Who Put These Boxer Briefs In My Dryer?

Today, as I pulled pair after pair of boxer briefs out of the dryer–stripped, polka dotted, red, navy, Hogwarts, all manner of colors and patterns–I thought, “Huh. I didn’t sign up for this.”

Not the laundry part. That was, in fact, part of what I signed up for. I think it was in our marriage vows.

No, it was the boxer briefs that weren’t on my radar when we got married almost 13 years ago. But then I got to thinking: 13 years in, is anyone in the marriage they thought they’d signed up for?

Marriage is a funny thing. You can get all swept away with the “for better or for worse” thing. But that shit gets real when life starts happening all around you. When you say “I do” you don’t get to pick from a menu of experiences you’d like to celebrate and endure together. Some of that is a roll of the dice. And some of it comes down to the friction (or chemistry, depending) that happens when two people with free will try to navigate the world together. And that can be hella unpredictable.

I love being married to Simon. But two and a half years ago I decidedly did NOT love being married to him. Because he’d exercised his free will, taken charge of his life, and changed it so that he could live into who he was meant to be. And I felt left behind. And duped. Because it wasn’t what I’d signed up for.

But it’s not logical–or even really interesting–to expect someone to stay exactly the same from the time you marry them until you… what? Die? Come on. You’d be bored to tears and so would they. Simon never promised me he’d stay exactly the same. And I didn’t promise that either. I mean, sure, I still resemble the girl he married.

THIS, in fact, was the girl he married. I’ve always had mad game. Obvi…

But I’ve had two careers (adjunct writing instructor and freelance writing consultant). He supported both, just like he’s enthusiastically supported my used bookstore dream (like real enthusiastically. It’s cute, y’all). He never rolls his eyes at my continual spiritual quest (he has to hear about it frequently over our morning coffee). And he only gets mildly irritated when I launch into social justice hour right before bedtime.

He’s a really great guy. And I’m super into him.

So, no I didn’t sign up for folding boxer briefs. But I couldn’t have dreamed up this life if I’d tried. And now I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Let’s All Play to Our Strengths: I’ll Make the Coffee

My husband just popped his head out of his office. I could feel him peering at me tentatively. “Hello…” he began.

I turned around from where I’d been reading and writing at the dining room table my desk. Really, I’d just been trying not to make any sudden movements and wake up the dog, who has a propensity to be a close-talker and follow me everywhere I go when she’s awake.

img_8090

He continued: “If, at any time, you know, over the next hour or so you wanted to make coffee, that’d be really nice. I’d love a cup.”

I stared back at him for a moment. “Maybe you should just ask for what you want,” I replied.

He looked unsure but proceeded anyway. “I’m on a conference call. Can you make me a cup of coffee?” He paused for just a beat. “See why I didn’t want to do that? It sounds like you’re my secretary.”

“Yeah,” I concurred. “I thought that’s what I wanted you to say. But now I just want to punch you.”

Ah… marriage.

I made him the coffee, by the way. It’s brewing right now. He didn’t ask because he’s a chauvinist asshole who thinks that women should make the coffee. He just really sucks at making coffee. I have no idea how it goes so sideways. But it does, every time. So, I take mercy on him, and I make the coffee.

Truth be told, I like to do nice things for him now. There’s something about actively choosing the person that you’re with–and not at all in a theoretical sense–that brings clarity that every day is a choice. And so is kindness. And love. So, I make the coffee. To save him from himself.

It’s this constant refrain of choice in our relationship that makes me bristle when people hear about Simon’s transition and they utter a little sigh and say something akin to “Love is love.” It used to bother me because I thought such a glib statement somehow diminished my identity struggles. But now I hate it because it doesn’t honor the hard work we put in to stay together. It overlooks the absolute honesty with which we had to face each other–and ourselves. And it takes a helluva lot of bravery to be completely honest in a 10+ year marriage. The greeting card version of our relationship can’t even scratch the surface of what I feel for him–and the pain, and loss, and work it took to uncover those feelings. I am so proud of us. But none of this came easily.

IMG_7909

We laughed recently about how completely normal our lives are. I mean, on some level we must thrive on chaos, since once we got 100% on board with staying together, we moved. Then I decided I’d open a bookstore. But it’s normal in that nothing is imploding. And our lives don’t feel like constantly shifting sand anymore. In fact, our lives feel solid–like ground that we can build something real and lasting on.

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:

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 8.43.01 AM

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.

29683110_10156215924602889_6613959919811764476_n

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)

Jane_Grad_photo

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.)

It’s Who We Are

Outside our small, yellow house in Atlanta, a huge Pride flag waves in the breeze. I love that flag. It tells a part of our family’s story that is no longer easily visible.

The near unraveling of our marriage in 2016 broke something in me. I thought I’d try to piece it together, to come up with some patched, passable version of the life I wanted. But, sometimes, when something breaks, the best thing to do is clear away the wreckage and begin again.

