands

However, there is a darker side to stigmatization… a side where physical violence sometimes peeks its ugly head out… a side where stigmatized individuals in far-flung locations might find themselves not just persecuted or forced into hiding, but also in complete and utter isolation from community support… a side where millions of voices are still crying out in the dark. Those voices deserve to be heard.

Dismantling stigma by living out loud

Now I don’t have any easy answers to all of this, but I think the more we tell our stories, own our differences as parts of ourselves we are PROUD of, and live authentically “out loud,” the less power stigma has over us. That’s why I’m telling my stories here. That’s part of what my whole “feed your flame” spiel is getting at, too. And I guess that’s really what The Anti-Stigma Project is all about, when it comes down to it.

That’s also incidentally why I don’t worry so much about potential stray pics of my naughty bits floating around the world anymore (based on my limited in-the-field research, sexting is something I’m pretty sure most of us of a certain age have tried at least once, whether we admit it or not). Because damn it, if I sent you a pic, it was f*cking sexy. And if you share it without my consent, then you are just a big butthead racking up loads of bad karma for yourself. And none of that changes the fact that I’m proud of my body and not ashamed that I am a sexual being (although my sex life recently might argue that last point, I think).

Okay sexting and naughty pics was a bit of a digression from the main point, but you get the idea, I think. I’ll write more on The Anti-Stigma Project here in the blog as ideas come, and I’m also considering addressing this further on The Trish-tagram Feed, so check me out there too!

love from trish
+ radical self-care : woman doing yoga bow to city

Radical Self-Care

Let me kick this radical self-care rant off with an admission: I’m a totally Type-A, overthinking, overworking, overplanning person by nature, and it’s taken me a loooooong time to break myself of some really bad habits.

The early days

I straight-edged my way through high school entirely on the power of my ability to nerd out and get good grades, coming in number two in my class and giving a totally kick-ass (if I do say so myself) salutatorian speech at graduation, but never going out or partying or doing anything remotely “cool.” (I’ll bet you can imagine how popular that made me.)

Then after serving six years on active duty military service, instead of taking a break and getting some much-needed “me-time” in, I immediately jumped into a lucrative, highly upwardly mobile government contracting job, which basically involved working my tooshie off, hustling for new clients all the time, and doing the whole corporate rat-race thing.

Growing up

But let’s go a little further back in time for a minute. When I was growing up, my family didn’t have a whole lot of money. My mom loved us kids and did what she could, and we never went without the “basic-basics,” you know. But we also moved around a lot, lived with my grandmother for a while because we didn’t have anywhere else to go, and school field-trips and fundraisers were stressful times in our house, because the school’s general expectation was for parents to fork over money at these times — money we didn’t have. I mean, I used to hear about schoolmates going on their “annual family vacations” and that concept was so foreign to me that I couldn’t even conceive of what it must be like to have that much money.

Which is to say, growing up, I never learned to prioritize self-care. I mean, as far as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs goes, when I was a child, my family was still struggling to get all the basic-basic needs taken care of, never mind the higher-level psychological and self-actualization ones. And even as an adult, my natural inclination, with my whole Type-A, INFJ, 2w3 personality mix, was to push through the tough times, suck it up when things were stressful, and take care of everyone else’s feelings and needs before my own. So I wasn’t naturally inclined to prioritize self-care.

Learning to care for self

It wasn’t until sometime in my 30s, around the time when I first started questioning the role that alcohol was playing in my life (and realizing that, despite what advertisers and sitcom writers might have us believe, wine was, in fact, NOT self-care), that I really started taking self-care seriously.

radical self-care -- two people dancing the tango

This is when I consciously started making time for regular, healthy PLAY activities (like rock-climbing and taking totally awesome-sauce Argentine tango classes) and for healing and rejuvenation-oriented activities (like Bikram yoga, long-form Yang-style Tai Chi, massage, acupuncture, juice cleanses, etc).

I kinda started out doing “self-care light,” but eventually, I learned how to dive into radical self-care with a vengeance when I needed it. You guys, there were weeks when I would literally get a massage and/or an acupuncture treatment every day for 5 or 6 days in a row (P.S. community acupuncture and massage school prices totally rock for doing this on the cheap), because I could just feel my body, mind, and spirit crying out for nurturing and love, and I was committed to being kinder to myself than I had been in the “push through and suck it up” days.

