Service Heart

Unless you know me well, or have been looking at the parts I choose to expose here in writing, my heart tends to stay hidden.  I’m going to tell you about my nose instead, since that’s always visible and my feelings around it have followed a similar path.

It’s a bit on the larger end of the spectrum.  I liked it just fine without thinking of it, and then stopped for a while during that awkward teenage phase where nothing fits together and it’s all up for scrutiny.  Then I loved it, since it was perfect for my face and matches my Dad’s and his Mum’s and so on.  It was part of what made me look like myself, while tying me to a big family I love belonging to.  Then my second husband whipped out every non-physical abuse tactic known to man, and one of them was insulting my appearance.  Now, a grown-ass woman who is happy with her looks should not be swayed so easily, but really effective psychological fucking-over can do some weird things.  I internalized all the little things he said until I was seriously considering “fixing” my nose so I could be attractive for him.  Not only did I get out of that situation, I rebuilt myself until I was not only happy with myself again, but possibly happier than I had been to start with.  Yesterday, my divorce was final, but before that I could already look at pictures of myself from the angle that shows off my hardest, most androgynous profile and say, “Damn, that’s a good face.”  (I have two different profiles – my face is asymmetrical enough that one is notably different from the other, and yet I’m still beautiful.  Suck it, evo psych!)

What was I talking about?  Oh, right, evo psych is a bullshit science, and also my heart.  It’s on the larger end, crooked so it looks different depending on the angle and the light, and now I can recognize it and love it even though it’s been used against me.

As soon as the term “Service Heart” leaped, full-fledged into my head I knew I was going to end up wanting to talk about it.  My feelings about myself after the nonsense detailed in my Poly posts firmed up anything there I wasn’t sure about.  And then a good conversation with Jonathan’s main partner recently made me sit down and get to work.

The most important thing about this, and how it works with my sexuality and self-image is that it is thoroughly mine to own but I get the most enjoyment out if it when I have an appreciative partner.  The partner I get the most out of sharing this side of myself with is one who accepts service of any sort as an expression of my love.  One who takes anything I offer as an expression of my desire, and not my obligation.  One who knows I don’t have to do anything, butwantto.  That right there, people, is the key to it.  It has to work on both sides, with my independence and lack of obligation mingling with the other party’s lack of entitlement and exploitation.  That is when I can offer to do anything possible to please and comfort my partner, and be fulfilled by my actions.

This is one example of what it looked like recently:  I had picked up on (and this is not hard to pick up on if you spend five minutes discussing desert options with him) Sir’s seemingly endless all-powerful love of cheesecake.  I’m also aware that He’s on an even more restrictive diet than my own.  I was off to the internets, seeking out a recipe that would work, despite not doing much baking lately and never having tackled one of these things.  Time is at a premium, so it was a while before I could get into the kitchen and have it match up with a visit.  Then, the other Friday, I was ready!  After a stop to pick out some good whiskey (also a favorite) I was prancing through the grocery store picking up ingredients along with food for both dinner and breakfast and some wine.  (These trips out for supplies are an interesting balance for me – most of the week I’m focused on work and keeping my perfect GPA and congratulating myself on being the independent self-sufficient woman I am, but then I get the urge to put on a frilly apron as I pick out steaks with the keen eye of the 1950’s hausfrau.  More on this later.)  I got home and put on a record and had more fun baking than should be legal.  If I’d just been doing it for myself, I would have said, “Fuck it, I’m off to the bakery.”  And if someone had said, “I want cheesecake, and it’s your job to provide it,” I would have said, “Fuck that, go to the bakery.”  But being able to choose to do something and possibly have it please someone had me all silly and happy. I get the same kind of silly and happy when I’m cooking dinner or making tea or pouring a drink – for Him.  I have this need for it, and now I have someone to use it with and that is great when it works.

What about when it doesn’t work?  And what about everyone who’s shaking their heads saying “Oh, sure, cook a couple of times a month and that means you’re all Service Heart! Sure, I’m calling that one right now.”  Let me offer some further case studies . . . .

I’ve been married twice.  Conveniently enough, despite both of those ending  . . . I’m going to say, “badly” . . . they offer an excellent contrast in examples of how this Heart works on a daily basis.  In the first marriage, before things tuned bad, I got up every morning to make coffee and breakfast before He was up.  Heck, I started that one by going over to the apartment we lived in before we’d moved in and scrubbing all the floors and windows happily thinking of how He would be pleased.  I made dinner every night, and took care of housework.  And early on, when everything was going well, He honestly did appreciate all of it.  Granted, it was easier since I wasn’t in school and worked limited hours, but the important thing was that every single meal or cup of coffee or curtain hung or batch of dishes cleaned and put away was noticed and commented on.  I had, for a short time, someone to offer to serve every day and a sense of being appreciated for it.  As it turned out, that appreciation was not enough to keep other issues as bay, and that marriage turned into an example of Why Some Guys Might Not Be Good Masters, but that part remains.  Possibly the other issues made me resistant to accepting and loving my propensity to serve for a time after that, but that is all a good stretch into the past.  And there’s Second Husband to give a good contrast.

