We all know this saying. ” ‘An eye for an eye’ makes the whole world blind.”
It’s a good reminder that violence is never the answer to a problem. Hatred and the act of hurting another doesn’t solve anything. But that’s a difficult adage to precah when entire classes of people are being marginalized, violated, and attacked simply for being who they are.
My heart has broken on so many occasions lately, for my fellow LGBTQ people, for my black friends, for the people in Baghdad and Turkey; the list goes on. As a white woman who identifies as “gay except for one notable exception”, I find myself walking a weird line. I cannot possibly fathom what my black friends go through every day. I cannot comprehend what it’s like to fear for my life, especially in the south where racism is so rampant, simply for driving in the wrong neighborhood. I can wear a hoodie with the hood pulled up and people do not run away or cross the street.If my hair is left “natural”, I am not called “unprofessional”. If I have a flat tire on the side of the road, I am perfectly capable of changing it myself. But I know damn well that the average drive is much more inclined to stop and help me than a black person. It sickens me, what our society has demonstrated toward people who are no different than anyone else except for the color of their skin, the texture of their hair. Their blood still stains the streets red when they are gunned down. Their families still weep countless tears. Their lives are just as shattered.
On the flip side, I also live in the same south that is virulently homophobic. Perhaps I am lucky that I “pass”. As someone who chooses to stay in a politically condoned marriage with a member of the opposite cis-gender, people look at me and smile and think, “What a nice, normal family!” But when it slips that the Scientist and I have an open marriage? That we have kids who identify as gay or queer? That I prefer women over men? That yes, my kids have met people that both the Scientist and I have dated? Eyebrows disappear into hairlines, lips thin out and turn down a bit at the corners, and eyes narrow. I’m not longer “safe” and “normal”. I’m now “one of THEM”.
“One of them.” “Those people.” The sneers of derision, the shudders of revulsion, the airs of disdain. How many times have you felt those emanating from you? Or how many times have you felt them coming at you?
I know that I cannot fix our society. It’s a depressing thought that I brought kids into a world where they are not safe. It’s sad to think that I almost hope my kids don’t choose to have kids because I worry so much for their safety, and they don’t even exist.
What I can do is stand up, speak out, and openly support those who have felt the sting of discrimination and violence. I stand for those who have been abused, singled out, bullied, hurt.
I will use my own eyes…not in the adage above, but to see. I will see the truth, the brutal honesty that we as humans have become, and I will do my best every second of every day to truly look for ways to fix what I can. Because without each person’s eyes, without each person’s heart, without each person’s hands reaching out, the blood will continue to spill.
We have to help. We have to hope. We have to love.
I received the most incredible gift recently! My sweetest cousin, the Designer, found me after nearly 40 years apart. It’s been bizarre, surreal, and utterly wonderful to get to know each other. We’ve only seen each other twice so far, but we’ve got plans for much more!
Last evening I was at her house for a barbecue, enjoying some much needed relaxation and laughter with her hilarious friends. At one point, the conversation turned to dating, and how weird some first dates can be. While I did not share this anecdote at the time, I immediately thought of it, despite the fact that we never even got as far as a date! But hey, it still makes me laugh to this day, so I thought I’d share the amusement with anyone who’s ever been on a horrific first date!
NOTE: This story takes place in 2011, when Hurricane Irene nailed the east coast. It was originally posted on my old blog.
I shared this story over lunch this past weekend with The Trainer, and amidst her laughter, she said it absolutely had to become a blog post. She’s a wise woman, and so I agreed.
Back in August, I had to be downtown for meetings a few times. Through a coworker, I met a woman that I’ll call L, who seemed pretty smart, had a dry sense of humor, and possessed a smile that definitely turned my head. We chatted and exchanged cell numbers; this led to a “relationship” that made Kim Kardashian’s marriage look eternal. You’ll understand why the quotation marks were used in a minute, I promise.
A few casual texts were tossed back and forth, and a vague mention was made of “having lunch some time.” At this point, I was getting busy at work and my focus shifted over to that. The weekend passed, and on Monday, we received the news that Hurricane Irene was headed straight for Wilmington, where the Artist currently resides for college. I’m not the type to panic much, and I’m not a helicopter Mom, but I did advise the Artist that if the storm continued its current track, that I’d be heading down to haul her little tail back home for a few days. The University hadn’t yet decided whether or not they were going to evacuate, so I told her that we’d sit back and wait, letting Irene’s path guide our decisions.
