Grace in the Oddest Places

I was sitting on the floor, sandwich wrapper splayed out flat in front of me. The lettuce shreds fought a valiant fight, but most of them now lay helter skelter across the paper spilling onto the floor, discarded sandwich scrapnel. I dug under a tomato to get to the last remaining piece of cheese, pressed into the bread by the weight of the sandwich so that it left a triangle indentation when I pulled it up.

“That’s what I like about you,” she said, looking at me earnestly and grinning. “You always pull the cheese off when you’re done with your sandwich, instead of the meat.” She beamed. She was a vegetarian. Had been for years already. She bought me the sandwich with her meal plan points, which she had to blow through by the end of the semester. It’s hard to eat that many sandwiches by yourself apparently.

I felt a flood of warmth pulse through my chest. It wasn’t about the cheese, although it was true that cheese was my favorite mode of sustenance. It was that she’d seen me, just for a second. She’d noticed some small, seemingly insignificant thing about me–and she liked it. And, even more miraculous, I could let her like it, without that cold, tight fear starting in my heart and seeping slowly down into my fingertips.

Maybe, just maybe, I even wanted her to see me.

I was drawn to her like breath. My heart was laid bare every time I was near her, even if she didn’t know it yet. Who has words for that at 18 years old?

That kind of belonging, without condition, lush with love and acceptance, when you’ve been fighting an internal war that’s left you emotionally bedraggled and just about half-dead… well, it’s a gift. It’s grace.

And sure, the first time she ever told me she cared may have been over a piece of cheese. But, my god, the sheer magic of finding the person who calls you out of yourself and into the world when you were sure, so sure, that at your core you were destined to be alone and misunderstood forever (18 is full of BIG feelings, and absolutes, and existential drama)…

Her seeing gave me solid footing. It felt like hope. It made things possible and expansive and intoxicatingly joyful.

That piece of cheese broke open the whole world for me.

Photo by Wyron A on Unsplash

42 Things About Me

42 things about me… about life, infertility, parenthood, LGBTQ stuff, sobriety, and coffee (of course!)

In no particular order:

  1. I am a Virgo/Libra cusp. The cusp is crucially important. I bring it up every time someone asks about my zodiac sign.
  2. Chocolate covered marshmallows go down as my favorite food of all time.
  3. I’m the oldest of 2 kids. I’ve got a little sister.133657_497803774632_4055268_o
  4. When we were kids, my sister & I looked nothing alike. As we’ve gotten older, no one can seem to agree on whether we look nothing alike or just alike. 

  5. An inebriated young gentleman once wandered up to me in a bar and carried on a full conversation that I understood none of. He thought he was talking to my sister.
  6. I run. Running balances me out. It’s meditative for me. I both love it and hate it. But I do it often.375123_10151486290019633_714277389_n
  7. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 8 years old.
  8. A trusted adult told me I couldn’t be a writer–that I’d never make enough money to live on. I believed them. I regret that.
  9. When I was a teenager, I was a hellfire & brimstone Christian.
  10. I am still a Christian, although not that kind.
  11. It is easier for me to tell people I am queer than to tell people I am a Christian. Christians in American exhibit all kinds of hateful behavior that I’d prefer not to be associated with.
  12. At various points in my life, I’ve struggled with anxiety and/or depression. It is part of my story. It in no way defines who I am.
  13. I came out when I was 19 years old.94571603_020d5ef0ed_o
  14. My family was displeased.
  15. I had the same girlfriend all the way through college. She is still part of my everyday life. We are not together (and haven’t been since 1998).
  16. Being queer is a core part of my identity. It has made me who I am.
  17. Until about 3 years ago, I identified as a lesbian.
  18. Then my partner transitioned from female to male. That complicated things in every sense of the word.
  19. I now identify as queer. It makes the cute guy I am with all the time less confusing to other people.29683110_10156215924602889_6613959919811764476_n
  20. I’ve come to believe in the fluidity of sexuality. It no longer frightens me. Identity can be fluid & still be important.
  21. It’s been fascinating to watch my husband, Simon, navigate creating his own version of masculinity. I’m proud of the path he’s forging.
  22. Simon and I have one child, Jane.IMG_6017
  23. It took 2 years to conceive her.
  24. I’ve been pregnant 4 times. I only have one child. She is a miracle.
  25. Jane calls Simon “Bobby.”5897461755_cdfc42fae7_z
  26. She used to call him “Baba” and me “Mama.” When she was just over a year, Jane heard me say I wished she’d call me “Mommy.” She started calling me Mommy right away. She also started saying “Bobby” all the time. “What’s a bobby?” I’d ask. She’d giggle and yell, “What a bobby!” We finally figured out that she assumed if Mama=Mommy then Baba must equal Bobby. She’s going to be AMAZING at the SATs.
  27. Simon transitioned when Jane was 4.
  28. We immediately put her in therapy.
  29. About 3 months in, the therapist looked at us and said, “You know she doesn’t need to be here, right?”
  30. We read Jane the picture book Red: A Crayon’s Story to explain her Bobby’s transition. She understood right away.
  31. I’ve been sober for almost a decade.26546_366357324632_4758338_n
  32. Getting sober was the best decision I ever made. It’s the reason I have all the beautiful things in my life.
  33. I got sober in AAI no longer go to meetings. I still think AA is a stellar way to get sober.
  34. I’ve had the same best friend since I was 18 years old. 