But here’s the kicker: I never told anyone when I went on these week-long self-care binges, not family, not friends. No one. Why? Honestly, it was because I felt like people would look at me strangely or question what I was doing, like it was somehow possible to overdo it on self-care, and I was on some level afraid that someone would call me out and try to stage a radical self-care intervention. You know, like, be all, “Stop! Back away from the massage therapist! You don’t know what you’re doing! Can’t you see how this is hurting us?”

Is self-care really that radical?

Why is self-care such a radical concept these days, anyway? I mean, I know we can’t all have week-long self-care binges all the time. Well, my lifestyle certainly doesn’t allow for it, anyway, LOL. (If yours does, I totally envy you! And also are you looking for a sugar baby? J/K. Sorta.) Seriously though, why is having the audacity to suggest that taking a break and recuperating from the stress of your day-to-day every now and then such a hard thing for most people to swallow?

Why are we so quick to say, “I don’t have the time” or “I don’t have the money”?

radical self-care -- woman reading a book on sofa with towel wrapping hair

There are lots of self-care activities that don’t require much money (like relaxing in a long hot bath or spending an hour stretched out in the sun reading a good book), and lots that don’t require much time (like doing just a minute or two of meditation or even just pausing to take a few deep breaths).

In flight, we all know that in the event of a sudden change in cabin pressure, we need to put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others. Yet we often don’t follow that advice when it comes to “real life.” Don’t we want to be at our best, to be our best selves, when dealing with those we love? When going into life-changing business meetings or even just when heading to a coffee shop (where, who knows, we just might meet one of the future loves of our life)?

Nobody wants to be a hot mess

Here’s what I’ve learned is true, at least for myself: Radical self-care is not selfish. It is also not an indulgence (unless you choose to let it be… although you have to first have the resources to get all indulgent and opulent with your self-care). It’s a necessity. For fucking realzies, you guys, I turn into a hot mess if I don’t take care of myself, and I don’t like being a hot mess. So I do the damn thing.

I feel like if more people treated self-care as a necessity, there would be a lot less pain and suffering in the world. Because people who aren’t taking care of themselves properly just don’t do as well as they could at spreading love and joy in the world. I mean, just look at that guy in traffic behind you leaning on his horn. Need I say more?

Well, regardless of whether I need to say more or not (I actually do have lots more to say on this subject), I think that’s a good start for now. Keep an eye on the blog for more radical self-care articles in the near future!

love from trish
+ pouring water from water bottle into glass

Teetotaling

What is teetotaling?

I like to use the word teetotaling as the overarching term to describe my sober lifestyle, because it seems like when people hear the the word “sobriety,” they tend to either shut down or layer a sh*t-ton of their own emotional associations over whatever is being said. (P.S. In case you were wondering, “sober” ≠ “somber,” because sober folks are super f*cking fun, y’all.)

Anyway, my own personal definition of teetotaling is living a life free from the influence of alcohol. In other words, being committed to living a life OVER the influence rather than under it. This makes sense for me, since alcohol has been something of a sticking point for me over the years. (Which is a total understatement, okay?)

Now some people go even further and extend the teetotaling definition, pledging to total abstinence from all intoxicating substances, in some cases even including abstaining from caffeine in their teetotalism. (Knowing myself, I’m not sure I could commit myself to no caffeine at this point in my life, honestly.)

Exercising sobriety

But no matter what your personal teetotalism or sobriety goal looks like, or even if you’re just sober-curious, I believe we all have the right to embrace a sober / teetotaling life, without getting f*cked with by others for making that choice. And that includes not getting f*cked with for stumbling along the path.

Because living a sober lifestyle is a strong, bad-ass journey, and it just makes sense that any journey that requires strength and bad-assery also takes practice to get right. I mean, god knows it took me a f*ck-ton of tries to get to where I am, and I’m still learning new things every day that I walk this path.

This is why the phrase “exercising sobriety” has an honest, solid ring to it, for me.

