On Leadership

Whether or not this pans out, something extraordinary has happened….

I sat in a room yesterday being interviewed for a position for which three weeks ago, I don’t think I’d have had the cojones to apply.

Three weeks ago I was questioning if I even want to stay in this sector. I was questioning if I needed to make what I’m making, and figuring out how significantly I could reduce my cost of living so that I could get out of an unhealthy work environment.

Three weeks ago, I went prepared to a conference for my profession. Having already made the decision that I need to find my next job, I had some business cards printed with my personal contact info and my LinkedIn profile address. I went knowing that I had to network. For reals, this time. Not just find the one person in the room that I was comfortable with and spend the whole time talking to them – but to jump around, meet a lot of people, and let the world know that I exist.

I also attended a two-day leadership workshop in advance of the conference. I’d mistakenly assumed it was going to be a workshop to teach leadership skills, but instead it was a horizon-broadening two day conversation about the qualities and characteristics of leadership, what the role of leadership is – not only within an organizational structure – but in the profession as a whole.

I learned something really important during that workshop: I am a leader.

Now, I’ve known some of this already. Perhaps I’d not have used the word “leader,” and opted for “influencer” or “person whose opinions are sought.” I always said I never wanted to be the boss, but I wanted to be the person that the boss would turn to for advice.

That, in and of itself, is a form of leadership. What I was shying away from or hesitant to accept was the responsibility for that leadership. I didn’t want to be the person who pushed the button. I wanted to be the person that said, “here are three potential buttons. Push one.”

I didn’t believe that I was qualified to be the button-pusher. I thought I still had way too much to learn.

But I think I’ve come to understand now that a leader isn’t someone who knows all the answers. A leader is someone who asks questions. And, a leader is someone who knows how to ask those questions (and the followup questions) of the people who can help determine the answers.

A leader is a convener – someone who can bring together the right team of people who have the capacity to achieve a goal. A good leader is someone who has the respect and support of that team.

I didn’t say loyalty. Loyalty is different. Loyalty has positive connotations, but I think loyalty can also lead someone down the wrong path. If a leader has loyalty to the mission, then their team will likely be safe in having continued loyalty to their leader. But if a team comes to realize that, as much as they respect and support or appreciate their leader, that the mission or goal is compromised – they should speak up. I think sometimes “loyalty” to a person can be detrimental to the cause (whether it be a tangible cause like “manufacturing of widget” or an intangible one like “be happy.”) Mostly because people are fallible. People are sometimes driven by altruism, but at some point greed and self-preservation can kick in and you don’t even see it coming.

Another thing I think I’ve come to realize is that that the person who pushes that button has never been solely responsible for the win or the fallout. The credit for the wins is shared by all. And the opportunity to learn from and overcome the fallout is equally shared by all.

The type of leader I am is the type that shares credit where credit is due. It was important to me when I was part of the team – and now that I’m in the leadership position at work, it’s important to me that I give my team that same due.

So, three weeks ago – I went through all of that. It’s been percolating since. But here’s what else happened.

During one of the lunchtime networking sessions, I sat at a table with one of our vendors. I explained my work sistuation and he suggested I give him my contact info. In his job, he is frequently presented with the information that his former contact at an organizaiton has either moved on or is planning to move on – and he might be able to put me in contact with the right people at the right time the next time that happens. I happily passed him one of my bright black and yellow business cards.

The following week, he copied me on an email to a recruiter friend of his that he’d met along the way. “I met this incredible person at the conference and she is discretely looking for her next move.”

I followed up with a thank you to the vendor and a message of introduction to the recruiter. The recruiter responded, asking for my resume.

I sent that over.

Two phone calls and four days later, I’m sitting is his office during a pre-interview to determine if i’m the right fit for a C-Level position in an established and well-funded organization. At the end of our interview, they seemed pretty certain that I would be a great fit for the job – and had these parting words to say:

“The only thing you lack is enough confidence to see that you have ALREADY been doing this job for the past three years. The title is throwing you off – don’t worry about the job title. It means nothing. It is about the work – and you’re more than qualified to do this work.”