On that same day, I received a text from L, asking me if I’d like to get together “this weekend.” I texted back that I’d love to, but at that point in time, I couldn’t commit to any definitive plans because of the hurricane situation. I explained that my daughter was at UNCW and that I wasn’t sure yet if I was going to let her stay through the storm or get her out; it was just too early to tell. However, I said, if the storm shifted, I thought it might be fun to do something.
This is what I got back:
“Kel, she’s 18 years old. She can handle being at school in a rainstorm.”
For those who are unaware, at the time that Irene was tracking straight towards UNCW, it was bouncing back and forth between a category 3 and 4 level hurricane. They were estimating wind damage to be on the level of some of the worst storms ever to hit NC.
I honestly didn’t know how to respond to L. For one of the rare occasions in my life, I was speechless. So I said nothing. I just let it lie, went back to work, and tried to figure out what in the ever loving hell just happened.
~~ It was at this point in the story that the Trainer was cracking up, saying, “Wait for it…this gets better. I know it does!” And she was right. ~~
The next day, I was coming down the hall when my phone dinged that I had a text. Seeing it was from L, I chuckled and sat down to read the missive.
“Kel, I really like you, but I have grave concerns. Seeing how smothering you are with your kids makes me worry that you’ll be like that with us. I think it’s better if we don’t continue our relationship.”
I swear to Dog, I thought for a second that it was a mis-text. If it hadn’t had my name at the start, I most likely would’ve written it off as such. But no, no…that text was actually to me. Let’s analyze it, shall we?
Point #1: She has “grave concerns.” Dramatic much? We had, at this point in time, exchanged maybe 2 dozen texts total.
Point #2: “Seeing how smothering you are with your kids…” Um. You haven’t “seen” anything as we’d met in person once and I was without my kids. And smothering? I’m smothering my kid by possibly removing her from the path of a Cat 4 hurricane? I wonder if my kids think I’m smothering them…
Point #3: “…worry that you’ll be like that with us.” Us? Us? What “us?” There is no “us.” Let’s reiterate the point that we’d exchanged maybe 2. Dozen. Texts. TOTAL. “Us?!”
Point #4: “…don’t continue our relationship.” See Point #3.
By this time, the Trainer is almost teary from laughing so hard. I’m quite sure the waitress at Mumfords thought we’d completely lost our minds, sitting in the corner at this tiny cafe, laughing hysterically. You see, she too is, as she phrases it, a “lightning rod” for the crazy people. Seriously, while I do seem to attract the weird ones, this woman truly did win the prize. Needless to say, there was no further exchange, and I promptly deleted her number from my phone.
I learned a valuable lesson from this: men may well be “pigs” sometimes, but women? Women are just effing crazy.
As for L, I sincerely hope that she finds happiness with someone who won’t smother her. Unless, of course, it’s in her sleep with a pillow…
People talk about “finding yourself” or “being true to yourself”. Great concept, if you actually know who you are. It’s something that’s eluded me for as long as I can remember, and while I’m exceedingly adept at being the person that others need to see, I’ve never been quite sure which one is the real one, if any of them. I’ve worn a myriad of masks, and even more hats over the years, but now I find myself wanting to ditch all of them in favor of a custom pair of flip-flops.
The past few months have brought up some pretty harsh realizations in the mirror, and a few of those have set me back on my heels. I’ve spent some time in my head, sifting through what’s real and what’s actually that insidious, deceptive, emotional voice. It’s a slow process, generally involving quantities of solitude and chocolate both in excess of my usual allotments. It’s amazing how well those two work in tandem to help one attain clarity.
One thing I am grateful for is the people who choose to walk the path with me while I figure things out. I’ve learned the hard way over the past year that some people are not to be trusted, and no matter how careful you are, you need to maintain your guard. Someone makes the mistake of trying to come between me and one of my kids, it’s the last mistake that will occur between us. But it’s made me appreciate the people in my life who show their love every day without even trying that help me maintain my faith. My appreciation for them continues to grow as I traverse this thorny path of confusion.
I’m hoping I can come to some decisions sooner than later, but until I find my custom flip-flops, I’ll stick with these. They suit me quite well.
