Flashlights & Love

Our first Valentine’s Day together, Simon got me a flashlight.

Oh, he got me some red roses, too. But the flashlight was the main present. He wanted me to be prepared, just in case. This is his way, laying a path and making way for my independence, nurturing my strength. But I didn’t know that then. How odd, I thought. Then I promptly commenced to lamenting that he wasn’t more romantic.

I grew up on a steady diet of rom-coms. Still love them. But the way of the men in these movies is to completely miss the fact that they have a good thing going. To dismiss or overlook all that is good, strong, quirky about the women who love them–then to come careening back into their lives, when it’s a breath away from being too late–with some grand gesture to prove their love, to acknowledge the worth and value of the woman who has loved them all along.

I mean, when it’s put that way it kind of sounds like some bullshit, right?!

So, no, I didn’t understand the way of a man who would give me a flashlight.

I have, in fact, gotten a few big, romantic gestures over the years. Some of them not necessarily because they are what he would’ve chosen, left to his own druthers.

The proposal, for instance.

He got down on one knee in the middle of a bar on a weekend night to ask me to marry him (yes, we got engaged in a bar. We were 100% always in a bar at that point in our lives. But also, the music festival we’d planned to spend the weekend at had devolved into a mud bath of sorts, so–in his defense–the bar was Plan B.)

That may not seem like much. But it was pre-transition. He spent so much time trying not to be seen–at all–that the idea that he’d drop to one knee in the middle of a crowd of people, that he’d consciously draw attention to himself in order to bring me joy, well that’s quite a gift.

Now, I know how to appreciate those gifts, to savor them, to realize the sacrifice they take on his part. The love is in the sacrifice, not in the gesture, it turns out.

In addition to my rom-com, big gesture version of love, I also came equipped with the idea that people who love each other never fight.

Goodgodamighty.

I’ve been disabused of this idea about a thousand times over. Simon and I are as different as they come–I’m pineapple on pizza. He’s pepperoni. We see the world from such vastly different persepectives that, if we argree on something immediately–without discussion and endless cycles of negotiation–we know that that thing is foretold by the Universe. Plain and simple.

That’s how we picked up and moved from one side of southeast Atlanta to the other after two years and one day. I came to him with this crazy idea that I tried to pass off as a whim, so I could start softly and build a case later after the initial no.

And he said yes. Right away. Which is how I knew, for certain, that a move to East Atlanta was right and good and ordained by the Universe. When we both want something at the exact same time, it becomes magical, driven, possible.

Because somehow he sees through my restlessness, my (slight) tendencies to want things my way (because isn’t that really the only way?!), down deeper into what I really need. And those are the things he jumps behind. The ideas that will help me, and ultimately our whole little family, flourish.

So, yeah, he’s flashlights instead of grand gestures. But flashlights, they light your way. They give you confidence to explore. They make you feel, simultaneously, safe and strong.

But his biggest gift to me–his grandest gesture to date–is that little bookstore that I own, the one that brings me such unabashed joy. I brought the idea to him, just sure he was going to tell me I was off my rocker. We’d just moved (again). I’d finally started making some real money with a writing business I’d spent several years building up. And yet, here was this little idea that had taken hold…

And he saw it, right away. He saw that this was it for me. This was what lit me up. He asked questions that helped me sort out my vision for the store. He cheerleaded. He designed logos and websites. He carried boxes. And he told me he was proud of me, that he believed in this. That he believed in me.

That is the person I married, although I there was no way to know all this at the time. But 14 years later, I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t trade that flashlight for all the romantic gestures in the world.

Namaste, y’all.

I started a 31 day yoga practice. It’s going nothing at all like I expected.

I’ve always been kind of flummoxed about how to shift my spiritual practice from it’s designated quiet, morning time out into my larger life. Because Lord knows I need some peace in the chaos of an average day. But–and this was the case until very recently–all the connectivity to my inner peace & the greater love of the Universe had gone all to shit by about 2pm.

