A Love Story

I’ve spent my entire adult life in love with only one person. What follows is the story of that love. Despite the title of this blog, it’s not a love story. Far from it. It’s more a story of delusion, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

The events of this story occurred across a span of over 40 years. Most of the details of knowing have long faded away into the past. What remains are just my memories of what I believed happened. Those memories are this story.

It’s not a fairy-tale-Hollywood love story. But I want to tell it. Because it’s mine. And maybe you’ll find it interesting. And maybe by telling my story, I can figure out how I managed to take such an awkward journey and still end up in a such a good place.


 

I met Diana during those pointless years between college and the Navy. I was 23 years old and working second shift at a south Chicago steel mill. Between the steel mill and the hours I spent hanging out in the tavern after work, there really wasn’t much else. No girlfriend. No ambition. No life. As I said, it was the pointless years.

Diana tended bar at the tavern. She had gotten married at 17, moved with her husband to Chicago, had two kids, got divorced, and at the age of 24 had already made her fair share of bad decisions. But all that shit didn’t bother me. Because she was also the most attractive woman I had ever seen. And between my lust and the beer, it turns out she didn’t have a monopoly on bad decisions. Fact is, bad decisions were pretty easy to come by back then.

One early morning after the tavern had closed, Diana and I went for breakfast. 4 AM. Me mostly drunk. Her mostly tired. I’ll always remember that conversation. If only there was just lust. Then the conversation might have been something like “Do you want to fuck?” But I had zoomed right passed lust weeks ago. I was full of smitten. And smitten is a pretty bad place to be by yourself. So the conversation went sideways and came crashing to an end when Diana uttered those seven dreaded words, “I like you. But not that way.” No confusing that signal. Even my booze-soaked brain knew what that meant. Hopes dashed. Time to move on. But that wasn’t the end of the conversation. If only it had been. Though I couldn’t have know it at the time, her next comment turned out to be unintended cruel. She said, ‘If ever I get married again, it’ll be to someone like you.”

I should have ignored that last comment and focused on the first. But I was a boy, inexperienced, and an incipient alcoholic. My hearing was selective. My imagination overruled reality. Crush became delusion. Delusion fucked me up.

She worked at ‘my’ tavern. I saw her almost every night after work. I found myself in that really awkward place between platonic friend and serious fuck buddy. Maybe I drank too much. Or maybe Diana was just more emotionally mature than me. For whatever reason, Diana had a better handle on being in that place than I did. So being there didn’t seem to bother her. But it bothered me. A lot. Emotional stability vanished from my life. When I wasn’t elated, I was depressed. There was no in-between. I was confused, insecure, and horny. I started driving by her apartment late at night. And then on the weekends. Just to catch a glimpse of her. Just to see if she was there. I was stalking her, but I didn’t know it. All I knew was that when it came to getting from Diana what I wanted most – love – I was pretty much dead meat.

I was pathetic, but I wasn’t hopeless. I knew my life’s situation had become the perfect storm of shit. Job sucked. Love life sucked. Too much booze. Too little common sense. I had to do something or I would end up like that guy sitting down at the end of the bar. Sitting on the same stool every night. Staring into that same half-empty glass of beer. No hope. No way to live. So at 24 years of age, I joined the Navy.

Turns out joining the Navy and living on the other side of the world from Diana didn’t help as much as I thought it would. My hope for a life with her just wouldn’t vanish, just wouldn’t die. And I fucked up. In my loneliness, instead of killing that hope, I nurtured it. When it came to Diana, my heart, not my head, was in control. Also turns out that smitten is a tough place for the heart to leave.

We stayed in contact, wrote each other short letters, occasionally talked on the phone. My life was fitfully gaining traction in the right direction, but hers … well, not so much. Despite finding a job as an accountant, she lost custody of her kids to her ex-husband. That was a real emotional punch in the gut for her. She still worked part time tending bar on the weekends; unfortunately, taverns on the south side of Chicago aren’t exactly known for their higher class clientele. Drugs were easy to get. When she lost custody of her children, she took solace by losing herself in coke. Long story short, she got in debt with some unforgiving people. So I helped her out and sent her money. Which for any other person, would have only been an act of charity or kindness. For me, however, it was that … and a bit more. Because during those years the mental linkage between sex and money was becoming firmly imprinted in my brain.