Four days after that, I’m driving downtown to meet with the current CEO of the organization and some of her colleagues. That was yesterday.

By the end of that interview, they assured me I would be contacted soon for a followup – to come in and more formally meet the rest of the staff and perhaps some of the Board.

The possibility of getting this job is, right now, a VERY real possibility.

Whether or not this pans out, something extraordinary has happened.

I have embraced myself as a leader.

And, as such – I want to give the credit everywhere it’s due.

I called the recruiters and thanked them profusely for the pep-talk and the opportunity. I sent a handwritten thank you note to the woman who ran the leadership workshop in advance of the conference. I have sent an email to the vendor that put me in touch with this recruiter letting him know how grateful I am (and if I get this job, I’m sending his entire office a fruit basket).

And you.

Yeah. You.

All of this started about three years ago when I was a heartbroken, mourning mess of a woman – and I started writing.

You read what I had to say and you were supportive. You remembered me from one post to the next and some of you started to see the change in me before I did. The confidence I had to sit in front of the CEO of a $10M organization and ask her just as many questions as she asked me during the course of a 2+ hour interview….that all started here.

So thank you.

If I get this job – fantastic. The work will be hard and my time will be limited for a while as I acclimate to a very different professional climate. If I don’t? I’ll get the next one.

I have no doubt of it.

I got to play last night

Visits to the dungeon are rare these days.

I like them. The public aspect of playing in a dungeon pushes me to endure just a little bit more than I tend to at home. People are watching, after all…

And that’s how my exhibitionism works.

I got to play last night.

Thank goodness I didn’t find out until this morning that someone entered our room during our scene. My partner ushered him out without me being the wiser.

I got to play last night.

But at one point, while trying desperately to hold on to the edge of an orgasm, I growled “Please tell the people in the hallway to shut the fuck up.”

I got to play last night.

But I couldn’t wait to get home. Being in public certainly pushes me.

…But public play when the others in attendance aren’t well-versed in dungeon etiquette is pushing all the wrong buttons.

Rules are Condoms: An Imperfect Metaphor

I used to love rules. Rules, when my life was very completely out of my control, helped me make sense of things. I had rules for who I’d date and what I’d do with them and when. I had rules for who could do what to me and under which circumstances. I had rules about rules, and I was really great about closing loopholes in rules so that I would know exactly what to expect from whom and when.

I clung to the fantasy of a 24/7 D/s relationship. The idea of someone else making the decisions for me and absolving me of the need to willingly take care of myself appealed to me in the wake of my husband’s unexpected death and the realization that I’d lost my entire identity in that relationship.

And you know what? I don’t fault myself for that. It was my coping mechanism, and it worked for a while.

I didn’t know who I was, or who I wanted to be. All I knew was that there was too much stuff for me to carry by myself. I felt I would never be unearthed from beneath its heavy burden. As such, I was attracted to the “fixer” types. The “daddy” types of nurturers who wanted to help me get better. The ones who would set the rules down with the intention of moving me past my hangups and phobias.

And over time, they started having results.

I stopped being afraid of making decisions for myself, and graduated to just not liking it. I started to realize that I was entrusting some pretty important (and some not so important) decisions into the hands of people who weren’t particularly good at taking care of themselves, much less others. I began to understand that our dynamics had shifted – because I’d gone from the bird with a broken wing who needed a cage to be transported safely from point A to point B, to a fully-healed bird ready to take flight – were it not for the owner who kept clipping my wings.

The rules no longer felt like they were being set to help me. They felt like they were being set to control me, and I no longer wanted to be under that 24/7 type of control.

The rules were condoms.

The rules I put on myself and those I allowed to be put on me were an imperfect attempt to protect myself from ….whatever was out there. Just like condoms, the only way to truly be safe is abstinence; and I wasn’t willing to be kink-abstinent anymore.