And that felt BAD. It feels kinda defeating (and a little whiplash inducing) to be all namaste in the morning and all look-at-me-again-and-I’ll-cut-you in the afternoon. But my centering and balance seemed to wear off. I mean, is that even a thing?!?

When I got into A Course in Miracles, the daily lessons helped. Because you don’t get to just read them in the morning, dwell on them a bit, and let them go. You have to keep reviewing them at multiple points throughout the day. It’s like they want the ideas to stick or something.

Now, ideally, I was supposed to find a quiet time to reflect by myself with my eyes closed. But the book did make it clear that I should use whatever time I could find. I discovered that trying to find a quiet minute meant that it would never happen. So, I started meditating on the lesson wherever I was, amid whatever was going on, with my eyes open. In the car? Yep. Walking the dog? Yep. Staring at (but not seeing) my computer screen? Yep. To be sure, this kind of come-as-you-are meditation doesn’t always allow me to feel the deep & abiding presence of the Universe. But I am also not losing my proverbial shit by 2pm anymore. And I am more grounded and connected to the world around me.

Part of my January commitment to myself was doing yoga daily for 31 days. When I made this commitment, I imagined a still, quiet practice centered on my breath, on connecting with the divine, on bliss…

Yeah.

Not once in the past week have I experienced an uninterrupted practice. It’s like Jane has a sixth sense. As soon as I get on the mat, she has some question that she will spontaneously combust if she doesn’t ask me. Or she just wants to look at me. Or she wants to be near me, so suddenly she’s standing 1mm from me in mountain pose.

So, I did what the past 10 years of sobriety have taught me so well: I dropped all my expectations. And I invited Jane to grab a mat and join me.

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Doing yoga next to Jane is the equivalent of doing yoga next to a squirrel with a meth problem. I’m in downward dog. She’s laying on her back with her feet straight up in the air. I’m in boat pose, and she’s in tree pose next to me. It’s nutty.

But I’ve learned to tune into her presence (which is all love and light) and tune out her antics (which are real, real extra). I’m beginning to cherish the time we spend side by side on our mats, even though it certainly wasn’t what I envisioned for my January yoga practice.

But when were sitting cross-legged, breathing deeply, and she reaches over to hold my hand… that’s all the connection to the Universe I could possibly ask for.

Monday Twitchiness

I’ve got a mental list of all the things that MUST be done before mid-September that wraps all the way around my brain (twice) and squeezes it like a boa constrictor.

I am excited. Or anxious. Or, maybe, just really energetic?

I’ve got this feeling that begins in the center of my being and radiates out that makes me want to move. But it’s an amorphous feeling—and I can’t decide if I need to literally get up and move—you know, like get shit done—or if I’m supposed to be searching something out, learning, pushing my intellectual/emotional boundaries.

It’s a state of flux.

I am UNCOMFORTABLE with flux.

Maybe the feeling stems from moving. I’ve got a mental list of all the things that MUST be done before mid-September that wraps all the way around my brain (twice) and squeezes it like a boa constrictor. I alternate between rarin’ to go on that and complete ennui over the mundane nature of packing a bunch of material possessions we don’t likely need anyway that are just going to psychically (and physically) clutter our new digs.

And, of course, I still have work projects that I both need and want to do. But I only get about 13.5 minutes of good-focused work done before something ELSE that needs to get done makes off with my attention. Then I find myself just staring. At nothing.

I’m overwhelmed, it seems.

But I’m also excited.  And heavily caffeinated.

And then I want to ponder big, philosophical questions. Or dig at my current conflicted feelings about Christianity, which are fascinating to probe but don’t exactly get boxes packed or client work checked off my To Do List.

This space is a weird one to occupy. Especially on a Monday.

More coffee will fix this. Right?

But even if I have to sit with these bizarre-o feelings until we move (3 weeks. Just 3 more weeks), I’m grateful to have work that needs to get done and to have the financial means to move to a new house. And, truth be told, I like new adventures. And moving is one big clusterfuck adventure.