There’s a line in a Beatles song, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Back then, I often mistook song lyrics for wisdom. So I believed reciprocity would lead to equality; I thought the love I gave would be reciprocated and equally returned. And I believed, given her situation, sending Diana money was the best way to demonstrate my love for her. So I continued to send her hundred of dollars each month. I was delusional, but I didn’t know it. Worse, I didn’t listen to my friends. When it came to Diana, the casual sex-money mental linkage had morphed into something more intimate, something infinitely more capable of being hurtful. So when I received a short note in the mail saying she was getting married, I was devastated. That night was 35 years ago, and it still remains the most painful of my life. I got drunk. Stinking shit-faced drunk. And then I cried. Not the sort of cry a person has when their dog dies. But a cry of misery, anguish, and deep mental pain. It was an end-of-innocence sort of cry.

Then I passed out.

They say time heals all wounds. Which is true. But that time of healing can be very painful. And there are scars. There’s always scars. A few month later, I flew home to spend Christmas with my family. And to see Diana.

Turns out, she had actually done some good with the money I was sending each month. She quit the coke and the lifestyle. She moved into a better apartment and was seeing her kids regularly. She had met a Christian man and found Jesus. She had also gotten pregnant. And that’s why she was getting married.

I was genuinely happy for her. And I surprised myself when I found I wasn’t angry, just deeply saddened that things didn’t work out the way I hoped. Still, she had come through some really rough patches. She was a survivor. And I loved her even more for that. It was a different sort of love – elevated yet deeper. I admired her for turning her life around. And it felt good that I had helped. I was a little proud. A little happy. And more than a little aroused. We kissed goodbye. But my Navy leave was up, and once again I left. Once again I was using distance to help me cope. Only this time, I hoped I would cope better than before. This time, I hoped I would think more clearly and be able to put Diana safely behind me.

Which I tried doing for the next year or two in a semi-stilted reluctant sort of way. And it helped that I was at sea a lot. We still wrote each other, exchanged cards on birthdays and Christmas. Stuff like that. My passions hadn’t subsided, but I understood them a bit better. And I had learned, for the most part, to keep them in check. Until I received a card from her saying she had gotten divorced again.

The thing about passion is that however hard you try to drive it away, it always seems to be just around the corner. Ready to be embraced. Passion has an incredible power to override a person’s logic. It cajoles us into making less-than-stellar statements and decisions. It disguises reality and misleads us into justifying bad behavior. There’s a reason “crimes of passion” is a real thing. I wasn’t gong to commit any crimes, but I was going to do harm. Not physical harm. Just hurtful harm. Unintended harm. Relationship damaging harm. And I was too stupid to see it.

It had been five years since that early morning drunk breakfast with Diana in the diner. That breakfast in which she said if ever she’d remarry, it would be to someone like me. Well that turned out be an untruth. But that didn’t deter me from pursuing my passion. With her note, I was suddenly back in the game. And she wanted me in the game, right? I mean, why else would she send me that note? Yeap. I was still delusional. Still selectively interpreting signals. Truth was, she was in the friend zone and I wasn’t. But I told myself I was trying to be. It was a bold face lie to myself, of course. I knew my feelings. I was all confused and fucked up. So, sure, I chose to be her friend. But I also chose to make her the object of my affection.

And that was the problem, wasn’t it? Over the years and across the distance she had become an object. A trophy. Something to win. And this time I was determined not to let the trophy slip away. I was going to win her. And we were going to live happily ever after. I was 32 years old and, in many ways, still just a fucking man-child.

As luck would have it, a three year duty assignment had become available back home near Chicago. I took it. It would be good to be back home to reconnect with family. And it would be better to be back home to reconnect with Diana. It was my opportunity to win her love.

Those three years were the worse of it. Diana had given up her accounting job to raise her infant child, and was trying to make ends meet by waiting tables. The more I saw her in that situation, the more I wanted to rescue her. So I gave her even more money. I knew what I was doing. She was vulnerable and I was taking advantage. But I lied to myself and convinced myself I was doing more good than harm. It was my unacknowledged strategy to win her love. And, of course, it wasn’t going to work. Because people aren’t objects. And you can’t try to manipulate them like that and expect them to love you in return. But, as I said, I was fucked up and stupid.

The rest of the details for those next three years aren’t important. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then I was insane. I was too stubborn to accept the fact she didn’t want what I was offering. I gave her more money; tried to make her dependent upon me. And she’d reluctantly take it, because she had no choice. She needed it. And I was too blind to see how much she hated herself for taking it. I only saw what I wanted to see. My behavior was destroying whatever relationship we had, but I didn’t want to see that. So I didn’t. Eventually she started avoiding me. In my pursuit, I was driving her away.

Diana eventually moved back to her childhood home in New England. Back to the comforts of familiar surroundings and family. To be clear, she didn’t move back just because of me. There were other larger, harsher, issues in her life. Her two ex-husbands. Her infant child. Her unsuccessful attempts to regain custody of her two older children. Her just barely getting by financially. A lot of her life had turned to shit. But instead of helping her, I had made it worse. Some fucking friend I turned out to be.

