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.

 

 

3 Things That Were

A gritty, honest exploration of change, loss, and joy as it’s unfolded in my life.

I was a drunk. Before I took the first swig of cheap whiskey, this was my truth. But its burning release convinced me that salvation resided at the bottom of a bottle. I was a drunk and so I tracked my ovulation obsessively, discussing pregnancy probabilities over happy hour drinks. I was a drunk and a lesbian, and so I borrowed some sperm off a friend’s husband, inserted it into my vagina—with a syringe. No turkey basters here—and then downed bourbons to celebrate my first step toward motherhood. My partner and I agreed to refer to the embryo-in-waiting as Tank. If it survived that level of inebriation, it’d surely be a rough and tumble little guy. I was a drunk and so I popped Clomid with cocktail chasers. I’d spend plenty of time—9 months of it—sober after I got knocked-up. No need to over-achieve. I was a drunk and so I planned on boozy playdates, if the damn kid would ever get here already. I was a drunk and so I went to inseminations hungover, the previous night’s indiscretions emanating from my freshly scrubbed skin. I was a drunk and so I believed I could wash off shame, hide it, hide me. I was a drunk and so one day I walked into a mish-mash of strangers, sat down, surrendered, and 12-stepped my way back into sanity. I was a drunk. And then I wasn’t.

I was pregnant. Blood draws, inseminations, peeing on sticks. Jockeying to order frozen specimens for perfectly timed delivery. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Ticking off days. Willing my way to two weeks. Then, trepidatiously peeing on a stick. Bargaining with God that if this time it would be different… I never finished that promise. What could I offer God, after all? I’d wait the requisite two minutes, add an extra 30 seconds on for good measure, and then look down. NOT PREGNANT. Such a bold proclamation. So impervious to my begging and pleading. Sometimes, instead of a NOT PREGNANT insult from a pee-soaked stick, I’d wake up a day or two before our interminable two week wait to a torrent of blood. Bright red. My own body mocking me. But one time, this one time the gods of the pee-stick gave in. PREGNANT. I waited. I pulled out another stick. Peed again. PREGNANT. I was pregnant and so the torrent of blood work started. HGC levels. Were they rising? Yes. Yes. I was pregnant and so check again. Check again. Poke. Prod. I was beatific. I was pregnant, and so we scheduled our first ultrasound. 5 weeks. Woosh. Woosh. Woosh. That heartbeat made me believe. Finally. I was pregnant and so, we scheduled the next ultrasound. 7 weeks. Woosh. Woosh. Woosh. But fainter. The sonogram tech called for the doctor. They measured the images. A little small, it seemed. The embryo seemed a little small. But there’s still a heartbeat, they cheered. The air left the room. I nodded when they asked me to come back in two weeks. They’d check again, they said. Maybe it would be okay. I was (still) pregnant, so I made an appointment. 9 weeks. Silence. I was pregnant. And then I wasn’t.

I was married to a woman. We fell in love over loss—I’d lost my way. She’d lost her brother. We sat in a bar, proding our wounds. “Will you always light my cigarette for me?” I asked. “If you’ll always look at me like that,” she responded, coy. We lost ourselves in each other—lustily, drunkenly. Then, like children reprimanded for impropriety, we agreed to set about playing house. The play was a farce. I was married to a (drunk) woman, and so 5 years later, we packed up our (emotional) baggage and shipped it off accompanied by all the whiskey in the house. We showed bits of ourselves timidly to each other. Sober felt stark, devoid of blurry edges. We, at long last, knit together enough hopes, dreams, Clomid, and donor sperm to make a baby. She came into this world, pulled out of my belly, fist high in the air. An indomitable spirit. Four years later, the woman I married said, “I am not who you think I am. I am not who I thought I was.” I was married to a woman, and so began a season of becoming—of transition—for us. I was married to a woman. And then I wasn’t.

Photo Credit: Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

Dear Mr. Preacher Man

I heard you yelling at me as I passed by. You wanted me to know about the saving grace of Jesus Christ, it seems. But, you know, I don’t find grace at that volume all that comforting. And I’ve never known anyone who screamed Jesus’ name to be interested in loving me. Saving me, maybe. But I don’t need to be saved. Not anymore. Not even from myself.

Dear Mr. Preacher Man:

I heard you yelling at me as I passed by. You wanted me to know about the saving grace of Jesus Christ, it seems. But, you know, I don’t find grace at that volume all that comforting. And I’ve never known anyone who screamed Jesus’ name to be interested in loving me. Saving me, maybe. But I don’t need to be saved. Not anymore. Not even from myself.

I get where you’re coming from, Mr. Preacher Man. You find power in the name of Jesus. Power to condemn. Power to save. That power feeds your (self) righteousness. I see that. I understand it. Because I’ve felt it. I’ve used Jesus as a weapon, a line in the sand to prove how much better I am. I’ve used Jesus to prove my worth… after all, in the math of salvation saved is always greater than (never equal to) unsaved.

But, Mr. Preacher Man, none of that math added up to love. Not one lick of it. Because the hard truth is that we all stumble and fall. We all need connection. We need unconditional love. We humans have never been good at unconditional love. But God is. God’s got that good, radical love that welcomes everyone. God’s love is where it’s at.

But you aren’t preaching that love, Mr. Preacher Man. I have met your Jesus—and I found him wanting. Your Jesus wants to save me from a punishing God, a God who does not find me worthy. That version of myself—and God—wounded me, isolated me, broke me.

But I have good news, Mr. Preacher Man. God is nothing like that at all. God is this revolutionary, limitless love… God is bliss and peace and breath-taking goodwill for EVERYONE. God left a piece of the divine in me—and in you, Mr. Preacher Man. Don’t believe what they’ve told you… you don’t need redemption. You are already redeemed. You are worthy. You are loved.

So, Mr. Preacher Man, I don’t need you to introduce me to Jesus Christ. I got that saving grace, friend. It was mine all along. Jesus & I, we’re in the business of love. Join us over here. Everybody’s in. (No yelling required. )

Love,

Me

 

 

Photo by DJ Paine on Unsplash