I felt so shattered by Simon’s transition that, for a long time, I insisted that I was a lesbian and he was… well…him. But ultimately, insisting I am a lesbian doesn’t honor who Simon is. And, besides, it makes it harder to explain the cute, bearded guy I’m married to. Eventually, I settled on “queer” because it honors our whole story. And, really, it’s a story worth honoring.

23632339_1869343016713513_6345960756380166855_o
Photo Credit: RM Lathan

Watching Simon grow fully into himself has been profound. I respect the thought he puts into the kind of man he wants to be. It’s amazing (and unusual) to be privy to this kind of conscious choosing–choosing the way he moves in the world and how he wields his privilege.

Truth be told, Simon isn’t the same person he was before he transitioned. Not really. For a long time I wanted him to be. Sure, there are soul-elements that’ve shown that they’re impervious to change. And he still knows that I love chocolate covered marshmallows and that I’m afraid of birds. But big life events change us all.

I’ve spent a lot of time getting to really know and understand him over the past year and a half. I’ve found that I love this version of him. Really love. Not out of convenience. Or habit. But that daily I choose him.

29386016_1932945130353301_8233176835819569152_o
Photo Credit: RM Lathan

We’ve had to work hard to build a relationship after the Unraveling of 2016. When I wrote about it last Summer, I didn’t understand how far from done we were with the rebuilding. In fact, we’d barely begun.

That’s the trick about putting a marriage back together: it’s a process.

But, sometimes, when I look at him, I get that little spark that starts in my chest and zips down to my toes–the small bolt of lightning that feels like love. And I know we did right by each other.

Right now, our biggest problem is how to get our kid to stop rolling her eyes at us. And how to let folks know we are a queer family. I thought about just getting a shirt that says, “The cute bearded guy is trans.” But, I mean, would I have to wear it every day? He does have a collection of trans-themed t-shirts in his clothing rotation–and on those days we feel seen. But we haven’t found a good way to let folks know exactly who we are.

28166747_10156095177097889_5565589456695484296_n
His shirt totally says “This Is What Trans Looks Like.”

Right now, that giant Pride flag outside is our way of being visible, of declaring that things DO get better, and of being proud of our story. And of our love.

 

 

Pride Flag Photo: Peter Hershey on Unsplash

Back Together Again

Breaking up and getting back together—all within a 48-hour span—well, it’s not for the faint of heart.

When Simon & I woke up the next morning, it was like being on an incredibly awkward first date. In my pajamas. With someone I’d known for over a decade.

I had no idea what to do or say.

I made coffee, like usual. That seemed right. We probably still needed caffeine to function.

We sat down in the living room—which miraculously was still OUR living room—and I chattered on in a way that managed to be simultaneously overly-chipper and politely reserved. Which translated into rather happy, equally meaningless, small talk. (I despise small talk.)

Beneath my frantic efforts appear normal(ish), I felt completely unmoored. I was thrilled to have Simon back. But I was terrified if I did or said the wrong thing, he’d decide all over again that we were done. But for real this time.

The problem was that I both knew—and did not know—exactly what had gone wrong. When I could focus long enough to sort my thoughts, I knew that Simon had left only because he believed I didn’t want to be with him anymore. He thought he was doing me a favor. He thought he was fixing things. But the why was buried under my fear, which just kept shouting: He left you! He doesn’t love you! He left you!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Fear is a bastard.

In yet another bizarre twist, on this awkward, small talk filled Saturday morning, we also needed to go rent a U-Haul to fetch the remainder of the furniture we’d stored at our best friends’ house. Moving furniture together is an admittedly odd reconciliation activity. (Note: I do not recommend). But we dropped the kid off with said friends and headed out for a day of furniture relocation.

Odd task aside, sitting in a U-Haul truck next to Simon (without the kid anywhere in earshot) allowed us to talk openly and honestly for the first time in probably over a year. The stark reality that Simon could leave (and would, if he didn’t feel like the relationship was serving both of us well) knocked the anger and resentment right out of me. And not in the way that fear robs people of their fight. I wasn’t angry or resentful anymore because I’d been presented with a real, viable exit strategy. For the first time since Simon told me he wanted to/needed to transition, I felt like I had a choice. And I made my choice. I chose to stay. Because that’s what I wanted.

It was amazing to look at Simon (probably for the first time ever) and feel completely awash in love. I mean I was smitten. I was all hand-holdy and lovey. And I was driving him batshit. Because these ways, they are not his ways. But he understood. And he held my hand. And told me he loved me, too (for the 400th time).

We talked about difficult things. We talked about how to start over. We acknowledged that we needed to bring our best selves to this reconciliation—whatever that looked like for each of us. I asked questions I was scared to ask. He trusted me enough to answer me honestly. It felt real. Like communication. Things felt possible again.

