Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Seasons of One’s Life

As the leaves fall off the trees and the garden plants turn yellow and die, there are plenty of reasons to think of change. Father Alliot always said that the more things change the more they stay the same. Of course he said it in French.

We often forget that change is natural, our only constant. It is irresistible, as predictable as dawn following the night and night following day. For us there is change like the sun rise, the good things that come after a stretch of pain, depression or angst. There is the opposite as well, those wonder days that somehow crash into confusion, doubt, and trouble.

“You have to take the good with the bad,” Mom used to say. Taking, of course, isn’t accepting or liking. Taking it is living through it, though in some rare cases even living through it isn’t an option, since each of us is going to die sometime. The reality is that most change is what it is and we survive, transformed, different, for better or for worse.

It is always a season of change, whether of growth or decline, of life or death, of pleasantry or misery. Sometimes we can’t help but see it; at others it is nearly imperceptible.

My year and a half hiatus from writing this column was sparked by change. It began with a marked decline in book sales and speaking engagements, punctuated by a reduction in teaching income from the college where I have worked for the last 17 years. As many of you know, a desire for a new challenge led to political activity.

A May ’09 to February ’10 run for State Representative garnered me 34% of the vote in a two-way race. Not enough to win but respectable enough (so I am told) to make it noticeable and noteworthy, a possible clue to more of the same to come.

The part-time teachers’ union for which I have labored for the past 14 years underwent significant philosophical and organizing challenges, the results of which are still undecided. For me though it led to no involvement in negotiating the next contract (I was chief negotiator for the previous three contracts) and a highly contested union election (votes to be counted this week) that may lead to my no longer being in a leadership position. Big changes for me perhaps and they are still in process.

My hot romance with Brian ended, proving that love doesn’t conquer change and instead may be a significant factor in it.

When the political run ended I resumed writing a novel that had sat unattended for more than a year and shortly after that our good friend Master Lynn moved in with Patrick and me.

In no time at all I found myself consumed with writing the novel, an exciting and creative process that was thoroughly invigorating. Lynn added a new dimension to our leather family, especially when he broke his hip. Our daily routines adjusted to his needs and the meaning of family was even more suffused with the ideas of care and service.

In the meantime I began transforming my vegetable garden into a  flower garden, hoping to make it an inner city attraction for butterflies. Lynn and I began an almost daily habit of sitting in the backyard at cocktail time, watching the winged beauties feed.

I also found myself cruising Recon, a Leatherman’s website, and meeting up with an increased number of tricks. One man from New York City, named James, visited for a weekend and quickly found a place in both my heart and my sex life. What began as a casual weekend of sex quickly changed into an experience of mastery and slavery that has evolved into a more structured, committed, and deeply satisfying relationship.

By the beginning of October I had finished the first draft of my novel and finally entered the new world of Print on Demand (PoD) and ebooks. Change long in coming but change nonetheless.

That last paragraph reflects a strange trait in change, namely that it can be long in coming. Becoming a Slave had been out of print for nearly two years -- a really good seller that I thought I couldn't afford to reprint. Something within me resisted the PoD route. Call it fear of the unknown, a feeling of being overwhelmed, or a self-defeating hope that something else would happen.

Then in a matter of the two weeks after the first draft of the novel was sent to an editor, Becoming was on its way to being back in print. Yes, it was a slow, but hardly impossible, learning curve. Yes, it took weeks longer that I had expected, but no, it wasn't all that difficult. It cost almost nothing and the reality was that having done it once, the next time (More from the Master) became much easier.

In retrospect I ask myself, "What took me so long?" Change is what took so long. It wasn't the change in publishing methodologies, it was the change within me. Even during the darkest nights, when dawn is most awaited, it will not be rushed. So, too, is the human psyche. Change it will, but only in its own time.
There's more to say about this. For now, though, have a great week.

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