Now I’m in a relationship with only one rule: Honesty. Everything else between us is more of a request. We’ve got a 24/7 love and trust dynamic. The D/s part is significantly more fluid.

I see people talk about setting “rules” for their partners to follow …especially when they’re opening up to some form of non-monogamy for the first time. Things like “My partner can sleep with whomever, but no emotions,” or “no sleepovers,” or “not in our home,” or “anything goes but kink is only with me,” or “I’m the only one they can use this term of endearment with.”

It’s a condom. These rules are meant to control your exposure to potential harm, but they’re not foolproof. Try to make a rule that your partner will never develop feelings for a sexual partner and be prepared to find yourself on the business end of a Klingon pain stick.

If you want to feel the full spectrum of sensation in your relationship once adequate trust has been established, then it might be time to assess the value of loosening up some of the rigidity of those relationship rules.

It might be time to explore the flexibility of allowing your partner to take flight, and see how they still come back to you – again, and again.

And if they don’t?

If you’d be happy with the bird in the cage whose wings you gotta keep clipping, then you do you.

I wouldn’t be, neither as owner nor bird.

The Play Partner Manifesto

When I started thinking about writing this post, I had strong feelings that I would not mind connecting with another person as a regular (non-sexual) rope-specific play partner.

And now, I finally have a few moments to write it and….

The notion doesn’t seem so shiny.

It’s an inconclusive state – do I want this, or don’t I?

And I think that the answer is that on some level, I do – but what’s lacking is the sense that the type of person I’d want to do that with is someone already known to me. So, without having someone in mind specifically, it’s hard to really imagine how it would work.

Type of person – that’s not exactly right. The person doesn’t meet a type – it’s the supposed connection we’d have that is a type.

But, allow me for a moment to process a couple finer points on this desire. Words like “benefit” and “exploration” and “free time” come up. Like, “I believe I could benefit from the exploration of a connection with another rope top during my free time on weekends.”

There are things about that statement that bother me.

I don’t want to use a person as a distraction. To connect with someone on the level that I like to connect in rope, they have to be more to me than “something to do on Saturday night.” This type of connection I’m envisioning would be one of friendship, trust, and mutual enjoyment that goes beyond “I don’t have anything better to do tonight, wanna tie??” The idea that this relationship would “benefit” me feels selfish. A vibrator benefits me because it gives me orgasms when my partner is unable to give them to me. I do not want the “vibrator” equivalence of a person to just give me what I want when my partner isn’t around. I don’t like the idea of treating people like tools.

And yet –

I wouldn’t (probably) mind more rope in my life, but I come back to that question of connection.

After I fell in love, my connection with the other people who used to tie me on occasion changed. I became strikingly aware of the difference between the connection with someone who actively wanted to tie me – who would reach out days or even a week in advance to ask if I’d be interested in a rope date; and the connection with those who would show up at the same party I happened to be attending and think “Hey, I’ve got a spare hour. You’ll do.”

That’s not really what I think they were thinking, but …that’s how it felt.

So I shifted a little – to avoid feeling that. I set a “new rule” that I would avoid last minute/pickup play scenes. That if someone wanted to tie me, they’d ask in advance.

And …well, those proposals were few and far between. Until they were so rare and sometimes felt like “Yeah, couldn’t find anybody else. Is your body available?”

It still felt like it lacked connection.

This is no judgement on anybody I’ve played with past or present, or those who do pickup play or have asked me recently if I could bottom for them. In fact, both people who have asked me recently – I’d have said yes if I legitimately didn’t have other things going on those evenings.

Bottoming for demo or practice isn’t the same as a play partner.

A play partner (to me) is something more. It’s a friendship that exists outside the confines of rope. It means meals together or movies and laughter and conversation that has nothing to do with rope . It’s connectivity on multiple levels. There’s a level of care, consideration, and enjoyment of time spent together.