Because if you are at ANY point along the sobriety continuum — and that includes falling flat on your face after getting a few days, weeks, months, or even years under your belt — then YOU ARE DOING THE DAMN THING, y’all. You’re doing it! You are exercising sobriety.

teetotaling pic - silhouette of woman running with definition of the word "exercising" as it relates to exercising sobriety

Sometimes it doesn’t look pretty, no doubt. But when it comes to doing hard things, failure is absolutely 100% a building block toward success, if you let it be.

How my alcohol story began

I’ve been living a sober lifestyle for almost a year now (as of the writing of this article), but I was drinking for a good 20 years before that, so I’ve got lots of experience with alcohol’s many faces — definitely enough to know that alcohol never did me any favors. But it’s a tricky mistress, alcohol. When it’s got you in its grips, it makes you believe things about yourself (and about it) that aren’t necessarily true.

For instance, the first time I got drunk, it was a conscious choice, oddly enough (I do all kinds of oddball things, though… so… spoiler alert on that). I had been a straight-laced, nerdy, highly unpopular kid all through high school, and my first year of college I decided to change that by getting good and sh*tfaced with some so-called “friends.” And lo and behold, sh*tfaced me felt like FUN ME! I finally felt like one of the popular party girls. I finally felt UN-shy!

And I was hooked from that moment, I think. Not chemically or physiologically hooked (thankfully I never got to that point), but hooked on that feeling of being a funner, cooler, more popular version of myself.

The lies alcohol tries to sell us

Funny thing is, though I didn’t realize it at the time, that’s one of the big lies that alcohol tries to sell us. We don’t get better. We get sloppier and sh*ttier and less emotionally intelligent, we become more easily manipulated and taken advantage of, and we devolve and become less capable at life in general, both during and after drinking binges, because the hangover backlash is just as bad as the sh*tfaced-ness of the drinking itself. But we’re usually surrounded by other equally sh*tfaced souls when we’re in the thick of it, so it’s hard to tell.

And I didn’t look back or re-examine my relationship with alcohol for years. I should have. Alcohol gave me TONS of signs that it was an abusive lover, but I ignored them all. I let my mind gloss over that time in my 20s when alcohol let someone take advantage of my body without my consent (to this day, I still have trouble labeling what happened, because of my sense of culpability in “letting” something happen to me by getting that drunk). I conveniently forgot most of what happened on that lonely Valentine’s Day long ago, when alcohol spun me out on a maudlin emotional roller coaster and made me act like a crying, drunken fool in the middle of a packed dance club.

To be honest, I did try a few periods of alcohol abstinence in my 20s and 30s, mostly knee-jerk reactions to some embarrassing drunken incidents, periods of abstinence which began with me promising myself to never let that happen again and ended with me thinking, “I’ve got this, I’m totally under control now.” I really wasn’t in control, of course. It was a lie I was telling myself.

The problem with functional alcohol abuse

But for a long time, I was never out-of-control enough to reach the critical pain point that ultimately made me change my life (and I think that point is different for everyone). I mean, I had my work life and my social life in order for the most part, at least on the surface of things. I wasn’t out getting DUIs or drinking at the office or anything like that. I was developing my career and building a business — a business that, ironically, involved supporting clients in their recovery efforts at both in-patient and outpatient substance abuse rehabilitation facilities.

And I couldn’t even tell you exactly when I realized with 100% certainty that something had to change for me with alcohol. But I can tell you this: It was years from the time I had that realization until I was actually able to successfully cut alcohol out of my life.

I mean, all I really knew was that I was tired of scouring my phone for drunken texts that I may have sent the previous evening. And that I was scared of waking up one more time in the middle of the night with the beginnings of a hangover so bad I literally felt like I was about to die. And that I was ashamed of feeling like a hypocrite at work, giving advice to clients in recovery that I wasn’t taking myself.

There are no quick-fix sobriety solutions

teetotaling pic: people at a yoga retreat

So I spent several years trying everything I could think of to quick-fix my way out of the psychological addiction to alcohol, including going to yoga retreats, participating in juice cleanses and water fasts, and even spending time in an ashram basically trying to chant away my problems.

And though some of these teetotaling attempts stuck with me for a few months, none of them worked in the long-term, because life was always there waiting for me when I got back to it, you know? And I hadn’t dealt with any of the underlying reasons I was drinking. And really, there is no quick-fix substitute for something that you’ve used as a quick-fix solution for almost everything that life has thrown at you for all of your adult life.