And so it finally sunk in. I had fucked things up. I don’t know if they were repairable, and for the moment I didn’t care. Because I had to take care of myself first. I had gotten so deep down the rabbit hole of selfish love that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to get back out. I was sick mentally and emotionally, and I knew if I was ever going to get my head and heart right, I needed to get away from the situation I had created. So I got involved with another woman. I guess you could say it was my rebound relationship. It was a semi-serious sort of thing; serious for her, not quite so serious for me. Something to distract my heart from where it really wanted to be. It eventually became clear to me that I could never give this other woman what she wanted. If the whole Diana thing had taught me anything, it was that emotional pain hurts. And I liked this other woman too much to inflict that sort of pain on her. So we broke up. I may have been a shit, but I wasn’t an asshole.

Shortly thereafter the needs of the Navy thankfully intervened. My three years near Chicago were up and I was ordered back to sea.

Life aboard a warship is best described as routine. Everything is a routine. A routine of mostly work, sleep, and more work. There aren’t a lot of things to distract you from the routine. No sex. No alcohol. No drugs. It’s a good place to regroup and get your shit together. For the next two years I lived the routine. And slowly I figured things out. I didn’t give a lot of conscious thought to what happened in Chicago; mostly I just let the boys in the back of my brain do their thing and mull over what I did wrong. And what I should have done right. There were no epiphany moments. But there were gentler moments of clarity. And usually on some quiet mid-watch alone on the ship’s bridge, staring out into the dark nothingness of open ocean with only the stars and silence inviting my thoughts, that’s usually when those boys in the back would let me know what they had figured out.

What they let me know is that I loved Diana. The foundation chemistry may have been soured, but it was still was there. It wasn’t the same sort of love or chemistry of that first year or so, a love mostly fenced in by lust and passion. The past three years had been a crucible of sorts; that old romantic love had become more realistic. It was deeper, wiser, more sublime. So I started with that. And I reluctantly let go of my expectations. That was hard. But I knew I had no right to them. They had been driving the love train for a long time. And that love train had gotten way off the tracks. Letting go of an old way of thinking and of a decade long dream was hard work. But I put in that work. And rebuild my thoughts and notions of love. And eventually I came to accept that love wasn’t about me or my wants, but something different. What had been unrequited was transforming into unconditional.

Those should have been rebuilding years for Diana too, but life continued to throw shit in her direction. Her aging parents were both disabled, so when she returned home she became their primary care giver. She was a single mother, living in rural New England, raising a young daughter, with just a high school diploma and a bachelors’ degree from the school of hard knocks. Money was tough for her, so I helped the best I could. I set up a monthly direct deposit of cash into her bank account, and even had a second credit card issued from my American Express account in her name.

My belief and trust in her wasn’t misplaced. Eventually she got an associates degree in accounting from the local community college, found a job, and remarried.

That marriage didn’t last long. Maybe a couple years. Maybe less. I can’t remember. Probably because I was trying not to care.

The next years, I pretty much threw myself into the job. Though Diana was never far from my thoughts, back-to-back duty assignments in Monterey, California and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii helped push those thoughts into the background. I dated a bit. But being nearly 40 years old and never married turned out to be a “red flag” for a lot of women that age.

I still spoke with Diana on the phone once a week or so, but those calls were mostly just the keep-in-touch variety. And she became a sort of sanity touchstone for me; someone I took comfort in talking with. She was that person I turned to when I wanted honest advice, or when I needed to hear a kind word. So we settled into a comfortable long-distance friend zone relationship. Until 1993. When my next assignment was in Washington DC.

Washington DC is within sort of weekend commuting distance of New England. So I started making the drive up to visit with her. What started as a visit once or twice every couple months gradually became a once-a-week routine. My passion was inflamed again, only this time the faulty expectations of my youth had been replaced by a more realistic and unselfish respect for love and sharing. We were living in the moment and enjoying each other’s company. Then one evening while out to dinner, Diana said we should get married.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” I answered. Because I wasn’t sure getting married to Diana was the best decision for either of us just then. My tour of duty in Washington DC was winding down and I was being re-assigned back to Hawaii in two months. I had just passed my 17th anniversary of joining the Navy and was within 3 years of retirement and a nice government pension. So unless she was willing to give up her life in New England, unless she was willing to uproot her daughter from school and move to Hawaii with me, unless she was willing to make the same commitment to marriage that I was willing to make, then getting married didn’t seem right. And she didn’t want to move.