It’s been a rough year for musicians. We’ve lost several really talented people to the usual passage of time. Strange though, that we exhibit such shock at this – as if we expect our idols to remain ageless in the face of our own greying hair.
The loss of David Bowie was pretty profound for many of my peers. His rise to Ziggy stardom came through our own coming of age, his invitation to be whomever we wanted to be written into the swipes of his eye shadow, the wings of his hair, the wild colors of his attire. His lyrical persona became a reflection of our own desire to shed the conventional; so many of us with more fluid sexual orientations, shy and questioning in the face of our upbringing, seeking the assurance that we really were ok.
But Prince? Prince hit me even harder than Bowie, and it took me a few days to really come to terms with why. Every tribute performance of Purple Rain, every previously recorded rendition from the man himself, brings me to the same tears the recorded version always has. It’s funny, isn’t it? The power that music can have on us? I’ve danced and belted out lyrics along with his hits this past week, remembering the glorious 80s of high school, grateful for what the music of this man from Minnesota had done for me.
By the time I tripped over the Little Red Corvette and into 1999, my sense of self, most especially my sexuality, was a convoluted mess. I’d gone from being sexually molested by my brother for two years starting at age 6, to being blamed for it by the one person who discovered it and did nothing, to having Catholic school catechism hammered into my brain while I slowly figured out I preferred the company of boys when hanging out, but was attracted to girls.
Of course, I was expected to “like” boys. My confusion was evident in my almost-but-not-quite hilarious inability to flirt with them. The awkwardness would’ve been the source of a killer sitcom, I’m sure, had I been lucky enough to score a film crew. Instead, the humiliation and shame of my glaring abnormalities was simply magnified. The two “boyfriends” I had in high school were both colossal douchecanoes; one put me down constantly, playing my inferiority complex like a Stradivarius, the other used emotional manipulation to control me until a date rape incident finally gave me the courage to get out.
Through all of this, though, Prince was emerging. Purple Rain was my first ‘R’ rated movie. His music was scandalous; his references to sex and sexuality were blatant and unapologetic. I purchased the vinyl record and was amusingly “forbidden” to listen to Track 4. I laugh now, at how quickly I broke that one. Darling Nikki may not be my favorite of his songs, but that didn’t make it any less appealing to a repressed, abused, confused Catholic School kid.
Prince, through his unabashedly open sense of self, his attitude that sexuality is a fluid, living thing, told me that I wasn’t quite as irreparably broken as I’d always assumed. He celebrated women as sexual beings that could match or even surpass men – such a beautiful flip from the usual societal schema of sexually active men as studs and sexually active women as whores. The raw emotion with which he sang gave me the courage to accept my own emotional maelstrom, and to even embrace it enough to work within it instead of fighting it. It’s for these reasons, then, that Purple Rain has always brought tears to my eyes when I’ve heard it, whether I was a 13 year old wreck, a 37 year old woman watching my marriage spiral out of control, or a nearly-45 year old, who is finally comfortable in who she is, sexually and otherwise.
So while the world mourns Prince for the myriad of reasons they have, I join them. But over and above the loss, I feel a profound sense of gratitude to a man who sang of love, lust, and loss, all with the same energy and beauty. Thank you, Prince, for letting me see the power of the Purple Rain.
Yeah, I know, it’s pretty curmudgeonly to publish a blog post with that title on “the most romantic day of the year”. But then, I’m kinda curmudgeonly in general, so maybe it fits.
I’ve never been a “Hallmark Holiday” girl. I think the sheer amount of build-up and marketing that goes into February 14th is a crock of shit, and in my not-at-all-humble opinion, it causes more problems than it solves. People who feel pressured to prove their love through red and pink trinkets or worse, expensive crap are not going to be feeling the bliss that the media assures us is there. It’s a waste of money, but worse, it’s a waste of a perfectly good day.
(I do think that the counter-day of “Steak and Blowjob Day” on March 14th is hilarious, I’ll admit it.)
For me, I would much rather The Scientist see that I love him on a day when it isn’t “required”. Things like making his favorite meal when I know he’s had a rotten day at work, baking his favorite treat just because I thought he’d like them, making sure that he never runs out of his shower stuff, making homemade sugar free hot cocoa mix for him — it’s the minor stuff the flows through the regular days that last. Not the contrived “oh shit, next week is Valentine’s Day!”