There’s a tenderness to it. There has to be, because I like mean rope – so there has to be tenderness on the other side of that.

It’s a relationship.

Minus the sex.

You know, like marriage.

See, the right type of person – the right type of connection – would have laughed at that joke.

Anyway, this isn’t a statement of intention to go out in search of this connection. This is a public declaration of my motives for considering it. Much like my state of being prior to meeting the man I now love – I am in a good place in my life where not much is needed.

But if someone who happens to connect well with me were to come into my life and have an interest in pursuing this….I’d probably, carefully and slowly, give it a chance.


Rope and Photo by @mister_bacon_, my first ropey play partner. 🙂

1000: Even deeper than I thought I’d go

I began blogging on FetLife (a kinky social media site) close to three years ago. Today I reached the milestone of my 1000th post there (many of which began crossing over to this blog about a year ago). That’s the context you need to have the post make sense.  Carry on. 


When I first started writing on Fet, it was in the wake of heartbreak and renewed hope. When my writings first started getting noticed on fet, it was in the wake of even more heartbreak and lost hope.

The more I exposed my pain and vulnerability, the more tenderly I was received. It was a light in a dark tunnel, and I followed it through.

But there came a time when I realized I was perhaps exposing too much. I don’t exactly recall how I came to this conclusion – but, it was (at first) a suggestion made by someone else.

That someone turned out not to be compatible for friendship, but nonetheless – their suggestion remained present in my mind. I was able, eventually, to recognize there were some unfortunate consequences to my oversharing, but they ran deeper than the ones I’d been warned about.

I’m not having a good day.

In fact, I’ve not had a good couple of days.

Relax: I can handle it. It’s okay for me to have bad days. But, it’s been a while since I’ve felt so low. I am experiencing emotional doomsday feelings where my mind travels to the worst places, and drag up memories of the most helpless moments of my life. I am also experiencing physical manifestations of the anxiety that has been dragged upward – the choke-sobbing fits and the acidic ache in my chest and knotted pains in my belly that won’t seem to pass.

I feel, at any moment, like I could give in to the bubbling emotions just beneath the surface and go into a full blown anxiety attack. And for teetering moments at that edge, I almost want to do it – if only so I can let it all out and find myself in a state of dulled emotional capacity on the other side.

Though it has been some time since I’ve been in this state, it is one with which I am familiar. Reverse back a few years, and this is a shadow of what I used to experience on a near weekly, if not daily, basis.

I know what this is.

I also know why it’s here. Not just the obvious catalyst for its arrival, nor even the underlying essential motivations, but deeper down to the fathoms of my existential being, – the stuff I think most people don’t access on a regular basis – I do. I’ve got my number.

1,000 posts ago I’d have shared those details. I’d have given you, the anonymous reader, all of the data: the catalyst, the motivations. I might have, by the end of the essay, drawn a line toward my existential conclusion.

And the reason I’d have done that? I’d have painted you a word-picture of my pitiful state for the purpose of gaining your tender support. It’s a form of manipulation, but not in a nefarious way. After all, writing and story-telling of any kind is a form of emotional manipulation.

So yes, I’d have explained the who, what, when, where, and why of my despair and swam in the soothing elixir of your concern.

It’s what I needed then. But, over time, I became dependent on it. It became a crutch without which my emotional limp would heal but never reach maximum strength.

Now, 1000 posts later, you’re not so anonymous. I know who many of you are on some level.

I also have, for perhaps the first time in my life, an understanding of who I am independent of my relationship to anybody else, (including family, friends, lovers, husbands, stepchildren, or colleagues).

I exist as a person on my own. The people in my life closest to me that inspire love and affection provide an enrichment that I’d never want to take for granted, nor mistake for the emotional equivalence of oxygen.

What’s this got to do with my bad day?

Well, that’s just it. It’s my bad day. I know why it’s here and what caused it, and I’m well aware that it will be fleeting.