The only way out of the alcohol trap is by going through all of the things that you used alcohol to avoid before — by learning to stay with discomfort rather than running from it, by learning to feel all the feels, by learning to love yourself even when you’ve been taught your whole life that you’re not enough or that you need to be more or better to be worthy of love, by learning healthier coping mechanisms.

Finding your teetotaling community

So there was a point along my teetotaling path when I did what a lot of people in similar situations do and tried Alcoholics Anonymous, since it seemed to work for so many people. And the enthusiastic acceptance and support and sharing that I found there was a breath of fresh air for sure, but there were a lot of other aspects of AA that weren’t quite a good fit for me.

For one, I never got on board with the idea of labeling myself an alcoholic. I’ve never been a fan of labels in general, but the “alcoholic” label in particular strikes me as an incredibly stigmatizing label to slap onto a bunch of people who are already going through a tough time. And I was really not on board with the idea of accepting that I was powerless over alcohol, which is basically one of the underlying assumptions that AA is built on. I mean, call me crazy, but I kinda believe that making HUGE changes in your life requires a sense of empowerment and agency, not the opposite.

Anyway, AA seems to work well for a lot of folks, and that’s awesome, so I’m not knocking it, but it just wasn’t the right recovery community for me. So I puttered around on the internet for a while (I’m talking years, you guys), researching various alternative recovery groups.

And there are a bunch of alternatives out there, but the problem I ran into was that a lot of the group listings I found were old and outdated, listing meetings that were no longer taking place or regional groups that no longer existed or meetings that were so small it was impossible to attend without feeling singled-out or spotlighted. At one point, I even thought about trying to find an inpatient program somewhere that I could afford (a tall order in itself), but then I realized that would put me right back into the quick-fix cycle I’d been in before, because my life would STILL be waiting for me when I got out.

The perfect storm

But persistence pays off, because one day fate (and Google) finally steered me in the direction of the Tempest Sobriety School (which was then called the Hip Sobriety School), and I signed up for the summer 2018 session, and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself, because it’s where I found a community of people who just felt like my people, if you know what I mean.

People were sharing stories that I could relate to. People were offering words of support that sounded like they could have come from my own head. And there was no shaming and no blaming and there was no prescribed schedule for doing anything and there were no prescribed “steps” that needed to be taken in any particular order or even at all.

There was just a lot of love, and a lot of tips and tools and stories to learn from, and a lot of really great folks. It was a perfect storm of collaboration that came together in a way that spoke straight to my battered but hopeful soul. And it was the community that stood with me as I walked out of the fire and into the light of a teetotaling lifestyle.

teetotaling pic: one headshot of trish from may 2018 with a hangover compared with another headshot of trish from may 2019 sober and happy

Embracing all parts of yourself

But Tempest wasn’t the be-all and end-all for me, to be sure. With the growth and opportunities I gained from that incredibly valuable experience, with my newfound ability to embrace more of a real sense of myself and who I actually AM in the world… I’ve continued to grow, and branch out, and make new connections, and become even more of an independent thinker (is that even possible?!)… and I have actually begun to move away from some of the philosophies and thoughts I originally learned as a part of that community, and to make my recovery process more individualized and specific to me, and to my needs.

And that’s not a bad thing, I think.

Worst behaviors, best intentions

Here’s the thing. I believe that all behaviors, even the worst-seeming ones, like alcohol overuse, have a positive intention at their root. For instance, sometimes a behavior is attempting to protect you from something, like a painful feeling or a hard truth. Or sometimes a behavior arises because part of you knows that you really need a break but you’re not allowing yourself a moment to rest.

Ultimately, what this meant for me was discovering that overcoming alcohol was not about disowning or divorcing myself from a part of myself (which was what I had been trying to do for years unsuccessfully), but embracing that part of myself instead, getting curious about what it was really trying to accomplish for me, and looking for healthy solutions to meet those needs. This was not a quick-fix process, and it’s ongoing really, as I will always have new things to learn about myself, and spiritual growth is a lifelong process.