Our relationship has been all over the place since we met in 1989. We’ve always held that honesty is the way to go, so yes, our kids knew when our marriage hit the rocks. They knew that we were separating. They knew when we started therapy. They knew that the “D” word had hit the table. They know that we are in an open marriage, and they’ve met the people we’ve dated. They know that shit happens, and they know we’re not making any guarantees. But at the end of the day? They also that, if we did decide to split, there would never be any of that, “Oh. So. Your father is coming for Thanksgiving? Well, then. I guess I’ll see you at Christmas.” At the end of the day, we are a family, and no matter what happens between the Scientist and myself as a couple, without him, I don’t have them.
People hold “love” up as some kind of end goal; a prize to be sought, elusive and exclusive. It’s none of that. Love is a fluid, dynamic, magical thing, but we don’t need to look for it. It’s everywhere.
The concept of “one true love” is restrictive and filled with pressure. It makes us afraid of conflict and communication because of the potential jeopardy that looms ahead. What if we fight and that’s it? What if we can’t overcome this? So we hide our feelings, we gloss over problems, we bury the honesty. If we can step back and understand that different people can be in our lives to love and be loved, maybe we can stop the landslide of broken families.
We need to stop holding up Valentine’s Day as some sort of competition that fosters the stereotypes of the greedy, materialistic woman and the hangdog, whipped man just trying to make her happy. Enough. Embrace love, not expectations.
Love every day. Love well. Love without restrictions or strings. Love without fear. Just love.
The first half of 2015 was pretty decent, with the exception of getting really sick twice. But it held a trip to the Keys, Syd’s tournament in Oklahoma (Here!), and my first ever trip to the west coast. (San Diego was phenomenal!)
The second half held surgery with complications and setbacks, a serious scare with my Ambassador, a death in my bio family, some serious work messes, and a stress level that never seemed to ease. There were a few bright spots including a weekend of shooting the most amazing fall colors I’ve ever seen, and a trip to meet up with family in Indianapolis.
It’s family that fills my mind as the year comes to a close.
A while back, the Scientist and I were meeting with our therapist, V. I don’t really remember the precursor to this, but I’d mentioned that no matter how hard I tried, nothing I did was ever good enough to win the approval of my parents. V nodded as I continued, “…but no matter how hard I tried to earn my place in that family…” and she did something that she’s never done before. She stopped me cold, interrupting me mid-sentence.
“Wait, wait, wait. Kel, do you hear yourself? Do you hear what you just said?”
“No. Just no. You do not earn your place in a family. That is not how family works.”
I guess I look confused, because she kept going.
“Answer me something. Your parents didn’t want you and let you know it quite clearly. You were molested by one family member. Another blamed you for it, telling a 6-year-old to pray for forgiveness and go to Catholic confession. Why exactly were you trying to earn a place in that?”
And I had no answer. It was like I’d forgotten how to form words.
It dawned on me that not only had I been doing this with my own family, but I’ve done it with the Scientist’s family, and with some of my friends. Years of conditioning made me not even realize I’d slipped into the habit of devaluing myself. What the hell was I doing?
Like V told me, “Family is the people who choose to be in your life and who you choose to have there. They love you for you, no exceptions.”
So for 2016, I’m choosing to focus on that. I no longer feel the need to waste time or energy on the people who don’t bring anything positive to my life. My inner circle hasn’t really changed in several years, but this doesn’t just include them. I’ve met some amazing people recently and the impact they’ve had on me is tangible. Their acceptance, their humor, their intellect all encourage me to just be me, and for that, I am exceedingly grateful.
Dog knows I don’t have enough of my own shit together to give advice to others, but I’m going to make an exception today.
This year, make your only resolution to love yourself. Enough with the crap from the media, the weight-loss industry, the self-help gurus. We’re all flawed. Learn to accept the person in the mirror and know in your heart that you don’t need to be what other people deem as acceptable.
Be at peace. Anything else just isn’t worth it.
It’s been an interesting year, I’ll say that. We’ve had some amazing highs and some dangerous lows in our family, and some of those lows will leave some scars for a long time to come.