So, while I feel the urge to tell you all about it – to dive into the details of the why and how I’m feeling the way I feel – I also now know that the resulting concerned feedback does not help to achieve my purpose.

I just want to share. I just want to to share my truth. I want to illuminate that even one with a charmed life can sometimes struggle – not for the purpose of eliciting your pity, but in an attempt to narrow the chasms that sometimes separate us.

We all suffer, in varying degrees and for different reasons – but we all suffer.

I don’t want to feel separated from humanity. My current (and admittedly temporary) state of despair should not serve to isolate me when, in fact, it has so much potential (and history) of doing the exact opposite.

I want to tell you that you’re not alone, because – in doing so – I remind myself that I am not either.

Good Girls Revolt (quietly?)

I spent the day yesterday watching the one season of “Good Girls Revolt,” an Amazon original that had sneaked under my radar when it was released a few years ago. It’s historical fiction based on the real-life 1970 lawsuit filed against Newsweek by 46 of their female staff for gender discrimination.

Only 10 episodes. Worth the watch when you have some time.

Anyway, as happens in most cases when there’s a female-driven ensemble cast, I find myself relating to pieces of each of them. And, as I’m pretty sure I’ve written before, I know this happens because characters in stories tend to be one-dimensional for a purpose, whereas real-life people can be unpredictable and have fluctuating wants/needs and personalities from day to day.

So, as much as I’d like to say I related best to the free-loving, fiercely intelligent, and sexually liberated redhead Patty, or the shy, stammering (until she gains some confidence) but passionate Cindy – I really felt kinship with the privileged, sexually and socially repressed, daddy’s girl Jane, played by Anna Camp.

It’s a character Anna Camp plays well…it’s similar to her role in Pitch Perfect, only set in the late 1960s and with far less puking.

There’s a scene in the last episode (spoilers) where she confronts her wealthy, privileged father and tells him she no longer wants to take money from him to support a lifestyle beyond her means.

He responds by trying to instill fear, “I won’t let you go live in an unsafe place” and then disregarding her ambition, “Okay fine, i’ll see you Thursday when you run out of money,” and then anger and projection, “What the hell do you mean you hired a lawyer to sue your employer – are you on drugs?”

Eventually he plays the hurt daddy card – the last possible card in the deck: “If you don’t need my money then you don’t need me. You don’t need anybody.”

Tearfully, she says she does need him, and somehow without saying it, she expresses that what she needs from him is love, emotional support, and to feel that he believes in her ability to achieve her ambitions.

And that’s where the break happened between this fictional character and my own experience. Because my dad didn’t respond to the tears, nor to the anger that followed. He still treats me like a first-class daughter, and a second-class human being. What’s more remarkable is how he still responds with pleasant surprise any time I show that I’m capable at anything.

What that’s caused is a break between the phi you all see here and the phi that is presented to my family. The part that sucks the most? I’m so proud of my accomplishments in this world, and they’re something I can’t share with them no matter what. They will never get to see what I believe are the best parts of me.

This morning, a friend of mine on facebook posted a status update lamenting that, when asked by a friend what she’s been up to, she felt she had to “self-edit more than half her life.” Because, since the election, she’s become a vocal activist, forming secret groups to help in the resistance, attending rallies and protests, informing herself, and contacting her representatives every single day.

“I am so much more than just a woman who goes to yoga, tennis and mahj, but some people just don’t want to or can’t know that. How long can any of us maintain this kind of charade….,” she asked.

And I wanted to respond, “Years.”

These things that drive us, that make us feel alive and give us purpose – these are the things we want to share with the world, and no-one more than those who mean the most to us. They are also the things that we feel we have to hide from those very same people because they won’t understand, and will belittle, ostracize, and reject us because it goes against their status-quo.

For the Anna Camp character to risk losing her father’s love was heartbreaking for me. There was a time when I believed my dad would respond the way hers did – eventually realizing that his daughter is a person who he helped raised to be capable of more than marriage and baby-producing.