  35. She’s loved me through a hell of a lot. I am really grateful.
  36. If you ask me what I want to eat, I’m going to pick Mexican food.
  37. I look almost exactly like my mother.10250053_10152195642889633_5883091160908392911_n
  38. Sometimes I laugh so hard I have to sit down–no matter where I am.
  39. I’ve written a middle grades novel. It’s not been published. Yet.
  40. The older I get, the more I settle in to who I am. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.IMG_6228
  41. We moved to Atlanta 2 years ago this July. I adore Atlanta. It is home for me.
  42. I hate small talk but love people. I want to talk about things like religion, politics, books, life philosophies. And I prefer to do so over coffee.

Bonus Disney Picture Collage! (Disney is kinda our thing)

 

For more stories, happenings, and general shenanigans follow me over on Facebook at Writerly Atlanta & on Instagram at writerlyatl.

What Did I Do Over the Memorial Day Weekend? Told My Anxiety to Suck It.

7 years ago, I couldn’t even manage to go out and get COFFEE with my friend who visited this weekend. I mean, it’s true that she’s kind of infinitely cool. I’m totally not. But anxiety is more than being afraid someone won’t like you… it’s a fear of being seen that is so deep, and so horrifying, that running away feels like the only answer, even when what you desire most is connection.

On Friday afternoon, I kept getting texts:

“I’ll be there at 1:00”

“Dead standstill on 75. Looking more like 1:30”

“Alrighty. 6 minutes away according to Waze.”

When she finally peeked her head around the corner in the elementary school cafeteria, the two kids were right in the middle of a dance number. Or was it a song? Maybe it was a mashup. Sometimes its hard to tell in a first grade talent show.

When I saw her, I jumped out of my seat (among all the other amused and (relatively) proud parents), stifled a squeal, and ran over for a hug. Was I a spectacle? Eh. Maybe. Did I care? Nope. After hugs, I drug her back to my place in the crowd to watch Jane sing (and dance. Turns out first graders rarely do one with out the other).

 

 

It was all remarkably normal. For other people. For me, inviting a friend to share my space for a long weekend is remarkable. Because it means being seen–really seen–for days on end.

I spent all of my 20s and the first part of my 30s hiding behind a bunch of bravado and too much Miller Lite. Most of what I did and said was a red herring, anything to distract people from how anxious I became when I had to be honest, vulnerable, real.

Even 7 years into being sober, I struggled to connect one-on-one with people. I was terrified, way deep down where the fear feels cold and makes it hard to breathe, that I had nothing to offer. That if people really saw me, they’d be… what?… bored?… maybe. I don’t really know.

7 years ago, I couldn’t even manage to go out and get COFFEE with my friend who visited this weekend. I mean, it’s true that she’s kind of infinitely cool. I’m totally not. But anxiety is more than being afraid someone won’t like you… it’s a fear of being seen that is so deep, and so horrifying, that running away feels like the only answer, even when what you desire most is connection.

So, how did Captain Anxiouspants end up inviting a friend to stay for a long weekend?

IMG_6411.JPG

I did the simplest (and most difficult) thing: I just let life happen.

When circumstances pushed me toward friendship, I stopped talking myself out of coffee dates, hanging out, opening up. When I felt nudged by the universe to befriend someone, I began to honor that as a higher calling (ignoring my anxiety completely). When I was in a one-on-one situation and felt the onset of a panic attack, I owned it, by giving voice to my anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t like to be spoken, I found. The light of day makes it haul-ass. For me, at least.

I began to choose for myself the power anxiety got to have in my life. The answer for me: none. It’s not that it’s never there. It’s just that I address it the same way I address all the other parts of me: my lack of height, my nearsightedness, my flat feet. None of these things stops me from living my life. I just mentally stuck my anxiety in the category of things that sometimes require a workaround.

So far so good.

One Sunday, I texted my dear Florida friend to tell her how much I miss her. She responded by searching her calendar for a long weekend she could come visit us in Atlanta. Excellent! I love a woman of action! But, truly, it didn’t even occur to me to be nervous about her being here all weekend. We’ve been friends for several years now. We don’t see each other much, but she’s part of my tribe. So, of course she could share my house–and my life–for three days.

IMG_6403.JPG

I didn’t panic until the morning that she was supposed to show up. Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to panic, because there was book fair, and a talent show, and the last day of school (read: I was living my life instead of pandering to my anxiety). But sure enough, by the time we were an hour away from her arrival, I was teetering on losing my shit. Why? Dunno. Anxiety isn’t logical. It’s just destructive. So, yeah, I thought I was totally going to puke. I was fidgety. But, notably lacking was any real desire to run away.

Which is nothing short of miraculous.

She arrived in time to see Jane’s performance. I did not puke. She blended right into our family for three days. And, yeah, I felt seen. Girl kept me up til 1:00 a.m. talking about, well, ALL the things. But I’m okay with being seen. It’s worth it to love & be loved back.

Because I may not ever be all that cool. But I am pretty damn worthwhile.