Sunday, June 23, 2019

Incremental



I remember a time many years ago when my life became smaller and smaller. Debilitating headaches, a relationship that I’d lost myself in, a meaningless job. Trips to the grocery store exhausted me. I dreaded Mondays. I turned to tv to try and unwind, escape momentarily from the encroaching dissatisfaction and stagnation of my life. My life was getting away from me somehow, and I didn’t know how to turn it around.

I gave up more and more pieces of myself until something deep inside me awakened with a roar and a physical, compelling need to change – everything.

In less than a year I had left my significant other, my job, my home, my entire life. I wandered for a bit, ultimately relocated, and completely changed careers – starting at the bottom. I started a rigorous fitness regime, for months pushing through the migraines that upper body work triggered, knowing there was no way to get to the other side without going through the pain.

By smashing my old life to bits and running full speed towards something new, I was able to sustain the momentum I needed to make sure the stagnation was left far behind.


This was not the first time in my life that I’d completely turned everything upside down in order to get out of the rut or bad situation I’d found myself in. There is something inside me that succumbs to others’ desires for and expectations of me, and nothing inside that is able to withstand those pressures. The slow erosion of my own will happens incrementally, often unconsciously, until it is too late and once again my life is not my own.

There are times now when I feel the weight once again of stagnation. The trailer park I live in seems to close in around me. I feel trapped inside this tin can, not strong enough to keep pushing against the forces outside.


I’m too tired for upheaval, to turn my life upside down yet again in order to jump start whatever it is that has given way to inertia.

What if it’s possible to make small, incremental changes? What if, when I feel anxious or sad, or unable to withstand the world outside, I am able to funnel that into something substantive? Something that is truly me? To redirect it to better myself?

When the neighbors sound too close, on all sides; when I smell the stench of their weed killers and strong cleaners; when I can’t go into my yard without being aware I live in a fishbowl – instead of withdrawing inward, I could let the anger and frustration out through my writing.

When I believe that wine, or cake, or ice cream, or beer are the things I am hungry for – what if instead I punch and kick and sweat along with a youtube video.

The passivity that has always lurked around corners and come knocking during times without drama needs a response that is active. One that channels those self-destructive thoughts and feelings – using keystrokes to bring up and out those deep feelings of dissatisfaction and anger; using exercise to expel the rot of old wounds that fester when I’m sedentary.

Incremental. In this moment I will not give in to my fears and doubts, but will ferret them out and face them head on, in fact I will expose them to the whole world. For ten minutes I will resist the urge to sit down, turn on the tv, and give up the rest of my day – for ten minutes I will engage my body and kick out, push out, sweat out, the voices that tell me I am small and don’t deserve to take up space.

I don’t know what makes a life meaningful and worth living. I only know that I’m too tired to shake everything up like a snow globe in order to get what is stagnant to start moving again. And I will not be content with a version of myself that is small and quiet, living a life that is small and contained, in an attempt to avoid pain. Because small and quiet and contained is pain. It is the worst pain; the pain of letting this opportunity to experience life and humanity and great effort and great success and great failure pass us by.



Saturday, June 15, 2019

Coming Out


Sophomore year of high school. In a dream, I had romantic feelings for another girl. We kissed. When I woke up I was deeply troubled by what this might mean, and aggressively pushed my memories of it to the back of the closet.

A few weeks after that dream, I spent the night at a friend’s. Her mother, whom I’d only just met, was a bit drunk. She also believed she had The Sight, and first scrutinized my palm, and then my face.

“There’s a question,” she said. The dream came rushing to the surface as I struggled to keep my face neutral. I shook my head, “no.” I was terrified that she could actually read my thoughts. Finally, thankfully, she let go of my hand and left the room.

Summer before senior year of high school. I was going to be entering an all girl’s school in Belgium for my senior year. Two of my friends, boys, teased me about “what happens in all girls schools,” and that I would be turned lesbian. I was worried about this.

Senior year. As an American, I had some unearned cache. But somehow the girl I developed a crush on was the one girl who was not interested in The American.

I would daydream about kissing her. At school I would stare at her too long, and she in turn did her best to keep her distance from me. I felt dirty, harboring those thoughts, and wished I didn’t have them. I pushed them to the back of my closet.

Several years later I became involved with a New Age group. We would engage in interactions attempting to break down our walls and open up to our deepest secrets.

At this one event, I saw a young woman who immediately caught my eye. I was flushed with hormones. As I sat knee to knee with an older woman, I shared quietly and tentatively that possibly I was attracted to women. She responded loudly and delightedly: “YOU LIKE WOMEN? THAT’S WONDERFUL!” I was terrified that the woman who had prompted this sharing would overhear. My closet door slammed shut for several more years.

Years later, after breaking up with my boyfriend, I determined that I would not become involved with another man until I’d had a chance to date women.

Instead, I had a brief fling with a beautiful, effeminate man with flowing red hair. Soon after, I got back together with my boyfriend, became engaged, and got married.

In my late 20’s, in college (I started college late), I will never forget the first day of class of a new semester. Sitting at my desk looking down, I heard her before I saw her. The mere timbre of her voice reached way back into my closet. When I looked up and saw her, the contents of my closet got caught up in a whirlwind.

My response to her was physical, compelling, and absolute. Within the span of only a few weeks, I came bursting out of the closet at full speed. Unfortunately, my new marriage did not stand a chance.


In some ways, things are easier now. People are more accepting. Then again, many churches still condemn homosexuality and frankly condemn homosexuals. People are fired from their jobs for being queer. They are denied the possibility of adopting children. They are sought out and beaten. They take their own lives because they believe they are abhorrent.

Are things better, worse, or the same? I don’t know. I only know that if a kid is questioning their sexual orientation, having romantic dreams about the same sex, being teased by friends, I fervently hope that a message of acceptance reaches them.

My journey has made me the person I am. Still, I would save others from the years of inner turmoil, not trusting oneself, and making bad decisions. And in the process, I would spare those who would fall in love them the heartbreak of being left because they were not the right sex.

This June, Pride is celebrated around the world. We celebrate because we had to struggle to get to where we are, to stand in our own truths, and to love those we love. We celebrate because we want those kids who have unsettling thoughts, feelings, and dreams, to know that they’re ok. They can feel pride in who they are. They are not alone. And they are most certainly not abhorrent.