I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t been changed by some of the events of this year, but I’m also not going to pretend that those changes are all positive. If nothing else, I’m self aware enough to recognize my own character flaws, and honest enough to own them.
But I have had a few things in me change for the better, and I’d like to think I get to own those as well. I controlled my stress level a little better these past few months – not in that I didn’t get stressed, but that I channeled it more appropriately. Normally, I get stressed, and then I get more stressed, and when I finally take some time to just stop – WHAM. I get sick. My immune system sees the rest break as carte blanche to check out entirely. My ear/sinus/tonsil issues go into overdrive, and I’m laid out. I did have one pretty serious bout in June that included pneumonia as well, but the past 2 months have been insanely stressful, but I’ve managed to stave off the worst of the illness. It’s simmering, but I’ve worked hard to rest more, take time to slack off and do nothing – something I do not do well. I’ve swan-dived into my creative stuff by editing photos, making quilts, and designing some projects for Christmas gifts.
I’m also working to get tighter on my organization strategies to help with my AD/HD and focus. After the residual effects of the head injury proved themselves to be longer lasting than I’d hoped, I knew I needed to work within them instead of merely fighting against them. There’s still much work to be done there, but I’m making progress.
I wish I could say that it’s all been about growth and improvement. But we all know that’s not the way life works.
Within the layers of stress that have settled over this year, I’ve found myself withdrawing more into myself. I’ve retreated into this place that’s much more about observation than interaction. Part of that is what I consider “direct” in that the sheer amount of drama and occasionally stupidity I see in people with whom I interact regularly just makes me not want to engage. I’m exhausted from trying to understand the reasoning of people who are seriously enthusiastic about presidential candidates who seek to practically end women’s rights or increase racial divides until the walls are no longer able to be breached. The chasm of misunderstanding is dangerous now, and they seek to broaden it beyond the ability of those who strive to close it. On the “indirect” side, I’m also exhausted by contrived drama, passive aggressive bullshit, and other attention seeking posturing that I see every day. Since I have no intention of rising to the bait, I see no reason to maintain proximity. In short, my bullshit tolerance factor has hit negative numbers.
Physically, my surgery went ok, but a few accidental missteps have set back my recovery by several months. A whole new round of synovial injections were done, and now we wait. The effects of last year’s concussion have improved dramatically in 12 months, but they are by no means gone. My ability to read, especially out loud, is nearly normal again. My speech is nearly normal again, although I still lose words pretty often. My short term memory hiccups quite a bit, which is exceedingly frustrating, so I’m resorting to writing most things down either on paper or in my phone. I’ve gotten quite good at having lists!
The end of this year brought some gut wrenching emotions out in everyone in our family. We’re working through them together, and we’ll get there eventually. One really great thing that has come out of this is that we’ve welcomed a new grandcat. So now the Artist has Jax, the Professor has Newt, I have Jenks, and the Ambassador has Toph. The Scientist is not a cat person in general, but all of the cats love him, and he tolerates them. He does seem to love our Jenks, though. She adores him and even breaks her “no lap sitting” rule to help him when he’s gaming.
As the holiday season builds, I’m actually looking forward to it. I’ll have some time off to work on a few projects around the house, rest my body and my head a bit, and spend some time with the family.
And as 2016 approaches, I have to say that I’m excited. Some amazing travel appears to be on the horizon, and that always makes me happy.
Here’s hoping the coming year brings everything you hope it will as well.
Limitations have been given a really bad reputation. People see them as negative; that holding you back or preventing you from doing the Next Thing is akin to failure. I see this in some cases, and even agree with it. But I’m starting to see that sometimes, limitations can have silver linings.
I’ve been learning a lot over the past year about my own limitations. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, and I rarely learn it gracefully, but I’d like to think I’m making some progress.
A little background: as a kid, my parents worked full time like many others. On weekend, there was housecleaning to do, errands to be run, and just general Stuff To Be Done. My father’s method of relaxation, other than downing several glasses of gin in front of the TV, was to work in his wood shop in the basement. My mother’s was either to play solitaire (with real cards!) or read. But at no time in my memory can I call up a weekend in which my parents just chilled.