Fresh starts are reason for celebration. And ours, in a brand new house, will begin 15 years and two weeks after Simon and I first met. We’ve been drunk, gotten sober, struggled with infertility, had a baby, lost a pregnancy, transitioned (well, him… but it’s a process for the whole family), and moved to Atlanta. This new house feels like a nod to all we have been through and a celebration of who we are going forward. It’s something we chose together, something we want to build on and live into.

So, I guess, primarily I’m sitting with the excitement of beginning anew. We get to hold on to all we love about Atlanta, and we get a clean slate. It’s a tremendous win for us, a validation that we’ve done things right. I’m grateful… for a new house, for a family that stayed together despite the odds, and for my ability to stay (mostly) in the moment.

Okay, okay… I’m rarely in the moment these days. But I’m not totally freaking out, either. Progress not perfection, y’all. 

 

 

Photo by Robert Shunev on Unsplash 

Was It REALLY Just 3 Years Ago?

Today marks 3 years since Simon shared his transition with the world via facebook. It’s been a wild ride. I’m grateful to share this incredible journey with him.

Right in the middle of the morning craziness (the dog trying to eat a zip tie, the kid beseeching me for more screen time, and me wading through client social media while trying desperately to down that second cup of coffee), this popped on my Facebook feed:

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I mean, holy shit. That was a showstopper–just as much now as it was 3 years ago.

I went barreling into Simon’s office (he works at home. We both do. I know, I know) to show him. Because HOW was that only 3 years ago?!? It feels like a lifetime. But I can also feel that raw emotional turmoil (on my end) vividly like it was yesterday. It’s complicated–as most big life events tend to be, I suppose.

So what’s changed?

Simon. I mean, he’s a hell of a lot different than before he transitioned. And who wouldn’t be? He spent his whole life being misgendered and feeling a disconnect between who he was at his core and how people saw him. Once he transitioned, and people saw who he’d always been, that unease around people dissipated. I mean, he can still be hella socially awkward. It’s just one of the quirks that makes him so charming. But now, he’s at ease with who he is. He gets to walk through the world as the person he was always destined to be. It’s both so simple & so profound. It’s also a tremendous blessing, both for him and for the people who love him. I admire Simon’s bravery and his commitment to live out his truth. And I feel really honored to be part of his journey.

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Our relationship. Simon & I got a whole lot of “Love is Love” cheers when we stayed together after his transition. But, really, sometimes love isn’t enough. When Simon transitioned, deep down I believed that I would need to leave our relationship. Not because of him. But because of me. I didn’t think I could be attracted to a man. And being in a romantic relationship requires attraction. But, then, I was attracted to him. And that caused a huge identity crisis for me.

Good Lord, with the crises and chaos. 

The transition, our move to Atlanta, my emotional turmoil: it all pushed our relationship to the breaking point. We had a very clear, monumental decision to make: split up or stay together. After some push & pull, and a misstep or two, we chose to stay. Rebuilding has been a long, intense process. But there’s power in choosing each other again, after so many years of being together. For two people who are so wildly different, we really get each other. We’re a battle-tested team. No one around here will be throwing in the towel any time soon. Turns out that we love each other. A lot. (And, I feel that little surge of energy when we’re together, the one that tells me that I’m with the right person, that reminds me how much I love him. It’s wild. And a little exhilarating)

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My confidence. Simon’s transition made me feel incredibly vulnerable. I wanted to protect him. And me. In that bewildering and vulnerable state, I took a lot of shit from people that would never fly now. People asked really invasive questions (under the guise of “educating” themselves. Ahem. That’s what Google is for). They made all kinds of assumptions. Some folks bailed when I needed their support. It was a rough time. But now I know how to advocate for myself. And for my family.