So this time I didn’t follow my heart. And I moved on to Hawaii. A few months later, she called. She told me she had “met some else.” Years earlier I would have devastated by those words. This time, I was almost relieved. We were back in that place I had grown comfortable with. Back in that place I had come to appreciate for it’s rarity and value. We were now the best of friends. Our lives were interwoven, our friendship was a priority. Through our friendship, our lives were unencumbered and enriched. And so we continued to stay in touch. Weekly phone calls just like before. We exchanged gifts just like before. Sometimes for birthdays and Christmas. Sometimes for no reason at all.

Diana re-married and I continued focusing on my work. Continued to follow the ‘gypsy gene’ and pull up whatever shallow roots I had put down when each new re-assignment came along. Diana and I continued to stay in touch. Once or twice a week we’d chat over the phone. I’d tell her about my week, she’d tell me about hers. And hearing her voice would brighten my day; hearing her laugh infuse joy into my life.

I eventually retiring on 2004 and bought a house near Chicago where I’ve lived for the past 13 years or so. I’m now 65 years old. Too old and too comfortable in my single lifestyle to try and find a woman to live with. And it would never work out anyway. Because I love Diana. The sort of rare deep love defined by unconditional commitment. And if I’m sure of anything, it’s that I could never give that sort of love to anyone else.

Diana has been married now for over 15 years. She still lives in New England. The hard days of single near-poverty motherhood are well behind her. She’s a grandmother and relishing that role. She’s happy and I’m happy for her. We still talk on the phone once a week. And we see each other once every few years or so.

In some ways she’s been the worse part of my life. In all other ways, she’s been the best. And when I look back, I have few regrets. Diana and I are in a good place. I love Diana. Because knowing her is a joy.  Because she’s still making my life better.  Because she’s my best and truest friend.

 

Dark Secrets Told

We all have our secrets.

Maybe it’s a secret fear. Maybe it’s something we did. Or something we didn’t do. It could be a confession, a dream, or a wish, a betrayal or a humiliation. It may be something that relentlessly torments us, something that holds us helplessly captive, even something that insidiously defines who we feel we really are. Then again, our secret may be something we rejoice in. It may be the pride we never expressed, the happiness we never shared, the pleasure we never admitted to, the joy we never shouted. But whatever it is, it’s something that we have never revealed to another soul, and perhaps it’s something that we’ve even kept from ourselves.

If only we could tell our secrets to someone. Perhaps we would feel the relief of an unburdened heart, the solace of a wrong that is righted, the peace of a forgiveness that is granted. But for most of us, it is courage that we lack and a hearing ear that we fear. If only we could admit the unadmittable, even if only to ourselves, for it is not the secret that we hold, but it is the secret that holds us.

And that’s where Ceara Lynch and her custom clips comes in. The clips are commissioned by individuals with a fetish. Most often, a secret fetish that holds the client captive. And, in a sense, the clip liberates the client. The process of acknowledging a secret, and then asking Ceara to express that darkest secret on film, is therapeutic. And that therapy extends beyond just that one person.

By posting these anonymous clips in her several online clip stores, Ceara shares them with us. And what happens is surprisingly uplifting, inspiring and maybe a little heartrending. For the viewing of other’s secrets can also be liberating. Perhaps when watching her fetish clips and watching those secrets of others, you don’t feel entirely alone with your own dark secrets. Or rather, perhaps you still feel alone, but you feel as if there are more people alone with you.  For just as with most quality sex workers, the collateral psychological therapy provided by Ceara Lynch to her clients is often more important and lasting than the sex itself.

Her introductory page for her website (www.cearalynch.com) states that “Here you will find a wide array of fetish and femdom POV videos specially designed to exacerbate your inexplicable urge to have a pretty girl ruin your life.”

I suppose it could have just as easily have read “Dark secrets shared anonymously without judgment.”

Ceara Lynch: Unsquandered Youth

The playwright, George Bernard Shaw, once wrote, “Youth is wasted on the young.” That’s something only an old person would say.

But some people don’t get to be old. Things happen. Life is precarious. Life, particularly youthful healthy life, shouldn’t be wasted.

Ceara Lynch is on an extended travel vacation right now. She’s trying things. Doing things. Seeing things. Meeting people. Expanding her perspective. Exploring. Experimenting. Going where her curiosity takes her.

She’s definitely not wasting her youth. And I’m thrilled for her. I’m mostly thrilled because she’s traveling as only the young can travel. Shunning the luxury she can afford, she’s living from her pack back. She’s unafraid, unencumbered, and unalone. So she has more than my admiration. She has my respect.