Becoming whole

Anyway, all of this has led me to believe that being fully present in your body, your mind, and your spirit — being fully present in your LIFE, in essence — means acknowledging, caring for, and exercising ALL of the different parts of yourself, even the messy, emotional AF, reckless, sh*t-stirring parts of yourself, so that all of these parts get healthier and become part of a healthier whole self. 

teetoling - robot - not an autobot transformer but kinda looks a bit like one

Like… you know how the Autobot Transformers can unite into one super-badass hunk of highly functioning machinery?

Yeah. Kinda like that. Like an ass-kicking Teetotaling Bot.

So I’m gonna write a TON more about this stuff, but I think that’s enough for right now.

Check out the article index, the category listings, and the search bar on the right if you’d like to tool around on the site and read more about becoming teetotally awesome. 🙂

P.S. Check out my teetotaler tattoo (part of an awesome movement aimed at re-branding the concept of living alcohol-free from one of restriction to one of freedom… and well… it also has a bit of a more personal meaning specific to me that I’ll keep to myself, at least for now)! Squee! Teetotaling rocks!

love from trish
+ woman in front of yellow travel trailer

Full-Time RV Living

Full-time RV living rocks, people. It’s not easy, and it’s not for everybody, but if it tickles your fancy and you’d like to give it a try, I’m going to lay out some of my thoughts and experiences on the matter here in the blog space.

Why full-time RV living?

There are so many different reasons that people choose the full-time RV lifestyle, and often it’s not one single reason but a combination of many that tips the scales in RVing’s favor.

Sometimes its financial reasons; a lot of retirees these days are finding themselves trying to stretch their retirement dollars further, and full-time RV living can fit that bill, if you do it right. (A word of warning, though: On the flip side, it can also be way more expensive than expected, if you don’t plan things out. More on that in future blog articles, I promise.)

Sometimes its being at a crossroads in life, wanting more, wanting freedom, wanting to travel and roam and see the world and sometimes just generally wanting to break free of the blah, humdrum mold of the life mainstream society tries to force us into — no matter whether you’re blue-collar or white-collar, younger or older. I’ve met people from a really broad range of demographics in the RV lifestyle, even having just been a part of it for a little over a year now.

For me, it was a combination of all of the above reasons — having just gone through a rough divorce, moving around restless and groundless for a while between staying with friends and staying with family, feeling the desperate need to have my own private space again, and really wanting that private home space to give me back the sense of financial security and personal strength that it felt like the turmoil and uncertainty of the whole divorce process had just ripped away from me.

The joys of house-lessness

It might seem crazy to some, but living 24/7 in a 20-foot-long space (or a 30-foot-long space, or even a 40-foot-long space, if you’re livin’ large in RV style) is actually a lot more freeing than you might imagine. (If you’re curious, my space is about 20 feet long for now, but I’m thinking of upgrading it in the future.)

I mean, think about it. You don’t need to be tied down to a rental contract or a mortgage. And upgrading an RV is a heck of a lot easier than upgrading a sticks-and-bricks home. With a lot less paperwork required, too! And I’m all for that.

But also, for me, full-time RV living has connected me more deeply with nature, with my community (people who get me!), and with a deeper sense of myself, better than anything ever has before in my life. And in that sense, the RVing journey has been a really emotional one, but in a really good way.

full-time rv living -- woman standing at door of trailer

It’s also just really an awesome-sauce kind of magicalness to be able to hitch up and head out anywhere, anytime, and take your whole life’s worth of “stuff” and your comfy familiar bed and your own food and your awesome dog-daughter and ALL of your toiletries with you (without having to choose only what will fit in a quart-size ziploc bag and a few 3-ounce containers!).

The challenges of RV life

It’s not all puppies and roses, though, don’t get me wrong. Just like with any other life endeavor, RV life comes with its own set of unique challenges. There’s a steep learning curve that needs to be respected when jumping into the RV lifestyle. An RV needs a lot more active maintenance and upkeep than a brick-and-mortar home, and things tend to break a LOT more easily, even in a brand-new RV (watch a video sometime on YouTube of how these things are basically slapped together on the assembly line in under an hour, and you’ll see why).

So you have to be ready to roll with the punches at pretty much any moment, and you also need to educate yourself to make sure you’re not neglecting any critical maintenance that might develop into a HUGE problem down the road.