But my dad didn’t make that jump. And I don’t think he will.

And so I hide the best part of me from him, because …

…because I don’t want to stop loving him.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Thoughts on the TV show)

I started watching it for the humor and the silly musical numbers. No, wait…I started watching it because of her. Rachel Bloom. I’d become aware of her last summer watching an episode of Lip Sync Battles, and felt drawn to her persona.

It’s not often I look at someone and think I see a physical resemblance, so when I do, I start to wonder if I’m imagining it, and then I maybe start semi-obsessively trying to find out more about them.

Which, if you’ve watched the TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” you’ll recognize as a patently “Rebecca Bunch” move.

So I started watching it for her, but then I realized it was a silly comedy/musical romance story and I started watching it for that. Because I love silly comedy/musical romances.

I mean, I was absolutely hooked the moment I heard the “Sexy Getting Ready Song.”

But something else was going on, and I didn’t realize it at first. I don’t think I realized it until I was well into season 1, and I didn’t REALLY REALLY get it until I started following the lead/writer/producer Rachel Bloom on twitter.

I think her brain works like mine, but she does with music and comedy what I try to do with essays.

Because, yeah, it was some time during season 1 that I kinda realized the series actually featured a fairly diverse cast of characters in terms of race, sexuality, and size.

And I also realized that none of those characteristics actually defined the characters.

Then the crazy stuff she says – the tangents she goes off on with regards to feminism and the patriarchy and consent and slut shaming and …

…she’s my HERO.

Except she’s also a deeply troubled person with severe, untreated mental disorders. Only, she’s likable and kind of the heroine in her own story. Which makes her a bit of a narcissist. But a cute one, who sings and dances. And c’mon, I mean, it’s just a comedy…

…only it’s covering very serious topics more deeply, thoroughly, and honestly than most depictions I’ve seen in storytelling of any kind.

I knew I wanted to put into words how I felt about this show all day (I started binge watching season 2 on Netflix last night when my plans were rained out by the storm).

But there was so much. I wanted to use words like “rogue” and “subversive” to describe how this sneaky little comedy grabs hold of the heart of some very uncomfortable topics and sort of forces you to sit with them a while. The comedy and musical interludes serve to disarm you, but then..there those feelings are.

I keep confronting my own predispositions and preconceptions about people through these very silly, almost superficial characters that obfuscate the depth of their interactions with one another, as well as the show’s interaction with the viewer.

I swear I’m not high as I type this. I almost wish I were. I bet I’d get even more out of it.

Anyway, as I was saying – I wanted to write about how this show was making me feel because I thought that most people who watch it would stay on the surface and not get that deeper meaning, but then I read a few other blogs out there about the show and realized I am definitely not alone.

Also, the other bloggers were way more clear about the point I wanted to make.

When I was in elementary school I used to walk around the baseball diamond by myself singing songs I’d make up on the fly about things going on in my life. I wish I could tell you that habit ended as I got older, but I still do it. I’m often led by my emotions and my idealistic outlook on life in general. I don’t want to say I’m a big “schemer” but I definitely see and pursue opportunities that benefit my wants, just not to the point of sabotaging others around me. Oh, and a season 2 episode where Rebecca goes to visit her family at a bar-mitzvah? Yeah, that WHOLE episode hit really close to home.

Over these past few years, I’ve learned to confront my privilege and recognize some deep-seated tendencies toward codependent relationship and external validation. I’ve done a lot of introspection and I’ve learned to harness my empathy as a tool to help me help others, and not manipulate them. And, with the family thing, I learned how to cope with my semi-narcissistic family who value appearances over character.

The difference between myself and Rebecca Bunch is that I did the work to confront those issues and overcome them. That’s it.

That’s all that separates me from that crazy character.

Well, also she dresses better than I do…

…but I may start Single White Femaling the shit out of her outfits.