This one is different.  He never had any title with me, so the power dynamic he was expecting wasn’t laid out the way it had been the first time.  He didn’t praise me for cooking or cleaning, since he automatically expected it of me simply because as far as he was concerned it was the wife’s job.  Never mind how much time the wife might put in at a demanding job, or how much the wife might be seriously considering further education.  “Where are my clean socks?” and “What’s for dinner?” were more important topics than “I want to make time to start writing again.” or “One of my patients died this morning.”  This is probably why we didn’t actually talk to each other much during the final year of our marriage.  Thing is, if I DID make an effort to serve in the hope that it would please him, it went unnoticed.  Once, I heard him mention a dish he liked.  It was something I’d never made, so I looked up a recipe and gave it a try.  The first time I made it, he ate it and when I asked if he liked it he said, “It’s good,” and went back to watching TV.  I took that brief comment as approval, and made the same thing several times before he finally said it actually wasn’t very good at all and could I please make something different?

So, back to the cake.  I served it, saying, This is my first time so it might not be so good.  Please tell me if it’s not and I’ll try to make it better.  Because as much as the act of doing something purely out of my desire to please makes me happy, it also makes me want to offer whatever service I can give to the best of my abilities.  If I can be corrected, I will use that to serve better next time.  That’s a deep theme in all that makes up the Heart I speak of.  And I said I was going to come back to the essential question, Why would an otherwise modern and strong woman have this aspect at all?

That 1950’s hausfrau ideal I mentioned is fictional as far as I’m concerned.  The whole idea of “Modern women have careers but their mothers and grandmothers stayed home and did womanly things” is HIGHLY class-based.  My mother worked.  Both my grandmothers worked, and all my great-grandmothers worked. Sure, a lot of the work they did, up until the last generation (my mother) isn’t what any of us would call a “career”.  My point is, as long as there have been women, they have been handling things outside of their own homes while still being wives and mothers.  If I could travel back in time and interrupt one of my great-grandmothers while she was in the middle of some menial but profitable task that had to be done before she could take care of her own house and tried to discuss all this she would probably say Still sein!  and go back to mending or baking and I’d feel pretty silly.  The only reason I can examine my own current desire to serve and how it fits with my desire for a career and education is because I do have privileges available that are a part of my luck at having been born into a world that allows more choice than we women had a century ago.

That said, the choices available to me are what makes me able to embrace and express my service heart.  If I were tied to one man I had to serve regardless of my own feelings I’d have less joy in it.  As it is now, I can choose the man I think is worthy and serve Him.  Honestly, as much as I want to follow my education and career path and excel in it, I also strongly want, someday, to have a husband and (if I am lucky and choose well) a Master I can come home to and cook and clean for.  Being what I am, I need this to feel entirely satisfied in a relationship, but I also need someone I can tell, “I’m too tired to cook, can we order in?” or “I can’t handle the laundry today and I really need to talk to You about this thing that happened at work.”  And I need that amount of equality, where I can be seen as a full human being with her own life and needs.  Only then can I feel comfortable enough with my partner to also say, “I’m going to cook dinner naked, do you want to fuck me while I saute the vegetables?”

I mentioned Jonathan’s partner asking me about how I handle balancing a primary relationship with others, and how I balance my submissive side with my feminism.  The question of feminism is what makes my heart hang in a delicate balance.  I have to respect the fact that the need to serve is there, and nurture it to the point that I am happy and can use it for good, but I know it looks sketchy at times.  Again, the key is to find someone who has respect for me as a full human, and can accept what I offer as an expression of love freely given and not as an obligation based on my gender.

To answer her other question, I told her a bit more about what went down during our poly adventure and why I handled it the way I did.  Her specific question was, “How did that happen without it turning into a fight?”  Service Heart, of course.  I was in a mindspace where my main objective was to serve Sir as well as I could and I would be DAMNED if some sniping was going to break me out of that.  He did accept and appreciate it as well as could be expected, and although things have gotten difficult since then as we’ve dealt with the fallout, I felt better for having kept His comfort foremost in my mind as I was caught in the middle of it all.

And things have gotten difficult, as I knew they would.  No amount of me behaving well during that weekend will erase the fact that it has made both of us question our relationship.  What I have gained from that, even if this experience was enough to crack and eventually break the relationship we have so far (and it’s too early to say, it being a new relationship), is that I love having whatever capacity for service that I do, and that this capacity makes me stronger.  If things go all to hell?  My heart will still be strong, and I will keep it safe until I can serve another.  If we come out of this better off for it, and in a year or five years we can laugh at it all and I’ll be using a stronger term for Him?  I have already begun to cultivate my ability to serve Him and my heart is still going to be strong.

I have a Service Heart, and it is my own.  All my recent angst has only made it stronger, and has only made it more my own.  If you learn anything from this long rambling explanation of how this works for me, let it be this:  A weak heart would make me serve out of fear of losing its object, out of obligation to serve or be rejected.  My strong heart makes me ready to serve no matter how much I may lose, no matter how much rejection it has to take.  I can walk away from things that hurt me, not made less by them but carrying the power my submission raises in me.  I know it takes strength to kneel, because weakness turns that into the only possible position,  while strength makes it the most deep and honest position because it is a choice.  It is me, on the floor or bent over a kitchen counter, saying I want you to possess me, take this now.  If I couldn’t stand up and walk away, I’d have nothing to offer.




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