For instance, a lot of newbie RVers don’t know how important it is to level the RV whenever they camp (if you don’t level, you’re setting yourself up for your fridge to break down in the future, because this causes cumulative refrigerator damage that you probably won’t even notice until it goes belly-up). Newbies also often don’t know that they need to check the seals on their roof every year or so and do some resealing if needed (or suffer irreversible roof damage as a consequence).

Oh, and let me tell you, my (brand-new!) RV tub was leaking for a while and I didn’t know it. If I hadn’t found and corrected that problem, the flooring underneath it (conveniently tucked WAY out-of-sight, to where I had to unscrew a wall panel to see the problem) could have totally rotted away in time, leading to all sorts of issues.

My city water valve connection also cracked and totally flew off the side of my trailer and sprayed water everrrrrrywhere a few months back, necessitating an emergency mobile RV repair visit. But that’s another story I’ll get into later. Ahem. And it was totally not my fault, let me just say that, too.

Getting ahead of the learning curve

Like many things in my life — including my oh-so-brilliant purchase of a used stick-shift THREE-CYLINDER Geo Metro that I bought way back in 1995 sight-unseen and with absolutely ZERO idea how to drive a manual-transmission vehicle — I jumped into RV living with a hope and a prayer and lots of positive thinking. LOL. (Ahem, I did learn how to drive that car, in case you wondering, and I totally rocked it. Even though its awesome three-cylinder-ness took about a full minute to get up to freeway speeds, and on-ramps were a bit like playing a game of chicken with the flow of traffic because of my pokey roll.)

full-time rv living -- trailer and truck at a campground at night

So I’ll be honest, you all. I had no idea how to tow a travel trailer (or tow ANYTHING actually), and had never been comfortable driving anything bigger than a compact car prior to starting my great RV adventure. But I pulled on my big-girl-pants and went out and got me a truck and a cute little Gulf Stream trailer (yes, cuteness was a selling factor… I’m a bit of a sucker for cute stuff) and got rid of my (also very cute) little green Mazda2, and hit the road.

But I did do some research first, and I actually found a bunch of online training courses that were SUPER helpful, both for learning how to drive a tow vehicle safely AND for learning how to RV safely and smartly. There are live, in-person options as well, some of which I attended, and some of which I tried to attend but fate intervened. More on that in future blog articles, for sure! Because safe RVing is super important, y’all, and I see a lot of travelers on the road that I don’t think have all the info they need, and I’d like to help change that, if I can.

It’s the RV life for me!

I wasn’t sure I’d love full-time RV living when I started out, but after a year, I’m hooked. I know a lot of people don’t understand why anyone would prefer an RV over a non-mobile-home, but living this way feeds my flame so much that it’s just ridiculous. And you guys know I’m all about being true to your self and living your authentic life.

I’m definitely not nearly as nomadic as a lot of others I see in this lifestyle, since I tend to like to hang out in one spot for a few months before moving on (with water and electric and sewer hookups, cause I’m fancy like that… but also because I haven’t gotten around to all the necessary boondocking upgrades yet), but it suits me. I tried the whole moving-around-every-day thing for a bit, and it was fun and I saw a lot, but it was also tiring, and I wasn’t able to take as much time as I wanted to do all of my self-care stuff, which is so important.

But that’s not to say I don’t want to travel more in the future. My upgrade plans right now include getting a bigger rig that I can leave in one place for months at a time as a kind of home base, and ALSO a small camper van that I can toodle around in all over without having to worry about rough/windy/curvy roads, overhead clearance, turn radius, and all that jazz. It’s good to have dreams, right?

More on all this stuff soon! Hope the road of life takes you somewhere interesting in the meantime.

love from trish
+ group hug at dawn

Ethical Non-Monogamy

Hey peeps. Okay, so. Living an ethically non-monogamous lifestyle isn’t for everyone. In fact, some people might find the very idea of ethical non-monogamy downright offensive.

To be sure, choosing a way of life so different from the socially accepted Western standard isn’t necessarily easy or popular. So we ENM types tend to be a relatively small but very interesting and often very outspoken group.

What is ethical non-monogamy?

ethical non-monogamy pic: two women and a man embracing and smiling

The term “ethical non-monogamy” actually encompasses a very wide range of relationship frameworks and styles, many of which are misunderstood, lumped together with often-unrelated relationship styles, and stereotyped and stigmatized in ways that don’t necessary lend themselves to intelligent discussion. I’d like to change that.