In her travel blog, Ceara recently wrote, “Now that I know you, I respect you.” When she wrote that, she was referring to local food. But she could have just as easily been referring to the world, the people, the culture and the friends she’s discovering along the way.   If her travels had a theme, that would be it.

Justice is kind of an elusive thing. It’s all about ‘deserve.’ But when it comes to life, ‘deserves’ really has nothing to do with it. That said, Ceara deserves her travel. She deserves this chance to make, capture and share memories. She deserves it because, beneath the snarky ‘humiliatrix’ persona, she’s a good kid. And because she knows she shouldn’t waste her youth.   Because she knows life is just too precarious to let go to waste.

What I Learned from Ceara Lynch

I’m what’s called a lapsed Catholic.

“Catholic” because I still adhere to the foundational moral standards that were instilled by more than 12 years of education at Catholic schools and universities. “Lapsed” because I very rarely participate in the rituals, ceremonies, sacraments or observances that the Roman Catholic religion requires.

I don’t have much to say about why I no longer participate in the Catholic church’s rituals. I’m not against religion or anything like that. I always felt there were many paths to finding Hope and Truth in life. Some people seek that Hope and Truth through science. Some through philosophy. Some through nature and art. And some seek it through religion. To me, Hope and Truth are pretty nebulous ideas that are by-in-large beyond knowing. So if people chose to pursue knowledge of the unknowable through some alternative path than mine, who am I to argue? No. I no longer attend Mass regularly or participate in the Catholic church’s ceremonies and rituals because I just got out of the habit. Or more realistically, I got lazy.

But I still identify as a Catholic. It’s hard for me not to. Giving up that identity would be giving up a large part of the things that make me who I am. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s in a south Chicago lower-middle class Catholic neighborhood. So did my parents. My seven sisters, one brother, and I all attended Catholic elementary and high schools. My Dad worked in a factory; my mother was the homemaker. They married young and stayed married, through tough times and good, for over fifty years. The neighborhood, my parents, my family – they collectively molded me through my formative years. My moral foundation was provided by my Catholic education. So was my work ethic. Those around me provided the example of how to apply that foundation in the day-to-day decisions of life.

Now two things occurred when I was 11 years old that changed my life forever. The first is that I had an insight into the nature of God. The full implications of that insight would peculate through my subconscious for the next eight years, so that by the time I graduated from college I had pretty much put together a coherent set of thoughts about God and Love that persist unchanged through this day. But this blog entry is not about that insight. It’s about the other thing that happened.

When I was 11 years old, I had my first ejaculation. When it happened, it caught me totally by surprise. I was in my bedroom watching “The Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman” on an old portable 10” black and white television. I must have been aroused by the sight of that tall half-clad woman destroying the little men that were trying to destroy her, because at some point during the movie I came. And my reaction was probably the same most boys have when experiencing their first ejaculation –.“What the hell was THAT?!?!! That was AWESOME!!” Now you might thing that experience would have given me a giantess fetish. I don’t know why, but it didn’t. What it did give me was an interest in repeating the experience. And so I taught myself to masturbate.

Back then sex education was done exclusively at home, if it was done at all. Around the time I started masturbating, my mother gave me a book to read, sort of a simplified biology book with cartoons focusing on some very specific human anatomy. So I got the gist of how things worked, at least biologically. As for learning how to deal with the more complex emotional and psychological issues associated with puberty, well that was another story. I never had ‘the talk’ with my father, probably because his father never had that talk with him. And so like most boys my age back then, I muddled through the difficult times of puberty pretty much on my own. That was the extent of my adult-led sex education. Well almost the extent of it. Because the Catholic church, the priests, nuns, and non-lay teachers had a LOT to say to young adults about sex.

As far as the Catholic Church was concerned, sex outside of marriage was a sin. For teens, it was THE SIN – the one we were most likely to commit, and the one to be avoided at all costs. The story line went something like this – your body was a temple of Christ and so to masturbate, to get to second base, or have full blown sex outside of marriage was a sacrilege. Only through the sacrament of marriage could sex be transformed from a sin to a blessed union of two souls. I don’t know if the Church still sees sex that way today, but that’s how I remember it from back then.