Simon & I fly a Pride flag at our house, because we are out & proud members of the LGBTQ community. In our “normalness,” we are revolutionary. We are a symbol that things DO get better. That, sometimes, love really does win.

via Facebook http://ift.tt/2kJus4w by Simon Kellogg on 500px.com

 

 

 

(ETA: We’ve got a LOT of pictures from Disney. But not a lot of pictures of me & Simon. Odd. But we are. Odd, that is.)

There Is Nothing to Apologize For

I’ve been pondering a bit more how my anxiety manifests itself on the daily. It’s been a companion of mine since I was 8 years old. And, truth is, we’ve settled into our own kind of peace, my anxiety & I. I’ve developed workarounds and strategies. Sometimes I just tell it to STFU. But it’s rarely just not there. 

So, when I read this piece by Discovering Your Happiness, I got smacked with overwhelming gratitude for the way Simon has helped me move through my anxiety. He’s really the reason I was able to adopt the whole “my-anxiety-doesn’t-define-me” mantra.

What does that look like in our every day world?

It looks like him finally corralling everyone for an excursion (after shoes have to be put on and phones have to be found and lights have to be turned off) only to have me make it all the way to the door, then turn back around to check that the toaster oven & the coffee pot are unplugged, that the gas burners are in the off position, that the dog’s crate is snapped shut–and then watch me do it again… and again.

Or his always knowing where the closest bathroom is. (It’s a huge anxiety trigger for me to have to pee & not know where a bathroom is)

Last Saturday, it looked like driving me by Jane’s friend’s house on the way home (where Jane was sleeping over), to make sure they’d made it home okay from the pool. They didn’t answer when I texted or called, and I just needed to know their car was there. That everyone was safe.

Sometimes, I don’t experience anxiety for weeks on end. Then BAM! And Simon never says a word about it. He doesn’t try to dig down to why I’m feeling anxious. (Often there’s no real reason) He doesn’t even flinch when I start checking and double checking things. Or when I flip out about money (another big anxiety trigger for me). He just carries on like there’s nothing going on. And I love him for it.

He never treats me like I need to be fixed.

He never acts put out.

He never blows off my concerns.

He just rolls with it.

I used to apologize profusely when these things would happen. I mean, I KNOW it’s my anxiety causing me to worry & kicking me into fear-mode. But the knowing doesn’t always mean I can turn it off.

For almost 15 years, he’s said the same thing: “There is nothing to apologize for.”

He said it so much that I started to believe it.

And now I do. Believe it, that is.

 

 

Photo by Eric BARBEAU on Unsplash

Just Do You. Brilliantly.

I sort of threw Jane in dance so I’d have an extra day to work past 2:30 pm. She seemed to like it. But sometimes it’s hard to tell if Jane likes an activity or just likes hanging with her friends. I don’t begrudge her that. I like to hang with my friends, too. And if she’s hanging while she’s doing pirouettes or what-the-hell-ever, so much the better.

My kid loves to perform. Singing? Oh, the girl sings. It’s like living in a musical in our house. Acting? She recreates scenes from movies, shows, the play they performed at school—all the time. Playing the piano? She practices without being asked. She’s seven. WHO IS THIS CHILD?!?

Dance, though. Dance is one of those after school activities that I sort of threw her in so I’d have an extra day to work past 2:30 pm. You know, more like a normal person. She seemed to like it. But sometimes it’s hard to tell if Jane likes an activity or just likes hanging with her friends. I don’t begrudge her that. I like to hang with my friends, too. And if she’s hanging while she’s doing pirouettes or what-the-hell-ever, so much the better.

Yesterday, Jane had her big dance recital—in front of the whole school. Let me stop right here. I would have lost my shit if, at 7 years old, anyone had asked me to do anything in front of the entire school. Hell, I’m 42 years old, and the idea of standing up in front of almost 600 elementary aged kids makes me want to puke. But Jane, she was excited. So excited she thought she might EXPLODE, she informed me later.

I love and am fascinated by this child in equal measure.

Jane knew every single move to the tap dance. Of course. She knew every move, but something seemed off. She was doing it right. But she didn’t seem to be feeling it. The little girl next to her was living this dance.