Polyamory is…

Word choices are often a source of confusion regarding ENM. To start with, “polyamory” is a term that is often used interchangeably with “ethical non-monogamy” as an overarching alternative-lifestyle umbrella. However, some people in the ENM community use the term polyamory differently — specifically to describe relationships that involve loving more than one person simultaneously (this makes sense, with “love” being the “amor” part of the word “polyamory”).

Swinging is…

Polyamory in this “amor/emotional love” sense stands in stark opposition to the swingers’ lifestyle, in which sex with more than one person is the norm and partner-swapping is common, but emotional intimacy is typically NOT on the table. In fact, some life-partnered couples enter the swinging lifestyle with the express agreement that they will not fall in love with or develop feelings for any of their swinging partners (something that even some of my swinger friends will admit is sometimes easier said than done).

Sidenote: Swinging has actually never been something that appealed to me, since I’ve always fallen pretty squarely in the demisexual camp (demisexuals need to feel some deeper sense of connection to another person in order to be attracted to them).

Polygamy is…

Side-sidenote: Before we move forward, I’d like to clear up another common misconception. Polygamy and polyamory are NOT the same thing. Polygamy refers specifically to multiple spouses, a practice heavily stigmatized and often railed against by those with strong religious and/or moral opinions. Polyamory is a more broad term in that it refers to multiple loves or relationship interests, regardless of marital status.

With that said, it is very interesting to me that while same-sex marriage has been gaining ground in the political arena, any hint of moving toward a multiple-spouse system is still met with overwhelming disapproval by the majority. Seriously, y’all, some politicians and special interest groups have actually used the public’s general fear and abhorrence of polygamy to rally support against same-sex marriage by arguing that legalizing same-sex marriage will pave the way for legalizing polygamy. And while I have no strong desire to marry at this point, I would like to see this whole situation change. It makes me sad. Equality for everyone, am I right?

Cheating is…

Most importantly, ethical non-monogamy is, by its very definition, not cheating. Yet “cheater” is a derogatory label that is often wrongly attached to a person who publicly declares themselves to be a part of the ENM community.

So let’s deconstruct this whole “cheating” concept for a minute and get to the bottom of the problem. I think we can all agree that cheating on a lover is unethical, right? Well, this may surprise you, but in fact, it IS possible to cheat on a lover even if you are both openly polyamorous. Because anytime you sneak around behind a lover’s back and do something sexual or intimate with another person that you feel the need to hide or lie about, that’s cheating. And sadly, that still happens, even in the ENM community.

You might be asking yourself now, why would you need to cheat if you’re polyamorous? It does sound a little crazy, but it happens, for any number of reasons. Sometimes because one partner doesn’t like something about a specific person that their partner has expressed attraction to and asks them not to pursue that person as a romantic interest. Sometimes because one partner meets a new person and hits it off really well with them and things get hot and heavy and cross sexual lines quickly, in violation of pre-established relationship rules with another partner (more in the blog later about my own past experiences with opening up an existing monogamous relationship and how setting up RULES like that are bound to cause problems for you).

Informed consent is…

And all of that is to say, living non-monogamously and ethically means taking steps to ensure that everyone involved in or impacted by a relationship is aware, informed, and willing and able to give consent to being a part of what is happening.

On the flip side, this open communication and awareness also means that anyone has the right to revoke consent to being a part of what is happening and walk away at any time (although in any long-standing ENM relationship grounded in mutual respect, in my experience, this is a drastic step that is often unnecessary when ALL the parties involved in a situation or issue can talk things through, even those not directly dating each other… which is a type of family-style roundtable communication often referred to as “kitchen-table poly”… which might mean a series of serious discussions about whether the needs of all involved are being met, whether anyone’s personal boundaries need to be redefined/re-examined, and/or what’s at the heart of anyone’s squicky feelings about X, Y, or Z).

ethical non-monogamy pic: 3 men and a woman embracing and smiling

The bottom line, though, is that ethical non-monogamy is built on the foundation of INFORMED CONSENT. And that’s not an easy thing to establish. It requires maturity, self-awareness, and the ability to stay with moments of discomfort — skills that are beneficial in ANY relationship model, but that are practically indispensable in ethical non-monogamy.