Now if the Catholic Church is great at anything, it’s great at guilt. As far as my early religious education was concerned, the whole week’s routine was pretty much built around dealing with the sins my eleven year old mind and body had committed. During my elementary school years, every Friday was Confession day. Each class would go in mass down to the chapel where we would sit for 30 minutes performing a thorough examination of conscious. Guided by a detailed list of potential sins loosely framed around the Ten Commandments, we’d try to remember all the sins we committed during the past week. Then off we’d go, one by one, to the confessional where we’d tell all our sins to the priest. Five Our Father’s and ten Hail Mary’s later, all our sins would be forgiven and we’d be good to go for receiving communion at Mass on Sunday … provided we didn’t sin over the weekend. So aside from baseball and sports, sin and guilt were pretty much the two major themes running through my young subconscious. And just to keep things interesting, I attended a Catholic high school where the story line about sex and sin didn’t really change. Though the style of delivery was a different, the substance was still the same. So all in all, it was some pretty heady shit for a kid to deal with. And, oh yeah, there was that masturbation thing where, despite my best effort, I just couldn’t stop “sinning.” Which just added to my fucked up perspective and confusion about sex because, as I said, if the Catholic Church is good at anything, it’s good at guilt.

To make a long story short, I went on to college (nominally run by Jesuit Catholics whose influence thankfully was negligible) where I dived right into all the hedonistic pleasures I denied myself during high school. I got laid, masturbated regularly, had an ongoing and often deep relationship with ‘Mary Jane’, drank beer, attended wild fraternity parties, played a whole lot of team sports, and worked a couple part time jobs in order to pay for my free-wheeling lifestyle. Occasionally I did a little studying, but mostly I just tried to tear life a new asshole. What I didn’t do was go to Confession or attend Mass. I became a lapsed Catholic. And though the rational part of my brain knew that my old views of sex and sin were antiquated and irrelevant, there remained a lingering guilt that somehow I was letting myself down; that somehow I was failing to live up to the moral standards imprinted on my psyche by my pre-teen and teen Catholic education. I had managed to discount the notion that I was sinning, but the guilt still lingered.

It took a couple years to transition from my college life to adulthood. I had to let that part of my life play itself out before I eventually found my way. The hold guilt and sin had over my subconscious regarding sex diminished with each passing year, though it never entirely went away. I suppose some psychologist somewhere could make the case that my financial submission predilections are a manifestation of that lingering guilt, and giving women money selflessly is my subconscious way to atone for the sins of masturbating and objectifying women. Maybe. I don’t know.

What I do know is that the guilt is now gone. Writing this blog has helped. But mostly what has helped is Ceara Lynch. Her view of sex and masturbation are healthy and guilt free. And because she’s a woman saying those things … because when it comes to heterosexual sex, women are the gatekeepers …  it means more. Much more. Her perspective is borne of reality as it is, not as someone wants it to be. There’s no artificial standard of sexual morality against which actions are measured and guilt assessed. There’s just twelve years of dealing with men and their fantasies. From her viewpoint, masturbation and sexual fetishes are normal. They’re something to be embraced and enjoyed, not abhorred and feared.

Occasionally when being interviewed, Ceara Lynch is asked whether she thinks there is any therapeutic value in her work. I suppose therapeutic is probably too strong a word. But there is value, at least for me. Ceara Lynch has enabled me to get out the way of myself. Through her example and perspective, I’ve been able to let go of the last vestiges of guilt about sex and sin. Through her words, through her ideas and by seeing sex as she does, she unfucked me. And for that I’ll always be there for her … because I’ll probably feel guilty if I’m not.

Joy

It’s no secret that Ceara Lynch is deliciously intelligent. So it was a great pleasure when, earlier this week, I had an opportunity to chat at length with Ceara about her job, her travels, her life, and any number of other things. (You can find the entire conversation posted to her podcast Sub Space here.)

One of the things we chatted about was the subject of my last blog, Finding a Meaningful Life. We talked a little about how chasing happiness is over-rated and how there’s more to life than just being happy. I’m not going to rehash the entire conversation here, but instead invite you to tune in her podcast when you have an hour or two of listening time available.

Anyway, Ceara and I were instant messaging back and forth a bit earlier this evening; I was telling her about my canoeing adventures with one of my dogs, Clyde, back in 2006. Clyde passed away in 2011 so I really hadn’t thought about him for a while. Funny thing though; later tonight I did think about him. A lot. And in particular, I thought about what I had learned from him, and how that related to our ‘finding a meaningful life’ discussion.

You see, Clyde was a rescued beagle. When I adopted him, he was already 8 years old. A senior dog. His early years were a mystery. No one knew why or how he came to be found one day alongside a road in Ohio with a sister beagle, Bonnie. But found they were. And turned over to a rescue organization where they were fed and cared for until adoptions could be arranged. Bonnie and Clyde were split up in the adoption process; Bonnie went first, I adopted Clyde shortly thereafter.