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Jane, not so much. She was doing it right. But it looked like it was taking every bit of her concentration. She was not one with the dance.

My first instinct: “Well, we can cut this out of the rotation next year.” I mean, we can only do so many activities. Dancing isn’t her strongest showing, so I thought… eh, we’ll try something different next year.

On the way to the car, I ran into the owner of the dance company. We chatted about how much Jane enjoyed the class. Then I mentioned that Jane seemed to be struggling to connect the moves, that dancing didn’t seem to come easily to her. The woman’s expression softened: “How wonderful that she embraces something that pushes her out of her comfort zone. She keeps pushing, even though it’s hard for her.”

Oh.

Right here is why other loving, supportive adults are crucial in child-rearing. Because obviously having Jane do something she doesn’t excel at is a great idea. It teaches perseverance and empathy (not everyone can be good at everything, after all). And the experience itself far outweighs the importance of tap dancing like Shirley Temple.

I’d gotten schooled about my own kid. It was humbling.

But this lesson about experience over performance is one I’ve already had to learn. Jane’s experience in dance mirrors my experience in running. I am not a great runner. I will never qualify for Boston. I rarely place in my age group. I might place third in my age group—if only three people my age run the race. I have friends that I’d love to run with. But I can’t. I’m not fast enough. Can’t keep up.

Nevertheless, I love to run.

For a brief moment, I almost let the fact that I’m not very good at running push me out of the sport. I got real caught up in times and placing in races and PRs. And it stopped being fun. Because I was trying to be a runner that I’m not. That sucks.

So why should Jane be a dancer she’s not?

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I tell Jane all the time that exactly who she is is enough. It’s perfect, in fact. Whether she’s the best dancer on the stage matters not a whit. I want her to do what she loves–to do her best, soak up experiences, and just be herself.

I run.

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She dances.

And we’re both brilliant at enjoying the experience.

The Riddle of Motherhood

Mothering is sacred work. I pour every ounce of goodness & light I have into this child. But what about the broken parts of me that need mothering, too?

Mothering is sacred work. I pour every ounce of goodness and light I have into this child:

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And she deserves it all. Every bit of it.

But so do I.

Inside me, there are broken bits that still need a good deal of mothering. I am in recovery, after all—and I certainly didn’t end up in recovery because of my stellar coping skills or my superb choices. I ended up there because my spirit was crushed, and I was trying to hide that pain from the world, but mostly from myself.

I’ve committed a good deal of this past decade to mending my broken spirit, to making amends—to myself and to other people–and to moving past regret into whole-hearted living. And, for the most part, it’s been a brilliant success, this thing called living my life. I’ve been lifted out of that dark place into some dazzlingly sunshiney place makes me feel hella grateful every day.

But still.

Sometimes I am hit by a memory of something I did or said that lands like a gut-punch. And I’m engulfed in regret. Or sometimes I’ll make a mistake—an honest one, born of nothing but good intentions with maybe a mix of a little carelessness—and the questioning of my worth will commence. Sometimes I still brush up against the parts of me that remain fractured, that threaten to break under the strain of life, memory, hurt.

And I do the same thing with myself that I would do with Jane. I embark on the sacred task of mothering. It really is the only way out. I turn all that kindness, compassion, and love back onto myself. I’m gentle with myself when prodding the parts that hurt. I give myself the grace to make mistakes, because I am learning. I reassure myself that my worth isn’t born out of my deeds, but out of the sheer fact of my existence. I was created from the divine, remain a part of it, and am inherently worthy of love.

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I tell myself the very things I tell Jane.

I say them because they are true. True for her. True for me. True for everyone.

The sacred work of mothering doesn’t always have to do with birthing or raising children. It is about helping the world heal a little bit at a time, starting with yourself. It’s nurturing. And loving. It’s seeing in other people something beautiful, special, divine—and knowing the same magic exists in you. It’s giving love freely–and learning to finally, finally accept it in return.