A path of personal growth

Basically, being successful at an ENM lifestyle means being super f*cking honest about every damn thing, really, and having all the uncomfortable, hard conversations that you’d rather avoid if you had a choice. Bottling up your feelings or having communication problems in a monogamous relationship is problematic. In a non-monogamous relationship, it’s catastrophic and completely UNWORKABLE. In short, being ENM means a lot of self-exploration, a lot of owning your own sh*t, and a lot of personal growth, which makes it a tough road to travel and not for the faint of heart, but one full of amazing and beautiful things too. Anyway, if you’re thinking of traveling this road, don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉

Why ethical non-monogamy?

When I was growing up, a part of me always questioned the standard relationship narrative — the story that is given to us as children about what a good relationship “should” look like. Typically, the standard narrative follows the lines of the so-called “storybook romance” — one cis-gendered male and one cis-gendered female meet, date, fall in love, get married, and have 1.5 children together, and live happily ever after. (And sometimes there’s a princess in a castle that needs to be rescued or some sh*t like that. Ack. Don’t get me wrong, I loved thinking of myself as a princess growing up, but I don’t want to be rescued. I want to rescue myself.)

Now the standard relationship narrative is all well and good for some, but the reality is that this is a very restrictive view of relationships, and the way that many of us identify and/or choose to live our lives does not fit this mold at all. I’ve always believed that my heart was big enough to hold the whole world, and the idea that I couldn’t have romantic love for more than one person at a time (yet loving my mother, my brother, my sister, my dog, and my best friend at the same time was perfectly acceptable) always rubbed me the wrong way.

Full disclosure: I’m also a little hedonistic and always wanted to have more than one lover at a time, LOL. And now I can! Yay!

Love without limits

Seriously though, people connect with each other so differently and every connection we make to another person brings something unique and special into our life.

ethical non-monogamy pic: group of people standing around awkwardly

And I don’t want to cut myself off from awesome potential connections just because I have awesome existing connections. Why do we do this anyway? We don’t do it with friendships. Can you imagine? “Sorry, I already have a best friend, so I can’t make friends with you. Nope. Move along.”

So basically, I subscribe to the idea that life is not a zero-sum game. It isn’t “this person OR that person.” It can be this person AND that person AND that person over there too!

Scarcity thinking

I think the zero-sum viewpoint is at the heart of what many people find threatening about those who choose ethical non-monogamy, because ENM reflects what is essentially the polar opposite of the scarcity perspective on relationships. Scarcity/zero-sum thinking goes along the lines that there is just not enough to go around, and that if you “have” this person, then I can’t “have” them and neither can anyone else (and don’t even get me started on the ownership assumption that underlies this perspective, but more on that in future blog posts for sure).

Another big problem, for me anyway, with the scarcity thinking reflected in the monogamous relationship model is that, when you know that you will only ever have access to one romantic partner at a time, what often happens is that that ONE person ends up being pretty much expected to meet ALL of your romantic needs, which is not only unrealistic but also really just a lot of pressure to put on that one person (they have their own needs and issues to deal with, after all).

Emotional vs. sexual monogamy

And before we wrap this particular discussion up, here’s another curveball for you… not all emotionally intimate relationships are necessarily sexual. And yet emotional monogamy is another expectation that the standard relationship narrative tries to saddle us with (cue the “work wife” / “work husband” jealousy memes). Scarcity thinking would have us believe that having more than one close, intimate relationship connection will somehow subtract from the specialness of all the other close, intimate connections we make.

But we don’t feel the same way when a family decides to have more than one child. And yet, isn’t the issue at heart the same? In fact, when expecting a second child, parents often spend a great deal of time reassuring their first child that they won’t be loved or cared for any less just because there’s a new baby in the picture. And I know some people might argue that love for a child is different than love for a partner. But love is love, isn’t it?

Anyway, a bunch of food for thought and consideration, and a few snippets of my personal take on the many facets of ethical non-monogamy and the many questions and issues that come up about this topic. In case you can’t tell, this is a topic I have a lot of passion about, and I can’t wait to get more in-depth on this in future blog posts. Stay tuned, y’all!

love from trish