It didn’t take long for me to develop a theory as to how Clyde came to be lost. You see, I live in a mostly rural area with lots of open farmland, fields, and forest nearby for a beagle to roam and explore. And, of course, in those fields and forest are rabbits. If anyone should know one thing about beagles, it’s that they were bred to hunt rabbits. And chase rabbits is exactly what Clyde did. It was clear to me right from the first romp in the woods that Clyde was trained for rabbit hunting. He was relentless in his pursued of the little gray critters. And so I figured both Bonnie and Clyde probably were out hunting one day with their owner when they got separated and lost. I’m told that happens a lot with hunting beagles.

Anyway, I would take Clyde out ‘hunting’ daily. It wasn’t really hunting, per se. I didn’t carry a gun. It was more about letting the old dog get some exercise running after rabbits.  I would let him run and ‘hunt’, while following his loud and passion-filled baying when he was on scent. It was a sound that never failed to make me laugh out loud. The joy in his bay … the joy in his chase … was contagious. I loved hearing Clyde sound after a rabbit. I loved watching him work through the tall grass, the underbrush, and downed timber. I loved it because he loved it.

And when Clyde got too old and arthritic to chase rabbits, I took him to the park where the grass was shorter and the work easier.  And he’d chase after squirrels. And the sound of his bay, his passion and enthusiasm never waned. He loved the chase. He loved having a purpose. And the people that walked nearby would do what I found myself still doing; they’d smile and laugh out loud too. Because his joy … his pure joy … was still contagious.

And so tonight I thought once again about Clyde. And I remembered the gift he gave me. He taught me a lesson about life I hadn’t learned in my previous 55 years of living. He taught me that there’s joy in the simplest of things. And that life’s purpose doesn’t have to be noble and important to be fulfilling. He taught me joy is way better than happiness. And that finding joy isn’t complicated.

And so, with that in mind, I re-listened to Ceara’s podcast once again. And I heard something in Ceara’s voice I hadn’t recognized before. Her conversation was more musical. There was a joy beneath the words. There was a joy that said, “I like people and I like talking with them.” And maybe that’s all it takes to find joy. Something as simple as having a nice conversation.  Or listening to an old beagle chase after rabbits.

Online FEMDOM and Ceara Lynch: Finding a Meaningful Life

Living a Meaningful Life …

I recently stumbled across a short video online that resonated with me. It was a TED talk given by writer Emily Esfahani Smith in which she discusses how finding meaning in life is more fulfilling than just being happy.

Smith used to think the whole purpose in life was pursuing happiness. As she discovered through her studies of positive psychology in graduate school, the data showed that pursuing happiness actually makes people unhappy. As she put it, “The suicide rate has been rising around the world, and it recently reached a 30-year high in America. Even though life is getting objectively better by nearly every conceivable standard, more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. There’s an emptiness gnawing away at people that , according to the research, is not caused by a lack of happiness. Rather, it’s a lack of something else — a lack of having meaning in life. And the studies show that people who have meaning in life, they’re more resilient, they do better in school and at work, and they even live longer.” Smith then spent the next five years examining how a person can live more meaningfully. Her research and interviews culminated in identifying what she calls the four pillars of a meaningful life: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling.

Belonging comes from being in relationships where you’re valued for who you are intrinsically and where you value others as well. But some groups and relationships deliver a cheap form of belonging; you’re valued for what you believe, for who you hate, not for who you are. True belonging springs from love. It lives in moments among individuals, and it’s a choice — you can choose to cultivate belonging with others.

The second pillar, purpose, is less about what you want than about what you give. Purpose gives you something to live for, some “why” that drives you forward.

The third pillar of meaning is also about stepping beyond yourself, but in a completely different way: transcendence. Transcendent states are those rare moments when you’re lifted above the hustle and bustle of daily life, your sense of self fades away, and you feel connected to a higher reality. For example, for one person transcendence comes from seeing art. For another, it was at church. For Smith herself, as a writer, it happens through writing when she gets ‘in the zone’ that she loses all sense of time and place. These transcendent experiences can change you; you feel less self-centered and more generous and inclined to help others.

The fourth pillar is storytelling, the story you tell yourself about yourself. Creating a narrative from the events of your life brings clarity. It helps you understand how you became you.

Finding The Meanings in My Life …

For most of my adult life, meaning in my life was derived from my career in the military. I was part of a institution in which members afforded each other a sense of value, worth, mutual respect and interdependence. Our shared unambiguous purpose was to serve for the benefit of our fellow citizens; stressed environments and situations provided transcendent experiences in which the needs of our brothers and sisters in arms took precedence over our self-interests. And how I described myself reflected both pride and a certain humility in being a small footnote in the larger story of that institution, and perhaps in the lives of those I served with.

Not married and childless, upon retiring I spent a few years on various lengthy travel adventures which, though fun and interesting, were largely without purpose or meaning. I had stories to tell others, but no meaningful story to tell myself.