Think about that. We have a rough couple of weeks at work, we might take a rainy Saturday and not get out of our PJs. We’ll make some tea, read a good book, watch some Netflix, nap, but we take the day “off”. My parents? Oh hell no. And really, it wasn’t just them. I cannot ever remember my friends’ parents doing it either. Laziness was simply not a thing. That got so ingrained into me that, to this day, I feel intense guilt if I just blow off a weekend day and do nothing. The Musician still gives me crap for the time I had H1N1 and was too weak to get out of bed, but still had the kids bring me laundry to fold. I just don’t know how to do “slacker”.
But lingering effects from a head injury last summer (car accident), knee surgery this summer, along with an insane work schedule, have all dragged me into the realm of CTFO. I’m feeling less guilt about napping when I have the chance. I’m less stressed when I “waste” a few hours working on a quilt or some other creative project. Maybe there’s something to this slacker stuff!
The emotional limitations are a little harder for me to reconcile. My job has a stress level that burns people out on a regular basis, and I’m getting close. What really frosts my cookies, though, is that the mental exhaustion is spilling over into my Real Life. It’s making me have a shorter fuse, it’s making me unable to give to others as much as I’d like to, and it starts to weave itself into the physical side as well.
I had a friend with whom I was pretty close who was going through some stuff. She drifted away and pretty much quit talking to me, and I still don’t know why. Was it something I did? Or was it just her own issues? No clue. But after reaching out a few times and having it go nowhere, I gave up trying. That makes me sad because I think that maybe if I had more mental/emotional energy, I would’ve tried harder.
I also got into a relationship last year. She’s a great person, and I still consider her to be one of my closest friends, but anything beyond that kinda faded off into the sunset this spring. There’s culpability for it on both sides, but the lion’s share, I believe, lies with me. I just didn’t have enough energy “left over” after work and Family to give to anything else. This too, saddens me a bit, as my job situation isn’t changing any time soon. The insanity and chaos of my life can be draining, and it affects so much more than the 9-5 hours of the day.
As much guilt as I carry for my emotional and physical limitations, I’m starting to see them almost more of safety barriers. I pushed too far while hiking after my knee surgery and set my recovery back several months. Now being forced to rest more is helping. Knowing I’ve hit the wall of stress or mental/emotional exertion prevents me from snapping.
I’m still not entirely comfortable with the whole thing, and I’m still dealing with some guilt for not being able to be Wonder Woman, as the Scientist phrases it. But hopefully I’ll get there.
How will this affect you?
Well, unfortunately, chances are you won’t be invited. My kids tend to be very much in favor of small, intimate gatherings rather than looking at their partner in confusion, trying to figure out who just wished them happiness in the receiving line.
So you’ll miss the way the beauty of her face, and the gentleness in her eyes makes me weep.
You won’t see her in her dress – that stunning dress – with her riotous curls defiantly straying from whatever hair style she chose for the day.
You’ll miss The Artist, her maid of honor, slipping her sips from the flask they think I don’t see in order to chill her out a bit.
You won’t see The Ambassador, her best man, making her laugh by pulling quotes from their past, and being goofy.
You won’t see The Scientist beaming with pride as he tries (and fails) not to cry when he walks with her down the aisle.
You won’t hear the music played by The Musician, whom I’ll drag in from Denver, as she walks with her father.
The look on her partner’s face, that one we all covet, as she sees her bride, will be lost for you.
You will be absent from the photographs taken by my sister The Photographer, who has flown in from Kansas City.
You’ll miss the food, which will be delicious. Having been raised by me, my kids love good cuisine.
And the dessert! The Professor isn’t a fan of cake, but girlfriend has great taste in other sweets. She’ll have chocolate truffles for sure. I’m sorry you won’t get to sample those!
You won’t double over in laughter as all 3 kids hit the dance floor to do the Cupid Shuffle and other choreographed hilarity.
The love in the air, the laughter of shared jokes, the rockin’ 80s tunes won’t even hit your radar.
Why should they?
This marriage will not have any impact on your life. This love, this commitment, this joy, will not enrich you as it does us. None of this will make you tear up with pride, or snicker in amusement, or even roll your eyes with the cheesy jokes we play.
This union is, quite simply, none of your business unless you are one of the few invited to be a part of it.
So please don’t crow to me about how any love between consenting adults will destroy anything, unless it’s hate. Because with each step down each aisle that each person takes in love, we win a little more of the battle against that hate.
And make no mistake: we will win.