Monday, May 14, 2012

Blymey: on Being a Public Couple

Last week I received an email communication from a friend in Sweden, Stephan Wik, in response to my blog of May 9, The Lemon and the Lyme. He wondered about my discretion in disclosing intimate information about my marriage. (I figure the viewer rating on my blog is somewhere between PG and R—that is, I'm occasionally too graphic to be G; yet not nearly risque enough to be assigned an X.)

Stephan wrote:
In your latest blog you write:

Low libido
As Doctor Annette explained, when your immune system is compromised, your sex drive is one of the first things to be parked (as the body deems it nonessential relative to other hormone functions). While touch and tenderness never go out of vogue, it means we're working with a more limited vocabulary in expressing our love right now.

I was just wondering, does Ma'ikwe read your blogs before you send them out? Is she OK with the level of detail you divulge about your relationship? On the one hand I find it interesting to read how you're grappling with your situation—so it makes good reading. On the other hand I sometimes find myself feeling uneasy for Ma'ikwe—if I was her I'd not want to have so much info about myself spread to a worldwide audience!

Of course, this may be none of my business and you're welcome to say so.

I riposted:
Good question! Ma'ikwe and I have been together now for over six years and it only took us about 15 minutes to sort out that we're both public figures and for her to understand that I have low boundaries about what I share in public. I've now been doing my blog for over four years and she's fully aware that I'm willing to disclose personal information at a level that most others would decline to do. It's just who I am (and I think it makes for more compelling writing).

At this point, Ma'ikwe understands that being partnered with me necessarily means a certain amount of being at risk of having information disclosed in public that many would consider better left private.

All of that said, I almost never disclose information that I believe will put someone else in a bad or embarrassing light unless I have their express permission to do so. If I think it will land poorly and I don't have permission (or don't want to delay posting long enough to ask for it), I tell the story without attribution. This policy does not, of course, guarantee that I will stay out of trouble, or that I will always make an accurate assessment, but it works pretty well.

In this particular instance (writing about Ma'ikwe's libido), I did not check with Ma'ikwe ahead of publishing, so I've cc'd her on this response and she can answer you directly. We'll see together how much hot water I may be in!


The next day, Ma'ikwe chimed in with:
Stephan, the funny thing is that I didn't even blink at that one. Laird has been doing me a real service in being willing to blog about my illness issues... it keeps a lot of people who care about me informed about what's up with me, without me having to do a whole slew of emails to folks. And it also reassures me that he is indeed paying attention and doing good work learning about what's going on with me. The truth is, my libido is shot, and like a lot of Lyme couples, we are struggling with it. My general policy is that if our struggles can help others feel seen, or understood, or not alone, then we should be as open as we can about what is actually going on. This, too, is a kind of social change work.

I think the times when it has felt hard for me (and Laird has indeed, gotten into hot water with me) are more when I feel like I look selfish or reactive. You are right to think that it isn't always smooth sailing between us, but Laird is also right to say that we've talked about this in general and that I'm also fine with being publicly exposed, so long as it has a good purpose behind it. Sometimes we have moments where the lines that he draws aren't the same as the ones I've drawn, and then we get a chance to refine our understanding about what's OK.


To which Stephan continued with:
I applaud you for this. It's not easy being public about things which, for many people, are deeply personal. I speak from personal experience...

If you forward me your snail mail address I'd be happy to arrange for a copy of our book, Beyond Tantra, to be sent to you free of charge.

I don't know if you have been exposed to Chinese energy work at all, but it can be a powerful tool. I'm just getting over Borrelia myself, and I find that managing my energy (qi) consciously is crucial.
[Laird's note: Borrelia burgdorferi is the spirochete that causes Lyme disease.]

By the way, did you ever have a look at the Cowden Protocol? It has made all the difference to me when it comes to getting rid of borrelia.

> more when I feel like I look selfish or reactive.

I've never met you, but I certainly have not received that impression from what Laird has written. Just the opposite, he has made it clear that you are quite an amazing woman to be in a relationship with a man that has such a, ahem, strong personality and a peripatetic lifestyle.

What a great exchange! Not only did we get a chance to articulate why we we're dedicated—both individually and as a couple— to transparency as a component of social change work, but we were immediately rewarded with both a specific suggestion to consider in our quest for the best way to treat Lyme and a book that may help our sex life (which at the very least is bound to be compelling reading). I reckon that's as clear an affirmation as the universe can give you that you're making good choices.

When I spoke by phone with another friend over the weekend and filled her in on the Lyme journey that Ma'ikwe and I are on, she advised me to write a book about how relationships can cope with the emotional, psychological strain of chronic Lyme when one partner has it and the other doesn't. While it's gratifying to be encouraged to be transparent, and I do think that Ma'ikwe and I are staying afloat in the storm tossed seas that are buffeting our relation ship, I wryly note that: a) it's premature to summarize what we've learned; and b) we're still at sea, rather than reporting about the journey after our hoped-for safe arrival in the port of Ma'ikwe's recovered health. I think the book will have to wait at least until we reach shore.

[As an aside, and to sustain my seafaring metaphor, I note that British seamen have long been referred to as "limeys," derived from their reliance on citrus as an antiscorbutic during the long sea voyages characteristic of the 17th and 18th Century. Blimey if that doesn't make Ma'ikwe and me "Lymeys."]
From my perch in the crow's nest, I expect to gain (in)sights from time to time as the Lyme journey continues. No need to wait for the book, however, whenever we encounter something interesting you can expect a report here, in the captain's blog.  

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