Then when my aged mother’s health began failing her, she moved in with me and I became her primary care giver. My purpose had changed and so did the meaning in my life. I found myself reconnecting in a deeper sense with immediate family members and relatives; my mother’s infirmary and care were as important to them as to me. Life moved slower and my routine revolved around my mother’s daily ritual and needs. The story I told myself and others was no longer that of a retired senior military officer. Now I was simply a caregiver for an elderly parent, another one of the ‘old taking care of the old.’ It wasn’t the life I had planned on, certainly it wasn’t the life I envisioned when I retired. But, not surprisingly, I found being a caregiver more rewarding than simply adventuring around the country. I don’t know if I was happy. But I was certainly fulfilled.

With my mother’s passing earlier this year, my life once more was devoid of obvious purpose and meaning. The deeper emotional bonds established with family members and siblings during those critical months in which my mother was dying reverted back to the more familiar. Whereas for the past ten years I identified as a primary caregiver, with her passing I once again identified myself as simply ‘retired.’ Which is to say life had given me a fresh opportunity to find new meaning and purpose.

Which isn’t easy. Even for wise old folks like me. Finding a meaningful life is more a process than an event. It takes time, thoughtful effort, some luck, and a willingness to adapt to the unplanned stuff that life throws at you. And as the circumstances of life change with age, so too does the meaning we find in it. And so now I find myself in a sort of transition period between my old purpose and the next.

Transitioning …

Which is where Ceara Lynch comes in.

Now I not saying it’s wholesome to the point of achieving some level of self-actualization or anything, but acting as Ceara Lynch’s online ‘slave’ offers a reasonable facsimile for finding a certain level of meaning in my life. It’s consistent with the ‘service’ and ‘giving’ thread that runs through my life. And it does fill my life with something approaching meaning … at least until I find something deeper and more sustainable.

So for now I wake up each morning with a modicum of purpose, even if it’s only something as shallow as posting a promo on my Twitter timeline, writing another entry for this blog, or sending her a few dollars now and then. And though I’m not expecting an invitation to her wedding or anything, I think we have moved beyond customer or acquaintance. I think we trust in each other and relate within the friendship zone; i.e., there is a sense that we value each other for who we are and not just for what we can do for each other. As for periods of transcendence? Well, I can’t say there have been any (unless you count the many many times I’ve lost track of time and sense of self while watching her videos.) And finally, through this blog, I guess I am telling myself and you a story about who I am now. It may not be the story I want posted in my obituary, but it’s not a bad story for this moment. It’s certainly who I am, so it’s a story I can live with and tell myself, at least until I once again find a another more meaningful way to live my life.

Music, Identity and What’s Left Behind

I’ve found myself reading a lot of obituaries lately. Not because I have a lot of dying friends and relatives. Nope. The obituaries I’m reading are for people I’ve never met. Complete strangers. I can’t tell you why I’m reading them exactly. I suppose I could come up with all sorts or reasons, but I prefer to think that in my advancing years I’ve come to  appreciate people more fully as individuals. And so it seems that with nearly every obituary I read, I end up wondering a bit about that person. What sort of friend would they have been? Would they have been interesting? Made me smile and laugh? Taught me something? Pissed me off? I wonder these things because I don’t know. But I think I would have liked to.

Anyway, I’ve noticed something else in all my obituary reading. It turns out that, even in the end (or perhaps especially at the end), it’s other people who define who you are. As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, our identities don’t belong to us. And unless you’re writing an autobiography or making a film about yourself, other people are going to define your legacy. It’s as if your history doesn’t belong to you as much as it belongs to those you leave behind.

But what does a person leave behind? I like to think of a person’s identity as a sort of music that continues to play in the background of other people’s life. Is that music soft and mellow, barely noticeable and of minor consequence? Is it loud and driven? Or peaceful and comforting? Does it inspire? Or sadden?

Background music is important. It sets the mood. It’s not inconsequential. It’s of, but not in, the moment. James Q. Wilson wrote, “A good character is not life lived according to a rule … it is a life lived in balance.” Achieving balance is a poetic exercise, a matter of striking the different notes harmonically. When the background music of your life is in harmony, your identity is in balance and remembered. And carried over into other lives.

One of the things I admire about Ceara Lynch is that she seems to have found that harmony, that balance. Her background music is sincere, natural, and eloquent. It informs her work in a barely perceptible but consequential way. It’s still early days for Ceara Lynch; her legacy is just beginning to take shape. But I think, at the end, when the music of her life is replayed, the rock and roll sounds of her humiliatrix persona will have played out; and the simple and sweet background music that is her balance will continue to be heard in the minds of those left behind.