It was in the middle of this hard but good conversation that we pulled up to a red light at Memorial Drive. I didn’t see them at first, because I was looking at Simon. But his eyes got wide. He looked excited. Like, kid picking out a puppy excited. And he said, “Are those LLAMAS?!?” And sure as shit, I looked across Memorial, and there were 15 or so llamas being led around a small enclosure. Outside a bar. In intown Atlanta.

Some people find signs in rainbows or floating feathers. Ours came in llamas. Because the pure joy that those llamas brought Simon wouldn’t have even been possible a day or two before—not with all that baggage we’d been carrying around. But now, he could be as exuberant about those llamas as he needed to be. Unfettered. Because now we’d both made a choice we could live (happily) with.

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Viator.com (image has been altered)

Revelations

After the yelling, the tears, the panicked confusion, I was left with only the stark reality: Simon & I were unraveling. This family I’d poured my heart and soul into was disintegrating—and I couldn’t do or say anything to stop it.

I was in a whirlwind of rage and pain by the time my best friend swooped in to rescue me for a few hours. I needed desperately to get out of the house. Simon & I had tried being quasi-normal for Jane. But being around Simon felt like the most exquisite agony. I loved AND hated him. I wanted to be near him AND to cast him to the outer realms of space. I wanted to reconcile AND move on with my life—alone.

Bets pulled up in front of my house, and I jumped in. I really didn’t care where she took me. All I wanted was to get away from the nagging, gnawing pain. But, really, what was I going to do to escape it? I’ve been sober for years. And that means I don’t drink. Even when my marriage falls apart. Even if the world explodes. I. Do. Not. Drink. But a best friend, one that’s known you for over twenty years, offers her own kind of comfort. And it’s a damn good kind. So, I felt safe and loved while I sipped a latte and my world fell apart.

She let me rage on and on. I said ugly things. I cussed. I developed new uses for cuss words. And then, I’d spin on a dime and talk about how much I loved him. How I’d always known we were right for each other. And I cried when I told her that the thing I’d been most sure of in my life was Simon’s unending love for me. But, really, what I’d been sure of all those years was that Amy loved me. Simon and I had been on pretty rocky terms. And, truly, what had I given Simon to love about me? Sure, I’d stuck around. But I’d been resentful; I’d constantly harped on my attraction to women; I was supportive enough—I supposed. But, who wants to build a life on something that’s just barely “enough”? I heard myself telling Betsy how much I wanted a life with Simon, how much I loved him… and, yes, how desirable I found him… and I wondered if he knew any of that. Things were, I realized, completely fucked to hell.

As Betsy dropped me off at my house, she left me with only one set of instructions: Do not beg him to take you back. In 2001, Bets had born witness to my alarming downward spiral after a particularly bad break-up. She was doing her level best to ensure I didn’t head right back down that path. I assured her that I would not beg. That I was done begging, pleading, and negotiating.

I walked slowly through the house—the house that was ours, that would no longer be ours, because there was no more us–got in my bed and laid down. I turned on Melissa Etheridge’s Skin (which, incidentally, is a pretty solid break-up album) and tried to sleep. I dozed off, and when I woke I felt incredibly calm. For about five seconds. But even during the calm, I knew something was wrong. Something I should be upset about. And then I remembered. And it was like breaking up all over again. I couldn’t take it. I absolutely could not sit with the pain for one second longer.

So, I did exactly what Betsy told me not to do: I went out to the living room and sat down on the edge of the couch. Simon sat up immediately to ask what was wrong. Like he’d been waiting for me.

“I don’t understand,” I sobbed. “How can it just be over? I love you so much. Why don’t you love me?”

“I do. I do love you,” he said. He pulled me close to him and held me while I cried. “I don’t want it to be over either.” I cried on him a little while longer, afraid to move. Afraid to breathe. Afraid to break the spell.

Finally, I wiped tears off my face and looked at him. “Then why did you leave?”

He sighed. And for the very first time since things had started to fall apart, I could see that maybe this wasn’t as easy for him as I’d thought. He was hurt. “I thought you and Jane would be better off without me. That you’d be able to move on and be happy. That I was just weighing you down. I don’t want to just be just some concession you are making. That isn’t good enough for either one of us.”

Oh my God. No. Was that what he thought? Of course, that’s what he thought. Really, he would have been a fool to think anything else. But I’d been wrong—wrong that I could take or leave our relationship, wrong that I wanted to date other people (read: women), wrong, wrong, wrong. And now I knew it. I laid my head on his chest and cried. “No. No. I’m not better off without you. I love you. I want you. I want to be with you.”

“I want that, too.”

All my life, I’ve craved that one moment where life plays out perfectly, just like in the movies. Where love prevails despite the odds. Where what seems impossibly broken magically mends. Where love wins.

Truthfully, I’d given up on those moments. Believing in them had caused me lots of heartache, had held me back so many times when I should have cut my losses and moved on.

But this time, oh this time…

I finally got my moment. The moment where I got everything I dreamed of. Just like that, he loved me, and we were us again.

 

(But nothing’s ever really that easy, is it?)